I was genuinely concerned coming into this season that I’d lost it. The Covid-19 pandemic during 2020 meant that I’d had a year of doing lots of training but 90% of it for pleasure – ‘bike-packing’, charity events, challenges, visiting some of the UK’s most stunning places (when permitted). I was beginning to doubt myself: Do I still have it? What even is ‘it’? Do I still have the desire to race hard and put myself in the mix?
Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series – South Devon
I was just 30 seconds in to the Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series South Devon stage when I realised that my love of racing had gone nowhere! I’d spotted another athlete warming up who looked pretty handy and started in a wave about two minutes before me – Covid-19 has changed how a lot of races are structured now, with the Time Trial format being king to aid social distancing.
Within those first 30 seconds I’d thought “chase them down”, reasoning that if I caught them I’d be doing well. The Half Marathon course took in six miles of the picturesque but punishing South West Coast Path between Beesands & East Prawle, before turning inland and returning via bridleways and footpaths. It’s where the Coastal Trail Series was born and a seriously fun course with plenty of challenging terrain, and I loved it. It’s become a cult classic for good reason.
I caught my ‘hare’ at the halfway point and used a steep downhill section to get a gap before pushing on up what can only be described as a mammoth hill to take the overall victory in a time of 1:39:27.
Eastbourne Tri – Season’s first ‘A’ race
So, on to my first ‘A’ race of the season, the European Age Group Qualifiers at the ‘home’ race for Intrinsic, the Eastbourne Triathlon. Once again, Eastbourne delivered the goods in spades: a beautiful weekend, with the sea like a millpond (on the surface at least), the South Downs providing a great backdrop and a very challenging bike course, and the sun and spectators out in full force on the run.
Alongside me on Team Intrinsic were regulars IFE Director Chris Roberts and Julian Cox, joined by a club mate from Somerset, Lewis Smith. Local Eastbourne club Bodyworks XTC had a large contingent of athletes racing so it was a friendly event catching up pre- and post-race, with some friendly rivalry all thrown in for fun.
Julian Cox opened the day in the Sprint event, laying down a cracking time on the difficult course and finishing with a 5k PB. It marked the start of a great day for the Team Intrinsic athletes (and friends) with strong showings all-round: Julian Cox took 11th in his Age Group, Chris Roberts 16th in Age Group, and Lewis Smith took 10th place in Age Group.
The route from PB to Age-Group Victory
We took advantage of local knowledge from senior racer Roberts to get us all off to a flying start, avoiding the strong sections of current and then knowing what line to take coming out of the water. I exited the water with a 1500m PB and in about 10th place …. happy. The bike course was hilly but I’d recced it the previous day. I went hard at it from the start and by the return from Beachy Head I’d moved up to sixth place overall. I narrowly closed the gap to fifth, then fourth, on the run but faded on the second run lap after the hard bike and dropped back to sixth.
As fate would have it, the disqualification of another athlete for crossing the white line on the Beachy Head S-bends, moved me into a fifth place finish overall. More importantly in the context of this race, an age-group win!
Goal 1 – Complete: Age Group win at Easbourne Triathlon 2021. Two to go …
Goal 2 – Debut Ironman Distance Triathlon – Outlaw Nottingham 25th July
Goal 3 – Top Secret…. but probably the hardest thing I will ever attempt!
Watch this space ….
Endurancelife Coastal Trail (South Devon stage), 8th May 2021
Matt Cox (Half Marathon) 01:39:27; 1st Overall
Eastbourne Triathlon, 6th June 2021
Matt Cox (Standard) 02:03:19; Age Group Win; 5th Overall
Swim: 00:20:56; T1 00:02:42; Cycle 01:04:49; T2 00:01:01; Run 00:36:36
Chris Roberts (Standard) 02:44:01; Category 16/29; Overall 199/378
Swim: 00:25:40; T1 00:04:05; Cycle 01:25:23; T2 00:02:38; Run 00:49:46
Julian Cox (Sprint) 01:35:41; Category 11/19; Overall 213/313
Swim: 00:19:45; T1 00:05:25; Cycle 00:43:56; T2 00:01:56; Run 00:26:30
Lewis Smith Racing in Mendip TRC colours (Standard) 02:18:16; Category 10/29; Overall 51/378
Swim: 00:23:14; T1 00:04:01; Cycle 01:08:45; T2 00:02:02; Run 00:43:39
Photos clockwise from top left: Sights on a half-marathon victory at Endurancelife Coastal Series South Devon stage; Team Intrinsic and guests; Age-Group Victory for Matt Cox; 5th Overall; Matt Cox on Intrinsic's 'home' course; The finish in sight (Eastbourne Tri photos courtesy of Rob Cox)