The Hunt for Gold October: A conversation with Ironman Champion Ben Hoffman


Kona 2009 was your first time to run the big one, I followed your progress from my computer in Ohio. Your Aunt and Uncle are good friends and knowing that they were there to support you made me want to follow the race. That day you sparked something in me that changed my life. I had a dream a long time ago to run a marathon, but through age, injury and health problems I never thought it would happen. That day challenged me to fulfill that dream and get back to the sport I loved running. In 2010, I completed my first marathon and just wanted to say thank you. Which leads me to my first question. Looking back years from now, what kind of legacy to do you want to leave on this sport?
I always like to think about legacy, since I know that this career is finite, but sometimes you are so deeply involved in the day-to-day process that it’s hard to look outside of the training, recovery, and racing. I think I would like my legacy to be one of inspiring people to live healthy lifestyles, both physically and emotionally. I would especially like to have a positive impact on the lives of youth, as so much of what you become is formed at that young age, and clearly our country has a major epidemic of obesity. Finally, one thing that is really important to me is making the world safer for cyclists. There should not be such a massive rift between drivers and cyclists, and I believe that we can all do our part to make changes that will encourage people to ride more and feel safe doing it.

Besides winning at Kona, when it is all over, what would be the ultimate dream for your career and personal life?
It probably sounds pretty generic, but happiness is my biggest motivator. It’s a moving target, but I want to generally be content with my life in all arenas. I want to have a successful career racing, winning big events and making a good living, but moreover I want to build a strong and meaningful relationship with my soon-to-be wife, Kelsey, and hopefully raise a family. I want to appreciate the simple joys of being alive, while always striving to improve myself in all aspects of life. I’d like to make the people around me happier as well, and encourage them to chase their dreams.

2013 IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene, Ben and Kelsey

Congrats on your engagement to Kelsey. Do the two of you have big wedding plans and has the date been set?
This is more of Kelsey’s realm now that I asked her to be my wife, but we have discussed some ideas. No date set yet, but looking at a smaller family wedding potentially in the Bahamas, and then a follow-up celebration for the bigger crowd at the winery who sponsors me in Denver.

You said after your 2nd place finish that you ran the perfect race. Looking back what could or would you have done different?
Perfection is an illusion, but I did execute something close to my best race for the day in Kona. I think as a group we could have ridden a little harder earlier on, and nutrition and heat management can always be improved. My run is getting better all the time, and I see room for improvement there.

What tweaks are you making in your training to find the gold in October?
I am always adding elements and seeing if they are compatible with my program for improvement. This year, I continue to focus on improving my run, but I have also added components like an altitude tent, other recovery products, and an overall increase in training volume. There are always things to learn and add to the regime.

With such a great showing at Kona, do you now feel that there is a target on your back, and are you feeling any pressure to be the American to get the top spot on the podium, which has not happened since Tim DeBoom won back to back in 2001 and 2002?
I think the biggest pressure will always come from myself, and it is quite a pressure! I do think about the American aspect, and I am happy to represent my country and give everything I have to be the next US champion. As far as a target on my back goes, I believe that I will be more watched than before, but perhaps some people think my race was a fluke and will look past me too. I’m fine with that.

So much of any athletic endeavor is physical, but how do you prepare mentally during your training?
A lot of the work is mental, and happens in conjunction with the physical training. You must learn to process pain differently, to envision yourself accomplishing big goals, and to be as positive and self-believing as possible. I read a lot, meditate some, and visualize a lot. Mental training is paramount to success.

What is the hardest time in your life that you wanted to quit but you didn’t and why did you keep going? How did that experience change you?
Honestly, the feeling to quit happens pretty often in training and racing. The body is programmed for survival, so it often tells you to shut it down. Maybe one of the hardest was at Ironman St. George in 2012. It was some of the craziest conditions I have ever seen for a race, and the swim and bike were an absolute struggle. There was a point when I just yelled into the 40 mph headwind that I was going to win no matter what! I think that moment taught me to dig deeper than ever before, and rewrite what I could expect from myself physically and emotionally. It made me a lot stronger overall, and gave me deep self-belief.

If you could give advice to your younger self, knowing what you know now, what would you say?
I don’t think I would change all that much, as I have quite enjoyed the process and even some of the mistakes towards improvement along the way. Maybe I would tell myself to trust more in the long-term, as it’s hard to have that view sometimes.

In all of history if you could ask one person a question, who would it be and what would you ask?
That’s a tough question because there are so many people I think it would be great to have conversations with and really pick their brains with more than one question… But, for the sake of simplicity, I would say that I’ve always been curious about Einstein’s life, since he seemed very balanced in his intellect. Maybe I would ask him what one thing made his life the richest and most happy.

Finally the one thing we all struggle with is food. I know how important diet and nutrition is to get you across the finish line. What is the one food you cannot resist that you should not be eating?
I don’t obsess over food too much, as I know that my diet is quite healthy and seems to work for me overall. I think having some flexibility and freedom to eat foods that aren’t exceptionally healthy on occasion is actually very important. With all the discipline in training, etc., I think it would be too much to add that layer, at least year-round. In general, it is infrequent that I vary from a pretty clean and healthy diet, since that is what seems to fuel me best and aid in recovery. If I had to choose one food though, I would say that doughnuts are hard to resist every once in a while with my coffee!

For more information on Ben Hoffman you can check out his website at

2 Thoughts

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