Matt Hanson | Professional Triathlete
3x Ironman Champion/ 2x 70.3 Champion

Ironman 70.3 Steelhead Race Report

It is safe to say that I wasn’t targeting Steelhead 70.3 as a “High Priority” race this season. If the swim had not been canceled at Racine 70.3, it is a good chance that I would not have done Steelhead. I am definitely in my full build for both World Championship races…a build which I kicked off in a training camp in Kona. I had a solid 10 day camp in Kona with Coach Julie and returned stateside on Thursday morning and went straight to the race. That being said, I definitely was not overlooking this race. I had a few specific things that I wanted to accomplish at this race. I was certainly not there to just go through the motions! I have wanted to do Steelhead for a while now, but unfortunately there had not been a pro race there for a few years. I have family who live just a few minutes away from Benton Harbor who were gracious enough to let me stay with them. I was excited to finally be able to toe the line there.

Race Morning 
I woke up as always 3 hours before the race and had my typical 2 servings of First Endurance Ultragen for breakfast. I went back to sleep for another 45 minutes, then Ashley drove me down to the race start. I was able to quickly get everything set up and ready to roll. The water was a bit choppy on race morning, which is actually wha

t I was hoping for. I typically have not swam well in choppy water, something I have been working on my entire time as a pro. So I was happy to get another race of experience in rougher water. I got in about 15 minutes before I needed to line up and got warmed up, then walked through the beach start a few times. Then got on the line and ready to go.

Swim – 27:30
Overall, I am happy with how the swim went. I did find a few areas where I need to continue to work on though. I am definitely not great at getting in the water on a beach start with chop which causes you to go back and forth from swimming to dolphin diving. Same goes with getting out of the water. From the start, I found myself well back from where I wanted to be. By the time things settled, I was well back from the first chase pack. The good news was I was able to bridge up to that group by the first turn around 600 meters. I had to work, but stayed with the group until the end. Unfortunately, the struggles I had getting into the water are the same getting out. I lost almost 20 seconds to the guys feet I was on at the last buoy. So very positive here, but still things to work on.

T1 – 1:59 
I got to my bike quickly, I saw a group exiting transition as I was grabbing my QR, so knew I was going to have to put in a hard dig early on to be able to ride with them. Somehow my Kask glasses had fallen out of my helmet and I didn’t see them anywhere so I just ran out with out them.

Bike – 2:06:31 
I got out and worked on getting in my shoes. For some reason, I fumbled quite a bit with them and lost too much time. The group I was keying off was riding away. I finally got sorted and got into a rhythm. I was able to ride comfortably at my normal 70.3 power, but just couldn’t get my HR high enough to allow me to hold on to the power that I would need to bridge the gap to the group of 5. By the time that I got situated in my shoes, they were a minute ahead of me…and that’s where they stayed the entire time. I was definitely feeling quite a bit of fatigue from the camp I had completed. I struggled to keep my HR above 150, typically I average 165bpm for a 70.3. I rode in front of a group of 3 or 4 for the entire ride. I kept telling myself that the power would come and I’d be up for a surge at some point, but it just never came there. Overall, it wasn’t a bad ride. I averaged higher power than I did at my win in CdA 70.3, but I was able to use the power better and most strategically there. I had no idea what was going on up front so I just focused on riding hard and getting to the run as quickly as I could.

T2 – 2:15 
Everything went fine here in T2. I found my glasses 3 bikes over (my helmet must have gotten bumped by one of the early guys out of the water). I threw on my Compressport calf sleeves and socks and my Ons and headed out to the run.

Run – 1:10:55 
I knew the run started gradually uphill, so wasn’t surprised that my pace was a bit slow out of the gates. My first mile was the slowest of the day (6:00 on the nose). At the top of the first hill, I got a glimpse of what was going on in front of me. I had no idea what place I was in, but I could see 5 guys evenly paced in front of me. This immediately put some pep in my step and I settled into a 5:20/mi pace. Around mile 6, I could see the 2nd and 3rd just up the road. I got an update from Ash at the start of the second lap that I was still almost 6 minutes down from Andrew. I still wasn’t ready at this point to give up on the overall win, but just focused on ticking off the miles at my goal pace. I moved into 2nd around mile 8. Joe definitely didn’t make it easy. I passed him going at roughly a 5:00 pace and he re-passed me immediately. I put in another little surge and was able to break the tether and get a gap on him.Then I just focused on growing the lead while staying in control. I didn’t know how Andrew was running up front, but knew I was running great and my nutrition was spot on so I wasn’t worried about fading. At mile 10.5 or so, I could see a bike way off in front of me. Again, this put some pep in the step. I put in another little surge and held on to that pace. I thought I was running up on the lead. I got about 100 yds away from the bike and was finally able to see who was running in front of the bike…it was the second place female just starting her second lap. Definitely was a bummer, but it didn’t crush me. I continued to run hard, but at this point was sure that I was going to end up second. I crossed the finish line and saw my wife and the family who we stayed with. It was great to see them at the finish line!

Overall – 3:49:08 – Second place
Taking a lot of positives out of the day. I had a good swim in choppy water, I was able to put together a solid bike despite being a bit tired, and had a PR run on a course that definitely wasn’t easy. I didn’t really know what to expect since my taper was only 3 days and included an overnight plane ride. I trusted the plan that Coach Julie and I had set up for the race, and the training that she had me doing leading into the race. I left everything out there that I had on the day, that’s for sure. Huge congrats to Andrew on his wire-to-wire win and on overall great performance.

I have had some great races this season, and am really happy with the improvements I’ve been able to show, especially in the swim and bike. I am feeling great about where I’m at leading into 70.3 Worlds and Kona!

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