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Side by side, brothers demonstrate athletic commitment
When 28-year-old Atlanta resident Kyle Pease finishes a 5K race or a half Ironman, he typically goes home with muscle soreness that one would expect from being physically taxed. That, he said, is something that should be expected if one has taken up the mantle of a tri-athlete.
Kyle, who has quadriplegia with spastic Cerebral Palsy, uses a wheelchair full-time and competes with his older brother Brent.
Today, more and more wheelchair athletes are competing in road events individually, or as a pair, dotting the racing landscape, in part inspired by the trail-blazing father and son team dubbed “Team Hoyt.” Where the Dick and Rick Hoyt may have introduced the sport to those with disabilities, the Pease Brothers are hoping their efforts will continue to lead by example and inspire others with disabilities to pursue their dreams. While doing so, the Pease Brothers also showcase a form of brotherly bonding that is made of love and common interest.
“We want people to know that it is possible to be athletic and have a disability,” Kyle said. “It’s a great way to challenge yourself; and it is fun. The people always respond well to us.”
The brothers, who have completed about 25 5K’s, half-marathons, and half-Ironman’s, are preparing for their most challenging event to date. The IRONMAN Wisconsin, taking place September 8, 2013, is comprised of a one-loop swim that takes place in the waters of Lake Monona in downtown Madison; 112-mile bike trip through hilly and climb worthy terrain; and a 26.2-mile run through through downtown that extends through the University of Wisconsin campus and alongside the scenic Lake Mendota.
For the brothers, the full course could take 16 to 17 hours to complete.
“We’ve never done a full Ironman before, but we’ve completed enough events to be confident about this one,” Kyle said. “We’re working hard training for it on a lot of extra hills, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Growing up athletic
Kyle and Brent Pease grew up in Atlanta. They are the sons of Janis and Richard Pease. The family also includes Evan, Kyle’s twin brother, who often joins them on the race course.
With a warm and supportive family and brother around his own age, Kyle said he enjoyed a stable and loving childhood because the Peases never set him apart because of his disability.
“I had a lot of fun growing up,” he said. “My mom and dad worked hard to make sure I was included. I remember that, as a family, we always enjoyed sports. My parents would always find ways for me to participate – I was never left out of anything. It was a great time in my life.”
Brent said the brothers enjoyed a close relationship that involved a lot of ribbing. “There were many times when one of us would leave the table in tears; it was just brother stuff,” he said. “But no one was spared.
A fact that might surprise people is that throughout childhood, Kyle was already honing his athletic abilities, according to Brent.
“He used to play wheelchair baseball and soccer,” Brent remembered. “When they were a few kids short of a team, Evan or I used to jump into a wheelchair and play along.”
That spirit of togetherness resurfaced when Kyle asked Brent to begin running with him in a local 10K event in 2010, after Brent achieved his first Ironman.
“They have found their love together, their passion. Ever since that first race they bonded on a different level and I can’t even explain it.”
– Brent Pease
“Today there’s so many different ways people with disabilities can participate in athletics. If you want to do it, don’t let anyone stop you.”
– Kyle Pease
We had dinner and I just asked him about it,” he said. “[Brent] had a lot of questions, but then he said ‘Yes, absolutely.’ We started planning for the event and it grew from there.”
Brent remembers the first event the brothers participated wasn’t exactly a seamless undertaking.
“The first 10K was in February 2011, and we didn’t really know what to do with the pads and equipment,” he said. “I ended up putting a golf club cover on Kyle’s hand, and we had jackets wrapped around his neck.
“We’ve refined our technique since then,” Brent said with a laugh.
About 25 events later, the pair said they’re ready to tackle bigger events. At the IRONMAN Wisconsin, Brent will tow Kyle in an inflatable raft for the swimming portion, push him in a specially-designed wheelchair for the running course, and ride with him on a three-wheel bike for the cycling portion.
Brent said participating in the events build stronger brotherly bonds.
“On the bike, he sits in front of me, and we’re able to talk,” he said. “I do all the pedaling because Kyle can’t, but we have a chance to talk about life. It’s a great way to spend time together.”
When he’s not on the course, Kyle lives a life that’s busy. He works four jobs – one as a greeter at a hospital, one at a supermarket, another managing all of his caretakers, and as the co-founder of the Kyle Pease Foundation, which aims to provide assistance to families with disabilities and promote athletics within the disabilities community.
“Taking part in athletic events is so important for children with disabilities, but sometimes, the adaptive equipment is expensive,” Brent said. “This journey is not just about me, or about Kyle. It’s about creating a new awareness about what people with disabilities can do, and showing by example what can be done.”
Brent, who also helps run the Foundation in addition to working at a triathlon specialty store, said he hopes to be able to help make adaptive sports available to families that are experiencing financial difficulties.
“Right now, we’re raising money to help kids buy equipment for races,” he said of the Foundation. “Just recently, the foundation provided assistance through a grant to a girl in Texas; they used it to buy a bicycle.”
In the future, they hope to provide scholarship opportunities, purchase adaptive sports equipment for others, and contribute to organizations with similar missions that create opportunities for individual’s with disability to realize their athletic aspirations.
Kyle also enjoys speaking publicly about his experiences, and is seeking to grow awareness of disabilities through the Foundation’s mission.
Just like they did as boys, much of the brother’s lives revolve around sports. They are avowed fans of the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta Braves. They frequently attend sporting events together. They enjoy hanging out with a broad group of friends and family.
Brent said he likes seeing how athletics has benefitted his brother. “I think the best thing that I see is what it means for Kyle’s life,” he said. He’s active and he’s healthy; he enjoys the physical and mental challenge of the events. It’s really very challenging – I didn’t know that I would be able to do it the first time.
“I think it tells us a lot about the human spirit,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing that you really can do what you want to do. It shows people with disabilities that they can lead their own lives.”
On the track, the brothers are heartened at the support they receive from other athletes, both disabled and otherwise, and the fact that they can participate in events together.”
“Everyone is always really nice,” Kyle said.
Kyle’s advice to budding athletes with disabilities is simple: Follow you heart, and even the most formidable tasks can be accomplished.
“If you want to do something, you should do it,” he said. “Today there’s so many different ways people with disabilities can participate in athletics. If you want to do it, don’t let anyone stop you.”
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There’s an old saying that the measure of a person’s life is measured by how much they are loved. There’s no doubt about it: our relationships with others are the cornerstone of our ability to thrive and enjoy life. Relationships allow us to explore all of the facets of giving and receiving love, from the patient and protective concern shown between a parent and child to the fire and chemistry that happens between friends, mates and spouses. And the level of ability has nothing to with the level of love one is willing to give to or receive from another.