“If you’re going to dream – hell, dream big and go for it! Why not? I dream about pizza. That’s why I order extra-large. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it right.” – Carole Sharpless
Hi! I’m Carole Marie Sharpless, and I’m a professional triathlete coach. I could wax poetic about all the certifications I have and all the races I’ve competed in (blah blah blah), but that’s kind of boring.
I want you to know about me– who I am as a person, my history, where I started in my athletic career, and that once I was not on this path to be a professional athlete and coach. I want you to know that I’ve been in your shoes. I’ve been the pro athlete, sure, but I’ve also been the non-athlete. If we decide to work together, you deserve to know how I got here and how I can help you achieve your goals.
I’m the first of identical twin girls, and I was born on September 1st, 1971, in Laurel, Maryland to Joe and Nancy Sharpless.
Growing up as an only child, my parents enrolled me in virtually every type of class or course they could find hoping I would discover something I liked. I tried ice skating, soccer, gymnastics, art classes, music classes, horseback riding etc. etc. etc., until finally by the age of 8, I seemed to be a stand out in swimming. Although I was a hyper kid, the endless laps seemed to help diffuse the enormous ball of energy my parents had to deal with.
By the time I was 14, I had qualified for Nationals in swimming, and was a state and regional champion. Then everything in my young world suddenly changed. Barely a freshman in high school I finally went to see an orthopedic surgeon due to the chronic pain in my right shoulder. My doctor diagnosed a tear in my rotator cuff, essentially ending my athletic career.
During that same time, and much more important, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and tragically died a year later. My life immediately changed.
My high school years were empty, as I tried to fill the huge void in my house, and in my life. I found that there were bigger things to take care of and somehow I just never made it back to the pool. In my first semester of college I tried to get back into swimming, but by then I had been out of the pool for almost 4 years (dog years to a swimmer).
I was fat and miserably out of shape and my heart was gone. I officially retired from swimming and took up Dorito eating and watching soap operas.
Almost a decade later in my late twenties I was living in Southern California, still sedate, still fat, and still seemingly without purpose. One day I put on a jumbo pair of jeans that had always been baggy AND THEY DIDN’T FIT!!!! I was horrified and didn’t know what else to do but head back to the pool.
I joined a Masters Swim Team in Santa Monica, CA (SCAQ), which remains the greatest masters program I have ever known. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, this was the start of the rest of my life.
Almost immediately I made friends on the team, one of whom (John Jericiau) was a triathlete and had done the Hawaii Ironman 2 times, and he was training for his third. I didn’t even know what an Ironman was!
Though I would tease John about his “triathlon addiction”, I was secretly inspired by his drive and was deeply envious he had something about which he felt such passion. John became one of my dearest friends and soon enough my triathlon mentor.
In the summer of 1996, John invited my to do a sprint triathlon “for fun”. Although I only had a rusty hybrid bike with pedal brakes and a basket, and I didn’t have running shoes, I decided to do it anyway. I LOVED IT!! Some part of me came alive again during that race. As I pedaled hard uphill (both ways), ran through the pain, and felt the sweat pouring down my face– I realized that I was in love.
“Time will invariably be people who do not accept you. And in that case you must be your own badass self, without apology.” – Katie Goodman
It was that tiny piece of my soul that had been dormant for years that seemed to be calling out to my spirit of survival saying, “You can do this, Carole. Don’t you give up. Just keep going.”
That first race was a metaphor for my life. I had been sedate long enough. I had been grieving and numb and immobile long enough. Now, I just needed to keep going.
It’s hard to believe it has been a decade since that first triathlon. Since then, I have climbed my way through the ranks of the sport, reached my dream of becoming a professional triathlete, and after a few very serious twists of fate, now coach others in an attempt to inspire as I have been inspired.
Like all athletes, some races have gone well and some have not – but I am a firm believer that it’s never a failure, and always a lesson. I’ve kicked ass in some serious races (including 10 Ironman races, with a 2nd place finish at IMFL). I have been a participant in more races than I can count, placed 1st Overall American at Ironman Florida ’05, 1st Overall Amateur at Ironman National Championships ’03, a have been highly ranked in numerous races since 2003. I am known for my smile and “rebound ability” from a bad race, as well as for my famous jokes and turn on the comedy circuit (kidding). Life– and racing– is all about perspective and I have plenty of that.
People say that I’m one of the nicest, most approachable coach they’ve met, and also one of the funniest. My silly, comical antics and sayings come from the heart, and when I coach athletes of all shapes and sizes, I make sure to make it fun and keep you inspired!
My life now is inspired by the people I meet every day. It is the spirit of survival that is present at every race in those same people; people of all ages and abilities, focused on the same single purpose, “I can do this. Don’t give up. Just keep going”. Let’s do this together, because I already know that you can!