Extraordinary Triathlon Stories Every (Tri)Athlete Must Read

“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, and others make it happen.”
Michael Jordan


This post is about people who, in Michael Jordan’s words, “make it happen.” It is about people who overcome extraordinary odds to achieve extraordinary things. It is about ordinary men, women, and children with extraordinary stories – stories that every triathlete must know and draw inspiration from.

Jack Chen, Lawyer, Triathlete

His is one of the most inspiring triathlon stories. A lawyer by profession, Chen has competed in five triathlons. What makes his story remarkable? Chen is visually impaired. Yes, you heard that right, he cannot see. But Chen never let his handicap get in the way of his love for adventure sports.

Chen, who works at Google, was born with a congenital defect that impaired his vision. He lost his sight during a botched eye operation at the age of 16, just a couple of months before taking the SAT. But he went on to have a stellar academic run—earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science at Harvard University, a master’s degree in computer science from UC Berkeley, and a law degree from Fordham University.


Although he wasn’t considered much of an athlete growing up, all that changed when he participated in a marathon in New York and safe to say, he was hooked. His interest in triathlons began when he realized he was tiring from only running and needed a new challenge. That was that. He began his training and even learned how to swim – a skill he did not possess at that time. “You’ve just got to do it,” he says. “It’s just like everything in life. If you want it bad enough, you have to make it work to happen.”

James Lawrence, Iron Cowboy

It’s not every day that you hear of triathlon stories like this one. James Lawrence achieved the near impossible feat of competing in 50 full Ironman courses on 50 consecutive days through 50 states earning himself the sobriquet of Iron Cowboy.

What will touch your heart even more is the fact that he did it for a good cause – raising money for the child-obesity epidemic this country seems to be struggling with right now. His 50.50.50 feat is well documented, but what’s not widely known is his use of acupuncture treatments before and during the 50.50.50 in preparation and to aid in recovery.

Currently, he holds two world records in 70.3 and 140.6 triathlon racing. But he’s far from satisfied. “My goal is simply to inspire others to challenge themselves and to be more active,” says Lawrence.

Susan Lacke, from couch potato to Ironman

It must be true, what they say about a runner’s high. How else can you explain Susan Lacke’s incredible transition from being a couch potato to an Ironman triathlete in just 20 months? When Susan competed in her first 5K run, she thought she would go right back to where she started – the couch. Instead, it turned out to be a life-altering experience for her – one that led her to compete in her first Ironman triathlon.


To think, just 20 months prior she was sitting on her couch trying to quit smoking! Per her own admission, it was a series of bold choices, hasty mistakes, happy accidents, and finally, focused planning that led her journey from the couch to Ironman finisher’s chute.

While she firmly believes what she read on a poster “Anyone Can Do An Ironman,” she also says, “It’s work. It’s dedication and commitment and perseverance. But it’s still fun. I wouldn’t do this sport if it wasn’t. Race day is one day, the culmination of many days of training, each of them bringing their own little victories and joys.”

Noah Aldrich, Brother, Triathlete

Noah’s is a story that will tug at your heartstrings and leave you teary-eyed. His is as much an inspiring triathlon story as it is a story of brotherly love.

When 8-year-old Noah Aldrich decided to participate in the Y-Not Mini Triathlon in Boise, Idaho, it was to help his little brother Lucas with special needs experience what it is like to live a full, “normal” life.

While there are abundant stories of parents helping their children with special needs compete in athletic events, seldom do you come across 8-year-olds with as much sensitivity, maturity, and love in their hearts as Noah displayed for his brother that day.

Born with a rare genetic condition, Lucas is unable to walk, talk or eat his own food. During the event, Noah pushed Lucas in a jogging stroller for the course’s 1-mile run, pulled the stroller behind his bike for the 3-mile ride and made the 200-meter swim with a harness around his chest that was attached to a raft holding his brother.

He most of the time doesn’t get what I get to do. Like when I play sports, he has to just watch. I just wanted to finish with Lucas,” said Noah.

Bailey Matthews, Boy Wonder

In one afternoon, Bailey Matthews proved to the world that he may have cerebral palsy, but cerebral palsy does not have him. The 8-year-old boy overcame debilitating odds to not just compete in a grueling triathlon event, but finish it unaided, bringing the crowd to tears.

An emotional crowd cheered him on as he completed the 100 meter swim, 4km bike ride, and 1.3km run, casting aside his specially-adapted walking frame to finish the last 20 meters of the race unaided at the Castle Howard Triathlon in North Yorkshire.


Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 18 months, Bailey became interested in taking on a triathlon when his dad, Jonathan Matthews, started pushing him around a 5-km course at a weekly park run event.  Jonathan then adapted a walking frame to allow Bailey to get round the course himself. Soon after, Bailey expressed his wish to take on a triathlon and began training on a special bike and swimming in a lake.

Bailey has always been very determined. If he wants to do something he will find a way to do it, even if it is not the conventional way,” says his mother, Julie Hardcastle.

That afternoon, as the crowd cheered and waited for Bailey to cross the finish line, even though he was the last one to do it, the little boy gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “There are no losers in life, just the last winners.”

These are just a small sampling of extraordinary stories about ordinary people who had the grit, passion and determination to achieve the impossible. We’re sure each triathlete has a story of their own. Just Wetsuits is proud to be able to deliver high quality triathlon wetsuits and other triathlon gear to all you triathletes out there who are scripting remarkable stories each day.

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