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Naval Academy Midshipman Cycles 100 Miles for Juvenile Diabetes Research

Posted on: August 22, 2013 09:00 EDT by Jessica Clark

Naval Academy midshipmen participate in a wide variety of activities during the summer – serving on board ships alongside enlisted and officer personnel, traveling to foreign countries, working on internships with different companies, even chasing tornados.

Midshipman 1st Class Haley Doyle was looking for something to work toward this summer while attending classes back in Annapolis, and a 100-mile cycle in support of juvenile diabetes research posed an ideal challenge.

Approximately 170 cyclists from all over the country participated in the July 27 event, raising more than $600,000 to help fund research into a cure for Type 1 diabetes, a genetic condition that prevents the body from producing insulin. Doyle raised $5,377.

The cause was a natural pick for Doyle, an astronautical engineering major with a Russian minor. She was diagnosed with Type 1 in 2011.

“It was the most crushing, shocking moment – the absolute lowest point of my life,” said Doyle. “My school, my career, my dreams to fly and go to space, everything I'd been working toward – they were telling me it was all over.”

The idea that she might not be able to serve in the Navy left Doyle feeling lost, she said. Her future with the Navy is still uncertain, but working with fundraisers like the Ride for the Cure has given her hope.

In spring 2013, she became involved with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation when a group of midshipmen volunteered to help coordinate the foundation’s Walk for the Cure in Baltimore, Md.

“I got really excited about the cause,” said Doyle.

When she found out about the Ride for the Cure scheduled for this summer, she bought a road bike and began training while attending summer classes at the academy. When she started the ride, she had only been training two months and her longest ride up to that point was 52 miles. That didn’t stop her from finishing the 100-mile course, what cyclists call a “century.”

“When I crossed the finish line I was immediately surrounded by the friends I’d made who were cheering and waiting to congratulate me,” said Doyle. “I was ecstatic – relieved that I hadn't had any bike trouble and that my blood sugar hadn't gone low, and proud for completing my first century.”

But what made the event truly special was the sense of hope among the other cyclists and volunteers. It wasn’t about completing the ride, she said.

“It was the belief that we made a difference, and we're that much closer to curing Type 1,” she said. “I was 180 degrees from how I felt during my diagnosis.  I'm hopeful about the future, I know I have support, and I'm going to keep working toward my dreams and fighting this disease.”

Midshipman 1st Class Haley Doyle

The bike route took Doyle from Burlington to Middlebury, Vt., and back, passing through the scenic Lake Champlain area. Volunteers manned pit stops along the way, offering water and energy drinks, electrolyte capsules, snacks, and motivation.

“As soon as you came into one of the rest points, people would clap and cheer,” she said.

Most of the participants had trained together as part of a local chapter. Because Doyle was there on her own, she found herself “adopted” by several groups.

“I’d move around and talk to all kinds of people and share my story,” she said. “It was an awesome experience.”

At the end of the event, the foundation presented Doyle with the Spirit Award.

Doyle hopes to keep cycling and participating in other JDRF events.

“I love the cause and how dedicated people are,” she said.

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