On the Eve of Ironman Canada

What am I supposed to feel like? There are triathletes running and biking and swimming everywhere around me. I didn’t anticipate the amount of intensity that would exist two and three days out from the event. My lodging has these three huge windows that look out over the swim shore. All day long triathletes swim swim swim. Then they run run run, and at times they bike bike bike by my windows.

For me, I’ve gone the opposite direction. The work for me is done. I don’t need to remind myself that I can swim, or refresh the legs on the run. I raced last weekend and I know it’s all there, it’s just waiting for the day. So, I’ve chilled here on the beach. I’ve visited the ice cream shop down the street several times. I’ve enjoyed the scenery and gone down the slide on the beach.

I’ve read, and relaxed. It’s been a vacation. Oh wait, I did do a little running. Ya gotta do the underwear run, it’s Ironman tradition and I wasn’t going to miss it. Steve, Keith and Tony came and watched (chicken). Here’s my outfit.

And here I am with the PowerBar girls….

Troy and I did volunteer yesterday. We helped stick all the number stickers on the bike racks. It was fun and we had fun working together. More athletes should volunteer I think, it helps you have a better appreciation for the event.

This race, Ironman Canada, is the reward of the season. Which is odd, because all the “work” has been very rewarding as well. I can’t say that I quite know what I am getting myself into. But I know that I am ready for the experience and jazzed to see what the day holds. The bike is turned in, the bags are packed and sitting in transition, I’m ready to go. Thanks for all the love and thoughts. Race number 2146.

Transition getting filled.

2009 USAT Age Group Nationals

Before I get into the race report, a little update. I’m on the skyride bus headed to the airport, headed to Ironman Canada right now. From wednesday to Wednesday I’ll be on Canadian soil, so please limit all emails. Please no text messages and no direct messages on Twitter. Calls are for emergencies only. The best way to say hi is to comment on my blog, or post a tweet with @gosonja in it. I have a data plan for my phone, but it’s pricy and tweeting is the cheepist.

Lastly, please wish Amy good luck, and keep her in your thoughts Friday, she’s having both ta-tas removed.

I’m always chatty on outbound flights. Always. I’m bristling with excitement and I make friends with those around me. On my first leg it was a business traveler who used to dabble in triathlons, on the second leg it was a nice guy from Chicago headed to Birmingham for the same reason I was. We talked and talked and talked about triathlons, it was totally the bomb!

Rolling into the Birmingham airport at 11pm it was desserted except for compression sock clad triathletes. There were so many athletes I didn’t know what to do with myself. Anthony found me walking to the car rental desk and it was like we hadn’t seen each other in months. You know how it is when you come across someone that you see all the time in a nonstandard location…it’s like “OOOHHH Tony!!! hug, hug” We walked around the airport for awhile waiting for Michelle to get in and drooling over more triathletes. I also ran into TriBoomer. That was super exciting because we had planned a meeting with him on Friday to get the scoop on volunteering for Athletes for a Cure. After retreiving Michelle and deserting Anthony we headed to Tuscaloosa to met up with Tyler and Beth, our roomies for the weekend.


Michelle and I roomed together at Nationals the first year we went. That was where the partnership in crime developed. Last year we added Tyler to the mix, and he passed the initiation with flying colors, mostly because of the introduction of the “Tyler Tab”. This year we added Beth, and boy was she a huge hit…she pummeled Tyler with pillows like she grew up with ten older brothers or something.

After our arrival and the multitude of midnight pillow fighting that resulted, we all crashed in our comfy beds, ready for a hectic Friday.


Friday was all about: easy run, Starbucks, IHOP, meeting with TriBoomer, pick up packets, get red extension put in hair by Paul Mitchell, pick up bikes from VeloExpress (awesome service), drop bikes in transition, drive course, eat, watch movie for 30 minutes (excpet Tyler), CRASH!


The meeting with TriBoomer was especially important. As a group, triathletes are pretty self centered, not a lot of volunteer work going on there, me included. I’ve been wanting to change that, but have been unsure on just how to do so. I had followed TriBoomers blog after hearing his “news report” on the Get your Geek On Triathlon Podcast. I considered him quite reputable within the triathlon community and when he posted on Twitter that he needed some folks to help on behalf of Athletes for a Cure, both Michelle and I responded. What he was planning was a live radio show and twitter cast of the mens and women’s pro races on Blog Talk Radio. He needed spotters, photographers and tweeters. Michelle and I were game, so we dragged in Tyler and Beth. The meeting with TriBoomer was awesome and we were set with our jobs for the pro race. I was stoked that besides TriBoomer himself, and a university of Alabama volunteer, the four of us were his main work force.


Saturday morning came, and for the four of us, it was like clockwork. Nobody got in anyones way, we all progressed through our own routines and before we knew it we were at the race site warming up.


We found out a piece of key information on that warmup. The swim was a river swim and we had been assured the day before that the river was not flowing. There was a dam down river that was keeping the river still. Well, on the warmup we got to a vantage point where we could see that the early waves were encountering a huge current. It was so big that there were about 5 swimmers stuck at the first turn buoy into the current. We stood there and watched in horror as they swam and swam and swam and went nowhere. Soon enough the police boats made there way over in that direction. Back at the swim start I watched more swimmers while waiting for my wave and was shocked to see the bulk of participants making very little progress towards the swim exit. It was sad.

Soon enough it was my turn. I got in to warm up. Against the current I swam out and thought “Okay, at least I can swim against it”. I turned to swim back and it took 4 strokes to get back. I lined up on the dock and my entire age group was holding onto the dock for dear life. You could feel the current trying to rip you off the dock. Gulp.

Boom, we are off. Down river we go. I was at the first buoy before I could say Tuscaloosa. We took a right turn across the river and I was on a set of feet. We get to the next buoy and we are 15 yards downstream from the buoy. We make the EVIL right turn and thus begins the carnage. Swimming against current. I was secretly afraid to look at the shore, hoping I wasn’t one of those sad folks that wasn’t going anywhere. I stole a look and 10 strokes later I stole another look. Whew, I was making progress. It wasn’t great, but at least I knew I wasn’t going to be one of the many DNF’s of the day. It wasn’t pretty but I swam as hard as I knew how and eventually I made my way to the shore. 43 minutes for a mile swim, shesh.

Transition was flawless and I was off on the bike. I had a little trouble getting going, and my quads HURT from all the kicking, but I made my way through the bike. It was a two lap course, with three U-turns on each lap, so 6 total. I got a little tired of all the turn arounds but the bike went by about ten times faster than the swim.


The transition to the run had an extra step this year. I put on socks at Steve’s request. He was really concerned with all the technical downhills we would beat up our feet. With IM Canada a week later we couldn’t afford to have mangled feet. So I sat down, put on socks and off I went.

I instantly got into a groove and felt like I was calm and steady. I was running behind a guy that I had gone back and forth with at the end of the bike, he was older, but very fit (tops were not required on men in this race due to the heat…thank you triathlon gods). He was running so strong that I just stuck onto him. I was excited to think that he could drag me around the course at a fast pace. We got to the first hill and he stepped off the course to PUKE UP HIS GUTS! Dang! There went my pacer. On the first hill, which was also an out and back I saw that Michelle was just in front of me and Steve was just behind. Michelle had actually passed me in the swim despite starting 12 minutes behind me. Yea, it was that bad. So I focused on drawing myself into her, and holding off Steve. Steve caught me first and I hung to his shoulder…until I didn’t. I got to watch him pass Michelle and watched her hang onto his shoulder…until she couldn’t. It was fun to watch! Soon enough Michelle and I were side by side and I secretly hoped that she would find that extra little bit to hang with me the rest of the race. That would have been awesome!

I pulled away from her and at that point I knew I could start picking it up. I came upon Wonder Woman. I passed her, she passed me back and I passed her again. In the final half mile I dropped the pace down to a strong kick and found 3 other ladies in my age group to pass. It was a nice way to finish.


Crossing the line I felt good, not too tapped, but also felt like I had been on an epic adventure. We should have been given a medal for just surviving that swim. One guy was out there for 179 minutes. Do the math… Tony, Beth and I were all in the “swam slower than we ran club”. It was EPIC!

We waited in line to get our results and I was pleased to see 14th age group. Yea! That should get me on TEAM USA for 2010. Standing next to Michelle and watching her find out that she was 5th in her age group was pretty priceless. It was her day for sure!

We grabbed our bags, and bailed out our bikes. We cruised back to the car and changed. We had a mission, it was our time to give back, to work. Athletes for a cure needed us…but that’s better left for another post.

Thank you Troy!!! Thank you to my trip roommates Beth, Tyler and PIC Michelle. I laughed so much this trip. Thanks to Steve for training my body, and thanks to Trakkers, NUUN, and Core Concepts for supporting me.


Swim: 43:03
T1: 1:27
Bike: 1:07:14
T2: 1:05
Run: 41:21
Total: 2:34:08

Lastly a huge congratulations to my PIC Michelle, she was 5th in her age group and made it onto the podium. You can read about it here.


I love the mailman

I know you are all anxiously waiting for my Nationals Race Report. I’m writing it tonight and will post it tomorrow, but check this out today. Look what came in the mail? As an age group athlete, when your world uniform arrives in the mail it’s like…”Oh my, this is real, I’m going to represent team USA at a World Championship event”. It’s insanely exciting, and such an honor to wear this uniform. It’s special, just for Gold Coast…and maybe Budapest next year, eh?


The whole “name on the butt” was something that I scoffed at, but secretly wished I was good enough to warrant having my name on my fanny. Well, here it is, wow…I’ve got my husbands name on my butt!! HaHaHa. Just kidding, it’s been mine for seven wonderful years and I’ve grown accustomed to it!


To all that have helped me get to worlds, I love you. I hope that I can continue to show all of you out there just how possible this all is. I’m a mom, I was overweight. I decided to make a change, decided to get out there and start really running after what makes my soul happy. Look where I got in just a few short years. I can’t imagine what the next ones will hold but I know that I will continue to surprise all of you out there. More epic adventures, more gnarly trips, more fast racing, and more pedals to the metal.

USAT nationals quickie recap

Today was a wild and crazy day! There was substantial rain two day ago so the Army Corp of Engineers opened the dam below the race course late last night. Suddenly what was supposed to be a still lake swim became an extreeme current swim. We got into the water downstream from where we exited so the majority of the swim was against the
now considerable current. We watched people from the shore who would swim for minutes and make 1-2 feet headway, or even go backwards.

When I was swimming I kept checking the shore to see if I was moving and sure enough I was making headway, so I felt pretty good about that. Exiting the water I checked my watch and it said 43. Ouch. Despite knowing everything I did, it was still disapointing to know it was that slow.
The bike went pretty well. I felt a little inconsistent through the course, very fast at times, but slow at times as well. I went 1:07 which I am pleased with.
Onto the run and it wasn’t as hot as I was expecting. I got into a good goove and rolled home with a 41 run.

All in all I was pleased. This race is always quite the humble pie type of event. I was 14th in my age group, and for 2010 roll down purposes I was 18th. So I got the final guaranteed slot for worlds next year. Very excited to have that slot.

Practical coaching had great results with:
steve: 15th
beth: 15th
Michelle: 5th
Tyler: 55th
Anthony: 20th
Lori: 5th
Barry: 35th

Congratulations to all the PC athletes!

Friday Video Blog in Tuscaloosa

We are having way way way to much fun here in Tuscaloosa. Here is a little video blog that we took this morning.

Meeting with TriBoomer was super awesome. We will break into two teams for the PRO races and we will be responsible for all the of photos, video and stats that will be posted on the BlogTalkRadio show. It should be pretty cool. I hope you tune in! See the post below for the details.

Having fun, laughing a lot, loving the humidity and heat.

For Amy

I leave tomorrow for Tuscaloosa Alabama, the first race in my series of Epic Triathlon Mayhem. I’m really excited for the wild races to begin, and can’t wait to race!

A few weeks back some of you might have seen a “Cancer F’ing Sucks” on my facebook status, and you may have seen a few of my tweets about my friend Amy. I got to visit Amy today and after getting her permission I wanted to share a small tad of her story.

Amy and I met in Colorado Mountain Mamas as new moms and bonded after finding out that we had the same birth experience with our kiddos. We went through the craziness called raising an infant together as friends, getting together weekly if not more to “survive”. Neither of our kids liked to nurse, and we banded together to push through it.


When the triathlon bug hit me, it hit Amy too. She surprised me and drove up early in the morning to support me and cheer for me during my first triathlon.


Amy is a rockstar, she overcame her hatred of running and became not only a triathlete, but a half marathoner, and a snowshoer as well. Amy has tons of goals for where she wants to go…Ironman is one of them.


But first Amy really wanted to have another baby. After months went by without a pregnancy I could tell every time I talked to her that she was torn up about not getting pregnant. She either wanted to be doing tris or she wanted to be pregnant, being in limbo was grating on her. Time heals all things and early last spring Amy told me that she was pregnant. I was so ecstatic for her, pus I was ready for her to get on with the baby thing and get back out there doing tris with me!


Two weeks ago, Amy was in her 36th week of pregnancy when I found out that she had just been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I was floored reading the email, couldn’t believe it and really couldn’t do much the rest of the day.

On Monday, at 38 weeks, Amy was induced so that she could have her baby early, so that she and the doctors can start battling her cancer. I am happy to say that Amy was able to have a tough, yet completely natural (besides the Pitocin used to induce her) birth. Tyler was born at 7:30 Monday evening.

Amy now faces a double mastectomy less than two weeks after having a baby and then she starts chemo, which she will go through for months. All of this with a newborn. It’s really hard to type that. Amy is just a hair over 30. She has been so strong, and she has a lot of support.

As long as Amy is battling cancer, I race for her. Bottom line. Fighting cancer is hard work, the woman deserves some schwag. She needs to know that people are thinking about her, and praying for her. It’s just necessary.


Also, Amy is going to need to shave her head before all her hair falls out….and well, she wants others to do it with her. Gulp… probably gonna do that too…

Right now Amy is nursing Ty for a couple more days. Donated breast milk is coming her direction so Ty will keep his immunity up. I was so happy to visit with her today and to meet baby Ty. I’m secretly hoping she calls me over to help her out when I get back from Australia. I wanna hold that baby!


Amy: I love you girl, you are being so honest and real through this and I applaud you. Tears and Laughter. Tears and Laughter.

The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it. ~C.C. Scott

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Have I done Enough?

As my miles taper down, and my training hours dwindle I’ve started to look back on what was accomplished this year. I think you have to remind yourself what you have done to reach your goals, it’s easy to forget. Steve, Andrea, Anthony and I started off this training block by heading to Canada together to volunteer in August 2008. Being total triathlon geeks were immediately bitten by the Ironman bug. We had way to much fun volunteering for IM Canada and we came home so jazzed and excited to train for the next years race. Steve got to thinking about how he was going to train us and thus was born the 17 hour training day plans. A website followed, and we had introspective meetings once a month. We started to build or base and along the way came lots and lots of fun.

We ran 41 miles on the Colorado trail and dragged way way way too many people with us.


We ran up Red rocks stairs a ka-billion times.


We swam and swam and swam all winter long


We signed up for our first 50K and ran all over Moab.


We ran long long runs in tights…with friends.


We ran even longer runs, through the snow.


We swam more…and more…and more.


We ran 46 miles to Boulder in 19 degree weather.


I tried to run 15 miles two days after running 46 miles and not yet recovered. I hurt myself. My knee kept me out of the running game for about 4 weeks, just had to take it’s time to properly heal. I learned the difference between bad pain, and healing pain. I will try much harder not to make that mistake again. Here is the “I’m happy but I hurt look”.


We ran up Mt Evans in the snow and I turned back early b/c the knee wasn’t quite back completely. I can’t believe I left these two together.


We went to Catalina Island and I watched Steve, Andrea, and Anthony run 50 miles. It was a hoot, and I gained perspective on being on the sideline. I had a ton of fun, and drank a few too many pomegranate margaritas.


We ran up Highgrade…a tough climb for most local cyclists


I progressed through another great snowshoe season, this time with more depth to my running and made my second National Snowshoe team.


I got two new bikes which made me way faster


Michelle and I raced the boys over our entire Shadow loop, and we won (because we’re better).


We rode everywhere. Shadow, Epic, Shadow, Epic. Climb climb climb


We went to Las Vegas and slaughtered a half Ironman


Then turned around 40 hours later and ran across the Grand Canyon….twice


I ran a mountain marathon in Gateway Colorado


I raced my first road race


I went to Connecticut and raced the Rev3 Half Ironman


And then the next weekend raced the Kansas 70.3 half Ironman


and then the next weekend raced the Loveland Lake to Lake Oly


And then we rode our bikes home


It all involved a lot of this


and this


Then we cranked up the mileage and rode out east week after week after week, hundreds of miles. 156 mile rides, 100 mile rides, and lots of 85 mile rides.


We trained for 17 hours in one day. The “official” 17 hour training day. 7K swimming, 100+ riding, and 30+ running.


I went to California and competed in Vineman 70.3 Half Ironman


Then came home, rode a couple hundred miles, and entered my first crit


Then we rode 225 miles in one day


And finally we endured a hail storm after 100 miles on the bike and 18 on the run, incurring substantial “hail damage” to our bodies.


So, all these experiences. What if I completely choke at Ironman? Doesn’t matter. No really, won’t I be so disappointed if it just doesn’t go my way on the actual day? Nope. Because, for one, I know what it feels like when it’s not going my way. I’ve been to that ugly place on runs, on swims and on rides, and you know what, I’ve persevered through it, I’ve figured out how to keep going. So does adversity scare me? Nope. Number two, I’ve enjoyed this training, I’ve enjoyed the Ironman lifestyle. If you haven’t seen much of me lately it’s not because I’m out there painfully toiling away on my bike, it’s because I’m out there living it up doing what makes my soul happy. I have found out that there is something in me that loves to go long. I love the outdoors, and I love the way this training makes me feel in both heart and mind. If all this was for nothing…I would sign up again tomorrow. The adventures and experiences have been priceless.

I don’t know how I can encourage you all out there, but I want to let you know that I don’t consider myself to have any special powers. I don’t see myself as an unusually hard worker. What I do have is a passion to live life to it’s fullest, and the ability to smile. If any of what I have done in the past year sounds fun to you, please find a way to talk to me about it. Do you see all the pictures of all the different people that did just some of the fun stuff I did last year. Well, that could be you. So please don’t sit by and think “Man, I wish I could join them”. I would love to find a way to make that possible for you.

A Schedule of Sorts

Well Folks! I’m surprised that you have stuck through this with me. It’s been an eventful last year. In one week mayhem of epic proportions is going down! Let’s give you all a little outline of where I stand so you know what to expect. I don’t want anyone having any sort of medical complications from reading my blog.

THE WARMUP: Thursday 8/20 I board a plane headed to none other than Birmingham Alabama for the USAT Age Group National Championships at the Olympic distance to be held in Tuscaloosa. On Saturday 8/22 I will have the chance to qualify for Sept. 2010 ITU World Championships which are to be held in Budapest, Hungary (Olympic distance). I’ve got to get top 18 in my age group for a guaranteed slot, roll down is to 25th place, but beware of the lessons learned last year. They must age up everyone and recalculate the results before they award slots…so really, I wont know until I’ve had time to geek it up and do this myself. My travelmates: PIC Michelle, Bethie, and Tyler, which means uber fun crazy crack-a-lackin kinda times.

THE MAIN SET: I arrive home on Sunday, spend 62 hours at home, give Annie big smooches and whisk Troy away to Penticton Canada, via Spokane. While Annie lives it up with her grandparents, the 17 hour training day crew, plus my parents will be drinking wine in Canada. NOOOO!! We will be a ball of type A nerves as we put the finishing touches on Ironman Canada prep. The bullhorn goes off on 8/30 and I’ll be swimming (2.4 mi), riding (112 mi), and running (26.2 mi) with 2000 other folks who have been training all year, just to hear Steve King announce “You are an Ironman” (Steve King is back this year). There are Kona slots up for grabs, and you can bet that some 17 hour training day folks will be going hard in hopes of a slot. If any of the 17hour crew gets a Kona slot I’m booking a ticket to go. Can’t miss that. Kona is 10/10 this year. After Ironman Troy and I will take a few days to unwind, visit some orchards, look for OgoPogo, and then we head back to Denver on Wednesday 9/2.

THE SPEED SET: You would think, whew, that’s enough. But OH NO. Another 65 hours later I am boarding a plane to LA, and then after meeting up with my mom and dad, onto Brisbane, Australia. First time to OZ, yep-a-roonie. Troy and Annie will be holding down the fort in Denver, while SO MANY OF YOU OUT THERE have helped me get to ITU WORLD Age Group Championships. Although I leave Colorado Saturday 9/5, I arrive in OZ on Monday 9/7. It will be a fun filled week of triathloning with opening ceremonies, team USA pictures, training rides and runs with the official TEAM USA coach Steve Pye, who just HAPPENS to be my coach. We will be chilling with PIC Michelle, 17hr crewmate Anthony, PC chicka Laurie, spicy as hot sauce PC teammate Bethie, and all their respective families. On Saturday 9/12 I will step on the sand with the WORLDS best ladies in my age group to duke it out over the twisty, turny, spectator filled Olympic distance course. This race qualifies you for nothing, expect the title of “Kick Butt Triathlete”.

THE COOLDOWN: On 9/14 I will drag myself back to Brisbane and pop myself onto a flight where I will most likely sleep the entire 19 hours back to LA. When I awake I will have the stupidest, lamest, happy grin all over my face. I will get off the plane and collapse into Troy’s arms, look up at him and ask, “When do I get to do it all over again”?

Is the next month going to be challenging? Yes. Am I going to miss Annabelle and Troy? You bet cha. Do I feel insanely lucky to have even 1/10th of this opportunity? Humbly. I have received so much help from those who love me and those who are sick of me talking about triathlon. Everyone has patted me on the back and told me “You can do this”. Yes, I can do this, but even more so, I will LOVE and APPRECIATE every single second of the experience.

A Little Help From Your Friends

A few months ago when I found out that I made it into Worlds I asked/begged for a little help from my friends. I needed a few fundraising events and boy did my friends follow through. It has reminded me how much I love teaching as well.

Laura asked for my help and organized a fundraising track workout with her play-group ladies. This was a real hoot. We met at a local track, all the moms had their kids in tow and I coached a track session. Coaching a track workout is pretty crazy when you have 8 or so kiddos, all younger than Annie running loose while their moms run circles. The women did so great with what I gave them. They did a warm up, some strides, and then got down to business. The first interval when the moms took off all the kids took off too, which left me retrieving crying kids when they ran out of steam. After that first interval the kids got a clue and figured out that playing together was much more fun. Abi the mirador was the only one I had to keep an especially close eye on.

The ladies donated enough for me to pay for half of my Team USA uniform, what a help they were, but even crazier…I had such a blast coaching them.

Here are the ladies running.

Here are a few of the kiddos lounging in the grass together.

Then a couple nights ago, another good friend Laurie organized a Flat Tire Party. Check out her post on the fun we had at http://mamameltdown.blogspot.com/. We had 7 kiddos playing on the backyard play-set while I taught everyone in a HANDS ON, DO IT YOURSELF way, how to change a flat tire on their bike. Hearing the ladies talk just reminded me how much we women need to get together to do things like this. Men tinker with things, women are usually afraid to touch, we are worried about breaking things. They learned, and practiced what to do when their chain falls off, and how to take off and put on the rear tire. They practiced using their individual CO2 cartridges to fill their tire, and they are all extremely proficient at changing their tires now (if I don’t say so myself). Again, the real blast here was the teaching aspect. I really got a kick out of helping these ladies learn new things and become confident.


A huge thanks to them as well as I now have a beer cup that says “Sonja Donations to Rock Worlds” full of cash…which I promise to not spend on beer!!

Lastly I want to recognize my friend Susan. She has taken this little “begging for help” that I have asked for and turned it into “Help me help you”. I had a session with Susan where we covered run form and where we got on our bikes and rode around the parking lot 500 times learning how to shift, break and go around turns. I can’t wait to meet with her again. She is such a comedian and I love that she is letting me become involved with her progress. Thanks Susan!


So, ladies, I really love you guys. Letting me teach you is such a gift. I have really enjoyed my time with all of you and I hope to spend more time spreading my knowledge! Is knowledge even worth having if you can’t spread it? Thank you for all your donations to my cause. I wish I could tack every one of your names onto my uniform at worlds!