“Exercise patience or all you’ll get is a suffer fest and a death march towards the finish line”

IronDad and Lawrence Family with the Rudy Car

He’s 40 years old, extremely busy, 5.8 foot and 160 pound on racing shape. Most people didn’t believe in him but he went anyway. No fear. Athletes, trainers, even doctors thought it was impossible. James Lawrence, aka Iron CowBoy, proved them wrong. Nobody, nothing, has stopped him from doing 50 Ironman triathlon (2.4 miles swim + 112 miles bike + 26.2 miles run) in 50 consecutive days in 50 US states in 2015. To achieve this, he trained 38h a week. “I got 5 kids to motivate me” he says. We say he’s a super hero kind of a dad. Here’s why.

“No goal is too big. Dream big."

Gaël Couturier: James, how do you mentally feel a little bit more than a year after the 50-50-50 event? Have you physically recovered fully?

James Lawrence: I feel amazing now. Physically and mentally, I am 100% and training hard for my Ironman Cozumel in November as well as some bigger challenges for 2017. Looking back at the feat, I can now see why people said they thought it was impossible. That was definitely a special summer for all of us.

Gaël Couturier: Precisely, looking back, what are the mistakes you think you and your team may have done, if any?

James Lawrence: We made a lot of mistakes but we wouldn’t change anything. We learned a lot. Our route was ridiculous and this made it very hard on us but what good is a challenge without struggle? I would have hired more people to help may be, but at the time this was all we could afford. Very few people believed in us so it was hard to raise the capital. The perceived risk was just too great for lots of sponsors.


Gaël Couturier: If you could pick up one thing that you’ve learned from this whole experience, what would it be?

James Lawrence: Be flexible with you plans. Block out the negativity and surround yourself with the best team possible. With big projects, you’ll never make everyone happy, so be yourself and have fun with it all. After all, it is the memories and lessons learned that are the most valuable.

with Altra founder Golden Harper

Gaël Couturier: During your event, I know you got 3-4 hours of sleep a night, all with chaos in between. That’s not much and it’s amazing you managed to just keep going. What is it that you’ve learned regarding “sleep deprivation”?

James Lawrence: There is no way to prepare for this kind of deprivation… in fact I would have been foolish to try and ‘train’ for it bringing me closer to injury.

Gaël Couturier: I see. On the pure triathlon aspect of things, it looks like the swim was the most difficult part for you. Why was that?

James Lawrence: I tore my shoulder on day 6 in Nevada. This caused huge problems. Then I became so lean that the cold water affected me in a way we could not have anticipated.

"I don't want to be athlete of the year, I want to be father of the year."

Gaël Couturier: A lot of people want to do Ironman triathlons. Obviously training for one single Ironman is very different than training for 50 consecutive Ironman but what is it you’ve learned along the way that could benefit regular Ironman triathletes?

James Lawrence: Hire a coach. Take out the guesswork and let the professionals help you. People will often leave out strength training. I’ve been saying it for years: it is a strength and power sport. The theory of all out all the time is flawed. To someone who has decided to train for his first Ironman, I would recommend starting with shorter distances and gain experience. Allow your body to evolve and adapt over time. Most people jump right into Ironman and it is a mistake. They risk injuries and lessons not learned. Most can stumble through and Ironman underprepared, but what did they learn and what did they sacrifice? Take time and enjoy the journey. Exercise patience or all you’ll get is a suffer fest and a death march towards the finish line.

“Most people are afraid but the reality is that there's a better you on the other side of fear. The biggest advise I can give to anybody is take the next step, get started, keep moving."

Gaël Couturier: The number of potential legitimate causes to fight is endless so why do you pick children obesity over another one?

James Lawrence: I have picked many charities over the years and won’t stop switching. They all deserve. The partnership with childhood obesity was a direct correlation with the age of my children. How much money did I raise for The Jamie Oliver Foundation? I do not know. The amount is hard to quantify. The ripple effect can’t be measured. I would imagine it is more than $100,000.

Gaël Couturier: You said your biggest asset is your family. You said your wife and kids are everything to you: your support, your biggest motivation and your inspiration. Do you think the ability to remain single-minded focus is the key to being a successful long distance endurance athlete?

James Lawrence: Single focused with motivation? No. You need a bag of ‘whys’. When one isn’t strong enough you can pull another out of your ‘bag’. Sometimes it’s dark enough you need more then one reason to keep pushing.

“People aim at perfection but that will lead people to failure every single time. Stop shooting for perfection."

Gaël Couturier: This was also of course a team effort. How did you picked up your crew? What would you recommend to look for in potential crewmembers?

James Lawrence: Positivity. Intelligence. Flexibility. These are the keys I would look for. I lucked out with my crew and they were amazing. I didn’t have many choices with no budget and a project that spanned 50 plus days. I am writing a book with Matt Fitzgerald about this. You will learn the real story. Possibly get a glimpse into what it really took to pull this off. You think you know but you have no idea…

Gaël Couturier: Look at fear, that demon, in its eye and kick his ass, become more confident and end up being a cooler dude. There’s a better you on the other side of fear”. Is this what you talk about when you make a speech at companies or when you try to empower people through your training classes and the new platform you’ve created at teamironcowboy.com?

James Lawrence: Yes, absolutely. Most people are held back by fear. Fear is simply an emotion that we need to learn how to control and overcome. The reality is it isn’t that bad once you face those fears and start growing as a human being.

“We need to change the way we eat. We need to change our activities level. We need to change our lifestyles because it’s going to impact our children in a negative way."

Gaël Couturier: what have your kids learned from this experience? Is it that hard things come with incredible rewards?

James Lawrence: I sure hope so.  I will continue to set the best example I know how. I push them to be uncomfortable. If I can set the best example for my 5 kids, then I have 5 warriors going forward into the future. I believe I am raising future mental giants.

“Don’t listen to all the noise out there. Be your own individual. Believe in yourself so that you can do anything you want. I had every reason to think it was impossible and that I should fail”. 

“Set a goal. Start the goal. Take little steps. If you start big you'll be overwhelmed."
James Lawrence Family

Note: On August 2016 in Utah, was the Doxa race, a 280 mile triathlon relay. James Lawrence 6 man team won by 3 plus hours. You can take on the challenge next year and see if you can beat them. Info at www.doxaraces.com