Diabetes Blog Week: I Can….Train for Ironman with Diabetes

I’m participating in the 6th annual Diabetes Blog Week. Bloggers write posts about a specific prompt related to diabetes for a week in order to share and connect. You can learn more from its founder, Karen of Bittersweet Diabetes.

Day 1: I Can. In the UK, there was a diabetes blog theme of “I can…” that participants found wonderfully empowering. So lets kick things off this year by looking at the positive side of our lives with diabetes. What have you or your loved one accomplished, despite having diabetes, that you weren’t sure you could? Or what have you done that you’ve been particularly proud of? Or what good thing has diabetes brought into your life? (Thank you to the anonymous person who submitted this topic suggestion.)

The main reason why I started blogging again was so I could document Ironman training. Even though I knew other athletes with Type 1 had successfully completed Ironman triathlons, I could never find blogs or tips about blood sugar management on the run, where to keep a Dexcom while swimming, or how people adjusted their basals during training. In my experience, fellow T1 athletes are often an even better source of wisdom than endocrinologists, CDEs, and exercise physiologists.

So I’m writing because I like to hear myself talk, sure, but also because I hope this can help someone in the future.

The first day of D-Blog Week fits perfectly for dispatch #1. How is training going?

 photo ginny-weasley-wide-eyes.gif
Thanks to Ginny Weasley and hello_lovee_x3 for the GIF

This is how I feel:

  1. Every time I look at my training calendar
  2. The first eight times I got on my new bike because it has clips and OH MY GOD MY FEET ARE TRAPPED WHAT IS THIS FEELING
  3. Waking up at 6 AM on a Sunday to get a run in before the weekend goes down the drain
  4. When lunch at work gets delayed….TRAINING HANGER
  5. Whenever I tell someone, “Hey, I’ve done all the individual components of an Ironman before….I just have to….do them all together now…..in one day…..”
  6. Oh hell, pretty much on a daily basis

Out of my comfort zone, indeed.

Some of these things are outside my control. After the Shamrock marathon, I took 2 weeks off from any kind of serious exercise because I had minor surgery and the incision was open. I still haven’t been able to swim because of that, although I recently got the all-clear from the doctor. My preparatory training was somewhat unconventional, too, given that I was training for a spring marathon and mostly running, not cycling.

Some of it is probably pointless anxiety. I do have times when I feel confident that I can do this– both the race itself and the massive training leading up to it. It just flip-flops between confidence and despair on a daily basis. Sometimes hourly.

And the rest? Well, I’m taking a deep breath and pushing my boundaries. My dad was very generous and gifted me his old Cannondale Synapse road bike when he upgraded to a new one. My heart was pounding the first time we practiced clipping and unclipping. When it came to Brooklyn and I was finally able to take a regular spin with it, I….chickened out. My blood sugar was 278 after a luxurious brunch, so I played the diabetes card and took a nap instead.

Nuh-uh. I could have totally taken a shot and done some gentle exercise. But careening around NYC traffic and potentially falling headlong into a taxi because I couldn’t unclip in time struck me as far from gentle in that moment.

So the next day, I put on my fancy new shoes, clonked down the stairs, snapped into one pedal, and pushed off. “Okay, now turn your foot….good, good…..you got this,” I told myself at every stoplight. Once I shouted “YES!” when I came to a particularly smooth stop, but the pedestrians didn’t even blink an eye. (New York, ladies and gents, where everyone has always seen worse than you.)

Two weeks and several rides later, I feel much more at ease with the clips. I’m stopping without clacking my shin with the pedals or braking too abruptly. I haven’t fallen over yet…although I’m sure it’s coming. I encourage myself constantly by reminding myself of the new skills I’m practicing on each ride– even something as simple as grabbing the water bottle while riding.

I’m pushing my boundaries when it comes to diabetes, too. After my BG-and-bike flakeout, I decided that if blood sugar was messing up a workout, then my motto should be, “Something is better than nothing.” It’s been ages that I’ve had a blood sugar so dangerously high or low that I absolutely couldn’t work out. Even some squats and planks are better than flopping on the couch.

So when a patient came to the office and presented me with pizza and coffee as a thank-you gift, and my blood sugar exploded as a result (see #4 above), I went to the gym anyways. The prescribed workout was an intense run with hill repeats, but I took my tired ass to the weight room instead and finished with 20 minutes of easy spinning on the bike.

 photo 62e849f4-720c-4931-adfe-4214d4c0d18e.jpg
Sooooo thrilled to be here.

Against my expectations, my blood sugar has been running high lately. Usually when I ramp up a training regimen, it drops like a rock. Increasing my daily Levemir by 25% appears to have helped– my fasting numbers yesterday and today were 86 and 97.

So I CAN do this– test new (to me) athletic waters with diabetes and emerge successful. Someday I’ll have an Ironman finisher’s medal on my wall. Some day I’ll look back and think, “Man, remember when I was too scared of clips to ride my bike??” Let’s hope, anyways.

Read more Day 1 posts here.


9 thoughts on “Diabetes Blog Week: I Can….Train for Ironman with Diabetes

  1. Caroline, you are amazing!

    I’ve never bicycled with the clips (or been on a bike without a basket, or done any of the other things mentioned here) and they totally freak me out. Just seeing the people clipped in at stop lights straining their cores and inner thighs to stay up without unclipping uhhhhhhhhn

    • I don’t understand those people either! They’re even worse than runners who jog in place at a stoplight! (Oh wait…..I do that sometimes….)

      And thanks, fellow Amazing Person :)

  2. Those clips scared the crap out of me in the beginning too. Now, it feels weird when I ride a bike without clips, like I’m going to fall off or something because my feet aren’t secured.

    I know you will be a great triathlete! Because you already are. Great post!

    • One of the things that has helped is talking to other people who say the same thing as you…..that they were also scared at first but got used to it eventually. Interesting that you feel like you’ll fall off on a bike without clips! Wonder if I’ll ever feel that way….

      Your encouragement also helps. THANKS!

  3. I’ve probably never taken the time to tell you how amazing I think you are and how inspired I am by you. And how I think training for an Ironman is bat-shit-crazy but I mean that in the best possible way!! You rock!

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