From New York City, to Washington, D.C. and then through Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky and all way to Honig Winery in Rutherford, a group of 19 cyclists – all but one with Type 1 diabetes – have ridden more than 4,200 miles this summer.
Cincinnati resident Ryan Dunn, 21, said the group left New York City on June 4. They have ridden through the middle of the United States to reach their goal, San Francisco and 4,248 miles, which they accomplished on Friday, their 70th day of riding. “We’ve had a couple of rest days in between, but basically 70 days on the road, 70 to 80 miles are average, the longest day was 110 miles.”
Sarah Lucas, CEO and one of four co-founders of the nonprofit Beyond Type 1, said the riders had “quite a few centuries on this ride. All of them are amateur riders, none of them are professionals, five international riders and the other 14 are from the United States.” It was a requirement to have Type 1 diabetes to be on the team, “because we wanted to showcase what people living with an autoimmune disease could accomplish,” Lucas said, “because people said it couldn’t be done.”
Then Dunn piped up, “We went and did it.”
Lucas explained that one rider, Abby Pepper was 17 when the ride started and legally she couldn’t participate without a parent participating. So, her mother, Cheryl, who doesn’t have Type 1 diabetes, rode with the group. “Cheryl and her daughter, Abby, have given us 10 weeks of their summer,” Lucas said, “It’s been amazing to have Cheryl with us.”
The 19 riders, their supporters and others spent the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 9 at Rutherford’s Honig Winery attending a pop-up party, hosted by Michael and Stephanie Honig. The party included a silent auction, Napa Valley wines, food from a dozen local restaurants and music from both a DJ and two live songs from David Pack, co-founder, guitarist and main vocalist for the band “Ambrosia.”
While Pack was singing “How Much I Feel,” which he wrote in 1978, Stephanie Honig held the microphone and after the song was over, Pack asked for applause for Honig, his tripod.
The Honigs’ daughter, Sophia, 10, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 5 years old.
Honig announced the pop-up party raised $215,000, and overall the riders raised $142,933. Lucas said she was “excited to get to the endpoint and see how much this ride has been able to generate in terms of dollars but also in terms of education, awareness and advocacy.”
On Friday night, after 69 miles, which included cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge, the 19 riders ended their journey at Crissy Field where they dipped their front tires in the Pacific Ocean. (On June 4, they had dipped their rear tires in the Atlantic Ocean to start the journey.) On Saturday night, they were guests at a “That’s A Wrap” party at the GoPro headquarters in San Mateo.
In Rutherford on Wednesday evening, Dunn said the hardest part of the trip “isn’t the bike riding at all. It’s just everything else that needs to happen, getting gear into the van, making sure all the riders have water …” And now it was Lucas’s turn to comment … “to make sure you have properly refrigerated insulin, all your diabetes supplies as well as your regular gear.”
Type 1 diabetes
“The biking is actually the easiest part. That’s what we’re trying to show, that physical activity is possible,” Dunn said. He added, doctors tell a lot of Type 1 diabetics not to participate in any physical activity. “I know that when I was diagnosed I was actually rowing for Georgia Tech. My doctor told me I couldn’t be a part of the team. That’s what motivated me to join this ride, to show people that’s old school thinking. Type 1 diabetes doesn’t have to limit the way you live your life physically or otherwise,” Dunn said.
Dunn said Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, is not related to lifestyle and has a genetic and environmental component to it. Untreated, it is fatal. He explains: If you have Type 1 diabetes, your immune system mistakes the beta cells in your pancreas as foreign and attacks them. The beta cells produce insulin but in a person with Type 1 diabetes, they don’t.
“Any time you eat any food containing carbohydrates, it goes straight to your blood,” Dunn said. “When you have high blood sugar, you could get dizzy, be fatigued and can’t focus properly. That’s why we have insulin” to process the carbohydrates. “A lot of people on the team have pumps, but I don’t, I carry a pen with me that has my insulin. Anytime I want to eat carbohydrates, I poke that thing in my stomach and give myself some insulin.”
Lucas said people confuse Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 can mean that a person is insulin resistant, it can be a lifestyle disease and it can be genetic. Throughout the world, 90 to 95 percent of people who have diabetes have Type 2.
The remaining 5 to 10 percent are diagnosed with Type 1 and are insulin dependent for life. “Ryan and his teammates and anyone with Type 1 diabetes cannot survive without pumping or injecting insulin into their bodies,” Lucas said.
“They didn’t do anything to cause (their Type 1 diabetes) and they can’t do anything to get rid of it. That’s what we’re here for, to make sure we have lots of dollars and a lot of smart minds to solve this problem.
“Because if I have a car that can park itself, I shouldn’t have to worry about Ryan waking up tomorrow,” Lucas said. “We should be able to solve this problem.”
Two vans have followed the riders across the country, the first has water, refrigerated insulin and is the lunch van, Dunn said. The second carries their gear and has a large trailer attached. Painted on the side of the van are the early warning signs of Type 1 diabetes. “People confuse it with the flu or a growth spurt,” Dunn said.
Lucas said she has been living and breathing the cross-country trip for a year, including the planning and the riding. The 19 cyclists are “literally a part of the fiber of this company now, they are the heart and soul of Beyond Type 1. The riders are amazing, inspiring humans,” she said. The cyclists have inspired people, met with communities, given talks all across the country and have done so much to educate people.
“We are so grateful to the Honigs, who are so dedicated to finding a cure for Type 1 for their daughter, Sophia, and all of the riders and all the people living with it worldwide,” Lucas said.
Beyond Type 1
A nonprofit group created in July 2015 with a mission focused on education, advocacy and a pathway to a cure for Type 1 diabetes. Co-founders are CEO Sarah Lucas, celebrity chef Sam Talbot, singer Nick Jonas and venture capitalist Juliet de Baubigny. The nonprofit has created the largest digital platform in the world for people with diabetes, with more than a million followers worldwide on seven different social media platforms.