This summer, I transformed from someone who enjoyed cycling into a cyclist, from exercising with diabetes into an athlete. I must admit, I still feel a bit clueless about a lot of it, but I’m learning and, maybe more importantly, I want to do more of it and get better at it.
I trained hard this summer, following WILD’s plan. I experimented. I practiced. I got a little faster and a little smarter. I wasn’t able to join the rest of the team in Colorado for their big ride, but I did one on my own (and made a couple of friends along the way). You can read about that ride here.
Three days later, I left for Italy, first to relax for a few days on Lake Como and then to ride a bicycle (on a guided tour with DuVine Adventures) for a week in Piedmont with three of my best friends, including the two who kept me company in the saddle all summer.
I have to admit that very little of my WILD-inspired planning came into play on this bike tour, which included a lot of food and wine. The idea of skipping breakfast in order to have no insulin on board for the ride was out of the question, especially when we rolled out no earlier than 9:00. We often stopped for huge, wine-paired lunches about 2/3 of the way through our ride, adding a bit of challenge to the diabetes + exercise equation. This trip was not about peak cycling performance, though, so I used what I knew from my training to balance all the extra variables as best I could.
The cycling itself came with added challenge. I live in Minnesota where I have been challenged by hills that now look flat to me. South Central Wisconsin had hills, but none of them required switchbacks. Piedmont gave me a new definition of climbing and gratitude for the rented bike’s climbing gears. I walked some, but I rode much more than I knew I was capable of. One day (while wearing my WILD kit), I found myself at the front of the group with our guide as he announced, “and now, we climb.” Every time I felt close to giving up and walking, Guido would ask me another question about WILD or diabetes (his friend’s 10-year-old daughter was diagnosed about a year ago). I could barely grunt out a yes or no, but that lopsided chat kept me climbing and climbing and… until we hit the top and saw the van waiting with blissfully cold water and a gorgeous fruit basket. On all those up hills, I used a few skills I learned in WILD: I tried not to look to the top of the hill (or even to the next hairpin turn), but declared “success” when I reached the next third row of grape vines; I kept counting, switching my magic number from Mari’s six to eight when we learned that each bunch of grapes needs eight leaves to make the right amount of sugar; and when I found myself stomping on the pedals, I chanted “gum off my shoe” to myself, remembering Phil Southerland’s first bit of road riding advice, in order to get back to spinning.
Thanks to the inspiration and coaching from Team WILD, in two weeks I accomplished more in cycling than I have in my entire life. I’ve been “recovering” since I got back, but it’s time to get myself back into the gym and working my way toward the goals still out there – a not-so-hilly imperial century (at the Twin Cities’ Tour de Cure on June 2) and the Wright Stuff Century in September as well as a Team WILD event because I really missed that camaraderie this year. Camp WILD, I need a spot because it’s time to add some skills to my spinning!