This month's Athlete Spotlight features Paula Sawyer, one of our fellow teammates and the second woman to finish Across Florida 200. Paula celebrates her tenth year of doing endurance sports this year, and while she's currently focusing on ultra running, she's known to still swim and bike here and there. Read on and get to know this incredible woman!
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How long have you been swimming, cycling, running, and/or doing triathlons?
This year marks the 10th anniversary of my decision to become an athlete. It all started at a family barbecue in Brackenridge Park, where I was munching on a delicious burger when suddenly, this group of runners zoomed by. I was amazed by the diversity of the runners - different ages, shapes, and skill levels. Growing up, I was not into sports at all! But I love challenges! So, I thought to myself, "If they can do it, why can't I?" One week later, I ran (more like crawled), my first organized run ever. That's when I fell in love with running. Then, about five years ago, I got into cycling and swimming to see what the multisport world was like. Now I focus primarily on ultra marathons. What a journey it has been!
What aspects of triathlon do you enjoy most?
The multiple discipline aspect of triathlon is very appealing to me. It feels like playing different sports all at once, which makes it a fun and challenging experience at the same time. Even though I'm currently focused on ultra-running, I still enjoy throwing some biking and swimming into my routine. Another aspect I love about triathlon is the community. I have met so many wonderful people through the sport, including my better half!
What has been your favorite training or racing event, and why?
This is a tough question! In the triathlon world, I have really enjoyed racing CapTex with our team. And now that I'm focusing on ultra running, I have had memorable experiences training and racing on the trails. My favorite events - so far - have been Hennepin 100 and Across Florida 200. I like that they were point-to-point races! Also, one thing I enjoy about ultra-running is that it is a team effort - and having Tom by my side during these races meant the world to me! I'm also a huge fan of road trips and exploring new outdoor destinations, and getting to do these things with Tom during these two races was the icing on the cake!
What is your favorite post-workout or race meal?
Cold chocolate milk.
What is one recent accomplishment you are proud of?
Being only the second woman to ever run Across Florida 200. I like events that test my limits. Long races like ACFL 200 involve a lot of problem-solving. You have to figure out how to overcome challenges - discomfort, sleep deprivation, navigation, nutrition - so you can push beyond your limits. About 80 miles into the race, I was feeling physically and mentally exhausted. I was on the verge of giving up. How in the world was I going to run 120 more miles? My mind wanted to quit, to end the suffering so badly! Once I made peace with the pain and the fatigue, and was comfortable with being uncomfortable, I was able to continue moving forward for a long time. It was a moment of great triumph for me, and I don't think I've ever felt so proud of myself!
Why do you race/train?
Training and racing allows me to spend time in my happy place - nature. I like focusing on my physical health and connecting with cool people who enjoy the same things I do. Most importantly, it helps me to feel empowered and resilient. And it's wicked fun!
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Continuing to thrive with good health and energy--retired would be pretty cool, too! I just wanna have all the time and energy to embark on thrilling sports adventures with Tom - my better half! Or maybe a superhero!
What is something no one knows about you?
I love music. I like to sing, and I can play a little bit of guitar and piano. Karaoke is one of our favorite things to do as a family. And, as Tom might point out, I don't know how to cook.