Matt Hanson | Professional Triathlete
5x Ironman Champion/ 4x 70.3 Champion

Ironman 70.3 Austin – Race Report

Ironman 70.3 Austin was only 2 weeks after Kona. I had signed up for the race before Kona as a “just in case I had a mechanical” option. I really never planned on doing the race. The day after Kona, I told coach Julie there would be no way I’d be ready to race by Austin and we started considering Los Cabos. But after a week of swimming and hiking around Hawaii with Ashley, I started to feel pretty good. I had the “itch” that you have to have in order to race well. So only 5 days before the race, I decided to show up and see how things went. Everything about the race was last minute, and I didn’t do things that you need to do for a successful race…like CHECK THE WEATHER! I just assumed it would be a warm day. It was hot the year before, so why not this year. Big mistake. As per usual when I travel, my final flight was delayed into Austin. Bored in the airport, I looked at the forecast and immediately had an “oh crap” moment. I was definitely not prepared for the start of the ride to only be 37 degrees F! I knew enough people in Texas so was able to get everything I thought I needed to race, but it definitely was a bit of added stress that I could have avoided. Live and learn.

Race Morning –
Everything was normal for race morning. I work up, had my two servings of First Endurance Ultragen for breakfast and fell back asleep for 30 min or so. I went early to transition area so I could take my time with everything….but being how cold it was I should have shown up a bit later. I had 60 min or so of sitting around between getting everything set up and ready and the time I wanted to start my warm up. I went for a jog, then got my Huub wetsuit on and got ready to warm up. Because my fingers weren’t working very well, I fumbled a bit with the zipper. As soon as I started my swim warm up, the bottom of the zipper popped open and my suit filled with water. I quickly swam back to shore and asked someone for help getting it all sorted. A volunteer was able to get it zipped up correctly, but unfortunately I had lost pretty much all of my time for the swim warm up.

Swim – 25:48 
I did not get off to a good start here. We did a waste deep start, which I really haven’t done that often. I didn’t sprint out hard enough and really got beat up quite a bit on the line. It was definitely the roughest swim start I’d experienced in a long time. The guy on my right seemed keen on trying to pushing me in to the guy on the left while hitting the back of my head with his outside hand every stroke. Not really sure what that was all about. But if the goal was to slow me down, it was effective. I didn’t find clear water until just before the first turn at 600 meters. At this point, I saw the first pack up in front of me and tried to surge to catch them. I was able to swim away from the second pack, but never really caught up with the first group. The were seemingly swimming at the same speed as I was on my own which was a bit frustrating because it shows that is where I should have been…just didn’t manage the start well enough to be there.

Transition –
This was definitely one of the slower transitions I’d had. Running through the freezing cold grass barefoot was not fun. I have Raynaud’s disease which means my hands and feet are worthless in the cold. I wore shoe covers, arm warmers, and put on gloves as I was riding away from the transition area.

Bike – 2:17:50 
Yup, this was the coldest I’ve been in my life. No question. I started riding and after I got my gloves on and got settled was able to bring the power into the range I was hoping to ride. The first 30 min or so of the bike went pretty well, but the next hour was miserable. I lost all function in my hands and wasn’t able to feel my feet. I couldn’t reach for my water bottles and was struggling to suck out of a straw. My upper body was extremely tense and I really wasn’t able to hold on to my bike so was pretty much driving it with my elbows. I started getting tunnel vision and really worried that I wasn’t going to be able to finish. But with about 15 miles left we hit a few climbs which slowed me down a bit and I was able to put out a bit more power. As the power crept up, so did my body temp. But the end of the ride, I was back on goal power. I still couldn’t feel my hands or feet, but I knew I was going to be able to put together a solid run.

T2 –
I fumbled around quite a bit in T2 being I really had no motor control with my hands, but finally got my shoes On and was out the gates.

Run – 1:10:39 
The first mile of the run was my slowest of the day. I was running pretty slowly trying to get my watch on and race belt snapped, then just trying to get my upper body to relax so I could settle into my efficient run stride. Then it was off to the races. Despite only having 1 bottle total on the bike, I was feeling alright. I still wasn’t feeling my feet, but my hands were working enough to grab what I needed from the aid stations. I got to the turn around on the first of 3 laps and was able to see how far the group of 5 guys was in front of me. I was actually pretty optimistic that I was only 5 min down from the lead. I knew I was running well and thought I’d have a pretty good chance to run to the podium. At the end of the first lap, I’d cut just a few seconds off the leader, but a little more off of the chase group. Same story at the 1/2 turn around. At the start of the final lap, I was still 5 minutes down from the lead and 3 minutes off the podium. I still thought I could possible move up a few spots. I could see that everyone was still running pretty well at the final turn around, and tried to dig deep and run the last 3 miles hard. I was sub 5 for 2 of the last 3 miles, but just ran out of real estate and finished 6th overall.

Overall – 3:58:19 
It is hard to be happy about a 6th place finish in a p500 70.3. The points you get from that are pretty meaningless and the payday isn’t enough to cover the travel. But I am still able to take some positives away from the race. First, it was a PR run for me. Second, I learned that if I ever race in cold like this again, I need to wear a lot more clothes. I considered wearing my bike jacket that I had with me, but decided against it hoping for an aero advantage….bad choice in hindsight!

I was on the fence about whether or not to race Los Cabos 70.3 leading into Austin. I really wanted to race…I felt like I had built up a huge level of fitness but just hadn’t executed a clean race on the build. Obviously, that is a little disappointing. However, after talking with Coach Julie…at length!…after the race I decided that my body was telling me it needed a break. So, it’s officially time for off season!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *