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


Where to begin! Ironman Texas definitely has a way of making me dig deep. The race has undeniably changed my life. So many milestones have happened on The Woodlands course: I earned my pro card there in 2013, my first pro pay check in 2014, first run course record in 2014, major win in 2015 that led me to resign as a college professor, first time taking a nap during a race in 2016, and setting a new American Record in 2017. A lot of this is due to the comfort I have there. I have an amazing homestay family that I have been staying with since 2014. They treat me like a member of their family which makes prepping for a race so much easier.

Despite having a rough race in Campeche earlier this year, I had a terrific build into this race. I did a short camp in Tucson, AZ with Paul Thomas in January and another 2 week camp in Kona with Coach Julie Dibens and a few members of the JDcrew in Feb. The rest of my training was done in the garage or the roads/pool here in Storm Lake. I felt great leading up to race day. Having quite a few KQ points in the bag already from fall races helped me be able to relax and just get to race day focusing on execution.

Race Morning
As always, I woke up 3 hours before race start and drank 2 servings of First Endurance Ultragen for breakfast, then went back to bed for 30 minutes. I was able to get my bike and the rest of my gear assembled at home, so I didn’t need much time in transition. I got in the water the second they allowed us to. I think there have been a lot of races where I haven’t warmed up enough to be ready to handle to swim start so I wanted to be sure that didn’t happen this time. I found where I wanted to be to start, and got ready for the gun.

Swim – 51:46 
This was a great swim for me, probably the best so far in my career. I got off the line well and didn’t overextend myself during the first 100 meters like I often do. I was able to really swim hard until about the 6th buoy when things settled down just a bit. I found myself on the very back of the group that went 49XX which was a first for me. I handed the first few surges well. Shortly after the 1/2 point, my left calf started to cramp…then my right. Why??? I can only guess that it was because I was kicking so much harder than I normally would be at that point in a swim being in a group that I hadn’t been before and I hadn’t been able to relax them like I would in the pool when pushing off the wall. I lost my pack, but didn’t panic (for more than a few seconds anyway!) and just focused on swimming hard and holding form. I came around the final turn and remember thinking that I hand’t been passed by Lauren yet, so must be having a good swim! I came out 2 1/2 minutes behind the lead group, but 3 minutes ahead of the chase group.

T1 – 2:12
Everything was smooth sailing for T1. Since it was a fairly lengthy run, I put my Kask Bambino and glasses in the bag and put them on as I was running to the bike rather than stopping at my bike. I got an update on splits from Coach Julie as I jumped on the bike and was off.


Bike: 4:13:53
I had the first big decision of the day immediately on the bike. Do I bridge hard early or wait a bit for the chase pack to swallow me and try to ride with them? This was the only decision of the day that wasn’t an immediate decision. I decided to see how it went. Julie had told me she would give me a split around the 8 mile mark the day before, so I stuck to the planned power until that point. She told me I had already chipped away nearly a minute at that point, so I decided to hold steady and slowly bridge up without overextending. I found the main group at 55 minutes into the ride and sat just off the back of the group until the chase pack joined us. I was a little concerned that no one had taken control and everyone seemed content to let the 2nd group continue to chip away, but not concerned enough to try to do anything rash and go off the front that early on in the race. Around the 1/2 way point, Joe Skipper made a move to the front and I followed. Unfortunately, Joe got a flat just after special needs. I rode for a few miles on the front of the group until Matt Russell came up and put in a surge. I followed his move as well until he also pulled off the road with a mechanical. I stayed on the front until the 80 mile turn around when Tyler Butterfield put in an effort. I was able to match his effort for the first few miles and the two of us got off the front of the big pack. Ty was about 20 seconds in front of me as we got off the toll road and he put in another 40 seconds on me leading back to t2. Overall, this was the best tactical ride I’ve ever executed. I was very strategic with where and when I burnt my matches and it led to an efficient ride for me.

T2- 2:46
T2 was not as smooth as t1…my body was not loving being vertical again. I stiffly ran to pick up my bag and got to the change tent. I didn’t rush, stretched a bit and took my time putting on my shoes and socks so I didn’t miss anything, then was out the door.

Run – 2:42:07
The first few miles weren’t pretty. My legs felt pretty good (calfs were sore from earlier cramps, but I had gotten the cramping issues under control with my bike nutrition). My back was not so good. The second mile was rough, my back spasmed so hard it stopped me in my place. I stretched, walked, and tried to get going again only to have to repeat the process a few times before finding my stride. I didn’t panic, I just started to focus on answering my body’s needs. My back settled down after a mile or two, and by mile 4 I had found my stride and pace. I settled in and slowly started chipping away at the lead. I moved into 3rd around mile 4 or 5. It almost over an hour to make up the 60 seconds that Tyler had on me out of T2, and I moved into the lead on the back half of the 2nd lap. From there, it was just making sure I didn’t screw anything up. I hadn’t looked at my watch once for total time, I had no idea where I was setting. I really wasn’t thinking about going sub 8 at all, just about keeping my run together and making sure that they guys who were running so well behind me weren’t closing in at all. With about 1.5 miles to go, someone told me that I had 21 minutes to get to the finish line to be able to go sub 8. I remember thinking that I should be able to do that…but didn’t think at all about what my time could be. I got to the last turn around to start the 200 meter stretch to the finish line and both hamstrings cramped out of nowhere. Julie was yelling at me to stop celebrating and get up to the line…my grimace must look like a smile! I first looked at the clock a few moments before crossing the line. It hit me hard. I can’t describe the run of emotion that went through me as I crossed the line and grabbed the tape.

Overall – 7:52:44 NEW AMERICAN RECORD!
What an amazing day overall. It was so much fun to be a part of such a talented field on such a fast day. The front of the race was so tight all day long, and to be able to come out on top is just an incredible feeling. I have so much to be thankful for. My wife and #1 supporter in EVERYTHING I do was able to meet me at the finish line again. I had so many friends and supporters throughout the run cheering for me all day long. I am pretty sure coach Julie was more exhausted than I was after the race, she was riding all over the place to get me splits on the run. Obviously, I couldn’t do this without the support of such amazing sponsors as well.


  1. Greg

    April 26, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    Nice work! “He is carrying you Matt!” 😉

  2. Randall Huff

    July 19, 2017 at 8:11 am

    Congratulations Matt on your best race so far and the new American record!
    A preliminary internet search indicated that it was the 21st fastest time any human had ever covered the full ironman distance!
    Simply awesome!

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