At the fourth annual Beach Babe Bicycling Classic on July 13 in Long Beach, Calif., Lisa Watkins earned the coveted Ladies Triple Crown honor for completing her third CaliforniaGirl Series™ bicycle ride in 12 months. Out of thousands of riders, she and only four others who participated in the long-distance, all-female ride trilogy reached that achievement.
Although an impressive accomplishment for anyone, Lisa’s story is especially inspirational. In 2009, she was diagnosed with Crohn's—an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract, which leads to flare-ups that make it difficult to participate in activities, let alone strenuous bike rides. She requires an immune suppressant treatment every 42 days, which (like chemotherapy) leaves her drained. Because of the condition, she cannot eat solid food and lives on a liquid diet. Calorie maintenance and replenishment – important for any athlete – is more challenging for Lisa, but has not stopped her.
Lisa, 31, has always been active in multiple forms of exercise, including rock climbing, hiking and walking, but -- along with husband, Byron, and 10-year-old son, Gavyn –have cycling ingrained in their daily lives. Lisa rides her three-speed cruiser to take Gavyn to school and Byron is a staunch bicycle commuter. Cycling is also her favorite exercise because she can train anywhere, whether on the road or in a spin class.
“I love the freedom that riding gives me and traveling to participate in group cycling events takes me to great places,” Lisa says.
When she was looking for a ride that would fit her goals without the stress of competing in a race, she found the CaliforniaGirl Series’ non-competitive rides for women of all ages and abilities. She also discovered that these rides inspired her to transcend her physical ailment.
Her first ride in October, 2013, The Princess Promenade in Sacramento, Calif. – near her hometown of Fresno – required careful meal and hydration planning and support from her dear friend Monica. Without both, the physical stress of driving hundreds of miles, then participating in a long ride could create bouts of diarrhea and vomiting. With Monica, who met her at the rest stops along the way to help and cheer her on, Lisa was able to complete the ride without incident.
With her first ride under her belt, Lisa went on to complete the Senorita Century in San Diego, Calif. in March, 2014.
To manage the symptoms of her disease and get proper nutrition for her long distance rides, Lisa blends unsweetened almond milk, a scoop of peanut butter and Vega One nutritional supplement - an all-in-one plant based powder. When she has a sweet tooth or wants to change up her liquid diet she relies on juicing fruits and vegetables.
Beyond her daily, one-mile, round-trip “tease” bike route to school with her son, Lisa rides to towns near Fresno that are within a 15- to 20-mile, round-trip distance. This keeps her ready in between longer rides. The stay-at-home mom also squeezes in rides as much as possible while Gavyn is at school and by participating in organized rides in the area. “When I am not feeling strong enough to be on the road, I have a trainer and can ride in my home. Even a little is better than nothing!” Lisa says.
“Completing all three CaliforniaGirl Series rides was such a huge accomplishment for me,” Lisa recalls. “I can’t tell you how proud I felt pushing through my physical challenges and receiving the Ladies Triple Crown medal. I wouldn’t have completed any of them without my friends and family and the greater CaliforniaGirl family. The camaraderie and support I received was critical to my success.”
In keeping with her belief that “you should live your life as a final draft and not as a rough draft,” Lisa is currently looking for her next ride—preferably a long-distance one in a state she has never visited. Says Lisa to others, with or without physical challenges, “The goal is not to come in first or second, but to cross the finish line.” Lisa looks forward to her next finish and hopes to inspire others to try something they didn’t think was possible.