I was 14 when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. After I heard my doctor tell me I had diabetes, I was hit with lots of different emotions. At first, I was relieved to know what had been causing the previous month’s unexplained weight loss, unquenchable thirst and constant trips to the bathroom. Shortly afterwards, I was shocked, scared and angry that I would need to check my blood sugar, monitor my food and take insulin for the rest of my life. I let those negative feelings consume me as I apprehensively learned to manage my new condition. After a few weeks, I grew tired of feeling sorry for myself and made a choice to accept my diabetes and move on. I really haven’t looked back since. Sure, there have been bumps in the road, but I’ve dealt with those thanks to the support of my wife, family, friends, teammates and health care team.
2) From what I hear you're quite the athlete, besides cycling did you compete in any other sports in high school or college?
Thanks for your kind words! I grew up in Colorado and have always been active, playing sports, hiking, biking and skiing. In high school and college, I played football, was on the power lifting team and started mountain biking. After college, I wanted a new challenge, so I signed up for a triathlon and got third place in my age group. After that race I was hooked on endurance sports and the drive to race faster and farther! I continued racing triathlon and completed over 40 races, including the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, New York City Triathlon and the Wildflower 70.3 Triathlon.
3) You were a member of Team Type 1 when they competed and won RAAM, What was that like?
It was incredibly exciting to be the first all-diabetes team to win and set a course record in the 3,000-mile Race Across America (RAAM)! For me personally, that win reflected nine months of intense training on the bike. As a team, together we were racing to show the world what may be possible with diabetes.
4) You have known Phil Southerland for a long time, when did you know that he would develop a pro cycling team made up totally of type one diabetics that one day will race in the Tour de France?
I first met Phil at a diabetes conference in 2006 where I offered to help out with the next RAAM, assuming I’d be pumping up a tire or driving a follow car. Rather than putting me on the crew, Phil asked if I would join him, Joe Eldridge and five other riders with diabetes to attempt a win at the next RAAM. I was both honored and scared, but at the time I had no idea the project would lead to Team Novo Nordisk and nearly 100 athletes of cyclists, triathletes and runners with diabetes, including the world’s first all-diabetes professional cycling team. I’m extremely proud at how far we’ve come, how we’ve inspired people affected by diabetes and the steps we are taking to accomplish the long term goal of racing at the Tour de France in 2021.
5) Your official title with Team Novo Nordisk is vice president of marketing and medical affairs, could you describe what that entails?
It’s a rather unconventional role, but it’s fun, challenging and very dynamic. I manage a great team of smart and passionate professionals, who work tirelessly to help spread our team mission and keep our athletes safe. For marketing, I oversee our PR, digital media, advertising and community outreach activities. On the medical affairs side, I work with nine health care professionals (doctors, nurses and dieticians) who not only provide nearly 500 days of medical coverage for races and training camps, but also monitor and advise around 50 athletes in our pro pipeline regarding their diabetes management and overall health. I’m also ultimately responsible for our Elite Team of cyclists, runners and triathletes, who inspire me to work hard at my job, be a competitive athlete and manage my diabetes.
6) You are with members of the team on a daily basis, what have you learned from them as a person and as a diabetic?
Everyone’s diabetes is unique, whether it’s someone’s diagnosis story or their individual diabetes management plan. During a race, for example, while our pro-riders experience the same conditions, their individual diabetes management regimens are very different. This emphasizes how important it is to closely manage my own diabetes and work closely with my health care professional.
7) Up to this point what is your favorite memory while working for Team Novo Nordisk?
Traveling to Africa for the 2013 Tour of Rwanda was my most memorable and eye-opening experience with Team Novo Nordisk. During the race, we met lots of people living with type 1 diabetes and spent time with three families affected by diabetes. The people we met greeted us with big smiles and were incredibly kind and gracious. I was shocked at the lack of access to diabetes supplies and education for people in Rwanda. The experience put things in perspective when I compared my most challenging day of managing diabetes and how lucky I am to have access to the tools needed to manage my condition.
8) If you could go back in time and talk to yourself after you just heard you were diagnosed with diabetes, what would you say?
“It’s ok to be upset right now, this is a big deal. Instead of thinking your life is over, just know that your diabetes will give you some unique and exciting opportunities, including a career, incredible teammates, a global network of millions also affected by diabetes and most importantly, meeting your future wife.”
9) I'm hearing rumors that you are the ghost writer for the diabetic cyclist website, what do you make of these allegations?
Those sound like similar rumors I’ve heard that Clark Kent is Superman, Bruce Wayne is Batman and Peter Parker is Spiderman. There is only one blogger known as the “Diabetic Cyclist” and his name is Ryan Noonan. Keep up the great work!