My name is Justin Morris and I will be sharing some stories about living with type1 diabetes, the challenges it has thrown at me and important lessons it has taught me.
I was diagnosed with type1 diabetes in the year 1996 when I was ten years old. I had no family history of the disease and the diagnosis came as a huge shock to me and my family. I spent over a week in Westmead Children’s Hospital in Western Sydney learning about my new life with diabetes. The news of the diagnosis and all the information that came with it gave me the impression my life would be forever more heading on a negative trajectory, one dictated by restrictions and a 'cannot’ attitude. My one dream as a ten year old boy was to one day be a jet fighter pilot, I remember on one of the first meetings with my endocrinologist I was told that there was only a few things in life people with type1diabetes could not do, the first thing he mentioned was ‘be a pilot’. This news reinforced my negative understanding and comprehension of diabetes, it saddened me for years to come.
I will discuss in a later blog the key ingredients that I believe were crucial in changing my perception of type1 and of life in general. But to cut a long story short, I had the honour to live my later dream in life which was to be a professional bike rider. I spent five years as a professional, the highlight was two years with the now widely respected Team Novo Nordisk pro cycling team. Pro cycling took me to many corners of the globe and taught me many lessons and granted me with a case load of stories. One of the lessons I was most grateful for learning was that the most satisfying feelings of enjoyment/ happiness are usually in the retrospection of the experience rather than the actual experience itself. Pain is temporary, memories are forever!
“Pain is temporary, memories are forever!”
The most difficult mountain bike race in the world is widely believed to be ‘The Crocodile trophy’ in Cape York, Australia. It is held in very remote countryside in the brutal heat of Northern Australia. It travels over 1300km in ten days across a mountain range and then through the bone dry Australian outback. In 2011 I was invited to compete in this world renown event, something I was very honoured to receive but also scared, nervous and apprehensive! After 2 days of the most brutal/ intense racing through knee deep mud, torrential rain and camping in a tent with water running through it.. I was pretty convinced that I was not cut out to complete let alone perform in this race. The conditions were very far removed from the comparative comfort of professional road racing.
However, one of the benefits of racing in the Australian outback is there is very few opportunities to ever give up. You are often hundreds of kilometres from a sealed road let alone any kind of public transport that could carry you away from the race. I bit the bullet and kept persevering with the cards I had been dealt in this race. By day eight we had already covered 1000km and nearly a third of the field did take a mid race opportunity to withdraw from the race as we passed through a town. I was suffering every day on this race, after racing through mud and rain in the opening two to three days we then began to venture through bone dry desert. 200+km days in 40C temperatures was taking it’s toll. Managing my diabetes was becoming more complicated as the race went on and the conditions changed, my insulin sensitivity was changing far more rapidly than I could keep track. Having to constantly eat every single day was becoming so frustrating as I was seeing my competitors race away in the distance. However, I did not give up, the further I got into this race, the more I suffered, the more I wanted to see it through.
On day nine we camped at a location named ‘Starke’ here the water truck that was following the race could not make it the sandy campground. Meaning no showers, no toilets and very little food. It was here the Korean national team that was training for the 2012 Olympic games decided to not continue with the race. This was opportunistic for me as on day ten I suffered more than I did any other day of this race. It was the last day there was nothing to lose. I kept pushing my pain barrier and crossed the finish line of the Crocodile trophy in 5th place overall which is a podium position in mountain bike racing.
“The further I got into this race, the more I suffered, the more I wanted to see it through”
The truth is I did not enjoy one minute of that race, it was an emblem of pain and suffering for me. But pushing through the full distance and achieving the result I did is something I can look back upon with great fondness and the enjoyment I get from sharing the stories from that race is something I am very glad to experience. So whatever, may be painful, frustrating and seemingly cause nothing but suffering may be delivering you a package of joy and happiness. It may just take some time to be unwrapped.
After receiving a diagnosis of type1 diabetes at age ten, Justin’s dreams and goals in life were threatened. Turning to cycling to help him cope with type1 diabetes quickly proved to not only be beneficial but also the start to a successful pro cycling career. Justin spent five years as a professional in road cycling travelling the world racing his bike. Dealing with the challenges of sport and diabetes across five different continents has given Justin a wealth of stories and knowledge about dealing with challenges on and off the bike.
Having since transitioned from a pro cycling career to completing two university degrees in psychology and education from Macquarie University in 2015 and being awarded with a University Blues Award for excellence in sport and academics. Justin continues to fuel his competitive streak with multi day mountain bike racing for team SubarumarathonMTB.com, having achieved podium finishes at The Crocodile Trophy, The Simpson Desert BikeChallenge, The Pioneer in New Zealand and The Mongolia Bike Challenge.
Since 2011 Justin has complemented his cycling career with sharing a message of hope, empowerment and overcoming adversity to audiences inte