Cycling for T1D. What we have achieved so far!

When I was first introduced to the JDRF One Ride in the middle of 2016 I immediately started hatching a plan to ride from Melbourne to Adelaide. A fundraising event was the perfect excuse to take on a seriously challenging ride and I was certain that being for JDRF, my family would support me (with their usual worry for my well-being). A type 1 diabetic taking on an extra challenge for a fundraising event for type 1 diabetes, it was a perfect match and the immediate support from JDRF was enough motivation for me to commit 100% (by writing a blog about it!). Apart from the cycling, I was also aiming to raise $10,000 for JDRF, a nice figure I thought but one which I had no idea how I would achieve.

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The Type1Athletic kit was popular with the locals in Tasmania recently, and always raised awareness and discussion about Type 1 Diabetes!

Fast forward to today and we are only 7 weeks away from 23 people making the 1,000km journey from Melbourne to the Barossa Valley in support of the JDRF One Ride. 15 cyclists, including 3 type 1 diabetics, and 8 supporters will travel from Melbourne to the Barossa Valley over 5 days, cycling nearly 200kms per day and participating in two JDRF Diabetes Community events in Bendigo and Murray Bridge. It’s hard to believe how much this little idea of mine has grown, now being a major part of the JDRF One Ride event! The enthusiasm from everyone involved in this ride has been truly amazing, not only from the cyclists taking on this mammoth ride, but the commitment from the supporters and the behind the scenes work that is going into organising the logistics for the ride. The support of individuals and their companies, both through their time and through their donations has been truly amazing and as a type 1 diabetic, I am truly humbled and thankful for the support everyone has given to this cause.

There is a small group of around 25 people directly associated with the ride to the Barossa who are do that extra little bit for JDRF. When we arrive at the One Ride Event this group will have collectively raised over $125,000 through their individual event fundraising along with the extra funds raised through direct sponsorship of the Melbourne to Barossa ride. The group of companies supporting this extra ride cannot be thanked enough for their generosity with many also supporting other parts of the One Ride event including their own company teams.

Special thank you to Telstra, CusCal, Bendigo Bank, Placard, Nokia, Mastercard, U-Haul, Art Series Hotels, Wilsons Plumbing, NCR, TNS, Prosegur and Sterling Projects for directly supporting out ride to the Barossa Valley and JDRF. You can see our team jersey below which we will all be wearing very proudly as we ride!

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Melbourne to Barossa Ride team jersey; thank you to our amazing sponsors!

Another fantastic by-product of our ride to the Barossa has been the broader effect on the One Ride Event itself with an added sense of excitement and energy being generated for the event. Feedback from JDRF is that both the fundraising and participation budgets will be significantly exceeded in 2017 and that there are new riders registering every day, and major donations being made to individuals and corporate teams. Some of the high-profile participants are even increasing their fundraising goals to match and further boost the great work that so many individuals are doing. If the fundraising budgets are exceeded, the funds raised would provide for at least two years of cutting edge, innovative T1d research which can be supported by JDRF directly.

Personally, I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting the fantastic people involved with this ride, some with T1D, some with a connection to T1D, and others with very little knowledge of T1D. Firstly, having an excuse to go on long rides with like-minded cyclist is brilliant! Being able to talk to everyone about T1D, how it impacts my life and how the work that JDRF does has a real-life benefit to me has been enjoyable for me and then beneficial for everyone I think. Having now made many new friends, we are all looking forward to the challenge of riding to the Barossa Valley!

Having now spent time with JDRF staff, the Melbourne to Barossa ride team and many other One Ride participants, I am looking forward to arriving at the One Ride Event on the Friday night and seeing all the other participants, supporters and JDRF staff that will make the event fantastic. This excitement is even before tackling the 160km One Ride course which I have given little thought to, but know from the route profile will be seriously challenging.

Seven weeks of cycling, fundraising and organising to go. It’s going to get busy and hectic but I am looking forward to the challenge and I know that everyone is 100% committed to this cause and event! There is still plenty of time to donate to JDRF and this event, please support anyone who is participating in the event! You can donate through this link: PLEASE DONATE

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2016 Rapha Festive 500

Having put my triathlon racing on hold for the time being and focusing on cycling and fundraising for JDRF and the One Ride Event, the Rapha Festive 500 was an obvious challenge to take on. The Festive 500 challenge is to ride 500km between the 24th and 31st December with kilometres recorded on Strava. On the 31st December I’d completed 513km over 6 rides, learnt what the “challenge” really is about and ignited my passion for seeking out and exploring cycling challenges.

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I signed up with absolute confidence that; I’d be riding everyday and would easily cover the 500km before new years eve. I was fit, love being out on my bike and would be staying in some ideal cycling locations over Christmas. In the end this wasn’t necessarily the case and although I achieved 500km it was a lot tougher than I had expected and my initial attitude changed for the better of myself and also my cycling.

On the 24th December I completed 220km riding to a Christmas Eve lunch in the morning (155km) and then riding back home in the afternoon (65km). It was blisteringly hot and windy and I was only focused on covering as many kilometres as possible in the morning and then surviving the northerly headwind on the way home. A great start to the challenge kilometre wise but not necessarily the most enjoyable day of solo riding.

On Christmas day I did not ride (but wanted to), the 26th was a short early ride and then the 27th was an earlier and shorter ride again. Other commitments had thwarted my planned cycling and missing some great weather was initially frustrating. The 28th and 29th involved travelling away and then the bad weather set in and up in the mountains meant finding things to do indoors. A change of location and an afternoon ride on the 30th settle my spirit and with plenty of riding buddies around I set about planning the final 105km required on the 31st December.

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Trying to get out on the bike in the rain and fog atop Mount Buller (photo taken in the only 5 minutes it wasn’t raining!)

Although I had started out only thinking about cycling everyday and clocking up kilometres, by the 31st December I had realised that the challenge was more about balancing all of the great things in your life and experiencing the happiness of this; family, friends, travel, food, drink and cycling. I need to ride my bike for my own piece of mind (and my diabetes), but doing this coupled with experiencing everything else that life throws at me, especially with my family, makes the journey all the sweeter.

On the 31st December I rode with friends old and new, covered 115km of rolling hills in near perfect conditions, had a couple of coffees and set a PB up the 3km climb to my beach house to finish off my Festive 500 and 2017 of cycling. It’s been a fantastic year and I am really looking forward to all of my cycling, fundraising and family events in 2017. I’ll certainly be taking park in the Festive 500 again but I’ll have a different approach and I’ll probably end up riding further with it.

 

Learning to Run

After my last Ironman race in June I took a couple of weeks completely away from any training and enjoyed what many would call a “normal” life. I am always active so there was plenty of time spent outdoors with my girlfriend and also plenty of social rides with a focus on coffee and donuts! Being active is such an important part of my life so I’ll always be doing something, but more importantly it forms a really important part of my diabetes management. During this time where I was less active it did have an impact on my diabetes and I did have to increase my insulin doses to account for this and monitor things a lot more closely to ensure my levels stayed stable.

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There are only so many coffee shops you can ride to until you realise that you need a new goal and new challenge. For me, the triathlon season was a long way off and I needed a local event to train for between now and then (later in the year). The Melbourne Marathon is in October so the timing was good and I knew when I started thinking about racing the marathon and it made me a little nervous that it was a great challenge and goal. With running being the weakest of my triathlon disciplines, and understanding the physical toll which long run training takes on my body, this was going to be serious!

So back to some more structure training sessions and back to the same old diabetes issues; getting BGLs right for training, being able to get enough fuel and recovery food in and managing stress levels trying to get all of this right. A real positive from my break was that I have learnt to stress a little less about my BGLs when I am exercising and allow things to stabilise more steadily while continuing with my activity. Although erratic levels do hamper performance, you can work through them calmly and sensibly.

So to some of those challenges which I am looking forward to overcoming:

Physical challenges of running

  • Running is hard; no question about this
  • Extra stresses on the lower body from the high impact resulting is many combinations of muscle, tendon and joint soreness
  • Managing inflammation which can be one of the complications of diabetes; I usually require double the recovery time from any soft tissue injury than a non-T1D
  • There are no free kilometres like when cycling, you have “run” every kilometre and there a plenty of those

Diabetes challenges of running

  • For me, running has the biggest pull-down effect on my BGLs and this can occur very quickly
  • The need to keep BGL stable for 1.5 to 3hr sessions
  • Eating while running which is especially important for runs over 1hr and during afternoon/evening sessions
  • Carrying everything that I “may” need; BGL tester (Freestyle Libre at the moment), insulin pump, food (usually 2 x gels – approx.. 50gr carbs), phone and credit card/money (for emergencies)

I have had many annoying experiences when running due to my diabetes all of which have involved a hypo and then trying to get home; walking in the rain, taxi/uber, public transport without a ticket and even getting a dink from a cyclist. All of these are even more enjoyable at 5:30am in the morning or when I’ve heading into some remote location! Never-the-less I continue to head-off and challenge myself, and then have plenty of time to reassess when I am walking home (take 4-5 minutes to run a kilometre and 10-12 minutes to walk).

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My expressionless running face: not thinking about the pain, just ticking off the kilometres

Through social media and the great promotion which T1Ds are doing I have been able to meet some great people and new running buddies. From a performance perspective training with people at a similar level is great and being able to train with people at a higher level provide some fantastic benefits and improvements. Not only that, but training with people who also have and understand T1D is a new and enlightening experience. I recently had my first stop mid-session to allow my training partner to check their BGL and then have something to eat because they were trending low. Something that I do all the time but have never seen it form the other person point of view.

As my running has progressed I am enjoying it and feeling good when running. As expected my legs are feeling the sting after my longer runs and I’m having to put a lot of work in to strengthen and maintain good feeling in my legs. This is definitely a work in progress and I’ve got to watch that I don’t push things to hard and cause an injury. I’m lucky to have some great people to help me and bounce ideas off including Shaun Forrest (Elite marathoner and T1D). Unfortunately, there are some realities of running; it’s hard and there’s not cheating the kilometres! Fun times to come.

Light & Dark: Exercise Addiction

I’ve become increasingly interested in mental health and well-being, and its influence and importance to athletic performance. This interest has developed from personal experience and varying performance over the last 12 months.

Alex

I read this piece (Light & Dark) on CyclingTips provided further insight into one aspect of amateur training and racing which is particularly prominent to Ironman triathlon where the quantity and quality of training required is very high.

You can access the piece on the CyclingTips website – Light and dark: Exercise addiction, and the different forces of cycling

T&D June 5

After such a good week this was not such a good week. Recovery from my previous big training week didn’t go to plan and to get to the end of the week still feeling a bit fatigued and working on some BGL stability is a little disheartening. The catalyst for my not so successful week has been the instability of my BGLs particularly overnight where high’s and lows haven’t allowed me to get restful nights. Subsequently I haven’t fully recovered from my large run volume last week and with my legs feeling heavy all week I wasn’t able to complete my planned sessions fully. On top of this the mental demons and negativity started to creep in again over the week and by the weekend I was in a bad mood, training poorly and my BGLs were all over the place. It’s a vicious cycle for me and one that occurs more often than I would like.

I wish that I didn’t let things spiral out of control like this but trying to balance training, nutrition, diabetes and personal life can be difficult and one poor decision seems to lead to another and another. I do realise that this is happening but it still takes a couple of days for me to draw  line in the sand and really pull things back into line. To do this I go back to absolute basics, make a plan and follow it 100%. My plan for Sunday to get back on track included:

  • Wake up as naturally as possible around 7am
  • Set insulin for morning exercise (2hrs prior) and complete exercise within set time
  • Do about 2hrs moderate exercise (ride) including time with my girl friend in the morning
  • Enjoy one coffee in the morning begin aware that caffine is an insulin inhibitor and cosumption should be minised through the rest of the day
  • Eat a basic breakfast with known carb content and BGL response; for me this is oats with berries and yoghurt
  • Ensure plenty of incidental activity throughout th day like walking to the market, walking the dog, cleaning the house; I find that this assist with my BGL stability as oppose to speanding the day on the couch
  • Follow a strict meal plan throughout the day including lunch, dinner and snacks, all food to have known carb content and BGL response; it is critically important to count cards and bolus dose correctly, NO cheating today!
  • Don’t react too quickly to rising or dropping BGL’s, allow them to settle before treating correctly (bolus correction or sugars and BGL testing)
  • Check BGLs regularly during the day
  • Stay positive knowing that a lot of hard work has already been done, not further improvements can be made training so close to a race and by getting this right my performance will be the best that it can be

All of this is pretty simple and in hindsight I feel a little silly that I can’t stick to what I know works all of the time and make my life a little easier, but that is just one of the challenges of type 1 diabetes.

So it’s certainly not the end of the world and after a good day today I am feeling both refreshed and positive for the coming week and the race. Getting through work, training, packing up my race kit and my bike for trip up to Cairns will make this shortened week fly by. Winter has finally struck Melbourne and I am looking forward to some tropical weather in Cairns.

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New race suit from Scody with Type1Athletic, DSP and JDRF logo’s. Colour worked out perfectly with the prominent blue circle for diabetes!

On a really positive note this week I received my new race suit from Scody which I will be racing in at Ironman Cairns 70.3. As my first suit with logo’s I decided to support the diabetes organisations which I am associated and my local bike shop (The Freedom Machine) which is like my second home. The purpose of these logo’s is to promote type 1 diabetes within the community, get people asking questions and talking about type 1 diabetes. The organisations that I am support are:

I am looking forward to working with both organisations in the future promoting, educating and inspiring people with type 1 diabetes and I am proud to race with these logo’s on my chest.

Also a quick update on the Abbott Libre Flash Glucose monitor which I have now been using for two weeks. I have so far been really impressed with the unit, the accuracy has been spot on for me and the easy of use during every day life and also training is fantastic. I am really looking forward to racing with this device and I believe that it will provide one less thing to worry about come race day. The Flash Libre is now available in Australia and I can highly recommend it.

If you happen to be racing at Ironman Cairns please come and say hello, I will certainly be looking out for other type 1’s when I am up there!

T&D May 22

I don’t know if it’s my diabetes or trying to fit in training around the rest of my life but every week seems like a big and challenging week upon reflection. Even with all of the little things that seem to happen in my life (which seems pretty significant at the time) I still manage to have great weeks! This week with work, 15hrs of training, away for the weekend, out on Saturday night, a broken rear wheel mid-ride on Saturday, some high and low BGLs and an irritating reaction to my freshly cleaned local pool it was busy.

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Sunday morning recovery ride is the most important of the week for body and soul; Inge, coffees, muffins, selfies and a bit of recovery thrown in for good measure.

We choose to fill our days doing the things that we enjoy, that energise us (maybe apart from working but hopefully there are some positives there to) and the challenges that we face are part of doing these things. I don’t necessarily want to get up at 5am on a Saturday morning but when I’m cresting a hill with Bells Beach to my left and a sunrise warming my back I’ve forgotten about getting up and I’m just looking forward to the next couple of hours of nirvana (for me). Trying to fit everything in is certainly a juggling act but it can be, and is manageable. Priorities and planning is the aim of the game here.

Diabetes does add another dimension to this puzzle with the most difficult part being that diabetes often runs its own course and things happen even when you try your best to control them. My weekend for instance including perfect BGLs during my Saturday morning ride, good BGLs during my afternoon swim, high BGLs in the late afternoon and evening, high BGLs Sunday morning which turned into good BGLs for my ride and then run. I was able to complete my training sessions and enjoy a muffin on Sunday morning but I felt terrible on Saturday night and struggled to enjoy my evening out as I tried to bring my BGLs down. Pretty stressful I think and that’s by no means a bad 48 hours.

Think about this further I think on average 25% of my training sessions would be impacted by my BGL levels to some degree. Be that by a hypo stopping a session early, a high not allowing me to push out a quality session or a combination of BGLs and food making me feel ill. After so many years constantly planning and adjusting things occurs without me really thinking about it but it is very stressful and something which I am working to manage better and remain in a good mindset.

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A planned and altered weekend (Saturday run missing) from a mechanical and BGLs. Overall though it’s been a great week of training!

The lesson which I have learned this week, and over recent weeks probably, is that things don’t need to run perfectly for me to achieve a great end result. This week for example was nearly derailed on a few occasions but from a training perspective turned out to be a really positive week. Even greater than this is possibly 25% of my training being impacted by my diabetes and even with this I continue to improve and perform well. I feel like diabetes is something which we can strongly influence buy never fully control and we need to be open minded to this. The uncontrollable diabetes events should not become the focus points of our day to day existence as even with these events so much is achievable. I will be reminding myself of this next time things don’t go to plan, maybe even today.

T&D April 24

This week has been all about trying not to stuff it up. I’ve had four good weeks of training, gotten my BGLs back into a reasonably good pattern and I’ve started to feel fit and strong again. I believe that I am tracking well for a good performance at Port Macquarie Ironman 70.3 in a weeks time.

I generally don’t do a big tamper as I find that changing my daily routine too much throws out my BGLs. Tamper is about getting to race day being full of energy and feeling great so keeping my BGLs is check is vitally important. I try to keep my sessions during tampers weeks relatively consistent and just reduce the volume and intensity a little bit. I have been using Training Peaks for nearly a year now and as an engineering I love all of the data and feedback which the package provides me. The Performance Management Chart has been really helpful over the last couple of weeks to track how my fitness has progressed and also where I am going to be come race day on May 1st. Although I am not physically where I was 6 months ago I am feeling really positive at the moment and I think that is as important for achieving my best performance.

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Every training session recorded and analysed – TP Performance Manage Chart

Every week now I am reviewing what I have done and what I have learnt and the same things keep coming up as being really important for both my diabetes and my training. This week it has been; quality over quantity, and sticking to the plan. In all cases when I have changed something, tried to re-invent the wheel or do something extra then the results haven’t been positive; be they bad BGLs or not recovering from an extra training session, both leaving me feeling average.

The above points are particularly appreciable during tampering weeks when the focus is on feeling great. The hard work has been done and there are not fitness gains to be made during these weeks and by doing the wrongs things the impact on your race day performance is significant. I have really work hard to stick to my training sessions (going easy with some high intensity efforts) and also keep my BGLs in check by following the diet and insulin plan which I know works for me. It’s pretty simple in theory but a lot more difficult to execute. Luckily I’ve had plenty of experience following a plan to keep me feeling healthy so I’m pretty good at doing what is right (one of the bonuses of having T1D!).

Next week I’ll be reporting back from Port Macquarie. I’m an super exciting to race and see if all of the hard work will pay off. Diabetes plan in check and I’m off to the starting line.

JDRF Melbourne Event

I attended a supporter event for JDRF in Melbourne last night. This was the first time that I have attended a JDRF event and I found it to be a really positive experience and I walked away feeling really invigorated after meeting some great people and hearing about some of the fantastic research which JDRF is supporting. The development for better type 1 diabetes management in the last 10 years as well as better understand about the cause and potential cures is absolutely outstanding. Given this short period of time and the significant progress and developments I am excited about things to come in near future.

The key note speaker for the evening was Dr Eliana Marino, Principal Research Fellow, Head of Immunology and Diabetes Laboratory, Monash University, who spoke about her teams research in the relationship of out gut micro-biota and immune diseases which include diabetes. The idea that our guts play such a significant role in our health seems to have opened up a huge area of research with the potential to have a great impact on the understanding and treatment of man immune diseases. Somewhat controversial, there were some great discussions about diet and gut health and their impact on type 1 diabetes. I spend a lot of time planning my diet and it’s great to know that this is not only beneficially nutritionally but also for my overall health and immunity.

CEO of JDRF Australia Mike Wilson gave an impassioned talk about the great things that JDRF has achieved with particular focus on initiating many of the research projects and developments which are now being put through clinical trials around the world. Hybrid closed loop systems, encapsulation and smart insulin trails are all happening around the world with very positive results being seen. Even more exciting is that the large diabetes, medical technology and pharmaceutical companies are investing in these research trials and developments meaning that they provide a real opportunity for them to bring these to the market and type 1 diabetics around the world. Mike also gave some great insight into the importance of all aspects of these developments from initial research through to market availability and how all parties need to work successfully to achieve the goal we all want.

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JDRF supports and works in all of these sectors to get the breakthrough research through to patient delivery. 

Last year I started making a regular monthly donation to JDRF (for obvious reasons) and seeing these developments and treatment possibilities mean I know that my donation is going towards great projects. If you are reading this blog then you probably have some link to type 1 diabetes and may already support a cause, but if you do not that I can strongly recommend that supporting JDRF in any way will make a very serious contribution to finding better treatment and a cure for type 1 diabetes. I will personally thank you for this.

For further information on JDRF and the great work that they are doing and support please got to the JDRF Website.

T&D April 3

It’s been a busy and tiring week! Thank goodness for the free hour this morning from daylight savings change. I’ve upped the training volume this week and have continued with my strength training, this has left me feeling great both physically and mentally. Apart from some minor discomfort from last weekends rolled ankle I am really looking forward to the next four weeks building towards Port Macquarie Ironman 70.3. Being refreshed physically, mentally and with my diabetes management going really well the positive results of my break are continuing. Upon reflection this week a few basics have been reaffirmed this week and I’ve picked up a disappointing trend on social media.

Strength training, stretching and recovery. Following my adjusted program I have really put a focus on my alternate sessions including strength training, stretching and recovery. After only a couple of weeks I am already noticing an overall improvement in my on-the-track sessions and also my recovery. These often over looked components of any athletes program are just so important and should always be made a priority.

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Solid week of Z2 training including new strength sessions

The importance of exercise in diabetes management. Now that I am back into training I have noticed how much exercise assists in achieving stable BGLs. I find that I have a greater sensitivity to insulin and require lower total daily doses when I am training. Additionally I am able to consume a few extra treats which I would usually avoid and this provides both a boost to my diabetes management and also my mental well-being.

Don’t fight your T1D. I have seen several posts on social media this week from other T1D’s who seem to be trying to beat their T1D into submission. I believe that you need to work with your diabetes to get the best out of yourself and essentially live unaffected. Having had T1D for 20 years I have developed most of my passions and interested with T1D and I have gained so much strength and success from having T1D (see my recent post).

Daylight savings is over so there’ll be a little more sunlight in the morning and there’s no better way to start the day than training with the sun rising on you back.

T&D March 27

Successfully over the flu and back into a full week of training this past week. After over a month off the motivation and enjoyment getting back into training is fantastic. This has really shown me the importance of taking time off from training as part of your program to allow you mind and body to recover and reenergise. Back on the CGM this weekend and oh what a glorious piece of medical technology this is! So beneficial to understanding how best to control your BGLs and I highly recommend using one from time to time if you can.

After a week of training in Melbourne I headed up to Mount Buller for the Easter Long Weekend. I was looking forward to plenty of mountain biking on the awesome trail network up there but the Saturday morning Easter Fun Run also came onto the agenda late on Friday night. A 9.5km trail run including ascending the summit of Mount Buller was a nice little high altitude challenge (predominately Zone 4 session!!). I was able to keep my BGLs stable for the event but this was a little challenging as we didn’t get started until 9:30am which is a later than I would normally start training in the morning.

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Mount Buller Easter Fun Run details, clear to see where the “pinch” comes [lap times, elevation and HR shown].

Having put a real focus on not stressing about my diabetes and BGLs over the past month I am happy to report that even being back into training this week I haven’t let this stress build again. Of course my BGLs need to be stable for me to train but giving myself some allowance around sessions and timing has meant that things have been pretty smooth this week and a lot less stressful. Although this can sometime be difficult I think that it is really important to not stress about BGLs too much and trust that by sticking to your management plan things will remain stable and in control.

I am a little stressed out about the lack of training I have done over the last month with only 5 weeks until my next important race at Port Macquarie Ironman 70.3. I am really working on just trying to enjoy my training and no thinking too much about my performance. I know that if I get my body right for race day and my diabetes stays under control, then the results will happen for me. I want to be happy with the little achievements along the way and know that I have overcome challenges through my hard work. I am often told, don’t forget you are doing this because you love it and it’s meant to be fun!