When were you diagnosed with diabetes?
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May 1994. I had just turned 14 years old. I spent a few days in hospital to get my blood glucose and insulin dosages aligned. It literally came out of nowhere.
How did your family react about the news?
We were all shocked. Nobody in my family or my friends knew anything about it other than it involved doing injections of insulin to stay alive and it was a life condition. We all had a lot to learn about it and we did so together.
How do you feel about diabetes now?
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade right? There are far worse problems and conditions out there. Both my Uncle and my Dad have had cancer. You would take diabetes in a heart beat over that, no question. I have a great life with great friends, I manage my condition continuously and go about life as normally as I can.
How do you manage running and diabetes together?
I have a pretty good routine going. I do my best to get my pre-run blood glucose to 180 mg/dL before I start and lower my basal rate on my pump to -50%, take some gels and cash with me as my insurance policy and off I go. When I finish, I do a blood test and try to be around 100-130mg/dL. That’s the plan at least. The ‘routine’ is all second nature to me now.
Why is running a big part of your life?
I have always been into sports from as young as I can remember. I guess I am a type A personality and I like competition. I found I had a better talent for running than any other sport, although it took me many years to admit that to myself and it is now a part of my day. It’s a lifestyle that has opened many doors for me, allowed to meet many amazing people and travel to great places.
Tell us about a personal achievement that was highly significant to you.
I would say, at least in diabetes terms, my ability to manage my diabetes independently of anyone. This was not the case for a number of years as a teenager. I relied on my parents to help me. I went through a denial phase of actually how serious it was to have diabetes and did not control it as well as I should have. When I moved out to the United States from England in 2006, I left my family, friends and doctor to start a new chapter of my life. It was tough finding the right endocrinologist who understood my athletic lifestyle and didn’t try to change me around my diabetes. It took a long time (years) to now be in the right hands of Dr. Goland and the team at Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center, Columbia University. They observe, tweak and care greatly but generally from afar. I am controlling and managing my diabetes myself; choosing how much to run, what to eat, when to eat and monitoring my glucose as much as I feel necessary.
How about an athletic achievement that you find especially significant?
To pick one is so hard. I think this whole year for me (2012) has been just beyond my dreams. From winning The North Face 50K in Washington DC, to then being asked to join Team Type 1 and completing Leadville 100, with the help of my best friends and my family have all been significant. Just an amazing year. I can’t wait to see how 2013 unfolds.
One piece of advice for someone newly diagnosed with diabetes
My advice to a person newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes is keeping being you. Your life should not be defined or controlled by this new condition. You are the one in charge and you can and will control it. If you’re too scared to run because your blood glucose will drop, don’t be. Just figure out a way by trial and error how to adjust your insulin and/or consume simple carbohydrates to keep you from going hypo.
Are there any areas of your diabetes management that you are currently evaluating or targeting to improve?
I think my diabetes management is pretty good right now. I’ve nailed the running down in general although I would like lower numbers for my second 100 mile race so I can actually eat more and not lose as much weight! My last A1c was right where it should be and I’ve just started on a continuous glucose monitor from Dexcom so that’s my latest toy to help me improve further.
Tell us about an athletic goal you have for the short-term – say less than one year from now.
Train at 100 mile weeks to PR at Boston in April to start the year off. Then I’m looking to compete in my second 100 mile race. I’m unsure where that will be just yet but Western States or Mont Blanc are on my radar but both are lottery systems so we’ll see and third is to complete an Ironman. That one’s got to be knocked off the bucket list!
How about an athletic goal that you have for the long-term?
A lot of my friends have run a marathon in the 50 States. I like that idea although I’d like to go to an even bigger scale and complete an ultramarathon in as many countries as possible. Running and traveling are my passion so why not? Anything is possible if you want it enough.