TWIN FALLS — Sierra Sandison always dreamed of bicycling across the country one day.
It’s a feat her father accomplished when he was 16. But it became a goal Sandison thought would be too difficult to attempt after she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 18.
Then Sandison, 23, was approached this summer by a nonprofit called Beyond Type 1 that was sending a whole group of bikers with Type 1 diabetes across the U.S.
Their mission? Raise money for research on Type 1 diabetes and spread awareness about the autoimmune disease.
Sandison’s name became prominent in 2014 when she won the Miss Idaho title. Not only that, she embraced her disease and became a role model when she competed in Miss Idaho pageant’s swimsuit competition wearing her insulin pump, a medical device that automatically administers insulin without shots.
Sandison went on to win the Miss America Pageant’s America’s Choice, which was decided by votes on social media. She moved on to the Top 15, becoming the second Miss Idaho to make it to the Top 15.
She is now studying mechanical engineering at Boise State University. She started working on the degree before becoming Miss Idaho, but recently returned to school full time.
Sandison started the journey with a group of 20 other bicyclists on June 4 in New York City. Before they left, each one of them dipped their rear tire in the Atlantic Ocean. They dipped their front tires in the Pacific Ocean when they reached San Francisco on Aug. 11.
Something in common
Diabetes was the cause they were riding for and the force that brought them closer together.
No one was experiencing the effects of the disease alone.
“Diabetes was affecting all of us 24/7, all day, every day,” Sandison said. “We all knew what each other was going through.”
Because everyone on the trip was diabetic, there were frequent stops to check blood sugar.
“We had to get used to managing our blood sugar with getting up early and exercising all day long,” she said.
Typically when Sandison works out, it brings her blood sugar down. So when biking for 10 hours a day, she and others needed to make sure it didn’t get too low.
So they rode in small groups of four. That way, if they needed to stop, it wouldn’t affect the whole group. To combat it, Sandison said, she’d usually consume about 15 grams of carbs or a fruit snack pouch or juice box.
Another issue they had to overcome was keeping their insulin cool in very hot places.
“Going through nowhere Nevada we had to make sure our insulin didn’t overheat,” she said. “It’s useless if it gets too hot.”
Change of plans
Speaking of Nevada, it was also the most difficult state to bike through.
It was hot and mountainous.
Originally the group was going to go through Idaho, passing through Twin Falls and Boise.
Beyond Type 1 had initially asked Sandison to host an event for the bicycle group when they reached Boise. She offered to join them on the ride.
However, plans changed and the group went through Colorado, Utah and Nevada instead.
Sandison said she thought Colorado would be the toughest state to bike through, but it was actually really pretty and the weather was cool, she said. Nevada was the toughest because of extreme temperatures and stretches of desolate roads.was actually really pretty and the weather was cool, she said. Nevada was the toughest because of extreme temperatures and stretches of desolate roads.