The Making of the Iron Cowboy: How James Lawrence Constructed His Legacy of Grit
Are you preparing for a race and feeling a little overwhelmed or uninspired? If you're struggling to get the ride to work, check out this story about the Iron Cowboy. James' story is about taking what we all thought was impossible and proving the opposite to the whole world. The words "you can't" have weight only if you give them weight. So grab your running shoes because you will likely feel the need to lace them up once you get to the end of this article!
How it all started With a Ferris wheel ride!
It was the summer of 1999, and a competition was being held at the local fair in James Lawrence's hometown to see how long participants could hold out on a Ferris wheel. The winner won boastful rights, a hilarious anecdote he could get at parties for the rest of his life, and $ 10,000. James entered the competition, sat on this Ferris wheel for 10 long days and took home the grand prize.
Today James is known as the Iron Cowboy – the record breaking triathlon beast who sets out to do what others think is impossible. The Ferris wheel was just the beginning of a long career of mentally and physically strenuous endurance.
There have been many instances of James becoming an Iron Cowboy, but it was in those mild 10 days on this Ferris wheel that the Iron Cowboy's heart was born. Whether sitting on a ferris wheel or pushing its body beyond its physical limits, James Lawrence is up for the challenge.
It's important to note that James was not born with a pair of running shoes and a bike helmet. He spent his early days casually riding a bike with his father and later began wrestling in high school. However, being a wrestler wasn't enough – he had to be the best wrestler. By the time he got his senior year of high school he was undefeated and won that Provincial Championships.
Then the family came
He was 23 when he won the ferris wheel competition and moved to Utah with his prize money. There he met his wife Sunny in a psychology class and they had not one, not two, not three, not four … but five children. The Lawrence clan consists of Lucy, Lily, Daisy, Dolly and Quinn. And this close-knit crew acts as a huge support system for James, both physically and mentally.
Iron Cowboy and Lawrence family with the Rudy Car, 2016, fitwild.com
At her Utah home, Sunny loved running Turkey's local trotting community on Thanksgiving. One year Sunny had the idea to register James for the run. He was not a runner and never showed much interest in running.
He hesitated, but joined his wife and finished the race. And he hated it. But there was something about this competition that made him feel something, and he kept chasing that feeling.
After trotting in Turkey, he signed up for other marathons and hated them too. Running wasn't James' special bag, but he loved the feeling of pushing his mind and body out of his comfort zone. When he raced, he made sure he always had a cowboy hat on so his family and friends could easily pick him out from the crowd. Over time, he dropped the cowboy hat but kept the name.
The road to the Conquer 100 burned slowly. James went to the gym regularly, took part in increasingly difficult and demanding races and got hungry to see how far his fighting spirit and strong will could take him. At the moment he has not yet found his personal limit.
The 50 Ironmans Feat
After a handful of ironmans and triathlons, James had an idea. He wanted to do something no athlete had done before. When he told his trainer about his idea, he hesitated a little that it could actually be done. However, the words "you can't" only serve as fuel for James' efforts.
The 50.50.50 was not only a physical achievement, but also a technical achievement. For the 50.50.50, James set out to do 50 ironmans in 50 different states in 50 days for the most amazing and grueling road trip ever. The goal was to start in Hawaii on the first day, to reach Alaska on the second day and then in 48 days to go on a good RV road trip for the old fashion family to the remaining 48 states.
Even without tackling an Ironman in every state, the logistics of this road trip were pretty tricky.
James Lawrence, 50 Ironmans feat, globegazzette.com
This feat meant that James and his team hopped into a body of water at 7:00 a.m. sharp to swim. After that, he quickly turned off his gear and refueled before getting on his bike around 9:30 a.m., then ending up with a marathon around 2:00 p.m. At 7 p.m., his team and community joined him for the final 5km of his race. In fact, he was accompanied by his mother for the last 5 km on his 50.50.50 trip!
The 50.50.50 was one of James' first major companies. He had previously done 30 Ironmans in a single year, but nothing like it. By running two consecutive (times 50) Ironmans, this meant he had very little downtime. It also meant sleeping in the RV while the team drove his broken and exhausted body to the next destination. If you've ever tried sleeping in a bumpy RV, you know firsthand that it isn't exactly a good night's sleep.
In those 50 days, James and the team had little time to adjust to obstacles when they emerged. In Texas, one of the biggest challenges James faced was a hurricane that found its way to land. To make sure he and the team are safe, they have brought his Ironman inside to wait for the bad weather. By dodging a hurricane, he was quickly faced with a different type of storm. One that brewed on the internet.
Some critics felt that taking part in an indoor Ironman wasn't a real Ironman, and it started to lose some followers. The internet is a harsh place full of people who can easily judge on their sofa. Under normal circumstances it would have been easy for James not to let the dark side of the internet invade his brain. However, he was exhausted and in constant pain as he pushed forward day after day.
From Texas to Connecticut, James was in a pretty dark place. The exhaustion and the pain and the internet trolls really weighed on his fighting spirit. It wasn't as cozy as it was at the beginning, but he never gave up.
On the 29th day of 50:50:50, James was depressed physically and emotionally. He jumped off his bike, sat on the grass and simply said, "I don't want to ride my bike anymore". As his mind wandered, he thought of his children and his wife. As if they had breathed new life into him, he got back on his bike and finished the day. From the 29th to the 50th day he constantly shaved a few minutes of his total time and ended up in high spirits.
James Lawrence after completing his 50th Ironman competition
The 50.50.50 was both mentally and physically brutal, but James wasn't ready to hang up his cowboy hat. Of course, he took a little 5 year hiatus before taking on a new challenge: the Conquer 100. In his downtime between heroics, he stepped back to the top of the mountain with a nice and easy mountain bike tour. Kilimanjaro ran a small distance of 235 miles through Greece and took part in the X-Tri World Championship in Norway.
Nest stop? The conquest 100 (100 Ironmans in 100 days)!
After a 5 year hiatus from shocking world records, the idea of the Conquer 100 was born. This time around, he'd ditch the cross-country road trip and tackle all 100 Ironmans in 100 days in his home state of Utah.
For 100 days, James' schedule looks something like this: At 5:30 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., James goes into the pool. If all goes well, after a quick shower and transition, he gets on his bike around 7:25 am and usually ends around 2 pm. At around 2:30 a.m., James lace up his running shoes and hits the Murdock Trail for the final leg of the race, which usually ends around 7:30 a.m.
100 ironmans, day 1
What sets the Conquer 100 apart from the 50.50.50 (aside from the added challenge) is that the locations remain the same. This makes it a bit easier for fans who want to get in on the action to join James. The Conquer 100 website and app track James' progress with a live Garmin tracker. Even if you can't make it to Utah, you can still cheer him on live at home. The website also has addresses, location, schedule and accommodation locations if you are forced to board a flight and join it in person.
What also makes the Conquer 100 unique is that you can join it virtually even if you can't make it to Utah. Just register on their website, run, swim, cycle or walk the course in your hometown and upload your times to the main leaderboard. You can try to keep up with the best, or you can simply connect virtually to other runners using the main leaderboard.
The 50.50.50 was a tough physical feat to say the least, but the logistics of the performance turned out to be even more difficult than ever thought. Not only did James need to be rested and ready to walk each day, but the travel time and finding the right training paths made his performance even more complex.
So far, the Conquer 100 has been a breath of fresh air not only for James, but for the entire team. They are capable of generating a great deal of support in their hometown, and the internet naysayers are all but gone. Plus, James can get a good 7 hours of restful sleep at home compared to 4-5 hours of sleep in a moving RV!
What makes James' story so inspiring to those who follow him is that he is not naturally gifted. In fact, he feels that accepting that he has a gift diminishes all of the blood, sweat, and tears that go into his training. As I said earlier, he wasn't born with a pair of running shoes and a bicycle helmet. What catapulted him to the world record holder is his insane hard work, the urge to finish everything he starts, and a strong support system with his family
When James signed up for wrestling in 7th grade, he lost his first match and most of his matches thereafter. He's not the type who has that innate ability to instantly excel in everything he does, which I think makes him so reliable. We all want to strive for greatness, but are often held back by failure and compare ourselves to others. James Lawrence, on the other hand, is the figurehead for "You can do whatever you want to do". He didn't give up after all of his failed wrestling matches. Instead, he put on the job, decided he would be the best wrestler, and ended his high school career undefeated.
He wears the same attitude in every marathon, every triathlon and every Ironman. When he told his coach that he wanted to do 50 Iron Mans in 50 days, his coach said the chance he'd be successful was about 20 percent. Of course, his trainer simply assessed his success from a physiological point of view. The human body was only capable of so much, and the 50.50.50 was just outside the realm of possibility in his head.
However, if you asked James what his chances are of hitting his 50.50.50, he would confidently tell you 200 percent. He knew he was ready to overcome the pain and stress to get out on the other side. And he did.
While James wants to see how far he can push his body, he's also competing to support charities that matter to him. For the 50.50.50 he worked with the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, which helped fight childhood obesity. During those 50 days he raised an impressive $ 80,000 for the cause.
For the Conquer 100, James was forced to choose the charity Operation Underground Railroad to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings. As it stands now, James and his team have raised over 120,000 for his cause, and more supporters and supporters have joined him as he really starts to pick up steam. To find out more about James' charity and all of the children they saved, click here!
His behind scenes team
With the 50.50.50 in the rearview mirror and the Conquer 100 picking up steam, James was never alone on his journey. Few great feats have ever been accomplished alone.
Just as Forrest Gump was doing a little run to clear his mind, he garnered a long following of those who wanted to join him, and so did James Lawrence. During his 50.50.50, fans eagerly waited for him to get into their state to swim, run and bike with. In his Conquer 100, fans fly to Utah to join him. He is always greeted by followers with homemade poster signs, cheers, pats on his back, and the occasional hug from a stranger. A humble man who wants to achieve the impossible has only something magnetic about it.
James and the team are always humble and grateful for the fans who follow his journey. In Arizona, during the 50:50:50, James and the team had made plans to swim a little boy named Dayton with cerebral palsy. The plan was for James to drag him on a raft. When the day came, however, James was in pretty rough shape. He had blown his shoulder the day before and just didn't have the feeling that he could take Dayon for the ride. Instead of disappointing Dayton, who was eagerly awaiting James' arrival in his home state, they improvised.
They hung the raft on Casey (his wingman), who swam with James the entire swimming portion of his Ironman. In some places while swimming, James was in such pain that he often swam with only one arm. Those with him wondered if he would even make it to the end of the swim. Spoiler alert: He did it.
100 ironmans, day 29
While strength and determination are part of James' recipe for success, his team is another important part of the equation. As James competes, sleeps, eats, and recovers, his team angrily moves behind the scenes to make sure all of the pieces of his exams fit together. You're a fine-tuned machine as he finishes his Conquer 100, but that hasn't always been the case.
During the 50.50.50 the very first run took place in Hawaii. Before jumping in the water, he told Aaron to make sure his bike was assembled when he was ready to swim. Aaron nodded, wishing him well, then looked down at the parts of the bike with no idea how to assemble them. He wanted him to have a good time in the water, of course, but he also needed time figuring out how to assemble a bike! Like any good teammate, Casey drove through and left an expertly assembled bike waiting for him as soon as he stepped out of the water.
On day three (the first day of the RV tour) the team forgot one very important thing: James & # 39; running shoes. They all got up and found a teammate the same size and James and just swapped shoes. The team was a little shaky out the gate, but when he went back to Utah they were a fine-tuned machine. To really understand James' story, we first need to give a brief glimpse of the teammates who make it all possible
Aaron Hopkinson is one of James' trainers. The two came in contact when James was coaching while Aaron was training for triathlons. Now Aaron helps James with all the preparations and exams behind the scenes and accompanies him on the path to emotional support!
100 ironmans, day 51
Casey Robles is James' wingman. The two met during a joint race and quickly became good friends. He's a strong foundation for supporting James, and when it was time to get started on the Conquer 100, Casey eagerly took his speedometer from the cleaners and was ready to go!
And last but not least, James & # 39; is family. Sunny is incredibly supportive of every crazy feat James wants to undertake. During the 50.50.50 this super woman made sure James was awake and ready to start the day taking care of her 5 children who had the time of their lives on a 50 day road trip across the US.
A good support system is a must for every athlete. James' determination and fighting spirit physically move his body through each course, but it is the people behind the scenes who coordinate and provide an endless source of unrequited support that helps him navigate the rest of the way.
In addition to his family, coach and wingmen, James has a long list of teammates who make sure he is in tip top shape. The trainer is one of these teammates Carlee Tulett, certified sports trainer Haydn Thompson, licensed massage therapist Felisha Hurst and a host of others who keep the wheels turning behind the scenes.
As we neared the finish line for James, I wanted to delve a little deeper into the teammates who make his impossible performances possible. Make sure to check back to read more articles that provide a deeper dive into their tireless efforts to make the Conquer 100 possible, as well as tips on how to follow in its footsteps.
Now grab your running shoes and get out there!