‘Amazing’ experience for couple
They persevere through obstacles every single day, so what’s one little race across the country? To them, it means one last chance to see the world before one loses his vision completely.
Lowell and Julie Taylor, a husband and wife duo from Lethbridge, will make their debut on the fourth season of “The Amazing Race Canada” which premieres Tuesday night on CTV.
It was announced almost two weeks ago that they were one of the 10 teams to compete in the action-packed adventure.
During each episode or “leg” of the Race, teams must complete a series of challenges, some physical and some mental, to receive their next clue and learn of their next destination. The first team to reach the “Pit Stop” wins that leg, along with a prize. Teams who arrive last at the Pit Stop may be eliminated.
The Taylors intend to prove that with a positive attitude you can overcome anything, even while one of them is losing their sight.
Lowell suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa. He is legally blind, with no peripheral vision, reduced central vision, and no vision in low light.
He is also the first visually-impaired racer to take part in any of “The Amazing Race” franchises.
“We were absolutely thrilled and also very grateful that they would take a chance on us,” said Julie, “and then also very nervous and panicky for what it actually meant for us and how we would be able to run the race.”
The southern Alberta pair have been by each others side for the past 13 years, married for nine. They have two young boys, ages three and four.
Lowell, from a small farm near Carstairs, and Julie, born and raised in Lethbridge, both graduated from the University of Lethbridge.
Lowell, 34, is now a registered psychologist, and Julie, 33, a former Lethbridge Herald paper carrier, is now a speech and language pathologist.
They wanted to join “The Amazing Race Canada” to inspire not only their children, but also to inspire those with any kind of disability, whether mental, physical, or cognitive, to dream big and push past perceived limitations.
“You can do more, you can overcome,” said Lowell. “As people with disabilities, we believe that we have limits. Society believes we have limitations, but I think a lot of those are false. We might need help, or augmentation, or something different, but we can do a lot more than the perceived limitations that are placed.”
“I think one thing viewers will realize, when they watch Lowell especially, is a negative attitude can be more debilitating than a disability,” said Julie. “Lowell is such a positive guy and his positive attitude outshines his disability. He embraced the experience. I think it will be inspirational for people, especially those with disabilities.”
There was also a short window of time before Lowell’s sight diminishes further, and a chance to make some memories together before he becomes completely blind.
“This was the sweet spot for my vision,” said Lowell. “I can see the world, but it’s closing quickly. There’s a sliver of sight that we want to make use of. So this is an important time to go and see the world, try new things and adventures, and make memories with Julie.”
The roles in their relationship have evolved over the years, Julie explained, as Lowell’s vision continues to decrease.
“At the centre of that is communication, love, respect and support for each other. As well as fun. We like to have a lot of fun together,” she said.
They always knew they would work together well as a team, and being on “The Amazing Race” only confirmed it.
“We know each other very well and it just confirmed what we already knew about each other,” said Lowell. “That we are a good team and that we communicate well.”
Their teamwork, energy and optimism was called upon when the pair faced several challenging obstacles. Such as moments when the team faced a “roadblock,” in which only one person must complete a task without any help.
“They’re very vague and you have to decide who’s doing it before you learn what you’re actually doing,” said Julie.
“Going into it, this was one of the biggest fears, or one of the hardest parts for us, was knowing we could go home at any moment if it was a visually-challenging task. So we had to pick them very carefully if we could,” said Lowell.
This led Julie to place a lot of pressure on herself. She had already accepted if they couldn’t pass a roadblock due to visual impairment, but she didn’t want to be the one to let Lowell down.
“If it was something that I screwed up with my brain or I didn’t complete a task, that would have been devastating to me,” she said. “That was one of my big fears heading in, which kind of impacted my mental and emotional state. Good thing Lowell is such a mentally and emotionally strong guy, because he definitely carried us in that sense.”
It’s a lot harder than it looks when you’re sitting at home watching the race on TV, said Lowell.
“You’re sleep-deprived, not eating, stressed, and it’s cumulative. Each week you watch just a part of it, but we’re living in it. It is a stressful experience, and they make it stressful so that they make better TV,” Lowell said with a laugh.
The Taylors are both very physically active with swimming, biking and running, and have competed in a number of triathlons together.
In addition to their active lifestyle, the pair started climbing (becoming certified belayers), played brain games, and binge-watched previous seasons of the show to prepare for the race.
“And I practised my puns a lot beforehand,” joked Lowell.
“Yeah, that might be an interesting part of the show,” laughed Julie. “He needs no practise. It comes naturally.”
Lowell has been pursuing Para-Cycling (road and track) along with his guide Mark, with a dream to compete in the Paralympic Games. There was a chance Lowell could have qualified for the Rio Paralympics this year, but it would have meant declining the opportunity to compete on “The Amazing Race Canada.”
“We actually had to choose, because during ‘The Amazing Race Canada’ there was a qualifier in Montreal that we were preparing for that I had to skip,” said Lowell. Now they are aiming for Tokyo in 2020.
“Which is more realistic anyways, to be more trained and more prepared to do better,” said Lowell. “We have big dreams. I have no sight, but I have a lot of vision.”
Along with the travel and adventure, the Taylors say the friendships made with other racers, the production crew, and people along the way was truly one-of-a-kind.
“The experience truly was amazing. The production, the crew, the places you go, everything about the show is really amazing and it was amazing to be a part of it. I say amazing a lot now. I don’t know if it’s something the show just does to you…” said Lowell.
Filming occurred over five weeks in the Spring. The couple couldn’t share too many details about where they were headed during that time, telling their sons they were on a backpacking trip. The Taylors are immensely grateful for Julie’s parents who took care of their boys so they could compete.
Since it was officially announced that they were one of the teams competing, the pair has received a lot of messages and support from friends and community members.
“We’ve been thrilled by the excitement of Lethbridge and thrilled by the excitement of people we know, and people we don’t know,” said Lowell. “But we’re also a little overwhelmed, in a good way.”
“I wish we could individually respond to everybody because we have received so many messages,” said Julie. “We see it, we feel it, and we love it. We’re really grateful for everybody’s support.”