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High 5 Thursday Endurance Athlete Russell Cox

Posted on 11 November 2010

This week we feature Russell Cox for our High 5 Thursday Athlete.  Each week we highlight a specific endurance sports athlete and profile their background, specific race performances and offer insight on training and sport dicipline expertise.

Endurance Athlete Russell CoxRT: Tell us a little about yourself, where do you live and train?

RC: I live and train in Reading in the UK, a relatively large town, but surrounded by lots of countryside and quiet roads. I’ve lived here most of my life, but spent the past two years ravelling and training round the world. I enjoyed an endless summer for two years by dividing my time between Europe and Australia and New Zealand. 

RT: What do you do for a living?  and what is your average training hours per week?

RC: I have my own triathlon coaching business which whilst young is proving to be successful. Before I went travelling and decided to make multisport my life I worked in London in web development. Coaching gives me enough flexibility that I can still train a lot whilst working a full time job. I will generally train somewhere between 20 and 30 hours in a week.

RT: Give us an example of one of your favorite workouts?

RC: Rather than a particular session my favourite workout is doing my long ride with a stronger cyclist. Nothing pushes me like chasing a better rider for 100 miles! It ensures a tough session as I’m not willing to give up the chase, great for motivation and the time flies by. I just have to be wary of how often I do them because it’s all too easy to wear yourself out.

RT: What do you enjoy the most with racing and training in endurance sports?

RC: The biggest thing is the sense of accomplishment as you see your fitness improve over time and then see your race performances follow. It’s not always that simple, but I like that if you have to put in the work to see the results there are no short cuts. If there’s anything else I’ve really gained from the sport it’s all the places I’ve seen and people I’ve met.

RT: Do you have written race goals and keep a training diary and if so, please describe?

RC: I always write season goals at the start of the year and then forget all but the headline ones. I keep a close track of my training using Training Peaks WKO+ and spreadsheets, I’m very particular about this and want an accurate record. Without this kind of tracking it’s so much harder to learn from the past and improve how you train in the future.I always set myself goals for a race, it helps focus and motivate me. Generally I publish them on my blog too as I like having those goals public and a sense of accountability. On the day it’s important to be adaptable though as things rarely go exactly to plan.

RT: How long have you been racing in endurance sports?

RC: This is my sixth year in triathlon and I had a year of running before that. I’m relatively young in sporting terms only taking it up in my late twenties. I would say I got serious about the sport about four years ago when I did my first Ironman.

RT: What is your specific discipline focus?

RC: I’ve always enjoyed running the most and it tends to be my strongest leg. That said I’ve put a lot of time into cycling over the last couple of years. It’s been worth it and my performance on the bike has improved. I’d consider myself a good bike-runner still working to bring the swim up to speed.

RT: What is your favorite race, location?

RC: Ironman Western Australia in Busselton. I’ve raced there three times now and am disappointed I couldn’t make it this year. I love the region and have got to know lots of the local triathletes in my time there. It’s a great
community and there’s real support for the race. It’s pan flat, but you shouldn’t underestimate it especially if the heat kicks in on race day. 

RT: How many races do you participate in during the year?

RC: It varies, but I race a lot compared to most Ironman athletes. My peak has been six Ironman races in one year along with a mix of shorter races. This year I cut back a lot only racing four times, three Ironmans and the ITU Long distance Worlds. Next year is looking like it’ll be around the four Ironman mark again. 

RT: How many races do you “peak” for during the year?

RC: Peaking is a tricky thing at best I would say two races a year, usually the first Ironman of the season and then if I’ve got in Hawaii or ITU Long Distance Worlds. I always ensure I’m well prepared for an Ironman and have a good level of fitness and preparation. 

RT: What was your all time best race performance?

RC: I hope I’ve not done my best yet! I was most pleased with my performance at ITU Long distance Worlds this year I was 27th overall in the age  group race and 6th in my age group against a very tough field. I’ve been on the podium in my age group at a couple of Ironmans, but feel the quality of my performance here was much higher.

RT: What are your thoughts regarding mental performance training?

RC: It’s an under appreciated part of training. I think it comes with time and experience, though I have read a little to help along the way. Going into a race I’ve learnt to adopt a more confident approach and eliminate questions and doubts as much as I can. I’ve also learnt how to minimise nerves and to calm myself on the start line. You need some it’s just about how to control them.

RT: In the final weeks of prep before a race I like sessions that boost confidence and also help prepare me for the focus I’ll need on race day.

RC: If I’ve got it right the race should actually feel easy!

RT: What races are on your dream list?

RC: I’m addicted to racing so generally if I see an interesting race I want to do it. With Ironman I’d like to do one or two US races having only done Hawaii, St George and Lake Placid hold the most appeal. I did have a crazy
dea of trying to do a tour of the US Ironmans at some point in the future. Ifigured you could manage them all in a season. When I feel I’ve achieved what I can in Ironman then I’m drawn to ultras, and multistage races. I can see myself trying the Deca Ironman as ten Ironmans over ten days somewhere down the line. I’ve promised myself I’ll work on getting as fast as I can before going any longer.

RT: Any personal Mantra or famous quote?

RC: I’m not big on particular mantras or quotes. I always remind myself that I’m doing this because it’s what I love and I choose to be there. For me appreciating that I have to push hard if I want to achieve my goals is the
important part, that motivates me enough to do the work.

RT: What is your most recent or favorite book that you have read, any subject and  related to endurance sports?

RC: One of my favourite sporting books has been ‘Gold in the Water’ the story of a group of US swimmer training for the 2000 Olympics. It gives a real insight into the personalities and focus required to achieve at the very top of a competitive sport. I found the amount of work they were putting in and their approach to it really motivating.

RT: What magazines/publications related to your sport discipline that you subscribe?

RC: Inside Triathlon is the only magazine I keep a current subscription to. From the rest I may pick up the odd edition is theres something interesting in there, but find it’s hard for the magazines to stay fresh enough to want
regular issues.

RT: What is your greatest strength during a race?

RC: Patience and discipline. I’m good at riding my own race to my own plan and not letting external factors affect me too much. Over long distance events it’s important to keep under control and do what’s best for your race  at that point. I’ve always been able to adapt my plans to the situation at hand and get on with what I need to do.

RT: What topics are of greatest interest for you that we might include in a future RaceTwitch Club Meetup, ex: race nutrition, functional training, specific race reviews, etc.

RC: Thoughts on nutrition both in training and racing are always of interest to me. If there’s one area of training I like to read about it’s swimming because that’s the one I find toughest. My experience is the swim is the area most triathletes struggle with and success stories and how they achieved their improvements are always interesting.

RT: What training and race nutrition products do you use regularly?

RC: In training I’m quite relaxed about what I use, normally it’s water and then some kind of cereal bar or similar. I don’t worry too much about specific nutrition products, but I am very conscious of how much I’m eating during training. In races I generally use Powerbar gels and bars (chocolate flavour). I put all the gels I’ll need into a bottle for the bike and stick bars to the top tube if I’m using them. I try not to be too fussy, but prefer only needing water from aid stations to keep things simple.

RT: What do you do to maintain your fitness post race season?

RC: This year I’ve taken a proper break and a few weeks off. The last two years that never really happened, but I wanted to make sure I took the time more for the mental relief than anything. Otherwise I tend to return to quite a normal mix of training once I’ve recovered, just lower volume then my peak.

RT: Have you planned your race calendar for next year? If so, what are some of the races and your goals?

RC: Next year is well planned now. The major goal is to break 9 hours at Ironman Austria. I feel I’ve got the components there to achieve this, but haven’t brought them all together yet. There’s a lot of work to be done in the  next 6-8 months! After that I am racing Ironman UK and the new Challenge Henley race in the UK, it’s only 10km from my front door. Hopefully my performances in the two Ironman races will get me back to Kona and I can put in the performance I was aiming for this year. I’m also considering extending the season on to the ITU Long Distance Worlds in Vegas.

RT: Any words of wisdom or advice you would offer to improve quality of training and race performance?

RC: Above anything else I think consistency is the most important factor. If you can ensure your training is consistent it goes a long way to building the fitness you need for endurance sports. There’s no point training too much or too hard if you end up needing more time off to recover.

RT: How can people get connect with you further? Russell Cox

RC: The best way is to visit my blog ( or follow me on Twitter ( I’m also a columnist for Endurance Corner ( writing pieces on the monthly themes.

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