Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ironman Cozumel

Ironman Cozumel.

Ok so we're gonna rewind a few months here before a full race report.  I've been asked a lot how do you get ready for 30 Ironman races in a year and why do an Ironman 5 weeks before you are about to try and take on one of the hardest physical challenges of your life?  I consulted many local coaches and even ventured out of State for advice on the topic.  The typical answer I received in return was 'That's a tough one.... I've never had anyone ask me that before...'  Followed by a 'Good luck.'.  As a coach myself I didn't fully know the answer either.  Let's rewind....The purpose of Ironman Canada earlier this year was to practice my pacing for 2012.  I couldn't do this in a mock Ironman race, it had to be done in an actual event.  I needed to know how I would feel 7 days after a conservative effort in an IM event.  11 hour 45 minutes and 7 days later I felt awesome!  Like my practice pacing event needed to be in a real event, my prep needed to be for a real event - Cozumel.  My approach to 30 Ironman races was to prepare myself to do this one event to the best of my ability and forget about the 30.  In my mind if I could prepare myself for this one event at a faster pace (for me) then when I dial the intensity way back I could add in the volume of additional races, 30 of them.  Twelve months from now I will let you know if this rational still rings true.

My prep for Cozumel was perfect.  The goal of Ironman training is to improve your fitness, peak at the right time, remain injury free and stay in the good graces of your family and friends.  Success!  I feel that I managed to do all of these and at age 35 am in the best shape of my life.  I had a few of my athletes who were doing IM for their first time in Cozumel.  They continued to ask me what their goal times and expectations should be for the race?  We covered these but with a huge asterisk beside them.  ** You only get one shot to do your first IM, make sure you have fun and take a good memory with you for the rest of your life. **  I also told them that no matter how you slice it up that Ironman was a big long day and to hold back, stay under control and most important to be patient.  One of my biggest goals for this Ironman was to be patient, stick to the game plan and finish the run stronger than I started it.  I am happy to report I did all of these.

Thanks to Nick from for the awesome picture

My times for the race were as follows:

Swim 1:07:5 Bike 5:21:41 Run 3:41:57 Total 10:19:04

TOTAL SWIM 3.8 km (1:07:56) 1:47/100m

BIKE SPLIT 1: 54 km 54 km (1:35:58) 33.76 km/h
BIKE SPLIT 2: 117 km 63 km (1:52:59) 33.46 km/h
BIKE SPLIT 3: 180 km 63 km (1:52:44) 33.53 km/h
TOTAL BIKE 180 km (5:21:41) 33.57 km/h

RUN SPLIT 1: 7.04 km 7.04 km (36:40) 5:12/km
RUN SPLIT 2: 20.96 km 13.92 km (1:13:36) 5:17/km
RUN SPLIT 3: 34.88 km 13.92 km (1:16:51) 5:31/km
RUN SPLIT 4: 42.4 km 7.52 km (34:50) 4:37/km
TOTAL RUN 42.4 km (3:41:57) 5:14/km

The reason I posted the results this way is because I wanted to illustrate that I hit my goals... not specific time goals but rather the goal of being patient and consistent.   If you notice the bike splits are very close to each other despite the winds picking up throughout the day.  The stats here that I am most happy with is my last run split in yellow and my final split in blue.  Although these are not fast run time I was very happy that my last 4.2 miles were my fastest on the day and that my average pace for the marathon was very close to my opening 4.2 miles.  Goals accomplished!

Sunny and I were both very excited for this trip and a huge thanks goes out to Grandma Lawrence and Great Grandma Lily for flying into Utah to play with our five kids in our absence.  Once the race hustle and bustle settled down Sunny and I didn't care if we just sat on the  beach in silence for a few days.  We arrived without any problems and was super happy with our choice of condo.  Right on the ocean with diving platform for our enjoyment, and boy did we ever enjoy that!  I was meeting several of my friends and athletes there but traveled and hung out with Ryan Grover for most of the week.  We found some nice local cuisine and called it a night.

Ryan Grover and Sunny Jo Mamma - it tasted as good as it looked.

 In the morning we went for a practice swim in the ocean and then met with Dan Frost to do a quick bike ride and view some of the bike course.  We checked out the swim start and transition area making sure we were familiar with the sites of the race.  The bike course seemed fast and flat.  This course could be easy or hard depending in the heat and winds.

Dan Frost "Frosty"
James Lawrence "Iron Cowboy"
Ryan Grover
We headed to race check in and located a few more of our friends.  Ironman Cozumel takes first place so far of all the races I have done for swag.  In our check in bags was a really nice cycling jacket - yes!  The day concluded at the athletes dinner that consisted of noodles, potatoes, chicken and of course Mexican tortillas!!

Fun friends relaxing pre race
Jess, James and Ryan

We did our shopping at a local mart called the MEGA.  One of the coolest features of this stores was the flat escalators.  We didn’t know why they were flat until we headed out of the store.  With the grocery portion of the store being on the seconds floor getting carts down would be a hazard unless they were MAGNETIC.  One of Sunny’s favorite moments of the day.

Look mom, no hands!
The day before Ironman should be very chill and relaxed.  All the hard work is done, bikes and transition bags are all checked in and now the waiting begins.  This was a perfect day for us as we relaxed, hit some shops and basically lounged around all afternoon.

I slept really good the night of the Ironman and woke up well rested and ready to take on the day.  We had arranged for several cab drivers to come pick us up in the morning and it is a good thing that we did cause only one of them showed up. 

There isn’t much to do Ironman morning but make sure you get your pre race nutrition right and set up any final things in transition like your tire pressure and in race nutrition on your bike.  I was very calm race morning knowing I had done the best prep I knew how. 

I wonder if we have enough water bottles - pre race check.

Sunny and James just finishing up a last minute swim.

The weather was looking perfect.  All the athletes filled into the water and waited anxiously for the swim to start.  Right before I was about to jump in the water I ran into Nick from Tri Juice ( and he snapped a few nice picks and wished me luck on the day.  I was looking forward to the clear ocean swim and planned to sit on Keena’s feet for 2.4 miles.  She even painted her toes green for me so I could follow with ease.  As soon as the gun went off our little group was busted up amongst the chaos.  For those of you who have done a mass Ironman start you know what I am about to say.  And for those of you who have not done one, the horror stories are true (for the most part).  The gun goes off and the SH@$ storm started, it was nuts!!  I told myself I was going to have a repeat of my Canada experience and I was just going to go out nice and slow and nice and controlled.  All swim game plans went straight out the window as soon as I was elbowed in the face harder than any wrestling shot I had taken in the past.  Luckily for me the elbow landed dead square in the middle of my google lens and suctioned it all the way to my eye.  There was NO WAY I was stopping to fix this as I would have surely been trampled.  The good thing is that my goggles weren’t knocked off my face.  I battled hard and stayed in control for the first 400 meters of this swim and then just settled into a comfortable swim.  WHAT AN INCREDIBLE SWIM!!  The water was so clear you could see 100 meters in any direction.  I could see scuba divers sitting on the bottom of the ocean for the safety of the athletes.  In the last 200 meters of the swim I thought I had made it all the way through the race without being stung by any jelly fish the all of a sudden I must have swum through a small school of them cause I got stung about 20 times.  This is more annoying than anything else.

The swim start was nuts!!

"Big" John, James and Jess
A quick smooth transition sent me off onto the bike.  This ride started fast and my heart rate was low.  I thought to myself “Whoa, I could break 5 hours today.”  Then reality set in and the winds kicks up on the far side of the island.  This bike ride rivaled the swim in beauty - what a course.  I was riding staying in control when I looked up and I could see Keena just up ahead of me.  I knew she would beat me out of the water and I hoped I would catch her early in the ride.  She looked SO strong and we ended up riding most of the rest of the ride together (more on this later)  We hit the half way bags and they had lost Keena (this sucks), so I offered Keena some of my extra goodies I had on board.  A few miles down the road she accidentally dropped it.  I laughed and jokingly told she owed me $1.47.  He he.
Riding along the far side of the course .... taking on the winds.
Riding and enjoying the day with Keena

I posted very consisted splits on the 3 loop course.  I was really happy with this as the winds grew stronger as the day progressed.  I started to not feel super good and the stomach started to rumble..... so I threw up, twice.  Anyone who knows me will read this and say “yep, that’s what James does.... he throws up while racing”.  I have been in denial for a while but have come to the conclusion that this is one of the things I am pretty good at, throwing up while racing- just ask Scott Brown ;)  Sometimes my tummy gets just a little sick so I throw up and feel much better.  I know it’s gross but it works.
One or two.... or more than that are drafting off of me here....
The drafting I witnessed on this bike ride was some of the worst I have EVER seen.  I took some video and the race photographers captured some great pictures of these draft mobs.  I also witnessed one of the most horrific crashes I have seen first hand.  A female athlete clipped the tire of the guy in front of her and she proceeded to lead with her face all the way to the ground.  I don’t know how many people she took out as I caught it from the corner of my eye as I was passing the group.  I saw this girl later on the run gutting it out.... pretty impressive that she got back on her bike and finished the race, too bad she was drafting....

What's up boys.... yep that a chick (mind you a bad ass chick names Keena) you're all drafting off of.
I passed the last aid station grabbed some water and started to not feel good again.... I slowed up just a bit and threw up again - come on, no more puke!  This is where I lost Keena.  I didn’t see her the last 10 miles of the ride.  I thought she was behind me and really took her time at the aid station. 

I finished the bike course and was pretty happy with my conservative effort.  I felt I stayed in control and biked strictly off of my heart rate.  I didn’t care about speed or time.... just what my body as telling me.  I was me at T2 by athlete friend and coach David Warden who talked me through transition and cheered me on.  It is always so nice in an Ironman to see a friendly face.  Right out of transition I saw my awesome wife.  I forgot to take off my cycling short that I had over my tri shorts and stopped to talk to her and take off my shorts.  I told her that Keena was having a great race and is right behind me.  She laughed and said “Um.... Keena is ahead of you running already”  I giggled.  I must have missed her as I was throwing up for the final time on the bike. 

The weather was perfect on the bike with a nice warm sun and some good challenging winds.  The wind was blowing in all these perfect rain clouds for the run.  I’m not kidding it was perfect.  A nice rain started just a few miles into the run and rained on and off for the duration of my Ironman.  And when I say rain, I mean RAIN.  It poured for a bit. I was disappointed I had forgot my GoPro in my jersey, I would have been cool to show you the HUGE puddles of water we had to go through.  Some of the streets flooded during the run and water was up to our knees.  Most people slowed to a run but the kid came out in me and I had a blast running through these sections with high knees splashing water everywhere.  With the impossible task of keeping my feet dry I embraced the wetness and with my insoles slipping I removed them completely from my Altra shoes at around mile 5 and did the rest of the marathon without them.  That worked out great.

Loyal and dedicated wives.  Sunny Jo and Januari.  (not both my wives, just Sunny)

Rock'n the hat.

I caught Keena on the first of three laps of the run and immediately thought “Yes, a running partner”.  I knew Keena was going to be able to run it in with me and I was already getting myself ready for a sprint finish, (I was confident I could out kick her at the finish!).  After about 800 meters Keena just wasn’t feeling it and told me to enjoy the run and that she’d see me at the finish.  She ended up with a PR on the run and a new Ironman best.  Congrats to an awesome athlete, my wife’s hero!!!

My run continued at a steady pace and I felt pretty good.  I loved the 3 loop out and back course because it is an easy way to set small in race bench mark goals.  With so many friends out on the course it also allowed me to continually see so many friendly faces.  I was starting my final lap and came up on good friend and first time Ironman competitor Jess.  2 years ago he broke his back and was marked with a life of doing non athletic things.  So much for doctors being right... I just hate the limits doctors put on people.  Jess did an awesome job and finished strong just under 12 hours and 28 minutes. 

Catching Jess on the run.  Jess had a great race coming back from a broken back.

Ryan and Big John enjoyed the entire race together.  This is what your first Ironman should look like.  Congrats!

 It was awesome to see my two other good friends and athletes doing the run together with two of the biggest smiles I have ever seen.  I thought to myself,  “This is exactly how your first Ironman should be done!”  Way to go John Rose and Ryan Grover.

Going into the race one of my goals was to finish strong without the typical Ironman fade in the marathon.  As I rounded the final turn around I told myself, “Now you can go!”  It was on for the last 4.2 miles of my marathon.  I ran in with an average of 7:30 (fastest split of my marathon) and was so happy to be able to do this.  I saw my wife right before the finish and she gave me my signature cowboy hat for the finish!

With a big smile on my face I crossed the line in 10 hours 19 minutes and 4 seconds, a new personal best by 50 minutes!!  I wasn’t really hungry and blew through the finish area to go find Sunny and give her a big hug.  She was a huge support during my preparation for this race and the races to come for 2012.  She is a big part of my Ironman journey and I am happy to announce that she will become an IronWoman in St George in 2012.  I am super excited for her, she is going to kill it.

We headed to the grandstands and waited to see Keena, John, Ryan, Jess and others finish.  The finish line of an Ironman is incredible.  People have this look of pure joy and accomplishment on their faces.  Just look at the pictures below of Ryan and John, try to convince me these two guys aren’t as happy as can be!  Way to go guys!!!

The following few days were just awesome.  We just chilled and relaxed and enjoyed the island of Cozumel.  We decided to rent this scooter/car hybrid type of vehicle to travel around the island and see some of the historical sites.  Ryan named it Ricky, and it stuck!  We hit a museum that had all these really cool replicas of the ruin sites and historical landmarks from all of Mexico.  We also went to the biggest Mayan ruin site on Cozumel and walk amongst the ruins for several hours.  The rest of our time was spent swimming in the ocean, watching movies and enjoying the relaxing energy of Cozumel.

There was a snow storm in Denver and our airplane that was picking us up in Cozumel was delayed because of ice on the plane.  By the time we finally boarded the plane in Cozumel we were over an hour behind schedule.  When we landed in Denver we quickly realized that with customs we weren’t going to make our connecting flight home to SLC.  A full night in the airport was one thing I did not want to do.  To my incredible shock one of the coolest things happened.  I posted on Twitter that we were stranded and destined for a sleepless night with the night cleaners of the airport.  I received a tweet back from a stranger who offered to come and get us so we could sleep at their house!!  This quickly turned into a very difficult task with 3 big big boxes and luggage.  I was shocked with the nice offer and tried to settle in for the night.  About 20 minutes later I heard my name called over the loud speakers of the airport saying “Could James Lawrence please pick up the white courtesy phone.”  My first thought was my bike had been destroyed again but quickly realized I had my bike with me.  I picked up the phone and was told that a hotel had been booked for us and that a shuttle was waiting out front.  What an incredible act of kindness by my new friend Sonja.  We gathered our things and headed to the hotel for a great night sleep.  Thank you again!!  Oh and Sonja  is also super human.  She did the race in 10:00:33 seconds!  See you in Kona girl!!!!  You can follow her on twitter at gosonja !!

We arrived home to a houseful of smiling kids.  Thank you to all my awesome sponsors and friends who helped me get to this point of my journey.  Timp Cyclery did an awesome job getting my bike race ready - thanks Brian, Wes and Mark!! 

With only 5 weeks till my first Ironman of my journey towards 30, I am not sure what to do with myself..... James aka the Iron Cowboy!

So thankful I didn't have to try and sleep on these.  Thanks again Sonja!!!


  1. Congrats on a great race!! We were cheering you on from Maine!! :D serendiptious that you met MY coach!! Yeah, that would be Sonja. She's amazing huh??
    I was pretty stoked when I saw you two hooked up. Small small world

  2. You are so incredible...I just am so glad I have come to know you and hopefully meet Sunny soon.