The First Run Back

Ironman Arizona….CHECK!

The road to recovery from an Ironman is a path filled with contradictions. You are stiff and sore and have trouble getting into cars, or rolling over in bed, yet you are saddened when the soreness wears off, your physical attachment to the day fading away with it. You loate the annoyingness of the cheep plastic bracelet around your wrist that leaves a mark when you sleep and somehow got secured one knotch too tight, yet you wonder how long you can get away with wearing said cheep plastic wristband, even though nobody around you knows what it means. The cutting off of the band is the signal that you are moving on, no longer expected to be treated special.

The first run back is another right of passage. You run a few steps, then a few more, and a few more after that you realize….you are still YOU. At first your excited because you’re realizing that the Ironman didn’t break you, then you are saddened because you realize it didn’t bestow upon you any sort of special magical powers either. You are still the same darn you as you were before you raced 140.6 miles. Only you know what you have been through. Only you know what it was like for you to run down that finish chute.

But it’s a good thing that time fades most things…excpet love of course. It’s a good thing that we are able to come down off the “wow I did an Ironman” cloud and reenter society. Our family and friends thank us for that. But we will always know, and when we are in need we can always conjur up that memory of running down towards that finish line, of grinning like nothing hurt. So maybe the Ironman did give us a little bit of magic.

As I ran along this morning I pondered what the next year will have in store for me. What trials and tribulations will come my way? What weaknesses will I be able to overcome? What strengths will I strengthen? Will my heart continue to soar, will my body remain strong, healthy and happy? These are the things we wish for as athletes. We don’t wish for an easy road, we just wish for one that is paved with small rewards along the way. We hope for a road that takes us to places that we haven’t been before, that reveal to us our soul. We yearn for energy labs, sweaty bathroom trainer rides, mile 18 on the run, and downpours during training rides where we forgot our coat.

Some people think we are possessed, self absorbed, able to talk about nothing other than Ironman or triathlon. And you know, they are right. But we are also strongly convicted, passionate, tough, inspiring, and great in bed. You win some, you loose some! Glass half full? Glass half empty?

This Ironman business is a lifestyle. Some are able to dabble, some are able to flit in and out of it, but for most, once you have done an Ironman some part of it is ingrained in who you continue to be. Every year I train I feel like I continue to up things a notch. I get more serious (as if I wasn’t serious enough), I get more focused (as if I wasn’t focused enough). But this year has been different. I learned so much this year and it’s made me very excited for next year. It’s like I was given a taste of what works for me, and now I want more. I’m very Type A, I know this, but how can I not ask “What if”? I love “What if”!

So, here I go, a little rest, and recoup, and then big smiles for 2011.

Goal0 Nomad 7 Winners

Okay, folks, let me say WOW! I’ve just gone through all the tweets that transpired while I was out racing Ironman Arizona and all I can say is WOW! You guys had way too much fun and I think you really enjoyed the twittercast sponsored by Goal0!

So without further adieu, let’s reveal some winners!

#1: First off we have Kelly, who is @TriMommyKelly on Twitter and also has the blog. She guessed that I would go 10:18:32 and was the closest to my time. All of you had some very optimistic goals for me, but I think Kelly was the only one that looked at the weather report! Great Job Kelly!

#2: Hillary (@hasaunders) wins the second Nomad 7 because my mom thought she was the first responder to the trivia question.

#3: @cachedout wins a Nomad 7 because he was the ACTUAL winner to the trivia question! I know mom, it’s a little hard to tell who responded first…but it was indeed @cachedout and the twiterfeed reveals it!

Then there were the “state how your would use one in 140 characters” these were the hard ones that I had to judge. Ummm @coachkati you were disqualified for stating that you would use the Nomad 7 in the subway. No SUN! So close! @anthonybeeson you were disqualified for referring to PEDs, no good my friend, no good!!!!!! I kid with all this but I did have a hard time choosing and finally went with the following two.

#4: @milesmusclesmom: @goSonja @Goal0TakeCharge I would use Nomad to keep my call charged-nonstop phone calls from hubby asking “are you done run/bike/swim yet?”

#5: @megankillian: @goSonja race sherpa-ing for my boyfriend in 2011 in his first 24-hr mtbike race and friend at leadville100 + for me when i do rim2rim2rim

But Megan, you would have to promise to share it with @samuelhgardner. Ok?

If you won a Nomad 7, please send me your address and I will get them in the mail as soon as I get back to Denver. You can use the “contact me” tab up at the top of my blog.

Also, I would like to say a huge Thank You to Goal0. Their products rock the house and we sure have fun keeping our electronics charged while we are running around doing crazy stuff. Thanks for making many durable, reliable products!

Ironman Arizona 2010 – The Run

Jenny and I were the only ones in the transition tent and we left together. We got going and I was right behind her. She was nails and she was storming the castle. I tucked in behind her, put my warm shirt on, and started getting in my groove. My whimpers had calmed down and it actually felt really good to be out running on a relatively quiet portion of the course. Then it started raining, and then a 5 minute downpour let loose that drenched me to the bone. We crossed our first (of 12) bridges for the day and suddenly this huge rainbow popped out. I remember thinking “Ok, now that’s cool”.

Jenny and I were running fast. Like “wowah” fast. Looking back I would say “too fast” but it’s a pace I know I have it in me to run for a whole marathon off the bike and I thought to myself “is this the day?” It felt effortless, easy and my stride was so smooth and strong. I passed Jenny eventually and then I came up on someone in my age group with the name Vanessa on her bib. As I passed her I could tell she went with me. Seriously? I have almost never had anyone go with me during a pass in a triathlon. If they did it was short lived.

As you can see I spent most of the marathon looking like a train wreck. Check out how I’ve got one eyebrow under my hat strap, and the other is not. Dork! Oh, and meet Vanessa, you’ll see a lot of her.

And she STUCK. Like glue, like white on rice, like Velcro, like white dog hair on a black coat, I could go on and on here. She STUCK, for miles. I was still running fast and it still felt easy, but Vanessa was kinda freaking me out. If I ran fast she was there, if I slowed, she was there, no matter what I did she matched it. I also found out from Troy that I was 3rd in my age group. I thought that our age group would get 2 slots for sure, and 3 if we were lucky. So really, my main concern was not passing more ladies ahead, but shaking the one that was sitting on my shoulder. We were racing for most likely the final Kona slot, and we both knew it.

As we passed Chuckie at the end of the first lap I asked him rather loudly “How do I get her off me”. I admit, it was pretty rude of me to put it like that, but the girl was getting to me (great tactics on her part). She had been on me for 6 miles at that point. Chuckie said “Don’t worry, but run this next lap really hard”. All I could think was “crap”. I was doing OK still, but the thought of upping my game was a scary one. I had also picked up more than just my shaddow. I had several baby ducks hanging onto the goSonja mama duck.

goSonja train…toot toot

First Lap splits: 7:34, 7:28, 7:32, 7:23, 7:37, 8:03 (big hill), 7:27, 7:52,7:57 (carnage to come)

On the second lap I started to hurt. My entourage and my shadow stuck with me. When I slowed, they did too. Nobody passed. Half way through lap two I passed the cheer crew again. I knew I was still in third. Chuckie was about 100 yards later and at that point Meredith Kessler (PRO, took 4th overall) was lapping me. She was running pretty fast and Chuckie said “Sonja, this is Meredith Kessler and I want you to go with her for as long as you can”. I immediately went with her and thought “Oh wow, I’m going to blow up” but I went with her and I know now that he was trying to help me shake Vanessa, my shadow. It didn’t work, she matched the move step for step and hung on.

Meredith is on the left, number 58. The goSonja train is on the right.

Things really started to hurt during the second half of lap two. My little entourage and I ran slowly up the big hill and fast down the backside. My pace slowed, my legs were heavy, I was against the ropes. At the end of lap two Troy said that 2nd was 2 minutes up and 1st was 4 minutes up. I knew I needed to speed up, but it wasn’t happening. Chuckie said “Let her do some work” referring to Vanessa. Sounded like a great plan to me and not long after that she came up on my side and said “I don’t want a Kona slot, let’s work together”. My first thought was “Thank God”, my second thought was “Is she playing me?”. But regardless she took the lead during a VERY windy section and I was grateful to cruise behind her and regain my composure.

Second Lap Splits (carnage): 8:08, 7:48, 8:10, 8:10, 8:28, 8:49, 8:40, 8:45, 8:44 (OUCH!)

Turns out Vanessa wanted a Kona slot very badly and was playing me hard core. We have chatted back and forth after the race and she said that she just said that to try to calm me down to see if we could work together towards a 1-2 finish. The girl has GUTS. She’s probably the most tactical triathlete I’ve ever raced.

I was essentially bonking at this point and while cruising behind Vanessa I took in some coke, a sour apple gel (divine), some Gu chomps, some water, some energy drink, and a chunk of banana. Then I ran behind her and focused on her ponytail holder (and only her ponytail holder) for about 1.5 miles. It was just what the doctor ordered.

At mile 19.5 I just knew. I just knew. I was back. I was ready, and I was off. I pulled back ahead of Vanessa and I just told myself that if I wanted to catch anybody, I was going to need some 8 minute miles. And so I went about getting it done. So, 17.5 miles after Vanessa hopped on the goSonja bus, she got off and on I went.

The tweeting machine – so many of you enjoyed the live twitter cast sponsored by Goal0, this was the set up for much of it! The Goal0 Nomad 7 worked great! More news on the winners tomorrow!

Suddenly it was ON like donkey kong. I came over my 10th bridge and Chuckie told me to go get the girl in the teal shorts, he said she looked like she was in my age group and off I went. I was on attack. I busted the downhill off the bridge and I caught her within a mile but she had 29 written on her calf. Turns out that maybe she was confused, or she lost a battle with the Sharpie, or do I dare say it… she’s a purposefully deceiving athlete…because she was indeed in the 30-34 age group. I was nervous she would go with me, but she did not.

I go by Troy and he says 1st is 2 minutes up and your number 2. I was totally confused but I assumed I passed #2 in the port-a-pottie, or at an aid station and I didn’t see her, I didn’t think it was Ms.29. My crew knew though, they were on the ball. I also saw Michelle going the other direction in here. I was soo soo thankful. She was running, and I just caught a glance of her, but it looked like she was doing well and that gave me a boost.

I also passed my old high school boyfriend somewhere on lap two as well. He was at IMCDA this year but I didn’t know he was signed up for IMAZ too, so that was a surprise. He gave me a big high five and told me to go get ’em. I only see the guy during Ironmans, that cracks me up. I love that when he ran by my parents he said “Hi Mr.Willis”. That’s just funny! Oh and he ran by Michelle and asked if she knew me (since we were both in Trakkers green). She asked if he reads my blog (she didn’t know who he was) and he said “yes”, then she said “I’m PIC”! He said “I’m her X-boyfriend”. Oh, this story just cracks me up. Funny what goes on out there!

Here’s PIC busting a move!

2 minutes down on 1st, 4 miles to go, and I’m feeling my mo-jo. I’m definitely against the ropes but for some reason I am eating up the challenge, and using it as motivation. I was on the hunt. I would pick a girl ahead and run as hard as I could to pass her, only to see she was in another age group. I ran up the big hill harder than I had the previous two laps. I book down it and at the bottom Jane and Chris are cheering at the 24 mile mark and she says “Number 1 is 45 seconds up”. Then I know. I am going to do this or die trying.

I look ahead and I see an orange Tribe uniform. I know it’s her. I just do. I run as hard as I can to get there and I am 10 seconds back 1/2 mile later. Now I don’t know what to do. I ran 17+ miles with a shadow and the last thing I want is another one. How do I make the pass? What do I do? Do I try to be sneaky? Decisive? Sly? Friendly? I decide to just go, and run like I stole something. I make the pass and I run so hard down and around this loop-de-doo in the course. I’m telling myself “run hard, dying is ok, dying is ok, run till you die”. I’m not kidding, that’s what I’m screaming at myself in my head. I come booking out of the underpass and I’m scared shitless. I see Chuckie and Ang and Chuckie said “run as hard as you can all the way in”. And I am. I’m running as hard as I know how.

I pass Troy and Chris, Tyler and Anne and Troy is holding up one finger screaming “Number one, number one” and they all go booking across the grass running towards the finish line via the direct route. Now I’m chanting in my head “You’re winning your age group, you’re going to Kona, you’re winning your age group, you’re going to Kona”. I look behind me, she’s not on my heels. I run faster. I look again, still not there, I run faster. I never let up, not one ounce. I make all the turns to the finish, check over my shoulder about 10 times and finally, in the chute, I realize I’m good, I can celebrate. Celebrate I did, lots of high 5’s and smiles.

I look up to see 10:22 on the clock and am pretty impressed with that time, for this day. Shocked really. I get very very weepy and wobbly at the finish. It wasn’t the physical exhaustion, it was the mental, emotional, and sensory exhaustion. I look to the fence and my mom is crying and saying “Your so awesome Son” and my dad is shouting “We are so proud of you”. I get really weepy.

Third Lap Splits: 8:48, 8:24, 8:03, 8:06, 8:40 (big hill), 7:48, 7:58, 7:49, last 0.2 (6:50 pace)
The Run: 3:32:39
Total Time: 10:22:09

Ron, AKA PunkRockRunner is there in the stands, cheering up a storm. I LOVE this picture.

My finish line catcher is concerned and heading me toward the medical tent. Of all the finish lines, this one resulted in the biggest emotional release. I kept telling my finish line catcher, “I’m just really emotional”. I can understand being concerned but when you’ve been racing in the hurt locker for so long, and then running like your life depended on it for several miles, and finally you get to STOP, whew…the emotions just pour out. Relief is the main one, your fears of being eaten by a tiger (or losing the lead) are suddenly gone. I have major props for those that can keep their composure in these situations.

I hug my mom over the fencing and a volunteer lady says to my finish line catcher, “you can’t accompany her to the medical tent” and I said “Oh, I’m not going to medical” and I started to shape up. The threat of the medical tent always brings me back to reality. I pop out of the enclosure and EVERYONE is there. Troy, Chris, Mom, Dad, Jane, Tyler, Anne, Ron, Niko, Chuck, and Angela. It was awesome to see everyone’s faces. They were as shocked as I was. It was emotional, we were all so surprised at how well it all came together in the last few miles. There is really no better feeling than having all my friends and family there to smile and celebrate a great finish.

After lots of hugs all around, and good jobs I grabbed Annie and we went back into the finisher area for some grub. Annie and I shared a basket of french fries, a slice of pizza, a sprite, some chips and a cup full of grapes. During this time Troy ran to transition, collected my bike, transition bags and morning clothes bag, then ran to the car in the garage and loaded everything up. I have the most awesome husband, he does this stuff just because, and he always thinks of me first. I handed Annie back over the fence to Troy and hopped on the massage table. I started getting really cold, so Troy got me warm clothes and I headed towards the finish line just in time to see Michelle come running down the chute! She looked great, and a little emotional too…just how we like it.

She was an Ironman!!! It was fun to be in the back area with her, helping her eat fries, and getting her signed up for a massage. I got her and Michael reunited and we all agreed to meet in the hot tub at the hotel in about 45 minutes. The rest of the evening is soooo not bloggable…margs margs margs and then some midnight finish line cheering.

Fine Chrissie…you can have a hug

Twitter friends are now REAL friends, Nicole (@neo_endurance) and Nina (@ncjack). We had a lot of fun at the finish line.

And that was it. I went to bed at 1:40am that night, still in total disbelief that I won my age group. What started out as a rough day ended as a rough day too. It was really challenging, but really rewarding. One thing I learned on Sunday is that with bigger risk can come bigger rewards…or a bigger fall. The difference between the two comes down to your fire within, and a bit of luck. I went through A LOT of pain out there, but it was all worth it. And really, it usually is.

Goal0 Nomad7 winners will be revealed tomorrow!

Ironman Arizona 2010 – The Bike

So off I go out of transition. People are doing their normal crazy business and I’m settling, chilling, and doing my thing. It’s quite chilly out and I’m a bit cold with the only dry thing on me being my arm warmers. The IM Arizona course is three loops that are essentially uphill out and downhill back. I rode the course two days prior so I know it, but I have no idea what kind of pace to expect at my Ironman heart rate range. Everything I had been told was that it is a VERY fast course. Going out I was pleased. At the bottom of my Ironman heart rate range I was seeing some pretty fast numbers for going uphill, like 24mph. I’m thinking “wow, I’m going to FLY today if I’m going 24mph uphill”. I got to the half way point of the loop which is the high point of the course and made the turn around.

Thank You Angela for letting me borrow your helmet, it had fast PRO mo-jo!

Chuckie and Angela were up there cheering and it was really cool to have them there. Chuck said “Good Sonja Good” and it was like a mental check mark. I made the turn and instantly it all becomes clear, a major “Oh no” comes out of my mouth. The head wind was INSANE. I wish I could put it into words, but I know I’m not going to be able to. It rivaled some of the stiffest headwinds I have ever ridden in. I start downhill and I’m pushing pretty hard. My heart rate starts to get into the top of my Ironman range and I’m going 21mph, which is about 3mph slower than I went UP the same hill.

It was really brutal. Brutal on the heart rate, brutal on the psyche. Usually I am really good at just picking a heart rate and riding that. But for some reason I was off. I was struggling to control the execution of my race, something I typically consider a strength of mine. I found myself battling the wind, when really I’m going to loose that battle everytime. I would push harder and harder and see heart rates that I just wan’t allowed to ride in an Ironman. I would tell myself to simmer down if I wanted to run well. It was like when people get caught up in the energy at the beginning of the race and go too hard. Well I was getting caught up in the battle that the wind was dishing out on me and going too hard.

I will say it was nice to see Michelle doing so well in front of me, maintaining even splits about 8 minutes ahead of me. That did motivate me to continue to ride smart. We’ve been through lots of hellacious rides together and this was just another one…but we were 8 minutes apart.

PIC looks great here, and you can get a sense of the conditions

And so it went for three laps. The wind picked up on each lap. The downhill portion of the first lap I averaged 21mph, the second lap 19mph, and the third…a whopping 17.2mph. The wind continued to pummel us out there with everyone taking an equal beating, and at many points that was my only solace “Everyone is in the same boat”. I tend to thrive on adversity, and while I don’t think “thrive” was quite appropriate, “go to battle” would be apropos.

My throat was holding together pretty well. I had several bouts of coughing out there and there was one spell that had me wondering if I was going to be able to run with it. Every time my throat got raw and sore I sipped on my Fruit Punch EFS and that brought it down. The cold actually helped me with my nutrition. I think a lot of people didn’t drink because they were afraid to take their hands off their handlebars.

Some highlights were the end of lap two where it started to rain, then pour, then drench, then hail on me. That was a definite “Oh crap” moment. Arm warmers weren’t going to cut it for another 2 hours of hail. But luckily it subsided.

I was still taking splits on Michelle and noticed that at the end of lap two she was now about 4 minutes up. So I was very surprised to see her just 100 yards ahead a short 5 miles later. I caught her and asked how she was doing, she said she flatted. Goodness, like the girl doesn’t have enough to think about with it being her first Ironman, Plantar Fascitis, and these conditions. I told her “You are WAY ahead, don’t worry, stop at the mechanic, fix your flat, you’ll be fine”. It was a total lie, in my head I was like “Crap, there went her Kona slot”. Little do I know!

Check out all the guys checking out Chrissie as she laps them

Onwards I went. I had been preparing for the third lap all day. I wanted to ride the back half of the lap with the downhill and headwinds really strong to set myself up for a good marathon. The up was easy, the down was BRUTAL. I exceeded my Ironman heart rate ceiling several times. This is something I never do, I’m always very careful. I got tossed around by the wind, but I rode hard.

At the end of the final lap I was reunited with Jenny. She was with me at the end of lap 2, and then we didn’t see each other the entire lap 3, but there she was again at the end of 3. She was a great motivator, and just a really friendly rider. Jenny qualified for Kona too, so maybe we will have a bike course reunion on the big island.

Coming in on the final lap our cheering crew was screaming and cowbelling up a storm and I actually motioned at them to “quiet down”. With the swimmers beating me up to high heaven and the wind screaming at me and brutalizing me for 5 and a half hours I was totally tapped from a sensory perspective. I was overwhelmed and hurting. I was feeling beat up, but I was still pushing as hard as I knew how. It hurt more than normal, but I wasn’t letting up.

Ms.Chrissie hauling, I love this picture!

I grabbed my T2 bag, ran into the tent, had two volunteers to help me and I just started crying. Nothing big, just little sniffles and whimpers. The ladies were asking if I was OK and I just said “That was a really hard ride, really hard”. They gave me a few pats on the back and nodded a lot. They did a great job getting me into my compression socks and my sweet fast hot Pink Kinvaras and up and out of there. I also took my spare long sleeve warm top in case it started to rain again.

Bike: 5:35:01, 20.1mph.

Ironman Arizona 2010 – The Swim

I hemmed and hawed the last few days about whether I would tell you guys ALL the truth. I’m always pretty honest on this blog but since I write to help process my own races and experiences there are things that I filter. One thing I loath is excuses. I hate excuses. I want nothing to do with them, and I see them a lot. I’m big on accountability and if you are close to me you might say I’m sort of a black and white person. You do or you don’t. You did or you didn’t. So with that in mind, I want to tell the whole story, even though I told Troy, and my dad, that there is no way I would. But know that it’s only because it’s part of the day.

So here it is, what I didn’t really want to say. I woke up Sunday morning coughing up green chunks. I was sick. Coughing, runny nose. It wasn’t “Chrissie Welllington in Kona” sick, as in “I asked myself if it was a normal day, would I train? …and I wouldn’t” kind of sick. No, on a normal day I would have talked to Chuckie and then I probably would have swam, and then done an easy spin. I sat down with Troy that morning and asked him if he thought I should race. He said “yeah, you’ll be ok”.

Race morning for me is always the worst part of the whole experience. I try to settle my nerves but I can feel myself on edge, with equal parts dread and anticipation. The one bonus was that instead of being all by my lonesome I had Michelle with me. This was a huge plus. I asked her what she thought about the whole sickness thing and she reminded me that I was on the verge of being pretty sick before Clearwater. She thought I would be ok too.

We did everything together that morning and I’m always reminded just how well we mesh in race and travel settings. We were both nervous and we both knew it. We can read each other pretty well. After dropping special needs bags, pumping tires, waiting in port-a-potty lines, we were finally putting on our wetsuits and splitting a coke to help with the high bacteria levels in the lake (Chuckie tip). I downed some Gu Chomps and we headed to the start. Michelle hopped in right away so she could get a front row spot (duh…8th out of the water amateur woman) while I lollygagged on the waters edge. Finally I hesitantly jumped in and in the process managed to hit the bottom with my foot, scraping the top. I pulled my foot out of the water and watched the blood stream down my leg.

That Tempe town lake is downright scary. At 12 feet deep and 61 degrees it was quite the rude awakening from the clear Kona waters of 6 weeks ago. I toddled on over to the start line, about 8 back from the front, and tried to get used to the frigid water, my wetsuit, and my nerves.

The gun goes off, and up starts the brutality. Right away I’m getting a lot of body thumps, a few hits to the head and I get dunked once. I’m having a little trouble breathing and my throat is raspy. Several coughs well up and I entertain myself by coughing underwater between breaths. My wetsuit (I have a two piece) rode up my neck and I can feel that it’s not helping me in the streamlined goal, but there is the added bonus that it is pressing on my neck, making it even harder to breath deeply. The suit is just too big for me now. But onwards I go.

There was more contact in this IM that any other I’ve dealt with. I got really banged around. Several times I thought to myself “I need to learn to swim faster so I don’t have to put up with this crap”. I think it was partially Hawaii withdrawl, but I was not enjoying myself. I wasn’t ever at a point that I even thought of not going on, I just was struggling. It was harder than usual, the coughs were bothering me and I wasn’t really “on my game”.

Onwards I swam. I peed, while swimming…twice in my suit! That was the definite highlight of my swim, which should tell you how bad I felt, if peeing all over myself was the highlight. The turn buoys weren’t too bad, but on the way back I got pretty beat up. People were swimming off course a lot and they all seemed to run over me on their way to the sidewall of the swim. Again, it dawned on me that if I just was a faster swimmer I wouldn’t have to deal with this stuff. I think I was a bit irritable.

It was the first time I started thinking that this swim was going to be a 1:15 effort. The swimmers around me were all over the place and half way back I just wanted to be done. Finally I found myself at the stairs. The volunteer helped pull me up on them and I managed to stumble my way up them, tripping not once but twice. I seem to remember thinking “Today is going to be a long day”. Already I wasn’t feeling smooth, or efficient.

I glanced at my watch and saw it turn to 1:09 right as I crossed the timing mat. Okay, well, I guess that’s one minute down from Kona, so we’ll take it. I was actually relieved that the carnage wasn’t worse. I bypassed the wetsuit strippers (I’m sorry, Ironman calls them “peelers” but I’m calling them “strippers” because that’s just funny). I wanted nothing to do with the crazyness that was going on with them. The wetsuit stripping area is pretty tight and congested.

I ran down the bags and there was a mix up. They got the wrong bag, I handed it back to them because it didn’t have polkadots and mine had polkadots. There was some confusion while we hunted for the right one together. It was not in the spot that I left it that morning (maybe they grabbed it on accident earlier and put it back in a different spot). Thank goodness for the polkadots all over it. Once we found it I was off. I got in the tent and was lucky to score a seat right away. As usual the crew in the tent is top notch times 100. They are the most helpful volunteers on the course, true saints in that tent. It wasn’t raining so I opted out of the rain coat and went for the arm warmers. I had pre rolled them which was a good thing so they went on quick, like little bracelets that I could unroll once I got on the bike.

I ran through the bikes, picked mine up and got out of there. At the mount line was none other than my good friend Tyler Walton. He was right on the other side of the fence. He was screaming so bloody loudly that it got me laughing and I couldn’t concentrate or clip into my pedal. I gave him a “seriously?” look and he screamed “Focus”. Again the “seriously?”. I clipped in and got out of there, laughing the whole way through. I love you Tyler, and boy are you one loud cheering man.

Swim: 1:09:00, 22nd in my age group out of the water.

This is one of my favorite photos. Returning winner and record holder Jordan Rapp, and current champion and womens record holder Chrissie Wellington. Great shot dad!

Ironman Arizona – The Prequel

Now that I am over and done with my third Ironman of 2010, sitting here in San Jose, sick as a dog, but happy and content, I can say “WHAT AN EPIC YEAR”! There are so many thoughts swimming around in my head both pertaining to the race, and the year as a whole. Before I launch into the race report…which is totally written by the way, I wanted to share some of my feelings.

A KONA slot!
From the minute I finished Kona six weeks ago I knew I wanted to come back. I knew I wanted more of that race, of that island, of the training that it took to race well there. Troy, Annie and I had so much fun on the big island, and having extended family, Chuckie & Angela, and lots of friends there to share it with was too much fun. I wasn’t sure if I could get a slot at Arizona. I know that it tends to be one of the harder races to get a slot. With a fast course (on a normal day…which Sunday was not) and nobody having slots already, the Kona roll down at IMAZ tends to be a pretty short process. Especially for the women.

Coach Chuckie with his two Kona Qualifiers

This year amongst the females one slot rolled down one place in each of the W50-54 and W55-59, other than that, every woman that got a slot for Kona took it. In the male divisions, 7 slots rolled, with 3 being in mens 45-49, but they didn’t roll far. I’m ecstatic to be headed back to the big island, and even more excited to be able to train for Kona all year without having to get in another Ironman. This lets me breathe a little bit and really focus on the elements of triathlon that need work.

An Age Group Win!
3rd amateur! This was entirely unexpected going in, and it was very hard fought for. This was the most challenging of the 4 Ironmans I’ve completed (wow, did I just write “4” as in I’m a 4x Ironman finisher!). Terms like “against the ropes”, “on the ledge”, “backed up against the wall”, “in the hurt locker”, and “decorating my pain cave” would all be accurate descriptions of where I spent a lot of time during the race. The conditions were quite tough out there with the wind gods giving us a serious dose of “Muh-Ah-Ha-Ha”. You will learn more about how it all went down in the race report.

My PIC Kills It!
Michelle, my Partner in Crime (PIC) also qualified for Kona, in her first Ironman. I can not begin to tell you how proud I am of her. Her longest run since June was 90 minutes. She flatted out there. Her first Ironman was weather wise one of the most challenging I’ve heard about. If you did not think PIC was tough before, you know now, she has a fire deep in her heart that is strong. AND, she killed me in the “smiling” competition, the girl smiled her way through most of the whole race (I have pictures). I’m so proud of you Michelle, and next year is going to be really, really, really, awesome!

Future PICs

The Support!
I will be writing more about them all later, but we had the best support crew cheering for us. The cow belling was out of this world. The looped course meant that our crew was cheering up a storm every few miles. Right after the finishing chute I remember crying and looking over at my mom and seeing her crying, and seeing my dad teary. It was very emotional. Having Chuckie out there in person was really helpful for me during this race. I was in the hurt locker and it’s hard to explain how he helped me dig deeper and believe in myself out there, but he did.

Holy Fitness Batman!
On Sunday I got a first hand look, or feeling you could say, of the depth of my fitness and my fire. This race took all I had of both. Chuckie tweeted to Michelle and I (and I’m going to give Angela credit for this one because apparently it was her words) “No deposit, no return. Because you executed our philosophy all year (the deposit) you received your return”. I wanted to tweet back “And now we are broke, in both the physical, and credit union sense”. I used it all up. I’m sick, on the couch with a cough. I’m sore, in my muscles, and in all the spots that are chaffed. I’m emotionally tapped. I’m extremely happy, and extremely ready for a little break.

When Chuckie told me a year ago that he knew how to get every last ounce of potential out of me I now understand what he was talking about.

So with that I will get some race reports up. They will be in parts as usual (I don’t know when I will grow out of that habit). I will warn you, this race was not a typical happy smiling Sonja report. I negotiated through some challenges out there, and I plan to tell you about them.

IMAZ and Twitter

I’m READY to go! Can’t wait, so excited.

The twitter cast will start early in the morning. We have 4 tweeters on course. Make sure to follow @goSonja on twitter to watch the shenanigans. If you would like to try to win a Nomad7 from Goal0, then watch the tweets all day. One will be given away during the swim, one during the bike, and one during the run. Another will be given away sometime after I finish, and the 5th to the winner of the time guessing contest.


As always, there will be results at

So, how do I feel? Nervous, excited, and READY. Let’s do this. Thanks to all of you for the love and support. I’ll see ya after the finish line!

Twittercast for IMAZ

A huge Congratulations to Jennifer and Shannon for voting on my shoe color for IMAZ. I decided to pick two winners and they will both be sent some Justin’s Nut Butter. Thanks to all that voted!

Oh, and there are more goodies to win, keep reading!

Have you followed along on twitter for any of my adventures this year? If you have you will notice that between my mom and Troy they put out some pretty great tweets during race day. Well, this Ironman, with the generous help of one of my sponsors, Goal0, we are taking the Twittercast up a huge notch.

With three separate tweeters on course they will be tweeting not only the progress of PIC Michelle Ford and myself, but the professional race as well. With Chrissy Wellington, Chris Lieto, Rasmus Henning, Timo Bracht, Matt Reed, Linsey Corbin, Erika Csomor, Jordan Rapp, Heather and Trevor Wurtele, Nina Kraft, Leanda Cave and many more this has been slated as the most compeative Ironman field on mainland US soil in many years.

One of the main problems that we have during the twittercast of an Ironman is simply running out of battery on the phone. Since my tweeters are running around outside they don’t have access to a wall outlet, nor do they have the time to sit around and wait for the phone to charge. In comes Goal0. Goal0 makes portable power devises that utilize solar power. One of my favorite products of theirs is the Nomad 7. It’s two cute little solar panels that fold out and you can connect directly into them via USB or your car charger and it weighs only 13 ounces. It charges your phone in about an hour of full sun. Arizona has a lot of full sun!

Through the month of November Goal0 is running a promotion. If you buy a Nomad 7 ($99) they will throw in a pair of their ROCK OUT portable speakers. Just wanted to pass that along.

Now that I have you drooling over the Nomad 7 I bet your thinking “I could use it here… or that would be great for… ” Remember how I said that Goal0 is sponsoring the TwitterCast? Well, that means that not only will my three tweeters for Ironman Arizona be running around with their phones plugged into Nomad 7s, but we also get to GIVE AWAY those Nomad 7s after the Ironman!

We have five (5) Nomad 7s to give away! A huge thanks to Goal0 for being unbelievably generous. They arrived at my house yesterday and I am so excited to get everyone using them, and to give them away to you all afterwards!

So, how do you win? Well there will be 5 chances to win on Sunday, but in order to even be elligable you need to make sure you follow Goal0 and I on twitter and make sure you are a fan of Goal0’s facebook page. Here are the links to take care of that:
Goal0 Facebook

Now, are you ready? One of the Nomad7’s will go to the person who can guess my Ironman Arizona finish time to the closest second. Go ahead and make your guess in the comments (ex 10:30:24), but also make sure you do the above as well, so I don’t boot you out if you win! Voting for this closes the second the gun goes off on Sunday. Good Luck!

On Sunday, November 21st at 6am AZ time we will start our live TwitterCast about 30 minutes before the PROs start their swim. Follow along on Twitter and check that morning for directions on how to enter to win one of the now 4 remaining Goal0 Nomad 7s. Please also pass the info onto others as the date approaches via retweets and Facebook status posts. It’s going to ROCK!

**As mentioned, Goal0 is one of my sponsors, and I definitely endorse their products!

Pick My Shoe, Win Some Butta

Ok devoted blog readers, I need your help! I have Ironman Arizona in a few short days…like 7 of them. So here’s the deal-io. What color shoes should I wear? I know it’s a life or death decision! the shoe choice will of course be the Saucony Kinvara…best shoe ever and really the only run shoe I wear anymore. From training, to the track, to racing short, to racing long…it’s all done in the Kinvara for me.

So, here are your options. I could go with the same color that I wore in Kona. It’s a pinky whitish kick that gives off a cutesy-pootsy kind of MO. She has the whole “don’t hate me cause I’m beautiful” thing going for her, but still manages to whip the boys butts.

Or, since I will be wearing my green Trakkers uniform, I could go with the very classy, yet sophisticated Green Kinvaras. These have a bit of a lucky charms feel, a bit of a leprechaun feeling, and they tend to bring joy and merriment to those around them.

And lastly, there is the rebellious pair. Saucony just came out with this hard core brand spanking new pink and black little number. She’s feisty, a bit gnarly, and has a healthy dose of attitude.

So friends, the choice is yours. Vote in the comments and whatever pair has the most votes by when I pack my bags on Wednesday night, gets tossed in the bag. Just so we are clear, the options are.

– PinkyWhite
– Green
– PinkyBlack

And for a little incentive, if you vote in the comments, I will put your name in a hat, pick a name at random, and send the winner a jar and a box of squeeze packs of Justin’s Nut Butter. Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!


Sometimes life isn’t so sparkly. It’s snowing here in Denver, my workouts have been sequestered to the indoors, and trips to Boulder have been cancelled. I usually look forward to the first snow of the season, but this year it’s come with an aura of melancholy, if not downright disdain.

I hit the pool this morning for swim # 1. I warmed up, I got into the first set, and then I stood at the wall. And then I got out of the pool. I just got out. I QUIT, just like that.

My afternoon swim with PIC was successful, although it was a mere 1600 yards, and you can’t “quit” with your friends. I talked to her a bit about my feelings of lackluster. I remember telling her, “I just want to knit a hat”. I have been so focused, and so dedicated for what feels like a year now and some of that strength is being tested right now. I find myself upset that I have to put on clothes, work out, take off those clothes, put on more clothes, be a mom, change clothes, train, change clothes, cook food, change clothes, change clothes, change clothes. My body feels great, I’m just so sick and tired of changing clothes. At the end of the day, what do I have to show for all my hard work? …a huge load of laundry.

It’s getting to me. I am tested at times. We all are, right?

The swim I QUIT bugged me. I sent an email to my friend Anthony. He’s like my big brother and sometimes just seeing him makes me feel more relaxed. He agreed to swim with me after he got off work so that I could try to make up Swim #1.

While I was waiting for 5pm to roll around I decided to attack my feelings with my thoughts, a self imposed battle I dare you to try. I said “Sonja, what do you want”? Why are you angry, what do you need? And the answer was…a hat. I needed to knit a hat, to know that I have time for other things if that is what I desire.

So I sat down and I crocheted a hat. I needed to feel with my hands, I needed a sense of accomplishment that can only come from making yourself a piece of clothing. I turned on a documentary in the background to listen to while I crocheted. It was called “How to Cook Your Life”

How to Cook Your Life was profound on a day like today. It’s a quiet little documentary about Zen and cooking, but there were many gems. One such gem hit me like a ton of bricks, it spoke to me.

Sincerity. It comes from the word Sincere. Sin meaning “without” and Cere meaning “wax”. Without Wax. This is actually folk etymology (says wikipedia)…but go with it. Without wax means: without covering up your blemishes. To be sincere is to be open with your faults. It’s tempting to want to be perfect, to appear above reproach. But the lines on your face are an example of your sincerity. Through the course of life you get banged up, you get tarnished. In the movie the main character talks about a tea pot that was in the kitchen. It was a beat up old tea pot, but it was round and jolly. He could see that despite it’s sorry state it still reveled in carrying water and tea. And he said “If the tea pot can do it, so can I”.

See, there is a quality that continues, even when we are banged up and tarnished. Life is not easy, we get wrinkles, we get down, we buy the best wrinkle cream and it does’t work for us, we LIVE it, and it ain’t always pretty. But if the tea pot can do it, so can we.

And with that I met Anthony this evening and we knocked the crap out of what I am affectionately referring to as “swim workout #1”. That pool was left with some wrinkles, and some bruises after we were done with it (sincerity), and I was left with a 6 second PR in the 200yd free. Because when life throws punches, it’s perfectly ok to sit down, knit a hat, get up, and throw some fricking punches back.