The 29-year-old won at Ironman Coeur d'Alene last month, breaking Craig Alexander's 2011 course record by more than two minutes. Hoffman finished the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run in eight hours, 17 minutes and 31 seconds -- a full eight minutes ahead of three-time winner Viktor Zyemtsev.
What was the key to your win and breaking the course record at Coeur d'Alene? That was your first time racing there.
It's been a slow start to my season. I haven't had the string of top finishes I wanted. It's hard to say. I feel like you have so many years of training and also the experience of racing, and this was the third Ironman I won in a row. I won two last year, St. George and Wisconsin. I hadn't done one since Madison.
I think you just start to build a certain level of confidence. You know what you need to do to be competitive for the win, and I had incredible support. Not just my sponsors, but also my family came up to the race, and that includes my parents and my sister and her husband. My girlfriend drove the car up there so I could fly one way. Everything just came together. I feel like there's so many layers to it, it's not easy to pinpoint one thing. Training, support and certain intangibles, too. Every race is different, I just felt invincible on that day.
Did you know the course record going into it?
I knew it because Craig Alexander, who's a friend of mine, set the course record two years ago. There was a point during the race where I was doing some quick math: "If I run this, I should be kind of close to it." I was able to hold my form all the way. I came down along Sherman Avenue, and I saw the clock and thought "It's happening." I definitely pushed a little bit down the finishing shoot to make sure I had it. It was something that was on my mind. It wasn't a motivating factor all day, but it was a cherry on top.
What prompted you to go out for the University of Montana club triathlon team, since that's where you got your start?
It was just something where I needed a change of pace. I did some sports in high school in Grand Junction, but I kind of wanted to try something new and I already had a road bike. I went to one of the meetings... and started training with the group. I really liked the team and the camaraderie.
I have a competitive streak in me, so I liked the discipline side of it as well. We were really good. We won the national title in 2006 when I won the overall, so that was cool. That was my last year of college.
You've got a smattering of full and half Ironmans on your race schedule. Which distance do you prefer?
I really enjoy the half Ironman distance, but I feel like my strength really is in Ironman racing. My body's really durable and I'm able to push really hard for a long time.
What you're seeing now in our sport is that the 70.3 distance is turning out to be these guys who are a little bit faster. I'm more of a diesel engine and they're more speedsters. In the long term, my focus has always been to win Ironman Hawaii (world championships) and that's the crown jewel of our sport. That's where I've been putting my focus. It's hard to say "enjoy" because it's fun to win, but the actual race experience is quite painful. You always think at certain points, "Why am I doing this?" It's well worth it once you cross the finish line.
How does this season fit into your career trajectory? Realistically, is Kona within your reach?
I think (2013) is a stepping stone for sure. I don't have any illusions about being the very best in the world just because I won another Ironman. That's the process for most people in Hawaii. You have to put in your time and learn about the race. Also, you have to have those races where you get progressively better.
I'm going to go there and have my very best race. It's hard to talk about positions, but I want to go out there and have a very solid race. These guys you see who are winning, they tend to be winning it now in their mid-to-late 30s. I'm 29 right now. I still have a lot of room to grow as an athlete, both mentally and physically. That will not prevent me from giving everything I can to try to win.
Will you make room for the newly announced Boulder Ironman in 2014?
I am very excited about that, and I've yet to determine whether I can fit it into my schedule. The only issue for some of us who race Ironman Hawaii is that it's a little close, but not impossible. I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner.
What would you be doing with your life if you hadn't discovered triathlon?
It's something I think about all the time. My interests are pretty varied and I never thought I'd be doing this. Now that I am, it's also hard to imagine not doing it. I do have a lot of flexibility in my schedule. I train very hard and it's very regimented, but I do have a lot of flexibility.
I think architecture is certainly one (of the careers I've thought about). I grew up with a dad who was a building contractor. I make artwork, I'm a ceramic artist as well. When I have some downtime I do a little of that.
--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.
More info: http://benhoffmanracing.com/