By DAVE SHEA
SCOTTSDALE, AZ - Matt Russell was recently honored by USATriathlon as the Male Elite Duathlete of the Year.
Russell earned the honor after placing second in the Elite Duathlon National Championships (10K run, 40K bike, 5K run) at Oak Mountain State Park in Birmingham, AL. As the defending champion, he placed second in 1:51.44 to a former University of Missouri distance standout Daniel Hedgecock who won his firstever elite duathlon in 1:50.48.
A honor which the 29-year old Russell savored as part of his journey toward fulfilling his full potential as professional triathlete.
A journey which has taken him to very significant heights in recent years.
It is certainly a great honor to be the Elite Duathlete of the Year but my main focus right now is the ironman triathlon. I am much better at the longer distances, says Russell, a Lisbon native and former all-state runner at Canton Central, who is now living in Scottsdale, AZ.
I certainly enjoy the challenge of the ironman distance (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run). This triathlon journey for me is about experiencing the amazing places I travel and really all about the relationships I build along the way. Its important to find something that you are passionate about. I certainly found a love for the sport in triathlon and I am thankful for all of my sponsors, friends and family for the support to make a dream come true.
Russell is living the dream to fullest following up an outstanding 2011 competition season where he logged career highlights by winning the USAT Duathlon National Championship, taking sixth in the World Championships and finishing third among the American contingent at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.
This season, in just over a month, he took ninth in the Desert Classic Duathlon in Arizona, first in the Bicycle Vibes Sprint Triathlon, second at the Duathlon Nationals and placed a very strong second at the Leadman Triathlon in Las Vegas, NV last weekend.
The Leadman tri (2.5 swim, 110k bike, 13k run) was very tough. The swim was very choppy because of the strong wings with gusts recorded up to 67 mph, the bike was very hilly, the run was all uphill and the temps were over 90 degrees, said Russell on Friday while enjoying some downtime at home in Arizona before entering Ironman St. George in Utah on May 5.
Last year I had a great year and this year the race of year is the Ironman World Championships in October. Last year I was 23rd and the third American, My goal this year is the to place in the top 10.
Russell considers Scottsdale, AZ. as the ideal place for the schedule of a professional triathlon. The mild weather is perfect for winter training and he escapes the oppressive heat of the summer by travelling to races in more temperate sites.
This summer he will compete in ironmans in Boise Idaho, Couer dAlene Idaho, Lake Stevens WA., Lake Placid, N.Y., Boulder, Colo. and Ironman Canada building toward the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
I am doing more volume this year then last year. I have been training an average of 26 hours per week all of January and February. Swimming three to five hours, cycling fifteen to twenty hours and running four to seven hours per week, says Russell who continues to work with Frank Stowell of Swim Solutions to improve his swimming times.
Improvements in the run and bike disciplines, he feels, is a matter of listening and learning.
A lot about being successful is listening to my body. I have been self-coaching myself. But I use my resources as much as possible such as talking to other athletes, coaches, reading books and reading articles on line, he says.