Three years ago, Minnesota native Joe Stone crashed into a mountain at almost 50 miles per hour speed flying, a form of high performance paragliding. The accident left him an incomplete quadriplegic, meaning he is paralyzed from the chest down, and has physical impairments in both of his hands. But the accident never broke his spirit, and now, Joe looks to become the first known quadriplegic to finish a full Ironman.
Joe isn't your typical triathlete- and for Joe, as a quadriplegic, being tough takes on a whole new meaning.
"I completely broke down one night when I realized this was for life," said Joe. "I mean, lost it. It was me literally seeing my entire life was over. I can't do anything more. That was, that was it."
But Joe refused to let the accident limit him, and he began to set goals, which turned into bigger goals, which turned into finishing a full Ironman- but he knows, it won't be easy.
"My heart right doesn't go as high," Joe said of issues he faces being a quadriplegic. "My diaphragm has been weakened, so my lungs aren't as big. I don't sweat anymore. That's what most people fear in an Ironman. When people stop sweating, that's when things are starting to go wrong."
What most people fear, Joe has conquered, training six days a week for the past seven months, using specialized equipment in his quest to finish this grueling race.
"It's opened my eyes up to what I'm able to accomplish, and that these goals are realistic to set," said Joe
That goal becomes a reality on Saturday, when seven months of training are put to the test as Joe will swim 2.4 miles in the Gulf, spend 112 miles on the bike, and 26.2 miles on the pavement.
"It's going to take me back to three years ago when I was just waking up from a coma and couldn't even feed myself and on a ventilator," he said of finishing the race. "It's going to be an amazing experience no matter what happens on race day. I think no matter what, people will enjoy the story."
A story that for Joe, is really just beginning. Top able bodied athletes finish the triathlon in 9-10 hours. Joe hopes to finish in 15.
Hi-Fly'n Productions is producing an upcoming documentary called An Ironman's Journey, which will reveal the entire story behind Joe's heroic attempt. To find out more about Joe, the documentary, and his foundation, The Joe Stone Foundation, you can check out his website here.