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My Mess-Ups from the Last 20 Years

Blog for Recovery Pump:

Just because I’m a pro doesn’t mean I always execute races perfectly. As most of you know, I’ve been racing a long time and I’ve certainly made my share of mistakes in triathlon. I thought it would fun to do a run down of the more ridiculous mistakes I’ve made in races.

20 years ago in my very first pro race back in the Gold Coast in Australia, I did a sprint format race. I had been training with my coach Cole Stewart who at the time had probably the best group of professional triathletes in the world with the likes of Miles Stewart, Matt Reed, Chris McCormack, and Shane Snuffy Reed, just to name a few. I had big shoes to fill in my first race with these guys either watching or racing. Back then I was a pretty terrible swimmer. As I got on the bike to start chasing, I realized I had put my left shoe on my right pedal and vice versa. At first I tried to put my feet in and ride like that, but after a couple of miles it got too painful, so I decided to try and switch them over. Instead of stopping, I thought I’d be smart and reach down and unclip one and put that shoe in my mouth while I switched the other shoe over. Although it worked, I lost a lot of time and a lot of dignity as most of my friends saw me doing it. I became the butt of everyone’s jokes for a few weeks.

A few years later, I was racing in Phuket, Thailand. Me and Miles Stewart were putting our bikes together and I’d realized that I left my front skewer at home. I knew there was a bike mechanic down at the expo, so I thought it would be a great idea to just put the front wheel in and ride a few miles down to transition. As I was getting to transition, I was quite pleased with myself for making it without crashing and for some stupid reason, I sat up and took my hands off the handlebar. As I did that, I hit a pothole and my front wheel popped out. As my forks dug into the ground, I went over the handlebars and landed on the head stem and broke two ribs. Of course I tried to race. I made it a couple of miles into the run and then had to pull out.

After battling a few years of Cole Stewart’s training, I managed to get a start at the Grand Prix sprint series in Australia, which was doubling up as the Commonwealth Games Selection Trials and also the Australian Sprint Championships. I was having probably one of the best races of my career at that point. I came out in the lead group in the swim and broke away on the bike with a group of legends including Hamish Carter, Miles Stewart, and Matt Reed. Towards the end of the bike, I managed to break away from them and put about a minute into them leading into transition. However it was a multi-lap bike course and when other athletes were lapped, they had to pull out. Riding on my own, I came up behind a large group on the bike and I got really excited to pass them all, but I was on my final lap and should have gone into transition. I ended up riding down to the turnaround and back which was an extra couple of K’s that I wasn’t supposed to do. By the time I got into transition, the group I had broken away from was just leaving on the run. That day I probably missed getting an Australian title and a spot at the Commonwealth Games.

In the early days when I was in racing in Germany, I quite often raced double Saturday and Sunday races. This particular time I raced in Darmstadt on a Saturday. I borrowed my friend’s hatchback car and drove to the Netherlands that night. Unlike America, small hotels in Europe close their doors around 10pm. I arrived closer to midnight and couldn’t get into the hotel. I had to put the seats down in the car and just sleep in the back of that. I used my wetsuit as a blanket. All I had for breakfast was leftover pizza and a banana and then I went and raced.

Another race I did in the Netherlands was a ETU cup race. This race had two transitions. I had a great swim-bike and got off the bike with 2 or 3 guys in the lead. However when I went to get my shoes out of the transition box, they weren’t there. I forgot to check them in at transition in the morning. Without thinking too much, I took off on the run in bare feet. This race was a 3 lap course. Luckily back then I was only doing Olympic distance and my friend was also racing. For some reason he had pulled out so he gave me his shoes going into the second lap. He’s 6’2″ and size 11 feet and I’m 8.5, however it was way better than running on bare feet. I still managed to hold on for a top 3 finish.

In 2009 at the 70.3 World Championships, I was probably in the best shape of my career. I had start number 2 and for some reason Ironman started using the plastic transition bags in 70.3 races. This was new for me and for some reason the pros just had to lay our bags out on the ground. I had a fantastic swim coming out of the water in the top 10. As I ran through transition, I grabbed the second bag and what I thought was my bike bag. I ran into the change tent where I dumped out the contents on the ground. As I put the helmet on, I realized it wasn’t mine. At the time, I picked up the sunglasses and decided to race anyway, but as I exited the transition tent, my conscience got the better of me, so I ran back to grab the correct bag. By the time I got everything sorted out, I’d lost close to 2 minutes. This particular year, there was a 50 man front group on the bike and I got stuck riding alone behind them. I ended up with one of the fastest run splits running from 50th place into 11th, but it didn’t do me much good. This led me to my next stupid decision, which was doing Ironman Arizona the next weekend. I had a great race in Ironman Arizona until the last 6 miles, where I completely imploded. I still managed to finish fourth but it scarred me for nearly 5 years.

The last time I raced at 70.3 Austin, I woke up early and had all my nutrition packed and ready in the fridge from the night before. Once I got up, I put my race kit on. I was still feeling a little sleepy and laid back on the bed. I still to this day don’t know what happened. I thought I only laid there for one or two minutes, but apparently I’d fallen asleep for an hour. Once I got up, I went into the kitchen to make breakfast and then saw the time on the clock and it was only one hour before the start of the race. Luckily I had checked the bikes in the day before. I had a major panic attack and just ran out of the house and got in the car and started driving to the race, which was half an hour away. Once I got close to the race, I got caught up in the age group traffic trying to get into the parking lot, which took another 20 minutes. While I was sitting in the car, I realized that I had left all my nutrition in the fridge. I made an emergency call to BigSexy McDonald, who was living in Austin at the time. He managed to call his wife who brought a water bottle from home. As I ran into transition, she passed me the bottle with a couple of gels. I dumped the gels in the bottle and ran down to the swim start. As I got there, everyone was lined up and ready to go. Luckily the race was delayed 5 minutes, which allowed me to get my wetsuit on and start with everybody. I still managed to finish 2nd on just one water bottle.

Another dumbass mistake was when I raced down in Costa Rica. I thought I would be smart and charge my DI2 battery before I left so I wouldn’t have to take the charger with me. Once I got there, I realized I had left my DI2 battery at home. This was back in the early days when I was one of the only people riding electronic shifters.  Back then, nobody had spare anything for electronic gears. Luckily a friend got delayed in Chicago coming to the race and they went to a bike shop and borrowed a battery and it ended up working out fine. You’d think I would have learned from this mistake, but it’s happened a few more times since.

Sadly this isn’t all my stupid mistakes and I’m sure I’ll make plenty more. I hope this makes all of your feel better anytime you make a dumb mistake. Don’t stress or panic about the little mistakes – things always work out in the end. And if they don’t, at least you’ll have a good story and a laugh.

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Mid Year Update

11885710_10152857775036157_428743038311816004_oThis year, with Kona not part of my race plan, it took a lot of pressure off of having to chase points. I decided to cram the year with 70.3 races. I decided to start the year off with Pucon, Chile – a race I’ve heard a lot about and always wanted to do. I trained hard over December and January to get fit early for the early season races. That race went according to plan and I was able to pull off my first win of the season. However, starting training so early and not taking  a break much from last year started to take it’s toll early. Being so fit early, I decided to chase a couple of the big races early on in the season, the next stop being Dubai. Unfortunately I picked up a bug either there or on the way there and had about as worse a race as you can imagine. Around this time I started to get some issues with my feet. I’d never experienced planter before and it was definitely a new experience being injured. I decided to keep training through the pain and from Dubai went on to race Monterray 70.3. I managed to finish 4th there. I got back on a plane for another long haul international flight for Brasil 70.3. Much the same as Dubai, this race was a bit of a disaster. Maybe I’m just getting too old for long flights. After Brasil, I came back to Boulder where I managed to get a bit more training in since the weather was starting to improve. The next race took me back to Galveston to defend my win from the previous year.  Unfortunately on the run, I went the wrong way on the run course, which was a big brain fart on my behalf considering I’d won it the last 2 years. The year started off great but for some reason I just couldn’t string together any luck. Racing is sometimes just as much luck as it is fitness. Next up was St. Croix, which is a race I’ve done 13 out of the last 14 years. Using that experience I managed to finish up with a second for the day, but I really had to dig deep. I think I set a record for the amount of time I spent in the Recovery Boots after a race.  After St. Croix, I settled down to do a big block of training which led me into the Boulder 70.3. I had a decent race and ended up 4th there. The next week, I got back on the plane and headed to Mont Tremblant where I finished 4th again. It seems to be my number for this year. Doing races back to back is probably where Recovery Pump has been most valuable to me this year. A few weeks later I went out to Racine where I finished… yes you guessed it… 4th! With my feet still troubling me and not being able to get the high volume of running in that I needed, I wasn’t able to perform how I wanted to at Wiesbaden European Champs. I decided to pull out of World’s after that, knowing that my fitness is not where it needs to be to compete at a world championship race. My next race planned is Cozumel 70.3. I’ve now started an aggressive treatment for my planter, which should hopefully let me get the training in that I need to hit the last half of the season hard. I still have another 5 races to go until the end of the year and I’m looking forward to improving on 4th place. Despite my injuries, I owe a big thanks to Recovery Pump for getting me this far and still able to race. Thanks to Recovery Pump, I’ve already done more races this year than most athletes do in a full season, so it’s been a huge help. Good luck to everyone else for the rest of your season.

Interview with Slowtwitch: No Crying over Spilt Milk in Texas" title="Interview with Slowtwitch about Texas 70.3">10534131_10204371234705423_459440244905528019_n

Interview with Slowtwitch: No Crying over Spilt Milk in Texas

Richie Cunningham has been competing in high profile triathlons for two decades and is a thorough professional who is a stickler for the rules. On Sunday, he and several other competitors were directed off course on the run and when they discovered the error, they felt they were too far past to double back and make a legal, competitive finish. While they were all liable to be disqualified, they did not wait for a ruling or ask to be given a timing allowance for the distance cut. They all turned in their timing chips and called it a day.

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Vector450 and Allergies

My wife decided to start taking my Vector450, just out of curiosity. She usually gets pretty bad allergies and hadn’t really noticed them much this spring. After about 2 1/2 months of taking it, we ran out. About a week and half later, her allergies came back and they have been terrible. If she wasn’t sure how much of a difference it made before, she definitely is now. I’m actually quite surprised at how drastic of a difference it made with allergies. If you have really bad allergies, Vector450 is definitely worth a try. It’s made a huge difference for us.

If you want to give it a try, here’s a coupon: 15% off coupon code for Vector450: RC2014. Take it for at least a month to notice the difference.

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Interview with Recovery Pump

Thanks Recovery Pump for the interview!

Think you know Professional Triathlete Richie Cunningham?

If serving in the military, a young love for tennis and working on an ostrich farm doesn’t ring a bell, read on.

What other sports did you play when you were younger? Did you ever think you’d be a Professional athlete?

RC “I played lots of sports when I was younger, but the first sports I got interested in were tennis and running. My dad started off running and I used to chase him to try and keep up. I also did a lot of waterskiing and Australian football. Early on I wanted to be a pro tennis player. I was a little brat as a kid and I ran away from home once. The police picked me up in the middle of the night on my bike. The officer asked me what I was going to do with my life and I told him I wanted to be a pro tennis player. He laughed at me. I don’t think I ever played tennis after that.”

Early in your career, how hard was it to start out as a new pro?

RC “Starting out as a pro was probably about the hardest thing I’ve had to do. I was in the military for 4-5 years. After leaving a secure job and chasing the dream of being a pro triathlete, the first couple of years was a really big struggle. I spent the first years, like all triathletes in Australia, on unemployment. Even my first couple of trips to Europe were extremely hard. I just managed enough money to get a return ticket for the next year each time. Just as I was about to give up and quit the sport, a friend lent me enough money to get a plane ticket to race ITU cup in Portugal. I managed to podium there, which gave me enough money to do the rest of the series and that pretty much kicked off my career.”

Why were the first few years so hard in triathlon?

RC “Two reasons. One is that I was a very bad swimmer. It took me a long time to learn how to swim open water. I was fortunate enough to find a swim coach who was willing to help and teach me to swim open water as opposed to pool swimming. The other reason I struggled so much was early in my career I had a broken rib that was rubbing on the nerves at the back of my rib cage. Every time I ran hard, I would get a stitch. This got worse over 3-4 years until I found a doctor in Germany who figured out what it was and removed the rib.”

If you could tell a new pro anything, what would it be?

RC “I’d tell them not to be such spoiled brats. Everyone seems to want a handout these days and expects sponsors to come flowing in as soon as they get a pro card. You have to earn them first.”

Other than being a professional triathlete, what is the coolest job you’ve held?

RC “Shortly after leaving the army I went and worked on a farm and raised ostriches.”

What’s your secret to longevity in this sport?

RC “I’ve been extremely lucky. In 20 years, I’ve had very few injuries. Other than bike crashes, I don’t think I’ve missed more than a few days due to injuries. RecoveryPump has made a huge difference in helping me recover, especially as I get older. Also, I think there’s two parts to staying healthy and having a long career in triathlon that a lot of athletes don’t realize.

1. You have to love the sport and competing
2. You have to love the lifestyle. A lot of people train hard, but see it as an inconvenience. I see so many people in Boulder who just seem miserable training sometimes. They just want to get training done for the day rather than enjoying the triathlete lifestyle.

“Also, I’m Benjamin Button. I get younger every year. ”

It’s no wonder Richie’s a legend in the sport of Triathlon. His hard work and honesty have made him who he is today. We’re looking forward to seeing him rack up Kona points at the innagural Ironman Boulder in August and then watch him race in the lava fields for the very first time in his career this October.

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Having a healthy winter with Vector450.

I’m really happy to be working with Vector450 this year. The benefits are already starting to pay off. It’s kept me healthy through a brutal cold Colorado winter and kept me fit and healthy leading into New Zealand 70.3, where I placed 2nd. My recovery and turn around between that race and Panama 70.3 was great. One of the biggest benefits I received from Vector450 was in Panama, where my roommate, unfortunately, came down with a virus the night before the race. We did everything together the days leading into the race – including eating at the same restaurant. We both felt a little bit off on the Saturday before the race, but I think with the help of Vector450, my immune system was a little stronger and I woke up the next morning able the race. My roommate, on the other hand, had to drop out and spent the whole day in bed throwing up. I highly recommend giving Vector450 a try to keep you firing for the whole season.

 

15% off coupon code for Vector450: RC2014.

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Rev3 Florida Race Report

We had an early morning start at Rev3 Florida. Conditions were good and we had a great field lined up.
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It was an awesome venue for a race and a perfect race morning in Venice Beach, FL.

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Finally after 3 months of rehab on my arm, I got my swimming back to where it should be out in the lead group.

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Cam Dye lead the swim out and set the bike pace early. Starky later took the lead and held it with an impressive 1:58 bike split. I felt good and settled in for the long flat chase.

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Late in the ride I managed break away from the group and get a small lead into transition thanks to the help of Drew Scott.

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On the run I managed to pass Eric and keep the series alive. It’s going to be a good battle going into Knoxville.

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Billington ran an impressive first half to catch up. Then I bitched him out for constantly clipping my feet. Disclaimer: I race angry.

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We went head to head for a good 4 or 5 miles.

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Finally I managed to get some space and hold on for second.

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The Green Machine, race owner Charlie Patten, showing off his impressive stride. Great to see a race director with so much enthusiasm for his events.

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This was my final race for the season. I was happy to finish on the podium. I’d like to say a big thanks to all my sponsors. And thanks to David Laskey and Rev3 for the photos!

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