KAILUA-KONA — For many triathletes, reaching the Ironman World Championship is a dream come true.
It is that point where an athlete finally reaches a destination after a long road traveled. For these people, the Kona race is the end, reached through a lot of blood, sweat and tears — one 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run at a time.
However, for a select few, Ironman World Championship week is not the end of a destination, it is the continuation of a trip that is much greater than the sport itself.
For the Aldrich brothers — 12-year-old Noah and 10-year old Lucas — Ironman week on the Big Island is a pit-stop along a road that started five years ago. It’s a path that many adults would not have been willing, or dedicated enough to take.
In October of 2007, Lucas was born and he seemed like any other kid. However, months later he was diagnosed with lissencephaly, a rare neurological condition that severely impairs motor skills. He can’t sit, stand, walk or roll-over, is non-verbal, and is fed by a g-tube. The condition can severely shorten the lifespan of anyone who has it.
Despite these challenges, Noah has always been dedicated to his younger brother. The two are inseparable, and about five years ago, after watching an ESPN documentary on the Long brothers — Conner and Cayden — Noah decided that he wanted to try to compete in triathlons with his brother.
It had been done before. The father-son duo of Dick and Rick Hoyt gained huge notoriety when Rick Reilly wrote about them on the back page of Sports Illustrated in 2005. The Hoyts made history in Kona during the 1989 race, when Dick pulled his son on a raft during the water portion of the triathlon, rode with him on a special seat on the front of his bicycle and pushed him in a special wheelchair to the finish line.
However, for Noah and Lucas to get started in the sport, there was first one hurdle that had to be overcome.
“Noah started training about two months before his first triathlon and he did not know how to swim at all. He was using a life jacket,” said his father, Brian Aldrich. “I was just panicking during the open water swimming knowing he was in the water with his disabled brother and him not knowing how to swim.”
Noah would eventually get his swimming technique down and the boys have done several triathlons since that first triathlon in their home city of Boise, Idaho.
Competing in triathlons has taken the Aldrich brothers all over the United States, and that includes a trip across the Pacific Ocean to this year’s Ironman World Championship. While the duo is not competing in the race, they will get to see their idols, the Pease brothers, Brent and Kyle — an abled body and disabled athlete — compete and try to become part of an exclusive group to finish the 140.6-mile trek together.
The Aldrich brothers finally had a chance to meet the Peace brothers on Monday and it was a memorable moment.
“It was like meeting your favorite movie star,” Noah said. “It is so inspirational for me to see an abled bodied and disabled bodied person team up and make it to the Ironman World Championship.”
It was actually the Pease brothers who had the opportunity to surprise the Aldrich brothers, through Skype, that they would be coming to Kona, thanks to Ironman and the Ironman Foundation.
“We got in contact with the Pease brothers earlier in the year. We were going to race with them in Atlanta but it didn’t work out,”said Alissa Aldrich, the mother of Noah and Lucas. “But then they Skyped us and invited our family, Noah and Lucas, to witness this epic event in Kona.”
The thrills did not end with the phone call though. After meeting with the Pease brothers, Noah and Lucas were gifted a brand new raft to compete with.
“Before we had two $12 rafts that we bought from Target,” Brian Aldrich said. “This one is more streamline in the water and it will help Noah a lot because Lucas is getting quite a bit heavier now.”
The boys had an opportunity to try the raft out and mid-swim Noah turned back to the shoreline and gave a big thumbs up in approval.
The Aldrich brothers were hoping to use the raft in Tuesday’s IronKids Keiki Dip n’ Dash at Kailua Pier. However, due inclement weather, the swim portion of the biathlon was cancelled just as the duo was about to enter the water.
“We were just literally seconds away and then there was a flash of lightning and thunder,” Noah said. “It was still fun though, besides thee swim being canceled.”
As for the run, Noah said it wasn’t his best performance but it also wasn’t his worst.
After the hard work came the fun as the brothers had a chance to walk down Alii Drive during the Parade of Nations.
“It is incredible to walk in the parade,” Noah said. “I am happy that they are allowing us to participate.”
Next up for the Aldrich brothers will be seeing the Pease brothers in action on Saturday. If everything goes according to plan and both Kyle and Brent are able to cross that finish line, the Aldrich brothers will be waiting, cheering their idols on and being inspired to keep inspiring others on their journey.