Getting off the bike I felt that I was in the lead for the amateur race but I wanted to make sure. The course is 1 long loop of about 13 miles, and then two shorter loops of about 10.5K. When I put together my race plan I really wanted to run the long hilly loop conservative and then throw down the hammer on the short flat loops.

Did it go down like that?

No, of course not. Negative splitting the Ironman marathon always seems like an awesome plan on paper but never really comes together in reality. I’m not sure if everyone feels this way, but I almost always feel great getting off the bike (Kona being the exception). This time I felt better than usual, my nutrition was sitting super well. I felt great getting out running and 7:30 pace felt easy. I ran that pace all the way until we hit the hills.

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There was a short out an back around mile 3 and I didn’t see anyone ahead. I checked my watch and started looking for AGers behind me to get a time split. I was almost out of the out and back and saw two of them. I had 7:30 on the second AGer. I felt pretty darn good about that. Knowing I was aiming for a 3:30 marathon, that meant either of those girls had to run 3:23, on a hilly course. Okay Sonja, now, don’t screw this up. You still have like 23 miles to run.

What can I say, I loved the hilly section of the course. I ran the first long one up and down. Then the second steep one, I had to walk that! It was short and walking felt just as hard as running. At the top I got back at it. The third one I ran. On the big descent down to the ocean I saw Haley Chura (you have to read her Brazil blog, it’s hilarious) and had to give her a high 5. She looked really solid!

I hit the ocean road and we ran along that, past our hotel, and out to another out and back. I was feeling good, but was just barely keeping things under 8min miles in this section, maybe 7:45-7:50 range. Those hills really take a bite out of your mojo. I turned at the out and back and was happy to have that part of the course done.

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I took another time split and now saw that I had a 12 minute lead over the second AGer. That was when I breathed a big sigh of relief. I just felt confident that I could hold onto that lead until the end. I still had like 18 miles to run, but my nutrition was going so well, and I felt really in control of my tempo and emotional state. My self talk was 100% positive, I was having a great day.

At mile 11 my liquid nutrition had run out. I had decided to run with a waist pack for this race. I have had trouble in past races on the run with nutrition. If you read this blog often, you’ve heard it all from me. After my bonk at Oceanside this year, I am more into being prepared and having what I know works with me, than being light. Duh…that only took 9 Ironmans to figure out. So I had 2×10 ounce bottles in my waist pack with Osmo in them and I had 2 packs of chews in what I call my Kangaroo pouch. At the aid stations I had been taking water at each one and drinking it or pouring it over my head.

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Speaking of water. I need to talk about the WATER! North American Ironmans HAVE to adopt the Ironman Brasil water situation. Do you remember the cups of orange juice you used to get in Kindergarten with the foil lids? Well, thats what they handed out on the run but in water form. So it was a cup of water, with a foil lid. This was the most genius thing I’ve ever seen. No more losing half the water during the handoff. You could carry it and use it later, you could poke a little hole in the top and pour it over your head. It WAS GENIUS. Best EVER!

See the water in the cups on the right. This is a different brand, but it’s the same container.


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Okay, so after my Osmo ran out, I tried some Pepsi. Boy, immediately it made me feel very up and down emotionally. So I knew I had to get into my special needs and get more Osmo. At mile 14 I finally hit special needs, and grabbed a spare bottle of Osmo and refilled my waist pack bottles.

So one thing that was really different for me during this Ironman was my sense of being alone. I knew there was zero chance of anyone out there knowing me, so I really just focused on taking care of me. It was truly an independent day and in some ways, I think that actually helped. Now I don’t get outside assistance from people, but just running by your family on the course is always such a huge boost. I was without that, and nobody around me spoke English. Even telling volunteers my number at the turn arounds, I quit doing that because I didn’t know how to say my number in Portugese. So it was a quiet day.

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Now I’m on the short loops and it’s time to boogy. Crap. Where is my boogy? I’ve got no boogy. 8min miles was where it was at. Not a lot of urgency, just running strong. I passed Claire and we had a little conversation. IN ENGLISH, oh how that felt good! On the first shorty loop when I was going into the out and back I heard this huge booming voice screaming for me on the other side of the road. It was Troy headed out on his long loop. It was so good to hear his voice. And to be honest, I felt this huge sense of relief because I knew he would finish, and that he was safe and alive.

The Brazilians don’t really cheer for people they don’t know, and they don’t own cow bells. So it was oddly quiet out there and I hadn’t actually heard my name all day. But I knew from day 1 that this race was about tucking into my own head and getting it done.

At the end of long lap 1 we got the coolest arm band to mark our completion of the lap. I was so excited about that, and then at the end of shorty lap 1 we got another one. The excitment to get the arm band was unbearable. I looked forward to it for miles and wondered what color it would be. You could use the arm bands to tell what loop other people were on and it helped the course volunteers direct people.

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Finishing my second shorty loop I was headed to the finish. I was feeling so great, so happy, and I just kept running. The finish didn’t come…kept running…still not there. I checked my watch and it read 3:31 at 26.2 miles. No finish in sight. It wasn’t until 26.6ish that I hit the chute and in a blink of an eye it was all over. The chute was way too short.

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I did a jump at the line. I felt really really good. They didn’t catch my jump, and the race photos are so funny, prejump, and post jump, but no actual jump. First jump I’ve done that didn’t get caught. Oh well, the face on this photo is pretty classic.

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I turned around and saw 9:51 on the clock and just started crying. I felt really alone, but really happy, and I felt a little foolish for being so emotional. There were all these people staring at me, and the announcer was talking to me, but I had no idea what he was saying (theme of the trip). There aren’t any finish line catchers in Brazil, you just sort of walk off like after a 70.3. They put a dry towel around my shoulder and I soaked it with tears.

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I made my way into the post race food area, grabbed some pizza (they had a pizza oven in the finisher tent and they were hand making pizzas and they were AMAZING) and sat down at a table by myself. I just cried for awhile there, there were happy emotional tears. I felt really dumb, but I couldn’t stop. So many thoughts were swirling through my head. It was mostly a loop of “Did that really just happen?”

I must say, I want to thank Hillary Biscay. She was in the tent and she was the only person that talked to me, not that I expected anyone else to or anything. She asked me how I did and if it was my first time under 10. It was really nice of her. Ken Glah was in the tent too and he looked tired. He won his AG, and was about a minute ahead of me. Amazing.

After a few minutes I got out of there and made my way to the hospitality house that Ken Glah has on the race course for all the athletes and families of the athletes. I cleaned myself up in the bathroom and went out to the course to wait for Troy to come through. Sure enough, he came running through with 1 shorty lap to go. I got to see him twice and he asked me how I did. I told him and he did this big fist pump as he ran away from me. One lap later I got to run through the finish line with Troy (they allow 2 guests down the chute with you) and that was so so so awesome. Except I had to ask him to slow down, that was a little embarrassing. He  jumped up and touched the Timex sign, a 1 hour PR for him in his 3rd triathlon ever.

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Run Time: 3:34:15

Overall Time: 9:50:49 says the results.

Final Placing: 1st in AG, 1st Amateur, 11th woman, 123th overall in the race.

Tomorrow, some thoughts and reflections….

An addition to this blog post 18 months later! I was contacted by Guto saying that he took a photo of me that he was entering into a photography show at a studio (PS Guto takes amazing photos of naked triathletes, so you are going to want to visit his site!) He is a photographer in Brazil. HE CAUGHT MY JUMP!!! So 18 months later I have a jump photo of the finish and here it is in all it’s glory! haha!! It was just a reminder to me of the pure joy I experienced with that PR and first IM amateur win. It was such a special moment for me and I am so thankful he reached out and shared his talent with me! So awesome!!! 

Sonja - Guto

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10 Comments

  1. The armband thing is genius! Wish they did that for U.S. ironmans with multi-loop runs. Love the last pic of you after the finish. It really says it all.

  2. the photo of you at the end with your hands on yours knees is one of the best I have seen of you. Lots of emotion and you are just exuding athlete .

    Awesome job out there!

  3. Wow, I can feel your excitment, this is so cool. Sorry though, in my head I still look
    down and see this scrawny dard haired little girl in my arms, I am trying though, into a beautiful health woman.

  4. I’m happy for you and all, but can we talk about how Troy went 12:38 at his SECOND IRONMAN AND THIRD TRIATHLON EVER?!?!?!?!?! 😉

    Seriously though, congrats to you both!

Comments close 20 days after the post is written, thanks!