50K, no way, really?

I signed up for a 50K trail race today. Yea, you heard me, 50K. Like for some reason a marathon isn’t enough, and a marathon on trails isn’t enough. No, let’s try on 31 miles off-road for size. Apparently I didn’t learn my lesson from the experience below, oh no, I’m back for even more:

Mile 24 of Denver Marathon
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The funny thing, I am so darn excited about it. Remind me of this comment at mile 27. It’s in Moab, on the 15th of November. I love Moab, and Troy and I used to go there every year. It’s actually where Troy and I kinda “knew” we were going to get married. At a gas station of all places.

We haven’t been back since Annie was born, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to get back to a great town. Again, remind me of this comment come 15 hours after the race when I probably will not be able to walk to breakfast. I will be running the race on Annabelle’s 3rd birthday. I’m sure I will spend considerable miles reminiscing about the pain I was in three years back, most likely comparing it to the pain I am in during the race. I let you know afterwards which was worse.

Signing up for the race today and experiencing the giddiness that ensued I was reminded how much I love a good adventure. I always tell myself that I come to triathlon as an adventure racer at heart, although the only adventure racing I have done involves a 2 year old, and traffic. I’m more grit than grace, and I believe Steve’s words today were “You have bigger balls than most guys I know”. Uhhh, thanks…I think? Of course, he does hang out with a lot of rather feminine male triathletes who shave their legs…where was I going with that? So anyways..here I go, off to more epic adventures that will test me. I just keep pushing the limits of “Is this still fun?” So, if anyone is in the mood to do some long distance running over the next month and a half, let me know, I’m your girl.

Family Goals

One huge thing Troy and I have changed this year in our marriage is to incorporate some “family goals”. As I got more and more into the athletic world where goals are rampant, we thought it would be a good idea to have both personal goals and family goals. It helps us to structure our lives, our priorities, and our money. It keeps us on the same page, and we feel like we are progressing towards something big together, which has really helped our marriage. Troy and I’s main family goal this year has been to become debt free. Without going into too many details, cause it’s kinda personal…we hit a huge milestone last week. We’ve been working aggressivly for 10 months on it…we paid off our car note. Granted it started out as a Subaru note, and turned into a VW note, but note none the less.

So, although it’s a 2001…
although I hit the garage door and ripped off the antenna…
although we only have one key to it and it’s kinda broken…
although it needs new tires…
IT’S OURS.

You have no clue how good that feels. We are not quite debt free, still working on one final debt and aiming for the end of the year to be done, but it was a huge relief for Troy and I to be free of the car note.

Interested in being debt free? Check out the following links that helped us:
Dave Ramsey
Total Money Makeover Online
Financial Peace University Online
Blogging Away Debt

Post Portland Blues?

Usually, a week after a big race…that I did well in…I get the blues. It happened last year after Nationals, it happened this year after Alcatraz, and I was fully expecting for it to happen after Portland. The race went great, the trip went great, everything was just great great great. Usually that means I’m gonna crash hard. Well, where is it?

I thought I would be disappointed that I would have to resume to base miles when I was in the best shape of my life, but not so. I got to ride the Epic loop yesterday and I was so excited to get back up in the hills on my bike, back to the places I fell in love with this year. I got to do a leisurely swim paired with a 10 mile run today, and I was just having a blast. Next week I have a 20 mile run on tap and I am so excited to go do it.

New, fun, exciting things are on the horizon and I can’t wait to drag you all on the journey with me.

Here’s to hoping that the post Portland blues never surface!!

Happy Trails.

Ahh Hah’s from success.

Michelle, Barry and I after a trip to Trader Joes.
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I had a few ahh hah moments this past weekend. One major one happened when we were all sitting in the hot tub after the race. Yea, like ALL of us, in this dinky hot tub, drinking beer and eating desserts. Just what triathletes want to do when the season is done!

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Tyler asked everyone to say what their favorite part of the day was. That was super cool, even my parents, and Myra and Patty joined in the fun. This game got everyone a little sentimental and we ended up talking at one point about Michelle and the fabulous gains she has made this year. Last year she raced on the same course and went 2:39, this year 2:23. That’s a 16 minute improvement over the previous year. Her run went from a 54 to a 46. Her bike from a 1:19 to a 1:12. Her swim is phenomenal, so there just isn’t a lot of wiggle room there. Steve asked her how she did this and her answer gave me goose bumps.

She talked about how she just decided it was something she could do. She put in the hard work and she just kept at it.

She really reminded me that the proof is in the pudding. It’s really not about getting all crazy and worked up about things. It’s about keeping at it and telling yourself that you can do it. She also said it was Pikes Peak and Mount Evans that helped. Michelle didn’t consider herself a runner but she ran two of the most challenging running races in the state of Colorado this year. She looked her fears and her downfalls straight in the eye and she went forward. It wasn’t crazy like (at times she must have thought she was crazy) but in the end she pushed through doubts and moved herself to a higher level.

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It just got me thinking about the up and coming off season. Where does my work need to happen and how am I going to get there? It gave me a different view of working on your weaknesses. Steady, and with confidence. She took the mature route and I want to as well. We all have different things that need to happen in the off season. Some need to learn to swim faster, some need to loose some weight, some need to work on their run, some on their mental game. Whatever it may be, learn from Michelle and do it slowly, with confidence, and with unwavering discipline.

Fuzzy for a reason.
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USAT 2008 National Short Course Triathlon Championships

All Photos Curtesy Eric Willis (AKA Dad)

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The days leading up to the race were some of the best I have had. Tyler, Michelle, Noell and I hung out and we all get along very well. Myra (from snowshoe nationals) works at Nike and she took us for a 30 minute run/tour of Nike and then got us into the empolyee store. Everyone really enjoyed picking up a few new garments, but the run around Nike was epic. That place is AWESOME!

Friday was all about race prep. We biked one lap of the bike course, scouted the swim and run, picked up packets, checked in our bikes. We got all the loose ends tied up so that we would be ready to race. We had a little Chicago movie party in our room that evening before heading out to Noddles for our final race meal. The evening ended with my parents dropping by, as they just got into town, and Michelle, Tyler and I getting our race bags together and staying in a generally giddy mood.

Tyler and I trying on our swim caps.
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We had some flawless execution on race morning. Our time line was spot on, we left the hotel perfectly, got on the shuttle to the race site perfectly, got to transition in perfect time, and were out of there with minimal time to chill before starting into our warmups. I was able to warm up on this awesome single track running trail through the woods. I could tell my body was happy, rested and ready to go. I was able to pick it up on my warm up and shake out a few of those nerves. Next I found my mom and handed her my stuff while I wet suited up and got in the water to warm up. I am always glad when I warm up in the water too because I remember I can swim and seem to start much calmer. It was great to have my parents there, just that familiarity and to be able to look in the crowd and see them smiling back at me…very reassuring. Last year I cried before the start of the swim as it was going to be my first time swimming a mile, but this year I was calm and ready to go.

Michelle and I having our pre-race calming pow-wow.
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We lined up on the boat dock and there was a spot for everyone. With a few seconds to go they had us get in the water and keep one hand on the dock. Not two seconds later they blew the horn and we were off. I went out hard.

Here is a series my dad took of the swim start. I think it’s really cool to see the progression. It’s also neat how we all start as a big mass, happy and fresh, and two and a half hours later, you either executed your race plan…or you didn’t.
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Last year I didn’t start out aggressive enough and the entire field left me immediately, so this year I wanted to take it out hard before I settled into my rhythm. I wanted to find feet to swim on. It went exactly as planned, I settled in after a couple minutes and I proceded to swim as hard as I possible knew how. The first turn bouy came up very quickly and I still hadn’t found feet. I made a hard push to get up to some ladies that had been swimming my speed but several feet ahead and I found feet. I stuck to those feet like glue. I even hit her feet with my hands and I knew there wasn’t much she could do about it b/c we clearly swam similar speeds. She pooped out a little bit and lost the feet she was following, so I passed her and got on that ladies feet. She then got on my feet b/c I felt her hitting them. It all was very polite and I really felt like we were pushing each other in a good way. Also WE WERE SWIMMING STRAIGHT. That’s my biggest issue and it was such a good feeling to know I was swimming straight for the first race EVAH! Coming down the final stretch we got off each others feet and just pushed. There was a guy from the wave behind me and I matched him stroke for stroke coming down the last stretch.

The start of Tyler and Anthony’s wave. This is one of my favorite pictures that my dad took. I think it belongs in a magazine.
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I got out of the water and for the first time I didn’t check my watch, because…I didn’t wear it. Nope I was going solo! My mom was at the top of the ramp and she yelled at me that I was in 39th. I was so ecstatic because I finished 40th last year, and now I was exiting the water in a better position than I finished. I was right in the thick of it and that really has been my goal this whole year: “To swim fast enough at Nationals to be IN the race when I exit the swim” CHECK!

The hill out of transition on the bike.
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The lake was much lower this year so we had to run up this long boat ramp to the transition. I found my bike quickly and was off immediately. Wetsuit off, helmet on, grab the bike and go. I was pumped for the bike. I knew I had to go hard, like really hard. I was excited to start passing ladies so I pushed from the start. I just got in my most aero, not so comfortable, position and made the legs go as hard as they knew how. I preteneded I was on Wasdworth and that I was hanging onto Steve and Tyler’s wheels. I just didn’t let up. And, I started counting. One girl in my age group, two girls…5 girls. I got to the turn around of the little dog-leg on the course and hit my breaks to navagate the turn and I fish-tailed. What the heck? I though I was going down and I was a little confused. It wasn’t until the middle of the big hill that I remembered Steve adjusted my brakes and they are much tighter so I have to pull on them very gently or I will lock my wheel. By the end of the first bike lap my count was up to 9. I was feeling pretty good, but I knew that the girls in my age group were going to get fewer and farther in between.

Between laps. Notice my mom in the background signaling to my dad to take a picture. She was the scout. Oh, and by the way, sometimes on downhills I feel more comfortable in my drops than in my aero-bars. I am so NOT a triathlete.
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On the second lap there were some drafting issues going on. A guy came up on me and was riding pretty erratically. He would pass me, then he would slow way down. He was making it difficult to get my three bike lengths and 15 seconds before I re-passed. There was also a motorcycle with an official lurking. I really kept my nose down and was sure to follow the drafting rules. I passed him back legally and within seconds he made another pass on me. The motorcycle sped past me, pulled up next to him, wrote down his number and told him he got a penalty. It took me another couple minutes to reassess and assure myself that I didn’t do anything illegal, talking about questioning yourself. After putting that behind me, it was time to resume a strong pace. Tyler passed me about 2/3rds of the way through the second loop. I used his momentum to pick things up from there and I hammered it home. My dad was out taking pictures on the final part of the loop and my mom was cow belling up a storm! My pass tally was up to 12.

Second transition was cake and my legs were not happy with me. Luckily there is a big hill coming out of transition and Myra and Patty (from Snowshoe Nationals) were there cheering for me big time. I always like a hill out of transition because I feel like it reminds your legs what they need to do. 7 more girls is what my legs needed to do. I got passed by a super quick girl at the top of the hill and I just decided to go with her. She was in the age group behind me (so she was 8 minutes faster, wowzer) and I knew we could drag each other to a great time. The run gets a little fuzzy at times but I remember getting girl after girl. There is a large hill in each mile of the race and my quads were not happy. I though that they were going to break going up a few of those hills.

Going out on the run.
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I remember seeing a girl that I am usually always neck and neck at the finish with (remember the Loveland lake to Lake girl…that was her) and I went by her just after the 5K mark. So I knew it was going to be a good day. I finally saw the 7th girl…or I guess the 19th girl and she was running next to Tyler. I thought that was uncanny. So I pulled up next to Tyler, and I couldn’t get much out verbally, but I didn’t need to. He picked it up with me and on we went.

Coming home on the run.
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With less than a mile to go I passed one more girl in my age group. But then she passed me back. There was that moment of doubt. I don’t often get “passed back”, and I wondered if I had it in me to give it one more push. It seemed like everyone I knew was yelling at me to “go get her”. My dad (taking pictures and yelling at me to get her) mom, Myra and Patty, Priscilla, Michelle, EVERYONE. As we came around the final corners I thought about how frustrating it would be if I had counted wrong and was in 21st, or if every time I looked at the results I would see a girl several seconds ahead. No, it was time to get her. And, I did. I just surged, I thought about track, and the sub six minute miles I’ve run, and she didn’t even battle me. I got her on the turn to the finish.

The end of my race. Don’t you love triathlons, the clock is always wrong because of the wave starts.
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Mom was at the finish, my feet were bloody and nasty from running in brand new racing flats. I was spent, I was done, I was really happy. Even if I had been 21st, I had so much fun racing, and being competitive, and putting my heart into the entire race. It was epic, it was awesome.

Mmmmm. Blood and Goose-Bumps
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Watching the rest of my teamates come in was very cool, but the best part was finding out with teamate after teamate that every single one of us had great races. Every one. It’s really a testament to Steve and Andrea. They brought so many of us here to Nationals and every one of us raced at a top caliber level, in the most important race of the season. They have really trained not only our bodies well enough to compete at a high level, but they have trained our minds to handle the pressure, to rise above the intensity, and to honestly self-evaluate our efforts. It’s a pretty amazing gift they have given us.

I would like to show you some of my favorite pcitures of my teamates. These are the folks that push me on a daily basis and keep me accountable. They all had great races and I would like to celebrate them. This is my team, and we are all in the best shape of our lives. Enjoy.

Anthony…no wait, probably Tony.
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Steve-O, aka fearless leader.
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Andrea, I am so sad. She wore a warm top over her Practical Coaching top so my dad didn’t get any race pics of her. I’m super bummed about that b/c it was her first Nationals.

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Noell. These are two of my favorite pics. Noell is running STRIDE for STRIDE with this UBER-TALL dude. She is FIERCE.
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Jenna, is a total RIOT. She’s equal parts peace and hilarity.
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Michelle, my PIC, my bed-buddy. I really could go on all day about her, she took 16 minutes off her last year time at Nationals on the same course, and apparently did it while SMILING!
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Jewels, she’s got her game face on.

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John, check out the hamstring. Nationals new-bie, had a T-riffic race.
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Bethie, threw it down. The intensity, the focus. My stomach still hurts from laughing at all her jokes this weekend.
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Tyler, leader of team “Where’d ya go +1” of which I am miserably trying to gain admission into. I just love him. Check out the fierceness. Rarr.
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After the Age-Group race was the Professional race. Here is Andrea, Beth, and Jewels watching. I love the looks.

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And here is the crew watching Matt Reed win the overall pro title.
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Jenna, Noell, Michelle, Tyler
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And my favorite pic. Michelle, me and Tyler. My peeps.
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Results:
Total Time: 2:25:15
Swim: 27:30
T1: 1:43
Bike: 1:11:42 (20.8mph)
T2: 0:50
Run: 43.32 (7:01 pace)
F25-29: 19th

Results are here.

web galleries (if you use any of these photos please credit my dad: Eric Willis)
Age Group Gallery

Pro Field Gallery

Results

The quick and dirty. I swam my fanny off. 27:30, fastest swim EVAH!
Mom told me I was 39th coming out of the water, so I knew to get into the top twenty I had to pass 19 ladies. I didn’t wear a watch in the race which was great. On the first lap on the bike I got 9 girls, but they were getting fewer and farther between. On lap two my tally was up to 12. I had to get 7 on the run. I just picked them off and got 8 (one for extra at the end). Bike was like 3 minutes faster, run was a little under a minute faster. Overall 6-7 minutes faster than last year and I am totally stoked. 19th in my age group!!

Top 16 qualify for Worlds, and it rolls to 20th. I’ll find out in three weeks if I got a spot. I had an amazing race, I am indeed a little intoxicated (hence the midnight post) and I am happy as a stinkin’ clam. If I get a spot of if I don’t ZERO regrets, totally satisfied. Full details come later.

Portland Day 1

– Early AM flight with Michelle (PIC), guy with stinky breath next to me on plane who wanted to talk
– Soduko during flight, I could really get addicted
– Meet up with Noell at baggage claim, play “spot the tri-geek” game
– Tyler pulled up 14 seconds after we got to the curb, purfection
– several wrong turns and we are at the hotel
– A 30 min VERY slow run around Nike with Myra who is awesome
– A visit to the Nike empolyee store for me and 5 of my friends, courtesy of Myra (the amazing)
– A visit to Trader Joes, many snacks and goodies purchased
– Back to the hotel and bikes got built
– Showers, and we are off to dinner with the crew, pasta please

Top 10 things I WILL miss about this part of the season

10. Wearing sports bras and running shorts to train because the weather is so nice

9. Having oodles of races to look forward to

8. Talking to my coach every day about how things are going

7. Seeing the workouts on my schedule get shorter and shorter

6. Eating like a teenager

5. Having the permission to focus on myself and my training

4. Having lots and lots of energy and never feeling worn down

3. Running sub 6-minute miles at track

2. All the awesome support my family, friends and sponsors have given me; I have truly ridden upon their shoulders

1. Being told to go fast and knowing that my body and my mind can handle it like I was born to do it

I’m packed to go, I’m totally ready, ready in the head, ready in the body, just ready to give it my all, leave nothing on the table, have fun, laugh, cry, probably get a little drunk at some point, be proud of what I have done this season. I’m prepared for whatever happens and I am content with where I am as an athlete. I love you all, thank you for reading this blog, and for all your kind words and phone calls. I’m not only racing for myself, but for all of you. Many humble thanks.

Top 10 Things I will NOT miss about this part of the season

Yesterday was my last hard workout before Nationals. It’s the end of an era, just waiting to be topped off with a stellar race. As I was running errands this morning I was thinking about the top 10 things that are getting a little “old” about this part of the season. So, here goes.

10. Cleaning all the rocks and sand out of my bathtub that my wetsuit leaves behind after a pond workout…every other day.

9. Training without music.

8. Going through at least two sets of workout clothes plus warm ups every day.

7. “Building to race pace” in either the bike swim or run, or all of them, in every single workout.

6. The ache that my wrists developed from being in the aero bars, in stealth position, day after day after day.

5. My running flats smelling rank from being run in with wet feet, over and over and over again.

4. Having to write the workout on my hand because it’s so complex I can’t remember it.

3. Waking up at 2:30am to eat because I’m starving.

2. Running a “mobil training center” out of the back of my car with fluids, goos, body glide, several workout outfits in varying states of dryness, no less than 4 pairs of shoes, caps, goggles, bike tools, and still I manage to forget things.

1. And the #1 thing I will NOT miss about this part of the season: passing my husband as he walks in from studying and I walk out to train.

National Championships

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Well, here they come. The National Championships for all us age groupers and pro’s that like the Olympic distance. I leave a week from Thursday and it’s getting down to the wire.

Waves have been assigned. I am wave 9, and I depart the shore at 8:12 am. Tyler is a few minutes behind so I plan to swim and bike my fanny off in hopes of delay the time it will take for him to catch me. But when he does it’s gonna be a throw down. We’ve been training together all season so let the spanking begin.

If you are coming out to the race, you might want to think about staying all day. My parents have agreed to bring some snacks to hold everyone over (okay not the entire race, but friends and such) until the $25 pre awards dinner. I got my tickets, do you??

The pro races go off at noon and 2:15, and I’m excited to see Jocelyn and Jordan kill the course.

Weather? Well, it’s not 10 days out yet, so I can’t quite know, but the next ten days in Portland look like awesome weather, and that gets me to the day before I arrive. I have put in a request to the weather gods for “the kind of weather Sonja races best in”.

Friday morning is a pancake breakfast at our hotel suite, hosted by Michelle, Tyler and I. Call me when you get into town if ya wanna come.

Event homepage is here if you need more details.