Thank you to those who made it possible for me to participate in the September 2007 Ride to Cure Diabetes in Whitefish, Montana. While raising money for the JDRF was my primary reason for deciding to do the ride, the weekend far surpassed my expectations. Not only was I treated to explore and ride in one of the country's most scenic and peaceful locations, for a few days the burden of this disease was lifted and I was reminded that it is, in fact, possible for me to live better with diabetes. Unlike other athletic events, which also motivate and challenge me, the Ride brings people together with a common goal: to cure diabetes. It was also the first event where the medical tent at the end was never used. I met many friends with diabetes themselves or who have loved ones with diabetes. And some decided to ride just because the location was so spectacular. I can certainly appreciate that. Meeting other athletically-minded type 1's helped me to realize that we often share the same frustrations. I also realized that, despite my self-criticism, I have actually managed to learn quite a bit about how to manage my BG's while exercising.
I had a few other self-realizations while chatting with others:
1. I am so averse to having low BG's while exercising that I often keep my blood sugar higher than necessary. During the ride, I learned that I could keep my exercise BG lower, and have been experimenting with increasing the amount of insulin I take during exercise since then.
2. I put a lot of energy into managing my BG's during exercise and was, for example, able to avoid low blood sugar for almost 15 hours during the Ironman. Sometimes, it seems too hard to muster up the energy for the rest of the time. But by changing a few small things, I can improve my diabetes control, and the way I feel, even when I am not exercising.
3. I used to have excellent control. I was probably the most "compliant" teenager there ever was. I had a hard time adjusting my diabetes to my college schedule, and, while starting the pump my sophomore year gave me flexibility, I also slowly changed my behavior because of it. Being at the JDRF ride, and seeing other type 1's, reminded me of how I used to be--more strict--and I finally accepted that some of my difficulties do not arise from an inability to master the art of pumping, but in the types and timing of the food I eat.
And guess what? My A1c (measure of average blood glucose over ~2 months) went down a significant 0.6% since the end of August. A lower A1c means a smaller chance of most complications as the years go on, and better health in the short-term, too.
Some pictures from the weekend...
Here I am with Anne Marie, whose daughter has type 1 diabetes. This was her first JDRF Ride. She also convinced her friend Joe to raise money and ride. We had a nice paceline going for part of the first loop.
The ride consisted of 3 loops: Star Meadow, Whitefish Lake, and Northfork. Star Meadow Loop was the longest (~50 miles) and had the steepest climbs. It was also the coldest--in the 30's at the turnaround point. I was wearing plenty of warm gear and didn't chill out too much. A day or two before the ride, there was a report of some 10 grizzly bears being relocated from rural areas in the vicinity (not sure how close). They said the huckleberry season was particularly bad this year, and that the bears were trying to fatten up before hibernating. Being somewhat grizzly-bear-phobic ever since reading Mark of the Grizzly, I expected to see one lumbering along through Star Meadow, seen here, or maybe even poking a stick through my spokes! Easy dinner.
Here I am with Matt and Andy from Team Type 1 and another friend, Lynn. The 3 of them and many others stuck around at the finish, waiting for the last of the riders to pull through. Oh did I mention that the "century" was actually 118 miles? I was happy that I made it without having done many long rides lately. Early in the ride, the TT1 guys and a friend and I rode 5 abreast on one of the country roads. We decided that we were technically riding "single file" in a different sense. I enjoyed riding with them and am pretty sure my heart rate was at least 20-30 bpm faster than any of theirs! It was exhilarating. It was also interesting to hear about their strategy (which is similar to other relay teams' strategies) for winning RAAM. Apparently, they would take turns riding very short intervals at or near all-out intensity. It sounds pretty exhausting for everyone involved.
I believe Carlos, above, was the last rider who did the full 118 miles to finish. Several years ago, he nearly lost his infant son when doctors were slow to diagnose type 1 diabetes. I was shocked that the obvious symptoms did not quickly lead to what could have been a 5-second diagnosis (with a BG check). His son was near death when doctors finally realized what was going on. At that time, Carlos felt like he "had to do something," and signed up for his first ride. His son is now biking himself, and proud of his dad for doing this for him. I think his expression sums up the whole day--triumph that we had all been able to enjoy such spectacular surroundings & conditions, support, and friendships, and that we had moved $700,000 closer to a cure.
Thank you to all those who supported me. It turned out to be much more than just a ride.