By Heidi Dohse of Hailey, Idaho

The LoToJa Classic (and Lance Armstrong) were my inspiration this year. Entering LoToJa, and finishing, are important milestones in my quest to overcome heart disease.

Twenty two years ago I was diagnosed with a rare heart arrhythmia problem. At the time, I was teaching snow skiing, windsurfing, and very athletic. When I went to the doctor, I was an 18-year-old going in for a quick clean up of the cartilage in my knee. I ended up a heart patient with a diagnosis that did not have a cure. Ultimately, my life came down to living every day to it's fullest because I may not have many left.

I then became an experimental heart patient. After many long stays in the hospital (for tests) it was determined that my best chance was to ablate my heart's AV node to eliminate the radical arrhythmias. However, this left me 100% pacemaker dependent. I have been running on batteries ever since.

Over the years, the hardest part of living with my pacemaker has been that the upper heart rate limit is programmed to only 145 beats per minute. It is difficult to be active, and especially competitive, when your heart only goes to 145 bpm (and once that was reached the rate would drop to 85 bpm.)

The good news is that last year I had a complete system upgrade. This included new leads (the wires into my heart) and a state-of-the-art Guidant adventure sport pacemaker. Now, for the first time in 22 years I have a full, almost normal range of heart beats!! So, what to do with all of this new "equipment"? The LoToJa Classic seemed like a great idea to me.

Training for LoToJa this summer has been wonderful. It is amazing to be able to get out on my bike and really ride. To push myself and have my muscles become tired before my heart gives out. I have found a way to prove to my self that I am healthy, and that I am alive! I know that riding the race this year is just the start of a long tradition for me.

Thank You!