Alternative Training: Longs Peak

Yesterday was a lot of fun! Instead of the normal swim bike run training, Chuckie scheduled a hike up Longs peak for some “time on the feet” training. Longs peak is one of our local 14ers. If your not from here, Colorado has 54 peaks that are over 14,000 feet in elevation, effectionately called “14ers”. Naturally people try to climb all of them in their lifetime, or in 5 years, or 1 year, or 11 days. Kids climb them, dogs climb them, people run up them, people ski off them. They are just one piece of the outdoor playground that is Colorado.

Longs peak is in Rocky Mountain National Park, and is the only 14er that you can’t legally take your dog up (I guess there are other notable facts about it, but that one came to mind). It’s 15 miles round trip and you travel from the parking lot at 9,382 feet elevation to the summit at 14,259 feet of elevation, and then back down…if you’re lucky.

Troy decided to take the day off work and join in on the fun. It was so nice to have him along for the “training” day. Troy and I have been up 9 or 10 14ers together and we have lots of fond memories of climbing them together in our early years of marriage.

We arrived at the trailhead at 3:30 am due to me driving too fast up the windy roads to Estes. Chuckie and Angela arrived soon after and we took off in the dark at about 4am. The early hiking is easy and the trail is great. You get above tree line fairly quickly and are left with gorgeous views of the mountains all around. The sunrise was stupefyingly gorgeous. Like, stop you in your tracks, mouth wide open gorgeous. We settled into a nice rhythm together. An ease starts to come when you realize that the people you are hiking with are a good speed, not too fast, not too slow, and don’t mind stopping to drool at the view.


Photo: Chuckie V

We wound around the trails for several hours, eating, drinking, hiking, telling stories, until we arrived at the infamous boulder field. It’s pretty hilarious hiking with Chuckie and I. Troy said that between Chuckie and I talking, there was really no open space left. “Incesently Verbose”! Poor Angela and Troy, but hey, we can’t help it!

After a potty stop we started making our way through the Boulder field. Seeing Angela’s eyes get wide, and her brow get furled really reminded me of some of my first times up these mountains. People don’t realize that the trail stops, and you are left to find your way through boulder fields, hopping from rock to rock, trying to keep your balance and pick rocks that won’t move on you. We made our way cautiously towards the infamous “Keyhole”.

The keyhole really is quite cool. Your not entirely sure how that rock is staying put like that, but it is, I hope. There is a little hut there, that I hear gets pretty crowded if weather sets in. Lightning is one of the biggest dangers you face climbing 14ers in Colorado. It’s kills several every year, often becoming deadly for those who do not start their summit attempt early enough in the day.

Through the Keyhole, now you start to face the exposure that Longs provides. This is where the real fun begins. This is where the little boys go scampering home to their mommies and the big boys man up and trudge onwards. They (i don’t really know who..but someone official) have painted bulls eyes on the rocks for you to follow, but it’s really quite a rock scramble from here to the top.

The gully is quite amazing, rewarding your hard work with majestic views of Rocky Mountain National Park. This section is a quad buster, step step rest, step step rest. I love this kind of stuff. The goal is to find a rhythm that moves you across the earth fast enough, yet not so fast that you can feel your heart beat in your brain. It’s a tricky balance and we all took our time finding our climbing zone. This is the first 14er I’ve climbed since I started doing triathlons and it was nice to feel so much stronger and fitter than I used to.

After a refueling stop at the top of the gully it was onto “the narrows”. This section can be quite scary for those with fear of exposure. But, for some reason, I just eat this stuff up. I really like exposure, the feeling of being on the edge. The views are amazing, and threatening, and downright epic. We wound our way around and onto the summit block. This final pitch is quite exposed as well and while it’s quite doable going up, coming down back down adds an additional element of danger.


Photo: Chuckie V

Gaining the summit is quite hilarious on Longs. Here you have been walking on ledges, crawling up and over rocks that will penalize one false move with the termination of your life, and then you place two feet on the summit and are welcomed to….a relatively flat, and wide open FOOT BALL FIELD. It’s literally huge up on top. You could build a ranch and herd some goats up there.


Photo: Chuckie V

Photo: Chuckie V

And, wow, what a relief to gain the summit. My body was so happy, and feeling great. My belly was fully of yummy snacks and good water. We all arrived in one piece and took some time to enjoy the top.

We took our pulses too. That was pretty funny because poor Troy was feeling the effects of climbing peaks with three endurance athletes. He was holding up just fine, but I kept thinking I was messing up counting his pulse because his number was 27 and mine was 18 (15 seconds). Angela finally took it and we agreed that Troy is some sort of hybrid hummingbird mountain goat man.


Photo: Chuckie V

Heading back down was where my body wasn’t going to be too happy. It’s all the downhill that really rips the quads and hips to shreds. We made our way cautiously down the steep sections of the face. We were in no hurry and had zero need to be hasty. Each foot placement was well thought out. I really enjoyed listening to Chuckie and Angela talk about training for several miles. There is something about hearing “lessons” when you are open and raw and thoughtful that urges you to really think harder about them. It was a good setting for insightful words from my coach.

It’s a good thing he didn’t advise me to “jump” when he took this picture. I call this one “On the edge”. Of what I don’t know, enlightenment, bliss, sanity?


Photo: Chuckie V

As we descended the last miles it was amongst a few raindrops and a few thunder claps. We got back to the cars in perfect time, and 5 minutes later the showers hit heavy. Driving back to pick up Annie at grandmas house both Troy and I were tired, with smiles plastered all over our faces. It was wonderful to see the light in Troys eyes. There was a little sparkle there that I miss and it reminds me that we need to do things like this more often.

That is until this morning…when we both tried to get out of bed and it took three attempts. So sore! We have both been gimping around today. And I guess that’s why we climbed Longs for training, different load, different stress, fitness gained. Fun had by all!

Rules

Now that I have been through one Ironman build Chuckie V style I feel like I’m starting to get things down. It’s not so much that it gets easier. Let me stress, it does not get easier. But I have become more familiar. I have started to develop expectations that are new. There are new rules that govern my training and the more I get used to them, the more I understand them.

Rule 1: You will never have just one workout a day. The typical week has about three days that include swimming, biking and running. Yes, three days a week I do some sort of mixed up triathlon with very long T1 and T2s. The rest of the days include two sports, but I’m no longer shocked to see run, then go bike, then go run again.

Rule 2: fear shorter days. When you see 2 hours on your schedule it probably means that it’s going to be two hours of hurt. Learn to love the long days, because you probably won’t have to go “all out” for 5 100’s straight, or 100 25s straight.

Rule 3: fear the long days. You will be told that you can “eat all you want while training” but despite leaving on the ride with your pockets as full as possible, you still have to stop at the store to pick up more food. Going through 8 bottles is typical. Chuckie V will only go through 2, as he is a camel. So at least you can always steal his bottles if you need to.

Rule 4: Do not EVER go harder than you are told to. This is the key with Chuckie V training. If you go harder than you are told to, you run the risk of not recovering in time for your next workout (which will be less than 10 hours away, even if you are going to get a nights sleep in between). If you go harder than you are told to, then you will not be able to go as hard as you are supposed to for the next workout (or the next day). The magic comes in getting ALL the work in, not in getting some of the work in at a harder level than prescribed.

Rule 5: Do every [legal] recovery process that has been proven or not proven. If someone told me I would recover faster by wearing two ponytails in my hair and sleeping on my stomach, I would do it. The name of the game with Chuckie V training is to hasten recovery so that you can get the most out of your next training session. That means: great (not just good) food, compression tights/socks, foam rolling, sticking, self massaging, Troy massaging, icing, legs upping, hydrating, staying lean, sleeping, napping, Tri-massaging, calm thinking, meditating, smiling, walking.

Rule 6: planning is the key to success. For me, the main importance is planning for Annie to be in a happy safe place while I’m training, so that I have “mommy peace of mind”. But also, planning to have great food options at all times so that food emergencies don’t happen is really important. Staying proactive on laundry, house tidying, and keeping everyone in the know about my schedule is really important to my success with this plan. Pre planning limits stress, and that’s the name of the game.

Rule 7: Keeping a steady mind. Monitoring your emotional state can provide great insight. If I’m starting to get irrational it usually means that I need to get back on top of the recovery methods. Sometimes I am actually just too tired to lay on the floor and foam roll, and I instead lay in bed and ask Troy irrational questions (which he just loves to answer). Keeping a steady mind while your body is going through the pummel/recover/pummel/recover cycle is a challenge. But it pays off and lowers stress if you can master it. If you can’t, then you have something to work on (and I have something to work on).

These really are just a few of the things I am learning. I actually filmed an entire day of my training and made a little video for you all, but Vimeo is being ornery about uploading it. I will link it here when it gets finished. (Vimeo uploaded it and I attached it to the bottom of this post, it’s 11 minutes, pop some popcorn)

It’s really starting to sink in, This training I have committed to. It’s a process, but one that I really enjoy. There’s something about going for something that brings out the best in people. I love watching people chase goals, myself included.

So, most of one week down (and it’s been a BIG week). 11 weeks to go! We have all our flights, cars, snorkel trips, and lodging for Kona. So I’m looking forward to a huge reward for these next 11 weeks of hard work. Now I just need to find a bikini!

Left or Right

Thanks everyone for checking in on me about my crick, all is good, a few sessions with my chiro Ken at Active Care and I was back on my feet. Thanks!

Sometimes, you just have to decide.

This weekend I stood at a crossroads. It’s a weekend I will always remember for the rest of my life. I had some decisions to make and some discussions to have with Troy. And now, I have looked at the paths in front of me, I have imagined what each road will look like, the twists, the turns, the terrain. I noticed one of the paths was littered with elevation gain, steep hills, and sweat lining the sides of the dirty gravel road. I have seen the potholes, the speed bumps and the cattle guards. And I have decided…that is the path for me.

I’m going all in for Kona.

I don’t think I need to explain the history of KONA. If you don’t follow traithlons, you still know what Kona is, you have this vague idea that it’s this crazy long event, people crawl across the finish line sometimes, there is lava involved, it’s really hot, and it’s a big deal. My friend Adam said it best (I’m stealing your words Adam, you can call later for your royalty check :)):

…from my point of view that’s THE event. Each and every year it adds to and sometimes rewrites the history of the sport, and you want to be a part of it. We do not get to play at Wimbledon or race Le Tour, but we can do Kona. There may be other races this season that are important to you, but they do not make history

Chuckie offered me the opportunity, he revealed to me “the path”. He offered to train me in a way that will have me standing on the line at Kona in the best body and mind that I am capable of at this juncture in my life. A chance to have the best coach in the sport, coach me to MY best in the sport. To say that it will require commitment, sacrifice, blood, sweat, tears… well, that would just be honest. It’s going to take those things and more to travel the road that I have chosen.

The next three months I am training for Kona, and only Kona. No nationals, no Budapest, no Cedar Point, no riding across Colorado, no Run Rabbit Run, no, no, no, no. It’s all a nope.

And to what end? Well, to the best end that I can achieve. I don’t know the answer to that, but I know that goals will come along the way as the work gets done.

People ask me why, and I say, I don’t know why, but I know that I am driven when I do.
-Ray Zahab

Crick

I really want to tell all of you about the Death Ride, but right now my mind is occupied. The short of it is “Wow, wow, double wow”.

The day before the Death Ride I woke up with a crick in my neck. You ever get one of those? Most people have. So, I was dilligent and went and got a massage at the expo. The pain was better for a few hours, but returned. I had a friend massage it, my dad put some biofreeze on it, and before I went to bed I threw on an IcyHot patch another friend gave me. Oh yes, Advil as well!

The morning of the Death Ride it didn’t feel great, but I got going and within hours it was fine. I rode all day (10.5 hours) and that evening I was a bit sore but not too bad. Sunday it was getting better, and Monday I swam at the pond and went for a run. Last night when I went to bed I thought that it would be gone when I woke up, but upon waking it was still there a bit. I meet with PIC Michelle to swim and the first 25 was painful and felt very off. As I continued with the warmup I was having trouble turning my head enough to get a good breath. I was inhaling some water. I did a flip turn and tucking my chin sent big shooting pains down my neck, back, shoulder.

I talked to PIC and we both agreed if it didn’t warm up, that I should get out. 100 yards later I knew I needed to get out. I went and changed and emailed coach with what was going on. Then it started to happen.

My whole neck, shoulder blade, back area started locking up. Extreme pain was happening. I got in my car to head home and I barely made it, crying and moaning through the last 5 miles of the drive. I dragged myself up to the apartment and kneeled on my bed, tears of pain streaming down my cheeks, and labor like moans coming from my throat. I was having back labor in my neck!

I called Troy and begged him to come home. I made an appointment with my Chiro Ken Sheradin at Active Care (who I haven’t seen in forever because I’m healthy as a horse). He could see me at 3pm. So I had 4.5 hours to wait. On one bathroom trip I looked in the mirror, totally hailed, eyes puffy and saw that my shoulders were two completely different heights when I was standing flat and trying to keep both of them relaxed.

Thank goodness for twitter. It kept my mind occupied while I hunched over my pillows going through waves of pain that had me seeing black when I tried to move wrong.

Troy helped me through those hours and dealt with the tears, and the bad attitude. He drove me to Ken’s, feeling bad with every bump he hit, having to endure my screams. Waves of nausea would wash over me with the slightest wrong move.

This is my pathetic picture. See, I’m not all smiles and bubbles all the time (if you ever thought I was). Just thought you would all want to see me in my messy hair, puffy eyes, gloriousness.

We got to Ken’s office and he adjusted me. crack crack crack crack. I walked out with even shoulders and instructions as to what to do for the rest of the day. It involved a lot of this (which coach had told me to do, so I was already on it):

But at least the shoulders look better. Here is what they looked like after I got home from Ken’s. Although it made all the muscles around my spine feel like somebody took a baseball bat to them. But they are not so lopsided.

So, I get to ice 20 minutes on, 40 minutes off, every hour until bed time, 5+ times is ideal, says Ken. I get to take a walk at 5pm and at 7:30pm for 10 minutes each to get the blood flowing. Then I’m back in his office at 9am tomorrow. My new training schedule is now this…ice…walk…cry.

The crying has actually calmed down. I find that the crying is proportional to the icing. By the time 35 minutes had gone by of not icing, I’m about to start weeping. Then the 20 minutes of ice is wonderful, then it wears off and I’m back to pain. Repeat repeat repeat. You can image that this emotional roller coaster has put me in a fine mood!

On top of that, my fun training buddies are going riding with coach tomorrow, and I get to stay home and ice, walk, and cry. Talk about feeling like a dog that is getting left on the porch because he only has three legs, I get it, but it hurts none the less.

So, there ya go, a blog post full of complaining and moaning. If you skipped this one, I totally understand. Hopefully I can get some Death Ride sweetness posted soon.

Kona Bound

On a recovery ride with my mom in Bend, OR. We rented a Burley and hooked it up to the TT bike. Yes, I still had my number on my helmet. Yes, people did take my picture. Yes, people laughed at me. No, I didn’t care.

Before the Ironman I wrote to you all that there is a difference between expectations, and hopes. My heart rate zones and my ability to execute a race were examples of my expectations. One of my strengths as a triathlete is my ability to execute, to race with a strong mind and to stay smart. I tend to not get wound up with those around me until it matters (at the end) and I seem to keep most mistakes to a minimum (famous last words).

I’ll admit, Kona was a “hope”. I thought it would take some magic because you just don’t know who will show up. You don’t know who will have an outstanding performance. I know what I can do, but I don’t know what others can do (despite my attempts at cyber stalking). So, getting a Kona slot either requires that you are just eons ahead of everyone, or that you have a little luck.

I tried to work hard during IMCDA at what I had control over. I tried to race with strength, determination, brains on the bike, and heart on the run. I wanted to race to my potential very badly. I wanted to see what I was made of, to learn more about my limits. I wanted to learn what Chuckie’s training had made me into. I was successful in those attempts.

I learned that I can take more than I think I can. You would think after running a 100 mile race that there would be no more surprises, but there were. I learned that I can run over the edge and not falter. Feelings of pain and panic can be talked away, settled down. I learned how to race certain parts without emotion, to just focus on the numbers and the effort and how I was feeling, to watch myself from a birds eye view, trying to stay outside of my emotions. I learned how to use my emotions and my desire to attain my goals to fuel myself onwards when my body was tired.

We are made of so much more than we think. When we want something really bad and we understand that it’s going to take everything we’ve got, and then some luck, it’s an opportunity. This race was an opportunity to race for my dreams and that I did. I consider it a “gift”, a “fortuity” to race for a Kona slot. Of all the participants, I would say 10% have a chance on a good day at competing well enough to race for a slot. Half of that 10% take themselves out of the running due to their own mistakes. Of the half that are left… well, those are the ones that should feel blessed at the opportunity to even give it a go. 2200 athletes were racing, 72 of us walked away with slots, 3.2%.

Riding with mom and Annie in Bend, OR.

It’s now 14 weeks until Kona. I will step on that line at Kona, and I will race my heart out. My mom asked a few nights back if I was going to “race” Kona, or just have fun. Last year before Canada I told her that if I made it to Kona I just wanted to enjoy it, have fun, soak up the experience.

This year I have a completely different outlook. I feel BLESSED to even have the OPPORTUNITY to start at Kona. There is no way I would squander that opportunity. Every time I race it could be my last, and I don’t take that thought lightly. So in 14 weeks, I will swim, bike, and run with everything I possess. Plus, Chuckie has made it abundantly clear that he will not coach someone to Kona as an afterthought. It’s go big or go home. No need to tell me twice!

Luckily, I have a few more weeks to get my head around “”Here we go again, round 2, ding ding”. Chuckie said I’m allowed to get fat, and be lazy for a little while longer. Although I’m itching to get started, I know that come 8-10 weeks from now I’ll be begging for mercy, so it’s important to step back, chillax, enjoy not training seriously for awhile. So, what’s a girl to do while she relaxes, why THE DEATH RIDE, of course!

In a couple days my dad and I head out for the infamous event called The Death Ride. I wanted to do this ride last year and didn’t get a chance, so I’m excited to be back this year. It’s 129 miles, with 15,000 feet of climbing. You make your way over 5 passes, and if you make all of them, you are provided the opportunity to purchase a cycling kit commemorating your cycling stardom. We’ll see about that!

Either way, I’m excited to get out for a long day in the saddle on my ornery little white road bike. She’s a spicy little specimen who has gotten herself into a fair amount of trouble. I’ve already had a few talks with her about behaving. It’s going to be just a mellow, soak up the rays, take my time, catered training event kind of day for me. Dad and I are camping a few days prior so we will get some time to sit by the campfire and chat. Good times!

Ironman Coeur d’Alene The Run

I had a goal for the Ironman run. I wanted to go faster than Canada, and I wanted to see 3:3X, where X could be anything, as long as the 3 was in front of it. 8:00-8:15 min pace was a target goal pace, but can be hard to maintain exactly through the undulations of the course. I headed out of transition and quickly realized that the lady in transition had clipped my Nathan Nurition pouch on my waist but I had forgotten to remove my bike race belt. So I was running along with TWO race numbers around my waist. Those things are a total scratchy pain when you have just one on, but TWO, well that got annoying in about 15 seconds.

@Run2SaveLives took this one with his phone of me

I don’t know what it is, but I have this strong issue with littering when I am racing. The dominant thought I had was that I could not ditch that belt, because it had my name and number on it, and knowing my luck I would get a littering penalty and they wouldn’t let me go to Kona. Every thought I had during the run portion ended in “then they won’t let me go to Kona”. It was kinda funny.

The race starts with a 2 mile out and back section along the dike (their words, not mine). I felt pretty good and I’m always alarmed with how easy it is to get into your IM run pace. My legs never feel that heavy “brick” feeling. Mile 1 was 7:52. Perfect Sonja, but let’s calm it down a little and see if we can’t stick it more around 8:10. I made the turn on the dike and headed back. I passed the special needs bags and they asked if I wanted my bag. I thought this was odd because I thought we only got those at the half way point.

I ran on, mile 2 was 7:40. Crap Sonja, SLOW DOWN. I also had this lady named Lauren running my pace right near me. I was trying desperately to let her go, but then she would come back and we would be shoulder to shoulder. Let her go Sonja! She wasn’t in my age group and she looked great. But I wanted to do MY thing and I was feeling like I couldn’t.

Running through the park and town is INSANITY. So many people were yelling my name. I saw a guy take a picture of me! Turns out it was @Run2SaveLives from twitter, acquiescing to @sitbones request. Yes, twitter is a crazy place! I saw Trista and Sean, two triathletes that I know from Denver, and they were AMAZING for me. Sean yelled that I was “Mpth in my age group and that one of them is walking”. That was really helpful cheering, I just wished I had heard what he said. I thought it was either 3rd or 5th, but didn’t quite know.

We wound through the neighborhood and I found myself back with Lauren. I also recognized Kathy Alfino. She’s a coach in the Denver area. I caught her and said “Good job Kathy”. I had Lauren with me here too. My mom was standing on the corner and I knew it was time that I ditched one of the pesky race belts, so I dropped it right next to my mom. It was so funny to talk to her later. She thought I was quitting when I threw my race belt on the ground. She was totaly confused and a guy on a mountian bike next to her asked if he should bike it back to me.

See, I am VERY focused when I run. The only person I make eye contact with is Troy and it usually means “Where am I in the age group”. I don’t look at my mom or dad and sometimes they don’t even know if I see them. But I do, I see it all. It just takes a lot of focus to keep on my pace, so it’s what I’ve got to do.

Troy was hanging out in the park next to Tubbs hill with Annie and my dad. We had stashed the van here the night before and I was happy to see that everyone looked happy and well fed. It’s a long day for family, and kiddos to get through, but they looked good. I gave Troy “the look” and he told me that I was in 5th place in my age group, and that 4th was 1 minute up. This felt like good news to me. I can get 4th no problem. Mile 3 came in at 7:51.

My favorite part of the course is through the neighborhood after Tubbs hill. I love all the sprinklers that people set up and the 90 degree turns. Mile 4 was 8:02 and I was happy to see myself settling a bit more into things. The section along the lake is where you settle in and just get it done. It felt uphill going out. I started to feel off here. I was getting a little down and I quickly realized it was time for calories.

Even though I had calories in my little Nathan pouch I grabbed a gel from the aid station. It had caffeine and I downed it. A half mile later I was rockin’. Mile 5 was 8:09, mile 6 was 8:20, mile 7 was 8:19. I was in my groove now. This was the pace and feeling I wanted to hold onto. I ran past this group that had set up a speaker system on the course.

These guys were the HIGHLIGHT of the entire marathon for me and would pick me up time and time again. It turns out that this was actually the work of my Trakkers teammate Jessi, but at the time I didn’t know this.

Then the hill came. There is a steep hill at the turn around. I already knew that I would run up this bad boy. For me, there is no walking in the marathon. No way, no how. I ran up it and was so jazzed to see the turn around cone. Down I went and the legs felt really good. Mile 8 was 8:30. Nice Sonja, way to keep the speed through the hill.

Going past the speaker system dudes (and this was the highlight of my race) the guy says. “Way to go Sonja, this girl just finished the Moab 100 as first woman, and 3rd overall”. I got this huge smile and gave a little fist pump and then stuck two fingers in the air, because I was 2nd overall, not third, but also to give a little peace love. Lauren was running just behind me at this point and she said “Wow, great job” and I said “Thanks”. That was the only word I muttered the entire marathon. It was such a reminder that I have been in the pain cave before. There were so many times over the next 18 miles that I said to myself:
“What hurts Sonja?”
And I responded..
“nothing too bad”
“This doesn’t even compare to the 100 miler”
“So run harder”

Then, an ANGEL came into my life. I had a guy go past me that had a P on his calf. He was a pro dude. I briefly wondered what had happened to him, why he was so behind. But before I could think any more about it I found that he was running a spectacular pace. Not too fast, not too slow. Just right, like Goldilocks. I immediately attached myself to his tail end. It was like finding fast feet in the swim, I just let him pull me along as my eyes glazed over. Mile 9 was 8:08, mile 10 was 8:14, mile 11 was 8:04, and mile 12 was 7:59. Somewhere in here I passed 4th in my age group, thus putting myself in 4th.

I also passed my mom again at Tubbs hill and I threw my heart rate monitor at her. I was tired of the stupid thing and it was chaffing me. I wanted the freedom of chest movement. Now I think she figured out that I was just offloading stuff, not quitting the race. I gave Troy “the look” once again and he said “I don’t know”. I figured I was in 4th but had tuned out so much the last few miles that I didn’t know. I have him a look of frustration. Apparently he immediately started making calls to his dad, and got on the internet to figure out exactly who was still in front of me. He rocks.

As we came towards the finish line I knew my pro guy was going to leave me. Also, this was the point where Lindsay Corbin passed me on her way to the win. I was kinda jazzed that it took quite awhile for the lead moped to pass me. I think at this point she and I weren’t running too dissimilar of a pace. She had started 35 minutes ahead of me, and was lapping me, she went like 9:17 overall, hot-dang!

Back through town Sean and Trista cheered and one lady said “You look better than when I saw you at mile one”. I had lots of people throughout the race say “Awesome pace” or “You are killing it” or “Your flying”. It was really nice to hear.

Mile 13 was 8:14. I was back on my own, no more Pro dude. I was back on the dike and didn’t feel nearly as good as I had 13 miles ago. I knew that “it” was beginning, the time was rapidly approaching where my “heart” was going to need to take over the racing. Mile 14 was 8:23. I completely skipped my special needs bag. I was opting for on-course gels with caffeine. I was downing one every couple miles. I had water or gatoraid in my hand bottle and would sip that along the way. My Nathan 10oz hand bottle is WAY better than any one I’ve ever carried. I couldn’t even really feel it.

Lots of cheers for me. I went back through downtown and through the neighborhoods. The little hills were starting to be tougher and were taking more umph. I passed my mom and offloaded my Nathan waist pack (after I had pinned my race number to my shorts while running). She was used to the routine by now. I just had my hand bottle left. Mile 15 was 8:28. I ran by Troy again and he said “Your in 4th and 3rd is 7 minutes up wearing a green skirt”. I gave him the “there’s no way” look. But as I ran away from him, I thought, “well, it could happen”. I really put my nose down here and I was hurting bad. I focused on everything but the pain. Mile 16 was 8:26 and mile 17 was 8:20. Mile 18 was 8:08.

I remember thinking “8 miles to go” in here. I knew I could do 8 miles and I thought of all the different 8 mile runs I have completed in my life. The mileage didn’t scare me, but I knew these 8 were going to hurt. At this point I wanted to slow, I really did. But I was trying to eat time into the girl ahead of me, and I was trying to give it a go. Mile 19 was 8:28 and mile 20 was 8:28. I ran by the speaker guy and got mucho love. I knew it was just 10K to go. I saw green skirt going the other direction and I looked at my watch and noted our location.

I came upon the big hill again. While running up the hill I thought to myself, if you have cut 3:30 out of the 7 minutes to the green skirt then you are going to run as hard as you know how to catch her by the finish. I decided right there and then that if I was only 3:30 back I would die trying to get her.

I also ran into my high school ex-boyfriend on the hill. I was the only person running up the hill. More because I’m stubborn than smart, and because I was trying to catch green skirt. I told him good job, he told me good job, I was hoping that he would resume running at the top and continue with the great race that he was having. I rounded the cone, beat it down hill and to the mailbox where I had passed green skirt on the way up. I looked at my watch and I had cut 2 minutes out of the 7 minutes, so I was 5 minutes back. Mile 21 was 8:46, so not too bad for the second time up that hill.

I knew I would run out of real estate on green skirt. But again, my mind only briefly contemplated the fact that I probably had 4th in the bag and wasn’t going to get 3rd. I immediately thought, “anything could happen, she could have to poop, or she might start walking aid stations”. I decided to keep the pressure on 100%.

I really wanted to run a strong last 5 miles and it took everything in me to keep up the pace that I did. This was the stretch that I started making deals with myself. My calves had been cramping for several miles. My toes would roll up into a little ball and I couldn’t straighten them. It was pretty bad, but my mind was Iron. Nothing was going to make me slow down. I ran huge stretches with my toes curled up in little balls. But I didn’t slow down. I knew that I was on the edge, tipping over at times. In IM Canada when I was on the edge I was very scared to cross it. This year I was not.

I told myself I had to push deeper, I had to go harder. I had to run on those scrunched up toes. I promised myself an IV at the finish. I said “Sonja, you can go straight to the med tent, but you must not slow down”. I wanted jelly beans, the Jelly Belly kind, so I promised myself 500 jelly beans at the finish. I wanted a margarita, and I promised myself that I could have 10 when I finished. I felt like I made deals with the devil and I auctioned off my soul. But I would not let myself slow down. Mile 22 was 8:12.

My stomach was angry and very tight. I pulled my shorts down below my hip bones and I knew “This is going to make for some embarrassing pictures” but I didn’t care, I was so totally past that point. I was in a place too raw, so past the edge that my modesty was gone. Mile 23 was 8:36.

There was this huge hill ahead of me. How did this hill get so big? But I was running hard. I passed several more women, but knew they weren’t in my age group, they were not wearing green skirts. The aid station on this hill was frustrating for me. I was lapping lots of people on their first loop and they were walking through the aid stations. Since I was running through the aid stations it was very hard to get aid amongst the walkers. I had to slow a little to get what I needed. But I did manage to score a nice cup of ice that I dumped down my shorts.

At the top of the hill I hit mile 24 in 8:41. I was on my favorite section and I told myself “17 minutes and your home”. My stomach hurt, my calves hurt, my toes were in little balls. I felt like I had to poo. I told myself, you probably need to fart, so do whatever you need to do, just don’t slow down. I didn’t care what bodily functions needed to happen, just as long as I didn’t slow down.

I lost my stomach at this point. I reached back to make sure I hadn’t pooped in my shorts was was relieved to find that I didn’t. It’s very unlike me to write this sort of detail but I guess I just want to illustrate that I was far over the edge. The only thought I was entertaining in my head was “Don’t slow down”. I was making noises running. People walking around me were giving me looks, but at least they heard me coming and would move. Mile 25 was 8:33. I passed Tubbs hill, realized I only had one mile to go. My parents were gone, Troy was gone, everyone was at the finish line, oh my god, I’m going to do this. I tossed my hand bottle next to the van and told the lady standing there “I will come get this afterwards”. Again, afraid of the littering thing.

I start rounding through the neighborhood. I’m grunting, and then the waterworks started. Mile 26 was 8:32. I was crying. I just wanted to be done so bad, I was in so much pain, everything hurt, my calves were done, my body was done. The relief was starting to set in that I only had to hurt for a few more minutes. I turned the final corner and there was a long straight away to the finish. I cried and cried and cried and picked it up. My garmin had 26.44 and the last .44 was at 7:36 pace. That’s crying at 7:36 pace.


I cried all the way in and it was about 5 yards before the finish that I realized I didn’t want to be crying in my finish picture. I didn’t know if I could stop. The crowd was cheering so loud and the sound filled my ears. I was incredibly overwhelmed. I could barely understand the concept that the pain would ever stop. I dug a little deeper and tapped into the joy. I released the pain and came to terms with the fact that this was the finishing chute. I was going to be an Ironman again and I was going to escape the curse of the disastrous second Ironman. I slapped on a big Sonja smile and crossed the line.




I felt the presence of Trista and Sean in the VIP box to my right. Trista got a great finish picture of me (above), and Sean’s clapping hands are in my official finisher photo (below). I’m so glad they are as he was such a help to me in this race and I will always remember his help. I noticed the clock said 10:37. I thought it was wrong. I couldn’t believe all my times added up to something that fast.



I continued to cry for a little while until the doctor came over and they started asking me about the med tent. Then I got myself together because I didn’t want to go to the med tent. I found my smile and they deposited me into the finisher area. I downed some pizza, had a little chat with my ex-boyfriend, and got onto the massage table, and then rejoined my family.

I finished in a total time of: 10:37.02
swim: 1:07.19
exited water 10th AG
T1: 3:30
bike: 5:45.08
exited bike 5th AG, with 10th fastest AG bike
T2: 1:57
run: 3:39.10
ran myself into 4th AG, with 2nd fastest AG run
9th amateur, 19th overall female, 172 competitor

The flood of emotions that evening was pretty intense. Checking twitter and seeing all the people that followed along showering good jobs to me along the way had me in tears for an hour. I knew that 4th age group was going to give me a darn good shot for Kona. I knew First had her slot and I had done the math and pretty much knew they would give 3 slots to our age group. In my heart I was 90% sure I had a slot. I don’t know how I would have reacted if I hadn’t got a slot, but something tells me it would have been ok.

I never buckled under the weight of the race. I raced my heart and guts out. I stayed focused and I executed to the best of my abilities. I never gave up an ounce, and I am terribly proud of that. When I think of everyone that reads this blog and that supports me I feel it is my responsibility to race for all of you, to represent your support of me with solid races. Please know that my hard work while I am out there is my form of expression, my form of saying, “You support me, and I will die out there trying to represent your support”. I love you all, and please know that my success would not be possible without you.

Charlie and Carole from Trakkers, thank you. I feel honored to race wearing Trakkers GREEN, and your texts of love and support make such a difference in my races. And to my parents, and Troy and Annie, they are the work horses of the day. They run around, take the pictures, type the tweets, clap their hands, and then pick me up at the finish line, thoroughly used up and spent. They nurture me and let me cry on their t-shirts. They shoulder my doubts in myself and they answer all my obvious questions.

My coach Chuckie has been a gift from the tri-gods this year. He provides the structure, and lets me provide the heart and motivation. Chuckie, WE’RE GOING TO KONA!!!

If you followed the tweets, that was made possible by Goal0 who’s portable battery pack kept my iPhone charged on the go. I ran in the Saucony Kinvara, my favorite shoe ever. I used a Nathan hand bottle and waste pack to run success. I consumed my weight in First Enduace products this season, along with Justins Nut Butter and Mix1. Josh at Tri-massage is always invaluable for keeping my body going strong. TriSwim, NUUN, Core Concepts have supported this effort as well.

Thank you everyone. Let me know if you want me to mail you some sand from Kona!