Hugo Road Race

Hi, I’m Sonja and I’m a bike racing virgin. Growing up my best friends dad was a bike racer and I had such strong memories of the few races I attended. I thought they were crazy. Last year attending a crit here in Denver I started wondering if I had it in me to participate in such an event. The turns scared the crap out of me just watching them!

About a month ago Steve called to see if I wanted to do a road race. Unfortunately the registration period had expired, but I started getting comfortable with the idea. About ten days ago Steve called to see if I wanted to sign up for a 78 mile road race. I said “Yes” and so did Beth and Michelle. I was to excited to have to teammates in the race.

Yesterday everyone met at my house early to load bikes into Steve’s truck. He had built mounts inside his truck for all our bikes. We rode to the race in Michelle’s huge SUV, talking strategy with Steve and then joking and giggling the rest of the way. Troy and Annie drove Steve’s truck with all the bikes and goodies.

When we got to the race we grabbed our race numbers and then Steve launched into a Steve I have never seen in my life. He told us to take care of ourselves while he proceeded to get out our bikes, check all of their functionality, pump up all the tires, attach our helmets, make sure our water bottles were in them….for all 4 of us (our friend Sara was with us too…she’s in Pink)! He prepared feed zone bottles and got the truck ready for sag. He had a set of spare tires in his truck, and dropped another set with the mechanical car. All we did was get ourselves ready. I felt so unbelievably taken care of, it was insane.

Steve taking care of us, Troy pinning #’s on Sara

A short warmup later we were on the line, amongst the start group, and the smack talking had begun. Girls were making fun of each other, they were touting their accolades. And all the while I’m thinking…if you are so hot, why are you in the Cat 4 race?

Pre Race

So, off we go. And I tell ya…it’s hard to put into words how insane the experience was. The girls would yell at people over the slightest thing. “that’s my wheel” “Hold your line” “On the left” “Car up” “Car back” “Squirrel in the road”. The group would speed up, then it would slow way down. Then up then down. Girls would attack and right away the group would eat them back up. I went with 3 or four jumps but they never got off the front with any success. Steve and Troy were bunny hopping us in the truck and it was awesome to look Steve in the eye and get a nod, or a signal to do something. At about mile 35, he told me to jump. It was my first solo jump and I went for it. Nicole (used to be with PC) came with me, and we tried to get off, but we got eaten back up. I definitely jumped too hard for my first time and I was wounded.

I sat back in and tried to recover and we came through feed zone 1 (40 miles in). I grabbed the first bottle and suddenly the entire pack went past me and in front of me, and slowed and then surged and just like that…I was off the back of the pack. I am cussing up a storm in my head. The pack is hammering and I’m alone. I worked my butt off and jumped on every girls wheel that went past me. It was the hardest I worked the whole day to get back to the pack. Once I was back in which was such a relief I just sat in and panted. I was exhausted. Michelle and Beth made an attack together and I just sat in and watched. They got pulled in my the group. About 10 miles later I was feeling recovered and I started repositioning myself in the front. Beth and I took a flier, eaten back up. Everyone did some pulling when another lady went off the front. A crazy girl on an Orbea almost took everyone down when she illustrated her crappy handling skills (they were bad and almost took her down several times).

The Pack…they look so innocent..but they aren’t

The second feed zone I set myself up perfectly, front of the pack, grabbed a bottle at the end of the feed, didn’t even slow. It was perfect, that was a lesson learned the hard way. I doused myself in water, it was hot hot hot. Now we were getting down to the wire and the pack was still huge. Michelle made the most awesome move of the day. She just peddled off the front in the most casual way. She never looked like she was hammering, but I knew she was because when the pack tried to catch her they weren’t making way. Beth and I were trying to slow down the group, but girls kept coming around us and picking it up. Michelle had it for a little while, but eventually the pack got her back. She got right back in the front and timed it great to hop back in. We hit the 5K to go mark and the whole pack just started screaming, ladies were getting dropped off the back, but we still had a huge group.

We hit the top of a hill and you can see the finish. I am in the front and I start hammering. I’m in the front three, but it’s too early and I can’t hold it. The pack is still with us and with 40 yards to go it’s an all out sprint finish. I was in the pack with 30 or so girls. Beth and Michelle were too, we were all together, Beth first, then me, then Michelle and crossed in the same second as 30 other girls. Insane. I have no idea who won, but the girl who raised her hand like she won never took a single flier, or pull. Most the riders that dominated the day were in the middle of the finishing pack like I was.

Coming down to the finish line Steve was yelling like I have never seen him before, it was wicked awesome.

It was insanely hard. But also crazy fun. I absolutely loved having Beth and Michelle there with me and it was nice to see how strong both of them are right now. I likes seeing them play some cards, and I liked seeing how smart they were in the pack. I am lucky to have such smart and well skilled training partners.

Post Race: Michelle, me, Beth

Another funny thing…you know how cycling teams have sponsors on their butt. Well, after racing with those girls, there were a lot of companies that I now will NEVER buy something from. Wearing a sponsor on your butt and acting like a b!#$h does not promote your sponsor very well…

It was an awesome experience, we were high for hours, it was hard core. Lots of lessons learned, too many to put in type. I want to do more.

Steve, and Troy, oh MY GOODNESS, they took such good care of us. Like in a HUGE way. Steve went so above and beyond in so many ways in training our bodies, our minds, talking race strategy, and attending to our machines. Although all three of us were road racing virgins, you wouldn’t have known, we were in the mix and up with the front. We took fliers, we had strategy, and we didn’t act like newbies. I’m proud of us!

Post race legs…and annie!

Sky Mesa Pass Trail Marathon


It’s about the adventure. Friday evening I headed out by myself to run the Sky Mesa Pass Trail Marathon. Although I’ve done a 50K and run 46 twice and many weekend runs in the 20’s I’ve never participated in a true blue trail marathon. I was excited for the adventure. I opted to stay in Grand Junction friday night and drive the last hour to the race early in the morning. My iPhone said it would take 1.5 hours so I left at 3:45 am, but it only took an hour to get to Gateway Canyon Resort (they were directing the race). I had the music cranked up, I was sipping my morning Mix1 and I was probably driving a little too fast for being a mother and a wife and not just some single chick with nothing to leave behind.

I found the sign to registration, but the door was locked so I parked and waited. At 5:15 the lady opened the door and I went in to sign up. Simon from RunColo gave me his comped entry into this race (get involved with the RunColo forum, start writing about your races, and you can get comped entries too). I saw the email where my registration was verified, but I was not on the list. The lady had no problem with it and gave me a race number, but it’s always a little terrifying when you show up to packet pickup after driving 6 hours and your name isn’t on the list. The race information said that we would take a provided shuttle 9 miles to the starting line, but at packet pickup she told me we were now supposed to drive to the start line and they would shuttle us back to our cars at the end.

I went back and sat in my car and started thinking. I started to get a little worried. The race director didn’t seem to be totally on top of things and I got nervous that I would have to wait around a long time for the shuttle, or they would forget about me, or something would happen that would make me wish that my car wasn’t stuck 9 miles away. I looked at my watch and contemplated running to the start, but I decided to get bold and ask the next runners that came to packet pickup if they would let me ride with them. I figured I could return the favor after the race and get them back to their car quickly.

I walked up and introduced myself and had the PLEASURE of meeting Whitney and her husband Cory. Cory was spectating so it worked great b/c they weren’t “leaving” their car there either. They made room for me and I got cozy in the back of their car. So cozy and relieved that I forgot my hat, my sunglasses, my SPOT, and my arm warmers. Whoops. I did remember my drop bag. While Whitney was changing Cory told me that she was a triathlete and she won the Vineman Ironman Distance race. My eyes got big, here I go out to a 35 person race in BFE and there is triathlete champion racing. Wow.


As we drove to the start we were chatting and I kept thinking “These two are super cool”. They kinda took me under their wing!

Cory and I before the race.


So I drop my bag off, hoping that I will see it at mile 15 and before I do that I shove evrything I have on me that I don’t want to race with into it. My watch (Steve told me “No Watch” today), my fleece. I contemplated my cell phone, but decided to keep it with me.

A few announcements including “Keep all flags to runners right” and “It’s well marked” and we were off. Right away Whitney and I are running side by side (lower right corner).




I was looking forward to some of the new music I downloaded for the race so I was cruising along to that. Whitney and I ran very well together, we ran a very similar pace. About 3 miles in I had to pee in the worst way and stopped to do that. Then Whitney and I ran about 15 yards apart because we were running the same pace, it was a little funny.


We hit the mile 4.5 aid and I noted that there was only water. The race material said there would be water, Gatorade, bananas, bars, and other snacks at the aid stations, so it got me wondering whether I needed to start thinking about there only being water the whole way. We turned onto a more rugged dirt road and it took a fair amount of concentrating to run the correct line. Whitney started pulling away and I could tell she was a strong hill climber. We hit the 8 mile aid station and again, just water.

One of the many views

From here it got crazy. I swear we were running up a steep dry stream bed. Rocks and boulders everywhere, footing very loose. You really had to pick your way through this section, walking at times. Whitney got just out of sight, but sometimes I could see her during a long open stretch. Suddenly there was a flag. It was the first course marking I had seen since we started but the two turns we made up to this point were at aid stations. I saw a second flag and thought “Keep flags to the right” so I continued on straight staying on the road type trail I had been running on.

All of the sudden I am descending. I know that we climb from mile 8-12 up to the top point of the race. I think, “Well maybe it’s just one of those little downhill sections that you can’t see on the race profile”. But then I keep going down down down and finally I know something is wrong. So I start looking for footprints. There should be like 5 sets, and I can only find one. I stop and yell really loud “Hey”… … … no answer. I get a little teary thinking to myself “I’m lost, my race is over. I can never make up this kind of ground on Whitney with this set back”. I decided to turn around and run until I found a person. After what feels like forever I start to think about the two flags, and that maybe I should head back to that spot. I find another guy and convince him that we’re lost. He turns with me.

We find our way back to the flags and sure enough you were supposed to take a right BETWEEN the flags. There are arrows on the ground AFTER you take the turn (not before) and there is a tree obstructing the arrows from the right direction. Somehow seeing all this makes me mad. I get back on course, look up the way and there are like 5 guys in sight. I was so defeated. I felt like I was in last at that point. I was mad. This section was very tough and everyone was walking. It was steep and rocky. I would feel defeated and walk, then I would get mad and run, then defeated and walk, then back to running. Several miles later I came to the top and there was a guy there taking pictures and manning the aid station. I tried to give him my angry look and I told him I got lost, and he said “I’m sorry”.

Here’s angry Sonja, all the other runners photos are HAPPY.

I got to the top and there was water, and a can of Gatorade powder. I wasn’t sure if I would ever see Gatorade in the race again so I proceeded to dump two huge scoops into my hydration bladder, all the while cussing under my breath. At the stop there was a guy sitting down attending to a blister and he said “Are you Sonja”? I said yes and he says “I read your blog”. I was mortified. Here I was in one of the most GORGEOUS places I have ever been, lucky to have the strength to be a runner and I was being a poor sport in front of someone who reads my blog (if you are reading please send me a message so I can apologize and give you credit for knocking me out of my slump. edited to add: Alex Robertson he revealed himself in the comments!). I was like “I have to change my attitude”. Right when I said that…

Mystery runner/blog reader, who are you? Reveal yourself!

Whitney runs up to the aid station, she looks at me and says “I got lost”! I look at her and say “I got lost”. I guess I know who the other pair of footprints belong to. She didn’t turn around and ended up back at aid station #2. We took off running together, vowing that we were going to change our attitudes. We did a little “I can’t believe that happened” session and then we settled into getting to know each other. We have a lot in common. Looking back I am really stoked that we both took a wrong turn because it was great to run with her and to get to know her, and we wouldn’t have done that if we were running #1 and #2 in the race.

At mile 15 there was an unmanned aid station and sure enough there were our drop bags. I grabbed some goo and laughed because I didn’t need the spare pair of shoes that the race director said we should put in there. Apparently the course was very muddy last year. Whitney and I were passing people left and right and chatting chatting chatting. We come around the corner and there is Cory, her husband. It was totally cool to see him up there, he drove really far and then had to run the rest of the way up. He ran with us and I got a charge off of how excited Whitney got. Usually it’s Troy that is there cheering and it was neat to see it through someone ealses eyes. I asked how many ladies were ahead, he said three. I asked if they were getable, he said “Probably not”.


I got a little focused at that. Like it was a challenge. I knew that all the climbing was done and I started to pick it up. Suddenly we could see a lady and we rolled right by her with smiles and “Good Jobs”. I was feeling really good and the downhill was starting to get steep. When it gets steep I like to just let my body go. I am less sore when I don’t hold back. I knew that my body could take it, and since my legs weren’t sore yet, I let it loose. At mile 19 there was another water stop (and by water, I mean water) and I departed just as Whitney came into it.


I got a runners high at this point, and no, I’m not going to show you the video that I took. It’s immmmbarassssing. I screamed and sang…loudly through the downhill and it was fun, but it wasn’t pretty. Lets just say that I have two toe nails that were sacrificed. Cory drove by in the car and he treated me just like we had known each other for years. I seriously felt like I was part of the family. The next miles I just remember begging for the steep downhill to flatten out, which it didn’t, and trying to curl my toes up into a ball to preserve my toenails. It was by far the steepest downhill I have every run in my life.


I passed another water aid stop which was nice to just have a break for a second. I tied my shoes tighter in hopes that my feet wouldn’t end up so far into the toebox. The last miles were steep and then suddenly I knew I was there. The resort was within sight. I felt like the finish would never come and when it did I stopped 5 feet before it and walked across the line. Don’t know why I did that, but I did. Who walks across the finish line of a marathon? Apparently I was second woman, 5th overall. I don’t know where the other woman went that Cory thought was in front of us, I hope she’s not still out there, lost.

Yup, me….walking.


I sat down on the ground and started fishing $20 out of my pack for the post race massage, I wanted it so bad! Whitney came in with a big smile. The race director fired up the grill and they threw on burgers and brats. It was like a back yard BBQ as we all sat there in the sun, with our feet in the grass.

I talked to the most amazing guy who I just found out his name from the results and Googled him: Steve Bremner. Here is his blog, and here is his website. You have to check him out. This year he is running EVERY Colorado marathon. There are 18 of them. So what did he do today? The day after our trail marathon? He ran the Colfax marathon!! He’s a pretty studly guy and I really enjoyed chatting with him for a little bit.

On my way back to the car to get a change of clothes I ran into the lady who did packet pickup. She asked me if I wanted a towel and a shower. Uhhh, YEAH! The Gateway Canyon Resort is a pretty schwanky place They are the ones that put on the race, I think to attract people to the resort (it’s in BFE). Everyone associated with the resort was extremely nice, but there is a difference between nice, and putting on a solid marathon. The latter needs a little more work.

The day ended with me heading home in the car only to realize I forgot to pick up my drop bag. I headed back to the post race celebration, talked to the race director, at which point I think he realized that he didn’t even think about the fact that he would need to get our drop bags back to us. Wow. He said he would mail it back to me. I’ve got a pair of shoes in there, and my snowshoe nationals fleece, I am hoping he comes through with his promise to mail it back. On where you register for the race he said there would be vests, prizes, finishers hats and drawings. There were none of those (except for hats), and no awards. I don’t need an award, but I would really like my spare pair of running shoes back.

So I learned a lot from this race but one thing that stands out is that I never realized that the job of a race director is to gain your trust. If things don’t line up then you start to distrust the organization and you start to feel alone and vulnerable in a race. I have taken that trust for granted, not even realizing how well run most of the events I attend are. The basics are usually well covered.

Also, I had a great time. It doesn’t matter that I got lost, it turned out to be a blessing. I still had a great time. The back of the t-shirt says “Worlds Longest Marathon”. Wow, didn’t know that was going to be “too true”. All in all, 4:20 for a technical, tough, mountain marathon + some is pretty awesome.

Results and Race Photos are here.

* Photos from Whitney and Cory Henderson, Event Staff, and my own camera.

Happy, Happy Happy!


I’m headed out today for 30 odd hours of Soloness. I’m off to Gateway Colorado for my first mountain marathon. Annie and Troy are staying home because the marathon is a loop and there are no spots to spectate or cheer. 10+ hours of driving is a lot to put Annie through.

I tried to convince some friends to come, but when it seemed like everyone had plans I decided to just make it a solo trip. Being a mom, and a wife, and a friend, and a training partner, I don’t often get a lot of time alone for more than a couple hours.

I’m excited to get a little time away with my thoughts. I’ve felt like a little time to think was in the cards for awhile now. I’m also excited to be able to drive with the volume cranked up on the radio. So if you see a VW wagon on I-70 with the windows down, the sunroof down, and the music blaring…that’s me.

I’ll be thinking about all of you out there tomorrow.

Oh, and I wanted to send a HUGE “Thank You” to PowerSox who sent me two pairs of socks from their new line. I am going to wear them during the marathon. Powersox makes AWESOME socks if you haven’t worn a pair…you should!

Learning from Mistakes


We have had some great weather here in Colorado the last few days, and lucky for me I have had lots of double workout days to enjoy the sun. I might have just enjoyed the sun a little too much as I am sporting a pretty nice burn with some great sports bra lines.

I’ve been thinking more this week about that crazy track workout I had last week. You know, the one that could be construed as being labeled A Failure of a workout.

We all know that we learn more from our failures, than our successes. It’s pretty much cliche in the athletic world. What about “chalking up your failure to experience learned”? Have you heard that one before? Yea, you’re not the first. I could go on and on with quotes about how we should learn from our failures. Why don’t I?

“There are no failures – just experiences and your reactions to them.”
– Tom Krause

“Success builds character, failure reveals it”.
– Dave Checkett

“A man may fall many times, but he won’t be a failure until he says that someone pushed him.”
– Elmer G. Letterman

Need I say more? Because I could… But you know, I think as athletes we all realize that the we need to learn and grow from our mistakes/failures.

Here’s the deal. How? How do you actually take an experience that you were well intentioned in and dissect through it to discover the lesson? Usually when you are in the process of failing you are emotional making it difficult to remember what you were doing or how your body was feeling at the time. Just as our greatest successes are often hazy and hard to put together, so are our failures.

Taking a step back and trying to learn from a difficult situation is one of the toughest processes I have tried to negotiate through as an athlete.

Here are some steps that have helped me

– Start thinking…Review the situation with as much of a birds-eye view as possible.

– Understand the circumstances surrounding the event. Are you in a position to do your best or were there other things at work?

– Don’t spend time justifying your mistakes. “It was so and so’s fault because…”. Just don’t go there.

– Think about how you would have felt if you had succeeded, how about if you hadn’t even taken the challenge that resulted in failure? What emotions would have surfaced?

– Try to pinpoint when the failure started to happen and think hard about what you were feeling at the moment. Play in your head how it could have gone differently.

– If the same situation happened tomorrow are you confident that you would or would not make the same mistake? If yes, keep thinking, if no, you have probably learned what you needed to learn.

– Don’t stew. At the end of this process you should throw your hands in the air and say “That’s marvelous, now I know”. Keep a smile on your face.

Hope this helps!

33 Day NO SUGAR Challenge

My friend Laurie over at “The Making of a Trophy Wife” blogged today about quitting sugar. I personally struggle with sugar and with indulgences, especially during training lulls, or stressful emotional times. When I am training extremely hard I tend to loose my appetite and don’t tend to indulge but when the volume decreases or the intensity is toned down I find myself hitting up sugar based desserts in the afternoon and evenings.

So, here it goes. Other than during training gels and bloks, no SUGAR…33 days.

I’m looking forward to the more even insulin levels, to the decrease in mood swings, and to the extra pep in my body. Not to mention the decrease in headaches that have started to become a little too common. How about you? Interested in joining me? You can do anything for 33 days right? Or…are you addicted too?

Here is a great blog about a lady who quit sugar for an entire year and blogged the entire way through called My Year Without Sugar.

Need another reason to join Laurie and I? How about here.

Maxed Out

Ahhh, a challenging track workout today! It was the opposite of the negative split work out, it was the “hold onto Karen who is a kick a$$ pro triathlete until you die” workout. Then on the next interval do it again, and again, and again. After awhile I just had to laugh. When I was running, and bonking over and over and over again it hurt…oh it hurt so bad. I wanted to be angry at Steve for setting me up for failure. But, you know, I wasn’t mad at him, I knew that the success was because of him and the failure was because of me. Also, with failure comes opportunity. I set a new Tuesday Track Club mile PR at 5:53 and did it in the most WRONG way possible…Positive splitting the entire thing. Hah, that’s just funny.

I learned a few things tonight.

1.) Keeping a smile on your face and a positive attitude while your hurting really badly is HARD…BUT it gets easier the more you practice. Last year I remember when Steve made me stick on Jay and I was so mad at him. Same workout, but this year I was able take personal accountability and to laugh at the end of it.

2.) Karen intimidates me. And it’s funny, because she is the nicest person out there, always waves when someone cheers for her, always a smile. If she’s hurting out there, you would never know it. Great role model, but she scares me too!

3.) Once I bonk, it’s really hard to pull it back together. I seem to just enter into a downward spiral. After a little rest I can pull it back together for awhile, but if I go out to bonk again…it gets harder and harder to come back from. Five bonks and I’m a toasted cookie. Not sure if this was mental, I’m sure part of it is, probably a larger part than I am willing to admit at present.

4.) Bonking is humiliating, and it’s good to get humiliated sometimes.

So there are a few lessons. The worse it hurts, the more you learn. In the end, laugh it off, and chalk it up to “Yea, good times”.

Who Wins the Lotto?


So about a month ago USAT announced that if you competed at Nationals in Portland, or you were a previous Team USA member, for $30 you could enter into a lottery to get a spot on Team USA and the chance to compete at World Championships in Australia. They stated that they were giving away one spot per age group. You all remember how close I was to qualifying for Worlds this year? About 10 seconds close.

$30…Hummm. Well, with a little prodding from Steve, I entered the lottery. What the heck, I’ve never won any sort of lottery in my life, and you know, who needs $30 these days?

Today I found out that I got the slot! After all the craziness 5 months ago with thinking I was in, then not in, well…apparently if you don’t get your hopes up for something, it has a better chance of happening! I AM GOING TO BE ON TEAM USA! VIA the LOTTO of all places. I paid my entry fee so fast it wasn’t even funny.

I think Troy almost had a heart attack, while being totally ecstatic for me, he’s also scratching his head because funding it will require some creativity. Luckily flights to Australia are down from $1000+ to about $750, and did you know that Quantas and Air New Zealand don’t charge for your bike as long as it’s under 50 (70 for ANZ) pounds with some attainable length requirements. Yip!!!

I got my Travel Visa approved like 10 minutes ago…easy process, very quick, instant approval! So, I am on my way. Whew, big sigh of happiness and excitement.

Now, all of you out there…looking for someone to spend a couple hours with you for some running form analysis, or a customized and coached track workout? Need something sewn, knitted, or crocheted? Want a one-on-one transition clinic? Really, for a donation of any size to the Get Sonja To Worlds Fund…I can put together great workouts, and love to do form clinics.

I bake too…make great pizza dough, and I can assemble an awesome looking fruit platter.

Let me know…?? Really, I’m not kidding…

I’M GOING TO AUSTRALIA!!!!! Wow! I’m still in shock!

The Couch

Last week after riding Epic twice I had a rest day. I was noticing that my recovery wasn’t coming as quickly as usual. I felt a bit hailed most of the day, and also felt a bit off. I laid around the entire day. Friday I woke up with a sore throat, ah hah, that makes perfect sense.

I don’t get sick often, I’m quite a healthy sturdy individual (Duh). After talking to Steve we figured that the 2.5 hours of riding in freezing temperatures probably did it. There is something about getting bone cold that usually makes your body susceptible to illness.

So, Friday, Saturday and Sunday were spent laying on the couch, with the exception of a Friday evening movie with my girlfriends…which also entailed one (just one) margarita, that I probably should have passed on. Troy said its the most I have laid on the couch our entire marriage.

I never felt totally horrible, just sick with a cold. I feel like I am finally learning when to push and when not to, when you are sick, lay low, rest, catch up on movies. When you are unmotivated…find motivation and push through, but when you are sick, sit on your fanny and get better.

Today I hit up Masters this morning and was so jazzed and enthused to be in the pool. My Masters coach Paul is back, I love him to death, so it’s great to be back in the pool with his smile on deck. The first half I felt like I had an ear infection, but after rubbing my neck to help my sinus drain, I felt just fine.

So, the lesson…sick = rest. Don’t sweat it, don’t harass yourself, just get better.

Movies Watched:
Yes Man
Nick & Noras Infinite Playlist
Vicky Cristina Barcelona