Hello again from myself Justin, another month older and hopefully wiser living with type1 diabetes. This past month I have devoted a considerable amount of time and energy to racing my mountain bike which has recently come to a halt as I have now settled in for two weeks with my in-laws on the family fruit farm in Northern Michigan, USA. This farm has been in the family for six generations and sadly it is looking this may be the last. Being surrounded by the life and stressors of a life in agriculture has made me more cognisant of the ever increasing challenges to make this life work in an ever globalised world. In farming your boss can be a mean, toxic and stubborn dictator whom has no mercy and often throws tremendous curve balls to you when you least expect it. That boss is mother nature or the weather. Two years ago after a six month season of back breaking work cultivating a bumper cherry crop a freak hailstorm lasting six minutes came through and destroyed the entire yield for that season, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost profits. Unplanned occurrences can be completely debilitating especially for those unprepared.
The correlations of good farming with being a good athlete and being a competent manager of diabetes are plentiful. As a cycling coach I emphasise the importance of Confidence, Composure and Anticipation (C.C.A) to my clients in order to get the most out of their cycling. These traits are necessary to be a good farmer and are also a huge help when approaching the mammoth task of managing diabetes. To get here to the midwest of the USA my wife and I have to take four flights and cross sixteen time zones. Every single time we do this I have an unexpected predicament with my Blood Sugar Levels (BSLs). When the body is told to be awake when it is usually asleep and asked to sleep when it is usually awake throws another spanner in the works of BSL management. On top of that throw in the obscure, high fructose foods that are readily available in the USA and the effects of being sedentary on a plane for over thirty hours and my body and my diabetes becomes very unpredictable. This is when I need to call on my inner farmer and my athlete mentality to cultivate a good season of BSLs. This time, I ate way too much at the wrong times, when I did get some sleep I was awoken every forty minutes as my BSL was too high and subsequently recovering from jet lag has taken me over ten days whilst my non diabetic wife is fully recovered in three days.
It is times like these when it seems very unfair to be living with diabetes and I feel like it is holding me back from making the most of each day. Being on the farm puts this into perspective about the challenges we all face in life and how approach things that are not fair. Farming is rarely fair, but if the farmer does not put his frustrations about this to one side then we the consuming public will have no food on our dinner plate. Bike racing can be a very unfair game but if the athlete does not move on from this he or she will be forever stuck in a state of dissatisfaction. Diabetes can be VERY unfair and throws the most obscure, unpredictable hoops for us to jump through. If I do not hold on to the strength of those traits- Confidence, Composure and Anticipation it can and does very easily get the better of me.
We are very lucky in the diabetes and farming world that we now have tools that enable us to get much better at the ‘A’ in C.C.A- Anticipation. Weather forecasting, more efficient fertilisers, efficient irrigation equipment and decades of recorded data has enabled more efficiencies in farming. The farmers whom are investing and embracing these technologies are often the ones whom are still successful. We are faced with a similar turning point in diabetes management. The technology and the tools to enhance our anticipation are becoming increasingly available. CGMs, pumps, loop technology and better basal insulins are all designed to help us. In Australia, I am very lucky this equipment is becoming increasingly accessible, I know this is rarely the case in the rest of the world.
Being surrounded by the demands and unpredictability of agriculture has forced me to appreciate that I will never be able to COMPLETELY control my circumstances in this world. However, if I am placed in a situation that allows me to access the tools that can help me through my diabetes journey and reduce the unpredictabilities in my life than I would be a fool to not make the most of them. I used to admire those reluctant to change with technologies, my recent challenges with this trip and becoming more immersed in the farming life has encouraged me to change my perspective. Especially when it comes to diabetes.
This coming weekend I will race my bicycle 345km in one day across the state of Michigan in the Coast to Coast challenge. I will be making adjustments to my insulin and bringing all my BSL management technology with me to minimise the risk that my preparation might be hindered by an unexpected diabetes hailstorm of sorts! Looking forward to letting you know how it goes. Off to Sydney after that for some cool events with Novo Nordisk Australia before a really inspiring seven day ride with Novo Nordisk UK from the top to the bottom of England raising awareness for type1 diabetes in the now annual ‘Pedal for7’ diabetes bike ride!
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 internationally.