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June 4, 2007
Four years ago Avril Fahey, the WA and Australia player, thought her career was over when she was diagnosed with diabetes. She missed three state games for WA, her first for nine years. "That was pretty devastating," she recalls. "What made it worse was the team won those games, having been on a very long losing streak at the time."
At this point she feared she would never play again - yet five weeks later she was back on the pitch, although this time with a glucometer and sugar at the ready. Luckily, she didn't have to change too much of what was already a healthy diet, but any sweet snacks have gone. Now the occasional luxury is permissible only after exercising or after a medication adjustment has been made.
A change to the way she trains was needed to, mainly because she can't push herself too hard with fitness as it upsets her blood glucose control. However, she has had better fitness results since her diagnosis. "I now train smarter, not necessarily harder."
But despite the trials of living with the disease, her biggest challenge is yet to come. She and her team-mate Angele Gray are undertaking a 4000km bike ride over 41 days to raise funds for diabetes research. During the event the pair will ride five or six consecutive days of 100km or more before a rest day.
The gruelling ride, from Perth to Melbourne, starts at the end of June. Gray, her WA team-mate, was more than willing to undergo the challenge, too. "Until Avril was diagnosed my knowledge and understanding of diabetes was fairly limited. As teammates and friends I have observed Avril manage her diabetes on a regular basis.
"This has also meant seeing some of her highs and lows and in doing so, assisting her with her management during training and matches. I, along with a number of her teammates, have had to run out her glucometer and sugar during matches. We have all gained a greater insight into the condition."
They were not cyclists before they embarked upon training. "Overcoming the discomfort of sitting in the saddle for six-to-eight hour periods has been a big challenge," says Gray. "Mentally, the comprehension of what we are about to do has been quite challenging -I would never previously have imagined that I could ride 180km [a day]."
Yet the hardest part for Fahey has not been the training itself. Rather it has been finding the time to fit her work as an occupational therapist, study, the end of the cricket season, ride-planning and cycling training into a daily routine. "My time management skills have never been tested so much!"
After the ride, it will be back to the pitch. "I have enjoyed the challenge," says Fahey, "but will definitely be looking forward to getting back to cricket training when we have finished."
The players spoke to Cricinfo on behalf of Diabetes Ride Across Oz
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