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  • Della Pierson

My Coaches


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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