“The 50 wasn’t close enough to know my limits,” Lawrence told CNN Sport. “That’s why I’m doing the ‘Conquer 100’.”
Lawrence, known to many as the “Iron Cowboy,” travels thousands of miles near his home in Lindon City, Utah. He started on March 1st and hopes to complete the feat on June 8th.
“People always say chase your dreams, but if you chase something, you never catch it,” says Lawrence’s wife Sunny, explaining the reasons for the title “Conquer 100”.
“With that I thought it must be something powerful, you own it, you are the master and you conquer it.”
Pushing the boundaries
With the completion of the Conquer 100, Lawrence aims to set a new benchmark for human performance and endurance.
He also raises funds and says all proceeds from his challenge will be donated to Operation Underground Railroad, a nonprofit that uses former CIA and Navy Seal employees to help root out the child sex trafficking.
“I do what I do to raise money for charity and challenge myself to the limits of my mind and body,” said Lawrence, who will be 45 on April 7th alongside a 38th consecutive daily triathlon. Birthday celebrated.
“My first endurance challenge was a four-mile run on Thanksgiving Day,” he recalls. “At least it felt like an endurance event when I did it in 2004.”
“James was a gym rat,” says Sunny. “He just went to the gym and lifted weights. I was running for fitness reasons and I said, you know, let’s do this race.
“It was difficult for him and I thought you had to be kidding me. How can this be difficult for you?
“I’ve always wanted to run a marathon and signed up, but I never knew that this four-mile fun run would have turned into this entire career.”
After their marathon together, James Lawrence discovered triathlon.
“It was one small step at a time,” he explains. “For over a decade I’ve made one step better, I’ve stayed constant and climbed the ladder with extreme endurance.
“I’ve always enjoyed doing individual sports after growing up as a wrestler and then playing golf. Triathlon was a natural transition for me to challenge my body and mind.”
It is reported that Lawrence completed the most half-distance triathlons in one year, 2011, before breaking records in full-distance in 2012.
The “50.50.50” – 50 long distance triathlons in 50 days in 50 states – took the idea of long distance competition to a new level.
“It was definitely a logistical nightmare,” recalls Lawrence. “An experience we will remember forever.”
While traveling the US in 2015 – as described in the Amazon documentary “Iron Cowboy: The Story of the 50.50.50 Triathlon” – equipment was lost, shoes were lost, and the Lawrence family, including all five children, lived and slept in it a rented motorhome.
“This naivete,” says Sunny. “Not knowing how hard it was going to be was probably the greatest gift we’ve ever received. We might have been nuts, but we thought, oh no, we totally got that.
“If you’re in and it’s miserable, you think we have to get through it.”
The family is important to Lawrence and his eldest daughter Lucy – now a full-time student and business manager – would meet her father to run the last 3 miles each day.
“Nothing great is ever achieved alone,” says Lawrence. “And I’ve been so blessed to take this trip with my family. You are everything.”
Logistics wasn’t the only difficulty Lawrence faced. On the sixth day of his 50s, he tore a shoulder muscle and had to swim with one arm for the next 44 days, while another day – due to sleep deprivation – he fell asleep while cycling and fell on the street.
On the eighth day, he was so dehydrated that he passed out, and he was then given an intravenous drop (IV) of saline to recover.
The injuries and a tropical storm forced the Iron Cowboy and team to set up indoor facilities in a number of states to allow him to cover the required daily distances using static equipment such as a cross-trainer, an elliptical machine that mimics the movement of running , can travel back without the impact.
That meant that Guinness would not ratify the 50.50.50 for the world record; Lawrence’s use of an IV also sparked hostility and allegations of fraud on social media.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment, but according to Amazon documentation, IV use was considered doping within two weeks of a triathlon event, and then changed WADA has its rules to honor extremes endurance challenges like the “50.50.50”.
However, Lawrence has admitted that using an elliptical trainer has hurt the credibility of his performance.
More controversy ensued when Lawrence failed to connect people directly to donate money to the charity he supported throughout the challenge – the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, which aimed to alleviate childhood obesity – and him charity scams was accused.
The now-defunct foundation denied that was the case and eventually provided a link. Lawrence tells CNN that the fundraiser has finally reached $ 80,000.
Rest at home
After what he had done to his body, Lawrence knew that his preparation had to change when he signed up for the “Conquer 100” in the fall of 2020.
With health tests at UCLA and daily medical records monitored by Biostrap, his team admitted he “must use every option to recover,” including nightly body massages, magnetic pads, red light therapy, a hyperbaric chamber, and quick reboot compression starts.
Lawrence also sleeps a lot more – an average of seven hours a night. His diet includes fruits, sandwiches, hi-chews, Swedish fish, salads, green smoothies with protein powder, and “as many potatoes as possible,” he says.
His weight – for someone doing so much intense exercise – has remained remarkably consistent, according to his team.
Your own version of hard
Lawrence knew that it was impossible to train a human body for 100 full-distance triathlons and said he used a gradual process of low impact, “heavy” bike, “low running volume”, and constant swim and strength training, so the first 10 triathlons would prepare him for the next 10 and so on.
He explains that he wanted to feel fresh in the beginning because “10% under-trained is better than 1% over-trained”.
The plan worked and just like it did during “50.50.50,” Lawrence says he felt his body “collapse” after three weeks and then bounce back.
“It was amazing to see my body change and pretend it had a mind of its own,” says Lawrence.
Being close to home in Utah, the domestic familiarity and local support helped dispel memories of the toxic reaction he suffered online about the 50.50.50.
Sunny stresses that the threat was “nonexistent”.
“Not a person. I don’t know if it’s because people know he can or the cause,” she says. “Nothing this time, it’s such a beautiful thing.”
“The church loves it,” admits Lawrence. “Especially our hometown Lindon City. They leaned back for us.
“Everyone is dedicated and supportive, it was an amazing experience.”
“I love empowering people to make their own version of hard,” he says. “It’s fun doing the impossible.”
Lawrence says he met his fundraising goal of $ 100,000 by day 38, and now, having crossed the half-time mark on his “Conquer 100” attempt, the Iron Cowboy is back at record levels.
“I feel great mentally,” he confirms. “I’m stronger than I was in the 50s … there is a lot to do and I respect the journey.”