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Russell Cox: Outlaw Triathlon report
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Friday 5th August 2011


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Regular Tri247 contributor Russell Cox reports on his race at the 2011 Outlaw Triathlon. It was a long way from being his best performance, but has managed to provide the required motivation for the remainder of the year and 2012 - and with a further four iron-distance races entered, good timimg too....


I woke long before my 3:40am alarm, pre-race nerves are far more effective than any clock. After a nine month hiatus from racing this was unfamiliar, I kept running through my checklist ensuring I was prepared for the day ahead. Anxiety was high; I wondered if I could pull out unnoticed. It wasn't going to happen, it was time for me to race.

I arrived at transition in ample time; I only needed five minutes to fit my Garmin to the bike, put bottles in their cages and pump up tyres. Everything set I left transition forgetting to tape over my disc cover's valve hole. Hardly significant, but an early indicator that I wasn't suitably focussed on the race. I was lacking in confidence, uncertain of what I was doing.

Wetsuit on with time to spare, I followed the crowd to the start line, making my way to the back of the fastest pen. I wasn't on my best swim form, but hoped I could latch onto faster swimmers and get towed round. Nerves kicked in, I didn't relish the contact of a swim start, as we counted down I edged back away from the main bunch.

We were off. A wave of fast swimmers left me behind. I didn't stress, reassuring myself that the aim was to comfortably get to the bike. I justified missing the draft by reminding myself I never expected to swim well; an excuse for not putting myself in a position to perform. The negativity remained, on the outbound length I contemplated giving up Ironman only to remember I had already entered four more!

The return felt better - my mood lifted. Swimmers had dispersed and I had water to myself; I felt calmer and was holding a better line. Time dragged, the distance markers on the bank were reminders of how far I still had to go. Finally transition was in reach and the swim would be over. I'd picked up a drafter along the way, his occasional tapping of my toes was frustrating so I put in a surge, narrowly missing a concrete jetty in the process. Only a hundred metres to go, perhaps it was best to just swim that in.

I had no idea of time or position, it didn't matter. I fumbled through my transition bag trying and failing to be efficient. Over the noise I heard a familiar voice yelling at me to get my head in the game; looking up I saw Tom Williams, unaware he was in a relay team I wondered why he was half-naked in the transition tent! His cheer was the first of many boosts he provided during the day. All set I dashed to my bike, finally checking my watch - I was leaving transition in 1:08. Slow.

This season has been all about the bike. I started hard aiming for the challenging target I had set myself; I was surprised how fast the field was going and became concerned I wasn't as strong as I thought. On the outward leg a team cyclist passed and we paced well together out to the main loop, but on the first climb from Oxton I went backwards. Athletes hammered past me up the hill, I kept my effort under control, saving something for later.

I stuck to my plan - if I was going to push it would be on the final lap. My power meter assured me I was working hard, but in the face of the wind speed wasn't quite there; this wasn't going to be as fast as I hoped. We all faced the same conditions, there was nothing I could do about it, put the effort in and see what happens.

The plan worked. I dipped a little on the second lap, struggling with nutrition when my stomach became bored of sugar. Third time round I was keen to get the job done, but increasing traffic frustrated my efforts. Eventually I was on the home stretch with a fast time trial all the way back to Holme Pierrepont. My kind of riding, I pushed hard and overtook a handful more cyclists.

Russell on the runSecond transition again lacked slickness; too much time thinking, not enough time doing. As I started the run I learned I was in fourth, my bike work had paid off. Fantastic! Unfortunately I knew that due to injury the marathon was an unknown. The first kilometre felt fine, I wondered if I could hold onto my placing, or even move up to third; all it would need is an average run. On my first walk break I dropped to fifth. No problem, there was time.

One hour in, the longest I'd run in nine months, but I was still moving well. The walk breaks seemed to be working, though I was aware my run pace had eased off. Over the second lap the breaks extended and the running slowed further. Aerobically it felt easy, but my knees and hip were aching, they just weren't used to this continuous pounding.

At the far end of the lake I walked, a long twenty minutes filled with negative thoughts. Knowing I'd pass the finish line with seven miles still to go made me consider pulling out; I didn't want to injure myself, but I didn't want to DNF. By the time I reached the third lap the decision was made - I would complete the Outlaw one way or another, there was a medal and shirt at stake.

Five miles to go and my legs were shot; another long walk break. When I reached the lake for the final time and received my fourth wrist band, that was it. I was finishing the job as quickly as possible. Not fast by some of my races, but it felt as hard as I ran the last two miles home. Building until I crossed that line and the day was over. A 4:09 marathon for a 10:22 finish overall.

RusselL Cox finishes Outlaw 2011

A tough, but enjoyable day, especially as the memory of that run fades. I may not have finished as I wanted, but I got what I needed from the race - dusting off the cobwebs and a strong bike split. In stark contrast to the week before I feel remotivated and keen to test myself again. Next time I'll be focussed and slicker throughout the day. I thoroughly enjoyed the Outlaw and will return, perhaps as part of a relay next year.

I've a number of supporters to thank for their help along the way. Firstly a huge thank you to an athlete I coach, Julie Warner and her husband Mark, for hosting me; having a home to stay in made a real difference to the weekend. I raced in kit from Skinfit UK (www.skinfit.uk.com) which once again did a superb job keeping me comfortable all day. Compressport (www.compressport.uk.com) quad and calf guards held my legs together even as my run fell apart, I'd have been walking far more without them. Biestmilch Boosters (www.biestmilch.com) helped pick me up during the low points especially the final lap of the bike.

My Sporting Times (www.mysportingtimes.com) have continued to support me, even if I don't take enough advantage of the lake. Aurelie at the Tri Touch (www.thetritouch.co.uk) has done fantastic work putting my legs back together after all the damage I've done in the past few months, I'd better book myself back in now. Finally a big thank you to James at Kinetic Revolution (www.kinetic-revolution.com) for all the help on the path to better, injury-free running; with a few months of training I'll be able to show-off the results.


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