Racing With Diabetes - Dirt Rider Magazine

JOSH SUMMEY INTERVIEWBy Pete PetersonThe recent articles about Josh Summey of Moto XXX and his fund raising efforts for the American Diabetes Association through his participation in the Dirt Rider 24 Hour Torture Test prompted a few people to contact Dirt Rider with stories of their own about racing with diabetes. Josh Summey isn't the only racer with diabetes, just the fastest - but Josh had better watch out, because the younger racers are coming up fast.What follows is an interview with Josh about racing the pro supercross and motocross series while dealing with his Type 1 diabetes, and the stories of two more racers going through the same issues with the disease in their racing programs. NOTHING HERE IS MEANT TO BE TAKEN AS MEDICAL ADVICE - only a doctor can give that and decide what is best for each individual. But these stories illustrate that being diagnosed with diabetes doesn't have to slow you down -Pete Peterson: So you're a Type 1 diabetic? That means you were diagnosed at a very early age?Josh Summey: Actually, I've only been diabetic for not even 3 years yet - a little over two.PP: Type 1 are usually diagnosed early, right?JS: Yeah, they usually are but for some freak reason I developed Type 1. I was feeling the symptoms of feeling really tired, eventually my vision started getting blurry a little bit. I finally went to the doctor and they tested my blood sugar level - it was high, and they diagnosed me then.PP: Before that you had no idea about this?JS: No.PP: Are you insulin dependent right now?JS: Yeah.PP: And you have the pump?JS: Yeah, I do the insulin pump. I started that last May.PP: Before that you were doing shots?JS: Yeah, it was kinda tough because with the shots you're - it's really hard to get your blood sugar under control as far as getting your numbers where they need to be. You know, they could be good one day, the next time you check they could be up in the 300s, so it's hard to get 'em stable with the pen (injection) versus the pump. The pump's a lot easier to keep things level.PP: So how often did you used to have to check when you were using the pen?JS: I still check the same. Usually about five or six times a day, generally a little more when I'm doing something like this (the Dirt Rider 24 hour event), that way when I get out on the trail or the track I don't... fall, as far as the numbers don't get so low I bottom out, you know, and possibly result in passing out. So, with the Dirt Rider deal, knowing I'm going to be way back out away from any type of snack or something I could use if my sugar did get so low, I took some sugar tablets and a Powerbar in my Camelback.PP: So that's what you do, when it get a little low you just eat something that's got some sugar in it for your body to process?JS: Yeah, just something with some sugar in it. Also they make a glucose tablet - it's a little wafer that's a fast-acting sugar.PP: So what was it like when you were out there racing before you got diagnosed? You were racing the nationals and supercross at that point already?JS: Yeah, towards the end of the '05 nationals I just stated feeling kind of weak. Like the last two rounds, I could just tell I didn't have much energy. Then I really noticed it at the US Open that year. I was just really tired. So probably a month after that I went to the doctor.PP: Tired, you had blurry vision, any other symptoms?JS: Also I was really thirsty. It almost feels like you can't ever quench your thirst. Your mouth feels dry all the time.PP: So you got diagnosed, it seems like you have it under control pretty well. Tell me about your typical supercross. How does it affect you there?JS: Usually in the morning I'll eat breakfast at the house or the hotel depending on where we're at. Then when we get to the track, before practice I'll go ahead and check my sugar and see where it's at. I just started at the first supercross round in Canada wearing my pump while I race. So that's been a help also as far as keeping the numbers level, versus disconnecting the pump while you're racing. But, like I said, normally a typical day for me is just eating two or three meals a day on race day, maybe a little more - a snack here or there. I'm checking every time before I go out on the track. So basically that's it. If everything goes well it's a pretty smooth race day as far as being the same as everyone else's.PP: So for a typical main event at a supercross, from leaving the truck until you get back from the main, what is that, about a half hour?JS: 30-45 minutes by the time you get down there and sit in staging waiting for the 125 class to finishPP: So do you have a key number you want to be at when you head out there?JS: Normally I like it a little bit higher because when you're racing for 20-25 minutes it's going to lower itself.PP: So 100 to 120 is high?JS: No, you want to keep it - a normal person's blood sugar's anywhere from about 70-120 - so if I'm getting ready to go out for a main event, even if it's in the low 200's I'm not gonna freak out because - for instance I think at Anahiem II it was 220, and when I came back in, let my body cool, calmed down a little bit, it was down to like 61 or 62. Just from the duration of the race and the energy you put out during the race.PP: How about at a national - longer races?JS: Yeah, that's tough. At the nationals I'll go ahead and disconnect the pump just because I don't want to take a chance of it - the pump's constantly dripping just a little bit of insulin into your system, so I don't want to take a chance of getting too low out there. And even with the pump disconnected - it doesn't get low, but you can see it drop.PP: When you head to the line at a national, what are you shooting for as far as your sugar level?JS: About the same thing. Say maybe high 100s/low 200s because I know it's gonna fall.PP: Between motos are you re-connecting the pump?JS: Yeah, as soon as I come off the track.PP: And how about your diet? Do you really have to check what you eat?JS: Yeah, basically I count carbohydrates in foods, which turn into sugar. I basically just figure out what I want to eat for the meal - I total those carbohydrates up, after I've checked my blood sugar, then I'll put the amount of carbohydrates into my insulin pump, and it recommends the amount of insulin for your body to take with that meal.PP: How about like a training day - I imagine you're doing a lot of training during the week.JS: Same thing, you know, every time you get ready to do a strenuous activity like we do you're always gonna wanna check when you go out there. And then also a lot of times once you've kind of figured out stuff you can almost tell how your body's gonna feel. You know, if you feel kinda shakey or a little woozy or tired - generally your sugar's gonna be maybe a little lower, maybe down in the 50's or 40's. So you're obviously gonna want to eat a snack. Or probably before you exercise you're gonna wanna do some sugar - a fast acting sugar - something like that.PP: You've got one doctor or a couple doctors to help you out with this?JS: No, I've just got one.PP: What does he think about you doing this activity - he obviously knows this is tough exercise, right?JS: Sure. He thinks its great, because a lot of people with diabetes aren't that active and it creates a lot of health problems for them. They get overweight, and when they get overweight they start losing blood circulation to their limbs and they have a lot of complications from that. So me being active is the same as anyone else, it just keeps me healthy and it really makes situations a lot better.PP: Diabetes is kind of on the rise in a weird way, it's showing up everywhereJS: It is, yeah.PP: When you first got diagnosed, did it cross you mind, like, wow, maybe I might have to stop my professional career?JS: Not really, because I knew of other athletes - not necessarily motocrossers - that had Type 1 diabetes that were still really active.PP: Once you got diagnosed and got a handle on it, how did your conditioning change?JS: It was great. It went back to normal, maybe even stronger. At the outdoors this past year I felt great both motos and the whole time, so it was good.PP: If you could say something to the kids out there that are showing up with diabetes and want to go out there and raceJS: Yeah, you know, I've talked to three people in the last couple of days about diabetes and about maybe switching over to the pump and all three of them are doing what we do (race motocross), you know.PP: So just go for it? It doesn't slow you down, just kind of an added thing you have to check?JS: Yeah, at first it's kind of frustrating because you're trying to figure out the kinks to it, you know, see what works best and stuff, but in the end, once you get it figured it out it's not a big deal at all.

Written by Rhonda SummersKawasaki Team Green racer #444, Justin Summers, also races with diabetes. Just thirteen years old, Justin already has multiple amateur championships to his credit and looks to have a lot more racing and winning in his future.Diabetes has touched just about everyone's life somehow. You may have a family member that has it, or you may just know someone, but you will never truly know the heart ache that it delivers until it happens to your child. The light at the end of the tunnel is that diabetes doesn't have to stop you from doing the things that you love. There is no cure, and it sure isn't easy, but with the proper management, a person can continue to live a healthy, long life and YES, even race!My son Justin was only four when he started racing. He loved being at the track. In fact, most times he would rather ride than eat when he was hungry. He was completely consumed by it by the time he was seven years old. It was then that we started taking him to some of the amateur nationals and it was that year that he made it to Loretta's for the first time. Boy, was he hooked after that! Anyone who's been to Loretta's knows what I'm talking about! From that point on, all he wanted to do was ride.At the end of that year, on New Year's Eve weekend, we had taken him to Cairo, Georgia to ride with Zack Bell. They were doing 20 minute motos, and I noticed that he kept stopping almost every lap in the back by the woods. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what he was doing. When he came back in, he said that he had to "pee" so bad that he couldn't ride the whole moto without stopping. It concerned me that he had to urinate so often, but he was drinking a lot of water so I just assumed that the water was the problem. When he went out to ride again, he completed the 20 minute moto without stopping but came off the track laughing so hard I thought he was going to fall off his bike. I asked him what was so funny and he said "I rode so hard that time that I peed my pants." Remember .... He was only seven... I laughed at first but panic soon took over as I was struggling to find an answer for this sudden change in his body.He didn't seem to feel bad other than a headache and an uncontrollable desire to drink everything he could get his hands on. So much, in fact, that it made him sick and he began throwing up. I took him to the hospital thinking that it had to be a kidney infection, but to my surprise he was admitted into the hospital with a blood sugar reading of over 700 (Normal range is 80 - 120). His pancreas stopped producing insulin on its own so there was nothing in his body to break down the sugar. He quite possibly could have gone into a coma and we would have lost him that very night had we not taken him to the hospital when we did.I had no idea at the time how this disease was about to change our life, but it didn't take me long to learn what had to be done. The doctor came in and was explaining to all of us that diabetes was a very dangerous disease but with the proper management, Justin would be just fine. Justin put his hand up as if he wanted the doctor to be quiet and Justin said "All I want to know is .... Can I still ride?" Not really knowing that he meant motocross, the doctor said, "Of course you can. You can do anything you want to do as long as you keep your diabetes under control." Justin looked at her with a strange mixture of tears and relief and said, "Well that's good because I was going to tell you that if I can't ride, you can just let me die."It was at that moment that I realized I had BETTER find a way to make Diabetes and motocross work together. I think that was the saddest day of my life as I was not very optimistic after learning about all the complications that come along with having this disease - heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, loss of limbs, and kidney failure, to name a few. Those worries, and learning that he was going to need insulin injections after every meal and would be pricking his finger 10-15 times a day to check his blood sugar reading just about killed me. But what scared me the most was the level of care that he would need and the constant monitoring that I would have to do in order for him to continue to race safely and with the success that he was expecting from himself.We got his doctor involved by showing her a video of his last race. She was not familiar with motocross but went out of her way to help us learn how to stay on top of this disease. She said that exercise and a good diet were the key ingredients in controlling diabetes and that motocross may actually be good for him. I bet she had never made a more true statement! It took us a little while to learn how his body was going to react to different foods and different forms of exercise, but with constant monitoring and a huge effort to educate ourselves on how to care for him, he was able to continue on with his normal training regimen. We learned very quickly that his sugar level dropped tremendously during long motos or vigorous exercise. His sugar dropping below 80 would cause dizziness, trembling of the hands, and if it dropped any lower could even cause him to black out, become incoherent or go into seizures. So all of the sudden, pricking his fingers 15 times a day to make sure his levels were high enough to ride didn't seem so bad. Dropping low wasn't our only concern. His levels being too high could cause other symptoms that were just as dangerous, so we had to prick his finger and check his levels before AND after each ride. Not to mention every time he felt bad, before every snack or meal, and at 3am most every night. His finger tips were like little pin cushions but he did it without complaining and taught me a new definition of the term "proud mother."His diet was the next hurdle, and is still something that we struggle with on a daily basis. A serious athlete's diet will most likely consist of grilled meats, vegetables, fruits, no sodas, a lot of water, and very little sugar. That is exactly the kind of diet that we were told to give him. The worse part was having to stick to that strict way of eating all the time. There was never any down time for him. Never any cheat days. He just wanted to be a normal kid and eat a bowl of cereal when he felt like it. He wanted to go to the movies and have a box of popcorn and some candy like his friends were doing.When he wants something that he knows he can't have, it is easier for me to tell him that he can't have it because he is in training, instead of reminding him that he is a diabetic. Now that we've experimented with a lot of different foods, we can usually predict how his body will react to certain things, and he is now allowed to have those once forbidden foods, on occasion.With Justin still growing, however, our road to complete control keeps taking a detour. Every time he hits a growth spurt, it throws everything off and we have to re-evaluate his insulin intake. This is hard on him because when his levels are unstable he usually doesn't feel his best. He will have blurred vision, head aches, and be pretty moody. But he has to continue his training during that time or he will fall behind his competition. The blurred vision is the only thing that keeps him off the bike, but other than that, he tries to continue with the rest of his program. It takes time, patience, and an understanding of the disease but with a high level of control, and the right support system, any goal can be reached.Four years later, Justin has factory support from Kawasaki Team Green, is a 5 time National Champion, and this year alone was on the podium at the nationals 16 times. He even finished 2nd at Loretta's in the stock and the mod classes and he has done ALL of that since his diagnosis. He has been frustrated and has had days where he is just plain tired of having to deal with all the injections and finger sticks, but he continues on because of his love for this sport. Did diabetes make my son a champion, or did my champion make diabetes work for him? Win, lose, or draw....he is my hero !!Anyone wishing to contact us for moral support or for any other questions can do so at For a wealth of information, you can also log on to the American Diabetes Association's website at www.diabetes.orgThanks to all his sponsors that stand behind him while he fights !!Kawasaki Team Green, Oakley, V-Force, Monster Energy, SFB, IMS, EBR Performance, Works Connection, Factory Backing, FLY Racing, Wiesco, RK Chains, TAG, Mechanix Wear, Ready Filter, OSIRIS Shoes, EVS, Motorsport Products, Maxima,, Dunlop, Carmichael MX Kamp, FMF, EXCEL, Liquid Performance, Gaerne,

By Ryan MillerRyan Miller is an eighteen year old also coping with diabetes and keeping a great attitude toward it through his training and racing program.When I was in fourth grade my life changed forever in a way that up until then, I had never imagined could happen to me. I was feeling a little under the weather one night after baseball practice, but thought I just had a case of the flu. Nearly a week went by and I continued to feel worse each day. I shed weight in an unnatural way, my fever never broke, and I was paler than a ghost, I even took on an unusually sweet smell. That night when I arrived at the hospital I was diagnosed as the first diabetic in my family. It was explained that I had type 1 diabetes, the more severe of the two types. The following morning I was transferred to Children's Hospital in Seattle.I spent a little over a week in Children's Hospital in Seattle learning about diabetes and how to live with it. I had to learn how to cover the basics of diabetes and discovered that I would actually have to follow a diet; something no 9 year old wants to do! The worst of it all, though, was the fear that I would now be different from my friends, that I wouldn't be able to play sports or participate in a number of those fun activities because of this "disease." All these thoughts and more swirled through my head each day, and I began feeling sorry for myself. Then I met the kid next door to me in the hospital. I consider the day I met Mikey, the six-year-old boy with bone marrow cancer, a turning point in my life. Meeting him really put everything that I was going through at the time into a new perspective. It made it clear to me I had an easy disease, one that now hardly even hinders me.When I was able to return home that following week, my family began preparing to live with diabetes. They, in truth, were affected as much as I. Food habits, among many other daily routines, were changed. Candy was replaced with granola bars, and pop substituted with sugar free juice. I learned that exercise was important to staying healthy, and spent more time practicing baseball or riding my little XR 100 through the orchard. Aside from what had to change in order to keep me on the right track though, not much seemed all that different. When I returned to school I was able to be just another kid. During baseball I got to everything I did before, and when I eventually started racing there are very few times it has gotten in the way.I started racing late by some standards at 13, and luckily had a little better understanding of diabetes by that time. But the fluctuating schedules on race days made it seem like starting all over again. It's been a constant learning process, and we always approach race days cautiously. Since no two schedules are the same from day to day I can never really set a solid plan of attack. It seemed a lot worse when we first started because we were new to it all, but even after only one full season of racing we started to get it down. I have to be vigilant about checking my blood before and after motos, and found it was best to take several shots of quicker acting insulin throughout the day when needed rather than relying on the normal dose each morning. The exercise involved in riding even helped me to stay healthier by keep my sugar levels down, requiring less insulin. Once we discovered the basics of what we needed to do it all got a little easier. To this day, we have been able to limit if not eliminate scary situations from occurring. I can probably count the number of times that I've been badly affected by my diabetes during race days on one hand.Training is a whole different world from racing, and is actually, I believe, easier to adjust my insulin to. Riding on practice days isn't as sporadic as far as motos go because I arrive at the tracks when I want. When working with a trainer doing motos, practicing corners, putting together sections of the track, and all the fundamentals I can stick to a pretty standard and also flexible schedule. When necessary I can pull off to take care of anything that comes up. I know when I'm at a track on practice day, whether by myself or with a trainer, in between everything I will take a water-break and check my blood, eat some carbs or drink something with a little sugar if necessary and get back to riding. If any problems arise after that, I'll pull off and take a few more minutes to tend to the problem.Quite a few of the friends that I race and hang out with have learned more than the average person about diabetes. Through their curiosity and by being around it, they have a pretty good understanding and have become less concerned, and I think its great. Aside from "educating" my friends we have also used some of the stuff I keep around to play a joke. The best one was when a friend ate all the candy in the motorhome. We decided it'd be pretty funny to convince him I'd die because of a low blood sugar without the candy. Needless to say it was pretty funny, and we definitely had him going for a little while.Stories like those, and the many experiences I've been fortunate enough to have while racing, have made it all worthwhile. Over the past two years I have been lucky enough to be able to travel and compete in several Amateur Nationals, the highlight being the annual Spring Nationals in Texas. Not only did I get to see much of the country along the way, but I also got to meet and pit next to some great families, watch some great racing, and ride some tracks I'd only been able to dream about riding before. I've spent nights at Wal-Mart, broke-down in the middle of nowhere in the motor home, and of course rallied the occasional rental car. I'm looking forward to hopefully doing it all again soon.