Sunny Lawrence: The Woman behind the Iron Cowboy

Recently, Young Living’s brand ambassador James Lawrence took on the unheard of challenge to complete 50 Ironman triathlons, in 50 states, in 50 days. His entire family, including wife, Sunny, and five children, accompanied him on his cross-country journey. The news media covered the story mostly from James’ perspective, so we wanted to know what the experience was like for his wife, Sunny. She is the person who inspired James to run his first race, and he credits her as his biggest supporter and partner in their journey.

How did the idea for the 50.50.50 come about, and was it a family decision?

In 2012 James was gone for five weeks competing. By the time he returned, I thought he would be ready to relax and take a break for a while. Almost immediately, he shared his idea with me to do 50 triathlons in all 50 states, in 50 days. James is a dreamer, always looking for the next adventure. It took me some time, but I realized how important it was to James and how much impact it could have on others. So, we began planning. We put up a map in the front room and it became a family plan. Once the plan was in place, James began training and we went about normal life.


How did you help James train for the 50.50.50?

During the last few months of training, James had moments of discouragement and frustration, so I enlisted friends to train with him. I could make sure he had companionship and encouragement as he faced the long, grueling days. May was unseasonably cold and wet, so he spent most days training inside, which made it even more important for him to have someone training alongside him. I was just finishing up my degree in psychology at the same time, so it gave me comfort to know he had an entire support system to rely on while I simultaneously pursued my own goal.


How do you plan for a family to be away from home for nearly two months?

About a month before embarking on the 50.50.50, we moved out of our home, put all of our belongings in storage, and stayed with friends. James was training harder than ever and was anxious to get on the road and get started. I spent my days doing planning, planning, and more planning. I did my best to keep things practical and only packed necessities.


What role did Young Living play in the journey?

People have asked me how it is possible to take on an endeavor of this magnitude. We relied on sponsors to ensure that James had everything he needed, as well as provide for our family. We sought sponsorships from companies that provided products we already loved. Young Living is one of our major sponsors, and I cannot imagine our lives without them. I have an emotional attachment to the products and use them every day for everyone in our family. James’ mom introduced us to the products years ago, and when it came time to do this journey, it seemed natural to include them.Sunny Lawrence - the Woman Behind the Iron Cowboy

How did you and the kids spend your days?

Once we got on the road, I depended on the crew to take care of James so I could look after the kids. The two older girls participated in the events—selling T-shirts, running with James, and interacting with new people we met along the way. I made sure the kids got to see things in each state so they experienced a little culture during our journey. There was always something new to experience every day. They got to meet different people everywhere we went and loved it. They would sleep during the long drives, waking up asking me, “What state are we in?”


What was the driving force for James to accomplish this goal?

Throughout the journey, we kept our focus on the goal to raise money for the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation and to create awareness for childhood obesity. To date we have raised nearly $80,000 for the foundation. The generosity and support from people in every state astounded us. We are most proud of the fact that our children were part of that—they knew what we were doing and why. It was important to us that they felt involved and understood why we were doing it.


How did you help James get through the tough times?

There were some frustrating moments along the way, and sometimes I felt like the bad guy. James would be exhausted, almost delirious, and in pain. People around him were telling him he should rest. I kept him focused on his long-term goal. I would tell him, “Today is just a day; we have to keep on going.” I knew my role was to keep him focused on the end goal. He trusted me and knew I had his best interests at heart.


What was life like after the challenge was over and you returned to Utah?

Coming home was surreal. There was media everywhere for days. Cleaning out the RV was like moving out of a home. Shortly after returning, James left to Texas to speak at Young Living’s annual convention. While he was gone, I found a home and got us moved in. I knew it was something I could do for our family and to give him a place to call home when he returned.


What does the future hold for the Lawrence family?

More than a month after returning, life is just now starting to feel normal again. It is different, but normal. The kids started school. I begin an internship in the fall, then off to grad school. I’m not sure what I will do with my degree yet, but it was important to me to achieve this goal for myself. James is able to be home with the family more than most husbands, which allows us to both pursue our goals and dreams.

I have no idea what the future holds for our family, but I am okay with that. I embrace my husband’s adventurous nature and trust that he will do things that make sense for our family. He pulls me out of my comfort zone but still supports my dreams and goals along the way. Today we are settling into “normal” life in our new home. Tomorrow we could be back on the road again. We will continue to make mutual sacrifices and support one another. Everything in our home is and will always be about working together as a team.


Feeling inspired by the journey of the Iron Cowboy and his family? Share your thoughts in the comments!