Aaron Pike wanted to be in Duluth this weekend trying to win the Grandma's Marathon wheelchair race for a fourth consecutive year, but he's kind of busy right now. Actually, his calendar looks like a slacker's worst nightmare.
The Park Rapids native is planning to spend the next two months training not just for the Summer Paralympics in Tokyo but also simultaneously for the 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing.
Oh, he's also going to squeeze in two marathons — on back-to-back days in cities 900 miles apart.
Does this guy ever sleep?
"It's uncharted territory," he said, sounding excited to give this crazy competition schedule his best shot.
Pike is back in his home state participating in the U.S. Paralympic Trials. He is vying to qualify for the Tokyo Games in the 800 meters, 1,500, 5,000 and marathon, which is his specialty. He won't learn officially if he made the team and in which events until the formal selection process later this week.
He is a two-time Paralympian in both the Summer Games (London and Rio) and Winter Games (Sochi and Pyeongchang). He competes in distance events in the summer, and biathlon and cross-country races in the winter. He feels especially confident in his chances of medaling in the marathon.
COVID's one-year postponement of the Tokyo Games means that the 35-year-old Pike will face the unique challenge of participating in two Paralympics in a span of six months.
"It's definitely not ideal," he said. "But at least I have been doing the two sports for a long time. So I've got that going for me."
Born in northern Minnesota, Pike was injured in a hunting accident at age 13 while living in Virginia. A hunter in a different group heard a noise and mistakenly fired in the direction of Pike, who was struck by a pellet in his back, damaging his spinal cord.
He excelled in adapted sports, particularly basketball and track, after enrolling at the University of Illinois, which is renowned for its adapted program. He still lives and trains in Champaign, Ill.
He tried Nordic skiing for the first time after college and was hooked. He started competing in biathlons along with cross-country skiing.
Once he is named to the U.S. team for Tokyo, his training regimen will become double duty. Many hours of work in his racing chair, plus dryland cross-country training "just to keep everything active in those muscle groups" in preparation for Beijing.
His basement is outfitted with a SkiErg machine that simulates arm movements in skiing, with an indoor range so he can work on target practice with his rifle while his heart rate is elevated.
Pike has his girlfriend, fellow Paralympian Oksana Masters, to push him and offer encouragement. Masters is a Paralympics star, having won eight medals between Summer and Winter games and twice nominated for ESPY Awards. She's training for the Paralympics back-to-back as well in road cycling, biathlon and cross-country skiing.
The fall schedule will be particularly hectic. The Tokyo Paralympics end in early September. Then it's marathon time. Prize money is a big part of his income, so Pike competes in most of the majors every year along with other races such as Grandma's.
He plans to compete in the Chicago and Boston marathons on consecutive days in October. He will race in Chicago on Sunday, fly to Boston that night and then tackle another marathon the next morning.
"That one is going to be a test," he said. "It's like a sink-or-swim thing."
Once that doubleheader is complete, he flies to Canada for a month of cross-country training on snow. Then it's off to Bozeman, Mont., for more intensive training until leaving for Beijing.
Then a long vacation? Probably not. Pike loves the grind.
"It's still just so fun for me," he said. "There's nothing else I want to do. I haven't lost the energy for it. I still look forward to practice every morning. On Sundays, I don't know what to do with myself."
That's normally a rest and recovery day. He finds those so boring.