Category: health

DUI and riding at night

Colorado Springs ranks consistently¬†high in the Men’s Health survey (the only national survey I am aware of, and Colorado Springs is 16th for 2010) of drunkest cities in the U.S., so it follows that DUI is a big problem here.

This past weekend, a cyclist was struck and killed by a hit and run driver at 1:00 a.m. while coming home from work. Having commuted at night for a couple of years, it goes without saying that vigilance is paramount in this arena. As cyclists, one of the first things we think when we read these reports are: Was drinking a factor, and was the cyclist reflective and well-lit? All that is clear in this case is that drinking may have been involved. (more…)

The Colorado Connection

Howdy – at least that’s the greeting I offer to other cyclists on my commute home from work (the ride to work is early enough where I am the only one on the road). I am The Biking Viking from Colorado Springs, Colo., and your host has kindly asked me to contribute to Cyclelicious from the Centennial State.

Cycling has played a major role in my life much more important that reducing my carbon footprint or cutting back on gas consumption. After spending much of my youth on a bike, delivering papers and riding to/from school, I took a break when I was old enough to drive and didn’t come back to cycling until the lifestyle of my 20’s and 30’s caught up to me and demanded I take better care of myself.

Colorado is a great place to be if you spend most of your time on two wheels. Rediscovering the bike has made me a better driver, it has brought my health back from the brink of doom, and is indirectly responsible for a large part of the economic recovery. Well, a very small part, but you get it.

I hope to bring to Cyclelicious my passion for the sport/activity, practical health experiences, and reviews of various cycling products, seeing as how I am always shopping for my next build/bib/bag/bike.

I am not a preacher per se, but a pillager and a plunderer of all things bicycle wherever I find them. Looking forward to sharing it all with you.


$1400 per year in medical expenses for the obese

New research shows medical spending averages $1,400 more a year for an obese person than for someone who’s normal weight.

The higher expense reflects the costs of treating diabetes, heart disease and other ailments far more common for the overweight.

“Unless you address obesity, you’re never going to address rising health-care costs.”

More in the Wall Street Journal.

It just so happens that last night I read the chapter on “Health and the Bicycle” in Jeff Mape’s Pedaling Revolution. Mapes reminds us that in 1991, only four states had obesity rates higher than 15%, while in 2007 only one state — Colorado — had a rate under 20%. In 1996, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a report lamenting that our modern, car dependent society hinders any attempts to increase physical activity. Psychologists studying the issue learned that the only way to increase physical activity is to make it a part of an active lifestyle.

That’s when the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is dedicated to improving public health, got into promoting bicycling in a big way, spending $80 million in the 90s on advocacy, research and grants to promote active transportation. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, for example, provided the early funding for the League of American Bicyclists Bicycle Friendly Community Program.

Mapes mentions Prescription for a Healthy Nation by physicians Tom Farley and Deborah Cohen, who argue that American’s fixation with the cost of our health care system obscures the real problem: that ‘health care’ rarely does little to provide real health. 40% of early deaths can be attributed to controllable factors such as smoking, alcohol use, diet, physical activity and vehicle crashes.

Cohen and Farley argue that we should stigmatize sedentary behavior in the same way anti-smoking campaigners stigmatized smoking in the 80s. “We have to put walking and cycling back into our daily lives and temper our addiction to cars,” they write. They argue for development that encourages active transportation over car use.

Props to my anonymous tipster.

Team Type 1

One of the more interesting teams competing at the Tour de Georgia this week is Team Type 1. When the Tour de Georgia teams were announced I gave team founder Joe Eldridge a call for an interview.

Diabetic pro athletes

Team Type 1 was created in 2004 by Type 1 diabetes racers Phil Southerland and Joe Eldridge to inspire people living with diabetes to take a proactive approach to managing their health and overcoming the obstacles often associated with the condition. It is true that diabetes creates a ton of complications and even a small cut can get septic quite soon. But this is why there arediabetic socks for men, which is helping diabetic people by minimizing irritation in the feet and providing additional cushioning. In 2006 and 2007, the team won the eight-rider corporate team division of the Race Across America. Of the 15 members on the Team Type 1professional squad, four have Type 1 Diabetes, including Tour de Georgia racer Fabio Calabria of Australia. As of the end of Stage 3 in the Tour de Georgia, Calabria is in fifth place in the “Best Young Rider” classification, less than a second behind Best Younger Rider Tyler Farrar.

Goals crucial for athletic competition and health

“Our goal is to inspire people with diabetes around the world to take control of their health through diet, exercise and proper health care,” says team co-founder Phil Southerland. “As a professional team, racing against the world’s best cyclists, we’ll be able to deliver that message to a much wider audience.”

“Setting goals are critical to athletic success,” says Joe. “For a diabetic to be successful at achieving an athletic goal has to remember they have to set a diabetes goal as well. The key to is blood sugar management. The only way to perform at 100% is to be prepared physically this includes having your blood sugar where it needs to be not just for the event but during training, resting, and daily activities. The steps that you take to manage your diabetes will help you achieve your athletic goals.”

Team Type 1 made their professional racing debut last February as the only U.S. team in the Tour of Langkawi stage race in Malaysia, where the team finished 2nd overall. They also recently completed the Tour of Taiwan, where Team Type 1 cyclist Shawn Milne won a stage victory for his team and placed 2nd overall.

Team Type 1 founder Southerland is especially unusual because he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 7 months. Both Southerland and Eldridge were encouraged to be athletic through high school and college. They met at a collegiate bike race as competitors — besides a love for competitive cycling they discovered they had Type 1 Diabetes in common. They decided to participate in the Race Across America
together, and in their second year of RAAM in 2007 took first place by more than 3 hours.

Challenges of diabetic athletes

Type 1 Diabetes is a disorder where the body does not produce enough insulin. To manage blood sugar, diabetics must test their blood sugar a few times per day. Team Type 1 diabetics check their blood sugar up to 20 times per day on a race day, pricking their fingers for a blood sample 4 or 5 times just in the hour before the race. During the race itself there is no opportunity to check blood sugar, but from training rides the athletes have a sense of low blood sugar and know to consume a little more sugar. In a non-diabetic athlete, the athlete who consumes too much carbohydrate, the body is able to store the sugar in the liver. But in diabetic athletes, the hormones to do that conversion aren’t there, so the kidneys work to remove the extra sugar from the blood. Diabetic athletes have the challenge of extra bathroom breaks because of the extra urine produced when they consume that Clif Bar.

Joe tells me that the main challenge for the diabetic athlete is to keep his blood sugar under control. As long as he carefully monitors his blood sugar and his diet, he can compete at the level of other world class athletes. His endocrinologist supports his endeavors.

Bound for the Tour de France

Eldridge and Southerland have shown their sponsors and fans that “we’re here to race and we’re here to win.” Their goal is to race in the ProTour and win an invitation to the Tour de France in five years. “To the best of our knowledge, no type 1 diabetic has ever competed as a professional cyclist in Europe,” says Eldridge. “We intend to be the first diabetic ProTour cyclists.”


Cycling in wildfire smoke

I participated in the latest issue of The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast (posted last night), where we talked about fires, Interbike, RAGBRAI bike bans, and bike shop service. If you haven’t listened to it yet, you can download the podcast here.

My tip at the end of the podcast was “Don’t ride outside in the smoke.” A few people in my blogroll (such as Masi Guy, Biking Bis, Cycling Dude, End Pavement) have been impacted by the fire, ash and smoke down in Southern California. I think most people are smart enough to avoid anything too aerobic when the air is full of carbonized manzanita.

Five years ago, I wasn’t one of the smart ones. I was living in Boulder County while wildfires raged in Rocky Mountains and in the foothills, but where I lived in eastern Boulder County the air quality seemed fine. A small group of us went on our regular lunch ride in spite of the haziness. I coughed up black stuff for at least a week after that.

It turns out that microscopic particles cause inflammation within my lungs that can cause scarring of the surfaces where oxygen and CO2 are exchanged. Not only that, they can become permanently lodged within the tiny air sacs of my lungs. The result for me as a cyclist: Permanently reduced VO2Max. I haven’t had my VO2Max measured in a couple of decades, but in the years since that fire ride I’ve noticed markedly reduced lung capacity. I can feel the strength in my legs, but I just can’t deliver the oxygen to keep them going like I used to.

I mentioned Kiril the Cycling Dude’s post on cycling in smoke, where he provides links to the American Lung Association and Centers for Disease Control. Kiril makes note that many SoCal residents have no choice — if they need to get to work or school or shopping, biking is often their primary means of transportation.

Some of you might be shocked to know that back in the day, it wasn’t at all unusual for cyclists to start sucking on a cigarette after a hard race. When I got into cycling in the 80s it was still done, and it always jarred me a little when I saw it. It’s conceivable that cyclists perform so much better today not because of doping, but because they’re not all taking a drag on cancer sticks.

Listen to the The Spokesman. I have no idea how Tim Jackson sounds so perky at 6 in the a.m. when we recorded this episode.

Untitled photo by Yaniv Golan.