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ITU World LD report: Russell Cox
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Wednesday 4th August 2010


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We've been following the progress of Ironman athlete Russell Cox (www.trainstravels.co.uk) for a couple of years now. Check out some of his prior race reports via the links at the bottom of this page.

This past weekend, Russell raced as part of the GB Age Group team at the ITU World Long Distance Triathlon Championship in Immenstadt, Germany, and had a good race too - finishing as the second GB athlete across the line. Here is his race report. We have a report from the first GB athlete home tomorrow...!


ITU Long Distance Triathlon Worlds 2010 Report

My third time representing GB at the World Long Distance Triathlon Championships and this time I was going in prepared. I've always felt a little guilty about signing up for Team GB and then ultimately using the event as training. Surely a World Championship should be the A race for the year?

When I submitted my team application back in May my plans were a little different. Whilst Kona remains my main focus the ITU race was well placed as a proper test of my preparations. For once I'd arrive at the start line with weeks of preparation and a proper taper behind me. I'd come away with a real idea of how Hawaii preparation was going and maybe with some luck a medal.

Arriving in the region of Immenstadt quickly dispelled the frustrations of getting there. The region may be out of the way, but it is stunning. I wasn't alone in wishing I could spend longer out there and a few of us talked about the possibilities of training camps there in the future. Definitely worth the hassles of the trip I was excited to be racing here.

My 'proper' taper turned into a more extreme affair than expected. I'd like to blame the journey, but unfortunately have to admit I wasn't my most organised. There's something about a taper that drains motivation. The idea of just an hour on the bike and mostly easy doesn't get me racing out the door. By race day I'd logged next to no training in the previous four days. I could only hope my body still remembered how to go hard when the time came.

Racking started two hours before my race leaving plenty of time to kill before the day's work would begin. In an inspired move a large cafe by the race start was open and serving food and drink. I sat and chilled out with a coffee for an hour or so before worrying about getting ready to race. More events need to look to this model it was the perfect way to start the day watching the elites head off coffee in hand.

Trained, tapered and with no excuses the nerves had built up over the past few days. I was managing them well, but it had been a while since I felt this anxious about a race start. As I put the wetsuit on I pushed the doubts to the back of my mind and focussed on the positives. This was all about testing myself and pushing hard - I'd prepared for this.

With the elites and over 55s long gone the bulk of the athletes filed into the water for the 7:30am start. I briefly warmed up by taking a longer route to my planned start point just behind the front row somewhere in the middle of the field. As I floated at the start line I looked round and thought to myself this was much less intimidating than the massive Ironman mass starts.

When the start gun fired the guys in front of me spent a couple of seconds starting their watches whilst the field behind me started to swim. Almost immediately there were people on top of me and I was under the water. It soon became obvious that it wasn't people, but the start line rope that was holding me under. Somehow it had got pulled down and taken me with it!

Untangling myself and finally properly swimming I was further back and crowded in. I spent a few hundred metres working to escape until final things spread out. 1800m to the first turn buoy ensured that the group split on swim ability long before we hit the buoy. Whilst not the strongest triathlon swimmer I started to make progress up the field away from the slower swimmers I'd been trapped with.

From the turn around back the sun was in our eyes and everyone weaved an erratic course to the swim exit. A luxury yacht had sailed out ahead of the field and was it passed to the side of me I wondered if they were watching the front of pack and I was going well or amusing themselves watching poorer swimmers! All I could do at that point was try to maintain a strong effort and see what comes.

I hit transition after what felt like a good swim though the time of 1:04 was slower than I would have targeted. I didn't worry there were plenty of bags lining the slippery transition entrance. I almost missed mine skidding past a few metres beyond it and having to dash back. I was a little more careful running to the change tent T1 was not the place to do yourself an injury. My wetsuit was off in no time thanks to the liberal application of 2Toms SportShield (www.2toms.com/products/sportshield). Bike kit was on quickly and I was out onto the course.

The tone was set early on with the first serious climb coming about 1km from transition. The average was 18% apparently and it certainly felt that way. Even at this early hour there were supporters all the way up the hill shouting you on. It was hard to stick to a planned heart rate or effort when you were getting all the encouragement.

The next 30km followed the same pattern of steep climbs with quick descents. As usual my performance on the downhills left a lot to be desired and frustrated me as time gained uphill was given away. There was some entertainingly hard riding going on in these early stages with people attacking those hills like there was only 5km left to go. I stuck to a more reserved pacing plan aiming to pick things up on the second loop.

Tim Bishop joined me during this stage of the ride. We had a brief chat catching up since racing Lanza and commenting on the way some of the field was riding. It wasn't long before he left me behind. I knew that Tim was one of my main competitors on the GB team and that he was a good runner. It now looked like I'd be chasing on the run.

The rolling hills continued and finally at about halfway through the 130km bike my legs felt good. Each lap finished with a rolling section back into Immenstadt. It seemed designed for me and as soon as I hit it I was on the bars and pushing for home. A short rise at the end was a minor challenge and rewarded us with spectacular lake views on the descent.

Legs feeling strong I hit the second lap hard and pushed up the steep hill. It was now fully lined with spectators leaving only a narrow path up the hill. The cheers spurred me on to push harder leaving me a little concerned that I might be over doing it by the top. I felt great and there was no stopping me, doubts about my pacing vanished and I pushed every hill from then on.

The second lap seemed to fly by as I moved my way through the field. Just as I'd expected plenty of people had misjudged their effort and were now going backwards. I felt stronger and was desperate to get to my time trial section on the final ride home. Once I hit that turn I dug in deep. There was less than 15km to go and the gradients were easy it was time to make up those last few places.

I rode hard back into town and transition finishing the bike in a pleasing 62nd fastest split with a 4:09. I'm made up some ground out there and whilst I think there's room to improve my cycling before Hawaii it wasn't as bad as I feared. Now it was time to get changed and out onto the run. The past two months I've really focussed on running and this was to be the big test.

Run kit on I grabbed my Biest Booster (www.biestmilch.com) out of the transition bag ready to take on the run. I wouldn't usually recommend trying something new on race day, but new supporter Biestmilch had sent me some for race day and I decided it'd be the perfect test before Kona. Bigger and chewier than I expected I washed it down with water at the first aid station and then hoped the guarana would kick in and give me some extra go.

The initial wobbly legs vanished quickly and I settled into a good pace. Too good it seemed as the first kilometre marker came by in 4:08. I knew my running had improved, but that seemed excessive! I reminded myself to hold back and keep things steady for now just as I'd written in my race plan. It didn't seem to be working as the next marker came quickly too. By now I'd also established there were three Brits ahead of me.

Feeling comfortable on the run I decided to just stick to the pace and see what happens. Besides if I wanted a medal I needed the best performance I could get chances had to be taken. Around 5km in one of the male pros on his last lap came by. I picked up pace and stuck with him for the next 5km till he finished. It felt surprisingly easy still and I wished he had further to go without him I lulled a little during the second lap.

With no body marking and a lot of non-ITU uniforms out on the course there was no real way to know where you were in the field. Chasing your fellow Brits was the best motivation you could get. I could see I was making some headway on third place, though Tim in second was still going strong and Chris Rhodes looked unreachable in first. Everyone on the team is very supportive, but you still secretly want to beat each other!

I got through my second lap dip, partly induced by a small drop in nutrition. A few well timed gels out on the course sorted that one out. My plan called for me to push from 15km to go and whilst I certainly tried it was only once I was on the final 10km lap I really had the mindset to go harder.

I started to pick up the pace again as I ran through the well supported town section of the loop. By now I was third Brit and whilst Tim was holding on well I'd seen that Chris Rhodes was struggling. I focussed on pushing and had two possibilities in mind; being first Brit and podiuming. The former might be possible, but I had no idea about the latter.

Running out onto the trail section I was still feeling strong and though the pace was hard I wasn't going to stop with 6km to go. My stomach had started to complain and all I could do was hope it would hold out for a further 30 minutes. The shady river side paths were perfect to run on and despite being secluded support was good out there. With one or two out and back sections you could also judge position.

At about 4km to go I passed Chris and knew I had second Brit at least. I could also see that there was no way of catching Tim now, his lead on me was too much. My efforts focussed on as fast a finish as possible and taking a place or two more if there was a chance. I surged past a French athlete to ensure he wouldn't latch on an challenge me to the line. Then as I entered the stadium there was one more place to take.

A final surge, grab the Union Jack and then dash round the track one last time. I pushed as hard as I could just in case that last athlete had anything left in the tank. Feeling strong to the end I finished in 7:27 with a 2:08 for the run the 9th fastest runner on the day. Exhausted, but happy my performance was exactly what I'd been looking for. I'd run at around three hour marathon pace, whether I could maintain that for 12km more in Kona was the remaining question.

It took a while to get results, but I eventually learnt I'd come in in 27th overall and 6th in my age group. There was some seriously tough competition out there with the depth of the home team being particularly impressive. Those Germans know how to ride hard and race well. Tim and I could only wonder what it takes to get that strong on the bike!

As ever there's a few people to thank for their help and support. Firstly The Tri Touch (www.thetritouch.co.uk) for the massage work in the run up to the race and with Aurelie there as team masseuse it was perfect. The Tri2O Swim Centre (www.mysportingtimes.com) for the support with swimming and wetsuits. 2Toms (www.2toms.com/) very kindly provided their SportShield that has got me quickly out of my wetsuit twice now. Finally Biestmilch (www.biestmilch.com) the Booster certainly did no harm and I had a fantastic run.

No ITU medal, but a very respectable race and the second Brit over the line. The day was a proper test and gave me real and valuable input for the rest of my Kona preparations. There's work to be done in the next couple of months so I can perform my best there.


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