THERE STILL WAS ONE MORE challenge, though, one more mountain to conquer: a return to Ironman.

Once he had physically recovered from his medical ordeal, Bailey began helping James train for James’s first Ironman in 2008. That re-lit the competitive fires.

“There was one particular ride where we were going about 40 miles, and I wanted him to really respect me. So I waited until he was pretty much dead, with about five miles to go. I pinned it, [gave it everything I had,] and I felt fantastic. So immediately, I started thinking about Ironman again,” Bailey says.

On race day in October 2008, Bailey was in Hawaii as a spectator -- and the fires burned even hotter. After the race, while on a training ride during which he at one point found himself 25 miles outside of town with only one water bottle, Bailey reflected on his own journey. “I wanted to find out if I wanted more of this or not. On the way back, I started hurting; it was windy, and it was getting hard. I was asking myself, ‘Are you sure you want more of this?’ And the answer was, ‘Yes, I want more.’ ”

Ironman 2009 saw Bailey finish a respectable second in the handcycle division. Though he vowed to make it his last major competition, he hopes to use his physical and mental resurgences to help others with similar conditions. Public speaking is on the docket, but as he notes, “I don’t make big plans. Whenever I get that gut direction, I just go there.”