Riding for diabetes awareness
Exercise and fitness training are good for everybody, including people with T1DM. But in addition to the demands of training, type ones must constantly monitor blood sugar levels to prevent deep lows and excessive highs.
Team Type 1 is a professional cycling team based in the United States of America. It was founded in 2004 to promote awareness of type 1 diabetes.
A number of the team's riders have type 1 diabetes, including Javier Mejías, Fabio Calabria and Martijn Verschoor. The team's co-founders, Phil Southerland and Joe Eldridge have T1DM.
The team turned professional in 2008 after success in amateur races. In 2009, the team won the Race Across America, having entered a team of cyclists who all had type 1 diabetes.
In the beginningSoutherland, who as a student raced for the University of Georgia Athens (UGA), was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of seven months.
He was nursing constantly but losing weight; doctors told his mother, Joanna Southerland, that he had the flu. When his symptoms persisted she took him to the emergency room.
His weight was down from 21 pounds to 14, his skin was grey and his breathing was labored. Just hours away from death, he was finally diagnosed correctly.
On April 21, 2003, Phil Southerland met Joe Eldridge at a college bike race. Eldridge, who raced for Auburn University, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 10.
Eldridge and Southerland noticed they were each taking insulin before the start. They were riders with Type 1 diabetes.
Blood sugar game
After the race, the duo's friendship grew. Southerland, who knew a lot about the long term dangers of diabetes, became frustrated Eldridge's casual approach to diabetes.
He suggested a bet where the person with the higher blood sugar paid for dinner. For three months, every time they ate out together, Joe ended up taking the bill.
Joe began to get better at managing his blood sugar and eventually won the dinner bet .
Inspired by their friendship and Eldridge's battle to bring his blood glucose under control, Southerland starting thinking of ways the two of them could combine their energy and insights to raise awareness about type 1 diabetes.
Team Type 1
On a 300-mile bike ride from Athens, Georgia to Tallahassee, Florida, Southerland called Eldridge with the idea of founding a cycling team with type 1 cyclists. Eldridge came up with the name: Team Type 1.
Southerland hopes Team Type 1 will be an inspiration to young athletes. He says,
When a 12-year-old who has been diagnosed with diabetes sees that a team with diabetes is winning bike races maybe he starts riding a bike.
Some kids going through their rebellious teen-age years may drive fast or drink, but kids with diabetes who don't take care of themselves can do long-term damage. If you are riding a bike, you have to have good blood control. Kids realize that and they just do things better.
By David Hay Jones
(Fact-checking: This information has been double-checked against The American Diabetes Association recommendations in its American Diabetes Association Complete Guide to Diabetes: The Ultimate Home Reference from the Diabetes Experts and Alan L. Rubin's Type 1 Diabetes For Dummies, both of which are excellent resources.) Thanks also to the New York Times.