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April « 2011 « James Cunnama’s Blog


Archive for April, 2011

Ironman South Africa

Friday, April 15th, 2011


Ironman South Africa 2011

So the race has come and gone. Actually, long gone. Where’d that week go?!

The race was fast and hard. With a field like that, that was always a possibility, but often when the field is stacked everyone sits around watching at each other most of the day and the race in only decided in the final stages. Not this time! My race was actually fairly uneventful, and pretty lonely…

I came out the swim a couple minutes down on the leaders, but after one of my best swims to date – possibly due to the new 2XU Project X:2 wetsuit, awesome suit! – and set about catching the front riders. This was going well until the turn-around at 25km, where I caught a group of 7, but where the leading 4, including Tissink and van Hoenacker were still about 2mins further up the road. And they had seen me. I couldn’t bridge up to them and slowly they put time into me and the chasing group. By 110km, the gap was about 8mins. Our pace was not fast enough, so I went solo for 70km to limit the damage. I ended up with a 4h25 bike split, my best yet, – possibly due to the new Cervelo P4 evo! best bike I have ridden, no doubt – and close to a course record (or would have been if Raynard hadn’t smashed that 7mins earlier!).

Onto the run, and 8mins down in 4th I was not confident of catching the leaders. But I was hoping, as they were all very close together, that they would keep fighting each other until all three blew to pieces. That was optimistic, and I wasn’t running very well after my solo ride. Only one of the lead three blew (van Hoenacker, completely wrecked, pulled out). Tissink held on for a well-fought and well-deserved win, with the young (he’s 3 weeks older than me) Andi Bocherer in second.

I was happy with my 3rd, all things considered. It was my best race to date (a PB 8H13), and I am pretty sure that my performance would have won most Ironman’s on any other day. I broke the course record, and although times mean little, this is not a particularly fast course (although no-one told Chrissie that!) and yet it was my fastest IM so far. And some good lessons were learned too, despite the race being fairly uneventful for me. Of course to have two South Africans on the podium in a race with that kind of depth was also fantastic for the sport in SA!

So we look ahead, and take some good form and confidence with us – next stop on my never-ending worldwide adventure is California – I will be racing Avia Wildflower Triathlon on 30 April, and then Rev3 Quassy before I head to Europe for the summer.

Onwards and upwards!



Shifting Expectations

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

I am sitting here in Singapore waiting for a 2am departure. Homeward bound after another successful camp with teamTBB and Brett Sutton. This time it is not home for a bit of R&R though, but home for the big one – Ironman South Africa. This year it promises to be a very big one, with a class field and bigger prize money than ever (although still not quite Golf money…).

So while I sit here and can’t train (any more – I already swam and ran, and seriously considered another run in the dark…) I started thinking. So lets see where that takes us…

It is the start of another season as a Pro triathlete. This will be my 3rd year as a full-time Pro. The start of the season is always a good time to look ahead and set goals and focus on what may be achieved in the coming months. But in doing that, I can’t help but look back. As I head home to the start line of Ironman SA next week, it will be my 5th time stepping onto Hobie Beach to face the course, the elements, my competitors and my own demons. And wow, have I come a long way in those 4 years since my first Ironman! In 2007 I was younger, dumber and very naive – and my expectations of the day reflected that. It didn’t take long for Ironman to knock the naivety (and a fair amount of bodily fluids) out of me. The following years I came back with far more realistic expectations.

Last year was what, in years to come, will no doubt be looked upon as my ‘breakthrough year’. Those in the inner circle will know that it actually happened a year earlier, but it took that long for the results to reflect the breakthroughs I had made as an athlete. So it was that last year this time, I was fresh off a 2nd place at Ironman 70.3 Singapore. It was a close second place (52secs), and it was behind then Ironman World Champ, Craig Alexander. Everyone was surprised that day, not least of all me! I had exceeded many expectations. And throughout 2010, despite some setbacks, I continued to exceed all expectations, including my own.

This year, at the same time, I am again fresh off a 2nd place at Ironman 70.3 Singapore. This time it was even closer (49secs), and although not an Ironman World Champ, Kris Gemmel is ‘no numpty’ (his word …or maybe Jodie was paraphrasing… ;) ). This time though, no-one was surprised. I hadn’t exceeded anyone’s expectations. I hadn’t disappointed either, but my race was expected. Somewhere in the last year – where exactly is hard to pin-point – the outside world’s expectations of me had changed. As flattering as that is, it does add a new dimension to my racing. So it is that I go into Ironman SA this time around with new challenges. Challenges I haven’t faced before. The weight of expectation. I am now an Ironman Champion, and an Ironman 70.3 Champion. While I love those titles, they have shifted peoples’ expectations of me. And the shifting expectations of people can weigh heavy on the mind.

But needn’t worry. There are really only two peoples expectations that I pay any heed to – my esteemed coach, Brett Sutton’s. And my own. And while telling you what I expect next weekend, and from the rest of the season, would be giving away too much – there is a pretty good chance that, as fast as your expectations of me grow, my own will always be one step ahead…

See you in PE.

Onwards and upwards…