As I headed out of transition I immediately knew I was in trouble. I was feeling hot and nauseous and my tummy felt mucho ill. But I felt like my splits were right where I wanted them to be. I ran through the hot corner, and saw my family. It was great to hear all of their voices loud and clear and they were full of good jobs and way to gos.

After my first mile I could tell that I needed a port a pottie and I was getting in a tight spot. I went through 2 aid stations looking for one and never saw one. I also started drinking coke and I remember thinking “who starts Coke at mile two, you are so screwed.” I remember running past a few port-a-potties on our training runs, but couldn’t find one.

I was now officially in a tight spot, and needed a potty like several minutes ago. I started looking for a bush. It took a mile to find one, still no port a pottie. I found a bush and I hated every minute of it. It felt like my entire intestinal track just turned itself inside out. In my mind all I can say is “Oh crap oh crap oh crap.”

I got out and running again, only about 1 minute delay for the pottie stop. I will remind you here that the only time I have had to use the potty in an Ironman is Kona. Kona is such a different beast. I can not quite describe it but everything here is a little more “real” and you are made to pay for every mistake you make.

After the pit stop I went through a really bad period. I have never felt this bad in an Ironman and the only time I have felt worse was at the end of the Moab 100 miler. I was hurting and I can’t quite describe it other than just feeling ill and crappy. My mind played many tricks with me during this time. I remember thinking “This is going to be a 14 hour day” and “My luck has run out.” None of these phrases are things you want going through your head.

I remember using every trick I had in the book to keep going strong. I looked at my watch and picked a heart rate to nail. I kept myself accountable to that heart rate. I started chanting crazy things. “One and done” was in there, “PR or ER” was in there. There was a particularly sadistic section of “Eat the Pain.” I don’t know where I come up with this stuff, but it just pops into my head.

In front of Lava Java Troy was there and I looked at him and said “I feel horrible.” There was nothing poor Troy could say, by the time it registered I was gone. However, the guy running next to me said “You need to eat, get down calories.” For some reason I believed him. First I had to get up Palani. Oh Palani, I think I ran 10 minute pace up Palani. It was really bad. I saw Keith there just before Palani and told him how I was feeling. He told me to keep going, to be strong. You can read so much in the eyes of Ironman athletes. It’s like you can see into my soul in this photo. All the work, all the training, it doesn’t mean a darn thing when you are out there. Trow it out the window, and go chase your pain.

I didn’t feel very strong but once on the Queen K I started to pound the calories. I had been taking Coke since mile 2 but now I was drinking Coke, Perform, eating oranges, and pretty much having a buffet out there. By mile 13ish I was coming around and starting to feel much better. Once that happened I tried to put my nose down and RUN.

The hills out there are pretty big and it’s hard to keep consistent mile splits but I just tried to do what I could. The Natural Energy Lab was a lot more fun this year as I was feeling a tad bit better than last year. I saw Kendra ahead of me at the turn around, she had 2 minutes on me and was screaming at me to come get her. I tried. I tried for 8 miles, but I never even caught sight of her. Two Kompetitive Edge girls finished within 2 minutes of each other. We were proud of that one.

The last part back through the Queen K I just tried to stay strong and run on the edge. This race is such a hard race. As I write this, “hard” is all I can think. It was hard. I tried to stay strong, talk nice to myself, never loose hope, and doing all of that was really hard. I felt that sub 10 was not a possibility any more but I thought sub 10:10 still was so I worked hard towards that goal.

The final mile was quite sad. I ran hard up the Iron War hill and I passed a lady that wasn’t in my age group, she was 35-39 and a guy on the side of the road was telling her she had to run strong to keep her 3rd place. That was hard for me to hear. I knew I was in 10th in my age group, and she is a few years older than me and was in 3rd. I was actually envious. Add to that how much I hurt and let’s just say the F-bombs were flying all willy nilly around in my head.

This is what you look like when you see the finish line…stay away from the light! I look like I am running to my death and I’m happy about it.

The girl stayed with me and then we made the turn down Palani. I ran really hard but it all hurt a lot and it was the first time I had this feeling that I might not make it. I made the turn on Kuakini and I knew I needed to conserve myself. I was not doing well, my vision was not acting normal and I had flashbacks of Paula N-F sitting at the banyon tree with her shoes off.

Turning onto Hualalai I got passed back by the girl that wasn’t in my age group and I barely cared. I was so glad to see the Banyon tree on Ali’i and I was still a bit nervous about making it. I did make it, and I tried to do a little jump at the finish but I was not really successful at getting both feet off the ground.

The most fake smile that I could muster…and it was completely fake. I wanted to lay down in the fetal position right there.

I was in bad shape and my catchers had their hands full with me for about 10 minutes. At all the other IMs they seem to head you toward medical if you are “on the edge” but at Kona they seem to not do this. They try to get you to come around and then hand you to family. I saw Grant and Kendra and was released to them. I want to post a picture of Kendra at the finish line because it’s awesome. She went 10:06 and was so solid all frickin’ day. Amazing!

I was exhausted. But within a few minutes the endorphins set in and I was smiling and happy. 10:08:44 this year in Kona, 10th in my AG, 19th amateur woman, 39th female, 536th overall. A years worth of work specifically for this race and it netted me 9 minutes. 4 in the swim, 4 on the bike, 30 seconds in transition, and 30 seconds on the run. I’ll take it.

In the video I said I wanted to flirt with the 10 hour mark. Well, I flirted, and this year it turned me down. But that’s ok, I’ll be back again to give it another go. This race is one of the most demanding and RAW experiences you can go though as an endurance athlete. You find out what you are made of out there, you find your demons and the chinks in your armor are revealed.

Congratulations to all of those that I raced with, you all showed so much grit out there. Thank you to my sponsors, Kompetitive Edge, TYR, Quintana Roo, GoalZero, Punk Rock Racing, Love Grown Granola, First Endurance, Nathan, Tri-Massage, and Nuun. Thank you to my family/friends who traveled so far to cheer for me out there: Troy, Annie, mom, dad, Norm, Grace, T, Kyle, Kirk, Melissa, Keith, Nancy, Jared, Peter, Mark.

Thanks Michelle, for being my Partner in Crime, my PIC, and congratulations on being #1111 and going 11:11:11. Here’s to many more!


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Family, Ironman, Marathon, Race Report, Running, Travel, Triathlon


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  3. Wow. Just wow, there is so much heart in here. This was so honest, the pictures you posted show so clearly where you were. Thanks for sharing this – it must not have been easy to write.

  4. Congrats Sonja! You are an inspiration to me yet again. I hope someday I can meet you in person because I really need to thank you for all the inspiration you do bring me!

  5. You toughed through the day and played your best hand. I’m so proud of you PIC:) BTW, that may be the only picture of you I have seen that has a fake smile. Last one OK?

  6. Congratulations on finishing strong in a race where you weren’t dealt the cards you expected. I believe in you as an athlete and am sure you will do nothing less than extraordinary in the future!

  7. I just loved reading your 2011 Kona expenerience, congratulations, you did so very well!! I shouldn’t read this blog, it is too inspirational. I never wanted to go to Kona because the conditions look too harsh, so qualifying has never been my goal, but in what was going to be my final IM next March, after reading your blog, I’m going to try my hardest to qualify for Kona and make it my final IM. What an amazing experience!!

  8. Wow. Just…wow. That photo of you where you say you can see your soul just gives me chills. “Way to push through” doesn’t even do your gutsy performance justice. Amazing job, Sonja.

  9. I always look forward to your posts, sonja, because they are so honest and they give us a good idea about what it takes to compete at your level.
    We are very proud of you, anyway, but this effort makes us admire you even more. Well done. 9.50.00 next year, I reckon.

  10. You are my hero! The fact that you can be feeling so bad and still fight HARD for what you want is so impressive. I look forward to seeing you get your sub 10 next year :)

  11. Oh your run sounds quite a bit like mine. Way to be so tough out there Sonja! Loved reading your report. So impressed with your racing savvy and how hard you worked all year long. Hope the foot is feeling better. Sub 10 or bust next year for us? :-)

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