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

Ironman Texas Report Part 2 – The Play By Play

   I’ve already written up a rather lengthy response about the race including Ironman’s decision to keep the performance as an brand best performance. You can find that HERE if you would like to read that. Now, I’m finally sitting down to write out what I’d much rather be focusing on…the actual race itself.

I arrived in The Woodlands on April 3rd where I stayed a few days before heading down to race Galveston 70.3. I came back to TW after the race and did the final race prep there. I’m extremely comfortable in The Woodlands, I have an amazing host family there which has most definitely helped make all of these trips possible. I feel like that is my second home and have considered this my “home away from home” course. This was going to be my 6th IMTX, I’ve had some great days and a few less than great moments there as well. I had a great build leading into the race and was confident that my coaches Julie Dibens and Matt Bottrill had me firing on all cylinders when race day finally arrived.

Race Morning
As usual, I woke up race morning at roughly 3:00 and downed two servings for First Endurance Ultragen for breakfast. I typically go back to sleep for 30 minutes or so after this, but this year I decided to do 20 minutes of easy mobility work instead. I’ve been struggling with some issues in my back since I started triathlon, but I’m finally starting to get some answers on why and how to prevent this. Under the guidance of Lawrence van Lingen as well as the Rally Sport Boulder crew, I finally seem to be getting on top of this. After “untying the knot” that is my body, I get my gear ready and headed out the door with my wife and my Homestay, Rich, who was also racing that day. I got my bike racked and ready, set my bags, then went for a quick run. I knew we wouldn’t have much time to warm up in the swim, so I wanted to make sure that I was good and ready to roll once I got into the water. I made the 15 minute walk from transition to the swim start with my wife and teammate, Dede who unfortunately had to pull out of the race that morning due to an illness. I got my swimskin on and moved to get into the water as soon as I possibly could to squeeze as much warm up in as possible. Turns out we were given 3 minutes to warm up, so glad I did the run!

Photo by Talbot Cox

Swim- 52:30
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the swim that I was hoping for or I trained so hard for over the offseason. My swim fitness was there, but my execution was not. I went out quite hard and was sitting 3rd at the first buoy. I loved having open water to swim in rather than fighting in the pack, but the reality is I shouldn’t be that far up in the swim. I started too fast and paid the price around the 500 mark, getting spit off the back and finding myself in no mans land. I was able to stay strong and put together a good swim slowing picking up a few stragglers who got spit off the back of the pack later in the swim. This is definitely an area that I will continue to focus on over the summer races.

Transition 1 – 2:10 

The first transition went just fine. I quickly grabbed my bag, threw off my swimskin and started running to my bike. I had my shoes clipped on the bike already, but threw on my helmet and glasses while I was running to the rack. T1 was pretty seamless for a nice change!

Bike – 4:07:27 

The first update I got from Coach Julie was that I was about 3:30 down from the main pack. I immediately had a feeling of deja vu. I was almost in the exact same position as last year. I started pushing hard through town and as soon as I got on the Hardy I pushed the power up about 20 watts. I wanted to catch the pack as quick as possible…before anyone in that group started to try to get away. I caught the group about 80 minutes into the ride. I was holding roughly the same power that I held in Galveston 70.3 up to this point. My first thought was to hang out off the back a bit and try to recover before really letting any of the guys know I was there. But I changed my mind and went straight to the front of the pack right away because I wanted to make sure that everyone I was marking aside from Andrew was in the pack.

I ended up staying on the front for most of the ride. There were a few times were I really backed off the pace forcing someone else to take the lead. Brent jumped in front of the group for a few miles around mile 50. Shortly after, I put in a hard dig to try to separate from the group. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get away. I tried again to get away on the beginning of the second loop of the Hardy as well, again being unsuccessful. Every time I looked back behind me to see if I was gaining any ground, the guy riding 2nd to me was always sitting at a legal distance, so in hindsight I should have 1)attacked harder at the start or 2) waited until deeper in the race when people aren’t quite as fresh. At the 3rd turn around, Matt Russell dropped the hammer and I had to work hard to make sure he didn’t get too much of a gap on the group. He led for about 10 minutes before I passed him and tried to hold the power high and either get away from the group or at least wean out a few of the solid runners. I don’t think I was successful with either, but perhaps I put a bit more junk in their legs so they didn’t feel as well on the run. At the last turn around, I saw that the group was all still there. I kept riding hard, but moved back to about 4th in the group by the time we made it into transition. My bike handling skills are not what the others are in this group and so I would get passed coming out of every corner on the way back to town.

I am really happy with this ride. My power was exactly on target for the first time ever in a full IM. I’ve been working hard on the bike with Matt and Julie over the winter and it was really fun to see that work pay off. I need to get better on the strategic side of things, but I am definitely riding with confidence right now. Of course people see the run split that I put out and automatically assume that I drafted the entire ride. If you ask the guys in the pack, I think you would hear 2 things: 1) I rode hard and 2) I need to learn how to corner better! Always something to work on.

Transition 2 – 2:39 

Again, another pretty good transition. I put my compressport socks and calf sleeves on in T2, so I typically lose a little time to the guys with an ITU background, but I wasn’t terribly concerned. I threw on my shoes, grabbed my watch and a flask of FE liquid shot and quickly headed out of transition.

Run – 2:34:40 

I can’t think of another time that I have come out of transition with a group that big…and with that many solid runners in the pack. I think all of the guys I came in with ran under 2:50 on the day. Makes for an interesting start. I went out at roughly 5:40 pace, which was faster than I had planned on. I wanted to get some clear space between me and the group before settling in. I was feeling good and trusted my fitness so I just went with it. I never thought I’d be holding that pace for the first 18 miles! One of Julie’s famous sayings is “sometimes you have to risk it for the biscuit” and another is “you have to raise your game in championship races.” Both of these things were going through my mind as Ivan latched on to my hip during the first mile of the run and sat there through the beginning of the 25th mile. 

For the most part, I was able to keep my stride, stay comfortable and relaxed, and just focus on holding strong. As the last 10k drew near, I had to fight more and more to hold stride. The pace dropped to slower than 6:00/mi for the first time around mile 18. I was hoping he was suffering just as much as I was. I took over the lead from Andrew at the end of the second lap. At the start of the third lap, Coach Julie yelled at me to start making a plan. My first though…my plan is to just try to hold on! But as we got to the final miles, it became clear that I was going to have to do something to try to get away because Ivan just wasn’t fading. With his ITU background, I didn’t want to get into a foot race with him the last 200 meters. I struggled a bit through mile 24, but started to feel good again leading into mile 25. There is a slight downhill coming off of the road, so I opened up the stride there and picked up the pace just slightly. That was enough to get a small gap. At the final turn around at the last aid station of the day, I saw I had about a 3 second gap, so decided to hit it hard for 10 seconds then just try to hold on to the finish. Thankfully, I was able to get to the line without any issues. I saw coach Julie about 200 yards from the finish. She gave me her typical “don’t celebrate down the chute, get your butt to the tape!”

Overall – 7:39:25
Crossing the finish line was incredible as always. I was telling myself to keep it together and act like you’ve been here before…but about 5 seconds before the finish line, I lost it. The emotion from seeing the final time on the clock, turning myself inside out during the battle with Ivan, seeing my wife starting to go nuts, and of course hearing Mike say that I was a 3x North American Champion all hit me hard. What an amazing moment! To be met by my wife seconds after crossing the line was even more incredible. All of this isn’t possible without the support team that I have behind me. To have so many of my family, friends, coach, sponsors there to celebrate with me is priceless. Thanks to everyone who’s been in my corner.Definitely one for the ages, but has left me wondering…how can I top this??? We will soon find out!


  1. Joel lopez

    May 5, 2018 at 12:12 am

    Thank you for sharing your race with us. It’s awesome to hear the inside story.

    Thank you Champ


  2. Randall Huff

    May 6, 2018 at 7:42 pm

    I’m glad the controversies all surfaced on race day instead of being brought out much later when you wouldn’t be given a fair chance to defend yourself and to explain your race. Great sportsmanship in crediting the guy who pushed you for 25 miles (for all 26 miles, 365 yards, actually) and the advantage that gave you over the previous record holder–and in giving each of them name recognition. Great job of rising above the fray and of distancing yourself from the race officials’ decisions. I loved the explanations by others that all courses and racing conditions are different because of the nature of the race, and your own acceptance of an asterisk if whoever acquaints themselves with the facts of the race deem it necessary. Truly a day to remember for the rest of your life. I was certainly shocked yesterday when I read part 1 of your race report to the extent that I’ll probably forget many other things before I forget where I was when I read the news (WORLD RECORD!!!) and how profoundly glad I am to have known someone who sets really incredible personal goals and manages to achieve them. THANKS!!!

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