So, I got into this race via the USAT lotto. I was 10 seconds off a legitimate slot in 2008 at Nationals after they aged me up. It was such a blow and then 5 months later, poof, I was in via the lotto. I didn't think one more second about it...until I walked into transition this morning. Suddenly I was reminded...I don't belong here. I admit, it's not the mindset that you want to go into a race with. I decided to put on my best Sonja smile and...fake it. I gave myself a pep talk, told myself to put my big girl panties on, and get out there and represent the USA with pride. The swim was a point to point swim and at low tide. As I jumped across the many divots in the sand to get to the water to warm up I heard a local Aussie lady say "The stingrays make such a mess of this beach". You can bet I spent as little time as possible walking into the water, I was swimming when it was 15 inches deep, scared of stepping on stingrays. I got in a great warm up and I felt like I was going to have a great swim.

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We lined up on the beach all intense like and then the bullhorn blew. It was the most insane crazy start EVER. I ran into the water, we dove in, bodies everywhere, hitting, kicking, and scratching. I got knocked in the head, swam over, kicked, hit.

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I looked up to take my first sight...WHITE. I look again...WHITE. What is going on? Several more looks...then I realized that my goggles are full of water. I pull them off my face, I get hit, kicked again, snap them back on and I'm off. Better.

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I'm swimming as hard as I know how and the body slams are never ending. It's brutal, but I think I'm doing pretty well. About mid way through the swim a group of us ends up having a lot of contact as we realize we are slightly off course and some of us are trying to move back on, others not. I get hit in the nose, and my goggles get knocked off my face. I get them back on and keep swimming hard. About three quarters of the way through I feel like the swim is long. Oh No, not another long swim. Looking at the results, I think that "my" swim was long...like maybe I thought I was swimming faster than I was. I'm at a loss on that one! A 30:10 is a bummer for me. Especially since I swam so well at the IM two weeks ago. I'm at a loss there.

The transition was long and went pretty routine for me. I tried to make up ground, but I was quickly realizing that this is the best of the best athletes in the world and thus...everyone is good. I'm huffing and I'm on my bike and off.

The bike course was awesome. Lots of flat sections and I gave it all I had. I was going as hard as I knew how. Trying to make myself hurt more than usual. Whenever I got lax, I would push harder.

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I was trading places with one lady a lot, it was frustrating for both of us because it was very hard work to pass the other and when we did, we both had to recover a little, which meant the other would pass back. At one point when I was overtaken I dropped onto her rear wheel but slowed considerably to get the proper distance back in the proper time. The official on the motorcycle came up to me and yelled at me. In the US you can do what I did, but for some reason he didn’t like it. No penalty, just a talking to.

On a personal note, it was very easy for me to stay drafting legal during this race. I was in an early wave and there weren't a lot of people out on the course. I didn't have any packs pass me, but I did see the packs both ahead and behind me. My dad got a great shot of Michelle Ford as she got overtaken by the pack that was drafting off Steph Popelar. Eye!

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Another shot of some pack action. Looking back I was really glad that I didn't have to deal with that. My race times were completely of my own doing, and I was happy to have that experience.

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The first male on course overtook me and he was flying, that was pretty awesome. I only saw two guys on the bike course. It was so awesome to race with just women!

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Coming in off the bike I felt like I gave it all I had. I raced as hard as I could and the effort felt so much harder than past races this year. I was into transition with a 1:08:05 bike time. Again, I think I "thought" I was going faster than I actually was. He He! I was having fun though!

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A quick transition later I was off and running. I just got into a pace that hurt like hell and tried to keep it. Turns out it was about 6:46 pace and I held it the whole way. I passed lots of ladies on the run and had some great showdowns. I had a lady on my shoulder for a half mile, that was fun.

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I had a lady totally go with me when I passed her. We sped up together until I looked at the Garmin and saw 6:10 pace. I got resilient and thought to myself "I just did an IM, I've got way more base that you", and I did. Eventually she couldn't hold it.

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I was bummed to see that the course was a little long and resulted in a 42:25 run split with 6.3 on my Garmin (which is usually short with out and back courses). I felt like it was so much faster, I felt like I was hauling!

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So, the theme of the day was "I feel like I'm flying", but the times show that I was a little off on my perception. Which is A-OK. I had an unbelievable experience while I was out there. Racing against the worlds best at this distance is intimidating, exhilarating, painful, awesome, and kick ass, all in one experience.

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I made so many friends this week and out there on the race course. Racing in the TEAM USA uniform is one of the highlights of my entire year. I felt so proud and honored to race away with USA on my chest. And the "name on the butt", well, that was everything it was cracked up to be as well, I loved it. The speedo fastskin suits are amazing, the most comfy suit I have ever raced in!

I did not by any means have a bad race. I had a good race. I put my heart and soul out there and it was what it was. Did the IM two weeks ago impact my day out there? Maybe. But I'm not one for excuses. I knew what I was getting myself into and I knew that the only chance I had at having a good or great race was to put all I had out there on the course. I did that and I am proud of myself!

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Final results: F30-34: 31st out of 90 194th woman 6th F30-34 Team USA member (of 10...I did belong!) swim: 30:10 T1: 1:37 bike: 1:08:05 T2: 1:03 Run: 42:25

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I want to recognize my fellow Practical Coaching team mates who raced today: Beth - 11th in F45-49 in 2:22:39 Michelle (PIC) - 19th in F40-44 in 2:20:16 Lori - 9th in F55-59 in 2:37:28 Anthony - 84th in M30-34 in 2:12:15

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I want to thank Troy, he is such an amazing husband. He has been a total single dad this week, working, getting Annie to school and back (she only goes for 2.5 hours every day), and dance class, being a dad, being an employee, and juggling way too many balls. All that while dealing with a taper-grumpy wife who is like 18 time zones away and calls at 2am on a work night to moan. I love you so much it's silly. Troy, you are a saint!

Also, thanks to my parents. They have allowed me access to the "parental tab" for this trip, taking great care of me in my taper-grumpy state. Dad took all the pictures, they are so awesome and something I know my entire team will hang onto for years. To the most supportive parents ever, I love you guys.

And lastly a thanks to all of you out there. All the tweets, facebook comments, and comments on my blog have kept me going. I haven't had a lot of time to chat with you all on a personal level and the constant travel has been a little stressful. Your comments have helped me to feel connected and supported and loved.

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