A labor of Luff | ParkRecord.com

A labor of Luff

Kirstin Luff (right) participates in an MS bike ride event last year. This year, Team Kirstin has expanded to 40 members for the Bike MS Utah ride. National MS Society/Zazoosh

When Kirstin Luff found out she had multiple sclerosis, she thought her active lifestyle was over. How could she battle a disease that affects the central nervous system and still run, bike and hike as much as she liked?

Luff, who works at Pearl Izumi in Park City and has lived here for five years, imagined a life with the debilitating disease.

"For a long time, I envisioned me at work in a wheelchair trying to sell cycling apparel," she said. "Or like, I wouldn’t be able to drive anymore, or bike or ski."

She first realized something was wrong one day while she was running.

"I was a big trail runner and I was running at Canyons," she said. "I kept tripping – I fell over three or four times. Soon afterwards, I was diagnosed with MS."

The disease quickly put an end to her running career.

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"It affects everybody differently, but for me, I have what they refer to as foot drop," she said. "I have trouble picking up my right foot. And I also have numbness in my right leg and right arm, and fatigue – the classic symptoms."

But Luff, whose father also battled MS, wasn’t about to give up her active lifestyle without a fight.

"I had been a cyclist for years and years," she said. "I just feel so fortunate that something I love to do I can continue to do because of all the great disease-modifying drugs."

Though treatments have come a long way since her father battled MS, Luff said there’s still a long way to go to eradicate the disease.

"They’re really just drugs to help modify the symptoms right now," she said. "What we really need is a cure."

Finding a cure is what keeps Luff in the saddle, riding in MS races as often as she can to help raise money for research.

"They do these rides all over the U.S. to raise money for the MS Foundation," she said. "Hopefully in my lifetime I’ll see a cure."

Luff will be riding in the Bike MS Utah event in Cache County this weekend with Team Kirstin, a group of about 40 riders. She’ll ride 100 miles on Saturday and 75 miles on Sunday.

"That’s the plan," she said. "If the heat doesn’t kill me, that’s what I’ll do."

The group is roughly halfway towards its fundraising goal of $20,000.

"Our team started out with like six people and now there are about 40," she said. "I have friends that come out from Colorado. It’s so important to me because I have such great support."

This year, Luff will be joined by 50 riders with MS, all of whom will be wearing special "I Ride with MS" jerseys.

"I’m so stoked about it," she said. "I’m really excited for the opportunity to ride with that jersey and represent all the other people that have MS that can’t ride."

Yes, riding 175 miles in two days is difficult, but Luff said she has plenty of reasons to keep riding.

"I just draw on those reserves," she said. "Just the fact that I have this wonderful support system helps. Not just my team – there are thousands of people out there who have friends or family with MS and are very supportive."

Luff added that she has no plans to alter her riding schedule any time soon.

"I would be lost without it," she said. "I was a big athlete, but at this point in my life, I couldn’t run to save my life. Being able to bike still has brought me a lot of joy."

Though she enjoys every race she participates in, this weekend is extra special for Luff.

"I look forward to this weekend every year," she said. "You just feel energized after it."