Professor Qualifies for Ironman World Championship

Professor Qualifies for Ironman World Championship

Professor Qualifies for Ironman World Championship

Following a stellar finish at Ironman Texas last weekend, a local triathlete has qualified to race as an elite athlete.

Dr. Matt Hanson, assistant professor of exercise science and director of the human performance program at Buena Vista University, completed the grueling 140.6 mile race in 9:03:57, shaving 46 minutes off his personal record.

His finish qualified him again for the Ironman World Championship, in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii in October. Out of 2,127 domestic and international male participants, his time was good for third amateur overall, second in his age group and, including professional athletes, fourteenth overall.

Despite The Woodlands' sweltering 95-degree heat, the 28-year old Alta resident, sponsored by online triathlon retailer, said he was pleased with his performance during the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run.

At the start of the race, stomach issues threatened to slow his pace.

"I was up in the front pack, and once I got sick, everyone trampled me during the last portion of the swim," Hanson said. "I got out of rhythm and it was tough to get back and start rolling."

After a 1:04 swim, which put him at 16th in his division and 169th overall, he kicked it into high gear on a hot and windy bike course.

"I took over 40 minutes off the bike split from my previous time," Hanson said of his 4:52:58 split, where he averaged 22.94 miles per hour. "That's where I was able to make up a lot of time."

Coming into the marathon-length run, he had jumped to third in his division and 42nd overall.

"I had to think if I wanted to go for it or run conservatively," Hanson explained. "I knew I was sitting in a good spot in overall standings, but made the decision to go for it and see what happened with the amateur race."

Around mile 21, a brick wall began when weather conditions got the better of him, slowing his pace from sub-seven minute miles to mid-eight minute miles.

However, he was able to pull off the fastest amateur marathon split, finishing at 2:59:40 — an overall pace of 6:51 per mile.

To date, he has now completed four full IMs and eight half-IMs.

"When I started training for Ironmans, I didn't know I had a shot at professional racing," he said. "As my hobby grew, I was able to chip a little bit of time away and began to see it as a possibility at the end of my last season."

To qualify for the elite, professional category, U.S.A. Triathlon requires athletes to meet one of the following criteria: finish within eight percent of the winning elite time on the same course as the elites in three USAT sanctioned events that offer a prize purse of $5,000 or greater, with all three results from the same calendar year; finish in the top 10 overall and within eight percent of the winner's time at the ITU Age Group Olympic Distance World Championships; finish in the top 10 overall amateur field at the IM 140.6 World Championship in Kona; finish top five overall and within eight percent of the winner's time at the USAT Age Group Olympic Distance National Championships or finish top three overall in the amateur field at an elite qualifying race.

Since he began tackling the endurance races in 2011, his training has changed significantly.

"When I started, I didn't know what I was doing," Hanson explained. "I just started putting in a lot of time in that wasn't the most efficient, but as I researched more and received my triathlete coaching certification, I am much more methodical about how I put my program together."

At the end of this month, he will have run and swam more than he did during the entire year of 2012.

Hanson trains seven days a week, with a long swim on Monday; two-hour bike ride, hour-long swim and 10-15 mile run on Tuesday and Thursday; lower-intensity bike ride and run on Wednesday; hard swim and run on Friday; five-hour bike ride and half-hour run on Saturday and 18-22 mile run on Sunday.

Some mornings, he rises between 4-5 a.m. to fit in his training, and often swims during his lunch hour. During running sessions, he is joined by his wife, Dr. Ashley Farmer-Hanson, director of civic engagement at BVU, who has several road races scheduled for this summer.

"I definitely have a very understanding wife, and having so much of the stuff available here at BV helps as well," he said.

While Hanson is still figuring out his race schedule for the summer, he is tentatively planning for a June road race while in Spain, Olympic-distance triathlons in July, and a few races in August in September, before heading to Hawaii in October.

He plans to begin racing as a professional either later this fall or early next year.