What a freakin’ awesome time I had last weekend. Friday morning, waking up in Clearwater, I could tell I was about to get sick. Troy has been really sick for several weeks, and then Annie caught the illness and had it pretty bad. I was feeling like the immunity rock star…until Friday morning. We had lots to do with packet pickup, course recon, and bike drop off, all the while I could feel the illness heading my direction.
My dad was in FL on business so he booked a room for the weekend, and became our extremely valuable, sole support person. Plus, he had a rental car…something we had forgone. He picked me up and drove me to the store and then let me splurge on all sorts of cold “hold-R-off-ers”. I started hitting those hard, just hoping to push back the onset of the bad symptoms for 12-24 hours.
Saturday morning we woke up at 5 and Michelle, Tony and I headed to the transition area to pump up our tires, take the plastic bags off our bikes and double check our stuff. Our hotel was this cute little place, just one block from transition so we were able to walk back there before our race. It was really nice to use our own bathroom and to grab “second breakfast”.
I laid down on the bed, not feeling very snappy and threatened to go back to bed. I definitely didn’t feel like myself, but I also knew that the cold wasn’t in full attack mode just yet. I simply felt a little bogged down. I told Michelle and Anthony that I was thinking about “staying home and watching athlete trakker”.
They got a laugh out of that, but they also dragged me out of bed, and into my wetsuit. It’s go time. I may feel mellow, like I want to go back to bed, but really, I was excited to race. I didn’t know how I would be effected, but you just don’t know until you try!
We walked to the new swim start (they changed the swim from gulf, to intercostal b/c hurricane Ida had kept the water quite choppy). I said goodbye to my peeps and lined up in the corral. The new start was a time trial start and I was looking forward to this. Michelle offered me some last minute coaching, telling me that the TT start would help me to stay focused on my own race, to swim my own swim and to kill it.
My masters coach Paul had set me a text the day before “Have fun & it’s fun 2 go fast”. That is really the essence of me, and I decided to use it as my motto. Deep in my heart, I wanted to have a stellar swim, and I planned to go for it. I loved finding Adrienne in the swim corral, we caught up and laughed together. Adrienne is a phenomenal athlete, she spanked me at Rev3, and went to Kona this year. I loved sharing my pre race excitement with her.
Before I knew it I was sitting on the timing mat and sliding myself into the water. I felt strong from the start and just settled into my pace which we spent a lot of time practicing at masters this past week. I struggled slightly with my sighting since we were looking straight into the sun, but before I knew it I was making the turn. On the way back in we had to navigate down a narrow waterway and I got a little off course here. They did great with the buoys, but I swam a bit wide. This made for much less swim traffic, but also involved a little extra swimming.
The water was very murky and I did not catch a single set of feet. Exiting the water was dicy as the very steep ramp was quite wet. I used the handrails and pulled myself up to the pavement. Whew. I looked down at my watch to see the result of my effort: 00:00:00. Opps, I guess with the TT start I forgot to hit the “go” button. Oh well…didn’t bother me, I felt good about it.
Through transition…Ironman style. Grab your bag, hit the change tent, grab your bike, get outa there. I would suggest to anyone that the less you have in your transition bags the better. I like not having to make any decisions, just get what’s in there and go.
I’m off on my bike and barely into my shoes before we have to climb up this large causeway, which is no big deal because we are on a bike…but knowing that I am going to have to run over it 4 times is a little daunting. I had a great bike ride. My nutrition went well, my pacing went well. I smiled at everyone, stuck my tongue out, laughed, and just generally had a good time. In between the fun I put my nose down and pedaled my butt off. Before this race all I heard about was the drafting. I was secretly a bit nervous about the drafting. At Vineman 70.3 this year I had a lot of trouble with the drafting and I felt that I couldn’t get away from it even though I tried. That was my fear with Clearwater, that I would get stuck in the packs and that I would have trouble getting out of them whether it’s off the front, or the back. Staying away from the cheaters was a huge goal of mine.
I am happy to say that Clearwater is a race where (in my opinion) you can stay completely honest, if you so choose to. Now I can’t speak for people that are faster than me, but for me, it was extremely easy to stay out of the packs. In fact, there is a huge out and back section in the race and I had a blast “counting” the packs. I counted 12 of them. And each one had 20-60 riders. The road would actually be empty, or would have 1 rider every couple bike lengths, and then there would be a pack. I was personally overtaken by 6 different packs. It was actually pretty funny. I would be riding my own pace, minding my business and then the group would swarm me, overtake me, and spit me out the back, all in about 20-30 seconds. I just did not engage. I would stay to the way right, and just let them do their thing. I had the officials right next to me one time when it happened too. It was odd to see the penalty tent empty.
During one of these incidences I watched my Garmin. I was pedaling along at 23.4 mph. That seemed to be my go-to pace. The road is flat so I was just trying to hold that pace. Then I was “swarmed”. The drafters came past me, I did not engage, just stayed to the right and maintained my effort. After the pack passed me, my garmin said I was going 25.2. Wow, the pack had engulfed me, and then spit me out the backside going 2 mph faster. I got a good chuckle out of that…and then watched my mph slowly drift back down to 23.4.
Towards the end a pack came by and engulfed me and boy did I want to entangle myself, but I didn’t. I had been talking to myself all day about the fact that I wanted a clean race because I wanted to know how good I, Sonja Wieck, was. I didn’t want any little * in my head as to my time for the day. Whatever time I went, I wanted to know it was a solo effort. This allowed me to not even be bothered by the drafters. I know that in their heads, they have an * next to this event, and I don’t. It’s a choice. I was glad I made the right one. There was a little headwind the last 6 miles, so by the time I pulled into transition, I was ready to be off my bike.
Coming into transition for the second time it was nice to see a lot of the racks for my age group empty, that’s always a good feeling. It was awesome to have a volunteer take my bike and rack it for me, I’ll never get over how cool that part is.
On with the new Brooks running shoes and I was out of there. I saw my dad and smiled. Apparently Michelle smiled at him, as did Tony. I guess everyone was having a pretty good time.
That’s because we hadn’t gone up any hills yet! Man, that stinkin’ causeway is STEEP. Mother! Up and over the causeway I went. I didn’t feel lousy, I didn’t feel awful. I just felt like I was going to put down a strong effort. I went from aid station to aid station, running between 7:00 and 7:30 pace and it felt pretty fast. There were lots of people passing me, and I was passing people too.
It was great to see my dad twice on each lap. He cheered up a storm for me. I only heard my name called one other time and that was from TriBoomer. Thanks Dad, and thanks Boomer!
Finishing up the first lap, my dad yelled at me that “PIC is right up ahead”. Those were great words to hear. As I ran through the turn around I looked and looked for her but she was nowhere to be found. I picked up my pace and tried to look through the crowds for Michelle, but she was being extremely elusive.
Back up that monster hill for the third installment. This time I decided to really push it. I suddenly saw Adrienne. That was a major boost. She had passed me early on the bike. I slowly worked my way up to her and when I passed her she said “Good job Sonja” with this super enthusiastic voice. I was so focused I couldn’t say anything. I wanted to tell her to come with me, run with me, but all I could muster was a thumbs up. We ran through my favorite aid station with the pirate theme and then onto the out and back section. That was when I saw PIC Michelle. I was close to her, but she was moving fast. I spent the next mile working really hard to catch her.
Finally on the last hill of the day I pulled up beside her and said nothing. She said nothing as well. We were at like mile 11 or so. I could tell she knew it was me but we just ran in silence up and over that crazy causeway. After a little while she said “You are going to need to go ahead”. I told her “Run your pace, I’m here because I want to be”. And I was. Michelle has been such a huge training partner and friend to me this year (and for many years). She’s a rock and we have leaned on each other numerous times throughout the seasons. It was such a special opportunity to be able to run with her in a race. Again she told me to go, and I told her I wanted a picture and just to run her pace. It was so fun running through the aid stations. I would grab a water and a energy drink and take a sip and then hand it to her. I felt like we were in the tour, sharing water bottles.
We ran together for 1.5 miles. We saw my dad with about 0.5 mile to go. He took these AWESOME pictures.
After that Michelle said “You’ve got your pictures, now go! I’ll see you in a few minutes”. Fine, off I went, into my finishing kick. I ran across the line just as the clock turned 5 hours. I wondered how long after the clock started did I begin my swim? Just knowing that I would be under 5 hours was exciting.
Since I didn’t start my watch on time I had no clue. Michelle was in a few seconds after me, we took a picture together and there was Tony, standing there waiting for us. It turns out that Michelle was 9th in her age group, with a 27 minute swim, second in her age group out of the water, total time of 4:42.
I had the swim of my life with a 32:30. I biked a very solid (and solo effort) of 2:25:32 and ran a 1:37 to finish in a 5 minute PR of 4:40:25. That was good for 16th out of the 69 women 30-34, and I was the 76th amateur woman (out of 395). Great day for me as well!
Tony flatted but finished very strong with a 1:27 run. Steve had a solid effort from start to finish and was pleased with his race.
The rest of the day was spent celebrating, eating, and drinking. We attended the awards which was a pretty awesome experience, complete with fireworks, and a great speech by Raelert. The next day was spent like this.
And there it is, the end of yet another absolutely fantastic season. Two World Championships, an Ironman, a 50 mile run race, the Grand Canyon. Lots of fun. This season has been brought to you by the letter “T”, as in my main sponsor….TROY. Thank you Troy, thank you Trakkers, Brooks, Core Concepts, and Nuun. Next year will be even better, different, but better.
Thanks to all of you out there that support me with emails, tweets and calls. I love you.