Matt Hanson's terrific day in Texas

We catch up with the two-time Ironman North American champion Matt Hanson on his fantastic day at Ironman Texas.

| May 1, 2018 | PERSONALITY

Matt Hanson and Ivan Tutukin duel on the run at Ironman Texas.

Matt Hanson and Ivan Tutukin duel on the run at Ironman Texas.

Photo >Talbot Cox

TriathlonWorld.com: You seem to have the Texas course dialed in – what is it about the race that seems to suit you?

Matt Hanson: The Texas course suits me for a number of reasons. The biggest reason is that I have spent a good amount of time training in the area over the past five years. I have an amazing home stay family that I stay with. I feel almost like I am at home while I am down there. This helps me start the race very relaxed. That is such a huge asset. I also have a number of friends in the area and feel like I am running on a home course with all the people cheering for me regardless of how the race goes. I love the atmosphere on that run. It is so inspiring. 

Is it more challenging in terms of race tactics when you have someone taking a flyer out on the bike course like Andrew Starykowicz did?

I think I was the only one who was respecting what Andrew can do on the run as well as on the bike in that race…at least in the chase group. I talked with Andrew at Galveston and he told me he was going to go sub four on the bike, then hold on for dear life on the run. The last two times I raced him (Galveston and Steelhead 70.3s) I’ve fallen a few seconds short in chasing him down. So I definitely wanted to minimize the losses to him on the bike as much as possible. I worked hard to catch the chase group on the bike, then went to the front of it to try to keep Andrew from having a 20-minute lead. When I was looking at the weather leading into the race, I figured he could go 7:50 on the day, so I would have to be aggressive on the bike if I wanted to have a shot at beating him. 

Matt Hanson charges to a 4:07 bike split.

Matt Hanson charges to a 4:07 bike split.

Photo >Talbot Cox

You had Ivan Tutukin on your hip for so much of the marathon. Was it hard to stay focused on your own race in that situation? You were able to finally break away – how did you manage to finally get clear?

The battle with Ivan was pretty intense. He ran on my hip for about 25 miles. I was able to stay pretty dialed in mentally until the last 10 km, then had to fight off a number of ‘mental gremlins.’ In 2016, on this course, I was on pace for a 2:40 and basically passed out with 2.5 miles to go. That fear definitely came up a few times on the last 10 km. But I was able to push out of the dark moments and push through the pain and the cramps that showed up around 24 (miles) and open up my stride for the last mile. Just before the 25 mile mark, there is a slight downhill. I started my surge there and finally got a gap around a quarter mile later. At the final turn around I had about three seconds on him so tried to give it everything I had for 100 yds then just hold on to the finish line.

Even if the course was a short by a few hundred meters, that was an incredible run. Were you surprised that you were able to go that fast?

Everyone keeps telling me the course was short. Ironman certified the course spot on the morning before the race and 80 meters long the evening before the race. I started my watch a bit late out of transition and it read over 26 miles. Nonetheless, I thought going into the day that I could run a 2:38. I’ve ran a 2:41 and a 2:42 on this course in the past, so knew I could run well here. The conditions were also shaping up to make for a fast run as well. Coach Julie and I decided that it would be best for me to go out at a 5:50-5:55 pace and try to even split the entire thing. But the race situation made me alter my plan a bit. I thought I could go out at a 5:40 pace for the first few miles then settle down into pace after getting a little breathing room. Turns out I didn’t get that breathing room till the last 1/2 mile. It takes being pushed like that to really find out what you can do. I guess now I know!

What happens for you now through the rest of the season? (I assume Kona would be a big goal?)

I am taking it easy this week, then I’ll try to hold on to this fitness to go and race Chattanooga 70.3 then return to Coeur d’Alene 70.3. Then I’ll take a bit of time off in the summer and go support my wife at Challenge Roth and enjoy some German food and sight seeing the days after the race. After that, all sights are set on Kona.