In late 2010, my life changed dramatically. At the time, I was co-hosting the KFOR Morning Show and was overweight at 223 pounds. After losing 35 of those pounds with no explanation, I suddenly found myself diagnosed with a chronic illness I knew nothing about: Type 2 diabetes.
After the initial shock wore off, I spent time on the American Diabetes Association’s website, diabetes.org. It had a ton of useful information about this disease. Most importantly, it made me aware that I was not alone. Like many chronic illnesses, T2D can be isolating and depressing.
The two biggest takeaways from my research phase were that I needed to drastically change the way I ate, and I needed to get off the couch and exercise. My trusty canine sidekicks Lewie and Billy became my walking buddies, and I got back on a bike for the first time in years. When I started biking, 6 to 8 miles was my normal distance.
When I found out there was a cycling fundraiser called Tour de Cure for the American Diabetes Association in 2015, I signed up and raised some money. That first year, I rode 30 miles near Ashland on my trusty Trek Hybrid, which was the longest I’d ever ridden at that point. The next year brought my first 50-miler in Omaha. Then 2017 brought my first metric century (100km/63 miles) in Madison, Wisconsin; and this year, my second 100k in Kansas City.
For diabetics, preparing yourself for a ride of that distance is a season-long process and is more than just getting on your bike. While I’m a Type 2 diabetic (what I call the easy diabetes), I have Type 1 friends who ride – and they are prone to crazy highs and lows that can be life-threatening.
In fact, for the first time, we added a third rider to our tour team this year. Our friend Ashley Wolfe, who lives with Type 1, joined my wife Bailey and me. Ashley, like me, has found a love of cycling to help cope with diabetes. And honestly, without my wife continuing to motivate me daily and keep me active, I would not be nearly as successful as I am. A partner in living better truly makes the difference.
Preparation for exercise, like many parts of dealing with this disease, is a real pain. Literally. Training for my long bike rides means timing. Eat a meal, wait 30 minutes so I don’t cramp, then I can get on the bike. If I wait too long after a meal for a ride, I risk dealing with my blood glucose dropping.
For example, our last training ride of 50 miles was two weeks before the tour. It was a hot August day, and we set out later than we should have. I knew better but figured I’d be fine.
The first 40 miles were no problem. But by then it was getting close to noon, and the aforementioned timing was catching up to me. Suddenly I was exhausted, dizzy and nauseous. I went from 16-18 mph to around 8 mph. At one point, I just had to stop and let the nausea pass. I’d already had one granola bar and didn’t want to eat another, knowing lunch was only minutes away. I got back on the bike and put one foot in front of the other. With my concerned and supportive wife at my side, I made it home. That was one of the longest 30 minutes of my life.
Tour de Cure: Wheels to Weston came on Sept. 9. We had driven to Kansas City the night before, and that 5:45 a.m. alarm rang. It’s one of the only days of the year I don’t mind getting up early. The ride started at 7 a.m. and it was 55 degrees, so we were rather cold, but by mile 20, it warmed up nicely.
The ride was well-supported by volunteers, and it included rest stops every 12 miles for water and snacks. Even though we were the last team to finish, we did it together!
This year, we were the top fundraising team from June right up until ride day. While we ended up the No. 3 team, raising $5,220, No. 1 was a hospital, and No. 2 was an insurance company. Not bad for three people!
Our fundraising success was due in part by friends and family and by supporters who share my love of single malt scotch. I hosted a tasting in August that featured eight bottles from my home collection. I raised $500 in an evening and enjoyed a few drams with some charitable scotch lovers. I’m proud to be the top individual fundraiser with $3,285 raised.
I am very grateful to my friends and family who were moved by all the sweaty bike pics I posted on Facebook. Many of them wrote messages of encouragement and support, and talked about their family and friends who suffer from this disease. Their stories made me realize what an epidemic diabetes is. I can’t encourage you enough to get yearly checkups and do everything you can to prevent Type 2. Email me, find me on Facebook, call the Community Health Charities office and leave me a message. I’m happy to take some time and talk to you about what it means to live with diabetes. Type 1 is not preventable; Type 2 is.
Today, I’m maintaining a 55 lb. total weight loss, and I’m the healthiest I have ever been in my life. While I wish I never had to live another day with finger sticks and carb counting, it has forced me to live better.
The feeling of completing such a grueling ride, while raising money to help people like me find support and better treatments, is emotional. So, if you see me out riding around Lincoln with my Red Rider jersey, shout a little encouragement: “Go Red Rider!” And perhaps next year, Team Feit for a Cure will get a little bigger!