“NOBODY UNDERSTANDS THE EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER OF TRAINING BETTER THAN A PRO ATHLETE.”
The pair don’t need much of an introduction. South African born Cunnama is a multiple 70.3 and Ironman champion with a fourth-place finish at Kona in 2013. British-born Swallow is a 70.3 world champion, Ironman champion and Olympian.
Despite the successful year Cunnama has had so far with a third-place finish at Ironman 70.3 Busselton and a win at Ironman 70.3 Vietnam a week later, he has not qualified for Kona, but will be there to support Jodie and Bahrain Endurance teammates.
“It looks like Kona is out for this season. I could chase the points, probably even get in, but get in and not be ready, what’s the point?
“Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches and plan long term. So I’ll aim for a good 70.3 worlds then focus on getting some early points for Kona 2016 so I don’t find myself in this situation again next season,” says James.
Swallow had a very successful year so far. She won her fifth consecutive Ironman 70.3 South Africa and then won Ironman South apart to a minimum as the stress doesn’t help either of our performances,” says James.
Communication is key to easing the stress of their lifestyle. “Nobody understands the emotional rollercoaster of training better than a pro athlete, so I guess it helps that we are both in the same boat. We don’t really have any rules to follow or set guidelines, it just works for us,” adds Swallow.
Being a triathlon couple has its benefits from a business perspective but has a bigger advantage on a personal level. There is some added exposure, but each still has their own identity and having someone whose lifestyle meshes with theirs and to travel with is invaluable. “If we were constantly leaving someone at home to race and attend camps, life would be a lot harder,” says James.
When it comes to training, their programmes are vastly different but they do spend a lot of hours together in the pool. Cunnama jokes that this is mainly for his benefit as Swallow is a top swimmer. was oblivious as the medical team had moved her off the course before he got back to her. “I don’t know how I would have reacted to that but Jodie would have killed me if I had stopped for her.”
Qualifying and travelling to Kona is a big commitment for anybody and a few tips from this power couple can’t hurt. The best piece of advice for Kona-qualifiers, the power couple insists, is investing in a decent condo a little away from the race venue.
“Avoiding that crazy race-week buzz and keeping your energy levels high is important. A few too many trips to the swim start, expo and restaurants can leave all your energy and adrenalin gone before race day even dawns,” says Swallow.
Cunnama and Swallow make it clear that behind every champion is their biggest fan.
Gavin Grobbelaar is an Ironman athlete, ultra marathoner and journalist. He runs Ultra Media.