From Competitor Magazine:
Anyone who witnessed Blais at the 2005 Ford Ironman saw the heart of the man. He hadn’t been able to train since 2003. He had gained weight and his body was deteriorating rapidly. He rode the bike for a few minutes in August for the NBC crew and then again after he arrived in Kona. That was it. He was racing the toughest race on earth on guts and guts alone.
In his prime, Blais would have swam the 2.4 miles in about 1:05. He was hoping for 1:30. Instead he went 1:50 because he was only able to use one arm and his body was cramping badly. On the bike he couldn’t get out of the saddle, his upper torso felt like a brick and his quads and calves were seizing up with every turn of the pedals. At the turnaround in Hawaii, a race official told him that he wasn’t going to make the 5:30 p.m. cutoff time for the bike.
“I had just opened my special needs bag,” he laughs, “so I chucked my banana bread at him. There was no way I was going to miss that cutoff.”
The NBC camera crew that had been following him earlier had disappeared, as his chances of starting the marathon continued to dwindle.
“They took off,” he remembers. “They gave up on me and went to film another story.”
Fortunately, Blais doesn’t believe in giving up — on the kids he teaches or the dreams he’s living. By mile 80, he was back on pace and the camera crew was there to capture him finishing the bike and starting the marathon with his parents, 20 friends and the entire world there to witness a miracle in the making.
Before the race, Mike Reilly, the voice of the Ironman, had asked Blais what he was going to do at the finish line. A handstand? A cartwheel? A Greg Welch-style leap? But Blais told Reilly that he didn’t know if he was going to finish and that Reilly might have to log roll his sorry butt across the line.
So when he approached the line, that’s exactly what The Blazeman did. In the same way he has dealt with his disease, he proudly took his time, dropped to the ground and log rolled ever so slowly towards the finish of the race and ever closer to the finish of his life.
He savored every second of the journey. To the very end he will be the teacher. He is teaching us all about a disease that is insidious and totally ignored. He is teaching us how to handle adversity. But most of all he is teaching us to never, ever give up.
“You can choose to be pissed off, or pissed on,” he laughs.The Blazeman, as always, chooses the former.
For more about Jon “Blazeman” Blais and his fight against ALS, visit his Web site at www.alswarriorpoet.com.