- James Lawrence, aka the “Iron Cowboy,” finished 100 Ironman-distance triathlons in 100 days.
- Early on, the father of five was in such pain he blacked out, but pushed through one step at a time.
- He said the moment he shows up for something is when he knows he’s going to finish.
Early in James Lawrence’s record-shattering quest to complete 100 Ironman triathlons in 100 days, he blacked out.
The pain from a stress fracture he’d developed was so great he lost consciousness and landed in the arms of his “wingman,” who woke him up and helped him walk, just 10 seconds at a time, to the finish line.
The next day, Lawrence went to the start line again. And then again for the next 100 days, completing all 100 triathlons. He added one more for prosperity on day 101.
In each moment, he never looked beyond the next step, shuddering when people said things like “you’re halfway there!” or “You ‘only’ have nine triathlons left!”
“You have to have a short-term memory,” Lawrence, a 45-year-old endurance legend known as the “Iron Cowboy,” said on Ed Mylett’s podcast last month. “Focus and intent right now, today, will take care of the long-term goal.”
’75 didn’t scare me, so it had to be 100′
Lawrence is a motivational speaker, husband, and father of five who reinvented himself after losing his car and home in the 2008
He’s set several world records, including in 2015 when he completed 50 Ironman-distance triathlons in 50 days in all 50 states. The races aren’t sanctioned by the Ironman brand, but the distances are the same: a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run. He wrote a book and starred in a documentary about the conquest.
This year, Lawrence doubled the duration but cut the travel, creating a course near his home in Utah for what he dubbed the “Conquer 100.” “Seventy-five didn’t scare me, so it had to be 100,” Lawrence told Runner’s World.
In addition to taking it one step at a time, here are three ways he got through it.
Learn to adapt and evolve
There’s no training plan for 100 triathlons in 100 days. So, Lawrence said, he had to “adapt and evolve along the way.” That strategy was necessary as early as about day five, when an ankle issue devolved into a stress fracture in his shin.
Lawrence’s team fashioned a carbon-plated brace that “off-loaded” pressure on the shin, he explained, allowing the bone to heal while completing dozens more triathlons, though he did need to walk the marathon portions.
Lawrence’s “adapt and evolve” principle also applied to his attitude: At first he was angry that he couldn’t run, as planned. But he soon realized walking was a “blessing” since it allowed people who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to keep up to join him.
Allow room for emotions
Speaking on Mylett’s podcast, Lawrence said he and his crew never considered quitting. But they may have if they’d tried to push through the emotional lows. “It OK to feel, it’s not OK to quit. It’s OK to problem solve, it’s not OK to quit,” Lawrence said of his philosophy. “That’s what a lot of people don’t do, especially men: They don’t allow themselves to feel and process before they hunker down and keep going.”
Just show up
Lawrence said he’s told people he knows he’ll be successful as soon as he gets in the water. That determination got him through more blackouts, and times he even fell asleep on the bike.
“A huge reason for me [completing] the 100 was because I said I would,” Lawrence told Mylett. “Even in the darkest of moments, my word [meant] so much.”