Cycling: Local rider helping her team battle MS in fundraiser

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By The Staff

It’s the best of both worlds for those who do what they love to do and do it for a good cause.

Local cyclist, Cathy Cleland will do just that next weekend as she hits the road for the Multiple Sclerosis ride Saturday and Sunday.

The Bike MS: Pedal Los Pueblos is a fundraising event that has cyclists hitting the road for two days, covering 150 miles.

Cleland, who has been cycling for 25 years, said she can’t wait to take part in the annual trek. Cleland started out cycling for fun and turned it into a lifestyle.

“As a self-conscious teenager, surely this sounds familiar,” she said. “I wanted another activity to stay in shape. In addition, I was a year-round swimmer, but wanted to cross-train. I started riding my mom’s 10-speed and fell in love with the conditioning aspect and the feeling of freedom, pure strength and accomplishment that is achieved from riding up a tough hill, then coasting down.”

She has been riding the 150-mile trek for Multiple Sclerosis since she was in graduate school. She took a few years off to birth two boys before hitting the trail once again, looking for the ride in New Mexico.

“Maggie Schold, the (New Mexico) MS society director, wrote to me and asked if I would like to join a new team from Santa Fe,” Cleland said. “I jumped at the chance since it is always more fun to ride long distance with someone else.”

The Pedal Los Pueblos is not only scenic, but challenges every rider who takes part. Participants enjoy a fully supported ride with two route options each day with rest stops, SAG vehicles, meals, mechanics and plenty of enthusiastic volunteers to cheer them on.

This year, by special permission of the Governor of Santa Clara Pueblo, cyclists will ride up Santa Clara Canyon Road from N.M. 30 to the Puye Cliff Dwellings. Usually, the Santa Clara Canyon Road is closed to bicycles, so the Bike MS event the only opportunity to ride this route.Cleland is part of the Los Monos Ayudantes team, comprised of 14 members, mostly men, whose only goal is to help those in need. The name was selected by team captain, Gregory Huey, as a play on the nonprofit organization, The Monkey Helpers, who train monkeys to help disabled persons.

Huey’s mother, Elaine, died from complications of MS the year the team was formed.

“She is the memory we take with us when we are slogging those miles in the heat of August,” Cleland said. “Those long, hot miles provide us with lots of time to reflect why we are riding and also remind us that our personal struggle is not nearly as intense as those with MS face each day. We should be fortunate to have this opportunity to raise awareness and funds to support those with MS and researchers who are looking for cures every day.”

Cleland recently learned that a former work colleague also has MS and has had it for a few years. This news has given her new resolve and an additional reason to ride.

“I am confident that our efforts will provide her with a longer and more productive life with MS,” Cleland said.

There are many ways for interested individuals and businesses to help the fight against MS, from donating financially to volunteer opportunities, including with the MS bike race.

For this year’s ride, volunteer opportunities include clearing obstacles, marking routes, adding signage for road hazards and staffing rest stops throughout the entire ride —7 a.m. -5 p.m. both days.

The ride starts and finishes at the Cities of Gold in Pojoaque.

Los Monos Ayudantes team has a goal of raising $5,000 with Cleland having a  personal goal of $1,500.

Those wishing to make donations for Los Monos Ayudantes can do so through the through the MS website, biknmx.nationalmssociety.org. Contributions provide support for those with MS, filling the need for wheelchairs, medications and research.