Author Archives: Sarah

So, what the hell is Mindset coaching anyway? The Down and Dirty.

If you have been following me and my coaching practice at all, you know that I am a coach that offers both mindset and multisport coaching. Multisport coaching is easy to understand… I create and write customized training programs for athletes that participate in endurance events. Ok cool. But Mindset coaching? What the hell is that?

First off, “mindset” simply refers to the ideas and beliefs we hold about ourselves. It’s the lens through which we see the world. Sometimes its rose colored glasses, other times it’s a bit darker and a bit stormier. Pure and simple, it’s your attitude. Really, Sarah? You’re going to coach my attitude? Um, hell yeah I am. Maybe you are facing a particular challenge and you just can’t get your head right about it, or maybe it’s a general feeling of not having your shit together; whatever it is, how you choose to view your situation and the attitude to with which you approach it is a malleable, coachable skill.

I do a lot of work with athletes specifically around their mindset towards training and racing. I’ve been fortunate to study with Travis Macy, author and creator of The Ultra Mindset, and he has certified me as an Ultra Mindset Specialist. His 8 core principles for creating a success-focused mindset in all areas of life are exceptionally useful and effective. I also add my own insight and experience in the self-development field to work with athletes on managing what’s going on between their ears when things get tough. I cover everything from how to “not quit” to how to sustain motivation through day after day of tough endurance training.

Mindset work isn’t just for athletes though. We all face daily challenges that stress us out and affect our attitude. Challenges in work, parenting, relationships, and virtually all areas of life, each test us mentally and emotionally.   It’s learning to understand that we can control our response to these hard situations through deliberate practice and awareness. Tools such as cognitive reappraisal, true mindfulness and better vision and goal setting can help us shape our attitude and the way we see the world and ourselves in it.

So, how do you know if mindset coaching is right for you?   Easily summarized…you want to be better. You want to train harder, race faster, build the grit, be resilient, be a more patient parent, achieve more, get your shit together, finish your to-do list, lose the weight, make the money, get the girl. I could go on, but I think you are starting to understand, that just about anyone can benefit from mindset coaching.

I had a friend recently characterize what I do as sorting through all the shit in someone’s head and dialing in on the stuff that really matters; then helping them to get rid of the rest. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. If hearing that makes you a little squirmy, then it probably means a little coaching is just what you need.

If I haven’t scared you off yet, but maybe piqued your interest, reach out today for a free initial consultation, or just email to say Hi!


Race Week Worksheet: The Details

I recently made available for FREE this “Race Week Worksheet” to help athletes prepare for an event.  The worksheet not only ensures that athletes have their logistics squared away, but also that their head is in the game and ready to rock come race day.  Here is a brief description of how to use it and where to get yours!




The Race Week Worksheet is designed to be downloaded and printed so that you can keep it available at all times.  It’s a fill in the blank form meant to keep you on point.  There are two separate sections; Race Logistics and Race Week Mental Preparation.  Making sure that your logistics are set is important so that those details don’t take your focus off your performance.  Then, and this takes just a few minutes, answer the questions regarding Mental Preparation.  These few minutes could literally be the difference between the podium and DNF.  Here is a quick break down of each section.

Race Logistics

This is pretty self explanatory, but a helpful way to keep the details sorted.  Making sure that you have the race start time and location correct prevents any mishaps come the morning of the event.  Researching the predicted weather and then establishing your clothing and gear needs based on that is crucial for proper preparation.  This could also effect your race day nutrition, which hopefully you already have tried and tested, but this area of the worksheet gives you an area to write down exactly what you need to have with you.  Finally, establishing your race day transportation plan is a big one.  In a smaller race it might be as simple as driving your car to the start/finish area but big city events with thousands of participants often requires the use of public transportation or a trusted friend.  Don’t leave this important detail to the last minute.

Mental Preparation 

The first two questions ask you about why you committed to this event and how you expected to feel after its completion.  Its quite possible that a number of weeks, or even months have passed since the moment you clicked through Ultrasignup or and pulled the trigger to register for the race. Its important to remember, why, in that exact moment you knew it was a good idea. Getting back in touch with those feelings that made you sign up, including the sense of optimism, and burning desire to do the event you felt will help you bring all of your training full circle and have a great event.  Consider how you thought it would feel to complete the event and then feel that same burning desire to grasp it now. 

Many folks say that they like to “zone out” and let their thoughts wander during a hard workout or event.  I believe that generally speaking its fine to do this,  but when you know something is going to be tough, its better to have a game plan and direct your thoughts, otherwise, the “zoning out” can lead to a brutal downward spiral if things turn bad, or even cause you to go too hard and blow up if things are going well.  First, when things are going well, its important to acknowledge how great you feel but temper that with sticking to your pacing plan and remembering that it likely won’t last forever.  Second, when things start to feel like hell, its important to again remember, that it wont last forever. Races are full of ups and downs and maintaining an even keel throughout is a key to success.

Finally, and this is a super easy and important thing that you can do to prepare yourself mentally to have a great race.  You must write your script, and stick to it.  This is a mantra, a set of words or phrases that will be what your subconscious needs you to remember.  This is unique to you! If you need to remember to be “steady” then steady should be one of your words.  If you grateful for the experience then include gratitude.  Whatever motivates and moves YOU.  Keep it short and simple but meaningful and useful. It might be inspirational or it could be practical advice.  Read this post about how the later worked for me during the Frosty Foot 50k.

Intrigued? Click HERE to get your FREE copy of the Race Day Worksheet!  Have questions or comments? Reach out to   Also, I’d love your feedback on the Worksheet so feel free to leave a note in the comments or reach out to me directly!

Guest Post: Cyril Sack

“Make Your Own Damn Luck”

This week The Grit Factory welcomes guest blogger Cyril Sack.

941847_254073101414928_1903733715_nCy describes himself as a enthusiastic, if rather unskilled adventure racer. After 9 years active duty in the Army, most recently with 1st Special Forces Group, Cy now continues to serve in the National Guard and work at a little online book store called Amazon. He focuses his free time on running and biking the hills of western Washington with his 2 dogs and playing in the backyard with his 2 kids.



There’s an old adage I’m quite fond of that goes something like this – “It’s what you do before the storm that determines if you make it through it“. I like to imagine 2 old English warships, out of an episode of Horatio Hornblower or Master & Commander, both caught in a terrible storm far out at sea. Both ships have daring captains, veteran crews, and the best equipment money can buy (for the 1700s, that is). Yet despite the two ships appearing to be evenly matched, the storm quickly anoints a victor. One ship not only makes it through the storm, but takes full advantage of the raging winds to actually quicken its trip across the seas. The other ship? Driftwood.


Here’s a clue to why the victorious team makes it through the storm – quick adaptation to unforeseen circumstances, like having to cut away a sail!

What’s the differentiating factor that lets one team actually THRIVE on the chaos while another team falls apart (pun intended)? Preparation. Team Driftwood let themselves be lulled into a false sense of security because they thought themselves too experienced and too capable to need to prepare in advance for unexpected factors. What’s the purpose in training and drilling for unlikely circumstances? We got this, we’re total pros. Except that real professionals know that resting on your laurels is the quickest way to the bottom (of the sea! Ohhhhh, we’re going to need an ice machine for all the sick burns I’m inflicting). All skills are perishable. All teams need constant refreshment of their knowledge base. No matter how smooth the sea looks, there’s always a storm somewhere farther out. The teams that win are those who know full well that the storm is coming and that it doesn’t give a damn about how experienced you are.


Mother Nature doesn’t give a crap about last quarter’s earning reports.

I recently read an article by Eric Barker about the keys to raising children who have grit. The fundamental attribute between a child who rolls up their sleeves and says “let me at ’em” and one who says “it just wasn’t meant to be” is having what’s called a growth mindset. A growth mindset is when you fundamentally believe that your abilities can be improved through your own efforts. The opposite is called a fixed mindset, where you stick you hands in your pockets, kick some rocks, and mutter “aww shucks” when things don’t turn out your way.

 Individuals with a growth mindset reject the idea that whatever cards they’ve been dealt are Mindset-the-coverthe cards they have to play with. Via Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford University and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success:

When people are in a growth mindset they’re more willing to take on challenging tasks. They’re more engaged by mistakes or setbacks rather than discouraged. They delve into a mistake, they process it, they correct it.”

To put it more succinctly – They head INTO the storm. Growth mindset folks know that they can improve their position in life, and they realize that the path to that achievement is through trials and discomfort. By pushing themselves into areas they are unfamiliar with, they force themselves to adapt and grow. No different than muscle stimulation from lifting weights, this introduction of outside stress causes an improvement to the system.

A growth mindset is the critical first step in able to turn a bad situation into a good one. There’s another old sailing adage I love (I know, I know, I’m in the Army, I don’t know why I like sailing adages either…)

Smooth seas make for safe trips and poor sailors.

You want to be world class? Turn the bow of your ship into the dark clouds whenever you can. The crucible holds the most valuable lessons.

Is bad luck an uncontrollable aspect, always hovering over our shoulder, ready to strike? Nonsense. Think of those two ships. Both knew they would face unpredictable events like the storm. But one ship took the necessary preparations long before the storm ever reared its ugly head in order to ensure their successful encounter with it. The differences in preparation between our 2 warships wasn’t the type of preparation that comes from reviewing checklists and mock rehearsals while in the safety of a harbor (though those types of preparation are crucial building blocks). The true difference maker between Team Into The Storm and Team Driftwood was in the quality and intensity of their preparations. No half-measures will ever allow you to rise to the top of your field. To be truely growth minded, you must also accept that the effort level of your preparation must be tough in order to make you ready for the chaos ahead.

We all face luck every day in our lives. Out on a race, sometimes we get a strong trail wind and get a PR and stand on the podium. Other times we get blisters, bonk, and break our gear. But any of those unexpected circumstances can be either good luck or bad luck, because what makes the luck good or bad is entirely an internal decision making process. It’s all a matter of if you’ve got a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. So you hit a wall and can now barely walk forward? Sounds like a good time to take a break and make sure you adjust your socks and shoes because you were starting to feel some hot spots on your feet.

Luck isn’t inherently good or bad, despite how it is often portrayed.

It’s just outside factors affecting us in unpredictable ways. Whether or not that luck is good or bad is up to us. And the surest way I’ve found to make sure the majority of luck is good luck is through preparation. Fortune favors the bold, but it also favors the prepared. Those that show up to the race line with the right mindset and the right preparation are the ones who will win the day. Stop worrying about the cards you were dealt. Toss the cards aside. Flip the table over and tell everyone that now we’re playing Monopoly instead of poker.

To learn more about Cy, visit his blog at  or visit to find out everything you have ever wanted to know about Adventure Racing.

Have something to add to the conversation? Interested in guest posting on The Grit Factory? Odds are we would love to have you! Reach out to to find out how. 

Think you are tired? Why “Action First” Part II

tiredI get it. You’re tired. Full busy days, constantly feeling like you have to be “on.” Exhausted, you flop on the sofa after a long workday hoping you can at least muster up enough motivation to eat something other than a frozen pizza for dinner. Escaping the gravity that holds you to soft cushions seems insurmountable. I mean, come on! You had carpool this morning, back to back to back meetings throughout the day, a lunch on the go, that nagging headache, and a million emails screaming your name. You are a hero, just for getting the dog out for a walk and the trash to the curb on the right day of the week. I mean, after all that, of course you are tired. Or, are you? Continue reading

Stop Looking for Inspiration: Why “Action First” Part I

saudi-arabia-sunriseEveryone wants to feel inspired. We want to look at a sunrise over a perfect ocean horizon and find our life’s purpose right where the glow of orange reflects off the surface of the glassy water. We expect to look at a picture of a person standing on top of a mountain with the words “carpe diem” written across the sky, and somehow suddenly know the new direction we should take in our life. And maybe, in that moment of seeing or hearing the perfect thing, we instantaneously lay out a roadmap for change. We envision the steps we need to take that will set us on the path to the greatness we saw reflected on the horizon. And then we take our eyes off of that image, and before any real change occurs, the once red-hot belief that anything is possible has gone cold. Soon, we are once again scouring the internet, seeking that inspiration. The vicious cycle of inspiration without action. Continue reading

Guest Post: Britt Mason

What’s harder than attending a six month, grueling, Fire Academy? Doing it twice.

This week The Grit Factory welcomes guest blogger, Britt Mason.  Britt is a professional Firefighter/EMT and an elite Adventure Racer representing Rev3.  Her post details the arduous task of completing, not one, but two firefighting academies and how her experience in sports allowed her to get it done.



Technician I Britt Mason

Last year, I made the decision to change my life and move to northern Virginia. It’s easy when you’re just applying for jobs and thinking of all the possibilities, but when you land the job and it becomes a reality, it’s a bit scary. Born and raised in Illinois, leaving friends and family was hard. The move and all of its changes took grit in itself, but not as much as completing my second professional fire rescue academy. Continue reading

Frosty Foot 50K and The Power Of Writing Your Own Script


Over MLK weekend, my way older brother turned 40 and to celebrate I ran in the FootRx Frosty Foot 50K trail race. This awesome 50K utilizes the absolutely world class trail system at Tsali which is located in Nantahala National Forest here in Western North Carolina. The rolling, mostly single track trails, trace the fingers of Lake Fontana which sits squarely in the shadow of the Smokey Mountains. It is impressive country, even in the dead of Winter.

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Fake It Till You Make It…and why it works.

mind-tricksIf you recently listened to my interview on Randy Eriksen’s Podcast TA-1 then you heard me talk about how the conscious and subconscious minds work, or in many cases, don’t work, together. Being able to grind out the hard stuff is mostly a matter of mindset whether it is a physical activity or other challenging scenario.   Understanding how the mind works, and how your conscious thoughts effect what’s happening deeper inside you, is a key to overcoming difficult situations.

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Waging mental war at the Warrior Creek Trail Half Marathon

WCHM-300x247Lets face it, you cant always feel like a winner.  This past weekend I participated in the Xterra Warrior Creek Trail Half Marathon put on by the Brushy Mountain Cyclists Club in Boomer, North Carolina. The course was a single 13.1 mile loop that flowed through the woods along the banks of the W. Scott Kerr Reservoir.  Morning temps were in the 50’s and on their way up to 70. The morning fog would burn off yielding bright sunny skies. This was a small, grass roots operation perfectly representative of what you can expect at a winter trail running event. Great volunteers, easy parking, an RD with a local accent, easy breezy packet pick-up, a somewhat lame race shirt destined to join the rest of my somewhat lame collection, and basically just a whole bunch of folks that seemed to know each other ready to have a morning in the woods. Seems pretty perfect right? That’s what I thought too.

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