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July « 2009 « James Cunnama’s Blog


Archive for July, 2009

le Tour de France

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Yesterday we went to watch le Tour de France pass by. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which I certainly hope I will get to do more than once! Really fun day! Here is a pic-blog of our day…

Scott and I rode up to the top of Le Mosses climb and stopped at the 1km-to-the-top board.


Scottie had to change into his good threads cos there were ladies around…


A Livestrong vehicle threw out yellow chalk and pretty soon the whole road was yellow! This chick was confused about where she was cos she was wearing a Roger Federer cap and wrote ‘Roger Federer’ on the ground 3 or 4 times!


The crowds grew and grew and so did the excitment…


Some guys really wanted to be on TV!

Then came the ‘Caravan’ which apparently consisted of 200 vehicles, but we didn’t really count… They threw out lots of junk like sweets and bottled water, some keyrings, cycling caps, etc. We all managed to grab something, except Hulk. I think he was too busy staring at the hot chicks doing the throwing!




Then the riders came up the hill! First the break-away group came by… ‘Hey, that was Cancellara!’ He threw his used bottle in our direction – it pretty much hit Hulk on the chin! But alas, the boy was too slow today and the guy next to him got the spoils and he went home empty-handed. It was a recovery day, so maybe that was why he wasn’t on his game… ;)


Then came the peleton… Saw Lance, man they look like they’re hurting…


And they were gone. Just like that. Scott, excitement in his eyes, turned to me and said, ‘How far behind do you think the next group with the sprinters are?’. …They’re gone Scottie. That was the whole peleton. You didn’t blink did you?!

tour-de-france-2009-024The team cars brought up the rear and that was that. (Actually three more riders came later, much to the consternation of the Police cos by then the entire crowd was in the road! Keep up boys!)

We then went to the top of the hill and watched the final climb on the big screen. Exciting stuff! When we came out the warehouse where we had been watching all the advertising, arch at the top of the climb, everything, was gone! That’s efficiency for you! Say what you like about drugs, etc., the Tour is an amazing spectacle and I will do what I can to see it again whenever I can! Viva le Tour!

It was a great day and an awesome experience. Good day out of the office for TeamTBB. Next time we are riding to the final climb though – there were way more people there! ;)

Taking on the challenge…

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Everyone knows that being a Pro athlete is challenging. Of course it is! And I love a challenge.

However, realizing exactly what the challenge is or where the challenging part of the job lies takes some time. It is easy to see an Ironman as a challenge. It is easy to see an epic ride in the mountains as a challenge. It is easy to see a long, fast session on the track as a challenge. And all of these are challenges of course. When you see these challenges in front of you, you remind yourself of your goals, think of the rewarding feeling that you will have afterward and get fired up to take on the challenge. You succeed, you get stronger, more motivated and you’re one step closer to your goals. Easy, right?

The problem is,  these challenges are not the challenge of being a pro-triathlete. They are just small parts of it. And they are the easy parts, especially for a competitive, A-type personality, which most pro’s are. You see, the challenge is pushing through each challenging session, then getting up again the next morning and getting fired up for the next one, despite feeling tired and sore. Then doing it again. And again. And again. And again…

The fun challenges, which come every now and then, like the 120km ride with 2600m of climbing or the massive track sessions which leave you with great feelings of acomplishment, are soon lost in the constant barrage of smaller ‘boring’ sessions which are the bread and butter of a pro’s training program. And finding the motivation to push through these less challenging but daily challenges becomes the real challenge of being a professional sportsman.

But I love a challenge. So I’m off to challenge myself with a short 1hr ride, after which I will have no great feelings of accomplishment, will not have climbed a large Col de anything or crossed a border into another country and probably won’t even have pushed through any pain barriers. But I will be one step closer to my ultimate goal…

Breakthrough! IM Austria 2009…

Friday, July 10th, 2009
Finish IM Aut 2009

Finish IM Aut 2009

Ironman Austria this year promised to be better than last year from the outset – how could it be worse, really. Last year I was forced to retire after the bike leg due to uncontrollable coughing. Luckily the chest problems were not caused by anything serious, but it left me with some bad memories of the event. Coming into the race on the back of two great half-IM distance events a few weeks before and having had a pretty near perfect block of training in Leysin with the team I was confident of my form and looking forward to testing it out on race day. The last 6 months of training full-time and not juggling work and training is beginning to pay dividends in my fitness and in this race it would show. This year would be different…

The race started under cloudy skies with the Pro’s in the water and the age-groupers further back on the beach. I wanted to get a good start so I could get on the feet of stronger swimmers for once and hopefully improve my swim split. The pros started creeping forward, as is always the case in water-starts, and the referees in boats and on kayaks were trying in vain to keep us back. With no warning the gun went and we were swimming. I was next to Lucie and another guy when a few meters after the start we all swam into the side of a boat which really shouldn’t have been there. We ended up all on top of one another and I got good kick in the face. My right goggle flooded. I could stop and empty it, or keep swimming and keep the feet. No choice really. 3.8km isn’t that far with a flooded goggle… Actually I was thinking the opposite, but what can you do…? I stayed on the group until the end of the swim, which turned out to be the second group, about 3min behind the leaders group.

On the bike a group of about 10 guys quickly formed and seemed to be working well together. I thought we were in for a good ride, maybe catching the leading group. But when we got the first hills after about 30km it was clear the group was losing time on the leaders and the guys just weren’t sharing the pacing. It is not draft legal, but the zone is only 7m and you do still get some advantage 7m’s back, and the advantage of having someone in front of you to pace off is huge. I really wasn’t happy to be losing time to the front guys, but I also was not prepared to pull this whole group around the route. Decision time. Ride away and go solo until I catch someone ahead, which could be a while, or stay with the group and hope they get themselves organised? Hmmmm…

Up a biggish hill at about 50km I decided to test the guys and see who would ride a bit harder to limit the time lost to the leaders, so I worked harder up the hill. No-one came with me and at the top I had about 75m on the group. That decides it then. No more messing around and going fast then slow then fast. Ciao boys! I got into my own rhythm and kept a good tempo going. I rode the next 110km completely solo, seeing only one other competitor who had fallen out the lead group. Ironman is a lonely sport…

One advantage of this was that all cheering was just for me! Coming through the turn-around point was incredible! I have never seen such large and enthusiastic crowds at an event before. And it was the same at the other hot-spots on the climbs – must be what Alpe de Huez feels like in the tour…

With about 35km to go as I headed up the last big climb I saw the group ahead of me. It was all the favourites (Stephen Bayliss, Paul Ambrose, Brad Strom, Berhard Heibl, Frederick van Lierde) except Marino Vanhoenacker and Bjorn Andersson, who were off in front. It took me another 10km or so to catch them as they were further ahead than they looked with the slow speeds up the steep hill, but I eventually came up the back of the group and thought, ‘Finally, I can relax a bit!’. I sat up and ate and drank and stretched. But the group was really going slowly. Speaking to the guys afterward they said that no-one wanted to ride in the front as they were all thinking of the run ahead. As a result the pace was really slow. I still felt good and had a good rhythm going so I had another decision to make: Cruise in to the end with all these boys and see who is freshest on the run, or get the tempo up and see who can run off a solid final 30km on the bike? I’m sure I can run off the bike, thats what we train for… Let’s go. I went to front and got the tempo going again. If nothing else, this would psych the boys out a bit – here is a guy who just rode 100km on his own to catch us, and now he is trying to ride away from us? How strong is he…?! I didn’t actually know the answer to that myself, but I was gonna find out when we got the run… I stayed on the front until the end of the bike, except for a brief pause when a wasp went down my suit and stung my chest – OUCH!

Out on the run and the temperature started rising. The first half of the 21km loop is quite exposed and the sun was blazing. I concentrated on drinking, sponging and keeping my own pace. Stephen Bayliss and Berhard Heibl had gone off ahead of me leaving me 5th, but my first kilometre was about 3:40/km, and I wasn’t going any faster than that! I tried to keep them in sight and also keep the heart rate down and soon I was running 4min/km and they weren’t pulling any more time on me. At the second turn-around  in town(15km) I had pulled them both back, and the ‘2nd Man’ and ‘3rd Man’ lead-bikes had come back to us too, meaning that 2nd place Andersson must have bailed. On the way back to town Stephen slowed noticeably (stomach issues he told me afterward) and I passed him for 2nd place. There was no thought of first place – Marino was 13mins ahead already! – so I was going to be playing the hare for the guys behind me for the final 21km.

I monitored my pace, checking it against random kilometre markers here and there, but in the last half of an Ironman marathon you really are just doing what you can and your body tells you what pace to run, not the other way around. Thankfully all the hard training was paying off and the pace my body held was around 4min/km. (I got more than a few enthusiastic cheers for Stephen Bayliss as I passed, but most realized their mistake once the saw my race number… We don’t even wear the same kit?!)

On the final 10km out-and-back my friendly mountain bike guide told me I had 4min to the next guy and I could relax. Cool… but I am not relaxing until I see the line! Then on the way back to town in the final 5km he turns and says 2min to Bayliss… Whoa! What happened to four?! I tried to push my pace and gave it my all until I was in the finishing funnel… Better safe than sorry, although it turns out his original split was wrong and Stephen was 2-3min behind the whole time, where he finished up.

Down the finish chute and the crowd was massive again! What a feeling! I tried to high five all the outstretched hands on the sides, but the impact from them threatened to knock my weary body right over! I settled for waving, which was tough enough, and crossed the line with a rush of emotions – joy, relief, exhaustion, satisfaction… 2nd place in a time of 8h14:18. My first good Ironman marathon. Off my first sub-4h30 Ironman cycle. An Ironman PB by 37minutes. My first Ironman podium. A breakthrough performance if ever there was one! Onwards and upwards…

Ironman Austria

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

After a long drive yesterday, which was actually quite painless except for one little detour thanks to the GPS and a few thunderstorms, Lucie and I are in Klagenfurt and doing final prep for the race.

Had a good swim in the lake this morning – the water is warm, but not too warm to prevent wetsuits – thank goodness! Registeration – check, Pro-briefing – check, Bike test – check. All sorted. Now 36 hours to relax before the action starts. Just the way I like it…

The weather prediction is stormy but warm on Sunday, but that means nothing here cos the weather changes every hour! THe Pro field is smaller this year, but some strong competitors. Of course, the age-groupers look better though, they always manage to look so fast with their smart bikes, new clothes and aero helmets… If I didn’t know better I may get psyched out! ;)

Anyway, off to eat and relax for the afternoon… Next blog will be race report, full of good news I am sure… :D