James Lawrence has five young kids who accompanied him during his 50-triathlon attempt.
James Lawrence has five young kids who accompanied him during his 50-triathlon attempt. (Photo: Courtesy of James Lawrence)

The Iron Cowboy’s Guide to Successful Parenting

James Lawrence ran 50 Ironman-distance triathlons in 50 States in 50 days, and still managed to parent his five kids. How the hell did he do it?


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This past summer, James Lawrence, who goes by the name The Iron Cowboy, set a record by completing 50 Ironman-distance triathlons in 50 states over 50 days. During the attempt, the 39-year-old triathlon coach spent an average of 14 hours each day competing. Which didn’t include the time he spends every day coaching clients and pleasing sponsors. So how does Lawrence find time for his wife, Sunny Jo, and their five young kids? By sticking to a schedule, making time for what matters, and cutting out the rest. 

“The kids were on summer break and stayed involved in the planning process the whole time. We bought a sharpie and map and made notes on it of what they wanted to do in every state. During the day, while I was competing, they were off seeing monuments and parks. And every night at seven o’clock we did a public 5K and they’d run it with me.”

“Get rid of your television.” 

“It’s not hard to eat healthy. You have to plan and prepare. We put a huge emphasis on family time and we cook breakfast and dinner together every day.”

“At 7:30 the kids need to be quiet and doing homework. That’s mom and dad time for us to reconnect.” 

“On a regular day, I’ll get up at 4:30 and do two workouts. Something like an hour of running and an hour of swimming or weight lifting. Then I come home and make the kids breakfast and take them to school. I’ll do an afternoon training session—a bike ride or something—then I’m home by 3:30 and I hang out with the kids for an hour.  After that I’ll jump on the computer. I have work I need to do for my sponsors and I’m also a triathlon coach, so I’m busy doing programming or having Skype sessions with my clients. I’m in my bed winding down by 8:30.”

“I have my private time when I’m out riding my bike on the side of a mountain. I use exercise as a stress reliever so it’s good to do that first thing in the morning.”

“Be part of the activity. Every Wednesday, I take all five kids to the rock climbing gym and we all climb together for an hour. But, I’m not sitting on the sideline, watching. When I go rock climbing with them, I’m actually rock climbing.”

“We think there’s a lot of value having either a mom or dad at home with the kids. Not everybody has to do that, but it works for us.” 

“To be successful, you have to do a lot of little things consistently over a long period of time. Parenting is the same. People want it to happen now, but that’s not how it works.”

“The biggest thing that we do with the kids is open up the lines of communication. If something’s not going well, we talk it out.” 

“Kids teach you patience, discipline, and hard work.”

“Dads should try to make it to at least one of their kid’s activities. I don’t care who you work for; you can get the time off. Just make it a priority.” 

“We have the ability to do everything for our kids but we don’t because it doesn’t teach them anything. We let them make mistakes and learn from them.” 

Lead Photo: Courtesy of James Lawrence