Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

feeling fine

Diabetes isn't slowing his roll


Special to the Times

If pedaling thousands of miles on my bike automatically equaled losing weight, I'd be thin as a rail.

But diabetes complicates the equation.

Since I ramped up my biking three years ago, I'm down 35 pounds and have racked up more than 10,000 miles.

But I'm not letting up. The stakes are too high.

With Type 2 diabetes, the body doesn't produce enough insulin and sugar levels are abnormal. The damage can go far beyond that: heart, kidney, nerves, vision, even gum disease.

Diabetes robbed my mother of any quality of life in her last years. She ignored doctors, refused to take her meds, went legally blind and admonished me for overdoing it on the biking.

I don't want to repeat her story. Instead, I'm using my retirement to work on my health.

I was diagnosed in late 2000, and though I tried to follow medical advice on diet and exercise, I was heavier than ever by late 2009. I talked to my endocrinologist about following my own plan. She approved, and I was off.

I adjusted what I eat, based on experimenting to see which foods affect my blood sugar readings.

The biggest change for me was to drastically reduce starches and portion size. I eat whole-grain pasta, bread and rice, but not very much and usually just once a day. Fruit provides a lot of my carbs. Portions are a lot smaller — what I once ate at a single sitting now can fuel me for a day.

But for all the dietary changes I have made, if I don't ride, I gain weight.

The first year I dropped 24 pounds and set a personal best on biking with 2,645 miles, about 400 miles more than my previous high. I'll never forget the doctor's reaction after just three months after checking my blood work and weight: "These numbers rock!"

In year two, the biking (3,653 miles) easily outdistanced the weight loss (7 pounds). This year, I pushed the biking even more, and have lost a few more pounds.

That's three years in a row of losing weight and gaining mileage. Those aren't the only numbers in my favor. My A1c level, an average of blood sugar over a three-month period, consistently stays between 5.5 and 5.8 (less than 7.0 is the goal). Cholesterol readings are generally good, though the good cholesterol (HDL) isn't high enough. Blood pressure remains steady. I carefully follow medical orders on medication and insulin.

My doctors are pleased, but they always want more. One physician suggested a weight that would take me back to high school days — meaning I'd have to lose double what I've already lost.

Yet I don't have a specific weight goal, since history tells me that every time I've set and reached such goals, I always regained the pounds.

This regimen is more about changing my lifestyle. For me, for now, it works.

Still, staying motivated is a challenge that has required a couple more changes.

First, my family gave me a great gift for my 60th birthday: the Five Boro Bike Tour in New York City. Preparing for that in 2011, I increased my mileage since I didn't want to embarrass myself among 32,000 riders. What a great time I had rolling down the concrete canyons of Manhattan, riding the waterfront in Brooklyn and crossing the Verrazano bridge. Unforgettable.

That convinced me I needed to spice up the monotony of riding on the Pinellas Trail with the occasional organized road ride.

The answer arrived in the form of the Southwest Florida Tour de Cure at Lakewood Ranch. Not only is it a great ride, it attracts others passionate about biking and fighting diabetes.

Inspiration is everywhere: One woman lost 60 pounds and got off her diabetes meds through her riding.

"It's the favorite event that we have," said Melissa Parsons, the manager of the tour here for the American Diabetes Association. Tour de Cures around the country raised $18 million for programs and research in 2011.

About 600 riders participated in the 2012 Southwest Florida tour, and about 10 percent were "Red Riders," people with diabetes.

While I did the 35-mile route this year, I'm looking at the 62-mile ride for April, a distance I have reached only once in my almost 20 years of riding. Two new recumbent bikes have energized my riding (in addition to making it more comfortable). Personal bests include an average of more than 39 miles a ride, my first 500-mile month, six months in a row of 400-plus miles, a quarterly total of almost 1,400 miles, 168 miles in a week.

The Pinellas Trail wasn't built for speed, and neither was I. I usually maintain 12-14 mph, a moderate pace that's also good for my blood sugar levels.

I had given up on my bucket list item of doing a century, a 100-mile ride. But the more I ride, the more I begin to think that maybe, just maybe, I can do it one of these days.

Photo by Jeff Gussow

Dave Gussow, shown riding in Brooklyn during the 2011 Five Boro Bike Tour, is a retired Times editor who lives in Palm Harbor with his wife, Nancy. He can be reached at


Dave Gussow, 61, Palm Harbor

Pounds lost: 35 over three years

Miles cycled: 10,000+ over three years

Next goal: Complete 60-mile course at the 2013 Southwest Florida Tour de Cure

More on the

Tour de Cure

The American Diabetes Asso-ciation fundraiser is April 7 in Lakewood Ranch. Rides are 10 miles, 35 miles, 62 miles and 100 miles. For information: or

call toll-free


Diabetes isn't slowing his roll 10/05/12 [Last modified: Friday, October 5, 2012 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Video: Loggerhead sea turtle found in Islamorada resident's pool


    An adult female loggerhead sea turtle, discovered in an oceanside residential pool in Islamorada on Monday, has been rescued and released off the Florida Keys.

    An adult female loggerhead sea turtle, discovered in an oceanside residential pool in Islamorada on June 22, 2017, has been rescued and released off the Florida Keys. [Photo from video]

  2. What Wilson Ramos will mean to the Rays lineup, pitching

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer was stumping for all-star votes for Corey Dickerson during a live interview Wednesday morning on the MLB Network when he lifted the right earpiece on his headset and said, "I hear a buffalo coming."

    Tampa Bay Rays catcher Wilson Ramos (40) waves to the crowd after being presented with the Silver Slugger Award before the start of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, April 4, 2017.
  3. Deon Cain, Duke Dawson, Derrick Nnadi among SI's top 100 players


    Sports Illustrated's countdown of the top 100 players in college football continues with three more local players.

  4. She doesn't care if you accept her, as long as you respect her

    Human Interest

    Mary Jane Taylor finds strength walking quietly among the dead.

    Mary Jane Taylor,18, visits Oaklawn Cemetery in downtown Tampa when she is feeling low. "When I hit my low points in life I go the the graveyard," she says. "people are afraid of the graveyard. I love the graveyard." The transgender teen recently graduated from Jefferson High School. She is  enrolled in summer classes at Santa Fe College in Gainesville studying international business. She plans to transfer to the University of Florida, attend law school and become a civil rights lawyer. (JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   Times)
  5. Few new details in state investigation of Tarpon Springs officer-involved shooting of Nick Provenza

    Public Safety

    TARPON SPRINGS — An investigative report, released this week by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, into the officer-involved shooting that killed 25-year-old Nick Provenza included largely the same narrative prosecutors released this month that ruled the shooting a "justifiable homicide."

    Stopping while riding by on his bike Michael Prater, 15, hangs his head after looking at the memorial at Safford and Tarpon avenues for Nick Provenza, a 25-year-old who was shot and killed there during a car show Saturday by a Tarpon Springs police officer. Investigators said Provenza pulled a knife on the cop who shot him. Friends find it hard to believe a man they described as a peaceful vegan and musician would be capable of such an act. Prater didn't know the victim but was at the car show.