Tuesday, February 26, 2019



“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.  The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”  ------Calvin Coolidge

So, this word has been just finding its way to me over the past week.  I am reading a book with a chapter about persistence.  I had a journal prompt that asked me to list instances of persistence in my life.  And, the speakers at the Oscars last night, were over and over and over…. Repeatedly… drumming this into my heart.  I am hearing it loud and clear.

Persistence has been my way.  It really is a theme of my life, it is the fabric of my soul and I don’t mean in a bad way, it is what it is.  It was summer.  Afternoon in my back yard, on our old concrete porch that was “quartered” off so it had long lines which of course…. Was my practice balance beam.  I was practicing some of my balance beam routine on the line, and I dared to speak my heart.  I dreamed of going to the Olympics.  I was told, don’t be silly--- only such a small percent can do that, don’t get your heart set.  OHHHH my…. And yes.  My heels were dug in, and I. WOULD.  There was NO listening to that.  I would trudge forward day after day, year after year.  So, I actually don’t know if I was born with persistence, or if I learned it over these years.  Anyway.  It was my essence.  PURE me.  

And of course it continued.  Anyone who knows me – yes, I never gave up on my UVA dream even though I was waitlisted, waitlisted again… I was waitlisted for med school, just everything… over and over…. The universe saying, “how much do you have, girl?”…. and I was at this time ready to just be fierce and give it all.  Into my adult life.  Adoption.  Sticking with tough times.  Races, ironman, my daily existence oozed persistence….

Until maybe 4 years ago when things happened..  and.. I got tired.  Enough giving my everything.  I want to be quiet, still, and just safe and okay.

But, this voice is whispering to me.  This theme.  My heart.  My world.  My belief.  Why is PERSIST whispering to me now?

Because it is what I believe in. Persistence is HOPEFUL, and HOPE to me is so strong.  I realize there are times when hope is THE ONLY THING.  It gives you some power… or at least gives your heart a fluttering snapshot of possibility of power.

Persistence is a JOURNEY.  It isn’t one choice, but an over and over and over promise that you make to yourself.  If you are persisting, you are on a path.. a PATH to somewhere- even if it doesn’t reach your ultimate goal, it is the only way to try.  It is a belief that your actions will be rewarded over time. 

Maybe most importantly, the journey of this persistence, we become transformed and deepened.  By enduring, our “self” becomes truer.  Choice by choice, day by day, our character blends in with the quiet steadiness of the hope of persistence.

I wish that for so many, and maybe it is partly why I do what I do and coach people for races, train them to strive.  The feeling of the end result is amazing.  And the deepening of our lives through the journey is priceless.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

What do you get to do?

Last fall, I began something that has been really nurturing to my soul.  I had been kind of “losing” myself it felt—a confusion of- “why am I so tired, where is my typical motivation, who am I, I’m bored” and so on.  Days felt more like drudgery. Every morning to wake up was just ughhhhhh…. But….. take me to the beach and I wake up like a firecracker!  I’m not tired there, I have my typical light and my fire and my heart just exudes what feels more natural to me as peace and joy.   I am so thankful and grateful.  I couldn’t figure out why I kept acting so negatively in my “real life.”  It felt like a moment too simplistic to end up making a difference, but I decided to each day wake up and remind myself “what I am so lucky to get to do today,” and then at night also- look forward to the next day to remind myself what I am so lucky to do the following day.  I was hoping to make this more of the fabric of my brain, how I think naturally and instead of being overwhelmed by schedules, driving, planning, remind myself how THOSE VERY THINGS WERE THE THINGS THAT I WAS PSYCHED FOR!

It has made a world of a difference!  And in fact, it was all super ridiculously straightforward because it isn’t that I had to plan something different in my day, it was more a reminder that I LOVE my days.  Even if they are busy, they are filled really with things I LOVE!

All it took was reminding myself how:

*I was so lucky to get to train people that I love working with

*I am so lucky to do the work I love, believe in, and SEE makes a difference in people’s lives!

*I am so lucky to have dogs to cuddle with, walk, pick up their poop even, haha… I am just so lucky for these angels that I do truly thank God for them every single day.

*I am so lucky to have a family that I need to feed, keep snacks for, get to places, that we get to spend time together getting to those places, the small conversations are what life is made up of, and even these little moments aren’t really moments of stress, but really FULL LIFE MOMENTS that are my privilege!

*I am so lucky to be able to go for a run… I never “have to run”--- I should always say to myself, I GET TO RUN today!  What a freedom in so many ways.  Instead of letting my weekly workout mileage, or numbers/sets/paces for a workout overwhelm, scare and turn my feelings to uptightness and fear, let go of that and just remember the essence of what it comes down to! I LOVE RUNNING (biking and swimming and everything else active I choose to do!)

*just because I love so many things and try to fit it all in- doesn’t make it stressful!  I have tons of hobbies and things I love! I often confuse that with a weird sense of unease that I won’t be able to get my whole plan for the day accomplished.

*and overall, I’m so lucky to have pockets of minutes that I can use for self care, seeing friends, being silent and still, full of presence in order to recharge.  That is not laziness, there is nothing wrong with me, I am LUCKY to allow myself to pause now and then to regroup and recharge so I can live from a place of being centered and strong.
So, I ask to any of you reading this....
What are you so lucky to "get to do" today?!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Fitness as a metaphor for life...

I typically write about fitness, yoga, training, but… it is really an open blog that I want to write because I kind of think of myself that way- I’m just a girl who is open to sharing whatever is my truth,  my real, my joys and my sadness.  I am nothing if I am not who I am out in the open.  So, with that…..

How do you live with a broken heart?  How is my heart so whole, so big, so full, but so broken?

Last week, I found out news that made me so very, terribly sad. 

I luckily already had an appointment with my therapist and I cried my way in, and eventually came upon maybe one of the biggest questions, “what is wrong with me, why can I not let go”?

And the “answer” was gentle to my soul.  There is nothing wrong with me.  This is me.  This is how my heart works, I’ve known this.  I’ve been “sensitive” my whole life, and have grown to understand that this doesn’t make me bad or weak or flawed.  It makes life harder sometimes because I feel so deeply.  I get low -lows.  And it sucks.  But it also means I get beautiful, joyful highs and that I NOTICE and feel blessings from such small moments. 

Heartbreak, as anything in life, I truly believe has a purpose.  Even when we cannot see, do not understand, do not WANT to have a lesson taught to us…. It is somewhere there, and maybe we will see it someday…. Maybe not, but we can be open to hearing and listening for the purpose in our pain.

I don’t know what the purpose to some of the pain I’ve experienced in my life is.  But I can realize that one of the ways I learned to cope is through exercise, fitness and moving.  I always knew I just plain felt better when I moved.  I learned so young in my life about depression and how to survive breath by breath.  I did gymnastics of course, but that came to an end, and I knew I needed to keep moving.  I remember walking, running (in like $2 kmart ked shoes), along the canal, around the neighborhood block, through town.  I walked, ran, I listened to my Walkman, and I kept going.  I had no endurance, but I built up.  And I Just kept moving and I kept myself together through that.  What a gift.  It was ALL I had.  I learned to depend on no one, except myself and my body.

It has led me to high highs of finishing races I never thought I’d be able to do, running and biking through cities and experiencing so much beauty in the world- through countrysides, mountains, swimming through beautiful lakes and kinda some scary grose rivers and alligator infested lakes.. (wtf was I thinking).  It led me to high- highs of finishing marathons, an Ironman, countless other challenges.

And before it sounds all glorious, I am nothing if not true, like I said above.  In all of this, I also experienced the lows…. I experienced training days where my body was just at the EDGE and over the edge of my capabilities, my energy level.  I have felt the fatigue, my focus and commitment being challenged, and questioned my purpose.  I have qualified for worlds, only to find out that I was moved one spot off by a drafting violation (when I really disagree that I drafted).  I have woken up at insane hours to get in long trainer rides before 8am church, I have logged miles in the rain, cold, heat, wind that were not easy.  I have pulled my bike to the side of the W and OD to break down in tears with major life changes and loss.  I’ve experienced “life through sport.”

I’ve always said how much races mimic life.  The will to endure through a race is nothing different than the will to persevere and persist in our daily lives.  One blends into the other.  We put our heart out to be vulnerable to the world and to live fully, and we feel the feels.  We put our heart out into our goals and we also feel the feels.

Our most proud moments, come only after our hardest challenges.

The beauty of life arises from an open heart capable of love.

Joy shines after knowing the depth of despair.

We have lived after knowing heartbreak.
May you all know when reading this, that I am real, true, and will always be a friend who is there for you.  You Matter so deeply to me.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Long race preparation

GOING THE DISTANCE.. talking long races here, building the distance,  moving from 10K to ½ marathon, ½ to full, moving to longer distance tris:

As I’ve written previously, I’m taking this year to go back and do some long training and races, most importantly, this spring, Big Sur Marathon.

The long distance races are NO FREAKING JOKE.  My first marathon was in 1997, the fall after I graduated from undergrad.  I kept with marathons- usually one per year until 2011 when I did Boston.  I should go back and do the exact count, but to me the number isn’t important.  I’ve learned from each one.  I began doing ½ Ironman distance in my 2nd year of triathlon.  Again, I learned that this was no joke, but DOABLE!  I have only done one Ironman, Lake Placid in 2003. 2.4 miles swim, 112 miles biking and 26.2 running.  I had no idea if I really could do this distance.  I was so scared and so respectful of this crazy challenge.  I trained so hard, so consistently, so focused that by race day…. I realized that the hardest part had really been the TRAINING!  And I feel strongly that long races really should always have that feeling.  The training should have workouts that just EAT YOU ALIVE sometimes.  You should always have some workouts that just crush you, and in that, I mean physically, but also mentally.

The physical crushing will be expected and also unexpected.  You will find where your body’s weak points are:  maybe in maintaining speed over time, maybe hills, maybe downhills, maybe working on nutrition challenges for the distance.  You might find your heart rate elevates after a few hours so much more than predicted, not because of added intensity, but just from the duration and how your body perceives this demand and heart rate drift.   You may find your calves are a limiter, your back or hips.  You may find that your legs just decide they are now cement.  And then it turns mental.

The mental crushing….. You have to overpower the mind to succeed at the long distances.  You have to learn perseverance mixed with patience.   Patience, mixed with perseverance.  Completely intertwined within your heart and every fiber of your being.

Because you WILL have times when you want to stop, when you are SURE that it isn’t an option to continue and that you must….. or that it would be “better for you” if you did walk it out for a bit.  This will happen, and may your training have been effective in teaching you the best way to carry on regardless.  I know many people who are fine with walking 1 minute out of every 10 in a marathon.  I also know many who, if they walk, will NEVER begin running again.   There is never one “answer” for everyone.  It takes time, trial and error, successes and failures (hopefully in training).

And it is really in the TRAINING.. the days, weeks and months invested in your goals and your SELF that make this possible.  That strengthen the mind to overcome.  To strengthen the will and resolve to continue each footstep, to continue the positive self talk, to know that there is no way you will allow yourself to not finish.  That CANNOT be an option.  If you have a doubt in your head, fix it.  You cannot doubt yourself, your capability, and your will.  There is literally no energy for doubts in these long distance races.

What works for me?

1.      Mantras:  Like anything else, you need to practice these also in training (and USE them to get through the hardest training days also!) You need to find what works and speaks to your heart, and then channel your trust in these words, their connection to your heart and dreams.  I’ve used so many over the years. Some simple, all with something that “hits” me.  Examples:  “no one said this would be easy”, “I will not stop, I will not stop”(said internally along with my footsteps), reminding myself that what hurts now won’t even be the thing that is bothering me 2 miles further down the road, etc.  One of the most helpful questions/ mantras that I have used is, “Are you okay right now?”  I hadn’t intended to use this, but I did in Boston marathon.  I had gone to the race by myself and it frankly scared me a little bit to know that no one was there for me at the finish line, that even at the finish, I needed to be “on” enough to get myself back to where I was staying, etc!  So, I was having massive anxiety in first part of the race up until maybe mile 8, when I was really sick of my own internal jibber jabbering and stressing out..  I literally told myself to SHUT UP and I said, “Sharon, are you okay right NOW.”  And I knew that at that moment I was doing what I needed to, perfectly executing, so stop stressing.  I kind of used my “yoga” of don’t look forward or backward, but be in this very moment.. not just this mile, but literally the moment.  I “let go” of all the bullshit worrying me and ENJOYED the rest of the race!  Another thing that really works to me personally, is asking myself, “how hard are you working TRULY?”  sometimes, I feel like I cannot go on, but when I am truthful with myself, I realize I am actually FINE, and it is my mind making a big deal and I’m making a mountain out of a molehill in  my head.

2.      Visualization: this is HUGE and I ask all of the athletes I coach to do this, both in training and for races.   If you are an athlete and not practicing visualization, you are missing out.  You should be visualizing the pre race atmosphere, your set up, your warm up, things that could happen and how you will deal with them, where you will start, how you will start, what you will use as your mantra, your form, executing your race plan, etc.

3.      Training/confidence from training:  every single person should keep a training log.  Every single person.  And, if you are doing your training, the week before the race as well as the night before the race, you should spend some time reviewing all of the great training that you have done.  This should be a clear answer to you that YOU.ARE.FULLY.PREPARED.  end of story.  No doubting yourself.

4.      Mental games:  This is huge for me.  I break up races various ways.  For marathons, I sometimes break them up into 1st 10 miles, the next 10 miles done as 2 sets of 5 miles.  Then last 10K done as 2x 5Ks.  (sometimes this will need to change along the way, and it is okay to do this, nothing needs to be set in stone…. Other than that YOU WILL NOT GIVE UP!).

5.      Goals: breakdown of A/B/C goals, smart goals, etc.  For every race that I have trained for, I have a “series” of goals.  An A  goal is what ultimately gets you to complete all of your hard training day in and day out.  If you don’t have something big, huge, a bit scary, and maybe past the line of what really can happen, you won’t fully train.  It is possible, but, not a given, of course, to achieve this goal.  For example, it could be a PR for distance or course.  (I never recommend having as a goal to win an age group or place   because you never know who else is going to show up!)  Your B goal is:  OK, halfway through the race you can see your time goal may be way off and A isn’t even possible anymore, Ok, so you have the next best thing that will still really make you happy.   Often times in this goal, part of it will be- k eeping mentally strong and positive, being PRESENT fully in the race, knowing that I won’t look back and wish I had done more.

All in all… these big races are beautiful because they are brutal.  The finish line is beautiful because of the struggle in the journey.  Each race or event has a personal story that you will have so intensely experienced, you will never forget some of the small things that happened.  Each race teaches you about yourself, your GRIT, what you are made of and what you are capable of.  Which is nothing short of infinite possibility.