The Truth About Living with Type 1 Diabetes

Imagine you’re a tightrope walker, and you have one hand stretched out, gripping a single teaspoon of sugar. This little teaspoon represents the amount of sugar that is dissolved in the blood in the body at any one time. Now imagine that grains of sugar are falling from the sky – and the aim of the game is to keep the amount of sugar on that teaspoon as close to level as possible. Any decision to consume carbohydrates (bread, rice, pasta, root vegetables (beetroot, parsnips, carrots, potatoes) cakes, biscuits, breakfast cereals, crisps, chips, sauce, milk, yoghurt, fruit, fruit juice, soft drinks, etc) has the effect of hailstorms of sugar cubes falling from the sky and crashing into your spoon. Your spoon is overflowing but the amount of sugar on that spoon can only be reduced with an injection of insulin, which you must calculate with a ratio that depends on your initial blood sugar level, body weight, sensitivity to insulin and sensitivity to carbohydrates. Every injection enables you to shake that teaspoon a little, but only slightly after 20 minutes after injecting, and not fully until 2 hours after. By then, your teaspoon may still be overflowing, or maybe now you’ve miscalculated and there are only a few granules left on your spoon. You begin to shake and wobble your spoon under the grains that continue to fall from the sky, trying desperately to replenish your spoon to its correct level. While all of this is happening, the audience at the circus are throwing inflatable balloons at you. To the audience, they’re balls of air. But to you, they’re full of stress, adrenaline, caffeine, alcohol, dehydration, illness, weather, insulin, medicine, exercise, sleep, heat and hormones; they’re full of all the things that effect sugar levels. To the audience, the balls are harmless. But to you, every single one knocks you and causes you to either lose some of the granules from your spoon or to catch more and overspill. Every step you take affects your immediate or long term survival. Every single moment of every single day.

That’s the core of what Type 1 Diabetes is. Sure, it’s about living with a pancreas that doesn’t work – but it’s about so much more than that. We prick our fingers over 8 times a day and inject ourselves several more times, but you couldn’t pick us out of a line up because we don’t look sick. Having an auto-immune condition means that we live in a body that waged a war against itself, and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it. This is why Type 1 Diabetes is less about what you can see and more about what you can’t.

Living with Type 1 is about living with the burden of trying to manage a disease which is so insidious and so unrelenting that it makes hard work out of staying alive. No two days are the same with diabetes. Hell, no two meals are the same with diabetes. We can do the same thing every single day but we will always get different results. We’re always guessing, always fighting – and there is the constant feeling like nobody notices. But why would you? How would you know that the words I’m mumbling are jumbled because my brain is starved of the glucose it needs to function properly? How could you know that the little orange box I keep in my hand bag contains an injection that could save my life? This isn’t a ‘poor me’ story. It’s the reality of living life with an illness that could turn any day into a medical emergency, and raising awareness of that.

Living with Type 1 diabetes gives you two choices: insulin or death. That’s it. No amount of exercise, healthy eating, or pills will ever make it go away. Can you think of any illness that allows the affected (or ‘sufferer’ as they like to say) to choose their own amount of medication? Sounds crazy, right? But that’s what Type 1 Diabetics do several times a day. We are our own drug givers – we self-medicate – we decide how much and when… and we do this with an injection of a hormone that, whilst essential in keeping us alive, also has the potential to kill us every time we inject. Every. Single. Time.

Living with Type 1 is about not being able to remember what it’s like to wake up in the morning and not immediately reach for my testing kit. It’s about not remembering what it’s like to eat without calculating the number of units I need to inject for my meal or snack.

Living with Type 1 is about enduring the feeling of having hypoglycemic (hypo) symptoms. Me saying ‘I’m low’ means there is a deficiency of glucose in my bloodstream. It means my brain is being starved of the glucose it needs to function, which I need to replace, fast. Without glucose, hypoglycemia may become severe and result in accidents, injuries, coma or death… and by ‘may’ I mean, all it takes is a few extra clicks on my insulin pen – incorrectly estimating a dosage for a meal and then missing the hypo symptoms. It’s about the way a hypo hits differently each time. It’s the feeling of the shakiness when I’m unable to carry out normal tasks, the feeling of nervousness and anxiety, the sweats that wash over and through me and my work clothes. It’s the feeling of irritability, impatience, anger, stubbornness, sadness and confusion, without wanting to be any of those things. It’s the feeling of the rapid heart beat through my chest, lightheadedness and dizziness that makes me question my ability to even stand. It’s the feeling of sleepiness, hunger, nausea and blurred vision. It’s the weird tingling and numbness at the end of my tongue. It’s the headaches, the fatigue and the weakness. It’s the lack of co-ordination. It’s the feeling of frustration at sensing any number of these symptoms at any one time and being physically impaired by my own damn body. It’s the feeling that I am inadequate. It’s the feeling of humiliation as my testing kit falls to the floor because my hands are shaking too hard to hold it still enough to get a reading. And then it’s about the aftermath: the cold and clammy skin from the remnants of sweat, the feeling of exhaustion.

Living with Type 1 is about living a life that is reliant on medication from a pharmacy, just to stay alive. One time at work, I was hungry and my self-control faltered. I had a bunch of carbs and injected my insulin, but it wasn’t enough. Not only did my blood sugar skyrocket, but I’d ran out of insulin. Fortunately for me, the pharmacy that held my prescription was a 5 minute walk up a hill. I stood at the desk while they filled my prescription, biting my nails and blinking hard trying not to cry.

Living with Type 1 is about the occasions I’ve been at work – convinced my shift is going to end in an ambulance because I’m struggling to keep my levels in a safe range, despite consuming sugar. It’s about the multiple occasions I’ve calmly reminded my co-workers where my emergency Glucogen pen is and continued to work, not telling them I’m scared I might drop to the floor at any second, because I don’t look sick, remember?

It’s about the time I lagged behind others during the jog back from interval sessions, 2 miles away off campus, in the cold, dark evening on my own, with my blood sugar plummeting and my thoughts racing – was I visible to traffic if I collapsed? Should I run closer to the road? Would they realise I was diabetic? Would they save me?

It’s about the immediate horror and agitation when I realise I don’t have my blood sugar kit with me. What if I’m high and damaging my organs? What if I’m low and don’t feel it? What if I pass out?

It’s about the terrifying lows. Like the time I started to black out at the coffee machine, just as the sugar I’d consumed kicked in. Or the time I woke up in the night and went to the bathroom before I fell to my knees because I was so low that I couldn’t walk.

It’s about the occasions I seem rude because I’m struggling to string words together, standing there quietly confused and appearing to ignore you because my blood sugar is low and my brain can’t get the glucose it needs to function properly. 

It’s about the times I eat dinner in a restaurant and realise I don’t have enough insulin for the meal I just ordered, or ate, and have to return home as soon as possible.

It’s about the time I was admitted to hospital and hooked up to a Glucose IV drip because I needed fluids but the nurse didn’t understand that this could send me into a coma.

It’s about the nights I prop myself up in bed with the light on to stop myself from falling asleep, because my levels have been unstable and if I sleep, I might not wake up.

It’s about all the times I set alarms at hourly intervals during the night to check I’m still alive.

It’s about the nights I go to sleep feeling fine, but waking up drenched in sweat after suffering a hypo.

It’s about the mornings after the nights like those when I wake up feeling like I’ve been hit by a bus, and having to go to work anyway.

It’s about the bad days when the only time I leave my bed is to go to the bathroom.

It’s about hearing all the natural remedies and friendly suggestions people believe will help cure you, whilst trying to explain that my illness has no cure.

It’s about the grief suffered shortly after diagnosis, of being faced with a life long, chronic illness, but getting on with living anyway.

It’s about living with the thoughts of what might happen to me in the form of complications in the future, without losing the hope that they won’t.

It’s about living in a body that is a little more fragile than it used to be, but also stronger in ways I never knew possible.

Living with Type 1 Diabetes is about fighting for my health every moment of every day. It’s about making it to the end of that tight rope at the end of the day – teaspoon in hand. It’s about closing my eyes and falling asleep, only to wake up in the morning and having the strength to do it all over again.

Running The Routeburn

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Pausing at the lookout during my favourite running route around Mount Crichton, Queenstown – New Zealand (and holding my Freestyle Libre!)

I’d been back in New Zealand for just a few weeks, when my friend ran up behind me as I was rekindling my relationship with running and Queenstown’s mountains. I’d missed them both, and had recently discovered a new favourite track from the recommendation of a customer at work – a steep 7km loop through a Scenic Reserve, which sits 10km out of town (and phone coverage!). ‘Hi Stranger!’ a voice called out from behind me, and I looked over my shoulder to see my old Gym Trainer bounding up the trail behind me. I was walking by this point (it was steep…), but spent the next 10 minutes attempting to run alongside her while we chatted, before she left me in the dust and I spent a further 10 minutes walking and gasping with one hand on my hip whilst I got my breath back. During the conversation, Nat had asked me if I was running the Routeburn in a couple of weeks time. I wasn’t, but when I got home I had a Google of it anyway.

The Routeburn Track itself is an epic alpine ‘walk’ traditionally covered over 3 days, and passes through two national parks – Fiordland and Mount Aspiring. It is also part of a World Heritage Area and has been rated number 7 in Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Hikes of the World. The easiest way to describe the scenery in this part of the world is to say imagine Lord of the Rings – as Isengard was filmed just north of Glenorchy. The only issue with the Routeburn Track is the logistics of getting to and from each end – the Routeburn Shelter is about an hours drive north west of Queenstown, while The Divide is about 3.5/4 hours south west of Queenstown (see the map below – there really is no quicker way of driving to the Divide!)

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The Routeburn Classic
, however, takes The Routeburn Track and, well, runs with it. The race is also limited to 350 athletes because the number of people on the track at any one time is restricted by the Department Of Conservation. The website says that if you ‘like a challenge, feeling of isolation and running through areas and landscapes straight from a postcard or fantasy novel’ then you are in the right place. My eyes were wide and I was grinning at my laptop screen by this point. The Routeburn Classic sounded right up my street, and so I signed up (being fortunate enough to do so because of other athlete’s misfortunes – dropping out through injury, or other – as the event fills up pretty soon after opening!) The terms and conditions of the race included statements such as ‘Participation in The Routeburn Classic is a test of a person’s physical and mental limits and carries the potential for death and serious personal injury’ which only heightened my enthusiasm. I also had to agree that I had no ‘pre-existing medical condition’ and had ‘sufficiently trained’ to participate in The Routeburn Classic… Ahem…

Because the race takes place in the Fiordland, which is known for its extreme elements, there is a list of compulsory gear which has to be carried at all times, and was checked upon registration the day before. If caught running without the items (one thermal bottom, two thermal tops, a hat, gloves, a seam sealed stitched wind/waterproof jacket, a survival blanket and a whistle), the participant would be not be allowed to proceed to the Alpine environment.
On Friday morning, the day before Race Day, I was counting down the hours at work. I had decided that a 5:30am-midday shift would be completely fine, but I found myself excitedly counting down the hours before running around in a frenzy to make sure I had myself ready, fed, watered, packed up and good to walk back into town to meet The Girls and register at Outside Sports by 1:30pm. Somehow I did all of this and still found myself time to buy a new pair of Lululemon tights to run the race in…completely necessary, of course (in my defence, they’re water resistant…something all my other running tights lack!).

I’m going to skip the next 36 hours spent in Te Anau/Knobs Flat and jump straight in to the start of the race – because it ended up being postponed for the first year ever because of the weather and the helicopters being unable to fly in if required).

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The race

The race began 500m before the Divide, which is to have the effect of ‘spreading the field’ before you reach the single track of the divide. I think I barely reached 50 of those cold, early, uphill metres before wanting to go home. I hated it. All I could think was ‘why the hell am I doing this?’...And then we reached the track – the ‘well-graded’ track – which basically means unless you’re super fit then you’re walking that mofo for a good 3.5kms – gaining an elevation of 400m. These were a tough few kilometres. It always takes me a few kilometres to get into the rhythm of a run, and because the track was so narrow and so steep, I found myself walking in single file behind many other people. If there was ever a chance to overtake, I struggled to find the motivation when everyone else around me was walking. But we were progressing, nonetheless. Up, and up, and up. It was somewhere along this uphill slog that I started to chuckle to myself as we hiked up the hill in single file, fully equipped with backpacks and a few of us with fly swatters sticking out of our packs, as this image popped into my head:

Because I was still in high spirits, and enjoying the atmosphere of the run, I couldn’t help but burst into a little ‘Hi Hoooooooo!’ which, to my embarrassment, was met with complete silence (!!!)

From here, there was a nice little descent into Howden Hut, where I managed to sly ahead of a few people, but I still really struggled to get past them. I enjoyed the downhill, and as this whole section of the track was covered by woodland, I felt confident in my step and did some good speed. From Howden Hut,  however, the ascent began again through a lush silver beech forest. At 7.2km and 1000m above sea level, we rounded a corner to see the incredible Earland Falls – a magnificent 174 metre high waterfall cascading down the mountain and spraying onto the track. At this point, I was glad to be sharing the moment with a fellow Routeburn Virgin – who’s exclamation at the sight of the waterfall added to the grin that was already spread across my face. I stared for a moment to take it in. I tried stepping forward, but couldn’t resist looking back up… and stumbled. Lesson learnt. The terrain of much of the track is far too undulating to try running whilst simultaneously giving the view the time of admiration it deserved.

Earland Falls

A little further up from the Falls and though the woods, we came into an area called The Orchard – a bizarrely located, small, open, grassy area filled with ribbon wood trees – before re-entering the woods. After 12km, I reached Lake Mackenzie before the 10:30am cut off time (anyone reaching this Hut beyond that time would have to return to the Divide with the marshals) and I falsely believed that much of the climb was done and dusted.Unfortunately for me, I was very wrong. We immediately began to climb through ancient forest, our runs becoming jogs, before becoming slogs. We climbed through moss and lichen, and I occasionally had to use my hands to clamber up rocks. Eventually, we broke out into the alpine world of daisies, buttercups, gentians and elderweiss where we had a cracking view of the Darren Mountains across the Hollyford Valley. This is where the views went from incredible to even more stunning as we climbed the open face. Think iced carved valleys. Think majestic snow covered peaks of the Southern Alps. Think mirror lakes. Think clouds beneath you. I looked up the mountain and saw we were climbing in a zig zag formation – not from the path in front of me, but by the tens of runners ahead of me, winding their way up. This was one of the occasions where I swore to myself. A lot. I kept having those moments where you can see what’s ahead of you, and you’re not sure that you like it. I persisted anyway, and then the snow started to fall and I broke into another grin. I loved it. And then a lady from Sydney who was following me up the trail was exclaiming her delight at the snow; ‘I’ve never ran in snow before!’ she said, and I could only smile and concur that it was flipping brilliant. There I was, a good chunk of the way through the Routeburn Track, running up an open mountain face in a singlet with a view too beautiful for words and snowflakes falling on my shoulders.

It was at the top of this section of the track where I remembered a piece of advice from someone at the race briefing: ‘layer up when you reach the bluff on the right, after the zig zig because you’re going to be exposed around the corner and lose all the heat you created on the way up’. So I pulled my thermal top over my head right before the bend around the bluff, and was instantly glad of it. The temperature had dropped to about -6 with the wind chill factor on the way to Harris Saddle. It was also around this point that my luck finally ran out on the rocks, and I slipped straight onto my bum. Luckily for me, though, this part of my body is naturally well padded and I was glad that this and my wrist took on most of the weight. I could finish the run with an injured wrist, but I did not want to injure my legs. I was fine and jumped right up – grateful to the man in front of me who stopped to check I was okay.

Somewhere along the last push past Oceans Peak, a loud orange figure stood on the horizon, before the path took a turn beyond her to the right. The figure was calling out to every single person. She high fived all participants, urging us all on. She was so full of enthusiasm, and I was amazed at her energy, especially this far into the race. As we approached her, the marshall told us we were half way, and I told her she deserved a medal, too. I was thrilled with the news of being half way (I ran with no watch or device that would tell me how far we’d ran, or how long we’d been running), and was especially thankful for her presence on that mountain.

19.5km from the start and we’d made it to Harris Saddle – the highest point of the course, sitting approximately 1300m above sea level. ‘It’s downhill from here!’ they said; ‘gravity will take you now!‘. I thanked the marshall’s for the information, and grinned as I pushed on. I turned a corner just past the Saddle, and it’s there that I saw the beautiful Lake Harris – and a large lens pointing towards me from down the track.

Routeburn

From here, we were blessed with more views of the mountains towering above the Routeburn River before we descended towards the Routeburn Falls Hut. It was here that I saw the remaining distance on a sign, and said ‘9kms to go!’ out loud, which was met with a silence from the marshals. I realised they may have thought that I saw this as a bad thing, so I added ‘awesome!’  to my comment which was met with more welcoming smiles. The landscape around the falls remained as dramatic as along the mountain face and the Saddle, until we descended into the alpine pastures of the Routeburn Flats. The track began to shadow the river which roared through a gorge. On more than one occasion during this segment of the track I found myself gripping the handrail fairly tightly and cautiously stepping my way down the path! Not much of the track had handrails, but on the parts it did, I didn’t hesitate to keep within arms distance of them.

‘Save something for the last 7km’ were words that I’d heard from multiple Routeburn Classic returners..and I can see why. Although the final 7km looks good on paper (just look at the elevation profile…it looks pretty flat, right?)… the reality is somewhat different. If you walk or run the Routeburn Track from the Divide expecting to find yourself cruising along down the final quarter of the track, then I think you’d be slightly taken aback. Although it is generally a gentle descent through columns of red beech trees, the wood also hides a few substantial ascents amongst its trunks, and they’re the reason you’ve got to keep something in the tank. I’ll admit to walking a few times during this section of the race. Not because I didn’t have anything left to give, but partly because my knee had been giving me grief since the descent from the saddle- and the field was so spread out by this point that I was often completely alone amongst the trees. I didn’t feel the need to give it my all – I just wanted to finish, and at this stage of the race, that was a given. The scenery was somewhat unstimulating compared to the surprises that the Routeburn Track had sprung upon me – I was no longer running along pristine lakes or above clouds along open mountain faces. Instead, I was back in my comfort zone of serene woodland. Don’t get me wrong – this part of the Routeburn is still beautiful – it was just a familliar kind of beautiful setting that I was used to.

It’s also during this stage of the race that I kept feeling myself well up. I’d have to slow to a walk just to calm my breathing. Someone overtook me and said ‘well done’ as I just about squeaked a ‘you too!’ back before choking up again. It happened on both of my marathons. The first marathon would always be a special event, after all – only 1% of the world’s population can say that this is something they’ve accomplished – and I completed it 2 months after my Type 1 Diagnosis, proud of my determination despite my body’s apparent retaliation against being well. With the second marathon, I struggled monumentally with my blood sugars during the second half of the race, and was left feeling incredibly frustrated at my body’s inability to run a marathon without having to fight death.

With the Routeburn, things were different. I cut my consumption of carbs to a minimum to ensure that my body was burning fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates – a state called Ketosis (to enter Ketosis, you generally need to consume around 20g of carbs or less per day – a single bagel contains 50g!) I eat low carb anyway , but taking it a step further to enter ketosis meant that I could run without the fear that I would to battle hypoglycemia at the same time – which is what happened during my marathons. Being in ketosis meant that my blood sugar levels had remained stable throughout the race (apart from an initial massive spike due to the intensity of the incline – but I came back down on my own to a perfect level). It also meant that I was able to complete a 32km run without consuming any food or glucose. I couldn’t have cared less about the pain in my knee at this stage, or the speed it took away from me. I didn’t care about how many people over took me, or how many times I had to slow, or walk. I wasn’t breaking any records. A long time ago I realised the best way to control this chronic illness was to eat low carb, and in doing so I found an alternative way to fuel my body to enable me to run the 32kms of the Routeburn safely. I didn’t have to eat a big carby breakfast, or carry lots of food with me. I didn’t have to test my sugar levels constantly, or keep topping up my sugar levels. I didn’t have to worry that my emergency Glucagon Kit was out of date, because there was no fear that my levels would plummet. I was safe in ketosis. I was just like the people around me, only I was running with Type 1 Diabetes, and crying with gratitude at still being able to run one of the most beautiful treks on our planet.

Routeburn

When Big D gets you down.

Nope.

I think that one of the worst parts of having a chronic illness is that sometimes, it breaks you. Maybe you have several bad days in a row. Maybe you just have one really bad day. Whichever it is, you realise you’ve gone on for so long being fine and that today, you’re not. You’re so far from fine that you’re struggling to even move. You don’t know how you made it through work, and you don’t remember how you made it home. You hide in your bed under your blanket all afternoon as the sky darkens outside. But even then, even in the depths of your grief, your illness is haunting you. You can’t sleep easy with the thought that maybe you won’t wake up. You can’t even nap without checking your blood sugar to ensure you’re not going to die. You’re pissed off that you ate some fish you thought was ‘safe’, but in actual fact has sky rocketed your blood sugar. You’re pissed off that an hour later your correction injection has plummeted your blood sugar despite still having an hour left until its peak effect and with an already potentially dangerous level…and dropping. You eat, despite not being hungry. You eat to keep your levels up. You eat to stay alive. You feel like you’re trying to survive in a body that wants to destroy you. You check you blood sugar. Still low. You check again. Still low. And again. Coming up. You’re dosing in and out of your slumber, wondering if this is happening, or if you’re even awake. You’re exhausted. You skip your run. You skip the gym. You skip meeting friends at the pub. You curl up and cry in a ball in your bed instead because your illness has had you today. It’s got its grubby claws around you and its squeezed away your sparkle. And then you grieve. You grieve over the stupid little fish that you ate. You grieve over the simple foods you can no longer eat without your body reacting terribly to it. You grieve over the realisation that you have an illness that will never leave you. You grieve over not being able to eat whatever you want, without it having consequences. You grieve over the life you lost and the life you’re forced to live. You cry until your eyes are puffy and then you tell yourself to pull yourself together. Today is a bad day. It happens. But you will pick yourself up and you will remind yourself that tomorrow is another day, and tomorrow, you will be bigger than your illness.

5 reasons you should treat a hypo with glucose tabs (and nothing else)

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 3.36.17 PMWe’ve all been there: you’re going about your day when a hypo smashes through your body like a lead balloon falling through the sky. You need sugar and you need it now. If you’re at home, there might be a variety of high sugar ‘treats’ on offer, and it’s all to tempting to go for it. And perhaps sometimes, you do; You unwrap the chocolate, scoff it down and before you know it you’ve had 2 or 3 or more with almost no acknowledgment of consuming any of them. You sit and you wait…has your blood sugar risen yet? Have you had enough sugar? Have you had too much? Do you still feel low? You panic at still feeling low and have a whole chocolate bar. That’ll do the trick. But 5 or 10 minutes later the panic you felt about dying has been replaced with guilt as you’re blood sugars are fast heading the other way. You’ve had too much and you now need to counteract the excess sugar with more insulin. And then you struggle with estimating how much insulin you need to bring you down the right amount without still being too high or going too low once again and riding the diabetes rollercoaster. Maybe you level off after a few hours. Maybe you don’t. But either way, you feel like shit. Shit about the high. Shit about the low. Shit about your poor control.

Here’s a different scenario:

We’ve all been there: you’re going about your day when a hypo smashes through your body like a lead balloon falling through the sky. You need sugar and you need it now. You test your blood sugar. Through your murky brain, you work out how much and when you last injected to estimate how much further you’re going to drop. You take the appropriate amount of glucose tabs to bring your blood sugar back up to range. You wait. The symptoms swiftly subside and you’re back to a stable level. You feel okay. A little drained from the low, but you didn’t over correct. You’re back to being you.

I’m a fan of bullet points, so here are 5 reasons why you should treat a hypo with glucose tabs (and nothing else):

1. Glucose tabs are accurate…

You can work out exactly how many mmol/L a single glucose tab will raise your blood sugar, and take the exact amount without having to worry if you’ve eaten enough – or too much.

2. …and fast acting.

Other sugared carbohydrates like chocolate take too long to bring your blood sugars up and within range. This can be dangerous if your insulin is still having an effect on your blood sugars (and thus likely to bring you down to a dangerous level), but also it may increase your hypo-unawareness.

3. They’re not particularly enjoyable.

And they shouldn’t be. If you see hypo-s as an excuse to have a ‘treat’, then you risk using them as an opportunity to be ‘naughty’ rather than deal with the problem in hand.

4. It sets you up for a good day

By avoiding sugared carbohydrates, you avoid triggering cravings for more of them. It also means you won’t have the mentality of ‘well I’ve already had such and such now, I might as well have more!’

5. You were offered a ticket on board the diabetes rollercoaster, and you turned it down.

Stable blood sugars are yours for the taking, congratulations!

Thriller in the Chiller: Day 2

‘Never give up and never be afraid of failure because otherwise you box yourself in and you limit yourself…You should be hungry to make your mark and you should be hungry to be seen and to be heard to have an effect out there. You have to think OUTside the box. Don’t be afraid to fail.’ (Arnold SCHWARZENEGGER)

Today we jogged, sprinted, lunged, squatted, sweated and panted. And then I realised that was only the warm-up.

Half of training was a fairly brutal 12 minute Tabata workout – 4 minutes of squats (20 seconds of exercise, 10 seconds of rest), 4 minutes of push-ups, followed by 4 minutes of sit-ups. The aim was to fit in as many reps of each exercise as possible, and to remember the total number for future exercises. Tabata workouts are great for improving  your aerobic capacity, anaerobic capacity, V02 max (the amount of oxygen your body is capable of utilising in one minute) and your resting metabolic rate (the minimal rate of energy expenditure at rest).

The other half of training was focused on footwork – and the trainers had us bouncing on the balls of our feet with our hands by our cheeks to get used to the movement in the ring. It felt (and looked!) very odd but it was great to learn something new by great trainers.

Bring on day 3!

Thriller vs. Diabetes

Woke up again higher than I’d prefer – 6.6, but because the exercises were less intensive than the beep test sprints, my BG only raised to 8.1 after class. I left it 2 hours after exercise before taking insulin (at which stage I’d only fallen to 6.8). Hopefully following training days won’t spike me as high as day 1 either!

Thriller in the Chiller: Day 1

‘Pain is temporary. It may last for a minute, or an hour, or a day, or even a year. but eventually, it will subside. And something else will take it’s place. If I quit, however, it will last forever.’

First days are always nerve racking. Whether it’s the first day of school, the first day on a new job, or the first day of a 4 times a week 6am intensive boxing boot camp during Winter.

‘No alcohol, no drugs, no smoking’. Those were three rules told to us after we gathered around in the large, cool, sports hall. It helps to already be a non-drug taking, non-smoker, and cutting out alcohol won’t be an issue. I’m committed to Thriller, not going out for drinks. I’m going to go one further and cut out fizzy drinks, too.

‘100% effort 100% of the time’. Again, not an issue. When I would be doing homework or sports at school, my mum would tell me not to worry – that I could only do my best. My expectations of myself sit high above anyone else’s expectations of me. I’m always determined to do my best. I’m not afraid to fail. Failure doesn’t matter as long as you gave it everything you had. You can’t fail if you don’t try. And you can’t try if you quit. Never quit. Push yourself and your limits. You don’t know your limits until you push yourself through them. 

We did a big warm up and were shown the correct form for push-ups, sit ups, squats and burpees – the core exercises of each session. I struggled with the push-ups, as I expected. My arms were trembling and I don’t have the upper body strength to complete them…yet. And then we did a beep test. One person argued that they made it to the line within the beep, when the trainer caught them out. They were expelled from the boot camp.

Overall, there were a lot more females than I expected to see there (I’d say almost 50%), and an all around decent level of fitness. I’m looking forward to Day 2!

Thriller vs. Diabetes
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I started off this morning a little higher than I’d have liked, but still within range (6.4). My blood sugar spiked considerably post-boot camp (12.3), and didn’t drop after an hour without insulin (13.1) – This has never happened to me post-exercise! At this stage I injected insulin to get the glucose out of my bloodstream and to my muscles where it’s needed. With the high probability of being sensitive to insulin post-work out I took a moderate 3 units of NovaRapid (1 unit usually brings me down 1mmol/L – so even if I was doubly sensitive, I would still be in the higher end of the safe range). Exactly an hour later I’d dropped to 3.8. Dammit. Still an hour before the insulin I injected peaked! I spent the following hour sat down and popping the occasional jelly bean into my mouth when I felt the shakes. It’s been another hour now and I’ve come up to 4.0, still with the shakes so I’ve had one more jelly bean to stay in the safe zone and got myself a yummy vanilla protein shake before work. 

I refuse to see diabetes as a disadvantage during Thriller training. I see it as me having an extra job of figuring out what my body needs, not only to stay safe but to achieve my peak performance. If anything, having diabetes only fuels my determination to succeed.

Thriller in the Chiller

Thriller in the Chiller

Thriller In The Chiller is Queenstown’s premier charity boxing event taking place each year. It puts local Queenstowner’s though the rigors of competitive boxing training leading up to a night with a sell-out audience of 1,500.

The event itself is much more than just a boxing event. The thriller is about the experience, the environment and the atmosphere. After applications are in, 50 contenders are chosen to take part in the 6 week Contender Boot Camp. After this, the participants are dwindled down to 10 pairs of match-ups for the final 8 week Thriller Training Camp.

I’ve just found out I’ve made it in to the initial 6 Week Contender Bootcamp! While this doesn’t guarantee me a place in Thriller, it means I will be getting up 4 times a week to train at 6am. Every training session is compulsory and hard, hard work. The information pack tells me I’m going to be tired and sore all of the time, and that Thriller will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life – and for some bizarre reason this promise excites me as much as it terrifies me.

I’ve never boxed in my life. I’ve never committed to a training camp. I’ve never abstained from alcohol for 6 weeks. I’ve never hit anyone. I’ve never been hit.  

Regardless, I’m taking my boxing gloves and I’m punching my way out of my comfort zone to where life really begins. Everything starts with a vision and a willingness to begin, and my vision is with my better self 6 weeks into the future. I wanna represent the idea that you really can make what you want from what you have. I’m not afraid to fail, but I’m not afraid to try either. I will try my absolute hardest during training. I’m prepared to fail, but I’m not prepared to give up. No matter how many times I get knocked down, I will always get back up. I will get through the next 6 weeks with determination, passion and drive. And how will having Type 1 Diabetes limit me? Limits, like fears, are often just an illusion. My only limit is me.

Rocky Balboa