Paul with a phenomenal debut at the half ironman distance

DIT 7th November 2014

Race report: Paul Cox


I guess for me the journey to DIT started in January this year when we moved to Dubai. I have been doing triathlon for over 5 years now and was content with training and competing with a like-minded group of people at our local tri club doing a few sprints and Olympic events every year. Little did I know that joining Tri Dubai would be a different experience and would lead on to something I hadn’t even contemplated before. I remember coming back from the first Lime Tree breakfast - “Oh my god these guys are all into Iron man and they travel all over the world doing it”. I haven’t even run a marathon let alone doing it after a bike and swim!

Well you either get wrapped up into this environment or I guess go and hide somewhere (considered the latter but ended up the former!). Whilst people can be quite anal at times about bikes, nutrition, latest fads etc it does demonstrate a great enthusiasm and enjoyment of the sport which I think ultimately is why we all do it… and the excuse to buy more kit of course!

After starting to consider how I might enter this longer distance world a few things came together to encourage me along. Firstly the announcement of DIT (no excuses now it is on the doorstep) and secondly the loss of my job and plenty of training time available.

The first bit of advice I had was to have a plan to get you there.

The Plan:

1)    Get a programme

2)    Get a coach

3)    Lose some weight = less booze

4)    Buy some more kit – not really in the plan but you can’t help it.


The Implementation:

1)    Got a programme – I have never followed one before and still go a bit “off piste” at times, but loved having a focus to my training and other people to do it with

2)    Got a coach – Tony Hchaime who has been full of advice and enthusiasm (although he does give me a hard time about the nutrition side…the dreaded booze)

3)    Lose some weight – yes I did but not as much as would have liked with only 4 kilos shed versus the 8 targeted (I enjoy the booze as much as competing sadly)

4)    Buy more kit – new wheels of course!


The Race (just realised this is a race report and I have rambled on so here goes)

Alarm goes off at 4am – those early starts in the summer have trained me into getting used to this. Porridge, Honey and banana (thanks Andy Edwards) and a cup of coffee and some water. Bottles already in the freezer and kit sorted from the night before. Even our visiting daughter gets up to come and see her old man suffer.

We arrive at transition and start to feel the buzz…and nerves…and full bladder…and more nerves. Go through pre- race routine laying out the kit and working through in my mind what I need at every stage (now what did I do with that new set of legs I need for the run??).

Karen Comber belts out on the tannoy – “All out of transition in 5 minutes” and sounding like she means it!

As I start the walk down to the swim realise I have forgotten my cap and goggles – what happened to the routine! I also keep thinking do I need another visit to the loo and not just for No. 1. Thankfully get in there before it gets too busy and manage to lose a bit more weight... it all helps you know.


The Swim

It soon gets round to our start time for the Old Geezers wave of over 50s. I find myself standing on the left hand side whilst most people are over in the middle and on the right. What am I missing as I think I have a good line? Do they know something that I don’t? Has someone farted near me?

Anyway think I chose well as got to the first buoy in 2nd place. Not sure who was in front of me but he then went off heading for the 3rd buoy which I quickly realised was wrong and course corrected. I kept out of the melee until we started to catch up with the previous waves which provides an additional challenge to work your way around them.

Came out of the water feeling good and pleased with the effort (although Georgio Ceccinato captured me in a picture looking like an angry “The Hulk” so not sure what was going through my mind then!).

Looked for supporting daughter on the beach to give her a wave but no sight of her. Eventually spotted her getting a coffee as we were about to enter transition – that will teach me to be quicker than planned!

Swim target 35 mins Actual 32.23 – 2nd in category and 43 out of the total.


As I entered transition looked for my landmark – first palm on the left, 2nd row in. It is always confusing seeing the transition area in the full light with just kit there but luckily found the bike and got all my gear on smoothly. As I jump on my bike a guy falls in front of me – shoes on for me before mounting the bike as have seen this a few times with people trying to save time and having shoes already clipped in.

7th in transition in category


I was probably most focused on maintaining a steady pace on the bike and trying to save something for the run as in the past have gone too hard on the bike and felt shattered on the run. I averaged 36kph at an Olympic event two weeks prior to DIT so targeted 33kph due to the longer distance on the coming run. We had been warned about the escaping bottles and it was almost comical seeing how many there were strewn across the road (tip 1 buy some cheap tape to hold the bottles in if a bumpy course!).

It was lovely going out with the wind behind us and I felt I got into a good rhythm. Now I had to think about the nutrition as I had planned to take some Race Food every 15 mins (a nice digestible nougat bar) and a gel every hour. As it happens I couldn’t take all this in as was starting to think I might be sick on the run (more training on this next time as probably didn’t spend enough time on taking in fuel and seeing how I cope with this during training).

Had a chat with a few guys as I went past them but was passed on the 2nd or 3rd loop by Henry Clark (eventual winner of the old geezers category…sorry Henry…the “In our prime” category and then Mike Bermingham (3rd place)). Both said a cheery “hello and keep going” – neither meant it and the smiles were because they were leaving me behind!!

As I came up the trunk of the palm I started to think about the dreaded run and how much energy I had left. I felt quite good but could have done without the headwind.

Lots of cheering was very welcome as we headed along the top of the Palm and into the transition area which felt great and gave me an extra boost!

Bike target 2.45 achieved 2.47 11th in category and 203 overall


A good transition with a 2nd place in category and quickly out on the run

The Run

My main thought and the most advice I was given was start at an easier pace on the run than you feel you can achieve. I felt good and found I was better than the race pace I had planned which was an average of 5.45. In planning I optimistically thought I could do a 6 min/km for the first half and increase to 5.30 min/km for the 2nd but the heat and tiredness put paid to that! I looked forward to every aid station coming up as if it was a desert oasis and planned to walk through every one to take on water and maybe a coke or aqualyte. I felt good for the first 7 k but soon dropped the pace after that as the heat and tiredness set in. The volunteers were great though and more than delighted to stuff a freezing sponge down your tri suit (the back I hasten to add!) and give you a cheery shout of encouragement. Mentally I was at my lowest as I made the first loop turning to go back out for the 2nd loop – “crikey I have to do that all over again” I muttered to myself.

It was good seeing people out on the course each encouraging everyone else along and equally struggling (or at least I told myself they were).

On the final stretch plenty of people shouting your name helped make sure you kept good running form rather than looking like a shuffling old man…which is what I felt like obviously.

On the final run in I could only focus on making sure I was smiling as I have too many pictures of me crossing the line grimacing and looking beat.

Run – target 2 hours achieved 2.06 10th in category and 293rd overall

Total time 5hrs 29mins 17 secs


It can be somewhat overwhelming for someone considering entering a half or full iron man given the amount of advice and information out there but ultimately you have to find what works for you as we all react differently to training, nutrition etc and get motivated by different things. Sometimes our lifestyles don’t quite fit into a neat training programme or meal plan so a bit of flexibility along the way helps.

Seeking advice from the tri community around us is easy as people are more than delighted to share their thoughts and experiences and help those newer to the sport or the distance along the way.

I feel energised by having completed the event and pleased with the time I achieved (although a little daunted looking at the gap I have to close with the podium guys!). After having now celebrated and recovered it is time to start thinking about what next as you can get some post- race training blues but thankfully there are plenty of events over the coming months to keep me focused.

As Nick mentioned in his report a big thanks to the Race.Me guys as I thought they put on a great event despite hearing about some of the behind the scenes challenges they faced (we didn’t notice guys!!). I want to bottle some of the volunteer enthusiasm as think it could be sold as tri race fuel so thanks to them and for all the supporters and cheerers along the way.

Finally thanks to the Tri Dubai community as your enthusiasm and friendship got me into this and sustained me through it!