In News, Swimrun Life Magazine

By Nancy Heslin


The Iron Cowboy Talks Mental Endurance 

He did 101 Ironman race distance triathlons in 101 days and raced 50 Ironman in 50 consecutive days in 50 US states. Meet Guinness World Record holder James Lawrence – aka, the Iron Cowboy.

I don’t like the word motivate or motivation. My drive comes from wanting to find my personal and mental limits, says James Lawrence. 

The Canadian-American athlete knows a thing or two about drive. He is a Guinness World Record holder – including 50 Ironman in 50 days in 50 states – and recently completed 101 full-distance Ironman triathlons (140.6 miles) in 101 consecutive days for a total of 14,060 miles.

“Guinness is just a piece of paper,” he admits. “I don’t care about the records. I care about breaking personal barriers and impacting people and helping them overcome and believe in themselves on their journeys.”

James says sports has always been part of his life. “My journey to endurance began in my late twenties, starting with a 4-mile run with my wife that I struggled to get though,” the 45-year-old admits. 

How much training is needed?

These days, depending on his training cycle or what he is preparing for, he puts in 10 to 35+ hours of exercise a week. Currently recovering from the Conquer 100 (he tagged an extra day onto the original 100-day challenge), James says, “I am doing about 15 hours a week, mostly recovery efforts, with strength training and cycling, but above all, it is my mind that is recuperating.”

His describes the roughest part on the Conquer 100. “Experience and knowledge can be a dangerous thing. It was during the peak of my shin pain and I thought I was going to break the bone at any moment. I would pass out due to pain and come back to, then continue on until the pain became too great and black out again. This would repeat until I completed the day and could get therapy done on my body. These moments are also the toughest mentally. Just like when you are broken physically on day 15 and you realize you have 85 more full distance triathlons to go. That is a moment,” the father of five shares.

With the “days blending in” during the Conquer100 (which took place around his home in Utah), James explains, “Where you put your focus is where your mind will go. My thoughts always go to my kids or some amazing past experiences in my life. Always reach for light; darkness cannot exist in the light. I chose to focus on the good and the light in my past to get through the darker moments of a journey like this. I also know that pain is short lived and will eventually pass.”

How to stay injury free

His secret to staying injury free is building a strong foundation over a decade and not going from 0 to 100. “It is a long and patient process. Strength training plays a massive role in my durability. I do not look like a traditional endurance athlete.” As well, James bucks the vegan trend and eats “real food.” On the Conquer 100 he “just kept eating and eating” to maintain his weight throughout the 100 days. “Yes, I love sweets, especially donuts.”

A higher purpose

For his challenge, James partnered with Operation Underground Railroad, an association that rescues children from sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. “I have always wanted to make a difference. We far exceeded our fundraising goal during the Conquer 100 project and I am full of joy and grateful for the thousands of donations.” 

How to manage fear

When James is not pushing his mental and physical boundaries, he captivates audiences with his inspirational stories about fearlessness and determination. “I am not scared of much but through my worldwide speaking engagements I have discovered that many do have fears. Fear is an emotion and a state of mind while being mentally tough is a process and takes time to develop. I believe I started on this journey through sports, when I started wrestling in 7th grade. I was probably 11”

ÖTILLÖ, The Swimrun World Championship 2022

James has a full calendar of speaking engagements and adventures. After doing ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Catalina in 2020 he has received a “Race Directors Choice” spot in Mixed together with his head coach Carlee Tulett to ÖTILLÖ, The Swimrun World Championship on September 5th. Look out for them both on the course and make sure to say hello.

A final quote

“There needs to be pleasure in every journey or why do it?” he smiles.


Note: Follow James Lawrence on Instagram


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