Jason Fowler is no stranger to the IRONMAN trials in Lubbock, Texas. He knows only too well that the trials are the key to the IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii. His ultimate goal has always been qualification, but since last year, Jason’s been training a new attitude.
“After winning [IRONMAN] in 2009, I wanted to get back to this race and really enjoy it, said Jason. “I spent so much time with my head down, focused on the training and preparation in the past that this year, I really wanted to enjoy the process and have fun with it.”
This time around, Jason committed to what he calls his “no regrets” six months.
“I just put everything I had into my training, getting better and trying to get back to IRONMAN Hawaii this year,” he said. “ For the past six months, I’ve just been training, on average, about 18 hours a week.”
Coming into the trial in Texas, Jason had also already done three half IRONMANs, a marathon and an Olympic distance triathlon.
“I was well prepared and couldn’t have felt any better. It was a spectacular day,” Jason recalls.
While Jason would be elbow to elbow with all of his competition who had travelled there from around the world, he would also be face to face with some really good friends he’s known for a long time. And they all, each and every one of them, knew exactly what it was going to take to get that coveted one through two position.
Jason stated, “I knew what time I had to make and I knew I had perform my best. And I went to Texas to qualify, to enjoy it, and to be good with the outcome. Well, I had my best day, and so I walked away with a second place finish and a spot to go to the IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii in October.”
As you can imagine, Jason Fowler is incredibly excited and at the same time, he feels grateful and blessed to race at this level.
“I’ve been in wheelchair sports now for over 20 years,” Jason says. “At first, it was just wanting to win, but at the same time I want to savor the experience and what it has to offer. I’m grateful that I can participate in the event— especially using a wheelchair, and show the world that it doesn’t matter that you’re in a wheelchair—you can still do whatever it is that you want to do.”
Jason Fowler grew up in Kingston, Mass., where he spent most of his childhood riding motorcycles, becoming a nationally-ranked amateur racer by age ten. Jason’s life was forever changed, however, on March 13, 1991. At 17 years old, while riding his motorcycle, he collided with an obscured rock and hit the ground head first, severing his spinal cord in the process. His injury left him paralyzed from the chest down.
During the weeks following the accident, Jason looked toward the future. He insisted that he would be as active as possible, as soon as possible. Competitive racing had been his passion. Four months after his accident and spinal fusion surgery, his drive, determination and strong will propelled him into racing again – only this time in a wheelchair . He has since completed more than 140 road races, 30 marathons and 25 triathlons.
Despite occasional medical and physical setbacks along the way, Jason has always continued to look ahead. He never accepted that his life would be anything other than extraordinary. Like other world-class athletes, he maintained a rigorous training schedule and continued to tirelessly pursue success.
In late 2004, Jason encountered an unexpected obstacle.
“I was in Kona, Hawaii competing in the IRONMAN Triathlon World Championships,” he remembers. “I had completed the 2.4-mile swim and 106 miles of the 112-mile bike segment, when a race official stepped in front of me and disqualified me from the race because I had failed to meet the 10 hour and 30 minute cutoff for completing the swim and bike segments. I was angry and disappointed with my performance, and it is a race I will never forget.”
After Jason’s disqualification, he made it his mission to get back to Kona and accomplish what he had set out to do: finish IRONMAN Hawaii.
Jason explains that “in order to race in Kona, a triathlete must earn a slot through a qualification race. For the handcycle division, competitors must finish in the top two at one of two races – in Lubbock, Texas or Antwerp, Belgium. This ensures that qualifying for Kona is a special privilege and that eligibility is only for the elite.”
In 2005 and 2006, Jason competed again in the Lubbock qualifications, but finished in third place both years. He missed qualifying by one position and noted that his greatest challenge was that his fellow handcycle athletes possess significantly more muscle function than he did. His injury prevented him from using any muscle groups below the T5/T6 level, which translates to completing a 140.6 mile race using only his arms and shoulders. Despite this adversity, Jason resolved to do whatever it took to achieve the goal he had been denied in 2004: finishing IRONMAN Hawaii.
Jason competed in Lubbock again in 2007. Despite cutting 43 minutes off his six-hour race time, he missed qualifying once again – this time by five minutes and 10 seconds. “I was disappointed that I didn’t qualify, but I was proud that I had made such great improvement.
“That winter, I trained with intense focus and treated every single workout with emotional intent,” Jason recalls. “That was also the winter I started to work on my swimming with Dr. David Phillips (who was an All-American swimmer in college) and his wife Heidi Phillips, who introduced me to Juice Plus+®.”
Jason qualified for Kona in June of 2008 by finishing first at the Texas race. Then, on October 11, 2008, he successfully completed the IRONMAN World Championship in a personal best time of 11 hours and 29 minutes. Only one year later, in 2009, Jason went on to win IRONMAN Hawaii.
Over the intervening years, Jason has continued to push through barriers, overlook limitations and set new expectations for himself. Today, after a much-needed break to focus on his relationships with friends and family, Jason will be competing again in the 2013 IRONMAN World Championship this October in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i.
We’ll have the special opportunity to follow Jason’s IRONMAN regimen, post by post and week by week, as he trains to exceed his personal best time with a new attitude. But know, he is a man with a modified mission.
“I’ll show you with my posts and video journal that some days it’s very, very tough and there are a lot of ups and downs through this process but I think that’s what makes it special when you get to that point you’ve been aiming for. So, I’m looking forward to going through that over the next few months and sharing it with all of you.”
And, yes, Jason has found that balance point in his life. In addition to racing, Jason has also excelled academically and professionally. He attended the University of Illinois, where he was a member of the wheelchair racing team, and then returned to Massachusetts to attend Northeastern University in Boston, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance. In May 2004, he earned an MBA with a concentration in health care management from Boston University. He now works as a clinical consultant at Medtronic, Inc.
Why does Jason do what he does? “It’s because people think I can’t.”
Please follow and like us: