HUNTSVILLE - It has been 37-year-old Chad Orison's dream to complete a triathlon, but given his inability to run, swim, or bike on his own, he wasn't sure if that would ever be possible.
The Farmington resident has dealt with Dystonia, a muscle deformation disease, since he was 6 years old, limiting his ability to walk and talk. Orison is completely paralyzed now, but still loves sports and adrenaline rushes.
One of his best friends, Lauren Taylor of Kaysville, says the two have talked about competing in a race together for years, and decided this was the year. Another of his friends, Jason Clark of Kaysville, who also helped with the plans, said watching his friend light up when they told him the news is something he'll never forget.
"I've only seen him get that excited three times, and those involved sports or adrenaline rushes, and this involves both," said Clark. Orison has participated at iFLY a couple of times, been bow hunting, and loves attending sporting events.
Their race of choice was the Ogden Valley Triathlon, held on Saturday at Pineview Reservoir in Huntsville.
During the race, Orison had a crew of friends and family helping him, though the timer chip was placed on Orison. "We are just helping him, so this triathlon is all about him," said Clark.
For the 1,000-meter swim, Taylor's dad, Todd, swam the distance while pulling Orison in a retrofitted kayak. Clark rode his bike for the 15.4-mile ride with Orison riding in an attached bike trailer. The trailer then converted so Taylor could push him during the four-mile run to the finish line.
At 10 o'clock, with the sun shining bright amid the rainstorms tempting their way over the mountains, the course was laid out and racers were itching to begin. After cradling
Orison in the converted kayak rigged with padding, buoys, and straps to keep him in place, Orison's escorts carried the kayak down to the lake and placed him in the water, and after the bleating of the air horn, Team Chad was off.
Every tenth stroke, Todd Taylor looked back to make sure the kayak was straight, and his wife, Susan, swam by Orison's side to keep an eye on Orison. The team practiced several times prior to the race in a swimming pool and at the lake.
Taylor said it was the highlight of his summer. "I'm 52, still moving, and love to swim and bike, but then you just stop and think, how would it be to be trapped in a body and not be able to do anything," said Taylor. "Seeing his million-dollar smile in the lake and when he's in the trailer is priceless."
Orison's dream almost didn't happen when he had an unexpected surgery in August to fix a broken lead coming out of his pacemaker that aids the signals in his brain so he can eat and sleep. The last time he had the procedure done, it took him three months to recover, but Orison made it very clear to his doctors that he needed to recover in time for the race.
He recovered quickly, and his doctors cleared him for the race. "When he locks onto something, he's going to do it," said his dad, Randy Orison. "One of the things that keeps him going since he's not physically able to walk or run has been to be involved with this because it's given him something to think about on a daily basis."
Seeing someone like Orison compete in the race is not something that happens very often, according to Dan Aamodt, owner of TriUtah, who sponsored the event. "It's rare, unique, and very special when you see them cross the finish line," said Aamodt. "Whatever able or disabled body wants to compete and feel that sense of accomplishment, we are 100 percent behind them."
Orison's dad hopes his accomplishment will impact someone else's life.
"People who come in contact with him forget their problems and think, 'If he can do it, I can too,'" said Randy Orison.