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Ironman Texas « James Cunnama’s Blog


Ironman Texas

“Ouch. Ouch. …Ouch! Jeez! …Ouch!! Holy S#!+!!”

It was the 35C. It was +70% humidity. The sun was beating down from above, and up from the tar surface I was running along. And after a hard 180km ride I was tired. But that was not the problem – I was running on  what felt like hot coals. Barefoot. Carpets in T2 would have been great. But that was only the start of the suffering…

Fifteen miles later, 11 miles still to go and the only consolation was that everyone was suffering at least as much as I was… This made Cozumel training camp seem comfortable! I had very recently dumped as much water as I could grab over me, and yet already felt dry. The ice I had dumped down my top didn’t even feel cold. How is that even possible…

My day started better than I hoped. Not only was I able to stay with the lead pack in the swim, but the lead pack put some serious time into the chasers. All the hard work in the pool with Jodie is paying off. More improvements to come, but on the right track. Being a non-wetsuit swim makes it even more rewarding, and a big thanks to HUUB, who went out of their way to get me a swimskin to race in in time.

Out onto the bike and team-mate Mathias didn’t waste any time showing his intentions. I toyed with the idea of going with him, but at this stage of my season that was not the game plan, and it was too early in the day to throw the game plan out the window. So settled into a rhythm and let the race settle into its packs of players and pretenders. As usual with Ironman, distinguishing these is nearly impossible until much later in the day. I soon found myself in the main group of 7-8 guys, with only Mathias up the road. Cervelo P5′s were everywhere it seemed. Simply faster. I got no information on the race situation whatsoever – it’s one thing not knowing what’s going on when you’re following bad coverage online… it’s worse when you’re in it and are clueless!

Towards the end of the bike I still felt good and pushed on closing the 5min gap significantly to Mathias, but it turns out a second group was not far behind us by then which I was unaware of, so onto the run it was a close race.

Again, and given the extreme heat, I decided it was still too early to throw out the game plan, so stuck to it despite being passed by three guys putting me into 4th. Paul Amey, Justin Daerr and Ian Mikelson were now in front of me, but they were playing a dangerous game in heat that extreme. I concentrated on drinking (lots), cooling, getting some Red Bull into me to finish strong. And did exactly that. But after running into 2nd in the final 5miles, I ran out of real estate to catch Amey who put in a really solid performance for a well-earned first IM title. When you can execute your race plan flawlessly in an Ironman and put your best effort out there then you’ve had a great day, so this will go down as one of my fond memories, even without the win.

People have already asked me if I’ll be back next year, and I don’t know what to answer. There was not a lot of enjoyment to be had out there. The crowds were some of the best I have experienced in the US with a spectator friendly run course and lots of enthusiasm. And the people I met were all great, from my excellent Homestay with Richard, Denise, Callan and Auldyn to the volunteers at the race course. But the scars of the brutal conditions, both physical (sunburn, chaffing and blistered feet from T2) and mental will stay with me for a while I’m sure. But of course the memory of pain doesn’t linger… otherwise no-one would ever do a second Ironman, so…

Thank you to all my great sponsors of course and the Plants for my great homestay!

Next focus is getting ready for my title defense at Challenge Roth on 14 July, and I think racing Eagleman 70.3 might be just what I need for that…

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