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
athlete.

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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12 thoughts on “My First “Red Rider” Experience: Part 1

  1. Wow, the 2007 Invitation to Ride is pretty incredible. And so true. Aside from the D-OC, I often feel like nobody really cares that I’ve lived 30 years with diabetes. That it’s not seen as any big accomplishment. Heck, I can’t even get the 25 year certificate from Joslin because I have no way of getting my old hospital records. Pretty discouraging, if you think about it. Thank goodness for people like Mari and my friends in the D-OC!! I’m so grateful to have them to inspire me and to celebrate with!!

  2. I agree with what deanusa said. For some reason reading her comments made me feel sad. I’m not sure why, but maybe because she spoke honestly and from the heart. Diabetes IS a grind.
    I also agree with your comment regarding the ADA. I have been to two “ADA” related functions over the past decade and have had bad experiences at both.
    The first was a local chapter meeting when I was first diagnosed. I never returned after the facilitator–the ADA award winning doctor–literally laughed at me when I asked how others were dealing with stress induced blood sugar increases. His response was that blood sugar was not influenced by stress or anxiety.
    The second was at the fund drive for the local Walk for the Cure, when I was asked to give a short presentation on how I dealt with my diabetes whilst traveling internationally. I evidently made a bad impression because I said that I was a “diabetic” rather than whatever politically correct euphemism I should have used. Believe it or not, but one of the organizers actually confronted me after the event and told me that “diabetic” was not a word that should be used because it was “demeaning to people with diabetes.” I refrained from giving her the reply I wanted to make, and politely left–with my rather sizable check still in pocket.
    So, I have no fondness for the ADA as my experiences have been disappointing at best. I hope the rest of you have had better luck.
    Thanks for posting, and I look forward to reading how the ride went.

  3. With two days before the Tour de Cure here in Indy, you’ve inspired me Scott…. Bike tires are flat, but there may be a chance to volunteer at least! And, I hear Cherise will be there – so there’s that! Dun dun dun…

  4. Don’t know if we have an eve-of deal. (If it is, it’s not just a Red Rider thing.) We do have an appointment of sorts for a Red Rider group photo post-ride…

  5. Awesome! I loved reading this! I agree that athletes with diabetes deserve recognition. People have no idea how challenging it is to juggle diabetes and physical activity along with all the other variables! I look forward to reading your future blog posts about the ride!

  6. Scott, how true. I can hardly begin to imagin what that pre-race dinner was like! From what you’ve quickly shared I to am getting overwhelmed with the powerful messages that the ‘celeb’ guests shared with you!
    What an amazing group to pull strength, courage, inspiration, and whatever you need at that moment from. Once again thanks for letting us into this journey of yours and letting us get a glimps of this inspiration.
    What a poignant point that Mari shared with everyone. I’ve never participated in a Cancer walk or run however they are advertised and yes there is a certain amount of glory and prestige that seems to go with the ‘honour’ of being a part of it all. Yet when there is a D specific one we are just like help us find a cure….. thanks. End of story! Do we not get the glory because this is something that we are forced to ‘deal’ with on a daily basis and our numbers for survival are better so that doesn’t make it as much of a struggle, feat, what have you? Some interesting food for thought.
    I guess this might give someone the push that they need to participate then and let every organization around the world know that we DESERVE the recognition and encouragement that everyother chronic life altering condition offers!
    Way to go Scott.

  7. thanks scott.
    thats true what she said and it makes me a little sad.
    and i noticed this alao.
    “asked to declare myself as a diabetes-surviving person”
    thanks for sharing and i cant wait for the next part.