BY DAVID WARDEN
Day 50 Splits
Bike: 6:00:01 (seriously, James? 6:00:oh-one?)
Total: 12:46:42 - Fastest elapsed time of the 505050
Average daily elapsed time of the 505050: 14:21:21
Average daily moving time of the 505050: 12:51:32
Total moving time: 642:56:31
(this post is best read while simultaneously listening to The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha)
James Lawrence is a visionary.
I'm confident James was not the first to entertain the idea of the 505050. How long did the same thought last in others' heads? Ten seconds? A day? "Impossible," they inevitably concluded. James took that same thought, fostered it, and then convinced another dozen people to follow him.
I'm ashamed to say that when James first asked me to coach him for the 505050, I thought I was doing him a favor. Many individuals have miscalculated James, but perhaps none so much as me. To be James' coach was one of the greatest gifts I've received, a huge personal and professional boon that I now feel unworthy of.
I have a close friend who advised me not to ever say that I thought the 505050 was unlikely to succeed, as it made it appear I didn't believe in my clients. I disagree. I view my primary roles as a coach to 1) deliver results and 2) be honest about the client's objectives and capabilities. I did not think the 505050 was impossible, I thought it was highly unlikely, and told James as such before we started (20% chance of success, I think I said at breakfast with him the morning he left for Hawaii). So much could have gone wrong, and any one of them could have ended the venture. James had to avoid weather, injury, car crash, illness, falling asleep on the bike (oh yea, that one actually did happen)...
Yes, I was skeptical of the 505050, but there is a difference between James and the 505050. The 505050 was fallible, but I always believed in James. To those of you who said the 505050 was unlikely, you were right, and are still right. What James did was highly unlikely, and that's what makes it astonishing.
I spent most of day 50 with James. It was my first experience as a 505050 spectator, and it was delightful. James ran the last 6 miles in approximately 1-mile loops around the finish line. Running through the crowds each loop was as loud and crazy of an event I've ever participated in, and I soon found myself running without my shirt on. I could tell the crowd, some 5,000+ by the end of the evening, was motivating James too. From mile 20-23 James just got faster and faster, finishing mile 23 at a 7:35 pace. "Are you in a hurry to get somewhere?" I asked him. His reply is not suitable for this PG-rated blog.
During the final 5k, when James invites the public to run with him, Tommy Rivers and I had decided to form a wall behind James to protect him from the throng. That plan lasted 0 seconds. As soon as the 5k started, James was mobbed. For some reason. my 5'7" 160-pound frame was not intimidating enough to scare off the (not exaggerating) 20 gorgeous women who desperately threw themselves at him for a selfie. I asked James if he needed me to go into Beast Mode (5'7" 160-pounds, remember?) to give him some space, but he said it was exactly the way he wanted to finish it. I hilariously offered one women a selfie as James' body double. She did not laugh.
Lost in the remarkable accomplishment of the 505050 is James' performance on Day 50 itself. The fastest elapsed time of all 50 days, and his fastest moving marathon time of 4:23. To the skeptics who said that the 505050 would destroy James physically, I don't blame you, but you were still wrong. Not only did James destroy day 49 and 50, but he was up the next day as cheerful and energetic as I have ever seen him. Granted, it is early to determine the true long-term physical effects, but the early evidence is that he will be just fine.
Enough of this irrelevant talk! Below is the final chart on daily elapsed time. A couple of notes: I finally have moving time included. To review, elapsed time covers the entire time of swim plus bike plus run from start to stop, including any breaks and pauses within that discipline. Elapsed time does not include the transition time between disciplines, which was not captured in the 505050. Moving time includes only the actual time moving within the 3 discipline. Additionally, early on in the 505050 I was using both data from Garmin Connect and TrainingPeaks.com, eventually standardizing on using only Garmin Connect. As a result, the chart you see here is slightly different than previous charts showing daily elapsed time, but is now using the same source to calculate elapsed and moving time for each day.
I am surprised at how the elapsed and moving stay so connected in this chart. For some reason I thought they would be more disparate in the early states, particularly because I saw James and the crew get more and more efficient each day at the logistics of the 505050. The chart below gives a better picture of this, and does show a slight improvement in the delta between elapsed and moving as the 505050 progressed.
There is a great story behind that huge spike on Day 18 that has not been told. I'm not sure if I can tell it yet. If I get the green light from James, I'll add it here later. Sorry for the teaser.
Did the elevation gain of the Western states contribute to the slower elapsed times of the first 10 days? I've been wanting to answer that for a long time, and the answer is: maybe. I wish I could be more definitive, because it would help to clarify my theory that the first 10 days of the 505050 built the fitness for the next 10 days, and so on. There is no doubt that James got faster over the 505050, but did he get stronger or did the course get easier? The chart below indicates that yes, some of the most difficult elevation days took place in the first 6 days. However, the elevation gain of the 10 fastest elapsed times was 2,444 feet and the 10 slowest was 3,025 feet, with an average 2,791 feet each day. That is not a huge difference in elevation gain between the best and worst times.
Of course, the best way to answer this is his power data. Did his raw bike output get stronger? You bet. Excluding the first 3 days of power (when James went off the reservation from the power game plan) he averaged 125 watts for the first half of the 505050, and 128 for the second half (some days have 0 power due to technical glitches). Not a huge difference, but both his overall times and raw power indicate he was absolutely not getting any weaker over the last half of the 505050. The fast times from Day 49 and 50 are testaments of that reality.
Next, swim, bike and run daily elapsed and moving time.
James swam 194.67 kilometers, or 1,549 meters above the minimum for the 50 days.
He biked 5,619 miles, 19 miles over the minimum of 50 x 112.
James ran 1,312 miles, only 2 miles beyond the minimum 50 x 26.2. I don't blame him one bit. At the end of each day he was looking at that watch, finger hovering over the stop button, sometimes doing laps around the RV until it hit the magic number and he could collapse into bed. My spreadsheet of his daily run distances is a sea of entries that read 26.20 and 26.21.
What an amazing 50 days. Some days I wished it was over, and some days I regretted it would ever end. James has shown himself to be that rare breed of individuals who complete something that has never been accomplished. Skeptics and trolls have proven ubiquitous, but visionaries are few. James Lawrence is a visionary, and we need more visionaries.