Man of Steel: World Record holder James Lawrence on his 50-50-50 triathlon feat
James Lawrence may have slowed down just a tad bit ever since he completed 50 Ironman-distance triathlons in 50 consecutive days in 50 US states in 2015, but the 40-year-old has never been busier. There’s been his climb to Mount Kilimanjaro on his Fezzari bike, a 235-mile run across Greece and then four extreme Ironman races — Celtman, Swissman, Alaskaman and Norseman — all in 2017. Opting to focus all his energy on his family and business, the triathlete says, “I haven’t come across a mental or physical challenge that has interested me enough to take a serious look at it. But, at this point, I think I’ve intentionally suffered enough for my satisfaction.”
Having taken a few years off since his feat in 2015, the Iron Cowboy’s goal nowadays is the relaunch of his coaching program, creating nutritional lines and organising triathlon camps. This aside, he is also a motivational speaker and is authoring his second book. The father of five tries to eat clean even while not training, sneaking in the occasional treat, and is all about tough love when it comes to staying in shape.
50 triathlons, in 50 days, in 50 different states. That’s daily 3.86 km of swimming, 180.25 km on a bike and a full 42.2 km marathon.
You are the record holder for the most half-Ironman distance triathlons in one year - 22, in 2011 and also currently hold the world record for the most number of Ironman-distance triathlons within a single year - 30, in 2012. So the question which remains is — why 2015?
I have always been fitness-minded. Although I did not grow up swimming, biking or running, I have always made fitness a priority. I didn’t feel like I had pushed my mental and physical limits to my satisfaction in 2011 or 2012. With the previous world records, I learned a lot about myself and met amazing people. I wanted to push harder and grow as a person with the hopes of empowering people with the knowledge that their bodies can endure so much more than what they give it credit for. We also wanted to raise funds and awareness for the Jamie Oliver Foundation and help end the epidemic of childhood obesity.
You averaged about four hours of sleep a night during your 50 triathlon feat. How did you manage to stave off exhaustion or injuries?
I didn’t. I was exhausted as early as day two. We were always dealing with something. I tore my shoulder on day five in California, lost the majority of my toe nails in the first ten days, crashed on my bike causing major complications on day eighteen...insane cramping and muscle spasms plus many more issues were dealt with on a daily basis. I am certainly tougher mentally and physically since the 50 which helps with confidence in future challenges.
As a father of five, you have worked very hard to achieve the body you have. What are your thoughts on body shaming that is becoming increasingly prevalent among men?
Men, suck it up! I feel women have it worse, given the standards they are held to physically. We all face different challenges physically and I hope people can find some way to be comfortable in their own skin. Most issues can be solved with a consistent diet, movement and commitment to health and wellness. I’ve seen incredible changes in physique when you are willing to do the work, making no excuses.
What’s your diet like on a normal day, in comparison to those 50 days?
I try to eat clean, but also don’t torture myself. As I get older I have started to eat less and less meat but, by no means am I a vegetarian. (laughs). During the triathlon challenge, I had to consume 10,000-12,000 calories. It was a lot of eggs, potatoes, nuts, fruits and lean meats.
What interests you right now?
Family. I’ve always focused on family but now get to enjoy time with them a lot more. Besides that, I am creating our race nutrition line, developing an extreme race in Utah and New Hampshire, five training camps across the USA and running a world wide coaching program.