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.

 

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Melbourne Marathon Report

Race Summary

  • Time: 3hrs 1min (goal time was 3hrs)
  • BGL Checks: 10 (from 6:30am started warming up to 10am end of race)
  • BGL Range: 10.0 to 18.0mmol/L (much higher than I wanted)
  • Bolus adjustment doses required: 2 x 0.25 units during the race (somewhat ineffective but taking a very cautious approach)
  • Carbs Consumed: approx. 50gr during the race (much less than planned due to high BGLs)

On Sunday 16th October I completed my first road marathon at the Melbourne Marathon and crossed the line in a time of 3hrs and 1 minute. Although I have always been fit, I have never been a runner and many years ago the thought of doing a marathon was terrifying. I went into the race with the goal of running under 3hrs and I only missed this by a minute; I am really happy and proud of my performance. Marathons are really hard and I’d rate this as one of the hardest events which I have completed, as I write this several days later my legs are still screaming at me.

The lessons that I’ll take away from this event and implement for the coming triathlon season are important for me and for bettering my performance in the future:

  • Try not to get sick before a race; nothing I could really do about this and in the end I think that I managed it pretty well
  • Increase insulin doses pre-race to cover the BGL rise from my nerves and adrenaline, this will be more important for new events where it’s more difficult to relax
  • Stay hydrated during the race and not get dehydrated; this will involve managing my own hydration and not relying on the ‘aid stations’
  • Adjust insulin plan during the race if BGLs are running high, it is important to get fuel in during a race and get the carb/insulin balance better
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Not sure how I look strong and happy at this point, just past 40km!

My training leading in the event was really good and a month before the event I decided on a goal time of 3hrs. I believed that if everything went smoothly I would be able to achieve this (though I wrongly calculated the per kilometre pace which made for some funny conversations in my head during the first 5kms of the race at 4 minute pace).

Two days before the event I came down with cold/fly symptoms which put me in bed from Friday morning. Feeling terrible with body aches and a blocked up head the only thing which I could do was rest, drink lots of water and hope that I would be feeling OK on Sunday. After months of training this was terribly depressing but I was determined to complete the marathon. With illness come higher and more irregular BGLs and I had to work really hard to keeps these within good levels for these couple of days.

With a start time of 7am I was up at 5:30am on race day and arrived in the city at 6am to get ready. My BGLs had tracked OK overnight and they were stable around 6.5mmol/L at this stage and I ate a small low carb protein bar to get some calories in before the race. My plan was to consume carbs during the race from about the 30-minute mark where my basal rate and the exercise would keep my levels reasonable stable. At 6:30am I jogged to the start line which was about 2km away, I used this as my warm-up. Just before 7am my BGLs had risen to 9.5mmol/L, I was not overly concerned about this as I expected them to plateau once the race started.

BANG! We were underway. I had decided to run with the 3hr pacer and just try to hold on to the finish line. The pace started at 4min/km and I pretty quickly realised that this was going to be a tough race and the pace for a 3hr marathon was 4:15/km pace! In my head this was scary, so I just focused on the runners around me and started ticking off the kilometres. In training I generally check my levels every 30 minutes to being with and then every 15-20mins after the first hour. I checked my levels at the 7km mark and they had risen to 16.0mmol/L, not what I had planned! I decided to give myself a small bolus dose of 0.25 units which I expected would bring them down. It was nice a this point when another runner asked me about my diabetes and said that his son had just been diagnosed. My Type1Athletic top must have been easily spotted and it felt great that I was able to tell him that type 1 diabetes had not stopped me from doing anything, including running this marathon.

Kilometres 10 to 30 passed without too many issues. I focused on having a good cadence and light ground contact and the kilometres just ticked over. I checked my BGLs every 20 minutes and they continued to be around 15mmol/L. I was nervous about giving a bolus dose and having a hypo. As I was feeling pretty good I continued with only another small 0.25 unit dose. I ate a low card protein bar at around the 1 hour mark and then a gel at around the 2hr mark when my BGLs started to trend down (but then up again after the gel). I was conscious of keeping hydrated and was taking water at every aid station. In hindsight a small cup of water every couple of kilometres really wasn’t enough and as the race progressed so did my dehydration. Sticking with the 3hr group until 35km, ticking over at 4:10 pace, not fuelled or hydrated, I then hit the proverbial wall!

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Winner are grinners; finishing with a lap of the MCG.

Although I had felt pretty comfortable up to this point the head cold, my high BGLs, lack of fuel and fluid during the race eventually caught up with me. Drained of energy and with my legs really hurting my pace dropped to 4:45 kilometres. Jogging, running, jogging, running, walking, jogging, the next 5 kilometres were a real battle. Never wanting to stop and with the MCG (the finish) visible, I just pushed as hard as I could. Walking through the two remaining aid stations I took down as much water as I could. As I got closer to and passed the 40km mark my pace quickened with a little boost of finish line adrenaline and I ran through the last kilometres feeling amazing that I was going to finish my first marathon and go oh so close that that magical 3hr mark. Crossing the line with barely the energy to raise my arms above my head, my whole body aching, my stomach churning and knowing that I was really going to suffer when I stopped, I could not have been happier. Best off all my family was in the stands of the MCG cheering me around that final lap and my best mate finished the half marathon only 10 minutes earlier, was also there to celebrate with me!

So a really challenging race both physically and mentally that I am super proud of. Starting with a head cold, running in 35km/hr winds, dealing with high BGLs due to being sick, not being able to fuel properly and then getting dehydrated all made this really really challenging. I always review my races and I will learn a lot from this event and hopefully not have to experience these challenges again (the ones which I can control).

From a diabetes point of view, the reasons for my higher BGLs during the race were (plenty to learn from here):

  • Illness; I had been suffering from a cold/flu for a couple of days leading into the race
  • Nerves/Adrenaline: Due to running my first road marathon with a challenging goal time
  • Dehydration: Dehydration can cause BGLs to rise at a more rapid rate
  • Carbs/Insulin: Trying to balance eating a small amount of carbs during the race but also dosing a small amount of insulin trying to avoid a sharp spike in BGLS
  • Exercising in the anaerobic zone; higher effort and heart rate sucking all the glycogen into my system for fuel

After going so close to 3hrs I’ll have to do another marathon to get under this magical mark. I’m also super proud of the other type 1 diabetics I saw out on course and also the people who I spoke to during the race about diabetes. I hope that we’ve inspired a few people to give something like this ago and not let type 1 diabetes hold them back.

TFM Around the Bay in a Day

This past Sunday I rode with the Freedom Machine team in their annual Around the Bay ride supporting Zagame Motors. The Zagame group was huge (over 200 people) and the weather conditions were terrible (50km/hr+ winds) but the ride was a great success.

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The TFM crew at the mid-ride stop, still smiling before the headwind return!

Details of the Ride

  • Distance: 150km including getting to the start
  • Time: 5:30am to 12pm including waiting at the start and mid-ride stop
  • BGL Checks: 20
  • BGL Range: 4.5 to 12.5mmol/L
  • Bolus doses required: none, adjusted basal program provided enough insulin
  • Carbs Consumed: approx. 150gr during ride (7am to 12pm) based on my BGLs and how I was feeling energy wise
  • Issues: ‘pump not primed’ warning which require a stop and re-prime

The evening before an event is very important, apart from organising all of my cycling kit I also figure out my diabetes plan which includes insulin (basal rate) and the food I’ll consume. For a ride like this I’ll usually take enough real food, sports bars and gels to provide up to 50gr of carbs for the first couple of hours after which I would restock. For hydration I prefer a no-carb mix as I can then always consume it no matter where my BGL’s are at (a carb loaded drink could not be consumed if BGL’s run high). With my basal rate I need to consider that although I was getting up at 5am to get to the start, the event wouldn’t actually start until 6:45am. I needed to increase basal a little for when I got up and then a little more for when the ride started. I obviously wanted to avoid a high or low whilst I was waiting for the event to start. In the end I set my basal to increase at 3am and 5am and then reduce at 8am and 10am to cover the ride duration. All in all, it’s a good hour to get things organised the night before an event.

On Sunday my alarm went off at 5am and I immediately checked my BGL’s which were running at 6.5mmol/l. A good start to the day! I usually try to get up and be training within 30 minutes so having to ride to the start of the event and then wait for around 1hr meant that I have to take extra care to maintain stable BGLs. Due to this I consumed a low carb protein bar whilst waiting at the start and I checked my BGLs every 15 minutes to ensure things remained stable, which they did. Setting off for the ride my BGLs were at 8.5mmol/L which was a good level with my increased basal rate and the cycling soon to kick in.

When cycling I usually check my levels every 30mins over the first hour, then every 20 minutes for the next couple of hours and for longer rides like this one I end up checking every 15 minutes as the risk of rapid BGL changes increases the longer I am riding for. With a strong tail wind, the first half of the ride was really fast and we were at the breakfast turn-around within 2hrs. I had consumed a muesli bar on the way down and my BGLs were dropping when we arrive. This was actually planned and I didn’t eat any carbs as we got close to the midway point know that there was food available there. I had a coffee, ate a banana and half a vegetable wrap at the stop which equated around 50gr of carb. For the 20 minute stop I would have checked my levels 4 times so that I ensure I did not go too high or low. The stop was only for 20 minutes so I did not give myself a bolus dose with any BGL increase to be limited when I started riding again. We ended up stopping for over 30 mins which meant that my BGL rose more than I would have liked to 12.5mmol/L. I decided not to give myself a bolus dose and after we started the ride back (into a 50km/hr+ headwind) I check my BGL every 15 minutes to make sure that this re-stabilised.

Riding back into such a strong and gusty headwind was really challenging. Obviously I was getting blown all over the road, the effort was high and the speed was slow, and in situations like this you can forget to check your BGLs and it’s easy to forget to eat. We were also responsible for getting the group to the finish line safely which meant constantly checking on how the group was going (not an easy task given the conditions). I was checking my BGLs consistently on the way back ate a sports bar and snickers bar (my treat on long rides) as well as mixing some Gatorade in my drink bottle for some extra carbs. I was able to keep my BGL’s stable on the way back and finished with a reading of 6.5mmol/L. After a quick shower I was able to have a good lunch with carbs (50gr), protein (omelette with extra egg white) and plenty of salad.

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Not perfect but very manageable, two spikes before the start and at the mid-way stop.

Overall the ride was not overly tough even though the wind made the return journey twice as long. From a diabetes point of view, it was a challenging ride having to manage a delayed start, riding with a group, at their pace, and generally not being in control of my own ride. Also having to monitor the group, provide assistance and battle the weather added to extra things to think about. I was able to manage my diabetes without an issue and to achieve this I made a point of doing what I needed to do, when I needed to do it (check BGL, eat and even re-prime my pump).

So some important things which helped me get through this ride:

  • Good organisation the night before the ride including setting insulin plan (basal) and laying out all the food I needed including calculating the nutrition/carb content and having some low carb options
  • Regularly checking BGLs throughout the event including every 15 minutes during critical times and later in the ride when insulin sensitivity increases
  • Making sure that I ate when I needed to which was not necessarily when the group stopped and eating only what I could best estimate the carb content of (no egg, bacon and relish rolls)
  • Letting people know when I needed to stop to re-prime my pump, confirming things were alright and then chasing back on to the group

Even with type 1 diabetes every event is achievable and all that is required is a little extra planning and following the process to maintain stable BGLs and performance.

Evening Training Highs & Hypos

I have always had a lot of trouble maintaining my BGLs when I am training in the afternoon. No matter how much I lower my basal insulin or how many carbs I consume, I always seem to end up having a sharp BGL drop during the session and if not that, then I end up with stomach issues from eating too much before/during the session. The combination of consuming carbs before/during a 1-1.5hr session and also reducing basal insulin, ultimately leads to a spike in BGLs after the session. Adding all of this up it’s 4hrs of worrying about BGLs every afternoon as I prepare, train and then recover.

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Getting levels stable can be very challenging, trying to balance; insulin, carbs and session duration is all important. Sometimes I do manage to get it close enough right though!

Especially with triathlon training where you need to squeeze in swim, ride and run sessions along with strength and recovery, you need to utilise all available sessions which including afternoons/evenings. With my challenges training in the afternoon I try to plan my sessions to get the most important ones in the morning (run and bike) and do other sessions in the evening (strength, swim plus lighter runs/rides). It takes some effort to get my planning right needing to consider; diabetes (am/pm), session requirements (hard/easy/length), pool availability, recovery time between sessions, weather and other personal commitments. Even so, but with a little stress, I manage to get 15 hours of training in most weeks.

So even though it’s a real challenge, I prepare myself most afternoons to head out and complete a training session know full well that there’s a high chance I’ll have a hypo. Recently I have had some success, my BGLs have been fairly stable and I’ve been able to complete some really good afternoon running sessions. The things which I am doing at the moment to give myself the best chance to complete these sessions include:

  • Reduce basal insulin 2 hours before training session and maintain reduced basal for first half of session. I need to reduce my basal rate by 70% for swimming and running session, and 50% for bike sessions in the afternoon. I do not require a reduction for strength sessions.
  • I do not start my session until after 2 hours post reducing my basal insulin rate to ensure that insulin levels in my system are reduced.
  • I try to start my sessions with BGLs around 10.0 mmol/l knowing that they will drop within the first 15 minutes
  • Consume between 20 and 40 grams of carbs about 30 minutes before the start of the session. This will usually be a supplement like Endura Optimizer or Hammer Recoverite mixed with water. I find that I respond well to these carb sources and they do no upset my stomach.
  • During a 1 hour session I will consume 25 grams of carbs at around the 30 minutes and this is usually a sports gel. It is important that whatever I consume does not upset my stomach and I also need to be able to carry it when running. When swimming or riding liquid carb sources are also an option.
  • I check my levels every 15 minutes during the session to make sure my levels are tracking OK and I can adjust things if needed. This does seem like a lot of testing but my levels are drop very quickly and when  you are covering a kilometre in around 4 minutes it can be a long walk home if you’ve missed a hypo!
  • I plan my sessions so that if something does go wrong, most likely a hypo and needing to walk back to the start, I am not too far away. A 20 minute loop is a good option and also provide for keeping provisions in your car for easy access.

I really work hard to get the most out of all of my training sessions and I do get upset when things don’t go to plan. I try to not let these incidents get to me but when you are trying your best and things still go wrong it is challenging to remain positive. Nevertheless, after many many incidents I continue to train and continue to work to get my diabetes management as close to perfect as possible. I know from experience that this will never be possible but the most important thing is to continue to strive to be better and in the end be healthy. Two afternoon run sessions week, one successful and one included a 20 minute walk back to the car in the rain, luckily I’m running first thing in the morning tomorrow!

What I learnt without my Insulin Pump

Friday morning after my run and swim session I was settling down for a big breakfast at my regular café when my insulin pump started vibrating. This was unexpected as my levels were good and the pump had been functioning fine up to this point, the vibration was also different to the standard pump warnings. Checking the pump and the screen read “SLEEP ERROR, CONTACT SERVICE”, the vibration had also changed to a consistent thump and the pump did not sound healthy. With that, and with perfect timing, my carbohydrate loaded breakfast arrived and I realised that I wouldn’t be eating it and my morning would now be a rush to get flex-pens to dose my insulin.

The Friday timing was particularly bad as well because the weekend would delay the delivery of a replacement pump until Monday which meant up to 4 days off the pump and back to short/long acting insulin injections to manage my diabetes. The pump supplier provided a fantastic service when I contacted them and although we were able to try a number of things to rectify the pumps issues, we were ultimately unsuccessful.

Having had T1D for over 20 years and only being on the pump for the last 2 years, I was pretty confident that I would be able to manage things over the weekend with short and long acting insulin (flex-pens). Annoyingly I didn’t have any long acting insulin left or an old script, so I needed to go to the doctors to get this sorted ($$$). When collecting my insulin, the pharmacist asked if I knew what my dosage was; sure, and if not then I’ll just figure it out. I did think that I had this under control but would find out that T1D isn’t easy to manage, control cannot be taken for granted and poor control has a significant impact on your daily well being.

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Back using flex-pens and there was a few funny looks when “shooting up” in the peloton

 

 

Over the subsequent four days until my new pump arrive I managed my levels fairly well with the short and long acting insulin but I did tend to run high and had some fairly uncontrollable hypo’s. I am a control freak when it comes to me levels and I really missed the fine control that you can achieve using a pump. Two long acting insulin doses over 24hrs didn’t seem to keep me stable and I was regularly giving adjustment short acting doses, all the time nervous that I would have a hypo by over-dosing. My sleep was affected, I wasn’t able to exercise very much and my eating patterns where all over the place as I tried to get my levels, doses and carbohydrates matched. By Monday morning I felt like I had been on a massive bender for the weekend and I had a huge hangover to now deal with. A few people commented about this at work from the way I was looking but then couldn’t understand it as I don’t really drink!? Feeling as I did I was in no mood to respond.

So nearly four days off my insulin pump and upon reflection this is what I have learnt.

  • Insulin dosing is serious business and no matter how long you have had T1D for you must be cautious when changing your insulin doses
  • It’s important to let others know what’s going on and how they can help you; hypo’s, feeling sick and changing your routine all need the support of those around you
  • There are serious risks with T1D and in situations like this you shouldn’t push yourself; as much as it pained me, going on a 100km ride and being hours from home would not have been smart
  • I have gained a real appreciation for newly diagnosed T1D’s, I was taking an educated guess with my insulin doses and there was some fear each time, especially at night, about what the result would be
  • When things are not going right (high/low BGLs, not feeling well) it’s important to try to continue to do things that energise you, even if these are only small. I managed to get out for a ride with my Dad on Saturday and although I felt average it did make me feel a little better and remain positive
  • It is really important to try to remain positive even when it seems like you just can’t make things work. For me, my mental state particularly negative, has a significant impact on my BGLs making any bad situation even worse

On Monday afternoon I was reconnected to my pump and after a better nights sleep I was feeling 100 times better on Tuesday morning. Without doubt I am now truly amazed at how great my insulin pump is and how much it helps me manage my T1D. It’s certainly not perfect and I am still looking forward to future developments, but it allows my levels to remain stable and for me to be as active as I want to be every day. I am also happy that my regular donations to JDRF contribute a small part to their pump program which provides the opportunity for more T1Ds to get access to an insulin pump.

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.

Diabetes Sports Project

When I started this blog it was my first real look into the type 1 diabetes community. Although I had been a T1D for over 20 years, like many T1Ds I’d just gone about managing my diabetes on my own and was not interested in reaching out or promoting my diabetes. In 2014 when I got serious about my athletic performance and started researching how to get the best out of myself I found that there was a real lack of resources available for T1Ds on this topic. I started Type1Athletic as a means to note down everything that I was learning through my research and subsequent trials (and errors), and I found many fantastic people, groups and organisations who were trying to do the same thing. This was a really positive experience and helped me in a number of ways.

I came across the Diabetes Sports Project (DSP) when searching the web one day and I instantly felt like I was looking at what I wanted Type1Athletic to be in the future. Through similar experiences to my own and in achieving some amazing race results with T1D the co-founders of DSP, Casey Bowen and Eric Trozer, were showing that having T1D was no hurdle to achieving sporting success. I was not only impressed by the quality of the athletes who were part of the DSP team but also the fantastic public awareness and education that they were doing in America. Working with children and the broader community, and also getting support from some significant companies they were really making a difference for the diabetes community. I felt an instant affinity with the group and contacted them immediately.

DiabetesSportsProject

DSP is led by a group of world class athletes who thrive with diabetes, their stories, athletic accomplishments and community outreach empower other to live healthy, responsible and active lives.

It is truly fantastic when you meet people who have shared very similar experiences and are working towards similar goals as you are. My contact with everyone at DSP has been really positive and I have been introduced to other inspiring T1D athletes from around the world. With technology making it easy to communicate with others across the globe and getting instant updates through social media, being involved in a global network of like minded individuals is nothing but positive.

In July 2016 DSP launched their “Champions” who are everyday T1Ds doing amazing things in their chosen sports and whose stories will provide further inspiration to all T1Ds to not let T1D stop them from achieving their best. I am proud to have been chosen as a DSP Champion and I hope that my experiences can educate and inspire people. Being involved with DSP does not change my attitude to my sport or how I live my life, but I get great motivation from knowing that I might be inspiring someone to achieve their own goals and that others can learn from my experiences. Through the challenges that I have faced I know that it would have been a lot easier if there had been a resources like DSP available to me when I was struggling.

Champions

Diabetes Champions – Stories to educate and inspire

Although DSP is based in America they provide a fantastic resource for all T1Ds worldwide and I highly recommend visiting their website, facebook page and following them through social media on instagram and twitter. I guarantee that having a network of T1Ds will provide you with the information, support and motivation you need to achieve your best.

Diabetes Sports Project: www.diabetessportsproject.com

The Diabetic Athlete

I was lucky to catch up with one of the fastest marathoners in the Australia yesterday, Shawn Forrest, who is also a Type 1 Diabetic. Shawn’s been running all of his life and as a professional athlete has a wealth of experience and knowledge about competing at the highest level which I just love learning about. He’s only been a T1D since 2014 so I might have also been able to provide the same to him with my lifetime of diabetes experience.

I get so much from speaking with similarly experienced and focused people with T1D and I walk away from these meetings feeling enthused with new knowledge and with a little weight lifted off my shoulders knowing that someone else is going through the exact same experiences and feelings as I am.We are not along!

One of the topics which we spoke about was an athletes mindset and how having T1D can change this. I told Shawn about my experiences through the end of 2015 and early 2016 where I suffered from crashes, injuries, fatigue and ultimately depression. During that time I was so focused on the results that I stopped enjoying what I was doing, didn’t celebrate any achievements and had such a poor mindset that my performances suffered. Once I was able to acknowledge and reconcile this everything including my performances improved. The results are certainly important,  but so is the journey and also the bigger picture and enjoyment. On a much bigger stage Shawn had been working to qualify for the Olympic Games for a number of years in the marathon and there were untold pressures on him to achieve this, and then he was also diagnose with T1D. Listening to him I had so much respect for how he continued to push through and achieved some great results through some very challenging times.

The thing that we both agreed on was that having T1D allowed us to have a really positive impact every single day and in every single race through the diabetes community and this often something that we overlooked. There will always be personal goals, but working to promote T1D and inspire other T1Ds to be active, take on challenges and achieve their own goals is super rewarding in itself. This fact alone is great motivation to continue pushing our own limits and finding new challenges. As another T1D positive this is something which many athletes and people generally do not have the benefit of.

I’m looking forward to spending some more time with Shawn and getting my legs run off with a few training sessions with him.

If you don’t know about Shawn he’s a real inspiration for T1Ds and has competed at the top of long distance running around the world for many years. You can follow him on Twitter: @runforrestT1run

T&D June 19 – Time Off

A week of rest and recovery after Ironman 70.3 Cairns which included many hours in a deck chair, in the pool and at the dining table, it’s been a really different week for me. With no training on the cards for the time being I am reflecting on some of the big lessons I’ve learnt recently and allowing my mind and body to rejuvenate after a long 12 months. These things that I have learnt are all critically import to achieving my nest performances and they will form important checks for me next season so that all of my performances as good and better then my recent races.

  1. Mental: I believe that this has the biggest impact on my performance, both diabetes and athletic performance. I cannot believe how greater my BGL/diabetes stability is when I have a positive mindset. This positive mindset also yields the best training and racing performances along with rest (sleeping) and recovery.
  2. Physical: Although I am good a pushing my body to the limit, I am not so good at adapting my training program when my body is not 100%. Taking days off, sleeping in or doing those small recovery and rehab things are as important as getting the kilometres in.
  3. Diabetes: It’s obvious but the control of my diabetes (BGLs) has a direct influence on my athletic performance (and the rest of my life). This is the most important part of my life which I must remain focused on. This is not something to be upset by, it should be used to provide the planning and structure which will help me be the best possible athlete.
  4. Nutrition: Closely linked with all other aspects I have a tendency to be really strict with my diet which does not always provide for the best overall outcomes. There is no point beating yourself up for eating a treat and enjoying the experience. With a more relaxed approach over the last 3 months where I have allowed myself to indulge a little more, my performance has not suffered and have actually ended up physically and mentally stronger.
  5. Racing: During the last 12 months I got to a place where I was only focused on the result and forgot to enjoy the journey. It sounds simple but I was training hard and racing well but would constantly focus on the negatives. Recently with the help of my girlfriend and my training partner (constantly reminding me of all of the positives) it finally sunk in and this really transformed me. When racing, you’ve got to enjoy it and not take everything to seriously; you’ve done the training, your’re ready to race and the performance will be what you deserve.
Bike Rack Photo

With loads of winter training miles on the cards I can share the love around to all of my bikes; which one have I taken out this morning?

This is the first time that I have had a real break for the last couple of years and it’s certainly a new experience which I am going to have to adapt to. I’ve had to make changes to my diabetes management including increasing my insulin doses (around +20%) to account for the lack of exercise I am doing. My diet has also changed and although it is still very healthy I am not eating as much and I am enjoying a few extra indulgences. If I am thinking about doing anything to strenuous I just remind myself that I am actually getting real benefits from this break and by doing nothing it will actually improve my training when I return. It’s also a great time to pay back my family for all of their support and putting up with a diabetic triathlete (thank you).

Without training to blog about I have a couple of pieces which I have been thinking about for sometime which I want to post over the coming weeks. Mental health, diabetes performance and stress and use of continuous monitors. T&D will be taking a break until training returns in July but plenty of diabetes stuff will be posted. Looking forward to all the things to come!

 

Ironman 70.3 Cairns Race Report

Cairns was a fantastic race to end this block of training and racing for me. I’ve have many challenges over the last 12 months and to finish with a tough and successful race is really positive and has made me more enthusiastic to continue racing and improving. 12 months ago my mindset was all about the end result but I have learnt that there are many smaller victories along the way and enjoying the journey and the racing is the most important thing. I am now a better athlete for all that I have experienced.

Ironman 70.3 Cairns is a little more complicated than other races with the travel from Melbourne, organising my bike and kit, planning nutrition, different start, transition and finish locations, and of course keeping my diabetes under the best control possible. Cairns is a huge event that felt like it took over the whole region with the Ironman atmosphere. Getting that buzz when you arrive is great and gave me that little kick to get through to race morning.

Coming to Cairns with a season worth of training and racing under my belt I was focusing on the other important things including; nutrition, hydration, rest and of course my diabetes. Leading into the race I was in such a positive mindset that everything felt like it was running to plan and even my BGLs were stable and predictable. I had everything planned out and I just wanted to get to the start line and race. I have not felt like this for over 12 months and it was really energising to go into a race knowing that everything was under control. I was really enjoying this and being positive was also making me feel physically buzzing also.

Race day I was up at 3:30am to get to the bus terminal for transport up to the start at Palm Coves (45mins trip from Cairns). My BGLs were running perfectly at 6.0mmol/L from 3:30am to when I arrive at Palm Cove at 5:00am. My plan was to setup my transition, do a short warm-up, get into my wetsuit and then have something to eat about 30 minutes before the start. For the hour before the race start it was raining heavily and the winds were picking up making things a little awkward getting ready squeezed under the limited available shelter. With my BGLs still tracking at 6.5mmol/L I got down my carb/protein/coffee shake at 6am and was ready get on the beach for the start.

As a sub-30 minute swimmer I started in the first couple of groups off the rolling start. I was relaxed and enter the water calmly duck diving a couple of times and then swimming to some clear water around the first buoy. It was a little funny when I realised that I hadn’t done a swim in the “ocean” for a long time with all of my recent races in protected water. The ocean swells and choppy conditions were certainly a little challenging but the swim course was straightforward and passed pretty quickly. I was able to swim in clear water and sighted the buoys clearly. 29 minutes out of the water, feeling great and even giving my support team (Inge, Mum and Ken) a quick smile as I started the long long long run to my bike in T1 (I’m guessing this was about 500m and a pretty unique transition).

I am always happy to get onto the bike as I feel relaxed riding and it gives me plenty of time to check my BGLs and adjust if need be. Starting on the bike leg my BGL was at 10.0mmol/L that was a little higher than I thought it would be after the swim but still in a good range. Using the new Freestyle Libre Flash glucose monitor for the first time in a race it really made checking my BGLs easy and I trusted that the reading would be accurate. I wasn’t wrong and I honestly thing that this little device relieve the one of the stresses from previous races when my CGM wasn’t accurate I was finger prick testing during the race.

BikeRun

Not needing to eat straight away I got in plenty of fluids (no carbs Endura) and settled into a steady rhythm (aiming for 85 cadence at 250 watts). There had been plenty of chatter about the drafting enforcement and there were a lot of TA official’s on the bike course. I had ended up in a group of 4 riders with each trying to push away but all seeming to remain together generally at a legal distance. The Captain Cook Hwy is a beautiful stretch of road and with the rolling hills and the ocean almost within reach the kilometres passed really quickly. The rain was pretty constant and at times so heavy that I couldn’t hear myself think as the massive tropical raindrops hammered into my helmet. After the turn-around point at the 30km mark I was feeling great and still in the group of four. There was now a slight head wind and the heavy rain continued. At around the 50km mark just as I had pushed to the front of the group I noticed my front end go wobbly and looking down I could immediately see that I had a flat tyre. Having had not handling issues on the wet and slippery roads to this point I nearly came off when trying to come to a stop now. Heart racing and legs pounding I was immediately annoyed but quickly got off, flicked off my front wheel and changed the tube. It may have taken 5 minutes all up but I didn’t worry and I was quick to get back into my rhythm heading to Cairns back past Palm Cove.

With 15 kilometres to go I was feeling the power draining from my legs and after checking my BGL realised that I hadn’t eaten enough in the last hour and my BGL was down to 4.0mmol/L and dropping. I had to ease up at this point and find a more comfortable rhythm so that I could eat and get my BGLs back up to start the run leg. My last 15 kilometres were slower than I would have liked but I just focused on being smooth, eating and drinking, and then checking my BGLs every 10 minutes. When I got to T2 my BGLs were back up to 6.5mmol/L and having eased off for the last part of the ride was feeling great starting the run (in the pouring rain). I got a little extra boost from seeing Inge and Mum again as I ran out of the transition and I may have even given someone a high-five!

Having put extra hours into my running over the last month I was looking forward to seeing how this training would pay off. I wanted to set a 4-minute pace to start with and I looked to find someone of a similar pace to work off. I was able to stick with this pace until the 8km point where the hurt set-in and I needed to slow. This was a little mental hurdle to overcome and I told myself to stick tough and maintain a steady pace, picking it up if I could. For the remainder of the run I was pacing around 4:30/km with a couple of faster and slower kilometres as I pushed harder or checked my BGLs and sucked down a gel. The heavy tropical rain continued to come and go and there were plenty of big puddles to run through (sort of good to take your mind off the pain). With my BGLs being on track I also enjoyed a few pieces of watermelon. Being my weakest leg the run is always tough but having my BGLs under control meant that I could focus on the running and not my diabetes for the first time in several races. With the atmosphere at the turnarounds and the crowds spread out along the whole run course the kilometres did pass quickly and the Ironman red carpet was underfoot with my arms in the air (still in the rain) before midday! BGLs finished at 6.0mmol/L, treading slightly downwards which allowed me to indulge in the recovery tent with a few big slices of watermelon and a protein recovery drink.

I finished with a time of 4hrs 38mins in 9th place in my age and 35th place over all. This was the toughest 70.3 race that I have completed and not worrying about the time or the place I am ready happy with my performance. There is always room to improve but I raced with the best mindset and with excellent control of my diabetes. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face after the race!

Finish - Cropped

Couldn’t be happier crossing the finish line!

I take some real positives out of this race. Firstly, my mental state leading into and during the race had the biggest impact on my performance including my diabetes. Being able to overcome several challenges and then keep going is a real strength that I am proud of. I have now learnt that my mental state is the most important thing for my performance and something that I will continue to work on for every race. Secondly, my diabetes plan worked perfectly with the basal program I set allowing me to eat and keep my BGLs stable. Finally, my swim and bike legs remained consistently strong and if not for the puncture I think that I would have been close to a bike PB for the 90km. With my diabetes plan working perfectly I did forget to eat during the bike leg (possibly because of the flat tyre) that led to a minor hypo. My nutrition and hydration are elements that I need to work on. Finally, although my run was OK I do want to improve this and be able to run consistently around 1hr 20-25 minutes for the run leg.

I actually feel like a different person to 12 months ago when I performance like this would have been picked apart negatively. Being positive really changes my whole performance and as hard as it has been to get to this point I am so glad that I was able to get here. I’ve had the best support from my partner Inge who has really shown me how important your mental condition is and how it impacts all other aspects of your body and your performance. Of course the rest of my family has been wonderful support and they’d enjoyed a few little trips away to support me. I’m now looking forward to a little break and then getting back into it for next season, new races and new goals.