LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - About 1,500 athletes from around the world came to Lubbock this weekend to compete in one of the most challenging sporting events in the world, the Ironman Triathlon. Competitors swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, and run 13.1 miles. It's a total of 70.3 miles. The Buffalo Springs Lake Ironman Triathlon tests competitor's athleticism, endurance and determination.
"It means something different every time you go to the starting line," said competitor David Bailey. He has three Ironman's under his belt, and Sunday's race qualified him to return to Hawaii to compete in the Ironman World Championship again, but Bailey completed the course a little differently than most of his fellow competitors. He used his arms to push himself up the hills, and wheels aided his journey.
Bailey is paralyzed. He lost the use of his legs in a motor cross accident 22 years ago. "I figured that was it. I had wanted to do the Ironman, and then three months after that I fell, and I figured well, there goes that," he said. Even a traumatic accident couldn't stop him. "I thought, well I could still do this, so I figured well, why not," said Bailey. He started training, competed in marathons, and eventually worked his way up to the Ironman.
"They still keep going, and if that's not encouragement, I don't know what is," said one of the race volunteers, Teresa Powers.
Some spectators watched in disbelief as Bailey crossed the finish line, but he's amazed by competitors who run the race on their own two feet. "Major respect for the people that do this on their legs all day, I don't know how they run that far and cycle that far," Bailey said.
Bailey came in 2nd in the physically challenged division, but the younger competitor who beat him says he couldn't have done it without Bailey's help.
"I had a motorcycle accident 18 years ago, so I've been wheel-chair racing for 17 years, and doing triathlons for eight," said Jason Fowler. The accident left Fowler paralyzed, but shortly after he met the man who proved to him his injury did not have to hold him back.
"I did the Boston marathon, and he had just gotten hurt, so he came up to the hotel after the race and we met, and he was going, ok what do I do?," said Bailey.
"He's (Bailey) the reason I started doing this," said Fowler.
Both Bailey and Fowler achieved what many would think impossible- they've completed a 70.3 mile Ironman Triathlon without the use of their legs.
"I've always been a competitive, athletic person and I think just the biggest challenge I could get my hands on," said Fowler.
They've always encouraged and supported each other, but they've never competed together until Sunday. "I had like a first career, retired, getting too old for this stuff, and then he came along and I thought, well maybe I could still do it," said Bailey.
After six hours of swimming, cycling, and pushing themselves up hills, they proved they both have what it takes, they proved dedication pays off, and they proved no obstacle is too big to overcome. "Same challenges, just different equipment," said Fowler.
Both Bailey and Fowler, with the top times in the Handcycle division qualified for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
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