Tucson Camp #2

This past week PIC Michelle Ford and I headed back to Tucson to get pummeled by coach fantastico Chuckie V and his much more attractive sidekick Angela Mighty Mouse Naeth (who are in a bit of a Twitter war to get more followers than each other, I linked their accounts above). The first time PIC and I went to Tucson we were so excited. This time we knew better, we were excited, but it was mixed with a sort of fear. Last camp was hard, fun but hard. We knew better than to think we were headed to Disneyland.

Camp did not start with swimming! What? Wow! We got to sleep in (which we didn’t) and build up our bikes during the first morning. We were off to Mt Lemmon, but this time Chuckie said “no cookie”. It was a chilly day and we enjoyed the views together up to mile 15 and then hit it hard for several repeats up the lower miles.

A run off the bike with some “whew” efforts in there, a trip to Trader Joes and we were ready to sleep like logs. We bought way too many groceries at Trader Joe’s, we weren’t even sure how we were going to get it all home. It’s getting a bit frightening how well Michelle and I sleep together. So many years, so many trips, so many races, we sleep better together than we do with our hubbies.

We knew it wouldn’t last for long, the next morning we were up and at ’em and in the pool. We have the coolest pool to swim in, it doesn’t have any lane lines, just lines on the bottom. It’s great for drafting practice. Saturday morning we swam the hardest swim workout of my entire life. On paper it seemed pretty straight forward, but during it there were a few near drowning moments. I survived, but the next day I was quite sore from it.

Saturday we also headed to the track for some work there including a MAF test. We do these quite often, as do all my athletes. If you haven’t read Phil Maffetones new Book The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing you need to. It will rock your world. Maffetone lives in the Tucson area. He’s made people fast for years.

We had the best easy spin that evening that turned into a 2.5 hour “tour de Tucson”. It was warm out, and sunny and we got to tour all around the university and downtown, and the bike paths. We had so much fun chatting about life, and sport, and being happy. Whatever it Takes!

Sunday we were back in the pool, duh. We made Chuckie a scrambled egg breakfast and he went easier on us. Then it was off to MIDDLE OF NOWHERE AWESOMENESS for the day. Oh my, this was one of my favorite training days ever. We rode and rode and rode, out past the town of Oracle and into lands of beautiful smooth road with fun whoop-dee-doos and twists and turns. There were Saguaros with 20 arms (really old) by the hundreds. We rode in the middle of the road, we didn’t see anyone. It was AWESOME.

We had a couple hill repeats to get in and these were so fun. We had 30 minutes of hill that was relentless and we got to go for it. It was a particularly cool day for PIC as she made a bit of a breakthrough that made me smile inside. Training with Chuckie is so interesting because we both know that he is giving us the work that is best for each of us. Sometimes I progress, sometimes she progresses, and overall we both have made lots of progress. The nice thing is that we can celebrate each others ahh-hah moments, and we support each other through the lulls. Seeing PIC fight tooth and nail to hurt herself out there was awesome. Angela was with us for one of the repeats and she didn’t break a sweat, but was always there to offer a smile, a nudge, or a wheel to pull you back to where you needed to be. It all just flowed.

After our killer repeats we headed out for a little run. It just so happens that our route intersected the Arizona trail. It’s 800 miles of trail across Arizona. We have to watch out around things like this. Chuckie has hiked the PCT not once, but TWICE and when he sees trails like this we have to chain him to the bumper for fear of loosing our coach back to the wilderness! He starts getting all excited and we have to bait him back with the promise of ice cream and that we will be good athletes.

 

This was a tough run to turn around on. I wanted to run for miles and miles and miles, and had I been alone, I would have. The scenery was insane, just beautiful with tons of cacti and perfect dirt single track trails. There was nobody out there and the stillness and peacefulness are something I will remember for a long time. It always amazes me just how quickly you can get away from it all, even when you live or are near major cities. These trails are barely used, yet quiet peace is so close to the city, just a short drive away.



I love the “pedestrian crossing” sign. Since the Arizona trail crosses the road, they put a pedestrian sign. Seems a little out of place, eh? Of course Michelle and I are maximizing our nerdliness in this photo. I can’t even tell you what we were doing, it’s top secret.

You just have to be a little careful out there not to step on these guys. They will get ya if you run a little wonky or don’t watch where you are going.

Monday we were back in the pool for another pummeling. This one was particularly fun because we did 5 bajillion sets of 12×25 and we got to draft PIC Michelle on every one of them. She had me on her right side and Angela on her left. We were scratching her, grabbing her, trying to hang on for dear life. But it upped our game. She swam for her life to get away from us an we swam for our lives to hang on.

Sometime during camp we were renamed from the “PIC chicks” to the “Housewives”. I don’t know quite how that happened but it was a title we both immediately embraced. Oh look, you just got passed by a pair of housewives. Hold one, let me take off my apron before I school you in the pool. It just stuck. Housewives…I still laugh just thinking about it.

My favorite line from PIC

“Would you like a martini with that unexpectedly hard swim??”

After the unexpectedly hard swim we were off for a trail run while Angela Mighty Mouse Naeth got her bike on. Madera Canyon was our destination. This place is truly a gem in the Tucson area. It’s a must see. I was totally ready to move in here.

We got in a great trail run where I made it up to 8,780 feet of elevation, so close to the summit of Mt.Wrightson. Sometimes you gotta save something for the next trip. Chuckie got a chuckle out of all the responces and comments from the hikers comming down the mountain.
“Did you see those two girls running?”
“They were German.”
“No, they were European.”
“The first one wasn’t very nice, she didn’t even say anything.”
What a hoot. Barreling down miles of technical single track fulfilled this deep love I have for trail running. I am most calm out there on the trails and hard charging technical downhill makes me feel so alive. Of course two days latter my quads don’t feel so “alive”.
The drive home Chuckie wore his helmet the entire time. Yes, this is my coach, he always keeps us laughing.
The following day it was time for PIC and I to depart. But FIRST…we were blessed with another sweet swim workout brought to us by Chuckie V! Onto the plane, we had to kiss Chuck and Ang goodbye. It was all bitter with no sweet. We wanted to stay, we had so much fun with them. I think what was so motivating was to see the care that Chuck and Ang take with each other. She is this hard core athlete with so much talent, and he has been there, has the war stories and the knowledge, and is trying to make her great. They are a great duo and I’ll never forget the many lessons I have learned from both of them. Thanks Chuckie and Angela for all you do for me, it’s such a gift to have you both in my life.
Really Coach, it’s Tomato Juice!!!!

Kona – The Swim

The morning of October 9th finally arrived! We were up and out of the house at 3:45am. Michelle was volunteering at the body marking area. Troy and my dad wanted good spots on the seawall and I just assumed I would go with all of them to the race start. I was pretty much the first athlete to arrive at the race area, but it just meant I had lots of time to get things done. I was really nervous, trying to talk myself down and to stay calm, but it was tough to get down my 2 Mix1s and toast with Justin’s Almond Butter and a banana.

My Aunt Grace with her GoSonja shirt on!

It took awhile for me to find body marking which is odd because I should have asked PIC, since once I finally found it she was there body marking away. It was behind the King Kam hotel. Each number range was assigned 4 volunteers and my range just so happened to be manned (womaned) by the ladies that sat behind us on the airplane. What’s the odds? They were super duper excited and did a fantastic job stamping my arms with the official numbers. I’ve never had the cool number stamps before and it made it feel like this was a big deal, which just added to the nerves!!

From there I headed over to transition to check on my bike. There was a volunteer every 5 feet telling me which way to go and within 20 seconds of arriving at my bike a lady appeared with a pump for me to use. The volunteer support at this race felt like 5X the amount I have ever seen at any other race (that is once you “found” body marking). I pumped the tires, adjusted the shoes (we got to put our shoes on our bikes, that’s unique to the World Championships).

I got into my run bag (led by a volunteer) and deposited some Benadryl just in case I had another allergic reaction at the energy lab. I wanted to make sure I was self sufficient, especially since I knew it was a potential “issue”.

Then I was done and had like 90 minutes to wait. I found Troy and said hi, I ambled around. Finally I found Chuckie and Angela and sat down with them. That was great because Chuckie really talked me through my race and reminded me of all the little details we had been over.

When it was finally time to start the getting in the water I felt ready for the day and ready to dig deep. I was nervous, but I knew that once we got going the nerves would go away and I would feel better. Everyone had nerves, everyone. I didn’t see one person that looked totally calm and chill. I think it’s inevitable.

I’m not in this first picture, but look at everyones face, intense!

And then there’s me…dork!

The pros got off and going and then we age groupers started descending onto the beach. I got in the water right away and found my friend Julia. We had a little nervous chat and then I got swimming out to the start line. First I waved to my two dads who were ready with cameras.

I was getting really excited as I hung onto a boat near the starting line. There was a Ford car floating in the water, there were thousands of people on the seawall. The pier was lined with VIPs and cameras and volunteers. They started giving us a countdown and yelling at us to stop hanging on the floating car. I lined up way left and way in the back.

I was hoping for a stress free start, I guess that’s always the hope isn’t it? The cannon went off and I hit “go” on my watch and started swimming. PIC got a great shot since she just happened to be standing next to the cannon. You can see the car in the water too.

The contact was minimal, people were swimming nicely and I seemed to mesh with the swimmers around me rather quickly. The water is super clear and the tropical fish are swimming below you, but you can’t get caught up looking at all those beautiful fish, you must swim. I didn’t have too much trouble ignoring the fish but every once in awhile you would swim over something that would catch your eye, like a tire…or a lunchbox, or a paper plate.

The other great thing about the clear water is that it’s so easy to find feet to swim on. The bubbles are obvious, even the feet that are 5 meters ahead are obvious. A guy went past me swimming a good clip so I jumped on his feet. He was swimming faster than me so I really fought hard to stay on his feet. I followed those feet all the way to the turn around where I lost them to the cluster of people trying to turn around a boat, get their bearings and get going in the right direction again.

Then I played a game. I would sit on some feet, then I would pass that person and swim really hard to the next set of feet ahead of them. Then I would sit on those feet before I did it again. I felt like I was swimming really strong, and really fast. I was telling myself “This is going to be a great swim”. I felt it. I was hanging on to feet that were barely within my reach. The way back took forever as I played my game of hopscotch. Finally I could see the pier, and then the Ford car, and then the final buoy.

I had lots of contact the last 50 meters or so. We were funneling into the swim exit, there were about 5 of us around and we just pummeled each other those last yards. Kinda silly but it was what it was.

I’m in here somewhere, how did my dad know it?

I’m the pink cap with the curved arm.

white TYR goggles…that’s me!

I pulled myself up the stairs and ran up them, just in time to see the clock say 1:10. My first thought was “seriously”? I was a little shocked, I swam really well, really straight, and quite hard. To see the 1:10 was a little alarming because it just didn’t match my perceived exertion.

I didn’t have any time to think about it though. I was through the showers, grabbing my bag and finding a seat in the changing tent. There were actually seats for me and about 4 volunteers waiting to cater to my every need. They ripped off my swimskin immediately and helped me with my stuff. Again lots of volunteers. I ran out of the tents just in time to see one of my competitors eat it on the run out. I felt bad for her, I would not have wanted to fall down in transition.

I found my bike likity split, threw on the helmet, grabbed my bike and got the shanizzle out of there. More volunteers were helping guide my way and before I knew it I was on my bike, getting my feet into my shoes and biking down Palani Road.

Harvest Moon Long Course Triathlon

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a race report. I made the decision after IM CDA to train exclusively for Kona and purposefully put zero races on the schedule. As I got into my training Chuckie suggested that I race the Harvest Moon Long Course Triathlon as a Kona tune up race. It’s just a 20 minute drive from my house, it’s on local territory, and it’s affordable.

As the race grew closer I realized that it was the same day as the Rev3 Cedar Point races and I was kicking myself for not going to CP to cheer on my Trakkers teammates who were doing the 140.6 race there. But then, looking at it from the Kona prep side this was the right decision. No airplane (germ exposure), travel trip expense (Kona spending money exposure), days of reduced training (kicking butt in the future exposure). But, I really missed out on Rev3 Cedar Point, and I would like to send out a huge congratulations to all the new 140.6ers!!

I’ll admit, I was a little nervous about racing. This close to Kona (4 weeks) I pondered what would happen if my results were lackluster. Then I would have to do the important job of figuring out what went wrong, and making sure my confidence didn’t take a plunge. Racing can be a little scary sometimes! But the night before the race, I did my normal mental work and I talked to myself about stepping on the line with a clean slate, with ZERO expectations, and just seeing where the race goes. It will be a good indicator as to where I am at, but if I let nerves get in the way, then it won’t be a good indicator. I thought I went to bed with peace, but I had a nightmare that Annie got bit by a spider and died, so maybe not all my issues were resolved. I love being a mom, do the irrational thoughts ever stop?

We arrived early that morning and waited in a long line of cars until 6am when the reservoir opened. Of course Annie had to go pee while we were waiting, and of course when Troy was taking her in the bushes (what few there are out there) the line of cars started moving. Troy was so happy that I didn’t drive off without him, and I was so offended that he thought I would do such a thing. 🙂

I got a GREAT spot in transition, right close to the bike exit and facing the proper way out. I set up my goods…minimal minimal minimal and got out of there. One of the things I forgot is that racing so close to home you see all your friends, all the triathletes that you miss at travel races. I loved bumping into everyone that I did, especially some of the multisport newbies like Brett, and Ron.

I was in the second wave to go off. In the first wave was the elites and the women 35+. I’ll admit right now that I think I was a little confused about the Elite wave. It said on the website that you had to have a PRO card to win money. And I interpreted that to mean that you had to have a PRO card to enter the Elite wave. So I did not. But I was wrong, someone like me could have entered the Elite wave, but I wouldn’t receive $$ if I won, since I’m an AGer. Live and learn.

So wave #2 it was. I wanted to swim good so I went hard from the start. I got out really well, swam really straight, and found feet. Sweet. They were great for awhile until they started loosing their navigational focus and I went solo from there. I tried to swim hard, pull hard, stay straight. I lost it a bit towards the last 20% of the swim but what I lacked in navigation, I made up for in effort. I exited, checked my watch to see 31:17 and ran UP UP UP to the transition and timing mat. It took 1 minute to run UP UP UP that hill.

I heard Chuckie say something to me on the way up…right as I was pulling off my wetsuit top, so I heard his words as: “Humngh Sonja, your mshyo sjhlli hukrps”. Right, got it coach!

Is it just me or are my legs frighteningly tan? I wear sunscreen, I swear!

Into transition, off with the suit, on with the glasses/helmet and I was out of there. I would like to highlight that I won the overall mens and women’s T1 race. Yes, sir-eee I went 0:48 seconds for an overall race best, Tim Hola’s got NOTHING on me (except swim/bike/run). Tyler would be SO proud!

Ha! Onto the bike. I had ridden the course several days prior with PIC and we had Kona like winds. We were going about 9mph for miles and miles. I felt prepared to have wind on race day and I almost wanted it so I could practice for Kona. When things were rather calm I was a little bummed, but not for too long. I got into my groove and incorporated a few things that Chuckie has been teaching me during training. I was racing without my race wheels, so I had my training PowerTap wheel on the back, and my training American Classic on the front. One thing CV has taught me is to avoid heart rate and power spikes during the race. This was a course with rollers, so I really tried to SIMMER during the hills, and keep the intensity HIGH on the flats and straights, thus keeping power and heart rate consistent. This is called “Being nice to your body and doing it a favor so you can ask it to run fast later”, or “BNTYBADIAFSYCAITRFL”. No really, it’s a technical term, it’s in all the Exercise Physiology books, look it up. So with that in mind I stayed focused during the race and tried to nail the task at hand.

The other CV thing I worked on was to not let my watts drop over the course of the race. This (apparently) happens often to athletes, so I really kept an eye on the watts and steadily rose them throughout the 56 miles. I was expecting total headwind the last 10 miles coming back on Quincy and almost shouted “Hallelujah” when there was none to be had. I pushed the entire way back, keeping the heart rate in check and really pushing hard down the hills to keep watts up.

I love my new gearing! It’s perfection! The compact with the 11-25 is just perfect for me and when Chuckie said the new crank length would make me faster, he wasn’t lying. My bike split came in at 2:26:49 and 22.9mph.

I also wanted to highlight Amber Rydholm. Despite the fact that we have only met once, she cheered me on by name out there. Amber is an Iron-chick and did both Placid and St.George this year. It was great to talk with her, and we got to know each other a bit better after the race. Cool Chick!

Amber and I on the podium with Annie, Um, Amber is really tall, did I mention that?

So I rolled into transition, threw on my socks and run shoes, grabbed my hat/number/nutrition and ran on out. It was cool to see lots of empty racks. I hit my lap button at the timing mats and I looked down at my watch. It said 3:01 for the overall race time. I was really really shocked at this. It all started to come together. Immediately I said to myself, if you can run 1:30 you can race 4:31. My PR from Clearwater last year was a 4:40, and I was pretty jazzed about that time. To know that running under 1:39 was going to result in a PR got me a little excited…but just for a moment.

I had a 1/2 marathon yet to run. I immediately got focused. I was excited to test out all the work we have been doing with my run. Well, not “work” really, but just the things I have learned about awareness and going Zen, and keeping my posture. So, that’s what I did. We had some wind out there and I was lucky to work my way up to a guy running very close to my pace within the first mile. I tucked behind him settled in.

I focused on lowering the heart rate, standing tall, keeping my arms high, shoulders back and “boxing” with the hands. I tried to keep the belly engaged, and the head movement minimal. Focus Focus. And the miles started ripping by. My Garmin would beep at me every mile and tell me my split and they were all in the 7:00 range, some a little under, some a little over.

On one of the aid stations my wind block and the #1 male took all the aid and I wasn’t able to pick anything up. I remember thinking “This is part of the sport”, now what can I do about it? I decided to forgo the wind block in order to come into the next aid station first. He hung super tough with me though. I think he wondered why I was picking it up and passing him. He asked my name, I asked his, and then I told him “I really need aid at the next station”. I think he understood then.

I was able to get aid and keep my pace. I got to mile 6 and I saw the first lady pass me going the other way. I immediately recognized her as Mandy Mclane who I knew recently moved to Boulder (rad). She was one mile ahead of me, and I was actually really happy to be within one mile of her. What I didn’t realize was that she had registered in the Elite wave, so she had started 5 minutes ahead. But I didn’t know that at the time. Near the turn around on the dam I saw the #2 lady, Wendy Mader. I gotta admit, the Team Timex outfits are just plain daunting. Wendy looked like she was HAULING, I didn’t know if I could catch her. I also didn’t know that she started in Wave #1 as well, not as an Elite, but as 35+.

The aid station just shy of the turn around had my friend Brett’s daughter manning it. She recognized me and the aid station went BALLISTIC for me on the way back. LIKE CRAZY BALLISTIC! I loved them so much, I wanted to give them all kisses. It really made me laugh, and I think if I can inspire ONE young female cross county runner to stay healthy, EAT FOOD, and SMILE, then my job is complete. Thanks girls!!

On the way back I struggled a bit with the aid stations. They were on one side of the bike path, so when you were running back in, the people going out were in line for the aid and I didn’t want to have a head on collision with any of the racers. I missed one station, and then two more I just pulled over and took cups myself instead of taking them from the volunteers. I’m trying to have better aid station edict because this is something I’m not great with. It’s a work in progress. On the way back in I also had SO MANY people shout “GoSonja”. I really tried hard to wave at every one of them, another work in progress there. Please know that I hear you, and I value the fact that you are willing to take energy out of your race to shout my name, it means A LOT and it makes me run faster!

I had been watching Wendy HAUL in front of me, and then I came around a corner and she was right there. She soon stopped to stretch out what looked like a calf that was in pain. I FELT for her, as I know that when racing most athletes one goal is to keep moving forward at a steady clip with minimal issues. That’s one goal I think we all share. So I ran by Wendy but hoped that she would be able to stretch it out and get back into her pace.

I ran into Richard, who REALLY made me laugh. Richard is the dad of one of Annies schoolmates last year. We have become really good friends with their family and Richard got into Kona via the lotto (what are the odds…two parents in one preschool class of 12…headed to Kona). Richard was going out when I was coming in and he shouted “I’m coming for ya”, which was funny. But then, he kept shouting it like 5 different times and his voice kept getting fainter and fainter. In the moment it was hilarious and it was the one thing that broke my focus during the whole race. I lost it and just laughed for about 20 seconds.

I knew at that point that I was in second, behind Mandy, and I assumed she started in my same wave since we are usually the same age group. I was pretty jazzed. Heading into the last mile I switched my watch over to race time and noticed that if I ran hard I would be able to break 4:30. I couldn’t even comprehend it. I really couldn’t. In triathlons there are others to “race” but really, we “race” ourselves. I try to use other people for motivation to do my best, but when it comes down to it, it’s about finding the motivation from within and letting the chips fall where they may. Focus on what you can control…which is you…and your best results will shine through.

I ran strong into the finish keeping my form as perfect as I could muster. At the end they have this HUGE slip-n-slide that ROCKS. I took not one, but TWO trips down the slip-n-slide. I really think that this should be mandatory for races, it was really awesome!

I was standing around at the finish talking to Jen who I met at CDA and just love. Her husband Mark came up and said “You won”. I said “No, Mandy Mclane won, she was in front of me”. He dragged me over to the results and sure enough, I saw “Elite” next to her name which meant that she started 5 minutes ahead of me, and with that factored in, I was 13 seconds ahead. I was first overall, and I felt a bit bad that we hadn’t started in the same wave. It’s always hard to race someone who is in a different wave.

Shock, really pure shock. Chuckie says I shouldn’t be shocked, and I’m trying to get over it, but I was shocked. The 4:29:29 was an 11 minute PR over Clearwater. Although my Garmin did have the run course as short, there were a lot of twists and turns and the Garmin tends to underrepresent that. It could have been right. If it was right, then my 1:28:50 was a 2+min half marathon PR.

I learned so much during this race. Besides the fact that I got to practice all this stuff that CV has been teaching me in a race setting, I also learned the value of training. I never thought in years past that all my racing was impacting my racing, but this triathlon, and how I felt during this swim/bike/run really showed me just how much you can gain when you do commit to train for a big race. If you don’t race every little race along the way, then you might just shock yourself (and shocked i was). Racing is fun, it’s gratifying, and it’s a thrill. Training requires focus and diligence. But I never realized what huge rewards it can pay…until Sunday.

I also realized that I have sold myself short in the past. We all derive our identity from different places and I’ve always considered myself as “the hard worker”. I realized today that hard work can take you a long way. Hard work can win you races, and talent is a multifunctional word. It can mean lots of things, including your ability to work hard and capitalize on what genes you have.

Lastly, while this race was a great result for me, I plan to put it in my back pocket and then put my nose down and continue to do what I do best: comit. I have 26 important days until Kona, and I know that any mistake I make will be punishable by the island gods. Several weeks ago on a ride up to Ward I was joined by Cam Widoff. I don’t think I have to explain who that is, but let’s suffice it to say that he has raced as a PRO in Kona more times than….well…pretty much anyone. I asked him his advise and he said that the years he came to Kona humble and just ready to focus on himself and do his best were the years that he raced well. So that is my plan. Do the right thing from here on out. Focus on diligence in sleep, eating, limiting stress, and training. Spend minimal time attached to electronics, and maximal time spent with my legs up against the wall. And finally to arrive on the island humble, happy to be there, and happy to have the opportunity to race well.

Thanks in a very big way to: Trakkers (congrats to Rev3CP finishers), Goal0 (keeping my electronics solar charged), Saucony (my Kinvaras rock), Mix1 (2 for breakfast), Core Concepts (bamboo t-shirts rock), Tri-Massage (keeping my body happy), First Endurance (in my bottles, in my tummy), Justin’s Nut Butter (chocolate almond is heaven on earth), Nathan (just ordered 4 new hand bottles for KONA), NUUN (did you get any in transition?), and TriSwim (do I smell like chlorine…nope).

An especially huge thanks to Troy and Annie who were out there in full force, you guys rock, and I love you tons. I promise to take you on a Hawaiian vacation in 26 days.

And to Chuckie: humble thanks, my coach. Thank you for putting in the hours with me on the bike and writing me schedules that make me laugh and make me fit. You continue to train me in a way that makes me surprise myself. 26 more days until Kona, here we come.

Results can be found here.

6 hours after 62 miles

At 2am, I should not be blogging. I should not be awake. But here I am, starting my blog on my iPhone, laying here in bed with a sound asleep Troy and Annie. I am awake because the pain woke me up. Not that I was sleeping that well anyways. Tossing and turning, shoving my pillow between my legs, searching for a position that my legs would accept.

Ben asked me on lap 9 to explain the difference between the sprinters paincave and that of the endurance athlete. While the sprinter dealts with 100% all over mind degrading pain, the minute he or she stops it would take a small miracle to conjure up the severity of the pain. To the endurane athlete the pain is much like that of injury. Every single step hurts with searing sharp pain in the hips, knees, and ankles. But, you are there for it. There is no mentally escaping from the endurance runners pain. The pain does not stop when you stop and often times haunts you for days. The endurance athletes pain is almost a form of depression. And when it wakes you up at 2am, when you obviosly need your sleep, you feel utterly broken. That’s the difference.

So yea, I hurt. But as I said many times during my 62 miles of running yesterday, “I’m still me”. I’m still smiling, chatting, laughing, downplaying the effort, and just generally exicuting sound strategy. I’m still totally humbled by everyone who came out to run with me. Several of them, including X-stud quarterback Ryan, and his motorcross racing wife, Melissa, went father than they ever had before. They dragged Ryans sister Jen out, who doubled her longest run of 6 miles out to 12. She’s probobly feeling very similar to me right now.

As I lay here waiting for the Vitamin I (as Chucky calls it) to set in, my big thoughts of the day include.

– I am so supported by my running friends, I had someone with me every lap! I can not thank you guys and gals enough.

– My husband Troy continues to shock and amaze me and others with his ability to watch Annie in a boaring parking lot for 13 hours while keeping me refueled, doing a check on me every lap, being time keeper, welcoming runners there to pace me, and supporting all of us.

– The gear my sponsors have provided totally rocks. First Enduance, Nuun, Mix1, and Justins Nut Butter kept me fueled, Nathan provides the most comfortable running packs, Core Concepts clothes me in things that do not rub or chaffe, Trakkers hats keep me sunburn free, Saucony has created a shoe I never once wanted to change out of even when they were a soaking wet muddy mess, and Josh at Tri-massage with his fixing techniques and exercises kept me on my feet.

– Although most of the entire run hurt, I reached a pain plateau and it was one that I could manage.

– There are 38 more miles in me, I now know this.

– Do not sit down. Beware of the chair. Sitting is reserved for the port-a-pottie.

– Circus Animals (the pink and white ones) and yellow bunny peeps saved the day. These two things rocked my mouth!

With this thought, I will post this rant and get back to bed. The pain has gone from a 29 to a 16 and I think I might be able to sleep. I took video during my run, so tomorrow I will edit it and post it, along with a play by play report. Until then…yawn!

PIC

You may have noticed that that I affectionatey refer to Michelle as PIC. It stands for “partner in crime”, I’m not really even sure when it came about. Maybee when she started her blog? I don’t know. She calls me PIC too. It’s rather fun. Sometimes I call her Fordy-Ford, or Michelley-Elley.

Michelle and I met shortly before our first ever trip to USAT Age-Group Nationals in 2007. That was way back when I had only done two sprints and Michelle was still riding this red bike with like Shimano 105 on it (I don’t mean to offend anyone…well maybe I do a little bit).

Breakfast two days before Nationals in 07

We were roomies in this totally cheep extended stay hotel right next to Nike in Portland. We both had what I would call super solid races, but even bigger than that we began a friendship that both of us never realized would be so much fun.

I think this was probably the last time we got totally sloshed right after a race…we are much more dedicated now (we are the middle two).

We trained together occasionally, mostly on weekend bike rides. Michelle was a working girl with a demanding job, but she was focused and nailed her workouts.

We went through a Twinkie phase (identical, comes in a pack of two). Almost all the group pictures we were standing next to each other, and we had matching helmets, blue bikes (she got rid of the crummy red one…no offense) and ponytails. Check it out.

Twinkies we are



Scary huh?

We came back to nationals in Portland in 2008 ready to kick ass, and qualify for Team USA. We had Australia on our minds. For the first time we allowed another person into our nationals lair, Tyler.

PIC, Me, and Tyler

He proved to be an acceptable addition. It also meant that PIC and I shared a bed for the first time. And we learned that we sleep well together, who would have thought? Probably a fact that our husbands try not to think about too often…or maybe they do. I don’t know and this is going south…

So we both really rocked the house at Nationals, it was the same course as the year before and PIC knocked 16+ minutes off her time, and I took off a little over 6. PIC nabbed that Team USA slot, and I missed it by one, but got it back in the lotto.

Early morning pre race, we are together, there’s a shock!

Several months after Nationals, the best thing EVER happened to my athletic career (and let’s be honest, it’s all about me). PIC got laid off, SWEEET, full time training partner. I think this is when the term “PIC” came about. That year was about becoming super stud kick ass athletes and helping each other get there. We started on the bikes.

Mt.Evans in the back, we two man teamed it all over the place that spring.


We really learned a lot about each other. Usually we knew more about where each other was at than we knew about ourselves. I knew when she was blitzed, she knew when I needed to eat. We shared gels, we took turns on each others wheels, and we had so much fun.


We raced across the county, heck the world, together. We always found a way to get our PIC time even if we weren’t rooming together. We found a camaraderie that year that was sorta “the next level”. I think in the beginning we may have felt a little competitiveness against each other, but any and all of that dissipated throughout last year. When we became PIC’s things changed and we helped each other through the hard times, and the hard races, and we celebrated with each other through the good ones. It helped that we had numerous good performances through the year. At Kansas, we qualified for Clearwater together.

We went to Nationals for a 3rd year together, we added Beth and Tyler to the room, which meant again…PIC and I were sharing a bed. Which apparently meant great races for the both of us. PIC taking 5th in her AG, and me 14th, both earning TEAM USA spots if we so choose to take them. Seeing her on the podium made me feel like I was on the podium, I kid you not.

Red hair extension…it was for CHARITY!

We went to Worlds in Australia with our different families, but we found a way to hook up and train everyday together. Training in unfamiliar adds a whole different crazy factor to things, but when we were together we seemed to have so much more confidence. It didn’t matter that we were riding on the wrong side of the road, we handled it together and we laughed a lot. Meeting up with Michelle was like a having a piece of home with me.

In AUS, training, note that we now have matching TT bikes, and non matching helmets, since I crashed and broke mine.

I think having each other there at World Championships paid off, we went 19th for PIC, and 30th for me, in our age group, in the world. And you know, PIC slept over in my hotel room the night before, I’m thinking that’s why we raced so well.

And at the end of the season we found each other in Clearwater, out there on the race course, and ran together for part of the race. It was almost poetic.


Michelle and I have learned through the years the value of having a training partner. I don’t think either of us could have ever imagined just how tight we would become. Going forward this year we have switched coaching, and we have switched team affiliation. It was a process that we relied heavily on each other to get through. Lots of leaning on each other, and a fair amount of tears.

It wasn’t easy, but you live, you learn, and you try to move forward with an open heart. With Michelle, I’m not afraid to tell her the truth, and she knows I’m in her corner 100%. I’m so extatic that the recent changes in our athletic career have brought us even closer together. I couldn’t imagine racing in a uniform that is different from hers, so I’m pretty stoked that this year we will be Twinkies again.

Having the same coach will enable us to continue to train together and to help each other achieve our goals. We have been very upfront with our new coach (who likes upfrontness) and he has instructed us to tattle on each other to our heart’s content (when it pertains to training). He seems to “get” our relationship and has an idea on how to use it to make each of us stronger.

We feel like we are a little mini-team this year. Our sponsors are the same, we represent them together, and although we are training towards different goals (as we have most years) I have no doubt that this year will yield lots more fun and silly pictures.

Thank you PIC, Michelley-elley, Fordy-Ford for all of your support, for being my “honesty” meter, for not making things harder than they need to be, for traveling with me, planning with me, schooling me in swimbikerun, for not holding it against me when I school you in bikerun, for sharing recipes, and photos, and lessons learned.

Here’s to another year of fun, we’re gonna kick ass!

Mt.Evans Winter Summit

RITTER SPORT CONTEST? CLICK HERE!

Last year I did a running adventure on Mt.Evans. My knee was smarting pretty bad at the time so I turned around at mile 7, and the boys went all the way to 9.5 before turning around at the lake. I knew, ever since that trip, that one day I wanted to run all the way up to the top. Mt.Evans is what we who live in Colorado call a 14er. It’s a peak who’s summit is 14,000 feet elevation or higher. We have 52-54 of these in Colorado, depending on which list you believe. I have been up 9 of them and none in the winter.

Mt.Evans is one of 2 Co 14ers with a road all the way to the top. I have ridden my bike to the top of Evans, but never run, or walked, for that matter. Saturday I was going for it. I convinced PIC to come some of the way with me since she had a three hour run to do, and at the last minute I convinced Dave to come all the way with me. He said “I haven’t done anything crazy in awhile”. Hang out with Sonja on a regular basis and you’ll get roped into something crazy! Here we are, leaving the parking lot at the Mt. Evans toll booth (closed for the season).

evans01.jpg

My plan was to run all the way up Mt.Evans. I thought it was 11 miles to the top, and then Dave told me he looked it up and it was 14.7. Humm, let’s just ignore that fact for a little while. The first three miles of the road have the most snow because they are in the shady tree line. The road has been closed for several months now and those first 3 are painful as your calves adjust to the hillage and you get warmed up.

Dave in the shade with some road peeking through
evans02.jpg

At about 3 miles you turn a corner and there is the glorious sun shining upon you, with the most amazing views. Suddenly, you feel very happy to be alive, and very happy to be healthy and on the mountain. It’s an Ah-Hah moment and all three of us couldn’t help but get a little giddy.

Michelle in the sun
evans03.jpg

Me in the sun
e1.jpg

You wind your way around, and when the road is in the sun you have no snow to deal with. It’s runnable, although the effect of the altitude really starts to hit. There are no guard rails on the Mt.Evans road so at times you feel like you are running on the edge of the world. It was so clear, and so crisp.

Michelle running on the edge
evans04.jpg

Me
e2.jpg

The views are spectacular, as we wound our way up up up. We didn’t see anyone out there, just some bighorn sheep (in the same place I saw them last year and pointed them out in my video). We ran together most the time, and always within close sight. One person would stop for some reason, the others would go ahead and we rotated around like that for awhile.

Dave having a little solo time.
evans05.jpg

Pointing out sheep
e3.jpg

Too soon, just before mile 7, it came time for PIC to turn back. She’s got a marathon in January and she was being diligent towards that goal (something I’ve just got to break her of…hahahaha). We took some parting shots. Behind us is the summit of Mt.Evans.

The three musketeers, that road behind us is the first of the big switchbacks, at about mile 10ish
evans06.jpg

Finding training partners that you are compatible with is one of the best things in life.
e5.jpg

And then off PIC went, back down the mountian
evans07.jpg

As we ran towards the lake, passing the 9 mile mark we encountered some crazy wind. We hunkered down and just persevered. You would never know it’s windy by this shot. Also, I didn’t notice that it looks like a rainbow threw up on me. That’s kinda my style…I match, by not matching.

Me, on the way to the lake.
evans08.jpg

I had been munchin’ on Sport Beans all along but as we got through the 2.5 hour mark I was craving a little more substance. Justin’s Nut Butter to the rescue. 200 calories of honey almond butter bliss. I have a mouthful of it here, shut me up for awhile too.

Mmm.
evans09.jpg

Dave and I were having an absolute blast and both felt really good. After the lake, around mile 10 the wind was just whipping across the road and it was gorgeous. This also marked the point, mile 10 (on the first switchback) where we realized that it was not 11 to the top, but indeed we had 5 more miles of up up up. We were both feeling great, and were game for it.

wind whipping
evans10.jpg

We wound our way up through switchback after switchback. Back (headwind) and forth (tailwind). We hit a rhythm together and would run in unison without a spoken word. Dave is a great adventure partner, he never complains, he always sees the beauty in things, and when the work needs to be done, he just settles in and does it.

We come around a switchback, and ahhhhhh, there are those views that we so love here in the rockies!
evans11.jpg

At mile 12 we hit a road block. We had been navigating the switchbacks, but boom, we we encountered a wall of snow. Not knowing what the other side looked like, we opted for a little rock climb instead. That was fun!

wall o snow
evans12.jpg

an accidental picture (I was zoomed in) but kinda cool none the less
evans13.jpg

Through the last 5 miles we would alternate “run to the next pole, walk to the next pole”. The running sections felt like intervals on the track. The legs were just loaded and in pain. Then we would walk and they were immediately fine. Walk run walk run. The last 2 miles, we walked. Fast, but walked. The altitude was just crazy, and it was cold, and windy. We arrived at the parking lot at the top, threw on all our down layers, and made the short rock climb up to the summit block. The view was phenominal.

Here’s Dave on top
evans14.jpg

It was time for a mix1 on top…and another Justin’s Nut Butter, and sone Nuun.
evans15.jpg

Dave and I on top
evans16.jpg

We spent 30 minutes or so at the top, and were able to pick out tons of 14ers: Longs Peak, Pikes Peak, Beirstadt, Greys, Torreys, Harvard, Columbia, Lincoln, Democrat, Bross, and Holy Cross. Wow! We were both hesitant to head back down, but alas, it was time to get a move on.

Instead of the switchbacks we off-roaded and rock-hopped our way straight dawn, saving like 3 miles of running. Once we hit the bottom switchback it was pure running all the way home. We ran into one guy on skiis skinning up to the lake at about 7 miles from the car. He was enjoying himself, but rather hung over as well. Ha Ha!

We came around the big horn sheep section and boom, in all his glory, guarding his pack.
evans17.jpg

The last few miles you are always ready to see the parking lot, and before we knew it we were back down to the car. We couldn’t help but be happy to be done and pleased with a fantastic day. 27.4 miles round trip in just a little over 7 hours. 4,000 ft of elevation climb or so. I can now say that I’ve bagged my 10th Colorado 14er (I have 2 in CA, 1 in WA). PIC’s car was gone which meant she was safe. We changed clothes and headed home, with silly grins plastered all over our faces.

Solid Swim Week

This last week felt like one of my more solid weeks in the last couple months in the pool. I hit all 5 days M-F of masters sessions. That meant a 4:25MWF and 4:50TuTh alarm clock setting. I pack my stuff the night before so that I can grab a sandwich and a Mix1 and hit the road. I have started keeping the Mix1‘s in the car, since they are shelf stable. I like them cold and since it’s been quite chilly recently, the car is perfect.

The highlight of the week was the 1500 yard time trial in Susan’s Masters on Thursday. I haven’t done one of these in ages and I felt really good despite feeling lackluster on Wednesday. I broke it into 500’s in my head. I tried to set a steady strong pace for the first one, then up my game for the second, and then bring it home hard for the third. It was a good strategy, and I executed it well, but when I hit the wall to finish, I knew that there was still a little more in me. I didn’t get to that “crazy” point, I was still pretty much in control. I swam a 22:11, which is 1:29/100yds pace. That’s great for me. Happy to leave the 1:30’s.

Then Friday, which is speed day, lived up to it’s name. Paul did a great job getting us to leave it all in the pool. After a couple thousand yards we did 4X100 off the blocks with a 20 second rest after 25 yds. They were all out efforts and I think every one of us thought that would be all and we had and swam accordingly. Then he gave us 4X100 off the wall with a 20 second rest after 75. Again all out. But for me, they were getting faster. Then all out 50’s (one of which was fly, and I even stayed afloat!) and finally all out 25’s. I think we were all really excited when those 25’s came around because we knew he wouldn’t take us back up to 100’s. I’m sure he will play that trick on us at some future session.

So the total yards for this week came it at 20,200, with a PB in my 1500yd. And, the more yards I do, the stronger I feel, and the more like a swimmer I feel. I’m feeling the motivation, feeling the traction. Another couple weeks and I will head back to SwimLabs for another assessment by Mike.

The other nice perk has been my arms. They are really starting to show the swimming progress. I’m not ripped like PIC or anything, but it’s been nice to see some physical progress of my aquatic lifestyle. Check it out.

arms.jpg