MAX PROFILE #3, James Cunnama, 29, Triathlete

WHO HE IS

In 2006 while studying in Port Elizabeth James borrowed a friend’s bike and completed his first duathlon and then his first triathlon three weeks later. In 2007 he completed his first Ironman, where he came 21st, tenth the next year and turned pro in 2009. James is currently a member of triathlon team team, TTB, under the guidance of Brett Sutton.

WHAT HE DID

Cunnama had a strong foundation for becoming a full-time athlete. “I spent my whole life dreaming of being a professional runner, I grew up watching the Comrades.”
Cunnama and triathlons clicked instantly. “It was something that the mind and the body was primed to go after. All that passion and the dream of being a pro athlete just got shifted into being a triathlete instead of a runner.”

MAX MOMENT

James’s personal best in the Ironman competitions was on home soil last year where he finished with a time of 8:13:18 to take third place. His most significant podium finish was the first place in the Florida Ironman when he came back from a notorious setback on the cycling leg.

HOW HE IMPROVES

Cunnama’s team’s training schedule is fairly flexible. “We have a pattern for ten days or so that we rotate through, but even that is very variable. Our training schedule can depend on travel, races or just a little niggle. The advantage with triathlons is that there’s three disciplines, so if you have a niggle on the bike, you can stay off the bike and do a bit more running and swimming for a couple of days. You try to have a balance between all three – some hard stuff in each of them but also some easy stuff in between each of them to recover.”

HOW YOU CAN IMPROVE

“You have to find that balance between an important goal and the fact that it’s just another day,” says Cunnama. “You’ve got to go after it and put all the work in, but you’ve also got to relax and let it happen because it will happen if you put the work in. Winding yourself up ends up being a negative thing and you end up not achieving your potential. If you just relax, it will happen because you’ve done the work.”