IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - An Idaho Falls man found a new way to compete in the Great Snake River Triathlon, despite his physical limitations.
He believes this could create a new way for people to compete around the world.
Rod Hutchins was in his mid-thirties when he contracted Guillian-Barre Syndrome and was paralyzed from the neck down.
He spent 23 years overcoming his physical limitations to complete "His Race at His Pace" on the Iron Man Course in Kona, Hawaii.
Following the race, he was diagnosed with bronchitis, then pneumonia, and then covid. Which completely changed his body.
Eventually, Rod was diagnosed with Chronic Thrombo Embolic Pulmonary Hypertension. A rare progressive form of Pulmonary Hypertension, where it's more difficult for the blood to flow through the lungs.
"I remember being on the phone for less than 15 seconds and feeling like I was going into a heart attack or a stroke, which is how my body manifested itself," said Rod. "The pain and I've been in this position thousands of times over the last two years"
Rod says, his condition feels like he's constantly holding his breath for two minutes then has a minute of relief.
But he's never let physical limitations hold him back.
"I went to the race directors of the triathlon and said, Would you mind if I took my journey of physical therapy and let that be cumulative towards a virtual tri triathlon? They'd never done it before. It's a new concept in East Idaho and perhaps worldwide," said Rod.
The triathlon directors let him complete the race in stages.
Now Rod and Veteran Dream Team plans to take the concept nationwide, specifically to victims suffering from trauma and veterans with PTSD.
"Rod came to me with the idea of virtual triathlons, and it's kind of a seed in his mind that we could prepare together and reach out and have more people join in the race with us," said triathlon director Mike Taylor. "The whole idea of racing at our pace and allowing people to be able to become all that they can be is a great idea. And we want to be able to reach out to communities across the nation and even world and help people get racing, get active in doing things."
On Saturday, he was honored as a competitor in the triathlon. And while he already crossed the finish line days before, Rod was there to personally congratulate those who finished the race.
"Being in this race is huge for me. It's something that I visualized, been working hard for a long time, and I applaud each and every person that's here today that even made the goal, whether they're a triathlete or whether they're just this is our first one. It was fun to stand at the finish line, hearing some of the stories of some of these people," said Rod.
Even though any intense physical activity is extremely painful, Rod says he will continue to race at his own pace.
And it's easier when he thinks of the people he inspires on his way.
"On those days that are harder for me. I think of someone that might be out in New Jersey, New York, Las Vegas, or Colorado, who today is making that decision. They're done with life or thinking I just can't complete what I set out to do. And they've lost hope. And that alone helps me that day get through that day. And in addition to God's tender mercies," said Rod.
For more information on Rod and his Veteran Dream Team as he prepares for "His Race at His Pace" on the Ironman course in Kona Hawaii in 2023, and future virtual triathlons for trauma victims and veterans, click HERE.