Westchester man inspired to get fit with CowaLUNGa Bike Tour
Jim Loechel was inspired to get fit for his grandchildren, pictured here after his bike ride to their home in Naperville.
Updated: August 15, 2012 11:28AM
On Aug. 4, Jim Loechel will join more than 200 people at the CowaLUNGa Bike Tour start line at Gurnee Mills mall. As he lines up for his 65-mile ride, he’ll be thinking about a CowaLUNGa training ride he went on in 2010 that saved his life.
CowaLUNGa is hosted by Respiratory Health Association to raise funds and awareness for lung disease research and programs. Many people ride to honor loved ones affected by lung disease, but others, like Loechel, participate for the challenge. Loechel, 57, of Westchester, rode in his first CowaLUNGa in 2009 because he was inspired to improve his health.
“My first two grandkids were born that year, and I made my mind up that I’d get in shape so I could stick around and see them grow up,” Loechel said.
After he completed his first CowaLUNGa Bike Tour, Loechel felt in the best shape he’d been in for more than 20 years, so he signed up for a second ride. He continued to train and on one hot, humid Monday in May he hopped on his bike for a 30-mile ride.
“I was 25 miles into my ride when I started feeling really out-of-sorts, like my arms were really heavy,” he said.
He called his wife to pick him up.
“We thought it was just dehydration, but when I couldn’t even get out of bed to step in the shower, my wife called 911.”
He went to the hospital and had a cardiac test, which showed two blockages in the main artery. Suddenly, his plans to join his family for pizza that night were forgotten. Instead, doctors told him, the ride had thankfully alerted them to a serious health issue, and he’d have to have triple-bypass surgery. He went into the surgery two days later.
After the surgery, Loechel’s doctor told him he was lucky because his heart was strong, in part due to his cycling, but he’d have to slowly build up his endurance to ride again. This August, he’ll go on his longest bike ride since 2010.
Loechel will be joined by friends and family in the tour, which offers one-, two- or three-day options to ride from Gurnee, Ill., to William’s Bay, Whitewater or Hubertus, Wisconsin. To support Jim in his fundraising efforts or to offer words of encouragement, visit www.lungchicago.org/jimloechel.