This past Saturday, for the fifth year in a row, members of Team Type 1 — a team of athletes with Type 1 diabetes founded by college friends Joe Eldridge and Phil Southerland — set out on their bikes for a 3,052-mile “Race Across America.” With blood glucose meters, glucose tabs, and insulin pump supplies in tow, the cyclists are racing from California to Maryland. Their mission is to encourage and inspire people living with diabetes to take a proactive approach to their health and to follow their dreams.
I was happy to speak with Joe, who has lived with Type 1 diabetes since he was 10 years old, last Thursday afternoon. Joe told me about how he met Phil — it was during his college years, a time that Joe says he got into some bad diabetes habits. After a competitive bike race that Joe was barely able to finish, he noticed Phil, one of the fastest riders in the race, checking his blood glucose in the parking lot. Joe approached him to ask how he managed his blood glucose during races, and there in the parking lot, a friendship and collaboration began. Joe credits his friendship with Phil for changing his outlook on diabetes and for helping him become the competitive athlete that he is today.
It was after they graduated from Auburn University that Joe and Phil decided to try the “Race Across America.” In their first year racing, they were happy to finish the race and manage their diabetes. Since then, as they have been able to fine-tune their diabetes management and make changes such as switching to an Omnipod Insulin Management System, Joe and Phil have done much more than just finish the race: in their second year, Team Type 1 won the race, and last year, it was the fastest team in the history of “Race Across America.”
In terms of their inspiring success, Joe points to the way that the people with diabetes on the team motivate and support each other. “There is a sense of accountability that we have with each other,” Joe explains. “We check each other’s (continuous glucose) sensors after the race. We talk about what we should bolus when we eat out at restaurants together. If someone is having a bad day with his blood sugars, we try and figure it out together.”
Joe believes that the work of training for the ride and the wisdom of his teammates has helped him to achieve optimal A1Cs (last one measuring 5.8). Both low and high blood glucose readings mean that he can’t perform the way that competitive cycling demands that he must.
Team Type 1 is dedicated not only to their own health but also to spreading the word about and inspiring others living with diabetes. Joe especially appreciates visiting kids with Type 1 at diabetes camps and showing them that diabetes should not stop them from pursuing their dreams.
Talking with Joe left me feeling incredibly inspired — I’m already adding some extra laps at the track where I walk. If you want to get really inspired, you can follow Team Type 1 as they journey east from California — go to www.teamtype1.org to follow their progress. The report in from day on of the race is that Team Type 1 is in the lead…