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August 26, 2016
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Endurance and Advocacy

Diabetes is a marathon, not a sprint.


From the time we are diagnosed until the moment of our death, we are running a race against skyrocketing and plummeting blood sugars, heart disease, kidney failure, retinopathy, neuropathy, and a whole list of other "-opathies", as well as acute (but potentially fatal) issues such as ketoacidosis...


Maybe a marathon is not the right analogy. Diabetes may be more like riding the Tour de France. Every day we get up, try to fuel efficiently, get interrupted for testing five ways from Sunday, get accused and convicted of taking substances we have no knowledge of consuming, have to find time to check our glucose, eat properly, and dose properly, and train properly while doing everything a person without diabetes is doing to make a living and run a household. We have to figure out whether we want to go in the early break and run low, knowing the peloton will catch up with us by day's end (and we'll end up somewhere off-target by dinner), whether we have to marshal our energies for the grueling climbs of long meetings and harrowing commutes, or whether it's worth it to go for the sprint points of a bowl of ice cream or an after-hours drink "with the guys". Just because we're tired and exhausted by the effort doesn't mean we can give up. Like most riders in the Tour de France, we have no hope of wearing the maillot jaune the overall race leader's jersey but we keep grinding away, day after day, week after week. For the riders, the goal is for them, or one of their eight teammates, to get into a break-away, win a stage, or even just to be able to say that they rode from start to finish in that most prestigious of endurance races. For us, it's basic survival.


With all the endurance that the average person with diabetes must exhibit, it's no wonder that we are drawn to endurance sports not just cycling (and Team Type 1), but also marathons, triathlons, and so on. Most of us don't consider ourselves endurance athletes, but many of us will sign up for 5k JDRF walks, 30-mile Tour de Cure rides, and 100-mile JDRF rides without a second thought. We know that if we can get through a day, or a week, with a portion of the dedication and control that many of these professional athletes have, we're that much closer to winning a stage in our personal race against diabetes.


Of course not every PWD is physically up to the challenge of even the starter events, or the fundraising that comes along with them and the amounts of money the American Diabetes Association and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation need to operate (much less fund research towards the management of, and cures for, diabetes) is more than the few of us would-be athletes can raise on our own. So we reach out to other amateur athletes and "weekend warriors" to help us and have some fun in the process.


One of my local ADA chapter's outreach programs was a table at the Endurance Sports Expo this past weekend in Edison, NJ. (Yes, it was named after that Edison.) Our plan was to recruit riders for our upcoming Tour de Cure rides. Recruitment was not nearly as successful as at the Expo's main (Philadelphia) location, but we got to walk around in our Red Rider jerseys, ride our bicycles on our trainers, and take the half-days we were not at the booth to see the Expo. (See my quick video here.) While there were the expected vendors touting upcoming marathons and triathlons, I was delighted to find a number of road-cycling-centric booths. Unfortunately I had to pass on what might have been the perfect spare/second/marginal upgrade bicycle, and I never did get the time to do that comparative test ride between my entry level Dolce and Specialized's top-of-the-line Amira, I scored three pair of cycling shorts for the price of one.

If diabetes is the Tour de France, at least I can ride it with clean bottoms.

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