Friday, June 28, 2013

Edmonton ITU Paratriathlon: Guiding Aaron

22 Jun-
So last week I posted about this amazing opportunity that came up.  If you missed the post you can read about it here: .  Thursday I boarded a plane and headed to Canada to guide Aaron Scheidies at the Edmonton ITU Paratriathlon.  It would be my first time guiding an athlete and the days leading into the trip I was nervous about the whole situation.
It is one thing to influence the outcome of your own race, but when you can influence someone else’s race that they have trained hard for, that is hard to think about.  Once arriving to Edmonton and meeting up with Aaron the nerves went away.  I had previously met Aaron down at CapTex a few weeks prior but we did not get much time to talk.  He had flown with the tandem in a huge bike box, and amazingly was only charged $50, which is quite amazing for those of us that are familiar with traveling with our bikes.  We took a shuttle to the team hotel in downtown Edmonton and once arriving headed out for a short run.
This was the first time I had ran with Aaron so we were just getting used to verbal cues to alert him of upcoming obstacles.  We ran an out and back section and on the way back I was really impressed with his memory of the route and knowing what was coming up.  He is not completely blind and can see blobs, but is still considered legally blind.  After returning from our run we met up with some of the other US Paratriathletes and headed out for dinner.
Friday morning was going to be the first time we rode together.  We figured the best way to get test out the tandem would be to ride from the hotel through downtown Edmonton to the race site.  Yeah no problem, only: traffic, pot holes, descents, bridges, sidewalks, pedestrians, the perfect route to get use to riding together.  The one thing that helped is I brought my own saddle (ISM Attack) and fit coordinates so felt comfortable on the bike from the beginning.  Aaron mentioned after the first start how stable I was and I thought he just meant in general for being on a tandem together for the first time.  He kept saying it after each time we would go from a start and I finally asked him what he meant and he was saying from a stop to go I was really stable and he was impressed, because most people are really shaky for the first 5-10seconds after starting from a stop.
We made it to the race site with no incidents and swam 2 laps of the course, so 1500m total.  We swim with a “tether” (rope) attached just below the waist line.  It drags in between the both of us and I swim normally and then Aaron will sight off of me when he breathes.  The one area that gets tough is when we approach turn buoys and ensuring that I give him enough room to get around the buoy.  Other than the turn buoys I felt pretty good in the water with him.  We both knew that would be the weak point for me in comparison to him, but we weren’t all that worried about it.
After the swim we headed out for a course preview on the bike with the other athletes.  It was police escorted for one lap and then we headed out on our own for a second lap.  The bike course was a 4 loop, 5.1K course with a 400m hill that averaged 8%.  We tried to find good points to shift leading into the hill and on the hill and for the most part we had that figured out, but definitely not to perfection.  That is the one area that I lacked on the bike was with shifting experience of the tandem and what gears to be in.  Once the bike preview was completed we headed out to run a lap of the 2 lap run course.  Flat and wide open loop that was not technical with no obstacles, which is important for a paratriathlon.
The race briefing was held later on in the day and we attended that and picked up our race packet.  Then all of the US athletes went to dinner again and had some really good Italian food.  The group of athletes that were on this trip were amazing.  I was a little worried that I might be an outcast of the group as I did not know any of them.  They were very accepting and I enjoyed hanging out throughout the weekend with them and sharing stories.  Two of them were prior military which meant for some jabbing back and forth about the AF being better than the Navy and vice versa, all in good fun.
Saturday morning was not the typical race morning since the race was at 5pm.  We got up around 0645 and headed to the local YMCA to get a short swim in.  The USA Elite guys/gals were there as well as they were not racing until Sunday.  I got a quick 1500m swim in with Aaron.  Since he has partial vision and can see blobs he is able to swim on his own in the pool by using the T to know when to turn.  Towards the end of the set we were the only two in the lane so we swam side by side and did some short 25m pickups with 25m easy back.
After the swim we headed to Tim Hortons for some breakfast, but on the way there we experienced some of the “crazies” in Edmonton.  We were walking down the street and some guy started yelling as he was walking by us.  He was yelling about how he had no friends and how he lost all of his friends.  He then went on to yell about how “Gretzky” killed all of his friends.  Aaron then wants to stop and talk to the crazy guy as I am trying to ignore him.  Aaron was laughing after the fact and says with all of the public transit he does in Seattle one of his favorite things about it is hearing all the crazy stories from people on the bus.  I wanted no part of it though as I could tell there was something off with this guy as apparently “Gretzky” killed all of his friends.
Tim Hortons is the Dunkin Doughnuts of Canada.  We ordered some food and sat down, then Joe Maloy and Eric Lagerstrom of The Triathlon Squad ended up joining us and we got to talk with them for a bit.  After breakfast we went back to the hotel and just hung out till it was time to leave for the race.
Ride number two with Aaron would be down to the race start from the hotel, with just our luck it was in the rain.  We made it down to the race with no incidents other than soaked shoes and a dirty bike.  Once arriving we had athlete check in, bike check where they checked the length of the tandem, and then we setup our transition area.  Luckily by this time the rain had stopped and the sun was out. Aaron wears fake tattoos to promote his foundation which supports various foundations including the Cdifferent foundation.  At check in he was told that in the future he is not allowed to wear them due to “Ambush Marketing”.  I was joking that he needs to get a permanent one so next time when he shows up they can try to “remove” it and miserably fail.  The whole set of ITU rules seem to be confusing at times in paratriathlon, even for the officials.  From what I am hearing different rules are enforced at different events, but I guess everyone is still in the learning stages.  I will say that all of the officials were super helpful in looking up the rules and clearing up any confusion prior to the race and after the race.  Now to the race…..

Swim (750m)- 10:09
The one area that I knew I was not as strong as Aaron, so was a little worried about the swim in a race setting.  During the warm up I felt pretty good.  We got on the start line and got a good start.  We were out front with one other athlete to the right of Aaron and I was to his left.  We were with the other athlete till the turn buoys and then he got away from us.  We made it around the turn buoys alright, but not great.  I think as we race more together this will become easier.  By the time we exited the water we were 25 seconds down to the leader, Stefan Daniel of Canada who ended up 2nd Overall and won his category.
Bike (20.4K)- 32:32
Exiting transition onto the bike we were 45 seconds down on Stefan.  My legs felt pretty good from the get go and about ¾ of the way through the first lap we had caught Stefan.  Aaron started feeling better as the bike leg continued and as we started the 2nd lap I could tell he was starting to feel good as he was putting out some power back there.  The third time up the hill was starting to wear on us but we kept grinding up the thing.  The hill was the one point where I struggled as I was screwing up the shifting, but by the 4th lap I had it figured out.  The rest of the course was fairly technical but as the race went on we started to get more comfortable and making our way in and out of the corners well.  We held onto the lead and put some good time into the rest of the field by the time we got off the bike.
Run (4.6K)- 17:27
The legs felt pretty good as we exited transition area and about ¾ mile in Aaron asked me to back off a bit as he thought I was pushing the pace a bit.  That point is where I realized that I needed to just settle in to whatever he wanted to run and if I felt it was too fast to let him know.  Overall I was really happy with how we communicated on the run though.  Although coming around on the first lap the penalty board showed our number on it and we were both confused.  We had the choice to stop on the first lap or the last lap, but decided a breather during the first lap wasn’t a bad idea.  He got a little worked up about why we were getting a penalty as it was the first time he had ever got one.  The week before at the paratriathlon in Alanya, Turkey, the European Champs 5 of the 10 athletes were disqualified in his Category due to failing to stop in the penalty box.
Once stopped in the penalty box we were told it was a 10sec stop and go penalty due to a swim  cap not making it into the transition box.  I was pretty sure it was not mine, but either way Rule #1 to guiding, IT IS ALWAYS THE GUIDES FAULT ;)  That is the running joke, but partially true.  Anyways, I always hold my goggles and swim cap in my hand when taking my wetsuit off and when pulling my hand through always leave the goggles in there.  After the race I checked and my goggles and swim cap were still in the wetsuit and Aarons swim cap was in his transition box.  I asked the officials what happened and they said Aaron had dropped his swim cap on the way to transition area.
We left the penalty box with a little over a lap to go and got back to work.  We kept a pretty consistent pace and ended up crossing the line first.  One of my favorite quotes from Aaron is “Smile through Pain”, and I tell you what I can’t remember a moment when I would look over and Aaron was not smiling.
Swim (750m) – 10:09 (
Bike (20.4K) – 32:32 (
Run (4.6K) – 17:27 (
Total: 1:02:47
After this race Aaron is now ranked #1 in the world in his category:

I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to guide such an amazing athlete and person.  I learned a lot about the whole guiding process and about paratriathlon and couldn’t have asked for someone better to have taught me about it all.  The most important thing that I learned though is you have to accept the fact that the whole time you are with the athlete it is not about you.  Everything has to do with them, you have to make sacrifices in your own training and just go with the flow.  If you can handle that and just go with the flow the experience is a breeze.  Aaron was very patient with me and I think overall we worked really well as a team.  I am not sure exactly when I will be guiding him again as he has some tentative guides selected already for his upcoming races.  But I told him whenever he needs someone I am just a phone call or email away.
I met some amazing athletes and people during this trip and look forward to hanging out with them in the future.  Thanks to everyone for the continued support, this weekend was amazing with the amount of people that reached out asking about the experience.  I hope this answered a lot of the questions and if not feel free to message or email if you want to know more about the process.  I can’t thank Aaron enough for giving me this amazing opportunity and I hope I met you expectations, well other than letting you lose your swim cap ;)

 The most common question I was asked leading into the race from people was "Who rides on the front of the bike? " So to answer that question, I think the grin on my face answers that question ;)
 In transition area before the race
 With some of the other US Athletes at the race: Myself, Matt Perkins, Aaron, and Michael Johnston

 Trying to stay out of Aarons spotlight, but somehow Mr. Guide still ended up in the picture.

And with Aaron being such a stud we had some front page coverage on for a whole 12 hours before the Elites raced on Sunday and took our glory ;)  I have to say it is quite nice having USA on the front page!

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