Ironman Tahoe – The Bike Course I Have Been Waiting For

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


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!

Lake Tahoe Training Camp

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


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.

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2013 Ironman Arizona – Run

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2013 Ironman Arizona – Bike

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

2013 Ironman Arizona – Swim

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


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

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

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


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



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

IMG_4505 IMG_4504

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off on the bike I went!



2013 Boulder

This was my 3rd time racing Boulder 70.3 and I think probably my last for awhile.  The Boulder reservoir is just exhausting!

The was the first year of the new rolling swim start. You lined up based on your projected final swim time. I lined up in the 30-32 min group. Lots of friends in the group and I really wanted to swim with Anthony. It made for a very easy gentle start of the race, people were chill. But I also found it lacked that adrenaline rush that I love about racing as well. It just took the edge off everything.


I felt like I was swimming great the first 2/3 of the race, but the last straightaway was quite bad. I got nailed twice in the throat and I took in a ton of water and then gagged and threw up. Not once but twice. I don’t think I lost any time due to it, it just was uncomfortable. Also got my goggles whapped so hard that they sucked into my eyeball. Had to stop and get that sorted out.


Out of the water I was really laboring. I didn’t know at the time I swam 32:42. Pretty bad swim for me, doesn’t really show the 20,000 yards of swimming a week I’ve been putting down in the last month, but that’s how I swam and it was the best I had on the day.

I got really lost in transition. Really not like me, my head was just in a big fog. I couldn’t find my rack, went down two different racks searching for my bike, didn’t recognize my stuff when I got to it, and had to stop and look at my race bracelet to remind myself of my number. Was a bit flummoxed mounting my bike as well.


Onto the bike my heart rate was high and my legs were screaming at me. But sometimes you just gotta tell them to shut up, ignore the HR, put your head down and ride. That’s what I did. I just rode. My head was spacey and I couldn’t make sense of the numbers like I usually do, so I just kept it raw and hard. It was painful. I was more in control than years past, but my legs never eased up, they were angry and I didn’t care. Nutrition went down great, except my Osmo tasted like soap. It was so strange.


I had this odd thing happen when we were going through an aid station and there was a sign that directed bikes one way and cars another. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out which way to go. I kept looking at the sign and just couldn’t figure it out. It was odd, but apparently my brain did not show up to race. It was obvious, but I couldn’t figure it out.



Because of the rolling start you have no idea where you are in your age group or who you are racing. I’ll be honest. I absolutely hated it. When I sign up for a race I want to RACE, like with others in my age group. This was just some pseudo in-between bull shit and I will steer clear from races with this start format from here on out. Ironman has lost my business on that point. Thanks Ironman, for taking the race out of the race.

Off the bike, got lost in transition (translation) a second time. Foggy brain was still in command. Luckily I did not put on someone else’s shoes this year. Oh lordy. I got out running and shoved my Garmin in my bra. About a month ago I lost the wrist strap for my Garmin. It’s one of those that can go between the bike and the run and has a separate wrist strap for the run. Well I lost it so I have to stick the thing in my bra. Not ideal.


So I got off running and thought to myself: just run mile 1 on perceived exertion, go at what feels like 70.3 pace. When my Garmin buzzed at the one mile I fished it out of my bra to look at the split – 7:45. Ek gawd Sonja, you’ve got to speed up. And that’s about how the run went. Me telling myself to run faster, and trying to do so only to see split after split of lackluster times (for me). I tried to pick it up harder on the second loop, didn’t really happen. I wasn’t in an extreme amount of pain, more just felt like I was in a giant bubble, inside a slow motion movie, and I was trying to dig deep but couldn’t figure out how to do so.

The finish line was great, it always is. It also means you can sit down. I came in at 4:38:11, a whole 8 seconds faster than last year, 2 min slower swim, 2 min faster run. But whereas I was 2nd amateur and 2nd AG last year, this year I was 7th amateur and 4th age group. Congratulations to those I shared the podium with, some terrific races were had out there. Looks like everyone is in a good place going into Vegas World Champs in a mere 5 weeks.


Thank you to those who support me through the ups and down, KE, QR, PxRx, Amrita. This wasn’t quite an up, but it wasn’t a down either. I gave all I had and I’m proud of that. Onwards!









2013 Saint George 70.3

If you watched the triathlon racing last weekend via the blogs, FB or Twitter there were a lot of people talking about this fantastically gorgeous race in Saint George, Utah. I was lucky enough to be on the start line of that race and I can’t say enough positive things about it.

If you want to skip the reading and just get the story of my race, you can listen to Episode #37 of Jim and the other guy where he got me to spill the beans. 

Prior to the race I had a really strong training block with the camp I attended in San Jose along with the work I’ve done back in Denver. I was feeling good. Coming off Oceanside the fire in my belly was bright. Racing a 70.3 just 3 weeks prior to Ironman Brazil was something I felt excited about, I tend to recover quickly, especially in those final weeks before Ironman when my fitness is high.

I also had 3 of my athletes racing and I was really excited to see where they were at, and how the work I’ve been giving them is absorbing. I was just ecstatic with how things went. Mikki finished her first triathlon ever, very strong and she had fun! Mo had her first puke free triathlon since I’ve been working with her…and that’s been years. It was such a huge success for the both of us. And Jody had a superb race with no cramping, and is right where he needs to be for Brazil. Add to that, Punk Rock Runners 13 min half marathon PR on Sunday and I would say this was one of the best triathlon weekends of my coaching life.


As I lined up on the start line I had a lot of things in my mind. My athletes races, mainly the swim for Mikki (so much anxiety around that for first timers), but also PICs mom. She was really in my thoughts that morning due to some medical stuff she was dealing with, and I was thinking about PIC too, and hoping she could race for her mom and be strong. Here is our scared faces!


The reservoir is one of the nicest lakes you can find to swim in. The water is clear, you can see bubbles. I met Katie Kyme on the start line and we got into the water together. The start was smooth for me, although it was cold. My face was nice and numb but I felt like my turnover was a little slow as my arms were just cold and slow moving. I found some feet, they were great feet, straight swimming feet. On the final stretch, as the feet got a bit tired I swung around and swam strong to the finish. The swim work I’ve been doing with coach Nick continues to help me feel strong and prepared in the water. He assigns a lot of broken miles and I can refer back to those workouts on race day. It gives me tactics to use!


Out of the water and onto the Quintana Roo I was jazzed to get this show on the road. I love the first miles on the bike, because really, the only thing going through your mind is “How are my legs?” “Are they here today.” All I could come up with is COLD. My legs were cold, they weren’t warmed up and they were slow moving because they felt cold. So I decided to really give them some time. I told myself it’s a long day, let them warm up slowly.


3 miles into the race you go up your first climb. It takes about 5 minutes and I remember thinking “that was harder than when I rode it yesterday.” But you don’t always have to feel good in races. Sometime you just have to race hard, and know that it will all turn out okay in the end. At mile 15 I caught up to Rebecca and there were two other ladies in my age group right with her. I knew that when I went by this group of three I really needed to go and go hard. So I sat back (legal) and sat up and just watched for a little while. I ate a bar, and let my HR drop low and I just watched what was going on.


Then I went. I put in a big effort for about 3-4 minutes and just went as hard as I felt I could reasonably go. After this effort when I pulled off of it, Sarah Jarvis passed me and said “Hi Sonja.” I took a look back and realized that she was the only one that went with my move.

The rest of the race was the Sarah/Sonja back and forth show. Sarah would pass me on every single uphill and then I would bust a move to get back to her on every descent. The course is very hilly. There are so many climbs that I lost count. But there were lots of bomber descents as well and the course evened out pretty well with a mix of the two. I remember going through 25 miles at 1:06 and thinking “this isn’t that slow.”

At about mile 38ish Sarah and I passed another girl in our age group, Christine. She was riding wicked strong and hung tight as well. As we approached Snow Canyon I was trying to decide on my tactic. My athlete Jody passed me and I had given him the go ahead to ride Snow Canyon as hard as he wanted, so he was bustin’ a move. I decided that I would keep my HR “managable” and use the 10 mile descent to bust my final move. So I rode that canyon hard, but not all out. Both Sarah and Christine gapped me pretty big.

Oh, and I ran over a Post-it note half way up the hill and it got stuck in my breaks and was making a HORRIBLE sound. It was a sound like I got a puncture, and I thought it was stuck in the back break but found it in the front and got it out. Scared the crap out of me for a few minutes though.

When the descent came I nailed it home. Hard as I could go, full tuck position on those descents and it paid off. I got back past Christine and Sarah and rode into T1 in the lead in the AG.

After Oceanside and my solid bonk I decided to make a few changes. I had a race belt with hydration to put on so that I was prepared with fuel goodies. I also decided to run without socks. I’ve been running in Sketchers recently and ran a few runs without socks in my goRun2s but didn’t practice with wet feet (bad move Sonja). I got my stuff on and got out of there.

I had advised my athletes to be VERY careful about your effort the first 2 miles. It’s a deceiving course and only gets worse as it goes. I started running and the hill was there but my legs actually felt good. My HR monitor strap was bugging me (I feel like that thing is trying to kill me on the run, hate it hate it hate it), but all in all I was feeling a boat load better than Oceanside.

I passed Mud who’s camp I attended and threw him my HR chest strap and got some encouragement to keep it steady. I also turned around, wondering where Sarah was and SHE WAS RIGHT THERE. This got me really excited. I love a good foot race.

The more the miles racked up the faster and stronger I felt (thank you Jen Schumm for all those single leg squats over the winter). I remember running down the first downhill and just feeling so strong. I had asked Stacey Simms (Osmo nutrition) a few last minute questions about my nutrition plan and I was repeating “I love Stacey Simms” going up one of those hills because my nutrition was working flawlessly. Having the waist belt was great, and I will take it in Brazil for sure.

I slowly got a little more time on Sarah as the miles went by and with each little surge I put in. I kept the pressure on and tried to catch every girl I saw in front of me regardless of age group. I felt better running than I ever had before in my life.

At about mile 6 I realized that my feet were getting harassed with no socks on. It just made me run harder. There was nothing I could do about it. With 2 miles to go, you have been descending for a long time and they send you on this out and back that’s an evil hill. I ran up that thing hard and took a time split back to Sarah of 1:05. Knowing I felt great, it was the first time I really smiled. Don’t get me wrong I was having fun, going fast is fun, but it was the first time I just was overwhelmed with absolute JOY. The last mile and a half I just wanted to feel the experience of the runners high, where you feel like you can run as hard as you want and it doesn’t even hurt. It was one of those days. I could do no wrong.

Coming into the finish I was so happy. It was so emotional to have one of those races where everything came together. Fitness Brains Tactics Emotions. It is so rare that everything falls into place and that was what happened for me out there.


I want to extend a huge congratulations to the ladies I shared the podium with who were not only the top 5 in the AG, but also in the top 6 amateurs. Way to go womens 30-34! Sarah Jarvis, Emily Ure, Christine Avelar, Carly Johann! Solid racing ladies!! Also, a huge shout out to PIC Michelle who opened up a new age group at this race, and took home the win, and did so for her mom.


Thank you to Kompetitive Edge, the new kit is great. Also thanks to Quintana Roo for my awesome bike. I didn’t have the fastest bike split, but it was close 🙂 Amrita Bars, Punk Rock Racing, Osmo and NUUN have been so supportive. Thank you to them.

And also, a huge thank you to all those that have supported me through the good and the bad. My husband Troy and daughter Annie who continue to just love and accept me for who I am, tired, peppy, grumpy, you name it, they are my ROCKS. Thank you to the friends I have made training this year, especially the San Jose crew. And mostly, for the LOVE that I have received as of late.

Total Time: 4:47:28, swim: 30:57, T1: 1:40, Bike: 2:36:49, T2: 2:08, Run: 1:35:54, 1st Amateur, 1st 30-34


Ironman CDA 2012 – The Bike

So I really had nothing to lose in this race, which still didn’t stop me from being scared of losing something (I don’t know what…face maybe). In line with that, I love this interview with Lauren Fleshman, especially the part about understanding that failing doesn’t mean you are a failure. It’s a good one!

Part of why I signed up for CDA was as a dry run for Kona under Dirk. I wanted to see how I felt under Dirks tutelage, how my legs felt after his taper, it was a big experiment of sorts. Also I had executed 5 Ironmans with basically the same race plan and I was excited to try the plan that Dirk had suggested. This meant going quite a bit harder on the bike. It was a risk…a big KABOOM could happen. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. I have this quote in my little quote book, it says:
Nothing Started,
Nothing Experienced,
Nothing Learned,
Nothing Finished.

I was going for it. I hit that heart rate he suggested and drilled it. But here’s the deal. I could not wipe the biggest smile off my face. I rode though town giving shakas to EVERYONE. Like…EVERYONE. I was smiling, hamming it up, waving, shaka all over the place. Like the complete opposite of normal focused Sonja. It wasn’t that I wasn’t taking things seriously, it was just that I was having SO MUCH FUN.

I encouraged everyone around me, told them good job, talk talk talk. I gave shakas to the volunteers, to the bag pipe players, to the lady dancing zumba on the stage. I smiled, I made eye contact, I had fun. But I also nailed my plan. It was an odd turn of events for me, I had nothing to lose, and I was fearless.

The “happies” did not leave me, they stayed with me the entire bike. CDA has a 15 mile out and back along the lake and then the new course goes out to a highway for a 42 mile out and back. Then you do it all again. The way out is mostly up with 4 distinct climbs. The way back is generally more downwards, with 3 climbs. Of course I was watching my time gaps to Katy B (AKA uber studette swimmer, fastest swim split of the day in 53 minutes, my Team KE possee, and eventual 2nd in our AG and 5th woman overall, PROs included) and PIC (who you all know). At 6 miles in Katie had 16 minutes on me and PIC had 5. I had my work clearly cut out for me, but those two kept me motivated and kept me pushing for higher watts.

Starting into the first big climb I came upon Keith. He’s one of my closest friends (Moab 100 pacer extraordinare, AKA has seen me at my worst) and he said “Great swim Son” when I passed him. He said I was talking before I passed him, talked as I passed him and talked all the way until he couldn’t hear me. Dang I was happy. Every photographer I gave a big smile and a shaka! Totally Jazzercised!

At 35 miles in at the turn around on the highway Katy had 11 minutes on me and PIC had 3:30. I kept the pedal down, legs cranking, and a smile on my face. I had a group of guys go past me and there was a bit of a loose pack dynamic going on with them. I talked to a nice woman and we reminded each other to stay away from them because they were trouble, with a capitol T!

I loved the way back on the freeway. The descents were awesome, you could pedal down most of them and I was flying and smiling and loving the scenery. My QR CD0.1 was feeling great under me and all I could think was “awesome.” My legs felt really really good, and strong, and ready to shred. I was just cranking and happy to boot. I can not say enough wonderful things about my bike. It’s amazing how much of a difference a comfortable and well fit bike can do for your races.

Coming back through town was total hilarity, I hit the 1/2 way point at 2:42 and was a little shocked. Another one of those would make for an awesome bike split! I came upon Jocelyn who would eventually win our AG and take 4th woman overall (PROs included). I went through town waving, smiling, giving shakas, so freaking happy and jazzed to BE ALIVE. People were yelling my name, I was doing fist pumps. It was rather funny looking back. Jocelyn pulled up next to me and said “You know everyone here.” Actually I had only seen a few I knew, I was just loving up the crowd. I hadn’t seen Troy which worried me. I came up with a few crazy stories in my head, mostly involving Tony (AKA big brotha Beeson) not making it out of the swim (he was fine). I found out later everyone was worried because they couldn’t find me…all because of my green vest (green dress vest…that’s cruel).

We got out of town, onto lap #2. I felt like I was sitting really good, I was with Jocelyn, we were making our way up to the front of the race, I was ready to get off the bike with uber runner Katy B and Jocelyn and to go for broke. I told Jocelyn, “Now is where we get to work.” Lap 2 is where the poo hits the fan usually, where you have to dig deep on the bike because it’s not as easy any more. If only I could wipe this huge smile off my face and get serious here!

Then I started to feel like my back tire was squishy squashy. Humm? I kinda bounced on my seat to see if I could feel the rim hit the pavement and I did. Then I tried to look at it, but that’s always tough. I thought about asking Jocelyn because she was right there, but I didn’t want to interrupt her race with my issues. As we went up an incline I watched her pedal away and I was pedaling really hard. I knew I had a flat.

I pulled over next to a really nice family sitting in lawn chairs. They all hopped up to help and I said “No, I don’t want to get DQed.” Sure enough, I was flat but it was a slow leak and just squishy down to the rim but not totally flat. I also was on a set of rented wheels so that I could have power data.

The story of the flat is kinda long, but I’ll make it short. The valve extender kept me from deflating the tube all the way, so I’m trying to change the tube when the tube is rather inflated (to maybe 30-50psi). It was challenging and there was blood involved, and it slowed me down badly. My spare tubes and CO2 were WELL taped to my bike via electrical tape, this slowed me down badly too. I got it done! It’s all goooood! I think I said that like ten times to the family in the lawn chairs “It’s ALLL GOOOODDD!” I was fearless changing that flat, I knew I could do it, I knew I was quite capable, if only I could get the darn tube out.

Right when I finished inflating it with my CO2, the flat changing moto pulled up. He said to me “If you give me 1 minute I will check your work and pump your tire to 120psi”. I thought about it and said yes…what’s 1 more minute? So he did that, pumped it up, and put my tire back on. I almost asked to do that myself, because, really, I did change it all on my own, and I was proud of that.

Ten thank you’s and a few more “It’s all good”s and lots of smiles later, I was back on the road. A guy on a mountain bike rode up and said “Your looking good, Dirk is watching” or something like that, and I said “Well then tell him I just flatted” but I said it with a big smile and even maybe another “It’s all good” and probably a shaka or two….

I got right back to work straight away. It was time to drop the hammer. I saw Katy at the EXACT same place I saw her first loop. That was funny, back to 16 minutes back, doh! I saw Michelle was now 12:30 up on me. I thought I lost about 8 minutes to the flat. Turns out looking at the Garmin it was 11 minutes almost exactly. I won’t be hired on any sort of tire changing pit crews any time soon!! Hahahah!

(PS Since then I have come up with about 10 things I should have done differently, but I’m sticking to the fact that I problem solved the best I could in the moment…lessons learned. AND, not a single ounce of frustration the whole time, thinking about this a few days later makes me weepy. Because positivity is not positivity unless it remains in a difficult situation)

I got back to the plan, smiles abounded, even the next time we went through town. Shakas and fist pumps, smiles, and grins. Back to my favorite section of the course. I really had fun those last 40 miles. I felt better at mile 80 than I ever have. Mile 90 I was like “It’s on”. Mile 100 I was cheering for everyone around me going up the last climb, telling them “This is it, let’s do this, pedal hard boys, be tough, be fearless.” Also in the last 20 miles I passed most of the guys in that original pack, they were all solo now, fighting it out on their own. I even gave them “Good Job”s. I know, cheering for drafters…I don’t even who know I am?

Back into town, out of my shoes, hand off the bike, goodbye Blackjack, and run into transition with a big fatty stupid grin all over my face. Bike Split of 5:44, and I’m darn proud of that one. It was a quick T2 for me. Socks, shoes, wrist band, watch band, new race belt with EFS liquid shot in it. Off I went. I hadn’t seen Troy the whole bike, and yet there he was at the exit of T2 cheering. I apparently looked like poo, but BOY was I happy, although the photos don’t do it justice. I yelled to him “I flatted” and he yelled “I know.” Nothing more to say there. Off I went, putting on my new PxRx hat (AKA HAPPY HAT) and getting situated and ready to run.

2012 NOLA 67.3

DUDE!!!! I don’t even know how I’m going to blog about this weekend. I think it was the most fun I have ever had at a race weekend. NOLA is freaking awesome, so much fun fun fun fun, I can’t even explain it. So many amazing stars aligned this weekend and it was more than just the swimming biking and running.

Mama Willis (my maiden name) came with Michelle and I on this trip, we shall call her mama PIC. We also enveloped M into the fold, she’s officially PIC 3 or Trouble 3 or my favorite…Dr.PIC.

I’ll admit, I got a long pep talk from the Dirkinator before the race and it rocked so hard core. I got off the phone feeling like a beast and I felt so ready to put it all out there. Also, since I chopped off my hair, my alter ego has come out. It’s mostly a Justin Bieber, 16 year old, teenager sort of attitude. I’m not sure Michelle is so fond of it, especially after a tweet from Mac that said “It looks like Michelle is dating a rapper” (best tweet ever).

I was really not taking things very seriously before this race, which is good for me, it’s definitely not my norm. Ususally I am sorta Type A planner, organizer Sonja, but this trip I was 16 year old, hat on backwards, whatevsssss, Sonja. The awesome part was that because my mom was there, there was no fallout from my lack of organization. I feel like I can be a kid when my mom is around, she is seriously the most nurturing woman you will every meet.

Friday morning and we woke up and put our bikes together caught a cab to get beignets. They were everything I always hoped them to be. Sugary, fried, dense, totally wonderful. I think I had 4, maybe 5 of them.

We visited the French Market after that and picked up souvineers for the kiddos. PIC and I also found shirts that we had to buy immediately. This PIC thing has really gotten out of hand. WAY out of hand. But that sort of thing is allowed in NOLA, believe me here! Everything is way out of hand, and I love it!

Packet pick up, race meeting (swim canceled and replaced with a 2 mile run), bikes put together, nap nap nap, eat eat eat, bikes dropped off at transition. It was so windy things were blowing around like crazy. This was one of my favorite transitions due to this awesome and photogenic lighthouse in the middle of it. It was a good marker to run to.

We were settling into bed and getting those last minute things taken care of when PIC realized that her heart rate strap didn’t seem to make it into her bag. Crapitty Crap Crap. I could tell she didn’t want to inconvenience anyone because heading out at 9pm to procure a heart rate strap in one of the most dangerous cities in America was not her idea of a fun time. No worries!! We all hopped in the car and went on a heart rate monitor hunt in our jammies. Luckily we were successful!

Race morning was cold, and windy, and cold, and I had to poo. We got that taken care of and then I was in a great mood. Michelle and I ran the 2 mile run course as our warm up and I think we were the only ones. I’m glad we did recognizance on it, it was good to see it. It was quite windy on one section and I’m glad I wasn’t surprised.

The really cool thing about the DU format was actually seeing all the Pros take off together in one group running. You never see that, and it was really cool. Hard to explain but it got me super hyped up. I got to see the PRO men come in and go out on the bike, and the women as well. I tried to cheer for every one that I knew. I saw Michelle go out on the run and she was right with Dr.PIC. With the AGers they were letting us off two at a time in a time trial format. So you started with a buddy.

When I got in line for my turn I found Hailey. I knew going into this race that Hailey and Libby would be the ladies to watch. Libby is coached by Dirk and is insanely strong. Hailey beat me in Kona by several minutes. See, the 30-34 women have this special bond. Twitter/blogging has really helped it, but we have this really cool thing going on. We are fierce competitors on the race course, but afterwards we follow each others blogs, we train with each other when we are in each others towns, and we have deep respect for each other. That’s why it was extra extra special when Sarah P. won the PRO race at NOLA, because she’s one of us, she raced 30-34 last year and we are really supportive of the ladies that were 30-34 and are now PRO. Might I mention we are so so glad they turned pro…

With the TT start Hailey and I just slipped in the front. We were the first two to go off in the AG, and we went off together. It was a bad idea on our part. We should have gone last, but we ended up racing off the front the whole day and then wondering if anyone snuck in there.

How do you run 2 miles before you know you have to bike 52 (course shortened due to storm debris) and run another 13? I don’t know, you just run your ass off. There’s no great way to put it other than…RUN!!!

Hailey and I came into T1 about :20 seconds apart. I was leaving as she was entering. I got on the bike and took off. Hailey caught me 10-15 minutes in and I just consider her a stronger rider than me. When she went by, a switch flipped in me. Usually I am very into “race your race” “don’t let others dictate your pace” “etc etc etc” but a switch flipped and I thought about the fact that this was a duathalon, and that none of it really mattered and I could take some risks. So I went with Hailey. I sat about 5-10 bike lengths back, and when I say “sat” what I mans is…”I biked so insanely hard I thought I was doing an olympic distance race”. But I figured, why not!? Go for broke. Hailey had me against the ropes for the better part of an hour before I got comfortable in the pain. The good thing was that my legs were 100% ready to go, and while they hurt, they also didn’t want to let up either.

If Hailey lost her focus and I saw my heart rate go down, I would pass her, and try to set a harder tempo until she passed me back with an even harder tempo where I would have to fight to hang on. Also, having never ridden like this I was concerned with the drafting. I wanted to make sure I was riding 100% legal because I usually spend most races continually passing people, not sitting behind. I was actually really stoked to be passed 4 times by course marshals and each time they had nothing to say about my position. I was like “Sweet, you are doing this right”.

Hailey set a hard tempo all the way back to T2, and we came into T2 together. Like literally we ran across the timing mat side by side. I could feel both of our competitive juices flowing. We had the fastest female T1+T2 of the day…pros included. We were racing!

Out on the run, we ran shoulder to shoulder for some time. The course was challenging with some causeway type hills, several on each loop. There were two turn arounds per loop and one roundy-round…you know, like in Europe. The “hot corner” was essentially the “hot circle”. I found a way to somehow slowly drift in front of Hailey, she was fierce, and tough, and it was such a highlight to race her neck and neck.

I made my way through the first lap getting passed by all sorts of PRO women, and age group men. I tried to go with all of them. I heard the announcer saying that Sarah P was winning and then I saw her race by on the other side of the road with the 1st place female lead biker. I was so jazzed and inspired! I saw Beth Shutt out there too, she looked so strong and solid, I was happy to see her in her element. My mom was all over the course and it was so great to have her there cheering, and cowbelling. The second loop I started looking for Michelle at the out and backs. I saw her once and she wasn’t too far ahead, but she wasn’t coming back to me very quickly either. She ended up running 2 minutes slower than her open 1/2 marathon PR that she set 3 weeks ago. PICs running is soooo BACK!

In the final mile I saw her in front of me and I picked it up. I wanted to run in with her. But with every step I realized I wasn’t catching her. I tried harder and harder to pick it up. My legs were beat, I tried to pump my arms faster and faster, and I made a small gain on her. As we were probably 100 feet before the finish shoot, I meekly yelled “Ford” and SHE PICKED IT UP. I was hoping for some mercy! I picked it up as hard as I could and coming into the chute we were side by side. I asked if she wanted to hold hands, and she said yea, and that’s how we crossed. What are the odds??? Time trial start, and yet we found each other in the finish chute. I will add that she was 3rd in her AG by 2 seconds…I’m going to go ahead and take credit for that one (just kidding Ford, that was all you honey).

I was really happy with my race. I didn’t know the result. I didn’t know if someone starting behind me had gone faster, but without knowing any of that I was happy. I RACED in the truest sense of the word. I took chances and I gained confidence and I surprised myself with those risks. I have more work to do, it’s April, but I learned that I can go a harder and still survive. I was really happy. I also had a lot of fun. Sure it hurt super bad, but it was really fun too!

Syd, PIC, Dr.PIC, me, Hailey

Mark, Brandon, PIC1, PIC2 = KE CREW!

My racing yielded an Age Group win and also and overall Amateur win. That was icing on the cake really. Or powdered sugar on the beignet! Mmmmm beignets! Oh, and my Kompetitive Edge teammate Mark Hillers, he won the amateur mens title. KE was in full force!

run: 13:29, bike: 2:18, run: 1:33, overall 4:07

Womens 30-34 podium, and the only girls that posed with their arms around each other. Mad respect for each of these ladies, Jocelyn, Libby, and Hailey.

That night we went out and CELEBRATED! We had a twitter/Womens 30-34 REUNION with lots of friends that involved food, drinks, jazz, Gelato, and awesome conversation with great people. I think there were like 13 of us, and we ate like champions! It was such a treat to celebrate Sarah Ps win that evening, so happy for her! After ice cream it was time for Bourbon street. Oh my lanta. There are no words. What happens in NOLA stays in NOLA, but here are a few photos….a la Hangover style!

Dr.PIC, SarahP, Hailey, Stephanie


Hand Grenade!!



First off thank you MOM! Not every mom will hold your drink while you….what happens in NOLA stays in NOLA….

Thank you to my sponsors Kompetitive Edge, Punk Rock Racing, First Endurance, Quintana Roo, who are all probably a bit disappointed with some of those last photos!! Also, thank you Troy and Annie for being you… love you both!

2012 Galveston 70.3

I can officially say that the cobwebs have been cleared from the system. Galveston 70.3 was epic indeed. I traveled to this race with my athlete Audra, who is a complete hoot.

I got to meet her hubby Clint, who took the best care of us over the race weekend. His entire family came out to see us race and it was like having my own family on course cheering me on. Thank you to the Adair family for the support and for adopting me for the weekend!

The pre race rituals went very smoothly for the first race of the year. No real hiccups and before I knew it I was standing on the pier with a slew of other light blue capped women of the 30-34 years like myself. As we waited I could feel a little bit of tension and like peoples eyes were on me. It was the Freak. This wetsuit got a lot of exposure. It’s really fast, and it costs a lot of money, and I was wearing it. Suddenly I felt like it caused a bit too much attention, I felt like I was on show. I tried to puff up my chest a little, act like I had big shoulders, do the thing some justice. As you can imagine I was more than ready when they let us in the water. I “warmed up” for the 4 minutes that they gave us, and then got on the front line, ready to find fast feet.

Off went the cannon and a group of 4 of us went off the front. I wasn’t struggling to stay with them as much as usual. I thought to myself, this wetsuit is FAST. I got on the first ladies feet and usually I’m kinda gasping and talking nice to myself to stay on feet. But I wasn’t. I was actually hitting her feet and her calves, and really just generally being a nasty foot tapper, not on purpose. I kept thinking…this wetsuit is FAST. At the first turn buoy I decided the pace was too slow. I figured I would try to pass and if the pace was indeed fast I wouldn’t be able to do so, and would just get back on the feet.

Nope, I went past her and swam away, then I’m thinking…dang this wetsuit is really FAST! I am leading my AG in the swim for the first time in my life. Nobody was on my feet, I was off the front, and feeling fast. I veered right a few times too many. I’m not the best straight swimmer, but I made it to the finish happy, and feeling like I must have swam a 30 or something.

The results were particularly alarming when Troy told me later. I was 1st out of the water, but I swam a 32:10, and would have been 9th in the 35-39AG. I didn’t swim fast, more just an average swim time for me. We just didn’t seem to have any of those studly swimmers in the age group there to pull us (me) all along. Total buzz kill after the race, but during the race, I was like “yea…I led out of the water….boooyaaa…my Freak is so fast”.


Onto the bike I saw HR numbers that had me wondering if I would survive 5 miles much less 56. Luckily I have my trusty “Perceived Exertion” scale in my pocket at all times and calmed down and told myself I wold not die. The way out had a headwind, but I wasn’t super sure what to make of it. I tried to ride as steady as I could. A few miles in Brooke passed me. She was 6th at Kona and biked a 5:12 there and she flys on the bike. Away she went. She had an additional 4 minutes on me at the turn around.

Somewhere around 45 minutes into the bike I saw a big slew of cars and cops and whatnot coming the other direction. And then, just like that, this black blur with a Livestrong disc wheel went by on the other side of the road. Lance. I wish I could say that I didn’t get goosebumps, and that I didn’t tell the girl next to me “That was Lance” like I was 11 and seeing New Kids on the Block in concert….but I would be lying. Apparently the Lance effect works on people who are not even super interested in “The Lance”. Then I felt bad for the second place guy because there were like 30 cars following Lance and I wondered what that guy would do if he wanted to try to pass Lance (gasp). Then I actually saw the 2nd place guy and he was riding right behind one of those said cars…and I realized…eh….smart guy. Drafting a car is far superior to drafting off Lance…don’t you think? Less TV coverage though…

When we made the turn, that was cool. Flying at 24 mph, finally I could get that cadence going, and was hoping I could make up some lost time. I rode hard. the heart rate came down like 2 beats…2 beats further away from death was how I was thinking about it. But all in all, my perceived exertion was about like I am used to…maybe a bit harder. The course is a simple out and back, and I honestly really dug it. There was this huge section where we were riding on this bridge sort of thingy, it was at water level almost, but it had water on both sides of it. That was seriously awesome.

Also, another crazy thing I want to note since I talked to a few people about it. I did not see a single marshall, or a single drafting pack. Not one. I’m not sure why because this course is totally flat, but I can’t think of a single incident of drafting that I witnessed (aside from the dude drafting the Lance groupies). Strange…but nice..

Somewhere on the way back Ashley Johnson passed me. She was looking strong and I kept her in sight. Towards the end of the bike I was able to get back up to her and repass her in the final mile of the bike. Turns out…Ashley and I would have a nice long chat after the race, and I would find out that she is also under Dirkinator tutelage. Didn’t know that out there…wish I had…would have tried to team it up (legally)!

T2…uneventful…lickity split.

Off running and I felt okay….well sorta, except my heart was near internal combustion, but hey, I’m a diesel, right?

I thought I had a solid chance at running a considerable amount of sub 7 minute miles. Maybe on a straighter course, or one that lacked evil headwinds. But it wasn’t to be. I got 4 or 5 sub 7s but the rest hovered in that “Not good enough Sonja, pick it up” range. I will admit thought, I was completely lost 95% of the time on this course, and for someone who’s nickname is the Navigatress, that’s a tough feat. They wound us around  and around and around, and they made us run up this random tarmac where Lance’s private jet was sitting there waiting to whisk him away after Jordan Jones pulled out the finishing kick of stardom and nipped him for 6th.

The run was hot, there were 2×180 degree turns on each loop. It took me 2 loops to figure out where the exit to the finish line was, and on loop 2 I was starting to get nervous that I wouldn’t be able to find the magical exit to the labyrinth. In fact, Ashley missed it entirely heading out for loop #4…her final run split is…well….a little long!

As far as how my age group race was going down, Brooke was long gone, never to be seen, schooled all of us like we were wee toddlers. Then Ashley was in front of me until mile 12 when she had a “kaboom” that lead to the aforementioned 4th loop…so I got back in front of her. Then not 5 seconds later, Adrienne Shields zoomed on by and I was back in 3rd for the AG. What a day, what a crazy crazy day.  As Clint’s mom would say “Oh my heart”.

Oh, I didn’t tell you about the heat. Well, I’m sure if you read any other blogs about the race, it will be a prominent fixture. It was hot, real real hot, everything is bigger…and HOTTER in texas. Some sections actually had a breeze (headwind) and other sections were very muggy stale humid evil hot. I noticed on the tarmac that we had evil headwind, and then after the 180…evil hotness. I was expecting happy tailwind…but you never feel those, do you? “The wind at your back” is a silly phrase.

The three loop course made the aid stations crazy town. But I have been yelled at on this blog before for being an elitist when moaning about not being able to get aid because I was running through the stations and lots of people were walking. So I will not moan, and I will just mention that I wasn’t able to (because of my inability to stop at an aid station) grab any aid the last 3 aid stations. So I was a hot mess when I finished and I counted that I drank 8 water bottles of water in a row. I poured another 6 or so over my body. I was actually starting to get quite scared for my predicament, I had trouble walking, talking, or standing up. Again, not moaning, my fault, don’t hate me please.

So that was my day. It was a wonderful day. I loved nearly every part of it, and I just can’t say how much I love this sport. It’s fun, I had fun, it’s an adventure, every race, every course, every time I push my limits. A huge thanks to the women of 30-34 who push me so hard, and send me home wounded, blistered, sunburned, and inspired.

As the years roll by and I meet different people, I have to say that a few stuck out on this trip.

Audra Adair – the woman has her own blog, but if I had to get taken down by 58 seconds by any one of my own athletes, Audra would be the one I would choose, and thank goodness, because she did indeed take me down by 58 seconds. She had a great day, a 15 min PR, a slot to Vegas…but those are her stories to tell. Thanks for kicking your coach’s booty…no more speed work for you!

Mary Eggers – I’ve been wanting to meet the Eggers for so long and I actually got to! First time on race morning and then a pat on the ass as we crossed paths racing. If you haven’t heard, Mary Eggers challenged Lance Armstrong to a 50 kick off to raise $$ for Teens Living with Cancer, and he accepted. You can donate here.

Christine Kenney – Christine ran me down at Ironman Cozumel and I must say, I was waiting for her to run me down again. I saw her out there a few times on some of the out and back sections and we would always make eye contact and wave at each other. This further warmed my already warm heart. We may be racing against each other, but it doesn’t mean we don’t support each other out there. I look forward to being afraid of Christine running me down again in the future!

David Adame and Brandon too – Congratulations to David on his first 70.3!! It was very magical to see Brandon out there with his guide, but for him to know that his dad was racing out there with him too must have been awesome! Relentless Foreword Motion!!!

Ashley Johnson – Such a sweetheart, I can’t wait to race more with her and I’m so stoked she got that Vegas slot. Especially after the 3 IVs it took to bring her back!

The Adair Family – Mr. Clint, you have a wonderful family, and Audra, you are one lucky gal. Thanks for feeding me, housing me, and making me feel at home.

None of these races would be even half as sweet without the Kompetitive Edge boys, my Quintana Roo bike, First Endurance in my belly, and Punk Rock Racing. Thank you for the support.

And, to the love of my life, thank you for letting me live my dreams every darn day.

Oh, and one last thing. My Rev3 family is running across America right now. I thought about them so so much this weekend and I just want to post their fundraising page here. They are amazing, so proud to know them. Please donate if you can.