‘Iron Cowboy’ sets goal: 50 triathlons in 50 states in 50 days


James "The Iron Cowboy" Lawrence holds the Guinness Book of World Record for most 70.3 distance races done in a single year and most 140.6 distance races done is a single year.

James “The Iron Cowboy” Lawrence holds the Guinness Book of World Record for most 70.3 distance races done in a single year and most 140.6 distance races done is a single year.

DOVER — James Lawrence, of Utah by way of Canada, takes the definition of “triathlete” to a whole new level.

He’s on a mission to complete 50 triathlons in 50 states in 50 consecutive days.

“It’s something no one has ever done before,” said Mr. Lawrence, 39, who has earned the nickname The Iron Cowboy. “And it took two years of training to prepare for this.”

James Lawrence, The Iron Cowboy, swims 73 laps (2.4 miles) at The Dover Y's outdoor pool on Kenton Road Friday morning at 7a.m.

James Lawrence, The Iron Cowboy, swims 73 laps (2.4 miles) at The Dover Y’s outdoor pool on Kenton Road Friday morning at 7a.m.

But setting a record isn’t the only thing motivating Mr. Lawrence. He wants to spread awareness of childhood obesity and put an end to the epidemic.

“You see it everywhere,” he said. “I’m very involved in my kids’ schooling and I always see it there and it’s about time someone did something to draw attention to the issue.”

Mr. Lawrence made Delaware his 28th stop on Friday, starting with the swimming portion of the triathlon at the Dover YMCA’s outdoor pool on Kenton Road.

“We were asked if he could use our pool and of course we said ‘yes.’” said Susan Herr, executive director of the Dover YMCA. “We are always encouraging people to get active but when we heard his reasoning, we were even happier because that fits perfectly with the Y’s mission.”

Mr. Lawrence stepped out of his camper around 6:45 a.m., after about four hours sleep, to begin his task.

“It’s been a struggle running on such little sleep, but I think the team has finally gotten back on schedule. So, from here on, I should be getting about six hours each night,” he said.

Friday morning, Mr. Lawrence may have been ready at 6:45 but his five children who are traveling with him stayed asleep in the camper while he went to work.

“The kids love it,” he said. “They’re getting to see every state and they’ve actually been able to have a lot of fun along the way.”

His kids aren’t the only ones on the road with him. Mr. Lawrence has about six teammates traveling with him along with volunteers all over the country supporting his cause and coordinating his stops in every state.

Laura Strutz, a triathlete of eight years and Delaware resident of a year and a half, read about Mr. Lawrence’s undertaking back in January on Facebook. She volunteered to be his Delaware ambassador.


“I saw the post and volunteered and have been working on it since February,” she said. “It’s taken a lot of coordination to get it all together but I was able to work with some great people in the area to get all the details worked out.”

Others participating in the Delaware stop are Mike Fennemore of Fifer Orchards (the beginning and end point of the run and biking portions); Dave Moses of Dave’s Road Bikes Inc. (offering biking support); and Jim Hutchison, a triathlon coach who helped map out the correct distances and courses for biking and running.

Athletes of all kinds participated in Mr. Lawrence’s triathlon from all over the area. For the swim alone, more than a dozen people were swimming laps in the pool before he jumped in at 7 a.m. sharp. Swimmers came from as far north as Bear while others came from Maryland and Washington, D.C., to participate. Some were planning on completing all of the day’s activities with Mr. Lawrence.

The participants and spectators found out about Mr. Lawrence and his Delaware stop through Facebook.

“It’s really amazing that we didn’t do any real advertising and so many people turned out either just to watch him or to actually join in, but a lot of athletes are pretty active online,” Ms. Strutz said.

A triathlon is comprised of a 2.4-mile swim (73 laps in the YMCA’s 25-meter pool), a 112-mile bike ride and a marathon (26.2-mile run). Completing all three parts has taken Mr. Lawrence an average of 13 to 15 hours.

Luckily, it was warm and sunny in Dover on Friday. However, Mr. Lawrence has faced some adverse conditions in other states that forced him to complete his triathlons indoors with an indoor swimming pool, a stationary exercise bike and a treadmill.

“I think these are perfect conditions for a triathlon,” Ms. Strutz said. “The weather is great, there’s barely any wind and Delaware is nice and flat so the bike ride and the run shouldn’t be too bad.”

Mr. Lawrence’s Thursday stop was Maryland. Today he will be in New Jersey. He is expected to finish his challenge on July 25 in Utah.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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