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 Run up the Big Mountain

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I’m off and running out of T2, and the first feeling I have is that I’m scared. Having been passed continuously all day it feels like 39 more people passing me is a likely option. And if that happens, I won’t be allowed to finish at the top, and I won’t get a black shirt. As I’m thinking about that and getting my self settled in the first mile, a girl goes whizzing by me, running at a pace 30 seconds per mile faster. Oof-Da… This was when I started to look inside myself. I needed a game plan.

We are running on the left side of the road along the edge of this beautiful lake called Tinnsja. I look ahead and see many athletes strung out ahead of me. I’m trying to find a level of effort that keeps me clipping along, but doesn’t get my cough worked up into a tizzy. Oddly enough, that pace seems to be in the 8:10-range. I find it funny that I have raced literally 11 Ironman races at 8:00-8:10 pace. I’ve tried hard over the years to get this number down, and it seems even on my bad day, here I am again at 8:10 pace.


About a mile into the race I pass a man and I think to myself, Okay, I’m back in 121st now, and that gives me an idea. I set a goal of making it to Zombie hill at mile 15.5 in 100th place. Pass 21 people in the next 14 miles. I have no idea where that came to me, and in retrospect I don’t think it was necessarily a good idea, although Troy disagrees. I’m not a fan of outcome goals. I would rather set goals that I am in control of, but this 100 goal really motivated me in the moment.


I took it person by person and I would repeat the number in my head “There’s 120, There’s 120, There’s 120” until I caught them, then it was “There’s 119, There’s 119, There’s 119” I was making good progress in this area. Running down people one by one by one, staying in the low 8s. Troy and Andrew were crewing me every 10-15 minutes and I ran into a few logistical problems here that I didn’t think about going into the race.


So in an Ironman, on the run, everyone has access to the same aid stations. So you get into a routine of going through the aid station and if you get a hankering for something you can pull into the buffet and take your pick. In Norseman your crew is providing you aid and your options are what you packed and what you told them to offer you. So again, a similar thing was happening as did on the bike, I would be running someone down and their crew would be hopping out every 1/4 or 1/2 mile to provide aid, whereas my crew was more like every 1.5 miles. I became incredibly jealous of the other competitors and their crew system.


At one point I am passing a girl on her right side, and her crew is running along her left side, and she looks to have her three best girlfriends crewing for her, and they are offering her fresh cut up pears. It made me angry. Because I had been so sick before the race I didn’t pick up things at the store that I thought would feel really decadent like that. So my crew could offer me Osmo, water, Honey Stinger chews, or Picky bars. The same stuff I train with every day and race with every race. Fresh pears….I’m still jealous of her.


Around mile 10 I started asking the boys, begging the boys, for Coke. Every around me had been offered Coke from their crews and I was super jealous. A few miles later, the boys appeared with Coke. I took a sip and it was fully carbonated, warm coke. I spit it back out. There was no way. I couldn’t stomach warm coke. I continued to try to sip on my Osmo, also warm, as I had neglected to purchase ice. To be honest, Norway doesn’t really have ice for sale. I asked Troy for ice thinking maybe he could find some where he found the coke, and he pretty much said “Nope.”

On I ran. Around mile 13 I started to feel like I was slowing down. Just two more miles to Zombie hill and I was in 106th or so. Every time I would see the boys I would update them on my placing. I started to really feel the effects by mile 15 and wasn’t communicating too well with my team any more, just trying to make it to Zombie hill. Finally I pull in there, just having passed the person in 100th place. I had met my goal. They had an aid station there too. I was so excited. They had food and different energy drink. I took both. They tasted excellent.

Troy had taken my jacket and dipped it in a river and was trying to pass it off to me as “ice.” I just remember thinking…what if I need my jacket later, now it’s all wet? Poor Troy, he was problem solving so well and I was just unresponsive and confused. 


Oh Zombie hill. I was so excited to reach Zombie hill. I finally get my first look at the first switchback and I’m ready, let’s do this. I’m running up it and there is a guy ahead of me walking up it. I’m making very little progress on him, but I am making some, so I keep running. I pass him after a long time. I make it about a mile and then I’m walking. Troy and Andrew are there and you are allowed to have a pacer starting at Zombie hill so Andrew hops out and joins me.

We do some talking and walking. The next 5 miles go about like this: there is a group of men walking the whole thing, but they walk faster than me. So they pass me walking. Then once they all pass me, I start running and pass all of them back. Then I walk and they catch me and pass me back, then I run and pass all of them back. So they are walking the whole thing, but I am walk/running. We are making the same progress. Those Norwegian men have long legs and they walk really fast. They are super hikers!

Around mile 5 of Zombie hill, so mile 20ish in the race, I start to get in a pretty low spot. Andrew keeps offering me grapes and keeps asking me to drink. I take the grapes one at a time, and I drink when he tells me to. As we climb in elevation, my lungs start to misbehave again, and my energy starts to get low, very similar to the tops of each of the climbs on the bike. I stop talking to Andrew and we just walk. I try to walk fast, but my head is screaming such icky nonsense at me. Lots of “you suck” “you’re washed up” “why do you even try” It was bad, and I just walked along and listened to it. I tried to keep combating it by saying “you are going to get a black shirt”

Somewhere in here, I think in the 20 or 21 mile range there is an aid station and checkpoint and a timing mat. Andrew and I get to this spot and they have bread. I grab some of that bread and the medical lady looks at me. I can tell she is worried and she starts talking to me, asking me if I am okay and if I have been eating and drinking. I tell her yes and high tail it out of there, she scared me. I hear Andrew tell Troy that medical is watching me. All this time, Andrew is a major champ and is really trying to keep me eating and drinking. He has come up with these little sugary gummy men and I am eating them when he offers them to me. I really liked those gummy men, especially the red ones.


At some point in here the road just never ends. This race is brutal in that the last 10.5 miles of the race, you climb 5,400 feet of elevation. Yea, it’s steep. Towards the top of Zombie hill (a 7.5 mile road up to the top where the road then turns into a hiking trail) there are many false summits. You think you are almost at the famous 23 mile checkpoint only to be disappointed by yet another stretch of road. With 1 mile to go Andrew goes ahead to prepare my gear bag and get it checked and approved at the mile 23 checkpoint and I am alone for a bit. Troy comes back after dropping him off and parks and walks with me.

At this point I am pretty done, and all I can think of is making it to mile 23 and hearing what place I’m in. This final stretch with Troy people start passing me again. A couple ladies pass me and my brain just curses over and over again. F bombs, F-it bombs, Screw-it bombs. I’m so dejected. Troy is walking next to me and he’s got stuff shoved in every pocket that he’s offering to me. It’s all the stuff he could find in the car, he’s trying to get me to eat more, but I don’t understand why. He actually pulls out a jar of olives and offers it me. I look at him like he’s gone mad. In my brain I am livid…olives…really Troy..olives? But I keep my mouth shut as I get passed by a few more people.


Somewhere in here I start crying. Troy is telling me I’m going to get a black shirt and I’m crying and telling him how horrible I feel. I’m coughing and just really done, so little energy, and I’m sad. He lets me cry and is there for me and I eventually stop. We keep walking, and I hold his hand.

We come around yet another corner and there is this big arch and I know I’m finally at “the gate.” I walk through the check point and they tell me I’m in 95th, which means I can go on to the top, and Andrew is there with my gear bag. At Norseman it’s required that you have a pacer the last three miles, and you and your pacer must wear a backpack with emergency gear. You have to have spare clothes, headlamp, money, phone, spare food, and spare water. All this gets checked before you can head onto the trail portion of the race up the mountain.

The lady asks me where I am from and I say “Denver, Colorado” and a few people cheer, mostly Troy. I say bye to him and head up the mountain with Andrew. I haven’t seen Andrew in a mile, and now I know I’m going to get a black shirt and I’m really chatty. The cheering at the checkpoint gave me a rush of adrenaline and I’m running solely on it. Andrew and I are talking about life, and racing, and it’s like I’m totally fine.

The trail is rugged and very uneven. There are many little trails all mixed together and you are constantly picking the best route and making your way. My legs are really tired. Picking up my feet is hard and I’m not traveling very fast. I get passed by a few racers, and then a few more, and then a few more. Whatever.

Somewhere around mile 24 I am utterly done. I stop talking and pretty much feel dead to the world. I keep climbing the best I can. I lead sometimes, and other times Andrew takes over, and when he leads I cry silent tears, I just let them roll. He would hand me gummy men, or my hand bottle and I would try to eat and drink, but I was pretty over it all.

There are many other people on the trail. It’s a Saturday afternoon on one of the more busy hiking trails in Norway. There are lots of people up there who don’t really know what we are all about. And then there are the crews of people who already finished coming back down. So I am constantly looking not for the best path up, but really for a clear path up. People seem to be doing a pretty decent job at giving the racers the right of way, but not all the time.

At one such point I was in a low place and a couple comes hiking down and we are stepping from rock to rock and the woman bumps into me and knocks me off balance. This  encounter literally obliterates me. I stumble around a little bit to regain my balance and when I do I just start balling. Just crying heaving sobs and the lady stands there saying “I’m Sorry, I’m so sorry” I can’t even look at her and my head is screaming inside “do you have any idea what I’ve done today” but I just cry. There’s that awkward moment where nobody quite knows what to do with me, I’m making a spectacle of myself, and then I just start walking onwards. I never looked at her, or talked to her, but man, she absolutely knocked out of me the last bit of resolve I had.

And then came the ladies. Every single woman I passed in the first 15 miles started passing me back. One after another after another and I didn’t care, and I hated that I didn’t care. I have been the girl to run down someone late in the race who went out too fast and now I was the girl that went out too fast, and I hated that. I felt embarrassed mostly. I walked on. Some more tears were shed.

Towards the top Andrew starts telling me we are almost there. I can see the finish line and it still looks like so many steps away. At this point the trail is more like uneven stairs, many rocks piled all over and you are stepping from rock to rock. There is also an exposure element and I started walking really close to the edge. I have always liked edges and I often run on the edge of things, the edge of the white line, or the edge of the road. Edges comfort me. But they scared Andrew who knew I was in a pretty bad way. I will admit, I did let my mind wander to what might happen if I fell off. It was a comforting feeling. I also thought about what would need to happen for me to quit the race. I came up with: if a helicopter arrived, I would quit. If a 4×4 vehicle arrived, I would quit. That was all I could come up with. Walking back down was not an option. So I walked the final steps to the top.

As I took the final steps to the top Andrew is telling me “you arrived, you made it.” I’m standing on the timing mat, and I’m looking down, and I’m crying, because I’ve pretty much been crying for the last 1/2 mile. Not tears of success, just of pain, and sadness, and bonking, and feeling like doggy poo poo. I know I have finished because my timing chip is beeping but I look up and nobody is acknowledging that I am even in the race. There wasn’t a single clap, or good job, or even recognition that I am a participant, no photo, nothing. A man comes up to me and says “timing chip?” I reach down, take it off, and hand it to him. Then he said “gps” and I hand him my race belt. He takes the GPS unit out and hands it back to me. Then he walks away. No “you’re done, or congrats” Nada. Another man walks up to me and hands me a rolled up blanket. No good job, he just walks away after I take it. I see the camera man there and I look at him. He says “you are from the morning, you made it.” and I nod, and cry. He had interviewed me that morning and I think back to the interview and how peppy I was, full of optimism, sucking on a cough drop. I felt like a completely different person standing there now, completely empty, and just tapped out, done, so over it. There is a line for soup, so Andrew and I get in that line. The soup is a cream soup, potato maybe. I take 2 bites and that’s about all of that. The soup lady says “good job.”

We go into the hut that is on top and I put warm clothes over what I am wearing. No spot to change without getting naked and that’s not happening. I had been really excited about the advertised waffles at the top so I ask Andrew if we can get a waffle. We get to the counter and ask “waffle” and the guy looks at me and says “Oh we ran out of those a long time ago”..ouch..insult to injury. I wasn’t fast enough for a waffle. They have nothing else there except soda. Andrew buys one for his trip down the mountain and I walk out empty handed. We get back outside and nasty weather has rolled in. It was clear and nice when I finished 20 minutes prior. I ask if we can take a picture because when I finished we didn’t take a picture and there wasn’t anyone there taking pictures. I think they only take your picture if you are winning or a top contender. So Andrew dug out his goPRO and snapped few.


Thank you Andrew!

We started walking down to the funicular entrance and that was so painful. I was not happy about that walk down. I was coughing bad and in a low low place. It’s warm in the funicular line andI am relieved. Andrew leaves me there and starts his hike back down the mountain. The funicular line took a long time, maybe an hour, and the two guys ahead of me were very kind. They actually were the guys who produce the Norseman movie every year. They could tell I was not doing well and made me sit down. All the ladies that had passed me at the end were in line with me as well and they were chatting and happy. I just sat there wrapped in my blanket and tried to cough the lungs out of my body.

Finally on the funicular we rode that down into the belly of the mountain. Then you get off the funicular car and onto a strange and tiny little railroad car that takes you from the depths of the belly of the mountain to the exit of the mountain. Then you get off and you are on a completely different side of the mountain than you left your crew. I knew this so Troy and I had agreed I would meet him at the host hotel. At the funicular exit I waited for the shuttle to the hotel, and that was like a 20 min drive. Finally the shuttle delivers me to the hotel but Troy isn’t there. I have his phone in my bag so I crash onto one of the lobby couches, connect to wifi and text him. He’s still waiting for Andrew to get off the mountain.

I am so tired and bonking at this point. I just sit there and cry. I took a video and posted it to Facebook and then I just cried and coughed all the way until Troy arrived. Finally, it was over.


Tomorrow…my insights…


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2013 Ironman Arizona – Run

I get out running, get myself situated and there are so many people I know in the first tenth of a mile. Michelle S, Hillary, Kristin, they are giving me love like no other, Heidi HAD A SIGN! It said Go PIC1&2 and melted my heart. Nobody has ever made me a sign. Coach was right there too, and his face looked so serious. I don’t remember what he told me, but I remember telling him “I rode my a$$ off out there.” I think he told me I was in the lead maybe?

I got running and I really LOVE the first 4 miles of the course. They are my favorite. You can see the people coming back down below you and I was watching the pros. When I got to mile 1 it became apparent that I was running WAY too fast, and I also saw Jim coming back the other direction. Jim is my brother from another mother, if you read this blog, you know Jim. He’s one of the good ones put on this earth.


My watch was auto lapping on the 1/2 mile. That’s my new favorite watch trick. No more mile splits, half mile splits are the bees knees. The problem was mine were like 3:38, 3:40, 3:35….I tried to ignore them because they just kept telling me I was running too fast and I didn’t want to hear it. I saw Beth down below, and I said “go Beth” but it wasn’t very loud.

I got to the 2 mile turn around and knew for sure that I was leading the amateur race. I felt fantastic, not uncommon for me at the beginning of the marathon. I knew the real pain was coming. I knew going into this race that Kendra would be trying to run me down, if she wasn’t already ahead of me on the bike and I talked to coach about that before the race. He gave me a stern pep talk about not concerning myself with what is behind, and always looking forward.

So on the way back I didn’t look at who was coming. But I just happened to see that the next one behind me was Michelle. I wasn’t surprised, like I said previously I have never seen her in better shape and I knew she was going to seize the day.

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Mile 4 I was back at coach and he told me “I think I’m wrong Sonja, there is someone 4 minutes back”…my response….”awesome”…I actually had a sense of humor…I never have that in Ironmans! On I ran. Michelle S, and ROB, yes ROB, with his huge smile were there cheering. There was the PIC1&2 sign again.

And on I ran. I ran fast, and as the miles went on I got tired. We all do. I was sipping on my Osmo bottles and taking water at the aid stations. Mile splits were: 7:16, 7:20, 7:24, 7:30, 7:27, 7:40, 7:39, 7:48, 7:52, 7:58, 7:45, 7:59, 8:01. I think I went through the 1/2 way point at 1:39ish. Miles 10-13 were really painful.

Through the last miles of the first lap I started having to really use my tricks of the trade. I also asked the sweetest girl who was cheering for me what my gap was and she figured it out and caught up with me and told me 7 minutes. I know her from twitter….Elizabeth I think?? She was so there for me!

I like to repeat things in my head when I get tired. I latch onto something and I just run to the beat. Things that work for me:

“Push Pull” – this is something that Muddy says when he coaches spin class and it works really well for me running. I find myself saying it all the time when I’m hurting.

“All it takes is all you got” – this is the mantra of the Multisport Madness kids team in Chicago that I spoke to and it popped in my head and I repeated it over and over for a solid 2 miles.

“Nobody is going to take this from me” – the night before I watched the Kona broadcast and Rinny really inspired me with some of the stuff she said. Especially the idea that she won’t let anyone take it from her. So I said that a few hundred times.

“Look forward not back” – that was from coach the night before.

So, I get to the second loop and get to coach again. This time he says I have a great lead and now we can have a little fun with it. Panic sets in, FUN? The feelings I’m having at the moment don’t exactly lie in the fun house. I told him “this is taking everything I’ve got.” I was hurting. He told me I had to fight for every inch. And thus started my new mantra.

“Fight. Fight. Fight” – step after step.

At 13 miles I also made the executive decision to stop drinking Osmo. Worst decision ever but the nectar of the gods was calling to me. Coke. At mile 13 I began worshiping at the Coke alter. At mile 17 I came back by coach. I was in a bad spot, my tummy hurt, my shoes felt heavy and I had this feeling that I was going to leave mile 17 and be on my own for the next 9 miles. I went by and I said “Coach, please don’t leave me.”

Ugh, I was hurting. So what does coach do, he shows up across the lake, 5 miles later on a beach cruiser with flowers all over it that I’m pretty sure he finagled his way onto. He was there for me. Times 100. And Michelle and Stephen, and Tracey, and Jim, and Eric. He was there for all of us.


I leave mile 17, after the begging incident and my tummy is mad, but I see Rob again and that makes me happy. Michelle takes my fuel belt for me and I decide I’m going to hit the potty and just try to see if I can relieve some tummy Coke pressure. Mile 17 I took a potty break, about 30 seconds, and used the opportunity to tighten my shoes. I forgot to do that in T2 and they had been loosey goosey this whole time, bugging the crap out of me.

My legs start immediately cramping. Ahh! Get out of the port a potty! So I get out of there and pull over and loosen my shoes. Much better! But from then on I had some intermittent leg cramps. I’m used to these, they don’t alarm me any more. I just run through them. But I do think they are a factor of too tight shoes. I felt totally awesome after the potty break. So much better. Like I had a new lease on life…you know for about 2 miles…

Over to the other side of the lake and coach is there giving guidance. I hit the 10K to go sign and again, that pep talk happens. You only have 6 miles left in your season. I flip over to time of day. I briefly think, oh my gosh, you are going to finish under 9:40. You are going to PR today. Your PR is 9:50, oh my gosh, coach was right last night, he knew it, he called it.

As I’m running down the backside of the lake, searching for the turnaround point, I’m hurting, and counting down the half miles and Troy and Annie pop into my head. When I was hurting the most I thought about their birthdays and how I was missing them for this. And their birthdays mean A LOT to me. I said to myself, “Don’t you squander this, you missed their special day, this needs to be perfect, for them, so they know that you didn’t take it lightly.” They really carried me thought those miles, the thoughts of missing their birthdays and wanting so badly to do them justice out there, to let them know it was worth it to let me go.

photo 3

Running up the hill I see Jim. He’s had a rough day, and yet, he has no idea how much he is helping me keep the pressure on. I try as hard as I can to run up the hill and catch him, but he’s too fast. I run down the big hill and he gaps me. I used him the entire last 4 miles to keep my foot on the gas, to limit the carnage, and I really really really wanted to run with him.

The very first week I met Jim he did a long run with me and I ran on his shoulder while he pummeled me and made me run so fast for like 3 miles, all with coach on the bike next to us. I just wanted that memory again. But I couldn’t catch him.

Muddy was on the side and he said “15:59!” I looked at him and said “I don’t know what that means” and he said “you and Michelle each have a 15 minute lead, and I’m going to go find her.” A huge weight was lifted and I said “thank you so much coach, I’m good now.” That was with 3 miles to go.

I caught up to Trish Diem, a woman I always know by the green socks that she always races in. We run side by side. She asks me if I’m going to find her car for her after the race. Last year she raced and I was coaching and she lost her car in the parking lot and I ran around with her key and found it for her, and she gave me gluten free cookies as a finders award. I told her that I would find her car for her if she needed me to. I told her I was her huckleberry. Oh the crap you come up with out there.

We had to do a little single file section and I got a little gap on Trish. And then I saw Jim again and with renewed vigor I tried to catch him. With one mile to go, I was next to him and I asked him to come with me. He said no. I had this idea that we could finish together and we could both jump at the finish. That was all that was going through my head, that I wanted to finish with Jim. He said No again and I slowed down and gave him a “please” look. He said no. I ran on. But I was sad about it.

The last mile went on forever. I really mostly remember Mac and Kristi there and the look on Macs face. Mac is in charge of my sponsorship for QR and I want nothing more than to make him proud. The look on his face was pure joy and that made me so happy. I told Kristi, his wife, that I loved her, which I do.


I got really emotional that last 2/10ths of a mile. There were tears. I turned the corner to the finish chute and the tears turned to this overwhelming feeling of “F%$&K YEA” (sorry grandma). I was JAZZED! Miles 13-26: 8:11, 8:20, 8:17, 8:19, 8:48 (portapotty), 8:10, 8:14, 8:21, 8:27, 8:57 (big hill), 8:11, 8:15, 8:03.

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I went for the leap and it was a pretty pathetic one, my legs were tired. Everytime I go for the finish leap I have no idea if my legs are going to hold up on the way back down. So far they have never failed me. This time they did. They did not even try to hold me up on my return to earth and I ended up on my  butt on that finish line. A volunteer came over and helped me up and we were both laughing.


Coach Barbara was right there at the finish line and all I could do was shake my head and thank her over and over for her wonderful husbands work. I was in shock, and yet, I knew in my heart that this had been possible.

It’s the good races that you don’t learn a lot from. This race was like that for me. It just went great, I wouldn’t change a thing. Yeah, I went to the port a potty and I got addicted to Coke, I don’t care. I’m as happy as a clam. 12 months ago, I was a broken girl, but a broken girl with a hope. If you had told me that 12 months later I would have 3 sub 10 Ironmans under my belt with a new PR of 9:35 I would have pooped my pants. I would not have believed you. I am ecstatic, and the crazy part…I’ve had more fun playing the game of triathlon this year than any other year. Total success, and after 7 years in the sport, I feel truly accomplished.

Time: 9:35:54, Swim: 1:04:19, T1: 3:22, Bike: 4:56:33, T2:1:26, Run: 3:30:14

1st Amature Woman, 1st F30-34, Age Group Female Course record by 17 minutes.

photo 5

I can not express enough thanks to all of you who have followed along on this journey. It’s been a hard and wonderful ride, paved with tears and blood and sweat and joy. Thank you as well to the fast ladies I shared the podium with. Tough Nuts, all of you!

This year could not have been so successful without my coach Muddy. He’s amazing and wonderful, and inspires me everyday to be a better athlete and an even better human being. thanks for being my wing Mud!

A huge hug and kiss for my husband Troy and my daughter Annie. They are my rock and they support me from near and far. I love them with all of my being.

To my sponsors: Quintana Roo, the best hog a girl could ride. Kompetitive Edge, thank you for keeping my hog happy, and replacing the chain when it’s only been a month! A really big special thanks to Amrita, Arshad has been an inspiration this year and I love his bars. Thank you to Osmo for the best nutrition plan a girl could ask for, now if I can just STOP worshiping to the Coke gods! And last but not least, Ron at Punk Rock Racing, thank you for your goodies, but also for your phone email and text support through the years. Sometimes I feel like you are one of the only people who truly accept me for who I am on this earth, good and bad. My sponsors are my family. I work hard for them, and I care deeply about them, please think about supporting them with your purchases, should the opportunity arise.

And that, my friends, IS A WRAP! HELLO OFF SEASON!

Kona 2011 Run

As I headed out of transition I immediately knew I was in trouble. I was feeling hot and nauseous and my tummy felt mucho ill. But I felt like my splits were right where I wanted them to be. I ran through the hot corner, and saw my family. It was great to hear all of their voices loud and clear and they were full of good jobs and way to gos.

After my first mile I could tell that I needed a port a pottie and I was getting in a tight spot. I went through 2 aid stations looking for one and never saw one. I also started drinking coke and I remember thinking “who starts Coke at mile two, you are so screwed.” I remember running past a few port-a-potties on our training runs, but couldn’t find one.

I was now officially in a tight spot, and needed a potty like several minutes ago. I started looking for a bush. It took a mile to find one, still no port a pottie. I found a bush and I hated every minute of it. It felt like my entire intestinal track just turned itself inside out. In my mind all I can say is “Oh crap oh crap oh crap.”

I got out and running again, only about 1 minute delay for the pottie stop. I will remind you here that the only time I have had to use the potty in an Ironman is Kona. Kona is such a different beast. I can not quite describe it but everything here is a little more “real” and you are made to pay for every mistake you make.

After the pit stop I went through a really bad period. I have never felt this bad in an Ironman and the only time I have felt worse was at the end of the Moab 100 miler. I was hurting and I can’t quite describe it other than just feeling ill and crappy. My mind played many tricks with me during this time. I remember thinking “This is going to be a 14 hour day” and “My luck has run out.” None of these phrases are things you want going through your head.

I remember using every trick I had in the book to keep going strong. I looked at my watch and picked a heart rate to nail. I kept myself accountable to that heart rate. I started chanting crazy things. “One and done” was in there, “PR or ER” was in there. There was a particularly sadistic section of “Eat the Pain.” I don’t know where I come up with this stuff, but it just pops into my head.

In front of Lava Java Troy was there and I looked at him and said “I feel horrible.” There was nothing poor Troy could say, by the time it registered I was gone. However, the guy running next to me said “You need to eat, get down calories.” For some reason I believed him. First I had to get up Palani. Oh Palani, I think I ran 10 minute pace up Palani. It was really bad. I saw Keith there just before Palani and told him how I was feeling. He told me to keep going, to be strong. You can read so much in the eyes of Ironman athletes. It’s like you can see into my soul in this photo. All the work, all the training, it doesn’t mean a darn thing when you are out there. Trow it out the window, and go chase your pain.

I didn’t feel very strong but once on the Queen K I started to pound the calories. I had been taking Coke since mile 2 but now I was drinking Coke, Perform, eating oranges, and pretty much having a buffet out there. By mile 13ish I was coming around and starting to feel much better. Once that happened I tried to put my nose down and RUN.

The hills out there are pretty big and it’s hard to keep consistent mile splits but I just tried to do what I could. The Natural Energy Lab was a lot more fun this year as I was feeling a tad bit better than last year. I saw Kendra ahead of me at the turn around, she had 2 minutes on me and was screaming at me to come get her. I tried. I tried for 8 miles, but I never even caught sight of her. Two Kompetitive Edge girls finished within 2 minutes of each other. We were proud of that one.

The last part back through the Queen K I just tried to stay strong and run on the edge. This race is such a hard race. As I write this, “hard” is all I can think. It was hard. I tried to stay strong, talk nice to myself, never loose hope, and doing all of that was really hard. I felt that sub 10 was not a possibility any more but I thought sub 10:10 still was so I worked hard towards that goal.

The final mile was quite sad. I ran hard up the Iron War hill and I passed a lady that wasn’t in my age group, she was 35-39 and a guy on the side of the road was telling her she had to run strong to keep her 3rd place. That was hard for me to hear. I knew I was in 10th in my age group, and she is a few years older than me and was in 3rd. I was actually envious. Add to that how much I hurt and let’s just say the F-bombs were flying all willy nilly around in my head.

This is what you look like when you see the finish line…stay away from the light! I look like I am running to my death and I’m happy about it.

The girl stayed with me and then we made the turn down Palani. I ran really hard but it all hurt a lot and it was the first time I had this feeling that I might not make it. I made the turn on Kuakini and I knew I needed to conserve myself. I was not doing well, my vision was not acting normal and I had flashbacks of Paula N-F sitting at the banyon tree with her shoes off.

Turning onto Hualalai I got passed back by the girl that wasn’t in my age group and I barely cared. I was so glad to see the Banyon tree on Ali’i and I was still a bit nervous about making it. I did make it, and I tried to do a little jump at the finish but I was not really successful at getting both feet off the ground.

The most fake smile that I could muster…and it was completely fake. I wanted to lay down in the fetal position right there.

I was in bad shape and my catchers had their hands full with me for about 10 minutes. At all the other IMs they seem to head you toward medical if you are “on the edge” but at Kona they seem to not do this. They try to get you to come around and then hand you to family. I saw Grant and Kendra and was released to them. I want to post a picture of Kendra at the finish line because it’s awesome. She went 10:06 and was so solid all frickin’ day. Amazing!

I was exhausted. But within a few minutes the endorphins set in and I was smiling and happy. 10:08:44 this year in Kona, 10th in my AG, 19th amateur woman, 39th female, 536th overall. A years worth of work specifically for this race and it netted me 9 minutes. 4 in the swim, 4 on the bike, 30 seconds in transition, and 30 seconds on the run. I’ll take it.

In the video I said I wanted to flirt with the 10 hour mark. Well, I flirted, and this year it turned me down. But that’s ok, I’ll be back again to give it another go. This race is one of the most demanding and RAW experiences you can go though as an endurance athlete. You find out what you are made of out there, you find your demons and the chinks in your armor are revealed.

Congratulations to all of those that I raced with, you all showed so much grit out there. Thank you to my sponsors, Kompetitive Edge, TYR, Quintana Roo, GoalZero, Punk Rock Racing, Love Grown Granola, First Endurance, Nathan, Tri-Massage, and Nuun. Thank you to my family/friends who traveled so far to cheer for me out there: Troy, Annie, mom, dad, Norm, Grace, T, Kyle, Kirk, Melissa, Keith, Nancy, Jared, Peter, Mark.

Thanks Michelle, for being my Partner in Crime, my PIC, and congratulations on being #1111 and going 11:11:11. Here’s to many more!



As we got to know Patricia over the weekend I think all three of us just felt a special sort of magic coming together. Patricia knew by the time that the race started that she had free reign to race as fast as she liked, that she didn’t have to put on a smile for us, and that this experience was all about her, all for her.

Michelle and I completely underestimated just how hard the race would be on us. Patricia is strong like bull and we spent 11 hours and 50 minutes racing hard in order to guide and enable her to do her best.

And her best she did indeed do.

Patricia Walsh is the fastest blind Ironman athlete on the planet. Period.

Patricia broke the female blind Ironman record by 4 hours, and she broke the male blind record by 55 minutes. She absolutely killed it.

So, here is the story from my perspective, as a first time guide, helping Patricia through the marathon portion of Ironman Texas.

The night before we all decided that the King size bed in our room would be more comfortable than the pull out bed we also had in the room. Yes, all three of us slept in that king bed, and while Patricia’s night was restless, I think Michelle and I slept like logs. The complete lack of nervousness was a bit odd I must say.

Ironman is always an early morning and we were up and at ’em. I had the unique view of being able to get pretty much anywhere on the course using my “I’m her guide” phrase and I enjoyed a front row seat to the swim start that morning. I helped the girls with bags and caps and sunscreen. They headed into the water with the pros, tethered at the waist by a piece of bungee cord.

When the gun went off for the pros, the PC athletes went with them as well. I watched Michelle and Patricia until I couldn’t see them any more. They looked like they found a good rhythm, swimming side by side, their strokes matching perfectly. Patricia said it was the first race where she hasn’t panicked in the water. The sensory deprivation in the water for her can be quite alarming. I kinda think that Michelle had something to do with it, she has a calming presence in the water.

Then I booked it over to the swim finish and watched the top swimmers come in. Ironman Texas is awesome to watch the end of the swim because they swim up a little canal. I expected the girls around 1:30 and right around then I saw two orange caps coming down the canal amongst a ton of AGers. I ran down the canal and Michelle poked her head up and asked for a Mix1 in transition.

Patricia is in the orange cap

I booked it to transition using my golden phrase “Blind athletes guide”. I grabbed Patricia and Michelle’s transition bag and followed them into the tent. Blind athletes tend to get swarmed by volunteers so I kept them at bay and set out everything for Michelle and Patricia. What seemed like 30 seconds later they were running out of the tent.

I followed them as they grabbed the tandem, ran out of transition, mounted perfectly, and they were off.

I, of course was taking pictures the whole time.


I was tired! Matt gave me a ride back to the hotel where I took some down time, watched the race on Ironman live, and tweeted away.

The girls were riding really fast and when their 58 mile split came in at 2:55 I knew I had to book it back to transition. They came in with a 5:45 bike split! The tandem has it’s share of issues. Some things make them faster, some slower. Michelle can tell you better about that.

I found my way back to transition and before I knew it, the girls were running through transition and I was sprinting to keep up with them. We grabbed bags, I helped Patricia with her shoes and out we went. Patricia and I were now tethered at the waist.

Immediately Patricia told me that she needed to focus and that we need to keep all words relevant to running. This was her nice way of saying “Don’t chat, just do your job”. It took me awhile to settle into my job. How much notice does she need before a turn? Turns out a lot less than I would have though. By the end of the marathon I wasn’t even saying “left”, I just had to go left and Patricia knew.

Going through a marathon in this manner was quite interesting. Not having any control over pace was harder than I expected. You know when you get to that point in a marathon where going faster almost feels better. I hit that place a few times.

Also, being so verbal with other athletes was totally foreign. Patricia was constantly passing tons of people and we were on bike path sorts of terrain. With a three loop course it was packed out there and we had to bob and weave through many. I started out saying “On your left” and then loved the reaction people would give when we passed, seeing that they had just been Blicked (Blind Chicked).

Then it morphed to “Two runners on your left” and that was also fun to hear what people would say after we passed. Then finally, at the end I was yelling “Blind runner on your left”, and surprisingly, people were less likely to move over. It was odd, once people knew they were getting passed by a blind runner, their ego set in. A few guys really had a big issue with it, but 98% of people were super supportive and gave us lots of love.

I spent a lot of time “yelling”

Speaking of love, the crowd on the last lap was insane. They were going wild for Patricia, at that point she was running in the 8 min pace range and we were flying by people. She gave a fist pump and the crowd irrupted and suddenly she knew all those cheers were for her. I had known for miles. She picked it up big time and we were running side by side, so strong, racing for that finish.

Patricia had her issues out there on the course, every Ironman athlete does.  I learned a lot about Ironman racing to watch her battle those issues, to watch her problem solve. It was extremely enlightening. I thought about what I would have done, but I didn’t offer suggestions. I was there to let her race her race, not my race. She figured things out, she used her intuition and I think that’s a lesson we can all learn from.

Michelle joined us for the run down the finishing stretch. We ran in the three of us, side by side with Patricia sprinting away. I hadn’t told Patricia where she was at time wise for the last 6 miles. She was running strong and I didn’t feel the need to motivate her by telling her splits. When she crossed the finish line she asked “What did we go?” I said 11:50 and she said “Including the PRO start?” and I said “yes” and she lost it. She was jumping up and down and so excited and jazzed and happy. That made the whole thing worth it.

All in all it was one of the hardest marathons I have run, even though I think it was 4:15. It was hot and humid, and I had the weight of doing Patricia right on my shoulders. I was anxious to do a good job. I made some guiding mistakes. I got Patricia tangled up at one point, I talked too much at another point. I made quite a few rookie errors, but Patricia got it done despite my newbieness.

By the end of the run I felt like we had it together, and I do feel that Patricia was able to run to her potential. We are all so proud of her! My horizons were broadened this week. Many people have said to me this last week “What a wonderful thing for you to do for Patricia”. Honestly, after living the experience I say “What a wonderful thing for Patricia to do for me”. I was given many more gifts this weekend than I gave. My heart was soaring on Saturday evening, and I felt a deep calm and pride that I haven’t ever felt.

Thank you Patricia for inspiring me, for reminding me, that while you may be blind, you see much more than I do at times. I will forever be greatful for the lessons you have taught me. AND,  I am so darn proud of you!

Thanks as well to Matt at CDifferent for asking us to do this, to everyone who gave us rides around in Texas (there were lots of you), to Mac with Quintana Roo for helping with the bike, to David (a new friend, and his blind son Brandon is now an Ironman as well), and finally to Kompetitive Edge for all they do for Michelle and I.

You all supported us with tweets, retweets, facebook messages, and oodles of electronic love. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!

If you ever get a chance to guide a blind athlete, or work with any of the PC athletes out there, I highly recommend it. It will change your life. You will have a new appreciation for the sport that you do and you will think differently about your place in the sport as well. Patricia is an inspiration to every single person she meets, she uses athletics to push herself, and in turn she gives others a different perspective. Me included.

Ironman Texas – Team PIC Style

This weekend is going to go down in history as one of the best, I just know it. Michelle and I find ourselves in one of the most cool positions this weekend. We have been given the honor of guiding Patricia Walsh through Ironman Texas. Patricia is a blind athlete from Seattle who was just named to the 2011 USA Paratriathlon National Team. She’s fast, she’s fit, and she’s ready to storm the castle. Read here for a great article NUUN put out on all of us.

Patricia’s guide backed out just a few weeks ago and Michelle and I were asked to step in and assume the guiding roll. Michelle will swim 2.4 miles and bike 112 miles, and I will run 26.2 miles with her. It’s going to rock.

There are a few things I just want to highlight about guiding, and about Patricia. Okay, one…there is a current rule rolling around (not 100% sure where it’s gaining steam) but the rule that’s being thrown around is that all blind athletes have to wear black out glasses during the run of a triathlon. It’s one of the first instances that I’ve seen the triathlon “powers that be” attempt to further the disability of certain athletes in order to “level the playing field” as they say. Not all blind athletes are completely dark, and to force them to race in an even more foreign environment just busts my chops. Stepping off soapbox now.

Patricia is on the left wearing black out glasses, that are quite bothersome. She won’t be wearing them during IM Texas.

Number two…Patricia packed her tandem bike to come to this race…by herself. Next time you are dragging your bike to a bike shop to have them pack it for you, just remember that one. Watching her put it together…I’ll never forget that.

Okay, onwards! So today we had a few things that needed fixing with the tandem and we had to get Michelle fitted on it as well. I have to throw a huge shout out to the guys at the Quintana Roo booth. Oh My Goodness. First off, they let Michelle and I demo a few bikes that we had been drooling over (CD 0.1), thank you guys. BUT THEN, when we were struggling to get everything set on the tandem, these guys hunted down a trainer, set up the tandem, and worked for 45+ minutes getting everyones seats, handlebars, and pedals fitted and perfected. I was blown away by how much they helped us out. Thank you Quintana Roo, I can not say it enough.

PS: Michelle just cracked her frame on her Isaac TT bike….and Michelle and I have the same bike…which means that if she gets a new one….well, I might have to as well. I think we just might know what those new bikes will look like. Pink Camo?

So tomorrow is a special day. I am looking forward to every one of those 26.2 miles that I have the honor of running with Patricia. She is very ready to race, and I am very ready to be with her step by step. For those of you that are wondering, we will be tethered at the waist, just as she will be with Michelle during the swim. Obviously, as I mentioned, she will ride a tandem with Michelle, and yes, she will ride in the rear position, although you wouldn’t believe how many times we have been asked that. Really?

My job will be easy since Patricia is really on the ball. She senses things that those of us who can see don’t pick up. Her awareness makes me feel at times like I am the blind one. My own preconceptions have been blown away and I thank her for answering all of my naieve and uninformed questions this weekend. Patricia has earned a membership for life on Team PIC, and I can’t wait to witness her journey tomorrow (Patricia is #81 and you can track her on

A special thanks again to Quintana Roo for all their help. We are all racing with QR tattoos tomorrow to thank them for their generosity. Also a big thank you to Kompetitive Edge for not even batting an eye when we asked to race in C-Different uniforms for this race. You guys support us so well, and you “get it”. Thank you for that.

Good night all.

The Lost Coast

Yea, Yea, you’re just here for the video. It’s here, just skip all the words and scan to the bottom if you are impatient. Let me know in the comments if you liked it, or any feedback you have. I’m always interested.

I came to the Lost Coast to do something hard. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and when people asked if I was going to run alone I said yes. There is really a short list of people that I have done endurance stuff with. Most of it was done when I was coached by Steve since he was into training that way. Since I started with Chuckie the training is not ultra in nature, it’s just relentless.

Chuckie never asks you to do anything too too hard, he just has you do a LOT of not too hard stuff OFTEN. It’s more of a training by raindrops method rather than by flash flood. And it works, if anyone witnessed what happened to me last year, you will know that the Chuckie way is the right way.

Mom and dad in Garberville. The last cell coverage for several days.

I know I can get through an Ironman and several years ago I didn’t know that I could. The ultra training that I did then taught me a lot about my resolve and I admit that I yearn for those types of experiences every once in awhile. This was one of those yearnings. I wanted to get out and do something HARD, gnarley, Grrr.

I wondered if it would break me.

I’m all about safety, I’m a very happy mom, and a very proud wife and I would never want to leave Troy and Annie without the constant entertainment that I seem to provide to them.

Having mom and dad along on this trip was great for that. They were my safety check. I knew my dad would call out the calvary if he even remotely thought I was stuck in a tight spot. Mom would keep Annie happy, and would keep dad from pacing too much while I was out there. My dad is where I get my adventurous spirit, he’s climbed a ton of super remote peaks in the Andes and Nepal, but I’m still his little girl. He’s been at every one of my Ironmans, but after this trip I think even he now realizes I’m made of “tough stuff”.

I took off that morning in pouring rain. I was happy and excited. This run is a point to point run with zero access inbetween. There are no roads, no jeep roads, and the trails on the map are hardly more recognizable than a deer trail. In some sections it’s hunting country and seeing deer hunting blinds is not uncommon. There is a lot of pot grown in this region so poking around too much can likely get you into some dangerous situations.

My route was very clear. Stay on the beach, don’t climb up the super steep cliffs, don’t get dragged out to sea, and just keep running until you see civilization. The map said 24 miles, but I had heard it was more in the 26 range. My parents and I agreed that they would wait an hour before leaving in case I bailed and turned around. They had 4 hours of windy twisty driving to get to where I popped out in Shelter Cove…with a 5 year old.

I thought about turning around the entire first 30 minutes. From about 2 minutes in the wind was in my face really strong, like 40mph strong. I couldn’t beleive how bad it was. In the first 30 minutes I almost was blown over backwards twice. At that point you are thinking…how will I make 26 miles of this? I was thinking “turn, don’t turn, turn, don’t turn” and I looked down and saw 40 minutes had passed. Well…that’s solves that. I’m committed.

The conditions were very intense and about 3 miles in I was already feeling quite hailed. But rather than get frustrated I simply pulled out my headphones, popped them in and got some relief from the sound of the wind.

My heart rate was 170 in the first hour and I made it 3 miles. Painfully slow. The Punta Gorda lighthouse was a welcome site. My parents and I had agreed that if for some reason the SPOT didn’t work, then 8pm (11.5 hours) was when they should call out the search and rescue. I had no way of knowing if the SPOT was working but I was totally doing the math. I figured at that rate it would take 10 hours.

Things got a little better at the lighthouse. I found a little single track deer trail and ran on that for a ways a little bit off the ocean. If there was a plateau next to the ocean I could usually find a little trail on it. If the cliff went straight into the beach, I was stuck running in the sand and rocks. I would say there was about 25% “trail” running and 75% beach.

I encountered my first “stream crossing”. Um, wow. I was immediately thankful I was alone. I’m looking at this raging river that is dumping out of a narrow canyon and into the ocean. No bridge, no rock bridge, no log bridge. If I fell crossing the stream I was going to get dragged directly into the ocean. The ocean here is not a “nice ocean”. It’s 15 foot waves crashing onto rocks, rip tide, cold cold cold kind of ocean.

I hunted around for a big driftwood stick and I used that to help me with my balance across the river. Whew.

There were probably 5 rivers I had to cross throughout the day that were thigh deep. Another 10 I crossed were shin deep. The one thing I was very thankful for was that the tide was low (I planned the trip that way) and therefore the large rivers got a little more of a chance to “fan out” before hitting the ocean. If I had to cross at high tide I may not have made it.

Onwards I ran. Sometimes the rain would stop, sometimes the rain would dump buckets on me. I was soaked from about 1 mile into the run so the stream crossings didn’t really matter in that regard.

Sometimes the wind would even die down a little. It seemed to depend where I was in proximity to end of each of the little coves. Often I would get around a point only to be faced with nearly impassible wind. A few times I would be running and realize that I was only making it a few inches per step.

So what’s going on in my head during this? Well. For awhile it was worry. I was worried that my slower pace would put me in a dangerous tidal position. So I was constantly doing the math in my head.  By about 10 miles in the worry started to release. I realized I was keeping about 4 miles per hour which would get it done.

I never really got concerned personally. Like I never felt personally in danger, I just knew the most important thing I could do for myself was to keep moving forward. I did not stop once the entire day except to tie my shoe laces and to pee. I was on a mission. It wasn’t really until I got through the third section of tide restricted area that I felt the weight lift off my shoulders.

There were actually some “structures” out there in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know how the owners get to them, as there is zero access other than foot…maybe horse, helicopter, airplane. I ran across one really crazy house thing that is in my video. You’ll get a kick out of that section so I won’t ruin it.

The last 6-7 miles were probably the worst wind and rain wise. I caught up to a few lonely backpackers in the section and stopped and talked to each on of them. They were soaked to the bone (so was I, but I was running so I was warm) and each of them looked totally miserable. I asked if they needed anything, and made some small talk (in the raging wind) and then ran along. Sometimes I wasn’t going much faster than they were walking.

I also ran into 4 surfers out there. One surprised me while I was taking some video. If you listen closely in the video he even says “Surprise”. It wasn’t in a creepy way or anything, he was clearly out there with the same love and appreciation as I was. He thought I was crazy for running all that way, I thought he was crazy for hiking 9 miles with his surfboard to surf some waves that were surely going to kill him. He said he was on a mission to get footage for

As I pulled into Shelter Cove I was stoked, and relieved. It was a harrowing day, but also not that bad. It’s almost like I could have gotten through anything that day because I was prepared not just physically, but emotionally to go though an ordeal.

The “store” in Shelter Cove had Justin’s Nut Butter! Middle of nowhere!

As I talked about in my previous post I learned quite a bit. As I continue to process the adventure I learn even more. With Ironman, you have so much support out there. There is no real “danger”. Maybe most of us would perform better if there was a real threat. It reminded me that you need to prepare for the threat as if it’s there. Self sufficiency…not in gear…but in MIND. Especially in Kona. Yes, you can always sit down on the ground and wait for medical, but if you expect to rise to the occasion, you need to prepare to do it on your own. You need to be strong in the mind.

I was also reminded that you always have a choice in life. Always. Conditions can be miserable, but you have the choice to be miserable with them. The more you actively make the choice to be positive, the easier it is. It was crazy out there, and I was wet, and slow, and it was hard. None of you would have faulted me if this was a post about what a miserable horrible time I had out there. But this post is not about that, it’s about how  happy and appreciative I was.

I think I was able to be that way because I make that choice on a daily basis. When faced with adversity in life, even the little stuff like parking tickets, I try to utilize it as a trigger to respond in the complete opposite way as is expected. Smile and shrug at the parking ticket. Laugh and open your mouth to the rain. Sing in the wind. Anything to reverse the natural response to a situation, and before you know it, you will naturally respond with less stress and more appreciation to what life hands you.

The co-op in Garberville had Justin’s Nut Butter Peanut Butter Cups. So remote. We can’t even keep these in stock in Boulder. Mom and I bought 8 packages and I didn’t get a single one.

That’s what I was reminded of out there. I want to get out and test myself, test my resolve, but it’s all the little choices every day that really builds your foundation of resolve. Respond well daily, and when the big tests come, you’ll fly through them.

If anything the adverse elements added to my experience out there. When you get down to it, and you’re out in it, it’s really not that bad. It may be hard physically, but that’s a good thing. One step at a time applies to Ironman, to the Lost Coast, or to just getting through a hectic day. Always endeavor to just begin. Once you have begun, the hard part is out of the way. Enduring is easier than beginning.

My darling daughter, happy as a clam the entire trip. This girl has the adventure gene and I couldn’t be happier.

I put together a video of my day. There is no music in this one. As the blog gains more popularity I really shouldn’t be putting music that I don’t own the rights to in my movies. So you will have to be content to deal with the wind, as I dealt with it during my run. I hope you like the video.

Lost Coast Day 1 Quick Update

Whew! I’m alive! Check this out. This is the page with all my SPOT data. I put the SPOT on tracking mode today and it pinged every 10 minutes. It was super reliable and worked like a charm (Click on the photo below to go to my SPOT page where you can zoom in).

Wow, what a day I just went through. I lost my camera today somewhere along the way, but I didn’t loose my video camera so I do have all the video footage I took. Video coming sometime in the next few days hopefully. My dad took a few photos out on the beach so I included a few here. It’s all I’ve got for now!

I’ll just post a quick update here. A few days ago the forecast was for a clear day today, and rain tomorrow. Well, it rained all night, and 90% of today. I would say 20% of today was in the torrential downpour category.

I got going this morning on time and quickly realized today was going to entail some of the toughest weather conditions I’ve ever experienced. Most of the day was 30-60 mph winds. I picked the North to South route because I heard the wind would be to your back. Today was not that day, today the wind was in my face all day. There were several times that I could not physically take a step forward. There were times when the wind was pelting me with small grains of sand.

The real dangerous part of the day, and the reason that the plans I had for Day #2 are now thwarted is because of the rain combined with the spring runoff. There were about 5 sections today where a river was merging into the ocean. I think usually these are small affairs, but spring and all the rain made them dicey and unsafe today. About 5 times today I waded through thigh deep water, where one misstep would have taken me into the ocean (and not a nice ocean). Another 10 or so times today I crossed sections that were knee deep.

Tomorrows route would take me over similar rivers but instead of crossing them on a beach where they have a chance to spread out as they enter the ocean, I have to cross them in the nooks of narrow mountainous regions. The danger factor is high. Combine that with being remote, on my own, and trying to complete a point to point run, and I’m sad to say, the Day 2 that I planned is a bit too dangerous this time of year.

I am totally stoked with what I was able to do today. It was EPIC. It was 26 miles in 30+ mph rain and wind in a secluded remote area. It was EPIC! You guys will love the video. Today I felt like I was literally running through Jurassic Park (minus the Dinosaurs).

So what did I learn today? Well, I’ll try to get all of it in a more elaborate post later, but I will share my overriding thoughts at this moment.

One: I’m so glad I did this alone. I would have felt “responsible” if someone else was with me, and I would have felt bad. The conditions were such that it could have broken many a strong athlete. I ran into a few backpackers out there today and while I stopped and asked if they were ok and if they needed anything, I think each and every one of them was completely annoyed that this peppy girl ran up to them and then ran away from them. They were miserable, and cold, and wet, and pretty frustrated. The phrases they used to describe me when I told them where and when I started were pretty hilarious. Let’s just say I’ve heard the term BAMF a few too many times today.

Two: I really had all the excuses I needed to have a horrible day today. As I ran along I knew that this was a mess, it was brutal. But, I got out my headphones, I popped them in, and I continued to have a pretty great day. It was brutal, don’t get me wrong, but I really learned that when things get tough, and I’m all by myself, my default response is one of positivity, and “let’s do this”. I knew the conditions could turn dangerous for me if I got cold, or fell in a river. So I focused on what I could control and I minimized my risk where possible. I’m proud of how I handled myself today, and only I know how I did. It’s true that I am my own biggest critic, but my own biggest cheerleader too.

Three: I’m in good shape. Physically the effort today was demanding, but after a change of clothes and some good food I feel like a new girl. Dad and I went out to take a few running photos (the ones you’ve seen here) and I was barely stiff. Despite running through deep deep sand most of the day, I’m in a pretty good spot and I wouldn’t be worried about a day two if it was happening.

Four: I have a fantastic family. They have helped me so much and when I pulled into the beach at Shelter Cove, an hour ahead of schedule, I walked up to the bathroom in the parking lot and my dad came driving around the corner with a blanket and a mug of hot cocoa. My mom had Annie set up with a movie and she looked at me like “Oh, your back”. Clearly, she was having so much fun with my parents she hardly noticed I was missing all day. My parents had to put up with the rain and wind today as well, and they just smile, and are totally there for me. I am lucky!

I’m bummed I won’t have more photos (because I lost my camera) but the video turned out well, so I’ll get to work on that. Thanks to all of you who followed along. I hope that you guys have found my new blog, I don’t seem to be getting many comments recently so I don’t know if I just boring, or you all are lost!


Ironman Arizona 2010 – The Run

Jenny and I were the only ones in the transition tent and we left together. We got going and I was right behind her. She was nails and she was storming the castle. I tucked in behind her, put my warm shirt on, and started getting in my groove. My whimpers had calmed down and it actually felt really good to be out running on a relatively quiet portion of the course. Then it started raining, and then a 5 minute downpour let loose that drenched me to the bone. We crossed our first (of 12) bridges for the day and suddenly this huge rainbow popped out. I remember thinking “Ok, now that’s cool”.

Jenny and I were running fast. Like “wowah” fast. Looking back I would say “too fast” but it’s a pace I know I have it in me to run for a whole marathon off the bike and I thought to myself “is this the day?” It felt effortless, easy and my stride was so smooth and strong. I passed Jenny eventually and then I came up on someone in my age group with the name Vanessa on her bib. As I passed her I could tell she went with me. Seriously? I have almost never had anyone go with me during a pass in a triathlon. If they did it was short lived.

As you can see I spent most of the marathon looking like a train wreck. Check out how I’ve got one eyebrow under my hat strap, and the other is not. Dork! Oh, and meet Vanessa, you’ll see a lot of her.

And she STUCK. Like glue, like white on rice, like Velcro, like white dog hair on a black coat, I could go on and on here. She STUCK, for miles. I was still running fast and it still felt easy, but Vanessa was kinda freaking me out. If I ran fast she was there, if I slowed, she was there, no matter what I did she matched it. I also found out from Troy that I was 3rd in my age group. I thought that our age group would get 2 slots for sure, and 3 if we were lucky. So really, my main concern was not passing more ladies ahead, but shaking the one that was sitting on my shoulder. We were racing for most likely the final Kona slot, and we both knew it.

As we passed Chuckie at the end of the first lap I asked him rather loudly “How do I get her off me”. I admit, it was pretty rude of me to put it like that, but the girl was getting to me (great tactics on her part). She had been on me for 6 miles at that point. Chuckie said “Don’t worry, but run this next lap really hard”. All I could think was “crap”. I was doing OK still, but the thought of upping my game was a scary one. I had also picked up more than just my shaddow. I had several baby ducks hanging onto the goSonja mama duck.

goSonja train…toot toot

First Lap splits: 7:34, 7:28, 7:32, 7:23, 7:37, 8:03 (big hill), 7:27, 7:52,7:57 (carnage to come)

On the second lap I started to hurt. My entourage and my shadow stuck with me. When I slowed, they did too. Nobody passed. Half way through lap two I passed the cheer crew again. I knew I was still in third. Chuckie was about 100 yards later and at that point Meredith Kessler (PRO, took 4th overall) was lapping me. She was running pretty fast and Chuckie said “Sonja, this is Meredith Kessler and I want you to go with her for as long as you can”. I immediately went with her and thought “Oh wow, I’m going to blow up” but I went with her and I know now that he was trying to help me shake Vanessa, my shadow. It didn’t work, she matched the move step for step and hung on.

Meredith is on the left, number 58. The goSonja train is on the right.

Things really started to hurt during the second half of lap two. My little entourage and I ran slowly up the big hill and fast down the backside. My pace slowed, my legs were heavy, I was against the ropes. At the end of lap two Troy said that 2nd was 2 minutes up and 1st was 4 minutes up. I knew I needed to speed up, but it wasn’t happening. Chuckie said “Let her do some work” referring to Vanessa. Sounded like a great plan to me and not long after that she came up on my side and said “I don’t want a Kona slot, let’s work together”. My first thought was “Thank God”, my second thought was “Is she playing me?”. But regardless she took the lead during a VERY windy section and I was grateful to cruise behind her and regain my composure.

Second Lap Splits (carnage): 8:08, 7:48, 8:10, 8:10, 8:28, 8:49, 8:40, 8:45, 8:44 (OUCH!)

Turns out Vanessa wanted a Kona slot very badly and was playing me hard core. We have chatted back and forth after the race and she said that she just said that to try to calm me down to see if we could work together towards a 1-2 finish. The girl has GUTS. She’s probably the most tactical triathlete I’ve ever raced.

I was essentially bonking at this point and while cruising behind Vanessa I took in some coke, a sour apple gel (divine), some Gu chomps, some water, some energy drink, and a chunk of banana. Then I ran behind her and focused on her ponytail holder (and only her ponytail holder) for about 1.5 miles. It was just what the doctor ordered.

At mile 19.5 I just knew. I just knew. I was back. I was ready, and I was off. I pulled back ahead of Vanessa and I just told myself that if I wanted to catch anybody, I was going to need some 8 minute miles. And so I went about getting it done. So, 17.5 miles after Vanessa hopped on the goSonja bus, she got off and on I went.

The tweeting machine – so many of you enjoyed the live twitter cast sponsored by Goal0, this was the set up for much of it! The Goal0 Nomad 7 worked great! More news on the winners tomorrow!

Suddenly it was ON like donkey kong. I came over my 10th bridge and Chuckie told me to go get the girl in the teal shorts, he said she looked like she was in my age group and off I went. I was on attack. I busted the downhill off the bridge and I caught her within a mile but she had 29 written on her calf. Turns out that maybe she was confused, or she lost a battle with the Sharpie, or do I dare say it… she’s a purposefully deceiving athlete…because she was indeed in the 30-34 age group. I was nervous she would go with me, but she did not.

I go by Troy and he says 1st is 2 minutes up and your number 2. I was totally confused but I assumed I passed #2 in the port-a-pottie, or at an aid station and I didn’t see her, I didn’t think it was Ms.29. My crew knew though, they were on the ball. I also saw Michelle going the other direction in here. I was soo soo thankful. She was running, and I just caught a glance of her, but it looked like she was doing well and that gave me a boost.

I also passed my old high school boyfriend somewhere on lap two as well. He was at IMCDA this year but I didn’t know he was signed up for IMAZ too, so that was a surprise. He gave me a big high five and told me to go get ’em. I only see the guy during Ironmans, that cracks me up. I love that when he ran by my parents he said “Hi Mr.Willis”. That’s just funny! Oh and he ran by Michelle and asked if she knew me (since we were both in Trakkers green). She asked if he reads my blog (she didn’t know who he was) and he said “yes”, then she said “I’m PIC”! He said “I’m her X-boyfriend”. Oh, this story just cracks me up. Funny what goes on out there!

Here’s PIC busting a move!

2 minutes down on 1st, 4 miles to go, and I’m feeling my mo-jo. I’m definitely against the ropes but for some reason I am eating up the challenge, and using it as motivation. I was on the hunt. I would pick a girl ahead and run as hard as I could to pass her, only to see she was in another age group. I ran up the big hill harder than I had the previous two laps. I book down it and at the bottom Jane and Chris are cheering at the 24 mile mark and she says “Number 1 is 45 seconds up”. Then I know. I am going to do this or die trying.

I look ahead and I see an orange Tribe uniform. I know it’s her. I just do. I run as hard as I can to get there and I am 10 seconds back 1/2 mile later. Now I don’t know what to do. I ran 17+ miles with a shadow and the last thing I want is another one. How do I make the pass? What do I do? Do I try to be sneaky? Decisive? Sly? Friendly? I decide to just go, and run like I stole something. I make the pass and I run so hard down and around this loop-de-doo in the course. I’m telling myself “run hard, dying is ok, dying is ok, run till you die”. I’m not kidding, that’s what I’m screaming at myself in my head. I come booking out of the underpass and I’m scared shitless. I see Chuckie and Ang and Chuckie said “run as hard as you can all the way in”. And I am. I’m running as hard as I know how.

I pass Troy and Chris, Tyler and Anne and Troy is holding up one finger screaming “Number one, number one” and they all go booking across the grass running towards the finish line via the direct route. Now I’m chanting in my head “You’re winning your age group, you’re going to Kona, you’re winning your age group, you’re going to Kona”. I look behind me, she’s not on my heels. I run faster. I look again, still not there, I run faster. I never let up, not one ounce. I make all the turns to the finish, check over my shoulder about 10 times and finally, in the chute, I realize I’m good, I can celebrate. Celebrate I did, lots of high 5’s and smiles.

I look up to see 10:22 on the clock and am pretty impressed with that time, for this day. Shocked really. I get very very weepy and wobbly at the finish. It wasn’t the physical exhaustion, it was the mental, emotional, and sensory exhaustion. I look to the fence and my mom is crying and saying “Your so awesome Son” and my dad is shouting “We are so proud of you”. I get really weepy.

Third Lap Splits: 8:48, 8:24, 8:03, 8:06, 8:40 (big hill), 7:48, 7:58, 7:49, last 0.2 (6:50 pace)
The Run: 3:32:39
Total Time: 10:22:09

Ron, AKA PunkRockRunner is there in the stands, cheering up a storm. I LOVE this picture.

My finish line catcher is concerned and heading me toward the medical tent. Of all the finish lines, this one resulted in the biggest emotional release. I kept telling my finish line catcher, “I’m just really emotional”. I can understand being concerned but when you’ve been racing in the hurt locker for so long, and then running like your life depended on it for several miles, and finally you get to STOP, whew…the emotions just pour out. Relief is the main one, your fears of being eaten by a tiger (or losing the lead) are suddenly gone. I have major props for those that can keep their composure in these situations.

I hug my mom over the fencing and a volunteer lady says to my finish line catcher, “you can’t accompany her to the medical tent” and I said “Oh, I’m not going to medical” and I started to shape up. The threat of the medical tent always brings me back to reality. I pop out of the enclosure and EVERYONE is there. Troy, Chris, Mom, Dad, Jane, Tyler, Anne, Ron, Niko, Chuck, and Angela. It was awesome to see everyone’s faces. They were as shocked as I was. It was emotional, we were all so surprised at how well it all came together in the last few miles. There is really no better feeling than having all my friends and family there to smile and celebrate a great finish.

After lots of hugs all around, and good jobs I grabbed Annie and we went back into the finisher area for some grub. Annie and I shared a basket of french fries, a slice of pizza, a sprite, some chips and a cup full of grapes. During this time Troy ran to transition, collected my bike, transition bags and morning clothes bag, then ran to the car in the garage and loaded everything up. I have the most awesome husband, he does this stuff just because, and he always thinks of me first. I handed Annie back over the fence to Troy and hopped on the massage table. I started getting really cold, so Troy got me warm clothes and I headed towards the finish line just in time to see Michelle come running down the chute! She looked great, and a little emotional too…just how we like it.

She was an Ironman!!! It was fun to be in the back area with her, helping her eat fries, and getting her signed up for a massage. I got her and Michael reunited and we all agreed to meet in the hot tub at the hotel in about 45 minutes. The rest of the evening is soooo not bloggable…margs margs margs and then some midnight finish line cheering.

Fine Chrissie…you can have a hug

Twitter friends are now REAL friends, Nicole (@neo_endurance) and Nina (@ncjack). We had a lot of fun at the finish line.

And that was it. I went to bed at 1:40am that night, still in total disbelief that I won my age group. What started out as a rough day ended as a rough day too. It was really challenging, but really rewarding. One thing I learned on Sunday is that with bigger risk can come bigger rewards…or a bigger fall. The difference between the two comes down to your fire within, and a bit of luck. I went through A LOT of pain out there, but it was all worth it. And really, it usually is.

Goal0 Nomad7 winners will be revealed tomorrow!

Kona – The Run

Heading in off the bike they have you run all the way around transition to the back side of the pier, in a way reversing your steps from T1. It’s quite a run so you get a taste of how your legs are going to feel. Mine were basically saying “What on earth have you done to us”? They were pretty heavy. I grabbed my bag, ran into the change tent, which seemed rather busy and dumped my bag out on the ground. I had two volunteers helping me and although it was a bit crazy, I got through the entire T2 in about 3 minutes.

I hit lap on my watch coming out of T2 and it said “Delete History, Active Memory Full”. Grrrrr. It does this to me in training and the only thing to do is shut it down, turn it back on, delete all history, and restart the watch. But that would mean I would loose all my ride data. I remembered my watts, 169 average. But I was sad about losing the data. I ran that first mile going “think Sonja, think, what to do”? I thought maybe I could steal a watch off someone else. No, that’s not a good idea. Maybe I could delete some old training sessions and see if it would let me hit lap. I tried that…which was a pain in the butt to be clicking buttons while running. It didn’t work. Back to the drawing board.

After running a bit longer and “thinking” I finally decided to delete everything and start new. So I cleared the history, restarted the watch, turned it to run mode, and hit start somewhere just after mile 1 of the run. It was a good decision. It would have been fun to look back at my ride data, but, it was more important to have access to my watch during the marathon!

I gotta admit, I wasn’t all too sure where exactly the run course went. For some reason I thought you spent a lot of time on the Queen K, and very little time on Ali’i drive. I had driven the Queen K portion, I had run the Energy lab, but I had not scoped any of Ali’i drive. Some surprises are needed.

After the watch incident I got going onto Ali’i drive and my legs were turning over very nice. I saw Bree Wee and we tried to slap hands, but we completely missed each other. It was so kind of her to give me some Aloha out there. At mile 2 I started wondering when we were going to turn around.

I need to talk about the aid stations here on Ali’i because they are worthy of their own post. The stations were phenomenal, there was so much aid to be had. Sometimes I think they took up 0.1 of a mile, with multiple opportunities to access the goods. I had on my new Nathan waist pack (which I love) and a Nathan 10oz hand bottle in my hand. I barely needed them. The stations had me covered. It was a bit hot so I was taking full advantage of the fluids on the course. I even had a few gels on Ali’i drive.

I saw my family coming directly out of transition, and then I saw Chuckie, Michelle and Angela around mile 2. That was awesome, lots of booming cheers from them, I totally loved it! Chuckie told me to find someone and work together with them. Great idea. A lady had just gone past me at a good clip so I tried to get her back. But she wasn’t the working together sort, so I was still “dating”.

At mile 5 we finally turned around. My mile 2-5 splits had been somewhere around 7:45, 7:41, 7:51, 7:52. I spent a fair amount of time those first miles wondering if I had gone too hard on the bike. I was working pretty hard those first miles, but having trouble really telling where my body was at. They weren’t flat miles either, there are some hills on Ali’i drive.

The 5 miles back on Ali’i were pretty uneventful. I saw Brynje who is coached by Chuckie too, and she looked great. I continued to eat a bit too much at the aid stations, but it all tasted so good. Those next 5 miles were 7:58, 8:00, 8:04, 7:57, 8:03. I really was paying very little attention to my watch. Back through town, back through the awesome cheers from everyone.

Then we ran up Palani hill. This is so much harder of a task than it looks like when you watch it on TV. Palani is like a 3 block hill and it’s steep. I knew I shouldn’t spike my heart rate so I tried to take the hill as consistent as possible, but I won’t lie, it hurt. I heard my name being cheered for and tried to smile as much as possible. My friend Jordan was there with his girlfriend Chrissy. Mile 11 with Palani hill was 8:41. That’s a big slow down, but it’s to be expected on the hill and I wasn’t concerned at all.

Now I was on the Queen K, yeah! The infamous Queen K that I’ve been waiting for! Coming down the first hill I mentally noted “big hill…coming up this will suck in 15 more miles”. At the bottom of it Michael Lovato passed me on his way to the finish and he said “Good Job Sonja”. He was wearing an orange kit with orange Kinvaras and the whole look was very cool. Orange is a color more athletes should try. I tried to give him kudos back, and I think I did, hopefully they didn’t come out like “Humph go huh huh michael”. I remember getting goose bumps after he said good job, I was really touched by the gesture. That was very kind of him to give me props out there on the course.

And so it began, the Queen K. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s 1 part hot, 3 parts hilly, and 2 parts relentless. You’re on it for about 6 miles until you turn into the Natural Energy Lab (NEL). So this is where I needed to find my zone, and crank it out. I was trying to find my zone, and I was still looking for someone to work with, but I was feeling a little inconsistent. I was having to give myself little pep talks, lots of them, my zone was being elusive. Miles 12-14 were 8:12, 7:59, 8:12. Somewhere in there Bree Wee and I passed again and this time we were successful in our hand slapping. I wish I had a picture of that.

I have several triathlon “angels” in my life, at least that’s what I call them. They are people whose presence I consider lucky and they always seem to share wisdom with me in a selfless way. Bree is one of them, as is my friend Adam who has raced Kona before. So I felt an extra boost with that high 5 from Bree, and again I got goosebumps.

Mile 15 was my first really big challenge of the day. I had noticed at about mile 12 that my tummy was a bit poochy. I thought to myself “You’re taking in too much, the tummy isn’t digesting”. I had already peed twice on myself during the first 12 miles, and I’m not talking little pees. I was HYDRATED. But during mile 15 I started to get the sloshy tummy. I could hear it thumping and moving. I was hoping it was the guy next to me, but it was me. Towards the end of mile 15 I got the sudden feeling of “OMG I have to poo like pronto”. I was looking for bushes and well…it’s the Queen K…there are none, just LAVA! I saw an aid station soon and knew they would have a potty. I tried to run fast…but not too fast, and with about 50 meters to go, I lost a bit of the battle with my tummy. It was the worst feeling, knowing what I was most likely doing in my shorts.

I finally got to the port-a-pottie and did my business. I tried to clean myself up the best I could. But really, I didn’t give a crap…literally, okay, wait, I guess I did give a crap, but you know what I mean. I just wanted to get back on the course and limit my potty time. The pit stop took exactly 42 seconds and I was back on the road. I made some new “rules” for myself, which were no more eating or drinking for 2 aid stations, and tread lightly while my system recovers. Mile 15 was 8:53 including the potty.

We had some hillage from there and eventually we turned into the NEL. This portion of the course is tough and I’m not exactly sure why. You go down a pretty big hill and all the special needs bags are here. It should be a good place, but I think it’s one of the hottest sections of the course. You can see the runners just ahead of you here and I saw Whitney from Boulder looking very very strong. I saw Wendy Mader as well, can’t miss the Timex kits! Miles 16-18 were 8:10, 7:59, 8:17.

I made the turn and headed back out of the energy lab. I started to drink some fluids again as my stomach seemed to be okay. I tested it bit by bit. I passed up my special needs bag. It was only 8 miles to the finish and I didn’t want anything I had stashed in there. Running out of the (no) Energy Lab is really brutal. It’s a hill and it’s hard and hot. Lots of people were suffering through here, me included I guess. I tossed my hand bottle at an aid station, knowing I could make it to the end without it.

I passed Wendy here and she was not happy. I’ve heard nothing but cool things about Wendy from my friend Fred, but I keep meeting her in the middle of races when she is struggling. I felt for her, and I didn’t want to pass without saying anything, so I said “Are you Wendy” and she said “Yes” and I said “I’m Sonja” and she said “Hi Sonja”. But the way she said “Hi Sonja” was in a very sad little mouse voice, and I just felt worse for making her talk. Mile 19 up the NEL hill was 8:54.

Back onto the Queen K your spirits really lift. There is a downhill after that big hill and you only have about 7 miles to go. I was looking forward to the 10K to go mark, because anyone can suffer for 10K. This guy came past me, and he was running like there was a fire under his toosh. You could tell it hurt, but this guy was embracing the pain cave and throwing it down. I immediately hopped on.

And this is where I found my Zen mode. For a good 5 miles I latched onto this guy and we ran through aid station after aid station. I was one stride behind him, just staring at his back for 5 miles. Sometimes other people would jump in the mix, but eventually they would drop back or move along. I don’t know if I annoyed him, but I tuned into his stride and zoned out completely. Miles 20-24 were 8:03, 8:18, 8:02, 8:26, 8:17. And I was happy with them. The guy that I latched onto is in a ton of the pictures above, he has on a dark red top with a huge M-dot in the middle. He so totally rocked!

I passed my dad and my Uncle Norm and Cousin Kyle. They were cheering up a storm and taking pictures. My Uncle Norm was helping a woman that was done. I felt so bad for her, especially after hearing the story my Uncle told. She was only 2 miles from the finish, she was in my age group, and she was just done. Her name was Megan Newcomer and I hope some day I can find out if she is ok. The stories were pretty scary. Uncle Norm is with her here.

At the top of one hill this volunteer was telling everyone “it’s all downhill from here”. My brain went crazy for a bit over that one. I knew there was one big hill left, one really big hill. I made sure to tell my stud pacer friend this. I also asked him if he knew what race clock time was, he didn’t, but I found out he had an Australian accent. Sure enough we hit the bottom of the hill and there it was facing me. BIG HILL. I had about two miles to go and I thought, poop on this hill, I’m going up it HARD. So I did. I ran up the last hill on the Queen K like the finish line was at the top.

And at the top of that hill you turn and get to run down Palani. I ran down Palani as hard as I knew how, pretending the finish line was at the bottom. Then you turn left on Kuakini and I ran along that as hard as I knew. I was now getting tired of running hard. I turned the corner towards Ali’i and there was Chuckie and Ang and PIC. I started crying and heard Chuckie yelling to GOGOGOGO. I went harder, my throat choking up, but with no tears. Then I turned onto Ali’i and it was all smiles. Ali’i was AWESOME. It was lined with people, all of them cheering like crazy. I saw a woman right ahead of me and thought “oh no, I gotta get her, what if she’s in my age group”. When I got up near her I noticed she had 3 numbers on her arm which meant she was a pro, so I didn’t give chase. They started 30 minutes ahead and I wasn’t going to ruin my finish line experience racing her, ya gotta milk those last steps.

I ate it up on Ali’i. It’s truly the best finish line in the world and it did not disappoint. Because I had to restart my watch I had no idea what the race clock time was. I came around the corner, looked up and saw 10:17 on the clock. I was totally flabbergasted, I was ecstatic and my whole body washed with goose bumps. I ran over that finish line full of smiles and warm fuzzy feelings. My last two miles were 8:00 and 7:12.

The race volunteers were amazing afterwards. They take great care of you and before I knew it I had a lei and medal around my neck and I was laying on a massage table. I had an interesting thing happen after the race this time. I couldn’t find my family and I was horribly tired and I actually got sad and upset. I think it was a blood sugar thing, but I shed a few tears of sadness walking around afterwards. The massage helped a ton and then I found my family.

The evening was spent dancing it up at the finish line until midnight. It was an amazing experience, that midnight finish line. Thousands of others were there too.

I have a treat for you for tomorrow on the blog. My aunt Grace took some great video of the day and I made a movie. It turned out really good, so I’ll post it after my closing thoughts tomorrow.

total time: 10:17:53
swim: 1:10:41
T1: 2:24
Bike: 5:30:47
T2: 3:17
Run: 3:30:46
W30-34: 15th
amateur women: 31st
overall women: 60th
overall: 637