Matt and his Bike
Matt Hanson, 32, grew up in Southern Minnesota working on the family farm and training as a high school and collegiate wrestler. These days, living in Iowa, he still lives and trains amid the cornfields.
And he’s hoping the many solitary miles spent running and riding these country roads lead to a career-boosting performance at Saturday’s Ironman World Championship in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. Matt has had solid results this year, including winning his second Ironman North American Championship. Beyond being a professional triathlete, Hanson is a sports scientist with a doctorate and a coaching business.
Here’s a closer look at Matt and his bike for Kona:
All photos © BrakeThrough Media
SRAM: You have a triathlon coaching business (Matt Hanson Coaching) but you’ve also worked in higher education at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. Tell us about that.
Matt Hanson: This is the first year I am not affiliated at all (with the school). I was teaching and was in charge of the exercise science program there until the end of 2015 spring semester. After I won Ironman Texas I decided it was time to stop moonlighting as a triathlete and give it a full go. But I did some advising and I taught a few classes up until last year.
Did you go to college there as well?
I did. I met my wife there as well. My wife currently works there, so that keeps us tied to the area. They’ve always been very good to me. Good memories as well.
Did you play a sport at Buena Vista?
I wrestled there. I dislocated my hip wrestling…. That’s what kind of ended my college athletic career.
In high school did you just wrestle or did you also run?
I also ran a little bit in high school, but it was to get in shape for wrestling. I was lifting weights like a wrestler. Once upon a time I had discernable muscle mass on my body! I wrestled 141 in college (at 5-foot-10) and 140 the last two years of high school.
Wrestling is a pretty intense and physically demanding sport. How do you contrast it with endurance sports, particularly triathlon?
In a lot of ways it helped, but in a couple of ways it hurts. With the wrestling mentality, more is always better. You can always be working harder. What I learned and eventually learned the hard way is that in endurance sports, you’ve got to have some long easy stuff. You don’t always have to be smashing it, and if you do you’re going to pay the price as some point. That’s been a lesson learned the hard way—trying to break that mentality a little bit. But the mental toughness that it takes to cut weight, just going through the grind of getting the crap kicked out of you in the first year of college, definitely helps when you come to the back end of these runs when it’s all about how much you want to suffer.
What’s the most weight you had to cut in wrestling, and how does that compare with the weight lost during an Ironman race?
When I was a sophomore in high school, I wasn’t very intelligent. I cut down to 119 from about 145. I was 5-foot-10. That was not the smartest move that I made.
I’ve lost quite a bit of weight during some races here. I think the most I’ve done is 11 pounds in a race.
Tell us about your coaching business (Matt Hanson Coaching). Do you coach your clients online?
Yes, it’s mostly remote. I have a couple of athletes overseas. Most of them are in the United States…. I have all levels, from people just starting to I have a couple racing here this weekend.
It’s been a way for me to use my education. I went to school for eight years essentially to do that type of thing, so it’s been good to have some contact with the outside world. Being in Iowa, I train alone quite a bit. So I get to talk with people with the same interests as mine on a daily basis, which is nice as well.
What is your goal for Kona this year?
The goal is to execute a solid race. I don’t want to have a certain place in mind and go for broke. I think there will be a time in my career when I go for broke, and go for a win here, but this year I just need to execute as good as a race as I possibly can.
What is your scouting report on yourself as a triathlete, your strengths and weaknesses?
I’ve been really inconsistent in the swim, but in a good way. I’ve just been constantly crawling my way forward. That’s changed the way that the race runs. It’s hard for me to say, ‘this is how my race is going to be because with my swim, sometimes I make a pack that I want to and sometimes I’m just behind…. I typically have a solid run but have just been working trying to have the best overall average.
What is your reaction to riding SRAM RED eTap?
The shift is perfect every time. I also like it for me, because I do most of my bike mechanic stuff myself; just the ease of taking apart the bike to travel. I can just take the front and rear derailleur off, not cables or cords to worry about, slap them right back on when I get to the hotel or the apartment, and it’s ready. That’s made traveling so much less stressful.
What Matt’s Riding in Kona
Shifters: SRAM® RED® eTap® Clics™ on extensions, eTap® Blips on base bar
Front derailleur: SRAM® RED® eTap®
Rear derailleur: SRAM® RED® eTap®
Cassette: SRAM RED XG-1190, 11-26
Chainrings: SRAM AERO, 55/42
Wheels: Zipp® 808 NSW Carbon Clinchers
Base bar: Zipp Vuka Aero™
Extensions: Zipp Vuka Alumina Evo 110
Frame: Quintana Roo PRsix