Hey guys! I am so excited today to have Matt Neal guest blogging for me. Matt was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes last year at the age of 28, just as he was on his way to building a successful BMX bike riding career. But read his story below and you’ll find out that Matt doesn’t let that hold him back – in fact, he’s taken on diabetes management with the same passion he has for BMX riding – and in the process is showing everyone that he won’t let that – or anything else – hold him back! I loved reading his story to learn how someone with an unusual sport manages their diabetes, and I know you guys will enjoy it too. Take it away Matt!
My name is Matt Neal and I have been very active my entire life. I always enjoyed being outside and playing sports when I was a kid. I went to school with a few kids that raced BMX and I enjoyed riding with them after school. I kept bugging my parents to let me start racing with them. Finally, my dad took me out to the BMX track for my 10th birthday. I was hooked! I loved racing and started taking it more seriously after a couple of years.
I was very fortunate to be able to travel around the country racing different events. I was even more fortunate to experience a great deal of success in the sport that I loved. I was top 10 nationally in my age group for several years and I even got 2nd at the world cup when I was 18. I turned pro for a few races at the end of my career before hanging my bike up to finish my degree.
Fast-forward about eight or nine years and I got the itch to get back on my bike. I started riding again and went to a couple of national events. I was riding decently for not racing for so long but I was a little off. I didn’t feel like I had the power that I should and I started losing weight, a LOT of weight. I couldn’t gain a pound to save my life and I knew something was wrong.
I completed a health screening at work and my fasting blood glucose was 358 and my fears were confirmed, I had diabetes. I was officially diagnosed Feb. 20, 2009 with Type 1 at the age of 28. Believe it or not, I felt very fortunate to have a manageable disease. I took some time off of my bike again to get a handle on my blood glucose and I knew I wanted to race again. So that’s exactly what I did! I started racing at the beginning of this season. I’ve been doing really well so far. I have two wins in the Arizona State Series and I have won a national main event!
Diabetes adds a whole new challenge to racing BMX. I test my glucose levels a LOT on race days. National races are especially difficult because you don’t know exactly when you are going to race and the races take place all weekend long. They are also challenging because my adrenaline tends to raise my levels. My target level for race time is 150 mg/dL so I always keep my meter, insulin, and carbs close by. I recently started using the Dexcom CGM system. I have raced one national event with it and it was awesome to have the extra data. It helped me to keep my levels stable all weekend long and made it easier for me to be close to my target before all of my events.
The main thing I try to do to optimize my blood glucose at races is to make small adjustments. I try to eat small meals and snacks throughout the day to avoid having big spikes or crashes. It also helps so I don’t have a really full stomach when I need to race. I tend to have a few extra carbs at breakfast to bring my levels up. If I have a tougher race coming up and I know my adrenaline will be kicking in, I will try to get my blood glucose up to about 120 mg/dL because I know that adrenaline will take it up even higher while I’m warming up. If I know that I have a while before I race I will take a small correction to bring my levels back down to 100 mg/dL and then eat something to pick me back up when my next event gets closer.
After the race day is over, I try to have a few extra carbs at dinner to replenish/refuel and make a small correction to bring my levels back down. I make sure not to overcorrect because I tend to run lower the day after as my body is recovering and using up more glucose.
Overall, racing BMX with diabetes has been a good experience. It makes me feel even better when I beat other people who don’t have to manually control their blood glucose all day long. It makes those wins even sweeter!