TRAVERSE CITY — With an extra $6,000 in his pocket and an Ironman Traverse City championship under his belt, Matt Hanson intends to relax for a bit.
Seems justified after winning a 70.3-mile race featuring a 1.2-mile swim in West Grand Traverse Bay, a 56-mile bike through Leelanau and Benzie counties and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and a 13.1-mile run around the east side of Boardman Lake, finishing in front of the State Theatre in downtown Traverse City.
“I’m going to just hang out and enjoy Traverse City,” Hanson said, still wet from a post-race champagne spray bath. “I’ve been here for a couple days. And you know, I see all these beautiful restaurants and things like that. When you’re on the strict regimen going into a race, you can’t enjoy it. So I’m just going to enjoy it. Go for a little ride and enjoy the beautiful countryside (Monday), and then get home.”
The Storm Lake, Iowa, native won the inaugural Ironman Traverse City 70.3 in 3:50:33, edging out runner-up Taylor Reid of Guelph, Ontario, by 12 seconds.
“This was beautiful,” Hanson said. “I love coming to first-time races because people that have never seen a race before get to show up. And the fan support was fantastic. I hear the bike course was beautiful. I had my head down today. So I’ll have to go out and ride it again tomorrow morning before I take off, but the run was fantastic. The swim was amazing. I hope this one stays on the circuit for a long time.
“I’ve heard nothing but good things about the city, a quaint little town with a lot of Midwest hospitality. I’m a Midwest boy, so you can’t beat that.”
Hanson, as well as Reid, make a living competing in triathlons.
“This is my full-time job,” Hanson said. “So really, we get six or seven opportunities a year to make money. You’ve got to have a couple good races every year to be able to keep doing this as a sport. So I’m going to pay some bills.”
Reid, who won $3,000 for second, said he intends to pay down his student loans with the prize money.
Reid sat on the podium not long after the race, then had to get ready for the post-race celebration, with a bouquet of flowers and a champagne bottle handled to each of the top three finishers.
“I have to move? This is so hard,” Reid muttered as 70.3 miles of effort took their toll.
Hunter Lussi of Gibson Island, Maryland, and Andrew Keily of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, led after the 1.2-mile swim.
“The race was like competitive from the gun,” Reid said. “We had guys moving from first to second and third all over the place. And basically how it played out was the lead three came out of the swim together. And then Matt Hanson bridged up and we played cat and mouse for the whole time on the bike. No one really got an advantage. So it came down to the run.”
Reid moved up from fifth to second during the bike portion.
“I was like full gas literally until 10 meters when he broke the tape,” Reid said. “And I was like, ‘Okay, time to enjoy the crowd.’ The number of spectators and just the atmosphere at this race has been phenomenal. It is within the top three, if not top one, of crowds. I will be back next year for sure.”
Reid posted the best run time of 1:11:52, 44 seconds ahead of Hanson.
Stephen Kilshaw of Salt Lake City won the bike at 2:09:42, as he and Hanson were the only two to break 2:10 in the middle event.
“The swim just caught me off guard a little bit and I got boxed out early on and so I was trying to catch up the entire time,” Hanson said. “I think I made up a little bit of time finally on the backstretch, so I limited the losses. I went a little bit hard the first 45 minutes, too hard. I’m going to get yelled at for that one by coach.”
Reid said he was able to try out the swim entrance and exit ahead of time, but not much else on the course after making a six-hour drive from Guelph to Traverse City.
“So I got in a car on Friday, and drove down here with my three other buddies who are also pros,” Reid said. “And so we had a full house, grabbing an Airbnb. We hung out, checked the course out a little bit Saturday and then I went in a little blind, but that’s OK.”
Hanson didn’t win any portion of the race, but was close to the top in each to end up with a 12-second win that’s very close for Ironman standards.
“The swim was clear; you don’t get that very often,” Hanson said. “The bike I hear is beautiful. I had my head down most of the time. So I’m excited to go out and ride the course tomorrow on a little bit of a recovery ride. And the run just had fantastic crowd support the entire time. So it was a really fun race. And it’s a beautiful day. You can’t script better weather than this. It was nice and cool this morning. It just makes for fast times and a lot of us were really close up front together, which was a lot of fun.”
Traverse City hosted one of five official Ironman events Sunday, joining Dublin, Ireland; Auvergne, France; Bintan, Indonesia; and Old Orchard Beach, Maine. The race awarded a professional prize purse of $30,000 and 40 age-group qualifying slots to the 2020 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Taupō, New Zealand.
“This is my highest placing this year and probably in about two years,” Reid said. “So I’m kind of glad that I didn’t win. He played his cards right. I have so much respect for all the competitors, especially Matt.”
Kilshaw wins $2,250 for third place, with Joe Gambles of Longmont, Colorado, taking home $1,500 for fourth, Lussi $1,250 in fifth and Patrick Brady of Middleton, Wisconsin, earning a $1,000 check for sixth.