Rocky, but going…

Okay, so I’m off to a rocky and bumbly start. Monday I got up and made it to early morning 6am Masters in SLO. There was a set in the middle that was hard and it’s long course and my brain was like….Blahhhh. But then I realized, crap, it’s day 1. Best get after it then. So I swam a little harder and made all the intervals in good time. Just had to buck up and handle it. Small win.

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Back home it’s time to get Annie off to school, make sure she has all her papers and the huge art project she worked on over the break to enter into a nationwide art contest. Off she goes and then Troy and I walked over to have a romantic breakfast on the bay. Good quality hubby time!

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After that I cut my urgent to do list down from 18 items to 8 items while sitting in the Normatec boots and then it was time for my meetings with my team. They start at 1:30 on Mondays an go until 4. Then I host our online office hours at 5. Then I have to download the recording, and upload it to Vimeo so my assistant Alexis can program it into the website the next morning and finally I finish the night off with a meeting with Coach Mikki. I usually wrap things up with one last email check and I’m done around 7:30pm. I had a grand illusion that I would go for a run at 7:30, but instead I collapsed into bed after a quick dinner and slept like a baby. I did not make it out of my PJs all day.

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Tuesday I was planning on a run and a paddleboard session. Well, the wind was light early in the morning so I swapped the two. I got out on the water by 7am, no small feat when I have to load the board on the car and strap it down and it’s 14 feet long, and I’m still figuring it all out. I love the water, the sun was rising and I was working hard, heart rate was near Ironman rate. I ended up paddling all the way to Morro Bay from my house. Round trip it took me two hours of hard paddling and was a hair over 7 miles. I got off my board and I could barely feel the ground. My feet were frozen and I had sea legs. I got home and was toast. Total toast. So I crawled in bed and red my book for 5 hours and feel asleep at 5:30 pm. All the Light We Can Not See, highly recommend! Snoooooze!

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Wednesday I work up at 4am bright eyed and bushy tailed, no alarm! It was my plan to go to Masters and then ride my bike 50 miles. Well, yea, I pretty much failed hard core on all that. I answered a few emails, missed when I was supposed to leave the house for Masters, then got a bee in my bonnet for work. It’s crazy how this works but I have been doing a redesign on the RTTC website for about 3 months now. I’ve got the lion share of the work done, but a little overhaul actually turned into a huge project. I have 3 big tasks left to do, each are about 8-10 hours, but one of them was creating the new free content I want to offer athletes who come to our site (a 10-14 hour task).

I’ve have this great idea of an audio training with an accompanying action guide that goes through the 5 elements I think you need to have in place to excel in the sport. I’ve been dreaming about it for months but every time I would sit down to work on it I couldn’t get into the creative groove. So I would stall. Well, Wednesday I was up super early, the house was quiet, my shed was freezing and the creativity hit. I sat at the kitchen table for 14 hours straight and recorded a 6 part audio training full of so much awesome it makes me giddy to think about it. I busted out the action guide which I think really turned out great and then I had enough stamina to create an extra freebee called Know Thyself. This content is a fan favorite with our atheltes and I think people are really going to get a lot of insight out of it that they can use in life and triathlon. Eee, so excited.

At the end of the 14 hours I tried to launch into my next to do and my brain went to mush. I got a headache and realized I barely ate anything all day, drank anything all day, and only went to the bathroom once. At that precise time Troy walked in and said “Want to go see Moana” and I said YES! I think I should have gotten on the trainer for three hours but I didn’t. These are the sort of choices I’m not sure if I’m being lazy, if I need to buckle down harder, or if it was okay. Moana was fantastic and I cried through most the movie. Can’t wait to go see it again.

So, I’m off to a rocky start, but that’s the way it goes!

Ironman Tahoe – The Swim Where I Actually Swam Straight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I exited the swim and the clock read low 59. I was stunned and confused. I looked down at my watch and it was 7:39. We had started the swim at 6:40 and I was in disbelief. Now, it seems there were a lot of fast times, including my 58:06 but I also feel that I swam a lot better than I usually do, and I think swimming straight was a major game changer for me. Just thinking back to Santa Cruz, I’m really wasting time out there when I get off course. So, yes the swim was a little short, or maybe it was the fact that we got to run for awhile in the shallow bit before we started swimming. Either way, I felt great about my swim, I was the 10th woman out of the water. I always visualize a hot shower in these moments, since we installed our water softener systems, showers have never been so good to the soul.

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

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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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My Dolphin Pod

I’ve had a bit of a breakthrough in the last few months when it comes to swimming. All along with swimming I knew that the big problem with my lack of progress had to do with my lack of LOVE for the water. This wasn’t due to feeling uncomfortable in the water, I feel safe, I can breath, really I’m a pretty good swimmer for someone who didn’t know how to swim as a kid (“swim” as in the strokes….I had a wicked doggie paddle though). In 2007 I learned “freestyle” and now, I would say I’m a pretty decent swimmer for having learned as a 28 year old adult.

But the process was a painful one. Every year since 2007 I have spent all winter busting my butt to crank out the yardage. I would do anything I could to get myself into the pool. I would promise myself post swim treats, beg other people to show up with me, buy new suits, new caps, new water bottles, new toys, new bags. I never resorted to the swim-mp3 player, but the only thing stopping me was ego on that one. And honestly, I thought about it a few months ago. Every year was a new tactic and a new motivational strategy to get in the yardage (err meterage?). And I made progress this way…I think…sorta. Okay, my Kona swim never got faster but I would have glimmers of hope here and there.

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I would drag myself there all winter and then my swimming would slowly peter off as the season got underway and biking and running took priority. That may happen again this year, I don’t know, time will tell. By Kona that winter swim fitness seemed to be gone, and then I would swim the same crummy times in Kona and get all “motivated by negativity” and would get back in the pool all winter trying to find the secret sauce.

Well something started to happen a few months ago. I was doing my typical back in the pool behavior because I swam 1:10 in Kona, one of my slowest times, blah blah blah…broken record. I started going to Masters a little more regularly simply for motivational purposes. I love the Swim Smooth program (I love the Beeper) but that means I have to swim on my own. And sometimes swimming alone means I won’t go swimming. So masters it was.

Well magic happened for me this winter. I found the secret sauce I think…

I found my dolphin pod. And I must thank Jessica really for being pod-mother (like den-mother but for dolphins) and uniting us. For some reason, and I’ve never seen it in all my years of swimming in different Masters programs, but we have this absolutely phenomenal lane of women (there are occasional guys too, but we have mostly scared them off). Jessica and I are the SAME EXACT SPEED and she’s a long distance swimmer (like 13 mile swims, and a go at the channel some day..2019) and we take turns leading.

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Our pod started with a main little group but throughout January the pod got growing, now there are like 8-12 of us. Not all in the same lane, but close enough in speed that we can all swim “about” the same intervals. And the ladies come from such a variety of backgrounds. Some are still expanding their swimming boundaries, and some have been lifelong swimmers. We have all types! Some swim 3X a week and some swim 10X a week! And…I am the only triathlete in the pod!

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I look forward to Masters every day I go now, which is pretty much every day. I have had so much fun in the pool over the last few months, it doesn’t seem right. There have been hard sets, really hard sets, where some of the dolphins almost puked…(not me) and there have been slow cruiser days too. No matter what mood anyone is in, they are accepted. If I want to put on my fins and swim in the back of the lane, that’s A-ok. If I’ve had a flat-white from Starbucks and I need to lead the lane to GET OUT ALL THE ENERGY then that’s welcome too. There’s no competition amongst the pod, just fun and positivity. YAY SWIMMING!!!!!

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A few fun things the pod has been up to:

A few people in the pod (ahem…yes me) signed up to keep track of our mileage for the year in the US Masters “go the distance challenge” and now we are constantly swimming a little extra here and there to jump up in the daily rankings. So bad, and yet so fun. I have swam (swum?) 80 miles this year so far!

On January 1st we swam 100×100 and it was A BLAST. Different lane leaders, a great set, and Nicole made brownies! Then after doing the Go The Distance challenge for January, I thought it was nice to start the month out with 10k, so I asked if anyone wanted to do 10K on Feb 1st. They were like “you are crazy” then the next day 4 of them were like “we’re in!” Do you see what I mean….dolphin pod!!!!

Feb. 1st we swam 10K, and I loved it. I felt much stronger than Jan 1st and the set was a really good one that was broken up nicely. And Jessica made chocolate chip muffins, and I brought YAY! Swimming car magnets! Is there one on my car?….um yes…there is one on my car. YAY….SWIMMING!

Naturally on Feb 1st the pod started thinking about 10K on March 1st, but half the pod was headed to San Diego to have fun (swimming included) so the pod asked if I wanted to come and we could swim 10K from La Jolla Cove on the 1st! I booked a ticket on Southwest. Because…Ummm….yes!

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Lastly, and this is so far out of my comfort zone, but here we go. I’m going to swim in a meet. The state meet is in about a month. So I have spent quite a few sessions over the last few weeks learning the legal way to swim the different strokes. Again, learning to swim as an adult, I don’t know the proper legal turns and starts for the strokes, and diving off the blocks is a HUGE work in progress for me. But the dolphin pod is teaching me, and I am so thankful to learn new things. I swam the 1650 in the state meet a few years ago, because that seemed like what a triathlete would do, but this year I’m going to swim actual EVENTS, like the 50 fly…. maybe… I still have to figure out what events, but I’m GOING for it. It’s all part of the fun.

Making Swimmer Muscles!!!

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This post is mostly silly, because I’m just really excited and happy about swimming, but if I get a little more serious for a second I want to talk to those of you who toil away at the swim leg of triathlon. My athlete Ellen said to me recently (she is on her own swim quest because it’s needed if she wants to visit the Honu in Hawaii)  “I never liked swimming because I never though doing more of it made me any better.” It’s a really common sentiment. Swimming is one of those things that you can do a lot of and not get better, you can do a little and not get (much) worse. I’ve done that and everything between. I asked Ellen a few weeks ago “where is the motivation?” because I have learned that even if you are swimming the big yardage, if it’s coming from a place of “my swim sucks and I’m losing races because of it” that yardage isn’t going to get you far.

The athletes that I see who are making progress in their swimming, or who are swimming at a high level in the open water….well they are swimming a lot. But, it’s not just that. They love their swimming! They love their swim buddies, they love the programs they swim with, they love their hard crazy workouts, and they really love the water. I think there are different ways to find that pure love depending on your personality, but finding it is the main objective if you want to get better. So rather than toiling away and upping the yardage this winter, instead I would suggest you take a personal journey and try as many things as you can to cultivate a deep love for the water.

We all know triathletes that excel in one discipline over another, and when I look at them I usually see that they also enjoy that discipline. Ellen loves her bike, Mikki loves to run, Mo loves the pool, etc etc. But it can seem like a chicken or the egg situation. Is Mikki good at running because she loves it, or does she love it because she’s good at it? I know the answer. She’s good at it because she loves it. Bottom line. I’m willing to go out on a limb and state it as pure truth. Love it, and you’ll make progress. Don’t love it? Well, roll the dice, the odds are against you.

I know a dolphin pod full of ladies that are going to get a ton faster this year….

#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!

2013 Ironman Arizona – Swim

This was the first Ironman I’ve done without Troy being there. Michelle and I traveled together to race and we were in charge of taking care of each other. With Ironman Brazil and Kona this year, funds were just not there to make a family trip. The worst part about that is that originally when I signed up to race we assumed everyone would go so it was not a big deal that Annies Birthday was the Friday before the race and Troy’s the Monday after. Yes, yes, I missed both of their birthdays, and that fact would come back to give me renewed vigor during the run.

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We did lots of Facetiming, but I still longed to be with them on their special days, sad to miss it, maybe more sad than they were about it.

Michelle and I did our thing. We travel well together, we like the same things, it’s easy. I have been hesitant to really put this out there, but I jumped on the Whole30 bandwagon, and race day was Day 12 into it. Honestly I was afraid to put it out there because I thought there was a chance I would bonk or something and I would have nothing to blame but that. Haha, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I started a blog on my Whole30 process and it’s linked on the left, under goSonja FOOD!

(When your friends flat…it’s best to just take photos…love Stephen!)

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Our pre race workouts went great. The best part was running into all sorts of people that we knew, and making friends with new people that we didn’t know. Huge thanks to Mac at Quintana Roo for letting us crash the tent at the expo and use it as a mobile training center!

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After asking all the people on Facebook we found great swimming pools, the one of a kind inground pools Magnolia. This pool is heaven and we met up with friends to swim and be silly. The best part of Ironmans for me is the family reunions with all the people from around the globe I have met while racing and training. Plus the cactus pool had a special baby lane just for me. I’m kidding, but how cute is this mini lane?

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Okay! So eventually race day rolled around. I have no photos, I’m so sorry. Maybe some will come out of the woodwork, but it’s mostly gonna be words!

The morning of the race I felt good. I slept great and I had worked really hard the past 72 hours to make sure that my glycogen stores were topped off…and yet in a way that used no grains, no dairy, and no sugar. Oh yea baby, sweet potatoes are my friend.

For breakfast, I went with two hard boiled eggs and a banana. Seemed a little light, but that was what I had.

Michelle and I stuck together all race morning. We did our stuff in transition and then went to find coach Mud to chat and stuff. He and I had a big chat the night before and whenever I talk with him I always come away believing I’m more capable that I thought. That morning I looked and him and said “I just have to punch my ticket right?” and he said “Yup, kiddo, that’s it, and it’s all good.” Big hugs from coach and Michelle and I were off to the swim start. We split a bottle of Osmo and a honey stinger waffle just before we hugged BIG hugs and jumped into the water.

The last few months I have not been able to drop Michelle on the bike. All year long, when I put in an effort, she’s off the back, but the last few months I knew that things were coming together and kept finding myself saying “Shit, the girl is back” I watched her running pace at MAF fall fall fall and I knew she was in a position to slaughter it. I was not shy with this fact and told her many times this week that she was FIT and READY, and needed to grab the opportunity and run with it. I’m so proud of her! That’s one really nice thing about having a long term training partner, sometimes they know you better than you know yourself, and you can trust what they say because they are more objective.

Okay, so I’m in the water. It feels great. I actually feel pretty good. I line up closer to the buoys this year, but a little farther back than in the past. I didn’t want to go lightening bolt off the line. The horn sounded and we were off. It’s a great swim start, I love the spectators along the swim course. I had a relatively smooth start and didn’t feel too hindered in my pace by others. I even got some clear water for a few minutes.

I swam well. I felt strong the entire swim. I didn’t have any dips or dives in energy I was just steady. I messed around with my stroke, trying to get more streamlined with the wetsuit and really pulled my stomach up and tightened my butt. I swam strong and steady, and that’s exactly what I needed. I’m really happy with my swim. 1:04 may not seem like much, but with how I felt about my swim fitness going in, this was great. I also loved that they numbered the buoys. On the way back it was nice to count down to the finish, except I could SWEAR that there were two #2 buoys!

Getting out of the swim was crazy, there was a set of stairs and I really flopped myself onto them like a beached seal. The volunteers were amazing. I had my wetsuit stripped and it took 4 of them. The freak did not want to come off. It was funny once the lady got it off she threw it on the ground about 5 feet from me. She was so mad at it, then a guy went and retrieved it for me. hahahah!

In the change tent it was busy. I have 3 things in my T1 bag. Shoes, because they won’t let you put them on the bike here, my helmet, and my sunglasses. So it takes me very little time to put those on. Most my time in transition is spent running through the obstacle course they put you through. I’m pretty sure I passed like 5 people on my age group IN the change tent!

Off on the bike I went!

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Kona 2013 Swim

OMG I’m such a tease! I had to interrupt race report mayhem to take a quick trip out to Chicago to give a talk at the awards banquet for the Multisport Madness Youth Triathlon Team. Talk about inspiring! These kids are the future of our sport…and I can’t wait to see where they head. Okay…onto the KONA SWIM!

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I was first in the water. I was standing by the entrance when the pro men went off and I was in that water as soon as the Ironman volunteers would let me. I started swimming along the sea wall, looking for Troy. They were way down far this year, due to a later arrival. Usually Troy is there at 4am, but everyone was much more relaxed this year. A nice man named Terry let them encroach on his spot and I found them. I did my waves, and blew my kisses. Everyone was so excited and Mikki, Mo and Mom were there too. Ann and Annie had big smiles and dad was there of course with his big camera lens. Even Mary from IM Brazil and our Amazon trip was there, and it was great to see her huge smile.

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I lined up left of the big orange buoy. This year the outrigger canoes did not come into the athlete section, so there was nothing to hold onto. Some women had found a paddle boarder and there were like 15 people hanging onto that. There was a lot of energy around that board so I just decided I would hang back behind the swimmers and float on my back. That’s what I did, I just floated on my back and looked at the sky, it was very low energy and kept me calm. Before the start, it’s just a painful waiting game, so however you can make it the least painful, the better.

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We all lined up eventually, trying to keep our space, everyone drifted forward despite being yelled at to get back, and boom, off went the cannon.

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The start for me was good. I got in my rhythm pretty quickly. I actually ended up swimming behind a guy with no legs for quite awhile. I noticed that people were more respectful around him after they noticed he didn’t have legs. So he was nice to swim behind because people gave him more berth.

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About half way to the turn I had lost the legless guy and was getting pummeled by a rather big guy. No matter which way I would go he was always the one running back into me. He was really manhandling his way through the crowd and swimming quite strong. After trying to beat on him back a little, I finally realized that I should just swim on his feet and let him blast a path through the crowd. That’s exactly what he did.

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I hit the turn around feeling good, at the second turn buoy I looked at my watch and it said 31. Unfortunately the way back is always slower. Much slower. I swam right of the buoys and spent the whole way back getting yelled at by volunteers on boards. I just held my line. Right is the way to go.

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I felt strong on the way back and swam quite hard the final 7-8 minutes. I hopped up the stairs and saw the clock switch over to 1:07. I was good with this. I haven’t felt great in the water these last few weeks, so this was good and I felt strong the whole way.

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I ran through the hoses and tried to shower off and then ran to get my bag. They have all these hooks they hang your bag on and when I got to my hook, it was empty. No T2 bag. I checked my wrist bracelet to check that I had remembered the right number, and yup, my hook was empty. I told the volunteer “My bag isn’t here”, in response I just got a wide eyed blank look! “MY BAG ISN’T HERE”…. blank look! What can you do???

But then my problem solving kicked in. Go without, it’s just sunglasses. So I bypassed the change tent, found a nice looking lady volunteer and gave her my swim skin, goggles and cap, explained that my bag got taken, told her my number, and off I went.

Running to my bike my brain was like “What if your bike isn’t there?” Isn’t the brain funny?! Of course my bike was there. I put on my helmet and off I went. It was so crowded I had to walk to the mount line. Too little space on that pier for 2,100 athletes. Onto the bike and I was off!

 

Irongirl 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Blowfish

I’ve been going to bed before 9:30 PM most nights this week. What a gift to give myself. It’s hard. Last night I could feel myself getting a second wind, and I wanted to just ramp up, but I put the Zeo on (who went out of business by the way), hit start tracking, and closed my eyes. So tough for me.

Going to bed early means I’m up and at ’em early. This is such a gift for me. I’m usually groggy in the morning but recently I’ve been peppy. This morning I went swimming, at 6:30 in the morning. I’m usually the girl getting in the pool at 7:30pm or 8:00pm to get my swim done. I love swimming at night. But I’m turning a new leaf. After all, we race in the morning, not in the evening.

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So my swim coach Nick met me at this pool this morning. I had a chat with him about my really sub par swim at Boulder and he was ready to get in with me right away. We warmed up and he watched me swim and took some video. He worked with me on my stroke and made some changes that sounded great and made total sense. He pointed out where I was dropping my elbow and where I was slipping water with a tilted hand. We fixed those issues and I expected to get faster, but I got slower, and it was harder. But I kept at it.

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Nick got out to take his wife to work and I was left with the rest of my workout on my own. Due to the nature of us chatting/form work I had only covered about 1000 meters in 30 minutes, so I knew I would be in the pool for yet another hour. My main set (after about 1000 of warm up and 1000 of various pulling work):

200 on 3:15 steady in at 3:05

2×50 on 1:00 drill

200 on 3:30 build to really fast

2×50 on 1:00 drill

200 on 3:45 fast sub 2:58

2×50 on 1:00 drill

200 on 4:00 all out

It’s merely 4×200 getting faster as I go. I’m feeling sluggish, new form is funky and I’m sure I’m tense in areas I shouldn’t be. I’m not having a very strong day in the pool and I’m a little bummed out by it. The truth is, I’m judging it, instead of putting my head down and fighting through it, judgement free.

First 200 is right on 3:05. Okay, one down. Second 200 I build to as fast as I can get going and come in at 3:07. That’s okay, it’s ok, again more judging and more worry. So I get going on the third one and I think on a day like today its going to take an all out effort to get under 2:58. So I swim as hard as I can. Hit the 100 at 1:29, try hard to negative split, go to breathing every stroke….2:59.

Whew. Okay. okay. I didn’t get it, but I wasn’t horribly off. That was really all out though. So I’m standing there during the rest interval and I’m literally convincing myself not to do the last one. Here’s what goes through my brain:

—nobody will know

—why is this important anyways

—I already swam the last one all out

—it will just be slower anyways

So, I leave for the 2×50 drill and when I get to the wall after the second 50 it’s decision time. I stood up straight and I said to myself

—What are you afraid of here? Going slower?

—It’s the trying that matters

—Drop the fears Sonja.

And I took off from the wall. I made the first 50 hard, and the last 150 really hard. Really all out hard. My water awareness was bad. I know when I’m “on” because I feel like a shark and the whole thing felt like a blowfish (by the way, never has a photo better expressed the way I felt in the pool today).

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But I swam it. And I gave it my all. And I dropped the fear. I swam 2:59. Same as the one before. The numbers weren’t anything to write home about, but the effort was. Dropping the fear of failure was.

But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!

—Rocky Balboa

To paraphrase. It’s not about how fast I can swim. It’s not about the times I can hit. It’s about how hard I can swim when I feel like a blowfish. It’s about believing that if I’m a blowfish I’m gonna be the fastest damn blowfish out there.

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2013 Ironman Brasil – The Swim

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I don’t even remember if it was a cannon, or a horn, or just someone yelling to GO in Portugese, but all of a sudden the race was on. I took off wading right right right of the barricades. I kept wading right until I got open water and then I started swimming. I was all by myself. I got a little nervous half way to the buoy thinking “What if the swim current is the other direction, then I’m screwed.” But the kayakers in the morning were dragged left, and if it was, then the mass of people would be running into me as I was right. Then I wondered, what if I am too right. I definitely felt really unsure since I was swimming so differently than the rest of the participants. I hit the turn buoy literally 10 meters to the right of it, swam wide around it to keep my open water and a short while later was at the next turn buoy. I headed into shore.

Now I was with the masses after that second buoy and getting the typical Ironman beating. I found some feet, but then I passed them. Found another set, passed them. I starting passing lots of people. This was really freaking me out. I thought, oh no, I swam slow to the first buoy because I went too wide and I’m around all these people that are slower than me. I tried to get past as many as I could and at one point there was about 15 meters of open water ahead of me, and yet I was swimming shoulder to shoulder with about 10 people. It was strange. We were like a front. But then I pulled ahead and into the open water.

I hit the beach perfect and now it was time for the short run through the deep sand. I grabbed some water and looked at the swimmers on the second half of the course. I really took a good hard honest look at the masses. They were all being dragged left so I went with the same tactic as the first half. Way to the right, clear water, not a soul out there. Got in my groove and was able to actually swim hard. I felt less conflicted with my decision to stay right and just focused on swimming strong. I hit the turn buoy just a tad right of it, made a wide turn and then swam with the group back. Same thing as lap 1, I passed a lot of people in the final 800 meters, but this time I felt like it was just because I was swimming strong.

The masses swam the solid line, and I swam the dashed line…all by myself:

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No clock on the exit ramp, but I was guessing 1:20. Seriously, I thought I was out there for an hour and twenty minutes. I thought I was slow, thought the swim was slow. No big, it is what it is, I did the best I could. I used the wetsuit strippers and ran into transition. On the run in I got passed by like 6 people. These Brazilians were literally HAULING ass through transition. 2 of them were women and I was like “WTF, it’s a long day, why are they sprinting like it’s a 200 meter race?”

The women’s change area was a hallway. I kid you not, there are no women in this race (less than 10%) and we had like 20 chairs in a little hallway, if that. I took pictures of the men and women’s areas because it was shocking.

WOMEN

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MEN

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You have to take care of yourself 100% in this race. No volunteer help. There was one lady in the hallway and she just watched me. I’m not sure if they were told not to help, but we were told not to expect any help, so I was ready for that. I went through the motions, packed up my bag and was out of there. At the bikes I saw that Troys was still there, grabbed my beautiful QR Illicito and ran out.

Swim Time: 1:02:05

Swim Placing: 4th in Age Group (super happy with this), 38th woman, 366th out of the water. Top 18%, this is the best I’ve ever swam I think.

I want to send a huge thank you to my swim coach Nick Levine. He has really had a good plan for getting me faster over the last few months and it’s really cool to see that speed I gained in the pool actually start to cross over into the open water.  I still have no idea if I swam the right line, but I’m really happy with the result! Thanks Nick!