Boise 70.3 has been on my bucket list for a long time. I’ve never been there and heard great things about the town. This year Muddy and I wanted to make it an A race for me. This was in part due to timing and how he is structuring my training heading into Kona this year, and also because it was a course that suits me well. Boise typically has some weather “diversity” and I’m strong in challenging conditions. It also has a windy bike, which I tend to enjoy, and a flat run, which I also like, and a cold swim, which is refreshing!
Matt and Marni let me stay with them, they are Boise locals and were THE BEST hosts. They have two great dogs, Molly and Sunny, and I pretty much came home begging Troy for a Schnauzer puppy! Throwing the ball in the backyard for Molly the night before the race was just about the most relaxing, and distracting opportunity I could have had! Thank you Matt and Marni and congrats on your own races.
Friday went quickly with last training sessions which felt REALLY good. At Wildflower there was no taper, and here I got a big fat juicy taper and it felt good. I was rested, spry, and skippy. My stress was low, chill factor was high, confidence was high and I felt strong. We dropped our bikes off at T1 on Friday night and I liked the look of the swim course. I also noted the possibility of chop. After an emergency trip to hunt down some Osmo for me, Marni made us a fantastic dinner and we hit the hay.
So, a noon start?! Crazy sauce!! It was amazing. I slept until I woke up naturally. I knew this was going to be a good deal for me because I am not a morning person. The sun rises early and I was up at about 7:30 with nothing to do but twiddle my thumbs. I had some breakfast, and fiddled about with my race bags. At about 9am we took off for T2. Muddy drove us there, we dropped our bags, then drove to the bottom of the hill at T1 and chilled for about an hour. I took a little cat nap and I was so relaxed. Finally Matt and I headed up the hill with Marni following and Muddy heading out to be on the bike course.
Before the race start I gave Apolo Ohno a high 5. That was awesome! I gotta admit, I loved him on Dancing with the Starts and I’m totally rooting for the guy to do well in triathlon. My uncle Kirk and Aunt Melissa had made the 4 hour drive from Elko to watch the race and seeing them at the swim start was a highlight of my day. I felt really loved that they came to the race to support both me and a few others they knew that were racing.
I pulled on my HUUB wetsuit and what did I do? I ripped a hole in it. You know, I’m starting to think that maybe it’s just me. I can’t seem to catch a break in the wetsuit hole department. But of course my immediate thought was “I’m going to swim great, I ripped a hole in my suit, it’s my good luck charm” And it was. The horn blew and I got off really well. The girl in front of me flew off the line. She was amazingly fast and left me looking for other feet. I found a lot of good feet and tried to swim as hard as I could to stay on them. The course was a triangle and the second leg of the triangle we encountered some nice chop. I tried my darndest to breathe to one side, 4 strokes, breathe, 2 strokes, breathe, 4 strokes, breathe. I’m not used to that but the other direction was nothing but a face full of water.
After some struggle and losing a few sets of feet I made it to the final swim leg and really tried to start pulling harder. A pink cap was just ahead and out of reach but I could faintly see her bubbles under water and I worked the entire way back to try to get on her feet, unsuccessfully, but it kept me honest. I had a hard time knowing where the swim exit was and had to breaststroke a few strokes to figure it out. I came into the boat ramp, tried to stand up, realized I was too deep (I have gotten in trouble with Michelle about this before) and kept swimming until my hand touched the bottom.
Up and out I felt good and didn’t see a clock or anything and just ran off to my bike. I swam a 32:54 which doesn’t seem like the best time, but compared to the other Professionals I was right about where I usually am behind them, if not a wee tad closer. So I’m happy with it, especially with the chop. I think I was 7th-ish out of the water in my AG, but exited transition in 3rd. Super swimmer Robin was out first and Katie who I would meet on the bike and after the race was about 25 seconds up the road.
I got going on the bike, went over some water bottle launching speed bumps, and down a huge descent from the swim venue. I got around a curve at like like mile 1.5 and SMACK, there was the wind. I knew we were getting a less breezy day than usual Boise conditions, but it was still LEGIT! My legs were cold and trying to find their mojo but I knew to just keep my nose to the grindstone and wait for things to get better. We started up a large hill and Muddy was there yelling at me and I was nodding. It was go time! I started up the climb and I passed Katie and she passed me back. Her racing kit had some sort of spiky animal on the back and for some reason I immediately liked her. She looked fast. I let her set pace up the hill while I hung my obligatory 5 meters back and just tried to talk nicely to my legs. I think it was somewhere around the top of the hill I repassed her and it took everything not to tell her I liked the spiky animal on her back, but I had to focus, not be silly. It was go time, race time. I was watching my power and it was bothering me and I could feel myself spending time analyzing and judging, which is something I do fairly often in racing. I use the watch to motivate myself to keep the watts high, and I set mini goals. I’ve done this for YEARS.
I’ve been doing a fair amount of meditation recently, a little bit every day, and I’ve been working my way up in time. I had this sudden inner feeling that I work best when I release my analysis thoughts. Muddy is always wanting me to get rid of the power and the heart rate, the “junk”, but I cling to my security pacing blanket like I’m 6 years old. So I put my new meditation skill to work and just released the thoughts about watts and power and switched the Garmin screen over to time, distance, and speed. For the first time ever I became aware of how distracting it was from RACING. I let that thought go and just said in my brain “RACE Sonja.” So I started racing. Who? Myself mostly. My legs, the little voice that’s always in the back of the brain saying “a little less power will hurt so much less.” Nope, not listening. I got down and dirty with it and went to work. We had a head wind out and I fought through that bad boy. I relaxed into that headwind and focused all my power in the forward direction.
Because I was in Wave 7, a pretty early wave, and I swam strong and was riding fast, I found myself towards the front end of the race. This opened up a lot of space between competitors and I had long stretches all alone. I loved it because it felt like a true time trial effort and I could tuck my head down, turn my Rudy helmet into a shark fin, and stare at the white line. This is my favorite, just the up and down of the legs, seeing how much you can rip them up and retain your form. I repeated Focus, Form, Feet in my head about 300 times. About the only eventful thing that happened was Travis having a heck of a time out there with his bike. He would pass me hard charging, and then he pulled over and was looking at this rear wheel. Then he came by again, and then I went by him. The hills were setting him back and later I found out it was a double rear flat. That was about the only thing that broke my concentration from the task at hand. Focus, Form, Feet.
At the turn around I started counting the ladies in front of me and there were 6 women in the 50-54 age group left ahead of me. I had passed all the ladies in the waves ahead of me except the pros and 6 AG ladies. I immediately made my goal to try to catch each one that I could before T2. One of my goals going into this race was to keep “Focus Forward” to always think ahead and never behind. When I am hurting I sometimes go into “fear what’s behind me” mode, so this little goal helped me with Forward Focus.
The turn around and the tailwind was freaking AWESOME. I was spending lots of time in 25+mph range and LOVING it. The QR Illicito really shines in this sort of weather. Once you get that bike hauling it just does not slow down and I was enjoying myself. Miles 25-50 flew by. We did this crazy little dangerous bike path section and I was super happy that nobody was in front of me so I could cruise through there really quickly being that it was a no passing zone. Back on the road, 6 miles to go, and BAM headwind. This was the crux. I knew it. So I turned the garmin to Run Mode, shoved it down my shirt, put my head down and tried to make every minute of those last 6 miles as fast as I could. I started passing lots of 30-34 men. That age group is usually pretty nice to me. I passed Paul and gave him a shaka. I was hoping he would use it as motivation to get his ass in gear those lost miles. It was head down, game on, time. I wasn’t even thinking about the run. I loved not having my watch on because I usually spend those final miles calculating what my bike split will be about 50 times. It’s lame. This time I just kept releasing any thoughts that came up and refocusing on “Focus, Form, Feet.” It worked like a charm and I was at the dismount line.
I had the perfect dismount. It was a work of art. I was in and out of T2 in 1:32, and that was socks, shoes, waist fuel belt, bib number, hat, and Garmin wrist strap. I was in the lead in my Age Group and ready to run. I biked 2:31:14 which was the 3rd fastest womens bike split on the day. I’m eternally grateful for Muddy saying last year that we were going to turn me into a biking MOFO! It’s working and I love to ride my bike. As much as I wanted to ride well, what I came to Boise for was to run well. We have really been working hard to add some turbo to my diesel engine this year and I wanted very badly to PR my run off the bike.
Muddy and I had put together a pacing plan and I got out and running and I felt good. My form, which we have been working on felt good. I was faster than my plan and I didn’t even care. I just wanted to know I gave my best. So I hung with it. Mud was meeting me at each mile marker reading off my mile splits and it was just like all those sessions at the track we have spent together where I focus on running and he focuses on the times. I didn’t even look at my watch much. I just ran. I had set my watch to auto lap every 4 miles and what a relief that was. No judgement, just run! Check in from time to time, but keep the focus on the run form and not slowing down.
One of the highlights was running by Paula Newby Fraser as she was out there coaching Apolo and her saying “You look fantastic” and I responded “Thanks Paula.” And then I tried not to weep a little tear. I think it was the mile 5 marker where I saw the camera crews and Apolo. He was hauling ass. I was thoroughly impressed. It was quiet on the course when I passed him so I told him he looked great and he said he was “grinding it out” and I told him to keep it up and that I’de see him in Hawaii. Then I got on with my own race. About a mile later I saw Muddy standing on the side chatting with Crowie and I actually shook my head and said “Shit.” It was a good “shit,” like an “I look up to him so much” kind of “shit.” On I ran.
Uncle Kirk and Aunt Melissa were there cheering up a storm in several spots and boy was that absolutely awesome. I gave shakas as I went by and a few fist pumps. Somewhere in there Walt Disney World started hitting my brain. With 8, 5, 3 and 1 mile to go I said to myself “X miles to Walt Disney World.” It was extremely motivating to get the maximum speed out of myself. What can I say, I run for Micky and Minnie!
It was a while before I saw Muddy again but he started yelling at me to chase down every girl I could. I felt really strong and steady so I just kept looking for the next girls up ahead. This was really good for my “Focus Forward” goal of the day and it helped me get the most out of myself. I had passed the last 50+ lady so I was actually the first age grouper on the course regardless of starting wave so I was looking for Pros. It was great to catch up to some of them because they run fast and they kept me honest. I got passed by one AG lady, Rachel who was HAULING and was just this tiny drink of water. I tried to go with her but couldn’t hang and Muddy told me she was 1 lap behind me. Girl ran 1:29 flat and made it look EASY.
The final lap I saw some slow down but it was quite minimal compared to usual. Miles 8-12 were still at 7:02 pace and that’s huge for me. The headwind had picked up on the back half and I tried to draft off every person I could. I ran really close to one guy and he was like “There’s plenty of room here, why don’t you move over” and I blurted out between gasps, “I have 3 miles to go” GASP “I am PRing” GASP “I’m on the edge here” GASP and he said “Are you a PRO?” and I said “no.” and he said “Go girl you are killing it” and I said “I’m trying my best” and he said “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that” and then I ran away. Him challenging me a bit had tapped my adrenaline response because it got me a little fired up and that adrenaline jump was good for at least 5 seconds that mile. I’ll take anything I can get!
The end took forever to get there but running down the chute was totally worth it. I knew I had run a PR and I knew I had knocked it ‘outa the park. I just knew that this was the performance that Muddy and I have been training so hard for. The hard work was to make a day like this possible, but you never know if you will be able to execute it when the day arrives and I was really happy that I could. I ran a 1:31:13 which is definitely the fastest I’ve ever run in a 70.3. Total time was 4:38:56.
Muddy told me I was 5th overall including the professional field and that I was top amateur. That was honestly just frosting on the cake, it was the effort and the performance we were after and while I stand on the start line wanting to pass as many people as I can, the ultimate goal is always to get the best out of myself on the day. Great results always put a smile on my face but I have really wanted to use this year to gain tools that I could use down the line. I wanted to work on the finer points of my racing, the mental aspects, the pacing, the putting together three disciplines into one solid race. And this is the most success I have ever had on that front. I really put some mental stuff together during this race that got me out of my own way, and got me closer to the spirit of racing, rather than tactically covering the course. I love racing.
Huge thanks to my coach Muddy. He’s really taken things back to the basics and it’s hard, and awesome, and rewarding all at once. Thank you to QuintanaRoo, Tribella, Osmo, HUUB, and Punk Rock Racing for the best gear in the sport. Thank you to Matt and Marni for their amazing hospitality, and to Kirk and Melissa for all the cheers. As always, Thank you Troy and Annie for supporting me day in and day out with this crazy dream of mine. And a big thank you to mom and dad for running the computers at home, and providing splits to anyone who needs them.
Lastly I want to tip my hat to the amazing ladies I got to race with in Boise, especially those I shared the Womens 35-39 podium with. I am constantly on the edge of my seat while racing these stellar athletes. Well done to all who persevered, including the Elko crew who did their first 70.3s!