Cycling can look different from one person to the next. There are commuters, mountain bikers, gravel grinders, roadies, racers, and triathletes. We also come in all shapes, sizes, and abilities. My intention when launching Sunflowers and Pedals was to advocate that cycling is for every BODY. For a person with a physical disability, cycling is just as exciting as it is for an able body cyclist. We all love the sense of freedom, speed, and adventure no matter if our bicycle has two, three, or four wheels and is powered by a pedal or hand crank.
Several years ago I started volunteering and spent a couple of years on the board for an amazing non-profit organization called Dare2tri. Working with athletes who have physical disabilities or visual impairment was a game-changer for me and I will forever be thankful for the experiences. Before Dare2tri I had limited interaction with any physically disabled people except a co-worker who was paralyzed from the waist down from a motorcycle accident.
I’m ashamed to admit this, but I used to feel pity when I saw a disabled person, thinking to myself they were missing out on what able body people could do. Well, I was sorely wrong! The Dare2tri athletes showed me they can do everything an able body person can and more, it just might require a few modifications.
I’m in awe every time I volunteer at one of their clinics or camps. The physical ability and determination of these athletes are remarkable. I no longer see disabled people for what they can’t do, but instead for what they CAN do.
One remarkable person I met through Dare2tri is Mary Kate Callahan. She’s been blazing trails from a very young age. Paralyzed from the waist down at the age of 5 ½ months, due to the Transverse Myelitis virus, she began swimming as part of aqua therapy. Fast forward 25 years and Mary Kate has become an elite paratriathlete, setting a course record at Ironman Louisville in 2015, a motivational speaker, and an aspiring author all while holding down a full-time job at Motorola Solutions.
Mary Kate is a vivacious woman who doesn’t set limitations for herself. She owes a lot to her family and having very supportive parents who didn’t set boundaries, allowed her to be independent, and even today continues to support her goals. Traveling all over the world to compete in triathlons, her dad is right there by her side helping in the transition area. For those who compete in triathlons, you’ll be amazed by her 1 minute transition times. When I raced, I was lucky to get under 8 minutes. Friends would tease me, asking if I did my hair and make-up before departing T1.
I hope you enjoy my interview with Mary Kate. It’s uplifting, positive, and energizing. There’s no stopping her and I’m excited to see what’s next for Mary Kate. Take a listen.
Enjoy the ride.