If there's anything you can bet James Lawrence isn't doing today, it's swimming, biking or running. Why? Because, this past Saturday, Lawrence (aka the Iron Cowboy) crossed the final finish line of his 50-50-50 challenge--his grassroots attempt to complete 50 iron-distance triathlons in 50 consecutive days in all 50 states.
For those who are unfamiliar, an iron-distance race consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run, and many athletes are satisfied to complete just one of these races in their lifetimes.
After 50 days of racing, the Iron Cowboy finished 50 full-distance courses for a grand total of 7,030 miles.
The Iron Cowboy is no stranger to mind-blowing feats of endurance, and the 38-year-old currently holds two world records--finishing 22 half-distance 70.3 triathlons in 30 weeks and 30 full-distance 140.6 triathlons in one year.
Despite his deep endurance background, his feat was considered impossible by many, pointing out that the physical and mental toll of exercising for 15 hours a day would be too great to overcome.
But on July 25, after 50 days on the road, he silenced his critics when he ran through the finish line at Thanksgiving Point surrounded by friends, family and supporters.
I spent the day with the Iron Cowboy in Texas on his 12th day of the challenge. Due to stormy conditions in the Dallas area, Lawrence completed the swim, bike and run indoors at a local gym, which gave me plenty of time to see his operation first-hand.
I couldn't (and still can't) wrap my head around the fact that he was in the process of finishing his 12th full triathlon in as many days, and it was even more daunting knowing he still had 38 more to go.
Already at day 12, his eyes had a sunken-in look and he spoke and moved slowly, sometimes asking me to repeat myself. His body looked overused and exhausted, but his smile was reassuring, and it was clear he was 100-percent committed to reaching his goal. If anyone could accomplish such a feat it would be him, with his five kids, wife and 'wingmen' by his side throughout the duration of the challenge.
Seeing Lawrence in person made me wonder why he'd put his body though so much stress. Was this challenge for personal satisfaction? Was the Iron Cowboy knocking off his next publicity stunt? I also hoped this immense physical undertaking wouldn't affect him permanently, for the sake of his five children.