Known as the Iron Cowboy, in 2015 James Lawrence completed 50 IRONMAN distance triathlons over 50 consecutive days, in 50 American states; but the Absa Cape Epic is an entirely new challenge for this athlete.
James Lawrence is no stranger to feats of ultra-endurance. Lawrence hails from Calgary, Canada, and holds the world record for the most IRONMAN distance triathlons completed in a calendar year, back-to-back no less. The feat is what earned him the nickname “Iron Cowboy”.
After that, the Absa Cape Epic should be easy, surely? “Oh man, I wish,” Lawrence laughed when asked this question. “This race is the real deal and I need to show it the utmost respect. IRONMAN racing is very different to mountain biking, they are completely different sports. But I hope to pull from my mental experience and ultimately have an amazing experience at the Absa Cape Epic.”
Reflecting on the challenge ahead, Lawrence said, “The thing that scares me the most with this race is the unknown. This is way outside my comfort zone. I am going to rely a lot on my teammate Mario [Santana] and his experience with the race. The element of newness is exciting for me. I will definitely be tested over these eight days.”
Lawrence’s partner in what has been named the IRONCOWBOY team is Mario Santana. A South African, Santana completed the Absa Cape Epic in 2018 and is a highly-competitive mountain biker. While Santana’s experience in the race and riding in South African conditions in general will be a great help, Lawrence is concerned about the heat.
“The weather is one of my biggest concerns at this point,” he confessed. “The heat is a scary thing to navigate and I hope my body responds well. As I write this we are about three weeks out and I will start some indoor heat training to try and get my body ready for the drastic change in temperature. I live and train in the Rocky Mountains, in Utah, and while we have lots of elevation to climb, which is great for training, the temperatures are also very low at the moment, which isn’t quite as ideal.”
Lawrence said, “We are all nervous, I just hope that it is an excited nervousness. He concluded with some advice for fellow first-timers: “We can’t change the weather or the hills, so focus on what you can control. The best advice I can give is to have fun! It is going to hurt but who cares. All we can do is focus on the next pedal stroke, smile, cheer on the competition and thank the volunteers. Oh and if you quit somewhere along the way you’ll regret it forever, so just keep turning those pedals over!”