2013 Ironman Brasil – The After


Ironman #9. Wow. Six months ago I wondered whether I had run my course in this sport. I wondered if I had learned all that I had to learn and if it was time to scale back. But as the year got going I took my hard knocks and changed directions. I wasn’t ready to lay down but I knew I needed some changes in my own head if I was going to keep doing this sport.

So, here are a few of the changes this year that I think helped.

#1 – More Community. I got away from training by myself and just with Michelle and I took on new challenges. Coast Rides, camps, new friends, new training partners. This got me back to my tough girl independent roots, because the truth is, Michelle and I take care of each other. Getting left behind on the Coast Ride by the group of girls I was trying to ride with tested my positive attitude. Getting dropped repeatedly on Hamilton tested my ability to keep pushing on with a smile for my own good. When I found people who I really enjoyed training with, I made the time and spent the money to go train with them. I followed positive energizing people. And it brought out the best in me, it brought out the fighter.

Post drinks bus ride with the Chura, instant friendship! Man were we lightweights!


#2 – Less Expectations. To say that I dropped my expectations completely wouldn’t be entirely true, but I definitely dialed everything down a huge notch. I did not plan anything after Brazil and I did not expect to race for a Hawaii slot. I wanted one, and I wanted to get back to the island, but I am done training day in and day out in hopes that one day of my life will go well. So I focused on making every day a good day, on having as much fun in my everyday training as I would on Ironman day. No more sacrifice, no more expectations that Ironman day will be any different than any other day. And honestly, as awesome as Ironman Brazil was, I can say that I  had a few handfuls of training days that were even more fun and fulfilling.

#3 – I said F-U to the scale. I could, and probably should write an entire blog post about the scale, but let’s just say that the “race weight” bullshit that is everywhere is just that. Bullshit. I started EATING like a teenager. I did a good job at camp keeping up with two pro males in the eating department. I ate whatever sounded good and whatever was put in front of me. There was lots of ice cream, and chips and salsa. Also lots of the good stuff, but I did not calorie restrict, or watch what I ate, or weigh myself. When I got home from Brazil after 2 days of dysentery I stepped on the scale and was 141. So I would say I probably raced somewhere around there or higher. This is 15 pounds higher than I have stepped on the line in Kona at. I embraced the bull dog. Couldn’t be happier. It’s a little hard to look in the mirror and see the extra pounds, but I’m more healthy, and my immunity is so much stronger. And bottom line is that I allowed my legs to get stronger by not calorie restricting so they were cuter. That’s the honest truth.

#4 I said F-U to the data. Let’s face it, I sit around and geek out on my athletes data a fair amount. The last thing I want to do is look at mine. I haven’t uploaded any of my personal data to Training Peaks since November. I have trained with my Garmin to know how far I’ve gone, and I wear my HRM about 50% of the time. I race with my HRM and Power on the bike and that helps me pace appropriately, but for a run I ditch it and just go on feel. It’s Ironman #9 and I’ve done it all. No data, race solely on data, mix the two, etc etc, I’ve tried it. So as a way to get back to the fun of the sport, I dropped some of the details. I have no idea what sort of weekly hours I trained on average, or weekly mileage. I just did what was necessary and I had a lot more time for recovery and rest because I wasn’t hindered by data geekyness (not a word) and worry.

So here I am, looking back on my best race to date. I can’t help but attribute it to the change in attitude and outlook over the last few months. I feel like at this point in time I am on solid footing. I finally got to a place where I didn’t need to go under 10, didn’t need to get back to Kona, and not needing it anymore is part of why it happened.


Last year in Hawaii I remember feeling afraid to race well because that would mean that everything that felt wrong was actually right. This race was the opposite. I cared less about the results because I knew the journey was right. I love this sport. I love being out there racing and being a part of other peoples journey whether through coaching, being a friend, wife, or new acquaintance.

My favorite Quote, it’s on my bedroom wall.

“Results happen naturally when motivation is pure”

Motivation was pure, and results just happened naturally.


The day following the race we went to the Kona Roll Down and I paid for my 4th Kona slot (they keep getting more expensive). I get to go back to the big dance, but this time I’m going to enjoy the journey. The WHOLE journey. I’m taking as many of my athletes who want to come. I’m surrounding myself with people who love the sport as much as I do. Whatever happens this year in October will simply be a natural extension of the training I do between now and then. No more, no less. I’m just excited for another day of fun in the sun.


I want to thank Troy and Annie for their patience and understanding through the years. It’s so nice to hear Troy say “You are so happy this year” I’m lucky to have him in my life. Annie is excited to go back to Hawaii, it’s her favorite place on Earth. She’s such a life force in my world and I want to thank her for allowing me to chase my dreams. You wouldn’t think a 7 year old would encourage her mommy as much as my little one does.

I have to thank the boys for getting me strong this season. Mud oh Mud, this was you, you knew what to do all along,. Jim, Stephen, Gui, Chuck, Jeff. You boys pushed me and took me under your wing. I owe so much to you. Dave and Jen, thank you for your love and support as well. Operation Banana!

I also have to thank PIC, she is my sister and always puts up with my shit. Love her to death. Carolyn as well has really helped me with my run and has been my comedic relief the last few months. I love having strong women in my life. I could shout that from a rooftop!

A huge thank you to the companies that have believed in me. Kompetitive Edge always has my back. Amrita has been so generous in making sure I never BONK. I have been using their plant based bars on rides all year long, and I can’t tell you what healthy fuel does for the body. It’s magic! PunkRockRacing and Ron support me tirelessly, and QR! oh dear, another fastest amateur bike split…i think?, Nuun, Osmo, Fuel4mance, Dina and Stacy are helping me daily on my race nutrition. I am so blessed.

After the race we went to the Amazon! I’ll blog about that next!

2013 Ironman Brasil – The Run

Getting off the bike I felt that I was in the lead for the amateur race but I wanted to make sure. The course is 1 long loop of about 13 miles, and then two shorter loops of about 10.5K. When I put together my race plan I really wanted to run the long hilly loop conservative and then throw down the hammer on the short flat loops.

Did it go down like that?

No, of course not. Negative splitting the Ironman marathon always seems like an awesome plan on paper but never really comes together in reality. I’m not sure if everyone feels this way, but I almost always feel great getting off the bike (Kona being the exception). This time I felt better than usual, my nutrition was sitting super well. I felt great getting out running and 7:30 pace felt easy. I ran that pace all the way until we hit the hills.


There was a short out an back around mile 3 and I didn’t see anyone ahead. I checked my watch and started looking for AGers behind me to get a time split. I was almost out of the out and back and saw two of them. I had 7:30 on the second AGer. I felt pretty darn good about that. Knowing I was aiming for a 3:30 marathon, that meant either of those girls had to run 3:23, on a hilly course. Okay Sonja, now, don’t screw this up. You still have like 23 miles to run.

What can I say, I loved the hilly section of the course. I ran the first long one up and down. Then the second steep one, I had to walk that! It was short and walking felt just as hard as running. At the top I got back at it. The third one I ran. On the big descent down to the ocean I saw Haley Chura (you have to read her Brazil blog, it’s hilarious) and had to give her a high 5. She looked really solid!

I hit the ocean road and we ran along that, past our hotel, and out to another out and back. I was feeling good, but was just barely keeping things under 8min miles in this section, maybe 7:45-7:50 range. Those hills really take a bite out of your mojo. I turned at the out and back and was happy to have that part of the course done.


I took another time split and now saw that I had a 12 minute lead over the second AGer. That was when I breathed a big sigh of relief. I just felt confident that I could hold onto that lead until the end. I still had like 18 miles to run, but my nutrition was going so well, and I felt really in control of my tempo and emotional state. My self talk was 100% positive, I was having a great day.

At mile 11 my liquid nutrition had run out. I had decided to run with a waist pack for this race. I have had trouble in past races on the run with nutrition. If you read this blog often, you’ve heard it all from me. After my bonk at Oceanside this year, I am more into being prepared and having what I know works with me, than being light. Duh…that only took 9 Ironmans to figure out. So I had 2×10 ounce bottles in my waist pack with Osmo in them and I had 2 packs of chews in what I call my Kangaroo pouch. At the aid stations I had been taking water at each one and drinking it or pouring it over my head.


Speaking of water. I need to talk about the WATER! North American Ironmans HAVE to adopt the Ironman Brasil water situation. Do you remember the cups of orange juice you used to get in Kindergarten with the foil lids? Well, thats what they handed out on the run but in water form. So it was a cup of water, with a foil lid. This was the most genius thing I’ve ever seen. No more losing half the water during the handoff. You could carry it and use it later, you could poke a little hole in the top and pour it over your head. It WAS GENIUS. Best EVER!

See the water in the cups on the right. This is a different brand, but it’s the same container.


Okay, so after my Osmo ran out, I tried some Pepsi. Boy, immediately it made me feel very up and down emotionally. So I knew I had to get into my special needs and get more Osmo. At mile 14 I finally hit special needs, and grabbed a spare bottle of Osmo and refilled my waist pack bottles.

So one thing that was really different for me during this Ironman was my sense of being alone. I knew there was zero chance of anyone out there knowing me, so I really just focused on taking care of me. It was truly an independent day and in some ways, I think that actually helped. Now I don’t get outside assistance from people, but just running by your family on the course is always such a huge boost. I was without that, and nobody around me spoke English. Even telling volunteers my number at the turn arounds, I quit doing that because I didn’t know how to say my number in Portugese. So it was a quiet day.


Now I’m on the short loops and it’s time to boogy. Crap. Where is my boogy? I’ve got no boogy. 8min miles was where it was at. Not a lot of urgency, just running strong. I passed Claire and we had a little conversation. IN ENGLISH, oh how that felt good! On the first shorty loop when I was going into the out and back I heard this huge booming voice screaming for me on the other side of the road. It was Troy headed out on his long loop. It was so good to hear his voice. And to be honest, I felt this huge sense of relief because I knew he would finish, and that he was safe and alive.

The Brazilians don’t really cheer for people they don’t know, and they don’t own cow bells. So it was oddly quiet out there and I hadn’t actually heard my name all day. But I knew from day 1 that this race was about tucking into my own head and getting it done.

At the end of long lap 1 we got the coolest arm band to mark our completion of the lap. I was so excited about that, and then at the end of shorty lap 1 we got another one. The excitment to get the arm band was unbearable. I looked forward to it for miles and wondered what color it would be. You could use the arm bands to tell what loop other people were on and it helped the course volunteers direct people.


Finishing my second shorty loop I was headed to the finish. I was feeling so great, so happy, and I just kept running. The finish didn’t come…kept running…still not there. I checked my watch and it read 3:31 at 26.2 miles. No finish in sight. It wasn’t until 26.6ish that I hit the chute and in a blink of an eye it was all over. The chute was way too short.


I did a jump at the line. I felt really really good. They didn’t catch my jump, and the race photos are so funny, prejump, and post jump, but no actual jump. First jump I’ve done that didn’t get caught. Oh well, the face on this photo is pretty classic.


I turned around and saw 9:51 on the clock and just started crying. I felt really alone, but really happy, and I felt a little foolish for being so emotional. There were all these people staring at me, and the announcer was talking to me, but I had no idea what he was saying (theme of the trip). There aren’t any finish line catchers in Brazil, you just sort of walk off like after a 70.3. They put a dry towel around my shoulder and I soaked it with tears.


I made my way into the post race food area, grabbed some pizza (they had a pizza oven in the finisher tent and they were hand making pizzas and they were AMAZING) and sat down at a table by myself. I just cried for awhile there, there were happy emotional tears. I felt really dumb, but I couldn’t stop. So many thoughts were swirling through my head. It was mostly a loop of “Did that really just happen?”

I must say, I want to thank Hillary Biscay. She was in the tent and she was the only person that talked to me, not that I expected anyone else to or anything. She asked me how I did and if it was my first time under 10. It was really nice of her. Ken Glah was in the tent too and he looked tired. He won his AG, and was about a minute ahead of me. Amazing.

After a few minutes I got out of there and made my way to the hospitality house that Ken Glah has on the race course for all the athletes and families of the athletes. I cleaned myself up in the bathroom and went out to the course to wait for Troy to come through. Sure enough, he came running through with 1 shorty lap to go. I got to see him twice and he asked me how I did. I told him and he did this big fist pump as he ran away from me. One lap later I got to run through the finish line with Troy (they allow 2 guests down the chute with you) and that was so so so awesome. Except I had to ask him to slow down, that was a little embarrassing. He  jumped up and touched the Timex sign, a 1 hour PR for him in his 3rd triathlon ever.


Run Time: 3:34:15

Overall Time: 9:50:49 says the results.

Final Placing: 1st in AG, 1st Amateur, 11th woman, 123th overall in the race.

Tomorrow, some thoughts and reflections….

An addition to this blog post 18 months later! I was contacted by Guto saying that he took a photo of me that he was entering into a photography show at a studio (PS Guto takes amazing photos of naked triathletes, so you are going to want to visit his site!) He is a photographer in Brazil. HE CAUGHT MY JUMP!!! So 18 months later I have a jump photo of the finish and here it is in all it’s glory! haha!! It was just a reminder to me of the pure joy I experienced with that PR and first IM amateur win. It was such a special moment for me and I am so thankful he reached out and shared his talent with me! So awesome!!! 

Sonja - Guto

2013 Ironman Brasil – The Bike

Once on the bike, I started into my fueling right away. My mouth was salty. The first few miles of the course, getting out of town, was so congested. Combine that with some really interesting characters and I found myself constantly fighting to stay legal and to keep the gas on. It was a cluster! So many of the men simply refused to move right after passing. Drafting was happening, but the blocking was the main problem. Even on the narrow sections you could fit three bikes across but these guys would sit left and not let anyone past. Then a drafting pack would form because nobody could pass the douchebag, and that’s when it got psycho.

The draft marshals were there, but I didn’t see any penalties happening. And granted it’s a narrow section, so I don’t know how they would have fairly enforced anything, other than citing the dude for blocking. So I just had to calm down and let it (them) all pass. This one guy in a teal speedo was really bustin’ my chops though. He was so aggressive and rude and blocking. And he was in a speedo, which is all fine and good, but it was teal. Okay, not judging, but it was teal AND he was ignoring the rules. If you are going to block everyone behind you and force us all to stare at your behind, at least wear some tri shorts. Actually his butt was pretty nice, but I digress….sorry, back on task…

30 minutes into my ride I took a peek at the time of day. I don’t wear a watch in the swim and the clock on my Garmin said 8:35am. I was shocked and I got a big smile on my face. That meant that I was on bike bike and riding 1:05 into the day, which meant swim+T1 was 1:05-ish. I didn’t know if they started the race on time, but I was jazzed. Especially after thinking I swam 1:20. Something inside me clicked then and I knew I was going to fight for every bit of time today. All systems were GO!

The hills were no issue, not hard, very basic. I got passed by like 50 people on each one. I was watching my wattage and heart rate and I wasn’t going to ride up those things at 100 watts higher than I was going to average for the day, but apparently everyone else felt okay with that tactic. Literally 50 people passed me in 4 minutes. Got back some of them on the descent though. It was actually good because the pack that had developed behind teal speedo motored up the hill at like 1000 watts and they were now out of my sight. After the hills I just settled in. People thinned out and we were at the tunnels near the turn around before I knew it.

One crazy thing out there that you DO NOT SEE in North American races is that closing the roads for the race brings out all the Brazilian roadies. I saw so many people riding the course who weren’t in the race. They were in full cycling kits, usually groups of two, no packs or anything. You know those little fish that hang onto other fish….parasite fish…yea, we had parasite cyclists out there.


When I started seeing the women coming back the other way I started paying attention to them and all the sudden a drafting marshal was yelling at me. I think I had gotten too close to the guy ahead of me, but he seemed to still be 3+ bike lengths ahead so I was a bit confused. So I just started yelling back. I have no idea why this was my reaction, but it’s just what came out. He was yelling in Portuguese and I was yelling in English. I backed off a bit more and the dude drove away. Who knows?

There was one girl that I was sorta going back and forth with. It was strange. I went by her the first time demandingly. Then like 10 miles later she comes by me and is kinda on a guys wheel. Not right on it, but pretty close. I sit back and watch. She’s riding pretty legal. But going pretty slow. So I repass several minutes later. I look back a few minutes later and she’s way way back there.

I hit town feeling really great and really in control. Then the girl comes by me again. She misses a bottle handoff, screams at the volunteers all angry like, and then this guy brings her his bottle. What? I mean she was Brazilian and pretty hot and all, but where was my personal bottle retriever? I would have thought that perk was reserved for those wearing a teal speedo??!!

I went around the turn around in town at 2:29 and was like “Holy shit, that’s sub 5 hour bike pace.” but that was all the thought I really gave it. I was riding my plan, and sticking to it regardless of what it yielded. After the turn around in town it’s time to ride back into the narrow section and this is when CRAZINESS happens. Like the worst part of my day craziness! The congestion is bad and there are some packs and I just want the heck out of it all. So I start riding harder. I ride my way up to the girl (the one with the bottle hander guy) and she’s sitting in the left of the lane. I yell “Left.” She doesn’t budge. I yell “left” two more times. Now I’m on her ass. There is an official with us. I yell “passing, left”. I yell that five times. She starts yelling at me….in Portuguese. I yell at her to move over (there is space) in English (duh). I’m on her ass, screaming and pointing to the HUGE space on her right that she can move into.

I start screaming at the official “She’s blocking.” She starts screaming at the official. I scream and she screams and the official just looks at us. I back off her ass and get over to the right. Now I have just failed to make a legal pass and that worries me. We are both screaming at the official. I’m screaming “Give her a penalty, she is blocking” She’s screaming at him too, I don’t know what she’s saying. I can’t even imagine what she can say when she is clearly blocking.

I’m yelling at the official and then I look forward (from looking at the official) and right as I look forward I see that I’m headed straight for a traffic cone. Yea, a big one too, just like this:


I have no choice, there are people, officials, everyone around. I hit the cone dead on, and it’s a BIG ASS CONE. The only thought that goes through my head is “There goes your Flipping race” (except I didn’t think “flipping” I thought the other word). I hit the cone, I employ some Herculean efforts to remain on top of my bike and by some stroke of luck I do not crash. Then I look at the official with my best “See what you just did?” look. And his eyes are wide open.

Meanwhile the lady is still in the left lane blocking. I look at the official very calm like and I say “Do you understand?” and he shakes his head “no”. I say Azule (because she is wearing blue) and I point to her. And I say “BLOCKING PENALTY”. Then the dude makes this hand gesture to me……

Click Here to see the hand gesture

And he rides away. I look down and my heart rate is 172. Oh my lanta! I stay right and have a SERIOUS conversation with myself to calm down, and to take deep breaths. In between the breaths I’m saying to myself “Holy crap I hit a cone.” I watch Azule continue to stay as left as she possibly can for the next 20 minutes and then we hit an aid station, she goes for fluid (not sure where her personal bottle retriever has gone), I make the pass and then I ride much harder than my Ironman race pace for 20 minutes so that I never ever ever ever ever EVER have to see this woman again. And I didn’t…until the Kona roll down where I gave her my best “You’re a disgrace” stinkeye as she claimed her slot for winning her AG. She will need to learn what blocking means before Hawaii.

Back through the hills and suddenly there are a lot less heros out there. Through the tunnel and I’m by myself with plenty of space between competitors. I’m in my element now. Head down and just snuggle into the the bean bag chair in my pain cave. I don’t see any AG women left ahead of me. We turn around and I notice that the wind has become a factor. I enjoyed the nice headwind back to town and played the “try to guess my bike split” game. I was thinking 5:10 and that got me pretty excited. The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful. The last 10 miles I happened upon a very tired looking man in a teal speedo. That felt good as I passed him with a little eyebrow raise.

Into T2 there were a handful of bags in the hallway. I didn’t count but grabbed a seat and again dealt with my business and got out of there. As I ran out of there I looked at the finish line because I knew the race clock would have the race time. I think it said 6:17. I was jazzed. Mental math said under a 3:43 marathon would get me under 10. Let’s do this.

Bike Split: 5:08:57

Bike Placing: off the bike: 1st in my AG, 14th woman (including PROS), and 175th in the race.

2013 Ironman Brasil – The Swim


I don’t even remember if it was a cannon, or a horn, or just someone yelling to GO in Portugese, but all of a sudden the race was on. I took off wading right right right of the barricades. I kept wading right until I got open water and then I started swimming. I was all by myself. I got a little nervous half way to the buoy thinking “What if the swim current is the other direction, then I’m screwed.” But the kayakers in the morning were dragged left, and if it was, then the mass of people would be running into me as I was right. Then I wondered, what if I am too right. I definitely felt really unsure since I was swimming so differently than the rest of the participants. I hit the turn buoy literally 10 meters to the right of it, swam wide around it to keep my open water and a short while later was at the next turn buoy. I headed into shore.

Now I was with the masses after that second buoy and getting the typical Ironman beating. I found some feet, but then I passed them. Found another set, passed them. I starting passing lots of people. This was really freaking me out. I thought, oh no, I swam slow to the first buoy because I went too wide and I’m around all these people that are slower than me. I tried to get past as many as I could and at one point there was about 15 meters of open water ahead of me, and yet I was swimming shoulder to shoulder with about 10 people. It was strange. We were like a front. But then I pulled ahead and into the open water.

I hit the beach perfect and now it was time for the short run through the deep sand. I grabbed some water and looked at the swimmers on the second half of the course. I really took a good hard honest look at the masses. They were all being dragged left so I went with the same tactic as the first half. Way to the right, clear water, not a soul out there. Got in my groove and was able to actually swim hard. I felt less conflicted with my decision to stay right and just focused on swimming strong. I hit the turn buoy just a tad right of it, made a wide turn and then swam with the group back. Same thing as lap 1, I passed a lot of people in the final 800 meters, but this time I felt like it was just because I was swimming strong.

The masses swam the solid line, and I swam the dashed line…all by myself:


No clock on the exit ramp, but I was guessing 1:20. Seriously, I thought I was out there for an hour and twenty minutes. I thought I was slow, thought the swim was slow. No big, it is what it is, I did the best I could. I used the wetsuit strippers and ran into transition. On the run in I got passed by like 6 people. These Brazilians were literally HAULING ass through transition. 2 of them were women and I was like “WTF, it’s a long day, why are they sprinting like it’s a 200 meter race?”

The women’s change area was a hallway. I kid you not, there are no women in this race (less than 10%) and we had like 20 chairs in a little hallway, if that. I took pictures of the men and women’s areas because it was shocking.






You have to take care of yourself 100% in this race. No volunteer help. There was one lady in the hallway and she just watched me. I’m not sure if they were told not to help, but we were told not to expect any help, so I was ready for that. I went through the motions, packed up my bag and was out of there. At the bikes I saw that Troys was still there, grabbed my beautiful QR Illicito and ran out.

Swim Time: 1:02:05

Swim Placing: 4th in Age Group (super happy with this), 38th woman, 366th out of the water. Top 18%, this is the best I’ve ever swam I think.

I want to send a huge thank you to my swim coach Nick Levine. He has really had a good plan for getting me faster over the last few months and it’s really cool to see that speed I gained in the pool actually start to cross over into the open water.  I still have no idea if I swam the right line, but I’m really happy with the result! Thanks Nick!

2013 Ironman Brasil Pre Race

Man, I have started this post so many times. I really want to blog about Ironman Brazil and I’ve struggled with writing a short blog, or a long blog, or 5 blogs, or what not. After going back and forth a million times, I just decided, heck…I’m verbose. Anyone who knows me, knows I can’t shut up. So, why should this be any different. I blog so that I can read back about my experiences after I forget about them, so I don’t want to leave anything out, because this one was too special.


So, Part 1 of what will be a 4, maybe 5 part series. IRONMAN BRASIL…everything you’ve ever wanted to know…and then some. Let’s get this party started!

Getting to Brazil is no small feat. Just preparing to get to Brazil is crazy. However, if you are going to go for it, I suggest Ken Glah’s Endurance Travel. It’s well worth the money and I will use his company again in the future. In fact, it’s made me more confident to travel internationally to Ironman, because I know Ken Glah will take care of me, and I can focus on the fun.

After leaving Annabelle in the capable hands of my mom, complete with power of attorney and a notarized will, we took a plane from Denver to Dallas and boarded a large half full plane to Sao Paulo. This flight was perfect, it left at 9pm, arrived a 7am and was about 9 hours of flight time. They fed us, turned down the lights and I slept on Troys shoulder for a solid 7+ hours.


Taking my toothbrush, contact case, blanky, and pillow made things easy peasy. Once in Sao Paulo we had to clear customs and recheck our bags to Florianopolis. Our bags were the last ones to show up, and we met Claire (who was american and spoke english) in the customs line. Finding the airline to recheck our bags was our first hurdle. There isn’t a lot of English spoken in the Sao Paulo airport. We would show our itinerary to someone and they would point us down the hall. We kept doing that until they pointed us back the other direction. Then we got in a line, they made us go to another line, then they made us go to a third line. Finally, we got in front of the right person. We literally needed help from 15 people to make that happen. They were good to go with the bike box (no fee) and bags and we were were left to wait out our 8 hour layover that was now down to 5.5 hours (yes, that’s how long it took).

At the advice of Jocelyn Cornman we used a double bike box on this trip, and let me say, it was awesome. My KE teammate Jordan Sher loaned us his and we only paid one $150 fee the whole trip (American leaving Denver). Our box weighed about 65 pounds with both bikes and all 4 wheels and it was SO easy to pull around the airports. Major bike box success.


The fight from Sao Paulo to Florianopolis was probably the most low budget airline I’ve ever been on. There was like 6 inches of leg room. Troy’s legs didn’t even remotely fit so he spent that flight pretty uncomfortable with his knees in his chest…which just happened to make the BEST pillow for me. I slept from take off to landing.


Suddenly here we are in beautiful Florianopolis! We got our bags, again, our bike box (the monster) was last off the plane and we almost missed the Endurance Travel folks because the door out of baggage claim got blocked when three nuns ran their bag cart into the wall and couldn’t get it unstuck. Literally, I couldn’t make this shit up.

Once united with Endurance Travel, just as they were about to leave us behind, and as a result, we got to ride in the front seat of the shuttle. That was a total highlight. We got a great view of the city during the 45 minute drive to the hotel which was mostly along the Ironman course.


Our hotel, Al Mare, was the cheapest that Ken Glah offered, which we thoroughly enjoyed. We like to keep things basic and we both let out a huge sigh when we walked into the room, it was basic, but clean and comfortable. The first night was full of barking dogs and we kept the windows open and the cool breeze flowing.


Our hotel had breakfast and dinner every night and that was a nice perk. To know that you only had to hunt down lunch everyday while getting in all your Ironman preparation was a good thing.

Thursday we loaded up and headed to the Ironman practice swim. They did a mass start which we did not participate in. The beach was amazing, white sand, so beautiful with little islands off in the distance we just had permagrin. We got in to swim and there was a buoy out there we wanted to swim to. I thought the buoy was a normal sized buoy but after 30 minutes of swimming and finally arriving at the thing, it was like 3 stories high! There are no sighting buoys in this IM course, just turn buoys.


The return trip was quicker, and we encountered a lot of small jellyfish along the way. At times it felt like you were swimming in a sea of corks, and you could grab handfuls of them. They didn’t sting, so it was more awkward than anything. Our swim to the FIRST (of 4) turn buoy and back took 50 minutes and hence I started worrying about the Ironman swim. Also there is a current dragging you left, and I was pretty worried about how to handle that.


After seeing the swim Troy and I decided to go on a course tour that Endurance Travel offered on Friday because we heard that Ken Glah leads them and we knew we would get good beta. I got a massage Friday before the bus tour and then we parked ourselves up front on the bus and asked lots of questions. Ken was great, answered every one of my (and others) questions and I totally understood the course after that. The good tips I got, which of course I will share are the following.

#1 – You can get messed up in the swim. You have to determine the current on race morning by watching the boats. It can change from day to day. If it’s right to left (common) you have to aim to the right of the turn buoy (1000M out). Start right, stay right, and aim right.

#2 – Brazilians know how to swim. There are fast swim times because of fast Brazilians, not necessarily because the course is fast. Also, they don’t really believe in the concept of the “Bucket List” so most people in the race are serious about Ironman racing, not a lot of one and done types.

#3 – Special needs is not so good for this race. Nobody hands you your bag, and you have to hunt for it. It’s also like 20+ miles into the loop so you aren’t getting it at 56, but more like 76ish. Ken said he always uses special needs, but not at this race.

#4 – Two of the hills on the run course you need to walk up, and down. There is no point to run up or down them, you are faster walking, and they will hurt bad if you run down them.

#5 – They write a massive amount of penalties at this race. Last year about 150 of them, and there are only 2000 people in the race, so almost 10% get a drafting penalty. Drafting penalty is 10 minutes served in a tent in T2.

So I felt like that race course tour was well worth the money. Later that night we went to the PreRace Pasta party. The food was really good and we did not understand anything that was said over the loudspeaker. They did have a fruit boat though. That was pretty awesome, no dessert, just an awesome fruit boat!

Poor Jody was still hoping that his luggage would arrive, and in the nick of time it did. He had the most crazy adventure getting here, but handled it so well, I’m really proud of him for that. We actually thought he might have to beg/borrow/buy every single thing to race. Whew!


Saturday was GAME ON day. We got up, I got another massage, and we got in our training for the day. A super scary bike ride where we passed not once, but twice, the Passion Motel! It was a pretty scary ride, Brazil is not so safe. We had a run off where Jody was barely breathing and I felt like I was panting and out of shape. I always feel that way during my Ironman taper.


After training we hit up an awesome Brazilian steakhouse and had a little adventure down in the downtown area. By now I was feeling pretty at home and we were excited that race day was soon to be here.


We were required to drop our bikes off between 6-7pm so we loaded the busses and went through that hullabaloo. They had a sweet bag to cover each and every athletes bike. This was an AWESOME perk (note to North American races). Troy and I were racked right smack next to each other and Jody was just a few feet down. They walked us through transition and when we walked in and said “Hi”, they immediately screamed “English” and there appeared a guy who spoke English to explain everything to us. Back home, and it was bed time.




Recently I have been sleeping really well before my races. I was hoping for a great nights sleep, but I found out that when both Troy AND I are racing, and we both have pre Ironman nerves…there is double the tossing and turning. Neither of us slept great, but at 5am we were on that bus with Jody, ready to go!


Transition was awesome. We hung together with Jody, got the bikes ready, visited the portapotty, and headed to the swim start. I ate a white bread sandwich with jam and salt and finished off a bottle of Osmo. I ripped THREE new holes in my Freak because my nails were too long. I smiled because ripping a hole in my wetsuit means I’m going to swim fast, and I just ripped THREE. We got in the corral together, and Troy and I held hands while I peed in my wetsuit. I hugged Jody, he slipped a bit in front of us and Troy and I stood there together totally freaking nervous. We were all the way right and we had NO IDEA what the announcer was saying.

The last memory I have before the gun went off was staring at the beautiful sunrise off to my right, and just soaking in the pure beauty of the situation. I also looked around and could not find a single solitary woman. I was a in sea of men.