Sonja Wieck (w-ick) underwent a life transformation taking her from an average stay-at-home mom to a World-Class Ironman triathlete.
She is a 6x Kona Ironman World Championship Qualifier, came in 2nd place at Kona Ironman World Female 35-39 age group (2015), was named the Ironman All World Female 35-39 Champion (2013), Tokyo’s Joe’s Athlete of the Month (2014).
She can be seen leading her group of 3 men on Team Iron Cowboy on Mark Burnett’s new competition show “World’s Toughest Race Eco-Challenge Fiji” hosted by Bear Grylls premiered on Amazon Prime on August 14, 2020. (If you haven’t watched this yet. You need to) She now has a podcast of her own sharing the untold stories of the athletes that participated in that event. (Tales of Toughness)
And if that’s not all she’s also an Ultramarathoner, she’s ran the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim in 12 hours, was named the Moab 100 mile Female Champion and 2nd overall (2010) and believe me there are more achievements but I don’t want to keep you waiting for our conversation any longer! We chat about how she has grown up fearless, her health first approach to recovery, her favorite tools for recovery and much much more.
Sonja Weick's Information:
Tales of Toughness Podcast: https://gosonja.com/podcast
Jase Kraft's Information:
Jase Kraft: [00:02:18] Hey Sonja, it's great to have you on the podcast.
Sonja Weick: [00:02:32] Hey, Jase, I'm so, so stoke that you asked me to. Come on. I'm excited to be here. I'm honored and thankful. So thanks for having me.
Jase Kraft: [00:02:39] Awesome wow that. That's quite the range of emotions. So I'm excited. I'm excited to talk to somebody that I watch for ten episodes on a season. That and honestly, I had to borrow somebody else's Amazon Prime because I don't have it. But I was like, I need to see this show. So but I wanted to start off this conversation kind of taking you back to pre athletics for you in your in your podcast that you have tales of toughness. You talk about that you got into running because you were afraid of balls and just kind of love the freedom that I got to you. But what made you, like, go out on that first run? I mean, that's not something that.
Sonja Weick: [00:03:29] Oh, my gosh.
Jase Kraft: [00:03:30] I'm going to go run.
Sonja Weick: [00:03:32] I know it's. Gosh, yes. You know, I think since I've been little, what's always got me, what's always been in my blood and in my DNA is adventure. I remember even being like a little kid and we had property and I was always adventuring around the property and climbing all the trees and I had a dog in tow. And so there was this sense of exploration that's always been deep inside of my little heart. And I remember. In middle schools trying to run the mile and seeing that I was the fastest girl in the school and kind of getting a little bit of like a school attitude about it, and then I remember one day thinking, you know what, I'm gonna I think runners train like they go and they run. And I took off from my house and I ran and I ran and I ran. And I think later I went and had my mom drive it and I had run six miles all around the neighborhood. But all I remember was I was really tired. That was exhausting. But I got so far from home because you get like three miles from home when you're in middle school and you think you're on another planet. And that sense of having, like, my own two little feet get me that far from home and then being able to run all the way back and have this sense of, oh, my gosh, I just did this like mini-adventure that lit up something inside me. So I think I always realized what running could do for me from an adventure point of view, less from, you know, I could be really fast at something short distance or which I did have to do in high school. But yeah, the exploration, the getting out with other people, and trying to go get in a little bit of trouble during cross-country practice like that was really big for me in high school. I loved our adventure runs. I didn't like our track workouts as much as I loved us going out and getting lost a little bit.
Jase Kraft: [00:05:20] That so am I hearing this right that your first, like, actual training run, that you're like, I'm just going to go out and run a six miles in middle school?
Sonja Weick: [00:05:29] I was in the seventh grade.
Jase Kraft: [00:05:33] That explains a lot.
Sonja Weick: [00:05:35] Solo. I just kept running. And I remember I remember sort of like every turn I would make and rode, I would run down thinking, like, should I turn around? Like, I'm really far from home? And then I'd be like one more road because I still knew where I was and like, I still know where I am. I still know I can get my cell phones. I'm going to do like one more road. And then when my mom got home from work, I was like, we need to go drive my runs so we could, like, hit the odometer and see how far my mom just kept driving. My mom was like, oh, my goodness,
Jase Kraft: [00:06:07] That's awesome. Did your mom think you're crazy at that point? Or,
Sonja Weick: [00:06:12] You know, I remember her being, like, definitely not negative. She never put that fear in me of like you went so far, you know, which we often do with women. We default to this kind of like safety measure, safety place. And my mom never did that with me. She always applauded my exploration and my enthusiasm. So I remember her just being really positive about it. But she would ride her bike with me through high school when I would go on my long runs. And she always build it as like, oh, I need some exercise, too. So she come in right next to me. But I know probably in her heart now that I'm a mother, I know she was like, oh yeah, I'm going to go ride my bike with her.
Jase Kraft: [00:06:50] You can run a long ways. I'm going to make sure you come home.
Sonja Weick: [00:06:53] Yeah, I better accompany you. But I never got this. I never got the kind of normal female fear programming. I don't think compared to a lot of other women, I still feel very safe going out into the back country alone. I feel safe training and exercising alone on my bike, swimming. I swim open water alone in the bay, you know. So I've never kind of had that fear, that female fear tactic that I know a lot of women have to to fight and accommodate for.
Jase Kraft: [00:07:27] Did you grow up in a small town, large town or whatnot?
Sonja Weick: [00:07:32] Yeah, I grew up in the town that I'm actually living in now. So from age 10 to 15, I lived in this little beach town called Los Osos, California, on the coast, kind of halfway between San Francisco and L.A., maybe like two hours north of Santa Barbara and like three hours south of Monterey. So it's just kind of tucked in, very quiet. There's fourteen thousand people in this town. There were fourteen thousand people when I was ten. And there's fourteen thousand people now that I'm forty. It hasn't changed.
Jase Kraft: [00:08:01] A lot of Tourists or not really?
Sonja Weick: [00:08:03] No. Most tourists are in Morvai or they're in Paso Robles drinking wine, but very few tourists like find their way to Los Osos. So so we have just this quiet little hamlet here with a lot of families and it's safe. But we've got a big state park next to us and we've got the water. We live kind of at the base of this big Morro Bay, this Back Bay. So we have water. We have a big old sand spit that you can go explore and this big state park. And it's just a beautiful location to raise a family. It's a beautiful location to grow up. And it's why so many people have trouble leaving here. And you end up really house four because the real estate's really expensive, but there's not a lot of jobs to support, you know, those income levels. So we have a lot of retirees that are moving in and a lot of young families. It's an interesting dynamic right now. But I love being in a place where I can head out the front door and literally within a mile and a half. I'm in the country, I'm running up a mountain and I'm on single track trail, and there's a huge ocean view next to me, I think, where you live and as an endurance athlete, your surroundings are so much a part of your daily life that where you live really, really matters.
Jase Kraft: [00:09:15] One hundred percent, I think, you know, coming from a small town myself that you talked about, like you didn't get that fear tactic, like a lot of women, I think that comes from, you know, the environment that you're grown up to. And it seems that you were growing up and kind of this very safe, I'll be it maybe a little bit naive on your part at that time. But overall, you'll hear about the stories of somebody getting shot down the street or what have you. And I'm sure.
Sonja Weick: [00:09:49] That's so true.
Jase Kraft: [00:09:49] That's helped to become that kind of adventure that you know, that you are now. Because if you don't.
Sonja Weick: [00:09:57] I think you're spot on,
Jase Kraft: [00:09:59] That would be hard to develop when you're going overnight in a jungle and climbing up and down waterfalls. I mean, I would imagine you have some sort of nerve to do that.
Sonja Weick: [00:10:12] It's it's yeah. It's interesting you bring that up. I think that is a definite piece of it. When I was 15, we moved to San Jose, a big city in the Bay Area. And I remember there being a culture shock for me there. And I remember kind of internalizing that sensation of, oh, I'm not in my safe community. At one of the things my mom and I always laughed about was, you know, back in Los Osos, if all the cops, if all the cops came blaring down the street, you just had to go turn on the news and you could find out what was going on. And then we'd moved to San Jose and we'd see all these cops and all this like hullabaloo. And we go turn on the news and it would never even be reported on. You know, there's so much crime happening, not that it was even a high crime area, but just in a big city, lots of crime happens. That doesn't make the news. But in our little town, you know, we would know what was going on all the time. And I remember that being like, oh, I'm not in a in a small town anymore. And there was a lot more police presence. And also, when you're out in the back country, who you run into makes a big difference. I think, as a woman is you're constantly looking, OK, who am I running into? Is that is it a nice friendly couple with a dog? Is it a solo man? And sort of the dynamic of who you start running into definitely varies. When you're in a bigger city, you start running into people that seem more unfamiliar and you kind of question a little bit more. And that's just natural when you have a bigger community of people using outdoor space. And also, I think has contributed to, you know, how marginalized communities don't always feel safe out in the back country either, because they're they're not seeing people that are like them out there very often. And I can understand that as a woman and just changing sort of cultural areas. And so, yeah, we've got to we have some work to do. But, yeah, I think that that small town feel did help me explore a lot more safely as a woman. And I'm sure most of the people around town recognize me or knew who I was when I was out trying to get into trouble anyway.
Jase Kraft: [00:12:13] Runner girl again.
Sonja Weick: [00:12:17] Where is she headed?
Jase Kraft: [00:12:21] So San Jose, is that where you went to college then?
Sonja Weick: [00:12:25] That's where she went finish out high school just for a year and three quarters. And then I went to UC San Diego for college and I tried to run their their D to school, D to non scholarship. And I made it I made it through my freshman year and I did not drive at all in the college running environment. I, I like to party and I stayed up really late. I had enough trouble making it to my classes. And then I had suddenly we're going from like a high school running environment which was really nurturing. And I was had really fantastic high school coaches went to a college program. There's a lot more responsibility. There's Doubleday's, you got to be in the gym doing your strength training. And I was like, what is all of this? I didn't really thrive in that environment. It was a lot a lot of structure and rigidity, which I've never thrived in that sort of environment. And so sophomore year, I continue to try to be a runner. But I was getting I was worse than I was in high school and college. My times were worse. My training was worse. My happiness was definitely worse. And so most of the way through track season, my sophomore year, I knew, like, this is it, I'm not going to be doing this anymore. And I was getting more adventurous. I was doing some backpacking and I had gotten into rock climbing a little bit. And so I knew there was like another place for me that I could go I could get back to that sense of adventure and I could drop the whole rigidity of that formal collegiate running program. And that was definitely the right move for me. Like all the people who I ran with in college, only one of them still runs. Because they got so burned out, but the two of us that still run weren't very great in college and now we do a lot of adventure. So I think kind of shutting down college is what enabled me to find sport again later in life and really, like, love it and adopted and double down on.
Jase Kraft: [00:14:16] Yeah, I it's interesting you brought that up like the better athletes aren't running now. I totally experience that. We were talking just before this and I had 12 years of 12 years of running like for a time, you know, fast and yet I got good. But man was I burnt out afterwards and took me a year to like, oh, now I like training again, you know? And I wonder for you, it seems like your passion kind of flies into the maybe not so structured like training or time chasing, but more of like let's see what the body can do as far as endurance goes. Is that like what you found?
Sonja Weick: [00:15:09] I think I think I got there eventually, but I took the long way. I mean, being sort of a college dropout runner always left a chip on my shoulder. That failure to thrive because I loved running in high school, I loved the camaraderie, I loved the racing and and then getting to college and really failing to thrive and kind of almost disappearing into the woods and into the outdoors as something that just took all the pressure off because I wasn't succeeding, you know, and. And at what point was I just banging my head against the wall? And it was kind of like, well, I can just go out and have I can just go have fun instead of banging my head against the wall. But I always still had that chip on my shoulder of, like, yeah, I didn't make it. I didn't cut it. I didn't I didn't drive, you know, and and that was hard on my my ego, to be honest. And and so I ended up taking a break from sport and I finished out college. I went to graduate school and my husband got married, had my daughter and I was largely not active. I would hike and sometimes backpack and climb for ten years. So it was like outdoorsy, but nothing structured, no racing or anything. And slowly through that process sort of lost myself. Definitely having my daughter I lost I gained a lot of weight and just kind of got farther and farther away from definitely someone who ran in college, but also even the adventurous like seeker that I was. So when I finally had my sort of coming to moment where I realized, oh, my gosh, like you are on a trajectory that is so far off of who you self identify as, you need to find that girl again. And I had had a baby that coming back. I launched like fully into triathlon and Ironman because I finally two thousand and seven. So I had a.. In twenty five in November. And then about November, October of 2006 was when I was like, who are you? What are you doing? You're a mess. And I just looked in the mirror. I was like, You think you're sporty, you think you're adventurous. Where where she where she go, she's not looking back. And that next day I went and went down to the garage and I pulled out my husband's mountain bike and he's six foot four, so I had to drop the seat all the way down to I'm five foot six. But it was a bike. It was only bike we had in the garage. And I, I couldn't run. I was too heavy to run. I couldn't I couldn't run. And so I put the the the seat down on the mountain bike. And I used REI dividend because we bought lots of things that we just didn't use them. So used our dividend to buy a trailer that I could put on Annie. And I remember that first moment in that first ride that I took off with her in the trailer. She was about a year old. And we when we found a bike path and we rode the bike path and we went to the park and we pushed her in the swing and I came back to the house like an hour and a half later. And I had this massive adventure with Annie. And I was like, oh, there's that girl. Like, there she is. That's the girl. That's who I want to be. And that started to light the fire. And so from that, it just my little addictive personality started extending the bike rides and then got the wheels that you could pop on the trailer and push it. And I started like walking with her. And then I started jogging and then I signed up for a 5k. And so it was like this whole after Annie was this whole reemergence of Sonia as an athlete, Sonia as an adventure, Sonia as an explorer. But this time I had Annie in tow. Yeah. And and that was that was when I really got into endurance sports. Yes. For the adventure. But a lot too for just. Sense of self and finding. Oh, my gosh, I'm good at...