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July « 2010 « James Cunnama’s Blog


Archive for July, 2010

Alpe D’Huez 2010

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

So this past week we went on a little journey from Leysin further south into the French Alpes. The purpose was to race the Alpe D’Huez triathlon, and in the interests of global warming, we thought it best to ride our bikes there… ;) More about the journey there and back in my next blog to follow soon. First, the race report…


Race day dawned and we rode down to the lake from Alpe D’Huez town before the race. It was a chilly 30min descent and I was pretty cold by the time I got there. Fortunately it was a beautiful morning so I basked in the sun and warmed up quickly. But I was soon to be very cold again… For the first time ever I had race number 1. I think that means you are the race favourite, and I was certainly aware of more eyes (and cameras) than usual on me on race morning. No complaining from me though – I just basked in more than sunshine all morning… ;)

Into the water we went for a deep-water start. Oh. My. Gosh. They said it would be cold, but seriously?! Doc’s instructions, to avoid the dreaded cold-shock and associated loss of breath from sudden exposure, was to get in early and just get cold. …There was no need to get in early for me! I was cold in 30 seconds! I swam over to the opposite bank where my team-mates were out of the water again in the sun. I almost caused a landslide cos I was shaking so much!

And then we were off… I felt like I was in syrup. It took me about 1ooom to warm-up, but having been behind in the swim my whole career, I was certainly not stressed about it. Once I warmed up I started to feel really good, and that is how I felt the rest of the day! On the bike and down the first long gradual descent it was clear I had more gears and a better position on my Cervelo P3 than all the others on their road bikes. Advantage James…

Up the first hill (or mountain – Col du Grand Serre) with the main pack I just paced off the group and matched all of Xavier le Floch’s surges. (He said afterwards that he was testing me and thought that I didn’t look too strong up that hill – P …P …P …Poker face! :D ). Down the other side and, although they could match me in the corners, I had them beat on the straights and flats. As I started up the next climb (Col d’Ornon) I was pulling up to the lone leader and had a good 3mins on the chasers. Still feeling great. I cruised up the hill and took the lead in the final kilometre of the climb. The next descent was ridiculously fast and twisty and went on for miles… I LOVED it! I felt like a kid pushing the boundaries on my BMX again (I am sure my Mom’s memories are less fond, and she sure wouldn’t have liked to see me going down here!)

At the base of Alpe D’Huez I had 1min on 2nd place and 4min on the chase pack – certainly not enough time should I blow a gasket going up this one, which is far from impossible when you look at the climb - 13.8 km at an average 7.9 per cent, with 21 hairpins. If you blow, you don’t lose 2mins, you probably lose 20! But I had got my feeding right and didn’t blow, and despite someone telling me halfway that the gap was down to 3mins, it turns out I came into T2 at 1800m alt. with a good 8min lead. (This was possibly due to my motivation when the going got tough – Scott and I had challenged each other on who would have the fastest climb up Alpe D’Huez – results still unknown!)

The run was suitably tough, but I still felt great – maybe that is something to do with leading… I am not sure but will let you know after my next race… ;)

As I came into the finish chute a group of South Africans (from London, go figure) were waving a South African flag which I grabbed and flew the flag as I crossed the line for the first win of my career!

Big congrats to Scottie for his first podium and Jodie for winning the ladies race in emphatic style. Also to the rest of the team – Bek 2nd, Lisbeth 4th, Tamsin 5th and our soigneur for the teamTBB Tour de France (more about that also in next blog) Emma for 10th.

So now I am back in Leysin and preparing for the next challenge in the French Alpes which, believe it or not, makes the Alpe D’Huez race, with its three Tour de France category climbs and 20km run at 1800m alt. look easy – Embrunman on 15 Aug…

Onwards and upwards…

Challenge Roth

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010


So this past weekend I got back on track. After a few bumps in the road and having to withdraw from Ironman Austria, I needed a race to get both my body and mind back in the groove. So we looked at the calendar for a race to use as a ‘hit-out’ and one race stood out from all the rest – perhaps the most famous race outside Kona, and I think the biggest long-distance triathlon in the world: Challenge Roth.

My picture by Lea(7) - It's me running in the road with spectators , and of course all my competition back behind me! ;)

My picture by Lea(7) - It's me running in the road with spectators , and of course all my competition back behind me! ;)

Felix and the Challenge family were more than accommodating and days after recovering from the  bug which side-lined me in Klagenfurt I was off to Roth to stay at a great homestay (Thanks Hagen and Kathrin, and of course Lea). The atmosphere in Roth was electric and I was soon getting excited for my race, despite original goal of the exercise… which was to exercise, really…

My race itself wasn’t anything spectacular – despite some pretty spectacular feats happening around me (well done to Chrissie and Rasmus for impressive wins) I pretty much just got the job done, to finish in 6th place in 8h18.

The swim went pretty well for me  - my blueseventy suit performing as well as ever. Then it was onto

Fierce? Well it was comfy and fast!

Fierce? Well it was comfy and fast!

the bike and for the first time, I didn’t have to remove my blueseventy… well, not entirely… We were racing for the first time in the new tri-apparel and it was awesome! Apparently we looked ‘Fierce’, but you be the judge:

The Solarberg - incredible!

The Solarberg - incredible!

After the first 3rd of the bike I spent the rest of the day pretty much ‘flying solo’. Well, I wasn’t flying the whole time, but I was solo the whole time… It was just as awesome out on the course as all the hype around the race suggests – climbing the Solarberg, a short hill out of town was incredible with crowds 5-6 deep on both sides and only a narrow passage to ride through, or no passage until you were right there!

Besides dropping and then standing on my Oakley’s as I went through transition, meaning a long run with no shades (the biggest downside of which was that I could not so easily hide the pain in the tough parts), the only real news on the run was my proximity to the leading lady! Normally when you go 8h18 you don’t even see the top ladies, but on this day I had to fight hard just to finish ahead of her! (Doc’s thoughts on this here)

All in all a great experience and a fantastic event! I will be back, and next time I won’t be worrying about the ladies, not because CW will be slower, but I intend to be much faster!

Next week a fun trip to the famous Alpe D’Huez for the long-distance tri there – looking forward to it!

Onward and upward…

A matter of perspective…

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

So, without reliving it all, lets just say that the last few weeks have been testing for me. More downs than ups; less steps forward, more steps back; more the statue, less the pigeon… you know what I mean. But it can’t go on forever and sooner or later things will turn around and you will be on the up again. That happened today.

When I woke up I was grumpy. And it didn’t get better as my stomach continued its reign (or rain ;) ) of terror over the toilet. The walk to the pool was no better and, as my team-mates will attest, I was the picture of happiness. But I had had enough, and despite the insistence of some that I should be in bed, I was gonna swim. Thankfully it was a short swim, cos for all my valour I felt like death…

After the swim I felt better though and after breakfast it was off to the track for a little run to see how the legs felt. So I packed my shoes and a full roll of toilet paper and headed down. The session went well, although I stopped before I could overdo it and surprisingly the toilet paper proved unnecessary. My mood was once again a little better. Then, after more eating (perhaps the toughest part of my day!) it was time for the ride up the hill to home.

As the hill pitched up, I shifted gears. And so did my legs. So did my stomach. So did my mood! I was smiling like a kid in a candy store, and probably looked like a crazy person as I grinned, sang along to my iPod and danced on my pedals up the hill. I haven’t been in a good mood like that for a while!

A friend told me the other day that I needed to be thrown in a lake with my clothes on, or pulled into the pouring rain in order to clear my head and get my perspective back. While I am not sure getting drenched to the skin is entirely necessary, the principle is sound. Sometimes you need to be reminded how fortunate you are and how good life is. And for all the bad in my life lately, life really is good! I am living the dream. While the majority of people work a nine-to-five job day-in and day-out doing menial tasks in the confines of an office or manual labour keeping society moving, I get to swim, ride my bike and run everyday, whilst seeing the world at the same time.

They say if you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. That may not be entirely true – every job has some aspects of tedium and hardship, as I have experienced lately. But today as I rode up a steep hill, bathed in warm sunshine, sweat dripping from every pore, feeling that familiar and ever-so-welcome burn in my legs and surrounded by the beauty of the Swiss mountains, all the problems of the last few days and weeks seemed minor and fleeting. And I was reminded that I really love my job!

…Of course it could just have been a caffeine-high from all the Coke I drank today to settle my stomach… :D

As ever, onward and upward…

As playing on my iPod today: The Parlotones – Motivated

Sh!t happens…

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Okay, enough already. I can’t take any more bad luck. Here’s a brief synopsis of my bad luck this year:

  1. Ironman SA – stomach bug in week leading up, led to me in medical-tent. Bummer.
  2. First week Switzerland – bike crash. Ouch.
  3. Challenge France – flat tyre lost me the race. Damn.
  4. Last week, bike crash wrote off my Cervelo P4. Shit.
  5. Ironman Austria – stomach bug the day before and no start… FFS!

Who said bad things happen in threes?!

Okay, so there have been some good things in between there, like Ironman70.3 Singapore and Challenge Kraichgau. I don’t like to focus on the negative – but it doesn’t take much effort at the moment.

Needless to say I am keen to put this phase behind me and move forward. I am looking for races to do in the next few weeks to get me back on track, but really it is a matter of refocusing the mind and goals and getting the training in. There is still much of the season left and plenty of opportunity to turn it into a great season…

"Can't a chicken get some privacy?!" ...At least he's got toilet paper!

"Can't a chicken get some privacy?!" ...At least he's got toilet paper!

Yeah, I got the rubber chicken this week for my superb performance at Ironman Austria… well, my stomach had a good run anyway…