Firstly please forgive the really long post, I’ve been thinking of starting this blog for some time so had quite a lot of stuff to update you with. Please stick with me, I’m going to need you on this epic journey!
I have actually spent most of my life without type 1 or indeed any real knowledge of the condition, with no one in my family in living memory having had the condition. Born in 1980 I grew up in a small mining town near Pontefract in West Yorkshire, the first English born from a Scottish family.
From a very early age I’ve had an interest in sport and exercise playing football for my local football team from 4 years old and going on to captain the local team and playing for the school football teams until entering open-age football at just 15 years old. Football has been a huge part of my life and weekends have been spent playing Saturday and Sunday league football until 2012 which turned out to be a milestone year all round.
I continued my love for sport and exercise into my studies and graduated from Nottingham Trent University (having studied at North Lincolnshire College Centre for Sports Excellence) with a BSc (Hons) in Sport and Exercise Science. Little did I know those endocrinology modules would actually come in really handy!
2012 began as positive as any year I can remember, my wife and I had settled into our new house and we were expecting our first child in November. I planned on retiring from local football at the end of the season and had recently got into running and cycling. Indeed I was training for the York 10k race when I noticed my performance levels dropping rapidly and saw my training runs getting slower and slower instead of faster and faster. I remember getting further behind the other lads at football training and put it all down to getting older (at 32 years!) until it got to the point where any form of exercise made my heart feel like it was about to burst out of my chest.
The dwindling performances were coinciding with other weird happenings; I’d suddenly gained an unquenchable thirst, particularly for orange juice and could easily drink a 2 litre carton in seconds. I had been spending half the night going to the toilet, much to the dismay of my heavily pregnant wife. Then one morning I walked out of the shower in just a towel and my wife just shook her head and said “something is seriously wrong, please get to the doctors!”, I looked skeletal, upon weighing myself I’d lost 21 lbs in just three weeks!
Fast forward 24 hours and I was at York Hospital’s Diabetes Centre with a blood glucose level of 27 mmol. A quick bit of training and an insulin injection regime sorted and I was home armed with a blood glucose testing kit, a couple of insulin pens, needles and a list of instructions.
My immediate reaction upon diagnosis was really that I wouldn’t be able to take part in sport and exercise any more, I wouldn’t be able to have a pint with the boys and I would have to eat certain foods, no chocolate bars or cakes etc..
Education, Education, Education
I live by a number of mantras, one in particular being “be the expert”. If I was going to manage this condition and enjoy a decent quality of life I was going to have to learn about it, understand it, the way it works, how it acts and ultimately how to control it.
I attended the BITES course at York Diabetes Centre (a variation of DAFNE) which involved learning about carbohydrate counting, how the different insulin types work, the Glycaemic Index of foods and how quickly carbohydrates break down and enter the blood stream. A lot of this was reinforcing my sport and exercise science degree just in a different, life-prolonging context.
I also took to Twitter and Facebook to find other T1Ds who were taking part in sport to ask them how they managed it. I conversed via social media with type 1 diabetics who were Iron Man triathletes, elite marathon runners and cyclists who regularly cycled over 100 miles at a time. Finally I took the leap to show my T1D who’s boss!
Learning the Lessons
In 2013, not even a year since diagnosis I registered to run the York 10k (August), Great North Run (September) and Yorkshire Marathon (October) raising money for Diabetes UK. I completed the York 10k and Great North Run in respectable times whilst I simply completed the Yorkshire Marathon! My blood glucose meter failed at mile 15 and I gorged on energy gels due to fear of going hypo, ended up with St. John’s Ambulance and a meter reading of “Hi” at mile 20 before running off and completing the race by walking and running in short bursts. Overall result; the need for more understanding.
Animas Sports Weekend
I’d seen a number of tweets mention the Animas Sports Weekend, Loughborough University as the place to be in June 2014. I quickly booked a place and spent the whole weekend learning from medical professionals and more importantly other T1Ds about how to manage blood glucose levels during exercise. I also met some truly inspirational T1Ds, known as Animas Heroes, particularly Roddy Riddle (www.roddyriddle.com) who had recently completed the Marthon Des Sable, 156 miles across the Sahara desert and arguably “the toughest foot race on earth!” and Terrence Teixeira who had recently been chosen to represent Team Canada as a triathlete.
Armed with the information from the medical professionals, the inspiration from the Animas Heroes and the support from other T1Ds I decided to redefine my sport and exercise goals. Pre-diagnosis I had been training for an Iron Man triathlon until I was hit by injury and then diagnosis. First decision made to work towards completing an Iron Man triathlon! I got to spend some time with Roddy during the sports weekend and his tales of ultra marathons really interested me so goal to run an ultra marathon went on the list too.
My studies in sport and exercise science have allowed me to understand the importance of goal setting, in particular those goals need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based). In order to make it across the ultra marathon and Iron Man finish lines I’m going to need some achievable interim goals, particularly to get me to the fitness level required for those mammoth events. 2015 is the year that I smash my goals!
2015: The Plan
2015 as a year is simply building up the miles with three key events taking place in amongst a number of smaller local events. I’d like to run PBs in all three events (10k, half-marathon and marathon) and beat my pre-diagnosis times too, no one can say I aim low.
To give myself the best chance of smashing my goals I’ve made a couple of key decisions. Following the Animas Sports Weekend I decided, with the help of my Diabetes Centre, to move from multiple daily injections of insulin (MDI) to an insulin pump in order to give me increased flexibility in relation to managing my blood glucose levels during exercise. I also took the difficult decision to self-fund a Continuous Glucose Monitoring System (CGM) called Dexcom Platinum G4 which interacts with my Animas Vibe insulin pump to display my interstitial fluid glucose levels, basically around a 10 minute delayed blood glucose level. This has without doubt given me so much more information to be able to manage my blood glucose levels more effectively during exercise.
Key dates for 2015:
2nd August: York 10k (Jane Tomlinson’s Run for All)
13th September: Great North Run half marathon (Newcastle upon Tyne)
11th October: Yorkshire Marathon (York)
If 2015 goes to plan I’m hoping to complete my first ultra marathon in 2016, what an achievement that would be! Then it’s onto the Iron Man! Watch this space…….
……. Oh, we’re also expecting twins within the next few weeks so I’ll be smashing my goals this year whilst sleep deprived, wish me luck!