Getting to know Mathias Hecht

Young Swiss Pro Mathias Hecht is part of the powerful Dresdner Kleinwort triathlon team and finished in the top 10 in Kona in 2008. He has been in Australia for the last months to get ready for Ironman Australia and the rest of the season. He had a few words with Slowtwitch.

ST: Only a couple more days until Ironman Australia. How has your preparation been going?

Mathias: The preparation has been going very well. I had a bit of time off after Hawaii, did an exam at the law university in January and the last 2.5 months I have been back in my winter training base at Noosa. I have come here now for nearly 10 years and it has become like a second home to me. I enjoy this time of the year a lot. We have such a great group of people down here. It was also good to have my coach and mentor Greg (Bennett) around me for such a long time. He is an inspiration and I feel so privileged to have him as a coach. The training he puts together is really tough and brings me to the limits.
This year I talked 4 of my Dresdner Kleinwort team mates into coming down under and have a look at that great place for training. I think Maik (Twelsiek), Jan (Raphael), Markus (Fachbach) and Scott (Neyedli) all trained very effectively and want to come back next year too.

ST: Last year you were 3rd in Oz, so this year maybe a step or two higher?

Mathias: The pro field in this year’s Ironman OZ is really strong. With guys like Tim de Boom, Patrick Vernay, Mitch Andersson, Pete Jacobs, Maik Twelsiek, Simon Thompson (his first Ironman will be interesting to see), Tim Berkel, Jason Shortis, Jimmy Johnson and a few other good names, it will need a really good day to be on the podium. But I know on a good day I can be in the mix and my training results are the best ever. Comparing to last year I think I am stronger because I raced Ironman OZ 2008 only 11 weeks after an operation (compartment syndrome) and I couldn’t do proper run training for weeks. But Ironman OZ is also my first race this season and always a bit of a question mark as you don’t know where you are at. Greg and I know what we want to get out of the race and if I can get that, I will be happy.

ST: Your 8th place finish in Kona 2008 was very impressive and you were actually the highest placed finisher of the very talented Dresdner Kleinwort team. Were you impressed or surprised?

Mathias: After Ironman Lake Placid 2008 I decided I have to start changing things to make another step forward. I started to work with Greg and trained harder then ever before. There were lots of new ideas and I felt really strong in the weeks before the race. There were a few sessions I got a lot of confidence out of and training with Normann was great too. Riding with him is like racing and it makes you really strong. I think I couldn’t ride with him the whole year. I wouldn’t survive it. He is an amazing bike rider and a very strong runner. I knew Normann, Marino and Maik are super fit too. Hawaii has its own rules and if you can make it through the day without any major problems you can get a good solid result. One year it works, another it doesn’t. Normann and Marino can both win that race and Normann did it already twice. I am not at that level, yet. But I try to work hard and take step by step. I have still a few years to go. I think you have to be patient with Hawaii. But finishing 8th was for sure a big step for me and gives me a lot of confidence for the years to come.

ST: Talk about your day at the 2008 World Champions in Kona.

Mathias: Greg really prepared me well for that day. He gave me the confidence and the right advice how to race on that day. My swim was all good. I came out of the water exactly where I wanted and I was in the main pack with all the main contenders. The first k’s on the bike are always very hectic and I just tried to keep cool and wait until the pack gets smaller and smaller. One after the other couldn’t follow the pace anymore and on the way up to Hawi I found myself between guys like Macca, Crowie, Normann, Eneko, Timo, Cameron and other big names. That’s a really good feeling for a no name like me. Greg went through every situation with me and I always felt confident and patient out there. I kept riding with Crowie and Cameron. Timo and Eneko were not much in front. I thought that’s the pace I can handle. At the end I was even riding a bit away from Crowie and Cameron. But it took me forever to but my compression socks on in T2 and I ended up running out of transition behind them. I couldn’t have followed them for long anyway. But it would have been a good feeling to start the run with them. I felt really bad on those first 10-15k until I was out of town. Ronnie, Patrick and Rutger passed me and I tried to find a good rhythm. I was lucky that a few of the big names in front of me started to get slower and I was able to keep my pace up and finishing strong. So after the energy lab I found myself running on 9th place together with Andy Potts. Andy and I ran the whole way back together. I thought if I want to beat him, I have to “attack” before going down Palani road. It didn’t work, but I was more then happy finishing 8th behind him. Greg was standing on Alii drive and I could see he was as excited as I was about my race. But the best thing was to see my girlfriend Nicole waiting for me at the finish line…with a BIG smile on her face.

ST: The Dresdner Kleinwort team is actually a unique team with so many good athletes in it. Are there some team orders when you guys race in the same event?

Mathias: No, not at all. I passed Normann on the way back from energy lab. He knew I trained really hard for this race and looking in his face I knew he felt excited for me too. Even in such a tough moment he was in at that stage. I think it’s great to have team mates out there. We know each other very well by now, everybody works so hard, you wish everybody the best on that day. But at the end, everybody does his own thing out there.

ST: The complete team recently switched from Kuota to Scott, and we’d like to know when you actually got your new Plasma 2?

Mathias: I had enough time during my Ironman OZ preparation on the Scott Plasma bike to test it perfectly. I am really excited about that bike and it’s good to train with it from the beginning of the year. I look forward to do my first race with it on April 5th (Ironman OZ). Scott is a great sponsor and for me it’s really special because their headquarters is in Switzerland.

ST: What is your favorite race?

Mathias: I think the most exciting race for me is Hawaii. It’s an atmosphere you don’t find anywhere else in the Ironman circuit. I look forward to be back there already at this time of the year. I also have a special relationship with Ironman Australia in Port Macquarie. I really love that part of the world, the people. I spent so much time down here over the last 10 years. The organization looks after me so well and I always feel welcome. And the race course is very scenic.

ST: Can you tell us about your athletic background?

Mathias: Until I was about 14 years old, soccer was my thing. I loved it a lot and I played every single day. Then I started with track and field where I concentrated on the 3000m. I was not too bad but I always preferred to go longer distances. At the age of 17 I started to do proper swim training and did my first triathlon. But I still was in track and field, tennis and snowboard racing. I love sports in general and loved to be out there whole day long. At age 18 I started in the junior elite world champs in Lausanne Switzerland, raced World Cups a few years later with average results, and ended up doing my first Ironman in 2005 (3rd Ironman Western Australia). After that I knew, Ironman is my real passion and will always be.

ST: Give us your thoughts on doping and what should be done about it.

Mathias: Being part of the Dresdner Kleinwort Triathlon Team means you are part of an anti-doping project that differs from the standard form of monitoring. We get tested 10-12 times a year. There are not only urine controls but also blood. There’s a long time monitoring of key values. Blood and urine samples will be frozen to allow for future analysis for substances that cannot currently be tested for. There is a zero tolerance. Part of our salary Dresdner Kleinwort holds back till three years after we have raced the last time for the team. I think it’s a great idea that a main sponsor of a team takes the responsibility to do something against the biggest problem of the sport today. I wish there will be more sponsors following the idea of Dresdner Kleinwort. I feel proud to be part of such a great project.

ST: What is going on in terms of sponsorship outside of the team?

Mathias: I signed a deal with Tri11, a new wetsuit brand from Germany. It’s a great new wetsuit on the market. I will be the distributor for Tri11 in Switzerland. I really look forward to that. Then I have as a new partner. They support me with a BMW Mini Clubman to drive during the year. I am still looking for an individual sponsor for my race suit.

ST: How do you spend the off-season?

Mathias: Off-season for me is studying time. I have been a law student for quite a while. For me sport is a 100% priority at the moment. I think you have to put a 100% into it if you want to succeed. But its kind of fun having 2 months of the year where I am reading all the books and sometimes studying until 2am. It’s something different and sure I will have my degree one time. It’s just not my main focus at the moment. I feel privileged to be part of the Dresdner Kleinwort Triathlon Team and if you have a contract like that you are obligated to give 100% for the job. But beside that, I love snowboarding a lot and it’s the only thing I miss spending the European winters down in Australia. But I can live with that ☺

ST: Do you follow any other sports?

Mathias: I am a big ski fan. If I get the chance I watch every ski race live on TV. It was a great winter for the Swiss ski federation. I played tennis myself for many years and it’s still a sport I love to follow. Well, we have the best tennis player ever in our country. So it’s even more fun.

ST: What foods do you like and dislike?

Mathias: I think the only thing I don’t like is spinach and coriander. I love to cook (but would call me an average cook). And every evening I eat dark chocolate. Just love it.

ST: Talk about your favorite music.

Mathias: It depends on my mood. Jack Johnson, John Butler Trio, Frankenreiter, Joss Stone to chill out. But if I sit on the trainer or if I do certain runs, it has to be something like AC/DC, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Powderfinger, Midnight Oil, Led Zeppelin.

ST: What was the last book you read?

Mathias: Economics is the last one I finished … for my exam in January. At the moment I am reading the Michael Phelps book and Dean Karnazes (Ultramarathonman). I got both books from my best mate Luke McKenzie. And this just reminds me that I have to give them back to him next week. Thanks!

ST: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Mathias: Hopefully competing at the highest level in Ironman Triathlon and being a main contender for the win in Hawaii.

ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?

Mathias: Everybody who thinks “Hecht” is too hard to pronounce should just call me “pikey”. Pike translated into German = Hecht. That’s how they call me in Australia.

ST: Did Luke McKenzie give you that nickname?

Mathias: The nickname “pikey” goes back to 2004/2005 where I was coached by Scott Penny. He was based in cairns at that time and he was the one how made me start doing Ironman distance. In his training group up in Cairns all athletes had animal nicknames. Mine was quite easy to find ;-).