Athlete InterviewParatriathlete/Chariot

Interview: Scott Lacey, a Visually Impaired Athlete – “Impossible Doesn’t Exist”

ScottBlog1If you talk to 31-year-old triathlete, Scott Lacey, about how he is training for his first triathlon he sounds a little more intense than your typical newbie athlete getting involved in this multi-sport event. That could be because for his very first triathlon he starting with a Half Distance at the Grand Rapids Triathlon, this is to help him prepare and train for doing a Full Distance triathlon at the ISI MI Titanium on August 23rd this year. Not many triathletes plan to conquer a Full Distance tri before even stepping foot on a triathlon course. Another thing that makes Scott not your typical triathlete is that he’s visually impaired and legally blind.

Take a look at Scott’s training plan and it’s very well thought out as a seasoned athlete’s. His Full Distance triathlon training began at the end of February this year and he’s following a 26-week plan to get him ready for the MiTi at the end of the summer. Monday through Friday, he has a plan that includes rest days, strength training, brick workouts, tempo runs, along with just spending time in the pool, on the trainer, and running either inside on the treadmill during the week. On the weekend, Scott runs long runs with his training partner, five-time Grand Rapids Triathlon participant, Andy Van Dis of Kalamazoo.  Fortunately, Scott’s apartment building has a pool for him to use, even if it is shortened and requires extra turns.

Scott isn’t new to racing though. He lost his vision 5 years ago April and took up running as a way to manage the anxiety and stress that comes along with living in a world you can no longer see. Scott’s always been an athlete though. In high school, he was on the swim team and played soccer at both the high school and college level. He took to running easily and worked his way up to marathon distance races, even qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon in 2014. As a visually impaired runner, his BQ time was 5:00 and he managed to PR with a time of 4:29 to qualify for Boston. Scott says he prefers to run the longer distances as opposed to 5Ks because he finds it a challenge with his loss of vision to sprint in a compact area with lots of other runners. He’s also participated in the Grand Rapids Marathon and the Riverbank Run. His best time for the 25K at the Riverbank Run was 2:15, but this year with his extra training he’s hoping to make the 2 Hour Club.

At first, Scott thought he’d only have the ability to be a runner with his disability. After hearing about Aaron Scheidies, who is the best athlete in the para-triathlon and also happens to be blind, Scott realized that his horizons and goals could be broadened. Scott’s time on the GR Tri and MiTi courses will be a little different than the other athletes out there though. It’s hard to plan a big endurance event like this and count on just one person to help you get through it. ScottBlog2If that person sustains an injury or can’t complete the race your dreams are dashed, so when it comes to the Full Distance tri Scott plans to have multiple guides help him through each discipline of the race. For the swim, he’ll have two guides, one on each side of him in the water. It’s challenging to be tethered to another athlete while swimming, especially with hundreds of other athletes in the water with you. The two guides will flank Scott, which will not only keep him from being run into by other athletes he can’t see or running into other athletes, but he will be able to sense their movement and course changes so that will guide him around buoys. His next guide will be the pilot of the tandem bike that Scott is in the process of raising funds to obtain, while Scott will be the stoker. Then he will have another guide to help him get through the run. For this portion, Scott will use slip knots tied in a shoelace that he and his running partner will hold on to. Because he has just a little vision in his left eye he finds it best to keep his running partners on his left. This person will help him navigate potholes and passing others and also give out verbal cues as to when turns are happening on the course.

While Scott has been training with Andy Van Dis through this process, come race day at the Grand Rapids Triathlon Andy won’t be able to be at Scott’s side. Andy has yet to miss a Grand Rapids Triathlon since it began in 2011 and this year is no exception. The thing is the USAT National Championship for Clydesdales and Athenas is at the GR Tri, a race that Andy never misses, and this year it gives him the chance to participate for his chance to become a National Champion in the Olympic Distance as a Clydesdale. So Scott will have a different partner come race day.

Scott seems as prepared and calm as an athlete can be who plans to do his very first triathlon at the same time he’s training to be a Full Iron Distance triathlete, but he does have some things he considers a challenge. He says that the thought of a 112-mile bike ride at the MiTi is somewhat intimidating. He also has the issue of practicing how to get through transition. That is one area of a triathlon that all triathletes try to perfect and fine tune to help increase their race time, but imagine trying to navigate that area of the race without being able to see other athletes, your equipment, or the course. And it’s one of those aspects of the race that you can’t really grasp as a first-time triathlete until you’re on the course and the race is happening.

In his spare time. . .when he’s not preparing to do something that’s pretty impressive by anyone’s standards, Scott is a graduate student at Western Michigan University studying Rehabilitation Counseling and Visual Rehabilitation Therapy. And he’s embarking on another big life journey as he prepares to marry his fiance, Chelsea Kimbrell, at the beginning of June. So by the time he participates at the Grand Rapids Triathlon, he will be a married man!

Why is Scott doing all this? Check out his webpage ( to get more information about his goal to draw attention to the challenges faced by the visually impaired community. You can also donate to support Scott as he works towards raising the funds necessary to buy him the special equipment required to be a visually impaired triathlete. We wish Scott all the best with his Full Distance training and hope his race at the Grand Rapids Triathlon goes well. We hope you’re all able to catch Scott in action on the GR Tri course. Make plans to join us at Versluis Park on August 23rd this year for Michigan’s only Full Distance triathlon, the ISI MI Titanium. Come watch Scott complete this incredibly inspiring goal. Race starts at 7:00 AM, Scott hopes to finish in 14 hours (so 9:00 PM). And while you’re there hoping to watch Scott and his guides in action, you can join us on the course as a volunteer. Get an up-close view of this incredible athlete in action.



Grand Rapids Triathlon

Grand Rapids Triathlon

We are the largest independent triathlon and proud host of five USAT National Championships over the course of our nine-year history. While our event brings in some of the best athletes from across the country, we have also been named one of the Top 5 Best Triathlons for Beginners in the country according to Triathlon Business International. This triathlon event is a chance for athletes of all skill levels to compete on a scenic riverside course, perfect for the novice through the seasoned triathlete. Offering Sprint, Olympic, and Half distance Triathlons, Aquabike, Swim and Relay events, this USA Triathlon sanctioned event promises heart-pounding excitement from start to the finish.