Carole Marie Sharpless, the first of identical twin girls, was born on September 1 in Maryland. Both twins were very sick and underweight, with Carole’s sister, Kristen, dying from anemia shortly after their birth. Right from the start it was clear Carole was, and would always be, a fighter and survivor.
Growing up an only child, her parents enrolled her in virtually every type of class or course they could to find something she liked. By the age of 8, she seemed to be a stand out in swimming and by 14, she had qualified for Nationals and was a state and regional champion.
Then, everything in her young world suddenly changed.
Barely a freshman in high school she finally went to see an orthopedic surgeon due to the chronic pain in her right shoulder. Her doctor diagnosed a tear in her rotator cuff and she was forced out of the pool. During that same time, what was much more important, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and tragically died a year later.
Her life would never be the same.
Carole’s high school years were predominantly empty ones as she tried to fill the huge void in her house, and in her life. She found that there were bigger things to take care of and somehow never made it back to the pool. In her first semester of college she tried to get back into swimming, but by then she had been out of the pool for almost 4 years (dog years to a swimmer). She was fat and miserably out of shape, but mostly her heart was gone. She officially retired from swimming and took up eating Doritos and watching soap operas.
Almost a decade later she weighed close to 200lbs, was still sedate, still fat, and still seemingly without purpose. Randomly, a friend invited her to do a Sprint Triathlon “for fun”. Although she only had a rusty hybrid bike with pedal brakes and a basket, and she didn’t have running shoes, she decided to do it anyway. NATURALLY SHE LOVED IT!! Deep inside her something came alive again during that race. As she pedaled and ran through the pain, the sweat running down her face made her feel alive.
It was that tiny piece of her soul that had been dormant for years that seemed to be calling out to her spirit of survival saying, “You can do this, Carole. Don’t you give up. Just keep going.”
Carole saw that race as a metaphor for her life. She had been sedate long enough. Now, she just needed to keep going.
And keep going she did. A few years later she would go on to explode on the triathlon scene. Out of nowhere, in only her second Ironman event, Carole finished 4th Overall at the 2003 Ironman Lake Placid – almost a full hour ahead of the next age grouper. Her previous year she had finished in an average 12 hours …… it was then she started to learn that smart training had transformed her.
In 2004 Carole turned Professional, and has five Top-5 Ironman finishes to her credit, her best finish being 2nd at Ironman Florida 2006.
Unfortunately, things were about to go dark again. While training for Ironman Florida 2007, Carole was in a serious bike accident and was again tested as that fighter and survivor. She broke her back, both arms, separated her shoulder, bruised her kidney, broke 3 ribs and had a head injury which has left her with a slight cognitive delay. She was bedridden for 5-weeks (without use of her arms); needless to say, without a mother or siblings or family to help, this was one of the loneliest, darkest periods of her life.
After over a year of physical therapy, Carole finally began to run again, but has never returned to the elite arena in sport.
Despite the challenges she has faced, Carole remains committed to helping others accomplish their goals. She believes her many obstacles help her relate to her athletes. Experience as a couch potatoe? Yup, been there. Experience with being overweight? Yup, been there? Experience with crushing injuries that affect athletic performance or ability? Yup. Experience with depression? Oh yeah. There have been few things an athlete brought to her coaching doorstep that Carole hasn’t been able to improve. She is known for her smile and “rebound ability”. To her, it is all about perspective and she has plenty of that. Carole is known not only as one of the nicest, most approachable athletes, but also one of the funniest. Her silly, comical antics and sayings have made her a favorite among fans and athletes alike.
Carole’s life now is inspired by the people she meets every day along the way. 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”.
- Coaching: 10+ years
- Pro Triathlete:
- Coached 100+ to the finish line
- USA Triathlon Certified Coach
- USA Cycling Certified Coach
- Certified Triathlon Academy Coach
- USS Masters Swimming Coach
- IM National Champion - 1st Amateur
- Residence: Boulder, Colorado
- Website: www.carole-sharpless.com
I provide the engine, she provides the map, it works out great. Highly recommended.
I started working with Carole after my first season in triathlon. That year I had pulled myself off the couch and managed to survive a few sprint tri’s and knew that I needed more. However, I was completely exhausted, hitting a plateau, and was constantly getting sick. I knew enough to recognize I was overtraining and heading for injury but I didn’ t know how to stop it. Carole has managed to keep my training in line with schedule crafted with a wisdom I can only dream to attain. She works with me to balance my family, my business, and my sport – which for me is essential. She will know, before I do, when I’m going to be tired! I’ve lost almost 100lbs, done over 40 races (sprint through 70.3, cyclocross, time trials, running races, and more) and my sprint times have gone from over 2:15 to 1:24 – without injury. I provide the engine, she provides the map, it works out great. Highly recommended.