Friday, August 23, 2019

Multiple Sclerosis: Letter to Jimmie Heuga

Happy Birthday Jimmie
Sept 22, 2012


Dear Jimmie,
This is a letter I wrote to Jimmie Heuga, ski racer, MS champion, my pedal partner on my first 150 Bike MS ride. His was the inspiration for Can    Do MS in Vail. September 22 was Jimmie’s birthday and he died February 2010.  Two years later, on his birthday, I did a bike ride that was a challenge for me. This is a letter I wrote to him about the ride.    

Dear Jimmie,

This is a letter I wrote to Jimmie Heuga, ski racer, MS champion, my pedal partner on my first 150 Bike MS ride. His was the inspiration for Can    Do MS in Vail. September 22 was Jimmie’s birthday and he died February 2010.  Two years later, on his birthday, I did a bike ride that was a challenge for me. This is a letter I wrote to him about the ride.  
  
On Saturday the 22nd, 4 friends and I rode a bicycle ride I tagged as the CanDo 50.  The ride heads west from Loveland. At the base of the foothills, the route turns north to Mansoville, which begins the climbs over the Horsetooth Reservoir Hills. Just before Bellvue is Bringham Hill Road that heads back east to Fort Collins.  At Overland Trail, we head south on streets and trails to Loveland.

At the start, the weather was slightly hazy and cool. I admit I was worried about doing this ride because I did not know if I could climb the six Horsetooth hills in the same ride. While the hills are not much by Colorado climbs, to me each represents overcoming MS challenges.  When I started riding to improve my overall health and put my MS on notice that I was in charge, I remember each of those hills because many times I had to get off the bike and walk up them.

By mid-morning, the haze is lifting and the two of the west Horsetooth hills are finished. Because I trained on those hills, claiming them was still work, but not difficult.
A turn north and across the dam, the forth ill is a short steep climb above the reservoir. Silly, how sometimes just the thought of a thing will block success. Months before today, I walked that hill at least five times or more. At the base, looking up I said to myself, “That’s not much of a hill, what are you worried about?” Sure enough Jimme, it was not much of a hill today. Next was hill 5, it is long and steep, and provokes heavy breathing, but the MS never fatigued. The downhill is great  Hill six is a bump but it marks the turn back to Loveland.

I am sure you remember, that climbing hills with MS takes special conditioning, the descent takes even more conditioning. Because downhill is faster, it requires faster reaction times and coordination. It’s the same for all riders, but for MS’ers, fatigue is riding out in front looking for a way to cause trouble.   You get to the top, legs are burning, lungs gasping, heart-pounding, arms and hands weak from gripping the handlebar, and you see that downhill. In quick order, not only does the ride focus change, but you must shift from low gears to high gears, test brakes, relax tense muscles, change line-of-sight focus, switch mental fears, watch for obstacles, plan a safe path, adjust riding positions, anticipate curves, heighten the  back sense, and then look for that downhill freedom path to make the ride. 

 For me as an MS rider, both the climb and the descent have MS challenges. MS  has no place is during the downhill ride. The MS cannot catch me there. I let go of the struggles, trust my bike, tuck down, smile and laugh at the fatigue. 

By noon, my friends peeled off, each heading home. That left three miles to finish the ride by myself. This was a great day because those last minutes gave me time to reflect on the ride and remember the one time I met you, the day you signed my helmet as my first pedal partner. As an MS Ambassador, I told that story many times and the importance of fighting MS in many ways.

At the end, the CanDo ride was 47 miles. I rode the 6 hills without walking a single one.  After getting back to the start, I still had a couple of miles to get home. No problem.  We had a great ride pedal partner.

Happy Birthday, Jimmie!






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