Last year when the team was down in Nashville we raced the Hell of the South. It was an 87km (54 miles) crazy route in the back roads of rural Tennessee. We met Chyrsa before the race started who was local and also Type 1 Diabetic and was doing the race on her Cyclocross bike. There was three of us from the women's team there that day. We basically told her to get in touch with us so we can get her on the team. I don't even know if we gave her a choice. I think we forced it on her. Which is all good in my opinion. We're all about getting more female T1D cyclists out! I did most of that race in Tennessee solo but in retrospect I'm almost wishing I had stayed back and had her company.
Chrysa has an interesting cycling background and is known for her mountain biking prowess. Although I asked her these questions last summer before she joined the team, I think she's awesome and worth reading about.
1. When were you diagnosed, where do you live and what is your diagnosis story?
I was diagnosed when I was 10 years old. I grew up in Duryea, Pennsylvania. It is a town in the north east. I was a pretty sick kid the summer after fifth grade. I started losing weight, became really lethargic, didn't want to eat. My folks took me to the doctor, but there was no history of diabetes in my family and they didn't think to check for it. I just kept getting worse. My folks took me to the ER, thinking that I was dying and I wouldn't be going back home. I was only there a little while when the ER doc came back in and told them I had diabetes. I spent a week in the hospital getting educated about the disease. My folks decided I was responsible enough that they were going to let me handle the disease and they would be there to assist when I needed it. The first thing I remember is having to give myself that first shot. Man I was the kid who ran screaming from the doctor's office when I had to get a shot. I remember sitting on my hospital bed crying. The diabetes educator who was teaching me how to give myself a shot had had enough of my tears and pretty much told me if I didn't give myself the shot I'd die. Sounds harsh, but it was exactly what I needed. By the end of the day I wasn't afraid of a shot any more. I had a very progressive doctor who encouraged me to keep up with the latest advances. Along with my family, he also encouraged me to stay active in sports.
Chrysa in the State Jersey. "My proudest moment thus far in racing. 2010 Women's Cat 2 Tennessee BAR award. I worked my butt off to win that. :)"
2. How long have you been racing mountain bikes?
I started mountain biking when I was in graduate school in 2005. It was an outlet away from the stress of school and research. I met these two great groups of cyclists, the Dirt Dawgs and the Dallas Off Road Bicycle Association (DORBA). Through them I got into my first race which was a 24 hour 4 person team race. From there I started racing Cat 3 or what was called beginner. I remember clearly walking most of the course for the first solo race I did. It was very rocky and pretty tough. Added to that I had a mishap with my insulin. A team mate gave me an energy drink and I never even thought to question what was in it, namely a lot of sugar. My blood sugar rose, I got dehydrated and started cramping. I remember lying on the side of the trail at one point in the fetal position, wishing the cramps in my legs to go away. I finished the race and learned I was going to have to pay better attention to nutrition, insulin and the management of my diabetes in a race. It also got me hooked on racing. It didn't matter that I was last, all that mattered was that I finished. I did something I wasn't able to do yesterday and I pushed myself way harder than I ever had before. I was hooked.
3. What caused you to turn to road racing?
Well first before road racing happened, I started racing cyclocross. Since cross was fun and I liked the bike so much I shifted into road racing with a friend of mine from Indiana.
After a season of mountain bike racing, where I took 4th in the state, there were a lot of summer road rallies to ride. In Texas the season is early to avoid the heat of the summer. But there are plenty of road events. Some of the fast guys mentioned I should start riding road to train. So I did. Again I found a challenge to sink my teeth into. 60 miles, could I really ride that in a decent amount of time? From there I moved to Indianapolis, which at the time it was easier to ride out of the garage and hit the streets. Same thing when I moved to Tennessee. Indianapolis has many more miles of dirt now and Tennessee isn't too shabby either. But it is just faster to head out on a road bike as soon as you get home from work, or first thing in the morning, then it is to load up the bike on the car and drive to a trail. You also don't have to worry about whether the road is dry before heading out on a road ride. :) My team mates here were mostly road racers. So I started doing road races. There is a weekly criterium series here in Nashville. I used to be terrified of crits. Then I did some and no more terror. To me a crit is the hardest I have ever pushed myself. You go until your can't pull air into your lungs any more. It is only for about 30 minutes. It hurts, a lot, but is the best workout I do. The road riding and racing also helps me gear up for endurance mountain bike events. If I can do 100 miles on the road, then surely 65 on a mountain bike can't be that bad. Well can it? That's another story all together.
Chrysa puts it really well here about what a criterium is really like. It's short, it's hell and it's a ton of fun!
4. You recently competed in a 50 mile mountain bike race, what was that like?
It was the hardest thing I had ever done. Riding for a solid 10 hours, well hiking and pushing the bike up some of the ridiculous climbs for 10 hours. 10 hours, 7000+ ft of climbing, 50 miles. Since this was last April, I'm training right now to do the race this year and finish the whole 65 miles. At the end there was a paved 1 mile flat finish and I remember crying because I was so relieved to be back in civilization. It was all I could do to turn the pedals. I'm sure I was going about 3 miles an hour. I was pretty impressed with how well I kept my blood sugars under control and managed everything. I did have trouble eating GUs and shot bloks for the entire ride, so I am now switching over to liquid nutrition. I was super proud of my hydration skills as my pee was clear when I finished.
5. How do you manage blood sugars on extremely demanding rides like that?
Well I do a lot of my experiments when I'm not racing. So I know how many carbs and calories to take in say every hour and how my insulin pump handles that. The best defence is to not go high. Dehydration will ruin your day. I stay very well hydrated and don't eat or drink anything I didn't plan to. I carry 2 syringes with me at all times. If the pump fails, one to get the insulin out of the pump and one to inject. I carry my super emergency juice bottle. I have a tiny full suspension mountain bike (Giant Trance 2008) the only bottle that fits in there is a kid's bottle. I fill that with my favorite Cranberry Grape Juice. 40g of carbs per serving and it holds 2. I don't check my sugar unless I don't feel well. But it is no big deal to stop and check and adjust. You need a break anyway. :)
I think there is a lot I can learn from Chrysa and I'm looking forward to racing with her. Right now we email almost daily about our training and keep each other motivated.