2012 Kona Ironman Run

I really don’t want to write this one. Deep Breaths!

So, I get out running and I’m not feeling too great, but I don’t feel horrible. Kona is a hard race, so part of it is that I’m just feeling the accumulation of the days events. Hailey passes me right away and takes off in front of me. I’m at just under 8 min pace and working pretty hard, so I start sipping my EFS flask with some Prerace in it, and taking water with it as well.

I had this awesome encounter with a chick who was cheering. You know how when you are tired you really don’t want to move over at all when someone is in your way? Yea, I totally nailed her, and the photographer caught it. Oops! Sorry!

At the turn around I am optimistic, I’m in 5th in the AG and while I know I have 21 to go, things are looking good. I saw the time gaps back to the runners…okay…to Jocelyn really… and I thought if I had my best run she would have to have hers too to get me. I was optimistic. A lesson to all of you out there…optimism at mile 5 in an Ironman is pointless! At mile 8 I take a few salt tabs, and shortly after things turn south.

I don’t really want to write about this. I’ve debated whether I even should. The thought of it honestly makes me not want to leave the house, it’s embarrassing. So with that, and for the sake of being a masochist, I’ll do it. But just know, if you are grossed out, don’t read this (just scan through and look at the pictures). I’m just hoping that someday I can figure all this out and have some sort of lesson learned. Okay, here goes.

At mile 8 without any warning, I shit myself.

No upset tummy, nothing. All was well (ish) until I had this weird feeling of what was happening. I pulled into a permanent bathroom on Ali’i, pulled down my shorts, and had no idea what to do with myself. I can’t even explain it, nor do I want to, it was really really bad. The worst I’ve ever experienced. I will tell you that I spent multiple minutes in there and that it took multiple rolls of toilet paper and 12 flushes to leave the bathroom the way I found it (which wasn’t great).

Here she is in all her glory. Thank you to Scott who continuously texted me photos of said bathroom after the race. I’m thinking of having a plaque installed “Historical Landmark: Site where Sonja’s 2012 Kona went down the S#!*er”

Getting out of there I was completely and utterly disgusted and demoralized. I had no fight in me and all I could think about was that I reeked like shit and probably looked just as bad. The next two miles I was embarrassed and disgusted in myself. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye who was cheering for me (thank you Kacie, Eggers, Katie). But I kept running, although slower. (Everyone stayed busy with the chalk!)

I got to the bottom of Palani and I saw my mom, and I walked. It’s the first time I have ever walked in an Ironman. Just doing that felt like a major surrender and total failure. Can you tell??

I told mom what happened, and she said that you couldn’t tell. I was not convinced at all, but photos from dad do not show poo all over me like I thought. Knowing what came out of me and how unequipped I was to clean myself up, I just thought I was covered. At the top of Palani Troy was there. I started crying.

I was barely running, and I was crying and talking to him while he walked next to me. I told him I didn’t have any more fight, and that I wanted to quit. I really wanted to quit, and I had no more fight in me. He told me to get some sponges at the next aid station and while there was no way I was going to stick sponges down my shorts, his words did keep me from quitting and gave me the task of continuing on, even if it was just one more mile.

As I took a left onto the Queen K there was a lot going through my head. I was so disappointed that I lost my fight. I told myself I needed to take a break from the sport, from Ironman, from Kona. If I had no fight, there was no point. I was hard on myself. Towards the bottom of the hill, I remembered something I always tell my athletes…”Everything that goes wrong in Ironman can be solved by slowing down.” And with that I gave up.

Now “give up” is what I called it at the time, but with a little perspective, I can now see that I didn’t give up, I didn’t walk off the course. I hold a deep respect for the island of Hawaii, for the sport, and for this race. I did not give up, but I did consciously slow to the pace of a turtle (albeit a fast turtle).

I slowed down, I watched the heart rate plummet. I saw the pace go to 10+ min miles. I didn’t care. I walked through the aid stations. And like not a fast walk, more of a saunter. I had no goals, nothing driving me to keep a good clip, or any clip at all. I just walked and jogged and that was it. Jocelyn passed me and she was hauling ass, I kept her in my mind the rest of the race, just hoping that she made it to the podium (she did).

On one end my mind was horrible. I was down on myself, and disappointed in myself, and then another part of my brain really just didn’t care, and then another part of me just decided to have fun. The fun was more of a defense mechanism than anything, but I figured…you gave up…why suffer?

That’s when the tables started to turn for me emotionally.

So I made friends with a guy in a HelloKitty kit. We jogged and chatted. I had to go to the bathroom again at 15, this time in the port-a-pottie, not my shorts. I noted that I was still disgusting. I ran into the NEL and Kendra who is coached by Dirk passed me. She really tried to get me to go with her, and I kid you not…I laughed and said “Nah, it’s all good.” I got passed by tons of people in my AG and other AGs. I said good job to everyone, smiled, gave shakas and smiles.

In the NEL I had to go potty again. This one was particularly bad and I lost several liters of liquid out my ass, again, I warned you. That was a bit alarming and when I got out of there I was pretty weak. I kinda reasoned that I had that super F-ed up gut thing where the body starts pulling fluid from places it shouldn’t. I got a little nervous in here and knew that I would need to be smart to actually make it to the finish.

BUT! I was so close to special needs. So I got my bag and got my Pringles and Rice Crispie Treat out of there. I started jogging and the Pringles were falling out of the little container. I said to myself “what are you doing, stop running.” So I walked and ate my snacks. Like walked slowly.

No goals, no fight, nada, just focused on making it to the beautiful Ali’i. I ran up out of the NEL…maybe 13 min mile pace. Walked the aid station at the top, cheered for some people. It just was what it was.

Back on the queen K I kept tabs on my watch, knew I would most likely break 11, didn’t really care, but kinda did a little. When Adrienne passed me I told her good job and I tried to go with her, maybe 8:30 pace or so, but I couldn’t hang and felt pretty week from trying.

Then I saw Troy. He had run out there to check on me, since last time he saw me I was wanting to quit. He said he thought I would quit in the NEL and that every time he saw another split come up he was relieved.

He trotted next to me for a little while, it was like 12 min pace I think. He told me about the race and who won, and he told me about Michelle and that she never made it out of T2. This bummed me out in my heart. Suddenly I was filled with gratitude and I started to smile. I felt lucky that I had the opportunity to not quit. Some people didn’t even get that, their bodies gave out before their minds had the opportunity to say no more. What a privilege, to be able to choose to just jog it in.

Eventually Troy ran on ahead and I trotted my way in. I was perfectly happy and looked forward to the top of Palani. Annie ran with me up the Dave Scott Mark Allen hill and we held hands. My dad was there taking pictures and I was happy to see him. I smiled and did high 5s.

I did a hula dance up that hill and then all the way down Palani. I stopped to hug my inlaws. I smiled and gave thumbs up to everyone. I high 5ed the KE guys. I saw so many people I knew and gave them high 5s. People were passing me left and right. I didn’t care. I saw Terry Nugent, and gave him a hug and told him I loved him. hahhaha!!!

Then PIC was there on Ali’i. I stopped and hugged her and told her it would be oaky and we would get through it. I ran down the chute and saw Uncle Norm cheering and taking pictures.

Yup, dude in an arm sling beat me! Hahaha! Good for him, he looks like he had a rough day out there! Didn’t we all?!

Christine came zooming by me just as fast as she did in Cozumel last year. I gave a leap at the finish, and I smiled and waved to the camera, because I know you all are watching and I take that very seriously. Let this be a lesson….fast race in Kona…bad jump at finish….slow race in Kona…..good jump at finish! Hahah!!

Christine and I hugged and hugged and hugged. That girl will always hold a special place in my heart. Neither of us had the day we hoped for (so cliche) but we were both happy as clams at that finish line. I do love my 30-34 ladies!

I was fine at the finish. That was a first. It was like I had a 16 mile cool down jog, which I guess I did. My muscles have rejoiced in less soreness and my feet have not a single blister or sore toenail. I was sunburned and chaffed, but 48 hours later that resolved itself.

As always, a huge thanks to my family and sponsors. I’m glad I thanked them a few blogs ago because they probably don’t want their names associated with the poo-fest of this blog.

Am I disappointed? Yes and no. I am proud of the way I handled the situation. I’m bummed that I didn’t keep fighting, but on some levels I’m not sure I would have made it out of the NEL if I had. After having some time to process it, I feel really really blessed that I had the opportunity to both start and finish the race. A lot of people don’t ever get the chance to start this race, despite wanting to so badly, and some that start, don’t get to finish. I am thankful, very very thankful.

This race has provided much perspective and was such a reminder of all the wonderful people I have in my life. I live to fight another day, and hopefully live to fight during another Kona.


2012 Kona Ironman Swim Bike

Race night I slept like the dead. I was tired. Our room didn’t have AC and was rather hot and we were right on the ocean with the waves crashing all night in the windows so I dreamed about swimming in rough waters.

Before the race I was more relaxed than usual. I went through the usual body marking, bike pumping, nutrition downing, portapotty using routine. This year was nice in that Michelle and I were participating in the Korey Stringer Institute study so we got our own loo on race morning. That perk was worth the extra time in data collection.

We found Laura too and she hung with us pre race. I did my typical Kona routine and got a good spot on the wall. We ran into Jen C and that was awesome to have a friendly face there to make eye contact with in those final minutes.

When the guys started drumming, I started dancing. I was definitely more happy than I was nervous, excited to get things started and to get the show on the road.

Into the water we go. I always swim over to the sea wall and wave to my family. It was awesome to see everyone there, especially PICs kids and Annie. I blew some kisses and then swam off to get my spot on the canoe. Check out my awesome TYR goggles that I got to custom design. They are orange, and red, and pink. LOVE!

On the canoe we ran into Grant just like we did last year. I gotta admit, I missed Kendra a bit at that point, but knew I would see her out on the course cheering. Before I knew it we were lining up and the whole “continental drift” was beginning. Every year it’s the same thing. Mike Riley yells at us to stay back, the officials on surfboards yell at us to stay back, and the crowd of 2000 drift forward. Same thing every year.

The cannon didn’t work this year so Mike just yelled GO GO GO GO and off everyone went. Then I felt like the cannon sounded a few seconds later but I could have been imagining things.

Swim swim!!! Here I go. I got out well and actually found clear water in the first 500 Meters or so. Then the bashing began. Next time I am definitely stealing a mens blue cap because I swear the pink cap is a target for bullying.

Let’s just call it like it is, I got brutalized out there. I got booted off the feet I was swimming on, I got run into from both sides, I got decked in the head repeatedly. I just got harassed.

A few times out there I just wanted it to be over, to stop the physical bashing, the stop and go, the speed up and slow down, and the maneuvering that I had to do. But, alas, it’s the way these things go. I’ll keep practicing my swimming so maybe some day I will be amongst less people. I own it completely.

Oh, there was current out there. On the way out it drug us right and the way back it drug us left. In fact when I hit the pier, I actually ran directly into the end of the pier rather than the side of it. Then I had to turn right and swim along the end of the pier before making a left to swim along the pier.

The conditions were no worse than last year, but the water was a bit less clear than last year. I remember trying to relax from a particularly bad bashing and telling myself to look at the fishies and not being able to see them.

I got out and saw the clock and felt fine about it. 1:07, little slower than last year, but not too much worse for wear.

T1 was really quick. The only thing I had in my T1 bag was my sunglasses.

Out onto the bike I felt good. I stuck directly with my nutrition plan and also with my pacing plan from Dirk. I was calculating my time as I went along and felt solid with how I was feeling.

There was a lot of drafting, and a good amount of red cards being given out. This was cool to watch in action. As I have said before I try very very very hard to remain legal at all times. I will share with you something. At a race of this caliber everyone is fit, and everyone wants to have their best day. Most people in Kona have a race plan, and it usually involves some parameters on power or heart rate or effort or whatnot. Riding legal will often cause you to impact your ideal race plan. This is why I think a lot of people don’t think they are drafting and don’t think they deserve their penalty. (PS: I really dig my bike fit, Thank you Scott)

I talked to a woman who was an official and she said that 50% of people who come into the tent with a drafting penalty don’t think they deserved it. So, here’s why. In order to stay legal, you will be forced out of your plan. There will be times that someone passes you and then they slow down. Sometimes they even coast and stretch. To stay legal, you have to drop out of the zone before repassing or you risk a penalty and if the dude is coasting, you may have to break to do so. He will not receive a penalty for coasting, you will get one for drafting. See, it’s a game and sometimes it requires your heart rate or watts or whatever to go WAY below your plan. Just play the game and you won’t get a red slash through your fancy dandy bike number.

The flip side happens too. I had 3 situations, and you can see them on my power file where I passed the person at the back of a group and thus committed to passing the whole group. My heart rate went to 170. My watts were 230, but that was what I had to do to remain legal. It was on me to do so. Was it part of my optimal plan, not at all.

So, these things happened, I watched a lot of drafting, I watched people stay legal, I watched people try, I watched people get penalties, and all along I rode the race I needed to ride. It was a beautiful day out there, although, there were white caps on the water which is really bothersome to see when you are racing, because you know your day will become very hard at some point.

The wind up to Hawi was in your face. But it wasn’t cross like 2 years ago, so I was fine with it. I’ll take the wind in my face any day. Coming down was fun and fast, and then the 2 mile climb from Kawaihae to the turn onto the Queen K gave us a real taste of what we were in for. HEADWIND.

I have riden this section quite a few times and it was the biggest head wind I have experienced. It’s always a head wind, but usually I can cruise in the 19-20mph at race intensity. This year I was at 17mph for 2 hours. Boo. A lot of people just gave up on remaining legal through this section, the drafting advantage on a steep headwind like this is big, and the officials are extinct at this point.

I passed Michelle in here and she looked really good. I mean we were both in the headwind so we were working hard, but all signs looked good to me. There was an official with me at that point and I know he stuck with Michelle for about 5 minutes. Because we were in the same kit I think he thought we might work together, but he had nothing to hand out, because we don’t.

Into T2 I was really excited. I felt quite good coming off the bike and my tummy felt good. I wasn’t tired of my nutrition and all systems felt a go. Into T2 I saw Hailey! It’s not the first time this year we have been in T2 together. That was awesome to see a familiar kit.

On with the Newtons and the hat and I was off to run a marathon. I was pretty jazzed to get into the meat and potatoes of the day. I felt like I was strong and that it was go time.

2012 Kona Ironman Prequel

Gotta admit, it took me some time before I even wanted to write about this years race. I knew how to start it, that’s easy. It’s the ending. It took awhile to really get my head around it. I’m ready now, lets do this. In order to keep you interested, this first post is going to be interspersed with Undie Run photos. Enjoy! Oh and what are Michelle and I this year??? Why…Partners In Crime of Course!!

I looked at the results for the first time yesterday. I finished 19th in my age group, I went 10:51 and on paper, it looks like the wheels fell off. I knew that looking at the numbers I would see the potential and the opportunities that were squandered. Looking at those results were tough, I’m not going to lie there, but before I get too much ahead of myself, let’s get this show on the road.

My post-race thoughts have been more philosophical than anything. And here’s what I have come up with. If someone had a crystal ball, and they were able to tell me how I was going to race at Hawaii and they said to me….

Sonja, you will give up on yourself, you will lose your fight, you will have your slowest time, and when you cross the line you will think you have had your worst race ever.

…then would I still have raced? That’s what I’ve been thinking about for days. And I keep coming back to the same answer…definitely. Yes, even if I had known the outcome before I stepped on the line, I still would have done it. And you wanna know why? Because Ali’i drive is amazing, because the finisher medals are a freaking work of art, because people would gladly donate a limb to race this race, and because failing doesn’t mean I’m a failure, it just means I had the strength to try.

So, there’s that!

Before I get started I want to give thanks. To say this is a selfish sport is totally cliche…but it is. To think that there are people in my life that help me out, that call to check on me, and that are there for me through thick and thin, well, it’s pretty awesome for me.

My family is awesome. Troy and Annie are great at helping me out day in and day out, and both my parents and Troys parents support my racing through and through. My uncle Norm has been to every one of my Konas and perhaps the biggest complement he has given me was to get the triathlon bug himself. He races Honu 70.3 next year!

My sponsors this year have been awesome. The longer I am in the sport the more I realize that some relationships just stick. The guys at QR, the guys at KE, and Ron with Punk rock Racing have been with me through this entire crazy year. Not only do they support me with products, but they really truly believe that I can be successful. The products are awesome, but belief is a priceless gift.

Coach Dirk did his best to get me on the start line in the best shape of my life. My numbers leading up were solid and he gave me a plan the week of the race to go for it. My swimming is getting much better with the help of coach Nick and Karlyn, and I also had lots of diet help from Dina, she’s been awesome to work with.

I also have to give thanks to all the amazing athletes that have been there for me on the pool deck, on my bike, and running with me side by side. These are my people, folks that get it, because we all share triathlon DNA. Michelle, my PIC, she is a sister to me. Not even “like” a sister, but actually blood to me. Beth, Terry, Scott, Wayde, Grant, Kendra, Katy, Jen, Audra, Jocelyn, Jeremy, Laura, Nick, Scotty P, you all have touched me this year.

And lastly, my athletes. They are an extension of my support system and a girl couldn’t ask for better cheerleaders. I hope I continue to set a good example for you (said as she posts photos of her in her underwear).

Thank you for all the support this year. I can’t tell you much about the future, but I can say that a brutal kicking doesn’t take me down. Adversity is only fuel for my belly. There are changes that I need to make and some of them are going to be difficult. Adversity is a given in this sport, and I’ve been lucky to nail many races in past years. In the words of a wise, yet cocky one:



Try Again


Tomorrow I’ll talk swim and bike.

You’re Good

Ahhhh!! We are 9 days out now! Not nervous, nope, really, not nervous (total lie). I guess it’s more excitement and nervous energy. Every session I have on the training schedule seems to be hard and fast and short. I see high watts and fast paces with lower than expected heart rates every day and it gets me all jazzed up. I am finding myself with more and more energy each day this week. Nervous energy is starting too. All those Kona tweets and FB posts get my heart pumping.

The race wheels are on the bike! Race Day Wheels actually shipped them to my house on Monday so I get to ride with them for 2 weeks. Love those guys, they are great. I have used their services for all my Kona races, and CDA this year as well. The product (wheels) that they deliver is always consistent. The tires come brand new and you don’t feel like you are riding anything used, more like brand new.

I have an 808 with a Power Tap on the rear, and a 303 on the front this year. Last 2 years I have ridden a 404 on the front in Kona. But we have had two pretty good wind years, so I’m assuming that this year will be a doozy.

Ryan at Kompetitive Edge got her all gussied up and ready to go. She is shifting nicely (there’s still 9 days for me to mess that up) and she’s all clean (again…9 days, who knows what will happen).

Swimming! Oh my gosh. I haven’t really talked about Coach Nick, so I thought this would be a great time to do so. A little over 3 months ago Troy and I started working with coach Nick for swimming (Nick Levine with Open Water Coaching). He’s the kids swim coach at our club and we have seen him on the pool deck almost every day for the past few years. He’s a 2X channel swimmer and he knows open water swimming really well. He’s also really chill and relaxed and it’s nice for Type A athletes to have someone like that in their lives!

So on the 4th of July Troy and I did a 1500 time trial with Nick where Troy almost beat me, but I still prevailed. Whew. Then Troy got faster than me and went 1:05 in Wisconsin. I was proud. Then Troy had an off season and I kept swimming, so now I’m back to being faster. All along Nick will take the guidelines that Dirk gives me in my schedule, and he will write the actual swim workouts. Before Nick I just made things up and it was okay but hard to hold myself accountable all the time. So Nick writes workouts with the goal of getting me faster. This I like!

Last week I struggled in the pool big time. I actually quit 2 of my workouts. I had trouble hitting my intervals and I got frustrated and I got out. I was fine when I was swimming with others, but on my own, just me and the black line, I was like “it’s so cold, I’m so slow, poo” and would get out. I called Nick on Sunday and lamented. He told me not to swim Monday and to meet him at the pool Tuesday.

I get there Tuesday, 1500TT. No warm up, no cool down, just get in and do 1500 TT. Suddenly I’m nervous! Really nervous. I get in, he tells me to go whenever I want. I’m stalling and he yells “GO”. It was just like the cannon at Kona, unexpected, and the first 100 was spent yelling “swim swim swim” in my own ears.

Then I settled in for the long haul. I found with the swim the same thing I am finding with my biking and running right now. I can’t get myself to a total exhaustion place. I wasn’t panting or on the verge of puking. It seems that my top end is this strong, steady, and under control place. It’s not wild, or frantic, or at risk of an epic kaboom. But it’s efficient, and positive, and relentless.

I get to the wall and Nick says, “you swam really well”. I was like “Oh good”. He said, if you swim like that for 2.4 you can break 1:00 in Kona. I yell at him “There is no way I can hold that for 2.4, and if I did I wouldn’t bike or run very well afterwards”. We laughed. Then he said “Do you want to know your time?”. I said “yes please” and he said “22:37”.

I just stared at him blankly. I said “you mean 23:37″, he said, “No, 22:37″. I was in shock. I’ve only dreamed of holding 1:30 pace in the meter pool which yields 22:30. I thought, maybe sometime in my life I can hold 1:30 pace and swim a 22:30. It was a life goal, a life dream more like. I just took 50 seconds off my 1500TT in 3 months.

Then he looked at me, totally dead pan and said:

“Calm down Sonja, you are going to be just fine”.

No shit! Wow! Thank you Nick!

I’m still smiling over that swim. I was talking to my mom yesterday and I was telling her, I’ve have had so many successes in training the last few weeks I am probably going to walk the whole marathon in Kona and have an epic blow up. It’s just been so good lately. She got mad at me for that, but this is a woman who refused to wear her seatbelt while going through radiation for cancer treatment despite being driven around by her teenage daughter (=bad driver). She said, why do I have to wear my seatbelt, I have cancer. So, we allow each other a bit of sarcasm. Mom is honestly the only person on this earth I am sarcastic with.

So, hate to say it, love to say it, whatever….the stars are aligning. What this means for race day is completely up to me. But at least I can say I flew to Kona in the best shape of my life. Whether I have the wits, and smarts to turn that into performance on race day has yet to be determined, but man, all I can say is that this journey is freaking crazy. It’s the roller coaster of all roller coasters!