By Joey Lee and Clint Boyd
Ever have a friend who unintentionally inspires you? Someone who goes about life, and not only accepts what’s been handed them but goes way beyond that? I have. – Joey Lee
Clint Boyd started competing in triathlons at the turn of the century, quickly progressing in his racing career. “I started to bring home hardware, but only as a Clydesdale,” he said. “I never did anything in the big races, but was able to improve from season to season.”
But in 2005, Clint’s life changed at the Boulder Peak Triathlon in Colorado. “The bike course meandered through town and soon I was on a huge climb,” he described. “Heading downhill, I realized my speed was too hot. I tried my best to slow down but skidded into a turn and went off the road into what I can only assume was a drainage ditch.”
“A couple of days later, I woke up in the hospital in Boulder. I remember it vividly, I think, although I can’t recall exactly when someone said, ‘you are paralyzed’.”
Clint says that initially he wasn’t one of those people vowing to return to the sport. “I simply went through the steps and tried to get better at the task of living.” He decided that triathlon was a closed chapter in his life.
But as the years passed, Clint found himself looking for something to fill that gap. He started wheelchair biking, but struggled. “I was no longer able to roll out from my house with a group, or join the large club rides. I trained sporadically and never felt like I made much progress.
In 2010, Clint made his debut to wheelchair racing at the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon. “It was categorically my worst go at that distance, but I did finish. It fired a spark to compete in something else,” he said. Afterward he continued some local road races and this past spring while he cheered his wife as she finished a half-Ironman, he found himself thrilled to be around triathlon again. “Triathlon is more than just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. I began to question my decision to give it all up.”
Clint found two foundations that focus on getting disabled athletes back into competition and attended a camp hosted by one of them. He learned a lot and, most importantly, met some wheelchair triathletes. He selected a triathlon in Athens, Georgia, one that a friend from the camp was doing. “I knew I needed to race. I needed the competition,” he said. “I was confident I could do each distance, but concerned about how I would do with them stacked one behind the other.
“My goal was to race and finish, knowing that my last endeavor in triathlon did not turn out so well.”
He described his first race back as, “…somewhat surreal,” it was very familiar but at the same time completely different. Everyone seemed to be watching to see how I was doing, or how they could help, but I was really just fine.
Using a special-made “swimthosis,” to keep his legs up, Clint made it through the swim with no troubles, relieved to be done with part one. On the bike, he was passed on inclines, but on the downs, he flew past competitors. “Everyone was supportive, but as I started to get passed by the mountain bikes, beach cruisers and the guy with his helmet on backwards, I got a little frustrated,” he said.
Pushing out on the run, he felt a little flat, but knew he only had to hang on a little longer. The hills were brutal. But, as people walked passed him on the inclines, he more than made up for it reaching the hilltops, “I was a rocket on the downhill to the finish,” he said.
“Crossing the finish, as I had so many times in the past, it was mine alone to know if I had won or lost. Given the circumstances, the course, and points for getting back on the horse, I gave myself some slack and booked this one in the ‘W’ column,” he said. “As I sat in the racer for pictures and congratulations, I didn’t really feel like I had accomplished anything spectacular. Not to say that I wasn’t pleased with the experience, but I guess in similar fashion to my dealing with being paralyzed and moving on with my life, I finished as a matter of course. Even now, I consider the race a step rather than the top. As with most things, it was perhaps the most difficult because it represented a start.”
“What I know is that I can once again consider myself a triathlete, albeit a paratriathlete, and that it is the lifestyle where I belong,” Clint said.
I was lucky enough to have a ringside seat at Clint’s return to the sport that I love so much. His nonchalance and his “I’m not doing anything extraordinary” attitude inspire everyone who sees him. Not only has he met the challenge life has thrown at him, but he’s seized the opportunity to make the most of it. We should all hope if we’re faced with similar challenges, we would handle it with the quiet strength and determination Clint has.