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How will the American follow up last year’s second-place Kona finish?
Ben Hoffman turned in a huge performance at the Ironman World Championship last year to earn the runner-up spot. Some might consider it hard to follow up such a feat, which Hoffman himself deemed a “perfect race,” but the American is not one to shy away from the challenge. Triathlete.com caught up with him in the days leading up to the Ironman 70.3 North American Championships in St. George, Utah, to discuss how he’s stepping up his game in 2015.
Triathlete.com: With such a great showing in Kona last year, do you feel added pressure this season to perform at a higher level?
Hoffman: I do feel some added pressure, but I think it would be better described as expectation. The biggest demand always comes from within for me, and I believe in and expect a lot more from myself now. I am seeking out some bigger races that should have more challenging fields so that I can continue to test myself and improve.
Triathlete.com: How do you keep those expectations from getting the best of you?
Hoffman: I’ve just realized through time that this is the wrong place for me to focus all of my energy. Being aware of expectations is important to a point, but I’m more concerned with getting the best out of myself each day and each race. You are not going to win every race, but focusing on your best execution and constant improvement will put you in the mix fairly often.
Triathlete.com: You said after Kona that you executed your “perfect race.” Do you feel like you’ve nailed the formula for your success at triathlon, or are you still making tweaks?
Hoffman: I did use the word “perfect,” even though I am under no illusion that it exists. I executed a great race for me on the day in Kona, but I know there will always be room for improvement and will constantly be making adjustments and experimenting. This is one of the things that keeps me so excited to train and race: knowing that there is always something more to get out of myself, and something new to try that could raise the bar.
Triathlete.com: You raced in New Orleans recently with your dad. What was it like for you to be able to share the course with him?
Hoffman: I’ve done a few races with my dad now, and it’s always been awesome. I know how hard he works, and he knows how hard I work, so it’s great to be able to get out there and share the culmination of that effort. It amazes me to see him push so hard at almost 62 years of age, so I know I have no excuse since I am only half his age and do it for a job!
Triathlete.com: What does your dance card look like for you in 2015, and how does Ironman 70.3 St. George fit into those plans?
Hoffman: St. George is one of my all-time favorite races. It’s always been an incredibly challenging event, and I this year I will use it to cap off my final big training for Ironman Texas two weeks later, and see if I can mix it up with one of the best fields assembled this year. It should be a great little speed and strength boost for me leading into the Ironman North American Championship in the Woodlands. After that, I will race Escape from Alcatraz, Boulder 70.3, and a few others before getting ready for another crack at Kona.
Triathlete.com: When you look at the men’s pro field for this race, what (or who) stands out to you?
Hoffman: I always take a look at start lists to give myself an idea of potential scenarios, but I really have no idea how the majority of the guys have been training, etc. I will say that the field is loaded with talent, and should make for some exciting racing, especially when paired with the challenging course and conditions in St. George. There is always major opportunity in a race like this, and everyone will be going all-out for the top spots.
Triathlete.com: You’re a regular in St. George, competing every year the race has been in existence (and winning in 2012, when it was a full Ironman). What do you love so much about this race?
Hoffman: I love St. George because the course is as good as it comes. It’s a true test of an athlete, and loaded with incredible scenery and amazing support from the race crew and volunteers. The city is a special community, and they have done an exceptional job supporting and promoting the professionals over the years. I used to take spring break training trips to St. George when I was on the University of Montana triathlon team, so I know the area well, and the landscape just resonates with me.
Triathlete.com: With such intimate knowledge of the course, what is the most important tip you have for first-timers on Saturday?
Hoffman: Prepare yourself for a hard day, and stay positive through the hard moments. The weather can do just about anything this time of year, and even if its agreeable, the course will always be challenging, especially the run. Lots of hills, so stay on top of your nutrition and pacing so you don’t blow up halfway through. Especially if it’s hot on race day, be cautious not to skimp on fluids. With the altitude and dry air, you can really get behind. Finally, use the landscape for inspiration and enjoyment, as it is not every day you get to experience an event like this.