Jason Fowler, who is paralyzed from the chest down, trained in Kailua Kona this past week in preparation for today's race.

Paralyzed racer doing
the ‘impossible’

Jason Fowler says the triathlon
is the "biggest challenge" he could

Jason Fowler says competing in the Ironman Triathlon World Championship will be tough, even acknowledging "it's the impossible for me."


Where: Kailua-Kona

When: Today, 7 a.m.

Course: 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike leg and a 26.2-mile marathon

Defending champions: Men: Peter Reid; Women: Lori Bowden

Field: 1,797 competitors from 48 countries and all 50 states

But he deliberately chose today's Big Island race as a personal challenge, with its 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bicycle ride and 26.2-mile run -- all in one day.

"It is the biggest challenge I could come up with," said Fowler, who is paralyzed from the chest down from a March 1991 motorcycle accident.

Fowler, 30, became a wheelchair athlete four months after he struck a rock and landed on his head, severing his spinal cord during a motocross training run in Kingston, Mass.

He had raced motocross for 11 years, winning eight New England championships and a national amateur ranking.

Since his injury at age 17, Fowler has completed eight shorter triathalons, 140 road races, and 27 marathons, including the 1997 Honolulu Marathon.

He started his quest to compete in the king of all triathalons in September 2003 and began training full-time last April. He qualified for the Big Island race "with a lot of hard work" in the Buffalo Springs Half Iron Distance Triathlon in Lubbock, Texas, in June.

Fowler has never tried a full Ironman, but he's been practicing on the course since arriving in Kona on Sunday. While heat and wind often take their toll on Ironman racers, Fowler purposely has not paid attention to weather reports.

"Whatever is there I'll be ready for," he said.

His main goal is to finish the race, and he hopes to do so in about 13 1/2 hours. Last year's winner, Peter Reid, finished in 8:22.34.

In the swim portion of the race, "it's all arms," Fowler said in a telephone interview from Kailua-Kona, where the race starts and ends. He will use leg braces to keep his knees straight and tie his legs together.

He has a three-wheel bicycle that he pedals with his hands and arms while sitting about six inches off the ground.

"The bike will be the most difficult," he said. "It's 112 miles and I'll be on the bike 8 1/2 to 9 hours."

For the run, he uses a three-wheelchair with a small wheel in front.

"It will be a challenge for sure," Fowler said, "A lot of people pace themselves. But I'll be pushing myself to my limit all the time."

Fowler is in the process of moving from Boston, where he received his MBA degree in finance at Boston University in May, to Minneapolis. He has accepted a position doing financial work for Medtronic, a company that makes medical devices including one implanted in Fowler's abdomen that controls spasms, a problem common to people with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, stroke, brain injury and spinal cord injury.

The device, the size of a hockey puck, "has worked tremendously for me." Fowler said. "The chance to work for them (Medtronic) is a perfect fit."

Fowler's parents and girlfriend will be in Kona for the race.

"I'll have a cheering section," he said. "I can use all the inspiration I can get.

"I've done lots of training and I focus on finishing," Fowler said. "It will be tough. I've done everything I can. But in a 13-to-14-hour race, a lot can happen."



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