Ben Hoffman Slides Into the Hoffseason

After racing heavily August through October Ben Hoffman now has a bit off an off-season or Hoffseason as he calls it, but will be back in earnest before too long. Off-season however does not mean that he is just sitting on the sofa and eating potato chips and drinking beer. He will have more time for his family, and will be active and ride, swim and run, but just a bit lighter in terms of load.

Slowtwitch: Thank you for your time Ben.

Ben Hoffman: Thanks for having me back on, and hello to anyone who is reading.

ST: With Oceanside 70.3 just behind, what is next on your calendar?

Ben: It's actually my off-season, or Hoffseason as it has been coined. I had visions of tackling another IRONMAN or maybe heading to Daytona in December, but after some more thought and conversations with my coach, I have decided to take it easy now and then begin the long preparations for a big 2022. So, next on the schedule are a couple sponsor trips, lots of family time, and some small projects around the house.

ST: You raced quite heavily the last few months, and that included a sandwich of 70.3 races wrapped around IRONMAN Chattanooga. Was that all to make up for no Kona?

Ben: Yes and no. I really hadn't done a ton of racing during the pandemic period so far, initially due to a relative dearth of races, and then more so because of life circumstances and a few physical setbacks. I had started my build for Kona back in late July, and then when we learned about the postponement, I shifted my plans to Canada, which was also cancelled, and then finally to Chattanooga. After racing there, I felt like I could use the fitness for a couple more races and then see where the body and mind were. In the end, I only raced 6 times this year, but most of them were between August and October. It was important to get back in touch with the IRONMAN distance, and to secure the Kona spot for October next year.

ST: How have you generally been dealing with that uncertainty of races maybe happening or maybe not?

Ben: It has definitely been a rollercoaster the past two seasons, but like most people, I have just rolled with the punches and tried to adapt and be as philosophical as possible. I know that my problems ultimately pale in comparison to those who have lost their lives, loved ones, jobs, or homes. When the pandemic first hit, I was ok to have a little extra time with the family, but then I regained the hunger for racing and it was a lot of ups and downs as races were canceled or postponed. It does make the training a little more challenging in terms of peaking, but all we can do is train with the information we have at the moment. Even when a race seems to be on, like Sacramento, an outside force other than the pandemic can cause a cancellation, so the key remains to enjoy the training and process as the primary goal. I will say that it has been tough to have two years of IRONMAN World Championships cancelled while I am in my long distance prime, but I am really looking forward to next year with two "Konas."

ST: What is your weekly training like as we speak?

Ben: It's very unstructured at the moment, as I have decided to take an offseason and reset. I'm still enjoying some time on the bike as the weather is perfect in Arizona right now, but it's pretty relaxed. The next several weeks will involve some time on the mountain bike, gravel bike, the occasional trail run, one or two swims a week, and some light strength training. I love this lifestyle, and it's hard to go to absolute zero from IRONMAN training, so I usually move the body once a day.

ST: During the season how much of your training is indoor versus outdoor?

Ben: I am definitely more of an outdoor athlete, but I do spend time on the trainer, treadmill, and I log plenty of gym time for strength work. I see the value in controlled sessions with very specific goals, but part of the reason I chose this lifestyle was to be outdoors in beautiful places, and part of the reason we have chosen to live in Arizona for most of the year is that the weather allows consistent outdoor training. As a professional athlete, I have more flexibility and freedom when it comes to the time invested in a workout, but with two kids now, indoor training will gradually become more frequent in my workout schedule.

ST: When IRONMAN moved the 2021 IM Worlds from Kona to St. George in May, what was your initial thought?

Ben: I was actually a little relieved that they moved it from the February Kona, because I couldn't see how that plan would actually happen. Between limited lodging in Kona in February, and the ongoing issues with COVID19 and hospital capacity, it just didn't seem like it would come together. St. George was a great compromise and gives us an opportunity to race a World Championships event after a 2.5-year hiatus on a truly challenging course. Since I am the defending champion at the race (last held in 2012), I have good memories of racing in Utah and look forward to giving my best in May. That said, my main focus for the year will be on Kona in October.

ST: Let us look at the year 2021 and the races you have done. What would you consider your best effort or efforts this year?

Ben: The best efforts were probably my race at Chattanooga, and then my race at Oceanside. It hasn't been my most prolific season by any stretch, but I was especially happy to put together a solid day in Tennessee at the end of September. I didn't talk about it a lot on social media, but it was actually a really tough build for me, with a lot of bumps and false starts during the block. To be in the mix at all was a win when I look back at my training, and it actually gave me a lot of confidence that I can still be competitive at the World Championships if I string together my usual training. Oceanside doesn't look like much on paper with my 7th place, but I think it was close to 10 minutes faster than any effort I've done there, and the numbers were pretty good across the board. The only problem is that the 70.3 game is so fast now that I wasn't really in the mix for the top spots.

ST: Was there an event that you did this season that you would rather forget?

Ben: Hah. Yeah, both Challenge Miami and St. George 70.3 were pretty forgettable efforts for me this season. I wasn't truly prepared for either and got pretty well smoked at both. It has been a while since I have been really competitive at the 70.3 distance, but those were disappointing efforts, and after this interview, I will try to not think of them again!

ST: What does that mean for you in terms of 70.3 races moving forward?

Ben: Not much change, probably. I will continue to race the half distance as a way to improve my skill set, and as a way to get me ready for the bigger goals over the iron distance. I can accept that I am not one of the athletes who crosses over extremely well between the two distances, like Crowie, Sebi, or Jan, especially if I win the important long distance races where I have focused.

ST: Sebastian Kienle announced that he will race through 2023 and then walk away. He was your Cape Epic partner and I would think you are thus closer to him. Was that announcement surprising to you, and have you batted around that idea of when and what is next?

Ben: Yes, I do stay in relatively close contact with Sebi, so this announcement was something that I knew was coming. In fact, I have a somewhat similar plan, to be fully committed next season to the two world championships, and then to have a season where I do more bucket list races and some gravel events as I transition into the next phase of my career. It's not to say that I will not be serious in that second year, as I would love to win a few races, but I don't think I would build the whole year around Kona as I have for the last 7 or 8 years. With two kids at home, and almost 15 professional seasons under my belt, my priorities have certainly shifted some.

ST: Talking about Cape Epic, have you been on your MTB since?

Ben: Until recently, I haven't been on it much. I did spend some time in Colorado last summer, revisiting my old training grounds in Durango, and I was on the mountain bike a couple times a week for a month. I usually get on it a handful of times during my offseason, but I would say I don't ride as much as I used to. However, Sebi did mention (possibly jokingly) the possibility of a second Cape Epic once we are both retired...

ST: What about gravel racing?

Ben: The gravel scene has absolutely exploded over the last several years, and I am happy to say I am a fan of the community and events that are being built. I have taken part in two so far, BWR in Cedar City last year, and the Enve Grodeo this year. Both were awesome, and I will look to do more as they fit in the schedule, especially in 2023.

ST: How did those gravel events go for you?

Ben: BWR was a comedy of errors with an early flat around 25 miles into the ride that took an incredibly long time to repair, so I lost contact with the front group and chased the rest of the day. I enjoyed the experience and felt that I could have been just outside the top 5 or 6 if I had better mechanical luck, but that is one of the cool parts of the gravel racing scene; equipment choices are even more consequential. The Enve Grodeo was mostly a fun ride with sections that were contested as a race. I finished in the front group and had an absolute blast.

ST: You have been with the same sponsors for quite a while and that is quite rare. In fact I can kind of see you eating bacon in your Zoot Lederhosen outfit while going fast on one of your Cervelos.

Ben: Haha! That is an image I hope can come to fruition if I am able to race Roth at some point in the next couple seasons. I feel very fortunate to have had incredible long-term support from many companies, and it has been a fun journey to build and maintain the relationships. People ask me what my greatest achievements are in this sport, and I usually say that it's the broader accomplishment of building a viable career in a non-traditional channel. That and learning to swim from zero at age 20.

ST: Bike wise, which bike are your riding the most, and which one are you racing the most often?

Ben: I am very lucky to be riding Cervelo (and by extension Santa Cruz), so I have virtually all the bikes in my fleet. For triathlon purposes, I ride the P5 Disc and PX bikes, opting for the P5D in most of my half distance and shorter events, and the PX for my IRONMAN races. I ride the road bike a lot in training, so the R5 sees a good number of miles, as well as the Aspero gravel bike. As we all know, the formula is very simple: N+1

ST: Do you still have that close relationship with the bacon company? And if not professionally, maybe just personally?

Ben: Yes we do. Tender Belly has been a part of the Hoff Racing team from very early, and we are happy to continue with them as a partner for the future. Although I don’t eat as much meat as I did when I was younger, I have complete confidence in the products and company as a whole, and it has been a fun non-endemic to have on board. Although they are known mostly for their Bacon, they also have a wide range of products that are crazy tasty.

ST: Is there anything else to know?

Ben: I know I have had a relatively quiet season, but I am looking forward to showing everyone who has supported me over the years that their belief was warranted. The relative calm of the last two seasons has recharged the batteries and I am hungry to attack 2022 and show the best performances of my career before I am done. Also, I love my children and wife more than I could have ever imagined. Thank you all for following along, and hope to see you out on a race course soon.

You can follow Ben Hoffman on Instagram via @bhoffmanracing

Image 3 © FinisherPix

All other images courtesy of Ben Hoffman