Chase your highest dreams…there are no limits in life.
The multi-sport endurance feats of the Iron Cowboy are mind-numbing. And blister-producing.
James Lawrence is a 42-year-old personal trainer and motivational speaker. He is also a triathlon world record holder.
In 2010, Lawrence entered the Guinness Book of World Records by completing 22 Half Ironman triathlons in one year [he actually completed the races in 30 weeks]. Two years later, he set the record for most Ironman triathlons completed within a calendar year, with 30.
In 2015, Lawrence was looking for new challenges and embarked upon the unfathomable: the 50-50-50 project. Fifty Ironman-distance triathlons, in 50 days, across 50 states.
Born and raised in Calgary, Lawrence moved to the United States at 22. A devout Mormon, he settled with his wife, Sunny, and five children in Linden, Utah – about 30 miles south of Salt Lake City.
A former high school wrestler – he went undefeated his senior year en route to the provincial championship – Lawrence got into triathlon out of embarrassment. In 2005, Sunny Lawrence, a former runner, convinced her husband to join her in the Orem Thanksgiving Day Fun Run. Barely able to finish, James huffed and puffed his way along the four-mile course while being passed by women pushing baby strollers.
Determined to improve his fitness, Lawrence signed up for the Salt Lake City Marathon. Shortly thereafter, he started competing in short-distance triathlons. By 2008, he was racing in Ironman-distance events [2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run].
Lawrence set his world record quite accidentally. In 2012, while raising money to build dams in Africa, he completed 30 Ironmans. Lawrence called his quest — which took him to 11 countries — the Tri and Give A Dam project.
Inspired by Dean Karnazes, whose well-publicized Endurance 50 challenge had him run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 consecutive days in 2006, Lawrence set out to pursue the impossible.
The 50-50-50 project redefined human potential, the capacity to suffer and the will to endure. Lawrence spent one year mapping out the routes for his swims, bikes and runs, and had people on the ground in all 50 states who volunteered to help.
Sunny and the kids traveled with him in a motor home. Lawrence’s support team included a masseuse and a chiropractor. His journey started June 6 in Hawaii, and finished 50 days later on July 25 in Utah.
The 39-year-old Lawrence was dubbed the Iron Cowboy for always running the marathon in a full, patterned cowboy hat – picked out for him before each race by his four daughters. The 50-50-50 project raised $70,000 for the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, an organization focused on teaching youths about food and nutrition to combat obesity in America.
The last 5K of each marathon included local runners in each state. Some days the Iron Cowboy was joined by ten runners. Other days brought 2,000. Registration fees for the 5K, as well as donations, went directly to the Jamie Oliver Foundation. Lucy, his 12-year-old daughter, ran 50 consecutive 5Ks with her dad. “She’s setting an example for the next generation,” beamed the bearded Lawrence.
While training for the 50-50-50, Lawrence ate up to 6,500 calories per day. During the main event, his intake went up to 8,500 calories each day, half of which he consumed during the race. Lawrence took in 2,000 calories between the swim and bike [usually eggs and potatoes], then another 2,000 on the bike [mostly sandwiches handed to him during the ride].
In Tennessee, Lawrence fell asleep on his bike and crashed at mile 30. He finished with a nasty road rash. The Iron Cowboy’s feet took the worst beating. By the end of the quest, he had blisters between his toes and his toenails were coming off.
Lawrence’s overall average finish time was 14.5 hours and he averaged about four to five hours of sleep each night. The fastest Ironman in the series was his finale, which he finished in 11.5 hours.
Over 50 days in the early summer of 2015, James Lawrence swam a total of 120 miles, covered 5,600 miles on his bike, and ran 1,310 miles. In the 50th and final marathon of his quest, the Iron Cowboy covered 26.2 miles in 4:23.
“I want people to know that anything is possible and to not let anyone else dictate what they think is possible.” – James Lawrence.