I had a phone chat with Dirk after Boulder 70.3 and boy has it set me on a different path in the last 10 days or so. It was really good to talk to him. Apparently someone told him “Sonja had a good race” and he said “No she didn’t.” This still makes me roll on the floor laughing. I really like how candid Dirk is. It’s really nice to have someone that knows you be straight with you. He doesn’t take these things personally, he knows tri-life ebbs and flows. He takes more of a “do the work and someday you will have the race of your life” approach. It’s honest, and realistic.

So I talked with him a bit about where my head has been this year. I kinda feel bad for him, because I haven’t been the most steady this year. We talked about a few things and I told him “I just want to be good this year.” I said it a few times. This whole year I have just had this feeling in me that “I want to be good, I want to be competitive.” And in the most forward way, he told me “Don’t.” Literally, he said it like that, “Don’t do that to yourself Sonja, don’t put that pressure on yourself.” The way he said it in that matter of fact way, in his German accent, was probably the biggest turning point of my season thus far.

I seem to have this innate ability to put my nose down and push stubbornly ahead even when things seem like they are harder than they need to be. Then someone will tap me on the shoulder and say “Ummm, your bareling through shoulder deep scratchy bushes when the path is just right here.” Then and only then do I look up and realize, a couple steps in a different direction is all that’s needed to ease my struggle.

He talked about what happens when amateurs have a ton of fun and they have a great year. They have these great results, and it was a blast, and they turn pro. That next year there is all this pressure, they put it on themselves because honestly, at the young pro level it’s rarely a sponsor pressure, and most young pros make their money elsewhere. So it’s this internal pressure to “be better” and it doesn’t make them better…it usually keeps them equal, or makes them worse.

Dirk said “Don’t do that.” Just like that.

I went to bed that night and could barely sleep. I sat there and thought about my roots, where I came from, my background. I’m not a child athlete. I’m not a college star. I didn’t swim for Stanford (go Katy) or run at a D1 school. I ran 2 years for a D3 where I “flunked” out of college running by simply not being able to keep up. I had an okay “engine” and “genetics” but it wasn’t anything to write home about. Realizing those things in college I turned to fun. I rock climbed a lot, I got into winter mountaineering with my dad, I climbed 14ers here in Colorado, went backpacking. I did what was fun because if I’m genetically predisposed to anything it’s “having fun while exercising.”

I laid in bed realizing that as I travel through the tri-ranks my progression will not be that of the D1 college swimmer or runner. I’m not that girl that will launch into the sport and boom after a few races turn PRO. I’m what the amateur ranks were made for. I’m THAT girl.

And realizing that, and with Dirks help, and at about midnight, which made me wake up and email Michelle frantically and with a lot of Fbombs….I had this super stupidly simple ah-hah.

I just gotta work towards being my best me. Both emotionally and physically.

I can’t chase the clock…figured that out in Cozumel…courses aren’t totally accurate and crazy stuff happens (St.G, IMNY). Don’t chase the clock, that opponent is a fickle gremlin.

I can’t chase the people. Every year in the 30-34 AG a ton of fast ladies turn pro (awesome), and every year, they are replaced with a new set of faster ones (doh). Don’t chase the people…some of them are genetically above you, and some of them are training harder than you (yes hard to believe…). Instead…make friends, because they are some of the most fantastic women, and they love what you do!

So working on my best ME has been the main focus the last 10 days and will continue going forward. Also, I want to be the kind of person that makes people around them better. That’s in my blood and I want to indulge that side of me more often. I think helping others find their better self keeps me inspired and motivated to work towards my own best self. I cherish the time I spend training with and coaching others. It’s a unique opportunity to help others become stronger healthier people. Now to make sure I am extending that to myself, that’s where I’m headed.

A huge congratulations to my athlete Emily on completing the Leadville 100 mile run yesterday and getting her belt buckle! Also, I want to congratulate Danielle and Baker for both entering the 10 hour Ironman club. I’m such a proud coach these days as I watch my athletes cash in their hard work with excellent Ironman performances and well executed races.

2012 Boulder 70.3

DUDE….this race is not easy. Where to even begin?

I wanted to smash it. I trained hard after recovering from CDA. I got uber Grr. I kept to myself, I aimed to hurt in my training. I put in big mileage, hard mileage. I wanted to be good. I tapered, watched what I ate, rested, blah blah blah…etc etc et.

I lined up ready to belt it out. Be aggressive, get some feet, go big. I had my Prerace, I did my two mile warm up, it all went as planned. I tried to not line up next to my teammate Katy even though we were chatting at the start. Knowing she’s a 25 minute swimmer those were not feet I could hang onto and if I tried then KABOOM would happen by the first yellow buoy.

The start was rough. I got banged around but soon enough I got some feet and I felt like they were faster than I would swim alone. The resevour was so brown that I would hit her feet and still couldn’t see them. I couldn’t even see my hands the entire swim. But I didn’t let that stop me. I sighted lots and made it my only goal to keep those feet. Sometimes it required some sprinting to catch back up to them, but she generally led me through the various waves ahead of us and delivered me on the beach with one of my best swims in a 70.3….31:08.

Troy yelled at me that Katy was 5 minutes up. I ran through T1, did all the usual tasks and got out of there. I could hear PIC Michelle at the mount line yelling that I had a good swim. That really helped to hear that. When a swimmer tells you that you swam well, it sticks. T1=1:52

Off and onto the bike, I went for it. Hard hard hard. If I was going to make time up on Katy, who I knew was the AG leader, I had to go hard. I rode about as best as I could have. The watts were high, the effort was high. I was trying out a new nutrition strategy. I had skratch labs in my water bottles and an EFS liquid shot on my top tube. I got through all of my nutrition by the end of the ride and while I watched the watts come down towards the end, I felt solid about the effort.

Towards the end of the first lap there is an out and back which takes me about 3 minutes. That first lap I was hoping to see Katy there, but nope, she was still more than 3 minutes up. Second lap, same thing, no Katy. About that time I realized that she had probably figured out that she can bike much harder than she has been in the past, and she was long gone. The girl is a stud swimmer and a stud runner, so I knew it was just a matter of time before she realized that her engine to ride hard is already in her. I think she’s clear on that now.

I felt really good about my effort and was happy to bike several minutes faster than last years race. I feel like my bike is where it needs to be right now and that I’ve seen some good progress this year. 2:25:14

Coming in off the bike, I ran into transition and put my bike on the rack and then put my shoes on. Humm, that’s odd. My shoes are too small. Like really too small. Wait, these aren’t my shoes. Wait, this isn’t my number. Crap, I’m at the wrong spot. Off with the too tiny shoes, bike off the rack, go find correct rack, put on correct shoes, put bike back, and get out of there. Doh, major doh. T2 = 1:28

Off on the run, Troy told me Katy was 5 minutes up and I gave him the shoulder shrug which is the international sign for “There’s nothing I can do about that.” As I got into my run I could tell something was not right. I was not feeling well. Now, I know that most people don’t feel well on the run most of the time, and I’m right there with you, but I felt just very very “not good.”

My legs were heavy, I couldn’t get my feet cruising, I was just lead. Did I bike too hard? Did I not rest enough last week? These things are going through my head, but I just feel like lead. Every step was effort, but I was talking nicely to myself and just telling myself to “fight.” I said Sonja FIGHT, just FIGHT and you will be okay.

Most of these miles run together. I remember seeing Jen at the out and back. If people in my AG had passed me here I wouldn’t have known it. I was hurting, and my ear kept popping. Like every 5 seconds I had to clear the ear. Then I tried to shake water out of it like I do when I get out of the pool and I almost fell down. I got really woozy dizzy after that and said to myself “No more shaking your head.”

Somewhere in the first lap I remember feeling like my chest was restricted. I tried to pull on my kit top to loosen it up but it just felt so restricting. I race okay in this top when I am at race weight, but I’m not right now and it was too tight. So I took it off. It felt so good, so I removed my HR strap as well. I shoved them down the back of my shorts. That was a good move for me. Also a good reminder that it’s time to start getting a bit more lean.

Next thing I remember was going by Troy at the end of the lap. I just remember telling him “I don’t think I’m going to make it.” Writing it now sounds silly. This coming from a girl who’s run 100 miles in one day. Only 6.5 miles to go and I don’t think I’m going to make it. I was hurting so bad. At about mile 8 I caught up to Jen. From here on out she pretty much got me through the rest of the run.

I told her I felt horrible and she talked me through it. I just focused on staying next to her, she did the talking, and I grunted a little bit. She gave me some salt pills which I have never taken. They helped a lot. And then I started on the Coke. That helped too. The second loop was a lot better than the first but ONLY and I mean ONLY because of Jen.

On the second to last aid station Jen said “I really need this aid” and we got separated. I was still pretty out of it, but I knew I only had 15 minutes or so of pain. I just wanted to get it done at that point.

So I held on. All I could say was “hold on” over and over. (Finish line smile for Troy)

Jen finished right behind me and she told me to go to medical. I said “I’ll come around.” That’s what I always say. But several hours later I still hadn’t come around and so I went to medical where I drank cup after cup after cup of cold nuun (like 14 of them). Then I came back to life. No IV, boo ya. A big thanks to KE for the tent. I did some serious time in the tent trying to come around after the race. That tent was a life saver for me.

My effort was good for 2nd place in the AG…with a 1:38:37 run. One of my worst runs ever, if not ever. My total time was 4:38:19 which was about 3 minutes faster than last year.

A huge congrats to Katy who won the AG and the amateur title in 4:22. Yup, I got spanked nice and good…so good my ass is black and blue. 16 minutes…double that and I now expect Katy to go under 9:28 at Kona….look out for her!!

Obviously I couldn’t have good days or tough days without the help of my sponsors. Kompetitive Edge, PunkRock Racing, Quintana Roo, and First Endurance. I learned that First Endurance MUST be in my bottles for all races. The electrolyte content can’t be made up for with other products. It’s just what works for me. And an especially huge thanks to Jen. She was my guiding light out there and I can’t thank her enough for her support.

So, I have some work to do on my run. It was a disaster out there. I was talking to Dirk about my day and he was like “Some days are like that” and it’s true. I am grateful for 2/3 of a great race, and 1/3 of a tenacious race. Every time I make it to the finish line I am overjoyed (see above photo for evidence), every time. Many times out there I thought about Michelle who wasn’t on the start line and I was grateful for every painful step. I can run, I can walk, my body works, I am lucky, bottom line.

Radtasticness on a Bike

Last week was an adventure. For some reason this year seems to be progressing in much more of a hiccup fashion. Traction, derailed, traction….derailed. Repeat. Hiccup! Luckily last Thursday and Friday were as flawless of a two days as I’ve ever had. My body was strong like bull, the company was some of the best I’ve ever had, and we worked together better than any group I’ve ever been with. Poor Jeremy was our lone dude, but I think even he would admit that it was A-OK.

Okay! So what did we do that was so radtastic? On Thursday we met up with Jocelyn and Jeremy in Vail at the parking garage at 8:30am. The plan was to ride our bikes to Aspen going through Copper, Leadville, Twin Lakes, and up and over Independence Pass (103 miles). Then we had reserved a hotel room in Aspen and we had shipped a box with spare clothes and flip flops so that on Friday we could ride back to Vail via Glenwood Springs and the famous Glenwood Canyon bike path (108 miles). That was the plan, and honestly, I’m delighted with how smoothly the whole trip went.

Here we are looking fresh as daisies. I must admit, when you are heading out for 2 days, and 211 miles with just your bikes and your friends, the start of the trip is the most stressful. It’s easy to think about what might happen, what might go wrong. Once you get knee deep into it all, you realize that you can handle what’s dished out to you, it’s just taking things one pedal stroke at a time.

Riding up Vail pass from Vail never gets old. It’s amazing scenery and I don’t know how many times I thanked whoever built that bike path. It’s such a gem…a classic really. The Pro Cycling Tour did a TT up Vail pass last year so there were all sorts of spray painted names on the path that we yelled out and laughed about. We were positively giddy.

At the top of Vail pass we cajoled some nice girl into taking our photos. She look like 20, it was hilarious. Already, I could tell our little gaggle of girls was going to mesh so well. Jeremy was long gone off the front, which left the three of us to 200 miles of girl talk!

Fremont pass was on a bit of a busier freeway but the shoulder was nice and wide for the most past. The climbing is steady and consistent, one of those climbs that you just have to make your way up in your own time. Luckily all three of us are darn near the same ability so it made for fun times. It was such a treat to be surrounded with supportive women who love what they do on a daily basis. They inspire me, and make me feel stronger just being in their presence.

For some reason, as nick names seem to go, every time I thought about Jocelyn on this trip I would call her “DJ Jazzy Jocelyn.” Who knows why my brain came up with this, but in my mind, she will now be DJ jazzy J for some time. PIC…well, she’s PIC. Man was I happy to have her on this trip. Having PIC with me makes me feel like we can do anything, go anywhere, conquer any problem. Without her, I might just sit down and cry during adversity, but with her, we just laugh, and deal with it. Luckily, this trip didn’t require either.

Leadville is a quirky little town. For some reason I always feel a little uneasy being here, like something just isn’t right. We filled up our bottles, bought candy, and headed out of town.

Downtown Leadville is old-timey, and cute. But in a weird way. Get me outa here…

After Leadville we had this 15 mile section to Twin Lakes that Jen had told me there was often a head wind. I was a little apprehensive about this section because I had never been on the road (there aren’t a lot of roads in Colorado I haven’t driven at one time or another) and we needed to make a turn to Twin Lakes (there is always the chance I will miss something). Despite my slight nerves, we were treated to an extreme tailwind, it literally took us 25 minutes to go 15 miles on that road. AND, the turn was super obvious. Before we knew it we were at Twin Lakes.

We pulled into the Twin Lakes general store and Jeremy was sitting there waiting for us. This was awesome. We got to catch up, hear about the dirt detour he happened to take (oops) and refuel. They had jerkey and PIC and I inhaled some of that. PIC was also about to have a roast beef sandwich before we cautioned her. Independence Pass was next up, we didn’t want her puking roast beef, but clearly the girl needed some salt!

BFF Love this girl.

Well, here it was, the pass we had all been secretly dreading the entire ride. Independence pass. We all knew we would be proud when we got to the top but we were all a little scared of the process. We had about 60 miles in our legs and it was time to CLIMB for 23 straight miles.

None of these pictures even do it justice. It’s one of those climbs that is just awe inspiring. There came a point where our little threesome broke up and we all climbed at our own rates. We each had some alone time, and some peace. I treasure times like this in my life. Where I have a task, but within that task my mind can wander and ponder. This year has been more of a fight than years past, but I have learned more this year about myself too. I thought about why I do this sport, why IMs, why Kona, why not just adopt a shopping habit (the mall is air conditioned). At times like this, I realize this is in my blood, it’s what makes my insides smile. It’s where I loose myself and find myself all in a matter of miles. I feel like I belong when I am riding up these hills. Like I am right where I should be.

Major probs to Jocelyn and Jeremy who are from Pittsburgh and yet they took down Independence Pass like mountain goats. It was 23 miles of pure awesome, I can’t wait to get back to it!

At the top we hung out for a bit, chatted, took pictures, and refueled for the 20+ mile descent down into Aspen. We had a headwind on the descent (fine by me) and we girls all stuck together and took things conservatively. Jeremy did the opposite and passed cars and stuff, but we figured that as the sweep crew we could pick him up off the pavement if needed. Boys will be boys!

We rolled into Aspen and quickly found our hotel. 103 miles for the day, about 6.5 hours of ride time, and lots of vertical. Our box had arrived, and even though we had parted with it a mere 2 days prior, we were so excited to see it!!

We all showered, had a leisurely dinner, and then crawled into bed for a night of chatting. You would think we got it all out on the ride, but no, 4 Kona qualified athletes in a hotel room for the night together equals WICKED FUN CHATTER! I slept blissfully that night, trying not to spoon Michelle…mostly because she complained that I didn’t shave my legs.

The next morning we headed out. The hardest part of the day was getting out of Aspen. Where do we go? We had heard that part of the bike path was gravel so we were trying to skip that part which we did. We stopped at the airport when DJ Jazzy J dropped her vest and then we stood there for awhile with our jaws on the ground as we surveyed all the private jets. HOLY PRIVATE JETS BATMAN!

From Aspen all the way to Glenwood Springs (44 miles) there is a wonderful bike path. We rode about 34 miles of it and it rocked the house. It’s downhill and we averaged a pretty good pace even though there wasn’t a lot of power behind the pedals. Jocelyn lead most of the way and I just sat back and took in everything. It was really peaceful, and I was just really happy.

In Glenwood Springs there was Jeremy waiting for us and we all stopped at the quickie mart together to refuel. The miles were starting to add up at this point, but we were all looking forward to the 16 mile Glenwood Canyon, which has a bike path through it and is probably one of the prettiest stretches of path in Colorado.

Entering the Canyon. I love these two shots. PIC is in the first one, I remember being SO excited!

Again, the pictures don’t do it justice, but sufice it to say that our necks hurt after these 16 miles. We just sat up for most of it and enjoyed the scenery. You couldn’t hammer (Jeremy could), we just had to take it all in. Steep cliff like canyon walls, and the colors were awesome.

The Colorado river runs through this canyon and it’s neat to think that the water you see will eventually go through the Grand Canyon. The water was really brown and I’m not sure why. I’m used to it being clearer.

The bike path in itself is an engineering marvel. It snakes through the canyon with the freeway going overhead repeatedly. It was clearly in the master design of the freeway to have this path included. Just such a special place, as you can tell by Michelle’s smile.

Once we were done with the path we had about 40 miles of frontage road until Vail. We looked behind us and low and behold, the “weather” was a-comin’. Jeremy threw out the “we need to average like 25-30mph to keep from getting dumped on.” CHALLENGE! haha! Just kidding. But, again, we were so lucky and we were blessed with a TAILWIND! The whole way back we flew. We had a nice pace line going with Jeremy at the helm. PIC and I were in heaven since we love to ride “man-wheel” (in training…not racing…that’s a no-no). DJ Jazzy J doesn’t like man-wheel as much, but she was strong like bull and fought the whole way home. Nails!

Finally we let the man-wheel go so that the girly-gaggle could focus (and didn’t have to ride at 200 watts up all the hills). Then the skies opened and rained on us. It wasn’t cold, just wet. We stopped and put on the gear and took care of ourselves, and then put our noses down and RODE.

I led most the way to set tempo, and PIC and DJ Jazzy J ended up with mud and grit ALL OVER their faces. This is Michelle trying to get the mud out of her teeth, and J is cracking up. This photo makes me laugh and smile.

Finally on the Vail bike path. We had parked in East vail which meant the longest miles of the entire trip were the last 5 thought Vail where your brain is on an infinite loop of “Are we there yet?” Finally we were there, back home, safe and sound, unscathed, and happy as Jay Birds!

Day 2 was 108 miles, making for a total two day mileage of 211 miles. I’m just so impressed with how well the 4 of us meshed. This trip was flawless, it was fun, we laughed so much and saw some amazing sights. I did something I haven’t done before and now it has me thinking about all these new “two day” rides I could do.

Thank you PIC, and Jeremy, and Jocelyn for agreeing to go on my crazy adventures. You all are top notch and no matter what happens in October, we will always have this week. You are each winners in my eyes, not as just athletes, but as humans, as people, and as friends.

Happy Riding!