Bond of Brothers
by Stuart Lieberman
10-year-old Lucas Aldrich can’t walk or talk, but he’s competed in 18 triathlons because his older brother and tandem teammate, Noah, never stops pulling for him
Lucas Aldrich has lived his entire life with lissencephaly, a rare neurological disorder that limits his ability to walk and talk.
Growing up in Idaho, he’s had to be fed through a feeding tube. Doctors weren’t sure if he’d make it to his 10th birthday.
So in 2014, when the CEO of the Aldrich’s local YMCA suggested to his mother he join their youth triathlon club, she hesitated.
“That was something to look into, but I didn’t give it much thought because Lucas can’t walk, he can’t talk, he can’t bike or he can’t swim,” said his mother, Alissa.
Later that same week, she was watching a video of a triathlon tandem team when her older son, Noah, walked past and said: “I want to do that with Lucas.”
She decided to call the YMCA back and asked if Lucas and Noah could sign up as a tandem.
The next day, they joined the youth triathlon club, together.
Fast forward four years, and the brothers have now competed as a tandem in 18 triathlons. In the swimming portion of the race, Lucas lies in a raft and is pulled by Noah. In the biking and running portions, Lucas sits in a buggy that Noah tows or pushes. The two are side-by-side from start to finish.
“Lucas can’t do anything by himself, so I wanted to give him an experience like everyone else gets to have,” Noah said. “The message I’m hoping to send is that as long as you try — even if you’re disabled like Lucas — you can always do things that nobody thought would be possible.”
Triathlons have been a saving grace for Lucas, who has now also been on an airplane, boat, snowmobile, surfboard and horse. He was also given the trip of a lifetime to Disney World courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“We were given a prognosis of a 50-50 chance he would live to 10, so Lucas has officially outlived his prognosis,” Alissa said. “With love and perseverance and adventure, you never know what’s possible.
“As long as you have a bike and know how to swim, anyone can find a local club and race a triathlon. Really, the only barrier is a bike, but you can pretty much get a bike anywhere.”
Now 10 and 12, respectively, Lucas and Noah will continue to race triathlons as long as Lucas is able to get out there.
“The older he gets, the more complications he has,” Alissa said. “His disease, lissencephaly, isn’t a progressive disease, but just because he’s not able to do a lot of things on his own, it causes other issues like scoliosis and breathing issues. As he gets older, we don’t really know what the future will bring with Lucas’ condition.”
The brothers’ story, meanwhile, has already been captured by national media, including the “TODAY Show,” “Ellen Show” and “HBO Sports.”
Noah recently received the Walter Camp Football Foundation American Hero Award, showing there’s no weight heavy enough to break his brotherly bond with Lucas.
“I never thought this would be such a big deal,” Noah said. “I just wanted to do something for my brother, so I was in shock when the ‘TODAY Show’ wanted me to do something or we went to San Diego for a triathlon. We’re at least going to do five or six triathlons every year now until who knows when.
“Maybe we’ll do them forever.”