Matt Hanson | Professional Triathlete
4x Ironman Champion/ 3x 70.3 Champion

Ironman Chattanooga Race Report

I would be lying if I said that I thought I would be racing in Chattanooga at the beginning of the year. I certainly did not target this race when I set my schedule for the year, but as soon as I realize Kona was not in the cards for 2016 I got excited about returning to Chattanooga.  IMCHOO is definitely a special race for me, the site of my first professional win. Chattanooga is also where Quintana Roo is headquartered. Any time you can race in the home town of such a great sponsor, you know you will be taken care of…and QR definitely rolled out the red carpet for me. I arrived in Chattanooga a week earlier than I normally would for a US race, which turned out to be good. It had been very cool in IA the last month (AWESOME FOR TRAINING!!!), but the weather report was showing it would be a warm day out there. QR put me in contact with the Chattanooga Tri Club who helped find a few guys for me to ride the course with and even took me out on a guided group swim on the river. So I was definitely comfortable with the course by the time we got to race day. I felt a little flat at the beginning of the week (typical for me during a taper) but by the time race day rolled along, I was feeling great and ready to go.

I woke up around 4:30 on race morning, drank my 2 servings of First Endurance Ultragen for breakfast, got my bike ready and was out the door. I got transition set up quickly, then Ash and I took the shuttle to the swim start. I spent a little quiet time getting my head ready, went for a jog, then got in the water as soon as I was allowed in so I could finish my warm up.

1a2e44b6-6a30-404a-9be1-a519f20ad8c3_zpst2advterSwim – 45:09

This was by far the best swim I’ve ever had. I got off the line great and was on fast feet by the first buoy. I did make a huge mistake around the second buoy. I was sitting in 3rd on feet and the three of us had a decent little gap formed on the rest of the group. I must have had a brief mental lapse and drifted a bit to the left and lost feet. The best start I’ve ever had, I was in the group off the front…ruined because I lost focus for 10 seconds so early in the race. I joined the main pack and sat on the front for the rest of the swim. Despite missing the opportunity to make it an amazing swim for me, I am very happy with coming out of the water in 3rd.

T1 – 2:30

I had a seamless transition. I had my Kask helmet and sunglasses sitting in my bag instead of on my bike, so I was able to have them on and clipped by the time I got to my bike.

14500388_10153782870257274_6305825455876871132_oBike- 4:39:22

Some hard lessons learned on the bike this race. I planned on getting near the front of the pack early and just seeing what happened as the miles ticked off. In nearly every IM I have done in the past, I rode too hard the first 2 hours and paid the price at the end of the race. I planned on riding an even and conservative pace for the first loop of the bike, and would make some decisions when I got a split at the ½ point. I came out of T1 in 3rd and started riding at target. I knew a few guys would charge up early on, and I had no plan on trying to go with them. I took control of the pack early on, but had a little help from one other guy for the early miles. By mile 30, I was stuck on the front driving the train of 12 or so guys. When we went through town at the end of the first loop, I heard that we had a 5 min gap to the front. I wanted to keep the gap below 10 min if possible, so was pretty happy with how the14468326_10153782866062274_4532897296119504260_o first loop shook out. Justin Daer went by me at the beginning of the second loop. I was happy for a little break off the front and wanted to let him stay up front for a while, but drifted up on him a bit up one of the rollers. I was NOT going to do anything that could put me at risk for a drafting penalty, so I went by him. Shortly after, I looked back and saw that there was a gap between Justin and the rest of the pack so I put in a surge hoping to get away. If I was going to work, I’d rather make the guys behind me work as well rather than tugging them along. The way it shook out, the surge was too early in the race. Justin went with me, and the two of us had about a 60 second gap on the group at one point, but they caught us shortly after I stepped off the gas. I stayed up front through town again, then JD went by me on the descent coming to the turn off for the return to Chattanooga. He was riding hard, I stuck with him for a while but had to let him go. Three other guys went by me and I was happy just hanging out the last 10 miles or so. All three of the guys took a wrong turn but thankfully I had rode the course a few times and knew that wasn’t right and didn’t follow. That probably cost them about 45 seconds but put me back in front of them which is where I came in at the end of the ride.

T2 – 1:31

I had a pretty fast transition here again as well. My legs felt good. I was about 9 min down from Marino so thought with a good run I could have a chance.

94cd7c5f-1a9c-40f6-ae02-cd93d11238fd_zpsnc8bwxtsRun- 2:57:07

The first few miles of the race were on target. I felt good and was pretty confident that I was going to have a good run. I caught up to JD around mile 4 and passed him. Shortly after, I started getting warm and just couldn’t cool down. I started to cramp. I backed off the pace and Justin came back up to me. We ran side by side for quite a few miles. We moved into third/fourth for a min or two, then Jeff came up on us. I tried to run with him for a min or two, but I just couldn’t find my stride. I let him go and hoped that I’d be able to get through the dark patch and run back up to him at some point. Unfortunately, it just didn’t happen. The up-hills were beating me up pretty good and I wasn’t able to open the stride up on the downs. I knew everyone was going to be struggling, so just tried to keep ticking the miles off. I caught up with Matt Russel and passed him at some point, the 4th time I was in 3rd on the day, but he caught back up to me again and put a pretty big gap over the next couple of miles. At mile 18, I was struggling. I walked through a few aid stations desperately trying to get in fluids, calories, and get water and ice to cool down. And it worked, all of the sudden my body started to 8571d958-6af7-49f8-be5a-ebc0b9456272_zpspxlfaag5work again. I was still cramping a bit (this is pretty typical for me but usually I can just push through it) but was able to run a full stride. My pace started getting faster and faster, I was out of the dark spot and back to what actually felt like running. Then I caught a glimpse of Matt again. DeJaVu…mile 23 do I push and try to get 3rd or just hold on for 4th. No question, PUSH. I made it up the last hill and was able to open up the stride going down. I was within about 45 seconds of Matt and gaining, but he saw me at the mile 25 aid station. He picked up the pace a bit as well and was able to hold me off at the end. So it was a 4th place finish.

059f1a5f-2580-4bea-a976-1bcf5ad23f28_zpsyzkxotpxOverall – 8:25:36

A lot of mixed feelings about IMCHOO. Obviously, missing the podium by less than a minute for the second time this year was frustrating. I made some execution errors on the day that definitely hurt my run. I’ll learn from those for sure. Despite not putting together a clean race, I still ended up 4th in a solid field of guys on a very tough day. This tells me that I am definitely on the right track fitness wise and I am making steps in the right direction. The Ironman races are all getting faster and more competitive. You can’t make mistakes and expect to finish up front. A lot positives to take as well a number of learning experiences from this race which will make me better in races to come. Looking forward to hitting a few late season 70.3s this fall/winter.

One Comment

  1. Gabriela Coates

    September 29, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    Congratulations Matt, you are just an incredible athlete, wow!!! on the swim =)

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