Blind St. Paul teen gears up for Ironman Triathlon in Louisville

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A St. Paul teen is gearing up for the ambitious Ironman Triathlon in Louisville.

He’s taking on the a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run next weekend – and he’s doing it blind.

Louie McGee has only ever done a sprint distance before. A sprint distance is a small fraction of a full Ironman. But now, McGee says if he’s going to inspire others, he has to go all in.

“I wanted to find an event that I could do to inspire other visually impaired kids to reach for big goals,” said McGee. “I hope they see me and they think, ‘I have this goal, this is going to be hard for me. If he can do it, I can do it.’”

McGee was diagnosed with Stargardt disease when he was five-years-old. A disease of the retina, it takes away the teen’s central vision, rendering him legally blind.

“I pretty much have to take every step like I’m going to trip. So I have to be prepared to catch myself,” he said.

McGee will do the race alongside a guide, a 10-time Ironman finisher who has volunteered to not only race but train with the teen four to five days a week.

“He really, really, really just wants to help Louie get across the finish line,” said Greg McGee, his father. “In fact, I’m pretty certain he had never met a blind person before, been on a tandem bike before, so it was a whole new series of adventures for him, too.”

Louie and his guide are tethered together for the swim and the run, while the cycle portion is done on a tandem bike.

“We’ve ran so many miles together that my guide knows how to tell me what’s coming up—when to step up at a curb, step down at a curb, or step over a hole,” he said.

The Cretin Derham Hall High School senior trains two hours a day before and after school, and on the weekends.

McGee also has a non-profit, Louie's Vision, which empowers visually-impaired youth by giving them opportunities they otherwise wouldn't have.