By Courtney Akrigg on 08/09/18 at 10:43 pm
Inspiring others through passion for health, wellness and the sport of triathlon.
Meet Sharon Byun, an inspiring age-group triathlete and triathlon ambassador for Team USA.
Sharon competes in triathlons in the 45-49 age group category, is an obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of Florida. Sharon considers her day job to be “work triathlon”, delivering babies, operating and seeing patients in the office.
In 2012, at 43-years of age, she competed her first triathlon.
“I was 43 when I competed in my first triathlon. It was a local sprint distance race, and I had no expectations other than to have a good time. I never imagined I would come to love triathlon as much as I do.”
Sharon is motivated to line up with the world’s best age-group triathletes at the World Triathlon Grand Final on the Gold Coast, Australia, this month.
“The Grand Final is as close to feeling like you are competing in the Olympic Games for Age-Groupers. I think it is pretty easy to be motivated for this event!”
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be an Age-Group All-American and be representing the United States at the ITU World Championships five years later! My goal as a USA Triathlon Ambassador is to inspire others, to promote health and wellness among Masters age-groupers and to show that women can be fit and fast after age 40. I am thrilled to have the honour of sharing my passion for triathlon, to help increase participation of women in our sport and to encourage a healthy lifestyle in my community.”
“The more I participate and compete in triathlon, the more my love for the sport grows.”
Here is what Sharon had to say about the triathlon community, her support team, women in triathlon and how she constantly aspires to inspire.
Definitely the community of people!!! What I love about the triathlon community is the power of positive thinking and strength and inspiration that I encounter on a daily basis. To be able to compete as an amateur age-group athlete at an international level representing my country is an added bonus that I never dreamed would be possible!”
Like our elite triathletes, our age-group athletes have a team and network around them to support them. Sharon has a wonderfully supportive husband and son who are extremely encouraging of her triathlon journey.
“I remind myself every day that none of my balance and wellness in life would be possible without the support of the two most important people in my universe, my ever supportive husband Louis and my son Thomas.”
As age 50 approaches, I have only seen myself getting faster and stronger every year.
Do I ever have moments of self-doubt? Absolutely.
Do I still need find ways to motivate myself and be mentally tough? You bet.
Do I look forward to new challenges every day? Yes!
Is there something thrilling about the feeling of nervous anticipation at the starting line and the experience of sheer joy at the finish line of a race? Every time!”
“I am forever grateful to the triathlon community for supporting me on my multisport journey.”
“Triathlon has been tremendously instrumental in improving my quality of life in so many ways, not just from a health and fitness standpoint but even more importantly through surrounding myself with a community of people who are positive, supportive, encouraging, inspiring and fun.”
What is your favourite discipline and why?
“I would have to say, my favourite discipline is the Sprint Distance Triathlon for several reasons:
1. I only have one gear, and that is the “balls to the walls” gear, although my coach Karyn Austin has taught me quite a bit about pacing and trying to learn and understand what my other gears are for both training and racing! I do like the feeling of going all out and wanting to collapse at the finish line.
2. I can maintain a manageable training schedule juggling family and work. I am an OBGYN, married to a urologist and we have an 11 year-old son. On top of that, until recently, all 3 of our surviving parents age 79-87 were living with us! My mother recently moved into her own condo nearby, but my in-laws live with us. At the end of the day, triathlon is a passion for sure, but it is still a hobby, and my primary goals are for fitness and health in addition to connecting to a really fun and supportive group of people.
3. I have been no stranger to running-related injuries, which for the time being have held me back from doing longer course racing. I raced at Escape From Alcatraz this past June, and that was a huge bucket list race for me! Strength training has helped with knee arthritis pain and getting custom orthotics has also been helpful with posterior tibial tendinitis.
4. I have done 1 duathlon once when a swim was cancelled and I do have a whole new respect for duathlon after that! It is not easy to figure out pacing for a run-bike-run for sure (especially in light of my reason 1)!”
What does the triathlon community mean to you?
“I had the great fortune of being able to write a blog for USA Triathlon recently and I wrote about how the triathlon community has meant so much to me in terms of my sense of well-being. As a physician, I have had so many mentors and colleagues that I have looked up to over the years and as an OBGYN, I have experienced much joy in my work, but my career has certainly brought with it some stressful moments! Many of us seek balance in our lives, and the triathlon community has opened up my world to an amazing source of inspiration and joy. I think I echo the sentiments of most triathletes when I say that what I love most about triathlon is the welcoming, supportive, inspirational and fun community of people I have had the privilege of training and racing with not only locally, but also nationally and around the world.”
How motivated are you ahead of the Grand Final?
“Last year was my first experience competing in an ITU Grand Final event, and I am looking forward to returning to all of the energy and camaraderie of representing my country and competing for Team USA against the best age-groupers in the world. I am competing in the draft-legal sprint distance event and am new to draft-legal racing having only done this for the first time last year, so I am also motivated to improve. I couldn’t believe it last year when I learned that Michellie Jones, triathlon silver-medallist in the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000 was competing in my age-group (and of course won the event).The Grand Final is as close to feeling like you are competing in the Olympic Games for Age-Groupers. I think it is pretty easy to be motivated for this event!”
What does it mean to represent your country for triathlon?
“Representing my country means everything to me. I know it may sound corny, but America is truly the land of opportunity. I am the daughter of immigrant parents who came to America in the hopes of creating better lives for themselves. I was raised by parents who sacrificed everything for their children and raised us to believe in ourselves, to believe that hard work will bring success and to be hopeful and optimistic for the future. I see this philosophy and work ethic in my teammates. USA Triathlon has an amazing team of managers, coaches and support staff that make their athletes proud to be part of this organization and represent our country.”
Who or what inspires you?
“There are really too many people to name. I love to see all of the posts on the Women For Tri Facebook page. 40,000+ women from around the world who have overcome all kinds of adversity and are a constant source of inspiration. I also am especially inspired by all of the physically challenged athletes. Hector Picard is one person who comes to mind. He is a double arm amputee who has incredible spirit and passion. My good friend Celia Dubey is also a huge source of inspiration. She is a National and World Age Group Champion in triathlon and duathlon. What inspires me most about her though is her boundless positive energy and humility. She very deservedly was awarded the Spirit of Multiport Award at the US Age Group National Championship awards banquet in 2016. She loves to share in the success of others and lifts everyone up with whom she comes into contact. I am inspired by people who are able to push themselves out of their comfort zones and challenge themselves to do things that they might not have thought possible – I love to hear them share their journeys. I am certainly inspired by those who believe that “age is just a number.” Last year I was thrilled to meet Jack Welber, the 2017 World ITU Sprint Men’s 80-84-year-old champion. Sister Madonna Buder of course is one of my heroes.”
Please take me through your race morning – any special things you do, eat, say to yourself?
“My father passed away in 2014 12 days after my 1st age group national championships competition. His passing occurred just 3 weeks after a diagnosis of metastatic cancer. One of my favourite memories of him as a kid was when we would go on family beach vacations. He would get into the ocean and just float on his back – he always looked so happy and peaceful and meditative. So now, one of my pre-race routines is to float on my back in the water during the pre-race swim. I like to gaze at the sky and have a mini pep-talk with my dad. It makes me feel safe, and I know he is still watching out for me. I do not have a pre-race mantra - I think I just feed off of the energy and excitement coming from all of the athletes. I do love the swim start and have had to make a quick mental adjustment for the few races I’ve done where the swim has been cancelled. Mostly “just deal with it and get over it.” My pre-race nutrition has been the same for years. A hard-boiled egg, a rice cracker or English muffin with almond butter and unsweetened applesauce, a banana, water and coffee with almond milk. I use Nuun in my water bottle.”
“I am hoping to encourage and inspire others to discover the joys of triathlon. My hope is to promote health and wellness among Masters age-groupers.”
“In addition, as an OBGYN I would love to have a platform to promote health and fitness during pregnancy - the recent pregnancies of professional triathletes such as Gwen Jorgensen, Sarah Haskins, Miranda Carfrae and Meredith Kessler highlight the fact that with the right guidance, most women can and should stay active throughout their pregnancies.”
Find more details about this event - 2018 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Gold Coast