Farm to Tri
by Christy Fritts
Often Triathletes wear many hats as they balance training and racing with full and busy lives. The Wildflower Festival serves as the perfect celebration weekend for diverse athletes of all abilities who make this sport great. We are pleased to welcome back triathlete, Elizabeth Sugarman, who puts a different spin on “balance.” Like most triathletes, by morning, she can be found running and riding the hills of Carlsbad, Calif. but it’s the before and after that may be a bit different than most.
By the time she’s made it to her morning run (or ride), Elizabeth has already cleaned the chicken coop, milked some goats, fed the horses, and shared kisses with her geese. Once done with her workout, she spends the rest of her time running Sugar Sweet Farm in Encinitas, Calif., where she cares for a variety of livestock including horses, goats, sheep, llamas, geese, turkeys, chickens, and more. It’s not unusual to hear Elizabeth offer an unexpected excuse for her occasional tardiness, “Sorry team, I’m late because my heritage turkeys got attacked by a coyote last night.”
Elizabeth’s training partner, Annamarie Bezzerides, has to laugh, “I have a whole list of ‘only Elizabeth’ texts, like ‘I’ll be there as soon as I deliver this placenta’ or ‘Can’t ride Saturday, we are shearing sheep all day.’”
I have my own memories of Elizabeth’s early training days. Sometimes she would arrive at our track sessions with her horse trailer or to group rides with her tri-bike wedged between bales of hay. She once attended a Masters Swim practice with a box of newborn lambs, which she kept at the end of her lane and bottle-fed between intervals. While I thought juggling motherhood and triathlon was challenging, Elizabeth takes it to a whole new level. Despite the demands of her lifestyle, Elizabeth always brings a beaming smile, thanks to the fulfillment she finds in wearing many hats throughout her day; from homeschooling her children, leading 4-H groups, to teaching Sunday school and running the farm.
Farming and sport have been dominant in Elizabeth’s life since 2007 when she attempted her first race at the local Carlsbad Triathlon. She was instantly hooked and has since found a variety of training regimes that work with her bucolic lifestyle. “It’s always evolving and there’s no magic formula,” admits Elizabeth.
Elizabeth has surprisingly found a perfect marriage in triathlon and farming. Both require long hard hours, a comfort with being filthy, and lots of time outdoors. She can usually be found gardening in her bike kit post-ride or farming in her running clothes after her run. “I’m never first across the finish line,” says Elizabeth, “but I am always the first athlete who milked a goat before the race to cross the finish line.” These days on the farm, it’s kidding season and Elizabeth spends a lot of her time checking on her pregnant goats and new mothers. Elizabeth loves sharing animals with children so the farm hosts school-aged children for educational visits and animal connections.
Elizabeth feels she has had a deep relationship with Wildflower triathlon for the past several years and wonders if many athletes feel the same way. She’d heard about “the Woodstock of Triathlon” and had the event on her bucket list since she took up the sport years ago, but it wasn’t until she’d finally raced it that she understood what all the hype was about:
“I finally had the courage to race in 2016 when my my girlfriend told me I had to sign up — it’s now or never…I did and it surpassed all the hype I had heard about for the last decade. It tested me, it lifted me, it inspired me, and now it calls to me…Because Wildflower has deep roots in tradition and is kind of off the grid, it turns out it’s a pretty good fit for a farm girl/triathlete like me.”
Elizabeth’s homeschooled daughter, Sissy, is her partner in crime on the farm and is now joining her to compete in the Wildflower Experience this year. Sissy has been hearing about it for years and is looking forward to a special mother-daughter weekend of racing, camping, and taking in all the festival has to offer. Elizabeth will once again step away from the farm to tackle the Long Course on Saturday, while Sissy will attempt the inaugural Sprint Distance triathlon on Sunday!
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