Ironman Wisconsin brings out athletes with disabilties

Grueling day attracts athletes of all backgrounds
Ironman Wisconsin brings out athletes with disabilties

Thousands of athletes came to Madison’s streets and lakes on Sunday for the annual Ironman Wisconsin competition.

The grueling day starts with a 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride, and of course, a marathon.

Athletes of all backgrounds imaginable competed, including a special pair that crossed the finish line together this year.

The Pease brothers, Brent and Kyle, were out on Sunday morning among the sea of swim caps ready to lap Lake Monona.

Though they were two of many, they were easier to spot than most: In a current made choppy by the freestyles of 2,500 swimmers, Kyle, who has cerebral palsy, was out of his chair and racing in a kayak with brother Brent as his personal tug boat.

Now fast-forward four hours to mile 45 of the bike route.

That’s where you’d find Brent, pedaling enough to push both Pease brothers

But this story isn’t just about any of the bikers or the runners rounding the corner of Dayton and Henry streets.

It’s about who they find there waiting for them.


It’s about people like Karen Foxgrover, with her low fives and her high hopes.
“I think at some level, the athletes get that I would be right there next to them if I could be,” said Karen.

As soon as Karen heard that Ironman Wisconsin was coming to Madison, she signed up.

Now, twelve years after that initial sign-up, Karen doesn’t run or swim or bike, but she still cheers, undeterred by the muscular dystrophy she now lives with.

“I am focused,” said Karen. “I am 100 percent focused on the physical aspect of my life all of the time. And I have no choice on that.”

Karen’s friend Betty Merten is no stranger to the grand scene that is Ironman Wisconsin.

“I have an idea what it takes for me to get ready, and what they do is ten times more intense than what I do, so yeah, it’s amazing,” said Betty. “I can’t imagine where they get the stamina to be able to do this.”

Merten focuses on 5Ks and sprint triathlons.

She’s been in a chair her entire life but she’s been turning her wheels into wings for years now.

“Nothing has to stop you if you don’t want it to,” said Betty. “You’re capable of doing everything and anything you want to if you’ve got the right mindset.”

Karen Foxgrover agrees.

“I just think people with disabilities, or a lot of them, are doing an Ironman every day, and they keep doing it every day,” said Karen.

“If you want to do this, you’ll find a way, and that’s the thing,” said Betty. “Nothing has to stop you except yourself.”

The Pease brothers finished up the swim, bike, and run just after 10 p.m. Sunday night, making it a 15- hour Ironman for them.

The Kyle Pease Foundation has been set up to help other people with disabilities compete in any athletic competition.

To donate or learn more, go to the foundation’s website.