For some, madness, for others, something completely normal in the current shifting of boundaries. So, for starters, Canadian James Lawrence, hereinafter referred to as Iron Cowboy, is planning to complete100 Ironmans in 100 days. As you are reading this article, it is possible that the Canadian is already done with this crazy challenge. However, as I am writing this post, he has just finished 69 Ironmans. In 69 days. Which, to be honest, is also not a negligible figure.
What is Ironman anyway? The only correct explanation is as follows. In 1975, partners Judy and John Collins moved from California to Hawaii. The year before, they participated in the triathlon in San Diego, which is considered to be the pioneer of modern triathlon in America. In 1977, the Collins took part in a duathlon (swimming-running) in Honolulu, and came up with the idea to do a triathlon for more endurable competitors the following year. For those who take part in the Honolulu Marathon each year, and the Waikiki Roughwater Swimming Marathon.
But the bike was still missing. The answer came along with the route of the local cycling club. And that is how we got the discipline that consists of 3.8km of swimming, 180km of cycling and 42.2km of running. Judy and John told each other, “If you do this, then so will I,” after which John uttered the legendary words, “Whoever comes through the finish line first will earn the title of Iron Man.” Of course, the flood of commercialization has led to the fact that now participants who finish only half the length or sometimes even less proclaim themselves as Ironman, which slightly invalidates the effort of those who finish the real Ironman. Of course a big part of the blame goes to the Ironman organisation too, for their recent selling out. It is also why they do not acknowledge double, triple, deca… Ironman. Because there is no money there. Because there are too few of these heroes. Only a handful of people dare to look ahead, to face these longer distances. And these modern-day pioneers do not fit into the circle of modern capitalism. Instead of supporting progress, the commercialized organization that is Ironman now systematically shortens distances, and for those lousy 100 euros of entry fee, the title of Ironman is essentially already awarded to those who do sprint triathlon. Of course in the fine print they include 70.3, Ironkids and I don’t know what else. Sad.
A new organization has been formed, IUTA, which enables competitions over longer distances. The Iron, Double, Triple, Quadruple, Five, Ten, Twenty and Thirty Ironmans have been available for some time. They take place in more modest conditions. While they have champagne and caviar on Ironman in Klagenfurt, on these Ironmans you drink water, and eat whatever you find. The tenth, twentieth, and thirtieth Ironman unfolds in two ways. Either by doing one every day. Or you each discipline is dealt with separately.
Iron Cowboy is already in the Guinness Book of Records, having completed 30 Ironmans in one year in 2012. In 2015, he embarked on an even greater feat. In 50 days, he completed 50 Ironmans in 50 American states. However, the attempt was not approved, seeing as he did part of the challenge in a gym twice due to bad weather and health issues. This year, however, he decided to finish 100 Ironmans in 100 days. His project is called Conquer 100, because he is not allowed to use the name Ironman as the brand is protected. The Conquer 100 attempt aims to create a new world standard of human performance and endurance, both physically and mentally by doing 100 straight iron-distance triathlons. The Conquer 100 attempt also aims to promote the work of O.U.R., a not-for-profit organization focused on permanent eradication of child sex trafficking through coordinated rescue and recoovery planning.
Matej Markovič is the only Slovenian who finished the Deca Ironman. Therefore, he is also the only person qualified to say a few words about these distances, and above all, whether it is harder to do an Ironman every day or whether it would be harder to do swimming first, go cycling after, and finish with running. Matej, did the Deca Ironman by attempting each discipline separately. To make it easier to imagine, first he swam 38km, then cycled 1800km, and finally ran 420km. We now have so many variations in ultra triathlon that it kind of became athletics already. But if we look at those further, from 10xIM onwards… we have 10, 20, 30 where you do 1xIM every day and we have the same distances as those described above, i.e. you fully finish one discipline first, then you go on to another. Two years ago, there was even a new discipline, where you first do 10xIM (1xIM every day), and then immediately continue in the classic 10xIM (38/1800/422) – that is, 20xIM in two versions. There is no rules about when and how these competitions are organized – a lot depends on the options we have as the organizers. Since I have also thought a lot about this, what ends up being the biggest problem is finding a place that you have “reserve” for 14 days, 3 weeks, one month – if you want to organize such an event. Therefore, there is less classic distances (where you do each discipline as a whole), as organising that takes more time… I think determining which discipline is harder definitely depends on the individual, but at the same time it depends A LOT on how much you invest into each IM if we talk about 1xIM every day. A big difference is if you do IM in, for example, 15 hours or you do it in around 10:30 – 11:00, as I did in Mexico. In any case, sleep itself should be taken into account – with 1xIM every day you have up to 8 hours of sleep (if you complete it in an average time, of course), but at classic distances this is another beast completely. Another difficulty that comes with the classic distances is the fact that you have to do a discipline completely first before moving onwards – and for someone who is not the best swimmer, for example, 38/76 or 114km can be “fatal” already. For me, for example, the biggest problem (due to lack of training) was flat bike 1800km. I chose the classic 10xIM (Deca) exactly because for me it is the right discipline, because here you have to show more than just physical strength. It is a fight between physical capabilities and your mind. It’s about figuring out how far you can push your limits. It’s about ignoring the pain, sleep deprivation, your own thoughts that are trying to trick you and tell you that this is not necessary, that it does not make sense…To conclude, I think the classic 10, 20, 30x IM variant is more difficult overall! Besides, the human body and mind have no limits… so I personally am not surprised even by 100xIM in 100 days… For most of us who have (or still do) struggled with such distances, the only problem is time… time needed, to overcome such distance (and thus absence from our families, jobs,…). If I had the time, I would go to 20 or 30x IM next year already.
As Matej already mentioned above, one of the problems is space. Iron Cowboy will spend 100 on the same spot. The same pool, the same cycling track, the same running track. It feels monotonous, however at the same time everything is monotonous if you are doing it for 100 days straight. That is why you have to cut some slack with other parts. With the 50 Ironmans that he was doing in different states he had to travel as well, whereas here he sleeps in his own house, which is definitely a bonus. He starts swimming every day at 5:30. The plan is to finish in 1:28. But look at his times in the table. All times are between 1:24:00 and 1:26:00. This is followed by a 15 minute break and then a bike ride. Every day the same route, only every now and then they turn to the other direction. Anyone can join him on the bike so he can ride with some leeway. Cycling takes between 6 hours and 6:45. Only running is a variable in the end. He has had problems with injuries from the start, so he walks a lot. As with cycling, the running part is open to everyone as well. His times are thus between 5 and 7 hours. The total time is somewhere between 14 and 16 hours every day. Day after day. Amazing.
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Some thoughts from James and his team:
TRANSLATION: LUKA KRNIĆ