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.

1151_060714

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.

IMG_5441

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.

IMG_5436

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.

1151_060715

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.

1151_054466

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.

IMG_5438

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.

1151_018386

1151_007297

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.

 

1151_059566

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.

ironman-sw-005

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.

1151_044868

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!

ironman-sw-009

ironman-sw-015

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.

ironman-sw-008

 

Ironman Tahoe – The Swim Where I Actually Swam Straight

Untitled design (1)

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.

1151_005104

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.

1151_001616
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.

1151_018597

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

Untitled design (1)

 

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.

IMG_5293

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.

IMG_5303

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!

IMG_5347

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!

IMG_5349

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.

IMG_5358

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.

IMG_5362

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.

IMG_5364

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.

IMG_5372

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.

IMG_5382

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!

FullSizeRender

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!”

IMG_5378

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.

Untitled design (1)

Santa Cruz 70.3 2015

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

IMG_5243

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

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

IMG_5244

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

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

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

IMG_5245

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

IMG_5248

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

IMG_5252

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_5286

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

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

IMG_5285

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

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

IMG_5271

IMG_5281

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

IMG_5289

 

Norseman 2015 The Run up the Big Mountain

The Webinar on Monday is filling up! More information about it is on the Swim portion of my race report. The sign up link can be found here. 

It’s free. SIGN UP HERE


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.

7401943394_311848ef31_b

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.

nxtri_2015_21

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.

DSC_3294

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.

DSC_3281

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.

nxtri_2015_24

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. 

DSC_3278

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.

IMG_4416

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.

IMG_4417

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.

IMG_4446

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0292.
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.

IMG_4419

Tomorrow…my insights…


 

Monday, 7pm Webinar SIGN UP HERE

Clutching the Compass

This week I was reminded of a major tenant I have in life which is:

Don’t Clutch the Compass.

Until recently I didn’t have a name for this, but thanks to the eloquent Katie Den Ouden I now have a handy phrase.

I find myself doing this and I see it in my athletes all the time, so I thought I would share.

We all know the value of having a large goal out there in the future, the BHAG! The goal, the destination, the point of arrival, it matters. We all have them whether we say them out loud or not. I’m talking about the: win my age group, qualify for kona, win kona, make partner, land a big client, finish a memoir, make a million dollars, coach 200 athletes, kind of goals. Having that destination gives purpose and motivation to the daily tasks. It’s exciting, and challenging!

bhag

Thank you Scrivle for that gem!

But there is a double edge sword here. On one hand, I love watching my athletes set a huge goal like nabbing a PR in a race, or qualifying for the big dance in Kona and then attaining that goal! So sweet! On the other hand I have watched people not hit their goals and get frustrated and down on themselves when they were actually making great progress. Goals are a double edge sword.

The way to ride the edge of the sword when it comes to Big Hairy Audacious Goals is to remember: “Don’t Clutch the Compass.” What this means is that you want to put your goal in your minds eye, and you want to keep the awareness that this is where you want to land.

Then you want to let go of how you are going to get there.

You want to remove dependence on the WAY and PROCESS that you take to get there, I also suggest putting yourself in the hands of a capable coach to craft the program, if it’s athletic!  Every once in awhile you want to dig out the compass and take a bearing and check in to make sure you are still heading in the right direction towards your goal. But what you want to stay away from is obsessively checking the compass every step of the way to make sure you never head a single inch off path.

I see this happen all the time with athletes. They are so fixated on the end point, the perfect path to take, the power, the heart rate, the aligning every one of life’s details to add up to the ultimate personal success where rainbows abound, puppies are everywhere, and the Sound Of Music theme song is playing.

They clutch the compass in their hand, tapping on it every so often, and all the while, life and scenery, and the big picture is flying on by.

I see this in a few different ways:

  • Many athletes constantly look at every training session as a litmus test to prove to themselves that they are on track towards their goals. When a session went poorly, they see it as being off path. This is clutching the compass. 
  • Many athletes refuse to diverge in any way shape or form from the most direct path to the goal. Sometimes going around a mountain is better than the direct path that leads up and over. This is clutching the compass.
  • Most athletes who are chasing a BHAG utterly refuse to take a purposeful diversion off path just for the joy of it. They walk right past something amazing that would add to their life story because they are too focused on arriving. This is clutching the compass.

I have so been here. I see it in my training, and I see it in the ways I’ve chosen to grow my business. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed in the details…ahhh the about me page of the website is all messed up…when in reality, I’m here to help people cross the Ironman finish lines. The about me page is small beans, don’t clutch the compass Sonja.

What I’ve learned through Ironman racing is that attaining the BHAG is really pretty cool, for about 48 hours. But what you will look back on in life and smile about, are the times that you put the compass in your pocket. The times where you took a bearing and headed off west, in search of yourself, and experiences that would take you one step closer to learning valuable lessons. Keeping a relaxed attitude and checking the compass only every so often feels really scary at first if you have any of the TypeA blood in you, but I promise that after a few dances with success you will start to feel more comfortable. If you don’t put down the compass, and look around, you won’t get any practice, and you’ll just hang onto that thing like Tom Cruise in Castaway with Wilson.

Cast Away 2

Don’t Clutch the Compass!

Or better yet, hire a travel guide, and enjoy the scenery!

Keep abreast of the happenings with my new coaching company Rising Tide Triathlon Coaching by signing up for the newsletter here. New fun goodies are rolling out over the new few months and I would be so honored if you would sign up for notifications!

Adventures with IronCowboy

Interrupting previous scheduled blog posts to post about my Sunday Funday with Iron Cowboy!

James Lawrence, or as he calls himself the Iron Cowboy is a man on a mission! He has set a pretty huge goal. He’s doing 50 Ironmans in 50 days in 50 states. He calls it 50/50/50 and most of you who are reading this have either heard about him and his huge goal, or your jaw is on the ground. Yes, 95% of people think he can’t do it (he told me this) but he set the goal, put everything in order, and a week ago last Saturday got started in Hawaii!

Hawaii – Alaska – Washington – Oregon – California – Nevada – Arizona – New Mexico – Colorado

#9 was Colorado. James told me the date about 4 months ago. A million things have attempted to take over that date in my calendar but I held strong that I was going to be there for him when he came through Pueblo, CO on Sunday.

Saturday was the Boulder 70.3 and I spent most the day out on the coarse coaching and cheering. I got a good nights sleep that evening and headed to Pueblo at 7:30am. I originally intended to start the swim with him, but had heard he was starting at 6am and with the drive to Pueblo and staying up to finish my athletes schedules, I decided to leave Denver at 7:30am and see if I could start the bike with him. I saw on Periscope that he was just hopping in the pool at 7:30am, and was relieved knowing that the timing would be perfect.

It was easy to find him! He has a wrapped RV, van, and car. I knew I was in the right place.

IMG_3594

I got my bike ready with lots of fluids and food and waited for him by his bike. I was a bit sad that we didn’t have like 20 cyclists waiting to join him in Colorado. It really was just me. We did have lots of people happy to drive the bike course with us and point us in the right direction and keep us making the correct turns. The support was fantastic, I think people just weren’t sure how much they could bike with him, what time he would start, etc. The course was supposed to be 2 loops. I was in for both loops, just there to do whatever needed. If you join him in a future state keep an eye on social media to get better time estimates. They try to keep a schedule, but honestly, it’s all changeable if he needs changes.

IMG_3598

James came out and off we went. At first he was talking very softly. It was nice to have him all to myself to hear about some of the adventures thus far and be able to ask questions about what was working, what wasn’t working, how his family was holding up, etc. He had finished the marathon at 1am the night before and then drove to Colorado from New Mexico after that. He only had 3 hours of sleep the night before (he slept in the back seat of the Subaru because the RV would wake him up when it turned) and he had not gotten more than 3.5 hours of sleep since he began the 50/50/50. In my head I was like “SLEEP is going to be the limiter” here. He has so many nutrition products, recovery modalities, IVs, medical help, but what the man really needs is sleep. The problem is that he is finishing so late, and having such a huge drive that sleep is getting chopped. I’m really hoping he gets this figured out!

IMG_3600

After some chatting we got on this great road that went straight for like 20 miles. James said he would just sit in and draft and I told him to tell me if the effort level is off. He asked me to remind him to drink every 20 minutes. We did this for awhile and at one point I sat up and told him to drink and I woke him up! I shocked him! The whirl of sitting on my wheel had zoned him into near sleep zone! Yikes! Swimming makes me sleepy too! At that point I knew from ultra running that I needed to keep him talking more and engaged more. So I tried to do that.

IMG_3604

We had a little bit of company on the way back from some of the local Pueblo triathletes. That was really nice. Dallas, his chiropractor also hopped on a bike to talk to him about what he was doing, what was hurting, etc. Also, at one point his Colorado point person hopped out and rode next to us on a tandem, with huge wigs. I thought I was going to pee my bike shorts. It was SO hilarious, especially Eriks pink flip flops!

IMG_3654

James decided that after loop 1 he would take a little short nap in the RV, get an IV, sit in the Normatec boots, and then we would head back out for loop number two. We were making good time, so he felt he could get away with it. We finished 54 miles in just over 3 hours. He was happy about the time!

After his break we were back on the bike, again just the two of us out for the second loop. We headed out the same way and 8 miles into that second loop Colorado did it’s typical thing and downpoured on us. I was really sad because I had all this new rain gear in the car for Norseman and I didn’t have any of it on me. I was actually afraid when we left for loop two that it was going to be really hot. Welcome to Colorado! You just never know what you are going to get!

IMG_3657

We rode through the wind, and rain, and splash. Matt, who had been helping us know where to go all day in his truck hopped out and had a raincoat that we put on James. James was concerned his body temp would drop in the rain, as were we, so that was awesome that Matt had a coat that fit him. It stopped raining hard shortly after but James wore it for the rest of the bike. We got some good riding in through miles 60/70/80 in aero, with some rain on and off.

1912528_10204702066897546_2918682084597266489_n

Of course when it started to rain and get nasty the camera crew turned up! James is filming a documentary so there is a camera crew around all the time too! I gotta say it was a highlight riding in the rain with James, in the gorgeous plains of Pueblo, all green with grass and sunflowers, and then seeing the camera drone come whizzing by over our heads. I felt awesome in that moment, and so did James. Just thinking about the footage they got makes me pretty excited! Rudy Project was also out getting some footage of James, they are based in Colorado, so it worked well for them! I love this picture of the Iron Cowboy car with the kayak, the bikes, and everyone hanging out the window. What a crazy experience!

IMG_3648

When we turned around to come back into Pueblo we had about 30 miles left to ride. The storm was directly in our path, with a huge amount of lightening so the crew loaded us up in a truck and skirted us around the storm. I rode in the back of the truck while we drove through that storm and it was awesome. I didn’t get too wet, but I did take a little cat nap! We then met up with a road that had a tailwind and we rode that bad boy like we stole something! 30-32mph for the last 22 miles or so! It was awesome! I’m really glad his crew is there keeping him safe. Lightning is no joke here in Colorado and kills people every year here.

James wanted to ride to 112.1 miles so we stopped right on the side of the road when we hit that mark and the crew van scooped up James and drove him over to the start of the marathon spot. Matt gave me a ride back to my car and I packed up and drove over to the marathon starting location. This is us just after finishing the 112.1 with Erik and his son. Erik was the Colorado liaison and did a fantastic job!

IMG_3670

There was a good little crowd over at the marathon start! I got a real taste of what James is going through from an energy standpoint. I was a little tired after biking 112 (we clocked a 5:55 ride…thank you tailwind!), my energy was a tad low, and then there were 30 really happy, really excited people who all couldn’t wait to see James. He changed and came out to join everyone and I’ll tell you, he had more energy than I did! SO many people were there to share their story and James told me that in each state SOMEONE has run their FIRST marathon with him. What a cool thing. If you see the man on the left in the below picture, holding his daughter, well he ran his first marathon that night! His inspiration is Dick and Rick Hoyt, because his daughter has a genetic abnormality and he runs with her all the time! Oh, the stories, I’m so thankful for the community that running and endurance sport creates!

10614336_10205591888771291_8605207945162182936_n

After some photos we all got going in the marathon. We ran 4 miles over to a loop that we were going to run, all the while with James Periscope live streaming. If you don’t know about Periscope check it out! It’s twitters new live streaming and it’s a TON of fun, perfect for what James is doing!  We made it out to the loop we intended to run, but a section of it had been overtaken by the river! James got a short little ride through it! haha! We decided to change the course and ran a different loop, and by the end of the night, we were running 1 mile laps around Pueblo River Walk. That was entertainment in and of itself!

IMG_3680

The marathon was really cool and I was glad I got to walk/jog/run the whole thing with him. I think there were 10 of us that did the whole thing with him, and another 30 or so that did parts! He does a “5K” everyday where lots of people come out and join for that. Most of his kids run the 5K, he has 5 children, all who are on the trip! His wife Sunny Joe is a really wonderful woman. The two of them are beautiful to watch together. What’s really cool is his wife takes the kids to go do something fun in each state and then when the 5K rolls around the kids run with him and tell him all about the fun they had that day. I LOVE this, and you can tell it totally gives James energy to have this little routine with them. At one point I watched him pick up his son and spin him around in circles. I was like “eek…how are you doing that after 9 ironmans in 9 days?” The kids are having MUCH more fun than James is! haha!

IMG_3676

I had a blast meeting the two older girls, and then meeting many of the other people doing the run along with him. Two people came all the way from Aspen to run with him and one guy had completed 30 Ironmans in 30 days in Italy! It was so cool for James to run with him, they had lots to talk about. That guy was probably one of the only people on the planet that could even remotely relate.

IMG_3674

I felt like I was the insider a little bit because I had been with him all day. It made me a little sad to think that I couldn’t go on the next day and just do it all again with him. I really wanted to. I think if I could do the bike and 10 miles of the run every day with him that would make me a very happy girl. I’m hoping I can meet him in Nebraska in July and spend a few days doing just that! James and I have always clicked personality wise and at one point in the marathon his quad started giving him trouble. He stopped and stretched, and he used a can of sunscreen to try to roll it out a bit. When it didn’t let up much after that he texted Sunny Joe, his wife, and asked her what to do.

This was by far my favorite part of the day because it’s SO UP MY ALLY. Sunny Joe does energy work. Our emotional body has a mirror in our physical body. If you get all squiffy about this sort of stuff then move to the next paragraph but James asked her what the right quad means emotionally and she replied with “worry of behind the scene details.” We both looked at each other with wide eyes. She then gave him like 5 mantras to repeat to ease his worry of the behind the scenes details and we ran a mile repeating those and talking about how great the crew is, and how the details are handled, and how he just needs to focus on swim/bike/run. Two miles later that quad pain was GONE, but we had to really repeat those mantras and get that emotional worry to subside. It wasn’t just about repeating words, it was about convincing him that the details were handled. Once he believed and knew that in his heart, his quad was back to it’s normal tired heavy overtrained self. The more years I spend in the sport, the more that kind of work is something I really lean into and believe. It may sound like Hocus-Pocus, but I have so many examples of things like this in my own life, and that of my friends. It was cool to see James using the medical side, the physiology side, and then pulling in the emotional side. Mmmm Juicy!

IMG_3686

We finished the marathon at 11:55pm and I felt proud about that because I knew he was going to get a solid 6 hours of sleep, and I felt a little responsible for that. It truly takes a village to get him through each and every day, but I was glad to do my little part on one little day! 95% of people may feel that he isn’t going to make it, but I’m in the 5%. I know quite a bit about the determination in this guy, and we shared a lot of words out there. If he stays on top of his bike, and the crew keeps doing their job, then James will do his job! Childhood obesity is a cause close to his heart and it keeps him going when it gets tough.

11403361_928301447234771_88850878663590296_n

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I will try to answer them with what I know. If he has yet to come to your state, PLEASE go join him! Especially on the bike where drafting is super helpful! The running crew is fun, but he could sure use bike supporters too. Oh and no speed is too slow, especially for the run! We were logging lots of 13 14 and 15 minute miles! It’s very inclusive! We had some 4 year olds running with us at one point!

Perception and perspective is something we develop through our life experiences. I know in my heart that I have perceptions that just aren’t true, and James is great at challenging those in me. For as long as I’ve known him, he’s pushed the limits of his own capacity and has broadened my horizons in doing so. Just making it through the 10 that he has thus far in 10 different states challenges what I think is possible. Deep bow to him!

If you live in Colorado….he’s in Nebraska on July 19th, and Wyoming on July 23rd. His last day is July 25th in Utah!

Keep it up Cowboy!

Aspen Adventure Day 2

Oh man I slept like a baby! Thank you again Jen for the awesome lodging! Saturday morning Jeff drove up and dropped Mo off in Vail to ride for two days with us. The Beesons also drove on up for the weekends adventure. After breakfast we packed all the kids into the Honda Element with Troy running SAG, and Jen and Mark both got to ride a bit on Saturday. Annie was so incredibly happy to have friends to play with along the way!

IMG_3168

Bright and early we left from Eagle/Vail. The skies were deep blue and cloudless, the wind was nonexistent, and it was gorgeous! I rode a little bit to start off with Michele and Mo, just to make sure everyone was clear on where they were going, and all was good. They were great riding buddies and it was so cool to bring two new people together who ended up having a great time riding together!

IMG_3183

Then Jen and I rode the rest of the way up to Tennessee Pass together while Mark and Tony rode together. Jen and I chatted and were happy, and just having a really nice time! This section of road, over Battle Mountain and up the pass were just gorgeous. Green trees, clear blue lakes. I was a very happy girl!

IMG_3201-1

IMG_3205

At the top of Tennessee Pass Jen turned around and rode back to Eagle/Vail to pick up their car where she would meet Troy at Twin Lakes.

IMG_3216

After parting ways with Jen I got some solo riding time all the way to Twin Lakes. I had a weird situation happen with a guy following me in his car. He would stop on the opposite side of the road and then I would pass then I would see him a few miles later do the same thing again. By the 4th time my intuition was heightened. When I got to Leadville I pulled into a quickie mart for water and he pulled in too. It was very strange. So I called Troy and asked him to come find me and just stay close for a little bit. Nothing more came of it.

IMG_3223

After Leadville I made my way to Twin Lakes. This is a major aid station for the Leadville 100 run and I always think about that when I’m here. It reminds me of pacing Erick, crewing for Emily, and just the buzz and excitement of Leadville. Rolling in here Mark and Tony were snacking and the kids were playing. Everyone was happy and life was good.

IMG_3261

IMG_3262

I refueled and took off with the boys to climb Independence Pass. Mark was off like a rocket and Tony and I took our sweet time! It’s a lot of climbing and I was feeling less than spry!

IMG_3264

As we got closer we could see there was an avalanche blocking the road and people had gotten out of their cars to start shoveling. We could see snow flying off the edge of the cliff as they dug it out. By the time we made it up there one lane was sorta open. We eeked our way through and kept climbing.

IMG_3271

IMG_3288

IMG_3292-1

This pass is amazing! I could climb it every day. It’s hard and I struggled a bit but the views made the struggle that much easier. Because of the avalanche we really didn’t have much traffic, they were all stuck down below. It was some nice solitude time.

IMG_3308

Tony and I met back up and snapped a picture at the top and then enjoyed the 20 miles of screaming descent. You actually get tired of descending, it’s so much!

IMG_3344

We pulled into the hotel. Troy arrived at the same time with Mo and Michelle and Jen. Everyone got checked into their rooms and I headed out and ran 3 miles up Aspen mountain, and then three miles back down. I had to get a feeling of what was to come in Norway, and well, it’s legit. The end of that race is going to be something I’ve never experienced before!

IMG_3345

IMG_3331

After that we enjoyed great dinner out together and we topped off the night with an ice cream sandwich. I slept like the dead!

IMG_3340

Aspen Adventure Day 1

I got this crazy idea a few weeks ago to ride my bike to Aspen and back from my house. I sat on it a few days, checked my schedule and then just decided to go for it. I put it out on Facebook and got some great responses from people who agreed to join me, and thus an adventure was born! We’ve had a really wet spring, and with a nice winter snow base I didn’t really know what we were going to get into, but as is typical me, I said “Adventure! Let’s do it.”

We made reservations in Aspen, and my friend Jen was sweet enough to open up her vacation home in Vail to us! Troy agreed to come up to Vail Friday night after Annie got out of school and run SAG for Satuday/Sunday and then drive home Monday morning early. That left me without SAG on Friday and Monday, but all the details seemed fairly covered!

On Friday I got a lift over to Jodys house off Ken Carl and we took off. Up through Bear Lake Park, along past Red Rocks and then up the I-70 frontage road to meet up with Jen. Then it was the three of us for the rest of the day.

IMG_3110

We had a short 1 mile stint on I-70, down Floyd Hill, along a cute bike path to Idaho Springs, and then were on the frontage road along the highway. I’ve traveled this route many times and I really like it. From Idaho Springs to the top of Loveland Pass is about 30 miles of straight climbing. That’s legit and similar to what I will do the first 30 miles of Norseman.

IMG_3114

We had a very lovely headwind the entire way that broke us up. We rode some solo miles but never too far apart. When you hit the Bakerville exit off I70 at that point you hop on the bike path. There is a 7-ish mile BEAUTIFUL bike path that leads to the base of Loveland ski resort. I love this bike path.

IMG_3120

We get a few miles down the bike path and theres a little patch of snow. No bigee, we walk on through. Then a little bit later, another patch, we navigate that. Then a bit later a big long patch. Jody is sitting there looking at us with a “what now?” face and of course I’m like “Welcome to the adventure!!” We hike-a-bike through that patch and then keep riding on the other side.

IMG_3122

Well, we got wooed…. a few more hike a bike patches later we don’t know whether to keep progressing forward, or turn back, rehike through what we already hiked through, and then ride on I-70 for 7 miles? We soldier on. This may not have quite been a team decision. Every 100 yard hike-a-bike section ended to reveal yet another 100 yard hike-a-bike section. On our 20th one of those we were tired!
IMG_3124

IMG_3129

We took some stop breaks, did a little conscious complaining, and motored on. 2 miles of hike a bike later we dumped out at the bottom of Loveland ski resort and the base of Loveland pass. Oddly there were two cyclists standing there wondering whether they should take our route in reverse, to which I said “I forbid you.”

IMG_3131

Now, I must say how proud of Jody and Jen I am. This hike-a-biking was not for the faint of heart. We each potholed dozens of times down to our upper thigh or waste in snow, all the while toting a bike along with us. I tend to just put my nose down and motor through adversity like this, and this was a really big test of friendship. I was pretty pleased that nobody lost their marbles, everyone handled themselves like champs, and I feel we are all a bit closer now because of it. You can’t take that bonding experience from us!

IMG_3140

I lost my toe warmers in the process and all three of us had soaking wet feet, Jody being the worse because he didn’t wear socks. We were so happy to be back on our bikes riding and proceeded up Loveland Pass. The top was beautiful and we found Jody hunkered down behind a wall, rubbing his toes trying to bring the life back to them before the long descent. Jen and I were in good spirits, happy to have made it to the top of the pass!

IMG_3145

On the way down we stopped at Arapahoe Basin to refill bottles and all three of us decided that new, warm, cozy, fuzzy ski socks from the gift shop were in order. Those socks felt so darn good. I’m still missing one of them, Jen, any ideas?

IMG_3147

From A-Basin we descended, quite cold, down to Keystone and into Dillon. We hit up the bike path, knowing it would get us to Frisco, but took a wrong turn and ended up in Silverthorn. Back up the hill, and onto the right path we somehow found our way to Frisco and onto the bike path towards Copper Mountain. Along the way Jody saw two beavers in the beaver pond, Jen and I saw neither, and all of us were getting pretty tired.

IMG_3148

At Copper mountain we stopped to get junk food. I can’t really put it any other way. Chips, soda, crap, more crap, oh it all tasted so good. We were debating whether we should wait for Troy and have him take us the rest of the way. In my mind I knew it would be very tight to fit 3 bikes, 3 cyclists, Annie, Troy, and all the bags in the Honda Element. I told the crew I would ride up and over Vail pass. Well then Jen and Jody weren’t going to let me do that without them, so everyone started suiting up to ride over Vail Pass. As we were about to step outside the heavens unleashed a torrent of hail. We sat back down and called Troy.

IMG_3149

Much maneuvering later we were indeed able to fit 3 bikes, 3 cyclists, Troy, Annie and all the bags in the Honda Element. I love that car! For the day, we totaled 92 miles, and 11,000 feet of climbing! Not too shabby! A warm shower never felt so good! We enjoyed a great night out eating before tucking into bed, ready for the next days adventure!

IMG_3155

The Adventures of Princess Kitty

I just have to blog about this today. I’m staying up late doing so, but it’s so worth it!

Do you guys remember Princess Kitty?  I’m not sure if she’s made huge appearances on my blog, but I know a few times I’ve mentioned her, or posted a picture?

IMG_6409

I travel a lot for racing and training. My daughter has grown up with this, and she considers it pretty normal, but in the last few years, especially as travel has increased, she started to express some of her concerns. Being a mom and chasing the goals that I had often times felt in opposition. I knew if I was going to find harmony in this situation, it was going to come from listening to my daughters concerns, asking lots of questions to really understand the root of them, and seeking unique solutions that met her needs. I knew that for me, this did not mean setting my dreams aside and just staying home all the time.

One of the many unique solutions we have come up with is the Adventures of Princess Kitty. When I travel, I take Princess Kitty with me most of the time. I take photos of her on my rides and runs, or with pretty backdrops, and I text them to Annie. Sometimes we get on FaceTime so Princess Kitty can talk to Prince Puppy. It’s just become a way between the two of us for me to have a piece of her with me, and for her to feel like she’s in on my experiences/adventures.

IMG_6225

And then we got to the point where Princess Kitty started coming on all our family adventures. And last weekend, we went to Washington DC for the first time (more on that soon). Annie brought her blankie, because that goes everywhere and doubles as a coat, and she also brought Princess Kitty.

IMG_3005

Well, on the way home on Monday, we had a tragedy. We were all tired, we had woken up at 3:15am to catch our flight (1:15am Denver time) and we were a little zombie like traveling through the airport in Denver. We exited the tram and headed to baggage claim when Annie said with panic in her voice “Princess Kitty!” We were out of the secure area and couldn’t go back. Annie said she left her on the tram and started to cry.

I must admit, I was super sad too. I lost an entire bag of my favorite clothes coming home from Kona last year, so I knew the feeling of “oh no, my prized possessions are GONE” plus I really love Princess Kitty too. I’ve toted that cat on some serious training days where didn’t have much extra pocket space!

It’s really important to me as a parent to honor my daughters feelings and refrain from shaming her. So we cried, we did not do any of the “see what happens when you….” or “why did you…” Nope. We felt the sad emotions for having left behind Princess Kitty. After some tears, we launched into “What can we do about it?” I find this is a good place to go as a parent. I start with one idea, then I ask Annie for the next one. We make a list. Here’s what we came up with:

1.) File a report with DIA for missing Princess Kitty

2.) File a report with Southwest

3.) Use social media

4.) buy Princess Kitty 2.0.

We decided against #2 since Annie was SURE that Princess Kitty made it off the airplane. On the way home, even though we had solutions in place, there were many more tears and a lot of whys? and what if’s?

“What if another kid takes Princess Kitty?”

“What if they never find Princess Kitty?”

“Why do I always lose things?” (that one made me sad, it’s hard being nine)

I remember at one point saying “Maybe she’s just off on a fun adventure and she will make her way back when she’s ready” It didn’t really help Annie, but made me feel better.

Upon arriving home, for the first time in Annies entire life she did not want to go to school. She said “Mom, I’m too sad to go to school” so I said “okay” and we did crafts and read books.

We filed the report with DIA, and I put a tweet out to @DENAirport (DIA has THE BEST twitter account, I have been following them for years).

IMG_3011

Two hours later I got an email from DIA saying they were looking for our lost item but hadn’t found it. That night I went online, googled my pants off and found a replica of Princes Kitty and ordered it…with 2-day shipping.

This morning another email came from DIA saying they still hadn’t found it, but weren’t giving up.

Then, later this afternoon, I got a text from my good friend Jen telling me to look at twitter.

And this is when I lost my bananas.

IMG_2995

This is the photo they posted:

IMG_2994

And then another:

IMG_2996

And look what they did with Princess Kitty:

IMG_2997 IMG_2998 IMG_2999 IMG_3001

At this point I am crying. Can you believe how precious those photos are. I called Annie right away and told her they found Princess Kitty and to go look at Twitter to see the adventure that she got to go on. Annie flipped out! The sweet ladies at lost and found called me and I said I would bring Annie to come pick her up. We brought flowers and chocolate to say thank you!

Annie gets reunited with Princess Kitty.

IMG_3002

I can not say enough nice things about this whole experience. For someone to take the time to treat this experiences in this way literally melts my heart. Princess Kitty was sitting right up high on the window in lost and found, not on the shelves with the coats and umbrellas. She had a tag around her neck, and had been loved and cared for. The ladies at lost and found asked us to come back by on our next trip and say hi. They too fell in love with Princess Kitty.

I can’t help but think about the amazing things that continue to happen in my life when I embrace what comes my way and don’t judge, shame others, have unrealistic expectations, or a bad attitude. Being able to parent in a way that feels authentic to Annies feelings felt really good, and then to see that Princess Kitty did indeed go on an adventure, and came back when she was ready, well, I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

I can’t thank DIA Airport enough, they are truly the best airport on the planet. I was told that the story of Princess Kitty went all the way up the chain, and for that, my heart smiles. I have so much gratitude!

Princess Kitty now has a twitter page. If you would like to follow along on her adventures, she’s @PrincessKittyCO

Also, I would suggest following @DENAirport they are a wealth of knowledge, with lots of humor, and kindness too!

IMG_6258