Ironman on mission to complete 50 triathlons in 50 days

LAKE STEVENS — It takes a lifetime to train for something like this.

James Lawrence, nicknamed the Iron Cowboy, is attempting to break his own world record for completing the most Ironman race courses in one year by doing 50 of the grueling triathlons in 50 days, one in each of the 50 states. His third stop was Monday in Lake Stevens.

He’s done two years of rigorous preparation to prepare for this summer, but it takes a lifetime of healthy habits to be truly ready, he said.

The 39-year-old athlete plans to push himself farther than he’s ever gone before.

“I want to find my mental and physical limits,” he said.

The 50-50-50 challenge is a campaign to draw attention to the importance of health and fitness and to fight childhood obesity, Lawrence said. He also is collecting donations online for a documentary on his experiences and to support the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, an organization focused on preventing childhood obesity and diabetes by promoting healthy eating.

Lawrence lives in Utah with his wife, four daughters and son. His family is traveling with him during his 50-day tour of the country, and while he’s swimming, running and bicycling, they’ll get a chance to sightsee. It’s the ultimate summer vacation, and their presence gives him extra support and motivation, Lawrence said.

He holds the Guinness World Record for the most Ironman races completed in one year. He finished 30 triathlons in 2012. He also holds the Guinness World Record for the most half-Ironmans, or Ironman 70.3 races, completed in one year. He finished 22 races between March and November 2010, including the World Championships.

An Ironman triathlon course consists of a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bicycle ride and a finished with a 26.2-mile run. Each course is an all-day effort.

“We’re logging 14 hours each day and then 10 hours to get to the next state and recover,” Lawrence said.

He started with the states that require traveling by plane, with Hawaii on Saturday and Alaska on Sunday. He’ll head to Portland next.

At each race, he invites local athletes to join him for part or all of the course, especially the last five kilometers of the run.

“All the training and preparation has been on my own, and the last thing I want to do is 50 triathlons alone,” Lawrence said.

Christopher Rich, lead pastor at Damascus Road Church in Marysville, joined Lawrence for part of the triathlon course in Lake Stevens. The 35-year-old family man is an avid runner who started doing triathlons a few years ago. Seeing the Iron Cowboy come to town is exciting, he said.

“I’m pretty inspired by a guy who can do this sport, to this level of intensity, with his family and age and just being kind of an average guy,” Rich said.

Lawrence, who earned the nickname Iron Cowboy by wearing a cowboy hat in past competitions, has raced in Lake Stevens twice before.

“It’s one of my favorite races on the circuit,” he said.

He picked his 50 stops because he wanted established Ironman courses where he could rally support from local athletes.

Lawrence is welcoming and makes others feel included and excited for his mission, Rich said. He’ll be rooting for Lawrence as the Iron Cowboy continues his journey across the country. “It’s really cool to have this world record-breaking event come to little Lake Stevens,” Rich said.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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