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

Ironman Cartagena 70.3 Race Report…First 70.3 win!

Cartagena 70.3 was my 4th 70.3 in 7 weeks. After a relatively disappointing result at Chattanooga, I talked with coach Julie about doing these four races. I wanted to race, and race hard. I wanted to get more race experience that would help make me better in 2017. Obviously, I wanted a few good results as well, but more so I wanted to execute clean races. I felt really good about how I executed Miami, Austin, and Uruguay and was getting closer and closer to the top step on the podium. I spent the week between races in Cartagena with a few friends from Colombia. What an amazing city. I can’t thank them enough for such amazing hospitality. The city was beautiful and my friends went above and beyond to make sure I got to see the real Cartagena. Definitely a place where I want to make a return visit. My body recovered well after Uruguay 70.3, so I entered race morning feeling like I could have a great result if I executed a clean race.

2016im703cartagena_wga_5697-1068x713Race Morning 
As with every other race I’ve done this year, breakfast was 2 servings of First Endurance Ultragen three hours before race start. I got another hour of sleep and rode my bike down to transition. It was quite a trip…there were so many people who were still out having a good time from the night before as I was just starting my day! I got transition set up quickly and went for a quick warm up jog with my fellow JDcrew teammate, Mario. We moved to the water and were told there would be a short delay due to a few road construction areas that needed a bit more attention. We waited 30 min or so and then were given the 10 minute warning. I got in and warmed up and got ready to roll.

img_0806Swim – 27:08 
I got off to a strong start. I was on the feet I wanted to be on but was swimming hard. I held on up to the first turn, but let too big of a gap form on the turn and I wasn’t able to get back on feet. I spent most of the remainder of the swim on my own, but was able to continue swimming hard and kept the gap to the lead to a minimum.

Bike – 2:10:30 
I am really pleased with how my bike has progressed over the last half of the season. I started off the ride in front of a group of 4 guys. Not sure where the other guys fell off, but by the 20 mile mark, it was down to just Mario and myself. As we approached the only real hill on the course near the 1/2 way turn around, I was able to get a picture of how the 6 guys in front of me were riding and how far they were ahead of me. It appeared that I had put time into all but Davide who was well off the front. I was about 2 minutes down at the turn and decided to do the work then to bridge the gap. I moved up into second around the 45 mile mark. At that point, I didn’t really see any point in trying to hammer it in to transition, I was sitting in a great position and my body was feeling good. I rode fairly comfortably in to T2, trading places with Justin Metzler a few times. I ended up getting off the bike in 2nd with the second fastest bike split on the day.

2016im703cartagena_wag_8296-1068x711I pre-rode the course on Wednesday before the race. I was a bit worried about a few of the construction areas and had no idea how they were going to get the areas cleared up in time for the race. It is hard to describe how much effort obviously went in to making such a great and safe bike course for all of us by Wilbur Anderson (CEO of the race), Ironman, and the city of Cartagena. There were so many police officers and staff out there making sure everything went smooth. I was very impressed, especially considering this was a first year race.

img_0769Run – 56:54 (16.2 km) 
I started the run off in second and was just under 5 minutes down from Davide. My legs felt great and I left transition feeling that this was my race to win (or lose!). With the heat and the humidity, patience was the name of the game. Instead of going out of transition at 5:10ish as I have the last 3 races, I forced the pace up to 5:30 for the first few miles. I had run the course a few times the week leading into the race, so I was really surprised to see Davide running up on the wall (at roughly the 8k mark) as I was just getting to the 2k mark. I got to where the first turn in the city was and figured out why he was so far ahead of where I thought he should have been. We were supposed to take a right and go into the city, but I was ushered up the wall effectively cutting just under 5km off of the first loop. I originally thought we were just going to run the course backwards at that point, but when I came back down the wall, I was ushered back out of the city. I had no idea what was going on. It was hot, but I surely didn’t think they would have shortened the course because of it. The only thing I could do at that point was just keep running hard. I got back to the start of the second lap and saw that I had cut the lead down to under a minute in just 5km. I kept running steady and consistent and took over the lead around the 7km mark. As I got back into the old city, I saw our pro liaison and run course director. He told me they were going to just have all pros run a shortened first loop and the entire second loop, so run the full course. I got a report at the 10km mark that I was about 3 min ahead as I made the right hand turn into the city where we were ushered wrong on the first loop. I ran the rest of the loop fairly relaxed as I had developed a comfortable lead. Around a mile after the turn around point, I saw Mario on his way to the turn and though ‘Awesome, he is having a great run!.’ As I got to the wall for the last time, I started wondering why I hadn’t seen Justin, Davide, or Carlos…then I remembered that Mario didn’t have a lead cyclist following him. Again, nothing I could do but run hard to the finish. The run corse director rode up to me and told me he was going to radio to the finish line that the lead male was coming in and congratulated me on a great race. As I made my way down the finisher shoot, I wondered why no one was really cheering…then wondered why there wasn’t a banner for me to run through. I crossed the finish line completely confused…and the confusion just grew as I saw Justin, Carlos, and Davide already in the finish area. I had a sudden fear that somehow, the win was going to be taken away from me. In the end, I found out that the three guys who were running 2-4 were sent on a second short loop (I assume that whoever guided them that way thought they were still on their first loop instead of the second). So…there was a lot of stress and a lot of waiting at the finish line as we waited for an official result.

img_0807I am sure the Ironman staff got annoyed by myself and the rest of the guys asking for updates every 5 minutes. The only update I was given was by Ed, the head official who said it was clear no one broke the rules as everyone did as they were guided to do, and therefore no one would be DQ’d. At that point, I knew that there was no way that they could take the win away from me as I was clearly in front when the second issue occurred that was causing all of the troubles. It was just a matter of waiting to see what happened and how the dust would settle. In the end, they ended up splitting the field into two separate races: The 3 guys who ran 10k and the rest of the field who ran 16.2km. So I was announced the co-winner along with Carlos Quinchara. Obviously a frustrating situation, but I think that Ironman came up with the best possible solution for everyone given the circumstance. I don’t mind sharing the title, the only frustration I have is that I wasn’t able to get a banner shot or any podium pictures (they hadn’t come to a solution by the time of the awards ceremony). I wasn’t able to give my sponsors who have support me so much throughout the highs and the lows of the season the attention that they deserved. But, as I said, I think Ironman did the right thing.

img_0803Overall – 3:38:01 and First 70.3 win!
Although the win was somewhat anticlimactic, it was still a win! I executed a great race. Coach Julie was really happy with my reports of the day went, and I was happy to share the podium with my teammate Mario (although there is no photo evidence of this!!!). This was the win I was chasing all season long. I am ending 2016 on a huge high note, stair stepping my way up the podium! I have learned a lot and grown tremendously as a triathlete this year and am excited to see what 2017 has in store.

I mentioned above, but I can’t thank my Colombian friends enough for their hospitality. You all made this trip extremely special to me and I can wait to return to see you all again soon!


  1. Bryan Gottfried

    December 6, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    Nice! What a great way to end a long season! Although the race itself was messed up, they got it sorted out equitably, and it sounds like you hade a great experience in a cool town. Now time for some much needed R&R.

  2. Randall Huff

    December 8, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Now that’s the way (no, not that way…over here, this way, senor!) to end the year!

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