Challenges of the Off-season

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Hello, and thanks for reading my blog. And for those of you who are newly diagnosed, welcome to the diabetes team! My name is Joe Eldridge, and over the next couple of months I’ll be writing about my journey as someone with Type 1 diabetes who also happens to be a professional cyclist with Team Type 1.

Along with Phil Southerland, I’m one of the founders of Team Type 1. (You can go to to get more information on who we are and everything we do.) I’ve also raced professionally for the past three years. In this post I’m going to share some challenges I’ve faced in the last three months while preparing myself for the upcoming cycling season.

The off-season is typically two to four weeks in October or November when racers take a break from the bike to catch up on life tasks that have been put off for the past 10 months. I had an exciting off-season this year — I got married!

Now, what does the off-season mean for a person with diabetes? Well in my case, it’s a very difficult time in my diabetes management. I go from training every day for 3–5 hours on the bike to doing nothing — absolutely nothing, if I can! However, during this downtime I’m tempted to eat like I do when I am training 3–5 hours daily. Needless to say, you can pack on a few extra pounds quickly this way.

My insulin requirements change after about three days of not riding. The change was drastic this year, maybe because I was in Costa Rica honeymooning, eating the best fresh fruit, fish, and rice known to man. I ended the racing season taking about 30 units of my long-acting daily insulin and with a 1:15 carbohydrate ratio on my rapid-acting insulin. The second day of my honeymoon, about a week after I stopped training, I was up to 45 units of long-acting insulin and had a 1:5–8 carbohydrate ratio on my rapid-acting! Fortunately, I was wearing my continuous glucose monitor (CGM), so the correct amounts were not too difficult to figure out, but without the CGM, I think my mind would have been spinning trying to find out how to manage my diabetes. I could have figured it out, but it would have required a lot of fingerstick monitoring. The CGM is a great tool.

Now fast-forward to the month of November, which is American Diabetes Month. For World Diabetes Day on November 14, those of us on Team Type 1 decided to compete in the Tour of Rwanda cycling race. As part of the trip, we also took much-needed supplies to Rwandan children to help them manage their diabetes. Thousands of strips and a year’s supply of insulin were donated by our many fans and people with diabetes around the world. It was great! We were able to give the Rwandan children enough supplies to last them for a year. In 2011 we plan to further this initiative and provide more supplies, as well as get the Rwandans the education they need to manage their diabetes. Very exciting stuff!

The Team Type 1 roster for the Tour of Rwanda was composed fully of cyclists with Type 1 diabetes. This was the first time in the history of professional cycling that a team comprised entirely of people with diabetes has competed in a professional race! I have to say, November was a great month for those of us with diabetes!

Now back to the present day. I’ve logged around 3,400 miles on the bike from December 1 to February 6 preparing for the season ahead. Additionally, I’ve had lots of diabetes changes along the way. For one thing, I’ve had to make huge reductions in my long-acting insulin, going from the 45 units a day I was taking in October to a mere 18–20 units a day on the big training weeks. I’ve also become much more sensitive to the rapid-acting insulin and my carbohydrate ratios have had to be adjusted many times. It’s amazing what a little bit (or a lot) of bike riding can do to your insulin requirements.

I’m off to my first race in India this week and will update you on the results and how I adjust to a 16-hour flight. I’ll also be providing you with more detail about a typical training day and its challenges in a future post.

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to leave questions or comments


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