In Ironman you get 17 hours to get it done. 17. Hours. Our crew named ourselves the 17 hour training day crew because we subscribe to extended distance training for Ironman, and all other distances that we compete in. The Fourth of July was the date set to complete a 17 hour day. We were all really excited. There were several goals here. One was to keep on our feet for the entire time, stay swimming, biking and running. Another was to involve our friends, family, and training partners so that we could get a little help, and so that they could experience up close and personal a little of what we do. Lastly, we wanted to be A-OK throughout the day. No balls to the walls, just a training day, getting it done together, putting in the miles, learning lessons about nutrition and mental issues.

Troy and I arrived at the campsite the night before. I wanted to make sure the kayak and tent situation was taken care of. Troy is a phenomenal triathlete-sherpa, but I still have to make sure the loose ends are tied up so that I don't stress during an event.

Our friends Laura, Wes and their toddler Abi showed up to the campsite around 6pm, great timing as the storm had just blown by. It was great to camp with them that evening, to chill, relax, chat, etc. That evening with two kiddos and tents we got "some" sleep. Abi had trouble going down and Annie woke up at 3:15 crying because her feet fell asleep. We just got up and walked around the campground for awhile.

At 4:45 Steve, Andrea, Anthony, and Michelle B rolled into the campground. They dropped some supplies and we hurried over to the gravel pond. We had obtained a special permit from Chatfield State Park to swim in the gravel pond from 5am to 7:30am. We were required to have a monitor on the beach preventing other swimmers from entering the pond, and we were required to have a rescue vessel. Laura was to be our kayaker for the morning.

This is by far my favorite photo of the whole day. 17hr1.jpg

After some starting photos we hopped in the pond and started swimming. It was predawn and putting your head into the dark water to swim was a little wild. Not scary, just exciting. So dark and ominous.

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Right away the boys took off and I wasn't really in the mood to start swimming that hard just yet. The sunrise was in full effect and I wanted to enjoy it. My first lap was the slowest I have ever swam in the pond (a 45:30) because I was enjoying myself. Laura had my camera and took some pictures.

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Happy swimming Sonja 17hr4.jpg

Hot Air Balloon in the Background p7042094.jpg

After lap 1 I felt warmed up and in my groove. The sun was up and I relaxed into a comfortable pace. My second lap was almost 10 minutes faster and I was laughing about that one big time. The third lap was relaxing, it was strange to just have the four of us in the pond. A guy did try to jump in the pond at 6:30 and Laura caught him and kicked him back out. He was friendly about it. It was so nice to have the pond all to ourselves for 2.5 hours. At 7:30 on the dot, after about 3.5 laps for me we all got out of the pond and changed into our cycling stuff.

Our morning crew of Troy, Michelle B, Wes, Laura, Annie and Abi had shlepped all our gear to the pond and had our bikes set up, tires aired up, and our nutrition and clothes out and ready to go for the next leg. Putting cycling shorts on was a little challenging, but I got it done.

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We rolled into the parking lot and waiting for us was Tyler, Max, Michelle F, and Sara. We planned the ride in two parts, the first being a 4 hour ride towards Golden. We headed out and it was nice to be on the bike. We were all on road bikes today and I almost forgot what it was like to ride my lovely White Bike.

We rode too slow. I think we were all focusing on being cautious because there was a big day ahead. At times it was a little painfully slow, but we were out there for time today so it's not a big deal. It was nice to be on a social ride again. I haven't seen any of those in a while so it was refreshing to chill. We made it to Golden and turned short of climbing lookout because we really wanted to be on time to pick up our next group of riders.

Our typical Tyler, oh how we do love him img_0081.jpg p7042107.jpg

At 11:30 on the dot we rolled into the campground and refueled our bottles. Amy D was mixing up Mix1 smoothies for everyone around, so totally awesome!! She mixed up a huge one for me and put it in my water bottle. It was awesome and had mango Mix1 with banana and berries. SO GOOD! Thank You Mix1 for sending Amy with plenty of Mix1 to keep us going.

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We took off on leg two with lots of riders. We had Amy, Michael, Michelle B, Laura, Sara, Rob, and Gaye. We climbed up Deer Creek and I almost fell off my bike laughing when Steve told Amy and Laura to go catch a guy ahead of us. Watching them hammer was great entertainment. Of course when Amy caught him she then proceeded to tell him all about the 17 hour training day. He probably hates us now!! Steve, Anthony and I actually picked it up for the final push up Deer Creek, I think we all felt like we needed to push our legs just a tad, in a nice controlled way...if not, I'll just blame it on Anthony...it was his fault.

I love catching Tony in shots like this, cause then I can embarrass him later p7042110.jpg

My boys, I'm going to have trouble sharing them next year with new 17 hour members! p7042113.jpg

We had a blast of a descent down Deer Creek and it resulted in our group breaking into two groups. Gaye, Michelle B and Rob stayed with Andrea and the rest of the group was with us. We headed out to Roxbourough and came back to the park via a dirt road that we love riding. A quick pit stop at the campsites for a refuel, one more hour of riding through the park and we headed into the campsites, completing the bike portion. It was 4pm.

6 hours of running lie ahead. Tyler made us Hamburgers and I actually ate one. I snacked on all the goodies that were brought by friends and changed into my run clothes. I remember feeling great, like "no problem, this is easy" great. I had been pretty quiet the whole day because I didn't know how this week's cold was going to effect me. I was happy to be going into the final 6 hours with lots of spunk and smiles.

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The plan for the run was to run our 10.8 mile loop around the Chatfield resevoir. Our campsite was right on the path so we could stop after each lap and refuel. Troy even dropped a 5 gallon jug of water at the half way point around the loop. I love Troy!

So we headed into loop 1 run with Michelle F, Tyler, and Ross who was totally new to our group and got QUITE the initiation. Gaye also suited up and headed out with Andrea. I am so thankful Gaye came out to help us, and Andrea especially. Boy, poor Ross! We were giddy and usually when we are giddy every single comment turns dirty and raunchy to some extent. We were laughing our pants off, and Tony (I say Tony, not Anthony for a reason) has this strange knack for making me laugh so hard that I pee my pants. OK,OK, TMI, but please, I've had a baby, and not peeing while laughing really hard is tough post labor and delivery...I'm just saying. So, Tony was on fire, as was Steve and it was so tough to run between all the laughing...and peeing.

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After about 5 miles we finally calmed down and got into some real running, of course it started to rain. The rain wasn't so bad just light, but I was secretly hoping it would stop. The nice thing was that the temperature was staying cool and perfect. The last mile into the campground the boys picked it up a little, which made me roll my eyes...turn the boys to the barn and off they go. We pulled into our aid tent and everyone was there. There were kids everywhere, BBQing, people laughing, it looked like total mayham with cars, chairs, kids, food! Crazy. I inhaled 4 of Michelle F's rice crispy treats that she made and I could have had 4 more but I did regulate myself. I also changed my shorts, all the peeing had created some bad chaffing so I applied a ton of BodyGlide and got into dry clothes.

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Steve, Tony and I took off into lap #2 with Randi (Ross's wife) and I felt bad because she missed all the funny talk. We got going into that lap and we were pretty quiet. Randi asked if we wanted a mental puzzle and I was like "No". We were also sort of slipping into our "Happy Place" so we could crank out some miles. Randi was happy to oblige and just run quiet with us. About 5 miles into this lap we got more chatty and had some nice discussions. A mile from the tent Tyler came up on his mountain bike and escorted us into the campground. He was pretty happy and chatty, I think some beer was involved.

Pulling into the aid tent we found out that Andrea had to deal with a large blister but was fixed up by Laura and was back on the trail with Jane as a partner. I'm so thankful that Jane came out to help Andrea get through those final hours. We knew that it would be hard to head out on the last lap, but when push comes to shove, you just go through the motions, getting done what you need to. Laura headed out with us on this lap and I was shocked. She had been our kayaker at 5am, had riden with us, had watched kids and made Cherry cobbler and here she was on our last lap with us.

I noticed that the more laps I ran, the fuzzier my photos got... p7042124.jpg

She saw the worst of us that day. We were very quiet on that last lap, we were all within our own heads, getting the job done. We ran into a huge swarm of gnats that followed us (like a foot in front of our heads) for several miles. I thought Tony was going to go crazy, he was hating those gnats. I think he almost puked up a few at one point. I pulled my hat down over my eyes, put my head down, and tried to just run through them with minimal extra effort. We finally got onto the road and Wes pulled up to retrieve Laura. We would be on our own from here on out. I say "on our own" but that's a joke. We had each other.

Having done so many amazing things with Anthony and Steve has made us very close. I don't think there is anything we wouldn't do for each other. Those boys have become some of my closest friends. Running together is easy and we get each other. When we are together it's effortless. We pull each other through hard times, we don't get on each others nerves, and we know when someone is suffering. We check in on each other and when all is well we can run miles without a single word. We feed off each others energy and strength. Food is passed around depending on what someone feels like. We really work as a unit.

My late night photo of Tony p7042129.jpg

and of Steve...can you tell I'm a little out of it? p7042130.jpg

On the dam the fireworks are going off all around us. We can see 6 different shows and tons of neighborhood pyrotechnic action going on. And, we don't care. For the most part we have our heads down, keeping our pace, staying strong and steady. Towards the end of the dam we see a little light in the distance. Although we have lights in my bag we felt more comfortable running without lights. Our eyes were acclimated and we see better without them. Steve gives a whistle and low and behold its Tyler. We didn't say much but we were all secretly ecstatic to see him. We made him turn off his light and he escorted us in the dark all the way back to the campground. The last mile was typical "I'm so ready to be done, just run and dont talk". The park ranger pulled up next to us and was trying to talk to us and we all just kept running. Tyler stopped and dealt with him, but I can't imagine what he was thinking about three dead to the world runners.

Coming into the finish at 10pm involved some quick words of love and hugs from the three of us. We pulled into the campsite and Troy, Annie, Michelle B, and Gaye were all still there. They took pictures of us, attended to us, and in the background Troy was packing up all the last stuff, still working. Andrea came in just a few minutes later with Jane and we took some more finishing shots.

All done, and happy...in the dark! dsc_0074.jpg

Troy had packed everything up, all I had to do was change clothes and hop in the car. Saint, pure saint.

So, 17 hours is a long time!! Running 30 some odd miles is tough after a long day of activity. I learned a lot about my nutrition, but I also continue to learn things about the mental aspect of endurance training and racing. If you don't feel great, you can solve the problems. Don't think about the miles, or the hours, just keep taking body assessments and moving forward. I really was super happy this entire day. Michelle took a photo of me going into the third lap on the run, so 15 hours into my day, and I want to share it with you because when I look at this photo it reminds me of how I felt the entire day.

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I sat in the bathtub at 11:30 that night and I cried. I cried because I felt so humbled by the outpouring of generosity that I witnessed.

Laura and Wes were with us all day. From the kayak, to the bike, to the run. They worked their fannys off for us. Laura made Cherry cobbler for everyone in her dutch oven, and I ate a ton of it on the drive home. Wes watched the kids, and helped out in more ways than I even know.

Tyler Walton and his wife Anne were huge for us. Tyler acted as cruise director, and took care of the organization of making the day great. We gave him the framework and he ran with it. He BBQed, mountain biked, ran, biked, parented, and took care of our needs. A big thanks to Anne for her support too.

Amy D came and made us smoothies at the exact time when we all really needed them. And they were to die for. Thanks Amy!

Gaye came out to support us and really ended up supporting Andrea big time. Gaye pushed her own barriers and I'm thankful that she had coach Andrea to progress through that with. She stayed until the very end with us and it was so nice to have her...because I had to have someone to give way too many hugs to.

The Ford family. We had both Michelle and Michael on separate legs of the bike, and Michelle for one leg of the run. They came with food, Michelle's rice crispy treats saved my life. They BBQed burgers and fed people, and managed kids. It was also really nice to have my PICs smile when I would come into the aid tent. She would look me in the eye, check on me, and made sure I got off each time in good order.

Randi and Ross! OMG, I heard that they were awesome with the kiddos, and hosted the movie theatre in their van when it was raining. Imagine having all those dirty stinky kids hanging in your van. I hope that they had fun hanging with us, and boy were Randi's jello jigglers a huge hit! Ross was a wonderfully calm presence and really a blast to run behind when it's windy!

Sara...great company on the ride and let me charge some goodies to her tab on the bike. Love ya Sarah, it was great to have your company! Max, thanks as well for the company on the ride!

My husband Troy. Thank you for spending our 7th anniversary working your butt off. He was the only one out there yesterday that didn't get in a workout (did Anne, maybe he and Anne??). He worked. The. Entire. Day. My day was a success because I have this rock of a foundation beneath me called Troy. Don't worry though, I had enough energy left at the end of the day to thank him accordingly. xoxo

So, for all of you reading, sound like fun? It is! It's a lot of fun. Push your boundaries, join me for an adventure. Ross and Randi did and we didn't eat them alive. What are you doing today to feed your soul?

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