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Kona « James Cunnama’s Blog



Kona looms… Ironman World Championships. It is on the minds and tongues of triathletes and triathlon fans everywhere. It is the hot topic on all the triathlon websites. And of course it is the only thing on the mind of all the triathletes actually competing…

But I am not one of those triathletes, not this year. And people keep asking me why not. Especially since I am ‘on form’ when you look at my recent results. In fact, even I have asked myself this question a few times recently. So why? Firstly, I didn’t qualify. I was forced to DNF Ironman SA and DNS Ironman Austria and never did another M-dot race. …But I could have done one, or more, so that is not really the reason.

The real reason is that I, together with Brett, decided early in the year that 2010 would be about getting me on my feet as a Pro athlete. This obviously included getting stronger and trying to get some good race results, but mostly this meant financially. I had spent 3yrs ‘investing’ in becoming a pro and it was time to get out of the red for the first time since 2007. Going to Kona this year therefore would not help this goal. Kona is an expensive trip. Very expensive from South Africa, which is almost exactly the opposite side of the world. (Okay, so I am not in SA anyway, but I would have to get back there – and Kona is pretty darn far from everywhere!) And the prospect of me finishing in the money (in the top 10) in Kona this year was remote (and it seemed far more remote back then…). So we decided to skip Kona and go where I could make money, rather than spend it. So far that plan has worked out well!

But that is not the whole answer. Every time I am asked why I am not in Kona (and that’s been a lot of times already!) I am tempted to give them a different answer, the answer in my head, the real answer:

I am in Kona! Everyday I am in Kona. When I am swimming. When I am cycling. When I am running. Even when I am sleeping. (Actually, especially when I am sleeping!) I go to Kona all the time. More often than anyone. People who know me know that every year since I started this sport I have watched the entire World Champs race online, start to finish. In SA this meant staying awake until 3:30am, usually on the floor of Triangle Sports -the local bike shop and the only place with good enough internet. No-one could understand how I stayed awake when it was so long and boring… but it was the most important day in my training. The images were used for months in my head to visualize where I was going. They are still being used today. Last year I got to see it all first-hand for the first time, and although it was not a good day of racing for me, as an experience it was invaluable. This year I will again be watching on the internet, thankfully from a more forgiving time-zone, while I add fuel to the fire.

Everyone knows that winning Ironman World Champs is why I am doing this. I have never been shy to tell people my goals, even if they are a size too big for me at the time. So when I am on the track running my 27th 800m repeat and it is hurting, physically I may be on a small high school track in New Jersey, but in my mind I am on Alii Drive in Kona fighting for the lead… When I am time-trialling on my bike and every muscle is burning, I am on the Queen K highway having the race of my life…

So when I watch Kona this year, while I will be supporting my team-mates and friends, and while I am very interested in who wins, I am even more interested in how they win. And in my head I will be there in Kona racing them, putting myself in their shoes, imagining how I would be feeling and how I would respond. And how I would beat them. Because that is where I am going. Soon it will not all be in my head. Soon my body will join my mind racing in Kona.

See you in Kona… even if you can’t see me yet!


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