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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Lake Tahoe Training Camp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Norseman 2015 The Run up the Big Mountain

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

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

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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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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!

#girlscamp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off Season Shenanigans

Poof, 5.5 weeks GONE! In the blink of an eye it seems that December is lurking. I really like December, it’s a fun month! Looking back on the last month, I’m kinda wondering what on Earth I even did with myself. I wasn’t particularly diligent in any one area. I did get some home stuff done. Both cats are now current on their shots and on official weight loss food. The vet saw Grey kitty for the first time in 4 years and although I thought she MUST have a thyroid condition, it turns out she’s just fat. Apollo is also fat. We raise fat cats, we have no backbone. So, now everyone is on a diet.

The Wooden Bowl found it’s permanent location in our bed headrest. Please ignore the bag of pretzels and the bag of trail mix, sometimes I get snacky at night. Speaking of night, they are a lot more lively now that I don’t spend them in bed exhausted. We have been having oodles of family adventures and that has been SO MUCH FUN. We each take turns picking an adventure and then we pack up the car and off we go. We have tried to institute a no cell phone rule during the adventures and that’s made it extra fun. We even went to a chocolate festival, it was amazing and I ate like $50 in chocolate in like 90 minutes. Hooray for the off season! Being able to relax and engage with each other – man was that needed! I really love that Troy and Annie are so chill and easy going. I got the cream of the crop!

Ummm, can I get a woot woot for the Giants winning the World Series?! Thank you Punky for sending me a world series hat. The coolest part…they won on my birthday. I was so happy for all the people I have met this year that are associated with the Giants, they sure are some great folks working behind the scenes and I can’t wait to celebrate with them a little when I make my way back to the bay area for more training.

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Last weekend was Ironman Arizona. Never have I ever been so happy NOT to be racing! I knew a lot of people on the start line and had 5 athletes of my own out there towing the line as well. My new razor scooter got put to work, 27 miles I scooted on that thing in one day! Morgan and I scooted around all day chasing everyone we know around the course. It was great to see the Coach Muddy athletes knock it outa the park and to watch my own athletes lay down some stellar performances! My two girls Ellen and Mikki both ran 3:41 and 3:43 respectively off the bike and dang was I proud of those chicks’ run splits! Ellen missed Kona by one place with a 4th and I’m excited to see where next year will take her. It was great to hang with Mo a lot of the day and I roomed with Ali, who signed up for next year, and AZ will be her first. I’m excited to watch her progress through that journey next year!

Dude, the scooter is awesome because I can go around the course and pick up all the Garmin heart rate straps that people ditch when they are sick of them. Those things are like $70 and I’ve ditched my fair share of them running through aid stations. Into the washer and bam…all mine! Score. It’s also funny how many people throw stuff at me during the race and then I spend this week mailing little packages all around the county to return it all. Too funny! And again, I’ve had people ship me back stuff that I have tossed to them. It’s like Ironman karma!

I’ve spent a fair amount of time the last few weeks stalking the country of Norway via the internet. I have SO much to learn about the Norseman race course and google maps has been my best friend. I finally got lodging for the two days before and the two days after the race for my family and my crew. I’m so excited that Laura and Andrew from the UK are going to fly over and crew for me. They will have a 2 year old and a 2.5 month old by this August and I’m so excited to meet the babies! Laura and I trained in Kona together several years ago before we both had somewhat disastrous races and we haven’t seen each other in 2 years. This reunion will be so sweet for me, and I know that they will make the best crew a girl could ask for.

I’m still researching what Troy, Annie and I are going to do after the race but I know I want to SEE NORWAY! When Annie and I were in Disney World this year we watched a video showcasing Norway and all I can think of is hiking hiking hiking. Annie is going to need to do some serious training this summer so she’s fit and ready to keep up with post Norseman mom and dad. I really want to go to the Trolltunga, and also to Preikestolen. Huge rocks, epic views!

This is what I look like most the time when I am researching Norway and trying to pronounce all the Norwegian names for things. This is also what I look like when I am trying to convert American dollars to Norwegian krone. So confusing! Eventually I know it will all come together and we will have an epic trip, but in the mean time I expect to have this face for a few more months. I read one blog of a family who did a camping vacation there and food was so expensive that they literally bought 8 steaks and cooked one caveman style over a fire every night. I have no idea what else they ate, but every night they had a steak on the campfire. Note to self….bring lots of bars.

My dog and I have been attached at the hip for 5.5 weeks. When I leave the house and don’t take her, she sits at the front door scrunched up in the little corner looking out the front door window and she waits for me to come home. When I’m home some part of her is touching some part of me 24 hours a day. She loves her mama. I never knew she could be such a cuddle pup but she sure is. When I took Annie to Glenwood Springs for her birthday to soak in the Hot springs I didn’t dare leave her home. 8 hours in the car that day, and Lolli was happy as a clam. And look at how cute my munchkin Annie is getting. She is a happy girl, and she’s 9 now! Also, I looked a little into modeling and I think she is too tall to be a child model. So we decided we will wait until she grows up a bit more and then look into our options. Annie just has one of those photogenic faces and she’s long, tall, a great traveler, and great with people.

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While I did take a huge break from swim bike and run this off season, I did not take a break from my BUTT! I have been really diligent this off season on continuing with my glute and core work with my trainer Jenny. She has this class that I take 2X a week where we spend an hour just strengthening our whole hip region and our core. I have been in this class for 2 years now and it’s amazing how much progress I’ve made. It’s always crazy when someone new shows up to class, usually a triathlete and they are doing the exercises for the first time. Oh lordy! Knowing how to fire your glutes first and foremost, thus lessening the dependence we tend to have on our back and hamstrings has been such a game changer for me the last few years. I also learned that “activating the hips” really just means “engage your butt” or similarly weak hips really means glutes aren’t firing. I may not look any stronger, or have any sort of well defined abs (genetics and body fat %), but they are strong and they are functional.

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Okay, I am so hesitant to share this next thing. Half of me wants to keep it all to myself, but sigh, that’s just not me, now is it? My friend Matt sent me the best book! I have had so many ahh-haha’s from this resource. As a coach I have watched some of my athletes never have to foam roll a day in their life, no injuries, no issues. And then others ones are just on the thing all the time. I have often thought that there has to be a better way, there has to be more information about what we should be doing for consistent body maintenance.

“If you’re going to make the demands on your body that being an athlete requires, then it’s your job to support that body” –Dr. Kelly Starrett

I totally agree, but the devil is in the details. I think we all agree that foam rolling is a generally accepted “good practice” and that just straight up stretching is a “heated topic.” I like this book so much because it really walks you through figuring out where you are week and how that general body maintenance can be steered to minimize those problem areas. I found out that I am the queen of Plantar Flexion, but have a long ways to go with Dorsiflexion. My Hip Flexion is amazing, especially with all the Jenny work these last few years, but my Hip Extension is ridiculous. Like, really bad. The “couch stretch”…eye papi! Needless to say I devoured this book and have already gone through it like three times to reread the parts I needed more help with.

Me attempting the couch stretch  (you’ll have to get the book) and of course the dog must be involved. She totally scrunched herself into that tiny little corner while I was stretching. I think all the moans and groans had her concerned. Oh Couch Stretch, you are my nemesis!!!!

2015 is going to be the year of awesomeness and I had so much fun putting together my race and travel plan for the season. The entire spring is going to involve a ton of running. I’m very excited to get back to my roots and I’ve already spent some time on my favorite trails! I signed up for 2 ultras this winter that I’m nervous, scared, and excited for. It’s been years since I’ve raced this long and honestly, I pine for it often. When I am running in the hills it’s a very zen experience for me. The time flies by and I love leaving the rigors of pace this and pace that. Sometimes you run 14 minute miles and sometimes you fly downhill at 8 minute miles. Constantly watching where you are stepping with my favorite tunes in my ear is basically like ice cream for me. I bought myself a pair of Hokas for the trails this winter, didn’t know what to think, but common, they are hilarious and cloud like, and amazing all at ones. So, Hokas in the trails, New Balance flats in the gym, and my Kona kinvaras for kicking around.

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Between now and April I’m going to do a 1/2 marathon in December, a 50k in Cali in January after the Coast Ride, a 100k in February that has me scared, another 1/2 marathon in March, and then Boston in April. It will be nice to get a solid 5 month running block in. After April I will be happy and content and can start spending day and night riding my bike through the Colorado mountains in prep for Norseman. Also, the 100k in February is a qualifier for Western States. Only the top 2 get a slot, therefore this race is the one I go to bed at night dreaming about. I have wanted to race Western States since 2008, and I’ve always said I can’t go for it until I take a break from Kona. So, I’m going to train hard for the 100K, and see where it takes me! Life sure is an adventure, I can just never predict where it’s headed, but it always ends up being AWESOME!

 

Stars

This last Saturday…well yesterday, I helped Erich during the Leadville 100 by pacing him from mile 50 to 72.5. Some might ask what pacing is? In fact, when I joined Erich at mile 50, this being his first 100 miler, he was like “I’ve never had a pacer, I don’t know what I need”. Hahah! Luckily I have done a 100 miler (4+ years ago…sad) and paced (2 years ago…Emily at Leadville…happy), so you know, I’m an expert (not). According to me, a pacer is just someone who runs with you during the hard parts, keeps you eating, drinking, moving, and mildly entertained. They are just a “more” sane person along for the ride and usually trot along beside or behind you. When I did Moab 100, they were my saviors. Michelle, Tony, and Keith still have a special place in my heart from that one day.

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Running along with Erich, he was doing very well. He is somewhat of a glutton for punishment and I asked him at one point why he was doing this race. He said that he searched out all the hardest endurance races in the world, made a list, and is going about doing them. What a man after my own heart. So he had done the Leadville 100 mountain bike the weekend before, and here he was pumping through the run. To ease your suspense, Erich simply gained steam through the race  (in comparison to others), although his speech did get more and more slurred and quieter, and he busted a major move going 23:23 and earning the coveted sub 25 hour buckle…by a long shot. At one point around mile 60 he asked me if I thought it was possible for him to go under 25, and I was like “Heck yea”. He did more than just that and his performance inspired me.

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So, I got to run 22 miles out in the woods. Okay “ran” is glorifying it a bit because at least half of it was power hiking, but all the same…I moved along the trail for 22 miles with him. It’s really rare these days that I get to do this and the only reason is that Erich is coached by Muddy and the guy needed pacers! Huge thanks to Mikki as well for pacing him for 14 miles after my 22.5 miles were up. Mikki is really one of the most selfless people I know and she’s always happy to run all night in the woods with a complete stranger who’s already run 72+ miles that day.

We ran along rather quiet for some long stretches of time…quiet for me, since I usually won’t shut up, and I got to tune out a lot of the distractions of life. When you are in the woods there is a lot of air. It’s clean air and smells like pine and there are no cars, and not many people, and it’s peaceful, and the colors are easy on your eyes. During trail running you mostly focus on where the heck you are putting your feet and it’s a hard enough task to keep your brain busy, but mindless enough to cut out most all judgement, or nervous thoughts. It’s easy on the brain, meditative, rejuvenating. I needed this. I’ve had a really tough last few weeks and I’ve been searching for that sense of calm and peace and just couldn’t locate it. My compass has been really off.

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Out there in the woods I felt like I got my ducks back in a row and Mikki and I talked the whole ride home about it. Granted it was 2am and we were pretty loopy, but sometimes those are the best conversations.

What is it about some days in our life? This was my ahh-hah. Most the days of our life, they just go. Poof, gone, no memory. We go through the motions just grinding through. Maybe we do it peacefully or calmly, but they still leave almost no mark. Then there are some days in our life, yesterday was one of those for Erich, that you will never ever forget. It’s just one day, just like the rest, 24 hours, just like the rest, but you will tell stories about it, you will savor it, and live it over and over for the rest of your time on the planet.

I think that most people don’t have a lot of these days. They are few, the marriages, the birth of children, some of the devastating days. But those days, when you do get them, they are the first sentences of the chapters of your life. That opening line. When I look back at my life that’s what these days are for me. With them came new awareness, about myself, about my journey, about my purpose. They foreshadow where I was headed. They are hardly EVER destinations, but more new beginnings of a new way of thinking and living.

Recently my chapters have been long. The highlight days have been more few and far between. The chapters are more developed, but they are long, and sometimes not heading the direction I hoped.

Getting out there on the trails yesterday reminded me that these big important days were always why I seek endurance sports. These experiences, however hard and brutal they may be have been the stars in my constellation, the highlights that form the picture. So to get off my lazy butt, I used this website to find hiking boots and went off on an adventure.

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And out there I realized that I want more stars, and I want a more detailed picture. I want to get back to my roots, and I really don’t like how sore I am today from my little jaunt in the woods yesterday. It was like a wake up call out there, a reminder of where my heart lies. Not just in ultra running, but training for and executing some hard gnarly days, record book days, stars in my constellation. And when I think about it that way, it’s easy to see the muck. It’s easy to see the times when I’ve gotten off base, and now I understand why those things have caused me so much angst.

Right now I’m training for Hawaii, my 5th in a row, and for 5 years it’s been my North Star, the dominant star in my galaxy, the one that everything else revolves around. But very clearly I knew out there on those trails yesterday that Hawaii will not be my North Star for much longer. Where am I headed exactly? Well, Kona for now. But then, somewhere neat and cool and different and fun. Towards other stars to enhance the constellation of my life.

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2013 Ironman Arizona – Run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2013 Ironman Arizona – Bike

Oh we got lucky. Darn darn lucky. We had perfect riding conditions in Tempe this year and I was going to take advantage of them to the best of my ability. I saw coach about 1/2 mile into the ride, he always makes himself visible. He told me I was 14th out of the swim and I responded “not bad.”

I got right into the meat of things right away. The night before when coach and I talked he told me I needed to go for it on the bike. We haven’t done any speed work on the run this year, and really not much run volume either, but boy have I ridden the hog. I have multiple 1,500 mile months. There is so much volume in these legs. I have chased around boys all over the mountains of California. I knew I could ride like a boss today. And really, that belief has come from Muddy.

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(Photo Credit: Wee Bri Photography – THANK YOU!!)

Each race under him I get a little more bold, I race a little bit more rather than just executing a plan. Now, I think both of these options are valid, and in my opinion its a journey, you gotta go through the hard knocks. Too many people start the racing before they are good at the executing and I think that gets them into trouble. When I started off the year I still was hanging onto my race strategy from Chuckie V. A damn fine race strategy for the time. But I didn’t have any other strategy and that one always worked. So I had my heart rate zone and I would stay in that. Well, with Muddy, my training changed. I was doing different things and in Brazil when he told me to go for it I took a “heart rate” risk and it paid off. So in Hawaii I got a little MORE risky, and IT PAID OFF. So what was I to do here?

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I went for it. When I got out of the gate the heart rate was where I would see it in an Olympic. It eventually settled more into a 70.3 place, but for the whole ride I went really really hard. I am lucky in that my Quintana Roo Illicito not only fits me really really well, but it’s also become an extension of my body. I am completely comfortable on it, and know it will keep under me in hairy, dodgy situations. I really do love my bike.

I knew that if I ever wanted to have a sub 5 hour bike split today was the day. On a 3 loop course that means 1:40 laps, so I set out to see if that could happen.

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It was very quiet out there at times, and very crowded out there at times. I tried hard to pass the groups, and then let them pass me, get my 4 bike lengths and then re-pass the groups. That was my tactic. I will say that I feel for the women pros in a HUGE way. I really think that they need a 30+ minute lead on the AG race. These women have to employ the stagger rule, and that’s really hard with all the groups around. I talked with a few of them out there and they were frustrated. I totally get that. But I am an empathetic person and I had to let that go, or else I would get worked up for them. I had to race my race and let them race theirs, and I tried to stay out of their way as much as possible.

I hit the turn around at the top of the beeline at 55 minutes on that first loop, but the way back was 43ish minutes. OK! I thought, that’s 1:38. I knew then that I could probably keep up the effort and if the winds remained favorable, I might sneak under 5.

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The next loop, I found and passed Michelle, negotiated a few more groups the best I could, and tried to ride my ass off. The surges to get past the groups in one fell swoop took a little more toll on me that lap and I was hoping that the last lap would be a smoother power file. I hit the turn in 51 on that loop and 46 for the way back that included a stop at special needs to refill bottles.

The last loop was the best. It was now quiet out there in terms of packs, and I was just passing people that were a loop behind. I had a few guys ahead that I really used to keep honest and keep the pressure on. I was still riding about 10 heart beats higher than I have in years past. The way up took about 52 minutes, and the way back I’m not sure because I turned my Garmin off and tucked it in my bra. Also, I did not experience any low points. I think my nutrition might have something to do with that, both race day AND Whole30.

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When I hit 92 miles I had a little chat with myself. I said in my brain “This is the last 20 miles of 2013 for you, the last 20 miles of the best year of your life in triathlon, make them count, make sure they are ones that you will be proud of.” I smiled for all 20 of those miles and I thought about the people that helped me get strong and fast on the bike this year. I truly appreciated and gave thanks for 20 miles straight. I will never forget those miles.

I pulled into T2, threw my bike at the fabulous volunteers, grabbed my bag and ran to the tent. After the race I found out I biked 4:56 and was really stoked with that. My dad sent me a link a few days later saying I was the first AG woman to break 5 on the course, I haven’t gone and checked that, but regardless, I was really jazzed with the time. It was a wonderful reminder of what my coach preaches, you gotta ride the hog. I’ve never felt so strong in my life.

It was a lightening fast T2. The volunteers put my FuelBelt and number on me, I put my socks and shoes on, I grabbed my cap that had my garmin strap in it and I ran out of there.

I felt really good, I felt thankful, and strong, and lean, and in control. I think it’s the only time I’ve run out of T2 feeling in control.

Kona 2013 Run


I get out and running and the first thing you do is run up one block of Palani. It’s a hill. Everyone always forgets but it can pack a punch. There are a lot of people around cheering and I just wanted to soak it in and slow down. Coach and I had a plan and it involved running 8 min pace down Ali’i. I was trying so hard to slow down, consciously slowing down, but it still didn’t happen.

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Mile 1-3: 7:38, 7:48, 7:45

Right at mile 1 Mikki and Mo, my two athletes were there and they went BALLISTIC cheering like crazy. I gave them a big smile and a “simmer down” gesture. I noticed they had laid out a pair of run shorts all nicely for me just in case. Thankfully, my tummy was a happy camper. There are so many spectators to be conscious of in those first several miles, and then add in the multitude of runners, it’s more of a logistical situation until everyone simmers down.

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As I progressed down Ali’i I got passed by some girls and I passed some girls. I didn’t worry about it at all. I just let them do their race and I did mine. One girl was kinda going back and forth with me. She was looking great but I had to put her out of my mind and just do my thing.

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Miles 4,5: 7:49, 7:50

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I hit the turn on Ali’i feeling really in control. Coach and Jim we riding their bikes around the course so I was seeing a lot of them. Mostly I watched them ride way up ahead chatting each others ears off with barely a glance back. This made me laugh inside, business as normal.

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On the way back from the turn on Ali’i I was hot and going through the liquid in my Fuel Belt pretty quickly. It was gone by mile 8 or so, so I tossed it to Jim at an aid station. I felt the most in control during these miles and just tried to stay in my happy land.

I passed my family in here, mom told me I was 5th off the bike. Same as last year I thought, but in a much better place mentally. I knew I had been passed by a few ladies in my AG thus far, but it’s a long day.

I heard Troy cheering but something sounded weird. Usually he’s right there on the line and as I pass I look over and see Annie totally passed out in his arms. Poor muchkin had been having so much fun in the days leading up, that she took a several hour nap on that wall on race day. Ann napped as well, apparently in a beach chair, with many people taking her photo. Hilarious.

Miles 6-10: 7:58, 7:48, 8:06, 7:59, 8:08

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I had talked to my parents and Troy before hand, and one thing I didn’t want was to see them on Palani. Last year Palani was where I lost my marbles and this year I just wanted to run up that hill like it was any other hill on the course. No drama, just run up Palani, keep in control and move on.

So when I got there I did just that. nice and steady, head down, chug chug chug. I tried to keep my form strong, and just get it done.

Mile 11: 8:43palani

(Meanwhile…back on Ali’i)

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Onto the Queen K…

Now the race begins. All the people are gone, although Jim and Coach were still on bikes out there, but the crowds are gone. It’s now you, your body, and some jet black asphalt hills. These miles were hard for me. I was struggling with the ups and downs. I felt like those hills went on forever.

Miles 12-14: 8:03, 7:48, 8:11

Then I hear coach next to me say “you’re on your own now kid” and my first thought was “WTF does that mean?” Then I see the sign saying “no spectators beyond this point.” That was new this year, they actually stopped any and all spectators from like an 8 mile section of the course, even those who had ridden their bikes out there. Totally new this year.

There was a downhill mile and then a painful uphill mile before turning into the Energy lab.

Miles 15,16: 7:55, 8:20

Ahhh, the energy lab. How do we love thee? The run down this year was hard! There was a headwind and I was starting to really feel like a slug with a flat tire. Going down into the NEL was the first time I had this wonderful deep pain in my left quad. I felt like it was trying to break my femur, but I know better than to be swayed by this sort of thing. Just the brain saying “Please stop!”

No thanks, not today!

Mile 17: 7:52 down into the NEL

Down in NEL hell Mile 18: 7:54

I counted girls coming back out of the NEL. I wanted to know what place I was in. I was seeing a lot of 35-39 year old women. That AG was the fiercest it’s ever been this year (right as I’m about to age up…of course…love it!).

I counted, and suffered, counted, and suffered. I was hurting bad, but I was moving forward and really trying to keep the pressure on. The out and back seems to go forever. I counted that I was in 6th place in my AG. 6th, top 5 make the podium and get the fancy bowl. But the hard thing was I took a time split and I was 6 minutes back of 5th. 6 minutes to the podium with 8 miles to go. All the girls ahead looked strong.

Miles 19,20: 8:40, 8:46 back out of the NEL

Climbing out of the NEL takes a bite. I was hailed pretty hard from that climb and just trying to will anything I had left out of me. I was thinking about the 6 minutes and my brain was telling me that it’s never over until it’s over. I had a talk with myself and I decided that if I gave everything I had and never let up for a single second, that maybe, just maybe, something up ahead would happen and I would be presented with the opportunity to race for a bowl.

Miles 21-23: 8:17, 8:05, 8:11

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I was giving everything I had, trying to keep my form in tact. I came back by the “no spectators beyond this point” sign and Coach and Jim were there waiting for me. I was so glad to see them but I was probably in more pain than I have even been in during a race. Everything hurt and it was taking 100% focus to keep the paltry 8:30 pace that I put down those miles. I was falling apart and my mind wanted nothing more than to give more effort to the situation.

Those two miles hurt 24,25: 8:24, 8:28

Once you get to the top of Palani it’s all good from there on in. I ran as hard as I could that entire mile down. I couldn’t wait to get to Ali’i and to see the crowds and the Banyon trees.

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Mile 26: 7:20 Last 0.29: 2:18

That finish line never disappoints and this year was the same. I saw that the clock said 9:54 and I was so happy to get a sub 10 race on this course. No bowl, but sub 10 is awesome. I fought for every inch out there and I took risks. I’m proud of that. I’m starting to understand just how addicting that finish line has become for me. I have high expectations for myself, but that finish line is the one place in the world that I feel successful despite what happened during the last 140.5 miles.

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Big jump at the finish line! Total joy and so happy to have a good jump AND a good finish time on the clock to match.

By the way, a lot of people ask me how I have the energy to jump like that at the end of an Ironman. Well, my friends, the secret is revealed. It’s an optical illusion. If you jump…not very high…but lift your legs up really high…it looks like  you are catching serious air. Try it at your next finish line, you won’t be disappointed!

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The thanks belong first and foremost to my family. My parents Eric and Helen, my husband Troy, and daughter Annie. Thank you for all the sacrifices you  made this year so that I had a chance at redemption. Huge thanks also to Ann for being with us during this journey and part of our family as well as Mikki and Mo for traveling out to see me race. It takes a village!

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Next order of thanks goes out to Muddy. I’ve written about him a few posts ago but he is to thank for what has been a comeback from last year. I asked him for a wing to be under and he’s provided that and more. Also a huge thanks to Jim. He’s like my coach#2 in many ways, just an uber supporter and big brother to me, and I thank Muddy for bringing us together. Also, the Muddy Love guys and gals, you know who you are. Operation Banana baby!

My sponsors have been great this year. Quintana Roo and Mac continue to support me in so many different ways. Amrita gave me so many bars this year I never had to wonder what to eat on the bike, thank you Arshad. Kompetitive Edge has stuck by me for 3 years despite up and down results, and lots of change within the shop. Punk Rock Racing has helped in so many ways as well, Ron keeps me laughing every day. His inspirational texts the week before the race kept me focused on the prize. A huge shout out to Osmo Nutrtion. I bugged them so much they agreed to sponsor me for next year. I can thank Stacy for a successful nutritional day. (The top three American women in my AG: Katie, Me, and Hailey all fuel with Osmo….coincidence….?)

(This was race day after I finished and changed clothes, SUPER HIGH, and Annie looks rested)

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Many thanks to all of you out there. I think about you when I cross a timing mat, and when I write up these reports. I hope that a glimpse through my eyes might give you a little more motivation to take one more step in the direction of leading a healthy happy life.

Swim: 1:07:12, Bike: 5:09:05, Run:3:32:42  Total:9:54:42, 6th AG, 16th Amateur, 39th woman.

Kopi Lani, ran into a legend or two…

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Midnight finish never disappoints

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