Mathias Hecht has been on the podium quite often the last few years but an Ironman title has eluded him until this year's Ironman St. George. This whole season actually is looking quite good for the outgoing Swiss Pro known as Pikey.
Slowtwitch: You have been very busy.
Mathias: Yes, the last 5 months were quite eventful. I trained in Australia, raced in NZL, trained and raced in the US and now I had a few European races. At the same time I built up a company with a friend of mine. It is called am.sports
ST: Does it feel like a big monkey is now off your back, now that you won Ironman St. George for your first Ironman title?
Mathias: After being so close for so many times it was a great moment. I had 7 podiums in Ironman races since 2005 and Ironman St.George was the perfect racecourse for me. At the beginning of the year a wise man said to me "this course suits you down to the ground." Looks like he was right about that. This title was very special as I said to my mum, this year I am going to win my first Ironman and it will be dadís win (my dad past away on October 22 2010 after fighting cancer for over three years). He taught me how to fight for something. This was his win and I was very sad he couldnít stand on the side of the course and watch me doing it.
ST: Very sorry to hear about your dad passing away, but he must have been looking down on you and smiling when you took that win.
Mathias: I was running the last 200meters pointing up to the sky... up to him. He was definitely with me the entire race.
ST: You are pretty good friends with Maik Twelsiek, plus he is your teammate. Did that make it harder for you to charge past him for the win?
Mathias: I think during the race it doesnít make a big difference who is in front and who you are going to chase down. It is a race. I went for that win and felt amazing during the whole day. But for sure, already during the race I thought how cool it would be to finish 1st and 2nd with my best mate. Maiki and I shared an apartment during race week and we talked about that double win. But to go out there and really do it, thatís a whole other thing then just talking about it.
ST: You had some solid results since St. George. Did it go according to plan or are you to some degree not completely content?
Mathias: I can say this is my best season ever so far. I finished 3rd at Ironman New Zealand, 1st at Ironman St.George, 3rd at 70.3 Ironman Switzerland, 3rd at Tri Grand Prix Zarautz and two weeks ago I finished my third Ironman in five months - 3rd at Ironman Switzerland. This was quite a program and finishing on the podium in every race is great. For sure I finally wanted to win my home race in Switzerland, but Ronnie Schildknecht is a great athlete and very hard to beat on that course. It is even harder when you already have 2 Ironman and 2 Half Ironman distances in your legs. But I went for that win, smashed the swim and bike. My lead was up to 4 minutes 40 seconds at some points. During the last 20k on the bike I started cramping and had to slow down. That ruined my tactic and lead built up completely. Ronnie caught me 10km into the run. I lost some time but at 20k I was made up some ground and came within 20 seconds again. But then I bonked completely. I made a mistake with my nutrition on the bike and paid for it. My 1k splits dropped by 30-40sec. But donít get me wrong - those are just facts that made me race not good enough to beat somebody like Ronnie. No excuses though. Once I bonked, it was a race against myself. I tried and risked and lost the race. But I will be back and try again. It is great to have such a strong competitor in your home race.
ST: It is always interesting to hear when a pro talks about making an error in nutrition. To some degree there is myth that a Pro with all that experience has that stuff dialed.
Mathias: Maybe error is the wrong word. The problem is, I pushed a bit harder than normal on a few sections of the course and I couldn't handle the amount of carbohydrate intake I planned. You feel it when part of it comes back up ... sorry, that is a bit disgusting. Every race is different and sometimes you have to adapt. There is not just one nutrition plan. There has to be a different one for every race, at least in the details.
ST: You also have been dealing with injuries. What was going on?
Mathias: I had injury problems over the whole 2010 season. During the winter I sorted it out and have been injury free since December. The problems I had last year where mostly in the lower back and I also had an inflammation in the seat bone area. I finished 2nd in Ironman South Africa behind Raynard Tissink in April 2010. And from there on it got bad. I raced with so much pain all season and was never able to push the way I wanted or would be able to.
ST: It seems all is better now though. Is that fair to say?
Mathias: All good now.
ST: And being ranked 17th in the Kona Pro Rankings with 4925 points seems to mean that you no longer need to race anything else to go to Hawaii.
Mathias: Yes. At least I wont need to race for points anymore. But I think I will still do 1-2 training races. Races help me to break up my training a bit. If I donít race, I tend to train too much. And I need races to get fast and strong. They donít kill me - they make me a better racer.
ST: Kona 2010 was a big disappointment for you. Take us back.
Mathias: I had a great preparation in Boulder. I was feeling super fit. But there was still the problem with the inflammation. It never healed completely and once I pushed on the bike, all the pain was back. Usually I have no problems to ride in the front pack in Hawaii. But this time I struggled at the end of the pack. After 10-20km I was already in a world of pain. On the way up to Hawi I couldnít sit on my saddle anymore. The pain was just too much and my legs were cramping up so badly because I did half of the distance standing and not sitting before.
ST: What do you think it will take this year to be way up there in Kona?
Mathias: This year it is different for me. If I make it in one piece and healthy to the start line, I am sure I can repeat my 8th place from 2008. But as we all know, it all depends on the day, how good the others are, how I can handle the suffering on that day. If I have a day like I had in St. George, I can be in the mix for a place in the top 10.
ST: Maybe even better than 8th place in Kona?
Mathias: I wish and on a perfect day it is definitely possible. My swim/bike combination is up there. If I run like I did in St. George, I can be in the mix for an even better place then 8th. But I don't care about places too much. I concentrate on being at my best on that day and about racing smart. Kona is also a very tactical race and I did (and still do) my homework.
ST: With the Commerzbank Team going away at the end of the season, what is your plan?
Mathias: There is more than one plan at the moment. I hope it is all sorted out before Kona so I donít have to worry about it anymore.
ST: Do you have any good leads as we speak?
Mathias: There are 2-3 different options I have at the moment. But I can't talk about this yet. I can only say that my personal relationship with team sponsors like Scott, Profile Design, Oakley, Sram and Zipp is very good. For sure I would love to keep working with these amazing brands and the great people behind it. But no contracts are signed yet. Maybe I know more in a few weeks.
ST: Do you think that to you and your fellow Commerzbank Pros will now "fight" to some degree for the same sponsorship money?
Mathias: I think we all do a bit. Not only the Commerzbank Pros. There is still only a limited amount of sponsoring money in the circuit. But I try to target companies who are not involved in triathlon sponsorship yet.
ST: The last few years you didn't have to really worry about that kind of stuff, but does that mean you are a bit rusty in that area?
Mathias: No, not at all. During that time I also had my personal sponsors like Newton Running and Tri 11 wetsuits. Two companies I have a very good relationship with. Thanks to my new business am.sports I am in contact with big companies and I was not sitting around and waiting till my Commerzbank contract was over. I knew there is a time afterwards. I am somebody who thinks a lot about the future.
ST: All well with you and Nicole?
Mathias: Very good. Nicole is very busy at the moment as she is finishing her bachelor in economics, working in a big company and still training daily. She is a very smart and busy woman. So if I donít get a new sponsor for 2011 she has to bring the money home.
ST: Will we see the next step some time soon? Maybe on New Year's Day or New Yea's Eve?
Mathias: That day we will be in L.A. with our good friends Maiki and Hillary. Celebrating them.
ST: So when will Maik and Hillary be able to celebrate you and Nicole?
Mathias: Nicole and I are not big believers in marriage. We are very happy the way it is right now. So maybe this will take a long time.
ST: Anything else new and exciting?
Mathias: Go and have a look at amsports.ch, but we only sell in Switzerland. So this is more for Swiss athletes.
To learn more about Mathias check out mathiashecht.ch and potential sponsors can reach him here.