"I Did It for Diabetes"
One pedal push at a time got this columnist to the finish line.
By Scott Johnson
May 2011 — I recently set a new personal record on my bicycle. I rode a little over 46 miles in a single morning, and I did it for diabetes. It was for the 2011 MN Tour de Cure bike ride for the American Diabetes Association.
Not only did I set a new record, but the team I participate with — The Pancremaniacs — also set a team record, both for the number of riders and for the fundraising total.
I heard about the ride last summer, and after a decade of not riding my bike, I decided it would be both fun and good for me. The captain of The Pancremaniacs organized a bunch of team training rides, and we did a fair amount of riding before the 2010 Tour de Cure, where we rode the 25-mile course. We had so much fun that we continued to ride for the rest of the summer and signed up for the 45-mile route for 2011.
At the time, 45 miles sounded hard but achievable. I figured that if I could train hard in the spring, I would be in decent shape for the ride for diabetes. But guess what? Spring never showed up in Minnesota. We had weekend after weekend of cold and rain. There were weeks on end of cold, wet, overcast days. It was miserable; definitely not biking weather.
Many active cyclists here own trainers, which are contraptions that you can put your bicycle on and ride inside. They are sort of like a stationary bike at the gym, except that it is your bike, and you are at home. With the long winters and short cycling season it's a good option, but they are expensive, usually costing a few hundred dollars or more. You also need the space to use them.
Other dedicated cyclists have an arsenal of cold weather and/or rain gear. But that stuff is expensive too! I couldn't spend the money to outfit myself to make for comfortable and safe riding in the weather we had.
I told myself that as the event got closer, I would spend some time in the gym riding the stationary bikes, or maybe even get into some spinning classes. That didn't happen. I did spend a bunch of time in the gym, but I got addicted to having fun playing basketball. I guess it was better than nothing, but basketball muscles are much different than biking muscles.
Every week I would get an email update from the American Diabetes Association about the upcoming ride for diabetes, and every week I would disregard them, thinking I still have time to get ready. Then the emails started saying the ride was 3-weeks away, 2-weeks away, etc.
As of the morning of the ride, I had been on my bike twice. Once for a 14-mile ride, and once for a 20-mile ride. And here I was committed to jumping on my bike and riding more than twice that long in a single sitting. I was scared to death.
But one pedal push at a time, I was able to do it. I had a great team to ride with, and there were plenty of rest stops along the way. Each rest stop was a boost — both to body and spirit. We checked our blood sugar, filled water bottles, ate a little something, and stretched our muscles. We also stopped to check our blood sugar along the way and in-between rest stops, pretty much anytime any of us felt like we needed to see where we were.
I was able to keep my blood sugar between 61 mg/dl (a low I needed to stop for) and 137 mg/dl for the whole ride. I reduced my basal/background insulin for most of the day (before and after the ride), and made sure to eat something at each rest stop. That ended up being just about every 45-60 minutes. I would have 15-25 grams of carbs at each stop. I didn't take any insulin for any of the snacks, as the exercise was sucking up everything I put into my mouth.
I got pretty tired for the last couple of miles, which is also where I had that 61 mg/dl blood sugar, so I guess it makes sense. Maybe if I had eaten a little more at the last rest stop I would have been okay.
Even with the low, and even with feeling exhausted at the end, it was a great experience. I'm really proud of myself and feel that I really accomplished something for diabetes. I was even more proud of being able to manage my blood sugar so well during such a long session of exercise!
Of course, I goofed it up that night. I was so worried about running low overnight as I slept that I turned my insulin down a bit too far and hit 300 mg/dl before the night was over. But hey, there's no perfection for diabetes, right?
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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