I get out running, get myself situated and there are so many people I know in the first tenth of a mile. Michelle S, Hillary, Kristin, they are giving me love like no other, Heidi HAD A SIGN! It said Go PIC1&2 and melted my heart. Nobody has ever made me a sign. Coach was right there too, and his face looked so serious. I don't remember what he told me, but I remember telling him "I rode my a$$ off out there." I think he told me I was in the lead maybe? I got running and I really LOVE the first 4 miles of the course. They are my favorite. You can see the people coming back down below you and I was watching the pros. When I got to mile 1 it became apparent that I was running WAY too fast, and I also saw Jim coming back the other direction. Jim is my brother from another mother, if you read this blog, you know Jim. He's one of the good ones put on this earth.

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My watch was auto lapping on the 1/2 mile. That's my new favorite watch trick. No more mile splits, half mile splits are the bees knees. The problem was mine were like 3:38, 3:40, 3:35....I tried to ignore them because they just kept telling me I was running too fast and I didn't want to hear it. I saw Beth down below, and I said "go Beth" but it wasn't very loud.

I got to the 2 mile turn around and knew for sure that I was leading the amateur race. I felt fantastic, not uncommon for me at the beginning of the marathon. I knew the real pain was coming. I knew going into this race that Kendra would be trying to run me down, if she wasn't already ahead of me on the bike and I talked to coach about that before the race. He gave me a stern pep talk about not concerning myself with what is behind, and always looking forward.

So on the way back I didn't look at who was coming. But I just happened to see that the next one behind me was Michelle. I wasn't surprised, like I said previously I have never seen her in better shape and I knew she was going to seize the day.

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Mile 4 I was back at coach and he told me "I think I'm wrong Sonja, there is someone 4 minutes back"...my response...."awesome"...I actually had a sense of humor...I never have that in Ironmans! On I ran. Michelle S, and ROB, yes ROB, with his huge smile were there cheering. There was the PIC1&2 sign again.

And on I ran. I ran fast, and as the miles went on I got tired. We all do. I was sipping on my Osmo bottles and taking water at the aid stations. Mile splits were: 7:16, 7:20, 7:24, 7:30, 7:27, 7:40, 7:39, 7:48, 7:52, 7:58, 7:45, 7:59, 8:01. I think I went through the 1/2 way point at 1:39ish. Miles 10-13 were really painful.

Through the last miles of the first lap I started having to really use my tricks of the trade. I also asked the sweetest girl who was cheering for me what my gap was and she figured it out and caught up with me and told me 7 minutes. I know her from twitter....Elizabeth I think?? She was so there for me!

I like to repeat things in my head when I get tired. I latch onto something and I just run to the beat. Things that work for me:

"Push Pull" - this is something that Muddy says when he coaches spin class and it works really well for me running. I find myself saying it all the time when I'm hurting.

"All it takes is all you got" - this is the mantra of the Multisport Madness kids team in Chicago that I spoke to and it popped in my head and I repeated it over and over for a solid 2 miles.

"Nobody is going to take this from me" - the night before I watched the Kona broadcast and Rinny really inspired me with some of the stuff she said. Especially the idea that she won't let anyone take it from her. So I said that a few hundred times.

"Look forward not back" - that was from coach the night before.

So, I get to the second loop and get to coach again. This time he says I have a great lead and now we can have a little fun with it. Panic sets in, FUN? The feelings I'm having at the moment don't exactly lie in the fun house. I told him "this is taking everything I've got." I was hurting. He told me I had to fight for every inch. And thus started my new mantra.

"Fight. Fight. Fight" - step after step.

At 13 miles I also made the executive decision to stop drinking Osmo. Worst decision ever but the nectar of the gods was calling to me. Coke. At mile 13 I began worshiping at the Coke alter. At mile 17 I came back by coach. I was in a bad spot, my tummy hurt, my shoes felt heavy and I had this feeling that I was going to leave mile 17 and be on my own for the next 9 miles. I went by and I said "Coach, please don't leave me."

Ugh, I was hurting. So what does coach do, he shows up across the lake, 5 miles later on a beach cruiser with flowers all over it that I'm pretty sure he finagled his way onto. He was there for me. Times 100. And Michelle and Stephen, and Tracey, and Jim, and Eric. He was there for all of us.

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I leave mile 17, after the begging incident and my tummy is mad, but I see Rob again and that makes me happy. Michelle takes my fuel belt for me and I decide I'm going to hit the potty and just try to see if I can relieve some tummy Coke pressure. Mile 17 I took a potty break, about 30 seconds, and used the opportunity to tighten my shoes. I forgot to do that in T2 and they had been loosey goosey this whole time, bugging the crap out of me.

My legs start immediately cramping. Ahh! Get out of the port a potty! So I get out of there and pull over and loosen my shoes. Much better! But from then on I had some intermittent leg cramps. I'm used to these, they don't alarm me any more. I just run through them. But I do think they are a factor of too tight shoes. I felt totally awesome after the potty break. So much better. Like I had a new lease on life...you know for about 2 miles...

Over to the other side of the lake and coach is there giving guidance. I hit the 10K to go sign and again, that pep talk happens. You only have 6 miles left in your season. I flip over to time of day. I briefly think, oh my gosh, you are going to finish under 9:40. You are going to PR today. Your PR is 9:50, oh my gosh, coach was right last night, he knew it, he called it.

As I'm running down the backside of the lake, searching for the turnaround point, I'm hurting, and counting down the half miles and Troy and Annie pop into my head. When I was hurting the most I thought about their birthdays and how I was missing them for this. And their birthdays mean A LOT to me. I said to myself, "Don't you squander this, you missed their special day, this needs to be perfect, for them, so they know that you didn't take it lightly." They really carried me thought those miles, the thoughts of missing their birthdays and wanting so badly to do them justice out there, to let them know it was worth it to let me go.

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Running up the hill I see Jim. He's had a rough day, and yet, he has no idea how much he is helping me keep the pressure on. I try as hard as I can to run up the hill and catch him, but he's too fast. I run down the big hill and he gaps me. I used him the entire last 4 miles to keep my foot on the gas, to limit the carnage, and I really really really wanted to run with him.

The very first week I met Jim he did a long run with me and I ran on his shoulder while he pummeled me and made me run so fast for like 3 miles, all with coach on the bike next to us. I just wanted that memory again. But I couldn't catch him.

Muddy was on the side and he said "15:59!" I looked at him and said "I don't know what that means" and he said "you and Michelle each have a 15 minute lead, and I'm going to go find her." A huge weight was lifted and I said "thank you so much coach, I'm good now." That was with 3 miles to go.

I caught up to Trish Diem, a woman I always know by the green socks that she always races in. We run side by side. She asks me if I'm going to find her car for her after the race. Last year she raced and I was coaching and she lost her car in the parking lot and I ran around with her key and found it for her, and she gave me gluten free cookies as a finders award. I told her that I would find her car for her if she needed me to. I told her I was her huckleberry. Oh the crap you come up with out there.

We had to do a little single file section and I got a little gap on Trish. And then I saw Jim again and with renewed vigor I tried to catch him. With one mile to go, I was next to him and I asked him to come with me. He said no. I had this idea that we could finish together and we could both jump at the finish. That was all that was going through my head, that I wanted to finish with Jim. He said No again and I slowed down and gave him a "please" look. He said no. I ran on. But I was sad about it.

The last mile went on forever. I really mostly remember Mac and Kristi there and the look on Macs face. Mac is in charge of my sponsorship for QR and I want nothing more than to make him proud. The look on his face was pure joy and that made me so happy. I told Kristi, his wife, that I loved her, which I do.

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I got really emotional that last 2/10ths of a mile. There were tears. I turned the corner to the finish chute and the tears turned to this overwhelming feeling of "F%$&K YEA" (sorry grandma). I was JAZZED! Miles 13-26: 8:11, 8:20, 8:17, 8:19, 8:48 (portapotty), 8:10, 8:14, 8:21, 8:27, 8:57 (big hill), 8:11, 8:15, 8:03.

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I went for the leap and it was a pretty pathetic one, my legs were tired. Everytime I go for the finish leap I have no idea if my legs are going to hold up on the way back down. So far they have never failed me. This time they did. They did not even try to hold me up on my return to earth and I ended up on my  butt on that finish line. A volunteer came over and helped me up and we were both laughing.

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Coach Barbara was right there at the finish line and all I could do was shake my head and thank her over and over for her wonderful husbands work. I was in shock, and yet, I knew in my heart that this had been possible.

It's the good races that you don't learn a lot from. This race was like that for me. It just went great, I wouldn't change a thing. Yeah, I went to the port a potty and I got addicted to Coke, I don't care. I'm as happy as a clam. 12 months ago, I was a broken girl, but a broken girl with a hope. If you had told me that 12 months later I would have 3 sub 10 Ironmans under my belt with a new PR of 9:35 I would have pooped my pants. I would not have believed you. I am ecstatic, and the crazy part...I've had more fun playing the game of triathlon this year than any other year. Total success, and after 7 years in the sport, I feel truly accomplished.

Time: 9:35:54, Swim: 1:04:19, T1: 3:22, Bike: 4:56:33, T2:1:26, Run: 3:30:14

1st Amature Woman, 1st F30-34, Age Group Female Course record by 17 minutes.

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I can not express enough thanks to all of you who have followed along on this journey. It's been a hard and wonderful ride, paved with tears and blood and sweat and joy. Thank you as well to the fast ladies I shared the podium with. Tough Nuts, all of you!

This year could not have been so successful without my coach Muddy. He's amazing and wonderful, and inspires me everyday to be a better athlete and an even better human being. thanks for being my wing Mud!

A huge hug and kiss for my husband Troy and my daughter Annie. They are my rock and they support me from near and far. I love them with all of my being.

To my sponsors: Quintana Roo, the best hog a girl could ride. Kompetitive Edge, thank you for keeping my hog happy, and replacing the chain when it's only been a month! A really big special thanks to Amrita, Arshad has been an inspiration this year and I love his bars. Thank you to Osmo for the best nutrition plan a girl could ask for, now if I can just STOP worshiping to the Coke gods! And last but not least, Ron at Punk Rock Racing, thank you for your goodies, but also for your phone email and text support through the years. Sometimes I feel like you are one of the only people who truly accept me for who I am on this earth, good and bad. My sponsors are my family. I work hard for them, and I care deeply about them, please think about supporting them with your purchases, should the opportunity arise.

And that, my friends, IS A WRAP! HELLO OFF SEASON!

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