I am whole heartedly in the throws of recovery. I have had a week completely off which allowed me to catch up on lots of loose ends. Very nice! Steve with Practical Coaching had mentioned about 6 weeks ago that we were going to pay a visit to the velodrome, and to “be ready”.
Now I am all about Steve throwing new challenges at me. Remember my first ever road race this year, 84 miles of craziness. Then he threw me in the crit, where I crashed, and returned to the race to an adrenaline pumped finish. So, what could the velodrome do to me?
Tyler, Steve and I had visited the Boulder Indoor Cycling center while it was being built and I admit, I was freaked. How on earth is someone supposed to bike on a 45 degree banked turn. Scary! When I arrived on Saturday it wasn’t nearly as scary because the track was no longer in construction, but completely built, and ALL MY PEEPS WERE THERE TOO. There were 12 of us Practical Coaching athletes there for a private session, Steve had rented the track. Of all twelve of us, two had been on a velodrome before, one of them was Steve (who doesn’t count).
We got fitted and put our pedals on our trusty fixed gear bikes that the Velodrome provided. Now, in case you are unaware, track bikes have no breaks, only one gear and you can’t coast, you must pedal them at all times. This particular track is indoor, so the turns are tight. It reminded me of a roller rink on drugs. In fact, I kinda wished I had my roller skates.
We broke into girls (plus Tyler) versus boys and after lots of tips and explanation from our instructor the girls (+T) were up.
We peddled on the flat area at the bottom of the track for a few laps, then we tested going up on the base line and back. After a few laps of that, our instructor yelled at us to get up on the track and PEDAL! With a track bike (fixed gear) you can’t coast, you must pedal continuously. I rode up on the track and before I knew it I was going around a turn (because I didn’t really have a choice), and then pedaling harder, and then going around another turn and another and another. I knew in my mind how steep the turns were, but it just felt natural on the bike.
It was crazy, don’t get me wrong. But, it was awesome too. I just wanted to go around and around along the upper blue line all day. I messed with going high on the turns and then staying down low. Before I knew it our instructor was calling for us to slow down and exit the track.
Ummm, he never explained how to get off the track. That was the scariest part. When you are on the track you don’t have to turn, you feel like you are just riding a straight line. When you come off the track you are suddenly on the flat ground, going kind fast, inside, and you can’t really slow down with any consistency and you have to turn. That was a little wild.
Then it was the boys turn. They were hilarious. Some were just as cautious as we were, and others we more crazy from the get go. Steve’s son did phenomenally. He was the shocker of the day.
Our instructor was impressed with us. I think he was expecting a group of typical triathletes who don’t focus on cycling skills and handling ability. Steve works very hard with each and every one of us on our skills and that seemed to shine through. The girls took another turn this time following the instructor and learning how to go high up the turn and shoot down on the straight away. We did some laps hugging the bottom line and for me, that was the most fun. The tight inner turn is fast and you can feel the force pushing you and your bike into the track.
Steve was yelling at us the whole time to “close the gap”, and “stick our elbows out”, so when it was the boys turn again we took it upon ourselves to yell back at him in an equally annoying fashion. He deserved it!
The session ended with ten of us on the track practicing our skills for the last 10 minutes or so and mixing it up with the boys. 4 people in our group bought fixed gear bikes to take home, as the track was having a sale. That cracked me up. We were instantly sold. Plus, triathletes love bikes. It was nothing but smiles all around, every single one of us had an amazing time. We can’t wait to go back and do it again!
I know that amongst the cycling community triathletes aren’t considered “real cyclists”, but I hope that some of those stereotypes can start to change. We all have to start somewhere and some of us started as triathletes. I hope to someday be considered a cyclist, runner, and a swimmer, true to form in each regard. The trip to the velodrome really helped me to feel like I am becoming a more complete cyclist.
So Trakkers is doing a beta test at the Denver Marathon this year. Have you been itching to test a unit and do you just happen do be racing the Denver 1/2 Marathon, or the Full?? Well, read below:
Denver Marathon Maniacs!,
Ok, you’re NOT maniacs – well, maybe you are – but in my book this is GOOD maniac. Some of you may be familiar with one of Super-Sonja’s sponsors: Trakkers. Basically, Trakkers is a GPS device for athletes. The athlete wears the device and friends/family can go online to follow them along, in training or racing, in real time. A google map pops up and a dot moves along the map in real time. VERY cool stuff, and the next step in technology for sports, really.
Trakkers is looking for some folks who would like to be involved in a beta-test at the Denver Marathon. We are in the final stages of product development and are looking for another test to iron out the final glitches before the device is available to the mainstream public.
What is in it for you? Aside from my eternal thanks, your friends and family will be able to follow you online (so they can be in another state and get to follow you!) during your race, and you get to use the device for free.
If you are interested, please send me an email: email@example.com
VP of Operations
Also, I know some of you were pretty jealous when I attended the Rev3 race this year. You saw my Green Iguana Trakkers uniform and you WANTED ONE! I can’t blame you, the Trakers uniform is super comfy, plus Trakkers sponsorship grants you lots of goodies, training camp, and being a part of cool tri team. Do you think you’ve got what it takes to be on Team Trakkers 2010? Here’s the official application. It will download to your computer as a word doc.
I’m not even going to explain how crazy it is that I signed up for the Run Rabbit Run 50 mile race. You all read my blog, you know where I’ve been. So, lets just get to the part that you all love, the race report.
I have a special treat for you this time too. Your gonna LOVE it! But, it’s at the end. Fine, skip all the way down there if you want to, whatever, It’s not like I’m up at midnight on a Sunday night writing this…
So, Friday morning Annie and I make the three hour drive to Steamboat Springs, CO for the Run Rabbit Run packet pickup. I immediately know this is gonna be cool. Despite the fact that I signed up for the race like 3 days prior (after begging) and the race director made me “Promise” that I would finish, I was pleasantly surprised to see my name and info on the list and the race director Fred meeting me personally at packet pickup and remembering me.
Annie and I then rode the Gondola around and around a couple times (cause she’s 3, and that’s the kinda of thing 3 year olds get a kick out of) and then we headed back to the race meeting at 5pm. Annie was all hyped up from the gondola and proceeded to NOT behave herself, and answered questions the race director asked to the group like “Is Bill here?” Annie (loudly): “No”, Crowd: laughs.
I knew this was going to be good because Fred, the RD, was a hoot. It was the most hilarious pre race meeting I have ever been to, and after the many triathlon meetings I have been to recently it was refreshing. At one point he said “Your gonna run until you see Dick”. The crown erupted in laughter (Dick was to be at the turn around).
They gave away some fantastic raffle prizes from various sponsors (good stuff that runners like) and they interspersed the prizes with the talking (very smart). It was to be my lucky lucky day, I won the grand raffle prize! Lucky #192 won a two night stay in a two bedroom, two bath condo at the Torian Plum for next years race! Resort Quest donated the prize, so generous.
note: In my video below I state that Smartwool socks donated the condo, I was mistaken!
That evening Troy drove up in a rental car and once he walked in the door safely I hit the hay. 5am, I’m up-and-attum, dressed, Mix1ed and ready to go. Our hotel was about 20 steps from the start line. A quick checkin with Fred and 130 headlights were off and running.
The course is 100% dirt and about 80% single track. It starts with 6 miles up up up the Steamboat Ski Resort on a dirt road that is quite steep. I ran some, I walked some. The sun came up during this time and it was quite beautiful. The sky was clear and I was calm and enjoying myself. You climb 3,450 feet up in the first 6 miles and then the remainder of the race is rolling, but staying at about 10,000 feet of elevation, with a net gain of about 9,000 feet of climbing over the entire 50 miles.
At mile 5 I met Jenna Grubin for the first time. She was last years female champion and she also helps Fred with the race direction. We chatted while we walked up the last mile to the top of the resort. At mile 6 the rolling terrain began. It was gorgeous, exactly what you think of when you romanticize trail running. Trees all around with sporadic view of gorgeous vistas, and tiny alpine lakes. It was green and lush and I was eating it up. It was exactly the serenity and adventure I have become so addicted to.
Jenna and I stayed pretty close to each other (as we would for the entire race) as did a nice friend of hers whom I didn’t catch his name. She told me we were in the lead for the women. Oh dear. I wasn’t really wanting to go that direction with this race. I had strict instructions to not get hurt, and to chillax. And I WAS chillaxing. I just happened to be chillaxing in the front of the race.
I just tried to forget about it and have fun. Run MY race, enjoy MY adventure, celebrate MY fitness. So I did. I sang a lot when I was alone and I smiled a lot, even though I was just smiling at the trees and the birds. I came into aid #2 a little disoriented. Our drop bags were there so I ditched my hat, sunglasses and arm warmers. I felt like I could see the trail much better after that. Then I CRUISED. I just enjoyed life and running and the freedom of movement that I was feeling.
At Aid #3 I saw Fred the race director and I was back up with Jenna. Everyone of course knew her bc she organized all the volunteers, so I felt like I was running with a celebrity. Her next pit stop put me in the lead by about a minute and that’s about where I stayed for miles and miles and miles.
I was running through this beautiful meadow next to this perfectly still blue lake and there was Troy and Annie. I stopped and gave them hugs and kisses, and a few more kisses and I was on my way. Troy was equally shocked that I was the first lady coming through.
Aid #4 was AWESOME. They treated me so well. From there we had a big 2.5 mile climb up to the “Rabbit Ears”. It’s a local rock formation that you can see from miles around and we ran right up to them. The hills up to them were INSANE. I saw “Dick”, the official “You made it to the half way point” man, and I turned around and booked it down. My watch said about 5 hours.
The course is an out and back so I knew where I had to go. I flew back past Troy and Annie, and headed back up the next hill. I stopped for a pit stop and when I popped out of the trees Jenna was there. So, we ran together. It was so so nice. We both knew that either one of us could win, and she was the previous winner, so we talked about that a little. We both didn’t particularly have our sights set on winning. It was a pretty awesome conversation to have out there. We decided that if we were together at the finish we would hold hands and kiss to try to get on the front page of the newspaper. Then we laughed about that for a LONG TIME. We talked about life, and running, and marriage, and adventure. It was good times. Jenna is a wonderfully sweet woman, strong, inspirational, and giving. We ran together for 6-8 miles. Sometimes we would trade off leading. It was chill. We were both out there for the same reason, enjoyment.
Back through Aid #3 and Aid #2. Then things got harder for me. I took two gels and I felt really good. So I put my headphones in and cruised for a little while. I got a little gap on Jenna and then I didn’t feel so good and she took the lead.
In every long run, I have learned you have a “suffer section”. You just have to know it’s coming and you have to prepare ahead of time for it. The worst thing to do when you are in a suffer section is to just plod along. You need to get into your arsenal and start trying things. Hydration is #1, suck down some fluid and see if that helps. No? Nutrition. Get in some gels, or pull out your stashed treat and down that. Then, for me, I hunt down my Advil. I only do this if I am close to the end because it can mess with your salt absorption. After that, try verbal offloading. Get out your camera and take some video saying that you are hurting. Get it off your chest. No camera? Just pretend. Lastly, crank up the tunes, lie to yourself and pretend something is chasing you. If all that doesn’t work, then when all else fails, repeat over and over in your head “relentless forward motion”.
So, about mile 39 I get in my slump. I know I have 5 pretty uphill miles until I get to the top of the ski resort and I know they are going to hurt. I just start going through my arsenal. Did those miles hurt? Yea. Did it get worse? Not really. I kept myself busy trying to get out of my slump and I pushed on. It’s just part of the game. I also took 3 Advil in preparation for the downhill.
I finally drag myself up to the first aid station and the guy there says “Jenna has 5 minutes on you, you can still get her”. I look at him and say “I think I’ll let her have this one!”. Jenna is a great downhiller. She’s gonna fly, and I’m gonna enjoy myself.
The last 6 miles were awesome. The first one was 8:06, then 7:45, then 7:35, then 7:15, 7:15, and I don’t remember the last one. I was just letting my body fly down the hill. I was singing Black Eyed Peas at the top of my lungs and I was so stinking happy. That’s the thing with endurance running, everything can change in a split second. You HAVE to push through the tough times, because it WILL get better, guaranteed.
I ran into the finish shoot so dang happy. Fred was there to give me a huge hug. They have a designated hugger for every finisher. It’s a great perk. And Jenna too, she was there with big hugs. Just awesome. Jenna went 9:14! Smokin’
The after party was great, you got a wrist band that entitled you to free beer and pizza the rest of the night. So pretty much everyone hung around all evening watching the finishers and eating and drinking. It was very communal, and festive and very well done. The awards were these fantastic hand made platters. Just awesome.
After the awards ceremony I relieved Troy and Annie who had been volunteering for 5 hours at the finish line and I stayed there until 10pm to help the last finishers in. This was a really rewarding experience and something I urge you to do if you ever do an ultra marathon. It’s not like Ironman where the last hour has the most spectators. In an ultra, for the final finishers the only people there waiting is their families and to stand around and listen to just how proud the competitors families are is quite the gift. Best part of my day, hands down.
Plus, Fred has done ALL of the famous 100 milers in the US so I got to pick his brain! OOOH, and also…the best thing for your legs afterwards is to keep moving, and the volunteering helped out with that too.
So, my first 50 miler:
- Free lodging for next year
- Awesome race
- Awesome experience
- To Die for course
- 2nd woman
- 15th finisher
- 9 hours 20 minutes.
- made lots of new friends
A huge thanks goes out to all the volunteers for the Run Rabbit Run 50 miler. This event was very well orchestrated. I will be back next year for sure. 5 out of 5 stars in my book. Also thank you to Smartwool for my schwanky lodging for next year.
Um, Troy, you did it again. You are always out there for me 100%. Always looking out for my best interests, and doing what needs to be done so that I can chase after these crazy goals. You’re always there to pick my tired bones up off the ground the next morning too. I love you.
Steve, thanks for saying to me “I know why you want to do this”. That meant a lot.
And now, your treat. You didn’t get a lot of photos in this post because…. I TOOK VIDEO! Yes, it’s the amazing comeback of Sonja’s wild trail running videos. By now the vertigo you got from my Grand Canyon video should be gone, so you should be ready for some more wild trail running action??
I switched from YouTube to Vimeo. I really like the format and intent of Vimeo. If the below video doesn’t work you can search vimeo.com for “gosonja” or “run rabbit run”. Enjoy (it’s 10 minutes)!
a 100 mile race is calling to me. Can you hear it? Oddly, it’s the Western States 100. I don’t know why that’s the one that I’m pining for, but it is. The lottery opens on October 1st, and closes on the 15th. They are only allowed approximately 369 racers every year and with over 1000 applicants, the chances of entry are slim. But, it’s calling me, and thus, I want to enter the lottery.
There is a qualification process and one of the rules is that you have to complete an official 50 mile race in under 11 hours. For the 2010 race, you have to do this by November 7, 2009. Humm. So, I thought, well? If I wait to find out if I’m in to do a 50 mile race then I am going to be under a time crunch with maybe one or two weekends left to find a race and qualify. Which means another travel trip, which means getting myself on another airplane…nope, not gonna do it.
I’ve run dang near the distance on several occasions, including the self supported Grand Canyon adventure, but this must be official.
And, here’s where I got a little lucky. It’s kinda late in the season for there to be any 50 milers left in Colorado. But, lucky me.
It’s this Saturday. In Steamboat Springs. And you know, it’s just what I need right now. Running in the mountains is one of my favorite things to do. After the epic-ness of these last few months I have tons of people asking me: What’s next? What distance do you prefer? What races are you signing up for? Etc? Etc? And you know, I kinda need some time to think. I’ve had so many awesome experiences, but not a lot of down time to process them….to really deeply process them.
So this feels like the right thing to do. And, as some of you must be wondering…what about my body? Oh yea, my body, you mean the one that just did Ironman and has been racing racing racing. Yea, that one. Well, I’m a firm believer that your heart will tell you to rest when you need to. You have seen me do that mid season here on this blog. When I get tired, I rest, when I’m excited, I go on adventures. I checked with Steve and while he’s not exactly happy about it, he’s not one to tell me flat out no, just to voice his concerns. I will try my hardest to not “race”, but to “run”. Enough said?
Oh yea, well, one more thing. I met Josh Shadle on the airplane coming home from Nationals and after some great conversations I have been wanting to meet with him to see what he’s all about. We meet Thursday. I’ll let you know, but the research I have done so far leads me to think that I have found a major resource. Check out Tri-Massage.
So, I got into this race via the USAT lotto. I was 10 seconds off a legitimate slot in 2008 at Nationals after they aged me up. It was such a blow and then 5 months later, poof, I was in via the lotto. I didn’t think one more second about it…until I walked into transition this morning. Suddenly I was reminded…I don’t belong here. I admit, it’s not the mindset that you want to go into a race with. I decided to put on my best Sonja smile and…fake it. I gave myself a pep talk, told myself to put my big girl panties on, and get out there and represent the USA with pride.
The swim was a point to point swim and at low tide. As I jumped across the many divots in the sand to get to the water to warm up I heard a local Aussie lady say “The stingrays make such a mess of this beach”. You can bet I spent as little time as possible walking into the water, I was swimming when it was 15 inches deep, scared of stepping on stingrays. I got in a great warm up and I felt like I was going to have a great swim.
We lined up on the beach all intense like and then the bullhorn blew. It was the most insane crazy start EVER. I ran into the water, we dove in, bodies everywhere, hitting, kicking, and scratching. I got knocked in the head, swam over, kicked, hit.
I looked up to take my first sight…WHITE. I look again…WHITE. What is going on? Several more looks…then I realized that my goggles are full of water. I pull them off my face, I get hit, kicked again, snap them back on and I’m off. Better.
I’m swimming as hard as I know how and the body slams are never ending. It’s brutal, but I think I’m doing pretty well. About mid way through the swim a group of us ends up having a lot of contact as we realize we are slightly off course and some of us are trying to move back on, others not. I get hit in the nose, and my goggles get knocked off my face. I get them back on and keep swimming hard. About three quarters of the way through I feel like the swim is long. Oh No, not another long swim. Looking at the results, I think that “my” swim was long…like maybe I thought I was swimming faster than I was. I’m at a loss on that one! A 30:10 is a bummer for me. Especially since I swam so well at the IM two weeks ago. I’m at a loss there.
The transition was long and went pretty routine for me. I tried to make up ground, but I was quickly realizing that this is the best of the best athletes in the world and thus…everyone is good. I’m huffing and I’m on my bike and off.
The bike course was awesome. Lots of flat sections and I gave it all I had. I was going as hard as I knew how. Trying to make myself hurt more than usual. Whenever I got lax, I would push harder.
I was trading places with one lady a lot, it was frustrating for both of us because it was very hard work to pass the other and when we did, we both had to recover a little, which meant the other would pass back. At one point when I was overtaken I dropped onto her rear wheel but slowed considerably to get the proper distance back in the proper time. The official on the motorcycle came up to me and yelled at me. In the US you can do what I did, but for some reason he didn’t like it. No penalty, just a talking to.
On a personal note, it was very easy for me to stay drafting legal during this race. I was in an early wave and there weren’t a lot of people out on the course. I didn’t have any packs pass me, but I did see the packs both ahead and behind me. My dad got a great shot of Michelle Ford as she got overtaken by the pack that was drafting off Steph Popelar. Eye!
Another shot of some pack action. Looking back I was really glad that I didn’t have to deal with that. My race times were completely of my own doing, and I was happy to have that experience.
The first male on course overtook me and he was flying, that was pretty awesome. I only saw two guys on the bike course. It was so awesome to race with just women!
Coming in off the bike I felt like I gave it all I had. I raced as hard as I could and the effort felt so much harder than past races this year. I was into transition with a 1:08:05 bike time. Again, I think I “thought” I was going faster than I actually was. He He! I was having fun though!
A quick transition later I was off and running. I just got into a pace that hurt like hell and tried to keep it. Turns out it was about 6:46 pace and I held it the whole way. I passed lots of ladies on the run and had some great showdowns. I had a lady on my shoulder for a half mile, that was fun.
I had a lady totally go with me when I passed her. We sped up together until I looked at the Garmin and saw 6:10 pace. I got resilient and thought to myself “I just did an IM, I’ve got way more base that you”, and I did. Eventually she couldn’t hold it.
I was bummed to see that the course was a little long and resulted in a 42:25 run split with 6.3 on my Garmin (which is usually short with out and back courses). I felt like it was so much faster, I felt like I was hauling!
So, the theme of the day was “I feel like I’m flying”, but the times show that I was a little off on my perception. Which is A-OK. I had an unbelievable experience while I was out there. Racing against the worlds best at this distance is intimidating, exhilarating, painful, awesome, and kick ass, all in one experience.
I made so many friends this week and out there on the race course. Racing in the TEAM USA uniform is one of the highlights of my entire year. I felt so proud and honored to race away with USA on my chest. And the “name on the butt”, well, that was everything it was cracked up to be as well, I loved it. The speedo fastskin suits are amazing, the most comfy suit I have ever raced in!
I did not by any means have a bad race. I had a good race. I put my heart and soul out there and it was what it was. Did the IM two weeks ago impact my day out there? Maybe. But I’m not one for excuses. I knew what I was getting myself into and I knew that the only chance I had at having a good or great race was to put all I had out there on the course. I did that and I am proud of myself!
My Partner in Crime and I.
F30-34: 31st out of 90
6th F30-34 Team USA member (of 10…I did belong!)
The silliest picture of the day, cracks me up (Me, Michelle and Beth)
I want to recognize my fellow Practical Coaching team mates who raced today:
Beth – 11th in F45-49 in 2:22:39
Michelle (PIC) – 19th in F40-44 in 2:20:16
Lori – 9th in F55-59 in 2:37:28
Anthony – 84th in M30-34 in 2:12:15
Ahh, the bum bum shot
I want to thank Troy, he is such an amazing husband. He has been a total single dad this week, working, getting Annie to school and back (she only goes for 2.5 hours every day), and dance class, being a dad, being an employee, and juggling way too many balls. All that while dealing with a taper-grumpy wife who is like 18 time zones away and calls at 2am on a work night to moan. I love you so much it’s silly. Troy, you are a saint!
Also, thanks to my parents. They have allowed me access to the “parental tab” for this trip, taking great care of me in my taper-grumpy state. Dad took all the pictures, they are so awesome and something I know my entire team will hang onto for years. To the most supportive parents ever, I love you guys.
And lastly a thanks to all of you out there. All the tweets, facebook comments, and comments on my blog have kept me going. I haven’t had a lot of time to chat with you all on a personal level and the constant travel has been a little stressful. Your comments have helped me to feel connected and supported and loved.
My stay here in Gold Coast Australia to prepare and participate in the ITU World Triathlon Championships has been pretty epic thus far. I wanted to post a few photos for all of you before I finish up my race prep. For those of you interested in watching the race ITU triathlon (triathlon.org) will be streaming a live webcast of the race. My wave departs at 7:17am Gold Coast time (Female 30-34), which I believe (check me on this) is 4:17pm Denver time. My race number is 476. There are 90 women in my age group…90 of the fastest WOMEN IN THE WORLD. Okay, now that I got that out of my system, here’s a little update of my week so far.
I was super excited to get to Australia. Me and all my stuff made it there safe and sound, even after switching from domestic to international in LA.
We had a great first day on OZ, I tasted Nutella (very very good) and Vegimite (not good, at all).
We did a little touring around and walking on the beach.
The next day was awesome. I did something I have always wanted to do, I held a KOALA!!
And petted Kangaroos!
We saw a BIG crock. Crikey!
Don’t believe me? Here is some perspective!
The next day we went on a rain forrest tour. We did the skywalk thing and got to see the forrest from all different heights.
Mom and I also found a cheese shop. Had to buy some of that!
Then it was down to business. We did a TEAM USA bike ride today, there are a lot of us.
And last night we had the parade of nations, and opening ceremony. I have lots more photos I want to share from this, but this one made me laugh.
Tomorrow is the big day. I plan to enjoy the experience and leave everything I have out there on the course. I came here to race and I’m ready to get it done. This experince has been soemthing else, it makes Ironman athletes seem mellow. The amount of nervous energy, fancy bikes, triathletes with attitude, and sperm helmets has been unbelievable. So, tomorrow I suit up with my name on my butt and dive off the dock with 89 other female 30-34 killer athletes.
I cross the finish line and immediately I have two finish line catchers on each side of me. They are the nicest people ever. Once I stopped crying, they introduced themselves and told me that they are going to be with me for the next 10 minutes. I say “Sweet”. They ask “How are you feeling”? I laugh and say “I feel really really good”. And seriously, it took 5 minutes for my brain to get the signals from my legs that they hurt. For 5 minutes I walked around like I just had breakfast, la tee da. Then my legs said “ahhh, yea, since you are done with this Iron-business, we are going to let you know just what you did to us”. And then the normal leg aches started.
My finish line catchers hooked me up with Anthony who was still in the finish pen. Again, big hugs like we hadn’t seen each other in years. Tony went 10:21 and endured a flat on the bike and a bonk on the run, both of which he completely recovered from and went on to have a great race.
My finish line catchers got me some food and I snarfed down some watermelon, honeydew, and chips. I also had some Gatorade and water. They were so nice to me. They finally realized that I was totally ok and so they dismissed themselves to go find some other finisher that needed them. I noticed that Tony had goose bumps and that made me a little nervous (cause he doesn’t have a lot of body fat left in him) so I flagged down a lady and asked for two space blankets (ahh, the mom in me).
Anthony and I
Once we were space blanketed up we headed out of the finish pen and met up with Troy and Michelle. Lots of good jobs, and pictures were taken.
Troy and I
My dad and I
My mom and I
L to R: Aunt Sandy, me, mom, Uncle Steve, Troy
We then headed back to our hotel to clean up and boy, the perma-smile wasn’t going anywhere. I was just thrilled with how much fun I had over the course of the day. Smiles abounded!
Anthony and I with our finishers hats on
As the day went on, we saw the finishes of Steve, Keith, and Andrea. It was great to see that everyone survived the day. Some met or didn’t meet their expectations, but those are their stories to tell, not mine.
Keith, Steve me, and Anthony
As the results trickled in Troy told me that I was 7th in my age group. I was pretty surprised to find that out. I knew that the previous year there were 4 Kona slots for my group. Steve told me I should definitely attend the roll down. I knew that no matter what happened at the roll down that I was proud of my day. Kona or no Kona, nothing could change that for me.
So, the next morning we went to the Kona roll down (right after I had to say goodbye to my parents). Sure enough they get to my age group and we find out there are only 3 slots, not 4 this year. One has been taken and they start calling names. 4th takes it, 5th doesn’t, then they call the 6th ladies name for the last slot and no one stands up. I say “Oh my gosh, I’m going to Kona”. They call her name a second time and she stands up all quiet like and walks up there. That was a little harsh. But hey. That’s how it goes! And it’s A-OK! Steve quickly looks at me and says smile and these are the shots he took.
I want to let you know that I am extremely blessed. I had a wonderful race that was made possible by so many people. I feel privileged that I could go out there on race day and represent all of you that support me with a strong performance. Troy, my families, and my coach have all worked so hard to provide me with the best resources, and the best training available. I feel relieved that I was able to put forth an effort that is indicative of all the support I receive.
So, what did I learn? I know, you want all the secrets! That’s why, despite several days of cliff-hanger posts, you are still reading. Right? Ok, here’s the deal-ee-oo.
- The Ironman is an amazing experience. You should do one. And if you are one of my lady friends who does tris and might be a little afraid, then you really should do one. I would love to help you.
- Extended Distance training is not for crazy people. If you are endeavoring to do an Ironman, and you want to stand on that starting line knowing that you can do the task at hand, then find a way to extended distance train.
- The workouts that stuck out in my mind as more difficult than the actual IM were: running to Boulder, running the Grand Canyon Double Crossing, biking 225, and biking 100 then running 18 self supported.
- Several things have to line up on race day: training, stress levels, equipment, and attitude. There are things that you can do during the year prepare on all these levels, but sometimes, some of them just get in the way anyways. All four came together for me, and that was why my performance on the actual day was great.
- Enjoy it! I can now say that it is possible to have a great race and keep a smile on your face the whole time. Sure, the smile may “look” like a grimace to some, but you know if you are smiling, and you should be enjoying yourself. Positive reinforcement.
- Unlike Olympic distance races and 70.3′s Ironman is an EVENT. It’s several days long and you should live it to the fullest. Attend the awards, attend the volunteer banquet and volunteer your time to say thank you, go to the clinics, stand in line at 6:30am after your race to get finishers merchandise, buy the finisher photo, get a massage. Involve yourself. In fact Troy and I volunteered to set up the bike lot on Friday before the race. Everyone was shocked that I was volunteering and racing, this was one of the HIGHLIGHTS of my experience. Volunteer, even if you are racing.
- Don’t sweat it if you loose your goods. They have lots of goods on course. I think the fact that I did lots of my rides visiting 7-11′s for food was helpful. I learned to race on lots of different stuff and when I lost my bottles on the bike, I wasn’t really that worried.
- Make sure that the process is super fun. Make sure you are training so that if your race stinks you would still look back on the training with a positive mindset.
- Lastly, involve your family. After my Ironman, Troy signed up for a marathon. This makes me smile. Thank your family too, and in ways that aren’t just words.
I enter into transition for the second time that day and someone immediately takes my bike. I blow my bike Scarlet a kiss as she heads back to her rack, most likely for a good nap. My bike did me well, as did her new wheels. I jog down to the bike to run bags, grab mine which is easy to find due to the obnoxious stars I colored all over it.
Back into the changing tent and this time I know exactly what I am up to. I change my shoes, grab my sunscreen and nutrition, strip off my shirt, throw on my new pink Trakkers hat that I saved just for the occasion, and off I go. There was only one other lady in the tent with me and for some reason I was excited about this. Kinda like getting out of the swim and seeing lots of bikes still on the racks. I knew that I was doing pretty good and that I was in the front several hours of the participants.
I took off running and right away I noticed and recognized the lady in front of me. How could I not, she beat the cookies out of me at Loveland Lake to Lake this year, taking the overall title, and doing it all in a swimsuit that said “Who Rocks?”… and on the butt “I Rock”. She wasn’t wearing that suit in the IM, but I still knew her. Oh wow. Wasn’t expecting to “know” people! Well there we go.
So out of transition I run and it’s that dicy moment. How are the legs? How do they feel? So much self inventory is going on. And you know what? They felt like I was just starting my race. Literally. my legs felt absolutely great. I realized that this could be good, or bad. Good if I kept myself under control and doled my energy out evenly. Bad if I decided to run 7:30 pace and ran out of steam at oh say mile 18 or 20 when everyone else seems to bonk. So, I kept it under control.
8:12, 8:02, 8:17 I was hitting these miles easy and I even passed “Who Rocks?I rock?” without an issue. Up in the distance I see a lady that was giving me a little trouble on the bike (for the last 20 miles I happened to find her on my wheel several times). I saw her in my sights and 7:52, 7:47 happened. Whoops, but I had to let her know that she wasn’t going to bike on my wheel and then run on my shoulder. A girl has her limits.
Then I settled in and just enjoyed myself. 8:10, 8:16, 8:18, 8:18, 8:22. I was running with a hand bottle, and “gasp” it was the first time I had tried it. I know, something new on race day, but it worked out well. The hand bottle had a pocket and I shoved as many NUUN tabs as I could fit in it. My routine at the aid station was to take the cap off my hand bottle and stick it in my sports bra, sponge my quads with the cold sponges, pour water and ice into my bottle, sponge my quads again, put a NUUN tab in, and screw the lid back on. I could do all this without slowing down one bit. The ice NUUN water in my bottle was great for several reasons. I could rub it on my legs or tummy to cool them down, I could drink the contents, or I could pour it on my head. Since the NUUN isn’t sticky I could squirt it on myself without ill effect. Worked like a charm.
I arrived at the hilly part of the course. The hills are pretty steep and lots of people were walking up them. I saw Anthony going the other direction and he yelled at me to “Go get em”. I was pretty focused so I gave a wave and kept my nose to the grindstone. I was so happy to see him doing well!
I then had the worst part of my day. I saw Steve. He was walking. I was instantly saddened. The one thing I didn’t want to do during the day of the Ironman was pass my coach and best training partner. It made me horribly sad. I could tell that all was not well and I had barely any time to react before I was right next to him. All I could muster was “Hey Baby”. Not quite sure why in the heck that phrase came out and I’m a little embarrassed about it now, but I just hated seeing that he was struggling.
On I went 9:15, 8:19, 8:32 over the hills and to the turn around. They had my special needs bag waiting for me and I grabbed it and never stopped running. I knew exactly what I wanted from it. RICE CRISPY TREATS!!! I tucked one in each side of my sports bra. I grabbed my huge can of Pringles, took out a huge stack and tossed everything else. As I ran up and over the hills I ate Pringles, they were SOOO tasty. Half of them would fall out of my mouth but it felt great to crunch crunch crunch along. When the hills got really tough I tossed the remainder of my stack and apparently Steve got a huge kick out of that when he ran by after me.
Now, the rice crispy treats. Those were just great. The crunch, the sugar, oh, they really hit the spot. I ate two of them and saved one for later. Did you know they are 90 calories, just like a gel! I continued to pass people all through this section. Even though I ran 9:05, 8:55, 9:15 most people were walking or were pretty slow through here. There weren’t many spectators, just a few in boats on the lake.
Can you believe I am actually trying to smile here. Really, I am. I “think” that I’m smiling…but it seems to show differently on film….er digital??
Passing people here was pretty neat. I knew that I was fine but I also started getting a little nervous. I had done the math and I realized that I had the chance to break 11 hours. I was really attached to that number for some reason. The mantra that popped in my head, as totally strange as it sounds was “Don’t compromise the 11 hour mark”. I repeated it to myself over and over. 8:33, 9:03, 9:12, 9:13. Now these splits look like they are slowing down, like I’m bonking or something but in actuality I was flying by person after person. I was reeling them in. I was in the midst of a total running high and I every time I saw my mile split I knew that I was going to break 11 and my thoughts were “You are doing it”, and “Just keep your pace right here”.
I had passed women here and there, but hadn’t passed anyone in my age group in a long time. As I neared the next aid station I saw a lady in my age group and she was walking. I really felt for her, because she was racing so well, and she was so close. I passed her and as soon as she saw my calf…and I’m thinking the “30″ part, not the “For Amy” part, she took off like a bat outa’ hell. For a second I thought “Should I race her”? Then into my head came “Don’t compromise the 11 hour mark”. So, I let her go. I also thought to myself, if she holds this, then the girl deserves it, cause that’s quite the come back. I let it go. 9:11, 8:59, 9:19.
Oh my, there she is again, walking. Man, too bad for her. I passed her again, at my pace, and she didn’t take off that time. I know she must have had a Kona slot on her mind. She still finished very strong, about a minute behind me. So, now I’m at mile 24 or so and really, I feel great. I’m hydrating, eating, and pretty much having a gay old time. We are back into town and I decide that the 11 hour mark is gonna happen. Nothing I can do will kill it now, so let’s pick it up. 8:55.
I see my mom, she’s cheering up a storm with my aunt Sandy. She tried to run next to me, I tell her to stop. She asks if I’m feeling good, I tell her I’m feeling great!! 8:23.
It’s the final mile and now I know, oh wow, I’m really going to do this. I see my dad taking pics, I hear Troy cheering from the balcony of our apartment. I make the turn and I can see the stands. 8:26.
I run into the stands and I’m overwhelmed with joy. I have my arms in the air and I’m crying crying crying. I can’t believe it. I had an absolutely perfect first Ironman. My training paid off. My day is almost over. I am an Ironman.
I cross the line like I’ve just won the race. I’m overjoyed and just can’t believe how well it all went. The stars had aligned. 10:47:58, 7th in F30-34, 35th woman, 20th amateur woman.
I also want to share with you the after party, the Kona Roll down experience and my post race ahh-hah’s. Next post!
I’m on my bike, I’m clipped in, and I’m off. I see my mom looking desperately into the crowd as I ride right past her. I shout “Hi Helen”, so that she won’t stand there all day thinking I’m a really slow swimmer. She was shocked. As was Troy, but he saw me and gave a typical booming Troy cheer. Troy said later that I was only 4 minutes after the boys (Steve and Anthony) out of the swim, but I made two of that up in transition (Heh Heh Heh) and they didn’t expect me so close to the boys.
So we head out of town, out of all the cheering and suddenly its just you and hundreds of your favorite triathlete friends. There were tons of people on the course with me, sometimes it was three across. But I knew that 1:10 was a very common swim time so this was to be expected. For some reason I could not wipe the stupid grin off my face. I felt like Bree Wee, she’s always smiling up a storm when she races.
Every volunteer and spectator that I passed, I smiled…no GRINNED, like a big stupid silly grin. I was having so much fun, just happy as a clam.
There was a hill pretty early in the course and while I was going up it, trying my darnedest to expend zero energy while doing so I glanced uphill to see hundreds of competitors on the hill with me. I wish I had a photo of that one. It was insane. And here I am grinning my way up the hill while people are grunting.
After a fun descent where I tried not to hit my breaks but still got passed by guys in full tuck we were onto a long flat section of the course. In past years there was a head wind on this section, but this year it was a tail wind. It was easy to sit around 21 mph through here. I was a little nervous about this, I didn’t want to be pushing too hard but knew that sometimes it’s easy to do that at the beginning of a race. TriBoomers words of advise kept popping in my head “The race starts 80 miles into the bike”. So I decided that I would chillax until then. Medium effort. My goal was to keep my smile and to keep my sense of humor.
One lady and I were going back and forth every once in awhile and she asked me “Who is Amy?” because I had written “For Amy” on my calf. I told her about Amy and her cancer and her baby and the lady said “Thank you for sharing her story”. That also really reminded me to be grateful for the fact that I was out there. My grin just got bigger…for Amy. Someday Amy will be out there too, and when Amy races an IM, I will too! Hands down!
So about mile 30 I sucked down the last of my 400 cal bottle of Perpetuem and it was time to refill. I had a spare baggy of powder in my race belt pouch. I pulled my bottle out of the cage, hooked it onto my aerobars and refilled the Perpetuem. It took about 10 minutes to get it all done while keeping my pace. I put the bottle back in my cage and was so proud of myself. Success!! About 3 minutes later I decided I needed a drink. I took out my bottle and BOOM, I DROPPED it. The guy behind me ran over it. I yelled sorry and gave him my best pouty cute girl look. Shoot dang, nutrition gone. So, I went to Gatoraid, what they were providing on course and figured that I could get one more pack of Perperuem at my special needs bag at mile 70.
At 50 miles in we start climbing. Richter pass is pretty awesome, not to hard, lots of cheering fans, and pretty darn fun. The perma-smile was still fixed to my face so I got a lot of “Nice Smile” and “She’s having fun”. Loved it! I also passed Keith here. He is a super fast swimmer and was wondering when I would get him on the bike. I pulled up next to him, we talked for 10 seconds and then I was off with a smile.
After the pass there is a series of rollers that are pretty big. About half way through them I was out of NUUN in my rear bottle so I decided to refill it while climbing one of the rollers. I pulled out my last bottle and jammed it into my aerobars, removed the lid, dropped in some NUUN and put the cap back on. I did this all while climbing, and passing quite a few people. I’m just about to put the bottle back in my bottle cage when I hear “Sonja, Don’t you think there is a better time to do that”?. I jump because I thought the dude knew me and BOOM, I drop my second water bottle. Dang! Because we have to wear our bib number on the bike, and our names are on them, this guy was calling me out by name. It flustered me, and I lost my last bottle. I was now going to be completely dependent upon what I could get at the aid stations (narrow mouthed bottles that you can’t fill with your own stuff).
Still, bigger smiles. Entering into the dog leg and out and back sections was really fun. I saw Amanda Lovato looking awesome as ever and noticed that Steve and Anthony were about 2 minutes apart from each other and I was about 8 minutes behind them. I rolled into the special needs bags and this wonderful volunteer had my bag open and ready for me. I stopped, grabbed what I needed and got rolling again, loosing about 10 seconds. It was AWESOME. I gave her some big smiles too! Here’s Anthony climbing…and for some reason not smiling as much as me (he just changed his flat).
We went up a hill shortly after and I dropped my chain. What? Since when do I ever drop my chain? As I was putting it back on a guy that I had been riding near yells “Sonja, that’s what you get for taking off on me”. I laughed and then I got back on my bike, looked down, saw that we were at 80 miles and decided it was time to throw down. From here on out I went hard and I passed and passed and passed people. On the final pass my parents, Troy and my aunt and uncle Steve and Sandy were all there cheering like crazy for me. I was so high from passing people that my perma-grin had obtained an obnoxious level. I was eating it up. I noticed that my average had dropped to 19 mph with all the climbing and so I spent the final descent trying to be as un-chicken as possible to boost my average up as much as I could. I rolled into town with 19.3 on my average, very happy with that, knowing I was well under 6 hours for the bike. My final bike time was 5:45:18.
I love this picture of one of the guys out there. Dad took it.
The Ironman Canada bike course is pretty phenomenal. It’s one of the only Ironmans with a one loop bike and the scenery was amazing, not that I had much time to look at it. But the FANS! They were amazing and very fun and silly. My legs felt phenomenal on the bike, they had truly delivered for me. But in my training I’ve noticed that everything can change when you get running on them. So, how would they feel on the run???…
The morning of Ironman Canada was pretty surreal. I was having pre-race nerves the night before, but I awoke to sheer excitement. Everything was ready to go so I headed out of the condo with Troy. We walked down to the starting area and I dropped my special needs bags into big bins with my number range on it. Getting body marked was the same normal endeavor, but felt extra special. My number, 2146, had already become ingrained into my mind as lucky.
After entering transition I visited my bike. She was happy with her overnight stay and notified me that there was no partying in the transition lot and that all the other bikes got to bed early. I pumped up her tires, told her to focus on keeping air in those tires and said I would see her in an hour and 15 minutes.
You entered onto the beach under a huge arch, my timing chip beeping along the way and suddenly it was very real. In a few short minutes I was going to start swimming with 2600 other people. I was one of the first onto the beach, and I knew exactly where I wanted to line up. All the way to the left, that way I had plenty of space if I was feeling crowded to swim left (clockwise loop). I got into the water and I swam out into the lake. It was warm, but not too warm. My stroke felt even, and I felt good. After a nice little warm up I swam back and crazy as it was I found my mom! I crawled up the fencing and gave her a big hug. It was great to see her before the race.
After that I stood back in line and I glanced over to where I wanted Troy to be and there he was. I got his attention, blew him kisses and waved, and he took my picture. Can you find me (It’s like Where’s Waldo)??
Troy took some really cool pictures in a sort of timelapse way as the swimmers populated the beach. They are pretty cool, so I’ll post them here.
Soon enough, 15 minutes after the pros had taken off they got us lined up, and let us loose.
The water was shallow for quite some time so the first 20 seconds were spent walking out into the water until you could swim. This was AWESOME. It allowed everyone to space themselves out a little bit. What I thought would be a chaotic start ended up being a nice walk into the water with everyone calmly starting to swim when they felt like it. I didn’t get kicked, or hit, or even touched really.
So right away I’m realizing that I have worried way more than necessary about the swim. It was SO stinking fun. There were a few times where either I was swimming across traffic or someone else was and there was some body contact, but for the most part, if you kept swimming straight, there were no problems. I loved the fact that there was always a pair of feet to hop onto, and those feet were never too fast or too slow. After 20 minutes or so the only people around me were the ones that were swimming my pace. That was WICKED cool.
I swam mostly to the left of buoys on the way out. The turn buoy wasn’t a buoy, it was a BOAT. That was a little weird because rather than making a sharp turn, you made a gradual arc around a large sail boat.
On the way back I ended up swimming right in line with the buoys. There was a lot more traffic in this area, but since we were all generally swimming the same it wasn’t a problem. For some reason I was sighting WAY to well, and swimming WAY too straight because I ran into not one, not two, but five buoys on the way back. And by running into, I mean I ran smack dab into the buoy, swam under the darn thing fishy style and resumed swimming on the other side. Dork!!
On one of the buoys as I was swimming under it in a one-arm, bat ray sort of flapping style I glanced down and there was a SCUBA DIVER. It freaked me out a little at first but then I got a big smile on my face and gave him a little wave.
The last 25% of the swim I could barely breathe because I was smiling from ear to ear. I was having so much fun and it was so enjoyable to swim with all those other people. I loved looking at people under the water. Several times I swam next to someone for sometime and we would look at each other every breath. It was like we were having a private conversation without words.
The amount of electricity in the water was insane. You could just tell that all the nerves and apprehension was being left behind as 2,600 people made their way through the swim course. As I got close to the finish I didn’t want it to end. I was really enjoying it and the idea that my first Ironman swim was about to be over was a little sad. But, I had other things to do, like bike and run, so when the beach came upon me, I dredged myself upon the shore and ran into transition.
I took a glance at my watch and saw 1:09. WHAT? I was hoping for a 1:15. I was already smiling from ear to ear before I glanced at my time, but boy was I enthused to see that swim time. My official time was 1:09:29.
I swore I wasn’t going to use those crazy wet suit stripper people. I watched them last year and it just seemed like a painful process the way people threw themselves down on the ground and got de-peeled. But, sure enough right when I got into transition and gazed upon all the helpful volunteers begging to de-wetsuit me, I went for it. I did try to find some nice calm looking ladies to do the job. It was uneventful and in what seemed like 3 seconds I was back on my feet, wetsuit in hand searching for my swim to bike transition bag.
Found the bag and hopped my way over all the other bags to the change tent. There were TONS of women in there. Although a 1:09 was a great time for me, there are lots and lots of ladies that are faster and thus the change tent was packed. I was happy to find a chair and a volunteer to help me. I pulled my tri shorts down to my ankles, sat my wet butt on a chair, and dumped out my bag on the ground. I planned to change to a pair of biking shorts, but I decided not to at the last minute. I pulled my wet tri shorts back up, put on my socks and cycling shoes (not allowed to leave shoes on bike unless you are a pro), put on my helmet and sunglasses and got the heck out of there. The lady helping me shouted that she would pack all my stuff up as I ran out the tent door.
I grabbed my bike which was in the most awesome spot on earth, right on the end, and I skedaddled out of the transition. Most people spend about 5 minutes in transition, I was there for 2:34. And although they say it doesn’t matter, well, I jumped up quite a few places in my age group due to that speedy T1, so I’ll take it.