Jason McCain is a triathlete. He was before the accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down and he is today, eight years later.
The 42-year-old McCain, a Caldwell resident, completed TRI Idahos second annual Quest for the Capitol triathlon Saturday, finishing the .9-mile swim, 22-mile bicycle ride and 6.2-mile run in 3 hours, 17 minutes and 27 seconds.
Those are basically the distances for the Olympic triathlon.
Im not quite as fast as I used to be on foot. But I like the thrill of finishing, said McCain, who uses a hand cycle for the bike portion and a racing wheelchair for the run.
McCain was in the best shape of his life on April 19, 2004. He had taken up running eight years earlier, as a way to get in shape. Soon he evolved into a triathlete, one who commuted 21 miles each way to work on his bicycle.
It was on a morning commute that McCain was hit by a passing motorist and left on the side of the road near the intersection of Black Cat Road and Chinden Boulevard.
He woke up three weeks later in the hospital.
I had no idea what happened, he said.
McCain suffered major injuries, including minor brain trauma, memory loss, a broken neck and a broken back that left him paralyzed. (The driver was eventually caught and prosecuted.)
It was devastating at first, McCain said. I thought I shouldnt have even been around.
But the strong-willed McCain, who worked as a diesel mechanic before the accident, didnt stay there long. He credits a therapist at Elks Rehab Hospital for showing him that his triathlon days werent done and that his active life wasnt over.
Once I realized there was so much adaptive equipment out there for a paraplegic to use, I didnt really quit, McCain said.
Four months after being hit, McCain participated in his first triathlon as a paraplegic. Organizers didnt think he was going to do anything more than swim, and he finished the race in a standard wheelchair.
Dreadfully slow, is how McCain describes his first performance.
Simply finishing is more than most people accomplish. His wife Cristy and mother Rita were on hand Saturday to help him make the transition to and from each event, but McCain did the all the work himself.
The grueling bike ride included three tough climbs on Seamans Gulch Road, Dry Creek Road and Cartwright Road in Boise.
McCain said the run portion of the race was a piece of cake after the bike part.
Hes not scared of anything. I just think he has a lot of oomph, Cristy said. If someone gives him a challenge, hell try it. He even wants to go skydiving if someone can figure it out.
His muscular arms are a testament to the hours of workouts he does to prepare for seven or eight triathlons, marathons and 10ks that he does each year. McCain rides four wheelers. He is a water skier. He is a bowler.
What McCain insists he is not trying to be is an inspiration.
Im out there doing it for myself, he said. If Im an inspiration, good. But I do it because I enjoy it.
Thats enough to inspire. If he can do it, well ...
It helps other people to be able to know that you dont just have to sit here in this chair and do nothing, said Cristy, who has seen the impact on others firsthand.
You can do anything if you put your mind to it.
Or be anything.
Jason McCain is a triathlete.
© 2012 Idaho Statesman
Brian Murphy: 377-6444