As I write this, the weather here in Minneapolis is cold, windy, and it’s been raining for days. My legs are sore, but I’m smiling from ear to ear because I braved the cold, wind, and rain to finish the longest run I’ve ever done (9.5 miles).
I’m training to run a half marathon near the end of June. I’d like to share the story of how I managed to commit to such a big challenge (on live internet radio!) and what’s keeping me motivated to follow through on my word.
It’s all about basketball
I really enjoy playing basketball. It’s fun. I can play for hours and barely notice that I’m getting an incredible workout. Unless diabetes gets in the way.
I wanted to stop being frustrated and I wanted diabetes to stop getting in my way on the basketball court. That motivated me to keep trying different things, to test often, to keep track of what I was doing, and to seek more information and knowledge.
But there’s a lot of confusing information out there, and I was really struggling to put it all together.
Getting WILD on the bike
In the winter of 2011, I got a call from Mari Ruddy. She called to tell me that I received a scholarship for one of the Team WILD training programs. In a stunned, surprised, and excited burst of enthusiasm I told her I wanted to ride my bicycle 100 miles in the upcoming Tour de Cure.
A few short weeks later, I received the first of my weekly installments of training material and workout assignments. It was great stuff. I was finally learning more about how exercise works, and how diabetes fits into it.
Through the course of an 18-week program, I learned how to how to fuel my exercise, how to build my physical strength and stamina on the bike, and how to figure out my diabetes management.
And on June 2, 2012, I crossed the finish line for something I never imagined I could do. 102 miles on my bicycle in one day, with nearly perfect blood sugars.
And the basketball!
During my cycling training I continued to play basketball. Diabetes wasn’t getting in the way, and my legs were feeling great.
But once my big ride was over I wasn’t spending much time on the bike anymore, and my athletic performance on the basketball court was getting worse. I realized that in order to play the way I wanted to play, I needed to mix in some other exercises. Basketball alone wasn’t enough.
Having accomplished a pretty huge cycling event, I decided that learning to run would be a good thing to focus on next.
Insulindependence in Philadelphia
Opportunity knocked, and again it came with a huge personal stretch and athletic challenge. I had a chance to join the Insulindependence group in Philadelphia to do a presentation and join them in running the Rothman 8K (just under 5 miles). I could barely run two miles.
I had a 12-week training program to follow, and the first 4 weeks sucked. But then I felt a difference. It wasn’t as hard to finish my training. I was noticing progress, and it was so encouraging!
Of all training assignments, the only one I missed was a run that got cut short by 5-10 minutes because of a low blood sugar. Otherwise I didn’t miss even a single session. It gave me the conditioning and confidence to know I could perform on race day.
I think the low blood sugar brings up a great point—even with all of the time invested, and all of the education and experiments I’ve done, the lows and highs still happen sometimes. They are part of life with diabetes. But I feel like I am better equipped to know if it is something I can deal with and continue, or if I need to call it quits for the day.
On race day I had the honor of running with Gary Scheiner of Integrated Diabetes Services, and his son, and I had a blast! I stayed in town on Sunday to watch the half and full marathon. There were a number of Insulindependence people participating in both, and it was a privilege to wish them well at the send-off, and congratulate them at the finish.
Those people inspired me to think that maybe I could do something like that, too. Maybe with enough time, training, and education, I could push myself to another level.
Opening my big mouth
Each week I co-host a live internet radio show about diabetes called DSMA Live. It was only a week after returning from Philadelphia and my successful 8K race, and before the show was over (54:30 mark) I committed to doing a half marathon sometime in 2014.
After the show I heard from Dana Lewis (@DanaMLewis) that she planned on running on behalf of the ADA in the Seattle Rock’N’Roll half marathon. That sounded like fun, so I signed up (and am seeking donations)!
There you have it! That’s the story of how I got myself into this.
So what do I expect from all of this?
Experience and knowledge. And crossing another thing that once seemed impossible off my bucket list. I want to know that if I put in the time, and with some proper diabetes education as a foundation, I can accomplish amazing things.
I am a very average guy living with diabetes. I’m not a superstar athlete. I’m overweight. I have highs. I have lows (and when they happen, I often over treat them). Accurately counting carbs sucks and is really hard for me. Overall, I struggle with all of the same things that I imagine you do.
Through all of this, I want to prove that you, too, are capable of incredible things. I want to help you see that even though diabetes is hard, and exercising with diabetes is even harder, that you can do it!