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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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"

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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