This spotlight was first published in Issue 1 of our digital newsletter, The First Wave.
Throughout high school and college, Karen Sternfeld was a three-season runner. In the winter, she cross-country skied. Athletics were a major part of her life. Then, as a college senior, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“When I was diagnosed I thought, ‘Well there goes that part of my identity,” she said. “I’m no longer an athlete.’”
Today, Karen is proving herself wrong. She has rediscovered the identity she once feared she had lost. With the support of Dare2tri, Karen has become a multisport athlete.
It all started with swimming, a sport she quickly learned to love. With a reignited passion, she began attending Dare2tri swim practices. Before long, swim practices led to wheelchair pushing practices. In 2019, Dare2tri coaches recruited Karen onto a Chicago Triathlon relay team, giving her a taste of competition once again.
Karen was a regular at Dare2tri practices prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, and she remains just as involved today. In fact, she’s one of our most active virtual training participants. She joins us for strength training almost every Tuesday and Thursday evening.
“I love that at least twice a week I can get on the computer at 6 o’clock and get my butt kicked by Coach Shawna,” she said.
For Karen, who has used a wheelchair full-time since 2005, the benefits of strength training go beyond just athletics.
“It’s all about keeping my shoulders working,” she said. “They do everything for me. When I don’t do any strength training, I can really start to feel it in my shoulders. They need the extra work just to keep their integrity so they don’t fall apart on me.”
In August, Karen signed up for our #ChiTriVirtual Race Prep Clinic, giving her the boost she needed to take on the virtual Chicago Triathlon. For the race, she used a hand cycle and racing chair she received through the Dare2tri Ability Fund, a grant program that eliminates barriers to participation. It was her first solo triathlon ever.
“I loved it,” Karen said. “I’m looking forward to doing a traditional (non-virtual) race someday. Hopefully next year, if not sooner.”