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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
You know what I have really really missed since starting my business? BLOGGING! I loved writing in my blog and it’s time to resurrect this bad boy. So, guess what? Getting RTTC up and running over the last 20 months drained me dry. More than that, it took all my fitness, all my disposable free time, pretty much all my savings, and a large chunk of my heart and soul! It’s been hard and super rewarding all in one! BUT! I moved to the ocean, to the last place I truly loved living and we have been loving every minute of it all. I’m now a certified #sunsetjunkie
The business got to a point where I had to decide if I was going to run it, or be the coach. I have 6 AMAZING coaches on board right now (Audra, Jess, Mikki, Cindy, Amy, and Denise) not to mention the awesome Stacy Sims helping out when needed and so I decided that my days of coaching one on one atheltes needed to end. Sure, I still help out some of our coaches but for the most part our lady-coaches have 100% of the coaching under control. That leaves me to run all the dirty business happenings, which secretly I love! I keep everyone on track, and do all the behind the scenes stuff that takes FOREVER, but nobody ever gets credit for. Hello one woman accounting department, marketing department, customer service department, website developer, and mass email writer. Who wears many hats? This girl! AND, I have to give a quick shout out to Mighty Mo, who PRed in Cozumel with an 11:33 and 5th in her AG. Super proud coach!
So, over the last 20 months I got a bit overweight, and I got a lot slower. I tried not to beat myself up about it too much, but Kona was really hard for me. Honestly, it was soul crushing. I had actually come to terms with the fact that I would be slower, much slower. I had decided that I would enjoy the day, slow down, have fun, smile a lot, cheer for others. Folks, here’s the problem. I wasn’t in good enough shape to do all that. Kona dealt me an ass whooping on a grand scale. I finished the race so empty, so heart broken, so exhausted I didn’t know how I would make it to the car. I actually cried when I had to pick up my bike because I couldn’t walk there and back. Total heart break and exhaustion. No other way to put it.
So, dear friends, I would like to get back in shape. That’s my goal. And I would like to write about that process. I know that I have to find a new normal, but I’m hoping that the recent shift in my business means I can claw my way back.
With that goal I have signed up for a few races this season. Unlike last season that was pretty much a wash, this one is taking on a life of it’s own.
— Surf City Marathon – I would like to qualify for Boston. We have RTTC atheltes qualifying left and right for Boston 2018 and I would like to be on that start line with them.
— Ironman New Zealand – ACK!!! Stacy lives there, I would like to visit her, and I’ve always wanted to race it. I have 14 weeks until race day.
I’m doing a few trail races over the next few weeks, the second of which is right in my backyard. Have I mentioned my new back yard?
So, training starts today, or, maybe yesterday.
Where am I at right now? Well, I’ve been running a few times a week. Some weeks are good and I get some traction, some not so much. So right now I can run about 11 miles without feeling too sore, past that and it starts to hurt more than it should. I signed up for a 13.1 mile race in Mill Valley for this coming weekend, and then a 25K trail race next to my house for the weekend after that. Those will help keep me motivated to run.
Biking, well, that’s in pretty iffy shape. It takes a lot of time that I never seem to find. I tried to panic train for Kona (7 weeks ago now) so I have a little of that fitness left. I feel good on my bike, but my volume needs some work. I did do an FTP test today. Annie took a video….love that kid!
Swimming. I have found a great masters and every morning M/W/F is long course so that’s been good for me. I’m not swimming fast for me right now, but I’m not swimming slow either, middle I would say. Kona was a 1:10 and I was ecstatic about that. But I am excited to log more masters sessions. Hoping to do a 200/400 time trial this week to see where I am really at!
The original plan was to take a year off Kona and then go all in and try to win. What really happened was that year off turned into starting a business that completely flooded me and sent me in the opposite direction of the original plan. But you know what, Kona happens every year, and there are many more opportunities to chase my goal. I’m not giving up on it, but it’s going to take some work to be able to see it as even a remote possibility again. And I’m okay with that. I know in my heart the mistakes I made during the first go around and I think there is some wisdom that I can apply to the next push. Plus, it’s the “trying” that makes all of this stuff so fun!
Training starts NOW!
BIKE: FTP test on the bike, starting wattage 219 FTP (I need to procure a power meter for my actual bike)
RUN: 90 minute easy run around town as the sun set, about 8:45 pace. Most of it was in the dark and I probably ran a tad too fast. Heart rate monitor is going back on this week.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
So, the Tahoe Bike, I was in 6th and 6 minutes down. We got going and it was cold, but not 2013 cold, just a little bite to the air. As I have said a million times I was really excited to ride the course. It’s 2.5 loops and the first section you will end up riding 3 times before T2. This section was fast, and fun and is punctuated with a little hill they call Dollar Hill. It’s fun because the first loop I was like “yay dollar hill” and then the third loop I was like “YAY DOLLAR HILL”
My friends Michael and Brandon were on Dollar hill and I knew they would be. I was stoked to see them and had nothing but smiles and joy. They were cheering up a storm with loud booming voices and I felt just like they did! Dollar Hill was the first time I noticed that my rear wheel was rubbing on my frame. This became a fun game for me. If I pedaled really stable and stayed in aero, it wouldn’t rub. If I got out of the saddle or let my core relax, it rubbed. I thought about why it might be happening when it wasn’t the day before and deduced that it was because my tires were at 115psi and that expansion made my wheel rub.
After Dollar Hill I got back in aero and worked on pushing the next section of the race. There is a lot of flat and downhill on this course and that’s a strong area for me, especially since I haven’t been in the mountains as much this year. One thing I know I’m good at is getting in aero, finding that uncomfortably comfortable place, and just nailing it. Very little movement in my body, glued to my bike in aero, staying squarely in the moment. I almost crave race day for this very opportunity, it’s almost meditative for me, that pure focus on the moment.
The vally between Tahoe City and Truckee was cold. I got cold, my hands got cold, and my feet got cold. Luckily I don’t seem to get aggravated by the cold. Everything for me goes a bit numb and less functional, but it’s not painful for me. I know others experience different reactions, some get the shakes, some get very painful coldness. I just go numb. And sometimes I ride too hard because my legs are numb and I can’t quite tap into them.
I was just happy. Through Truckee it was awesome, lots of cheering and it’s the cutest mountain town. Then we were onto the new out and back section that they added. I loved the edition. On the way out it was road, then we climbed and got onto a bike path. We had a fun descent then it was bike path on the way back and was super fun to race down. There was very little passing in this section. Although I did get passed by Ciaran to which he said “Sonja your wheel is rubbing” to which I said “I know”…hahahah!
Because of the big week of training my heart rate was nice and behaved. It wasn’t spiking when I got excited, and I didn’t spend a lot of time looking at it, I just checked in every once in awhile. Thank you tame heart rate!
Then we got to the big daddy climb up Brockway. In years past training on this course and getting ready for Kona I have had some wild experiences on Brockway and I’ll tell you about a few. One time (at training camp) I rode up Brockway at 255 watts, at 5 beats below my Ironman heart rate (what what?!). For those of you in the know, this is really huge wattage for someone my size. It was nothing for me on that day, I could do no wrong, I remember thinking I was the queen of the world that day.
Another day I was kaput and I remember riding up Brockway and my watts were 117 and I was at Ironman heart rate. Quite the opposite situation. This particular day I was about to start crying (my go to reaction when I need rest from the training…took years to figure this out) and I remember riding up Brockway saying to myself “Damn it Sonja, do not cry. Whatever you do…do. not. cry….look at those trees, those are damn beautiful trees…it is gorgeous here…don’t you dare cry, be thankful, your life is great…don’t you dare shed one tear.” I talked to myself this way all the way up Brockway. Coach was at the top and I pulled in, not crying, holding it in, keeping my cool. I was way behind the group and he looked at me and said “you okay kid?”
to which….I lost it….balling. I was good until he asked! I still remember him taking my bike and telling me to get in the truck, then he put my bike in the back, got in the drivers side, and said “kid, just let it out”
So yes, I have MAD CRAZY memories of riding up Brockway Pass. On this day, I smiled. Coach was half way up the pass cheering, he told me I was in 3rd, and 1 minute down to first. And then he told me that Annie was out of the water 2nd in her wave. And I looked at him like “what?” and he was like “Annie, your daughter.”
That floored me. My daughter decided last minute to race a kids tri the day that I raced Tahoe. It gutted me that I couldn’t’ be there to see her race. Gutted me! In fact, the entire dolphin pod knew I was gutted so they all went to the race and cheered for her….for me… (typing that makes me cry). Muddy had talked to Troy and he kept me updated on Annies race the whole time I was racing. I think some of you moms who race triathlon can feel me here when I say this was one of the most special things someone has done for me. Thanks Mud!
That news added to my joy. As far as how I rode up Brockway…easy. On a course with two major climbs you don’t make your moves on the climbs. You make them on the downs and flats, so I rode up like I was out for a social ride, and I took it all in. Because there was no pro field when I passed my way into second woman literally half the spectators screamed “Second Woman, she’s right there.” For a few miles I had to say “yes, thank you, yes thank you, yes, i know, thank you” It was awesome. So many thank yous!
Once down Brockway on the flat again I passed into first with a “rock on” and just kinda thought about that for a second. No pro field I know, but it felt special, I won’t lie.
When I went up dollar hill the second time, this time leading the women’s race, Brandon and Michael were screaming up a storm. That made me feel awesome. After I saw them it was business time. From then on, for the rest of the race, it was heads down, balls to the wall. I was in the front of the race, and people were very spread out, so I rode for miles without seeing another person on the course. When I stopped into special needs to replace all of my bottles with fresh bottles I let some air out of my tire. That fixed the wheel rub for the most part. Sweet!
When I went by Squaw vally, I was going about 30mph and coach was on the side of the road and all I could hear was him yelling F-bombs. He does that when he gets happy! He’ll yell “F*$& Yea” and it always makes me laugh!
The last loop I put my head down and enjoyed the pain. My body had thawed and I could really TT it out and feel every sensation in my body. That is why I love Ironman, you are stripped down to the feeling of the movement. It was my favorite part of the day. Climbing Brockway a second time I took it all in, absorbed the beauty around me, and pushed a little harder. The third time up dollar hill my friends were gone and that got me excited. I knew all the spectators were making their way up to Squaw to cheer on the runners and I couldn’t’ wait to get there.
The last 4 miles, and this ALWAYS happens in Ironman…. all the familiar faces from the bike reconvene. It’s so funny but you make friends out there even if you don’t talk. You go back and forth with people and you know them from what they are wearing. Then you drop some people or they drop you, but it always ends up that the last 4 miles everyone comes back together. Like magnets.
Up to squaw I could see there were lots of people on the course doing the 70.3, lots of spectators, lots of fun! All the 70.3 athletes were out on the run and my first thoughts were on Anthony and Jody who raced (they both rocked, Jody got a worlds slot, Anthony was 2nd overall and won his AG). I was excited to get running myself.
Into T2 I ran into the tent and most the 70.3 racers had transitioned so the tent had 2 athletes in it. The volunteers were standing in there and I could tell they weren’t going to help me at all. They were checking their phones and hanging out, lounging, not concerned with the athletes at all, which is cool, no judging! Haha! I came in yelling “LET’S GO LADIES, I’M THE FIRST WOMAN OFF THE BIKE, I NEED HELP” they all kinda jumped up and sprang to action. I think I scared them. In fact I know I scared them! Transition was really quick and I was off and running. Thank you volunteers!! Sorry for the scare!
UPDATE!!! Tuesday October 20th! We just closed registration for IronTide as we SOLD OUT of our initial round! We are currently working on getting started with our new athletes, and will open registration again in December! THANK YOU for your interest. If you would like to be on our newsletter list where we release our updates and launches, fill out your email on the RIGHT had side of this blog!
I know you have been waiting on a few race reports from me. They are in the waiting area, ready to get published this week but I had to post really quick today to let you know what I’ve been working on until the wee hours of the morning most nights.
It’s been a doozy! About six weeks ago I launched my first product under Rising Tide Triathlon Coaching. It was a 2X a month webinar on mental skills called IronMind and it’s been going really well. All kinds of athletes are learning, and getting to know themselves better through these webinars, plus they are a lot of fun! It was a big push to get that off the ground and I immediately started working on a bigger project. If you signed up for my newsletter via this blog, I told you that I would let you know when I was ready to launch! (If you are signed up, you will receive an email today with a link to all the information in it – check your promotions folder if you are a gmail user).
That time has come (Happy Dance, and I need sleep)! Today I am rolling out a new format in coaching, called IronTide.
I have spent the last nine months talking to athletes about the coaching market. Many of you have taken my surveys, and endured one-on-one calls from me asking you a litany of questions. Thank You, this came from that!
Through those surveys and interviews I came to a solid conclusion.
ONE – coaches have inconsistent communication patterns. Athletes get bummed when they used to talk to their coach all the time, and then the coach stops or slows down that communication. Coach communication opportunities need consistency for athletes to stay happy. Like training, it’s less about quantity, and more about consistency. But, volume matters!
TWO – athletes get suspicious about their schedules. They think the coach is slacking and just drag and dropping, or not taking their “special needs” into account. They want custom, and they aren’t sure that their schedule is any more. There is a misunderstanding in the coach/athlete relationship between unique and custom. A schedule can be custom built to the athlete, but the workouts are not unique. Again, more of a communication/education failure on behalf of the coach.
I looked at those two themes over and over again and I knew I could do something about these reactions. I started Rising Tide at the beginning of the year because I wanted to share my knowledge with more athletes. Bottom Line. I saw a million different ways of doing that and as the year progressed I honed in on how I could be of service, which became…how WE could be of service (yes, other coaches wanted to be a part of it…happy dance).
Then we went about building it. And it took time, and resources, and lots of coffee, and mentors, and a ton of help from all my athletes as well. It was a group effort.
I knew I wanted to build a program that solved the two problems outlined above, created a great community, and allowed the athlete lots of flexibility in coaching fees. I wanted good solid systems of communication, and I wanted attention on the athlete to be front and center. I’m so excited to release my little wonky butterfly into the world.
Intrigued? Fill out the form below and then check your inbox for an email with a link to the program details. If you are a gmail user, check your promotions tab and drag that email into your inbox unless you want RTTC emails to keep going to your promotions folder (no!) We don’t send out much email. We keep it to the super important stuff! Like this!
UPDATE!!! Tuesday October 20th! We just closed registration for IronTide as we SOLD OUT of our initial round! We are currently working on getting started with our new athletes, and will open registration again in December! THANK YOU for your interest. If you would like to be on our newsletter list where we release our updates and launches, fill out your email on the RIGHT had side of this blog!
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.
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.
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.
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!
After 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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!”
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!!)
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)
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!
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”
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).
It was a great day for our little house and we celebrated that evening with….ice cream of course!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Whew! Okay folks, here we go. Things are about to get real. This was hard to write. Some serious vulnerability happening here, but heck, you only live once! YOLO!
I want to send a huge thanks to all of you that signed up for the webinar next Monday! We had a GREAT response over the last 24 hours!! It seems quite a few of you are excited about this idea. 3 more days to sign up! It’s free. If we hit 100 registrations, I’m going to give away some OSMO bundles during the webinar. In case you missed my update yesterday:
Monday, August 31st, 7pm (Denver time…you know, Mountain time) I’m going to host a webinar on my #trihacks. It’s going to be around 60 minutes long, but I’ll stay longer if people need me to. I’m planning on talking a little about WILLPOWER because that’s what I’ve been delving into personally over the last few months, and then we can free form it from there.
It’s free so we can see if I suck at it, or if you all like it. SIGN UP HERE
The Norseman bike ride:
I headed out of transition to stunning views as the sun was rising. The first little snafu I experienced was losing my Smith glasses. I was shoving them in my pocket with cold hands, and then a few minutes later I went to move them and they were GONE. Uug. Will be ordering a new pair stat.
The first 35-ish kilometers (20ish miles) you climb around 4,000 feet in elevation. There really isn’t any warm up. Maybe enough time to put on a pair of gloves, get in aero, and BAM, climbing. Last sighting of my Smith glasses. Sad…
I was not feeling too peppy and I was about as cold as one would expect after swimming in 50 degree water. I had talked to Muddy the day before about my situation and I must say, he knows me so well. We didn’t even discuss not doing the race, he knows that’s a decision I would have made or not made on my own. So his advice to me was simple “Go into Diesel mode” which pretty much means, don’t step on the gas, just persevere, slow and steady. Easy to say, hard to execute.
The first girl went by me very early on, and in the first 3 miles I was getting passed often and quickly. I had no problem letting that go because I literally felt like everyone was very strong and seemed to be hard charging. I have never been passed like that in a race and I just absorbed the feeling. When we started climbing that first big climb I continued to watch racer after racer haul on by me.
I had gotten out of the water in 24th overall (men + women) and by the top of that first climb I must have lost 60+ places it felt like. All the top contenders went by me within 15 miles and I was embarrassed to be wearing #7, people knowing that was an elite number. I wished I could have just blended into the crowd more, but I realized quickly…nobody cared. It’s a personal event. Everyone is focused on themselves and their crew team. I did manage to look around. The scenery was amazing on that first climb!
I tried to take the climb easy, I had put gearing on my bike to give me gears to spin, and man, I was using them. There was a lot of spitting and blowing snot. I tried hard not to hit anyone with it, but my nose and chest were offloading like a liter of fluid. It was gross. Just gross. The coughing was every 35-60 seconds so about what I had been experiencing the few days prior. I felt half dead to be honest, but I climbed on.
The other athletes crew teams passed us and I even saw Troy and Andrew go by in our Volvo, whom we called Mr.Beepy. There are a series of tunnels in the first climb. Norwegians LOVE their tunnels! They build them EVERYWHERE and we loved driving through them during our 2.5 weeks in Norway. Biking through them was interesting. They are very dark, and warm, so I was pretty happy in there, it felt like a cave, which was pretty much what I wanted to curl up in. They do smell like car exhaust, but my sniffer wasn’t working too great anyways.
At 25k Troy had a fresh bottle for me, and then I saw him and Andrew again at the very top of the climb in Dyranut. This area of the course was crazy town, lots of crews, and vehicles, and athletes pulling over, putting on coats, or stopping to eat. I was being overtaken by the mid pack and there were a lot more cyclists around me. If you look at the elevation chart of the bike you see that it’s rolling and downhill all the way to Geilo. Before the race I told Troy to go ahead and provide SAG at the top the first climb and then book it to Geilo bc I would be fine with two bottles and rolling downhill.
This was my first really big mistake of the day…but maybe a blessing in disguise in retrospect. In my condition I should have asked Troy to bunny hop me every 5 miles instead of sending him 50k down the road. But that was our plan and off they went. This whole section of the course is on the top of a huge plateau. I knew it was cold up there because I was losing motor control of my hands which is really rare for me, but I really couldn’t tell what sensations were because I was sick, and what was the conditions. And honestly, the bone shaking hacking I was doing up there was requiring a lot more toughness than the temperature. Usually the snow is melted on the plateau this time of year, but their cold summer meant the snow was still up there, and that snow was why the fjord was so cold. It was 7:30 in the morning, and I found out later that the air temp was 0C or 32F.
My lungs were angry but I was learning that dealing with that was going to be constant. The altitude up there, combined with the cold, combined with being in wet tri shorts, put me in a really bad spot. My wet tri shorts froze to my skin and I started to feel my skin underneath take on the feeling of dead meat as my body moved the blood flow away from it, mostly just the section between my bum and my hips. I was still getting passed continuously, had yet to actually pass a single person, and I was not moving fast. I would pedal anything up, and then just coast anything down. Sometimes in aero, most the time not.
A lot of this section gets a little hazy but there came a point where I was not mentally there any more. I wasn’t thinking clearly, or making good decisions. Two times in this section I rode off the side of the road accidentally. I just wasn’t with it and all of the sudden I was in the dirt off the road. I would stop and kinda wonder how I got there and then pull back on the road. I remember wondering after one such occasion how long it would take Troy to find me if I crashed in the rocks. I remember thinking it would be a long time because he would sit and wait for a long time before coming to find me, maybe days. And I remember thinking that it would be okay. The best way I can describe it is that I stopped having any regard for my safety. It wasn’t a conscious decision, my mind just got strange and didn’t quite care any more. And honestly, thinking back on that over these last few weeks has been one of the hardest things to get over. Hard to explain, but I’m doing my best.
The road started descending and I just sat on my saddle trying to remember to make the turns the road was asking me to make. I was well beyond any sort of racing brain, just out of it and ridding down a random road in Norway. And I was cold, but also very numb.
At 90k I saw Troy screaming on the side for me and I pulled in to where he and Andrew were stopped. I could not speak. I could not think. I knew I needed warmer gloves, and I knew I needed to get out of my wet tri shorts but I looked at them with dead cow eyes and tried to talk. Mumbled Jumbled words came out. I tried again and got out “gloves and shorts.” Troy said “I can get you gloves” and I said “shorts” and he said “I have gloves” and I said “shorts” and he said “I can only get you gloves.” I know my husband well enough to know when he’s lying to me, but I was so out of it I was confused and kept saying “shorts” and he kept saying “gloves.” I finally just looked at him with confused eyes and got back on my bike. No new gloves, no new shorts. (He’s so cute…how he puts up with this…I have no idea, but he says he loves it)
Looking back, this was the spot in the bike portion of the race where I am surprised I didn’t quit. The only reason I didn’t was because my brain was working so slowly that it couldn’t even process that quitting was an option. It’s like I was too dumb to quit. It’s really hard for me to describe, but it’s probably the worst I have ever been off mentally since I was in labor with my daughter. Totally confused and not with it.
A mile later Troy and Andrew were on the side of the road again with warm gloves. I looked Troy dead in the eye and said “where are my spare shorts?” He looked me back in the eye and said “I left them in transition.” Suddenly it all became clear. He felt horrible for leaving them so he was trying to not tell me because he thought I would be mad. But the minute he told me my brain popped into problem solving mode and I looked at him completely clear headed and said “I have a spare pair in my luggage, they are Coeur brand, get those.” It totally got me out of fog-brain and I was coherent for the first time in 55k.
A few miles later we were in the middle of climb #2 (there are 5 climbs in the race, and 12,000 feet of total climbing on the bike) and Troy and Andrew are on the side of the road with my Coeur shorts and food. I stopped and put my bike down. Now I’m in an odd position. I need to get nude. There are racers riding by, crews driving and cheering on the side of the road. People are watching and I kinda wave to a guy and ask him to look away, which he does not. Then I change shorts. It was pretty awkward but I got it done and got back on the bike, two more ladies passing me in the process.
Those shorts were apparently my good luck charm because changing into them was a turning point in my race. Honestly, if the last 80k was just as miserable as the first 100k, I would not have finished Norseman. I would have ended up in a ditch, but lucky for me, I perked up and pretty much became “normal Sonja”. Now, my lungs weren’t going to let me push, and I was still coughing every 30 seconds, and the race had passed me by a solid 80k ago, but it felt nice to not feel like death.
Climbs 2, 3 and 4 are all on the shorter side, and I found an interesting pattern. I felt good at the bottom of the climbs when the temps were warmer and the elevation was lower. As I got to the top of them my lungs got very angry and I would suffer big time until I descended to the bottom once again. I also figured out that the cough drops were making my stomach really feel crappy, so I quit those and just let the cough roll with it’s bad self.
I actually passed back some people on these middle climbs and would tell them good job. This was when I figured out that Norwegians don’t do that. They don’t talk to other people and when I would say “Good Job” they would give me this really funny look. But, it felt good to me, so I kept saying it. The crews on the other hand were great and many of them would cheer for me as well. Many crews would hop their person every few miles, but Troy and Andrew timed their SAG much farther apart so I would see other peoples crew team multiple times before I saw mine. Which way was better? Who knows… both worked.
I remained in a similar pattern for the middle three climbs and finally found myself at the base of the last climb. Everyone says that this is the worst one. I also read that your crew can get stuck if you don’t time it right and you will beat them to T2. I didn’t want that to happen so I had told Troy the night before to just provide me SAG at the bottom of the climb and then drive to transition and I would ride the last 40k without SAG. So I got my last handoff from them, was in pretty good spirits and off they went.
As I climbed this last one, which really was quite steep and quite long, all the people around me had a different plan for their teams than I did. Their teams were seeing them every 1/2 mile to mile on this climb. I got a bit down in here. I honestly needed the emotional support more than anything and I felt really sad that my crew was gone. I definitely spent some time in here just feeling very alone, and even had some thoughts about my life the last few months. I don’t usually do that in races, I’m very in control of my mind, but I think feeling like I was “completing” and not “competing” opened up my brain to some dark spots. There was this one crew, their racers name was BOB, and he had like 20 people crewing for him. They were pretty amazing and kinda adopted me a little bit out there. They cheered for me every mile up that climb. They were so kind and gave me love out there which I had grossly underestimated my need for.
The final descent is a bumpy one, and everyone had been warning us about how horrible it was. I felt it was bad only in comparison to the pristine Norwegian roads. It was about standard for a California descent. After the descent is a long flat section of 5 miles or so and I pulled over to go pee because I hadn’t peed all day yet and I couldn’t hold it any longer. Apparently 7 bottles is the max I can hold without peeing…I am a camel!
After my pee stop, a few more miles and I’m at T2.
Oh T2….the most strange strange part of Norseman. So Troy is in there, they have like 15 bike racks. They don’t need many because your crew is going to take your bike after they get you out of there. So Troy grabs my bike and he has ALL my stuff laying out in T2, it was amazing. The T2 is small, and it’s a rectangle, and it is lined 2-3 deep with spectators. Not cheering spectators…literally just people watching you. I remember looking up and making eye contact with several people, they were like 10 feet away. I’m in bike shorts…I need to run in either run shorts or capris. I look at Troy with panic…there are no change tents. I said “I don’t want to get naked” and he says “Oh, everyone is doing it” and in my head I’m like “that doesn’t help me.”
Literally all I could think about was that in order to get into my capri pants, I would to take off my shorts, which meant I would need to bend over. Spectators are staring at me 10 feet away, and like 300 of them. I knew one thing…. I WAS NOT BENDING OVER NAKED IN FRONT OF 300 NORWEGIANS. I have thought a lot about this since and why I felt so weird because if you know me, you know I am NOT a modest person. I think it was because I felt so extremely vulnerable. I wasn’t racing in the lead, I was really sick, and now I had to get nude on display.
I remeber saying in my head “just get it over with” and I laid down on the grass and shimmied my shorts off. I remember looking up and seeing people watching me like they were watching TV. There was the awkward moment of my bits being on display as I tried with frustration to wrangle my capri pants on, struggling to get them up. Troy pulled my knee warmers off my legs and I put my run shoes on and got out of there. I have never been so happy to leave transition in my life. Worst strip show ever…
Running out they tell you what place you are in. This is probably a good time to explain to those of you that aren’t familiar with Norseman the set up. So, Norseman accepts 260 athletes. I got in by applying for one of the 5 women’s Elite slots, hence #7. At mile 23 of the marathon there is a checkpoint. If the weather is good, and you are in the top 160 people (men and women are not separated here, and there are no age groups, it’s top 160 and that’s it) they allow you to continue UP the mountain on a rocky dirt trail the last 3 miles, and you get to finish on “the top” at the Guastatoppen. If you do this, the next day they award you with a black finisher t-shirt.
If you aren’t in the top 160 at mile 23, they turn you towards a different finish line lower on the mountain and you get a White finisher shirt.
Exiting T2 they told me I was in 121st place. I had been passed by 97 people on the bike. And because all day, my entire Norseman experience was getting passed like I was standing still, 121st seemed VERY CLOSE to 161st in my mind. That number scared the dickens out of me.