The Outlaw Triathlon – Post-Race Analysis

Tough races are often the best learning experiences. I knew I would have problems at the Outlaw, but come away with useful data and insights for future events. It was about the bike, a chance to test the one area I’d really trained this season. Performance was good, I pushed hard, though felt there was definite room for improvement.

Having reported on the Outlaw at the start of the week, it’s now time to pick the race to pieces.


Finish time is the only piece of data I have for the swim, it’s not good. There’s little to analyse other than my subjective experience. I am aware I was undertrained and performed badly on the day; fitness and open water skills limited me. At my peak I have always felt very comfortable coming out of the water, but lower swim volume led to more fatigue. How much impact this carried into the rest of the day is impossible to gauge.


I set an ambitious target of 250 watts for race day. Training suggested I could hold that pace and I believed I could equally fuel it. It was a stretch and would take me into territory likely to impair running, but I wasn’t expecting to run well so why not try?

The Outlaw Triathlon 2011 - Russ Cox's Power and Heart Rate Trends

The trend was downward – an initial hard output trailed off as the ride progressed. I was not aerobically decoupling, power and heart rate fell together, the effort simply dropped. Fatigue was a definite factor, but so was the mental game. I lost focus, experienced nutritional problems and increasingly freewheeled downhills. The athletes around me and growing traffic broke my consistency; there were frustrating moments as I waited for cars to pass those a lap behind.

To a degree it explains some of the fall off in power. Unimpeded on the return leg I raised my effort back to target and rode the final half hour strongly. Starting the ride attempting to average 250W was too hard and broke from my usual approach of building to race pace. Ironman New Zealand has comparable figures, but the race started easier and finished harder.

Goal Pacing Standard Pacing
The Outlaw Triathlon 2011 - Russ Cox's Goal Power Pacing Chart The Outlaw Triathlon 2011 - Russ Cox's Standard Power Pacing Chart

The first chart above demonstrates how far I fell short of my pre-race targets, I don’t come close. To sustain a cap of 250W would require me to be working above it as much as below, whilst I pushed towards it I wasn’t able to go that far. Adjusting my targets to typical proportions of FTP, as in the second graph, brings my performance inline with expectations.

My goal was too much of a stretch. I didn’t feel at my best on the bike; the fortnight before the race was too light and my taper improvised in the final days. Allowing for this, perhaps there were five or even ten watts more in me on a better day with better pacing. Compared to New Zealand this felt like I was riding at a lower intensity.

There are clear lessons – better consistency in pacing, dealing with other athletes more effectively, holding back at the start and sustaining the effort through the middle lap. Comparing power and performance with other riders at other races makes me painfully aware that I need to consider a new race bike. I ride well, but I also give away time with my terrible aerodynamics.

Despite missing the original target I’m happy with my performance; I worked harder. I’ll lower my caps for Challenge Henley and put more work into sustained efforts at these levels. Having the course to train on should help with maintaining consistency in the race.


This is the first time I’ve collected detailed run data, but with the poor training it’s hard to draw conclusions. Run/walk was not enough to keep me moving through the marathon, my legs began failing after an hour. The positive I take from the chart is my cadence is very consistent when running; technique felt good throughout, especially when raising the pace at the finish.

The Outlaw Triathlon 2011 - Russ Cox Marathon Performance

Initial pace was high and perhaps something I could have sustained in the past, but with my reduced training there was little chance of holding it for twenty-six miles. Walk breaks were too brief during the first lap and I might have benefited from extending them. However once my legs went, I had to walk, no adjustments to my early strategy could change that.

Knowing I would finish outside my normal time I eased back. Physically the potential was there, I ran the last two miles at a reasonable pace, but the mental edge wasn’t. I didn’t have the will to push through the discomfort. The only benefit of holding back is the speed with which I now recover.

I survived the run. It was harder than I’d anticipated, but I did stick to the most important goal – I remained injury free. I’ll keep building training as my running improves with an aim to complete Challenge Henley in far better shape. Racing the marathon remains a way off.

A tougher day than I’d expected and I never felt fully on my game. Even cycling, where I should have been most comfortable, wasn’t at one hundred percent. Being away from racing for so long had made me rusty, I didn’t want to be there when the day started. Since I’ve finished I’m re-motivated and keen to race better.


  • Well done Russ! An honest self critical appraisal one can only learn from, have my thoughts on the bike decay and be happy to chat them over with ya! Recover well. D.

  • David,

    Your input is always welcome. I was surprised how much my effort decayed over this race, especially when I picked things back up in the final half hour. the bike didn’t quite feel right, a little harder than usual and there was a definite lull on the 2nd lap section.

    Some of it relates to pacing mistakes on my part, easing up and timing passing others, pacing off guys who were slowing as they over exerted themselves and then a fair bit of waiting behind caravans! Also nutrition didn’t work, the products I used weren’t ones I regularly race with and I think I went a little too high with intake in the first 2 hours. But given the extreme change I went out too hard; I was afraid of not hitting my target and so hammered the first part in order to keep the numbers up, didn’t have the confidence to hold back and build up to pace. I was fatiguing and mentally wasn’t focussed enough to push myself. I know my mind was wandering at times and I started to view taking fast sections easier as a case of conserving energy. Great for overall race, but if I really wanted to just nail the bike I needed to keep the effort up.

    Be good to hear your thoughts


  • If you’re going to do more races as “testing” then maybe worth picking up a Garmin 305 to stick under your swimcap to get speed/distance/pacing/sighting data. Sadly it won’t record HR underwater but if you’ve got a simple Polar watch you can do that and compare afterwards. Would require faffing about in T1 with swapping to an Ant+ HR strap, but if it’s all a test race, an extra minute doesn’t matter much.

  • I’m faffing plenty in T1 anyway, so wouldn’t make huge differences there. Certainly an area I’d like to have more idea on, there’s some good examples over on the Swim Smooth site of GPS data from races, shows the impact poor navigation can have. A 310 is on the list of kit to get, at some point. Throwing it on for a few test races wouldn’t do any harm.

  • Looks like we both got somewhat of a reality check on sunday. :o)
    Made me realise how important it is to reign things in during the first 45/60mins on the bike to allow the digestion system to kick in and tick over nicely and demonstrates the usefulness of a power meter. To race quickly ‘on feel’ effectively I reckon you need alot of regular hours in the saddle – more than most AGers have time for. 10/20 watts too high and it can all come crashing down quickly.

  • Good to be able to test these things though.

    Definitely went out too hard, obsessed with hitting the numbers, but a more moderate first hour would probably have paid off a lot more over the course of the race. I was able to lift myself towards the end of the ride, but lap 2 and 3 were much patchier.

    Still – good to see how I’m riding and find where I’m at. I don’t think I was at my best on the day, but I wouldn’t have hit 250W for the duration if I had been. Got to go away and keep working on it.