>As triathletes, we’ve all watched the Ironman World Championships on NBC. Perhaps that was our first exposure to triathlon. Perhaps we cried at the human interest stories. Perhaps it was the push we needed to get into multisport. Perhaps the notion of completing an Ironman was so great that it became a bucket list item for us. And perhaps it set a goal. The desire to actually compete at Kona.
But the reality is, most of us will never compete at Kona. Most of us are age-groupers. Middle of the pack folks. Back of the pack folks. 17 hour athletes. We may never, ever actually meet a person who is jack-rabbit fast enough to actually qualify for Kona. Well, here’s your chance to meet a Kona qualifier.
Sonja Wieck qualified for Kona this year at Ironman Coeur D’Alene. Not only is she one hell of a triathlete, she’s also an ultramarathoner, snow shoe racer, wife and mother. Her story is impressive. She is an amazing athlete – one that I could only dream of emulating. So…for all of us who will never qualify for Kona…here’s your chance to meet an athlete who qualified for Kona.
For the inagural “Ten Questions With…” I present Kona Qualifier Sonja Wieck:
|Sonja competing in the Moab 100|
Tri Madness: So what was the first thing that crossed your mind when you realized you had earned your Kona spot?
SW: Booking airfare. Haha! I was definitely racing for a slot and I had a good idea late in the marathon that I was going to get a slot. There was just a peace I felt, an odd sense of security that I would do it. Once I finished the race and knew I had a really good chance of it, there was relief, and joy. When people asked me my intentions for CDA I told them “Kona slot” which is a little brash and can come back to bite you in the butt. But I think putting your hopes out there on the table can also help you commit to them. There were times when I had to dig really deep, and knowing that I was committed helped me go to that place of pain.
TM: What’s a typical training week look like for you?
SW: My coach works with me 2-3 days a week up in Boulder. So I drive up there and am at mercy to whatever he wants to throw at me. Usually it starts with some swimming, transfers to a ton of time on the bike in the mountains, and finishes off with a short run. The other 4-5 days a week usually involve a morning workout, and something in the afternoon. Like a hard swim in the am and a 90 min to 2 hour bike in the afternoon. Things are picking up steam as I get into the important training weeks for Kona. I have no idea what to expect, i just know that life will be swim/bike/run/eat/sleep for a little while.
TM: You’ve raced tons of races – triathlons, ultramarathons, snowshoe (the list goes on). What is your favorite race and why?
SW: Rev3 Quassy is my favorite triathlon because I love racing the hills and I always have a blast at this race. On the running front there is a 50 miler in Steamboat Springs called “Run Rabbit Run” and I think I had more fun in this race than I’ve ever had racing. It’s got great race direction and Steamboat Springs, CO is one of the jewels of this planet. I won’t get to run it this year since it’s just several weeks from Kona, but I plan to go up and volunteer. I like to try different things. I think it makes you a more well rounded triathlete and athlete. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!
TM: What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you in a race?
SW: I was doing an olympic race in Utah (Jordanelle) and there is a long run from the swim to transition. They let you stash a pair of shoes there (similar to Escape from Alcatraz) and I stashed a pair of crocs. The run in the crocs from the swim to the T1 was great, I loved having them. But then I grabbed my bike and ran out of transition without taking them off. So I get out of transition with my bike, I hop on, and I’m standing on top of my cycling shoes, with my crocs on, whizzing down the road, trying to figure out what to do. I have this huge aversion to littering during races and I was afraid I would get a penalty if I tossed the crocs. So I rode the whole race with a pair of crocs hanging off my aerobars. The pictures were pretty funny. Oh, also, I saw a guy riding Rev3 Quassy with several burritos taped to his top tube. I thought that was pretty weird…and now we follow each other on twitter…that’s even more weird.
TM: You’ve had a really successful career in multisport. What’s your background – were you a runner, swimmer as a kid?
SW: I was definitely not a swimmer! I wish I had been! I grew up in a really active family, we were always hiking, camping and backpacking. I never got involved in team sports, most of my youth was spent in dance classes. In middle school I started running and really liked it. I ran cross country and track in HS. I tried to run in college but struggled with the transition into college running and gave up after 2 years. I got really addicted to rock climbing and mountaineering through the end of college. I traveled to Peru and climbed for a month. I developed a much more sedentary life during graduate school and up through when I had my daughter, Annie. About a year afterwards I was quite overweight and trying to “re-find” myself. Triathlon became my outlet in 2007.
TM: How do you balance all of your demands – mom, wife, triathlete?
SW: With lots of planning! The wife duties are pretty easy, my husband Troy is 100% supportive and loves that I am doing triathlons. It’s brought a peace and balance within me that makes being my husband a much easier task for Troy. Since I’m a stay at home mom, finding safe and happy places for Annie to be while I am training is really important to me. I have a lot of friends with kids that help out. Annie is very comfortable with my training life and is used to me popping in and out of the house to train. Being an only child she really loves to go play with other kids, so she’s always excited to hit up the gyms KidsClub, or hang at a friends house. Troy’s flexible work schedule, along with Troys willingness to always help (despite working full time) is really what helps me get it all in.
TM: Do you have a coach or do you go solo? What are the advantages/disadvantages of your training approach?
SW: I have always been coached in triathlon, since my second race in 07. I switched to a new coach last December and I’m really enjoying learning some new things about myself this season. For me, coaching is a given. Triathlon is a bit complex and I want someone in my corner for sure. I have a bit of what we call “Border Collie Syndrome”. Essentially, if you leave me inside the house for too long I start running circles and ripping up the furniture! Ha! The biggest role of my coach has been to pull me back, put a leash on me, and make sure I recovery properly. I’m still learning!
TM: After this year, you will have crossed off many things that are on the bucket list of lots of multisport athletes. What’s next? What’s your next big challenge?
SW: Hummm, well, I’m not quite sure. Right now I’m training like my life ends at Kona, trying to give the race everything it deserves. There are definitely things on the bucket list that I have yet to cross off, I’m just not sure what order I will attack them. Things like Western States, Ultraman, climbing Aconcagua. I can see myself wanting to make it back to Kona after this year as well, so the next goal may be to get back to the big island for a second time. Who knows!
TM: Sonja versus Carole Sharpless (Team Trakkers “Mama Bear” and professional triathlete) in a sprint tri. Who wins?
SW: Carole wins. This is how it will look. Carole will beet me out of the water by about 6 minutes. Then she will take a few more minutes out of me on the bike. I will run my fanny off trying to catch her but when I get about 1.5 miles in, I’ll hear the crowds cheering for her at the finish. Dang!
TM: When you dream about your day in Kona, what do you see? What gets you the most excited? What scares you the most?
SW: My biggest dream for Kona (and any race really) is to execute a solid race. I always strive to step on the line as a clean slate, with minimal mental junk in the way. I try to race with an open mind with minimal expectations. I think too many expectations and you stand in the way of letting magic happen. My goal is always to execute a smart race, not getting caught up in the hype of the race. I think what gets me the most excited is that I get to share the experience with my family. We have a big crew going to Kona and they are all so excited. What scares me? Hummm, fear is not an emotion I experience often, I try to reserve it for things like lost children and friends with cancer.
To learn more about Sonja, check out her blog at http://gosonja.com/.