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January « 2011 « James Cunnama’s Blog


Archive for January, 2011

Epic Unsupported Mountain Bike Tour 2010

Friday, January 28th, 2011

So to round off 2010 and a year of new experiences, I tried one more new experience. A Mountain Bike. Not one to start slowly, I started my MTB experience with a 900km, 8-day, unsupported tour from George to Cape Town.

The group would consist of Raoul DeJongh, Guy Vesey, Ryan Redman, Collin Allin and myself. We also had Matt Blake with us for the first two days, before he drove our car back to Cape Town, leaving us to pedal there or… Well, we had to pedal there. Period.

For those interested, were riding 3 x Morewood Zula, 1 x Morewood Kwela 29′er, 1 x Black Spade 29er.

We only arrived in George late on Friday evening, and decided it was easier to leave the bikes on the car rather than re-load them in the morning. This meant that I got on a MTB for pretty much the first time about 20mins before starting my first Mountain Bike race. Adjusted seat height, learned where gears and brakes were (opposite to my usual bike – note to self! Left = back brake, left = back, left = back!) and off we go…

It wasn’t long before we were on narrow dirt tracks, which was very foreign to me. Suddenly the dirt dropped off in a crazy steep descent. The field was still close together so wimping out was no option. Down we go! Which one was back brake again?! Screw, it pull both… Wow, disc brakes work well! Why don’t we have them on road bikes?! Then suddenly down became up… easier gear, quick. Uuhhhh… which lever goes easier? Eenie, meenie, miney… DOH! Not that one. I walked up the +25% hill. No shame in that. Come on. It was only 3km into my first ever MTB ride! Overall the day went great. Such freedom on a mountain bike!

But this was just the beginning of a trip that was indeed, epic. I am going to link to Raoul’s blog now, to avoid re-inventing the wheel and he sums it up so much better than me anyway… (and its taken me a month to get this far so…) One of my best life experiences to-date. A big thanks to Guy and Raoul for putting it together and inviting me to share it, and to Collin and Ryan for sharing and making it what it was… Awesome!

Epic Unsupported Tour – Days 1-3

Epic Unsupported Tour – Day 4

Epic Unsupported Tour – Days 5 & 6

Epic Unsupported Tour – Days 7 & 8

The Video:

YouTube Preview Image

(If that one doesn’t work it may be due to music permissions – try this one Epic Unsupported Tour 2010 – No music )



Ironman 70.3 SA 2011

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

So the first race of 2011 is run and won. But not by me. Unfortunately. But I gave 100% and can’t look back on the race with any regrets. It was a good start to 2011, and I will just look forward with the lessons, motivation and confidence which I took from Sunday’s race steering me in the right direction…

My day started well – although not with a bang, but rather a ‘click’ as the mayor’s starting pistol failed to fire! After the brief confusion we were off in the uncharacteristically cold waters of the Indian Ocean. Thankfully I got a blueseventy skull-cap the day before (and even more thankfully got another one on the morning cos I left that one in my hotel room!) so I could handle the cold better than I usually can. I came out the water 10th, about a minute behind the leaders in what was my best swim yet – those swim miles in December are paying off (thankfully, cos if they were for nothing then…).

I set out hard to make up any lost time, and could see the lead group as I went up the first major hill at about 10km. By 20km I had caught this group and tried to figure out how the race was shaping up. Eventually I was told that Frederick van Lierde was off the front on a solo effort and was about 3:30 ahead. The wind was howling into our faces and it had started raining so the going was tough. At 30km I got an update and it seemed that van Lierde was making more time on us. I immediately went to the front of the group and upped the pace… and that was pretty much how it stayed for the next 60km – me in front, the rest following. We(I) got to the turn-around and turned to sail with the wind, only to be told that van Lierde was now 6:50 ahead. :o He was obviously in sublime cycling form and pushing hard today, making the most of the Belgium-like conditions! In my 56/11 most of the way and spinning out down the hills, there was little more I could do to limit the damage. And other than a valiant attempt by an already struggling Brad Storm, I was getting no help from the trailing group – all apparently happy to fight it out for 2nd place.

I came into T2 a few minutes ahead of the group I had now dropped, but still a huge 7mins down on van Lierde. Yet another ‘all or nothing’ run effort was called for. In the first few km’s I was running well and although had very little info, I knew I was closing the gap. By half-way it was down to a small 2mins, having made up 5mins in the first 11km! It was only a matter of time now… or so I thought. As it turned out, van Lierde had cooked his legs with his awesome bike split and he felt it on the first half of the run, but they came back to him on the second half and despite me digging really deep the gap just wasn’t closing any more. With 3km to go and still at 2mins, I was tempted to cruise in, but anything can happen in Ironman and I was secretly hoping to see him cramping ahead of me at any second. But the next time I would see him was on the line where I could only congratulate him on a bravely won and well-deserved first 70.3 title.

Congrats to team-mates Jodie and Diana for their performances. And of course to all my friends who did the race on Sunday – far too many to list, but you all know who you are and as always, I take my hat off to all of you who balance real lives with crazy triathlon training and then pull amazing performances out on race day!

Also thanks to all the supporters who came out to support and braved the miserable weather, especially my parents – always great to have them on the finish line. And of course thanks to all the sponsors which make it possible for me to do what I do every day.

Onwards and upwards…


It runs in the family…

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

So the first week after I got back from the States, in fact before I even made it home to PE, my entire family got together in Stellenbosch for some quality family time. The source of my running ability is not hard to figure out – it is in my genes. I have been running for pretty much my entire life, thanks to my parents running themselves – both having done multiple Comrades Marathons.



THEN: Cross-country race, 1994 - from left: Me, Mom, Dan, Dad, Meg and Tom



Since this picture was taken I don’t think we have all done the same race again! And it only gets harder each year with everyone’s lives getting busier and schedules more complicated. But thanks to the efforts of Dan and his girlfriend, Lucy we finally found ourselves, together with much of Lucy’s family and some of our extended family, in Stellenbosch for the annual Winelands Marathon and Half.

It was obvious from the outset that whilst we would run the same race, we would not be running together. My brothers, Tom and Dan, would be doing the full marathon, whilst Mom, Dad, sister and myself (due to having done IM Florida a short 2 weeks earlier) would be doing the half-marathon. In order to keep it interesting (or competitive) and putting his extensive education to good use (he is studying his PhD in Computational Astronomics or some such thing) my younger brother, Dan, created a spreadsheet with predicted times based on age, gender, professional athlete status (that’s just me!) and all other factors. Unfortunately (or fortunately!) Doc told me I couldn’t run the full marathon as my brother had me down for 2:39:15 predicted time! Maybe next year…

As it turns out, I ran the 21km with my dad. It was the first time we had run together in… well, ages. He wanted to get an ambitious goal, so we started briskly (That might have been the Red Bull I convinced him to take, despite my mom’s concerns, pre-start – I told him to drink one 20mins prior to the start, then found him drinking one an hour too early!), but it soon became apparent that they had just gestimated the KM markers as we would run a 3:45km, followed by a 5:01km… Soon my dad was breathing hard. Someone told me after watching Rev3 coverage that I grimace the entire way. Now I know where I get that from! haha

We didn’t quite make his goal, but it was a tough course. It was great to run with my dad and the time was irrelevant (well, it was to me – my dad has set some lofty goals for next year as he continues his return to running after many years off). My mom and sister also completed the half and my two brothers both completed the full marathon. And everyone else in the extended family, girlfriends and girlfriends families also finished their respective events, making it a successful day all around.

The rest of the weekend was spent catching up and spending quality time doing what ‘normal’ families do at reunions – eating, drinking and laughing! Our next goal will be to get the entire family to do the same full marathon. And then maybe we will look at Ironman… ;)



NOW: The Winelands Marathon and Half 2010









Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

So I have been home in SA now for a good few weeks. Actually quite a while, but time flies when you are having fun, and it has been fun! (With a lot of training thrown in too, of course.)

I thought being home would pretty uneventful compared to travelling the world and racing regularly, but it turned out to be the opposite. In fact I have been so busy that I have barely had time to get online and write a blog. And everytime I do I get half-way and then something else comes up and the previous blog becomes dated…

I have about four half-baked blogs from the last 6 weeks which never made it to the publishing stage. Its not that they are poor blogs, in fact they are all really good, it is just a case of not getting online. And not really needing to be online. You see when I am overseas almost all my social interaction, other than with team-mates, happens through Skype, Facebook and e-mail, meaning I am online all the time. But here at home it is easy to pick up the phone and go for a braai (bbq), coffee or lunch with friends, so my desire to get on twitter, Skype, etc. between sessions is gone. And I have not yet fallen for the peer pressure and become addicted to a Crackberry… but I may soon… hmmm…

Anyway, they are good blogs and deserve to be finished, and so they will be in the coming days… So here is a teaser of the forthcoming attractions (Yes, this is a shameless attempt to commit myself to doing these blogs, so feel free to pressure me into writing them!):

First my entire family – parents, two brothers, sister and myself – ran the same half-marathon/marathon. A great weekend with the family in Stellenbosch, with much laughter and good experiences.

Then I mountain-biked from George to Cape Town – 900km in 8 days, all off-road, with 4 good mates and totally unsupported. It was my first time on a mountain bike – talk about jumping in the deep end! – lots more laughter, amazing experiences, great guy-time and many, many memories.

Then of course the year ended, and how could I end an amazing 2010 without a review blog. What a year that was…

Jodie Swallow arrived and has been staying and training with me. Its been fun showing her the best (and worst weather) PE has to offer, including a great New Year party with the Mullers in St. Francis. I honestly believe she brought the weather with her from the UK, cos it has been atrocious! (Until this weekend when the sun finally came out, and I promptly got so sunburnt I had to take a day off!)

And of course Ironman 70.3 South Africa is just around the corner in 12 days, so plenty to focus on there. It should be a good race.

Lots to look forward to then… Tune in soon.