Meeting Chuckie and Carlos

I’ve been waiting 5 months for today.

5 months.

Today I got to meet, for the first time, the notorious Chuckie V, coach to the stars, international blogging celebrity, world renowned long distance hiker. He’s also my coach. Most people actually meet their coach before they hire them, but Oh nO, not me. After being routinely lulled by his pontifications, I begged him to take me on, and guide me to triathlon stardom.

Today I actually got to meet him.

PIC and I traveled to the peoples republic of Boulder, also known as “the town that Chuckie and Angela grace with their presence” (I think there was a sign somewhere to this effect) where we proceeded to roll in 9.75 minutes tardy. However, we are triathletes, and thus, very skilled at transitions. We were on our bikes and rolling a short 4.29 minutes later….after using the potty (PIC)….and pumping up my tires (me).

So, you must be wondering? How did it go? Are you a triathlon superstar yet? Well, close, very very close. But these things must be kept on the down low, and well, if I told you all the details, I might have to kill you.

I can, however, reveal that Chuckie V is indeed all he is cracked up to be. As is Mighty Mouse, Avia clad extraordinare, Angela. They are supreme class acts, and mucho fun to roll on two wheels with. We enjoyed a bit of climbing, a bit of TTing and a healthy dose of running off the bike. All throughout we had our newly appointed CCO (Chief Comedic Officer) along to shout “Left, right, shift up one, 2 more minutes, like a carpet”. I don’t know about that carpet part…sometimes I’m slow on the uptake.

The work was good, my legs were happier than they have been in some time (more proof that “coach to the stars” knows what he is doing), and the effort of the day resulted in one Carlos V bar each for PIC and I, clearly representing that today was a monumentous occasion. For the next 80 years, I know I will still be talking about that Carlos V bar in all it’s cheep chocolate, way smaller than I thought, grandiousness. And no, “grandiousness” is not a word.

A good day it was, my friends.

Finding Peace

Last Saturday night I was just about used up. I had ridden the bike course and driven it twice. I had run all sections of the run course, biked it, and driven it several times. I was in the midst of CDA reconnaissance overload. There comes a time when studying anything that you need to step back, take a break, let things absorb.

I had noticed a little hiking trail while I was running the course and so I headed over there in the evening hoping I could get a little walk in and chill out for a bit. What a treat! Tubbs hill in CDA is a delightful little edge of the world, and just what I was hoping to find when I set out.

I’m a big fan of almost every setting our glorious earth has to offer, but I have a special place in my heart for deep forests with lush undergrowth. The pacific northwest is a favorite of mine, the Hoh Rainforest made a strong impression on me as a young teenager. Although my parents swear I slept that entire 2 week car trip, some things did make an impression on me.

This little path was just darling, and the locals think so too as I ran into several others ambling their way through the woods that evening. There are trails all over this hill and it’s flanked by the lake. Gorgeous! At one point I thought to myself, Humm, I’m out here alone, far from home…but that stuff never really bothers me for long.

As I walked it reminded me how necessary it is to get out on a daily basis for a walk, an amble. Growing up my family used to take walks almost every evening. I was lucky to have grown up in some beautiful locations (Tehachapi, CA, Los Osos, CA, San Jose, CA). Walks would last from 15 minutes to 90 minutes, it just depended on what everyone needed to come down a level. We had such great conversations out there, repeating our same loops, most the time with a dog in tow.

My walk on Tubbs hill was just like this. Nothing grandiose, nothing dramatic, but special and calm just the same. As I walked along I was reminded of why I do all this stuff in the first place. It’s fun! It’s adventurous. Even though my quads ached to traverse the paths undulations, it’s a good hurt, a hurt of work, and a hurt that will pay off when I want it to the most.

Even if this training block doesn’t get me to my goals, it’s ok. Even if traveling to CDA and training on the course yields no benefit, it’s ok. If I don’t make it to Kona, it’s ok. Why? Because I have enjoyed the process. I haven’t given one ounce more than I was willing. I never once crossed the line of devoting so much to this that I would feel it wasn’t worth it if I didn’t reach my goals. These things are always about the journey, and this journey I have enjoyed.

And this was the frame of mind that I left Tubbs hill, and that I slept peacefully that night. I woke up the next day and I ran spot on my hopeful IM race pace for one lap of the run course. And if that’s the only time I run that pace, it’s ok, because it was special and rewarding all in it’s own right.

Everyone needs to recenter every so often.


This weekend was the conclusion of the two most solid weeks of training in my life. And pretty much every darn bit of it was done…solo. I traveled to Coeur d’Alene Idaho this weekend alone to train on the Ironman course for 48 hours straight.

What a difference from last year. Almost all of my training was done in tandem with either PIC or Steve, or both. A lot of laughs last year was, and a lot of nonverbal learning went on. I learned a lot from Steve, following around his wheel.

I could whine and moan about all the solo training these last two weeks, but then I would just be pulling your leg. I really enjoyed it. I think a well rounded athlete does all different kinds of training, because there is much to be learned in different settings.

One of the many awesome views from the IM CDA course

Bike training along side someone wise taught me pacing. Pacing without any numbers to refer to, I didn’t wear a heart rate monitor then but I developed a sense of my perceived exertion on the bike. It taught me how to pull, how to pull an even strong pull without making rookie mistakes, and how to ride close to someone without being nervous.

It taught me descending skills, something I still get chicken about. I still rejoice every time I am alone and can go my own speed rather than fighting to stay on a wheel despite my natural fear of crashing.

And yes, those are permanent fixtures of my arsenal. But training alone has taught me entirely new things. How much to carry to be self sufficient. I learned that a quiet strength can be developed because it’s only you getting yourself out the door and getting it done. And when it does get done in this setting, it’s strong, because the inertia is completely your own. I learned how to pull through head winds without taking a pull, to develop a consistency that relies on me myself and I.

Keeping my own schedule has allowed me to train in a way that is best for me, I never waited for anyone to get ready, and this weekend when I collapsed into bed for a nap without a shower, I didn’t even feel bad.

It also refreshed in my memory just how much Troy takes care of me. Me taking care of me is a surprising amount of hard work, and I was very ready to fly back into the arms of my husband. We don’t have one of those families where the mom holds it all together, ours is very much one where Troy is the glue and cement that keeps the pieces from flying apart or imploding. When I arrived home, he said “Son, your tired, let’s lay you down in bed”. I walked into the bedroom and while I was gone Troy had purchased a brand new bed, sheets and pillows (long overdue). It was a super sweet treat from him, he’s always looking after me.

This weekend there was no one to say good job to. No one to tell me good job. I went to CDA on my own two feet, and trained my butt of. When I finished, I refueled, I napped, I drove the course for the umpteenth time. There were people out there training on the course like me, all of them with groups and it would have been easy to make friends and become a tag along. But I didn’t. I kept things to myself, and I’m glad I did.

The hills in CDA were pretty steep and they had lots of fun with me. They took complete advantage of my compromised legs. And I don’t blame them, ya gotta do what ya gotta do. However, I plan on getting them back in 5 weeks, and now I won’t even feel bad about it.

5 weeks until IM CDA, a little “absorption” (AKA hibernation) is on tap for the next few days. Thanks to everyone who sent me ample kudos these last two weeks. You’ve been my virtual training partners! Also, a huge thanks to Chuckie for the last several weeks. He’s put in overtime dealing with my slews of emails being directed at him every night. Thanks for keeping me rolling Chuckie!

Work Ethic

I have always felt that I am one of those people in the world that has to work 10 times harder for everything I hope to achieve. Troy and I both feel that way about ourselves and it has brought us together as a couple. I couldn’t be married to someone who has things constantly fall into their lap, or who didn’t understand the value of copious amounts of hard work.

Sometimes Troy and I overwork things, but I guess I would rather be in that boat, the over worked, over thought, over planned, than the alternative. That’s just us, it’s just how we’re built.

I think if I was born with an extraordinary amount of athletic genes, I would still be this way. I would still feel like I had to work for every inch, to pay back the forces that made me the way I was. There’s not a whole lot of entitlement flowing through my veins, there’s more appreciation than not, more courtesy, than not. It’s just part of my makeup, maybe part of my genes. I do recognize that I was not dealt a short stick when it comes to genetics, I’ve got a certain level of natural ability.

I was also blessed in some strange way that during my time as a high school and college runner I never developed an eating disorder. In college at times I felt like I was one of only 2-3 who still maintained a healthy relationship with food, and it was an isolating feeling, especially since I wasn’t running very fast any more, and at times questioned whether it was because of my non-disordered eating. I am thankful for that feeling now, as I am healthy as a horse and don’t suffer from any bone density issues, or chronic stress fractures, a few ways that I feel eating disordered women tend to have to pay for that illness later in life (just my personal opinion, and not meant to ruffle any feathers, I am in no way a doctor or a researcher).

Sometimes I think that I rely on this hard work ethic for my confidence. I gain confidence not from knowing that I trained “smarter than everyone else”, but that I trained “more/harder than everyone else”. More is always better right? Kidding. But this comes from that feeling that I have to work harder than most to get a similar result. It’s ingrained in me. Now that I think, it’s really a form of low self confidence.

Ten days ago I was starting to get itchy palms. I was starting to feel like time was running out for me. I was standing at the train station and I had missed the train. These feelings of anxiety were deep in the pit of my stomach and I was desperately trying to convince myself all was fine.

After these last ten days of training I am starting to understand. I am starting to shift where I get my confidence from. My confidence is becoming more of a quiet confidence, a secret confidence. Something only I understand. I have been trained smarter, and I saw the effect of that smarter training seeping out this weekend in the numbers. I started to feel better, perform better, know I was better.

My strengths and my work ethic were put to use during this last block, it was the best of both worlds, me and my work horse attitude, Chuckie and his technical/tactical/emotional training program. These last 10 days resembled a steam engine, both in mind and body.

Tomorrow I head to Coeur d’Alene (5 weeks out from the actual Ironman), all by myself for 48 hours of training and scouting the Ironman race course. It’s a good thing that I am going alone, because it will allow me to immerse myself, ingrain myself, in the course and the training. I welcome the time to focus and dedicate myself. I live for it, I enjoy it.

There has been a certain amount of unease and anxiety that I have experienced learning lots of new things about myself over the last few months. I’m glad to feel things coming together and glad to see the stress recede into the background, revealing a girl who has done the right work in the right way, and knows it.

King of the Mountain

Okay, I’ve had one rest day, let’s get this party started. Today was so totally AWESOME!

But before the awesomeness can start I had to focus! I had a swim and a run to get in before I could go have biking fun at 9:15am. So it was a 6am wake up from mom, 6:30 I’m in the pool, 4200 later I pull myself out and throw on run shoes. Out for my run..go go go. Back in the car, home, pack the car, head to Santa Cruz.

A huge thanks to Michael Hutto for inviting me out to ride today. I’ve been training alone and I was in need of a little company! We rolled into the parking lot within minutes of each other and were off and rolling soon after. We passed under the finish line for the Amgen Tour of California. I had the big grin…I was so excited!

The plan for me today was to double ride the last climb that the Tour of California goes over today, Bonny Doon. How can I say it? THIS WAS AWESOME. People are tailgating and I’m climbing. They totally gave me TONS of cowbell love! I got to the top and I knew I wanted to descend down the other side and re climb it. So I asked for directions from a dude at the top and down I went.

The climb back up was 12 miles, very similar to Highgrade with a few steeper spots. I loved every minute of it and I felt on FIRE today. There was sweat dripping out of my helmet…I’m sure it was the humidity!

Back at the top I saw the guy that gave me directions and we ended up chatting for awhile. I hung out with him and his friends the rest of the day, and LAUGHED my butt off!

We were at the top of the King of the Mountain climb and now all we had to do was wait. The boys from the Tour of California were making their way up and hundreds of people were there to scream. I headed to a good cheer spot with my new friends. We were all in hilarious moods and I haven’t had this much fun in awhile.

So, here’s how it went:

— cop cars go by
— motorcycle cop cars go by
— cop cars with lights on
— motorcycles with lights and sounds
— Tour of California cars go by
— Car with bullhorn goes by and tells us the lead group will be by in 8 minutes
— We start to go balistic!
— more cars
— massive cop cars, sirens, crazyness, we know they are here
LEVI, ZABRISKIE, and Mick Rogers pass by.

— I scream my head off while trying to take a picture.
— I drool a little, and turn my head just in time to watch JOHAN BRUYNEEL drive by in the Team Radio Shack CAR. I almost pee my pants. Because I read Johans book, and I kinda love him.

— I take 5 deep breaths and try to calm down.
— The chase pack comes by but all I see is RADIO SHACK RED, and I look as they go by and see #2 which is none other than LANCE!
— Some stragglers come through and I cheer for them
— I look up and see Andy Schleck and I can not contain myself. I shout “Andy Schleck, you are so hot” and he looks at me AT ME. Does he even speak English? Does he now know I think he’s hot? Should I be embarrassed? Andy is on the left.

— I wipe the drool from my face
— The peloton comes by and it’s CRAZY. We have to jump off the side of the road because they take up the whole thing. Some are jockying, others are sitting in, some are getting food from team cars, and others are hanging on for dear life at the back.
— All the team cars go by and we cheer louder for them. Bikes on top, some are honking. It’s mad crazy awesome!
— And then it’s over. Whew. That WAS AWESOME! I wanna do it again!

My new friends and I descended again and rode through Santa Cruz together where it was total mayhem. We were like 14 year old kids on bikes, having fun, smiles plastered all over our faces.

Could that be Johan’s car?

Finish line INSANITY!

New Friends

Quite Content

Sunday, the final day of a super EPIC week. I have trained harder this week than I can remember training in a single week last year, although I think I did hit some bigger bike and run weeks, but this week was more well rounded. It was just a big big week and I didn’t miss a single workout that I was given. That I am proud of, I did the work, in the intent that it was written.

It’s taken years to learn how to be consistent week in and week out. When I started training I think I would miss 1 or 2 sessions a week but with time I learned how to keep the consistency up. It’s brain training really and something I think some people have an easier time with than others. I am not a creature of habit, but I am much better now about pairing my training with my goals in my brain, and that gets me out the door most every time.

Today was the last big day of the week (not because there aren’t more big days, just no more days in the week). Tomorrow is a recovery day, but today was not! I had a long ride on the schedule with some hard work during it, and then a run off. Sometimes the workouts Chuckie gives me have more detail than I can remember. I’m always nervous I’m going to forget the workout mid ride so sometimes I write it on my hand.

My ride was a little mismatched today as I strung together various climbs in the San Jose area to get in the work that needed to be done. In Colorado I can always head up Highgrade and I know I’m not going to run out of hillage, but in Cali things are a lot more up and down, and the up is always EVIL steep.

One thing I’ve not gotten used to here is descending. Oh my lordy, I’ll climb up these hills all day, but going down them is another story. I’m always scared of what could be around the next bend and I am rapidly eating through my brand new break pads. I’m learning and today I rode a dicey descent three times just to try to ease my fear.

My run off today was very promising for IM. At the end of a very big week, on legs that had been put through the ringer, I was able to run light on my feet and happy. I hit my goal IM pace like I was supposed to and it felt like I could get it done.

All in all, it’s been such a terrific week. I sit here Sunday night, tired, but not too tired, more content than anything else. My parents have been so super duper awesome at hosting me. They have cooked for me, done laundry, entertained Annie, hosted movie night on the big screen each night, and not tempted me with ice cream or anything. Thanks mom and dad!

A good hard week always ends with a good hard ice bath and this was a particularly good one as some chocolate milk accompanied it.

It’s Wednesday! You know what that means…

Train like a PRO day! This installment was Cali style! I am in a spot that Chuckie is familiar with so he gave me my route today. Head up Mount Hamilton (the tallest mountain in the area) and then over the other side, to Del Puerto Canyon Road and on that until I hit 3:45, then turn and head home. Run off the bike of 15 minutes, the first 10 UNcomfortable. My mom dropped me off at 8:30 am and agreed to come back and pick me up 7 hours later.

My approach to Mount Hamilton was the more difficult route up Quimby road. WOW, This was just a taste of what I was in for. Quimby road put the hurt on me. I quickly ended up in my littlest gear, and 30 seconds later I was out of the saddle, where I remained for the next 55 minutes. Getting the the top of Quimby and knowing I had 6 hours to go, that was a horizon broadening experience. I also wanted to call my mom and tell her to meet me in a different spot so that I didn’t have to descend Quimby, just the thought scared the daylights out of me. But there was no cell coverage, so I rode on.

I was lucky that the scenery was unbelievably delightful. When I wasn’t looking straight down and huffing and puffing I was was looking around. I had quickly gained oodles of elevation and my view of the bay area was awesome.

The climb up Mount Hamilton itself was quite nice. I can see why it’s a common climb in the area, it’s very doable and somewhat gentle compared to Quimby. But it’s long. I rolled into the top at 2:07 and they had a faucet to refill bottles, which I took advantage of. I also poured in the entire new Liquid shot prototype that I had been given this last weekend from First Endurance. Mega yum! There was a payphone there, so I picked it up to call mom to tell her I didn’t want to come down Quimby, but it didn’t work.

The descent down the back side of Mt. Hamilton scared me for two reasons. One, it was steep and I’m not used to descending things this steep. My seat is a little high, since I just raced and like it a little higher for TTing, but my balance was a little off. Two, I knew that everything I went down I was going to have to come back up several hours later.

After the main descent the road wound around and up and down. The ups were UP, and the downs were DOWN. You couldn’t call these rollers, they were serious. I felt dogy through here and used it as a time to refuel big time. I didn’t drink on the descent so I caught back up. I turned into a head wind and hammered through that for awhile. The views in here were to die for. Little streams and ponds, big open fields with wildflowers galore.

I finally hit Del Puerto Canyon Road. It was like an oasis! Not! There was nothing there, but a house that had a fat dog, and a pay phone. Pay Phone! Oooh, I picked it up to call mom, again, Quimby descent = scary, it’s dead. Humm, ride on.

Down Del Puerto I went. I was getting close to my turn time but continued on, and eventually continued down down down. Oh dear, down down down. I hit 3:45 and I turn around, just before my 9th cattle guard.

I’ve never encountered cattle guards before. The first one I stopped and walked over, the second one I walked over. The third one I rode slowly over, and with each one I picked up more steam and confidence. By the 8th one I was flying over them, not even batting an eye, looking forward to them actually.

So here I was, at the bottom of a canyon, in the middle of NOWHERE, ready to head back home. The stretch back through Del Puerto and all the way to the base of Hamilton was awesome, best part of the day by far. I had a tail wind, the hills seemed easier than going out, and my nutrition was doing it’s job. I guess that First Endurance prototype is spot on.

Then came the backside of Hamilton. Oh Lordy. It was pain, lots of pain. I was in my smallest gear, and it was 5.2 miles out of the saddle. There were several spots I wanted to stop and walk. I’ve never walked on a hill in my life, I’m GOOD at hills. Colorado hills are no longer hills. I would ride up Mount Evans two times before I ride up the back of Mount Hamilton!

But, I made it! And I knew it was basically downhill from there. I refilled bottles, looked at my watch 5:55 and noted that I had 1:05 to descend 17 miles, cake!

I forgot about the two climbs! I had a little climb in the middle of Hamilton which was no big deal, but the last climb up the backside of Quimby was a BIG deal. It hurt. Out of the saddle for 5 peddal strokes, sit down for 5, out for 5, sit down for 5. Pain. Still no cell coverage.

I got to the top of Quimby and realized that I was going to HAVE to descend it. Face your fears Sonja, there was a reason that cell coverage was nill and that the pay phones didn’t work. FACE YOUR FEARS.

And I did. I rode down that crazy steep descent and I didn’t shed one tear. I used up a set of break pads, but those I can replace, accomplishment…I can’t buy that! I was really proud of not wimping out.

I pulled into the bottom of the climb and there was my mom sitting there in the car with Annie in the back. I quickly transitioned to my run shoes and took off. The only way to go was down. It was that or back up Quimby and I wasn’t doing that. I got rolling on the downhill, pushing the pace. You can do anything for 10 minutes. I saw the pace dip under 6 min miles and I just pushed to keep it there.

10 minutes later I was done, 5 min cool down. And it’s time to recover like a pro.

This was a good day, a confidence building day. I was totally alone out there and I really pushed hard. Another one in the bank. Horizons broadened, BIG TIME. I’ll be back for more big bike blocks in Cali, HANDS DOWN. The hillage here is insanity.

Thank you MOM! You really helped me out today with watching Annie, and dropping me off and picking me up. Thanks for taking those photos of me on the run. I should run downhill more often! I love you, thanks for letting me crash your house for impromptu training camp!

California Dreaming

The day after the race I woke to thoughts of the bike course from Rev3. It was such a sweet route. I opened my sleepy eyes and said, Troy, I’m going to go ride the bike course again (casually). And I did. I downed a Mix1 for breakfast, threw on my cycling kit, hopped on my bike, and headed out of the hotel.

It was better than I remembered. It’s amazing how little you actually see when you are racing. There were tons of little streams I never noticed, I called them “gater streams” because if I were a gator I’de live in one. Are there even gators in Tennessee? I experienced Southern Hospitality at it’s finest on the ride. At one point the road was rather narrow. I had a car back and I scooted over to the edge of the road so they could pass when it was clear. The car sat at a comfortable distance behind me, pressure free, for 3 miles waiting for a spot that they could pass comfortably. When they passed they gave me a little thumbs up. I’ve never had that kind of treatment anywhere before.

Instances like this happened 4 times during a 20ish mile ride. I was pretty shocked. I’m not used to this in Colorado where drivers seem to make dicey moves daily on my rides.

After my very enjoyable ride we packed up, had lunch at this super awesome restaurant where the curry chicken noodle soup had soba noodles in it (must do at home…add curry and soba noodles to chicken soup), and then we were off for the 2.5 hour drive to the airport. I was a little sad to leave. The weather was so nice in Knoxville, a little brisk, but sunny and not humid at all. It’s very green there, so I assume they normally have higher precipitation levels, or humidity, but the weather was grand for our trip.

On the drive to Nashville I got an email from Chuckie reviewing that this week was a huge week. It’s time to put the nose down and get it done. It’s time for the hammer, time to let the Grrrr out, time to stay on my game. I don’t think I’ve EVER had this much excitement and anticipation for a training week in my life. As Chuckie has said before, I’m like a border collie, if I don’t get my daily run, I start ripping up the house. Well, I’ve been ripping up the house and he was letting the dog out for a run. Big training weeks are one of my favorite past times, so I was jazzed.

Then I got an email from PIC saying she was home and that it’s projected that Denver will get 2 feet of snow on Wednesday…the day that Chuckie had me scheduled for a 7 hour ride.

I sat there in the car stunned. I started tearing up and could feel the anger mounting in the back of my throat. I didn’t even know how to process this information, it’s May 10th for Pete’s sake. I have an Ironman in less than 7 weeks. At first I actually felt like the weather gods and the triathlon gods had a special meeting and said “We don’t want Sonja to get to Kona this year”. Then I thought about it a little bit, and you know, I have positive feelings about the triathlon gods. They have been good to me in the past. They gave me a little sign about 8 months ago telling me to work on my swim LOTS, and I did, and they rewarded me this weekend, so they must have bigger plans for me. After a few minutes sitting there stewing, I came to the conclusion that they were actually saying “What are you made of, lets make sure you really want it”.

So I looked at Troy and said, “I need to go to California”. I checked the weather. Humm, sunny and no rain all next week. So we started calling Southwest, trying to change my flight. After all, I had my bike, and my swim goggles, and plenty of new swimsuits from Trakkers. I had everything I needed for a week of training, why not California? Sure, I only have like 3 outfits for Annie, and 2 sportsbras for myself, but seriously, I can make it all work. And I’m sure Annie will have like 15 outfits after a week at grandmas house.

After several calls to Southwest we ended up calling my good friend Hillary and she got on her computer and booked Annie and I one-way tickets from Denver to San Jose that departed an hour after I arrive in Denver. Denver and it’s stinky snow has been demoted to a “connection”. Boo Ya!

My parents live in San Jose and my mom will be great support. She will work from home in the mornings and I can get in my first workouts. Then she’ll go into work and Annie and I will play, and color, and do fun things. Then I’ll get my second workouts in after mom comes home from work. It’s going to rock. Plus, I’ll get to ride some terrain that I don’t usually ride, thus it will be a different stress on my body which is super good! There are plenty of masters programs, and outdoor pools, and SUNSHINE.

So, here’s to making lemonade out of forecasted lemons. California here I come. It’s time to drop the hammer.

PS: I arrived safe and sound in San Jose. Laundry is in the washer and it all begins tomorrow. Impromptu training camp for one…here I come.

Rev3 Knoxville

Well, the first race is done! And I not only survived, but thrived!

Walking to the start in the morning with dad, Troy, Annie, and Sharpie was a definite highlight. The sunrise was gorgeous, and the water looked inviting.

Chuckie had explained that for me, with my swim, my race is made or broken during the swim, so get on that line and SWIM. I was really excited for this. I wanted to swim hard, leave it all out there! Being in the elite amateur wave was super cool, especially lining up with PIC, but I’m not sure I’ll do it again, it depends on the race, me thinks.

So right after the pros we hop in the water and get ready. The swim is an out and back. The gun goes off and I GO, like, I REALLY go. I was in the thick of it, but not getting punched around too much. I found my place eventually, and got into my groove. I was with one other person and I couldn’t see feet. The water was very murky and your couldn’t even see the bubbles that you could feel. So I pulled up beside the person and swam beside them. Now I know this defeats the drafting thing, but it helped me with the straight swimming thing, which was a big issue for me last year.

About every 20 strokes my friend and I would body check each other. I’m sure they hated me as much as I grew annoyed with them. The reality is that we both probably suck at sighting, but we kept each other relatively straight! At the end of the swim I dug even deeper and pulled away from my friend. Getting out of the water we had to pull ourselves onto a dock. It took me just a split second of thought “Humm, can I actually do this after swimming so hard”? I pulled myself up, and slid myself onto the dock belly first, just like a seal…or like one of those Antarctic penguins.

As I ran up the dock and pulled off the top of my wetsuit my Garmin strap popped off. The strap went flying into the water, and the Garmin part went flopping on the pier. I reached down and grabbed it, and shoved it in my pocket.

I was OUT OF BREATH. I had swam HARD. Troy yelled on the dock that PIC had 3 minutes on me, and I was pretty jazzed about that. PIC is like my litmus test because her swim is so fast that it can barely get any better and thus, it’s pretty consistent! So, she’s a guage. And last year that deficit was in the 5-12 minute range, so 3 minutes is SWEET!

Off through transition, huffing and puffing, over LT (whatever that is, if I knew) and onto the bike. Breathe Sonja, breathe. Olympic racing HURTS! I pushed on the bike, yes, my dear, I pushed. I LOVED the course. Here I am literally huffing!

I was all by myself out there after passing one lady about 5 miles in. I just got into Zen mode and went hard. There were some great little climbs, and some awesome descents, and I’m happy to say that I didn’t touch my breaks ONCE. Not once, I was BOLD Sonja.

My dad and Troy were cheering up a hot storm, taking photos, and Annie was so cute in her Trakkers shirt. She kept telling people “Take it home”. I love that! What kid says that?

Coming towards transition I was going hard and then I saw PIC running. Dang, she looked good, and she looked FAST, How on earth was I going to get off my bike, through transition, and THEN catch her? DANG! She’s so fast!

I came into transition…still as hypoxic as I left and while running through transition my Trakkers devise went flying out of my pocket. The volunteers were so nice to pick it up and leave it at my transition spot (so glad I didn’t loose it). So if you saw my devise stop in transition, that’s why! I took off running, but of course my hypoxic brain took me to the wrong exit, and then the volunteers directed me the right way.

Headed towards the right way out I was jumping over towels, bags, and transition bike racks, I made transition into a total obstacle course.

Whew! Onto the run course. I dug my now strapless Garmin out of my pocket and hit the lap button. That way I would have an idea of my splits. Wow, I’m going as fast as I can. Where is Michelle?

I’m not feeling any more taxed than on the bike, but I can’t seem to will myself to go any faster. My first mile (after I dug the Garmin back out to check it) was in the low 6:40 range. Ok, not bad, that sounded like a good spot to hang around.

I stuffed the Garmin back in and just focused on keeping consistent. Where is Michelle? She’s NOWHERE in sight.

I’m running hard. Mile 2 goes by and we are on a bike path. I’m still looking for Ford. I was counting Elite amateurs and had counted three. I thought Ford was in 4th and I was in 5th. I was stoked about this. Then I see her. She SWEARS she waved at me, but we were both going as hard as we knew how. She was running from me, and I was running for her. I hit the turn around and knew it was going to take some serious work to catch her. Sure enough I worked really hard the whole way back and with two miles to go I could see her.

She had me! I worked the uphills, hard! I was gunning for her, but coming into the last quarter mile she still had 100 yards. We came in one after another and it was all hugs and wide eyes. I think both of us had forgotten just how much Oly racing hurts. It’s over quick, but it hurts in the process.

All in all I’m really pleased with my race. I’m super pleased with swimming hard, keeping some sort of contact with the front and not feeling like the rest of my race was lethally compromised. It was a really solid effort and has me excited. I think I am in a better place that I originally thought I was. It’s hard with the 100 miler race only being 5 weeks back. There has been lots of recovery, and less fitness building, but I am pleased with where it has all landed me.

I could still feel a little of the 100 miler in my lower inner quads, but I think that’s to be expected and I think that going hard helped to get a little more of the deep junk out.

The definite highlight of the week was meeting all my Team Trakkers teamies. We have had so much fun this trip from BBQ dinners, to pre race ice cream meetups, to post race happy hour…VERY HAPPY HOUR! I feel like I have a network all over the US of super cool folks and I just adore everyone I’ve gotten to know this trip.

Another HUGE highlight was all the love I got on the race course this weekend. It was so awesome the last two miles to have literally 20+ people cheer for me. The best was while we were in the water waiting to start all you could hear was GO SONJA! Beth and Tyler were going crazy and I think everyone was thinking “Who is Sonja”. Even Kathleen was laughing. I have the best friends EVAH!

Ford and I with Megan, she so rocks the house.

Ford and I with Jamie

Having Troy and Annie at this race was such a blast. I will have to put a post together of funny Annie pictures from the weekend, there are some pretty hilarious ones! Troy, your a rock. And your shoulders are going to rock, because you carried Pook around for 4 days on your shoulders. Love you babe, thanks for helping me chase my dreams!

We got to meet Tara from the biggest loser. It was so interesting to hear about how hard it is to go from weight loss to athlete. Something both Tyler and I have had to negotiate. From low cal, to fueling to perform, from no salt, to ample salt, and learning how to eat while exercising! It’s all new stuff for her. Good on ya girl!

I also really enjoyed having Beth and Tyler at the race. I think they had a fun time and Bethie won her age group! Super cool!

There are way too many cool pictures to post, I wish I could put them all up! A huge thanks to my dad for taking like 1,000 pictures for the team this weekend. We loved having him around.

Finally a huge THANK YOU to my sponsors: GOAL0 (I know I know, you are all wondering what, who, huh, no worries, you will know soon), Trakkers, Saucony. Mix1, Core Concepts, Tri-Massage, First Endurance, Justins Nut Butter, Nathan, NUUN, and TriSwim. You all so totally rock the house.

Season Opener and Trakkers Premier

Tomorrow I will step on the line (errr, float in the water) for my first triathlon of the year, and my first race entering the elite amateur category. To say, for several reasons, that I have some healthy nerves would be to state the obvious. Olympic distance racing always hurts whether you are in shape or not! Racing in the Elite amateur category is something I have always shied away from since my swim was in a different ball park as most elite amateurs. This year, I said, yes, I’m going for it. And going for it at the Rev3 races, where my Team Trakkers is racing as well, feels like a safe and supportive place to do so.

The race is going to be so fun. If you are here in Knoxville you can come down to Worlds Fair Park and watch the entire race unfold on a huge Jumbotron, and then see the finishers come through the chute. If you are spectating from abroad, you can watch the live coverage HERE on

Also, you can watch the Trakkers showcase! Tomorrow will be the live Trakkers debut. I have my devise, its charged up and ready to go. The devices aren’t waterproof yet, so my devise will start trakking and will sit in transition while I swim. When I get on the bike you should see my green dot moving. Michelle and Kathleen (Kathleen is the current Kona amateur record holder) are also wearing devises and are in my elite amateur wave, so be sure to watch and cheer for them as well! The link to watch can be found by clicking HERE, or you can go to

You’ll want to click on “Rev3 Knoxville Olympic” to see me.

Lastly, you can follow twitter where Troy will be tweeting it as he sees it. Follow @gosonja on twitter, or click here to see my feed.

Today has been a blast. We had a great photoshoot this morning featuring the very famous photographer….my dad! He did such a good job and we had a lot of fun too.

Then we were off for a run with some teamates. We ran down to transition and around to the swim start. We loosened up the legs and FordyFord and I got in a few pickups.

Off on the bikes, Michelle, Jamie and I went went and rode a little bit of the course including a really rough section that we were nervous about seeing it on the drive. It’s as bad as we thought and I’m glad that I got a preview.

Back to the expo we met back up with all our Team Trakkers crew and we had so much fun giving away lots of free First Endurance goodies. People were so excited and it was great to hear so many people say “This stuff works”. No Duh! That’s why we use it!

I caught sight of Julie Dibens. I really dig her, and she is killing it on the pro scene recently. She was so nice to take a quick snap shot with me.

After the giveaway we headed out to the water for a swimy-swim. There were lots of cool parts to the swim but some of the highlights were hearing a talk from Pip Taylor and Heather Golnick about how to swim the swim.

Another highlight was that our Trakkers swimsuits came in so when you looked around the swim deck there were lots of teamies and you could recognize them easily. So much so that Mary Beth Ellis came over and asked to borrow a swim cap. She is on the Trakkers Elite team and I think of us as the age-group minor leaguers. Knowing that she could turn to any of us AGers for help made me feel good. It’s nice to feel like you have a family out at the races.

Hopefully our Pro team will come to understand that we age groupers totally dig them and are always willing to lend a helping hand, whether it be at a race, or if they are racing in our hometowns. We are a big network of people who love this sport. In return our pro team has been so awesome about reaching out to us age groupers. Every one of them has stopped by at some point to meet us, wish us good luck and answer any questions. Here is Dede Griesbauer coming by to say hello.

The swim was a total hoot! The dingy water was actually really nice. I even tasted it and I was impressed. Apparently the only reason it’s dingy is because of the recent storms, and it’s actually a really nice river to swim in (so we were told, and I would agree at this point). Beth, Michelle B and I paused at the first buoy for a photo op!

There are no words to explain this photo, pure happy!

Finally after the swim, a little lunch, and a little Trakkers booth time, Michelle and I headed back to our respective hotels to nap, blog, and rest our feet. This evening we will drop our bikes in transition, grab some grub, and hit the hay…it’s ALMOST RACE DAY!

Team Terrier Tri Club is going DOWN (as is Dynamo Multisport)