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

Ironman 70.3 World Championships – Race Report

When you are racing with the best athletes in the world, the margin for error is very slim. In every race, there are 100s of decisions to be made. Make every decision correctly, and you end up with a day like I had at Ironman Texas. However, a few wrong decisions can be the difference between being in the race and spending your day watching the race unfold well in front of you. As with every race, I’ve spent the last 2 days analyzing how the race went… looking back at the tracking information, dwelling on the decisions I made during the race, talking with Coach Julie, and then repeating the process a few times. I’m taking a lot of positives out of the race. I did a lot of things well. I also made a few mistakes that I’ll be able to use to learn from that will make me a better athlete in the future. I’ve never hidden the fact that my goal is to become a World Champion. Getting there is a process and this race was another step forward in that process. Sooo…here is a brief….or not so brief…recap of how the day went.

Pre-race

I had a great build up into this race. I was definitely a bit more focused on Kona, but I fully tapered into this race and was absolutely ready to give it 100% on race day. Coach Julie did a great job of putting the puzzle pieces together, fitting in the higher volume needed for an Ironman build with the intensity needed for a great 70.3 race. I arrived in Chattanooga on Wednesday pre-race. Ideally, I would have had a bit more time to train on the course, but being away from home is always hard (and expensive!) and I’ll have a longer trip for Kona so decided the stress of being away from home for longer would be much more than the stress of racing on a somewhat unfamiliar course. I’d raced in Chattanooga twice before, so knew what to expect for the swim and the run, so only the first ½ of the bike was new…but definitely an important section!

I love racing in Chattanooga. The town loves and embraces Ironman. Plus, Quintana Roo is located there, definitely a huge bonus for me. I shipped my bike to QR the week before the race and they had it all set up and ready for me the minute I landed. I went to their facility straight from the airport on Wednesday evening, grabbed my bike and headed out to ride the climb. I rode it again on Thursday and went on a tour of the course with Brad, the head of R&D at QR. Then rode the decent 3 times on Friday with Coach Julie. I was confident in all aspects heading into race morning.

Race Morning

I followed the same routine I do every race. Wake up 3 hours before the scheduled start time, have 2 servings of First Endurance Ultragen for breakfast then head back to bed for an hour. Ashley drove me down to transition around 6:00. I got everything ready, had a few last words with Coach then went off by myself for a warm-up jog and swim and to the start.

Swim – 27:38
This was the first time I’ve raced with a dive start. Thankfully, I knew this ahead of time and practiced my starts for a few weeks leading into the race. I think that I had a pretty good start overall. I figured the pace would be hot through the first turn at 300m. I was in the chase pack at the turn and was able to hold on through the surge after the turn. The pace settled a bit and I was not comfortable by any means but I was definitely working hard. Around the 700m mark fell off the back while swimming against the current. So, from there on, it was just trying to stay focused and positive and swim hard. I came out of the water alone at Texas and still put together a great day and thought I could still do that again, I just made it a little harder on myself.

T1 – 1:56
When I finally got through the long run to the pro transition area, I saw how few bikes there were there. That was a little shot to the confidence. At that point, all I could do was focus on riding as best I could and hoped I’d be able to bridge a gap and get some company on the bike. I got through the transition without issue and was off.

Bike – 2:17:32
I got out of town and settled into pace as I was leading into the climb. I was passed by Sebastian early on. I tried to go with him for a few minutes, but knew that riding with him for more than a few minutes would definitely not be the way to put together the fastest race possible. I settled in for what I was guessing would be a mostly solo 56 mile TT. In hind sight, this was not the best decision. The split that I got coming out of the water was to the lead group, but there were a few guys only 60 seconds up the road from me. One of those guys was able to crack the top 10. I rode a hard, and ended up with the second highest power output that I’ve had in a 70.3, but lost 2 minutes to the group that was in front of me. I am not upset at all about my effort level on the bike, especially considering I was alone for most of the ride. I caught a few guys who had fallen out of the group and obviously got passed by Sebastian, but otherwise it was just me and my thoughts. I rode the climb well, stayed aero when it mattered, and descended well. So, a lot of the areas where I had lost time in the past seem to be getting better. However, the new tracking system that Ironman is using now allows me to do a lot more analysis post race…so I can be a lot more critical of the decisions that I made. The decision not to hammer it for the first 20 minutes to try to bridge the gap absolutely hurt my overall result.

T2 – 1:20
I lost about 30 seconds to most guys in the second transition. I fumbled a bit with my socks and then folded the tongue of one of my shoes down when putting it on so had to take it off and do it again. Not my best transition and again an area where losing a few precious seconds in a stellar field can come back to haunt you in a race with this much talent.

 Run – 1:13:20
I started the run with still no one in sight. I tried to stay focused and settle in to pace. I thought there would be a few people to reel in during the second loop, so I just had to keep my head in the game. Each lap of the run course was a shorter version of the full Ironman course, so I knew what to expect and Julie and I had adjusted my training to suit. For the most part, I managed the rolling hills well, but I didn’t do a great job of surging through the hills and getting back to stride right away. My body felt good and I knew my nutrition on the bike was solid. I was going to be able to run as fast as my head would allow me to push. I finally started to pick off a few guys at the end of the first loop. I continued to run hard on the second loop and picked up one more position each mile or so. With 1 mile to go, I was told there were three guys 40 seconds up the road from me. I was running well still, it was a downhill section, and I knew I had already put about 4 minutes into them so thought I’d have a chance. I ended up catching one, then got into a sprint finish with Tim Reed to the finish line which didn’t end up in my favor.

Overall – 4:01:44 – 15th

As I mentioned above, I left Chattanooga feeling like I gained a lot from the race. Fitness and effort wise, things were great. Tactically, I made some mistakes and learned a lot from them. You don’t become a world champion overnight, it comes with experience, hard work, and time. I didn’t even qualify for 70.3 worlds last year, so coming 15th in the world is definitely a big step in the right direction.

There are so many people to thank after races. Obviously, my wife and number one supporter is at the top of the list. She spent her birthday fighting the crowds to cheer me on as many times as she could! My dad and sister also drove overnight to watch the race only to leave right away after. Obviously, Coach Julie has invested a HUGE amount of time andeffort into making sure I am as fit and ready as possible on race day. And of course, all my sponsors and supporters, the race is never possible without their support.

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