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© Tim Carpenter
Russell Cox: ITU Long Distance World Championship report
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Monday 2nd November 2009


Tags  Perth  |  Russell Cox


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It's barely two weeks ago that Russell Cox (www.trainstravels.co.uk) was reporting on his excellent Hawaii performance (9:47), where he was the third GB age grouper across the line. After a year that has included Ironman Western Australia, Ironman Australia, Ironman Lanzarote, Quelle Challenge Roth, Ironman UK and Kona, you would think he would have earned a rest. So two weeks after Kona... he was lining up for the ITU World Long Distance Champs in Perth, Australia!

We're not sure if he'll be trying that again, but he did enjoy it...


Sometime earlier this year I decided to apply for the GB age group team for the Long Distance World Champs being held in Perth. I'd be in Australia anyway and getting to Kona was looking increasingly like a long shot. One way or another I'd get to race in a World Championship. My application was accepted. Of course then I make that long shot, grab a Kona Slot and have two World Championships a fortnight apart.

With a good dose of blind optimism I decided I might as well race them both. Besides, the ITU race was O2 this year, that's twice Olympic distance, so it's not really long! At the very least that's how I justified the decision. Two weeks after previous Ironmans I've managed to have decent rides, how hard could a race be?

The obvious question is how to prepare to effectively race a half- ironman two weeks after the Ironman World Champs? I don't have the answer to that one yet. I can tell you some of the things that don't work. Losing four or five days to travel isn't a great help. It wasn't until I arrived in Perth ten days after Hawaii that I next rode my bike. Race day came around with a couple of rides, a couple of swims and no running under my belt. Extreme by any tapering standards!

Despite a very civilised 8:35am start for my age group I was still up early on race day. Unlike most races I'd not bothered with detailed plans and preparation. Breakfast was a bowl of Nutrigrain which my friend's kids had insisted they buy given it's 'food for Ironmen'. Admittedly that's the Aussie Surf Lifesaver kind, but I thought the kids would appreciate it if I fuelled up with it pre-race.

Staying with friends in the suburbs meant a taxi journey to transition and I was paranoid things could go wrong. I arrived almost two hours before race start. Setting my kit up took less than ten minutes leaving me with a lot of time to kill before the start. Luckily the sun was out and it was warming up. Perfect for relaxing and calming the nerves. The strength of the wind was a little disconcerting as was the mount of chop being blown up on the Swan River.

I'd not had a chance to look at the course prior to the race. What I did know is when you tell a local you'll be swimming in the river they bucket their nose. Something to do with a combination of mud, jellyfish and potentially bull sharks! Nothing new for a race in Oz though. The fact we had three kilometres to swim in that rough looking water was more of a bother!

Race start soon came around. My lack of preparation and planning had resulted in the first mistake of the day. Putting on my goggles I discovered a big smear of bodyglide over one lens. I did my best to clean it as we made our way into the water. The wave starts made things quite civilised there weren't too many of us in the river. After the bashing I'd got in Kona it seemed quite low key. When the horn went I immediately had clear water.

The first half of the swim was up river into the wind and chop. It made sighting and breathing a little bit trickier. The water was as cloudy as had been suggested and later I did find some of those jellyfish. Fortunately the sharks never made themselves known. I stuck with a group for a while before managing to veer off course. As well as the smeer the goggles now fogged up. I was completely clueless as to where I was going and the way I zig-zagged across the course is a testament to that!

It was pretty obvious this wasn't going to be my best swim. My arms felt pretty tired and I was just plodding along. The turn around seemed to take forever to arrive and once it did things didn't get any easier. Despite the tailwind and the waves in my favour it felt like the underlying current was actually against me. Still there wasn't much I could do, but keep going till I got this bit over with! Not the best attitude to have during the race.

I got out the water at around the 56 minute mark. I'd no real idea of whether that was good or bad. Being in one of the last waves meant that my usual bike count in transition gave me no idea how I was doing. Most of them were already gone! I've learnt not to worry about placings at this point in the race. Just get on with business and out onto the bike.

A four lap course along some of Perth's highways didn't seem like the most inspiring of routes. With those strong easterlies still blowing the start was exciting. We headed out west along the river. With that wind behind us it was straight into the biggest gear and top speed all the way. All the way to the first dead turn that is then it was straight back into the wind. Harder work, but experience told me I go best with tougher conditions. It was a great chance to grab a few more places.

The organisers had gone to great efforts giving us pretty much completely closed roads. Local news that evening revealed they didn't do such a good job letting the rest of Perth know! Severe traffic jams blocked up the city for most of the day. With clear, wide roads and smooth surfaces the course has the potential to be very fast. The winds were keeping PBs at bay though.

My race strategy was simple - race hard and see what happens. So far it was going far better than expected. My pace seemed pretty good and I was overtaking plenty of people which had to be a good sign. Of course with wave starts I had no real idea of relative positions. The important thing was checking for a D on the calf, when I passed those I knew I was moving up the field. Coming into transition after 80km I was happy with a time of 2:08 for the ride. Things seemed to be looking up.

As I ran through transition my only concern was the tightness in my left hamstring. Not a big problem right then, but not something I usually had to deal with during a race. I headed out onto the run course with the same race strategy of going as hard as I could and seeing what happened. It was another four lap course winding around the edges of Langley Park in the city centre. The wind seemed to have died down, but with a pitching sun the heat was picking up.

I was glad to be well acclimatised from Kona. I know quite a few people struggled with the temperatures, but I found it quite comfortable. Certainly it had been hotter out there on the Queen K in Hawaii. So I can't blame the temperature for my pace dropping off after a reasonable first lap. My legs just felt on empty and I really had nothing to push any harder with.

In the back of my mind a 1:20 seemed reasonable for 20km in a race. I've certainly managed that pace in the past. Lap one had largely been at the right pace. From then on I just started to slow little by little. I downed a caffeinated gel on the second lap hoping it'd perk me up. Can't say I noticed any difference other than the foul taste it left in my mouth! A reminder of why I usually steer clear of them.

By the fourth lap I accepted I wasn't on track for a notable run performance. I tried to push a little more, but it really wasn't until the finish line was within a couple of kilometres I made any real headway. Something about being so close to getting it over and done with helps pick things up. I pushed the last couple of kilometres hard and even managed to gain one more place in my age group. That D on the calf providing good motivation to go harder.

A nice big finish shoot greeted me. I was feeling pretty much done by that point and remember little of it. It was definitely a case of try to hold onto the pace until the job was done. I can't deny I was a little disappointed to see 1:28 on my watch. A far slower run than I'd been expecting, but I really couldn't have done more. Ultimately on the day I was only good for 18th in my age group and 182nd overall.

A friend asked if I'd had fun. So soon after finishing I found it hard to answer that question. At the least it had been a lot less painful than I'd imagined. I'd clearly lacked my top end and had chugged along at an Ironman pace. The body didn't have much more to give to be honest. I guess I still had a fair bit of Kona to get over.

A few more days down the line and I can say I did have fun. Whilst my relative performance wasn't what I'd like in the circumstances it was a solid race. I think the event itself has potential, it'd be great if they continued to run it every year. There's some tweaks to be done, but the course is a lot more fun than its description suggests.

It's always good to race in the GB kit too and the new uniform from Adidas is great. I was pleased with how comfortable it was and relieved given it was my first time using it! As usual big thanks to my sponsors and supporters. I promise the guys at the Reading Open Water Swim Lake and My Sporting Times (www.mysportingtimes.com) I'll be working on the swim. I will get a decent swim out of me at some point! Also thanks to Jaggad (www.jaggad.com) who may not have provided my race kit, but helped out during all the training.

Racing hard so closely to Kona took more out of me than expected and the last few days have been a lot easier than planned. I think it'll do me good as I get ready to race Ironman Western Australia in December. I'm feeling optimistic about that race following this performance. If I can get myself back into form and repeat the performance over the Ironman distance it could go very well.


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