Growing up these days is hard, but growing up as one of the youngest diagnosed cases of Type 1 diabetes is even harder. Although this was tough, these were the cards I was dealt, being diagnosed with type one diabetes at only three weeks old. Growing up was an uphill battle trying to balance not only the throws of everyday life, but also needing to balance my diet and eating schedule with it being the era of NPH insulin and regular insulin regimens. Since then, science has come a long way and diabetes no longer has to be a limiting factor for people, as long as they plan accordingly.
I really must begin by thanking my mother who stood by me my whole life, helping me learn and balance my health. Having an infant child with Type 1 diabetes cannot be an easy feat by any means, and she handled this challenge with grace. To say I struggled with my disease at times growing up would be an understatement, however I was always involved in sports to some capacity. I ran track and cross country during high school and trained in Taekwondo from the age of eight until I was 16 years old, earning my first degree black belt, and always having to be careful to make sure I was eating enough to fuel such an active lifestyle. As technology progressed, management of my disease became easier and easier.
It wasn’t until about two years ago that I found what would become my true passion, obstacle course racing. Like so many others, I ran my first race in 2015 and was immediately hooked. My first race was the Down and Dirty held in Hartford, Connecticut. After completing the 3.2 mile course I immediately took to the internet, signing up for every race in about a 50 mile radius, filling up my schedule for all the weekends for months to come. With this new hobby of mine came many personal challenges.
One of the challenges was the delicate balancing of new training regimens while also figuring out how exactly to tweak my diet to meet the new physical demands required by these constantly varying training regimens. I quickly found my daily carb intake drastically increasing to meet the new physical demand of the training required to improve my results in these events. Over the past few months I have seen many posts on diabetes athletic group pages asking how different diabetics approach fueling for such events while also maintaining a stable blood glucose level. Now I don’t claim to be an expert of any sort, but I’m simply letting people know how I approached this difficult task and what I figured out that works for me.
What has worked for me may not work for everyone, but it has been the solution to my dilemma of avoiding low glucose levels while partaking in such events. After a lot of trial and error, I found that eating a complex carb such as a sweet potato or brown rice approximately 30-45 minutes before an event, provides the necessary sustained boost in blood glucose needed to compete in these races without dropping low and avoiding increased blood glucose levels. I found that sticking to natural wholesome foods like these were far more beneficial for me then some of the popular sports gels or energy beans that people use, since they often lead to high blood glucose levels afterwards due to their sugar-based roots.
While diabetes can definitely be a difficult disease for a lot of us to cope with, it should by no means be a limiting factor when deciding what forms of physical activity an individual should try. Science has come a long way with treatment methods since I was diagnosed in 1990, and with careful consideration and proper planning, anyone can successfully compete or take part in an obstacle course race like a Spartan Race, Bone Frog Challenge, or a Tough Mudder. Type 1 diabetes is no longer a limiting factor for someone trying to lead an active lifestyle. Diabetes hasn’t held me back any., nor should it you!
Amazing Athletes: Micheal McLain obstacle racing enthusiast