Norseman 2015 The Bike

Whew! Okay folks, here we go. Things are about to get real. This was hard to write. Some serious vulnerability happening here, but heck, you only live once! YOLO!

I want to send a huge thanks to all of you that signed up for the webinar next Monday! We had a GREAT response over the last 24 hours!! It seems quite a few of you are excited about this idea. 3 more days to sign up! It’s free. If we hit 100 registrations, I’m going to give away some OSMO bundles during the webinar. In case you missed my update yesterday:

Monday, August 31st, 7pm (Denver time…you know, Mountain time) I’m going to host a webinar on my #trihacks. It’s going to be around 60 minutes long, but I’ll stay longer if people need me to. I’m planning on talking a little about WILLPOWER because that’s what I’ve been delving into personally over the last few months, and then we can free form it from there.

It’s free so we can see if I suck at it, or if you all like it.  SIGN UP HERE


The Norseman bike ride:

I headed out of transition to stunning views as the sun was rising. The first little snafu I experienced was losing my Smith glasses. I was shoving them in my pocket with cold hands, and then a few minutes later I went to move them and they were GONE. Uug. Will be ordering a new pair stat.

The first 35-ish kilometers (20ish miles) you climb around 4,000 feet in elevation. There really isn’t any warm up. Maybe enough time to put on a pair of gloves, get in aero, and BAM, climbing. Last sighting of my Smith glasses. Sad…



I was not feeling too peppy and I was about as cold as one would expect after swimming in 50 degree water. I had talked to Muddy the day before about my situation and I must say, he knows me so well. We didn’t even discuss not doing the race, he knows that’s a decision I would have made or not made on my own. So his advice to me was simple “Go into Diesel mode” which pretty much means, don’t step on the gas, just persevere, slow and steady. Easy to say, hard to execute.

The first girl went by me very early on, and in the first 3 miles I was getting passed often and quickly. I had no problem letting that go because I literally felt like everyone was very strong and seemed to be hard charging. I have never been passed like that in a race and I just absorbed the feeling. When we started climbing that first big climb I continued to watch racer after racer haul on by me.


I had gotten out of the water in 24th overall (men + women) and by the top of that first climb I must have lost 60+ places it felt like. All the top contenders went by me within 15 miles and I was embarrassed to be wearing #7, people knowing that was an elite number. I wished I could have just blended into the crowd more, but I realized quickly…nobody cared. It’s a personal event. Everyone is focused on themselves and their crew team. I did manage to look around. The scenery was amazing on that first climb!


I tried to take the climb easy, I had put gearing on my bike to give me gears to spin, and man, I was using them. There was a lot of spitting and blowing snot. I tried hard not to hit anyone with it, but my nose and chest were offloading like a liter of fluid. It was gross. Just gross. The coughing was every 35-60 seconds so about what I had been experiencing the few days prior. I felt half dead to be honest, but I climbed on.


The other athletes crew teams passed us and I even saw Troy and Andrew go by in our Volvo, whom we called Mr.Beepy. There are a series of tunnels in the first climb. Norwegians LOVE their tunnels! They build them EVERYWHERE and we loved driving through them during our 2.5 weeks in Norway. Biking through them was interesting. They are very dark, and warm, so I was pretty happy in there, it felt like a cave, which was pretty much what I wanted to curl up in. They do smell like car exhaust, but my sniffer wasn’t working too great anyways.


At 25k Troy had a fresh bottle for me, and then I saw him and Andrew again at the very top of the climb in Dyranut. This area of the course was crazy town, lots of crews, and vehicles, and athletes pulling over, putting on coats, or stopping to eat. I was being overtaken by the mid pack and there were a lot more cyclists around me. If you look at the elevation chart of the bike you see that it’s rolling and downhill all the way to Geilo. Before the race I told Troy to go ahead and provide SAG at the top the first climb and then book it to Geilo bc I would be fine with two bottles and rolling downhill.


This was my first really big mistake of the day…but maybe a blessing in disguise in retrospect. In my condition I should have asked Troy to bunny hop me every 5 miles instead of sending him 50k down the road. But that was our plan and off they went. This whole section of the course is on the top of a huge plateau. I knew it was cold up there because I was losing motor control of my hands which is really rare for me, but I really couldn’t tell what sensations were because I was sick, and what was the conditions. And honestly, the bone shaking hacking I was doing up there was requiring a lot more toughness than the temperature. Usually the snow is melted on the plateau this time of year, but their cold summer meant the snow was still up there, and that snow was why the fjord was so cold. It was 7:30 in the morning, and I found out later that the air temp was 0C or 32F.


My lungs were angry but I was learning that dealing with that was going to be constant. The altitude up there, combined with the cold, combined with being in wet tri shorts, put me in a really bad spot. My wet tri shorts froze to my skin and I started to feel my skin underneath take on the feeling of dead meat as my body moved the blood flow away from it, mostly just the section between my bum and my hips. I was still getting passed continuously, had yet to actually pass a single person, and I was not moving fast. I would pedal anything up, and then just coast anything down. Sometimes in aero, most the time not.


A lot of this section gets a little hazy but there came a point where I was not mentally there any more. I wasn’t thinking clearly, or making good decisions. Two times in this section I rode off the side of the road accidentally. I just wasn’t with it and all of the sudden I was in the dirt off the road. I would stop and kinda wonder how I got there and then pull back on the road. I remember wondering after one such occasion how long it would take Troy to find me if I crashed in the rocks. I remember thinking it would be a long time because he would sit and wait for a long time before coming to find me, maybe days. And I remember thinking that it would be okay. The best way I can describe it is that I stopped having any regard for my safety. It wasn’t a conscious decision, my mind just got strange and didn’t quite care any more. And honestly, thinking back on that over these last few weeks has been one of the hardest things to get over. Hard to explain, but I’m doing my best.


The road started descending and I just sat on my saddle trying to remember to make the turns the road was asking me to make. I was well beyond any sort of racing brain, just out of it and ridding down a random road in Norway. And I was cold, but also very numb.

At 90k I saw Troy screaming on the side for me and I pulled in to where he and Andrew were stopped. I could not speak. I could not think. I knew I needed warmer gloves, and I knew I needed to get out of my wet tri shorts but I looked at them with dead cow eyes and tried to talk. Mumbled Jumbled words came out. I tried again and got out “gloves and shorts.” Troy said “I can get you gloves” and I said “shorts” and he said “I have gloves” and I said “shorts” and he said “I can only get you gloves.” I know my husband well enough to know when he’s lying to me, but I was so out of it I was confused and kept saying “shorts” and he kept saying “gloves.” I finally just looked at him with confused eyes and got back on my bike. No new gloves, no new shorts. (He’s so cute…how he puts up with this…I have no idea, but he says he loves it)


Looking back, this was the spot in the bike portion of the race where I am surprised I didn’t quit. The only reason I didn’t was because my brain was working so slowly that it couldn’t even process that quitting was an option. It’s like I was too dumb to quit. It’s really hard for me to describe, but it’s probably the worst I have ever been off mentally since I was in labor with my daughter. Totally confused and not with it.

A mile later Troy and Andrew were on the side of the road again with warm gloves. I looked Troy dead in the eye and said “where are my spare shorts?” He looked me back in the eye and said “I left them in transition.” Suddenly it all became clear. He felt horrible for leaving them so he was trying to not tell me because he thought I would be mad. But the minute he told me my brain popped into problem solving mode and I looked at him completely clear headed and said “I have a spare pair in my luggage, they are Coeur brand, get those.” It totally got me out of fog-brain and I was coherent for the first time in 55k.

A few miles later we were in the middle of climb #2 (there are 5 climbs in the race, and 12,000 feet of total climbing on the bike) and Troy and Andrew are on the side of the road with my Coeur shorts and food. I stopped and put my bike down. Now I’m in an odd position. I need to get nude. There are racers riding by, crews driving and cheering on the side of the road. People are watching and I kinda wave to a guy and ask him to look away, which he does not. Then I change shorts. It was pretty awkward but I got it done and got back on the bike, two more ladies passing me in the process.


Those shorts were apparently my good luck charm because changing into them was a turning point in my race. Honestly, if the last 80k was just as miserable as the first 100k, I would not have finished Norseman. I would have ended up in a ditch, but lucky for me, I perked up and pretty much became “normal Sonja”. Now, my lungs weren’t going to let me push, and I was still coughing every 30 seconds, and the race had passed me by a solid 80k ago, but it felt nice to not feel like death.

Climbs 2, 3 and 4 are all on the shorter side, and I found an interesting pattern. I felt good at the bottom of the climbs when the temps were warmer and the elevation was lower. As I got to the top of them my lungs got very angry and I would suffer big time until I descended to the bottom once again. I also figured out that the cough drops were making my stomach really feel crappy, so I quit those and just let the cough roll with it’s bad self.

I actually passed back some people on these middle climbs and would tell them good job. This was when I figured out that Norwegians don’t do that. They don’t talk to other people and when I would say “Good Job” they would give me this really funny look. But, it felt good to me, so I kept saying it. The crews on the other hand were great and many of them would cheer for me as well. Many crews would hop their person every few miles, but Troy and Andrew timed their SAG much farther apart so I would see other peoples crew team multiple times before I saw mine. Which way was better? Who knows… both worked.

I remained in a similar pattern for the middle three climbs and finally found myself at the base of the last climb. Everyone says that this is the worst one. I also read that your crew can get stuck if you don’t time it right and you will beat them to T2. I didn’t want that to happen so I had told Troy the night before to just provide me SAG at the bottom of the climb and then drive to transition and I would ride the last 40k without SAG. So I got my last handoff from them, was in pretty good spirits and off they went.

As I climbed this last one, which really was quite steep and quite long, all the people around me had a different plan for their teams than I did. Their teams were seeing them every 1/2 mile to mile on this climb. I got a bit down in here. I honestly needed the emotional support more than anything and I felt really sad that my crew was gone. I definitely spent some time in here just feeling very alone, and even had some thoughts about my life the last few months. I don’t usually do that in races, I’m very in control of my mind, but I think feeling like I was “completing” and not “competing” opened up my brain to some dark spots. There was this one crew, their racers name was BOB, and he had like 20 people crewing for him. They were pretty amazing and kinda adopted me a little bit out there. They cheered for me every mile up that climb. They were so kind and gave me love out there which I had grossly underestimated my need for.


The final descent is a bumpy one, and everyone had been warning us about how horrible it was. I felt it was bad only in comparison to the pristine Norwegian roads. It was about standard for a California descent. After the descent is a long flat section of 5 miles or so and I pulled over to go pee because I hadn’t peed all day yet and I couldn’t hold it any longer. Apparently 7 bottles is the max I can hold without peeing…I am a camel!

After my pee stop, a few more miles and I’m at T2.

Oh T2….the most strange strange part of Norseman. So Troy is in there, they have like 15 bike racks. They don’t need many because your crew is going to take your bike after they get you out of there. So Troy grabs my bike and he has ALL my stuff laying out in T2, it was amazing. The T2 is small, and it’s a rectangle, and it is lined 2-3 deep with spectators. Not cheering spectators…literally just people watching you. I remember looking up and making eye contact with several people, they were like 10 feet away. I’m in bike shorts…I need to run in either run shorts or capris. I look at Troy with panic…there are no change tents. I said “I don’t want to get naked” and he says “Oh, everyone is doing it” and in my head I’m like “that doesn’t help me.”

Literally all I could think about was that in order to get into my capri pants, I would to take off my shorts, which meant I would need to bend over. Spectators are staring at me 10 feet away, and like 300 of them. I knew one thing…. I WAS NOT BENDING OVER NAKED IN FRONT OF 300 NORWEGIANS. I have thought a lot about this since and why I felt so weird because if you know me, you know I am NOT a modest person. I think it was because I felt so extremely vulnerable. I wasn’t racing in the lead, I was really sick, and now I had to get nude on display.

I remeber saying in my head “just get it over with” and I laid down on the grass and shimmied my shorts off. I remember looking up and seeing people watching me like they were watching TV. There was the awkward moment of my bits being on display as I tried with frustration to wrangle my capri pants on, struggling to get them up. Troy pulled my knee warmers off my legs and I put my run shoes on and got out of there. I have never been so happy to leave transition in my life. Worst strip show ever…

Running out they tell you what place you are in. This is probably a good time to explain to those of you that aren’t familiar with Norseman the set up. So, Norseman accepts 260 athletes. I got in by applying for one of the 5 women’s Elite slots, hence #7. At mile 23 of the marathon there is a checkpoint. If the weather is good, and you are in the top 160 people (men and women are not separated here, and there are no age groups, it’s top 160 and that’s it) they allow you to continue UP the mountain on a rocky dirt trail the last 3 miles, and you get to finish on “the top” at the Guastatoppen. If you do this, the next day they award you with a black finisher t-shirt.

If you aren’t in the top 160 at mile 23, they turn you towards a different finish line lower on the mountain and you get a White finisher shirt.

Exiting T2 they told me I was in 121st place. I had been passed by 97 people on the bike. And because all day, my entire Norseman experience was getting passed like I was standing still, 121st seemed VERY CLOSE to 161st in my mind. That number scared the dickens out of me.

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Norseman 2015 The Cold Swim

It’s HERE! The Norseman Blog!! I’ve finally put down all the juicy details about this epic race, along with some really good insights I got from the experience. This post was delayed for a few reasons. ONE, I’ve been working hard on the back end of Rising Tide Triathlon Coaching which has been amazing (if you reached out to me for coaching recently, I’m so jazzed! Thank you!).

TWO, this race took some serious reflection before I could extract the good insight out of it. It actually happened on a ride just this week and I had to pull over and record a voice memo to myself so I wouldn’t lose the AHHH-HAH!! Look for that blog in a few days.


Before I launch into it… I’ve been talking to LOTS of athletes these days. I keep asking and asking and asking what they are looking for in coaching, what they want me to put out there, and what is missing in the industry. It’s been really neat, and if I haven’t talked to you yet and you have something to tell me on this topic, feel free to comment below. So, one thing that kept coming up when I asked what people wanted from me was more “triathlon hacks.” The little mental tricks, or the efficiently tricks that I seem to always be looking for, sharing, blogging, etc. Well, people want more of that! Okay, I say, I see where that would make a lot of sense. So, as a tester, I’m going to do it.

Monday, August 31st, 7pm (Denver time…you know, Mountain time) I’m going to host a webinar on my #trihacks. It’s going to be around 60 minutes long, but I’ll stay longer if people need me to. I’m planning on talking a little about WILLPOWER because that’s what I’ve been delving into personally over the last few months, and then we can free form it from there.

It’s free so we can see if I suck at it, or if you all like it. 


Okay, enough is enough….. What’s it’s like to swim in 50 degree water? …let’s do this.

The lead up to Norseman wasn’t exactly smooth sailing for me. A week before the race I started to cough a bit. My first reaction was “no big deal”, the race is a week away. It’s not exactly ideal to travel sick, but I had a week to get better and MANY of you assured me I would be fine. As the days before the race went by I got worse, but I expected that. On Wednesday I had a really bad day and just could barely function. My cough was deep in my chest and not very productive. I wasn’t coughing up green goo, it was lots of clear and really painful. I posted FB videos every day and tried to keep my chin up, I was in Norway, it really wasn’t that hard!

On Thursday we traveled to Eidfjord (swim start town) and I swam in the fjord. I felt it was really important to do a test swim since the water was “the coldest this time of year since 1963” as we got told over and over again. I traveled to Norway with my wetsuit, earplugs, neoprene cap (with the little strap under the chin) and spare swim caps. But after a scary email from the race director on Tuesday Troy scoped out a surf shop and then I dragged myself there to purchase a neoprene vest, booties, and a full hood that went down your entire neck and into your wetsuit.


So, I felt prepared for the test swim. Except the bad cough part.

Boy was I wrong. I actually had no idea how I was going to swim 2.4 miles after just a 20 minute test swim. I’m a really hearty girl, but DANG that was FREEZING…put an F-word in front of freezing, that’s how cold it was. I still get cold thinking about it. Turns out I was a bit clueless and swam very near where a river feeds into the fjord and so I actually swam in 47 degree water. The swim TANKED me, I ended up walking out of the restaurant we went to afterwards and falling asleep in the car for 4 hours.

Click on the Facebook Link below if you didn’t see my test swim video.

Because I was so under the weather, Troy did everything. Every single thing. He put my bike together (a first) and got everything ready for the race. I slept, and tried to enjoy the hours I was awake. Norway is the most gorgeous place I have ever visited in my life, hands down!

Friday I did an 18 mile test ride from our hotel to the race meeting. I coughed and spit my way through it, but did convince myself that it was possible to ride a bike in this condition. The pre-race meeting was crazy. The whole thing was dark. We were all in this auditorium and they started it off with some traditional music and then played last years video, which we all had watched….ohhhh….300 times by then. I have that thing memorized! They told us billion times to be nice to our crew and to follow the rules. There are a lot of rules for the athlete and the crew since this race is totally self supported. The roads are not closed, you must obey all traffic laws, and your crew must not endanger ANY racers by making sketchy Tour de France driving moves. If your crew gets a penalty, the athlete serves it. Norwegians are brutal…this race is legit.

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Friday night we had a race meeting with Laura and Andrew, my crew from London, and they headed to bed with their two little ones. Troy and I went on a walk and sat down and had a big heart to heart. I hadn’t eaten much of anything the last two days because the cough had stollen my appetite. A few potatoes and some toast were pretty much all I could get down.


Should I race? I was still just as sick, if not more sick than I was days prior. My dilemma was really HEALTH versus I CAME ALL THIS WAY. We chatted and I really felt in my heart that I wanted to start the race. They had changed the swim to 1.2 miles instead of the typical 2.4 miles because they didn’t want anyone in the water after 75 minutes. The recorded temp was 10C or 50.6F I believe.

I went to bed that night knowing I would start the race. It was the crummiest packing job. At midnight I was wide awake, and worried. I couldn’t sleep and I got tired of rolling around so I sat up and I got into my meditation position. I set my alarm for 15 minutes. I figured if I was really tired, then mediation would put me to sleep. 15 minutes later…”gong..” still awake, but feeling better. So I went another 15 minutes, and another, and another….75 minutes later my phone gonged again and I got up ready to get on that start line. I applied my race tattoos, lucky number 7, and put my kit on. I fumbled around in the bathroom for a bit until Troy woke up around 2am and we started getting ready. YAY Sponsors! Coeur, YAY, Osmo, QR and Tribella! My homies, my tri-family!!



Laura was taking Annie for the day and driving to the finish with her two kids, and Troy and Andrew were my crew for the day. We dropped Annie at their hotel room in exchange for Andrew and got in the car. I was in a FANTASTIC MOOD. For some reason, that meditation had me rarin’ to go. I knew I was still sick, but I had energy. Andrew was like “You are like a whole different person” and we (I) cranked up the tunes in the car and sang the whole way to the race site at the top of my lungs.


We arrive in Eidfjord 25 minutes later and it’s the strangest situation. Because the race is self supported, Troy came into transition with me. They check that you have front an back lights installed and that they are on and blinking. Walking through transition I was excited and was saying HI and THANK YOU to all the volunteers and people working for the race. They just looked at me. Norwegians and not socially outgoing and they had no idea what to make of me. They literally would look at me with a “Are you talking to me” face. It was crazy. No good lucks, or anything like that. It was very serious. If you are a massive introvert….Norseman is the race for you!! hahahha!



Everything went like absolute clockwork with the race. They were unbelievably organized and their concern for the athletes was amazing. They wanted us safe in that water. I said my goodbyes to Troy and boarded the ferry.


The ferry is a car ferry and there is a nice section up top with couches and tables where all the athletes sit and get ready. I found two guys to chat with, one friendly talkative Norwegian (kinda rare) and a German man who had done kona 4 of the 5 years I had! The time passed quickly. Soon enough we were suiting up with all the layers. I had booties, neoprene vest, Roka, full hood, ear plugs, swim cap, and then I covered my face and hands in Vaseline.


The 20 minutes before the start of Norseman were my favorite 20 minutes of ANY “before an IM” time in my life. All 260 of us were down on the part of the ferry where cars would usually park, you’ve seen it in the videos and we were all in our wetsuits. They had big hoses and were spraying us down with fjord water so we had time to get used to it before the big leap. This is a safety matter so you have time to warm up the water in your wetsuit before jumping in, very smart! We walked around waiting for them to tell us we could get in and I made eye contact with like 20 or 30 people. I actually hugged 6 people I did not know. It was a really intense and intimate moment that all 260 of us shared. Really special and I will never forget it.


They made the call to jump in and I was one of the first 10. It was an AWESOME jump. I haven’t seen a picture but I went for it, and I screamed ALOHAAAAAAAAA on the way down. I think I threw a double shaka and a big smile! I was expecting massive pain upon hitting the water like my test swim, but it was okay. Cold, yes….as cold as my test swim….no, not even. So I was pretty jazzed about that. I positioned myself in the middle, in the front-ish and I looked around. I looked into peoples eyes and looked at their body language. Some were fearful, some excited, some just ready to get going.

The ferry blew it’s horn and we were off. My whole goal was to swim at a rate that did not get my cough in a tizzy. So I started under control. A few minutes in I felt like the cough was good so I looked to the group ahead and made my way up to them. Then I passed them and picked the next group ahead. It was the first time in a swim where I swam people down. I felt good and steady and I think I only coughed 3 or 4 times in the whole swim, which was probably the longest period I had gone in the last week without a cough.

I made sure to look at the view as the light started to brighten. It was gorgeous, just as gorgeous as the movies make it seem. I even had the thought that if I made it no further, I was so glad to have the swim experience. Towards the end there is a huge bonfire on the shore line and I could literally feel the heat of that bonfire on my face. It was amazing. Shortly after we went through several cold patches that were similar to my test swim and I was reminded how bone chilling it was. Soon enough I saw the exit, grabbed a helping hand an stumbled my way onto land.

Running to transition the coughs were immediate. I coughed my way to transition and then suddenly Troy was running next to me. He was saying “you swam so well” and I was thinking…I was powered by beauty. Swim: 32:23! and 2nd woman out of the water. Dolphin Pod Power!!


We got to my transition spot and the male with #1 on his shoulder was exiting. I was feeling very accomplished to actually be in transition with the prior years race winner.

The transition at Norseman does not have change tents. I’m not a modest person, but I did not want to change out of my wet tri shorts. READ: I was unwilling to get nude in front of several hundred Norwegians. Oh, give me a few more hours…. My plan was to put on booties, knee warmers, arm warmers, jacket, hat and gloves, and leave my tri kit on. I did all of that and before I knew it I was yelling thank you to Troy and headed to the mount line.

Whew, okay, things are about to get real…tomorrow…

One more reminder, Monday, August 31st, 7pm (Denver time)

#trihacks webinar.


In the comments….Norseman reactions? Anyone ever experience water that cold? Or do you just want to share what you are looking for the tri coaching industry that you think I should provide? I’ll be responding to comments tonight and tomorrow morning. 


Training Camp with Joaquin

This past weekend I raced my first triathlon since Kona last year, Vineman 70.3 (race report up next). It’s been nine long months! After Kona last year Muddy and I had a long chat about where we were headed from there. The Elite card issue came up and we put that to bed for the final time. I will say the current climate over at WTC and the women’s inequality issues helped make the decision pretty easy…yea…I want no part in batteling “the man” while trying to push my body to new limits. I’m very much feeling for the women PROs these days. Also, after Kona, I was really tapped out.

Muddy and I agreed that I would take a big big long long break. The longest break since I started the sport. It sounded great in theory, but it was hard in practice. It wasn’t hard to not train, that was actually really easy for me. More it was hard to hold on to my self esteem. To watch the fitness and the speed and the strength fade into the distance, to struggle through workouts at paces and speeds that were once easy was rough. I thought I would handle it like a champ, but the hard reality is that it was like someone tore away my security blanket.

When it was finally time to get going again, that was also incredibly hard. Two sports is fun, swimming and running. You can have a life, but throw that third sport back in and ouch, back to being all consumed by triathlon again. I stopped and started multiple times. Having one solid week or 5 solid days then taking 2 days off or sleeping for two days. It was fits and spurts, fits and spurts.


Muddy and I had planned for me to come out to see him for three weeks in late June because my dear friend Joaquin was coming for that time period as well. The first 5 workouts in San Jose were not pretty. I was so slow and it was so painful. There was all this speed work and I had done NONE of that. I cried after the first 5 workouts in San Jose and Joaquin had to talk me off the ledge….5 times. The swims were okay, I was feeling solid there but the bike, oh the bike. Day One – Workout One. Thumbs up!


The first day I was in San Jose I rode the Wednesday night ride. I got dropped by every single person, and I was going all out, my heart rate was 178 for most of the ride. I won’t admit how many times I repeated “Oh how far you have fallen.” I pulled in dead last, and went out for my run off the bike with tears in my eyes. I came back from my run off the bike with tears rolling down my cheeks. Coach looked at me, he always cares, and he knows me so well, and said “Don’t read into it, I know how to fix this.” Joaquin and I dragged ourself back to Rob and Trinas (thank you R&T xoxox) licking our wounds only to have a double run day the next day with 18 miles of running in 100 degree temps, much of it faster than I felt prepared to run. Still thumbs up, but the smile is forced!


It was a dicey few days. Over the weekend when coach went to CDA to be on course for Stephen (he got 3rd in the PRO race!!) Joaquin and I joined up with Kayla and Hailey to ride the first two days of the Coast Ride. Joaquin gave me another pep talk and I got myself together, put on a smile, and went to do what I love. We went without SAG support, just mailed a box to Monterey, and bought new outfits in Morro Bay. It was a sobering few days. I got dropped on every climb. I could hold okay on flats, but the climbs I was off the back. It was good for me though, and I definitely got to see from behind just how flipping strong Hailey and KK have become. Kinda felt like that stark, in my face, reality that I have to rebuild the engine. It’s not personal, it’s just from taking time off. My attitude changed out there on the coast. Thank you Hailey and KK and Joaquin. Mark^2 too!



Oh and all along I have Princess Kitty sticking out of my pocket and Mark Manning says “You have a bear in your pocket.” I was appalled! I said “It’s a cat, not a bear, that would be ridiculous” Haha! PK did have a great time on the coast logging some serious pocket time!


When we landed in Monterey I felt more alive. The ocean gives me strength and boy did I need it. Riding through the strawberry fields is usually the worst part of Coast Ride Day 1 in January because it’s dry and dusty. But in July it’s ALL STRAWBERRIES EVERYWHERE! It smelled amazing! Joaquin and I needed to procure some flip flops in Montery so we hit up the mall in our kits, with our bikes to buy some at Macys. We got A LOT of looks and I don’t think we smelled too good.




We had a nice meal out with the girls, which resulted in KK getting food poisoning and having to call her hubby to come take her home the next morning. Stupid shrimp. I slept like a bear, and the next day we headed out as a little group of three to tackle the Big Sur hills.


I gotta say, sharing all of this with Joaquin, who was just so thrilled to have a month off work to train like a PRO, well he deserved the happy Sonja. So pedal stroke by pedal stroke I got over my bad self. As I like to say HEAD DOWN (do the work), CHIN UP (keep it positive). Rolling into Morro Bay, after throwing a tiny fit after Ragged Point when Hailey and Joaquin were dropping me every time they took a pull (sad legs), I was happy. I love that darn rock. I love that blue coastline. I love where I was lucky enough to spend ages 10-15. Like home, but more special.


We got Hailey set with a shower, a little black dress, and packed her into the car of a sweet Uber driver who came to get her and take her to the SLO airport so she could drive back home Sunday night. Joaquin and I stayed in Morro Bay. We went to Wavelengths Surf Shop and bought board shorts, shirts and sweatshirts. We had roast beef sandwiches at Hofbrau house and waked to the beach for sunset.  It is a sunset I will not, for the rest of my life, every forget. It was stunning.



The next day we rode 19 miles to the SLO airport to pick up a car. We had our new outfits shoved down our shorts, in our sweatshirt pockets, we looked like Hobos (Joaquin’s word). The entire ride we discussed words in the English language that have two meanings. Like a bear goes RAR, and you bear a burden. Joaquin has excellent English (he’s from Mexico City) and we had fun laughing the whole way there with like 60 PSI in our tires.


The drive back was quick and we were in San Jose before we knew it, and in the pool as well, since it was now GO time. I spent three more days with Muddy and Joaquin getting my ass handed to me in most every session before it was time for me to fly home for my anniversary with Troy. We had booked tickets to go to Wanderlust (I’ll blog about that this week). After Wanderlust, I felt complete reset and came back to San Jose for another week of training and to race Vineman.

This was when the magic started to happen. The reset at Wandelust really was huge for me. I did some big runs out there, and when I came back my legs were tired from running but my heart was more clear and my brain was on board.

We had the best week of training before Vineman. It was hard. Lots of training hours. We also fixed some saddle issues I had been having on the bike that I think were contributing to some of my issues. I hit the ground running last week and didn’t look back. On the Wednesday night ride that week I rode with the front pack. I had some great track sessions, some promising mile times and I was starting to feel like myself for the first time in nine months.


It’s quite amazing what Muddy was able to do with me in such a short amount of time. He knew what to do, and we just got to work. We took it day by day, but we implemented the plan. As the boys would say “It’s time to ENGAGE.” Omg this photo makes me laugh so hard core!!! Coach was making us tri-tip while coaching our workout on the trainers, but I title this one “IT’S TIME TO ENGAGE”


Joaquin and I became attached at the hip, oh and we ate ICE CREAM every single night of camp. We found this place called CREAM that makes ice cream sandwiches and we ate there every night. We sang lots of songs out loud, took Princess Kitty on adventures, ate food, ate food, ate food, drank coffee, drank coffee, drank coffee, and SWAM BIKE RAN our tails off. It was good stuff.




Going into Vineman we were both feeling the hurt of the week. If you have never had the experience of training straight through a race, I really urge you to try it. There is nothing like stepping on the line extremely compromised and having NO IDEA how it’s all going to play out. It’s good for your brain. At one point earlier in the week Muddy said “I don’t want any meltdowns out there” and it made me realize he was a little nervous I might not be able to hold myself together. His concern was valid.


I’ve raced tired before, but not tired and undertrained. Hearing that really made me think, and I told him “Look, I will step on that line as a blank slate, that’s the only way that we will know what we need to change going forward” This really is the goal at every race, to let whatever training and fitness you have in you ooze out. It may be lots, it may be little, but you have to get out of your own way. You have to let what’s in there out, so that the coachycoach has good information to make future decisions with. If you meltdown, how’s he going to do his job? How are you going to get better. It’s not personal, help him help you. That was where my brain was at.


On Saturday we packed up and headed to Santa Rosa to train. Looking back, the highlight was definitely riding the run course with Muddy and Joaquin and seeing coach analyze the course, tell us where to run on the road, where to push, where the aid was. He was like a kid in a candy store. That got me laughing.

Vineman report up next! Whoop!

I’m sitting in the airport now, heading back to Denver to rejoin my home life. I cried when I had to say goodbye to Joaquin and then when I had to say goodbye to coach. We really put down some great training but more than that we strengthened the bonds we had with each other and we had a lot of fun together. Last – Day, Second to last workout!


It really is about the journey, regardless of the payoff and I’ve had a great journey out here. Going into Norseman in less than three weeks my head is finally screwed on straight. It’s an adventure. It’s Norway for Petes sake. I’m there to do my best, to be relentless, to persevere through the tough bits, but I’m also there for the journey, for the small contrition that Norseman will have to my overarching story, to my life of adventure.

Clutching the Compass

This week I was reminded of a major tenant I have in life which is:

Don’t Clutch the Compass.

Until recently I didn’t have a name for this, but thanks to the eloquent Katie Den Ouden I now have a handy phrase.

I find myself doing this and I see it in my athletes all the time, so I thought I would share.

We all know the value of having a large goal out there in the future, the BHAG! The goal, the destination, the point of arrival, it matters. We all have them whether we say them out loud or not. I’m talking about the: win my age group, qualify for kona, win kona, make partner, land a big client, finish a memoir, make a million dollars, coach 200 athletes, kind of goals. Having that destination gives purpose and motivation to the daily tasks. It’s exciting, and challenging!


Thank you Scrivle for that gem!

But there is a double edge sword here. On one hand, I love watching my athletes set a huge goal like nabbing a PR in a race, or qualifying for the big dance in Kona and then attaining that goal! So sweet! On the other hand I have watched people not hit their goals and get frustrated and down on themselves when they were actually making great progress. Goals are a double edge sword.

The way to ride the edge of the sword when it comes to Big Hairy Audacious Goals is to remember: “Don’t Clutch the Compass.” What this means is that you want to put your goal in your minds eye, and you want to keep the awareness that this is where you want to land.

Then you want to let go of how you are going to get there.

You want to remove dependence on the WAY and PROCESS that you take to get there, I also suggest putting yourself in the hands of a capable coach to craft the program, if it’s athletic!  Every once in awhile you want to dig out the compass and take a bearing and check in to make sure you are still heading in the right direction towards your goal. But what you want to stay away from is obsessively checking the compass every step of the way to make sure you never head a single inch off path.

I see this happen all the time with athletes. They are so fixated on the end point, the perfect path to take, the power, the heart rate, the aligning every one of life’s details to add up to the ultimate personal success where rainbows abound, puppies are everywhere, and the Sound Of Music theme song is playing.

They clutch the compass in their hand, tapping on it every so often, and all the while, life and scenery, and the big picture is flying on by.

I see this in a few different ways:

  • Many athletes constantly look at every training session as a litmus test to prove to themselves that they are on track towards their goals. When a session went poorly, they see it as being off path. This is clutching the compass. 
  • Many athletes refuse to diverge in any way shape or form from the most direct path to the goal. Sometimes going around a mountain is better than the direct path that leads up and over. This is clutching the compass.
  • Most athletes who are chasing a BHAG utterly refuse to take a purposeful diversion off path just for the joy of it. They walk right past something amazing that would add to their life story because they are too focused on arriving. This is clutching the compass.

I have so been here. I see it in my training, and I see it in the ways I’ve chosen to grow my business. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed in the details…ahhh the about me page of the website is all messed up…when in reality, I’m here to help people cross the Ironman finish lines. The about me page is small beans, don’t clutch the compass Sonja.

What I’ve learned through Ironman racing is that attaining the BHAG is really pretty cool, for about 48 hours. But what you will look back on in life and smile about, are the times that you put the compass in your pocket. The times where you took a bearing and headed off west, in search of yourself, and experiences that would take you one step closer to learning valuable lessons. Keeping a relaxed attitude and checking the compass only every so often feels really scary at first if you have any of the TypeA blood in you, but I promise that after a few dances with success you will start to feel more comfortable. If you don’t put down the compass, and look around, you won’t get any practice, and you’ll just hang onto that thing like Tom Cruise in Castaway with Wilson.

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Don’t Clutch the Compass!

Or better yet, hire a travel guide, and enjoy the scenery!

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My Dolphin Pod

I’ve had a bit of a breakthrough in the last few months when it comes to swimming. All along with swimming I knew that the big problem with my lack of progress had to do with my lack of LOVE for the water. This wasn’t due to feeling uncomfortable in the water, I feel safe, I can breath, really I’m a pretty good swimmer for someone who didn’t know how to swim as a kid (“swim” as in the strokes….I had a wicked doggie paddle though). In 2007 I learned “freestyle” and now, I would say I’m a pretty decent swimmer for having learned as a 28 year old adult.

But the process was a painful one. Every year since 2007 I have spent all winter busting my butt to crank out the yardage. I would do anything I could to get myself into the pool. I would promise myself post swim treats, beg other people to show up with me, buy new suits, new caps, new water bottles, new toys, new bags. I never resorted to the swim-mp3 player, but the only thing stopping me was ego on that one. And honestly, I thought about it a few months ago. Every year was a new tactic and a new motivational strategy to get in the yardage (err meterage?). And I made progress this way…I think…sorta. Okay, my Kona swim never got faster but I would have glimmers of hope here and there.


I would drag myself there all winter and then my swimming would slowly peter off as the season got underway and biking and running took priority. That may happen again this year, I don’t know, time will tell. By Kona that winter swim fitness seemed to be gone, and then I would swim the same crummy times in Kona and get all “motivated by negativity” and would get back in the pool all winter trying to find the secret sauce.

Well something started to happen a few months ago. I was doing my typical back in the pool behavior because I swam 1:10 in Kona, one of my slowest times, blah blah blah…broken record. I started going to Masters a little more regularly simply for motivational purposes. I love the Swim Smooth program (I love the Beeper) but that means I have to swim on my own. And sometimes swimming alone means I won’t go swimming. So masters it was.

Well magic happened for me this winter. I found the secret sauce I think…

I found my dolphin pod. And I must thank Jessica really for being pod-mother (like den-mother but for dolphins) and uniting us. For some reason, and I’ve never seen it in all my years of swimming in different Masters programs, but we have this absolutely phenomenal lane of women (there are occasional guys too, but we have mostly scared them off). Jessica and I are the SAME EXACT SPEED and she’s a long distance swimmer (like 13 mile swims, and a go at the channel some day..2019) and we take turns leading.


Our pod started with a main little group but throughout January the pod got growing, now there are like 8-12 of us. Not all in the same lane, but close enough in speed that we can all swim “about” the same intervals. And the ladies come from such a variety of backgrounds. Some are still expanding their swimming boundaries, and some have been lifelong swimmers. We have all types! Some swim 3X a week and some swim 10X a week! And…I am the only triathlete in the pod!


I look forward to Masters every day I go now, which is pretty much every day. I have had so much fun in the pool over the last few months, it doesn’t seem right. There have been hard sets, really hard sets, where some of the dolphins almost puked…(not me) and there have been slow cruiser days too. No matter what mood anyone is in, they are accepted. If I want to put on my fins and swim in the back of the lane, that’s A-ok. If I’ve had a flat-white from Starbucks and I need to lead the lane to GET OUT ALL THE ENERGY then that’s welcome too. There’s no competition amongst the pod, just fun and positivity. YAY SWIMMING!!!!!


A few fun things the pod has been up to:

A few people in the pod (ahem…yes me) signed up to keep track of our mileage for the year in the US Masters “go the distance challenge” and now we are constantly swimming a little extra here and there to jump up in the daily rankings. So bad, and yet so fun. I have swam (swum?) 80 miles this year so far!

On January 1st we swam 100×100 and it was A BLAST. Different lane leaders, a great set, and Nicole made brownies! Then after doing the Go The Distance challenge for January, I thought it was nice to start the month out with 10k, so I asked if anyone wanted to do 10K on Feb 1st. They were like “you are crazy” then the next day 4 of them were like “we’re in!” Do you see what I mean….dolphin pod!!!!

Feb. 1st we swam 10K, and I loved it. I felt much stronger than Jan 1st and the set was a really good one that was broken up nicely. And Jessica made chocolate chip muffins, and I brought YAY! Swimming car magnets! Is there one on my car?….um yes…there is one on my car. YAY….SWIMMING!

Naturally on Feb 1st the pod started thinking about 10K on March 1st, but half the pod was headed to San Diego to have fun (swimming included) so the pod asked if I wanted to come and we could swim 10K from La Jolla Cove on the 1st! I booked a ticket on Southwest. Because…Ummm….yes!


Lastly, and this is so far out of my comfort zone, but here we go. I’m going to swim in a meet. The state meet is in about a month. So I have spent quite a few sessions over the last few weeks learning the legal way to swim the different strokes. Again, learning to swim as an adult, I don’t know the proper legal turns and starts for the strokes, and diving off the blocks is a HUGE work in progress for me. But the dolphin pod is teaching me, and I am so thankful to learn new things. I swam the 1650 in the state meet a few years ago, because that seemed like what a triathlete would do, but this year I’m going to swim actual EVENTS, like the 50 fly…. maybe… I still have to figure out what events, but I’m GOING for it. It’s all part of the fun.

Making Swimmer Muscles!!!


This post is mostly silly, because I’m just really excited and happy about swimming, but if I get a little more serious for a second I want to talk to those of you who toil away at the swim leg of triathlon. My athlete Ellen said to me recently (she is on her own swim quest because it’s needed if she wants to visit the Honu in Hawaii)  “I never liked swimming because I never though doing more of it made me any better.” It’s a really common sentiment. Swimming is one of those things that you can do a lot of and not get better, you can do a little and not get (much) worse. I’ve done that and everything between. I asked Ellen a few weeks ago “where is the motivation?” because I have learned that even if you are swimming the big yardage, if it’s coming from a place of “my swim sucks and I’m losing races because of it” that yardage isn’t going to get you far.

The athletes that I see who are making progress in their swimming, or who are swimming at a high level in the open water….well they are swimming a lot. But, it’s not just that. They love their swimming! They love their swim buddies, they love the programs they swim with, they love their hard crazy workouts, and they really love the water. I think there are different ways to find that pure love depending on your personality, but finding it is the main objective if you want to get better. So rather than toiling away and upping the yardage this winter, instead I would suggest you take a personal journey and try as many things as you can to cultivate a deep love for the water.

We all know triathletes that excel in one discipline over another, and when I look at them I usually see that they also enjoy that discipline. Ellen loves her bike, Mikki loves to run, Mo loves the pool, etc etc. But it can seem like a chicken or the egg situation. Is Mikki good at running because she loves it, or does she love it because she’s good at it? I know the answer. She’s good at it because she loves it. Bottom line. I’m willing to go out on a limb and state it as pure truth. Love it, and you’ll make progress. Don’t love it? Well, roll the dice, the odds are against you.

I know a dolphin pod full of ladies that are going to get a ton faster this year….



After the Coast Ride #girlscamp began! This was a first for Muddy, but last year I sensed that his girls would really like to get to know each other more, and I was excited to incorporate some of my girls into the group as well. Three of my athletes: Mikki, Ellen, and Mo attended. Mikki and Ellen did the Coast Ride so they were a little tired. Getting the spark of Mo on Wednesday was much needed! Coeur also helped me get “girl kits” made for the Muddy gals since his kits are kinda dude like. The ladies were so excited to pick up their kits. We kept it simple with a heart with ML in it for “Muddy Love.”  If you know Muddy at all, you know he’s all positivity. I can’t wait to see the ladies racing around in them this year!

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Camp started off Tuesday morning with a 5K on the “dirt track.” This is the track that Muddy and I come to when I’m in town and it’s a special place. It’s not a nice track, there are holes in it, and it’s a good symbol for just getting the work done! I have been recovering from a knee injury so I ran one mile during cool down and then coached. This was really cool for me, to be coach instead of athlete. It took a little getting used to and it wasn’t until the end of the week that Muddy and I were better able to say “coach this workout” and “be an athlete during this workout.” It’s all just part of the learning process when you are coach/athlete and trying to balance that in a camp situation where I can’t just afford to not train for 5 days. A delicate balance!

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Watching the girls have so much heart during that 5K was inspiring. Brynje is just a gazelle and Eileen was 2 minutes faster this year. Rock on! Any sadness I might have had due to not participating was quickly replaced with the joy of watching their fierceness!

Tuesday after the 5K we swam at the fun pool and worked on drills and stroke and “pulling more water!” Everyone was ready for bed that evening!

Wednesday was a sleep in morning and then swimming and doing a coached spin class that evening at La Dolce Velo bike shop. What a great group! Muddy coaches spin on Wednesday evenings and it was a blast. I love sessions like this with a focus on form and strength building, so important!


Thursday was such an exciting day. All the girls got to run up Sierra Road! This is a 3.6 mile climb that is super super steep. We ran over there, that was 4.75 miles and I ran with the girls. This was my longest run in a month and I felt like an uncoordinated hippo but I was running and that made me so happy! Then I got in the truck while everyone else SLAYED Sierra Road. It was really cool to see Mikki come alive on this run. She’s a pretty stoic girl and this was the run where she just let loose and let her heart sing.

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It was visible and made me smile from ear to ear! I hopped out of the truck and ran home another 4.75 miles with everyone after Sierra because I just wanted to hear the stories of the experience. The two hour swim that evening was hard but everyone just kept swimming and remembered what the end of an ironman swim feels like! There were some great surprise performances on that big hill by Mary and Jenesse (our resident Aussie), these ladies have FIGHT!


Friday was a big day as we climbed Mt.Hamilton on our bikes. We did this after an all out swim set that had everyone on the ropes at one point or another. Afterwards they ran off the bike, but my knee was sore from 9.5 the previous day so I was benched. It’s all good. I loved that Mikki ran her 20 minutes and then Mo came in off the bike and she ran Mos 20 minutes with her too. The girls were just so supportive of each other!


Hamilton was where Ellen really shined. She had me on the ropes the whole climb and just motored hard core up that thing. I was really proud of my little skipper! It was cool from a coaching perspective to see how each athlete coped with the fatigue of the week, some wound up, finally relaxing into the work, and others got increasingly tired as the week went on. I think it’s really important to get yourself into these sorts of environments as an athlete so that you can learn more about yourself. As a coach, this kind of time with my athletes is priceless. I eat it up! I also loved getting to know Mary T better. She is coached by Muddy and this was the first time we have spent time together.


The top of Mt.Ham is always worth the climb, the view does not disappoint. It was great having Muddy there running SAG support. We could not have done this without him.


The final day of camp was long run day and this was something I knew everyone was dreading. The legs are tired, the body is tired, the mind is tired, and long runs are always a little bit of an unknown. Then throw in an unknown environment and that adds to the stress, but boy did the ladies step up. Mikki and Mo ran less because they were doing a trail race the next day (that report is up next). I ran 4 miles and was totally stoked to have no pain during or after. My favorite part was biking with the girls during the last half of their run. I really learned a lot about Ellen as a runner, and I have great ideas of how to get the most out of her in future races. Brynje and Deirdre just cruised!


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Everyone left camp happy, tired, ready to eat for three days and with some new lessons learned. Huge thanks to Muddy for recognizing the value of community among women. He has some great ladies in his stable and I feel thankful to have gotten to know them through the years! Again, I’m just continually inspired by women who show up fully present, ready to train hard and to push their previous boundaries. #girlscamp was a safe and supportive place to do that!

Kona 2014 The Run

Into the T2 tent I had like 5 volunteer ladies around me. I was laughing in there with them, I think it kinda surprised them. I was in a great place, all was good. They put my Nathan fuel belt on me, and my HUUB race belt with my number. I threw my shoes on, grabbed my hat and glasses and said thank you as I headed out the door.


My goal was to keep to myself, stay within myself, stay relaxed, and just run. I get out there and people are yelling my name left and right. I had SO much love out there, and I just smiled and relaxed and let my hands be floppy and RAN. I looked up into the sky and WOW, it was overcast. OVERCAST. Do you understand….in KONA….OVERCAST!!! Like not hot. I shook my head, looked at the volcano again and said “Thank you Madame Pele.” A windy ride AND an overcast run, she really outdid herself in my favor.


Ali’i was very consistent for me. The miles ticked away and I just let them pass keeping gratitude in my heart. I felt good but stayed calm because I knew it would get hard soon enough. Muddy was checking in with me every now and again but he could tell I was just getting it done and he really said very little to me. The work was done, and I was good, so he just nodded every time. On the way back through town Annie came running up to me shouting “Mom, you are in third and you are gaining on second and she is 2 minutes up and you are doing great and I love you and you’re going to get a bowl!” Sheesh, I love that kid! Troy told me Gui, my brother from another mother was close and to go catch him.


I saw Michelle S and she let LOOSE for me. So did Hilary, and Jordan and Jess. SO MUCH LOVE! Up Palani, man that never gets easier. I had gotten passed by a lady who wasn’t in my AG and I tried to run up Palani like she was but it was impossible, she looked perfect.


And then the Queen K, oh the lovely Queen K. Those 6 miles to the Energy lab I don’t even remember. I tried to stay loose and calm and just repeat my mantras “loose hands, stand tall, look forward, go find Gui” and my mind got dragged off of them 1000 times, but I came back to them 1000 times. The ease of Ali’i was just poof gone. That Queen K is just so hard. I didn’t even watch the Pros coming the other way. I was in the “stare straight ahead and just make it to the NEL” zone.


Down into the energy lab I enjoyed that mile. I saw Amy coming out of the energy lab and knew she was leading our AG and 2 miles ahead of me now. She’s an insane runner and I remember specifically thinking “girl is bad ass.” I hit the bottom and started to go from bad to really bad. I caught Gui and then pulled ahead of him after he gave me some great encouragement. I tried to count ladies in my age group at the turn around and thought I was in 3rd but honestly wasn’t sure because I just wasn’t feeling too well. After the turn around I got that “gotta poop” feeling and I started looking for the ladies behind me. This is a big no-no, I know I’m supposed to “look forward, not behind” but I just needed a little information. I thought I saw someone 1 minute back.


I saw the portapotty and I literally was saying to myself “Would you rather use the port-a-potty and get a smaller bowl, or not use it and run with poop in your pants?” Seriously, those were my options. Bowl…or poop….Ahhh!!!! So I decided on a compromise. I would use the loo, but I would make it the quickest pit stop ever, I would time myself. As I ran towards it I had my shorts down before I even opened the door, I sat and MADE IT HAPPEN, and ran out of there pulling up my shorts along the way….28 SECONDS FOLKS!!!! New PR!


I didn’t think I got passed so I tried to get back motoring along but I was not doing well. I felt okay for a few minutes but then, just ick. I ran out of the Energy lab and it took a lot out of me. I finally gave myself permission at the top of the NEL to go to Coke. I turned the corner on the Queen K, Haileys hubby Mark was there and was so good to see. I was hurting bad. The miles were 9:30s and I was thinking about the droves of ladies that were running me down, capitalizing on my melt down.

And then magic happened. Gui caught back up to me. He said “come on Sonja, let’s go” and I was like “I’m not doing good.” In my head I didn’t know if I was going to finish. I was in that spot where things are moving really slow, myself included, and I couldn’t come up with any ideas on what to do. He asked me “what do you need” and I was like “I don’t know.” I was seeing little firefly looking stars in my vision and had the “tunnel vision” thing going on. Gui was like “We are going to fix this, you are going to get your bowl”. At the next aid station, he took a baggie that he had and filled it with ice and shoved it down my bra top. That was AMAZING, it was so cold on my chest. Then he helped me get aid at the stations, forgoing aid for himself. He handed me coke and water, coke and water, coke and water.

Somewhere in here Caroline passed me, she’s in my age group. I said to myself “I’m in 4th now” and I was scared that 5th was coming for me. Gui’s girlfriend Katie rode up on her bike and Gui was like “Go ride back and see where the next girl is and come tell us” and she goes “Okay baby, I love you” and he was like “I love you too.” And even though I was in a bad way, my brain was like Awwww, that’s cute and I said to him in my tunnel vision stupor “I want a wedding invitation.” Haha! Gui must have told me 100 times, you’re going to get your bowl, and it helped so much.

Muddy checked in with us a few times, but said nothing, or at least nothing that I could remember, but that was probably just me. I barely could see straight and was so “in it” that I barely saw anyone around me. I remember Jess being there at one point and screaming “You’re going to get your bowl and it’s going to be a BIG ASS bowl” She actually screamed that, and it was the first time I though “She might be right.” Somewhere in there, I looked at Gui and said “I just pooped myself” and he said “It’s okay, you’re going to get your bowl.”

After 3 or 4 aid stations of the coke and water bit with Gui I started to come around. I started picking it up barely and Gui was like, “be careful, just keep it under control” but I couldn’t. I just knew I had to use every bit I had at the moment I had it and I ignored him. Then he screamed “Go get your bowl” and I left him. He hadn’t taken any aid for all those aid stations because he handed it all to me, which as I type makes me well up with tears. I’m an only child, but I have picked up brothers and sisters during my time in this sport, and Gui is really a brother to me.

So I’m still in a raw place but I’m going faster and it’s the last hill, the Dave Scott, Mark Allen one. I see Caroline wayyyyy up there. I can see her, she’s far but I just focus on her back and I keep trying to bring myself to her. Another girl is there with me, not in my age group but I’m hanging onto her shoulder because she’s so strong, her name was Martina, and she was really strong! She’s doing the work, pulling me up that hill. Going down Palani suddenly Caroline is right there and my brain tells me “there is a certain way you should pass her so she doesn’t come with you” but I couldn’t think of what that might be so I just slowly ran past her, like the slowest pass ever. And then at the bottom of Palani I started to get scared. She’s going to get me, she’s coming. Down Hulaiali I’m still shoulder to shoulder with Martina in the other AG and we talk a little. I tell her I just passed a girl, and she turns around and says “She’s not there” and I didn’t believe her. And she looks again and says “nope, not in sight” but I was still paranoid.


We turn onto Alii and I see uncle Norm…barely. I’m still thinking I’m going to get passed. My brain says, you should let Martina cross first, she’s done all the work, but then my brain was like “But what if you ease up and the other girl runs you down?” My brain also said “you don’t get to enjoy Ali’i this year, you need to run as fast as possible to the finish line.”

So that’s what I did, I sprinted to the line. I cried, and I sprinted. I really really cried while sprinting. And then I stopped at the top of the little ramp, right under the arch, and I did a little jump.



AND there were Pat and Tony!! They were volunteering at the finish line later in the evening but they came early to make sure they were the ones to put my lei on. And I CRIED!!! They hugged me and said ‘you did it” and Tony said “You are a champion” and I cried more. Then they handed me off to my catchers and I told them about the 5 times racing, and the 5 times trying for the bowl, and that I thought I was 3rd, and I was so happy, and 3rd was awesome, and then I cried some more, like lots more.


I found Troy and Annie and they told me I was 2nd. And they rehashed it with me and told me how it went down. And then I cried again, like really big fat tears. I told Troy not to touch me because I was hazmat and he was like “go get in the ocean and wash off.” So I did that and when the salt water hit my undercarriage where the poop had chaffed me to high heaven I cried again….this time tears of pain and my vision went fuzzy.

I got out of there, found the secret shower in the secret bathroom and washed for a long time, changed my clothes, sat on the bench in the bathroom and cried, and then collected myself and went and joined my family. We walked up and saw Michelle come down Palani, she looked great, and I was so proud of her. We met up with Muddy and hugged a lot and I cried again, twice. I was like “2nd muddy, we did it” and he was like “guess we come back next year.” He’s going to regret saying that when I hold him to it!! hahah!!!!


One last blog post tomorrow….maybe two…so much to say….

2014 Kona The Bike

The day before the race I told someone, maybe Ciaran?, that it was going to be a windy day. I hadn’t looked at the forecast or anything, but I just knew. About one mile into the bike Cowboy James passed me and said “I said you couldn’t pass me in the swim” ahahah!! The first 7 miles are just crazy and I think I drank an entire bottle of OSMO in those 7 miles.

Muddy was there screaming that I was 83rd. I thought, Oh boy, that’s a lot of counting! Going up Palani I smiled and sat up, knowing that this section of the race MEANS NOTHING. The one alarming thing was that my heart rate monitor wasn’t working. It just kept saying 63. In 12 ironmans, my HR monitor has never gone on the fritz. This was frightening because I can handle no power, in fact, I don’t even have power on the PR6 yet, but no HR was a pretty frightening concept, I ride by HR. Muddy isn’t really into the HR thing and whenever he can he tries to get me off of it. So I had done a fair amount of training, especially in the last month, without my HR monitor. Know thyself. I repaired it to the Garmin… no dice. And then I just realized…holy moly, this is supposed to happen! I have to do this on my own today. It’s a test from the triathlon gods. Do I know my stuff, do I know my body? Can I do this all on my own? The tri gods are telling me that if I want that salad bowl, I gotta go it alone. Once I had that little talk with myself, I was committed to riding by feel.


The first 30 miles were a bit of a mess. There was a fair amount of drafting. You could tell people were sorting themselves out. There was a lot of that “early on the bike” energy where a chill pill would be a good idea for most. I went by my good friend KK and she was like “Sonja will show me how to pace this thing” and I’m thinking “no HR monitor….I don’t think I’ll be evenly pacing ANYTHING today.” I caught Ciaran and he was like “I don’t know who drafts worse, the men or the women.” That got me really laughing because it’s my 5th Kona and I know the scene. But I also know that by Hawi it’s a complete different story and that’s when the real racing starts.


The wind was legit. Usually we start off the day with a tailwind on the Queen K. Not this year. There was a headwind the minute we hit it, and the more we rode, the stronger it got. When I passed Hailey she gave me this look like “Holy crap, and we exchanged a few words on just how windy it was” I didn’t worry about her though, because I know she always rides steady, well, and smart, so I knew she would come through fine.

Amy and I were going back and forth a lot and that was a good thing. She rides like a boss and if she and I lived in the same town I think we would ride together a lot. I also like that when I passed her she would get legal distance behind me before repassing, and I would do the same.

We got to one section after Waikaloa and the wind was trying to rip us off our bikes. It was gusty and we were going like 11mph. Worse than I had ever seen and here’s the crazy thing. I started laughing, like a serious case of the giggles. I looked behind me up at Madame Pele on the volcano and I said, out loud, mind you…”THANK YOU MADAME PELE, I WAS MADE FOR THIS.” I LOVE adverse conditions on a race course. I always perform better with adversity because if I’m good at one thing it’s staying tough when things get brutal. It was then that I knew Madame Pele wanted me to get my bowl, that she was looking after me today, that she knew I needed this sort of wind to separate myself from a big chunk of my competition. I thanked her every few minutes for the rest of the ride. And honestly, because of that, the ride became more of a spiritual endeavor than it’s ever been for me.


The wind up to Hawi was all head (barely cross) and strong, as it was through the rollers leading up to Hawi as well. Thank you Madame Pele I said. I hunkered down and really enjoyed not having to look at my garmin. No HR, and on a course I’ve raced 5 times, I know every hill and every turn on that course and for the first time I could really just enjoy getting the most out of myself out there. Rolling into Hawi I was looking for my ditch tour guide CJ to show him I was wearing his ring. I didn’t see him, BUT, there was my Uncle Norm screaming at me GOOOO SONJA!!!! I was like “WHAT!!!! AHHH!!! AWESOME!!!” because he was the last person I expected to see up there. Then after special needs he was on the other side of the road yelling at me “you are in 8th.” I was stoked. I could work with that!!

Coming down from Hawi everyone around me seemed skittish and I put my head down, put it in my biggest gear and spun my butt off. Thank you Madame Pele I said over and over. This is about when things start to get hard and where I usually really key into my heart rate monitor and just try to drive it up up up for the last 50 miles. So without that to use I just repeated “Feet, form, focus, thank you Madame Pele” over and over and over 1000+ times. I did some back and forth with Andrea in the Aussie kit. She asked me “how’s it going” in her cute little Aussie accent and it made me think of Bern and Liz in Melbourne which made me smile.



Eat, Drink, Feet, Form, Focus, Thank You Madame Pele….over and over and over, all the way home.

The wind was really interesting coming home. We had a 15 minute stretch, usually a headwind section, where I was going 38mph on flat road. I was in full tuck, taking full advantage, and then the road turned and I was going 16. It was just strange. The wind all the way back home was typical Kona conditions in my opinion. It didn’t let up after the airport this year, but I’m always prepared for that, and I was just so darn happy to have a challenging ride.

Some years in Kona are gazelle years, and some years are bulldog years. I knew if I waited long enough through the gazelle years, I would be treated to a bulldog year where I could thrive, and this year was just that. A bulldog year.

In the last mile a guy pulled up next to me and said in a European accent “You are a very strong rider.” In my head I added “for a girl” and told him “Thank you” I got out of my shoes and heard the cheers at the hot corner. I rolled down Palani, and huck my QR at a volunteer and take off running. Man, I’ve got that dismount down. All SMILES!.

Running through T2 no less than 5 volunteers said to me “Great smile” or “I love the smile.”

I really really enjoyed that bike ride this year. I feel like it was made for me and I was so proud of the way I rode out there without my HR monitor, just listening to my legs and my heart. It was awesome and I wish I could do it all over again. Also, I think the gap from the AG men was AWESOME. The first 30 miles were still a mess but I think that most of the ride was much more fair for us age group ladies. The separation was nice and I’m hoping they keep it like this.

Poop Puke Periods and Vulnerability, It’s a Doozy

I have launched into reading Daring Greatly and already I am having to reread, and then reread, and then go back and reread again. I’m totally digging the book so far and I feel like there are so many passages in the book that have a triathlon, or endurance sports angle. What really got me thinking this afternoon was a passage I read about her “vulnerability hangover.” It really got my brain going because I have experienced this in racing and I’ve even talked to a few other ladies about this and felt a bit alone in my experiences. I went ahead and did my video blog on it today. Please excuse the beginning, it really took me a little while to get rolling into my blog today. Hahah. There is a fair amount of the “what am I trying to say here” talk. I’ll also warn you that there is a more than normal amount of Sonja cleavage…Oy, the joys of being a rookie!


I would be really interested to hear if you have experienced anything like this, or can relate.


This evening, I was really grateful to get an invite to a Coeur conference call where Stacy Simms was speaking on womens nutrition. Stacy developed Osmo, and she helped me personally with my fueling strategy for the last year. Her advice was such a gift to me, that I begged her to sponsor me this year. After the call today there are a few things I want to tweak and try after hearing some more of her advice (like some of her great recipes for Food in the Pockets). I literally could listen to her talk all day. I felt hopeful after this call that the future generations of women endurance athletes will have so much more access to information about how women need to fuel differently. This excites me.


I wanted to share a few things from the call here, just in case it’s able to help someone in the future.

One thing I see out there on the race course all the time when I am coaching/spectating is people who are having nutritional disasters. I have had disasters, my athletes have had disasters, and I see disasters at every single race I am at. I asked Stacey what her advice was on what to do after nutritional disaster has struck. How do you rebound?

1) Poop – I have had issues with this. I have fixed that for the most part, and how I did is a whole different blog post, but what happens when you are doing the port-a-potty-hop? Going from loo to loo to loo? Stacey said that you need to hit up an aid station for potato chips or pretzels and plain water. No more sugar!!

2) Puke – I have never personally experienced this one, but I have seen it in action. Nausea, ill feeling, bleh? What to do? Stacey says Tumms are the way to go here. This will settle the stomach and get some calcium to your intestines, which is also a muscle.

3) What about Imodium? – I have heard that carrying Imodium is a good thing to have on hand. Stacey said absolutely not and I was really thinking this would be her response. She said it’s not something you want to be taking in this particular compromised state. No no no.

I think it’s important when you are developing your race strategy to have thought through some solutions for when things go wrong. I think that most triathletes spend FAR more time thinking about what “time” they will go when they should spend that time thinking about how to execute their races. When the taper sets in, the “time thoughts” can be an endless loop in the head. Get those thoughts off of time and get them on the executables, the plan, the how, why, what ifs. Think through what can go wrong and have answers to the difficult questions. I hope that the above answers can help you formulate your “what ifs” when you are putting together your execution plan.

(In case you wondered what nutritional failure looks like….)


Okay, some more Stacey insight. We talked about periods. Hallelujah, see, now you are getting poop, puke, and blood, all in ONE blog post! Aren’t you lucky? Well, it was very interesting to hear the truth about what women’s bodies do during the different phases of the hormone cycle. Enlightening because the truth is, nobody in sports wants to talk about women’s periods. Nobody. It’s a total “LaLaLa” fingers in the ear sort of situation. Not Stacey, she’ll talk all day here. So, feel like crap for the 5-7 days before your period? Guess what…it’s proven. You need more carbohydrate while training, you will have a tough time going anaerobic, and your heart rate will not behave. It’s science, you’re not weak, you’re a woman, it’s part of the deal. If you push through this time period where you feel like crap, you put yourself at risk for overtraining, or overreaching. This was a big eye opener for me and you can bet that my ladies are going to have to start logging their cycles into Training Peaks. I can’t ignore these facts. Bottom line. In the Osmo women’s line Stacey has put little things here and there to help with these natural rhythms. It’s there when we need it.

It’s been an eventful and informative evening! Please do share if you have any responses to my video blog, or have anything to say about nutrition or being vulnerable! Have a great day. Oh, and send good vibes to Michelle Thursday morning, she has ACL reconstruction.

Okay February, Let’s Do This

February is here. Wow and wow, February is here! Training the last few days has been poop. It’s hard to get motivated in the cold weather, with all the snow, but I’m getting it done. I just hate training when it’s a chore. I always like to find ways of making it fun and enjoyable. Even if it’s singing or downloading my favorite songs, I want the process to be enjoyable, because it’s my hobby and fun is a choice.

So, I would love to hear what some of you do to keep it fun and lively when you are getting bored on the trainer? Sometimes it’s the tinniest things, like a new favorite hat, or a new song on the playlist.

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After having traveled in January I came home excited about the prospect of being home the entire month of February. But then it snowed like every single day since I got home and now I’m ready to leave again. Haha!!

I will say though….I just applied for a travel visa….??!!!! To….???!!! Any guesses?

Some hints, I’m headed to a race, but I’m not racing. And….. it’s sometime in March.

This past weekend while the Broncos forgot how to play the game of Football Annie and I were working on her Valentines Day box. Did you have to make these as a kid? Valentines day was my second favorite holiday as a kid. Halloween being my first. But Valentines day….ooohhh, the making of all the little cards, then putting them in all your friends boxes. Then getting to open up your box and read all the notes. LOVE! Like totally LOVE!

Since Kindergarten Annie and I have sat down and worked on her box together. the first year her’s was covered with buttons and feathers. It was pretty cool and top notch for a 6 year old. Then last year we went big. We covered her box in the fake flowers. Actually, she covered it and I managed the glue gun. She said glue here, and glue away I did. It was beautiful and floral and amaze balls.

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This year she had decided on an ocean theme and I was thinking to myself, how the heck are we going to pull this off? So we went to Michaels for our hour of meandering and crafting our plan. Well, at Michaels she found these fairy garden lawn furniture do-hickies. That’s the best I can describe it. A trellis, bench, wheel barrel, you get the drift. The spark had struck. And then we were off. Rocks and fake plants (lots) and moss (several kinds) were procured. Then the idea of a pond was hatched, so pond rocks and sparkle ribbon was procured. I grabbed a few helpers, some more glue for the glue gun and we were out of there.

The process was the same this year. Annie thinks and brainstorms, says what she’s thinking and I help make it happen. I run the glue gun, she pokes, and cuts, and puts rocks down, and moves things, and creates cute little flower pots full of this and that. This was the Annie show. When we got done, we were all itchy from the moss so we had to go take a bath, but after that, we sat back and marveled at it. It was her best yet. She can’t wait to take it to school!

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And I gotta say, much to the distaste of Troy I do not put up a stink about the financial implications of these projects. Fine art costs! So what if it’s used for one day just to put Valentines in. We have so much fun with it, she’s so proud of it, and I let her get whatever she thinks she needs to make it happen. So yes, $120 Valentines Box and I could care less about the money. The memories are priceless and timeless. It’s the little things like this that are so hard to carve out for our children. The traditions that are so loved and cherished. These things are really important to me.

Yesterday I went on a cleaning and rearranging the whole house binge. That felt darn good. I moved some rooms around, finally got Troy to move his office from the family room, which I turned into a room for riding the trainer, into a spare bedroom we have. Now he has a room with a door that he can close and it’s quieter and lighter in there. Happy Troy. Lots of throwing away stuff and boy did it feel great!

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Today was super awesome. I spent several hours at Denver Fit Loft getting a Retul fit from Daniel there and it was awesome. I now am the owner of two fully built up TT bikes. Oh my! My CD01 frame was sitting in a closet and now it’s built up and fit to me, and will live on the trainer. A huge thanks to James at Tribella who built her up beautifully. I almost felt bad for my Illicito because she looks a little drab next to the CD01 now. Daniel did great getting the two bikes to match even though they have completely different head sets. I also filmed a video blog at the Denver Fit Loft:

Life for the rest of the week is about to get a little wild. Michelle has surgery to reconstruct her ACL Thursday and we are so excited that we get to bring her back here and take care of her for those first rough days after her surgery. Someone else for me to spoil with love! I’m really hoping that her recovery goes smoothly, so send her some healing vibes please.

Other than that, all is well and great! Oh and if you are looking for a good book to read, Katie and I are going to launch into Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. I loved her Ted Talk on vulnerability (13 million views!)


And Katie says we all need to watch the one she did on Listening to Shame.


Okay friends! I’m off to bed!