The past year has been full of changes for 2012 DATEV Challenge Roth and 2014 Ironman 70.3 South Africa champion James Cunnama. After several years as part of Brett Sutton’s TeamTBB, Cunnama left the team (which dissolved late last year but was recently relaunched without Sutton as head coach) to be coached along with former TeamTBB teammate Caroline Steffen by two-time Ironman world champion Chris McCormack. Cunnama and his longtime girlfriend, British pro triathlete Jodie Swallow, also made a training-base move to Boulder, Colo. Cunnama has made the switch from racing his way fit to being more particular about when and how he toes the line, and so far he is incredibly happy with the changes in his career.

Cunnama heads into Kona after a strong top-five finish last year, and he’s expecting his major training and coaching changes to pay off. LAVA sat down with Cunnama a day after he finished fifth at the 2014 DATEV Challenge Roth to discuss what he can (and cannot) glean from the stacked field he was up against that day, as well as how he plans on fitting the Ironman 70.3 World Championship into his racing calendar before Kona.