Mandy Marquardt: Redefining Diabetes Through Racing

Mandy Marquardt is a Track Cyclist for the USA Cycling National Team and Team Novo Nordisk, the world’s first all-diabetes professional cycling team. Their mission is to inspire, educate and empower everyone affected by diabetes. Mandy has been part of the team since 2010 and believes what the team does really makes a difference to the people in our community – racing and inspiring everyone around the world affected by diabetes is something that brings her great joy.

Thank you so much Mandy for taking the time to answer our questions! We know you are an inspiration to many and would love to share your story!

At what age were you diagnosed with type 1 diabetes?

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 16 while racing and living in Mannheim, Germany with my father.

What were your symptoms?

I surprisingly didn’t have any symptoms that I was aware of and the diagnosis was a shock. There were signs now that I look back at what I thought were some odd incidents. For example, I would take forever to warm up and felt this overwhelming feeling of exhaustion and tiredness frequently. I thought it could have been from the stress of school and training hard.

Along with my type 1 diagnosis, I shortly after found out I have hypothyroidism too, so having that all discovered and learning to get it under control was such a good feeling.

Being diagnosed as a child is hard, how did you handle your diagnosis? Were you quiet about it or were you vocal and welcomed the opportunity to educate?

When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t know anyone else living with type 1 diabetes. While hospitalized for two weeks, a doctor told me I would never be able to compete at a high level again in the sport of cycling. I was heartbroken, but my parents were my biggest supporters, and helped me get back on the bike. I always knew it was my happy place. I started riding again, and just training for fun and told myself, we’ll see what happens.

Joining Team Novo Nordisk in 2010, racing amongst other athletes with type 1 diabetes and learning how to talk about my diagnosis gave me hope.

At what point in your life did you get active with fitness and more specifically, cycling?

I was born in Mannheim, Germany and moved to South Florida at the age of 6. My parents got me involved with the local swim team and I started playing tennis. I picked up running and was interested in competing in triathlons. In 2002 at the age of 10, my dad came across The Brian Piccolo Velodrome, which was a short drive from our home and was a safe place to learn to ride competitively. A year later, my parents and I drove to Texas to compete in the 2003 U.S. Junior Women’s 10-12 Road National Championships and I won two gold medals in the criterium and time trial and a silver in the road race – I was hooked.

I continued to race both the road and track discipline for years. My success on the track has currently led to 18 U.S. National titles and 3 American National Records (records all with type 1 diabetes).

Photo credit: Team Novo Nordisk

At what point did you decide to do it professionally?

After I graduated from the Pennsylvania State University – Penn State Lehigh Valley commonwealth campus in the Spring of 2014, I was invited to a USA Cycling camp that fall.

Afterwards I was invited to go represent the United States at my first UCI Track World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico. I was so terrified to compete at that level, but now, six years later, I’m right up there with the world’s best, ranked 12th in UCI World Sprint ranking and one step closer to hopefully competing at my first Olympic Games. It’s been a slow and steady process, but if diabetes has taught me anything, it is consistency, patience and resilience.

In June of 2020, I was honored that USA Cycling named me as a member of the Long Team for Women’s Track Cycling. The final selection will be made next year, since the Tokyo Games have been rescheduled for July 23-August 8, 2021.

Did type 1 diabetes ever come in the way of your training or races?

Oh absolutely. It can be a challenge at times and the race doesn’t pause for me. Training and racing at this level, I’ve conditioned and adapted my body to handle the stress and workload, but occasionally the body will do what it wants. Of course, sometimes, it’s still frustrating when my blood sugars aren’t cooperating, like [when]  training and competing at altitude, going through different periods of my training cycle, juggling time zones and everything life throws at me.

I work closely with a sports psychologist and my team’s diabetes educator. Through a lot of trial and error, I’ve found what routine and nutritional habits work best for me and I’m still always learning and improving.

What do you use to help you manage your diabetes? Do you use a pump or do you prefer injections? Do you use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to help you monitor your blood sugar levels?

I use a continuous glucose monitor and take injections. It’s helpful to have real-time data around training, racing and traveling to better my diabetes management and performance – getting the most out of my training and recovery. Plus, I want to live a long healthy life, without complications!

Photo credit: Team Novo Nordisk

Photo credit: Team Novo Nordisk

What do you recommend to other athletes when it comes to managing your blood sugars during this type of activity?

Whether competing at a high level or just going out to exercise, always be prepared. I love my snacks! My favorites are the Honey Stinger waffles, performance chews, and protein snack bars! It’s important to be mindful about nutrition and fueling, and incorporating more protein, and eating consistently through the day. Most importantly, be patient and seek resources. My team, Team Novo Nordisk has many great resources and tips on their website too!

I know you are very active within the community, what are some of the things you’ve been up to lately?

I love my cycling career, but I think it’s important to have a balance between my personal and professional life. I recently partnered with Mammoth Creameries, a yummy keto-friendly ice cream founded by Tim Krauss, who is living with type 1 diabetes – it’s a pretty sweet partnership!

I also recently launched my logo and merchandise. The diabetes community has always been inspiring and supportive. I feel that my logo really puts my journey and the connection with the diabetes community in perspective. The blue circle is the global symbol for diabetes – that we are all connected in a special way and my initials subtly share a story that we are all greater than our highs and lows. For my merchandise highlighted with my logo, I wanted to create a wide range of awesome and high quality clothing and products that people can feel inspired and connected with.

Where do you see yourself both personally and professionally in 5-10 years?

Well, currently training hard in hopes of being selected for my first Olympic Team! I’d like to aim for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. So, in 5-10 years, I’d love to hopefully be a 2-time Olympian. Personally, I’d like to continue my education and earn my Masters Degree. I have an undergraduate degree in Business Management and Marketing from The Pennsylvania State University – Penn State Lehigh Valley (’14) commonwealth campus. I want to continue to prove to myself what I’m capable of as an athlete and what is possible with diabetes.

What would you say to the children out there, living with type 1 diabetes, who aspire to do great things when it comes to sports and fitness?

Go for it! Never limit yourself and your own capabilities. Use your platform to create awareness and inspire and connect with others affected by diabetes. The Founder and CEO of Team Novo Nordisk, who is also living and racing with diabetes says, “Diabetes only chooses the champions.”

Mandy, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! We will continue to follow your journey and can’t wait to see more great things from you! We wish you all the best!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

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