Monique Hanley relishes a challenge. She’s just ridden across America in the world’s toughest endurance race. If that wasn’t enough, Monique and the Type 1 team faced an extra challenge. They all have type one diabetes.
Type one diabetes is caused by your body’s inability to manufacture insulin and can be triggered at any age. Insulin is essential to regulate the take-up of glucose into your blood stream. With exercise, this process becomes more efficient – it takes less insulin to perform. It’s also usually automatic.
Athletes with type one diabetes must learn how to monitor their blood glucose in order to adjust insulin uptake manually. And that’s the biggest challenge. Get it wrong and your body starts to shut down. In rare cases it ends in convulsions.
In 2002, Monique cycled solo across Canada: 7,800 km in 66 days. It took her four days to get her regime right.
“For every diabetic it’s a massive fear to do something that you don’t do normally,” says Monique. “You know you need to be a bit fitter, but the whole barrier of the impact that exercise has on your diabetes management is so great that many diabetics find it too difficult to overcome.”
That’s the barrier that HypoActive, co-founded by Monique, wants to help people conquer. The organisation is dedicated to helping people with type one diabetes to meet challenges they never thought they could.
One of the major events has been the Murray to Moyne Cycle Relay. In 24 hours teams ride 520 km from Echuca to Port Fairy to raise funds for hospitals.
Many in the HypoActive team have never done anything like it. So it’s not just a matter of putting them on bikes and sending them off.
“I need to look after those guys. I’m not always confident that they have the same level of experience I have in making those quick adjustments to their insulin needs or eating and being able to keep things on the go,” says Monique.
The team has a policy of pulling everyone over every 20 km to check their blood sugar levels. That way they can help manage them.
While completing the Murray to Moyne is a huge personal achievement, riders learn more when they’re not on the bike according to Monique.
“Everyone has their own little shortcuts and little habits and that all gets shared and joked about on the bus. That really is the most important part of that weekend. That’s why we encourage new people to join us every year.”
HypoActive supports people to push their own boundaries and learn to adjust their diabetes management to cope with the challenge. “To give those opportunities is pretty important because it has massive flow-on effects in the other things that they can do in life,” says Monique.
Watching people gain the confidence to go on to other achievements is one of her biggest thrills. The challenge is to provide that opportunity for new people each year. Many people contact HypoActive through the web site, but never make the leap onto a bike for a marathon ride or into the pool for a marathon swim and that saddens her.
A medal-winning competitive cyclist, Monique is keen to share the experience she’s gained in managing diabetes.
“You’ve gotta go with what you’ve got,” she says. Which was enough to see Team Type 1 the first corporate team to finish Race Across America. Nearly 5,000km in 5 days, 15 hours and 43 minutes.
National Diabetes week runs 8-14 July. See the Diabetes Australia web site www.diabetesaustralia.org.au or Diabetes Australia – Vic web site www.dav.org.au. For information about HypoActive see www.hypoactive.org.