Ironman Tahoe – A Run I’ll Never Forget

I get out and running on the course and suddenly there is a guy on a bike with me. I asked if he was my lead biker and he said “are you Sonja Weeeek” and I said “yes” and he said, “then yes.” I was pretty excited about this!

The first mile was very twisty-turny as we wound through the village area, past the finish line, around the parking lots and finally onto the bike path headed towards squaw city. It was really strange to have him calling out to people ahead asking them to move aside. I felt bad about it. They were farther into the run than me, I could go around them.

I was running too fast in the beginning, I knew it while I was doing it, but the adrenaline really got to me. And you have a lead biker, which kinda feels like pressure! Going into this race, because it was last minute, Muddy and I talked and I really didn’t want him to support me much out there. He had other athletes who this was their A race, and even though we both have a lot of fun with the coach/athlete relationship during races I knew his focus needed to be on others. I asked if he could sick Doug on me.

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Who’s Doug!? Well, in 2013 I trained a ton with Doug, he’s coached by Muddy, and he’s one of my favs. In 2013 at IM Tahoe he was racing and I was coaching/spectating/yelling at people. Well, Doug was having a great race but I happened upon him walking, at which point I became his worst nightmare. He did not walk another step after I harassed him into running and continued to torment him for the rest of the race. He was coming to Tahoe to unleash his payback on me! I say this in jest because Doug was my saving grace out there. He appeared every few miles with a calm look on his face. He gave me information, splits, and support when I needed it and was the friendly face I hoped to see around every corner. He didn’t yell at me, he just provided that calm collected support.

I was running and looking for Doug. The first time I saw him was just before mile 2 and he told me I had a 13:57 lead. He literally said “thirteen fifty seven lead.” I gave him a confused look. Like 13 minutes? I asked him, he said yes, and told me Annie had won her wave. I had a fist pump for that. I ran the next few miles thinking about 13 minutes and envisioning my daughter winning her wave.

I know that deficits like that get run down, but in the moment I was wondering what I should be thinking about with that information. Do you play it safe? Take some risks? What do I do? I kept running, that was my plan.

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It was hot out. Not a cloud was in the sky and Tahoe is dry dry dry. I tried to keep drinking as much as I could. That was my goal, get the OSMO down in large quantities. At mile four I came across Muddy and he told me Rob was up ahead. YAY Rob! I soon saw him and pulled up beside him. He had the best words for me, and he ran with me for a little while. That was a highlight of my day.

At mile 4-5ish we left the 70.3 course for a 10 mile out and back section. Muddy was there and so was Doug. Muddy told me I needed to take my own split at the out and back because nobody was going to follow me out there. Doug told me I had a 17 minute lead. I got on the out and back and it was desolate. Totally desolate.

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But I had my biker. He had spent most the time after mile 1 behind me. He said something about not going in front of me because I wasn’t allowed to draft and so he stayed behind. I secretly was bummed about this. On the out and back he came up beside me and I told him I really liked that. He said “I don’t think this is pacing so I’ll stay here for a little while.” I was thankful for that. There were sections of this course where I couldn’t see anyone ahead for as far as I could see.

Eventually the lead men started coming back the other way and I got excited for them. They all looked strong. I came across my friend Eric who had passed me on the bike. I knew he wanted a Kona spot so I tried to convince him to run with me. We ran together for a little while and chatted. He’s a big dude and the heat ate him up a little out there. He will get there though, definitely has the talent!

At the turn around at mile 9.25 I looked at my watch so I could take a split and then spent my time looking for the number two woman. Every time I would make it another quarter mile I would look at my watch. I set a secret goal to hit the mile 11 marker before I saw #2 and it was right there that she went by looking quite fierce I might add. I had a 24 minute lead at mile 11. I then spent several miles thinking about how many minutes per mile I could slow down if she was running 7 min pace and still win. Math while racing is hard and I eventually gave up.

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Thinking back, I would have thought that this would have provided me with a lot of comfort, knowing I had a big lead. But it didn’t. I was nervous. I know that anything can happen out there and I’ve watched people go from leading an Ironman to in the ambulance in a matter of miles. I found myself to be super outcome focused (winning) rather than being process focused (doing my best). In retrospect I’m glad for that experience. Glad to know that’s where my head went in this situation, and excited to be able to work on that area of mental skills. Outcome focused is not a place I enjoy racing in, so I have some work to do there.

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I made it back to town around mile 17. I had slowed down quite a bit, and my feet hurt. I was feeling pretty dehydrated, and hot, and yet the crowd in town really lifted me up. The second loop is 8 or 9 miles and started with a few miles of downhill. I loved those miles. The course was mostly all Ironman athletes at this point and I remember hearing Elizabeth (new RTTC athlete) cheering for me which really gave a boost. Doug was still there at every junction giving the smiles and cheers I needed.

Most of that last loop is a blur but I do remember running into my friend Sean who said something to the effect of “Who’s that sexy woman winning an Ironman.” He sure knows how to talk to a girl who is covered in spit, snot, urine, sweat, salt, other peoples spit, other peoples snot….you get my drift!  I was thankful for the hilarity he provided. The final turn around on that loop was heaven. I was so excited to be heading home. The number 2 woman was putting time into me.

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Doug told me at mile 22 or 23 that I had a 21 minute lead. I started doing the math and knew then that something major had to happen to lose. But it was late in the race and I was tired and moving slowly. I made my way and before I knew it I had 1 mile to go.

Suddenly, I had all the energy in the world. I had pretty much ignored my lead biker for 25 miles but suddenly I was telling him my life story, and thanking him for being there for me. I was all jibber jabber and I could hear everyone around me saying “That’s the winner” and “shes in the lead” My biker went in front of me and as we wound through the crowd in town I was overjoyed. Rob (who I ran with earlier) and his wife Trina and their friends were leaning over a balcony that I ran under and seeing them got me really happy. Tony and Jody were there too and I was overjoyed to see them. The biker peeled off and suddenly there I was in the chute and they had a finish banner all held out like I was a PRO or something.

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The guy was announcing just like all the Ironmans I had watched and the crowd was totally there for me. I high fived as many people as I could and I broke the tape (what?) and tried to jump. Then I tried to jump again. It was a finish worthy of two jumps.

 

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The rest was a bit of a blur but I the one moment I remember is looking through the crowd behind the finish line for Muddy and seeing him standing on a little cement wall. We made eye contact and I pointed at him and we just smiled.

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Then the announcer asked if I would be willing to go back into the crowd and answer some questions. I said sure. This is all right away. I remember very little but I do remember him asking me if I ever thought I would win an Ironman.

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And the only reason I tell this story, is honestly, because someone told one of my friends that I didn’t seem very humble in this moment. So, I’m going here. (It’s uncomfortable though)

So I get asked this question by the announcer….did I think I could win?…and I pause. In my excited state I’m thinking “how do I answer this?” Honest or Demure….how does one go here? During the pause I can hear people in the crowd, I think half of them are my fellow Muddy athletes like Jenesse and Alli yelling “YES!!!” and I decided to say “Yes, you have to believe to achieve.”

 

It’s so interesting to me that I got the “not very humble” comments for this, not to my face, but in that lovely “I was taking to so and so and …” kind of way. A few weeks ago I sent out a survey to triathletes, anonymous, asking if I could give them a special magical gift as a coach, what would it be? Do you know the number one answer?

Confidence.

So, I have to, as a coach, bring some light to this issue, not because I’m upset that someone thinks I’m not humble, but because there is a bit of an interesting standard here, and as a coach, I jump at teachable moments. Many athletes, especially women, are out there wishing they had more confidence, says the data. But I ask myself, what does confidence look like? Sometimes, it looks like thinking you can win. Me thinking I could win wasn’t a pie in the sky idea, I have won the amateur race at two Ironmans. If that doesn’t build the confidence for me to think I can win what would? I’ll actually go out on a limb here and say that in order to actually win, thinking you can win is both wanted and necessary. But here comes the kicker, are you allowed to say that? If you speak that truth (the truth that is absolutely necessary) are you now a pompous ass hat? It’s my opinion that we need to celebrate women who show confidence, especially in sport. One of the big reasons why I think women don’t believe in themselves is because they are afraid of being judged as arrogant, or implied that they shouldn’t have said such a statement, like I said. In fact, when I first started working with Muddy he told me the reason I wasn’t reaching my potential was because I didn’t believe in myself. The truth is I was a people pleasing mo-fo, constantly scared of criticism and judgement, and hustling for my worthiness. We worked on that for years. One thing I have learned is that with confidence and success comes criticism….not the possibility of criticism, the certainty of criticism.

And from the always awesome BB:

“If you’re going to show up and be seen, there is only one guarantee, and that is, you will get your ass kicked … That’s the only certainty you have. If you’re going to go in the arena and spend any time in there whatsoever, especially if you’ve committed to creating in your life, you will get your ass kicked …”   –Brene Brown

Okay, rant over!

I waited for 2nd and 3rd to come through the finish and Korbel was there asking us to do a champagne spray. I can definitely check that one off my bucket list. I always wondered if after those champagne spray situations people smelled like booze. The answer is yes, yes you do. My finisher medal STILL smells like champagne. I have to give a huge thank you to the ladies I shared the podium with. I enjoyed getting to know them after the race, great ladies!

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The rest of the evening was awesome. I watched as two of my athletes became Ironman finishers once again. I shared drinks and food and celebration with many friends, and I went to sleep that evening knowing that I had raced an Ironman from start to nearly finish with pure joy in my heart. Okay, there were some dicy moments in that run, but for the most part, I felt very thankful for this awesome adventurous life.

Thank you to my amazing sponsors, you have been awesome this year at letting me explore my boundaries, and infuse more fun into the sport. Thank you Coeur, Tribella, QR, Osmo, LifeBeam, Honey Stinger, Punk Rock Racing, and YAY!

Huge thank you to Muddy for the whole enchilada. There are no words. Thank you Troy and Annie for always being there for me through thick and thin.

Also, big thank you to Doug for the on course support and Anthony for being my travel buddy on this trip (and Mo and Jody, an Mik and Audra and Brian)

And lastly thank you to Audra and Mikki, my fellow Rising Tide coaches. This trip was amazing with the both of you. I’m so grateful you are in my life.

I’m really sad that Ironman Lake Tahoe is now a discontinued race. Ironman did not renew the contract and I understand why. In three years, they got one successful year. That’s a hard business venture. I am so thankful to the communities we visited, the friends I made in the area, and the locals hospitality. Next year, although a race won’t be happening, I’ll still be out there training for Kona on the course, and making more sweet memories.

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Ironman Tahoe – The Bike Course I Have Been Waiting For

So, the Tahoe Bike, I was in 6th and 6 minutes down. We got going and it was cold, but not 2013 cold, just a little bite to the air. As I have said a million times I was really excited to ride the course. It’s 2.5 loops and the first section you will end up riding 3 times before T2. This section was fast, and fun and is punctuated with a little hill they call Dollar Hill. It’s fun because the first loop I was like “yay dollar hill” and then the third loop I was like “YAY DOLLAR HILL”

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My friends Michael and Brandon were on Dollar hill and I knew they would be. I was stoked to see them and had nothing but smiles and joy. They were cheering up a storm with loud booming voices and I felt just like they did! Dollar Hill was the first time I noticed that my rear wheel was rubbing on my frame. This became a fun game for me. If I pedaled really stable and stayed in aero, it wouldn’t rub. If I got out of the saddle or let my core relax, it rubbed. I thought about why it might be happening when it wasn’t the day before and deduced that it was because my tires were at 115psi and that expansion made my wheel rub.

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After Dollar Hill I got back in aero and worked on pushing the next section of the race. There is a lot of flat and downhill on this course and that’s a strong area for me, especially since I haven’t been in the mountains as much this year. One thing I know I’m good at is getting in aero, finding that uncomfortably comfortable place, and just nailing it. Very little movement in my body, glued to my bike in aero, staying squarely in the moment. I almost crave race day for this very opportunity, it’s almost meditative for me, that pure focus on the moment.

The vally between Tahoe City and Truckee was cold. I got cold, my hands got cold, and my feet got cold. Luckily I don’t seem to get aggravated by the cold. Everything for me goes a bit numb and less functional, but it’s not painful for me. I know others experience different reactions, some get the shakes, some get very painful coldness. I just go numb. And sometimes I ride too hard because my legs are numb and I can’t quite tap into them.

I was just happy. Through Truckee it was awesome, lots of cheering and it’s the cutest mountain town. Then we were onto the new out and back section that they added. I loved the edition. On the way out it was road, then we climbed and got onto a bike path. We had a fun descent then it was bike path on the way back and was super fun to race down. There was very little passing in this section. Although I did get passed by Ciaran to which he said “Sonja your wheel is rubbing” to which I said “I know”…hahahah!

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Because of the big week of training my heart rate was nice and behaved. It wasn’t spiking when I got excited, and I didn’t spend a lot of time looking at it, I just checked in every once in awhile. Thank you tame heart rate!

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Then we got to the big daddy climb up Brockway. In years past training on this course and getting ready for Kona I have had some wild experiences on Brockway and I’ll tell you about a few. One time (at training camp) I rode up Brockway at 255 watts, at 5 beats below my Ironman heart rate (what what?!). For those of you in the know, this is really huge wattage for someone my size. It was nothing for me on that day, I could do no wrong, I remember thinking I was the queen of the world that day.

Another day I was kaput and I remember riding up Brockway and my watts were 117 and I was at Ironman heart rate. Quite the opposite situation. This particular day I was about to start crying (my go to reaction when I need rest from the training…took years to figure this out) and I remember riding up Brockway saying to myself “Damn it Sonja, do not cry. Whatever you do…do. not. cry….look at those trees, those are damn beautiful trees…it is gorgeous here…don’t you dare cry, be thankful, your life is great…don’t you dare shed one tear.” I talked to myself this way all the way up Brockway. Coach was at the top and I pulled in, not crying, holding it in, keeping my cool. I was way behind the group and he looked at me and said “you okay kid?”

to which….I lost it….balling. I was good until he asked! I still remember him taking my bike and telling me to get in the truck, then he put my bike in the back, got in the drivers side, and said “kid, just let it out”

So yes, I have MAD CRAZY memories of riding up Brockway Pass. On this day, I smiled. Coach was half way up the pass cheering, he told me I was in 3rd, and 1 minute down to first. And then he told me that Annie was out of the water 2nd in her wave. And I looked at him like “what?” and he was like “Annie, your daughter.”

That floored me. My daughter decided last minute to race a kids tri the day that I raced Tahoe. It gutted me that I couldn’t’ be there to see her race. Gutted me! In fact, the entire dolphin pod knew I was gutted so they all went to the race and cheered for her….for me… (typing that makes me cry). Muddy had talked to Troy and he kept me updated on Annies race the whole time I was racing. I think some of you moms who race triathlon can feel me here when I say this was one of the most special things someone has done for me. Thanks Mud!

That news added to my joy. As far as how I rode up Brockway…easy. On a course with two major climbs you don’t make your moves on the climbs. You make them on the downs and flats, so I rode up like I was out for a social ride, and I took it all in. Because there was no pro field when I passed my way into second woman literally half the spectators screamed “Second Woman, she’s right there.” For a few miles I had to say “yes, thank you, yes thank you, yes, i know, thank you” It was awesome. So many thank yous!

Once down Brockway on the flat again I passed into first with a “rock on” and just kinda thought about that for a second. No pro field I know, but it felt special, I won’t lie.

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When I went up dollar hill the second time, this time leading the women’s race, Brandon and Michael were screaming up a storm. That made me feel awesome. After I saw them it was business time. From then on, for the rest of the race, it was heads down, balls to the wall. I was in the front of the race, and people were very spread out, so I rode for miles without seeing another person on the course. When I stopped into special needs to replace all of my bottles with fresh bottles I let some air out of my tire. That fixed the wheel rub for the most part. Sweet!

When I went by Squaw vally, I was going about 30mph and coach was on the side of the road and all I could hear was him yelling F-bombs. He does that when he gets happy! He’ll yell “F*$& Yea” and it always makes me laugh!

The last loop I put my head down and enjoyed the pain. My body had thawed and I could really TT it out and feel every sensation in my body. That is why I love Ironman, you are stripped down to the feeling of the movement. It was my favorite part of the day. Climbing Brockway a second time I took it all in, absorbed the beauty around me, and pushed a little harder. The third time up dollar hill my friends were gone and that got me excited. I knew all the spectators were making their way up to Squaw to cheer on the runners and I couldn’t’ wait to get there.

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The last 4 miles, and this ALWAYS happens in Ironman…. all the familiar faces from the bike reconvene. It’s so funny but you make friends out there even if you don’t talk. You go back and forth with people and you know them from what they are wearing. Then you drop some people or they drop you, but it always ends up that the last 4 miles everyone comes back together. Like magnets.

Up to squaw I could see there were lots of people on the course doing the 70.3, lots of spectators, lots of fun! All the 70.3 athletes were out on the run and my first thoughts were on Anthony and Jody who raced (they both rocked, Jody got a worlds slot, Anthony was 2nd overall and won his AG). I was excited to get running myself.

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Into T2 I ran into the tent and most the 70.3 racers had transitioned so the tent had 2 athletes in it. The volunteers were standing in there and I could tell they weren’t going to help me at all. They were checking their phones and hanging out, lounging, not concerned with the athletes at all, which is cool, no judging! Haha! I came in yelling “LET’S GO LADIES, I’M THE FIRST WOMAN OFF THE BIKE, I NEED HELP” they all kinda jumped up and sprang to action. I think I scared them. In fact I know I scared them! Transition was really quick and I was off and running. Thank you volunteers!! Sorry for the scare!

Ironman Tahoe – The Swim Where I Actually Swam Straight

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I love starting off Ironman days with a good nights sleep, and the night before Tahoe I slept like a bear. I was down for the count!

On race morning we loaded up the car and headed to Squaw Resort. Mikki, and I were racing the full, Tony and Jody were racing the 70.3. We drove the car to Squaw in the morning so it would be at the finish when we were done, and then we took the bus back to the start. From there we all broke up and did our own thing to get ready for the race. I found my super secret real bathroom and enjoyed every minute of not having to use the port-a-potty. It was still mostly dark when they let us into the water for a warm up swim. I had a really nice warm up swim, the water temp was refreshing. I always feel so warm on race morning because I’m all amped up to race, so the refreshing water helped me get grounded and brought me back to solid earth.

After 10 minutes they pulled us out and we lined up. I lined up right behind the 1:00-1:10 sign and there were my friends Kyle and Eric! It was such a boost to see them all excited and nervous at the same time. The music was amazing and I was dancing and grooving and so pumped up. It’s really funny, the 30 minutes before Ironman used to be what I hated THE MOST out of racing Ironmans. One year before Arizona I remember saying to myself “I should quit the sport”. That’s how nervous I used to get! Now, I don’t feel nervous at all, at least not that sick to your stomach, anxiety that I used to get. But I can still see it on the faces of other people. That’s why looking around in the starting corral is one of my new favorite things to do. It’s like a replay of all the emotional states I have been through in the sport.

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Now a days, I just dance. I dance and groove, and let out a little bit of the energy. That’s my sweet spot!

I got the Iolite thing going on my goggles and shortly after that they blew the cannon. I was across the starting line about 1 minute after the cannon blew. I am not a fan of the new wave start for the Ironman. I hate that there is this gap out there on the race course and that you don’t have to physically pass someone to beat them. But, it is what it is, and I have to adapt, because that’s the format and I can’t moan about it. I have to move past my discomfort! I’m working on it.

I ran out in the water, it’s very shallow for quite awhile and finally you can start swimming. I sighted super straight for some fifteen or so strokes until the Iolite flashed at me that it had a fix and then I swam to that little green light. When it would turn yellow I would self correct and it was so darn fun. I didn’t really swim on any particular feet for that first section, I just swam to the green light in my goggles and tried to focus on swimming like I do in the pool. Once I hit the first turn buoy I tested the turn feature out and sure enough it corrected super quick. I started stretching out my stroke and just thinking long and strong. Also, I smiled. I felt great and the water was cool and refreshing.

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At the second turn buoy I found some feet to swim on. It was crazy because I usually look for feet and then stick to them like glue but with the Iolite when the feet veer off course I kept straight and just found another set of feet up ahead. I forgot how fun swimming with 1000 people is because there are ample feet and bubbles to follow. Lake Tahoe is crystal clear so you can look all around under water, which I did. I would look at people beside me and smile.

Finishing the first lap was fun because you don’t have to exit the water, but you swim in shallow water for 100 meters or so before starting loop two. For some reason I got a big kick out of that. I also had figured out that when you swim straight, and you are honed in on the buoys, you actually run into the buoys. I was running into like every one of them.

On the second loop the sun was coming up off my left shoulder and it was flipping AMAZING. Between staring at the sun, and the green light in my goggles, I just relaxed into the swim and was happy as a clam. Long and strong, long and strong. The last straightaway I found a great set of feet to swim on. It was a woman and she swam so darn straight. I pondered how on earth she was doing that without an Iolite, a serious talent. Some day I’m going to have to learn how it’s done. I stuck on her feet most of the way to the swim exit.

I exited the swim and the clock read low 59. I was stunned and confused. I looked down at my watch and it was 7:39. We had started the swim at 6:40 and I was in disbelief. Now, it seems there were a lot of fast times, including my 58:06 but I also feel that I swam a lot better than I usually do, and I think swimming straight was a major game changer for me. Just thinking back to Santa Cruz, I’m really wasting time out there when I get off course. So, yes the swim was a little short, or maybe it was the fact that we got to run for awhile in the shallow bit before we started swimming. Either way, I felt great about my swim, I was the 10th woman out of the water.

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We ran up this huge sandy hill in T1, grabbed our bags, and then they headed us inside a building to transition. This was an awesome move for Ironman to make. No more crammed cold tent.  It was warm and carpeted in there. I cringe to think about how we must have left that transition area when the race was done. Ew. I was really quick through transition just opting for my shoes, socks, helmet and a set of arm warmers. I stay warm easily, so I wasn’t’ worried. I grabbed my fancy Quintana Roo PRSix and was through transition in 3:46. Muddy was yelling at me at the mount line that I was in 6th place and 6 minutes down on 1st. Game on!

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Santa Cruz 70.3 2015

Six months ago Muddy and I planned this fun epic double for the middle of the summer as good training block for my A race of the year which is Ironman Los Cabos on Oct 25th. He thought it would be awesome if I raced Santa Cruz 70.3 and then we headed up to Tahoe to train for a week and then raced Tahoe 70.3. That sounded epic and awesome and I thought it would be my kind of really good fun. My big Brother Beeson has been training under Muddy since the beginning of the year and I was hoping he would jump on board as well since we are both targeting Cabo for the year. Sure enough he did!

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It was awesome traveling with Tony, he’s super calm and chill and level headed. I seem to surround myself with people with those traits since I tend to be the opposite at times!

We headed out Friday morning, and Mo came along for Santa Cruz as well. We rented a sweet little place in Santa Cruz, a few miles from the race. Audra met us up there later in the afternoon Friday, and Brian her boyfriend came later that evening. Our little group of five had an absolute blast over the weekend. When we rolled out Monday my cheeks hurt from the laughing. It was awesome!

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I knew the race was stacked, it’s close to the bay area, a perfect tune up for those headed to Kona, and well, Hailey was racing…so it was going to be fast!!

Going into the race I was so happy. I LOVE Santa Cruz. It reminds me a lot of where I grew up in Los Osos with the water and the beach and the salty morning air. It feels like home. After a hug from Mo I went off to warm up and noticed there was a little chop. I was excited to test myself on a hard swim course.

In the lineup chute I was just so happy. They were playing the best music, and I was dancing. I really was dancing. I get so excited during the few minutes before a race these days and I was JAZZED. I stood next to Hailey and Christine and tried to soak in some of their last minute speed. It was a repeat of Vineman where I knew Hailey would go for Christines feet and I would not do that so as to not blow up, but would try to limit the time gap back.

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It’s a running start which I loved and I was in the water on the left side before I knew it smiling at Hailey on every breath to the right, then she dropped me. I ended up over on the right…yes I crossed the field and swam like a drunken monkey. That’s my MO…drunken monkey swimming. The first turn buoy I was way right and had to swim back left for 50 meters to get around it. (Sneak peak of the Rising Tide kits!!)

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Then we made our way to the second turn buoy in which I thought about sharks the whole darn time. Don’t think about sharks Sonja…SHARKS. Don’t think about sharks….white sharks, tiger sharks, black tip sharks, bull sharks, leopard sharks. All I could think about was sharks!
I ended up way right of the second turn buoy and again had to turn left and swim all the way back to the darn thing, cussing at myself the whole time. Finally, it was the home stretch and I could just aim for the beach. I found some feet to swim on and stuck to them like glue because I had so far failed at the proper route finding. (KK, Hailey and my bikes all smashed together after the race….the best)

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I exited the swim really stoked! It was technical, and I got a bit lost out there, but I had a blast and I thought it was an amazing course. I wish I could swim it more often!

We had a long run up to T2 and I was very happy that they swept the bike path. I ran it barefoot but luckily my feet were still pretty cold and numb from the swim that I didn’t feel any of the rocks I was stepping on until later that evening.

Onto the bike Muddy was at the top of the first little hill yelling that I was down 3:20. That seemed about right and I got to work seeing what cards I had been dealt for the day. Going into this race the training was interesting. I had to get over the pneumonia from Norseman which was challenging but once I was over it Muddy slammed me. We had several 30+ hour weeks and then race week he backed off everything. I felt rested going in, and sometimes that means my heart rate goes through the roof. Sure enough I get out on the bike and my 70.3 perceived exertion was 171 heart rate. Sigh. I hate resting, it just doesn’t not help me out much.

I keep at it and hoped it would go down but it didn’t. I’ve been in this place before and raced just fine so I took a few deep breaths and kept the pedal to the metal. I thought the course was absolutely stunning and the addition of the hill off of the PCH was fantastic. Somewhere on the hill Jenesse came flying by me and I was cursing Muddy for making her so strong on the bike. She’s one to watch! Mom power! I cought Alli in here as well and again was cursing Muddy because she was riding like a beast as well. I love how Muddy turns everyone into uber bikers! Cycling gluts unite (AKA big butts)!

The descent was definitely sketchy and a few miles after the descent a guy repassed me all bloody. I was feeling for him. At the turn around I saw Hailey and I took a split, 2 minutes. Okay, a little progress. But her head was down and she was in go mode. Oh lordy.

The way back was awesome. We had a tail wind and we were flying along the coast. It was beautiful with the ocean off our right shoulder, some surfers, some whales. It was just stunning. I was really happy and actually found focusing on the race a little challenging at times.

Into T2 I felt good and ready to run. The first hill really packs a punch and Muddy told me I was three minutes down to Hailey again. There was also another awesome athlete that I haven’t raced before KILLING our age group. She was long gone. I got to work running and man I felt heavy. I’m starting to see this trend when I ride at a really high HR, my run pays the price, not so much in speed as in feeling. I just feel doggy. I worked as hard as I could out there. Anthony passed me early on and I told him there was one guy in his AG up ahead, whom had passed me on the bike. Off he went, running so strong and fast!

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I loved the scenery and I thought the course was awesome. You ran along the cliff for a few miles, then cut inland to a bike path along the PCH, then it went on to a dirt trail which was really awesome. At the end of the dirt trail out on the bluff they had this HUGE TIKI carving that acted as the turn around. It was a super cool element and I gave it a kiss as I ran around it.

On the way out Mark, Haileys hubby passed me on my his bike and asked “do you know where Hailey is” I was like “3 minutes up”

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And I was right. I made zero time on her! She is so fit. The entire run back I ran and enjoyed, tried to push as hard as I could, but also enjoyed the moment. The final stretch you run on the sand on the beach, under the pier and through the deep sand up to the finish chute. It was so hard!!! I would try to run on the hard pack, but then the waves would get you and soak your shoes! It felt like an old school tri finish.

I crossed the line 3rd in our AG, and 5th amateur. It was a great day for our house crew. Audra won her AG and ran a 1:30. Tony had a sprint finish and tied for the win in his AG, Mo PRed and broke 6, and Brian finished his first in 5:30 (speedster).

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It was a great day for our little house and we celebrated that evening with….ice cream of course!

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Norseman Final Thoughts

The Norseman Video for 2105 that the race puts on has come out. I’m in it, at the beginning talking, and then also at the end crying with Andrew.

I knew I wanted to write one final post on Norseman, but man, I knew it was going to hurt. Maybe not so much for you, but definitely for me.

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Before I get into that, some gratitude is in order. My sponsors this year have been terrific. Liz and James at Tribella helped me out in such a huge way for this race. James completely overhauled my bike, changing out both cassettes, installing lights, and dealing with new wheel sets, only to change everything back a few weeks after the race. It was a huge amount of work. Also, not a sponsor, but equally as helpful was Mo Zornes. Coeur is still in process for developing true blue cold weather gear but Hincapie has a full line and Mo got me set up with a full set of cold weather gear, and sublimated Coeur logos everywhere so I could rep my beautiful sponsor. Thank you Mo with Hincapie! QR got me a bigger size frame this year which I am so very thankful for! Osmo and Honey Stinger have made nutrition decisions second nature and my gut is happy. Who can ask for more? And lastly, I need to thank YAY, for reminding me constantly why I am in this sport….unbridled enthusiasm!

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My deepest gratitude goes to my husband Troy, daughter Annie, and my good friends Laura and Andrew. They really made this race happen for me. I wouldn’t have a black shirt without all four of them and I am deeply grateful for that black shirt. My whole team deserves that shirt. Also a huge thank you to Muddy and to Andrea who have been there for me this year like no other.

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Okay, the nitty gritty. Lets do this.

People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses”

— Brene Brown (Rising Strong)

Reading this quote this morning is what made me put my book down, turn on my computer, and begin to crank this post out. It’s been rolling around in my head without the guts to get it out. Hopefully I’ve inserted enough cute pictures…my go to when talking about stuff that scares me.

A few things have been going on in my life the last 9 months. I’ve been in the trenches of life. I’ve lost relationships this last year, and it F*&$%ing hurts every day. I’m an outgoing social girl by nature, and I care deeply for the health and happiness of those around me. The loss of close relationships has beaten the shit out of me.

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And over this year as I tried to work through the changes, I also started Rising Tide Triathlon Coaching. I’m sure it comes as no surprise to know that I love coaching others in the sport. I wanted to use this down year in sport to build a new business, with a new framework, and to move beyond one on one coaching the 12 athletes I have stuck to for the past few years. I needed to bring on help, lots of help, and Audra, Andrea, Mikki, Mo, and KDO, etc have really risen to the occasion, I thank them daily!

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When I look back on the last 9 months, I feel like I have done zero work, and boatloads of work, all at once. I feel like I have little to show, and yet, I know the invisible structures that needed to be built are there. A strong business has a strong foundation, and I’ve worked hard on that this year so that rolling out flashy products over the next few months is now becoming possible. Yay.

As I was building my biz, I was training for this big Norwegian race and I was at odds with myself. I could not for the life of me figure out how to find balance between training and working my business, something I ask every single one of my athletes to do on a daily basis. I could not live what I preached and I was really down on myself over that fact. In recent weeks I have started to see some success on this front, after having tried about 5 different daily plans. I must say, to those of you with family, full time jobs, or your own businesses, and triathlon lifestyles, I am deeply bowing down to you….deep bow.

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Through this time period, everyone was asking me what I was training for and I found myself telling them about Norseman, how hard it was, how much climbing, how cold the water was, etc. I called it the hardest single day Ironman in the world.

As the race got closer and I went to San Jose to train for several weeks, I was a mess. Frankly, I had lost a boatload of fitness, in my mind. Now, coach got me back in a good place for Vineman and I surprised myself there, but I continued to reinforce the feeling that I wasn’t fit enough for Norseman. I didn’t really even know how much fitness I needed for Norseman, it’s not like I had completed the race in the past, but I was still at odds with myself on the fitness front.

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So, with that background laid out, here’s where the shit gets real.

I found out 10 days after Norseman, when I finally was able to make it to the doctor in the states (try finding a doctor in Norway….impossible…we tried) that I had pneumonia and two sinus infections. Now, I didn’t race with the sinus infections, those developed after the race, but I did race Norseman with pneumonia. It took me a month to recover from having done so, and the weeks after the race were pretty rough. I pretty much emotionally lost my marbles in the most gorgeous country in the world.

As I processed what happened, I realized a few pretty shitty things.

One, I spent a lot of time telling people how hard it was going to be. Two, I believed deep in my heart, despite what came out my mouth, that I couldn’t compete at the top.

And a quick aside about that. I had this ahh-hah the other day. Whenever you are placed in a situation of vulnerability you always have deeply held beliefs about your capabilities. You know, in the SOUL, what you feel deep down? And often times, what comes out our mouth is different than those deep beliefs. Example: I can feel confident in my soul and then chose to say “I feel confident” or I can oppose that confidence and do some posturing like “Oh, we’ll see how it goes, it might be ugly.” Right? So sometimes our soul is in alignment with our mouth, and sometimes they are in opposition. Sometimes we use the mouth to try to convince our soul to believe something different.

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I had this going on with Norseman. When people asked me, my words were “I’m going to try to win” but my soul was in the opposite place, it didn’t think I could compete at the top with the training I had done (or failed to do).

So my Ahh-hah the other day was that the SOUL ALWAYS WINS and your words can either help it out, or they can simply represent bullshit. Words in misalignment with the soul are bullshit. Sometimes we call it humble, or sandbagging. Really, it’s misalignment. The soul doesn’t lie, and I’m telling you now, what I deeply believe, is the outcome I seem to get….every darn time.

So, getting back to the main subject here, and the telling of the truth about my story, here’s where I got to in the end.

I’m not this badass (or stupid girl as some have told me) who raced Norseman with pneumonia. It’s not unfortunate, or bad luck, or the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. It’s not something to be commended, or added onto the race with an *.

I got exactly what I believed I deserved. I put into the universe, at a soul level, two things: ONE that it was going to be the hardest single day event of my life, and TWO that I couldn’t compete with those at the top. And low and behold the universe gifted me pneumonia which made the race: ONE the hardest single day event of my life, and TWO rendered me unable to compete with the girls at the top.

I flipping upper limited myself with my thoughts, and the way life works, I got exactly what I put out there. I’m not a girl who got pneumonia and raced anyway. I’m a girl who gave herself pneumonia because she was too scared to surrender to what the experience had to offer her.

And you know, getting down to that nitty gritty…sucked.

To realize that I brought that miserable experience on myself, and that if I had only remained open (in my soul) to many different outcomes, and many different possibilities, maybe the race day and experience would have looked very different, well, I kick myself over that one. Opportunity missed.

Going forward, I learned a big lesson here. I take with me the reminder to be very mindful of my deep beliefs. To guard and nurture those beliefs like my life (and my life experiences) depend on it, because they do. It took a really hard and tough experience to net me that nugget of awesomeness, but I won’t waste it. It was hard fought for.

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And with that huge chunk of vulnerability on a Friday morning…I’m going to go swimming in Lake Tahoe to shake it all off! Peace out friends!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Tomorrow…my insights…


 

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Norseman 2015 The Bike

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

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

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

It’s free so we can see if I suck at it, or if you all like it.  SIGN UP HERE

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The Norseman bike ride:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I actually passed back some people on these middle climbs and would tell them good job. This was when I figured out that Norwegians don’t do that. They don’t talk to other people and when I would say “Good Job” they would give me this really funny look. But, it felt good to me, so I kept saying it. The crews on the other hand were great and many of them would cheer for me as well. Many crews would hop their person every few miles, but Troy and Andrew timed their SAG much farther apart so I would see other peoples crew team multiple times before I saw mine. Which way was better? Who knows… both worked.
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I remained in a similar pattern for the middle three climbs and finally found myself at the base of the last climb. Everyone says that this is the worst one. I also read that your crew can get stuck if you don’t time it right and you will beat them to T2. I didn’t want that to happen so I had told Troy the night before to just provide me SAG at the bottom of the climb and then drive to transition and I would ride the last 40k without SAG. So I got my last handoff from them, was in pretty good spirits and off they went.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Norseman 2015 The Cold Swim

It’s HERE! The Norseman Blog!! I’ve finally put down all the juicy details about this epic race, along with some really good insights I got from the experience. This post was delayed for a few reasons. ONE, I’ve been working hard on the back end of Rising Tide Triathlon Coaching which has been amazing (if you reached out to me for coaching recently, I’m so jazzed! Thank you!).

TWO, this race took some serious reflection before I could extract the good insight out of it. It actually happened on a ride just this week and I had to pull over and record a voice memo to myself so I wouldn’t lose the AHHH-HAH!! Look for that blog in a few days.

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Before I launch into it… I’ve been talking to LOTS of athletes these days. I keep asking and asking and asking what they are looking for in coaching, what they want me to put out there, and what is missing in the industry. It’s been really neat, and if I haven’t talked to you yet and you have something to tell me on this topic, feel free to comment below. So, one thing that kept coming up when I asked what people wanted from me was more “triathlon hacks.” The little mental tricks, or the efficiently tricks that I seem to always be looking for, sharing, blogging, etc. Well, people want more of that! Okay, I say, I see where that would make a lot of sense. So, as a tester, I’m going to do it.

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

It’s free so we can see if I suck at it, or if you all like it. 

SIGN UP HERE

Okay, enough is enough….. What’s it’s like to swim in 50 degree water? …let’s do this.
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The lead up to Norseman wasn’t exactly smooth sailing for me. A week before the race I started to cough a bit. My first reaction was “no big deal”, the race is a week away. It’s not exactly ideal to travel sick, but I had a week to get better and MANY of you assured me I would be fine. As the days before the race went by I got worse, but I expected that. On Wednesday I had a really bad day and just could barely function. My cough was deep in my chest and not very productive. I wasn’t coughing up green goo, it was lots of clear and really painful. I posted FB videos every day and tried to keep my chin up, I was in Norway, it really wasn’t that hard!

On Thursday we traveled to Eidfjord (swim start town) and I swam in the fjord. I felt it was really important to do a test swim since the water was “the coldest this time of year since 1963” as we got told over and over again. I traveled to Norway with my wetsuit, earplugs, neoprene cap (with the little strap under the chin) and spare swim caps. But after a scary email from the race director on Tuesday Troy scoped out a surf shop and then I dragged myself there to purchase a neoprene vest, booties, and a full hood that went down your entire neck and into your wetsuit.

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So, I felt prepared for the test swim. Except the bad cough part.

Boy was I wrong. I actually had no idea how I was going to swim 2.4 miles after just a 20 minute test swim. I’m a really hearty girl, but DANG that was FREEZING…put an F-word in front of freezing, that’s how cold it was. I still get cold thinking about it. Turns out I was a bit clueless and swam very near where a river feeds into the fjord and so I actually swam in 47 degree water. The swim TANKED me, I ended up walking out of the restaurant we went to afterwards and falling asleep in the car for 4 hours.

Click on the Facebook Link below if you didn’t see my test swim video.

https://www.facebook.com/sonja.wieck/videos/10206169967461612/?l=278620508603185535

Because I was so under the weather, Troy did everything. Every single thing. He put my bike together (a first) and got everything ready for the race. I slept, and tried to enjoy the hours I was awake. Norway is the most gorgeous place I have ever visited in my life, hands down!

Friday I did an 18 mile test ride from our hotel to the race meeting. I coughed and spit my way through it, but did convince myself that it was possible to ride a bike in this condition. The pre-race meeting was crazy. The whole thing was dark. We were all in this auditorium and they started it off with some traditional music and then played last years video, which we all had watched….ohhhh….300 times by then. I have that thing memorized! They told us billion times to be nice to our crew and to follow the rules. There are a lot of rules for the athlete and the crew since this race is totally self supported. The roads are not closed, you must obey all traffic laws, and your crew must not endanger ANY racers by making sketchy Tour de France driving moves. If your crew gets a penalty, the athlete serves it. Norwegians are brutal…this race is legit.

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Friday night we had a race meeting with Laura and Andrew, my crew from London, and they headed to bed with their two little ones. Troy and I went on a walk and sat down and had a big heart to heart. I hadn’t eaten much of anything the last two days because the cough had stollen my appetite. A few potatoes and some toast were pretty much all I could get down.

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Should I race? I was still just as sick, if not more sick than I was days prior. My dilemma was really HEALTH versus I CAME ALL THIS WAY. We chatted and I really felt in my heart that I wanted to start the race. They had changed the swim to 1.2 miles instead of the typical 2.4 miles because they didn’t want anyone in the water after 75 minutes. The recorded temp was 10C or 50.6F I believe.

https://www.facebook.com/sonja.wieck/videos/10206175735525810/?l=3143766673361902510

I went to bed that night knowing I would start the race. It was the crummiest packing job. At midnight I was wide awake, and worried. I couldn’t sleep and I got tired of rolling around so I sat up and I got into my meditation position. I set my alarm for 15 minutes. I figured if I was really tired, then mediation would put me to sleep. 15 minutes later…”gong..” still awake, but feeling better. So I went another 15 minutes, and another, and another….75 minutes later my phone gonged again and I got up ready to get on that start line. I applied my race tattoos, lucky number 7, and put my kit on. I fumbled around in the bathroom for a bit until Troy woke up around 2am and we started getting ready. YAY Sponsors! Coeur, YAY, Osmo, QR and Tribella! My homies, my tri-family!!

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Laura was taking Annie for the day and driving to the finish with her two kids, and Troy and Andrew were my crew for the day. We dropped Annie at their hotel room in exchange for Andrew and got in the car. I was in a FANTASTIC MOOD. For some reason, that meditation had me rarin’ to go. I knew I was still sick, but I had energy. Andrew was like “You are like a whole different person” and we (I) cranked up the tunes in the car and sang the whole way to the race site at the top of my lungs.

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We arrive in Eidfjord 25 minutes later and it’s the strangest situation. Because the race is self supported, Troy came into transition with me. They check that you have front an back lights installed and that they are on and blinking. Walking through transition I was excited and was saying HI and THANK YOU to all the volunteers and people working for the race. They just looked at me. Norwegians and not socially outgoing and they had no idea what to make of me. They literally would look at me with a “Are you talking to me” face. It was crazy. No good lucks, or anything like that. It was very serious. If you are a massive introvert….Norseman is the race for you!! hahahha!

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Everything went like absolute clockwork with the race. They were unbelievably organized and their concern for the athletes was amazing. They wanted us safe in that water. I said my goodbyes to Troy and boarded the ferry.

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The ferry is a car ferry and there is a nice section up top with couches and tables where all the athletes sit and get ready. I found two guys to chat with, one friendly talkative Norwegian (kinda rare) and a German man who had done kona 4 of the 5 years I had! The time passed quickly. Soon enough we were suiting up with all the layers. I had booties, neoprene vest, Roka, full hood, ear plugs, swim cap, and then I covered my face and hands in Vaseline.

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The 20 minutes before the start of Norseman were my favorite 20 minutes of ANY “before an IM” time in my life. All 260 of us were down on the part of the ferry where cars would usually park, you’ve seen it in the videos and we were all in our wetsuits. They had big hoses and were spraying us down with fjord water so we had time to get used to it before the big leap. This is a safety matter so you have time to warm up the water in your wetsuit before jumping in, very smart! We walked around waiting for them to tell us we could get in and I made eye contact with like 20 or 30 people. I actually hugged 6 people I did not know. It was a really intense and intimate moment that all 260 of us shared. Really special and I will never forget it.

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They made the call to jump in and I was one of the first 10. It was an AWESOME jump. I haven’t seen a picture but I went for it, and I screamed ALOHAAAAAAAAA on the way down. I think I threw a double shaka and a big smile! I was expecting massive pain upon hitting the water like my test swim, but it was okay. Cold, yes….as cold as my test swim….no, not even. So I was pretty jazzed about that. I positioned myself in the middle, in the front-ish and I looked around. I looked into peoples eyes and looked at their body language. Some were fearful, some excited, some just ready to get going.

The ferry blew it’s horn and we were off. My whole goal was to swim at a rate that did not get my cough in a tizzy. So I started under control. A few minutes in I felt like the cough was good so I looked to the group ahead and made my way up to them. Then I passed them and picked the next group ahead. It was the first time in a swim where I swam people down. I felt good and steady and I think I only coughed 3 or 4 times in the whole swim, which was probably the longest period I had gone in the last week without a cough.

I made sure to look at the view as the light started to brighten. It was gorgeous, just as gorgeous as the movies make it seem. I even had the thought that if I made it no further, I was so glad to have the swim experience. Towards the end there is a huge bonfire on the shore line and I could literally feel the heat of that bonfire on my face. It was amazing. Shortly after we went through several cold patches that were similar to my test swim and I was reminded how bone chilling it was. Soon enough I saw the exit, grabbed a helping hand an stumbled my way onto land.

Running to transition the coughs were immediate. I coughed my way to transition and then suddenly Troy was running next to me. He was saying “you swam so well” and I was thinking…I was powered by beauty. Swim: 32:23! and 2nd woman out of the water. Dolphin Pod Power!!

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We got to my transition spot and the male with #1 on his shoulder was exiting. I was feeling very accomplished to actually be in transition with the prior years race winner.

The transition at Norseman does not have change tents. I’m not a modest person, but I did not want to change out of my wet tri shorts. READ: I was unwilling to get nude in front of several hundred Norwegians. Oh, give me a few more hours…. My plan was to put on booties, knee warmers, arm warmers, jacket, hat and gloves, and leave my tri kit on. I did all of that and before I knew it I was yelling thank you to Troy and headed to the mount line.

Whew, okay, things are about to get real…tomorrow…

One more reminder, Monday, August 31st, 7pm (Denver time)

#trihacks webinar.

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In the comments….Norseman reactions? Anyone ever experience water that cold? Or do you just want to share what you are looking for the tri coaching industry that you think I should provide? I’ll be responding to comments tonight and tomorrow morning. 

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Trail Racing in Los Osos

After #girlscamp was over, Ellen flew home and Mikki, Mo and I were off to our next adventure. I spent 6 years when I was young (10-16) living in the town of Los Osos. If you have never been there, don’t, it’s horrible. Haha! It’s such a hidden gem in California and I have oodles of fond memories of this place. I saw that they had a trail race the week after the Coast Ride and I knew I wanted to do it. I signed up for the 50K, but then after the knee went berserk they let me drop down to the 8.3 mile race. So saddddd.

Mikki, Mo, and I made it to Morro Bay just in time for the sunset and it was amazing. We went to the backside of “The Rock” and watched the waves crash over the jetty as the sun set over the ocean. Life was really good. I think this was the first time I took a really deep breath and just exhaled the events of the week. I was in a place I truly truly love, like love deeply in my soul.

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And with two people that I adore just as much.  When I look at this photo I feel the joy of the moment. It takes me right back!

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We headed from Morro Bay into Los Osos where I had booked us rooms at the Back Bay Inn. Again, I want to say this is a horrible place so nobody will ever go there, but it was amazing. I lived 3 blocks away from this place growing up and I had always wanted to stay there. This was the perfect opportunity and I booked “The Cottage Room” because it would sleep all of us. WELL, the Cottage Room actually turned out to be the little white cottage up on the little grassy hill that I dreamed about growing old in when I was little. If I could retire to one place this would be it. I remember a little old lady living in it when I was growing up and when she passed the Inn bought it. The surrealness (not a word) of the situation was ridiculous. Mikki and Mo didn’t even stand a chance, I called dibs on the front room, bay view bed, where I slept and dreamed the most wonderful exciting dreams. I meditated each each day here and could not have been happier. Total “did not want to leave” BLISS!

IMG_0903 The Inn had wine happy hour, we hit that up, then went two doors down to La Palapa and had the best girls dinner, complete with Margs and table side guac. Life was so so good. What race??

Bright and early the next morning we were off to the races. Mikki and Mo were running the 25K. If you do this race, I suggest the 25k since the 50k is just two loops of the 25K. I really wanted to be running the 25k because I only got to run half of it and felt like I was missing out on good views. But, I’m trying to be sorta smart here, and so the 8 mile it was! I realized after arriving that I forgot my race hat. I was wearing my favorite purple Coeur shirt and wanted to match it with my Coeur hat, but I forgot it. Took my warm hat off and my hair was CHICKEN HAIR. Oh no, this would not do. I ambled around looking for someone who might have a second hat, Mikki and Mo laughing at me and my hat problem. Then I saw the race organizers were wearing hats and I decided I would ask to buy their hat. I decided I would offer $50. That’s how desperate I was for a hat.

So I went up to the table and right then a guy said “Do you have hats for sale?” and she said “YES” and I promptly got in line and bought one. It was only $15 and I was HIGH AS A KITE! I was so so so happy and skipped around telling Mikki and Mo “THE UNIVERSE WILL PROVIDE” which is one of my favorite lines!

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We lined up on a hill and all together for a mass start. The race director briefed us on which color flags to follow and then said GO!!!! OFF I went. And with it, OFF went any rational thoughts about being nice to my knee. I have a problem. I can not NOT race. If it’s a race, I’m racing. At this point I have run a grand total of 16 miles in the last 30 days, 14.5 of those in the 5 days prior, but it’s a race and I’m leading it.

I’m huffing and panting and running WAY too fast, and the girls behind me are chatting. Totally chatting, not breathing. The first 2.5 miles this is pretty much your view (this was taken at sunset, but you get the picture).

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Then the course turns uphill and all at once in mass three ladies pass me like I’m standing still. Oh man, I’m panting and the self talk starts knocking at the brain door. Too out of shape, went too fast, too steep. And I just said “Hush, this is amazing” in my head about three times and all went quiet. I focused on running up the hills as efficiently as I could and tried to run the flatter stuff fast. The third girl that had passed me was creeping out of sight and the first two were long gone. I also figured that all three of these ladies were running the 25k or 50k due to their chipper sounds as they passed me.

We climbed up Valencia Peak, a peak I climbed many times with my high school friends growing up. It’s steep and there was some walking. I had a 14 minute mile in there and I got passed by about 4 more guys on the climb, BUT I was RUNNING, and I was in my SPORTS BRA, and the weather was AMAZING, and so life was really really good. At the top you picked up a rubber band to prove you made it and I stalled there trying to decide what color to get. Finally just grabbed orange and started back down.

Now so far I have zero knee pain and so, in my infinite wisdom I decide to just bomb the downhill. I mean, it’s easier if you just do that right? I love downhill running and about half way down I have passed the three guys back and caught back up to the 3rd lady that passed me. She lets me by and I keep bombing down but I can hear her right there too. So now I start thinking “is she doing the 8 mile?” “why would she be right there if she was doing the 25k, there’s no need” “Oh no, we are going to have a sprint off” So I’m running as fast as I can, my arms are flailing all over the place and I finally hit the road and the finishing stretch. I haul as fast as I can and whew, there’s the finish line. YEaaaaaaah!

Then I see the lady come through the other direction meaning she’s doing the 25k. So I just sprinted from a lady doing double the distance. Party Foul (again hangs head in shame)!

The first lady, who beat me through 8 miles by like 5 minutes, was actually doing the 50k….she won that…overall. The second lady and then the last I was near both were 1-2 woman in the 25K, and yes, I am now the Montana de Oro 8.3 mile champ….although I should have given my champion coaster to the 50k lady who beat everyone to every check point. Amazing!

And, the real winning moment? No knee pain! Now, my quads were brutally sore the next day from bombing the downhill but my knee was totally happy! Maybe it prefers abuse?

I walked up the course to see Mikki and Mo come through. They both did great and had top 10 finishes in the 25K. I’m so proud of them!!!

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After refilling with burgers and fries, shopping for new hats, and eating ice cream we said goodbye to Mo and she drove back to San Jose to fly home. Mikki and I had a pretty hilarious rest of the night. We went back to Montaya De Oro and went tide pooling. This made me extremely happy. I love me some tide pools. I have no idea why I didn’t go into Marine Biology. I sure love it. We watched the sunset out there and it was kinda magic. It had this way of completely resetting the both of  us. That final sunset on that final night, completely fulfilled in that moment and focused only on the good in the world. It was magic.

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Then we went for a hilarious steak and rib dinner at the Madonna Inn. Pure hilarity and we had a GREAT conversation. If you have never been there it’s worth the stop, built opulently in the 1950s and not a single thing has changed. It’s theme color is pink. They have themed rooms too, I’ve always wanted to stay in the cave room. Maybe next time! Then we were off to the hot springs for some soaking time before we tucked ourselves into bed for the night.

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The next day we slept in, went for walks, basically acted like we were retired folks, made friends with the locals. It was true bliss. The cherry on top was lunch with Amy and Christine where we laughed and laughed and laughed until I almost peed my pants. Good friends, good times. And dinner with Mud and Barbara before our late flight. We are so lucky!

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All in all the Coast Ride, Camp, Trail Race week long excursion was just what I needed to get back on solid ground. It was the unofficial start to the 2015 season and gave Muddy and I the chance to plan the races for the year. I came back feeling motivated and excited to get to work for the years races. The beautiful weather of California was so awesome and the many sunsets over the water were liquid gold. Life really is pretty amazing!

2014 USAT Age Group National Championships

I have this little saying.

When things go wrong, blame yourself, when things go right, blame your coach.

I’m not sure exactly what compelled me to sign up for AG Nationals. It’s an olympic distance race, a short distance that I don’t often race. I think I knew we would be working on my run speed and thought this would be a good place to work on that in a race setting. Muddy was all for it. Muddy loves the short stuff, no nutrition risk, just pure all out speed. Go ’til you blow kind of racing.

My opinions are more in the manner of “How do I will myself to go faster than I do in a 70.3?”

The travel to the race was not so good and I blame myself for this, I should have booked an earlier flight with less risk of delay being that I know we get a lot of afternoon thunderstorms this time of year that delay flights out of DIA. An extreme delay leaving Denver got me into Milwaukee at 1:20am and the rental car counter was closed so I had to go to the exit booth. The poor night shift lady there was not equipped to efficiently checkout cars but she tried her best. At 2:25am I was finally in a car and heading out of the airport. At 2:55am I arrived at my hotel. The night shift employee struggled to get me keys because it was so late…errr..early, even though I had called 5 hours ago to let them know what was going on, and they said “Okay, no problem, I’ll make a note”. Finally I just started crying. The tears were rolling and I just started begging him to give me keys. It worked and at 3:20am I collapsed into bed utterly spent.

I slept until 9am and then headed to the expo to swim and bike and run and check in and what not. I ended up riding the trainer at the Quintana Roo tent because I just didn’t have the energy to deal with the roads around the race site. I hung out in the QR tent most the day, with my BFF Sienna, and then headed back to my hotel to try for a good nights sleep. I got a decent 7 hours.

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Race morning I was really excited. HUUB had sent me a new wetsuit because I ripped mine at Boise (doh). I really should have worn it before race day because my first HUUB had taken some time to break in, but this one was BUTTER. I’m calling it my MAGIC SUIT because when I put it on it just fit me PERFECT and felt really good in the shoulders. I warmed up in it and just felt GOOOOOOD. Before I knew it we were treading water, waiting for the horn to sound.

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210 women in my age group at this race. That is LEGIT! I don’t think I’ve ever been in an age group that large. Lots of fast swimmers as well. Now we get to the part where I blame my coach. Muddy has been scheduling lots of swims these last few months. Lots of masters and 2X a week in the long course meters pool, which is painful for me, but oh so good. Then I actually got rest on race week from swimming. That’s something I’ve figured out over the years. I have to swim a lot to make progress, but I have to rest my swimming before race day to see that progress come out on race day.

And it did! I got on feet right away and I was such a bitch. I hit that poor girls feet every flipping stroke and when she made a funny angle I hopped on the feet next to her and I smacked those every stroke. I went from feet to feet and had to defend the feet I had claimed twice from poachers. I was more aggressive than usual and I was in a pretty substantial pack. Along the last 500 we started running into men from the AG ahead. I kept on the feet all the way to the exit ramp. Running to T1 I heard a guy yell to the girl next to me “You’re in 30th” and I thought to myself “Frick, I swam bad, probably a 25 or 26.”

HA! Wrong Sonja….22:42! 27th in my age group, and 149th fastest woman out of all the 1343 age group women. To be in the top 15% of swimmers in a National Championship is by far and away the best I’ve ever swam. So, again, thank you muddy for assigning all that yardage and thank you to the various masters instructors that have kept me working hard over the months.

Also, as a small aside, the first olympic distance race I ever did was Nationals in 2007 and I was 4th to last out of the water in my age group. That year Jenny Garrison won our age group and I was 22:30 behind her. This year Jenny Garrison won our age group again, and I was 4:32 behind her. Looking at the results from ’07 there are all sorts of famous people in it (all of them ahead of me): Bree Wee, Beth Shutt, Kim Schwabenbauer, Ulli Broome, Mary Miller…crazy!!!

Oh my bike mount….oh dear. I got my shoe caught up, I couldn’t get in it. It was a mess and took me so long I actually had time to think “Please nobody be filming this because I’m going to end up on a blooper reel.” That mount in and of itself should have prevented me from a  podium finish, it was atrocious and I need to work on those stat.

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Onto the bike, my first time racing on my new PR6 I might add, and Kristi yelled that I was in 17th? or 18th? or 16th? Something like that. By 7 miles in I had cracked the top 10. I passed a few more ladies and then it was just a lot of men from the AG ahead. My legs did not feel good and I think it was just because I was trying to ride so hard. I haven’t put in much hard riding recently so I know they were like “what the heck.” I felt a little like a baby giraffe at that speed. I feel very comfortable in the 22-23mph region, especially on my new bike, but get into the 25-26mph zone and I’m not as solid, a bit more herky-jerky. It’s a muscle thing, high watt, high heart rate thing. I tried my hardest and despite thinking that I could ride in the 1:01-1:02 range I came in at 1:03:27 which means I lost time to the leaders in a leg of the race that I was hoping to gain time. Why I thought I could ride 1:01-:02 I have no idea…delusional I think. It’s not like I had any data to back that claim. Note to my athletes – SEE, even I still struggle with outcome oriented thoughts at times. In retrospect I would say that 1:03 on that day was an all out effort for me and indicative of where I am at fitness wise at this distance, you never know until you race!

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T2 was smooth, thank goodness and I got out and running strong. No hat, no glasses…forgot both at home…along with clean underwear and more than 1 shirt…last minute packing! Kristi told me I was 7th in my age group and that 6th was 30 seconds up. I worked on settling in and getting uncomfortable. I felt heavy and was wishing I felt just close to how I feel when I’m running my track workouts, but instead I felt brickish. Luckily I have run several tempo runs these past weeks feeling brickish so I knew 6:40-6:45 pace could still be done. I was really hoping I could move into the 6:20ish range but it just was not coming despite me trying. At mile 2 I moved into 6th place and was looking for 5th. At the 4 mile turn around I took a split and she had 40 seconds on me. Oh dear, that’s a lot, but I went for it. At about mile 4.5 I started to feel some pep in my step, like “hey, I’m feeling warmed up now.” That was about the same time that I guy in front of me decided I was not allowed to pass him. I went right, he blocked me, went left, he blocked me. We bumped elbows, he yelled at me. I grumbled back, and he sped up. Oy, I really don’t mean to crush your ego bud, just trying to get the best out of myself.

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I pushed as hard as I could that last mile and a half and I could see her getting closer, but nope, she crossed 11 seconds ahead of me. 6th it was, in a new PR of 2:11:09. Andrea was pretty close behind me so we hung out for awhile after the race. She qualified for Worlds in Chicago too! I’m so happy for her!

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Well humm. There it is. Fast, short, and really questing for just one more gear. All in all, it felt great to step out of my comfort zone, to reveal some weaknesses that I can work on, and to get a small victory in my swimming. I feel like it’s been forever since I had one of those.

The race was run so well, after the race they had a super sprint and the highlight of the day was watching Jake race in that at 15 years old. His spot on the starting pontoon was next to Starky. What an experience for him. I also loved the time I got to spend with Sienna, she’s my favorite 7 year old and we had a blast at the Childrens museum after I finished my race. Poor thing was so patient all weekend even though she had been promised multiple times to be taken to the museum by her bro. Auntie Sonja is always good for fun stuff like that :)

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That evening Kristi and Sienna were so so sweet to sit through the 2+ hours of awards just to take my photo on the podium for all of 8 seconds. We finished the night off with burgers and I was treated to 3 hours and 45 minutes of blissful sleep before catching a 6am flight back to Denver. What a whirlwind!

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Huge thanks to Quintana Roo, who really has just become an extension of my family at this point. Hanging in the booth all Friday it was amazing to see just how much they bend over backwards for anyone who rides a QR and needs help. The service they provide to their athletes at the races they attend is akin to Kona treatment…but at every race. Such a perk!

Thank you Tribella Multisport, Osmo, Huub and PunkRockRacing for your continued support this year as well. And a huge thanks to Coach Muddy who really helped me thought the last few weeks.