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Ironman 70.3 Austin « James Cunnama’s Blog

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Ironman 70.3 Austin

 

Following on my win at Rev3 a few weeks ago (see highlights here), I went into Ironman 70.3 Longhorn in Austin, Texas full of confidence and looking for another win. But a 70.3 is a different ball game to a full-distance race, and the field was stacked with big names. But my confidence was justified and now I am two for two wins on the continental US!

Last week I left the DeFilippis beach house in New Jersey for Austin, the Capital of Texas. A short and painless flight with JetBlue got me to the comfort of the Marsh’s house. Everyone had told me that I would love Austin as it is a great city, and they weren’t wrong. It really is a great city, and I am not a fan of cities in general… And now, as the site of my first Ironman 70.3 win, it will always be a special place for me.

So race day dawned and we (Brandon, Amy, Nicola and myself) could be found in the car. We had been in there for an hour and you could cut the tension with a knife! Traffic into the race venue was insane – the last mile of a trip that should take 10mins total took about an hour! And the race start was ticking ever closer. After eventually parking and taking a shuttle to the start, we made it into transition to sort out our bikes 10mins before they closed transition (25mins before the start)! The announcer, very calmly, said “We’re sorry, there was an accident on the highway so the traffic is backed up and everyone is late. Don’t worry most of you have plenty of time as we have 17 waves. …But the race will start on time regardless.” Thanks for that. It was a rushed morning with high tension. Not an ideal way to start the day. Definitely not ideal! But we all made the start in time…

My swim went okay. The Pro men had their own wave so there were not a lot of us, but I managed to stay on the feet of the front group for longer than I have ever before. Unfortunately that was still not the entire way, and I ended up swimming solo for a long while. I came out a minute behind the main group…

On the bike I soon found my rhythm and worked to pull back the lead group which I knew was up the road ahead. I did not get any splits so I never knew where they were, so I just kept going believing I would reel them in eventually. I had one other guy for company, Lewis Elliot, but he didn’t have the same faith that I did that we would catch the leaders so his motivation waived. We did catch them, but only about 8miles from the end of the bike leg – 48miles of hard riding done! I sat up and checked out the competition ahead of me. There were 7 guys there and I was confident I could out-run them all based on my current run fitness, so my spirits soared. I went past most of the group, not wanting a repeat of Singapore 70.3, where I lost time by being at the back of the group through T2. On my way up near the front I got some choice words from Richie Cunningham – apparently the work in the front had not been evenly shared throughout the ride, and he thought I was one of the guys who had slacked off only to come through near the end. I wish!

As we pulled into T2, the front two riders went straight into the penalty tent, leaving me first into T2, and first out side by side with Richie Cunningham, the race favourite. As we exited transition someone shouted that we were 7mins down on the leader (Marko Albert). Whoa! I thought we were the leaders! Damn. The pace was blistering from the start and Richie and I traded the front a few times, neither giving much. About halfway through the first lap a flying Allesandro Degasperi came by us both, which was really surprising considering our pace! Richie went with him, and I kept my rhythm a little off the back. Soon they both slowed, particularly on hills. And there were enough of those! It was one of the toughest run courses for a 70.3 I have ever done – mostly off-road with thick grass and rolling hills the entire way. Near the end of lap 1 I gapped the other two up one of the longer hills and they dropped off quickly. Coming through to start lap 2 I was given the split that I had only made up 90secs on Albert. I figured I was racing for 2nd and a flash of fight went through me – I’ve had enough 2nds for one career already! I have a deal with myself now – no 2nd’s – if I am in 2nd either I win or I blow up trying and finish way down… Despite this ‘rule’ I’m not sure I really believed I could catch him, but ran like I did anyway. I got no splits for a long time, and then, with 3.5miles to go my MTB escourt, who could apparently see better than my effort-induced tunnel-vision allowed me, turned to tell me the leader was 32secs ahead. Sweet! All I had to do was keep it together for 3miles and I would win!

As I crossed the line, now more than a minute ahead of Albert, to win my first Ironman 70.3 the rush of emotions was incredible! There was way more prestige and recognition around this victory and it is still a little surreal. Like I said, I was confident before, but I am not sure I really expected to win. Undefeated on the continental US! One more race to go to make it three from three. Ironman Florida here I come…

A huge congrats to Nicola too for an incredible performance dominating the race from start to finish! And a big thanks to Amy and Brandon for their great hospitality here in Austin – they must have done something right as they hosted both the winners! ;)

Onwards and upwards!

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