Five years ago, Tisa Cawthon crossed the finish line at the 2011
Triathlon at Pacific Grove shocked that she’d survived the demands of a
three-discipline race. “It was so tough that I wanted to do it again,
but come back prepared, “ she said. At 35-years-old, she set out to find
what she was lacking. What Cawthon probably didn’t realize is that she
started that race fully equipped with what most athletes are hoping to
eventually gain from the sport: mental fortitude. Cawthon may have
started that race with only one arm, but what she brought with her was a
tenacity gained in a life of adapting to her challenge.
17, Cawthon was involved in a near fatal car crash that resulted in the
paralysis of her left arm. For the next 15 years she would secure her
arm in a sling. For the next 15 years she would endure the chronic pain
that goes along with towing the weight of a no longer functioning arm.
For the next 15 years she would hide behind the comfortable acceptance
of appearing to others that she simply had had a minor fall. At 15
years, she realized her arm was physically and mentally holding her back
and that needed to change.
It’s only May, but 2016 has already become the year that I have
stepped out of my comfort zone and pushed my limits more than ever
before. So far, I’ve ridden farther and climbed more hills than I had
ever imagine possible. All this, however, doesn’t happen without the
help of some pretty stellar, intimidating (but also way awesome) women!
The results: the euphoric exhaustion of exhilarating downhill descents,
breathtaking views, new friendships, and overcoming a major personal
Add on to that list a photo shoot with #TeamBetty2016.
Having battled and overcome an eating disorder, I would never have
imagined myself willingly modeling in front of a camera. But
representing Betty Designs,
a team that embraces strong, healthy athletes, gave me the confidence
to step into the light and be proud of my own strong body.
While instinctively I would have chosen to wear the team leggings or a
long-sleeved jacket, I was instead photographed wearing the team bathing
suit. This may not sound particularly challenging or limit pushing for
the average athlete, but to me it was a meaningful victory. It terrified
me that people would see my body and judge it negatively. But standing
there in front of the camera wearing only a swimsuit proved to me and to
the world that this time I had won - not my eating disorder.
It’s never too late to sign up for the One and Only!
I remember all too well the first time I signed up for Wildflower. I
was living in Spokane, WA at the time, finishing up college and trying
to figure out what I was going to do with my life. Wanting to pursue
triathlon more seriously, I heard about a race in southern California
that gave a lot of people their “start,” so to speak. Criteria for
earning your pro card back then were somewhat convoluted: finish top-3
amateur at certain races, or within a certain percentage of the winning
pro’s time, stuff like that. I can’t recall exactly, but Wildflower was
a “special pro qualification event,” so I decided to make the long road
trip. I rolled into the campground sometime Saturday – wholly
unprepared for all that is Wildflower – and got ready for the
Olympic-distance race the following morning. Which among many things
meant trying to shave my legs for the first time out of a pan of water
In 2010 I asked my mom to come watch me race Boise 70.3. It was the
second half-Ironman I’d ever done and I’d had big, starry-eyed goals for
the race. Being the supportive, doting mother that she is she obliged
and spent the day following me around Idaho’s capital city. Once I saw
her at the finish, she was abuzz with energy and wanted to tell me all
about her day! “This is like a family!” she said. I couldn’t stop
smiling as she recounted all of the people she’d met, stories she’d
heard, and athletes she’d cheered on. “Now she gets it,” I remember
Before completing my first Ironman in 2009 I had completed six 50 mile
trail races, one 100 mile race, and a handful of other 50ks:
Ultrarunning was my passion. In college trail running found me and was
my world for the last 2 years of school. After graduation, it stayed
with me as I transitioned into the “real” world. Trails provided me
exercise, laughter, fun, friends, tears, and quite literally, all the
ups and downs I ever needed as a twenty-something. I loved being
outside, on dirt, with nothing to do but run.
Eventually though, social inclinations took over and I transitioned to
the more sociable sport of triathlon. Triathlon allowed me to train
easier with groups. It found me training partners my age (most of my
trail running friends were decades older!). And, it helped me find speed
– something I hadn’t yet found while running endless miles through the