My First “Red Rider” Experience: Part 1

A couple weeks back I mentioned that I signed up for the 2010 Tour de Cure, and just this week posted a very quick blurb about the Red Rider dinner that I attended the night before the ride.

The ride and the dinner have come and gone, and they were both incredible for me.  I’m trying really hard to come up with a post that does it all justice, but I’ll tell you right now it is going to be really hard.

There were some really special guests at the dinner that made it well worth the drive during rush-hour traffic.

We heard from Angela Past, a Team Type 1 triathlete, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the early 70’s.  She talked about not exercising until she was 35, mostly because she worried about experiencing low blood sugars.  Not much exercise before age 35, and now she is a competitive
triathlete.  That point alone was very inspiring to me.   It is never too late to find your exercise joy.

Please forgive the crappy camera-phone, low light, photo.  Do you recognize any of these people?  That’s right!  Contestants from The Biggest Loser! What a cool surprise!  We had Pete, Hollie, O’Neal, & Sunshine!  While I can’t say I’m a regular viewer of the TV show, it was pretty damn neat for them to come and speak to us.  Pete brought “old Pete” with him, in the form of a life sized picture of what he used to look like.  It really made an impression!  O’Neal describing that he used to live with a “quiet desperation” also really hit me.

After that little slice of inspiration, the new Red Rider jersey was unveiled to us.  Being my first ride, I didn’t know much about the whole “Red Rider” thing, but it is a really special story, and I want to share it with as many people as I can.  While at the dinner, I didn’t know just how special the company was.

After it all sunk in, I came home and did some frantic searching on the internet to piece the puzzle together.  A special “Thank You” to our friend, and fellow biking enthusiast, Courtney, for helping me find all the details!

Ginny Ruddy got up and told us how the Red Rider jersey’s came to be.  Her daughter, Mari, has lived with type 1 diabetes since the age of 16.  in 2005 she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She went through chemo, radiation, and surgery, and says they knocked her down harder than she ever imagined possible.

As a cancer surviving athlete, she was recognized and celebrated in every athletic event she participated in.  As she says, “Being a cancer surviving athlete is to be admired. Lance Armstrong, the
incredible organizing power of the Livestrong campaign, and the dominate force
of the breast cancer community, have made it admirable to survive cancer and be
an athlete.

But in 25 years of living with diabetes, and having walked, run, and cycled for the cure for diabetes, she was never asked to declare herself as a diabetes-surviving person.  A stark contrast to what she experienced as a cancer survivor.

The following is from her 2007 Invitation to Ride:

In one of the first resource guides I received when I was diagnosed with cancer,
I was told it was up to me to determine what to do with my membership into the
cancer sisterhood that I had not wanted to join. Within months, it was clear
that these women were serious, I had access to a network of amazing women and I
was recognized in every athletic event as courageous and brave. Being a cancer
surviving athlete is to be admired. Lance Armstrong, the incredible organizing
power of the Livestrong campaign, and the dominate force of the breast cancer
community, have made it admirable to survive cancer and be an

This has not been the case with being a diabetic athlete. In my
25 years of living with diabetes, I have walked, run and cycled for the cure for
diabetes, but never once at any of these events was I asked to declare myself as
a diabetes-surviving person. I was never given a special t-shirt or water
bottle. There has never been a special finish line acknowledging the courage,
perseverance, and sheer determination it takes to live with diabetes and be out
on that course riding, running or walking. I want this to change. I want you to
help me change this. I want to work to find the cure AND to celebrate the people
who are courageously living with diabetes.

Being a diabetic athlete means
a dedication to trial and error. Every diabetic athlete I have ever met or read
about is a meticulous record-keeper and is in his or her own way a scientist,
continuously experimenting on his or her body to find the best combination of
insulin, food, stress, exercise. The crazy thing is that the combination keeps
changing and it is highly personalized, so there has to be a willingness to
continuously revamp, re-evaluate, re-organize. Having diabetes and being
committed to performance requires a degree of mental flexibility that deserves
recognition and celebration. It is symbolic of what all of us as humans have to
do to perform at high levels.

One could think I just want special
recognition, and maybe I do. Why? Because receiving the recognition on race day
gives me and my fellow diabetics the motivation to continue seeing the glass
half full on the days when our blood sugar soars to 400 for no explainable
reason, or when we have no desire to eat but we must or risk passing out if we
don’t. Cancer is dramatic. Diabetes is a grind. Both drop people at the door of
death, just in different styles.


What more can I say?  Amazing stuff, right?  I will be the first to acknowledge that as a person living with type 1 diabetes I have never been satisfied with the ADA’s display of support for those with type 1, but I pledge to ride the Tour de Cure every year my body is healthy enough tocooperate.  Thank you Mari, for inspiring me to keep riding!This post has already gotten much longer than I wanted, and I haven’t even started talking about my ride.  I’m going to break here and continue in another post.  Stay tuned for part 2!

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Scott K. Johnson

Patient voice, speaker, writer, advocate, and Senior Community Manager at Blue Circle Health. Living life with diabetes and telling my story. All opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent my employer’s position. Read more…

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