LEFT: Approaching the finish line in 2018 RIGHT: Sharon in the operating room with husband, Louis Moy, urologist and Urology Residency Program Director at UF
Dr. Sharon Byun
Posted May 4, 2020
MEET DR. SHARON BYUN
Division of Academic Specialists in General Obstetrics & Gynecology
Residency Program Director
University of Florida College of Medicine
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
We had the chance to catch up with Sharon recently about the many hats she wears at work, at home, and as a triathlete.
EFAT: When did you race in the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon?
SB: 2017: I competed as part of a relay with my brother, Harold Byun on the Team Fox charity team for The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. This was the year the swim was cancelled due high speed winds and a small craft advisory warning that did not allow jet skis, kayaks and paddle boards in the water for race support. I did the bike leg and my brother ran.
2018: I competed as an individual F45-49. I crashed on the bike course, but was able to finish and placed 7th in my AG. I was so happy!
2019: I competed as an individual F50-54 and much to my surprise placed 2nd in my AG. I was also pleasantly surprised to get my finisher’s medal from Andy Potts! His enthusiasm and support for the age-groupers is pretty amazing. Needless to say, I was thrilled to podium in this iconic race!
Perhaps the craziest thing about this race is that I rode on the bus to pier 3 next to a woman named Kasey Mann. She was is her 20’s and it was her 1st Escape. She had been a swimmer in college at Yale, and so she was excited for the swim, but a leg injury had her nervous about the run. We chatted all the way to the ferry and then parted ways. I never saw her after that, but when I checked my race results, I was shocked to see that we finished with the exact same time!!! Crazy!!!
LEFT: 2017 with brother Harold / RIGHT: 2019 with Andy Potts
EFAT: How’s the last ~6 weeks [since the pandemic hit] been for you?
SB: Everyone has been affected by this global pandemic in some way. We are all making sacrifices. For some it has led to tragic loss of life and for others, loss of jobs and income. People have been unable to gather together for weddings, birthdays, and graduations or attend funerals. I’ve definitely had my emotional ups and downs, but through it all I have been extremely grateful for my health and the health of my family.
As for work, being a physician has brought forth many challenges, most importantly trying to figure out how to continue to take care of patients safely. Those decisions have not come easily for the leadership at my institution at the University of Florida. We are fortunate here in Gainesville not to have been impacted by COVID-19 to the extent that it has affected other areas of the country and the world. I cannot imagine what it has been like for people in New York. As an obstetrician, there is nothing elective about having a baby - the babies are not able to follow a shelter in place order! While many patient care areas including non-urgent surgeries have come to an abrupt halt, obstetric care and deliveries have continued at full force. As residency program director, part of my job is to oversee the training and education of our residents. An added layer of complexity and stress has been feeling responsible for their health and safety, and we have had to be creative and flexible in how we altered our workforce as clinical demands changed.
UF OBGYN Residents, my heroes 😀
Pre-COVID, when hugging and human contact was the norm. Oxytocin, the hormone that causes uterine contractions in labor, is also known as the human bonding hormone. We’ve all been feeling a bit oxytocin deficient lately.
Our new normal in the era of COVID-19 😷 Masks donated by Epix Gear.
My husband is also a physician, so one of our worries has been exposing our son and our mothers to COVID. I have never been particularly germ phobic, but I have probably developed a mild case of OCD over the past several weeks. Wanting and needing to shower after work before I hug my son has been a huge behavioral change for me. Trying to manage our son’s education has been a challenge (he’s in 7th grade), and although he is old enough to stay home alone, I worry about his social isolation also.
On a personal level, a very dear friend of mine became infected and has been fighting to recover in the ICU for over a month. He was also my obstetrician and delivered my son, so he is particularly special to me and my family. He is finally starting to turn the corner, and we have been praying for him every day.
As far as triathlon and training go, my identity is one of physician, mother, wife and triathlete. I certainly feel like a part of my identity is missing, and staying motivated to train has been a challenge, especially when training solo. I do have a great coach, Karyn Heaney Austin, but I miss my training group terribly. I am fortunate to have access to a pool - I purchased a swim tether and have been able to swim in the pool in our back yard. The warm Florida weather has certainly helped. I do feel somewhat vulnerable on my solo road rides, but I can only stand to ride on a stationary bike trainer for so long. Being able to be outside is also critical for my mental and physical heath. I recently did my own solo virtual 70.3 on the day that I was supposed to do IMFL 70.3 Haines City.
Being able to train and compete in triathlon as an age grouper has become a way of life for me, and I am fortunate to have had the privilege. As for all of the professional triathletes, I can’t imagine how they are all coping. More than anything else, I am looking forward to seeing them have the opportunity to compete again. What I love about our sport is drawing from the inspiration of so many. There has still been huge sense of community throughout all of this.
EFAT: How has your experience training for and competing in Escape/triathlon equipped you to take on the challenges you’re facing now?
SB: I do not know a single person who competes in any athletics including triathlon who hasn’t experienced an injury or setback of some kind. I’ve certainly had my share of injuries and have even had to recover from a potentially career ending eye injury a couple of years ago, so I think that I and many triathletes are well-equipped to handle the mental challenge of our current situation. We are all familiar with the expression, “The comeback will be even better than the setback.”
I feel part of a special and unique group to say that I have been an Escapee, having competed in one of the most iconic triathlons in the world. If you have the balls to jump off a ferry into the chilly San Francisco Bay and swim the 1.5 miles from Alcatraz Island to shore, you feel badass enough to be able to overcome anything life throws at you.
EFAT: What’s one piece of advice you would give to triathletes during this time and as they look to pivot their training and adjust their expectations for this Tri season?
SB: Training for and racing in an endurance sport requires a great deal of mental strength and stamina. Triathletes are known for our mental toughness. We know how to push through pain. At this point, as races continue to be cancelled or postponed, I currently only have 1 race to look forward to in October if it even happens. It’s hard to stay motivated to train when there isn’t a finish line in sight. I know it sounds so cliche, but for most of us, triathlon is all about the journey. We might not cross any finish lines this season at an actual race, and it will be ok. Just embrace the journey.
EFAT: Just for fun: One word you would use to describe the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
SB: Just one? 😉
Iconic. Bucket-list. Exhilarating.
LEFT: Jumping off the boat during Water World Swim practice / RIGHT: Approaching the finish line in 2018 (I crashed on the bike course, so I was especially happy to see the finish)
On the podium in 2019 - Age Group 2nd Place Finish!