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Twenty-five years ago, at the age of seven months, Phil Southerland was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Doctors at the time gave his mother very dismal predictions about his prospects, but he blew all those right out of the water.
Now an elite distance cyclist in the pink of health, he's organized Team Type 1, a group of eight cyclists with type 1 diabetes who leave today to race across the country. The competition, known as the Race Across America, is the world's longest-running endurance race.
It spans the continent from Oceanside, California, to Atlantic City, New Jersey, a total of 3,052 miles, and the team expects to finish in less than six days. Furthermore, they expect to win.
Like all his teammates, Phil uses an Omnipod pump, Apidra insulin, and a FreeStyle Lite meter. His basal insulin rate varies from 0.3 to 0.8 over a 24-hour period. He notes that by switching to Apidra from Novolog, he was able to cut his basal rate by fifteen percent; he also worries less about occlusions with Apidra.
About two weeks ago he started using Symlin, and "it's amazing how my morning blood sugars just don't go up." His A1c's are usually in the low fives. He checks his blood sugar about twenty times a day, upping the count to 25 times a day when he's training. He's considering a continous glucose monitor, but is waiting for the FreeStyle Navigator to be approved.
For breakfast, Phil eats kashi, yogurt, and fruit. For dinner on a recovery day, he eats a salad with steak, salmon, or chicken, but if it's been a hard training day, he has a burrito. When he's racing, he uses Gatorade or extremely high glycemic index gel packs like Hammer gel, which has more maltodextrin and takes a little longer to act. He eats something with calories every fifteen minutes when riding or racing, sometimes just a chug of Gatorade.
"I've never said no to anything because of diabetes," says Phil, "and I never plan to." Phil adamantly believes that if you choose to thrive with diabetes, it will help you become a better person in every walk of life. His glass is always full. "Get excited about your control," says Phil, "because if you take care of it, then it's just going to leapfrog you in any endeavor." He believes that having diabetes has benefited him more than he could ever have dreamed. "If I can control this," he says," what can't I conquer?"
Seven years from now, Phil sees an all-type 1 team competing in the Tour de France and doing for people with diabetes what Lance Armstrong did for people with cancer. Also down the road, he envisions a group healthcare plan, possibly based on A1c's, so that people with well-controlled diabetes will be able to get health insurance and access to the best tools and technology.
"We may be racing across the country with only eight teammates," says Phil, "but we have a team of twenty million out there. We're not just competing for ourselves - we're competing for them. People with diabetes can do anything and everything a person without diabetes can do, except better, but only if you have good control."
To that end, he and his teammate, Joe Eldridge, have introduced the A1c Challenge on their website, www.teamtype1.org. There you'll find tips on how to enter the A1c Challenge and "Strive for 6.5." You can also follow the team's progress as they race across America to bring their message of good control to everyone with diabetes.
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.