I had a goal for the Ironman run. I wanted to go faster than Canada, and I wanted to see 3:3X, where X could be anything, as long as the 3 was in front of it. 8:00-8:15 min pace was a target goal pace, but can be hard to maintain exactly through the undulations of the course. I headed out of transition and quickly realized that the lady in transition had clipped my Nathan Nurition pouch on my waist but I had forgotten to remove my bike race belt. So I was running along with TWO race numbers around my waist. Those things are a total scratchy pain when you have just one on, but TWO, well that got annoying in about 15 seconds.
I don’t know what it is, but I have this strong issue with littering when I am racing. The dominant thought I had was that I could not ditch that belt, because it had my name and number on it, and knowing my luck I would get a littering penalty and they wouldn’t let me go to Kona. Every thought I had during the run portion ended in “then they won’t let me go to Kona”. It was kinda funny.
The race starts with a 2 mile out and back section along the dike (their words, not mine). I felt pretty good and I’m always alarmed with how easy it is to get into your IM run pace. My legs never feel that heavy “brick” feeling. Mile 1 was 7:52. Perfect Sonja, but let’s calm it down a little and see if we can’t stick it more around 8:10. I made the turn on the dike and headed back. I passed the special needs bags and they asked if I wanted my bag. I thought this was odd because I thought we only got those at the half way point.
I ran on, mile 2 was 7:40. Crap Sonja, SLOW DOWN. I also had this lady named Lauren running my pace right near me. I was trying desperately to let her go, but then she would come back and we would be shoulder to shoulder. Let her go Sonja! She wasn’t in my age group and she looked great. But I wanted to do MY thing and I was feeling like I couldn’t.
Running through the park and town is INSANITY. So many people were yelling my name. I saw a guy take a picture of me! Turns out it was @Run2SaveLives from twitter, acquiescing to @sitbones request. Yes, twitter is a crazy place! I saw Trista and Sean, two triathletes that I know from Denver, and they were AMAZING for me. Sean yelled that I was “Mpth in my age group and that one of them is walking”. That was really helpful cheering, I just wished I had heard what he said. I thought it was either 3rd or 5th, but didn’t quite know.
We wound through the neighborhood and I found myself back with Lauren. I also recognized Kathy Alfino. She’s a coach in the Denver area. I caught her and said “Good job Kathy”. I had Lauren with me here too. My mom was standing on the corner and I knew it was time that I ditched one of the pesky race belts, so I dropped it right next to my mom. It was so funny to talk to her later. She thought I was quitting when I threw my race belt on the ground. She was totaly confused and a guy on a mountian bike next to her asked if he should bike it back to me.
See, I am VERY focused when I run. The only person I make eye contact with is Troy and it usually means “Where am I in the age group”. I don’t look at my mom or dad and sometimes they don’t even know if I see them. But I do, I see it all. It just takes a lot of focus to keep on my pace, so it’s what I’ve got to do.
Troy was hanging out in the park next to Tubbs hill with Annie and my dad. We had stashed the van here the night before and I was happy to see that everyone looked happy and well fed. It’s a long day for family, and kiddos to get through, but they looked good. I gave Troy “the look” and he told me that I was in 5th place in my age group, and that 4th was 1 minute up. This felt like good news to me. I can get 4th no problem. Mile 3 came in at 7:51.
My favorite part of the course is through the neighborhood after Tubbs hill. I love all the sprinklers that people set up and the 90 degree turns. Mile 4 was 8:02 and I was happy to see myself settling a bit more into things. The section along the lake is where you settle in and just get it done. It felt uphill going out. I started to feel off here. I was getting a little down and I quickly realized it was time for calories.
Even though I had calories in my little Nathan pouch I grabbed a gel from the aid station. It had caffeine and I downed it. A half mile later I was rockin’. Mile 5 was 8:09, mile 6 was 8:20, mile 7 was 8:19. I was in my groove now. This was the pace and feeling I wanted to hold onto. I ran past this group that had set up a speaker system on the course.
These guys were the HIGHLIGHT of the entire marathon for me and would pick me up time and time again. It turns out that this was actually the work of my Trakkers teammate Jessi, but at the time I didn’t know this.
Then the hill came. There is a steep hill at the turn around. I already knew that I would run up this bad boy. For me, there is no walking in the marathon. No way, no how. I ran up it and was so jazzed to see the turn around cone. Down I went and the legs felt really good. Mile 8 was 8:30. Nice Sonja, way to keep the speed through the hill.
Going past the speaker system dudes (and this was the highlight of my race) the guy says. “Way to go Sonja, this girl just finished the Moab 100 as first woman, and 3rd overall”. I got this huge smile and gave a little fist pump and then stuck two fingers in the air, because I was 2nd overall, not third, but also to give a little peace love. Lauren was running just behind me at this point and she said “Wow, great job” and I said “Thanks”. That was the only word I muttered the entire marathon. It was such a reminder that I have been in the pain cave before. There were so many times over the next 18 miles that I said to myself:
“What hurts Sonja?”
And I responded..
“nothing too bad”
“This doesn’t even compare to the 100 miler”
“So run harder”
Then, an ANGEL came into my life. I had a guy go past me that had a P on his calf. He was a pro dude. I briefly wondered what had happened to him, why he was so behind. But before I could think any more about it I found that he was running a spectacular pace. Not too fast, not too slow. Just right, like Goldilocks. I immediately attached myself to his tail end. It was like finding fast feet in the swim, I just let him pull me along as my eyes glazed over. Mile 9 was 8:08, mile 10 was 8:14, mile 11 was 8:04, and mile 12 was 7:59. Somewhere in here I passed 4th in my age group, thus putting myself in 4th.
I also passed my mom again at Tubbs hill and I threw my heart rate monitor at her. I was tired of the stupid thing and it was chaffing me. I wanted the freedom of chest movement. Now I think she figured out that I was just offloading stuff, not quitting the race. I gave Troy “the look” once again and he said “I don’t know”. I figured I was in 4th but had tuned out so much the last few miles that I didn’t know. I have him a look of frustration. Apparently he immediately started making calls to his dad, and got on the internet to figure out exactly who was still in front of me. He rocks.
As we came towards the finish line I knew my pro guy was going to leave me. Also, this was the point where Lindsay Corbin passed me on her way to the win. I was kinda jazzed that it took quite awhile for the lead moped to pass me. I think at this point she and I weren’t running too dissimilar of a pace. She had started 35 minutes ahead of me, and was lapping me, she went like 9:17 overall, hot-dang!
Back through town Sean and Trista cheered and one lady said “You look better than when I saw you at mile one”. I had lots of people throughout the race say “Awesome pace” or “You are killing it” or “Your flying”. It was really nice to hear.
Mile 13 was 8:14. I was back on my own, no more Pro dude. I was back on the dike and didn’t feel nearly as good as I had 13 miles ago. I knew that “it” was beginning, the time was rapidly approaching where my “heart” was going to need to take over the racing. Mile 14 was 8:23. I completely skipped my special needs bag. I was opting for on-course gels with caffeine. I was downing one every couple miles. I had water or gatoraid in my hand bottle and would sip that along the way. My Nathan 10oz hand bottle is WAY better than any one I’ve ever carried. I couldn’t even really feel it.
Lots of cheers for me. I went back through downtown and through the neighborhoods. The little hills were starting to be tougher and were taking more umph. I passed my mom and offloaded my Nathan waist pack (after I had pinned my race number to my shorts while running). She was used to the routine by now. I just had my hand bottle left. Mile 15 was 8:28. I ran by Troy again and he said “Your in 4th and 3rd is 7 minutes up wearing a green skirt”. I gave him the “there’s no way” look. But as I ran away from him, I thought, “well, it could happen”. I really put my nose down here and I was hurting bad. I focused on everything but the pain. Mile 16 was 8:26 and mile 17 was 8:20. Mile 18 was 8:08.
I remember thinking “8 miles to go” in here. I knew I could do 8 miles and I thought of all the different 8 mile runs I have completed in my life. The mileage didn’t scare me, but I knew these 8 were going to hurt. At this point I wanted to slow, I really did. But I was trying to eat time into the girl ahead of me, and I was trying to give it a go. Mile 19 was 8:28 and mile 20 was 8:28. I ran by the speaker guy and got mucho love. I knew it was just 10K to go. I saw green skirt going the other direction and I looked at my watch and noted our location.
I came upon the big hill again. While running up the hill I thought to myself, if you have cut 3:30 out of the 7 minutes to the green skirt then you are going to run as hard as you know how to catch her by the finish. I decided right there and then that if I was only 3:30 back I would die trying to get her.
I also ran into my high school ex-boyfriend on the hill. I was the only person running up the hill. More because I’m stubborn than smart, and because I was trying to catch green skirt. I told him good job, he told me good job, I was hoping that he would resume running at the top and continue with the great race that he was having. I rounded the cone, beat it down hill and to the mailbox where I had passed green skirt on the way up. I looked at my watch and I had cut 2 minutes out of the 7 minutes, so I was 5 minutes back. Mile 21 was 8:46, so not too bad for the second time up that hill.
I knew I would run out of real estate on green skirt. But again, my mind only briefly contemplated the fact that I probably had 4th in the bag and wasn’t going to get 3rd. I immediately thought, “anything could happen, she could have to poop, or she might start walking aid stations”. I decided to keep the pressure on 100%.
I really wanted to run a strong last 5 miles and it took everything in me to keep up the pace that I did. This was the stretch that I started making deals with myself. My calves had been cramping for several miles. My toes would roll up into a little ball and I couldn’t straighten them. It was pretty bad, but my mind was Iron. Nothing was going to make me slow down. I ran huge stretches with my toes curled up in little balls. But I didn’t slow down. I knew that I was on the edge, tipping over at times. In IM Canada when I was on the edge I was very scared to cross it. This year I was not.
I told myself I had to push deeper, I had to go harder. I had to run on those scrunched up toes. I promised myself an IV at the finish. I said “Sonja, you can go straight to the med tent, but you must not slow down”. I wanted jelly beans, the Jelly Belly kind, so I promised myself 500 jelly beans at the finish. I wanted a margarita, and I promised myself that I could have 10 when I finished. I felt like I made deals with the devil and I auctioned off my soul. But I would not let myself slow down. Mile 22 was 8:12.
My stomach was angry and very tight. I pulled my shorts down below my hip bones and I knew “This is going to make for some embarrassing pictures” but I didn’t care, I was so totally past that point. I was in a place too raw, so past the edge that my modesty was gone. Mile 23 was 8:36.
There was this huge hill ahead of me. How did this hill get so big? But I was running hard. I passed several more women, but knew they weren’t in my age group, they were not wearing green skirts. The aid station on this hill was frustrating for me. I was lapping lots of people on their first loop and they were walking through the aid stations. Since I was running through the aid stations it was very hard to get aid amongst the walkers. I had to slow a little to get what I needed. But I did manage to score a nice cup of ice that I dumped down my shorts.
At the top of the hill I hit mile 24 in 8:41. I was on my favorite section and I told myself “17 minutes and your home”. My stomach hurt, my calves hurt, my toes were in little balls. I felt like I had to poo. I told myself, you probably need to fart, so do whatever you need to do, just don’t slow down. I didn’t care what bodily functions needed to happen, just as long as I didn’t slow down.
I lost my stomach at this point. I reached back to make sure I hadn’t pooped in my shorts was was relieved to find that I didn’t. It’s very unlike me to write this sort of detail but I guess I just want to illustrate that I was far over the edge. The only thought I was entertaining in my head was “Don’t slow down”. I was making noises running. People walking around me were giving me looks, but at least they heard me coming and would move. Mile 25 was 8:33. I passed Tubbs hill, realized I only had one mile to go. My parents were gone, Troy was gone, everyone was at the finish line, oh my god, I’m going to do this. I tossed my hand bottle next to the van and told the lady standing there “I will come get this afterwards”. Again, afraid of the littering thing.
I start rounding through the neighborhood. I’m grunting, and then the waterworks started. Mile 26 was 8:32. I was crying. I just wanted to be done so bad, I was in so much pain, everything hurt, my calves were done, my body was done. The relief was starting to set in that I only had to hurt for a few more minutes. I turned the final corner and there was a long straight away to the finish. I cried and cried and cried and picked it up. My garmin had 26.44 and the last .44 was at 7:36 pace. That’s crying at 7:36 pace.
I cried all the way in and it was about 5 yards before the finish that I realized I didn’t want to be crying in my finish picture. I didn’t know if I could stop. The crowd was cheering so loud and the sound filled my ears. I was incredibly overwhelmed. I could barely understand the concept that the pain would ever stop. I dug a little deeper and tapped into the joy. I released the pain and came to terms with the fact that this was the finishing chute. I was going to be an Ironman again and I was going to escape the curse of the disastrous second Ironman. I slapped on a big Sonja smile and crossed the line.
I felt the presence of Trista and Sean in the VIP box to my right. Trista got a great finish picture of me (above), and Sean’s clapping hands are in my official finisher photo (below). I’m so glad they are as he was such a help to me in this race and I will always remember his help. I noticed the clock said 10:37. I thought it was wrong. I couldn’t believe all my times added up to something that fast.
I continued to cry for a little while until the doctor came over and they started asking me about the med tent. Then I got myself together because I didn’t want to go to the med tent. I found my smile and they deposited me into the finisher area. I downed some pizza, had a little chat with my ex-boyfriend, and got onto the massage table, and then rejoined my family.
I finished in a total time of: 10:37.02
exited water 10th AG
exited bike 5th AG, with 10th fastest AG bike
ran myself into 4th AG, with 2nd fastest AG run
9th amateur, 19th overall female, 172 competitor
The flood of emotions that evening was pretty intense. Checking twitter and seeing all the people that followed along showering good jobs to me along the way had me in tears for an hour. I knew that 4th age group was going to give me a darn good shot for Kona. I knew First had her slot and I had done the math and pretty much knew they would give 3 slots to our age group. In my heart I was 90% sure I had a slot. I don’t know how I would have reacted if I hadn’t got a slot, but something tells me it would have been ok.
I never buckled under the weight of the race. I raced my heart and guts out. I stayed focused and I executed to the best of my abilities. I never gave up an ounce, and I am terribly proud of that. When I think of everyone that reads this blog and that supports me I feel it is my responsibility to race for all of you, to represent your support of me with solid races. Please know that my hard work while I am out there is my form of expression, my form of saying, “You support me, and I will die out there trying to represent your support”. I love you all, and please know that my success would not be possible without you.
Charlie and Carole from Trakkers, thank you. I feel honored to race wearing Trakkers GREEN, and your texts of love and support make such a difference in my races. And to my parents, and Troy and Annie, they are the work horses of the day. They run around, take the pictures, type the tweets, clap their hands, and then pick me up at the finish line, thoroughly used up and spent. They nurture me and let me cry on their t-shirts. They shoulder my doubts in myself and they answer all my obvious questions.
My coach Chuckie has been a gift from the tri-gods this year. He provides the structure, and lets me provide the heart and motivation. Chuckie, WE’RE GOING TO KONA!!!
If you followed the tweets, that was made possible by Goal0 who’s portable battery pack kept my iPhone charged on the go. I ran in the Saucony Kinvara, my favorite shoe ever. I used a Nathan hand bottle and waste pack to run success. I consumed my weight in First Enduace products this season, along with Justins Nut Butter and Mix1. Josh at Tri-massage is always invaluable for keeping my body going strong. TriSwim, NUUN, Core Concepts have supported this effort as well.
Thank you everyone. Let me know if you want me to mail you some sand from Kona!