Pursue What Matters
Episode 96: Loving and Living Big with Sunny Lawrence
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
You’ve got big goals, how hard can they be? Set your goal? Set your plan and get after it. But then there’s life and family and marriage. So how do you reach your big goals while supporting your family? I’ve got a great interview today, you cannot miss this one.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:39
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Welcome to the pursue what matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work? Well, I am so excited to share this interview with you today. So I had the chance to sit down with a good friend of mine, Sunny Lawrence. I’ve known her forever. We used to race endurance together. And she is remarkable. And she really is just like her name. She is Sunny, and she brings sunshine every where she goes. And so before I introduce her, I do want to talk a little bit about why I am interviewing her.
Dr. Melissa Smith 1:15
So of course with the podcast, I’m focused on helping you pursue what matters. And when we think about what matters, right, we think about our big dreams and our big, big goals. But we also think about our most important relationships. And Sunny and her family are a great example of how you make this work in real life. We all have the ideal. But right none of us, none of us live in that world. We we’ve got to make tough decisions at times. And you know, when we think about a partnership, relationship, a partnership marriage, it’s a lot of give and take. And that was one of the reasons I wanted to sit down with sonny. She is a remarkable woman. And she has provided remarkable support to her husband, James Lawrence, who you may know him better as the Iron Cowboy. And this man has big dreams. And not only big dreams, big, big goals, and he has accomplished them. He’s done the 50 50 50 which is 50 Iron Man’s in 50 states on 50 consecutive days. Think about that. Think about that for just a minute. Most recently, he participated in the Eco challenge, the world’s toughest race down in Fiji and he and his team did remarkably well. And James is awesome. And He’s incredible to talk to and to learn from. But I really wanted to talk to Sunny, because you know, how do you how do you make it work in real life. This is a mother of five. And there’s been a lot of a lot of balancing and a lot of sacrificing that that goes into any any sort of big accomplishment. And I think you’ll have so much to learn from this interview. I know I learned a lot and like I said she’s just a pleasure. She brings sunshine wherever she goes.
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:12
So let me do a little bit more of an introduction of sunny before we jump into the interview. So she is a Utah native and has a college degree from Utah Valley University in psychology. Yay, psychology. She married James Lawrence in December 2000 and says that they are loving life together. They’re certainly living big living big and loving big. And they have five children, four daughters and one son as the caboose she says she’s always loved being a mom, as well as James’s number one supporter through all of his accomplishments, we balance each other out and make a great team. And that’s one of the things I love that she speaks to is how we can balance one another out and make a full, a full partnership and a great team and certainly Sunny and James have done that. So she also says she’s excited about starting her own career and heading into the second half of her life. She is a young woman. I am passionate about people and love getting to know anyone with whom I cross paths. So Sunny is often told that she’s a ray of sunshine and that her personality fits her name, which is the truth. She’s just a ball to be around. Sunny is also an athlete, she’s been an athlete for all of her life and has enjoyed a calmed down version. Now that she’s entering the next chapter of her life. So she does a lot of training with James so I’d like to see what her calm down version looks like because she’s very active. She says that golf has waited many years and is now something that she loves to do especially in her hot pink golf shoes. And that pretty much tells us everything about sunny. She’s just if you see her on the golf course you’ll know who she is. So that’s a little bit about sunny. And now let’s, let’s start the interview.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:12
Alright, Sunny. Well, I’m so happy to have you here. So why don’t you just start by just introducing yourself and telling us a little bit about you and your family? just kind of give us give us the goods on your family a little bit.
Sunny Lawrence 5:24
Okay, my name is Sunny Lawrence. And I was born and raised here in Utah. And I married James Lawrence, and he is known as the iron cowboy. So no one’s ever heard of him. No one’s heard of that, especially around here. So he holds multiple world records for triathlon. And he continues to set them. So we have five kids together, and we’ve been married for 20 years. 20 years. Yeah, five kids.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:47
What are your ages of your kiddos?
Sunny Lawrence 5:49
I had five kids in six years, so I had them all really close. Yeah. So you’re into world record? Yeah, I made a world record. I want to be there. By the time I was 30. I had my last one at 28. So that didn’t work out for everybody, but worked out for us because I wanted to be young mom and grandma. So our oldest Lucy is 18. And she’s a senior and our youngest Quinn is 11. And he is in fifth grade.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:10
Wow. So you’re in the thick of it.
Sunny Lawrence 6:12
Yeah. And in the fun stuff. It’s fun. Now, everybody’s independent, but still fun. Yes. Yeah. Yeah.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:17
That’s what I’ve discovered. Like I’m a better mom to older kids. It’s so like, they get funny. And you can you can interact with them on and there’s so many of them and all their friends and it’s always party. Yeah, I bet your houses party. It’s fun. Yeah. So Sunny and I met years ago, doing triathlon. And it was always a party when Sunny was around. She is she’s a joy. And she’s just so much fun. And I think your name is totally appropriate, because you are sunny. Your name fits you perfectly.
Sunny Lawrence 6:50
Yeah, the story was when I was born, my mom swears I was smiling.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:53
So yeah, there you go. There you go. Okay, so tell us, tell us a little bit about everything that you and James have been doing. Because you’re, you know, your marriage. And all of these adventures have been, you know, quite an adventure. And so, you know, help help everyone understand a little bit about the adventures. And so maybe starting with, you know, the first adventure that you would say like, Okay, this is not going to be a typical marriage, this is not going to be a typical path. And then we can kind of get into the details of some of the most recent adventures
Sunny Lawrence 7:32
Well James came from Canada. And he came to visit a friend and then was like, This place is awesome, I’m never leaving. So to give you an idea of his sense of adventure, it started with moving to a different country, with no prospects or anything and just being like, I don’t care, I’m doing it. And you might think that, oh, it’s just Canada to the US. But it’s actually quite different than cultures are very different. And I’m, you still need to have a green card, you still have to do your immigration, but he lived here illegally, and just didn’t care and kept working until we had a couple kids. And then he finally, I after 9/11 I was like, you’re gonna get deported, and I’m gonna have two babies. So he got it. Yeah, like, how can this not be a priority? That was the beginning of me realizing how different our personalities were his was like, I’ll do it. I’ll do it. I’ll do I’ll do it. Like, five years later, I was like, you know, I feel like this is something that’s kind of important, I would have done it. I got all the paperwork when we’re engaged, and he just never did it. So we, we worked really hard and save lots of money. We’ve always been really conservative. And then he was a mortgage broker, and he lost it. We lost everything in the recession. Wow. And so the way I like to say it is, you know, 2008, you have $80,000 in your, your checking account, you know, I was like 28 years old, and we had a rental home and we we’ve owned multiple homes, to losing everything. Like that’s the definition of 2008. Right? Yeah, five tiny kids like my son Quinn was born in 2009. So to give you an idea of where we’re at in that stage of life, and so he picked up grunt work. And then those companies went under and never paid him because he was just doing anything. How could to get by? Well, my dad was running a charity. My dad was a successful businessman. And he was like, why don’t you come to my charity to help me raise money. And so James was like, you know, I gotta think of a creative way to raise money. So he thought, you know, I’m going to look in to how I can mix triathlon into this because it’s something I enjoy. And inevitably, it led to him doing some world records and starting our life over. And you know, it was, it was a great time to take a risk because we lost everything. We had nothing to lose, so why not? Exactly. So we’re like, if this is the time to do it, let’s do it. And it was proved to us that living a safe conventional life wasn’t really safe.
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:53
Absolutely, that that’s such an important lesson, right? Because people say if I just if I if I do what I’m told if I play this, if I play it safe, I’ll be okay.
Sunny Lawrence 10:04
It’s like just make money and you’ll be okay. And it’s like, that is not very true. So it led us to a world record for the most Half Ironmans, he did 30 Ironman, or 22 Ironman Half Ironman in 30 weeks. So it was a really short, you know, the records over a year, but it was only over, you know, 30 weeks, so 20 ironman’s and 30 weeks and then half ironmans. And then the full Iron Man’s came in 2012. And he did 30 in a year, the record was 20. But he’s like, I want to smash it. I don’t want to just beat it. another look into James’s mentality. Exactly. He’s like, I don’t want to do just enough. I want to blow this thing out of the water. So if somebody else comes along, it’s hard for them to beat it. Because at that time, there weren’t that many races. Yeah, you know, there’s a lot more now. But back in 2012, we he were essentially doing every single race he could do. So that was 30 races in a year that took him through 11 countries. Wow. And then towards the end of that he’s like, you know, I don’t think I met my potential like, this should have been a lot harder than it was than it was 30 Iron Man’s in a year in a year. Yep. So I was like, Oh, my gosh, that was the hardest year of my life, literally. And I was like, What did you say? So he had this grand idea. And this was on his way to the 29th race. And I said, you can’t talk to me about this till February. It was the end of November. And so he kept trying to talk to me, I was like, You can’t talk to me if it were a boundary. But yeah, I was like, I have to process the year. Like, we need to finish this first before we’re jumping on to the next thing. And so February 1, he came in with bright eyes. It was like, let’s talk about this 50 50 50. And he wanted to initially do it in 2014. And I said, it’s not enough time. So I said, if we’re going to do this, it’s got to be 2015. We have to give ourselves two full years to prepare for this.
Dr. Melissa Smith 11:49
Tell me what you knew about that. Tell me about what what you understood that maybe maybe he didn’t in in his excitement?
Sunny Lawrence 11:59
Well, I like to tell people that James is holding a handful of helium balloons, and he’s head up to space and I’m holding on to his feet saying, hey, come back down. Remember reality. And I don’t mean that in a rude or condescending way. I mean it in a way that we make a really great team. I was gonna say that’s probably that’s probably a large part of why you two are so successful. Together. Definitely. Why? Yeah, polar opposites. I’m the one that’s like, okay, James, you do have to consider the conventional things. Because because they they are this reason are here. Yes, they are here. They exist for a reason, unlike the laws of gravity exists for a reason, right?
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:39
The whole Green Card thing?
Sunny Lawrence 12:40
Yes. Yes, exactly. I mean, that’s a whole other story. It’s so funny. He finally ended up getting his green card. We had two kids then later got US citizenship when he realized he was never leaving. But he was like, Okay, well, I don’t know why, and then ended up being complex preparing for this. Yeah. 50 Iron Man’s through 50 states in 50 days. And we packed up the whole family. And we put all our stuff in storage. And we spent 60 days on the road, because we spent 10 days in Hawaii first. And then we went Hawaii, Alaska, and then back to the mainland to Washington for you know, and that’s like an unwritten world record, because Guinness is just a brand, right? So it is a world record in that no one’s ever done that many in a row. But that one could not be registered with Guinness, because they were not official events, because you can’t have an official event every day of the week. Right. So with this new project he has coming up. We’re making it an official event every day in order to qualify for Guinness World Records. Wow. And that will be 100 Iron Man’s in 100 days.
Dr. Melissa Smith 13:46
I’m just tired listening to it all.
Sunny Lawrence 13:49
Dr. Melissa Smith 13:52
So okay, so you you understood that this was going to require a lot more planning and preparation. And he’s he’s just got the glitter in his eyes?
Sunny Lawrence 14:04
Because to him, it’s about mindset. So people say, and I don’t mean that to be cliche. I mean that to be very literal. Yeah. to him. It’s not about training and preparing the body. It’s about turning it on. Yeah. So people say, Oh, he must be so disciplined and so diligent, and he’s not. He has a yellow personality, and he is all about fun, and happiness and joy, and, you know, just having fun in life. And so he doesn’t need the discipline, because when it’s time to turn it on, he turns it on. And that is a force to be reckoned with. And I have to say, but remember, you still need to train and he’s like, oh, oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, that too, tells that too. Right. So that’s where our partnership comes in together. Yeah.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:51
How has that partnership worked over the years, right. So when he’s trying to lift off and you’re saying, Oh, yeah, remember this I mean, I, I would imagine, there, there probably plenty is a little bit of tension around that. Tell me how you navigated that.
Sunny Lawrence 15:08
So I spent my whole life Well, I guess not my whole life when I was in my early 20s, I learned how to deal with my emotions. And so whenever James triggered me, I knew the trigger was mine. It was never him.
Dr. Melissa Smith 15:26
That’s very mature. Right? That I mean, there are a lot of people never figure that out.
Sunny Lawrence 15:30
Yeah. And so when people, you know, not everybody can be married to a person. I don’t I don’t think there’s any other woman in this world for James that I know. And that I know, he knows. Right. That’s, that’s the important part. Yeah, as long as he knows, he knows. So it’s not like he could have just married anyone. That’s a lot of us could marry anyone and be happy. But in his case, I really feel like we were supposed to be together. So whenever there was it’s not even conflict, cuz we never really, we’ve never really fought. It’s not our personalities. Yeah. But whenever I, I’ll speak for myself and not for him. Whenever I had dissonance about a decision. I knew I needed to look inside myself and figure out for myself. Yeah. And so when he had these ideas, I knew one I chose to be a mother. I chose to be a young mother and I chose to have five kids. Yeah. And I wanted to have them close together. And so I was doing what I wanted. Yeah. So who was I to prevent him from doing what he wanted. And we work together to make that work. We lived way below poverty line so that I could stay at home. Yeah. And we had all five kids in one bedroom, so that I could stay at home. And so people would see our lifestyle and say, you know, it’s really unfair that James is doing all these fun things, and you’re stuck at home being responsible. What they don’t understand is I did not want to be doing what James was doing, I love being responsible. And I love cleaning and organizing. And, you know, like, that’s my niche. Yeah. So there was a lot of misinterpretation early in our marriage, about our relationship, because people were assuming I wished I could be doing what he was doing. That He’s here. He’s here he is in the limelight. Yes. And you’re at home scrubbing toilets, sending all the kids diapers.
Dr. Melissa Smith 17:19
Yeah, yeah. And, and, and part of what I hear you saying is, you have a very clear partnership of and very clear choices and expectations and expectations, very clear expectations.
Sunny Lawrence 17:31
And as time progressed, you know, I remember praying one day I had this long run, I had run 20 miles, and I had said, my prayers that morning, and we were praying like, this was 10 years of marriage, and I was like, you know, Please, God bring us closer together. And the heavens opened. And God spoke to me and said, You’ve been praying for this for 10 years, I’ve answered your prayer. And this was that hardship we had to go through, we lost everything. And we really had to pull together. And you know, it’s been 20 years now. And he is not the same person. I am not the same person. And our lives have completely changed. Becoming a couple and even just now. I mean, in October, I said to him, you know, it’s been 20 years, because our anniversary was in December. So I said for the next couple of months, I want you to think about what you didn’t have in our relationship that you needed, the first 20 that you would like the next 20.
Dr. Melissa Smith 18:20
Oh, what a great question.
Sunny Lawrence 18:21
And he was like, he kind of looked at me surprised. I was like, not now. I want you to think about it. Take some time. I’ll tell you what, we had some hard conversations. October, November and December, even leading into Christmas. I mean, there were some hard conversations, but both of us were committed to this relationship. And I was like, why would we keep doing what’s not working? Instead of saying, This is what I need to be fulfilled. No, blaming. No, you do this, but it’s like, let’s figure this out. And here it is. We’re at the end of January. And all that stuff’s been resolved. So we just have this synergy of, you know, looking inside of ourselves looking after each other, but being independent as our lives are still intertwining.
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:03
Yeah. Not parallel. Yeah. I love it. Yeah. And taking that personal responsibility for Okay, what’s my part? Well, and it’s so it’s so easy to, to project it on the other. Right, that’s the easiest and cheapest thing to do. Okay. So, so let’s start with the thing that I’m, I’m interested in. Looking at first is we think about the 50 challenge, right? So the 50. The 50 Iron Man distance races in 50 days in 50. States.
Sunny Lawrence 19:47
Yeah, consecutive days. One every day
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:50
Yeah, people Do you hear that?
Sunny Lawrence 19:52
People are saying how many days and I’m like, well, that’s what the other 50 is. That’s there’s 3 50s Yeah. 50 50 50
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:59
Yeah, and I mean, I was, you know, we were friends at that time, and I followed you. And I mean, tons of people following that. And I just, it’s remarkable. I mean, tell me a little just just give give us a little bit of a flavor of what that was like, for for you what that was like for your family, because your whole family went on that road show. Yeah. So give us a few highlights, maybe low lights or and and then like, what were the lessons from that, as you prepare for this conquer 100? And then we’ll talk a little bit more about that.
Sunny Lawrence 20:37
So in preparation for that, we moved in with an old lady who had Alzheimer’s, and we treated her rent, and utilities for me to care for her. Oh, wow. And she was like, relatively independent, but it still she was great. Her family was a nightmare. But that was very difficult. And I remember again, praying and saying, Thank you, God for this opportunity, because I know it’s an opportunity. But please help me make it through. And at the same time, I’d gone back to school because I said to James, oh, yeah, by the way, yeah. And I tell James, I just got everything aligned. And I said, by the way, I’m starting school Monday. And he’s like, what? And I’m like, Don’t worry, he’s like, what about this, and like, rd ratio already arranged, already arranged it, because I knew was the right thing to do. And I, so I just jumped right on it. And he, it wasn’t gonna change anything for him. So I went back to school, and I graduated 10 days before we left for the 50. So I told James, I can’t help you prepare for this, you got to do your thing. I got to do my thing. And we got to hold hands as we pursue these paths. You know, our kids were so young, I used to take my son to classes with me, because there was days I couldn’t get a sitter. Yeah, he just came right along with me.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:49
Do what you got to do!
Sunny Lawrence 21:49
And I, you know, I wanted to make sure I graduated in case things didn’t work out, for one reason or another, I could go get a full time job. And you know, we could figure these things out. So we got to Hawaii, and we spent 10 days there. And in order for him to make flights and such, we had to start at midnight, his time change, etc. So he starts at midnight, I was promised that I wouldn’t have to do anything, I was just going to go on vacation. And I was like,
Dr. Melissa Smith 22:19
Famous last words
Sunny Lawrence 22:21
Right? So you laugh, because we know because we’re wiser and older now. But as that younger girl, I thought that could be true.
Dr. Melissa Smith 22:29
I’m going to Hawaii!
Sunny Lawrence 22:31
This is gonna be a, this is gonna be a great summer. That’s what I thought and the kids, it was like, the kids are gonna run around and have a blast. And it’s just gonna be amazing. And you know, they definitely had that experience. But it came to a choice for me when things were not going according to plan. And people were not doing things they had committed to do that I literally had a choice, I had a choice to either step in and make it work and do all the things I was promised I wouldn’t have to do. Or I could sit and in addition to feel sorry for myself or not feel sorry for myself, or let the whole thing fall. And there’s nothing James could do. He’s doing the Iron Man. Right, everything that’s happening behind the scenes, he can’t do he can’t drive the RV through the night. Yeah, he can’t, you know, get the food for and do the laundry and clean the RV. And you know, when you drive an RV, everything falls off the counters. Like it took two hours every night to prep the RV just to leave. Wow. So things that you you don’t know, tell your tell you’re in route. And the fridge never worked the shower, we could I mean, this thing was useless to us, we should have just packed in a van and driven. So there were so many complexities that it wasn’t necessarily that we had thought of. We were understaffed, but then even people weren’t doing what they had committed to do. So it became very complex, very fast. And we’re talking, you know, two hours of sleep a night. So for me, my focus was like, I don’t really know what I’m supposed to be doing here. Because I didn’t help plan anything. I didn’t know what the expectations were, I didn’t know what promises or commitments have been made inside of the crew. But I needed to make sure my kids had the best time of their lives. So they didn’t resent this project. So I’m being pulled in 17 different ways. And I was just literally holding on for dear life. Wow. That was That sounds overwhelming, all being proactive, right? I couldn’t just hold on for dear life and just wait. It was like work every second of every day of every moment. Yeah, that there’s such an important lesson there. Right, that I think applies in so many facets of life, that, you know, you’re overwhelmed. There’s so many uncertainty, so many complexities, but you have to act, you have to take action doesn’t go away. If you close your eyes does not go away and it will it won’t get easier. You have to send that and that’s not to say it’s fair or that your job or your responsibility or your fault. Yeah, it’s like we live in a world of consequences for other people’s actions. Like, that’s the world we live in. Yeah. And what and what choice Are you going to make? Are you going to take action? Exactly? Are you gonna? Are you gonna let it pile on? And that’s the other part. That’s interesting. It depends. Because if I resent James and I want to teach him a lesson, I say, let the ball drop. You fail. You suck. I told you that we shouldn’t have done this. Yeah. But in that moment, it couldn’t be about me. Yeah. It had to be about our family. Yeah, my husband who I committed to give my life to when we got married. Yeah. And so I said, and you know, no problem solver by nature. I said, Well, whatever it is, let’s do this thing. Yeah, we’re in it together. We’re in it together. And you know, neither of us really knew we didn’t see each other, the whole 50. Neither of us really knew the battles that each of us was facing. But again, like the preparation, we were doing our own thing, but holding hands and just praying with our whole heart and soul. Yeah. And you trust that you, you trust that you have one another spot? Exactly right. Exactly. I never had to worry that James wouldn’t do his job. And he never had to worry that I wouldn’t handle whatever was being smeared in this goulash of mess over here. Yeah. So it was like, step up, or the whole project false and what what kind of wife would I be if I allowed James to fail? Like, no way? Yeah, no way. I want to live with this man for the rest of his life, in his own dismay, about failure. Like, no way I am his number one, his advocate I am the person is going to call him on his crap faster than anybody else. But I believe you. I’m going to be the person that no matter what he does, I will never stop loving him. And if you don’t have that attitude about your relationship, what kind of life are you offering each other? Yeah, it’s pretty miserable. Yeah. So it was like I would drive the RV through the night and then step all day and entertain the kids. And I mean, anything and everything you could possibly imagine from trying to feed the crew to try to find a place to do laundry to, you know, I mean, things you don’t think of getting the oil changed in the RV. Yeah, we were turned into a giant mess in West Virginia. And, you know, we had personnel crew kept taking the van. And so I never had a car that fit my family. You know, we’re squeezing seven people, because if we had company with us, and for sure, six in a little compact car, a little Mazda three you know, just the complexities are all but for me, I was like, just trust every day, you’ll know what to do. And then make sure these kids are having a blast. And they kids had a blast. There was no time no concept of time. It was they’d wake up and say what state are we in? no concept of time. And the older girls, they did the five K and hung out with James and, you know, in the evenings, and they were helpful to me during the day, but they were just totally present yet fully present. That’s exactly the word that came to mind. So it was quite the adventure. And it took me a couple years to get over the trauma and emotion. Yeah, issues with that, like the I mean, I had social anxiety for a long time, because you have to be on to talk to somebody all the time. And I was just like, I don’t want to see anybody. I don’t want to you know, yeah.
Dr. Melissa Smith 28:13
Okay, so So yeah, that brings up a question for me. So right, like, you, you talked about, right, James is doing his thing, right? Like he has got to have total focus.
Sunny Lawrence 28:25
Yeah! One job get that Iron Man done.
Dr. Melissa Smith 28:28
He’s got one job every day for 50 days. And he has that trust in you that you’re going to take care of everything else. And it really sounds like you had a lot to take care of. So then you get to the end of that. Right? And he has a he has this great victory it and it’s a victory for you as well. And I was there I remember it was so awesome. I was so thrilled for all of you. But tell me about tell me about after.
Sunny Lawrence 29:01
The worst six months of my life
Dr. Melissa Smith 29:04
Right, because here’s the thing, right like afterwards. Like, you know, he did his job. The whole world knows he did his job. We got a documentary. We’ve got a book we’ve got speaking engagements. He’s speaking to the whole world. But it would be very easy for him to not have a freaking clue what you were doing every single day. Right? Because, I mean, he would have no idea he would have absolutely no clue.
Sunny Lawrence 29:33
Wenever saw each other. I did not see him the first eight days at all. And I have spectators saying, Hey, get out of the way. You’re in his way. We’re trying to do this thing and I was like, say what?
Dr. Melissa Smith 29:43
Sunny Lawrence 29:44
I will hit you so hard. You will come up with no teeth.That happened during 2012 and it kind of got inside me and that I felt like it was in the way so this time around. I was like no no, no. Are you in that? So it was crazy because the night of the finish the day, of the 50 was the worst day. For me, the worst day, I had a friend that left me stranded because her boyfriend was mad at Thanksgiving point. I had no way of getting anywhere. And I mean, everybody left the water with this big breakfast spread, and no one stayed to clean it up. So I miss James’s transition to the bike. I missed the big group of bikes that went with him, I got there and I was just doing everything I could to not hold back tears. I was just like, I can’t even because I didn’t get I didn’t get anything. I hauled my bike around 50 states and never once rode it. So you know, initially I was thinking I was going to be able to do all these fun things. And I was doing LOTOJA right after, this 200 mile bike race, and I didn’t ride my bike all summer. So I get left at Deer Creek with this big mess to clean up. And I’m like, and the cars are gone. And I’m like, what’s happening? Like, in my mind, I thought that people at some point was starting to look out for me.
Dr. Melissa Smith 30:58
Yeah. I mean, isn’t that symbolic?
Sunny Lawrence 31:03
Absolutely. And it’s not. It’s not a victim role. It was sheer confusion. I was like, well, who planned this breakfast and then left it for me to clean up? Yeah. And it’s not intentional, either. I don’t, it’s just the hype and excitement. So that I missed the transition. Now the river woods for the bike ride.
Dr. Melissa Smith 31:19
Sunny Lawrence 31:19
I have to make this exchange my friend Carly lived in Orem, I dropped kids off there and had to go make some exchange, the kids got showered. And then my friend leaves me at Thanksgiving point stranded. And I’m like, I don’t have a person in this world to call because Carly had all of her kids. She had all my kids. My mom was with Carly at her house. I don’t really have a relationship with people in my family. I’m like, What am I going to do? And out of the grace of God, one of the people from our sponsors shows up with a car. And I get a ride back. Come back, I’m inundated with people strangers are in and out of the RV. And I was just like, Whoa, I missed James’s finish. Oh, because everybody was stopping me and talking to me. And there are people saying you gotta go, you gotta go. You gotta get to finish. I missed the finish. I did not see him cross the finish line.
Dr. Melissa Smith 32:10
Doesn’t that say everything?
Sunny Lawrence 32:11
Yeah. You know, and two nights before everybody was in the Wyoming and they were celebrating outside. And this is on the documentary, every cheering they’re like two more, two more on tree. And I am in the RV, prepping this RV in tears. because something’s happening with kids with Barbies or something. And everybody’s out celebrating and doing the fun stuff. Yeah, and I’m stuck with the work every week. And then I had to drive. One of our crew guys took off and went home the last night and I had to help drive the last night to get to Utah. And it’s just like, how, how does everything I need get over looked? So I get to the finish. And James has already come through and all these things are happening. And I’m nowhere to be seen at this finish line, right? They finally get me over there. And then this anti James guy pulls me aside, drove in from Colorado, turned out he had a drug problem and later contacted James and, you know, expressed that he was under the influence or whatever, when it came at me maybe. He just sat there and screamed at me. And I just sat there and calmed him down. And I was like, I’m just gonna sit here with this guy and pretend like nothing else in the world matters. I just talked this guy off the ledge and he was talking, whatever. So everybody leaves 12 o’clock at night. There’s stuff everywhere. Everybody just left. James had to drive a van home. Because everybody just left. The next morning we wake up. They want to do pictures at eight o’clock in the morning. Like I’m not even showering. You want to have a picture at eight o’clock in the morning after this endeavor. You’re gonna get the crappiest looking family you’ve ever seen. Serves you right for being so demanding. Monday morning he takes off. He’s literally gone for six months pops in a day or two? I had to clean up the RV. I had to find a place to live. I had to move all of our stuff. I had to get the kids enrolled in school, like everything. And I was like I thought, I thought it was over.
Dr. Melissa Smith 34:15
Yeah, what happened?
Sunny Lawrence 34:16
You know, the wingman show up, And of course, Casey had left his family to be gone all summer. So they showed up and I’m like, okay, they’re here to help me clean up the RV. They got the stuff out of the RV and left, because their families needed them. They had been gone. And my friend Sherry came down from Idaho and I was like, Can you shoot down for something? And I was like, while you’re here. Can you please just help me start pulling stuff out this RV? And James says to me, Hey, you need to find a way to get that RV back to Indiana. And I said no, you need to find a way to get that back to Indiana. So that six months after the worst, yeah, absolute worst. So January comes and my friend made me promise that I wouldn’t do anything until January. She’s like, I know you’re a go getter. But you got to just lay low. January came and I was like I said, I’m going to be upset and emotionally traumatized to January then I’m going to figure it out. Give give yourself that time it took me two years, took me two years because the adrenal fatigue and the fight and flight all the time and the no sleep. And, you know, at the mercy of anybody that was out there, that was gonna bring us doughnuts. That’s what you eat. You know, it was nothing. I mean, that the charity was a nightmare to work with. And we were getting attacked because the charity didn’t have their crap together. It was just the worse. Oh, well, now six years removed. And we’re like, That was amazing. You know, the wisdom of age and time
Dr. Melissa Smith 35:45
and the loss of memory?
Sunny Lawrence 35:46
Yes. You look back on something like that. And you go, I cannot believe we pulled that off. Yeah, pretty incredible. The wingmen were all super close. And we look back all the time or like, we don’t even remember driving half those nights. We hit a deer, day seven. I had no headlight. I’m driving to Arkansas. And these rolling hills. Pitch Black pouring rain I cannot see a thing. Because you can’t see the road beneath you. Right. Yeah. Or the road ahead of you. Because there’s these dents.
Dr. Melissa Smith 36:15
He fell asleep on the bike…
Sunny Lawrence 36:19
So whatever he was battling, I was never going to tell him what I was battling. Yeah, he had his own demons. We just had to lock hands and trudge forward. Keep your focus. Yeah, keep your focus, but I knew it would be worth it. I knew it’s the right thing to do. I knew the worth it. I knew it was temporary. And I knew no matter what happened, I would never regret seeing that through. And I knew this was about James. It was not about me. It was about James so I had to stay focused on James The reason we were there. Instead of like boohoo Poor me. I’m so tired. I’m so this. I’m This is so hard. Like, no way. Now afterwards, that’s when I let that stuff hit.
Dr. Melissa Smith 37:00
Okay. Because because now it was now it was time.
Sunny Lawrence 37:04
Yes. Yeah. Wait for the appropriate time. out was time. And two years. It took me two years to recover from that. Yeah. Two years. Okay. A long time. And that’s with diligent work too,not just like, Oh, yeah, I’ve been thinking about it, but like, proactively addressing those concerns.
Dr. Melissa Smith 37:22
Okay. And now, the conquer 100?
Sunny Lawrence 37:25
Dr. Melissa Smith 37:26
So what, what on earth are you doing now?
Sunny Lawrence 37:30
So James says, you think of the chaos we experienced on the 50? What can you do if you’re with the chaos? And I was like, if we did what we did with all the chaos, it really does make you say, what could we do? Okay. So initially, he wanted to do it. He said, let’s do it all in Utah. Let’s remove the chaos. I’ll sleep in my own bed, I’ll do the same route every day, you know that the kids can still do their thing. And we don’t uproot our lives, which made the 50 easier, in a way because I had, I was totally present, nothing else mattered. Where this time around, I’m going to be living life as it is right? In addition to, so he was going to do it in, he said, I can’t stop thinking about it. I said, if you are thinking about it, it means it’s the right thing to do. So then he was going to start in June or something, he had to beat the winter. So he said he’s going to do the front or the back end, and I’m less likely to get bad weather on the back end of the summer. So July, August, September, October. And then he said, I just keep having a feeling I need to move it to march. And I was like, really? There’s no snow in March, April, right? Uh huh. And he’s like, I just can’t stop thinking about it. I think we need March. And I was like, Okay, and then I realized it ruined my life. My 40th birthday is in April, oh, I had a birthday trip plans with friends. I had a couples trip for us with my best friend that Daniel that I grew up with. I had all these plans. And I was like, you just ruined my life. And he was so hurt. He’s like, how can you not support this? Like, how can you, and I’m like do you realize the amount of things that this is going to change and impact? So in December, we our anniversary was December 9, and we went on a just a staycation because I was like I don’t even want to go anywhere like yeah, you know, 20th anniversary, who doesn’t want to do something? I was like, Okay, let’s just do a staycation. And we were in the middle of this relationship crisis where we were talking about the things that we want to jumble, right? So I said, we’re at dinner and he’s like, he was hurt. He was like, how can you not support me in this? But what I think he was really saying was like, you’ve always supported me. Why not now?
Dr. Melissa Smith 39:47
Yeah, like what’s different? Yes, yeah.
Sunny Lawrence 39:49
But he was like, Well, I don’t get it. This is supposed to be the easy one. And I said okay, right,
Dr. Melissa Smith 39:58
This is why most people are like, oh, can’t even like wrap their head around.
Sunny Lawrence 40:05
So I said, It’s not that I don’t support you, I need time to process that this is changing so many things about my tone my life, I had all these expectations and things planned and our relationship is that such that we have never really been able to plan ahead. Yeah, because James travels all over the world he’s been to 48 countries to speak. And so we can’t really plan ahead and I get mad at him sometimes for that. I’m like, it’s spring break, we should be able to plan something with the kids. We never had any money. And now we can afford to do something over spring break. And we never can because we can plan ahead, right?
Dr. Melissa Smith 40:36
Well, I think people can really relate to what you’re saying, especially coming off of this pandemic, right. Wanting to have some something to look forward to and to plan ahead.
Sunny Lawrence 40:52
And whoever says it’sbad to plan ahead? Isn’t that the right thing to do? Yeah, apply that. And I’m like, and you’re the realist? Yes. Thank you. That’s where that’s where we insert this, right. And the realist says, our kids have jobs now. They can’t just skip school and do whatever they want all the time anymore. So I said, James, I just need time to process this. It’s unfair for you to expect me to just be okay. In the moment.
Dr. Melissa Smith 41:20
Sunny Lawrence 41:22
Like I feel entitled to take the time to work through this. And again, me being upset is a trigger. That’s my issue. This isn’t about him. So I needed time to look inside myself and say, you know, what, am I really upset about? Where’s this trigger coming from? And then but managing those expectations right time? Because expectation is the only thing that creates disappointment.
Dr. Melissa Smith 41:44
Yeah. Because like, it’s very, it’s totally understandable that it’s gonna take you a minute.
Sunny Lawrence 41:50
Yeah, well in your mind, but the guy with the helium balloons is like, Hop on. It’s gonna be amazing. And I’m like, I gotta change the laundry before. And so he can, he can just pause that I mean, and that’s how we meet one another. And he’s like, if you don’t want me to do it, I’m not doing it. I’m canceling right now. Yeah, that all or nothing? Yeah. And I’m like, it’s not that I don’t want you to do it. It’s just like, pump the brakes. No, this is not me saying I want to get a divorce. I say I need 10 seconds to process all this now. So part of the reason why that dissonance came up was because my son is 11. My youngest, and I have a lot more time now. And I’m like, okay, I want to put some kindling on my own life.
Dr. Melissa Smith 42:37
I love Oh, I love that.
Sunny Lawrence 42:40
I’m not ready to start the fire on it. But I need to start putting some kindling on my own life and love it. And so I had like this this moment, and you know, of like, Okay, this is what I need to be doing. And then for him to present this to me says, You know, I confirmed with God, this was my path. And then you just put up a brick wall and said, I need you to forget about your life and think about my goals. And I’m like, Well, wait, wait, wait, I already did that. And I thought this was the direction I was supposed to be moving. So what I was really struggling with, once I took the time to go through my mind was that I was having conflict between what I thought was right for me, and what James was presenting for us as a couple. Yeah. And so I’m like, Well, I thought I was ready to start pursuing your career. But I can’t pursue a career. If I’m doing this. I have to wait. But I felt like I was supposed to start. Yeah. So it creates this confusion. Yeah. And so I was like, that’s where it was really at that it was less about cancelling my trips and plans. And yeah, that’s eye rolling then it was. So I did some soul searching. And it was like, No, this is because I was like, okay, am I supposed to put the brakes on that and just wait for a minute? Or am I supposed to, like, do this and this and he was like, No, you’re supposed to push the gas, this will launch you into your career. So then I said, Oh, okay, so now I’m feeling like it’s okay to pursue this path, because it does fit within what I want to do as an individual. Yeah. And now I’m okay with it. And as time has passed in the month of January, I feel so at peace about it.
Dr. Melissa Smith 44:16
You feel settled? Yeah, yeah. And I love that. I think it’s so incredible. Because I think often in those in those moments where we have that confusion, it’s like, wait, like, I don’t think we can do this and this. It’s, you know, I think part of what happens, at least for me, my experience has been is like, I just can’t see the full picture. Right? And I think that that’s where that trust in the relationship and like, Hey, we’re gonna, we’re gonna hold hands through this, and we’re gonna trust that there’s a way to navigate it can make all the difference. You know, so my husband and I, we’ve always navigated our schooling and career and there have been times where like, there’s no freaking way that this will work out. But it’s like, Okay, here we go, huh, here we go
Sunny Lawrence 45:05
Hold hands and buckle up
Dr. Melissa Smith 45:06
And you know what it’s always worked out. But I think part of what I’ve learned is, I don’t need to understand how it’s going to work out. But I can actually I can have that piece that like, okay, we’re in it together.
Sunny Lawrence 45:20
That’s exactly I don’t need to know how, but as long as you tell me that the next step is in this direction. I’m good.
Dr. Melissa Smith 45:27
Yeah, like I can have some peace. I can take the next step. All right, deep breath. Here we go. Yeah.
Sunny Lawrence 45:34
I don’t need to know the outcome. Yeah, I just needs to know this is the right direction. Yeah. And that’s I am so incredibly at peace with that. Oh, so now I’m like, I mean, even before and I was like, well, let’s get you up. But there’s this other voice in my head that keeps saying it’s going to be different this time. Yeah. And that is such a beautiful thing. When you have suffered so much to build a life, you know, to have hard, you’ve worked so hard to have a voice that says, you don’t have to lose everything again. You don’t have to stay up all night again. You don’t have to, you know, I mean, it was so crazy for so long. In fact, they pulled out one of my journals from 2012. And they’re intense. You know, like I, I was always honest, I’m not I’m not a fluff person. I’m not a sugar coater.
Dr. Melissa Smith 46:24
Yeah. I love that about you.
Sunny Lawrence 46:27
Yeah, I don’t know how
Dr. Melissa Smith 46:28
I know. Which, like, honestly, like, that is the best. That’s the that’s like such a high compliment about Yeah, I don’t know.
Sunny Lawrence 46:36
I don’t know how to, like eautiful try to make you feel good about what I’m saying. Because I’m just saying what’s coming from my heart. And I remembered some of that hardship through 2012. And I gasped, like, if that was my daughter, the amount of stress I felt, as her mother, you know, knowing how much pain and suffering we went through. But fortunately for us, it was never our marriage. Yeah. And that was solid marriage, our marriage and James had a friend that you lost everything. You’ve lost everything. He’s like, I’ve lost anything. The only thing that matters is coming with me. Our marriages, yes, our marriage never struggled. We never wanted to separate. We were never fighting, it was always collaborating. Yeah. And that is something you cannot put a price on. So knowing and James had said, You know, I worried this time around that the story won’t be interesting, unless there’s hardship, but he’s like, I don’t want there to be hardship. You he’s feeling the same thing in a different manner. And I said to him, there’s gonna be hardship. It can be your happy ending. Yeah, it could be finishing it off.
Dr. Melissa Smith 47:38
Yeah, you’re doing something incredible. And it’s the human spirit. And it’s this. It’s this determination. And I have to be, yeah, I mean,
Sunny Lawrence 47:47
the misery of 2015.
Dr. Melissa Smith 47:49
Yeah, I mean, I think there’s something that’s so incredible and so inspiring about that.
Sunny Lawrence 47:59
He’s like, I can’t stop thinking about what you said the other night. And I was like, when? he goes that it doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be ugly. Yeah, it can just be the ending of our story we’ve had all these years, and this can be the happy ending. He’s like, I can’t tell you how much peace of mind that brought me Yeah. And so I but with that feeling of it’s going to be different this time. You know, I’m like, I, I just feel so good about it. Now, Is it gonna be hard? Absolutely. Am I gonna lose my mind half the time? Probably. But that is beside the point. Nothing’s going to be like what we’ve already done.
Dr. Melissa Smith 48:33
Yeah, exactly. Nothing. Exactly.
Sunny Lawrence 48:36
So the kids are older now. And they’re, you know, they’ll be involved. Lucy works full time for James now. And she has all of his stuff. And she’s, of course, like, his number one fan always has been and did all the 5K’s with him in 2015. And wow. So it’s like, it’s just going to be different for so many reasons. And I don’t have any expectations, because James will say that’s probably good. Yeah. Because he’ll say things like, Oh, no, you’ll be able to do this, you’ll be able to do that. And I’m like, never heard these promises. 30 years, I know better. I just have no expectations, we will start going with the plan we have we will be ready to adapt. And we will just go with the flow. Yeah, things need to be changed. We change them. things need to be adjusted. We adjust them if you know if I have to figure out things in my personal life, and I can do that. Yeah, I can do that. He’s like, it’s only six months. And I’m like, you always say it’s only six months. You’ve always said it’s only six years. I know it’s like six months in dog years. But now I feel a peace about that. Now. I’m like, No, we got this and he moved it up for many reasons. One, he’s like q1 and q2 of the year, the world still shut down. He’s like, if I get this done halfway through the year for the quarter, three and four. I can be traveling and speaking.
Dr. Melissa Smith 49:51
I love it.
Sunny Lawrence 49:52
But it’s like also nobody’s doing anything. So they’re all gonna be excited to watch people need inspiration. He said coming off this 2020 year of feeling down depressed, too low. And he’s like, I want to give people something to follow to get them through this thing. And he’s dealing with OUR. And I told him two years ago, I was like, we have to develop a relationship with OUR, we need to get over them. And so that’s all played out. And because of the 50, we know better how to set everything up. Yeah. And to who to rely on who not to rely on exactly, you know, so it’s, I mean, in this time, people are knocking on our door saying, Hey, we want to give you money, we want to sponsor we want to do this. And me and James are like, what? Like, that doesn’t surprise me at all. you’ve paid your dues that we always thought we paid our dues, and it was still a grind. So that’s that leads into the idea that this time is different. Yeah. Right. Yeah, time is different. So we will see.
Dr. Melissa Smith 50:46
Yeah. Oh, well, I’m so excited. I know the routes. It’s like it’s right in my backyard, I know it is right in your backyard. And I think there’s so much wisdom in how you’re approaching it. And I think, you know, this podcast is all about pursuing what matters. And I think you’re such an incredible example of doing just that. Like how do you make room for pursuing purpose and pursuing what matters? Especially when you have this larger than life partner who right has this, this focus and this determination and like a true partnership…
Sunny Lawrence 51:30
Well the easy answer to that is patience. Just wait your turn. Right you, which is not the message that the world teaches?
Dr. Melissa Smith 51:38
No, but you know, that’s exactly. That’s exactly right. Like, how do you actually work together and say, we are in it together, we’re gonna lock hands. And we’ll see this through.
Sunny Lawrence 51:48
and growth and development comes every single day. Like you said, you don’t have to be in the limelight. I can be behind the scenes in the passenger seat. Yeah, growing and learning what people don’t realize when you’re in the driver’s seat. You can’t nap you can’t eat. The passenger seat’s not so bad. But you know, it’s like, it’s patience. Waiting your turn.
Dr. Melissa Smith 52:08
Sunny Lawrence 52:09
My turn will come and my turn came already as being a mother. That’s one of the most important things. I mean, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. And now that my kids are growing I’m like, okay, now I’m ready for something else. You know that kindling? Yeah, the kindling set out. And, you know, James travels, and I’m like, I’m gonna start traveling with him. Which is so awesome. Like, and he’s like, Oh, yeah, traveling is not a great when you’re alone. And I’m like, Well, I’m gonna start coming.
Dr. Melissa Smith 52:30
It’s gonna get a lot more fun.
Sunny Lawrence 52:32
Yes. So like, I’m benefiting from everything he’s ever done. Even if it isn’t necessarily the timing, that I wanted to do my thing. Yeah. Here’s the other irony is that there were things I thought I wanted to do through this journey, that has shifted.
Dr. Melissa Smith 52:47
Yeah, as you’re finding Yeah. And he’s, he’s benefiting from everything that you have done.
Sunny Lawrence 52:54
Yeah, absolutely. It has taken a lot of work and a lot of self reflection to create the bond we have in our marriage. Yeah, but that’s life. That’s everybody’s marriage. Everybody’s relationship and success. That’s reality if you’re expecting anything different Good luck.
Dr. Melissa Smith 53:11
Yeah, that’s where marriage gets really hard. So well, thank you so much. I know you’re busy. I know you guys are , right like not that busy. That’s why this is the ramp up but it’s gonna be so much fun to follow all of this and and you’re really truly an inspiration. So thank you so much for your time.
Dr. Melissa Smith 53:36
Isn’t Sunny remarkable? She’s so great. I just love loved spending time with her. So head on over to my website to check out the show notes with all the great resources for this episode, including links to Sunny’s website and her Instagram and Facebook accounts and then also to follow James the iron cowboy. So we’ll have links there he has just started his conquer 100 this week, and it’s going to be remarkable. 100 days of Iron Man distance races every day. Pretty remarkable. So head on over to my website at www.drmelissasmith.com/ironcowboy and ironcowboy is just one word. So one more time that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/ironcowboy. I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai