It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a race report. I made the decision after IM CDA to train exclusively for Kona and purposefully put zero races on the schedule. As I got into my training Chuckie suggested that I race the Harvest Moon Long Course Triathlon as a Kona tune up race. It’s just a 20 minute drive from my house, it’s on local territory, and it’s affordable.
As the race grew closer I realized that it was the same day as the Rev3 Cedar Point races and I was kicking myself for not going to CP to cheer on my Trakkers teammates who were doing the 140.6 race there. But then, looking at it from the Kona prep side this was the right decision. No airplane (germ exposure), travel trip expense (Kona spending money exposure), days of reduced training (kicking butt in the future exposure). But, I really missed out on Rev3 Cedar Point, and I would like to send out a huge congratulations to all the new 140.6ers!!
I’ll admit, I was a little nervous about racing. This close to Kona (4 weeks) I pondered what would happen if my results were lackluster. Then I would have to do the important job of figuring out what went wrong, and making sure my confidence didn’t take a plunge. Racing can be a little scary sometimes! But the night before the race, I did my normal mental work and I talked to myself about stepping on the line with a clean slate, with ZERO expectations, and just seeing where the race goes. It will be a good indicator as to where I am at, but if I let nerves get in the way, then it won’t be a good indicator. I thought I went to bed with peace, but I had a nightmare that Annie got bit by a spider and died, so maybe not all my issues were resolved. I love being a mom, do the irrational thoughts ever stop?
We arrived early that morning and waited in a long line of cars until 6am when the reservoir opened. Of course Annie had to go pee while we were waiting, and of course when Troy was taking her in the bushes (what few there are out there) the line of cars started moving. Troy was so happy that I didn’t drive off without him, and I was so offended that he thought I would do such a thing.
I got a GREAT spot in transition, right close to the bike exit and facing the proper way out. I set up my goods…minimal minimal minimal and got out of there. One of the things I forgot is that racing so close to home you see all your friends, all the triathletes that you miss at travel races. I loved bumping into everyone that I did, especially some of the multisport newbies like Brett, and Ron.
I was in the second wave to go off. In the first wave was the elites and the women 35+. I’ll admit right now that I think I was a little confused about the Elite wave. It said on the website that you had to have a PRO card to win money. And I interpreted that to mean that you had to have a PRO card to enter the Elite wave. So I did not. But I was wrong, someone like me could have entered the Elite wave, but I wouldn’t receive $$ if I won, since I’m an AGer. Live and learn.
So wave #2 it was. I wanted to swim good so I went hard from the start. I got out really well, swam really straight, and found feet. Sweet. They were great for awhile until they started loosing their navigational focus and I went solo from there. I tried to swim hard, pull hard, stay straight. I lost it a bit towards the last 20% of the swim but what I lacked in navigation, I made up for in effort. I exited, checked my watch to see 31:17 and ran UP UP UP to the transition and timing mat. It took 1 minute to run UP UP UP that hill.
I heard Chuckie say something to me on the way up…right as I was pulling off my wetsuit top, so I heard his words as: “Humngh Sonja, your mshyo sjhlli hukrps”. Right, got it coach!
Into transition, off with the suit, on with the glasses/helmet and I was out of there. I would like to highlight that I won the overall mens and women’s T1 race. Yes, sir-eee I went 0:48 seconds for an overall race best, Tim Hola’s got NOTHING on me (except swim/bike/run). Tyler would be SO proud!
Ha! Onto the bike. I had ridden the course several days prior with PIC and we had Kona like winds. We were going about 9mph for miles and miles. I felt prepared to have wind on race day and I almost wanted it so I could practice for Kona. When things were rather calm I was a little bummed, but not for too long. I got into my groove and incorporated a few things that Chuckie has been teaching me during training. I was racing without my race wheels, so I had my training PowerTap wheel on the back, and my training American Classic on the front. One thing CV has taught me is to avoid heart rate and power spikes during the race. This was a course with rollers, so I really tried to SIMMER during the hills, and keep the intensity HIGH on the flats and straights, thus keeping power and heart rate consistent. This is called “Being nice to your body and doing it a favor so you can ask it to run fast later”, or “BNTYBADIAFSYCAITRFL”. No really, it’s a technical term, it’s in all the Exercise Physiology books, look it up. So with that in mind I stayed focused during the race and tried to nail the task at hand.
The other CV thing I worked on was to not let my watts drop over the course of the race. This (apparently) happens often to athletes, so I really kept an eye on the watts and steadily rose them throughout the 56 miles. I was expecting total headwind the last 10 miles coming back on Quincy and almost shouted “Hallelujah” when there was none to be had. I pushed the entire way back, keeping the heart rate in check and really pushing hard down the hills to keep watts up.
I love my new gearing! It’s perfection! The compact with the 11-25 is just perfect for me and when Chuckie said the new crank length would make me faster, he wasn’t lying. My bike split came in at 2:26:49 and 22.9mph.
I also wanted to highlight Amber Rydholm. Despite the fact that we have only met once, she cheered me on by name out there. Amber is an Iron-chick and did both Placid and St.George this year. It was great to talk with her, and we got to know each other a bit better after the race. Cool Chick!
So I rolled into transition, threw on my socks and run shoes, grabbed my hat/number/nutrition and ran on out. It was cool to see lots of empty racks. I hit my lap button at the timing mats and I looked down at my watch. It said 3:01 for the overall race time. I was really really shocked at this. It all started to come together. Immediately I said to myself, if you can run 1:30 you can race 4:31. My PR from Clearwater last year was a 4:40, and I was pretty jazzed about that time. To know that running under 1:39 was going to result in a PR got me a little excited…but just for a moment.
I had a 1/2 marathon yet to run. I immediately got focused. I was excited to test out all the work we have been doing with my run. Well, not “work” really, but just the things I have learned about awareness and going Zen, and keeping my posture. So, that’s what I did. We had some wind out there and I was lucky to work my way up to a guy running very close to my pace within the first mile. I tucked behind him settled in.
I focused on lowering the heart rate, standing tall, keeping my arms high, shoulders back and “boxing” with the hands. I tried to keep the belly engaged, and the head movement minimal. Focus Focus. And the miles started ripping by. My Garmin would beep at me every mile and tell me my split and they were all in the 7:00 range, some a little under, some a little over.
On one of the aid stations my wind block and the #1 male took all the aid and I wasn’t able to pick anything up. I remember thinking “This is part of the sport”, now what can I do about it? I decided to forgo the wind block in order to come into the next aid station first. He hung super tough with me though. I think he wondered why I was picking it up and passing him. He asked my name, I asked his, and then I told him “I really need aid at the next station”. I think he understood then.
I was able to get aid and keep my pace. I got to mile 6 and I saw the first lady pass me going the other way. I immediately recognized her as Mandy Mclane who I knew recently moved to Boulder (rad). She was one mile ahead of me, and I was actually really happy to be within one mile of her. What I didn’t realize was that she had registered in the Elite wave, so she had started 5 minutes ahead. But I didn’t know that at the time. Near the turn around on the dam I saw the #2 lady, Wendy Mader. I gotta admit, the Team Timex outfits are just plain daunting. Wendy looked like she was HAULING, I didn’t know if I could catch her. I also didn’t know that she started in Wave #1 as well, not as an Elite, but as 35+.
The aid station just shy of the turn around had my friend Brett’s daughter manning it. She recognized me and the aid station went BALLISTIC for me on the way back. LIKE CRAZY BALLISTIC! I loved them so much, I wanted to give them all kisses. It really made me laugh, and I think if I can inspire ONE young female cross county runner to stay healthy, EAT FOOD, and SMILE, then my job is complete. Thanks girls!!
On the way back I struggled a bit with the aid stations. They were on one side of the bike path, so when you were running back in, the people going out were in line for the aid and I didn’t want to have a head on collision with any of the racers. I missed one station, and then two more I just pulled over and took cups myself instead of taking them from the volunteers. I’m trying to have better aid station edict because this is something I’m not great with. It’s a work in progress. On the way back in I also had SO MANY people shout “GoSonja”. I really tried hard to wave at every one of them, another work in progress there. Please know that I hear you, and I value the fact that you are willing to take energy out of your race to shout my name, it means A LOT and it makes me run faster!
I had been watching Wendy HAUL in front of me, and then I came around a corner and she was right there. She soon stopped to stretch out what looked like a calf that was in pain. I FELT for her, as I know that when racing most athletes one goal is to keep moving forward at a steady clip with minimal issues. That’s one goal I think we all share. So I ran by Wendy but hoped that she would be able to stretch it out and get back into her pace.
I ran into Richard, who REALLY made me laugh. Richard is the dad of one of Annies schoolmates last year. We have become really good friends with their family and Richard got into Kona via the lotto (what are the odds…two parents in one preschool class of 12…headed to Kona). Richard was going out when I was coming in and he shouted “I’m coming for ya”, which was funny. But then, he kept shouting it like 5 different times and his voice kept getting fainter and fainter. In the moment it was hilarious and it was the one thing that broke my focus during the whole race. I lost it and just laughed for about 20 seconds.
I knew at that point that I was in second, behind Mandy, and I assumed she started in my same wave since we are usually the same age group. I was pretty jazzed. Heading into the last mile I switched my watch over to race time and noticed that if I ran hard I would be able to break 4:30. I couldn’t even comprehend it. I really couldn’t. In triathlons there are others to “race” but really, we “race” ourselves. I try to use other people for motivation to do my best, but when it comes down to it, it’s about finding the motivation from within and letting the chips fall where they may. Focus on what you can control…which is you…and your best results will shine through.
I ran strong into the finish keeping my form as perfect as I could muster. At the end they have this HUGE slip-n-slide that ROCKS. I took not one, but TWO trips down the slip-n-slide. I really think that this should be mandatory for races, it was really awesome!
I was standing around at the finish talking to Jen who I met at CDA and just love. Her husband Mark came up and said “You won”. I said “No, Mandy Mclane won, she was in front of me”. He dragged me over to the results and sure enough, I saw “Elite” next to her name which meant that she started 5 minutes ahead of me, and with that factored in, I was 13 seconds ahead. I was first overall, and I felt a bit bad that we hadn’t started in the same wave. It’s always hard to race someone who is in a different wave.
Shock, really pure shock. Chuckie says I shouldn’t be shocked, and I’m trying to get over it, but I was shocked. The 4:29:29 was an 11 minute PR over Clearwater. Although my Garmin did have the run course as short, there were a lot of twists and turns and the Garmin tends to underrepresent that. It could have been right. If it was right, then my 1:28:50 was a 2+min half marathon PR.
I learned so much during this race. Besides the fact that I got to practice all this stuff that CV has been teaching me in a race setting, I also learned the value of training. I never thought in years past that all my racing was impacting my racing, but this triathlon, and how I felt during this swim/bike/run really showed me just how much you can gain when you do commit to train for a big race. If you don’t race every little race along the way, then you might just shock yourself (and shocked i was). Racing is fun, it’s gratifying, and it’s a thrill. Training requires focus and diligence. But I never realized what huge rewards it can pay…until Sunday.
I also realized that I have sold myself short in the past. We all derive our identity from different places and I’ve always considered myself as “the hard worker”. I realized today that hard work can take you a long way. Hard work can win you races, and talent is a multifunctional word. It can mean lots of things, including your ability to work hard and capitalize on what genes you have.
Lastly, while this race was a great result for me, I plan to put it in my back pocket and then put my nose down and continue to do what I do best: comit. I have 26 important days until Kona, and I know that any mistake I make will be punishable by the island gods. Several weeks ago on a ride up to Ward I was joined by Cam Widoff. I don’t think I have to explain who that is, but let’s suffice it to say that he has raced as a PRO in Kona more times than….well…pretty much anyone. I asked him his advise and he said that the years he came to Kona humble and just ready to focus on himself and do his best were the years that he raced well. So that is my plan. Do the right thing from here on out. Focus on diligence in sleep, eating, limiting stress, and training. Spend minimal time attached to electronics, and maximal time spent with my legs up against the wall. And finally to arrive on the island humble, happy to be there, and happy to have the opportunity to race well.
Thanks in a very big way to: Trakkers (congrats to Rev3CP finishers), Goal0 (keeping my electronics solar charged), Saucony (my Kinvaras rock), Mix1 (2 for breakfast), Core Concepts (bamboo t-shirts rock), Tri-Massage (keeping my body happy), First Endurance (in my bottles, in my tummy), Justin’s Nut Butter (chocolate almond is heaven on earth), Nathan (just ordered 4 new hand bottles for KONA), NUUN (did you get any in transition?), and TriSwim (do I smell like chlorine…nope).
An especially huge thanks to Troy and Annie who were out there in full force, you guys rock, and I love you tons. I promise to take you on a Hawaiian vacation in 26 days.
And to Chuckie: humble thanks, my coach. Thank you for putting in the hours with me on the bike and writing me schedules that make me laugh and make me fit. You continue to train me in a way that makes me surprise myself. 26 more days until Kona, here we come.