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  • Writer's pictureDella Pierson

March 19th was the day I got laid off from my job due to Covid. I thought, well, I can get some stuff done around the house and be very productive. Wrong! I immediately missed my triathlon and running friends and went head first into a depression. I accomplished nothing except 2 jigsaw puzzles that were absolute torture! The first one was 500 pieces and the last piece was missing. Fuuuuuck! The second one was 1000 pieces and I spent 9 hours one day standing at my island working on it. At 11 pm I finally had food and rested my legs and feet. The next day Dan helped me finish it and I declined all offers for more puzzles.

A month into lockdown, I decided I better get out the door and start running again. I believe this saved my sanity but solo running wasn't that fun for this social butterfly. To feel useful and to have a project that included my running goals, I designed a virtual Mountain Goat route and had a great time making swag bags and signs for every participant. I had a decent amount of people run it and I was thrilled to follow them on the course, cheering them along. I felt like the old me, a loud-mouthed, fun-loving, tutu-wearing asshole. My neighbors loved the DVG (Della’s Virtual Goat) and so did I!

Exactly 2 months after being laid off, I went back to work. During the whole 2 months of quarantine, the weather was cold and miserable. On that first Monday back to work though, the sun came out and we ended up having one of the warmest summers on record. The deferral emails kept arriving in a steady stream as events were postponed to 2021. What was I to do all summer long? I reached 100 days of a running streak and did a few virtual races. All the triathlons were cancelled for 2020 but there was still plenty of water at Cazenovia lake. Some of my Tri friends and I decided to swim there on Sunday mornings. And then a miracle happened, the Thornden pool opened and the mermaids gathered to swim in the sparkling blue water for a whole month. It was glorious.

I dusted off Fernie (my bike, named for Nana) and started riding with my Tri friends on Saturday mornings. We started off easy with 20 - 25 miles. We had a good core group that showed up consistently, and our mileage increased each week. One Sunday, we were throwing ideas around about routes, goals etc. and some jerk (I think it was me) came up with the idea of doing a century ride. 100 miles! Whaaaat?! YES! Finally a goal that Covid cannot mess with. We decided it was a doable goal for the fall when the weather was a bit cooler and we’d have time to build up our mileage. My longest ride before this summer was a 56 mile ride during the 70.3 Barrelman race in 2018 so it had been a while. We worked our way up to 50 miles and did some tough shorter rides too. And then, on September 6th, we rode 70 miles! The course was advertised as rolling hills, which always translates to “fucking hilly” but we did it! We picked our date for the 100 miles, September 27th, and named ourselves "The Centurions." Of course the plan, themes and other details had to be ironed out. Since it’s 100 miles, gold HAD to be our color. Yes, that meant gold tutus! Tutus, medals and signs oh my! Now we were cookin' and I was finally back in my element.

Sep 20th: taper time. 50 miles. How the hell is 50 miles a taper? Well, this year it is! I took the week off so I had lots of free time to work on the details and fret about all the things that could go wrong. Friends started planning how to support our ride. Different routes were put up for debate and a decision was made. The weather looked favorable.

To be continued...

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  • Writer's pictureDella Pierson

Rewind 30 years, me and Dan in the car.

Me: OK, we have to go home.

Dan: Whaaat? We’re not even there yet!

Me: You know why!

Dan: Can’t you go at the mall?

Me: Are you insane?

Rewind 4 years ago.

Me: I pooped in the woods tonight!

Dan: Who are you?

When I became a runner I had no idea that poop was such a major thing. The first time I ever heard of it was when Coach Mandy told the story of running beside a woman with poopy pants in Boston. I was horrified and could not believe my ears! What the hell would possess a person to keep running in that circumstance and how did that circumstance even happen? I mean, I don’t even fart in front of my husband, how is this person running with poopy pants in front of 30,000 strangers? I had nightmares about this for days.

I never thought I would be capable of liking a poop story and really never thought I would be the one telling them, but running changes your perspective. Your body shows you that it can do amazing things, but just to keep you humble, it also shows you colossal acts of betrayal. I can’t believe I’m going to tell these but here goes, my 2 worst/best poop stories. Go ahead, judge away!

The very worst part about my first poop in the woods is that it was prefaced by a fart in front of my running teammates. I was mortified as they laughed hysterically. I thought, well, maybe if I laugh too they’ll think I think it’s not such a big deal. So I did, but I was dying inside and I’m sure they knew it was the biggest deal ever! If that had been the end of it I might have felt only mildly embarrassed but, oh no, the night was full of more surprises. There I was on a spring night on the West Shore trail scanning through the leafless trees for a spot to poop. I was sweating profusely and thought every noise was a random walker about to discover my shameful ass defiling the woods.

Me: “Why is this happening to me? I don’t do things like this! Remember? I don’t even fart in front of my husband!”

Also me: ”Hey you just farted in front of 3 other people, now pull up your pants and act like nothing happened here.”

Me: “Act like nothing happened? That’s your answer? Maybe I’ll stay here until the workout is over and then quietly leave.”

Also me: “You know they’ll come looking for you and then what?”

Me: “You’re/I’m an asshole!”

My life was forever changed that night. I confessed my evil poopy sin to the other 3 and we had a good laugh. It kinda felt good to tell them, a relief, like I had leveled up as a runner. Now, telling Dan was another story, he shook his head and I’m sure he felt the Pierson name had been shamed! I did feel shame when I told him but not as much as I thought I would or should. That night was a speed workout. I would learn later that long runs are a whole other ball game. You definitely want to say the coveted words, “I pooped this morning!”

Hey, who wants to hear another poop story? Well, ok!

My sister-in-law is a great cook and when I visited she made delicious roast veggies followed by a tasty dessert that I had never tried before, chia seed pudding. That may have been my undoing for the 18 miler I had to do the next day. I started out early before any of the town was awake and headed down a country road. I got about a mile out and bad things started to happen. I mean, really bad. This was a prairie highway, no protection whatsoever, so I had to make it the mile back to the Porta Potty in the park. Next thing I know, I’m staring at my underwear floating in said Porta Potty. Not gonna lie, I cried a little bit. I gave myself a pep talk, “Listen, you got this, put your big girl panties on and….. Oh yeah, never mind.” It was pretty early so most likely there wasn't a lineup waiting to get in. I listened for any noise, nobody there. Should I use what little toilet paper is left to cover my floaters? Should I go out and break off a tree branch and make them sink? I have to make a decision, I still have 16 damn miles to run and I need fresh air, SOON! I broke outta there and didn’t even look back. I headed home for some fresh undies and finally continued. Only 2 miles ran in the first hour, jeez, it was going to be a long day. I made it to 15 miles and called it quits. When I got back Nana was up and making her breakfast. She asked me how my run was and we talked about our visit with my brother and his wife. She mentioned how good that chia seed pudding was and I just nodded in agreement. So delicious and malicious!

My only comfort in revealing this is that it might make you laugh and because I know other runners' dirty little secrets! If you'd like to share one, I’d be happy to blog about it!!

Run and done



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  • Writer's pictureDella Pierson


Runner. Coach. Adventurer. Performer. Daredevil. Wanderer. Wild woman!


Triathlete. Coach. Observer. Scientist. Belly laugher. Teacher. Empath.

OMG! I forgot. And UNICORNS! Have you met these two? These are women of legends. Life changers that lead so naturally they don’t even realize the true impact of their talents. I am lucky to call them my coaches and my friends. I love them both beyond words. What they’ve done for my life is immeasurable.

I had a great idea to do this blog entry as an interview, you know, hip, like Rolling Stone, but making up good questions was a lot harder than I thought. Mandy said there were too many “est” and “favorite” questions; proudest moment, funniest coaching memory, favorite poop story, favorite athlete (apparently, it’s some woman named Des Linden and not me! Who knew?!) and she was right. That’s not who she is. She embraces all the moments and all the poop stories! And well, Sarah and I got lost in the laughter of our most embarrassing stories and those, I cannot print! I'll just refer back to them when I need a good laugh or end up doing something equally embarrassing.



The first time I met Mandy, I was way out of my element. I thought I was all that because I had run a 5k on my own, and then signed up for her 5k/10k program without knowing it was all speed work, or even knowing what speed work was. Oh boy, she put us through our paces. I was so scared, but she made me feel like I belonged. I was pooped out and winded but she made me want to try harder, even after week one. When I returned the second week, she remembered my name. I was stunned but soon came to realize that this is a gift she has; she finds out your name, makes a connection and remembers it.

I wouldn't say I ran particularly well, but I was hooked and immediately signed up for the fall distance program. The first night under the bridge I couldn't believe how many people were there. She knew everyone and everyone knew her! She asked us what our goal races were, supposedly something stupid like the Empire or Wineglass Half Marathon. Ha! Not this kid. I was only there to learn and go a bit further. I‘m not even sure I knew what a half marathon was or how dang far it was. Week after week we had the same conversation, “Della, you need to pick a goal race.” “Ummm, no thanks.” Eventually she wore me down because I signed up for the Empire Half. Unbeknownst to her though, a few weeks before, I ran the Bread Run Half to make sure I could run the distance and not embarrass myself at Empire. Oh man, was she pissed when she found out! She called me out in front of the whole group. I know she was happy to do it because she loves the “I told you so” aspect of coaching. She believes in her athletes way more than they believe in themselves and she loves when they achieve their goals so she can say, “I knew you could do it!” She told me so at the Empire Half when she ran me in wearing my orange tutu. If only she’d taught me how to smile at the finish instead of looking like an old man in agony!!!



I met Sarah on the first night of swimming with the Fleet Feet Triathlon team. I was assigned to Lane 6 because I hadn't swam in over 30 years. I was terrified, but I met Sarah and knew instantly I was right where I needed to be. As part of the lesson, she held up a pull buoy, which I legit thought was called a POOL BOY and told us that hers was named Paul. I immediately asked, “Paul Walker?”

We started giggling and making between the legs comments and I announced that mine was named Brad Pitt. So, henceforth it shall be called the pool boy with whatever Hollywood hunk name you care to choose. When I dropped F bombs whining about how far 25 yards was, she just laughed and said, "I know, right?” Three weeks later, after we had properly bonded, I brought her a pair of polka dot sunglasses (polkies) and the rest is history. Something always funny happens when Sarah is around and she has a way of turning her head with her eyes very wide and then you know it’s coming, a giant laugh followed by, “Did you see that?” or “What the hell just happened here?” Last year she took the USAT exam and a giant leap of faith to start her own Tri team. I’m proud to be part of that team and so proud of our coach. She has been in my Tri life, my real life and always in my corner. From my first sprint finish to my 70.3, I owe my Tri life to her.



In coaching, they were both mentored by Brendan Jackson. He taught Sarah that you don’t have to be an athlete like Carmelo Anthony to coach like Jim Boeheim. He helped her find her style and yes, she is a Jim Boeheim. When Mandy first started coaching, she doubted herself and thought, “I’m not a coach, I'm just bossy. Demandy!” It was a big deal when Brendan referred to her as "Coach" and it was only then that she knew she'd arrived. They both learned to give each athlete what they need and many of us have benefited from their advice and support. The most important things they took away from Brendan’s style is to find the joy, always have fun, and bring the energy. Mission accomplished!



Sarah is a swimmer! Nope, let me rephrase that, she is a dang mermaid with definite shark tendencies (or vice versa, depending who you ask). She loves to coach the swim, as for most people, this is the hardest discipline of triathlon. She sees the mermaid or shark in each person and says her favorite coaching moments happen when she watches her mermaids and sharks come out of the water at their first race. “Some people are so afraid of swimming that I have to coach them just to get to the next buoy. When I see them at the end of training, exiting the water with sheer joy on their face, that’s what it’s all about!”


One of Mandy's most memorable coaching moments is from the 2016 Syracuse Half Marathon that took place during a record-setting blizzard. She drove to the Oncenter panicked about what to say to motivate her runners to race in such horrible conditions. But when she saw all of us, we were already pumped and ready to be badass. No way in hell we were going to let her down! She cheered her team on by screaming and ringing a plastic cowbell until the last person came in, over three hours later. She was out there for so long she looked like a popsicle. We all got bragging rights that day thanks to her.



Favorite Athlete

Sarah: Andy Freakin’ Potts! OMG! A great swimmer and human. (I googled him, YOWZA!)

Mandy: Ruth Ripley, who has run 100 marathons and inspired Mandy to do the 50 states. Another google worthy human!

Both: Della Pierson (I took a little blogger’s license here. LOL)

Favorite Races

Mandy: Big Sur and Chicago marathons

Sarah: Tri - Skinnyman

Half - Philly/Ithaca Gorges

Fun race - Peak2Brew relay

Go-to Shoe

Sarah: Whatever doesn’t hurt my feet! All time favorite was Mizuno Wave Rider in watermelon and green. Color is important! They made me feel fast!

Mandy: Brooks anything

Post Race Drink

Mandy: Chocolate milk and whatever alcohol is available, favorite being Trish Delish (of course)

Sarah: Ice cold chocolate milk



Mandy and Sarah. They call each other wife. I love seeing them together. Sarah seethes that Mandy looks good in absolutely every hat she tries on and Mandy laughs at how much food Sarah makes for Friendsgiving. They’re good for my soul. I adore them both and wish every athlete could have the same coached experience as me.

Run and done



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