Each sight, sound, smell and motion took on a special significance today. As Johannes and I slathered on the sunscreen and Bag Balm for the last morning, we marveled at the fact that we wouldn’t do this tomorrow morning. We had a big buffet breakfast at a nearby Shoney’s and marveled at the fact that we would have to retrain our appetite on 2000 calories per day instead of 6000 ( those extra French toast sticks with gratuitous syrup sure were good). The ride out of Vidalia was on a busy 5 lane road with strip malls. The drivers were some of the least tolerant of bicyclists that we had come across on our 2900 miles. The driver who yelled “get a job” didn’t understand the amount of irony in that statement. Our slow motion/ high intensity ride across America has blessed us with an extra helping of patience that these urban drivers didn’t seem to possess. After we left the city, we got back on to quiet agricultural roads and the smell of sweet Vidalia onions wafted over us as we passed fields with onions already standing in 50 lb bags in the fields, waiting to be picked up and taken to market. I found myself riding with Jenny and Rachel again. We talked most about getting back to our spouses and the tremendous debit we owed them for carrying the responsibilities while we followed our dreams. Then our thoughts turned to what it would be like coming back to the “real world”. Rachel challenged what is the “real world” so we changed the phrase to returning to the “work-a-day” world. In Jenny’s experience working with the elite Tennessee athletes, depression is not uncommon after an abrupt end to a season. Our riders have spent up to a year getting ready for this ride and the past month dealing with joy and adversity together. After Savannah tonight, we may never see each other again. Rather sobering thoughts.
On the lighter side, you develop some pretty funny tan lines after a month in the sun wearing bike gear every day. Jenny has three stripes on her forehead from vents in her helmet in a pattern vaguely reminiscent of the Michigan Wolverines football helmets. Most of us have tanned finger tips and a single spot on the back of our hands. Bob has a distinct white line down his temples and around his chin from the helmet strap. A white patch around the eyes like a costume ball mask is common from the wrap-around sun glasses. White feet up to the ankles, white thighs, white tummies and white shoulders. But apt for how rural most of our journey was, we are all have red necks now.
Our first sag was at a former gas station. I got some good pictures of our bikes leaning against abandoned gas pumps. It seemed very appropriate that for this merry troupe, two wheel bio-power had won out over internal combustion. By our lunch sag, rural was giving way to sub-urban. As we were entering the outskirts of Savannah, our group almost had to swerve off the road to avoid an oncoming truck that was passing on a 2 lane road with no shoulder. Then as we entered Savannah, I was almost taken out by a cyclist that came out of a convenience store lot and turned into us against traffic without even looking. We turned in to right onto 52nd street at 85 miles. Our queue sheet says “Notice live oaks in the street”. We had to laugh at that: these huge old oaks literally take up the entire right hand side of the street at 30 yard intervals. Some of the houses on this street were as old as these great trees. We went through a series of 0.1 and 0.2 mile right and left turns until we got on highway 80, then the ride got very intense: Saturday traffic, going out to Tybee Island on a 2 lane, 50 mph road with no shoulder. A police car came by and told us to move right on his bull horn. He raced ahead and pulled over on the right. I think that’s when he realized the 2 foot rumble strip on the 2 foot shoulder made the paved surface to the right of the fog line unusable. We turned off at Fort Pulaski, a pre-civil war fort in the shape of an pentagon that was captured by the Confederate forces at the beginning of the Civil War. After all of us gathered, we ventured back onto Highway 80 for the 5 mile sprint to Tybee Island beach. When we got there we picked our way through the throngs of people (considerably more people than our Monday morning wheel dip in the Pacific 4 long/short weeks ago), flung shoes, socks, helmet and gloves everywhere, then asked strangers (more likely they thought us “stranger”) to take our pictures as we waded into the warm Atlantic hauling our bikes along for the ride. It was joyous. We hugged, splashed, dived, congratulated… and lingered, not wanting to go, but realizing the burden of schedules was back: traffic back to Savannah, check-in, bike packing and shipping, luggage organization, cleanup, quick look at the city, then our final banquet. It was strange riding in an air conditioned van with team Alabama back to Savannah. Our final 5 mile bike ride had been intense with sensations: 95 degrees, humid, sweaty, loud, traffic at 55 MPH, the feel of every rut and crack in the pavement and watching the wheel 10 inches ahead at 22 MPH. Now I was in a Toyota cocoon eating a frosty (and my last one for some time as Barb had reminded us all: “no more milkshakes!”).
Our celebration ceremony was outwardly boisterous and joyous. There were hugs, camera flashes, corks popping and champagne to celebrate our achievement (and we were only the second Fast America group where all those who started at the Pacific also finished at the Atlantic). Each of us had the chance to speak when Barb gave us our trans-con certificates: words of friendship, support, achievement, dreams and goals accomplished. But the evening was tinged by moments of melancholy at something truly special now complete. Jeff and Jenny had each composed poems that contrasted some of the harder moments with some of the easier times: the yin and yang. I gave Johannes a final hug and thanked him for being a great room mate over the last 28 days. Then we said goodnight, good bye and good luck.
Thanks for your help in finding a cure to diabetes:
Epilog JAX-BNA-SEA (a day in airports)
May 21, Savannah to Jacksonville, 120 miles by car
Doug and I are sitting in the Jacksonville airport, furiously copying media files between cameras, video recorders and computers before he boards for Huston and I fly to Nashville then on to Seattle. It was weird driving in a car with Mark and Doug this morning. We covered distance a lot faster than on the bikes. But what I noticed was that life had changed. We were no longer focused on the journey ( the road surface, the temperature, the wind, the smells, sweat, water bottle level, scenery and the condition of our fellow riders), we were focused on the destination – JAX airport, and the clock. Mark slept (try that on a bike) and Doug and I reminisced.
It will be strange going cold turkey: withdrawal from the life I have known over the past 28 days. However, my memories of this ride will last a lifetime.
What about the blood sugars and the riding with diabetes stuff?
I am ecstatic to report it was less of a problem than I anticipated, probably because with my wife’s help, I had plans for the most likely scenarios (I had considered plans A-D, Abigail appropriately asked that I add E to the list as a real possibility):
Plan A: keep BG to nominal target BG = 150 until I have a week of BG data. Err on the high BG side and bolus in small increments to correct back to 150 target. Check BG early and often especially as my body acclimated to the increased stress of 5-8 hours per day of intense physical exercise, high calorie intake, adverse weather and high altitude. Check in the middle of the night for at least the first 2 weeks. I learned to check blood at the back of a paceline going 20+ mph then adjusting my pump settings while riding (don’t do that in traffic or at the front of a pace line!!!!). New insulin pumps linked to continuous BG sensors will make this easier.
Plan B: BG’s in the “yellow alert” band (below 100 while riding, below 80 at night). Tell somebody that I am low and correct and check again. I had one of these on our first day as we finished riding into Thousand Palms that I treated with an energy gel packet (I brought along 30 power gel packs and used 1) and a couple night time lows that I treated with 3-4 glucose tablets.
Plan C: BG’s in the red zone, that requires assistance from others to correct: NONE. I had informed the ABB staff of emergency procedures and had back up supplies (glucose, glucogon, back-up BG meter, insulin) in the van; and several doctors (Jeff, Vanessa, Andy) and a nurse (Pam) ready to assist with the glucogon I had in my seat bag at all times.
Plan D: illness/injury: Treat conservatively, take a day off riding if necessary to correct. I had the Flu in Gallup and had to take off 2 days, fortunately one was already a rest day. Bob was able to let me keep my room in Gallup instead of riding in the van all day and checked in a couple times (thanks again Bob!).
Plan E: hypo- or hyper-glycemia that requires hospitalization. Depending on the severity of the event I would need to assess whether I could catch the ride again and take a couple days off or go home to Bellevue. Thankfully, this didn’t happen.
David’s Empirical Insulin Rules of the Road (Your mileage may vary: Talk to you doctor first!)
There was a gentleman with Type 1 Diabetes from Canada a couple years ago who also completed the Fast South ride, and I hope and expect there will be more Type 1 riders in the future. This is what I learned to do for my insulin and BG’s during the trans-con ride (using an insulin pump with fast acting Humolog insulin and assuming a 120 miles per day with about an 18-19 MPH average moderately high to very high intensity). And remember to increase the basal rates to normal (and bolus for the normal insulin to carb ratio) on the rest days!
6 AM morning BG target = 90-100 before breakfast; typical breakfast high protein/fat first (to slow the digestion of carbs) followed by carbs (potatoes, pancakes, biscuts, or donuts): Bolus for 40% of normal (my basal before I started the trans-con ride) insulin/carb ratio; Basal rate 30% of normal basal rate for first 2 hours. One thing I found was that this large breakfast typically resulted in a slower starting pace (the “Denny’s Rev Limiter” phenomenon) that was good for warming up my muscles. I had to resist over correcting high BG’s after the first hour, like it or not I was usually about 200 at this time. I drank water during the AM. At the first rest stop I usually didn’t eat too many carbs.
After first 2 hours of riding, my insulin basal rate dropped to 15% of normal for the rest of the ride. I would bolus for carbs at about 30% of normal. Pre-lunch BG target = 150 (I wanted to have this margin in case I got lost before lunch, the ride had more hills or intensity than I expected or adverse weather increase time in the saddle). I tried to target BG = 120 at the end of ride each day.
Upon finishing up riding, I would have a protein, fat and carb snack (bananna, peanut butter, crackers) and bolus at 80% of normal insulin to carb ratio (for the dinner and dissert also). I would often see BG’s shoot up after the ride and would bolus at 80% to correct down. Bed time BG target was 120-130 with mid night target at 110. Post ride and Night time basal was 80% of normal.
Even though I was consuming 2-3X my normal calories, I used 78% of my normal insulin dose. My advise, start the ride with BG’s on the high side and gradually tune in on the right basal rates and insulin/carb ratios for riding and non-riding times. If possible, try to test out your insulin plan on 3 back to back 100+ mile days a month before the start of the ride to use as the basis of the insulin plan that you can discuss with your doctor. I was also very open with the ABB staff and fellow riders to make sure they knew my Plans A-E. Be safe and enjoy the ride!
Thanks for your help in finding a cure to diabetes: