DUDE!!!! I don't even know how I'm going to blog about this weekend. I think it was the most fun I have ever had at a race weekend. NOLA is freaking awesome, so much fun fun fun fun, I can't even explain it. So many amazing stars aligned this weekend and it was more than just the swimming biking and running. Mama Willis (my maiden name) came with Michelle and I on this trip, we shall call her mama PIC. We also enveloped M into the fold, she's officially PIC 3 or Trouble 3 or my favorite...Dr.PIC.

I'll admit, I got a long pep talk from the Dirkinator before the race and it rocked so hard core. I got off the phone feeling like a beast and I felt so ready to put it all out there. Also, since I chopped off my hair, my alter ego has come out. It's mostly a Justin Bieber, 16 year old, teenager sort of attitude. I'm not sure Michelle is so fond of it, especially after a tweet from Mac that said "It looks like Michelle is dating a rapper" (best tweet ever).

I was really not taking things very seriously before this race, which is good for me, it's definitely not my norm. Ususally I am sorta Type A planner, organizer Sonja, but this trip I was 16 year old, hat on backwards, whatevsssss, Sonja. The awesome part was that because my mom was there, there was no fallout from my lack of organization. I feel like I can be a kid when my mom is around, she is seriously the most nurturing woman you will every meet.

Friday morning and we woke up and put our bikes together caught a cab to get beignets. They were everything I always hoped them to be. Sugary, fried, dense, totally wonderful. I think I had 4, maybe 5 of them.

We visited the French Market after that and picked up souvineers for the kiddos. PIC and I also found shirts that we had to buy immediately. This PIC thing has really gotten out of hand. WAY out of hand. But that sort of thing is allowed in NOLA, believe me here! Everything is way out of hand, and I love it!

Packet pick up, race meeting (swim canceled and replaced with a 2 mile run), bikes put together, nap nap nap, eat eat eat, bikes dropped off at transition. It was so windy things were blowing around like crazy. This was one of my favorite transitions due to this awesome and photogenic lighthouse in the middle of it. It was a good marker to run to.

We were settling into bed and getting those last minute things taken care of when PIC realized that her heart rate strap didn't seem to make it into her bag. Crapitty Crap Crap. I could tell she didn't want to inconvenience anyone because heading out at 9pm to procure a heart rate strap in one of the most dangerous cities in America was not her idea of a fun time. No worries!! We all hopped in the car and went on a heart rate monitor hunt in our jammies. Luckily we were successful!

Race morning was cold, and windy, and cold, and I had to poo. We got that taken care of and then I was in a great mood. Michelle and I ran the 2 mile run course as our warm up and I think we were the only ones. I'm glad we did recognizance on it, it was good to see it. It was quite windy on one section and I'm glad I wasn't surprised.

The really cool thing about the DU format was actually seeing all the Pros take off together in one group running. You never see that, and it was really cool. Hard to explain but it got me super hyped up. I got to see the PRO men come in and go out on the bike, and the women as well. I tried to cheer for every one that I knew. I saw Michelle go out on the run and she was right with Dr.PIC. With the AGers they were letting us off two at a time in a time trial format. So you started with a buddy.

When I got in line for my turn I found Hailey. I knew going into this race that Hailey and Libby would be the ladies to watch. Libby is coached by Dirk and is insanely strong. Hailey beat me in Kona by several minutes. See, the 30-34 women have this special bond. Twitter/blogging has really helped it, but we have this really cool thing going on. We are fierce competitors on the race course, but afterwards we follow each others blogs, we train with each other when we are in each others towns, and we have deep respect for each other. That's why it was extra extra special when Sarah P. won the PRO race at NOLA, because she's one of us, she raced 30-34 last year and we are really supportive of the ladies that were 30-34 and are now PRO. Might I mention we are so so glad they turned pro...

With the TT start Hailey and I just slipped in the front. We were the first two to go off in the AG, and we went off together. It was a bad idea on our part. We should have gone last, but we ended up racing off the front the whole day and then wondering if anyone snuck in there.

How do you run 2 miles before you know you have to bike 52 (course shortened due to storm debris) and run another 13? I don't know, you just run your ass off. There's no great way to put it other than...RUN!!!

Hailey and I came into T1 about :20 seconds apart. I was leaving as she was entering. I got on the bike and took off. Hailey caught me 10-15 minutes in and I just consider her a stronger rider than me. When she went by, a switch flipped in me. Usually I am very into "race your race" "don't let others dictate your pace" "etc etc etc" but a switch flipped and I thought about the fact that this was a duathalon, and that none of it really mattered and I could take some risks. So I went with Hailey. I sat about 5-10 bike lengths back, and when I say "sat" what I mans is..."I biked so insanely hard I thought I was doing an olympic distance race". But I figured, why not!? Go for broke. Hailey had me against the ropes for the better part of an hour before I got comfortable in the pain. The good thing was that my legs were 100% ready to go, and while they hurt, they also didn't want to let up either.

If Hailey lost her focus and I saw my heart rate go down, I would pass her, and try to set a harder tempo until she passed me back with an even harder tempo where I would have to fight to hang on. Also, having never ridden like this I was concerned with the drafting. I wanted to make sure I was riding 100% legal because I usually spend most races continually passing people, not sitting behind. I was actually really stoked to be passed 4 times by course marshals and each time they had nothing to say about my position. I was like "Sweet, you are doing this right".

Hailey set a hard tempo all the way back to T2, and we came into T2 together. Like literally we ran across the timing mat side by side. I could feel both of our competitive juices flowing. We had the fastest female T1+T2 of the day...pros included. We were racing!

Out on the run, we ran shoulder to shoulder for some time. The course was challenging with some causeway type hills, several on each loop. There were two turn arounds per loop and one roundy-round...you know, like in Europe. The "hot corner" was essentially the "hot circle". I found a way to somehow slowly drift in front of Hailey, she was fierce, and tough, and it was such a highlight to race her neck and neck.

I made my way through the first lap getting passed by all sorts of PRO women, and age group men. I tried to go with all of them. I heard the announcer saying that Sarah P was winning and then I saw her race by on the other side of the road with the 1st place female lead biker. I was so jazzed and inspired! I saw Beth Shutt out there too, she looked so strong and solid, I was happy to see her in her element. My mom was all over the course and it was so great to have her there cheering, and cowbelling. The second loop I started looking for Michelle at the out and backs. I saw her once and she wasn't too far ahead, but she wasn't coming back to me very quickly either. She ended up running 2 minutes slower than her open 1/2 marathon PR that she set 3 weeks ago. PICs running is soooo BACK!

In the final mile I saw her in front of me and I picked it up. I wanted to run in with her. But with every step I realized I wasn't catching her. I tried harder and harder to pick it up. My legs were beat, I tried to pump my arms faster and faster, and I made a small gain on her. As we were probably 100 feet before the finish shoot, I meekly yelled "Ford" and SHE PICKED IT UP. I was hoping for some mercy! I picked it up as hard as I could and coming into the chute we were side by side. I asked if she wanted to hold hands, and she said yea, and that's how we crossed. What are the odds??? Time trial start, and yet we found each other in the finish chute. I will add that she was 3rd in her AG by 2 seconds...I'm going to go ahead and take credit for that one (just kidding Ford, that was all you honey).

I was really happy with my race. I didn't know the result. I didn't know if someone starting behind me had gone faster, but without knowing any of that I was happy. I RACED in the truest sense of the word. I took chances and I gained confidence and I surprised myself with those risks. I have more work to do, it's April, but I learned that I can go a harder and still survive. I was really happy. I also had a lot of fun. Sure it hurt super bad, but it was really fun too!

Syd, PIC, Dr.PIC, me, Hailey

Mark, Brandon, PIC1, PIC2 = KE CREW!

My racing yielded an Age Group win and also and overall Amateur win. That was icing on the cake really. Or powdered sugar on the beignet! Mmmmm beignets! Oh, and my Kompetitive Edge teammate Mark Hillers, he won the amateur mens title. KE was in full force!

run: 13:29, bike: 2:18, run: 1:33, overall 4:07

Womens 30-34 podium, and the only girls that posed with their arms around each other. Mad respect for each of these ladies, Jocelyn, Libby, and Hailey.

That night we went out and CELEBRATED! We had a twitter/Womens 30-34 REUNION with lots of friends that involved food, drinks, jazz, Gelato, and awesome conversation with great people. I think there were like 13 of us, and we ate like champions! It was such a treat to celebrate Sarah Ps win that evening, so happy for her! After ice cream it was time for Bourbon street. Oh my lanta. There are no words. What happens in NOLA stays in NOLA, but here are a few photos....a la Hangover style!

Dr.PIC, SarahP, Hailey, Stephanie


Hand Grenade!!



First off thank you MOM! Not every mom will hold your drink while you....what happens in NOLA stays in NOLA....

Thank you to my sponsors Kompetitive Edge, Punk Rock Racing, First Endurance, Quintana Roo, who are all probably a bit disappointed with some of those last photos!! Also, thank you Troy and Annie for being you... love you both!