Why A Person with Diabetes Bikes to Beat Cancer

BBC TrainingAs I mentioned yesterday, I rode in the Kentucky Tour de Cure in June. Great ride. Great day! Lately I’ve been training for a couple other rides, especially a century in the Bike to Beat Cancer in September.

I’m a person who has lived with Type 1 Diabetes for more than 43 years. It makes sense to ride in an event to raise money for diabetes research. But why ride 100 miles in  an event to raise funds for cancer? Part of the answer to that question is pretty obvious, but another part—the most important part, I believe—is not so obvious.

Obviously, cancer is a huge issue for many people. I’m guessing you know someone who has or has had cancer. I do, and I have. My mom died 14 years ago from leukemia, a cancer of the blood. My wife and I have had good friends, from our church and from the college we both graduated from, who have lost their battle with the disease or who are in the throes of the battle right now. I hate what cancer does to people who are misfortunate to have it and deal with it. I’m riding to raise some money for cancer research, awareness, and advocacy. I’m riding for individuals and the families of people affected by the disease: Betty, Ed, Carolyn, Yvette, Carole and Steve, Renae, and many others.

As important as those reasons are, however, there’s something else. Over the years, I’ve found that people who live with difficult circumstances deal with them in one of two ways. Some people look inward with anxiety. They usually also look forward with fear. But others look upward with an unexplainable hope, and they look outward with compassion.

Here are two videos of people I’ll be thinking about as I ride 100 miles this September. The first video is of Carole who dealt bravely with cancer; the second is her husband after she died:

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/92523691″>Carole Swoboda Testimony</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/neccwired”>Northeast Christian Church</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p> <p>4.20.14</p>

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/124333331″>Steve Swoboda Testimony – Easter 2015</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/neccwired”>Northeast Christian Church</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p> <p>4.5.15</p>

If the videos do not appear in your browser, please click below:

The lesson I’ve learned over the years is to keep my focus upward and outward—in that order. I find it so much easier to live well with my diabetes when I keep my eyes focused outward, on others. And I’ve also discovered that the best way to stay focused outward is to keep my focus upward every day. It makes all the difference in the world.

I’d love to hear your story. How does your focus affect how you live with the life circumstances that have been dealt to you?

It’s Not About the Ride

Tdc RRsLet’s catch up. I’m sorry it’s been so long since I last blogged here. Over the spring and summer, I’ve been training on my bike for different events, and just riding with friends for the fun of it. In June I rode with a bunch of fellow PWD (People with Diabetes) in the Kentucky Tour de Cure. I’m the Kentucky Red Rider Chairperson, so of course I’m passionate about this ride. Some of my regular riding buddies took off pretty early, but I could tell that a fellow T1Der (person with Type 1 Diabetes) was struggling a bit on the very hilly 63-mile route, so I stayed with him and pulled as much as I could, and the two of us enjoyed the ride and some good conversation together.

Sometimes it’s not about the ride. For me . . .

  • Relationships are more important than rides.
  • People are more important than pace.
  • Personal relationships are more important than personal records.
  • Warm fellowship is more important than watts.

OK, maybe I’m stretching the point a bit too much, but you get the idea.

Sometimes we get overly obsessed with the event, whatever it is, and miss out on the most vital things in life. Average speed sure looks good on my Strava and Facebook pages, but who cares after a day or so of that?

Tomorrow I’m going to take this idea a bit further. Click here to read it..

In the mean time, what do you think? Whether you ride bikes or anything else, what’s the point, in your view?

Why I Ride … and Walk and Work for a Diabetes Cure

imageWarm sweat drips onto my phone as I write this post. I’m on my bike trainer on a cold, grey, rainy day spinning out 17 or so miles to try to stay in riding shape. Boston’s Greatest Hits blasts from my iPad. Without notice my pace quickens to the song “Smokin’.”

The music and the creative activity take my mind off the fact that this is an otherwise dull exercise. But even they don’t drive me to keep cranking.

As I ride past 12 miles with Seger now singing “Fire Down Below,” I think through my list of things that drive me to ride. I think first about my four teen and young-adult kids. I’m closing in on 45 years with type-1 diabetes,  and I am compelled to keep the pedals turning so I can someday walk my girls down the aisle and dance at all their weddings. I want to ride bikes with my grandkids. I simply want to keep going as long as I can.

But that’s not all. I’m spinning in my basement on February 1 so I can see the sweat drops hit my phone on my handlebars this spring and summer as I ride the roads for a cure for diabetes.

Look, I’m used to living with diabetes. I’ve dealt with this for 80 percent of my life. Truthfully, I’m OK with not being a recipient of a cure. Sure, that would be a big blessing. If given the opportunity to extend my eyesight, kidney function, ability to use my legs, and live another 10-20 years, I’d take it. But I’m in this fight mainly for the 11 year old who will be diagnosed this year. I want to raise money to provide the resources and remove all the barriers to finding a cure for that kid. I see his face now as I spin past 15 miles on the trainer, my heart rate accelerating as I stand up for a minute of faux hill climbing.

I’m not alone. I’m partnering with thousands of others like me with the same passion. We’ll be wearing red jerseys as we team up to ride for a cure for this disease. I’d love to see many more people join us as we ride together, or support us with donations, in the American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure.

Please join in!

Go to my personal Tour de Cure page to join us or donate, or just to get more information on this great cause.

The Cyclist in “Stop Diabetes” Lycra

20140804_195638It was the perfect day for a bike ride for me, and it was an embarrassing one for my wife.

At 7 a.m. I clicked into the pedals on my dark blue Specialized Allez road bike and pushed off toward my friend Ed’s house. I looked up at the cloudless pastel blue sky with yellows and reds radiating from the east. Goosebumps appeared on my bare arms, not so much from the beauty of the morning, but from the surprisingly chilly 68 degrees for August 3.

We were riding in a Bike to Beat Cancer training ride (I’m training to ride 100 miles in September), but I was wearing my grey “Stop Diabetes” jersey, shorts, and socks. I ride to stop diabetes as someone who has lived with the disease for more than 42 years. I’m riding to beat cancer because my mom and many friends have been impacted by it. Our friend Carol just lost her long battle last month.

As Ed and I rode the 17 miles to the meetup, where we’d start the 30-mile training ride, we were happily amazed that we hit every green light for the first 15 miles. As we approached one red light, I joked that I had a preemption emitter (the device emergency vehicles use to change red lights to green) in my helmet. As soon as I said it, the light turned green.

We met up with 20 or so other cyclists and then rolled through the quiet small town at the beginning of the ride–the streets were ours this early Sunday morning. Then we spun along the Ohio River for miles. The pace was even, slow enough for cyclists to talk and point out views across the river and quick enough to feel the cool air in our faces. Just as the sun began to warm up the atmosphere, we glided into a park for a long but gentle climb, the overarching trees providing the shade needed to prolong the crispness of the air for a few more much-appreciated minutes.

At one brief stop I looked around and saw nothing but smiles. This ride didn’t feel much like training.

We picked up the pace on the ride back home as both the traffic and the temperature intensified. I registered a personal best on the steep climb from River Road to SR 42, and we were just 10 miles from home. I rolled down my driveway at 67.5 miles, feeling as if I had another 10-20 in me.

This is when I read the text from my wife telling me she had a story to tell me.

She had left the house shortly after I had that morning, driving my daughter to work. On her way back home, she saw a cyclist wearing grey “Stop Diabetes” jersey, shorts, and socks. So she rode behind the bike for a while and then pulled up alongside, yelling out the window, “Hey, Sexy!” The cyclist in grey Lycra looked over at her and said, “Excuse me?” The two pulled off the side of the road where my precious wife tried to explain to the stranger that she thought he was me.

Turns out the “other man” in the grey jersey is involved in the American Diabetes Association and the Tour de Cure in Louisville as well. And apparently … from the rear … he looks like me.

I’m not exactly sure how I am supposed to feel about my wife’s case of mistaken identity. I’m honored she thinks I’m sexy in Spandex. That is, if she had actually yelled it at me. To this point, no woman has ever pulled alongside me and said, “Hey, Sexy!” and now I’m wishing someone would. I’m also miffed that my wife hasn’t paid enough attention to differentiate me from some random cyclist. Afterall, his bike was red.

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Want to Read More of Mike’s Stories About Cycling?

Living Healthy with Diabetes Is Like Mountain Biking

How to Look Past the Obstacles: Use this mountain biking skill to live healthy with diabetes (or any life circumstance)


How to Look Past the Obstacles: Use this mountain biking skill to live healthy with diabetes (or any life circumstance)

Mike_MTB_ColoOne day on a group mountain bike ride, I was flying through a fast downhill section when I spotted a large tree just off the trail ahead of me. I thought to myself, “That’s a big tree. You don’t want to hit that tree. Better stay to the right of that tree . . . tree . . .  tree”  WHAM! I hit the tree.  Fortunately the only thing damaged was my ego. As I dusted myself off and checked out my bike, I noticed plenty of room to the right of the tree. But that tree was like a magnet. I couldn’t steer away from it. Why? It goes back to an old adage:

“What you look at is where you’ll go.”

In my previous mountain biking illustration for diabetes care, I said it’s wise to keep your eyes on the path ahead of you and not become distracted with things that are not on the trail ahead. It’s easy to do what I did on my bike and get fixated on a feature off the path and end up hitting it. Other people’s misunderstandings about diabetes, fake cures, and diabetes-related Internet scams can all be large trees that are not on the trail. Don’t even look at them.

Mike_MTB_Colo_rocksThere are also lots of other smaller distractions that will take your eyes and mind off your path (sometimes they are even on your path, but you need to choose the right line around them–or bunny hop over them). They will also distract you from the plans you’ve made to live well with your diabetes. Let’s face it, we have a lot of things to deal with in our daily care for our health. Those smaller roots and rocks, tiny tree stubs, and what my friend Ed calls “sidewinders” (loose sticks on the trail lying in the same direction as we’re traveling; these can be really dangerous if you hit them wrong) can make you crash as much as the big, obvious obstacles. They may even be more dangerous.

You know: just a small bag of M&Ms at the grocery checkout (and then forgetting to bolus for it); just a couple of days off from my regular exercise, no big deal; just a few Long Island iced teas with my friends, my kidneys will be OK. Now, perhaps one or more of those things are fine for you; understand, there’s no judgment here. You simply need to know what’s on your path and what’s not, and that comes from wise goal setting and planning, with the aid of an endo, diabetes educator, or other doctor. You need to differentiate what is on your trail and what’s not, and then ride on from there.

Again, the trick is simply to look at the trail ahead of you (your goals), pick a good line (your plans), and then stick with it. Sure, you still may have an “unintentional dismount” (a.k.a. a crash) every once in a while. We all do. Just get up, dust yourself off, learn from your mistake, and ride on.

Keep the rubber side up!

Living Healthy with Diabetes Is Like Mountain Biking

I’ve learned a lot about living a healthy life with type-1 diabetes on my mountain bike.

Mike after fallNow, let me be clear. I’m not writing as an expert professional cyclist or an expert endocrinologist. (I’m not a doctor, although my wife does sometimes call me “Dr. Love.” Actually, that’s not true at all, but I wish it was.) I’m just an ordinary guy who has lived with diabetes nearly 43 years and is somewhat obsessed with riding my bike. Let’s put it this way: the guys in my mountain biking group used to call me “Crash.” (I had to earn my way out of that nickname by riding crash-free for exactly two years. I received a certificate and everything.)

I do know one thing: a vital skill in mountain biking is to look down the trail, past what’s right in front of you. When you look five to twenty-five feet down the trail (depending on the type of trail), you can identify potential hazards and challenges and create a plan of action before you reach them. Take it from me, constantly looking just ahead of your front tire results in a jerky, stumbling ride and some painful blunders.

It’s the same for caring for my diabetes. I can live either by default or design; in reactive or proactive mode. It seems to me that most people live most of their lives by default. In other words, life happens to them.They’re looking, figuratively speaking, just ahead of their front tire.

When I am struggling to keep my blood sugars under good control, I’ve learned that’s often a sign I am not being as proactive as I need to be with my health. I may not be getting enough exercise or I’m not testing my blood as I should or it’s been a while since I’ve seen my endo. (By the way, an “endo” is not a good thing in mountain biking. It usually ends in a “face plant.” And no, tulips are not a part of a face plant.) Or I’ve eaten an entire gallon of dark-chocolate-chip raspberry ice cream (because, after all, raspberries and dark chocolate are good for you), not that I’ve actually ever done that.

In mountain biking as well as in caring for diabetes (or anything, for that matter), we want to make decisions before we actually get there (wherever “there” is at the time). It helps to know where you are going, not just where you are at this moment. I talk to people with diabetes all the time, and many of them live in reactive mode. Their longest range plan is what they are having for lunch.

You’ve probably heard the old expression, but it’s true: A failure to plan is a plan for failure. And for those of us who live with diabetes, that plan for failure can be deadly.

When I’m mountain biking and I start thinking I might crash, guess what often happens? Yup . . . Wham! (Face plant … right into the tulips.) But when I am looking down the trail with positive expectations, the ride flows and is fun.

I see a lot of negativity among my diabetic friends. Some call this “realism,” but the truth is you can make your realism either positive or negative; it all comes down to how you think. When I am thinking negatively on my bike, I’m most likely to have a bad fall. When I’m thinking positively, the ride is fun.

mikebike2My life with diabetes is fun. It’s exciting, thrilling, adventurous. Yeah, I crash sometimes. Yes, sometimes I have “mechanical failures.” But as I do on my bike, I make the necessary changes, get back in the saddle, and keep pedaling!

I encourage you, whether you are dealing with diabetes or anything else in life, to take time regularly to “look down the trail.” Here are some questions to help you do just that:

  • What’s your long-term goal? (One of mine is to see my children get married and dance at the receptions.)
  • What are some mid-range goals? (One of mine is to ride a “century” [100 miles] on my road bike. I have a chance to do that this September in the Bike to Beat Cancer.)
  • What short-range goals do you have? (For instance, get my A1C below 7.)
  • What will you do to get there? What are your strategies and plans? (Ride at least 50 miles/week; test my blood at least 5x/day and send readings to endo; and so forth.)
  • Who is keeping you accountable for all this and who is your support system? (My wife, my friends, my cycling group buddies.)

All this helps me be prepared, so I don’t freak out at little challenges or even big obstacles along the trail. In other words, no more endos.

How are you doing? Are you being proactive with your diabetes care? Are you looking down the trail? What are some of your goals, strategies, and plans?