Kim Southwick: Riding For A Cure

Through the rain, snow, sleet, and slush, Kim Southwick rides her bike to and from work each day (12 miles total), all year round and won’t stop until she can no longer pedal.

In 2007, Kim was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on her 38th birthday. Before her diagnosis, she would ride occasionally, but she became much more serious about it after her diagnosis.

During her first year with type 1 diabetes, Kim rode with the American Diabetes Association. She rode 78 miles in Orlando, 70 miles on the North Shore, 13 miles in Rhode Island (where her children joined in), and then 78 miles in Death Valley at the end of the year with the JDRF.

Her goal this year is to complete at least 6 century (100 mile) rides, some organized (as in the ADA and JDRF rides) and others solo.

Death Valley was the birthplace of the JDRF Ride to Cure program, about 12 years ago.  It is a 105 mile route that takes riders below sea level and on a 7 mile climb all within the route. This year will be Kim’s 5th time out to the Valley, and her 4th Century ride out there.

“The JDRF ride is, hands down, my favorite ride around. Number one, I love to be tan and what better place to catch a few rays but in the Hottest Place on Earth!?  Number two, it’s amazing to be surrounded by other type 1’s and their families over the weekend we are there.  It’s inspirational!” said Kim.

Death Valley is a ride, not a race. The New England Chapter of the JDRF is growing quickly, but not everyone attends Death Valley. Many chapters pick a ride and travel together, but New Englanders tend to favor the Burlington, Vt. ride given its close location. Kim’s chapter had about 20 registered riders last year and about 40 total riders (part of the chapter, but not participating in a ride). Coaches and training are available to anyone who registers and they try to plan group rides throughout the season as well.

Managing diabetes is always difficult, but after 6 years of riding it has become easier for Kim. She understands her body and knows what times of day there may be resistance.  Kim trains on the weekends, gradually increasing her distance rides.  She adjusts her insulin rates while riding and likes her blood glucose levels to stay around 140-160 while she rides, although her target range overall is 70-90.

“My biggest challenge is after the rides.  My sugar trends lower for about 12 hours after the fact, so staying on top of that can be a challenge. Luckily most carbs during that period are ‘free’ so I certainly enjoy eating like I did before my diagnosis!” explained Kim.

Kim strongly believes that riding is equivalent in importance to taking insulin and testing blood glucose levels for her diabetes treatment.

“Management of this disease is so much easier with the exercise and I adopted riding as my form very early on. My biggest suggestion to any type 1 is exercise.  It is so important towards helping with not just blood sugar management, but staving off all the stupid complications that come with this disease.  Exercise is just as important as insulin!” said Kim.

This year Kim is riding for her mother, who passed away suddenly in December from heart disease. She was Kim’s biggest champion and supporter when it came to her disease and she is compelled to use this year to celebrate her mother’s memory.

Kim Southwick

Kim’s personal link is: and the ride program link for information on the rides offered is:  Kim has pledged to raise $4,000 again. If you are interested, please consider a donation to support Kim’s cause for finding a cure for diabetes and to help her honor her mother’s memory.

Check out this note from Kim:

Hi! Great news!  Our first ride has been fully funded and both Ted and I have met our goal!  THANK YOU!!  We are heading down to Orlando for the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure on March 17, 2013!  We cannot wait and have you to thank for getting us down there!  It’s going to be our first century ride together and we are both so excited to tackle this as a couple!

Last week I was asked by to tell my story in response to the question “Can a bike save your life?”.  I sent the paragraphs below and wanted to share what I wrote with you too.  I’m a huge proponent of education when it comes to this disease and relaying the importance of daily exercise.  It’s a major part of the management of my diabetes.  I’ve seen some great feedback on this post and I’m very proud I was asked to share my success story.  I hope you enjoy it too…

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on August 29, 2007, my 38th birthday.  I had lost 30 pounds over the course of a month and a half, 3 of them overnight.  I knew that morning that something was wrong with me.  So much for my tapeworm jokes.

At my diagnosis, my nurse was a soft talker.  All I got was that her cat was diabetic and that type 1 is the “good kind” of diabetes.  I stabbed an orange a few times, was handed a small novel of prescriptions (except the needles, cause, really, who needs to inject insulin in this day and age?!), and then was told to get an appointment at the Joslin Diabetes Center.  My nurse and doctor showed me the door with a “good luck” tossed in for good measure, and I was on my own with a deadly disease.

The first month of living with type 1 was surreal.  I didn’t feel right.  Ever.  Everything from my head to my toes just felt off.  This was the new normal and I can’t say I was embracing it.  While my sugars dropped into an acceptable range, I read everything I could about type 1.  Exercise was mentioned over and over and over in each book or article.  I had always been a big walker, but my attempts at it as a new type 1 were painful.  My sugar shot over 300 and I felt like garbage every time.  I was giving up on walking very quickly and at a loss of what to replace it with.

One afternoon my kids asked to go for a bike ride. A banged up bike came with our condo purchase, and banged up is being generous.  The chain was leaving rust flakes behind as we rolled out and I vaguely remember dropping my feet and doing a Fred Flintstone to stop that thing from catapulting me into traffic.  But once I’d gotten over the shock of it all, the second nature of it came back.   It was just like riding a bike!  My blood sugar was around 160 when we left.  About 20 mins into our ride (and mind you, this was no group ride hammer-fest, it was a mom and two little ones buzzing around the neighborhood) I started to feel wrong.  Really wrong.  Sweaty, disoriented, weird.  My sugar had dropped to 60.  I couldn’t believe it!  What a difference it had been from my walks.  I was thrilled (not with the number which was way too low, but with the idea of riding a bike to help control my disease) and psyched to have figured out my solution!

Fast forward to 5 years later, I own no less than 7 bikes (low rider, commute, road and some in between!) and came very close to sleeping in my Sidi’s (my riding shoes!) when I bought them brand new!  I have completed 3 centuries with the JDRF in Death Valley CA, and am heading out for my 4th in October.  With the ADA, I’ve ridden Orlando (with my brother), Gloucester (with my husband) and RI (with my children).  I ride 12 miles, round trip each day on my commute to work and I do it year round.  Rain or shine, snow or sleet, I’m going to ride.  In my book, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear!  I am always training for Death Valley, but 2013 is going to find me upping that as I’ve added several more centuries to my roster.  My husband has hopes to race the Mt Washington race one day and both of my children covet sweet rides, know who Phil Liggett is and that the Tour is in July!  None of us care for Lance…

My bike intercepted my life and likely saved it in the process.  Diabetes, especially uncontrolled diabetes, is deadly.  My rides keep my numbers in line, keep my heart healthy and add enjoyment to my days.  Though I’ve been hit by cars, jumped by errant teenagers, yelled at, had objects thrown at me and been called every imaginable name in the book, I still get on my bike each day.   For me it is all about the ride and nothing’s going to stop me from doing it!

Please consider donating to the JDRF’s Ride to Cure program and my annual ride in Death Valley, CA.  This ride means so much to me each year, but 2013’s effort will mean even more, as this will be my first year of riding that I cannot share with my Mom.  I know she’ll be riding shotgun on the handle bars with me, especially during the last 10 miles of this ride where my emotions always boil to the top.  I take peace in her presence and the support all her friends and family have given me and my brother during this terrible time, but this ride will never be the same without her.  As I always say, I ride for a cure.  This year I ride for my Mom too, my biggest champion in my personal mission to end type 1 diabetes.

As always, I hope this quick note finds you well and enjoying your bike!

My best to you,
….( )/ ( )


Kim’s notes will be posted periodically on the Joslin Blog. Check back under the tag “Inspiration”

1 Comment

  1. Kim,
    I enjoyed meeting you at JDRD DV last year and follow your FB posts. I enjoyed reading this blog and your up beat spirit as a T1. I too went to Joslin for better conrol of my A1c and lows. My daughter used to live in Ipswich and I have done the ADA Glouster ride .We have lots in common and I look forward to seeing you in DV again this year. I will be 86 by then and hope that I am still pedaling. I’ll try to wear the green shirt again this year.
    Vision & venture,
    Jack Hughes

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