We host a monthly series on Unbottled called #OutofOffice where we highlight many of our Coca-Cola employees who agreed to share what makes them happy when they're away from the desk. This post today goes right along with the series but is also a little different. Coke employee Christy Greenwood wrote a short story about her 15-year career at Coke, but she did this by using the three sports in a triathlon to help explain. It was such an inspiring, unique and fun story that we decided to do the usual Q&A on her triathlon experiences which we would typically share in the #OutofOffice series. Then we added her own piece at the end. Take a minute to read the questions with her heart-felt answers which is then followed by her inspiring piece that was originally only shared internally. Jump in the conversation through the comments if you have any stories to share yourself.

When and how did you get involved with triathlons? How many have you participated in?

Christy Greenwood

I became involved in the sport of triathlon during the Spring of 2008.  Prior to 2008, I was purely a runner.  As a runner, I raced many 5ks, 10ks, half-marathons and marathons and eventually became bored with the sport. A friend of mine suggested that I give triathlons a try since the variety of swimming, biking and running would make my workouts more interesting.  I participated in my first Sprint distance triathlon in 2008 and from that point on I was hooked! I gradually began to race in longer distance triathlons and before I knew it I had 6 Sprints, 4 Olympics, 7 Half-Ironman and 3 Full Ironman distance races under my belt. The Ironman distance races are by far the most memorable and most inspiring races that I have ever competed in. In the Ironman, you must swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles all within a 17-hour time period. There are also separate cutoff times that you must meet for each discipline in order to advance to the next. The race starts at 7:00 a.m. and you must finish by midnight to avoid disqualification. The thrill of crossing the Ironman finish line is such an incredible feeling; it brings chills to my spine just writing about it. What I truly love about the Ironman event is the energy, crowd support and celebration at the finish line. As the midnight hour approaches, the cheers and excitement from the spectators grows louder and louder. As crazy as it seems, the athletes finishing the race last get more cheers than those finishing first. The celebration at the Ironman finish line is an incredible event to witness.  If you ever have an opportunity to watch an Ironman finish, do so!  You won’t be disappointed, especially when the clock reads 16:59 and you are cheering in the final finisher.

Tell us why triathlons are so important to you. 

Christy next to their RV that says "Ironman CDA Bound"

My family, friends and co-workers will tell you that I am a very goal-oriented person. Participating in triathlons gives me the perfect opportunity to set many goals and reach extraordinary goals that I never thought were attainable. My goal-setting begins the moment I register for a race. I immediately set training goals, finish-time goals, nutrition goals and goals around how to incorporate the many workouts into my daily routine.  On race day, I have goals for my swim, bike, run and transition times. I learned that what seems like an impossible goal is much less overwhelming when you break that large goal out into a lot of smaller goals. I find much satisfaction in reaching small goals because I know they will ultimately lead me to the larger aspiration that I am working to accomplish.

What’s your favorite racing memory?

I would have to say my favorite racing memory was in 2010 when my boyfriend and I borrowed my father’s RV and drove cross-country from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho to compete in our first Ironman together. The journey to the race site was such an exciting adventure. The open road was beautiful and I truly enjoyed waking up each morning in a new little town in the middle of nowhere. Each morning we would head out for a run and discover the local community before hitting the road again. However, what truly stands out as the best memory from this trip was crossing the finish line of Ironman Coeur d’Alene and seeing my entire family there cheering me on. My family traveled over 2,200 miles to support me at the race and having them there to see me accomplish my dream meant more to me than words can ever convey.   

You mention in your story below all the great scenery you get to see during the bike segment. What was your favorite race when it comes to the scenery and why?

2012 Ironman Vineman

Definitely Ironman Vineman! This is a very scenic half-iron distance race that takes place in July in the beautiful wine country of Sonoma County, California. The Vineman is so popular that last year’s race sold out in less than 10 minutes! Race day starts with a 1.2 mile swim in the calm waters of the Russian River where you are surrounded by massive Redwood trees during the entire swim. The 56-mile bike ride takes you past hundreds of breath-taking vineyards and dozens of local wineries. As you top each hill on your bike you are treated to even more jaw-dropping views of perfectly manicured vineyard hillsides. During a portion of the 13.1 mile run, you get to run through a vineyard where you are so close to the vines that you can actually reach out and touch the grapes! The finish line is pretty awesome, too; it’s big arch made out of stacked wine barrels that you run underneath to finish. I also have to give some props to Ironman Cozumel for being a gorgeous race as well. The Cozumel swim takes you 2.4 miles into the crystal clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. During the swim, I saw many species of fish, lots of colorful coral and even scuba divers waving to me from below. The Cozumel bike ride along the pristine coastline on the south side of the island was pretty spectacular too. Scenic races like Vineman and Cozumel make my race experience extremely enjoyable. I find that I am so busy taking in the beautiful scenery that I forget I am racing and instead simply enjoy the moment.

Coeur d'Alene Swim Start

Coeur d'Alene Swim Start

Do you listen to music while you train? If so, what type keeps you motivated?

Yes, I do love to run with music even though headphones are not allowed on race day. My running playlist is made up of a lot of upbeat, fast-tempo, pop music. I find that I run faster when training with music, so I try to find songs with a beat that matches my running pace. I create specific playlists that I listen to when I want to run faster and others that I use for longer, slower runs. Right now Katy Perry’s song “Roar” and “Hall of Fame” by The Script are at the top of my playlist.

Is there someone who motivates you and why?

Most people are inspired by professional athletes who have mastered their sport and continually break course records. However, the athletes who inspire me the most are the senior women age-groupers who are still out there competing in triathlons. My favorite is Sister Madonna Buder, the 84-year-old Catholic nun who started racing triathlons at the tender age of 52 and has since completed over 325 triathlons including 45 Ironman distances. Her motto is “I train religiously”.  Then there’s 78-year-old Harriet Anderson, a 21-time Ironman Kona finisher and the oldest woman to complete the prestigious Hawaii Ironman World Championship. These women truly exemplify the expression “Anything is Possible”.

Gary Fayard and Christy Greenwood

Chief Financial Officer Gary Fayard with Christy Greenwood after presenting her with the 15-year Service Award.

Now that you’ve gotten to know Christy, take a minute to read her story below on how triathlons and her job at Coca-Cola relate to one another in an inspiring way. She wrote this in response to receiving The Coca-Cola Company's 15-year Service Award.

I am an avid triathlete and can relate my 15-year career with The Coca-Cola Company to the three disciplines of a triathlon: the swim, the bike and the run. 

Years 1 through 5 - The Swim (1998-2002)

August 26, 1998 – The starting gun is fired and my career with the Tax Department begins. Like the swim start of a triathlon, things were a bit chaotic at first since I started with the Tax Department in the middle of a very busy tax season. I got jostled around in the choppy waters but quickly learned what I needed to do to stay afloat. After a few years, I began to freestyle and find my own rhythm. The most important thing that I learned during my first five years was that sometimes you just need to stop and tread water in order to catch your breath and stay on top of things. Before I knew it, I was out of the water, back on steady ground, and promoted to a Manager level position where I could help others navigate through the rough waters.

Ironman Texas Finish

Ironman Texas Finish

Years 5 through 10 – The Bike (2003-2007)

With triathlons, 80% of the race miles take place on the bike. In this segment, you cover a lot of ground and take in a great deal of new scenery. During these years with the Company I did just that! I took on many new projects, implemented new tax systems, and worked with new leaders. Years 5 through 10 provided me with great learning opportunities and I got a lot of mileage out of my career. At this point, I was comfortable in my role and knew that I was in for the long ride. In 2006, I changed gears and began to take on more work in the Federal Income Tax area. This experience helped me realize that if you don’t change gears and shift your weight you will get saddle sores! I also learned that you have to gain momentum in order to succeed on the uphill climbs and that the descents of the downhill rides are only temporary. With that, I found my groove, coasted along and moved up another level in the Tax Department.

Years 10 through 15 – The Run (2008-Present)

The run portion of a triathlon is my favorite of the three disciplines. During this stage you put on your comfortable running shoes and do whatever is needed to keep moving forward. This is similar to my work in the Tax Department; I am comfortable with what I do but I strive to move our processes forward and make them more efficient. However, when my pace begins to slow the cheers from crowd supporters like Dan Lockridge and Bill Hawkins help keep me motivated. An important lesson that I learned during this period is that sometimes it is better to let go and let others run with things when your sneakers are worn out and need replacing. The success that the State Income Tax team had with Operational Excellence is a perfect example of this. Finally, I found with the 2010 CCR transaction that even though the course is clearly marked and measured, it can sometimes change and you must change with it or you will get lost. During this phase of my career, I was awarded with a Director position where I coach the State Income Tax team and keep things running smoothly.

Today as I pass the 15-year mile marker of my career with the company, I continually remind myself to enjoy the journey as I look to the horizon for the final finish line!

Christy Greenwood

-Christy Greenwood