The Little Cyclist That Could

By Courtney | 14 Rookie Marks »

You’re probably familiar with the story, “The Little Engine That Could”, there were some freight cars that needed to go over a hill and all the big engines declined because they said it was too much for them to pull. Then, the train that was pulling the cars asked the little switch engine (the engine that existed just to pull cars, a few cars, on and off the switches) if it could pull the big train that was pulling the freight cars. The little engine said “I think I can” and got in front of the big engine and connected himself and off they went. Whey they got to the impossibly large hill, the little engine kept saying “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” — That little engine made it over the hill that had discouraged the larger engines from even trying.

I was kindof the little engine that could in the Phoenix Tour de Cure. But I wouldn’t have even thought about that story if it hadn’t been for a Henry Ford quote on one of the signs:

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”

Between Henry Ford’s quote and the thought of the Little Engine That Could, I was propelled through my ride. But I really didn’t have to think about either until the 4th leg of the ride.

Let me start from the beginning. It was about 7:15 when I moseyed over to where we were to take off (the starting line).

Come Together, Right Now, For Diabetes - Diabetes 365 Day 162 - March 15,2008

We were out of the gate at 7:48 (18 minutes later than we were supposed to take off, but people talk, and talk and talk and talk, and you really can’t hear all that they’re saying, but you figure if there’s anything important that you’ll find out along the way). So off we went. I was in approximately the third quarters group and I started out with some members of Team WHAT? I had started talking to them because their question mark:


made me think of the question mark that is on our Colorado Tour de Cure training shirts:

Any Questions? - Diabetes 365 Day 155 - March 8, 2008

So for a while I was next to Jerry and Kathy (I think was her name). But then I they went ahead, because they were going to ride at 15mph up hill with no hands (so on the flats that means that they were going to go at about 20mph, that’s my deduction anyways). Ken (I’m so bad with names, I think it was Ken) and I chatted a little bit and he passed me but I caught up with him at each of the rest stops and we exchanged words. He was a really nice guy.

At 8 miles into the ride I decided that I needed the bathroom and I needed it bad, I had to pee so badly that I was contemplating going to hide behind a cactus (because there were no bushes). When I saw the rest stop in sight I was so excited. I’ve never been so excited at the sight of port-a-potties in my life (and if you know me, you know that port-a-potties are a huge no-no for me, I just don’t do them, I barely do public restrooms, but I digress)

Rest Stop 1

I rolled into the first rest stop at just under an hour. I wasn’t sure what to expect with my blood sugars because I had started high (218) and I was riding with a reduced basal rate (70% of what I usually take and this was new for me but I needed to attempt it to see what would happen. Ideally the change probably would’ve been better made on a training ride, but I wanted to get out there and ride the metric century, plus, the knowledge of what I needed to drop it to came from someone whom I hold in high regards). At the first rest stop, I was 83. I downed half a peanut butter and banana sandwich (approx 20 carbs) and a GU gel (I hate that stuff) which is another 25 carbs and refilled my water bottle and dumped a package of electrolyte splash drink mix into it (for another 20 carbs throughout the ride, this is a new thing to me as well, but I figure that the extra carbs during the ride can’t kill me, last year I was doing the Nuun electrolyte tabs which I thought were perfect because they were sugar free, but now I’m all about not having the sugar free ones.)

I went another 13 miles with Debbie. She was on this ride because she needed the miles as she’s riding in a race next week that’s 112 miles or something like that. She was saying that it’s easier to train long distances when there’s SAG stops along the way (I agree with her). Because we rode together (not only for this leg of the ride but the next one) I got to spend some time talking to her. It was really interesting to listen to some of the misconceptions that still surround diabetes. The conversation of diabetes was brought up because I was wearing a red bib signifying that I was RED Rider (RED Riders are the riders that have diabetes, the RED Rider team celebrates us, it celebrates the courage it takes to live every day with diabetes, in my humble opinion it’s probably the best thing that could’ve ever happened for the Tour de Cure. It draws people together and gives us something to talk about, it brings strangers that have nothing in common to a common ground.)


So she asked if I had to raise a lot of money to get the Bib and I told how all the riders that have diabetes are wearing the bibs and I told her about the RED Riders and what it signified and all that good stuff that I mentioned above. And she asked if I had type 2 and I said no, I have type 1 and she asked if I was born with it and I told her no that I had gotten it when I was 11. She asked if it ran in my family and I told her that many people in my family had Type 2 diabetes, but I was the only one with Type 1. I couldn’t explain why I had it but I agreed that it had to be something in my genetics. She told me how her mom was always on her because of the weight around her middle and how her mom was concerned about her getting diabetes and I told her that if she was eating healthy and exercising she had a better chance of not getting it than if she was an unhealthy eater and non-exerciser. I explained my need for insulin because she asked if I had to take shots and whatnot, and I believe that our conversation with diabetes ended with this, if you had to get one or the other type of diabetes it would be better to get Type 2 because you could mostly fix it with diet and exercise, that you didn’t need to let it go so far that you were medicated (with pills or with insulin), that at the crossroads of non-diabetes and type 2 diabetes you had a choice and you could choose to take action and be healthy and ward off the pain in the neck that diabetes could be. That as a Type 2 diabetic one didn’t have to resort to meds (in most cases). And so therefore, because of that reasoning, if you had to have one or the other Type 2 would be the way to go (not that we get to choose). The bad part about all of it was that I couldn’t fully explain Type 1. The pancreas is dead, my body attacked it’s own insulin producing cells, that’s really all I knew.

We made decent time to the second rest stop, I caught up with Ken again, and it was good to talk to him, he told me, only 3 more legs of this ride and I said, “yup, I’m getting close to this being my longest ride ever, every portion of a mile after 35 becomes the longest I’ve ever ridden.”

Rest Stop 2

I checked my blood, I was 97. That was a slight improvement over the last rest stop, a little bit higher, a little bit more comfort, but not enough, I wanted to be around 120. This rest stop I added another 48 carbs to all the other foods I was eating. The additional 48 carbs came in the form of Shot Bloks. I had never had them before but all the other cyclists were enjoying them and so I tried them out and was impressed with them, they’re like over sized gummy bears in the shape of a cube that are easier to chew and just as tasty.


Having now over 100 carbs of stuff in me, Debbie and I got back out on the road and headed towards the 3rd rest stop, just 10 miles away. This leg of the ride skeered the living dickens out of me, we were riding on some busy road (that could’ve been a hwy for all I know) and the little side of the road that we were riding on couldn’t have been much more than 2 feet wide and the cars (most of them anyways) were letting us know that they owned the road, at one point, an RV was speeding past me (as was his right) and if I had even untucked my elbow away from my side, I would’ve been a goner (he could’ve driven closer to the right line in the road and not as close to the left line as would’ve been respectful for the riders). That was the only scary part. It was on this leg of the ride that Debbie pulled ahead which was fine, I was behind her for a while, but then I couldn’t keep up and I fell way behind. But I caught up to her at the third rest stop.

Rest Stop 3
totally got my mouth full of Shot Bloks here

I did some chatting at this rest stop and wasn’t ready to go when Debbie was ready because I hadn’t completed my rest stop ritual of sandwhich, gu, shot blocks, water; so I didn’t ride out with her. When I checked my blood, I was 128 and happy to be in that range. Despite the higher blood sugar, I kept to the same foods that I did at the second rest stop, it wasn’t going to kill me if I ended up with a blood sugar of 150 (but something told me that that was not to be). There were a couple women at this rest stop (who’s names I can completely not remember) and they were in a bright orange and bright yellow florescent jackets. They were talking about the distance to the next rest stop and if I knew nothing else on this ride I knew that the rest stop was 10 miles away. I asked them about hills and whatnot and they said that we had ridden the worst one at some road, I can’t remember the road (I’m not from Phoenix I told them, and I told them what I was up to and shared my cards with them, yes, I remembered my cards this time). They took off, but it was not the last time I would see them, they were very nice women too, it was nice to talk to them, I love friendly people.

There isn’t much to report on the 4th leg of the ride other than the idiot driver that was yelling at me, and I was completely with in my right to be on the road. I needed to make a left hand turn, I knew that the other cyclists were a bit of a way behind me so I looked over my should to check for cars. There was a truck but he looked way far away. So I stuck out my left arm, I stuck it out straight because that’s the signal saying “I’m making a left hand turn” and I started to merge into the left hand lane. The dude in the truck came up on me quickly, and yelled “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Really not wanting to die at the hands, or front bumper, of an angry driver, I mumbled to myself, “making a left hand turn what are you doing?” There were no other cars coming so I made my way back over to the right lane and waited for the couple of women who I had followed out of the 3rd rest stop to make their way up the hill so that I could follow them on the left hand turn.


The lady in the Arizona jersey I learned, knew all the bicycle safety and signals and whatnot so I felt safe following her lead. I followed them the remainder of the way to the 4th and final rest stop. There was a little bit of complaining on this stretch, my knees had had it, I was exhausted, and my butt was hurting. Not to mention the 5 mile hill that seemed to go on and on forever (even if it was just a slight grade). This is where I really got to thinking about what Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right” I kept thinking to myself, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”. That’s where I became the little cyclist that could.

At the final rest stop I found out what was causing a large part of my exhaustion, I had dipped below 80. My blood sugar was 75 (I blame it on the hill, it took a lot out of me). Knowing that I still had 13 more miles to go to get to the finish, I slammed 2 Gu’s, a bag of Shot Bloks, and a Gatorade. This would carry me through to the finish.

Rest Stop 4

It was at this rest stop where I met up with Ken again, he was talking about eating protein, and all I could think was “where did he get protein?” I knew with my low blood sugar I probably needed some myself but when I saw that it came in the form of a CLIF Builder bar I wasn’t so inclined to think that I needed protein anymore (CLIF bars sit in my stomach like a brick). I also met my ladies in their florescent jackets. I was asking them about hills again, they said it was all downhill and sarcastically I said “except for the uphill parts” We all laughed.

I made it back out of the gate before they did but they would later become my saviors. When I saw them again I was at a stop light, it had turned red and I stopped and turned around to see who was behind me, the ladies were. I greeted them, and then the light turned green, and I took off, up a hill. I didn’t get too far up the hill before I was exhausted, the wind was pounding at my face and I just couldn’t ride any longer, I pulled to the left to let whomever was behind me pass me, they did, and Yellow Jacket (I shall call her because I can’t remember her name) told me I could draft off of them. When I got behind them I was so relieved, I couldn’t fill much of the wind and I shouted something to that effect. At one point I wasn’t paying attention but they pulled ahead and I couldn’t catch up with them…but then there was a stop light and I did catch up to them. The officers directed us to make a left hand turn and we were in the home stretch. But we had to go up a hill first, I shouted out to them “What is this, could this be, a, HILL?” We all laughed, they said it wasn’t a hill, and I commented, you’re right, it’s just a small sand dune that Arizona road makers didn’t want to smooth out before they paved over it.

We rolled into the finish, I had gone my 62.5 miles, I had completed a metric century without any training and that was something to be excited about. My ride time was 4 hours 30 minutes and 27 seconds (I have nothing to base that number on, but I think I did well). When you factor in 10 minutes at each of the rest stops I was in and out of the gate in just over 5 hours. At the finish line, I was completely exhausted, so beat I could barely walk and I was so ready to go to bed. My blood sugar was 160 (which was a good number considering how much sugar I had dumped into me just 13 miles prior to the finish).

I got something that I had never gotten before at the finish line, not only did we get the usual goody bags, but we also got a certificate of completion, that was way cool.

Certificate of Completion

That was my journey in the 2008 Phoenix Tour de Cure. And I have to say (because I’m easily excitable) that of all the rides I’ve ridden in, there’s never been a more better marked route than this one, and it’s all because of some fluorescent arrows on the road.

Nicely Marked Route

The route arrows matched the ribbons that we all had on our seat posts so that we could properly be directed and be heading the right way at all times.


The other thing that was really cool was that in the beginning and I would say for a couple miles, we had a whole car lane to us, us being the cyclists. Cars couldn’t drive in that lane, and that was awesome, that’s never happened before in any of the other 4 rides I’ve ridden in. Also, I’m fairly sure that every where we had to make a left hand turn, we had officers there directing traffic. That’ll make a person feel more safe in an instance. (Ok, now that I think of it, every left hand turn except that one where the ding bat idiot truck driver decided to yell at me. Ok and maybe a few others, but there seemed to be more officers directing traffic than in any of the other rides I’ve ridden in, ok, that could’ve been because I doubled my distance, but still…)

The Phoenix Tour de Cure sits well with me, it gets two thumbs up (except for one part, when I got back to the start they had already torn most everything down, that was a bit of a bummer, the food was there but the masseuse was gone, and I really wanted a massage this ride. Most everyone had cleared out, all the other riders that had already come in were gone. This was something that I had not ever had to experience before because I always rode in the 30-35 mile rides and everything was still going strong when I returned. But for the longer distance cyclists, I think everything should stay set up, if we set out at 7:30 I think that tear down could’ve appropriately started at 2:30 and still have given us riders some things to enjoy upon our return. That was the only downside I think.)

14 Rookie Marks On The Little Cyclist That Could

  1. Congrats!

    ...said Jules on March 18th, 2008
  2. Congratulations! You did great! We look forward to seeing you next year and you are welcome to join Team WHAT? if you like. We would be honored to have you.

    Luke Short
    Team WHAT? Captain

    ...said Luke Short on March 18th, 2008
  3. An excellent write up. I wasn’t familiar with this event until my brother (also from Team WHAT?) sent my the link to your site.

    I may have to see about venturing west next year.

    ...said Jim Fornango on March 18th, 2008
  4. Congrats Courtney! I knew you could do the metric century with no problem. Sounds like you did a great job keeping the blood sugars up, that was the trickiest part for me. Now you’re all set to do the century in August! :)

    ...said Sara from Team Sweetpea on March 18th, 2008
  5. Sara, yeah, the blood sugars were tricky and probably what I was most worried about but Mari helped me out there.

    And about that century…I won’t be doing the century, but I will be doing the metric century and getting back to the start in time to ride with Molly in the 12 mile ride :)

    ...said Courtney on March 19th, 2008
  6. Jim, I’m not from Phoenix and I can say that the Phoenix Tour de Cure was an excellent ride and well worth the trip.

    You should check out and see if there’s a ride in your area, it’s well worth the cause :)

    ...said Courtney on March 19th, 2008
  7. Luke,

    It was awesome to get to know and talk with some of the members of Team WHAT? When I got to the hotel after the ride I actually went straight to the interwebs to see if you guys had a website. I couldn’t find one, so if you don’t have one you should create one :)

    I would be honored to be a member of Team WHAT? next year :)

    ...said Courtney on March 19th, 2008
  8. Congratulations Courtney – that was a long ride – you might be a littlel engine – but you’re strong :)

    Diabetes seems to be affecting our lives more and more and it’s great to hear you care enough to make a difference.

    Thanks for sharing your experience in Tour de Cure!

    ...said Heather in Beautiful BC on March 21st, 2008

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