Monday, July 27, 2015

Swimming with the Iron Cowboy on Day 50!

Many of you in the endurance sports world have probably heard by now of James Lawrence aka The Iron Cowboy.  Already the world record holder for the most Ironman Triathlons completed within one year, he apparently wanted more, and this summer pulled off what many people said could not be done.  He set out to complete 50 Ironman distance triathlons in 50 states within 50 consecutive days, all while working with the Jamie Oliver Foundation to raise money and awareness for child hood obesity.

Day 50 for him was back in Utah, our shared home state.  He is also a member of the same tri club I am in, the Salt Lake Tri Club.  It was set up for anyone that wanted to join him for any part of the day.  I figured I would be safe and be able to keep up for the swim.  I woke up at 3 am my time to drive down to Deer Creek Reservoir to do the swim that was to start at 5:30.  I wasn't familiar with the area, so I wanted to make sure that I gave myself plenty of time to get there and find it.  It turned out to be no problem at all, and I was there early, which was also fine.

While waiting for him to come out and swim, I was standing around with Rory and Courtney from my tri club and Rory introduced me to Matt Fitzgerald.  Say what?!?  This was the same guy that has written tons of books and training plans for running and triathlon, including the plan I used to get through IMTX.  It was beyond cool to meet him.  He had flown in from California just for this event and would be running the marathon with him later.  We talked for a bit and he couldn't have been more down to earth and approachable, and even humored this fan with a picture.  So cool!

The swim was in the Wahlberg Bay area of Deer Creek Reservoir. I haven't swam here before, and as we all got into the water to swim, I wasn't impressed at first.  It was very shallow and murky and I didn't love that.  It cleared out after the first couple hundred yards though and was nice.  Water temp was about 72 from what everyone was saying.  The water actually felt good because air temperature was in the high 40's, low 50's.  I was glad that I had brought my wetsuit!

I started out and got ahead of the main group.  I then noticed the group was thinning as we got further out and I stopped to get oriented to where we were.  Just a few yards behind me was James and his Wingmen and a couple of others.  I decided to stick with them.  This was pretty cool to go stroke for stroke with them and that is what I did the remainder of the swim.  I would stop when they did, and followed their lead since there really wasn't a marked course or anything like that.  We turned around when we got (according to their watches) around 1.1 miles out.  We turned around and it seemed that James was confused.  He relied heavily on his Wingmen for guidance.  He was stopping more frequently and then he wasn't responding to their questions.  They pulled him over to the shore and saw that he was shaking like a leaf and freezing.  Though the water temp wasn't bad, when you have virtually no body fat for insulation as James does NOT, even with a wetsuit, he was shivering and starting to get hypothermic.  Another guy in the group took off his full sleeve wetsuit and put it over the one he already had on and he was able to continue.  It was a very cool demonstration of team work and perseverance.  Any other person would have said ENOUGH ALREADY and quit.  That is not even in this guy's vocabulary.  It was a matter of finding the problem, fixing it and continuing it.  When we got back to where we started, they still weren't at the exact distance needed, so they continued to swim in the zig zag motion in that shallow part to make sure they were true to what they said they were going to do, to the exact yardage.  These guys are the real deal.

After getting out of the water, James needed time to get warmed up and prepare for the bike, it probably took about a half hour until he was ready to start the bike.  I visited with others while we waited and the energy was electric among this group.  Apparently 80-90 had registered to do the swim, but only about 10-12 of us did the whole distance of 2.4 miles with him.  There were literally hundreds of bikers through out the day that would join him later.  It was very cool do be part of history as he accomplished what virtually everyone said could not be done.  I walked away inspired and realizing that my own excuses are pretty pathetic when I want to stay in bed to avoid a 3 mile run on some days.  Suck it up Buttercup!!

In the meantime, I still have 4 weeks until the Utah Half and then another couple months until the StG Marathon.  I am torn on these.  Part of me wants to be done already with the season, but I am also glad that I have these events to keep me training, as I think I would become a couch potato at this point without them.  I am coming back off 2 weeks of no running due to a pulled groin muscle, so that adds to some frustration I have had.  But, no more excuses.  Simply onward and upward!

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