Lake Tahoe Training Camp

Untitled design (1)IMG_5354After Racing Santa Cruz 70.3, the following day Tony and I dropped Mo at the airport and headed up to Lake Tahoe for a week of training camp with Coach Muddy. There were rumors of very bad air quality and we needed to get up there and check it out. North lake was totally clear, but south lake was all smoke. You couldn’t see across the lake on Monday, and the wind was ripping. We met the greatest couple in the parking lot, Mark and Beth Brooks and chatted with them for a long time. After that we went swimming and it was probably the choppiest water I have ever swam in. There were 4 foot swells and white caps and we just swam and got pushed all around and loved every minute.


A very strange thing happened when we drove into Tahoe. This was the third year in a row that I was coming up to Tahoe on this very week, and every time I train here, I have a blast. There are sections of road, and climbs, and swims that have happened here that have changed me as an athlete. I have really fond memories. I have spent time on the bike course loop more than 20 times. One time, we rode 3 loops all in one day, another time we rode 2 loops and then climbed up mount Rose (8 mile climb with like 3,500 feet of climbing!). I’ve spent time here with Jim, and with Joaquin, and Ciaran. Lots of Muddy folks through the years as well. One time I was so tired and a bunch of Muddy boys came in to train, and they were riding so fast I yelled at them all to put their “you know whats” back in their shorts. Yea, so I’ve had some rough moments here as well!! Hahahha!

When I pulled in, I had this overwhelming feeling that I wanted to do the full Ironman, not the 70.3. And in my mind I was like “Muddy is going to flip, you shouldn’t even think that” so I just sat with the feeling. I told Audra later that night and she was all for it. For me, my heart was just screaming that the 70.3 miles on the course was not going to be enough to satisfy this serious itch I seemed to have developed. I was fine to use it as a training day, I just knew I wanted to do the full, and I wanted to ride this iconic course! Monday night we went to bed early, but I woke up at midnight from a deep sleep, sat up in bed wide awake and said to myself “I want to do the full.” I got on my computer at midnight and sent an email to Ironman asking what the protocol was for switching, could I even do it, how much would they charge me? The answers were: Yes, and $540.


Tuesday we woke up and went swimming at the Truckee pool, Audra, Tony and I, and then Muddy rolled into town and we headed out to ride around the lake. Before that I asked him about doing the full. He immediately said I could swim and bike, and I told him it would be near impossible for me to pull out. I raced Norseman with pneumonia, I finish what I start. He thought about it for a little and said “Do it kid.”

Like I’ve said before, coach Muddy really understands me, we are actually a lot alike, similar athletic advantages, and styles. All heart, and all fight! Sometimes I just have to look at him and he knows what I mean. He knew that I felt compelled to do this.

With that decided we hopped on the bikes and rode around the lake, 74 miles. It was WINDY and Audra, Tony and I got blown around quite a bit, but we all stuck together and the smoke was gone from the lake and everything was looking gorgeous. Muddy followed us which I forget how nice that is to have SAG support! It takes all the worry out of the riding. Riding around the lake is one of my favorite all time activities!


Wednesday was a super fun day as well. We swam at the Truckee pool again with Muddy watching and just kept things long and strong. Tony tried to lap Audra and I multiple times, but it was a great swim. After that it was time to ride the bikes. Audra flatted early in the bike on her disc and had to get a lift home and that left Tony and I together. We rode up Mount Rose, and then up Spooner, and then back up Mount Rose. It was a studly deposit for the day and I think both Tony and I knew it packed a punch into our legs. We also found out that Tony had to double his calories during training camp! You seriously can’t eat enough during these things! Who had two thumbs and needs a PIZZA!


After the ride I headed to Reno to pickup up Jody and Mikki, which made me really excited, and we all headed to an awesome BBQ at our friend Justin’s house. We ate like kings that evening!

Thursday we woke up and headed to Kings beach for an hour in the lake. That morning Tony and I headed straight out into the deep blue. It was glassy flat and still and I swam on his feet the whole time and we just swam and swam and swam. We ended up way out there and it was so calm and peaceful, I will remember that swim forever. Then we headed out to Squaw Valley for our first post Santa Cruz run. Oof, it was a little brutal. We had some tempo efforts and the legs were there but they didn’t feel too fantastic.


After our run we went and checked in and I headed to the “special table” to upgrade to the full. Michelle who was working the table was AMAZING. If you ever get the chance to have her fix your problem, she’s top notch. This was the point when we found out my drivers license had run away. I vaguely remembered shoving it in my Coeur bra when we ran to packet pickup at Santa Cruz. And I vaguely remembered finding my USAT card in the bottom of the washing machine at our Santa Cruz house and wondering how it got there. It was all coming together, my drivers license was in the washing machine in Santa Cruz…DOH.

Luckily, Michelle was amazing and Troy texted a photo of my passport and she used that as my ID. She upgraded me to the full and only required that I pay the difference between the 70.3 and full. I thought that was more than fair. AND THEN, she bedazzled my bib number because of course my name wasn’t on it. And this made my day, I felt super special with that bib number, it felt like a MAGIC bib number! The Ironman staff really did help me out, and the minute I knew I was in the full I was about to jump out of my skin. I was so so happy.


Friday was not the typical 48 hours out of a big race sort of day. We met up at the swim with just about everyone we knew. It was great to see Ron and meet up with lots of Muddy athletes. It was like a party! Coach had us swim for 30 minutes but again we all swam on Tonys feet and he swam straight in the wrong direction on the way back in so we ended up with a 45 minute swim. It was flat and awesome out and I wanted to stay in for much longer! Both Tony and I were like “we would swim every day if we lived here.” The lake truly is a special place, the visibility is unreal and blue color out deep is something you have to see to believe.


After we swam it was time to get back on the bikes and head out for a big ride. I ended up riding a full loop of the Ironman course (about 55 miles). It was good to see the new out and back section first hand and it made me even more excited because it was an awesome addition. I loved the bike path section as well, and thought it really make the course even cooler. We finished the day with a run off the bike. I was tuckered out! My body was feeling really quite good though, and I have a whole other blog post on some of the things I have learned from racing in the middle of really hard training blocks. I’m excited to share more on that matter soon.


Saturday the taper came!! It was all about dropping bikes and bags at the various transition areas. This race is a bit of a cluster in that way. You have to drop your bike and your T1 bag at the swim start and then you need to drive 20 miles to Squaw to drop your T2 bag. And then we ended up hanging out at the expo. I bought a new pair of Roka goggles…the F1…I LOVE them. Audra had given me a pair that week and they were sweet so I picked up a lighter tinted pair since the sun would not be up when we started the race. And then….I made a rather big purchase that I had been thinking about for some time.


I bought the iolite. I have been watching this company since they launched their kickstarter campaign. My dolphin pod refuses to swim on my feet in the open water because I swim so wonky. I have zero straightness. So they keep sending me hints that I should buy something to help me swim straight. I bit the bullet at the expo and bought the Iolite!

So the night before the race, instead of kicking back with my feet up, I’m walking around the neighborhood barefoot with my goggles on, figuring out how the whole thing works. Essentially you have these little lights you can attach to any pair of goggles and it’s connected to a GPS unit on the back of your head. You push start and when you start swimming it figures out the line you are holding. So you want to swim REALLY straight for the first 15 strokes or so. Then it figures out that line and shines a green light if you are on the line. If you veer off it lights up orange and then red to get you back on track. When you hit a turn buoy it knows you made a 90 degree turn and resets onto a new line in about 5 seconds, so it’s important to swim super straight right after you turn around a buoy. As I was walking around the middle of the road in the neighborhood testing it a group of fireman pulled up and asked if I was okay. I told them I was testing some new goggles and they just starred at me. They were like “we thought you were hurt.” I can only imagine what I looked like in the middle of the road barefoot wearing goggles wandering around. Doh!


I tucked myself in bed Saturday night super ready for whatever the day had to offer. I knew one thing, I was going to have fun, that was the bottom line. I know the course like the back of my hand and I have so many awesome memories attached to the terrain that my plan was to tap into those and enjoy all it had to offer. In my chat with Muddy that night I remember telling him “Look coach, we are in uncharted waters here. We have raced 70.3s with this level of fatigue, but never Ironman. Let’s just see what the day offers, and capitalize on whatever happens. If it’s horrible, we learn something, if it’s awesome, I’ll run with it!”


One last story. So every time I’m up in Tahoe, I have what I have termed my “MAGIC DAY.” When we are up here training day after day, the fatigue accumulates. If you have ever done a training camp every day you wake up wondering how the day is going to go, and you are judging based on how tired you are, the bags under your eyes, how the stairs feel when you walk up and down them. Well, every camp I have a day that I think “Oh dear, today is not going to go well” and then for some reason, I get out there and I ride better than I ever have, I’m literally on fire, on a day when I should have been just hanging on.

I only get one of these per camp and usually the day after MAGIC DAY, I’m crying from exhaustion and coach ends up wrapping me in bubble wrap and calling it a day. I remember vividly in 2014 after we finished training when I had my magic day, my friend Ciaran looked and me and said “if you race like that in Kona the AG boys should be scared” Hahahha! It was that good. So, when I laid my head on my pillow that evening, the last words I reminded myself of were that I hadn’t had my MAGIC DAY yet. And that got me excited, because I was just tired enough that I though maybe Sunday, the day of the race, would be my MAGIC DAY.

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Norseman 2015 The Bike

Whew! Okay folks, here we go. Things are about to get real. This was hard to write. Some serious vulnerability happening here, but heck, you only live once! YOLO!

I want to send a huge thanks to all of you that signed up for the webinar next Monday! We had a GREAT response over the last 24 hours!! It seems quite a few of you are excited about this idea. 3 more days to sign up! It’s free. If we hit 100 registrations, I’m going to give away some OSMO bundles during the webinar. In case you missed my update yesterday:

Monday, August 31st, 7pm (Denver time…you know, Mountain time) I’m going to host a webinar on my #trihacks. It’s going to be around 60 minutes long, but I’ll stay longer if people need me to. I’m planning on talking a little about WILLPOWER because that’s what I’ve been delving into personally over the last few months, and then we can free form it from there.

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The Norseman bike ride:

I headed out of transition to stunning views as the sun was rising. The first little snafu I experienced was losing my Smith glasses. I was shoving them in my pocket with cold hands, and then a few minutes later I went to move them and they were GONE. Uug. Will be ordering a new pair stat.

The first 35-ish kilometers (20ish miles) you climb around 4,000 feet in elevation. There really isn’t any warm up. Maybe enough time to put on a pair of gloves, get in aero, and BAM, climbing. Last sighting of my Smith glasses. Sad…



I was not feeling too peppy and I was about as cold as one would expect after swimming in 50 degree water. I had talked to Muddy the day before about my situation and I must say, he knows me so well. We didn’t even discuss not doing the race, he knows that’s a decision I would have made or not made on my own. So his advice to me was simple “Go into Diesel mode” which pretty much means, don’t step on the gas, just persevere, slow and steady. Easy to say, hard to execute.

The first girl went by me very early on, and in the first 3 miles I was getting passed often and quickly. I had no problem letting that go because I literally felt like everyone was very strong and seemed to be hard charging. I have never been passed like that in a race and I just absorbed the feeling. When we started climbing that first big climb I continued to watch racer after racer haul on by me.


I had gotten out of the water in 24th overall (men + women) and by the top of that first climb I must have lost 60+ places it felt like. All the top contenders went by me within 15 miles and I was embarrassed to be wearing #7, people knowing that was an elite number. I wished I could have just blended into the crowd more, but I realized quickly…nobody cared. It’s a personal event. Everyone is focused on themselves and their crew team. I did manage to look around. The scenery was amazing on that first climb!


I tried to take the climb easy, I had put gearing on my bike to give me gears to spin, and man, I was using them. There was a lot of spitting and blowing snot. I tried hard not to hit anyone with it, but my nose and chest were offloading like a liter of fluid. It was gross. Just gross. The coughing was every 35-60 seconds so about what I had been experiencing the few days prior. I felt half dead to be honest, but I climbed on.


The other athletes crew teams passed us and I even saw Troy and Andrew go by in our Volvo, whom we called Mr.Beepy. There are a series of tunnels in the first climb. Norwegians LOVE their tunnels! They build them EVERYWHERE and we loved driving through them during our 2.5 weeks in Norway. Biking through them was interesting. They are very dark, and warm, so I was pretty happy in there, it felt like a cave, which was pretty much what I wanted to curl up in. They do smell like car exhaust, but my sniffer wasn’t working too great anyways.


At 25k Troy had a fresh bottle for me, and then I saw him and Andrew again at the very top of the climb in Dyranut. This area of the course was crazy town, lots of crews, and vehicles, and athletes pulling over, putting on coats, or stopping to eat. I was being overtaken by the mid pack and there were a lot more cyclists around me. If you look at the elevation chart of the bike you see that it’s rolling and downhill all the way to Geilo. Before the race I told Troy to go ahead and provide SAG at the top the first climb and then book it to Geilo bc I would be fine with two bottles and rolling downhill.


This was my first really big mistake of the day…but maybe a blessing in disguise in retrospect. In my condition I should have asked Troy to bunny hop me every 5 miles instead of sending him 50k down the road. But that was our plan and off they went. This whole section of the course is on the top of a huge plateau. I knew it was cold up there because I was losing motor control of my hands which is really rare for me, but I really couldn’t tell what sensations were because I was sick, and what was the conditions. And honestly, the bone shaking hacking I was doing up there was requiring a lot more toughness than the temperature. Usually the snow is melted on the plateau this time of year, but their cold summer meant the snow was still up there, and that snow was why the fjord was so cold. It was 7:30 in the morning, and I found out later that the air temp was 0C or 32F.


My lungs were angry but I was learning that dealing with that was going to be constant. The altitude up there, combined with the cold, combined with being in wet tri shorts, put me in a really bad spot. My wet tri shorts froze to my skin and I started to feel my skin underneath take on the feeling of dead meat as my body moved the blood flow away from it, mostly just the section between my bum and my hips. I was still getting passed continuously, had yet to actually pass a single person, and I was not moving fast. I would pedal anything up, and then just coast anything down. Sometimes in aero, most the time not.


A lot of this section gets a little hazy but there came a point where I was not mentally there any more. I wasn’t thinking clearly, or making good decisions. Two times in this section I rode off the side of the road accidentally. I just wasn’t with it and all of the sudden I was in the dirt off the road. I would stop and kinda wonder how I got there and then pull back on the road. I remember wondering after one such occasion how long it would take Troy to find me if I crashed in the rocks. I remember thinking it would be a long time because he would sit and wait for a long time before coming to find me, maybe days. And I remember thinking that it would be okay. The best way I can describe it is that I stopped having any regard for my safety. It wasn’t a conscious decision, my mind just got strange and didn’t quite care any more. And honestly, thinking back on that over these last few weeks has been one of the hardest things to get over. Hard to explain, but I’m doing my best.


The road started descending and I just sat on my saddle trying to remember to make the turns the road was asking me to make. I was well beyond any sort of racing brain, just out of it and ridding down a random road in Norway. And I was cold, but also very numb.

At 90k I saw Troy screaming on the side for me and I pulled in to where he and Andrew were stopped. I could not speak. I could not think. I knew I needed warmer gloves, and I knew I needed to get out of my wet tri shorts but I looked at them with dead cow eyes and tried to talk. Mumbled Jumbled words came out. I tried again and got out “gloves and shorts.” Troy said “I can get you gloves” and I said “shorts” and he said “I have gloves” and I said “shorts” and he said “I can only get you gloves.” I know my husband well enough to know when he’s lying to me, but I was so out of it I was confused and kept saying “shorts” and he kept saying “gloves.” I finally just looked at him with confused eyes and got back on my bike. No new gloves, no new shorts. (He’s so cute…how he puts up with this…I have no idea, but he says he loves it)


Looking back, this was the spot in the bike portion of the race where I am surprised I didn’t quit. The only reason I didn’t was because my brain was working so slowly that it couldn’t even process that quitting was an option. It’s like I was too dumb to quit. It’s really hard for me to describe, but it’s probably the worst I have ever been off mentally since I was in labor with my daughter. Totally confused and not with it.

A mile later Troy and Andrew were on the side of the road again with warm gloves. I looked Troy dead in the eye and said “where are my spare shorts?” He looked me back in the eye and said “I left them in transition.” Suddenly it all became clear. He felt horrible for leaving them so he was trying to not tell me because he thought I would be mad. But the minute he told me my brain popped into problem solving mode and I looked at him completely clear headed and said “I have a spare pair in my luggage, they are Coeur brand, get those.” It totally got me out of fog-brain and I was coherent for the first time in 55k.

A few miles later we were in the middle of climb #2 (there are 5 climbs in the race, and 12,000 feet of total climbing on the bike) and Troy and Andrew are on the side of the road with my Coeur shorts and food. I stopped and put my bike down. Now I’m in an odd position. I need to get nude. There are racers riding by, crews driving and cheering on the side of the road. People are watching and I kinda wave to a guy and ask him to look away, which he does not. Then I change shorts. It was pretty awkward but I got it done and got back on the bike, two more ladies passing me in the process.


Those shorts were apparently my good luck charm because changing into them was a turning point in my race. Honestly, if the last 80k was just as miserable as the first 100k, I would not have finished Norseman. I would have ended up in a ditch, but lucky for me, I perked up and pretty much became “normal Sonja”. Now, my lungs weren’t going to let me push, and I was still coughing every 30 seconds, and the race had passed me by a solid 80k ago, but it felt nice to not feel like death.

Climbs 2, 3 and 4 are all on the shorter side, and I found an interesting pattern. I felt good at the bottom of the climbs when the temps were warmer and the elevation was lower. As I got to the top of them my lungs got very angry and I would suffer big time until I descended to the bottom once again. I also figured out that the cough drops were making my stomach really feel crappy, so I quit those and just let the cough roll with it’s bad self.

I actually passed back some people on these middle climbs and would tell them good job. This was when I figured out that Norwegians don’t do that. They don’t talk to other people and when I would say “Good Job” they would give me this really funny look. But, it felt good to me, so I kept saying it. The crews on the other hand were great and many of them would cheer for me as well. Many crews would hop their person every few miles, but Troy and Andrew timed their SAG much farther apart so I would see other peoples crew team multiple times before I saw mine. Which way was better? Who knows… both worked.

I remained in a similar pattern for the middle three climbs and finally found myself at the base of the last climb. Everyone says that this is the worst one. I also read that your crew can get stuck if you don’t time it right and you will beat them to T2. I didn’t want that to happen so I had told Troy the night before to just provide me SAG at the bottom of the climb and then drive to transition and I would ride the last 40k without SAG. So I got my last handoff from them, was in pretty good spirits and off they went.

As I climbed this last one, which really was quite steep and quite long, all the people around me had a different plan for their teams than I did. Their teams were seeing them every 1/2 mile to mile on this climb. I got a bit down in here. I honestly needed the emotional support more than anything and I felt really sad that my crew was gone. I definitely spent some time in here just feeling very alone, and even had some thoughts about my life the last few months. I don’t usually do that in races, I’m very in control of my mind, but I think feeling like I was “completing” and not “competing” opened up my brain to some dark spots. There was this one crew, their racers name was BOB, and he had like 20 people crewing for him. They were pretty amazing and kinda adopted me a little bit out there. They cheered for me every mile up that climb. They were so kind and gave me love out there which I had grossly underestimated my need for.


The final descent is a bumpy one, and everyone had been warning us about how horrible it was. I felt it was bad only in comparison to the pristine Norwegian roads. It was about standard for a California descent. After the descent is a long flat section of 5 miles or so and I pulled over to go pee because I hadn’t peed all day yet and I couldn’t hold it any longer. Apparently 7 bottles is the max I can hold without peeing…I am a camel!

After my pee stop, a few more miles and I’m at T2.

Oh T2….the most strange strange part of Norseman. So Troy is in there, they have like 15 bike racks. They don’t need many because your crew is going to take your bike after they get you out of there. So Troy grabs my bike and he has ALL my stuff laying out in T2, it was amazing. The T2 is small, and it’s a rectangle, and it is lined 2-3 deep with spectators. Not cheering spectators…literally just people watching you. I remember looking up and making eye contact with several people, they were like 10 feet away. I’m in bike shorts…I need to run in either run shorts or capris. I look at Troy with panic…there are no change tents. I said “I don’t want to get naked” and he says “Oh, everyone is doing it” and in my head I’m like “that doesn’t help me.”

Literally all I could think about was that in order to get into my capri pants, I would to take off my shorts, which meant I would need to bend over. Spectators are staring at me 10 feet away, and like 300 of them. I knew one thing…. I WAS NOT BENDING OVER NAKED IN FRONT OF 300 NORWEGIANS. I have thought a lot about this since and why I felt so weird because if you know me, you know I am NOT a modest person. I think it was because I felt so extremely vulnerable. I wasn’t racing in the lead, I was really sick, and now I had to get nude on display.

I remeber saying in my head “just get it over with” and I laid down on the grass and shimmied my shorts off. I remember looking up and seeing people watching me like they were watching TV. There was the awkward moment of my bits being on display as I tried with frustration to wrangle my capri pants on, struggling to get them up. Troy pulled my knee warmers off my legs and I put my run shoes on and got out of there. I have never been so happy to leave transition in my life. Worst strip show ever…

Running out they tell you what place you are in. This is probably a good time to explain to those of you that aren’t familiar with Norseman the set up. So, Norseman accepts 260 athletes. I got in by applying for one of the 5 women’s Elite slots, hence #7. At mile 23 of the marathon there is a checkpoint. If the weather is good, and you are in the top 160 people (men and women are not separated here, and there are no age groups, it’s top 160 and that’s it) they allow you to continue UP the mountain on a rocky dirt trail the last 3 miles, and you get to finish on “the top” at the Guastatoppen. If you do this, the next day they award you with a black finisher t-shirt.

If you aren’t in the top 160 at mile 23, they turn you towards a different finish line lower on the mountain and you get a White finisher shirt.

Exiting T2 they told me I was in 121st place. I had been passed by 97 people on the bike. And because all day, my entire Norseman experience was getting passed like I was standing still, 121st seemed VERY CLOSE to 161st in my mind. That number scared the dickens out of me.

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Training Camp with Joaquin

This past weekend I raced my first triathlon since Kona last year, Vineman 70.3 (race report up next). It’s been nine long months! After Kona last year Muddy and I had a long chat about where we were headed from there. The Elite card issue came up and we put that to bed for the final time. I will say the current climate over at WTC and the women’s inequality issues helped make the decision pretty easy…yea…I want no part in batteling “the man” while trying to push my body to new limits. I’m very much feeling for the women PROs these days. Also, after Kona, I was really tapped out.

Muddy and I agreed that I would take a big big long long break. The longest break since I started the sport. It sounded great in theory, but it was hard in practice. It wasn’t hard to not train, that was actually really easy for me. More it was hard to hold on to my self esteem. To watch the fitness and the speed and the strength fade into the distance, to struggle through workouts at paces and speeds that were once easy was rough. I thought I would handle it like a champ, but the hard reality is that it was like someone tore away my security blanket.

When it was finally time to get going again, that was also incredibly hard. Two sports is fun, swimming and running. You can have a life, but throw that third sport back in and ouch, back to being all consumed by triathlon again. I stopped and started multiple times. Having one solid week or 5 solid days then taking 2 days off or sleeping for two days. It was fits and spurts, fits and spurts.


Muddy and I had planned for me to come out to see him for three weeks in late June because my dear friend Joaquin was coming for that time period as well. The first 5 workouts in San Jose were not pretty. I was so slow and it was so painful. There was all this speed work and I had done NONE of that. I cried after the first 5 workouts in San Jose and Joaquin had to talk me off the ledge….5 times. The swims were okay, I was feeling solid there but the bike, oh the bike. Day One – Workout One. Thumbs up!


The first day I was in San Jose I rode the Wednesday night ride. I got dropped by every single person, and I was going all out, my heart rate was 178 for most of the ride. I won’t admit how many times I repeated “Oh how far you have fallen.” I pulled in dead last, and went out for my run off the bike with tears in my eyes. I came back from my run off the bike with tears rolling down my cheeks. Coach looked at me, he always cares, and he knows me so well, and said “Don’t read into it, I know how to fix this.” Joaquin and I dragged ourself back to Rob and Trinas (thank you R&T xoxox) licking our wounds only to have a double run day the next day with 18 miles of running in 100 degree temps, much of it faster than I felt prepared to run. Still thumbs up, but the smile is forced!


It was a dicey few days. Over the weekend when coach went to CDA to be on course for Stephen (he got 3rd in the PRO race!!) Joaquin and I joined up with Kayla and Hailey to ride the first two days of the Coast Ride. Joaquin gave me another pep talk and I got myself together, put on a smile, and went to do what I love. We went without SAG support, just mailed a box to Monterey, and bought new outfits in Morro Bay. It was a sobering few days. I got dropped on every climb. I could hold okay on flats, but the climbs I was off the back. It was good for me though, and I definitely got to see from behind just how flipping strong Hailey and KK have become. Kinda felt like that stark, in my face, reality that I have to rebuild the engine. It’s not personal, it’s just from taking time off. My attitude changed out there on the coast. Thank you Hailey and KK and Joaquin. Mark^2 too!



Oh and all along I have Princess Kitty sticking out of my pocket and Mark Manning says “You have a bear in your pocket.” I was appalled! I said “It’s a cat, not a bear, that would be ridiculous” Haha! PK did have a great time on the coast logging some serious pocket time!


When we landed in Monterey I felt more alive. The ocean gives me strength and boy did I need it. Riding through the strawberry fields is usually the worst part of Coast Ride Day 1 in January because it’s dry and dusty. But in July it’s ALL STRAWBERRIES EVERYWHERE! It smelled amazing! Joaquin and I needed to procure some flip flops in Montery so we hit up the mall in our kits, with our bikes to buy some at Macys. We got A LOT of looks and I don’t think we smelled too good.




We had a nice meal out with the girls, which resulted in KK getting food poisoning and having to call her hubby to come take her home the next morning. Stupid shrimp. I slept like a bear, and the next day we headed out as a little group of three to tackle the Big Sur hills.


I gotta say, sharing all of this with Joaquin, who was just so thrilled to have a month off work to train like a PRO, well he deserved the happy Sonja. So pedal stroke by pedal stroke I got over my bad self. As I like to say HEAD DOWN (do the work), CHIN UP (keep it positive). Rolling into Morro Bay, after throwing a tiny fit after Ragged Point when Hailey and Joaquin were dropping me every time they took a pull (sad legs), I was happy. I love that darn rock. I love that blue coastline. I love where I was lucky enough to spend ages 10-15. Like home, but more special.


We got Hailey set with a shower, a little black dress, and packed her into the car of a sweet Uber driver who came to get her and take her to the SLO airport so she could drive back home Sunday night. Joaquin and I stayed in Morro Bay. We went to Wavelengths Surf Shop and bought board shorts, shirts and sweatshirts. We had roast beef sandwiches at Hofbrau house and waked to the beach for sunset.  It is a sunset I will not, for the rest of my life, every forget. It was stunning.



The next day we rode 19 miles to the SLO airport to pick up a car. We had our new outfits shoved down our shorts, in our sweatshirt pockets, we looked like Hobos (Joaquin’s word). The entire ride we discussed words in the English language that have two meanings. Like a bear goes RAR, and you bear a burden. Joaquin has excellent English (he’s from Mexico City) and we had fun laughing the whole way there with like 60 PSI in our tires.


The drive back was quick and we were in San Jose before we knew it, and in the pool as well, since it was now GO time. I spent three more days with Muddy and Joaquin getting my ass handed to me in most every session before it was time for me to fly home for my anniversary with Troy. We had booked tickets to go to Wanderlust (I’ll blog about that this week). After Wanderlust, I felt complete reset and came back to San Jose for another week of training and to race Vineman.

This was when the magic started to happen. The reset at Wandelust really was huge for me. I did some big runs out there, and when I came back my legs were tired from running but my heart was more clear and my brain was on board.

We had the best week of training before Vineman. It was hard. Lots of training hours. We also fixed some saddle issues I had been having on the bike that I think were contributing to some of my issues. I hit the ground running last week and didn’t look back. On the Wednesday night ride that week I rode with the front pack. I had some great track sessions, some promising mile times and I was starting to feel like myself for the first time in nine months.


It’s quite amazing what Muddy was able to do with me in such a short amount of time. He knew what to do, and we just got to work. We took it day by day, but we implemented the plan. As the boys would say “It’s time to ENGAGE.” Omg this photo makes me laugh so hard core!!! Coach was making us tri-tip while coaching our workout on the trainers, but I title this one “IT’S TIME TO ENGAGE”


Joaquin and I became attached at the hip, oh and we ate ICE CREAM every single night of camp. We found this place called CREAM that makes ice cream sandwiches and we ate there every night. We sang lots of songs out loud, took Princess Kitty on adventures, ate food, ate food, ate food, drank coffee, drank coffee, drank coffee, and SWAM BIKE RAN our tails off. It was good stuff.




Going into Vineman we were both feeling the hurt of the week. If you have never had the experience of training straight through a race, I really urge you to try it. There is nothing like stepping on the line extremely compromised and having NO IDEA how it’s all going to play out. It’s good for your brain. At one point earlier in the week Muddy said “I don’t want any meltdowns out there” and it made me realize he was a little nervous I might not be able to hold myself together. His concern was valid.


I’ve raced tired before, but not tired and undertrained. Hearing that really made me think, and I told him “Look, I will step on that line as a blank slate, that’s the only way that we will know what we need to change going forward” This really is the goal at every race, to let whatever training and fitness you have in you ooze out. It may be lots, it may be little, but you have to get out of your own way. You have to let what’s in there out, so that the coachycoach has good information to make future decisions with. If you meltdown, how’s he going to do his job? How are you going to get better. It’s not personal, help him help you. That was where my brain was at.


On Saturday we packed up and headed to Santa Rosa to train. Looking back, the highlight was definitely riding the run course with Muddy and Joaquin and seeing coach analyze the course, tell us where to run on the road, where to push, where the aid was. He was like a kid in a candy store. That got me laughing.

Vineman report up next! Whoop!

I’m sitting in the airport now, heading back to Denver to rejoin my home life. I cried when I had to say goodbye to Joaquin and then when I had to say goodbye to coach. We really put down some great training but more than that we strengthened the bonds we had with each other and we had a lot of fun together. Last – Day, Second to last workout!


It really is about the journey, regardless of the payoff and I’ve had a great journey out here. Going into Norseman in less than three weeks my head is finally screwed on straight. It’s an adventure. It’s Norway for Petes sake. I’m there to do my best, to be relentless, to persevere through the tough bits, but I’m also there for the journey, for the small contrition that Norseman will have to my overarching story, to my life of adventure.

Aspen Adventure Day 2

Oh man I slept like a baby! Thank you again Jen for the awesome lodging! Saturday morning Jeff drove up and dropped Mo off in Vail to ride for two days with us. The Beesons also drove on up for the weekends adventure. After breakfast we packed all the kids into the Honda Element with Troy running SAG, and Jen and Mark both got to ride a bit on Saturday. Annie was so incredibly happy to have friends to play with along the way!


Bright and early we left from Eagle/Vail. The skies were deep blue and cloudless, the wind was nonexistent, and it was gorgeous! I rode a little bit to start off with Michele and Mo, just to make sure everyone was clear on where they were going, and all was good. They were great riding buddies and it was so cool to bring two new people together who ended up having a great time riding together!


Then Jen and I rode the rest of the way up to Tennessee Pass together while Mark and Tony rode together. Jen and I chatted and were happy, and just having a really nice time! This section of road, over Battle Mountain and up the pass were just gorgeous. Green trees, clear blue lakes. I was a very happy girl!



At the top of Tennessee Pass Jen turned around and rode back to Eagle/Vail to pick up their car where she would meet Troy at Twin Lakes.


After parting ways with Jen I got some solo riding time all the way to Twin Lakes. I had a weird situation happen with a guy following me in his car. He would stop on the opposite side of the road and then I would pass then I would see him a few miles later do the same thing again. By the 4th time my intuition was heightened. When I got to Leadville I pulled into a quickie mart for water and he pulled in too. It was very strange. So I called Troy and asked him to come find me and just stay close for a little bit. Nothing more came of it.


After Leadville I made my way to Twin Lakes. This is a major aid station for the Leadville 100 run and I always think about that when I’m here. It reminds me of pacing Erick, crewing for Emily, and just the buzz and excitement of Leadville. Rolling in here Mark and Tony were snacking and the kids were playing. Everyone was happy and life was good.



I refueled and took off with the boys to climb Independence Pass. Mark was off like a rocket and Tony and I took our sweet time! It’s a lot of climbing and I was feeling less than spry!


As we got closer we could see there was an avalanche blocking the road and people had gotten out of their cars to start shoveling. We could see snow flying off the edge of the cliff as they dug it out. By the time we made it up there one lane was sorta open. We eeked our way through and kept climbing.




This pass is amazing! I could climb it every day. It’s hard and I struggled a bit but the views made the struggle that much easier. Because of the avalanche we really didn’t have much traffic, they were all stuck down below. It was some nice solitude time.


Tony and I met back up and snapped a picture at the top and then enjoyed the 20 miles of screaming descent. You actually get tired of descending, it’s so much!


We pulled into the hotel. Troy arrived at the same time with Mo and Michelle and Jen. Everyone got checked into their rooms and I headed out and ran 3 miles up Aspen mountain, and then three miles back down. I had to get a feeling of what was to come in Norway, and well, it’s legit. The end of that race is going to be something I’ve never experienced before!



After that we enjoyed great dinner out together and we topped off the night with an ice cream sandwich. I slept like the dead!


Aspen Adventure Day 1

I got this crazy idea a few weeks ago to ride my bike to Aspen and back from my house. I sat on it a few days, checked my schedule and then just decided to go for it. I put it out on Facebook and got some great responses from people who agreed to join me, and thus an adventure was born! We’ve had a really wet spring, and with a nice winter snow base I didn’t really know what we were going to get into, but as is typical me, I said “Adventure! Let’s do it.”

We made reservations in Aspen, and my friend Jen was sweet enough to open up her vacation home in Vail to us! Troy agreed to come up to Vail Friday night after Annie got out of school and run SAG for Satuday/Sunday and then drive home Monday morning early. That left me without SAG on Friday and Monday, but all the details seemed fairly covered!

On Friday I got a lift over to Jodys house off Ken Carl and we took off. Up through Bear Lake Park, along past Red Rocks and then up the I-70 frontage road to meet up with Jen. Then it was the three of us for the rest of the day.


We had a short 1 mile stint on I-70, down Floyd Hill, along a cute bike path to Idaho Springs, and then were on the frontage road along the highway. I’ve traveled this route many times and I really like it. From Idaho Springs to the top of Loveland Pass is about 30 miles of straight climbing. That’s legit and similar to what I will do the first 30 miles of Norseman.


We had a very lovely headwind the entire way that broke us up. We rode some solo miles but never too far apart. When you hit the Bakerville exit off I70 at that point you hop on the bike path. There is a 7-ish mile BEAUTIFUL bike path that leads to the base of Loveland ski resort. I love this bike path.


We get a few miles down the bike path and theres a little patch of snow. No bigee, we walk on through. Then a little bit later, another patch, we navigate that. Then a bit later a big long patch. Jody is sitting there looking at us with a “what now?” face and of course I’m like “Welcome to the adventure!!” We hike-a-bike through that patch and then keep riding on the other side.


Well, we got wooed…. a few more hike a bike patches later we don’t know whether to keep progressing forward, or turn back, rehike through what we already hiked through, and then ride on I-70 for 7 miles? We soldier on. This may not have quite been a team decision. Every 100 yard hike-a-bike section ended to reveal yet another 100 yard hike-a-bike section. On our 20th one of those we were tired!


We took some stop breaks, did a little conscious complaining, and motored on. 2 miles of hike a bike later we dumped out at the bottom of Loveland ski resort and the base of Loveland pass. Oddly there were two cyclists standing there wondering whether they should take our route in reverse, to which I said “I forbid you.”


Now, I must say how proud of Jody and Jen I am. This hike-a-biking was not for the faint of heart. We each potholed dozens of times down to our upper thigh or waste in snow, all the while toting a bike along with us. I tend to just put my nose down and motor through adversity like this, and this was a really big test of friendship. I was pretty pleased that nobody lost their marbles, everyone handled themselves like champs, and I feel we are all a bit closer now because of it. You can’t take that bonding experience from us!


I lost my toe warmers in the process and all three of us had soaking wet feet, Jody being the worse because he didn’t wear socks. We were so happy to be back on our bikes riding and proceeded up Loveland Pass. The top was beautiful and we found Jody hunkered down behind a wall, rubbing his toes trying to bring the life back to them before the long descent. Jen and I were in good spirits, happy to have made it to the top of the pass!


On the way down we stopped at Arapahoe Basin to refill bottles and all three of us decided that new, warm, cozy, fuzzy ski socks from the gift shop were in order. Those socks felt so darn good. I’m still missing one of them, Jen, any ideas?


From A-Basin we descended, quite cold, down to Keystone and into Dillon. We hit up the bike path, knowing it would get us to Frisco, but took a wrong turn and ended up in Silverthorn. Back up the hill, and onto the right path we somehow found our way to Frisco and onto the bike path towards Copper Mountain. Along the way Jody saw two beavers in the beaver pond, Jen and I saw neither, and all of us were getting pretty tired.


At Copper mountain we stopped to get junk food. I can’t really put it any other way. Chips, soda, crap, more crap, oh it all tasted so good. We were debating whether we should wait for Troy and have him take us the rest of the way. In my mind I knew it would be very tight to fit 3 bikes, 3 cyclists, Annie, Troy, and all the bags in the Honda Element. I told the crew I would ride up and over Vail pass. Well then Jen and Jody weren’t going to let me do that without them, so everyone started suiting up to ride over Vail Pass. As we were about to step outside the heavens unleashed a torrent of hail. We sat back down and called Troy.


Much maneuvering later we were indeed able to fit 3 bikes, 3 cyclists, Troy, Annie and all the bags in the Honda Element. I love that car! For the day, we totaled 92 miles, and 11,000 feet of climbing! Not too shabby! A warm shower never felt so good! We enjoyed a great night out eating before tucking into bed, ready for the next days adventure!




After the Coast Ride #girlscamp began! This was a first for Muddy, but last year I sensed that his girls would really like to get to know each other more, and I was excited to incorporate some of my girls into the group as well. Three of my athletes: Mikki, Ellen, and Mo attended. Mikki and Ellen did the Coast Ride so they were a little tired. Getting the spark of Mo on Wednesday was much needed! Coeur also helped me get “girl kits” made for the Muddy gals since his kits are kinda dude like. The ladies were so excited to pick up their kits. We kept it simple with a heart with ML in it for “Muddy Love.”  If you know Muddy at all, you know he’s all positivity. I can’t wait to see the ladies racing around in them this year!

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Camp started off Tuesday morning with a 5K on the “dirt track.” This is the track that Muddy and I come to when I’m in town and it’s a special place. It’s not a nice track, there are holes in it, and it’s a good symbol for just getting the work done! I have been recovering from a knee injury so I ran one mile during cool down and then coached. This was really cool for me, to be coach instead of athlete. It took a little getting used to and it wasn’t until the end of the week that Muddy and I were better able to say “coach this workout” and “be an athlete during this workout.” It’s all just part of the learning process when you are coach/athlete and trying to balance that in a camp situation where I can’t just afford to not train for 5 days. A delicate balance!

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Watching the girls have so much heart during that 5K was inspiring. Brynje is just a gazelle and Eileen was 2 minutes faster this year. Rock on! Any sadness I might have had due to not participating was quickly replaced with the joy of watching their fierceness!

Tuesday after the 5K we swam at the fun pool and worked on drills and stroke and “pulling more water!” Everyone was ready for bed that evening!

Wednesday was a sleep in morning and then swimming and doing a coached spin class that evening at La Dolce Velo bike shop. What a great group! Muddy coaches spin on Wednesday evenings and it was a blast. I love sessions like this with a focus on form and strength building, so important!


Thursday was such an exciting day. All the girls got to run up Sierra Road! This is a 3.6 mile climb that is super super steep. We ran over there, that was 4.75 miles and I ran with the girls. This was my longest run in a month and I felt like an uncoordinated hippo but I was running and that made me so happy! Then I got in the truck while everyone else SLAYED Sierra Road. It was really cool to see Mikki come alive on this run. She’s a pretty stoic girl and this was the run where she just let loose and let her heart sing.

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It was visible and made me smile from ear to ear! I hopped out of the truck and ran home another 4.75 miles with everyone after Sierra because I just wanted to hear the stories of the experience. The two hour swim that evening was hard but everyone just kept swimming and remembered what the end of an ironman swim feels like! There were some great surprise performances on that big hill by Mary and Jenesse (our resident Aussie), these ladies have FIGHT!


Friday was a big day as we climbed Mt.Hamilton on our bikes. We did this after an all out swim set that had everyone on the ropes at one point or another. Afterwards they ran off the bike, but my knee was sore from 9.5 the previous day so I was benched. It’s all good. I loved that Mikki ran her 20 minutes and then Mo came in off the bike and she ran Mos 20 minutes with her too. The girls were just so supportive of each other!


Hamilton was where Ellen really shined. She had me on the ropes the whole climb and just motored hard core up that thing. I was really proud of my little skipper! It was cool from a coaching perspective to see how each athlete coped with the fatigue of the week, some wound up, finally relaxing into the work, and others got increasingly tired as the week went on. I think it’s really important to get yourself into these sorts of environments as an athlete so that you can learn more about yourself. As a coach, this kind of time with my athletes is priceless. I eat it up! I also loved getting to know Mary T better. She is coached by Muddy and this was the first time we have spent time together.


The top of Mt.Ham is always worth the climb, the view does not disappoint. It was great having Muddy there running SAG support. We could not have done this without him.


The final day of camp was long run day and this was something I knew everyone was dreading. The legs are tired, the body is tired, the mind is tired, and long runs are always a little bit of an unknown. Then throw in an unknown environment and that adds to the stress, but boy did the ladies step up. Mikki and Mo ran less because they were doing a trail race the next day (that report is up next). I ran 4 miles and was totally stoked to have no pain during or after. My favorite part was biking with the girls during the last half of their run. I really learned a lot about Ellen as a runner, and I have great ideas of how to get the most out of her in future races. Brynje and Deirdre just cruised!


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Everyone left camp happy, tired, ready to eat for three days and with some new lessons learned. Huge thanks to Muddy for recognizing the value of community among women. He has some great ladies in his stable and I feel thankful to have gotten to know them through the years! Again, I’m just continually inspired by women who show up fully present, ready to train hard and to push their previous boundaries. #girlscamp was a safe and supportive place to do that!

Coast Ride 2015

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Another New Year celebration and that means another Coast Ride to head out on! This year was quite the leap for me. As a way to step out of my comfort zone and to practice being a leader I invited lots of ladies who had been wanting to go on the Coast Ride! After the ride Muddy and I were hosting a #girlscamp in San Jose and the perfect start to camp (for those who are ready and willing) is 375 miles of riding in 3 days. Everything at camp seems easy after that! I like to get women out of their comfort zone.


So, quite a few ladies signed on and it was such an interesting lesson for me on how women process challenge. It’s scary. I experienced ladies wanting to stick with what they knew they could do, second guessing their fierceness, and defaulting to what was safe. I had phone calls with each of them at one point to provide more information, answer questions, talk them off the ledge, or in one case just flat out yell “GET ON THE AIRPLANE!” In retrospect, what an amazing honor it was for me to share space with them in their fear. They trusted me, and that really meant a lot. I really can’t say enough about how impressed I was with those who dared to show up and take the LEAP! Everyone of them was so happy they did! (Whew)


Then there is Dan. He was the opposite. He texted 36 hours before the Coast Ride and was like “I don’t know what I’m doing but I’m going for it” and he did. Made the hotel reservations and really ended up being a major asset for us ladies to have along…even though he was a dude! He is just one great guy and I loved watching him experience the ride for the first time. His gratitude was infectious for me, and a constant reminder to stop worrying about all the baby hens, and look around!


Then there was a slight issue with my fitness level. Yea, sooooo, it’s been a hard winter for my fitness. I am a little appalled at how little riding I did before the ride and I can say that I learned my lesson.  I made it through, but oh lordy I was much more tired and much slower than in years past. Although by day 3, I was starting to feel some fitness…a little…for a few brief moments!

We were lucky on Day 1 to have Muddy and his truck take 7 of our bikes up, and Mary T helped immensely with getting people up to San Fran to start the ride. It was a logistical headache, but everyone was on time and it turned out to go just fine. We pulled in the parking lot first…ummm awkward, last year I think I was last. Everyone was ready to go and we took off. Four minutes in AlliG dropped her chain, got it stuck and was already dropped and off the back without me even knowing. Welcome to the Coast Ride! My ability to heard cats was already being put to the test. Luckily Muddy was still around and got her back on the road. We met back up at the lunch stop.

The rest of day 1 was me not quite knowing how to separate people by ability and figuring that out on the fly, while hoping and praying nobody got lost or had a major mechanical. We eventually were mostly in one group until the end of the day when Brynje got her 2nd flat, I sent the other girls ahead, and they promptly got lost. Brynje and I pulled into Monterey just as the sun set, it had been a long long day on two wheels. I was pretty tired but still alive!


See how glowing we are? Yea, that’s because the sun is about to go down, it does make for good light though, and as you can tell Brynje and I are still all smiles!


Dinner that evening was fantastic! Fish and Chips and great company. There may have been a impromptu cocktail, who am I?

Day 2 is the best day. Monterey to Big Sur! It’s jaw dropping and the weather was amazing and we had our group pretty figured out. Ellen and Dan who were ahead the day before stayed with my group, and Mikki and AlliG stuck together off the back. We rolled as a small group that morning and everyone spent some time at the front taking short pulls and getting familiar with the concept, which meant many barked orders from Sonja!




I really enjoyed the stretch of road just before Big Sur. This is one of my favorite photo spots, there is this huge downhill and you are coasting and feeling amazing and just so alive. We were rolling with Jen and Christine and it was chill and just a special moment for me. And, I don’t remember being in much pain. Hahaha!


There are no route finding issues on the day and despite Mikki shredding a cheep tire, the day was mostly full of Ooohs and Ahhhs and subtle shaking of the head due to absolute beauty. Dan did go off the front and I had to put the smack down, but we laughed about it a lot later and he did his penance by pulling Amy and Christine all the way to Morro Bay.


Dan and I seemed to spend most of today consuming calorie dense foods. Some people stop at the Big Sur bakery in Bir Sur, but my routine is to stop for a Big Sur bar. I have fond memories of riding with Jess and Beth and thinking the Big Sur Bar was the most amazing food item on the planet. So I get one to remind me of them mostly, and the calories, I needed the calories.


After Big Sur you are treated to the most amazing views, where you HAVE to get off your bike and stop and take pictures. We did lots of that. It’s about the experience and cherishing the moment. It’s not hard to stay in the moment out here, the whole day is like one big meditation. BIG SUR SELFIE!


Ragged Point is the official lunch stop and also the location where all the cyclists buy out all the coke at the little store. They have benches and tables…oh benches how I love thee. I think I ate a Klondike bar and a full sized bag of chips at this stop. It was divine. Salt and ice cream are my friend.


Dinner that evening was at the Haufbrau house, my favorite restaurant in Morro Bay. It was Christine and I’s 2 year anniversary of meeting, so we had to celebrate. She has been a light in my life for several years now and I’m always so happy to see her and spend time together!


That evening we got everyone tucked into bed and then my “bad wolf” really started barking. Oh the brain and irrational fears of possible future problems. The car situation for the next day required that we rely on Hailey for a spot in her van. A minivan fits 5 bikes and 5 people and we had 6 bikes and 6 people by the end. My bad wolf really started saying “they will have to wait too long, you are too slow, you should have trained harder, they are beating you in by 90+ minutes, blah blah blah” I walked around Morro Bay that night, blind as a bat with my contacts out crying big tears on the phone to Troy. “Being a leader is hard, I’m not cut out for this, I’m too out of shape, blah, blah blah.” In retrospect I was just really tired and second guessing myself.

Day 3 turned out to be fantastic…for 80 miles. Our group departed with Hailey, Mark, KK, and Pia dead set on sticking with them for the day. That meant “letting” (begging) them to do a lot of the pulling and there was lots of time to practice some great pace line work as we combined with some other groups along the way. All my baby ducks stayed in that pack except for Mikki and Alli who were attached at the hip and good at not getting lost and were a bit behind us. I may have barked at Ellen and given her a talking to for breaking cyclist code at one point, but everyone was trying their best to ride hard, learn lessons, and grow as athletes, myself included. I did learn that if my heart rate is high, nice nurturing Sonja pretty much goes out the window and you get SARG….my inner drill sergeant. Good to know, good to know!


The last part of day 3 I really struggled. I distinctly remember being somewhere outside of Santa Barbara on the freeway and Hailey getting a flat and thinking…I’m pretty sure I willed that flat into existence. “please someone flat please someone flat please someone flat….wha lah…flat!” She gave me some Barnana and almonds which perked me up for about 8 minutes. Those last 40 miles I was a sad bonking, tired, undertrained pony! Just keep peddling, just keep peddling, hold your line, take short pulls, and don’t lose that wheel.

I’ve never been so happy to pull off at the rental car place at the Santa Barbara airport and GET OFF MY BIKE, Thank you Mark for leading us there! We were a two minivan caravan on the way home, but not before Mikki and Alli got the Sonja wrath for attempting to shower….yes, everyone eventually got barked at by SARG on this trip (hangs head in shame). One van had 7 bikes and 4 people and the other had 2 bikes, 5 people, and a ton of bags. It’s amazing it all worked out! And I have to extend a huge thank you to Dan for driving the van back while I got catch up time with Hailey, and got to know Jen, who rocks!


This Coast Ride really did me in. I’m so glad I went, and so very glad I was able to share the journey with SIX newbies. It required me to really step out of my safe place but knowing that the six of them now have the success of this wonderful new adventure in their pocket, makes me incredibly happy. Hopefully they will pay that forward and show up next year with a newbie of their own!

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Even onto the bike I was still stressing about the glasses and my bag being gone. My brain was spewing all sorts of crazy stuff. “What if my T2 bag is gone, how am I going to get run shoes” “What if someone took my bag on purpose” “What if that same person let the air out of my tires” …. check tires… nope I’m good…wait am I good…no okay, I’m good. That’s how the brain works, when faced with stress it starts the mental chatter, and if the panic sets in, then rational brain goes out the window. So I developed a plan. When I went by coach I was going to tell him what happened, and then release the event. Tell him and be done with it.


After doing the Kuakini out and back coach was at the top of Palani and I yelled at him what happened. He asked if I wanted his sunglasses and I said no and rode on. He’s awesome enough to hand me the sunglasses off his head. But my thought was that if I was going to take outside assistance it would be for a pair of shorts…should I need them…I totally released it and didn’t spend one more second thinking about it. Total success.


Soon enough I was at the airport and it was game on. The airport is right about the time when my power meter threw in the towel. I tell ya, that thing will work in training like no other, but the minute I get in a race it quits. It’s quit 3 out of 4 races. And you can’t try to repair it on the spot because there are a million other power meters present. I was fine with it, I didn’t even care. Not sure why, other than the fact that I quit thinking of it as race reliable some time ago.


My heart rate was high for my perceived exertion and my eye was swollen and trying to shut on me from swimming half the swim with some salt water in my goggle. I was riding more on the low end of 70.3 effort. Humm, what to do? The tail wind was raging pretty good and after 1 hour I had gone 24 miles. I just decided at that time that I was going to storm the castle. I was going to ride hard. I felt good, the conditions felt good, and there were no clouds over the volcano. Coach had said that wind would be low, so I just stepped it up and went for broke. What they heck, it’s Kona.


I rode the whole ride at 70.3 effort, or what I THOUGHT was 70.3 effort! This year the course was interesting, almost nobody talked to me, or visa versa. It was very quiet out there. I hit the climb to Hawi and there were no cross winds. It felt like a tail wind. I was riding fast. No cross winds! I think my brain was trying to make sense of it all, I felt like we were getting so lucky out there.


Once in Hawi I stopped for my special needs bag, grabbed my bottles and got back on the road. Shortly after Andrew passed me. He’s my KE teemate. It spurred me. I know that he and I have similar bike abilities and I really used him as my carrot to keep the pressure on. Coming down from Hawi was actually hard this year, head wind, no cross winds, and pretty hot. I upped my game.


Through Kawaihai again and we made the turn back onto queen K. Bam!! There she is, the head wind! I went through 70 miles at exactly 3 hours. Holy smokes. 21 mph all the way home and I could have a 5 hour bike split. But the wind got fierce those final miles. I felt really good. It’s the lonely part of the course where you just have to put your head down, keep your watts up and hammer. I went for it. Hard as I could. I’m actually starting to realize that this section is my money part of the course. I usually ride strong all the way home.


Past the airport with 7 miles to go I start to compute my bike split and I know if I keep the pressure on that sub 5:10 is possible. This keeps me pushing hard. I think I passed Hailey in here somewhere. We exchanged a few words and I was impressed with her positive spirit. She’s such a class act on the race course.


Into home I was feeling good. I kept saying to myself, I feel good. I know that can change at any point, but I was thankful to not feel as bad as I have in the past. To be honest this ride was so much more of an even effort emotionally. The nutrition changes I made this year really shined in the Kona conditions. It was hotter than normal this year but my fluid intake was right on the money. HAving Osmo Womens Line in my bottles enabled me to drink to my hearts content (27-30 oz per hour) and using real food for the beginning of the bike kept my effort and blood sugar much more steady. No caffeine so far into the day, and I’m feeling strong and under control.

Off the bike and I threw my lovely Quintana Roo Illicito at the bike catchers. See ya baby girl…thanks for not one, but TWO 5:08 bike splits this year! That bike makes me fly! (Edit: just looked and I bike 5:09:05….so there’s that…)

I didn’t for one minute think that my bag wasn’t going to be there. I willed it to be there and sure enough, there it was on the little hook. Whew! I sat down in T2 and actually took a few breaths, calmly put on my stuff and got out of there.

Irongirl 2013

Every year PIC (that’s what I call Michelle…Partner in Crime) and I try to do a race during the season that is just for pure fun. Like don’t take it serious, just show up and have fun! Last weekend the Irongirl series came to the Cherry Creek Reservoir, which just happens to be across the street from my house. Wha-LAH! It was a no brainer.


I tried to get PIC to race in our jail themed bikinis, but she was like “no way” and we compromised with our PIC1 and PIC2 bikini tops with our old red Kompetitive Edge shorts.

The event had race day packet pickup, and can I just say THANK YOU for that! We showed up that morning, about 10 minutes before packet pickup closed and got our stuff. A huge highlight was the pink sparkly wrist bands! I loved them and was sad to clip mine off a few days later. But Athleta (the title sponsor…AWESOME) gave us purple bracelets that say “Power to the She” on them, and I don’t think I’ll be taking that one off for a VERY long time!


The Ironngirl sprint is a women’s only race. I have never raced a women’s only event, but this will not be my last. It was so awesome to have lots of fit women in transition, total girl power, and it just took such an edge off. I felt at ease, and I would really suggest that any women doing their first tri start with this race. It was a perfect introduction to the sport. Although I think someone starting with this race might be a little disappointed racing other races after this, because they treated us so well.

Troy was taking care of Annie, and also Michelle’s girls Charlotte and Isabelle. After setting up transition Michelle and I headed to the swim start. Michelle was in the first wave and I told her I fully expected her to be first out of the water, to maintain her lead through the bike, and to be the first to cross the finish line. It was expected. We erupted in laughter. However, that’s exactly what she did. She even had the lead biker on the run, and that is just awesome!!!

Michelles wave got going and I watched her the entire swim, leading and then pulling away. Someone in my wave commented on her and I was like “That’s my best friend” yes….apparently I’m still in High School but I was so proud of her leading that swim.

We got lined up, I was in the 4th wave and I had a really great swim the night before so I was ready to go for it. They sounded the horn and we all started swimming. There were 4 of us right off the bat that pulled to the front. One woman pulled away and I was unable to match her pace. The other two ladies and I swam together for a little bit and then I pulled ahead.

The course was designed really smart. Usually in the res they have people swim into the sun, but race staff angled it right and the swim was really straight forward and not into the sun. The buoys were in line, and properly spaced, it was just really done right, and I’m kinda picky.

Out of the swim in 11:28 I was STOKED! I felt strong and was 2nd out of the water in my age group. 3 feet out of the water, Sally Wang ran past me. She had swam on my feet and now was outrunning me into T2. We had to go up like 5 sets of stairs and Sally was making short work of them. I was huffing and puffing up those things, giving myself a little pep talk internally to GOOOO!!!

Helmet and bib# on and I was out of there. Everything was so panicked. It’s a sprint so I was redlining and trying to put my shoes on! GO Sonja! I got back past Sally who was on an ITU set up representing her friend’s company, C2CTurf – used artificial turf. She looked great. I put my head down looked at a high wattage number and just tried to nail it.

It was so hard to go to that deep uncomfortable place, plus maintaining control of my bike while riding at a much faster speed than I am used to at a much higher heart rate than I’m used to. I almost missed a turn because I was hammering so hard and I barely had time to break and make it. I may or may not have locked up the breaks and literally skidded around the corner. Poor volunteer! But its a RACE and I love to RACE!

The volunteers were really great on course. They were so positive and did their jobs really well. I saw Michelle out there hammering in the lead and it inspired me to keep going as hard as I could. When the watts would drop I would just crank them back up again. It was really really fun. 30:53 for 12 miles and I was off that bike in the blink of an eye.

Off the bike and onto the run, I was nervous that Sally would catch me since she seemed light and fast. The girls were running with me and yelling at me like the best cheer crew an Irongirl could ask for. I love that Michelle and Is girls are so supportive and love watching their moms race. I ran as fast as I could, which was unfortunately about as fast as I run an olympic…maybe a 70.3. Where is my upper end? I was trying! I run the course probably 3 times a week so I knew every nook and cranny. It was awesome to be on home turf. I think one of the coolest parts of the day was when I was coming in the last half mile and a lot of the women were going out on the run and it dawned on me, in the heat of the moment, that it was all women. Just a ton of girl strength, it was very empowering and really helped me dig deeply.


Into the finish line the girls ran me in, and Michelle was there with a big grin, as well as Troy who was probably in the midst or female overload! Such a great sport. 21:01 run time for a total sprint time of 1:05:31!

the finish line was the best. They medaled you, and handed you this ginormous bottle of water! Like HUGE! Great sponsor. They had a full breakfast set up for the finishers complete with burritos, eggs, sausage, yogurt, fruit, you name it! They were even making FlapJacked protein pancakes on site. It was the best post race meal I have ever had!

Michelle and I grabbed our phones and downloaded the Irongirl app and our results were posted. Michelle had won her AG which she knew because she was first across the line. She was 6th overall and I had won the race overall. That was awesome and made me feel really great. The winner schwag was pretty darn awesome. Arm warmers, hydration waist belt, car decal, beautiful pendant that says “Every girl has an iron core” and a $100 gift card to Athleta. So well taken care of!


All in all this was a fantastic race. I would love to do it again next year. The race was really well run, it had small event charm with big event perfection. Maybe next year I can get a big group to do it and we can costume up and make a day of it! Unfortunately, after the race, I had to go ride 100 miles for Kona prep. But I had a smile on my face the whole time from such a fantastic morning.

Huge thanks to Troy, Annie, Char, Iz for the cheers, and also to my sponsors for helping me do this sport I love so much. Thanks to Irongirl for a great event.


2013 Ironman Brasil – The Bike

Once on the bike, I started into my fueling right away. My mouth was salty. The first few miles of the course, getting out of town, was so congested. Combine that with some really interesting characters and I found myself constantly fighting to stay legal and to keep the gas on. It was a cluster! So many of the men simply refused to move right after passing. Drafting was happening, but the blocking was the main problem. Even on the narrow sections you could fit three bikes across but these guys would sit left and not let anyone past. Then a drafting pack would form because nobody could pass the douchebag, and that’s when it got psycho.

The draft marshals were there, but I didn’t see any penalties happening. And granted it’s a narrow section, so I don’t know how they would have fairly enforced anything, other than citing the dude for blocking. So I just had to calm down and let it (them) all pass. This one guy in a teal speedo was really bustin’ my chops though. He was so aggressive and rude and blocking. And he was in a speedo, which is all fine and good, but it was teal. Okay, not judging, but it was teal AND he was ignoring the rules. If you are going to block everyone behind you and force us all to stare at your behind, at least wear some tri shorts. Actually his butt was pretty nice, but I digress….sorry, back on task…

30 minutes into my ride I took a peek at the time of day. I don’t wear a watch in the swim and the clock on my Garmin said 8:35am. I was shocked and I got a big smile on my face. That meant that I was on bike bike and riding 1:05 into the day, which meant swim+T1 was 1:05-ish. I didn’t know if they started the race on time, but I was jazzed. Especially after thinking I swam 1:20. Something inside me clicked then and I knew I was going to fight for every bit of time today. All systems were GO!

The hills were no issue, not hard, very basic. I got passed by like 50 people on each one. I was watching my wattage and heart rate and I wasn’t going to ride up those things at 100 watts higher than I was going to average for the day, but apparently everyone else felt okay with that tactic. Literally 50 people passed me in 4 minutes. Got back some of them on the descent though. It was actually good because the pack that had developed behind teal speedo motored up the hill at like 1000 watts and they were now out of my sight. After the hills I just settled in. People thinned out and we were at the tunnels near the turn around before I knew it.

One crazy thing out there that you DO NOT SEE in North American races is that closing the roads for the race brings out all the Brazilian roadies. I saw so many people riding the course who weren’t in the race. They were in full cycling kits, usually groups of two, no packs or anything. You know those little fish that hang onto other fish….parasite fish…yea, we had parasite cyclists out there.


When I started seeing the women coming back the other way I started paying attention to them and all the sudden a drafting marshal was yelling at me. I think I had gotten too close to the guy ahead of me, but he seemed to still be 3+ bike lengths ahead so I was a bit confused. So I just started yelling back. I have no idea why this was my reaction, but it’s just what came out. He was yelling in Portuguese and I was yelling in English. I backed off a bit more and the dude drove away. Who knows?

There was one girl that I was sorta going back and forth with. It was strange. I went by her the first time demandingly. Then like 10 miles later she comes by me and is kinda on a guys wheel. Not right on it, but pretty close. I sit back and watch. She’s riding pretty legal. But going pretty slow. So I repass several minutes later. I look back a few minutes later and she’s way way back there.

I hit town feeling really great and really in control. Then the girl comes by me again. She misses a bottle handoff, screams at the volunteers all angry like, and then this guy brings her his bottle. What? I mean she was Brazilian and pretty hot and all, but where was my personal bottle retriever? I would have thought that perk was reserved for those wearing a teal speedo??!!

I went around the turn around in town at 2:29 and was like “Holy shit, that’s sub 5 hour bike pace.” but that was all the thought I really gave it. I was riding my plan, and sticking to it regardless of what it yielded. After the turn around in town it’s time to ride back into the narrow section and this is when CRAZINESS happens. Like the worst part of my day craziness! The congestion is bad and there are some packs and I just want the heck out of it all. So I start riding harder. I ride my way up to the girl (the one with the bottle hander guy) and she’s sitting in the left of the lane. I yell “Left.” She doesn’t budge. I yell “left” two more times. Now I’m on her ass. There is an official with us. I yell “passing, left”. I yell that five times. She starts yelling at me….in Portuguese. I yell at her to move over (there is space) in English (duh). I’m on her ass, screaming and pointing to the HUGE space on her right that she can move into.

I start screaming at the official “She’s blocking.” She starts screaming at the official. I scream and she screams and the official just looks at us. I back off her ass and get over to the right. Now I have just failed to make a legal pass and that worries me. We are both screaming at the official. I’m screaming “Give her a penalty, she is blocking” She’s screaming at him too, I don’t know what she’s saying. I can’t even imagine what she can say when she is clearly blocking.

I’m yelling at the official and then I look forward (from looking at the official) and right as I look forward I see that I’m headed straight for a traffic cone. Yea, a big one too, just like this:


I have no choice, there are people, officials, everyone around. I hit the cone dead on, and it’s a BIG ASS CONE. The only thought that goes through my head is “There goes your Flipping race” (except I didn’t think “flipping” I thought the other word). I hit the cone, I employ some Herculean efforts to remain on top of my bike and by some stroke of luck I do not crash. Then I look at the official with my best “See what you just did?” look. And his eyes are wide open.

Meanwhile the lady is still in the left lane blocking. I look at the official very calm like and I say “Do you understand?” and he shakes his head “no”. I say Azule (because she is wearing blue) and I point to her. And I say “BLOCKING PENALTY”. Then the dude makes this hand gesture to me……

Click Here to see the hand gesture

And he rides away. I look down and my heart rate is 172. Oh my lanta! I stay right and have a SERIOUS conversation with myself to calm down, and to take deep breaths. In between the breaths I’m saying to myself “Holy crap I hit a cone.” I watch Azule continue to stay as left as she possibly can for the next 20 minutes and then we hit an aid station, she goes for fluid (not sure where her personal bottle retriever has gone), I make the pass and then I ride much harder than my Ironman race pace for 20 minutes so that I never ever ever ever ever EVER have to see this woman again. And I didn’t…until the Kona roll down where I gave her my best “You’re a disgrace” stinkeye as she claimed her slot for winning her AG. She will need to learn what blocking means before Hawaii.

Back through the hills and suddenly there are a lot less heros out there. Through the tunnel and I’m by myself with plenty of space between competitors. I’m in my element now. Head down and just snuggle into the the bean bag chair in my pain cave. I don’t see any AG women left ahead of me. We turn around and I notice that the wind has become a factor. I enjoyed the nice headwind back to town and played the “try to guess my bike split” game. I was thinking 5:10 and that got me pretty excited. The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful. The last 10 miles I happened upon a very tired looking man in a teal speedo. That felt good as I passed him with a little eyebrow raise.

Into T2 there were a handful of bags in the hallway. I didn’t count but grabbed a seat and again dealt with my business and got out of there. As I ran out of there I looked at the finish line because I knew the race clock would have the race time. I think it said 6:17. I was jazzed. Mental math said under a 3:43 marathon would get me under 10. Let’s do this.

Bike Split: 5:08:57

Bike Placing: off the bike: 1st in my AG, 14th woman (including PROS), and 175th in the race.