Fondo update: struggles of cycling with T1D

Cycling with T1D presented me with quite a few challenges this past week.

Even though I have a nutrition degree, have read extensive amounts of T1D research, and have over 30 years personal experience with type-1 diabetes, I still sometimes completely mess it all up.

I am not perfect with my T1D.

It’s not possible for anyone to be perfect with type-1 diabetes.

And for me, “My Own Private Fondo” is a clear example of just how imperfect I can sometimes be.

A female cyclist sits on a bench and looks out to Okanagan Lake with her bike leaning against the bench, reflecting on cycling with T1D
Reflecting on the greats and not-so-greats of this ride and cycling with T1D.
The fondo that was not meant to be

Me and my T1D were supposed to ride the Okanagan Gran Fondo in Penticton, BC last week.

I was supposed to join thousands of other cyclists as they rode up the hillsides of BC’s most prolific vineyards, and along the lakeshore of Lake Okanagan, home of the Ogopogo, traversing multiple sun-weathered communities.

It was supposed to be 121 km of cycling with T1D.

But it was not.

My husband gifted me an entry into the 2020 fondo three years ago, just before the pandemic struck.

Obviously, the fondo did not happen that year, but we were assured we’d be able to roll over our entries for the following year.

However, in 2021 the event was held in the fall, and I still wasn’t yet comfortable being in large crowds. Truth be told, I’m still negotiating my comfort levels with that. So, we rolled our entry over for another year.

This year was our year.

We booked an Airbnb. We secured care for our son. And we planned a near weeklong excursion that included both wine tasting and the fondo.

Two weeks before we were to depart, my husband approached me.

Soooo, about that fondo, he said.

Turns out, he forgot to roll over our registration!

We were not actually registered to ride.


A male and female cyclist sit on the side of Green Mountain Road
A mixed-up registration wasn’t going to stop these two cyclists from fondoing it up!
Making lemonade

Sometimes mistakes can be treasures.

My husband suggested we create our own fondo the day before the Okanagan fondo, and get an additional “recovery” ride in two days later.

And the day of the actual fondo, we’d hit up the wineries while all others were cycling.


A woman sits on the patio of Silkscarf Winery drinking wine with Summerland in the backdrop
Drinking a glass of Viognier (pronounced Vee-Own-YAY) at Summerland’s Silkscarf Winery. So lovely!
The road to mishap

Unfortunately this bike ride was not the treasure it should have been.

About 25 km into the 110 km ride my stomach started feeling the first burbles of nausea. Thirty five kilometres in, the nausea was near crippling.

A female cyclist on the side of Green Mountain Road leaning over the front of her bike, struggling with nausea while cycling
Cycling with T1D had its challenges this ride – most notably the nausea!

What happened?

A multitude of factors.

Although I had the best intentions for training, I’ll be honest, I did not train my diabetes well enough ahead of time. My body was in peak form, but my diabetes and nutrition strategies were not.

Unlike my marathon days of yore, I did not spend months preparing for this moment. I fit my long rides in whenever I could, but they were few and far between due to weather challenges. Mostly I trained on the Peloton anywhere from 30-45 minutes a pop, and amped up my leg and core strength indoors.

That means, no trial and error with nutrition, and no trial and error with insulin.

That was an issue.

Blood sugar rebellion

My fear of lows also had me focusing more on the CGM arrows than my gut. Dear friends, sometimes our gut instincts know a heck of a lot more than our technologies..

I woke up at 6.7 mmol/L. The plan was to depart about 2-2.5 hours after breakfast, so I reduced my basal by 40% for my usual oatmeal breakfast. I kept a close eye on the blood sugars over the next couple of hours, and I ended up eating half a peanut butter and jam sandwich about 20 minutes before starting based on my BG trends.

Unfortunately, the bread was high in fibre. Normally I would NEVER choose a high fibre bread that close to a ride, but it was the only bread in the cupboards.

Fibre right before endurance can definitely wreak havoc on the stomach.

That was an issue.

I also noticed at 30 and 60 minutes in that my blood sugars were steadily climbing despite the effort of my legs.

I knew that I should be fuelling my legs and brain with energy, but I didn’t want my blood sugars to skyrocket. High blood sugars can make a workout seem a lot harder than it actually is, which I didn’t want. But not fuelling my muscles can do the same. And both can result in nausea.

It’s a double-edged sword this whole diabetes and sport thing, isn’t it.

Weather revolt

The weather in Penticton was another concern. It was a beautiful day for the most part. The sun was shining 90% of the day, which was amazing. However, we haven’t had too many days of hot weather in my area of BC yet this year

And the heat and humidity got to me early.

The climb up to Apex Mountain started at about 25 km into the ride.

It was beautiful – the scenery was something out of Yellowstone. The wildness of the land, the flowers and butterflies had my eyes dancing all around. The grade wasn’t particularly steep at that point, and my pedals were moving steadily. It did not seem all that tough.

Until the nausea hit at about 35km in.

Bloody freaking hell.

I tried multiple attempts at mind over matter, chanting motivating mantras, grunting – anything to get me up that hill.

I stopped once, just about at the crest before the turnoff.

My blood sugars were dropping. My mind was fuzzing.

A female cyclist sucks on an applesauce pouch on the side of the road with her blue and white bike lying in front of her
This fuelling station was definitely later than it should have been. The nausea was so great at this point, I couldn’t even stand to eat my applesauce!

I was also not drinking enough fluids to keep up with heat. I only had one water bottle filled with a Nuun tab that was not sitting well with me at all. My husband shared his bottle with water, but it wasn’t enough for the two of us.

Rookie mistake!

The value of food

We spotted a golf course at 60km, which indicated a lunch spot. However, when we got there, the restaurant was closed.


The nausea was in full force at this point. I couldn’t get my head far enough between my knees. While my husband went to scout out food and fluid options nearby, I collapsed on the ground next to my bike. I didn’t know if I would be able to eat. I didn’t know if I would be able to complete another 50-60km more of cycling.

Mario found a sandwich stop a three-minute walk away.

The sandwiches were pretty plain, no fanciness about them whatsoever. But in that moment, mine was the best sandwich I had ever had. I downed a vitamin water, which isn’t something I’d usually get, and refilled my water bottle with fresh cold water.

The food and cold fluids changed everything.

No word of a lie, the nausea was gone and I was re-energized.

I wanted to get back on my bike!

A female cyclist pedals up a steep hill with a vineyard next to her
I felt good on the final ascent of the fondo!
Moving forward

In total, we rode 110 km with 1025 meters of overall climbing!

There were a lot of mishaps throughout this private fondo of ours. I could beat myself up over them, or I could learn from them.

I choose the latter.

Beating myself up isn’t cool, and there’s no point really. Diabetes is a challenge, and some days are going to be amazing, while others are premium poop. If I beat myself up every time something went wrong, I’d be black and blue and I’d fear living life.

And that would have prevented me from embarking on a fantastic 65 km recovery ride two days after this one where diabetes was definitely on my side!

A female cycling with T1D in a blue jersey with Summerland in the backdrop
Cycling with T1D part 2 ended much better than part 1.

1 thought on “Fondo update: struggles of cycling with T1D”

  1. Pingback: The science behind T1D in sport - Katie Bartel, Registered Dietitian

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