Storytellers: Sharon - The flyer September 10 2018, 0 Comments

When orders kept coming in from a particular woman in Hammond, Louisiana, I took notice.  Sharon was an early adopter and in one of our email exchanges she said something along the lines of 'Congrats on the new business, I started my flight school in 2003, so I know a start-up can be an uphill battle and a giant pain in the rear.  Screw the Naysayers and do your thing!'  So, we connected on a bigger level.  Lexi Miller is about more than spandex.  It's about those connections and that 'bigger level'.  I gave Sharon a ring to learn a little bit more about her and her life (cycling and beyond).

She had me in stitches and surprised me with a British accent!  Read below or take a listen >>>HERE<<<.  

Alexis:             

So you’re British?  How did you find your way to Louisiana?

Sharon:           

So it's been a long and winding road.  We moved to California, lived there for a year, then it was really expensive so we went somewhere else, we had to go to Kansas City, opened up a business. We learned to fly in Kansas and then got another job opportunity down in Louisiana. It was basically my boyfriend and then husband who was getting these job opportunities and I was just trailing around after him. So he got a job opportunity down here in Louisiana at which point I'd gotten a green card sometime in the late '90s so I could work at this point so my free vacation was over. So I had to get a job and I couldn't do anything, my degree was in sociology which is completely useless.

Alexis:             

As many of our degrees are, right?

Sharon:           

Yeah. So I had my pilot's license and put the word out that I was a flight instructor and if you needed someone to teach you to fly then I could do it. And that snowballed big time. So that's the kind of short version.

Alexis:             

So that's what keeps you busy, 9-5 most days. And how did cycling weave its way into your life?

Sharon:           

Gosh, how did it? So my friend and I, Andre, who actually works for me now, I taught her to fly here. And she's always been super athletic and she kind of looks like she's carved out of marble so I was always like really "Wow, how do you look like that?" Anyway, so she was there all the time, so she and I became friends when she got the pilot's license out of the way--because you can't be friends with someone you're training them to fly because you have to make them cry and be mean and horrible. So we got that out of the way and started hanging together and just because she's so active I started being kind of active with her.

Sharon:           

Just out of nowhere it's like "Why don't we do a triathlon? That seems like a fun thing to do."

Alexis:             

So then it was her turn to make you cry?

Sharon:           

Pretty much, yeah. And she really did. So we signed up for a local sprint tri.  I was on my Walmart bike, and I think she borrowed a bike. And it was absolutely miserable because we hadn't trained properly, we didn't know what we were doing, we made every tri mistake you could possibly make, managed to fall off my bike, the whole bit.  We were terrified. She actually did quite well because she's so athletic, I was basically third to last so I got beat by everybody apart from a lady who I believe was about ten months pregnant, I managed to beat her and I also beat a guy that just had a double hip replacement.

Alexis:             

I mean it's your first one though.

Sharon:           

Proud moment.  That was my first one, yeah. So we did that and I realized how miserable was so that's when we started training and we bought second hand bikes... Yeah, the running and the swimming wasn't too bad, you can do that but the learning to ride thing and actually getting on your bike and doing it, it was hard. So we rode together for fair bit doing all training rides and then I hooked up with a bunch of people here, a bunch of ex pro cyclists, took me under their wing and set me up and really taught me how to ride, so I did group rides with those guys, and just got really addicted to it.  I had my first bike, a Fuji that I bought off my customer.  We'd been doing races and I had signed up for the Augusta half ironman at that point.

Sharon:           

The week before I was going to do a big final training ride and I was racing with the boys I and I had a bit of a crash and broke my arm pretty badly and had to have a few surgeries.  So at that point because I'd beaten up the bike so much it was justification to buy a really nice bike, so that was when we really started.

Alexis:             

Yeah, I mean you couldn't buy new arms, you might as well buy a new bike.

Sharon:           

That's right, I have a bionic arm that sets of alarms, so yeah.  

Alexis:             

How long ago was that, that this kind of all started when you started doing from your sprint tri to now?

Sharon:           

It's probably been about four years, it's not been that long.

Alexis:             

Oh wow, that's not a long time.

Sharon:           

Yeah, no actually thinking back so, post break arm and pre break arm. So I broke my arm in 2016, and it's 18 now, it's only been two years, wow.

Alexis:             

It sounds like your injury at least, time wise didn't set you back so much.  There's the physical healing but then there's also the mental part of it, like, "I don't know if I want to do that again" so how much mental down time did you have, where you were apprehensive about getting back on the bike?

Sharon:           

I basically made a promise to myself that by two weeks after the surgery.  I was back doing indoor rides within two weeks. And I made a promise to myself that when my birthday came around, which is December 6th, I needed to be on the bike, on the road.

Sharon:           

When I first got on that bike, I was surprised by this, I didn't think psychologically it'd affect me as much as it did. I did it by myself, and I was kind of panting you know like, it's gonna be okay, you're gonna be okay, when I clipped in. And it was just weird, I was surprised it affected me that badly, but once I clipped I rode around the neighborhood for 20 minutes and I was like "You're okay, you can clip, you can unclip, you're not gonna fall of, you're okay. You're good." So it wasn't too bad. I will say that I'm not super keen on big group rides anymore. I mean racing is fine, no one's drafting in tri.  I’m just not super thrilled about being around a bunch of people that can't control the bike. Just in case.

Alexis:             

Yeah, painful way to live and learn but that's pretty cool, that's cool that it's still a part of your life.  You did your full ironman a few months ago, right? Or last year was it?

Sharon:           

Yeah, did that in November of last year.  It wasn't as bad as I was expecting, honestly. The training was miserable, and it worked too. It basically meant getting up in the mornings at 4AM working out two, three ours, and then after work, going out and doing another session.  But the actual day itself was ... It's really weird, it just went like, flash.  Did the swim, super nervous about the swim, open water swim is never gonna be my idea of good fun. We've got some really nasty alligator infested canals around here so I made myself swim in those, do a little bit of conversion therapy.

Once I got out of the water I was like "Unless something really stupid happens, like I get hit by a truck, we can do this, it can work." And it was the craziest thing, you just get on your bike, and just ride for seven hours and it was done. The marathon is just not that big of a deal, I just told myself it was just four six mile runs, just run for six miles four times with a little bit extra at the end. So it just wasn't that bad. Coming up the bikes before I went on the run, it was hot and I was a little ... It wasn't heatstroke I was just feeling a little nauseous and the helpers asked me what they could do to help me and I'm like "Ice water would be super great." They're like "Oh we don't have any of that." Seriously? People don't have any ice water?

So I kind of was getting rude to one of the helpers, I may have actually sworn at her and they took her away and gave me a new helper, and this is stressful, she only had one arm.

Alexis:             

Wow.

Sharon:           

And I needed help tying up my laces, she wasn't very helpful so that was like karma for my shouting at people. But once you got done, done the run, it was just the weirdest thing, it was like you trained for it, your body just knew what to do, that's the only way to explain it. It just kind of flows out of you ... Don't get me wrong, it was hard but the day itself wasn't that bad.

Alexis:             

So, any more triathlons on your horizon?

Sharon:           

Yeah, no, I'm not doing a full this year, I cannot make myself do that training again. I'm going to do the New Orleans half in October, so I just started training for that in the last couple weeks. And the neat thing about the New Orleans tri is that 50% they cancel it so I might not have to do it.

Alexis:             

That's funny.  Why, because of rain or something?

Sharon:           

Usually. It's in October so it's normally still fairly hot but it's really windy so there's always giant crossings, you know they've got a 20 knot cross when that makes the swim really hairy. It's still hurricane season so there could be a tropical storm rolling through.  In 2016 the swim was a nightmare, grown men were crying and being pulled out.

Alexis:             

Oh god, that's awful.

Sharon:           

It's miserable, I actually really don't know why I signed up for it.

Alexis:             

Well maybe it'll be a-

Sharon:           

It might get canceled.

Alexis:             

Either that or maybe it'll be a nice calm day, who knows.

Sharon:           

Hopefully.

Alexis:             

I feel like a lot of triathletes start out doing triathlon and then they realize that really their favorite part is cycling and then they end up just being cyclists, would you agree with that?

Sharon:           

I agree yeah, for me that's absolutely the case. I really don't like swimming that much, I mean I'll do it. Running is really hard on your knees, I think I'm gonna get to a point where my knees just aren't working anymore so I'll have to quit and just bike. And really, my plan next year was to just move onto mountain biking, because of the super cool mountain bike series around here, it's the Louisiana mountain bike association and they have eight or nine races all in a row.  I did one mountain bike race this year, and I managed to get second place in that race defeat the state champion so I think it might be fun to just move away tri next year and just see if I can continue to beat the state champion.

Alexis:             

Do you have hills there or is it pretty flat?

Sharon:           

Yeah, we do actually.

Alexis:             

Cool. I'd imagine that with your work, that riding is probably a nice release from flying because even if you're in a plane and you're moving, I'd imagine that having your wheels on the ground is something you kind of crave after being in the air for so long.

Sharon:           

Yeah, it is. And the other thing too is that flying is really noisy, just the constant sound from the engine and the constant vibration, it's just really loud and obnoxious. Don't get me wrong, I love it but it's nice just to not be in something giant and vibrating, just to be on the ground and all you can hear is just the squish of the rubber on the ground. It's just a nice juxtaposition to the airplane. You know what else is interesting too, is that I just started getting into steel bikes. I went out and bought a Colnago c60 beautiful Italian super bike and that's my primary trainer.  I've been riding beautiful carbon bikes and they're light and they're gorgeous but they're stiff and they're noisy. You know, carbon, do you ride carbon?

Alexis:             

I do, yeah.

Sharon:           

So you know, they kind of clank a little bit. I mean they're not quiet and I can't the bottom brackets on mine are press in, not screw in so they just clank a little bit. So recently I've been getting into steel and my friend gave me an Atala for my birthday which was my first steel bike, an antique one, he built it up for me. And then I had the opportunity to go buy a Colnago Arabesque frame, which is amazing. You know anything about the Colnago arabesque?

Alexis:             

I don't.

Sharon:           

Okay, I'm such a bike geek.

Alexis:             

That's good.

Sharon:           

Can I tell you?

Alexis:             

Yeah.

Sharon:           

Okay, so the Arabesque it's a steel bike, basically Colnago used to make them, I think like, oh I don't know, I think like 20, 30 years ago. They stopped making them and moved onto new different bikes. About three years ago, apparently Ernesto Colnago finds a box of lugs of the old Arabesque, just like 200 of them or so in his workshop and they're these beautiful, chromed out lugs that are attached to a train and they're absolutely gorgeous, just a work of art.

Sharon:           

Anyway, so he found a box of these things and they decided to go back into production with a limited number of them, just to use them up and get them out there because they're antiques. So I found out about this and they have one blue bike, left in my size. One frame, so I bought that frame and built it up. Beautiful, silver, chromed out lugs on it and I've got some vintage wheels. Anyway, long story short, I've got this gorgeous steel bike and it feels so amazing because it's completely silent. It doesn't make any of the carbon clanking sounds and it's a little bit heavier but it's springier. It's almost like the landing gear on a Cessna.  It's just amazing, love it.

Alexis:             

Oh that's cool. Nice.

Sharon:           

Yeah, so it's almost like I've gone from carbon high tech and just kind of getting away from that and back into the steel, old fashioned. It's totally not tri, it's about as far away from triathlons you can get.

Alexis:             

You're becoming a cycling purist.

Sharon:           

Yeah, it's a beautiful way of riding.

Alexis:             

That's cool.

Sharon:           

I'm glad I got to experience all that.

Alexis:             

Yeah. Well cool, I think that's all for questions that I have, I don't know if there's anything you want to add or say. No pressure.

Sharon:           

I don't know, I'm trying to think of something cool to say but there's nothing in me.

Alexis:             

That's alright, I just like telling stories about women who ride because ... you know, there's women who ride bikes and there's niches within niches of that.  Everybody always asks me "Oh, are you Lexi?" And I've written about that and I'm like "No, that's actually not me." And Lexi Miller represents some persona, some woman and I think the marketplace and the general public assume that women who ride bikes all fall into one category or something and I find that the more people I talk to, we just have such broad different lives. Some people are moms, some people are not moms, some people are in their fifties and have been riding for like, 30 years or some are just like taking it up, some are former triathletes.  Everybody's got her story to tell and how cycling fits into her life. The fact that you can compare a Colnago to landing gear, that's kind of cool. Even if you don't think it is.

Sharon:           

Yeah, no, I think what you're doing is great. I mean your product is awesome, those shorts, that's what I wore for the ironman, it's just perfect. They fit so well, they're so comfy, they're just adaptable. What you're doing is really awesome.

Alexis:             

Thank you.  What I wanted to do was design things that would stand the test of time in terms of their fit and their quality and their function and make tweaks along the way to improve little things.  But that's the thing with cycling apparel, it's not like I'm gonna start doing dresses all of a sudden, like the basic black short is here to stay.

Sharon:           

We do need a triathlon suit, I would be your follower forever if you made a triathlon ... I'm already a follower forever, make a triathlon suit, please.

Alexis:             

I'll try. I stick to what I know but yeah, we'll see.  Maybe one day. But thank you so much for your time it was really fun just getting to know you because I've gotten to see your emails and your orders come through over the years so it's good to put a voice with the name.

Sharon:           

Yeah, well it's good to talk to you too.

Alexis:             

Cool. And then if you have another photo you can send, it doesn't even have to be on the bike or whatever, it can be you flying, it doesn't matter. Like something ... Anything that you think would identify you in a way that you want to be identified. That'd be great.

Sharon:           

Perfect, I'll try and find something that's been heavily photoshopped.

Alexis:             

Sure.

Sharon:           

I'm kidding, I won't.

Alexis:             

I don't care, whatever. Alright.

Sharon:           

Okay, I'll take a look and try and find something.

Alexis:             

Thank you so much for your time.

Sharon:           

Thank you, good to talk to you.