There is an iconic cycling route in Ireland. The trip from Mizen Head to Malin Head is the most southerly point to the most northerly point of the country. David Sweeney rode the 750 kilometer route this September in support of charity, Cycle Against Suicide. In what he describes as the hardest experience of his life, Sweeney lost his sister to suicide seventeen years ago.
The journey was tough physically but the rewards from a successful fundraiser and the awareness it brought to those affected by suicide was worth it.
The ride averaged 150 kilometers a day over 6 days. David lives with type 1 diabetes and says if someone told him he was capable of this when he was diagnosed thirteen years ago, he would not have believed them.
The Irishman credits inspiration from Team Novo Nordisk as well as technological advances in diabetes with the ability to complete the journey.
He was also open and upfront about his condition when arriving at the ride. “I find some people can sometimes feel ashamed about living with diabetes. I try to be as open as possible and hope it inspires others. The other riders on the ride were strangers on day one but by day two and three they were offering to bring extra energy bars for me in case I needed it.”
His diagnosis at 32 almost happened by accident. “I took my young daughter to hospital when she was suffering from a virus. I happened to mention to a doctor that I’ve been losing weight, had cravings for sugary drinks and was tired all the time. The doctor did a finger prick test and after the results admitted me to hospital right away. That turned my life upside down.”
The diagnosis came as a surprise as David rates himself as always being active and living a healthy lifestyle. He’s always been a runner but while training for a marathon a few years ago, hip problems put an end to his running. A friend suggested he start cycling with him and he was hooked ever since.
“I started cycling ten years ago and I absolutely love it. I find it harder to not train. For me to give myself a rest day takes discipline. It helps me manage my diabetes big time. I came across the team on Facebook and I also noticed the team recruited Stephen Clancy: he is Irish so that got me interested. When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, if someone said to me I would be able to cycle 100 kilometers I would have said, no, not a chance. But by looking at the team, that was one of the reasons I signed up to do this challenge. If they can do it, I can do it.”
David is an advocate for exercise and is proud to be part of a family that values it. His wife runs marathons while his son and daughter play soccer. “I’ve noticed when my kids have trained and they get in the car with me for the drive home, they don’t stop talking. But if they have a day when they don’t train, I try to talk to them and I have to drag the conversation out of them. Exercise for me is key. It’s the secret to happiness.”
— Xylon Vaneyck to www.teamnovonordisk.com