| Canadian Olympian Triathlete Sharon Donnelly |
Sharon's FrontPage Archive 2005
September 25, 2005 - Sharon Gives Birth to "Gemma Claire"

Hello everyone

I am writing to tell you about my latest form of triathlon - one that is not recommended for the faint hearted, but whole heartedly if you are ready for the really long haul!

This triathlon consists of: swim, walk, give birth. This is a common form of triathlon only performed by the female gender and one which is used to help speed up the last leg of the race. In my case, it was a little too speedy and the date of the event was moved up much too early without my consent!

For those of you that did not know I was pregnant, I apologize for not getting the word out better - it has been a tremendously busy year and was looking forward to the month of Sept and Oct to stay at home, relax and get ready for the arrival of our first baby on a projected date of 20 Oct.

But this little one had different ideas! Below is how it happened:

Friday 16 Sept 2005. -

6-7am: I swam about 2km with the master's group (I still did flip turns)
7:30-8:30: Breakfast in town with friend (had a large pot of beans - this is important to remember as I believed my labour pains were related to these beans!!)
9:00-9:30: Sign up for the Terry Fox walk (5km). I started to have some lower abdominal pains that I attributed to the beans at breakfast. (I had not gotten to the final chapter in my book that would describe this as labour pains. Also, Dave and I had booked a child birth class for Mon 19 Sep - which we later cancelled)
9:30-10:15: Terry Fox walk - I did have doubts about the distance and I had to cut the course numerous times in order to catch back up with the last walkers after my frequent bathroom breaks that I kept hoping would solve my discomfort. At the finish line and after my 4th visit to the toilet, I told Dave that I had to leave as I wasn't feeling well and wanted to go home to lay down. I really didn't think it was labour since I was only at 36weeks. Dave saw me off and he went back to work.
11:00 approx: lying down did not make me feel any better and the pains are only got more intense - I begin to expect the real deal - but it is too early! I began to panic! I called my delivery doctor's office and was put on hold for what seemed like eternity. When I finally got an answer they told me that she was on vacation and told me to call her replacement. I called there and was put on hold while they paged him. He advised me to get the hospital asap.
11:15 - immediately called Dave after getting off the phone with the doctor (after being put on hold by one of the staff in his office). He dropped everything to come home to get me, thinking that something was wrong, but that it would be just a quick visit to figure out what was wrong. Dave's work colleagues knew better!!
11:40 - arrive at hospital - I was in pain at this point. I was wheeled up to the delivery floor to the info desk where the head nurse asked me to stand up and get onto the table to be examined, only to have my water break! After a very quick examination she had me immediately heading for one of the delivery rooms with me asking for an epidural. She replied that I was too far along for that being 9.5cm dilated! I got strapped in for the ride and got a quick tutorial from the nurse on what to do (so Dave and I ended up saving some $ on the birth class that we had booked for!). Of course my choice of vocabulary was less than ideal but I made sure to include some foreign dialects to break it up. Dave told me he could hear me way down the hall!
12:22 - Thankfully for the nurses and doctor (who arrived with less than 5min to spare) my cursing ended with the birth of a baby girl. Yes, it was about 40min and if one includes all of the labour (which I didn't realize at the time) it was about 3hr. I know it was unusual for a first time birth and one which I shouldn't trumpet too loudly to most other women!
Dave was by my side the whole time and enjoyed the on the job training birth class which ended with him cutting the umbilical cord.

We named her Gemma Claire Rudnicki (Gemma is a common Australian & British name but I liked that it means "little precious gem" which is exactly what she is!) She was measured at 4lb 12oz. Dave and I were very concerned but they assured us that all of her scores were great but they would send her to the NICU for care and monitoring due to the weight. She stayed there for 2 days under great care and then she came to my room, where Dave was also staying with me (the hospital is great in that if you sign for a private room, your spouse can stay with you). Gemma developed some jaundice and had to do the fluorescent lights for 2more days in my hospital room. But we were given the green light to leave the hospital and go home on Wed 21 Sept.

So that is the news here - we are on cloud nine for both joy and sleep deprivation as we are feeding Gemma often to ensure that she gains weight. She can't handle a lot of feed at once and she wants to sleep a lot so we set our alarm clock every 2.5hrs to get her feeding.

This is now Sunday, 9 days old, and she is already beginning to grow some nice rosy cheeks and filling into some of her wrinkled skin! I am attaching a few photos.

One of my next tasks will be to obtain a 2005 Terry Fox T-shirt and certificate for Gemma for her participation in this year's event - the first of many, many more...

All our best,

Sharon, Dave and Gemma >/TD>

August 16, 2005 - First Olympic Triathlon Teammates expecting first babies
Isabelle Turcotte-Baird and Sharon Donnelly
Isabelle Turcotte-Baird and Sharon Donnelly

Sydney Olympic triathletes Sharon Donnelly (Kingston, ON) and Isabelle Turcotte-Baird (Quebec City, QC) are considered two of Canada’s most outstanding athletes. These Sydney Olympians ran into each other at the Caledon Continental Cup this past July.

Donnelly is a three-time Canadian Champion, 1999 Pan American Games champion and a Sydney Olympian. Turcotte-Baird is a two-time bronze medalist from the Canadian National Championships, and was the first Canadian woman to qualify for the inaugural Sydney Olympic Triathlon.

Despite both athletes recent retirements from the Canadian National Team, (Sharon retired from the professional ranks of the sport of triathlon last December, and Isabelle retired in January of 2003), they both remain heavily involved in the sport of triathlon.

Turcotte-Baird is on the Executive Board of Triathlon Canada, while Donnelly is the Athlete Representative for Triathlon Canada and the Spokesperson for the National Women’s Triathlon Series. “Their work for Triathlon Canada is invaluable,” says Triathlon Canada’s Executive Director Alan Trivett. “Without them, we would not be as successful as we are now.”

By working with Triathlon Canada, both Turcotte-Baird and Donnelly have been able to give back to the sport. Their hard work and their dedication to the sport and athletes is nothing short of monumental. Having such incredible role models around helps to inspire not just Canada’s up-and-coming triathletes, but first-timers and age-groupers as well.

To keep busy after her retirement, Donnelly became the Race Director for the inaugural CFB triathlon in Kingston this past May. She teaches 2 physical education classes at Saint Lawrence College, and was leading a 2 hour indoor bike training class up until April. Turcotte-Baird is a motivational speaker and also involved with CAAWS (Canadian Associations of Advancement of Women in Sport). This is on top of her work on the Executive Board of Triathlon Canada, and as a physiotherapist.

Sharon Donnelly and her husband David Rudnicki are expecting their first child around the third week of October. Isabelle Turcotte-Baird and her husband, Ian Baird, are also expecting their first child at the end of August. Says Donnelly, “I was excited when I learned that Isabelle was pregnant - We can now compare baby stories rather than training or injury stories!! These will be the first babies of the first Triathlon Olympic Team!”

Triathlon Canada thanks them both for their incredible work and wishes them the best of luck in all of their future endeavours.

Source: Triathlon Canada.

July 15, 2005 - Triathlon: Sharon at Orangeville Triathlon on Sunday

From: The committee of the Ontario Women’s Triathlon Series is pleased to announce that Sharon Donnelly will be at our race in Orangeville on Sunday. Sharon is a former Olympian having competed in the Triathlon in Australia in 2000. Sharon is Pan American winner in Winnipeg, three times National Champion and a Member of the Commonwealth Team. Sharon also received the Queen’s Jubilee Award for Volunteerism in the community of Kingston. Sharon is looking forward to helping fellow athletes enjoy and succeed in the sport of Triathlon.

July 9, 2005 - Triathlon: Sharon at OAC Triathlon

From:" target="_news"> Sharon attended the OAC Triathlon in gatineau Park today. She swam with the "Tri-A-Tri" group and presented awards to all the winners after the race.

May 24, 2005 - Triathlon: Twenty Questions with Sharon Donnelly


Triathlete Sharon Donnelly is a three-time Canadian Champion, 1999 Pan American Games champion and a Sydney Olympian. She retired from the professional ranks of the sport of triathlon last December.
Former professional Ironman triathlete Lynne Bermel interviewed Sharon recently.

Lynne Bermel (LB): How do you plan to deal psychologically with the transition from seven years of traveling the world focused on qualifying for the Olympics and spending time training in exotic places like Australia, Colorado, San Luis Obispo, etc. to being a "Semi-normal person" staying home?

Sharon Donnelly (SD): Now that I am about 5-6 months into this transition period I can tell you a little bit more about how it has been going which is much better than if I had tried to tell you in October what my plan was - because I didn't have one! I hadn't given myself the opportunity to plan past the 2004 race season, because I didn't want to have any regrets and look back saying that I had not put 100% into my preparation because I was making future plans. I always made long term goal plans through the years as an athlete, but I knew that it would take a lot of psychological energy that I didn't want to use during my 2004 race season. Also, I had plans to continue racing into 2005 if my body was willing to, but after my surgery in February to re-attach my subscapularis tendon, I was not motivated to push myself anymore. I had worked so hard the last year to get back to race shape, that my body had nothing left at the end of the year. I knew it was time for me to call it a day then.

So I don't miss the pain of training and competing. I was finding more difficult with each year to stay away from injuries. I knew that I didn't have much more in me to compete at that level. So that made my transition much easier. But what was difficult was not knowing what I wanted to do or focus on. I am very goal oriented and for the first time in my life, I had no goals put down. That was very hard and I had a few months Oct-Dec where I really struggled and I knew that I didn't have to jump at anything and should take the advice of many who said just relax and take your time. But that is not in my nature. So I accepted a number of offers that came my way, most of them commencing in January of 2005 and I quickly realized that I had taken too much on. But I am happier than I was when I had nothing. I think I needed to take on a multitude of tasks to both make myself busy and to give myself an opportunity to try different things to see what I might want to focus on. So I have begun to re-set new goals and I am doing much better.

With respect to traveling - in some ways I will miss it, in other ways, I won't miss it all! It was always exhausting, traveling to races in and out in a 4 day period and the training venues in nice areas were great, but I always focused on the training and any sightseeing I did was on my bike! Plus it was time away from home and my husband and family. We did some math recently and we figured that I was away from home an average 150 days per year! Almost of all that without Dave!

But what I will miss about the traveling and racing on the World Cup Circuit will be the people I have met. That will be the most difficult as that is my favorite part about sport - the people.

So now I plan to deal with this transition period by continuing the jobs that I have taken on and trying to maintain contact with my friends across the world. Also, being the Athlete Representative for Triathlon Canada keeps me connected to the sport as well and so I am not totally cut off from a way of life that I had for 9 years.

2 (LB): From a logistical perspective, what will you do with your time now? Will you work full-time?

SD: As I mentioned above, I have taken a number of jobs/contracts to fill my time, earn some money and see what I want to focus on. Currently I am teaching physical fitness to two programs at St Lawrence College (4hrs per week for the Police Foundation program and 3hrs per week for General Education). It is challenging as it is the first time teaching and as any teacher can attest, preparation for the first year is very time consuming. I am also the Race Director for a new triathlon in Kingston on May 29th 2005, hosted by the CFB Kingston. This is a new event and I have a mandate to create a file for CFB Kingston other bases across Canada to use for a similar format race. So the work required is tremendous. The position of Athlete Rep is volunteer, but demands quite a bit of time. I also lead a 2hr indoor bike training group every Saturday morning from Jan to April. In addition, I continue to give motivational speeches to varied audiences on Leadership, Sport, Goal Setting, and the One Tonne Challenge. I volunteer as assistant swim coach 1 night a week at Kingston Blue Marlins Swim Club and have begun to take on athletes for coaching. I still promote my sponsors through the many activities that I am doing as I feel that they supported me so much over my career and that they can benefit from even more coverage now.

Will I work full-time? I am not sure. I really don't know if I could have an office type job or work for a big organization after working for myself for so many years. Sometimes it is tougher to manage one's time and various commitments, but it is always changing and I like that. So I do plan on cutting back once some of my current commitments come to an end, and I plan on focusing more on being what I call a "Sports Consultant" ( coaching, motivational speaking, media commentating and race organization)

I also want to start a family, which will take up a large chunk of time when that happens!
(Editor's Note: Sharon and husband Dave Rudnicki are expecting their first child in October.)

3. (LB): Will you still compete recreationally? At what level? Where?

SD: I will never stop doing sports. I am sure my competitive fire will return and I will want to be the best at what I want to do, but the sacrifices to compete at an international level are too great. I am interested in focusing on other races and sports that I haven't had time to do. And do some destination racing (choose a race that is in a place that I want to visit). But other sports that I really want to do are:
- trail running (I am part of a group of women who are planning to be a team at the 2006 Death Race)
- compete in a few marathons
- cyclo-cross bike racing (I am not very good at mountain biking so cyclo-cross appeals to me me because athletes are forced to get off their bikes to get over a barrier!)

But I also want to be able to support my husband in his racing now. He enjoys cycle racing and he has supported me for the past 10years more than anyone can imagine, and I want to be able to support him now.

4. (LB): You're still young enough to take up the Ironman with a vengeance and make a good living racing the longer distances. Why haven't you considered that?

SD: I have no desire to compete at Ironman. I spent so much time away from family and friends for the past 10 years, I just couldn't do it again. Because to do well at Ironman, takes a huge time commitment and sacrifice. I have no desire at all for myself, but I want to coach and help others who do have that goal.

5. (LB): . What were the 3 highlights of your career?

SD:Olympics - My race there was memorable of course, but just being part of the biggest event on earth was a highlight. I had dreamed of Olympics since the age of 9 (when I moved a few months ago, I found a childrens' bible and I almost threw it out - but I looked into it and found a note on the front page written by me when I was 10 years old it said:" I want to go the Olympics when I grow up. I have the will, confidence and strength to go from the Ontarios' to Division II then to Nationals and then to my hopes and dreams." )

Pan Am Games - winning it in Canada was huge! I don't remember much of the race, as it just flew by, but the medal is a constant reminder

My first race on the World Cup Circuit - Ishigaki Japan 1996. I had taken my release from the Army in Fall of 1995 with an aim of trying to make Olympics. That first World Cup was more than 8 months away, and I had no idea of how to train for a triathlon. When I finished 7th, I knew that I had made the right decisions and was on the right path.

6. (LB): . Other than the Olympics, which obviously was your biggest disappointment, can you tell us about some of your other disappointing races or "down" moments you experienced?

SD: There are many disappointing races, but you always take away something positive, or else, you find it pretty tough to go on. Some tough races were:

Japan Spring 2003 - 6km into the run portion of the race, I felt a pop in my upper calf and I couldn't take another step. I came home in a wheelchair and missed the entire summer race season due to a torn tendon (also missing opportunity to defend my Pan Am title)

World Champs 2003 - major asthma attacks reduced me to stopping the cycle portion and walking in the run. (this happened in a few races over my career)

February - July 2004 - had major shoulder surgery to replace a subscapularis tendon back to my shoulder. I could not swim for two months, and was slow progress when I did return. It was also difficult to run and cycle - but fought so hard to get back to compete at Edmonton July 2004 World Cup. It was the most pain and work I have had to overcome in my career.

7. (LB): You've said had the margin been more than 22 seconds between you and Samantha, you would have been better able to handle the disappointment. Can you tell us about how it felt?

SD: In a way that is true, but I also know that I look back and I couldn't have done anything more - whether the gap was 1 minute or 22 seconds. It doesn't matter. I had the swim of my life considering how far I had come from February on the operating table. But then the bike was beyond my control. With a large front pack unwilling to do the work required to increase the gap over the chase, I had my hands tied. I tried a few breaks with another athlete or two to try to get the pace going, but we would be chased down and then the pace would slow. Samantha was able to make a break from her pack and was able to stay away - that was the decisive move. In the run, I was running as fast as I could and I know that she is a quick runner - so I knew it would be very close. I look back and know that I couldn't have done any more.

8. (LB): . Was it hard to watch the Olympics from Canada?

SD: At first I was not going to watch it, but the local Kingston TV and radio station wanted me to comment on the races and other Olympic coverage so I had to watch them! It wasn't as hard as I thought, but it was frustrating as I knew that our team was not the best it could be

9. (LB): . How do you feel about the performance of our Canadian team?

SD: I don't think they performed to their potential. If you talk individually, then they performed the best they could on the day - the same as the rest of the whole Canadian Olympic Team. But that is not good enough. They all made mistakes and speaking to Simon after the race, he admitted that - he missed a decisive move by Bennett mid-way in the bike. In the women's race if you take individually I learned that injuries were partly to blame and poor race tactics was another. I believe that Jill could have done much better and possibly had a podium if the Canadian team and organization had planned to work as a team. I I had been training with Susan Williams from USA (she won bronze) and I knew what the Canadians needed to make it, but I also felt that Jill needed a teammate to work with her on the bike. But she had no one, because our other athletes were in other packs further down in the field. But Canada had not yet entertained the idea of having the athletes work together. The Europeans and some Americans are doing it with great success and I believe that it will happen more.

10. (LB): Which coaches helped you the most during your career?

SD: Ken Parker! - I still use some of the same training philosophies and sessions. But he was the one that finally got me onto the track to train (I hated it before and refused to run on it) He also was big proponent of long warm-ups. Tough to get used to, but we were never injured. He had an easy going, supportive attitude and I really loved running because of him. He also began my first and longest sponsor with his company Sirius Consulting Inc. He and his family came to watch me win Pan Am Games and suffer at Sydney. He has been and continues to be a great friend.
Col Stewart (Australian Coach) - tough guy! Biggest thing I learned was that you train as a triathlete and train for 4 disciplines: swim, bike, run & transition. Also, quickly learned to be prepared at all times as an athlete (eg. He tells us that the next day will be a swim and ride immediately after the swim - nothing more! That ride could be 1 hour or 4 hours. So I was always prepared with map, pockets of food, money and lots of spare tires!)
Lance Watson - importance of Tempo runs and big gear riding
Chris Jones (British National Coach) - easy going attitude produces results and he is open to ideas and changing programs to suit his athletes. We sat down prior to World Champs 2002 with Leanda Cave. I showed him the program I had prepared for myself and he brought out the one he made for Leanda and we both tweaked each others to accommodate our preparation together. She won the race and I came 8th. I joined him a few months later for winter training camp.
Siri Lindley (USA) - great motivator. She was always positive and perfect for me during such a hard time in my career, (dealing with career threatening injuries). She helped me to keep my mind focused and positive.
(I must clarify: neither of my two major injuries occurred during her coaching - the calf was before I joined up with her, I started with her as I was recovering from it. The shoulder injury was from a fall at the end of a cross-country ski session where I was standing still and just fell over!)
Myself - In a way, I am always self-coached. I have had a variety of coaches over the years and I get great things from all of them. I set up a my overall plan and then follow it through with what works best for me (that means doing some of it or not doing other parts)

11. (LB): How did you get started in triathlons?

SD: I was a competitive swimmer as a kid and competed at the National level for 5 years ranked in top 10 in country in fly and freestyle. But I went to Military College(RMC) instead of following a swimming scholarship as I didn't have the confidence that I could maintain my swimming for 4yrs without burnout. RMC had no swim team and the cross country team put me on their team (I hated it for that year) But slowly in my later years I began to like it, mainly because I liked the racing. During summer of 1987 (after third year university) I was on summer training at CFB Borden and a friend asked me to go with him to a triathlon. So I borrowed a bike and entered. I placed second in my age group and found myself hooked on a new sport. I went back for my fourth year of university and bought my first race bike with some other students on a group buy for $350 (I still have the bike!). Then I continued to compete in the age group categories whenever I had free time away from my job after graduating.

12. (LB): What do you think of the state of triathlons now?

SD: I think triathlons are doing great. Ironmans are always full and when new ones come on the calendar they quickly fill up. People often complain about the entry fee, but while people still line up to pay it a year in advance, there is really nothing more can be argued! Olympic Distance races of non-drafting variety are going strong and there are ever increasing numbers of other distances aimed at attracting newcomers. The ITU World Cup Circuit is very good with excellent prize money and a variety of races around the world (this must be looked at in comparison with other sports like mountain biking whose world cup schedule was decreased to 5 or 6 with minimal prize money). There are also ITU International races throughout the world with minimum prize money purses. All ITU races are equal prize money for men and women which is very important. With the addition of Off Road Triathlons (X-Terra) the exposure is only increasing for triathlon. There is also increasing participation in winter triathlon (sking, running and cycling). So all of these bode well for continued growth across all areas of triathlon

13. (LB): What are your thoughts on Nina Kraft's positive EPO admission at the Hawaii Ironman. Why do you think she did it?

SD: This question is a bit dated - so sorry! But I am disappointed obviously like everyone because it hurts the whole sport. I have no idea why she did it. I could never entertain the idea of performing enhancing drugs for two reasons 1) it is morally wrong (let alone illegal) 2) it is harmful to the body. I can' t even think why she did it, because I would never do it.

14. (LB): Has it darkened the sport? Can it recover from the negative press?

SD: It certainly put a damper on the triathlon and highlighted Ironman which hadn't been in the drug spotlight before (usually Olympic sports only). I think it will recover, but there are many still suffering and hopefully this means better testing for non-Olympic athletes as well.

15. (LB): Do you think drug use, even in the Olympic distance, is more prevalent than we care to think?

SD:It is so hard to say. I race and prepare thinking I am on a level playing field , to do otherwise, you would get too discouraged. That is why I admire Becky Scott. Her sport is rampant with drugs. But I think WADA is doing a good job. So in triathlon, it is probably there, but not as prevalent as other sports I think. You can also look are results. Everyone's times are doable. If one person was completely dominating with performances that would match singular discipline times (like doing a top 10km run time in a triathlon) then I would question. But everyone is pretty predictable

16. (LB): Did any of your competitors take performance-enhancing substances?

SD: I have no idea! A good sign I believe is that never in my 10 years of racing or training around the world was I ever approached by anyone offering to improve my performance by any other means that hard training.

17. (LB): What about the old stalwarts on the Canadian Team. After 2 disappointing Olympics, do you think Carol Montgomery will continue to race? Jill Savege?

SD: I believe that Carol will still continue to race. She enjoys racing and if she can make a living from it (with AAP at $1500/month, prize money and sponsor $ this is possible) then she will continue.

Jill I believe will try for another Olympics, so far, she is still the strongest triathlete in Canada) Also, she is making a good living from the sport, so she can continue without stresses of money.

18. (LB): Do you really think draft legal biking been good for the sport? Why?

SD: There was no option if they wanted to be in Olympics. You could say it has been good, because without it, there would be no Olympics. No Olympics would have meant minimal growth in the sport - it would continue to be age group based with an Ironman focus. There has been no decrease in the number of non-drafting races, in fact they have increased. Drafting basicly is another version of triathlon. One thing I like is that there is no cheating in non-drafting which I see a lot of in non-drafting racing. They just cannot properly officiate drafting on such a large course with so many participants.

19. (LB): You talked at one point about moving back to Ottawa after your professional triathlon career was over. Why are you staying in Kingston?

SD: Of course these decisions are family ones and my husband, Dave Rudnicki, is in the Canadian Forces which dictates where we live!. He spent one year on tour in Bosnia (Aug 2003-Aug 2004) and when he returned he learned that he would be posted to Kingston for 3-4 years. So we recently moved out of our military rental housing (the rents were getting way too high for the quality!) and bought a house just off our cycling route and close to the water. We may end up in Ottawa some day - but with a spouse who works in the Canadian Forces, one can never predict where one will live. But I do love it in Kingston for both the area and the wonderful community

20. (LB): Finally, your sponsors were obviously a key part of your success. What would you like to say to them now?

SD: My sponsors were a huge part of my success. And I have had a core group that have stuck with me throughout my career and others who were present for smaller periods of time, but so crucial for those times. I could not have achieved all of my successes and experiences without all of them. It takes the efforts of many to achieve success for one and that is how I look at it. I only hope that I was able to help them meet their expectations. I will continue to support my sponsors as I embark on my new path towards being a sports consultant.

About Lynne Bermel
Lynne Bermel was a world ranked Ironman Triathlete for 3 years with her best performances coming at the Australian Ironman where she finished second in a time of 9 hours and 21 minutes. She has 15 Ironmans to her credit, including top 5 finishes at the Japan Ironman, New Zealand, Australia, Germany and Canada. She was also one of the most consistent Ironman performers on the circuit, finishing the majority under 10 hours.
Her progression to the Ironman from a track 800M and 1500M runner was a long one. Lynne ran her first 10K road race only because she wanted to go to an Avon 10K race in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and her coach told her she had to qualify by running a 10K in Ottawa if she wanted to go.
Lynne currently works as a consultant in Ottawa. She was an original member of the Ottawa Athletic Club Racing Team, having joined the club in 1981.

May 17, 2005 - TriathlonOttawa Interview with Triathlete Sharon Donnelly


Olympian Learns How to Build a Limestone Triathlon

The newest triathlon in eastern Ontario, Kingston's Limestone Tri on May 29th, has a very familiar name in the role of race director: Olympian Sharon Donnelly. When the leadership at CFB Kingston decided last September to hold a fund-raising triathlon, Sharon was number one on their list of potential directors but she initially said no as she was unsure of her plans. Not long after that though she had a change of heart. "I figured I needed to keep busy now that I was retired, so I accepted. I think the Base Commander knew I would take it on!", says the former National Champ.

As the team of organisers got to work on setting up the event, their goal was to make it a fun, introductory-type event that could appeal to anyone. At the same time, a course was chosen that would also hold a challenge for the veteran triathlete. The greatest challenge in organising the event, says Sharon, was the fact that they were starting from scratch.

"Everyone has been great in providing so much advice and offers to help, but much of it must be done by one or two people only, like drafting up the certification package, terms of reference for all of the positions, determining supply requirements for this specific course. Next year will be so much easier!" It was important as well that Sharon and the Base Commander are very involved in the community, helping to bring the people of Kingston onboard in supporting the event.

The Limestone Triathlon will feature a 500m swim completed in the new 25m pool located at the Royal Military College (RMC) and followed by a scenic, yet challenging bike/run course taking in sights such as the grounds of RMC, historic Fort Henry and Lake Ontario. The official charity for the race is the Kingston Military Family Resource Centre (KMFRC) which provides programmes and services dedicated to enhancing the health and well-being of Kingston's military community.

For more information:

Next week: We get an update on Sharon's personal life and her future role in the sport of triathlon.

February 28, 2005 - Interview with Triathlete Sharon Donnelly


Tim Bourquin: “Welcome back to Thanks for joining us today. My name is Tim Bourquin. Our guest today is going to be Sharon Donnelly. She’s a three time Canadian Triathlon champion and also a 1999 Pan-American Games champion. We’re going to be talking to her about what’s she’s doing now in terms of Race Director and coaching and that sort of thing.

To listen to this interview online, visit

First thing, the Race of the Day today is going to be actually Sharon’s race; it’s the Limestone Charity Triathlon and its May 29 th, 2005. You can find out more about this triathlon by clicking on the Race of the Day link right below the link to this audio interview.

So we’re going to be right back to speak with Sharon Donnelly in about 30 seconds.

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Tim Bourquin: “Sharon thanks very much for taking the time to talk to us at, I appreciate it.”

Sharon Donnelly: “Thank you very much for inviting me Tim.”

Tim Bourquin: “Well I see on your website you’ve been pretty busy since you retired from pro-triathlon. What have you been up to lately?”

Sharon Donnelly: “Yeah, I’ve been too busy actually. They talk about the transition period; it’s absolutely true. I was sitting there twiddling my thumbs actually, kind of almost depressed because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, what I wanted to focus on, so I basically said yes to sort of everything that came my way. So I’m very happy, but I’m kind of regretting some things; it is a challenge, some of the things of being a Race Director and working on some coaching certification and I’m currently coaching a few athletes, Athletes’ Rep is taking a lot of time. I’m also teaching some phys-ed classes at a local college in town and the list goes on.”

Tim Bourquin: “Well that’s great. Was it a difficult transition of training so hard and with these goals in mind in terms of ultimate achievements, and I imagine you’re not training quite as hard now as you were when you were a pro?”

Sharon Donnelly: “No, I’m not training as much as I was because of the time commitments of many things that I’ve taken on. With respect to the difficulty, the toughest time was actually, I guess, October – November, my last race was in August, and October was sort of difficult, we were purchasing a house and then also I’m so goal driven and everything was geared towards trying to make the latest Olympic team and I didn’t allow myself to think past that, because I didn’t want to have any second thoughts, and so I was, ‘What am I doing? I’ve made no goals, no plans.’ I knew that things would come along, but in my whole life I had not been so goalless, so it was a challenge.”

Tim Bourquin: “Talk about your race that you’re the Race Director of. Did you come up with that idea to launch to this, or were you asked to be the Race Director?”

Sharon Donnelly: “I was asked to be the Race Director actually for this race. I’d heard about the possibility of hosting it in the summer and I never thought anything about it, and then when I came back home to Kingston after some traveling of course, September – October some people approached and asked if I wanted to be the Race Director and I said I really didn’t know and that I didn’t want to commit to anything, and then by the time that October came around I felt, ‘Oh, I need to take on something. I really need something to focus on,’ and the Base Commander of Canadian Forces Base Kingston came forward and asked me if I could be the Race Director and to really make this a great first race with a file to follow for future Race Directors and possibly even to expand across the Canadian Forces.”

Tim Bourquin: “Now you’ve been involved as participant in a lot of different races, now being on the Race Director side, has it been learning experience?”

Sharon Donnelly: “The learning curve is like straight up. It’s an incredible learning experience, and the biggest thing is just, I guess, all the paperwork that’s required for the certification process. But in a way it’s great because it forces you to look at every single detail, and being an athlete and knowing how the best races are run I am going into those every single details. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for someone organizing one of these without the race experience.”

Tim Bourquin: “Yes, because you know what you liked at all these different races and I imagine you’re probably putting the best of the best all together for this one.”

Sharon Donnelly: “Yes; also this is mainly hosted by the Canadian Forces Base Kingston and most of the people on my committee are military members and I cannot imagine them organizing this without the race knowledge.”

Tim Bourquin: “Well, let’s switch over to talking about the coaching that you’ve doing. A lot of our listeners are veteran triathletes, but a lot are also brand newbies as well. What are some of the common questions that you’re getting from your clients?”

Sharon Donnelly: “I only have a few right now, because I’m really wanting to start very slow and a lot of them already know me so I’ve already been giving them feedback over the past year or so. The biggest thing is the programming, they want to be able to follow the program within their constraints, their time constraints, how can they get to the level or the goals that they want to achieve but they have 15 hours available, or 10 hours available, ‘How can I best manage the program in that time?’ and that’s the biggest challenge. Also what I do is I hold a bike session once a week in a local gym and that really counts off for some of these athletes as well. Also one of the biggest ones is helping them a little bit with their diets and then trying to develop that plan that really takes into account their daily schedule.”

Tim Bourquin: “Now when you were achieving these great things when you were in triathlon was it difficult for you to keep balance in your life? Did you feel like you were training all the time and was that a tough balancing act to always do?”

Sharon Donnelly: “Everything’s hard when you’re racing or competing, or even in a job at a certain level because you’re going to have make sacrifices, and the only really difficulty I had was the fact that my husband was back at home with my friends and the time you’d like to spend with the people that you care about, because I would go away for certain races and also too for long period of time, up to two months, to train in a warmer environment in the winter; that was the difficulty. However, on the other hand, because I was going away for that two months and making those sacrifices, I really make sure that was going to be well worth the time. I didn’t take it for granted.”

Tim Bourquin: “Well I want to ask you about some of the aspects that you think contributed to your great success in the sport, but we need to take a quick break. We’ll be right back to continue our conversation with Sharon Donnelly.”

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Tim Bourquin: “Sharon, you’ve achieved a level of success that few people have in endurance sports, and in a lot of sports actually for that matter. Do you have anything that you can share with us that you would give as your keys to the success that you’ve had?”

Sharon Donnelly: “I guess a few things that I would say would be; just never give up. I see so many people that have had possibly more talent than myself, but yet they gave up just, I think, too early for many reasons. The thing is just to never give up. You never know when your time will come; never give up on your goal that you set. You just can’t say when that opportunity will come, so that’s the number one. Then making sure that you reset those goals; I’m going through that transition period and it is crucial, just crucial.”

Tim Bourquin: “Talk about what you mean when you saying, ‘Reset those goals’.”

Sharon Donnelly: “For example, you set certain goals and you can’t just rest on, ‘Oh, I achieved something.’ You have to go, ‘Yeah, I achieved that. Well what can I do to better myself? What’s the next step? What can I do now?’ and it can be as big or as small as you want. I find myself starting at square one again now because a lot of these goals I’m having do are non-sports and definitely non-personal related. I’m making goals that as an athlete that are based around you, based around yourself as an athlete. Now my goals are; I have taken in a wide, far more varied audience. It’s not just geared around myself, so it’s a transition. I’m excited about it.”

Tim Bourquin: “Are you surprised at all with current events about the doping issue coming into triathlon? Do you think that this is something new, or is this something that’s always been there and we’re just finding out some of these athletes now?”

Sharon Donnelly: “You know what, as an athlete I never really paid attention to it, I just raced and I felt that, ‘I’m going to do the best I can,’ and I didn’t really think about what my competitors could, or possibly might be doing. But I think I personally feel that our sport has been pretty clean, I really do.”

Tim Bourquin: “Do you think theres more pressure now, or some reason, that the limited amount of dollars for pro athletes in triathlon, they feel like they need to get that extra edge?”

Sharon Donnelly: “Well we’ve always had limited dollars in triathlon, or else it is increasing but at the upper end, and I think it’s more a personal choice. I don’t think you can generalize at all. I do like the fact that the testing methods are getting better. Also too, there never used to be the testing at such races as Ironman, that’s only been in the past four or five years I believe, and then in our races, the World Cups and whatnot of course, we’re on the Olympic schedule, we have to follow the rules of WADA, and even WADA, I mean to be coming out with surprise tests at Olympics, making sure that almost caught up and almost up with the drugs and being able to keep up with that, so I think that’s really good is that we’re really being a lot better with the testing.”

Tim Bourquin: “The sport has grown quite a bit in the last five or six years and you’re got more and more amateurs participating in these sports. Do you see that continuing?”

Sharon Donnelly: “Oh yes, and I think its really great that we’re opening our arms to such races like Xterra and other races like Aquasan, because that is going to keep people interested in the triathlon and the multi-sports. People say, ‘Well, we’re kind of loosing sight and focus of triathlon.’ I don’t think so because it’s still connected to the sport of triathlon. The more we can get people involved in that umbrella of triathlon, whatever form it may be, I think that’s great because Xterra; somebody might want to do a triathlon but they only have a mountain bike, well here’s an Xterra. I think its going to continue to grow.”

Tim Bourquin: “Through your coaching the schools, do you think the industry as a whole is doing enough to promote this in our schools and get those next athletes for the next generation?”

Sharon Donnelly: “I think we can improve a lot there. I’m not sure how the United States is doing it, they usually have a better school system as it is, that’s more of a high end sports program. I think that we could be doing a better job fitness wise period doing sports into schools; doing sports, basic fitness and I think it would be great that the more you can introduce every kind of sport into schools would be better, triathlon included in there, but I’d like to see any kind of fitness, whether its triathlon or anything, more in schools.”

Tim Bourquin: “Well, we’re just about out of time now but we’ll finish up with looking at what’s ahead for you in the next year or two.”

Sharon Donnelly: “Basically, come this spring, I’m going to be having this race coming up. I really want to start redirecting and refocusing more specifically towards my coaching and motivational speaking and that’s really where I want to focus, and doing some racing.”

Tim Bourquin: “Good, so you’ll still be participating in some races then?”

Sharon Donnelly: “Yeah, but not the World Cup. I retired, I did not want to take a sport on that World Cup team, so I’ll be stepping down and of course doing whatever races are out on the schedule. I’d like to do some of those big races I’ve never had a chance to do, like Mrs. T’s and the Chicago race, Alcatraz, some of those other ones.”

Tim Bourquin: “Now that you can kind of relax in terms of the competitive side it, do you think you’ll be able to enjoy it a little more or do you think that competitive side is going to come out at you when you get into that race and on that starting line?”

Sharon Donnelly: “Well I say that I’m going to enjoy it a little bit more but I have a feeling the competitive side is going to start coming out again.”

Tim Bourquin: “Well listeners you can of course go to Sharon Donnelly’s site by clicking on her site, we’ll link to it right blow here. Sharon thanks very much. I do appreciate your time.”

Sharon Donnelly: “Thank you Tim.”

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