By Peter Holmes on 04/12/09 at 8:10 pm
On this week’s paratriathlon article, we will meet the USA’s 2010 World Champion in TRI 6 Category for visually impaired athletes. Aaron Scheidies is a 27 year old that has overcome more in his short life than many conquer in a lifespan. Born with a hereditary eye condition that slowly deteriorates his central vision, Aaron now has ten percent of the vision of a fully sighted person.
After batting through hard times in his early teens, Aaron found the sport of triathlon and turned his life around. Beginning with sprint triathlon and continuing up the triathlon pyramid, Aaron is now four time triathlon world champion and five-time national champion, having traveled around the globe competing in over one hundred triathlons.
What made you decide to compete in triathlon?
I began competing in triathlons ten years ago, primarily because the sport served as an outlet to deal with my vision loss. I had always dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player but when this became unrealistic I began down a path of depression and hopelessness. Endurance sports have been the catalyst to changing my life around.
What is your typical training week?
As a person with limited vision you must learn very quickly that flexibility in life is essential. This also applies to training. Bike rides outside or transportation to and from the gym are not always convenient. As a result, my training schedule is flexible. Also, I compete at all different lengths of triathlons so training depends on the event distance and location. Lastly, I work as a physical therapist three days per week for ten hour shifts which also affects my training schedule.
In general, I swim 6000 yards on Monday and Friday mornings with a potential third swimming session in open water depending on the time of year. On Monday and Friday I also do a long run up to a maximum of 13miles and/or a two hour bike. Tuesday and Wednesday my training is short due to work so I typically strength train with the TRX or a short tempo run. On Saturday I do a long bike between 40 to 60miles followed by a six to eight mile transition run.
In total, I train between 12 and 16hrs per week for nine months of the year. This averages out to about four hours per week of swimming, six hours per week of biking, two to three hours per week running and two hours per week of strength training. I do want to emphasize that I am very flexible with this schedule because it often depends on availability of training partners and guides and how my body feels. Training should be fun and not a chore so getting locked into a schedule can take the fun away.
Many triathletes use a training log. How meticulous are you in preparation for your training?
As I mentioned with regards to my training schedule, I have one but it is only a broad outline of my plan. I believe that there are too many people that look at a training plan as though it is a list of chores that they must do in order to feel confident in themselves. This type of mentality leads to frequent injury, increased stress and anxiety and burnout in the sport. If a friend asks me to go running with them and I planned on swimming I would rather enjoy a run with another person and push the swimming to a different day so long as I don’t feel a running injury coming on. I believe that the mere presence of another person training with you boosts your quality of training.
What adaptations have you had to make to accommodate your disability for triathlon?
As a visually impaired triathlete I have had to learn to take an individual sport and transform it into a team sport. I must race with a guide the entire race. The guide is attached by a tether around each of our waists in the swim and on the run. We ride a tandem bicycle during the bike leg. My entire triathlon experience is based upon trust and communication with my guide. If trust is not there we can’t reach our potential. Racing with a guide is all about communication and working together as a team. It is really something special.
Can you describe any special equipment that you use for triathlon?
In triathlons I ride a tandem bike. This is a two person bike with the pedals of each rider in sync with the other. My guide is on the front and has control of the handle bars and gear shifters. Much of the control and turning of the bike comes from coordinated leaning developed through many years of practice.
I also use a bungee tether around both my guide and my waist during the swim and the run. This allows me to use proprioceptive cues from the tether to know where to go. My guide swims the course and I the tether directs me on the right path.
What is the highlight of your involvement competing in triathlon so far?
The highlights of my triathlon career thus far have been the opportunity to represent my country and compete against the best in the world. Another major highlight of my career was breaking the two hour time barrier for a standard distance triathlon. I first did this in Dallas in 2007 and then crushed that time in Malibu 2008 with a time of 1:58:26 to win the overall amateur race. The hope is that achievements such as this will begin to break down barriers for those with disabilities in order to compete at the highest level and be considered not just as a motivational story but as an elite athlete.
What were your goals for the 2009 season?
My goals for the 2009 season were to win the overall paratriathlon division at the ITU World Championships as well as win the overall paratriathlon category at 70.3 World Championships in Florida. I also wanted to break two hours at the ITU World Championships.
Do you have any advice or words of encouragement for individuals thinking about competing in paratriathlon?
To anyone with aspirations of competing in the sport of triathlon, I say go with your passion. If you invest your heart into it, your returns will be great. The sport of triathlon is growing, but the paratriathlon movement is exploding. There are so many great athletes out there that are “diamonds in the rough”, but just don’t know it. Until you step outside your comfort box and attempt the uncomfortable, you will never discover your full potential.
For more information regarding Aaron, check his website: www.cdifferentwithaaron.com