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Another day, another marathon. #changingdiabetes with Team Novo Nordisk

Another day, another run. #changingdiabetes with Team Novo Nordisk at Top of Utah Marathon 2013.

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.

21 comments

  1. Jonathan says:

    HOw is running with the Dexcom G4 going? I am hypoglycemic and debating getting a glucose monitor for running.

    • rundiabetes says:

      Jonathan,

      CGM’s are great tools but I personally would not get one purely for the main purpose of exercise. They show trending data, not live data. Unless your insurance is the best of the best, they are also quite expensive. My advice would be to consult your doctor who knows your health the best. Good luck. SE

  2. Mike says:

    I am greatly encouraged, reading your blog and achievements as a type 1 diabetic. To know thatits possible to one day run an ultra is sensational and is a dream of mine. I wanted to ask you 2 questions:
    1. What type of insulin therapy do you use to control your blood glucose levels?
    2. How do you waterproof your Dexcom? Having to wear longer shorts with pockets so that I can put my Dexcom, which is in a zip lock bag, inside the pocket gets uncomfortable sometimes.

    Keep running and changing diabetes!

    • rundiabetes says:

      Hi Mike,

      Yes, anything is possible, even running 100 miles!! As I am part of a team sponsored by a pharmaceutical company, I am unfortunately unable to answer those kind of questions. My advice to you, is to speak directly with your health care provider to find out what works best for you. What works for one person does not necessarily work for another. Good luck with your dream. Make it come true!

    • Hey Mike I use an Aquapak. It is a dry bag made for pumps. I replaced the nylon belt with an elastic/velcro one so that I can make it tight and not fiddle with it all the time. I find the nylon ones are always looser and need to be retightened too often. I use a medtronic pump, myself, but it is a universal pump bag I believe.

  3. I love seeing other diabetics kick butt. I’ll be doing my first ultra this spring with a 50k at the superior trails in MN.

    • rundiabetes says:

      Hey Darrell. This is awesome to hear!!! Good luck with the training!

    • rundiabetes says:

      Darrell, how did the ultra go?!!

      • It went well. I was able to keep my glucose between 7 and 10mmol for the event. I would use Gu and a small bolus to control the rate of change in the levels. Ate about 1 Gu/hr, tried to eat other stuff but my stomach didn’t agree with my lips.

        I had 45km in me and was top 20 until after the last aid station and then it slowed right down and I finished 60th out of 177. I cannot complain though, I learned to deal with exhaustion and was able to run the next day. Plus, I had never run more than 32km before that day.

        I really noticed a difference in performance when I was 7mmol/L vs 10.0mmol/L. Just felt better and more aware. Usually when training I am pushing more and don’t have the mindfulness to be aware of that.

        I had a checklist of things for diabetes to carry such as a spare pump site installed, another in my backback along with a syring and I did not end up needing them. I had started taping the overtape with a cloth flexible tape and it kept everything on. This had been a real issue for me as sweat/heat kills the adhesive.

        The best part is, the experience of dealing with the exhaustion the last 7 or so km has telegraphed into my speedwork and other running. I can tap that feeling and use it to push through and carry on. Helped me in a couple local 5km races recently.

        As a big testament to the experience, I am going to run the Wild Duluth 50km (WD50) in October.

  4. This is so great to see! I’m a Type1 as well and live in Durango, CO. I’ve been running half-marathons for the last few years and have learned a lot. I tried to train for my first full last year but just kept getting too sick … but have changed a few things and am trying again this year (Mt. Sneffles in Ouray, CO in August)!

    • rundiabetes says:

      Hi Lindsay,
      Thanks for your message. I was out in Telluride last September before UROC 100K (Breck to Vail), love it out there. Great to hear you are not letting the T1 get in your way! Go get em in August at Mt. Sneffles. I know you can! Keep me posted.

      Stephen

  5. Al D'Alessio says:

    It was an honor to have you at the Princeton ADA ride yesterday and to be in the same photo op with you. I enjoyed both our chat after the ride and visiting your web site. Best of luck in your athletic and professional endeavors.

    Al

    • rundiabetes says:

      Al, great to meet you at the event and thanks for the note on here. Loved the old school TT1 kit btw too! Keep up your awesome biking accomplishments, you rock!

  6. Kevin Murdock says:

    Hi , I read your report on Bear Mountain race and cramping , have been doing ultras for a few years now and I think cramping occurs more whenever my blood glucose levels are too high at race start , good luck at Tahoe later in year looks like a great race.

    • rundiabetes says:

      Kevin, the cramping theories are wide and varied. I don’t doubt high BG’s could well be a factor. It’s just another reason to strive for really tight control as athletes and diabetics. Thanks for reading and the well wishes, Tahoe is going to be a blast for sure.

  7. Matt Roberts says:

    Hi Stephen, thanks for the encouraging website. I’m a type 1 diabetic that likes to run, have done a 50-miler that went really well, would love to run 100 miles. So glad to hear another diabetic has done it (and twice that 🙂 ). Do you carry a glucometer with you? I worry about confusing fatigue with blood sugar issues later in the race, don’t know if I want to wait till an aid station to check it. Thanks,

    Matt from Iowa

    • rundiabetes says:

      Hi Matt, thanks for your message. Awesome work on the 50, sounds like you are ready for the 100 this year! Great question. It really depends on the race distance/difficulty. For a marathon or less, I don’t and for a 100K plus I do (helps that I wear my hydration pack at these distances). The 50K/50M races is trickier and that’s where you have to weigh up how long it will take you between aid stations. If you wear a hydration pack and can store it easily, it’s a no brainer. It’s also super helpful to have spare meters in drop bags or with your crew at aid stations. Good luck with your year of racing. Stephen

  8. Mikael says:

    Hi,
    I have just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and last year I signed up to run Transalpine Run in September. I really want to start and of course complete the race. I have never been running on such high altitude and not seven days in a row for that matter. What do you recommend and suggest me to do? It’s only 6 months ahead. Is it too soon, too close for me?

    Regards
    Mikael

    • rundiabetes says:

      Hi Mikael,
      Congrats on going after such a huge and epic race! You will have an amazing time I am sure and show that T1D does not slow you down! I am not sure of the logistics (for transporting your bags) so I would strongly suggest carrying enough supplies with you for the worst case scenario. The weight should not be anything substantial and I imagine much of the trails involve plenty of hiking and moderate paced running. Altitude is another factor and you should monitor your blood glucose even more so than you normally would. Test, test and test some more. Make it part of your routine when you stop for water refills, changing clothes etc. Train well and get back to me with any more Q’s as you get closer. Best, Stephen

      • Many thanks for your reply. I am back on track with training but I am curious about your insuline during racing. I don’t have a pump, I use injection instead. A lot of energy is being used while racing and my question is do you just eat and drink and does not bother about the insuline at all? Or is your experience that you need insuline regardless of how long time you are running?

        Regards
        Mikael

        • rundiabetes says:

          Mikael,
          For a marathon, no I do not add insulin but for ultras, yes I do. How I choose to use insulin during racing is based on my blood glucose, my effort, how long is left in the race and also carb counting. These are just a few factors. It is not to say I won’t eat/drink something and not add insulin. If my glucose is lower than desired, I may choose not too. Speak with your diabetes educator about this for YOU. It is a very personal topic and the answer varies among all athletes with diabetes.

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