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Father and son, who has cerebral palsy, defy odds to take on Ironman triathlons: "Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn"

Jeff and Johnny Agar are not your typical athletes. But with more than 200 races under their belts, including a full Ironman race, the father-son duo are overcoming the odds and redefining what it means to be champions. 

Johnny, 28, has cerebral palsy, a muscle disorder that makes it difficult to walk and talk. So Jeff, at 59, takes on triathlons — an individual sport — for two people, totaling 400 pounds with their equipment. 

When Jeff swims, he pulls Johnny. When Jeff runs, he pushes Johnny. And when Jeff bikes, he hauls his son.

Their bond is as strong as iron — tempered by love.

"I mean, I'm not a fan of swimming, biking or running, which is perfect for triathlon," Jeff told CBS News, laughing. "This probably wouldn't be in the top 100 things I would select to do. ... I'm not doing it because I love it. This is Johnny's dream and I'm giving him the legs and the power to do it."

"I think we're just trying to show him: You can't let obstacles stand in your way," Jeff said. 

Jeff and Johnny Agar. CBS News

Jeff and his wife, Becky, found out their son had cerebral palsy when he was just three weeks old and were devastated by his diagnosis.

"It took a couple seconds to figure out: this is a totally different world for us. This is not going to be the typical type of thing," Jeff told CBS News.

"I remember asking him one day, I said, 'You know, what if he can't play catch with you? What does that mean to you?' And he said, 'You know, I just love him. It doesn't matter what he can and can't do,'" Becky said.

"It was at that point I though, 'Gosh, I got the right guy,'" she added.

Together, the Agars have completed more than 200 races across nine states over the past 14 years.

Jeff and Johnny biking. CBS News

"For me, it's a tremendous blessing," Johnny said of his father helping him compete. "I'm able to express my desires through him and he understands that. ... You know, I saw Dad pushing himself to get me across the line. And I said to myself, this is ridiculous. I am capable of doing more."

So, two months ago, they went after a goal they'd attempted five times before: finishing the ultimate endurance event, a full Ironman race. It was held in Maryland, where the father and son had to complete a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run. They trekked 140 miles in under 17 hours.

For the first time, they did it, with just five minutes to spare. Johnny took it upon himself to cross the finish line for his team.

"Walking in races was my way of telling dad, 'Okay, I'm not just going to say thank you anymore, I'm going to actually put words into action,'" Johhny said.

He said being able to inspire someone else gives his challenges purpose. 

"Even though he got him the 140 miles, he'll always be hiding behind Johnny," Becky said of her husband. "He doesn't want to be announced as an Ironman. It's Johnny's moment. And it's the most beautiful thing to me."

So what's next for team Agar? They're doubling down in hopes of securing a spot at the Ironman World Championship next year in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

"It's considered the most brutal one-day endurance event on the planet," Jeff said. "You get 17 hours. And we would probably use every minute of it. For sure."

They competed in the race back in 2016 but weren't able to finish the bike portion in the time allowed.

"Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn," Johnny said. 

"It's not about the medal for me. It's not about the fame. It's about doing it as a team," Johnny said.

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