Diabetes Marathon Man

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I have been into long distance running to support and help inspire people with diabetes for over 7 years now. Until recent times, the often words I heard regarding my extreme challenges were ‘impossible’, ‘plucky’, ‘risky’… heck even ‘foolhardy’ – basically, the feelings from the outside world for all my previous challenges beforehand were that I had no chance. But I was never going to accept that, the soul reason I got into running was because I have type 1 diabetes and I can do things about it – more so, I can do things that ordinary people without diabetes couldn’t.

I’ve always enjoyed silencing those people and perhaps I’ve earned a right now for people to see it a different way, particularly after succeeding in the 30/30 challenge last year, running 30 miles a day for 30 days.

In light of this, it feels a little bit odd ahead of the upcoming 7 ‘Manhattan Marathons‘ in 7 days challenge that I am not being slaughtered and called mad, told it is impossible or labelled a fool. The expectation is almost as if it will be easy for me…

I can say that no marathon is easy, for any participant. Even Mo Farah!

west country

Succeeding in an ultra feat is always fulfilling, that buzzing adrenaline rush where you can’t help but punch the air and shout “come on!” – all the while knowing that you’ve defied your medical condition. It is something that serves as motivation to many others too, which is the most rewarding factor. Yet, when people say “well done” after the challenge and acknowledge the achievement, as appreciated as that always is, most showing their respect do not actually understand the full effort that has actually taken place towards reaching that final moment of “come on!!!”

Only if you live with diabetes can you ever really get an idea to understand it.

Over the years I have more or less educated myself in my diabetes management to keep control, particularly during extreme endurance challenges, and to share a taste for what that “come on” moment is all about – it all starts in the preparations. My body is like a Formula 1 race car and my brain is the constructor team, having to make the crucial decisions. Here’s an insight into the calculations of team Diathlete:

Education in Sports and Diabetes

Down Under Run

Here are some notes copied directly from my documents, reflecting the exact details of my methods for control of my diabetes during ultra marathon runs. This shows exactly what my brain has more or less worked out with experience, to now take control during marathons, and the level of workings out that there is to consider in being a ‘diathlete’!

How diabetes affects an ultra marathon runner with type one diabetes

For my type 1 diabetes management I take x2 different forms of insulin:

  1. Novorapid Insulin – This is my ‘quick acting’ insulin I take for meals (known medically as ‘Bolus Insulin’) counteracting the carbohydrates and glucose I intake. Novorapid lasts in the system more or less instantly for approx 1 hour.
  2. Levemir Insulin – This is my ‘background’ insulin I take at set times each day. Some diabetics take this once every day, I take it twice daily as the insulin lasts in the system roughly 12 – 15 hours. Medically this insulin is known as my Basal Insulin, and it works as a cushion for control with long lasting insulin in my body.

Controlling diabetes is about keeping a balance of your blood glucose levels (BGL) and I have to aim to keep my levels between a daily target ratio between 4.0mml/s – 10.0mml/s. If the blood glucose levels reads below 4.0mml/s this counts as a hypoglycaemia level and my body requires glucose (energy) to pick the levels back up again. If my blood glucose levels registers above 10.0mml/s this is a hyperglycaemia with too much glucose in my body. A more serious ‘hyper’ is when the levels read higher into the teen levels and when above 20.0mmls this is when the body can become at serious risk of Diabetic Ketoneasicdosis (DKA)

Ketones are an acid remaining after the body burns its own fat. When the body is burning too much fat, it may cause ketones to become active in the bloodstream.

When Running a Marathon, it is likely that blood glucose levels will gradually decrease in this form of aerobic exercise, as the body is burning energy at a consistent rate in running at the same pace for a long period. Alternatively, anaerobic exercise, which entails short bursts of energy such as sprints and changes of pace, can create the opposite affect and cause the body to rise blood glucose levels. This is known in diabetes terms as the Adrenaline Effect. What happens in the adrenaline effect is that the liver reacts to the sudden bursts of energy in anaerobic exercise and release Natural Glucose into the bloodstream. This will cause temporary spikes to rise blood glucose levels.

Running Marathons usually means that the Glucose Levels will lower in aerobic exercise and the rate that the levels lower can vary on the amount of insulin in the bloodstream. This means I have to work out what my Blood Glucose Levels are Pre Run by testing my Levels and inject an appropriate amount of insulin in both Novorapid (Quick Acting) insulin with my meal (looking for slow release carbohydrates such as beans on toast) and, most importantly for the days activity, my Levemir (Long Acting Background) insulin.

The Levemir (basal insulin) will be in my system throughout the entire run and as I am burning energy for the majority of the day in running the marathon, I am effectively replacing the job of this insulin and therefore do not require as much in my body.  If I have too much Basal Insulin whilst I run, this will be likely to cause my Blood Glucose Levels to crash.

Hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose levels) means when running, despite being safe from going hypo (low glucose) as well as the risk of the DKA it also becomes difficult to concentrate fully, with too much glucose in the bloodstream feeding the brain. Which may affect performance.

Hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels) is an essential must to avoid. A serious ‘hypo’ level will put me at risk of at worst case a Diabetic Coma – as the body has not enough energy to function. What happens in a hypoglycaemia is that the body begins to shut down as the Brain is not being fed any glucose (sugar) – meaning a lack of concentration, possible symptoms of shaking limbs and shivering and finally, falling unconscious. Blood Glucose Levels under 3.0mml/s are considered serious hypos.

When I am running the main aim is to Balance my Blood Glucose Levels, using appropriate Insulin Management for the level of activity and consuming the appropriate amounts of carbohydrates for the rate of energy that I will be burning.

WHEN RUNNING MARATHONS INSULIN RATIOS:

Average Day (not running): 14 Units Morning Levemir Dosage, 14 Units evening dosage (roughly 12hrs apart)

On a Marathon Day: 2 Units Levemir morning dosage, 1 unit Levemir early afternoon dosage, 11 units Levemir evening dosage. 

I figured that too much Levemir when running crashes levels rapidly. Too little causes hyperglycaemia. By adjusting to x3 Levemir injections per day instead of x2 daily, and lowering the total intake by roughly 50% I am able to keep more consistent control throughout and post Marathons. Timing of insulin intakes is crucial – it can lead to there being too much or too little insulin in the system when running. The 11 evening units are important to not be too late in the night, as will still be active when running in the morning, causing a hypo crash. Minimum 12 hours in advance for evening dosage vital.

So basically – living with diabetes and being active in sport makes you a mathematical genius!

Beach Running

Diabetes Awareness in Sport

The instant fear I had as an 8 year old after my diagnosis to type 1 diabetes was: CAN I STILL PLAY SPORTS!!???

For as far as I was concerned I was gonna be the next Sir Geoff Hurst, in fact, this very upcoming World Cup 2014 in Brazil was going to be the one that I played a big role in winning for England… I was always very imaginative as a boy. Diagnosis to diabetes complete with a lack of reassurance from medical professionals at the time, left me feeling uncertain of my dreams - could I still compete!!?? As far as I knew, this newly found type 1 diabetes in my body was going to be with me for life and affected my lifestyles, particularly during exercise.

I was back playing football on the school playgrounds within months and in an 11-a-side team within a year, going on to play against professional opposition during my teen years too – okay, it may not have been a World Cup Final, but facing the likes of Gillingham FC for me suggests that you can compete at any level in any sport whilst living with diabetes. Understanding your body and being educated in control is key, which the best part of that comes from experience in living with diabetes – how to prevent hypos or hypers, managing insulin and keeping regular blood sugar level checks.

The defining line here is that with the supplies such as insulin and blood testers, clinics on hand to monitor long term health and provide advice, and general self-experience in living with diabetes… you can master it. And when you master it, you can accomplish anything -in sports and life in general. It doesn’t always go to plan, but then you mark that down as experience and learn from it.

Sport Awareness Against Diabetes Discrimination

Over the past year or so I have been welcomed to many sports stadiums by professional clubs, particularly in the football world, in my Diathlete campaign to show the fight against discrimination towards people with diabetes. We can compete at the highest of levels the same as anybody else, we just have that added responsibility for our own health more than others too.

In many areas, unfortunately, there is a lack of understanding, particularly with type 1 diabetes. Many schools may be an example. I recall my School, Trinity, not having the greatest of understandings as far as diabetes was concerned, however, they took my word for it – and allowed me to compete in a Sports Day or PE sessions knowing I could control myself and would bring supplies such as energy drinks or gels and my testing meter with me. I won an 800m race once in Sports Day for my Yellow Tutor group, and won it by at least 200m in front of 2nd place! There are many schools though that do not let children with diabetes play in sports through fear something will happen, which I completely disagree with.

A story though which makes me proud is of a young lad with type 1 named Alfie Huke.

Alfie is now 6 years old and ran with my Olympic Torch to help me over the Bristol finish line during the 30/30 challenge last year. Last year he competed in 6 races and came first in 5 of them, 2nd in the last race (but he could have been a bit tired then so we’ll let him off!) – which to me states how diabetes can never hold you back, at any age, in any sport or part of life. A can do attitude is the key in keeping positive, keeping control and living life to the fullest!

This post will highlight some professional venues and sports clubs who have supported my Diathlete Awareness against Discrimination in Diabetes Campaign in the past few years:

Stadium: Selhurst Park
Club: Crystal Palace FC
Sport: Football
Division: Barclay’s Premier League

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Stadium: Camp Nou
Club: FC Barcelona
Sport: Football
Division: Liga BBVA

FC Barcelona

Stadium: Eton Dorney Lake
Club: National
Sport: Rowing

Eton Dorney

Stadium: Hamsworth Park
Club: Wick Academy FC
Sport: Football
Division: Scottish Highland Football League

Wick Academy FC

Stadium: Mosset Park
Club: Forres Mechanics FC
Sport: Football
Division: Scottish Highland League

Forres DUK

Stadium: Tulloch Caledonian Stadium
Club: Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC
Sport: Football
Division: Scottish Premier League

Inverness Caledonian Thistle

Stadium: Pittodrie Stadium
Club: Aberdeen FC
Sport: Football
Division: Scottish Premier League

Aberdeen FC

 

Stadium: Tannadice Park
Club: Dundee United FC
Sport: Football
Division: Scottish Premier League

Dundee United FC

Stadium: Ibrox Stadium
Club: Glasgow Rangers FC
Sport: Football
Division: Scottish First Division

Rangers FC 2

 

Stadium: Fir Park
Club: Motherwell FC
Sport: Football
Division: Scottish Premier League

Motherwell FC

Stadium: Brunton Park
Club: Carlisle United FC
Sport: Football
Division: English Football League 2

Carlisle United FC

 

Stadium: Highbury Stadium
Club: Fleetwood Town FC
Sport: Football
Division: English Football League 1

Fleetwood Town FC

 

Stadium: Ewood Park
Club: Blackburn Rovers FC
Sport: Football
Division: English Football League Championship

Blackburn Rovers

 

Stadium: Old Trafford
Club: Manchester United FC
Sport: Football
Division: Barclay’s Premier League

Manchester United FC 2

 

Stadium: Anfield
Club: Liverpool FC
Sport: Football
Division: Barclay’s Premier League

Liverpool FC

 

Stadium: Goodison Park
Club: Everton FC
Sport: Football
Division: Barclay’s Premier League

Everton FC

Stadium: Racecourse Ground
Club: Wrexham FC
Sport: Football
Division: English Skybet Conference

Wrexham FC

 

Stadium: Alexandra Stadium (Gresty Road)
Club: Crewe Alexandra FC
Sport: Football
Division: English Football League 1

Crewe Alexandra

 

Stadium: Molineaux Stadium
Club: Wolverhampton Wanderers FC
Sport: Football
Division: English Football League Championship

Wolves FC

 

Stadium: Villa Park
Club: Aston Villa FC
Sport: Football
Division: Barclay’s Premier League

Villa Park

 

Stadium: Memorial Stadium
Club: Bristol Rovers FC
Sport: Football
Division: English Football League 2

Bristol Rovers

 

Stadium: Country Ground
Club: Somerset County Cricket Club
Sport: Cricket
Division: County Championship

Somerset County Cricket

 

Stadium: St James Park
Club: Exeter City FC
Sport: Football
Division: English Football League 2

Exeter

Stadium: Plainmoor
Club: Torquay United FC
Sport: Football
Division: English Skybet Conference

 

Torquay United FC

 

Stadium: Home Park Stadium
Club: Plymouth Argyle FC
Sport: Football
Division: English Football League 2

Plymouth Argyle

 

Stadium: Wembley Stadium
Club: English National Football
Sport: Football

Wembley Stadium uk

 

Stadium: Adelaide Oval
Club: Australia National Cricket
Sport: Cricket

 

Adelaide Oval

 

Stadium: AAMI Stadium (former home to the Adelaide Crows)
Club: Adelaide Crows
Sport: Australian Football
Adelaide CrowsStadium: Coopers Stadium
Club: Adelaide United FC
Sport: Football
Division: Hyundai A-League

Adelaide United FC

 

Stadium: Murrayfield Stadium
Club: Scotland International Rugby
Sport: Rugby

Murrayfield

Diabetes Week

In the UK for this week it is Diabetes Week (8th – 14th June 2014) to help raise awareness of type 1 and type 2 diabetes throughout the nation and share support and encouragement across the UK’s diabetes communities.

Diabetes UK are launching a campaign through the week on the theme of ‘I can’ – a theme I very much agree with in my own life with type 1 diabetes. You can tweet them @DiabetesUK with your positive diabetes stories using the hashtag #Ican this week.

In regards to I can, I’ve always believed that in living with diabetes I can still achieve anything I set my mind to do in life. From graduating out of University after being predicted somewhat low grades during my earlier stages of education, getting a BA Hons in Media Writing when ironically enough as a young boy that couldn’t hold a pen the ‘normal way’ they made me write in pencil until the age of 8, to accomplishing ‘impossible’ feats such as running the length of Great Britain! With the right attitude to life, keeping positive, keeping focused, anything becomes a possibility – I believe that diabetes in my life now serves as an added motivation to go and accomplish more.

I have diabetes and I can do anything I set my mind to do.

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Over the weekend I was in Edinburgh to meet with the International Diabetes Federation’s Board and present the plan for my global Young Leaders in Diabetes project – which, of course, represents another major challenge! Although the time is not right to mention the project just yet openly, I finished my presentation with a Nelson Mandela quote:

“Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world.”

Where there are views such as discrimination in many areas of the world, where there are preventable hardships and many restrictions in areas to insulin or blood testing meters/strips and crucial medical supplies, with high costs for care and a general lack of understanding for people’s control… I intend to keep on running to one day educate the world that if the people living with diabetes in all areas are provided with the daily supplies they require in medication and knowledge for their health, there is absolutely no limitation to what people can achieve down any path of life – whilst living with diabetes.

I would like to thank the IDF Board for the opportunity to present the aims of my project to them and for having me at their board meeting. I look forward to cooperating with them on this throughout 2015!

Selfie taken at Murrayfield Stadium on Sunday, Edinburgh 

MurrayfieldI have diabetes and I can look like one suave git, whenever I like to.

Diabetes World Cup

With the World Cup 2014 coming up in a matter of days, I felt it a right time to post on my experiences with Football and Diabetes – for my life growing up was simply a case of: football, football, FOOTBALL!!! My hopes, like the rest of the English nation, aren’t too high this year for our National team – especially after the display against Ecuador in the warm-up friendly. We were playing with Ben Foster in goal though among a few other questionable names too (dare I say Rooney…) so maybe, with our first team on the pitch, we could do better. You never know…

Roy Hodsgon

I grew up supporting Crystal Palace as a boy living in the South East suburbs of London, so I am a loyal fan of the beautiful game to its truest, not-so-beautiful of meanings. After diagnosis to type 1 diabetes in January 2000, my childhood dream of playing football was under some pressure.

Every little child has a dream and football for me was it. I would constantly kick a ball around the house, the garden, the local park, the school… it was my life and soul. I loved going to Selhurst Park and watching Palace attempt to win games and to be fair, for the core of the 90s, we were a strong side. My long-term memory is very strong, for in the 90s I also remember growing up and watching the best England team I have probably seen in my life in Euro 1996 and again in France 98 with that epic match against Argentina, where we were absolutely cheated!!! Sol Campbell, the heroic Salmon, headed the ball in and Shearer never failed anybody! And as for David Beckham’s sending off… he went on to show the world after that HE IS DAVID BECKHAM – YOU CAN’T SEND HIM OFF!!!

Being diagnosed to diabetes I was left in hospital asking the question: can I still play football!!!???

A life-long medical condition, yes okay, but DO NOT TAKE AWAY MY FOOTBALL!!!

There was a lack of reassurance for me in leaving hospital. I guess at the time the levels of research were not as high as they are now in diabetes education and it was pointed out that I would have to closely monitor all daily activities – which had me fearing for my future career.

Within a matter of months though there was an advert in the local newspaper, Crayford Arrows wanted new players as they were going from 7-a-side Bexley A League champions, to an 11-a-side level.

My Old-Man suggested to go along, so I did.

I got in. We trained from the April through the summer and I never had any difficulties in health playing during that period. We had a bottle of energy drink available if I needed it, I had a good meal in the mornings and I was back playing football. If anything, it bettered my health being out exercising.

During that summer the future of Crayford Arrows became in doubt. The team split up, the players and coach left to form another side and the bare-bones of the team I was training with remained there. New trials commenced and we patched together a squad to compete in the Bexley D League – with one of the Dad’s, Big John, with a son we called Little John, becoming the gaffer. He planned to just be the manager for one season in order to keep things going until someone else could step in for the team…

8 years later, he was still the manager in our final season together.

Every club in any sport or activity has a responsibility for its members. With me having diabetes, it was important that there was some kind of responsibility to keep control, which meant John had to understand it a little – which is difficult for him as he wasn’t someone who had to live with it at all. But without bringing it up at all, he would have the energy drink on the side during training or games, if I seemed not myself he would ask but if not, we just got on and played football and he always said to just let him know if I felt I needed to test my blood sugars. For me this was the best approach. It was more my responsibility to let John know if I needed to, yet, wasn’t constantly asked about diabetes – so I felt like all the other lads, just there to enjoy football.

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In my early years of playing football, it was more likely that I had a hypo (low blood sugar levels) than a hyper (high blood sugar levels) after a game; however, it did not happen all that often. There were a couple of incidences where my levels crashed after a match and I needed the Parents on the side-line to quickly aid me with drinks or energy bars, yet, we always had that handy. There was one incident on the pitch where I went hypo that I can recall, it resulted in an own goal, I desperately scrambled to clear the ball away and got my coordination all wrong as it bobbled off my shin pad and in the net.  I asked to be taken off then, not feeling too good, and in checking my levels was hypo. I believe this was the case in my earlier years for two reasons, the first being my insulin. In my younger days I was on an insulin which is not even in existence today – Mixtard 30, It is a concoction of what now is two separate insulins, Basal Insulin (long term acting) and Bolus (quick acting insulin). This mixture made it more likely for a hypo drop to take place, especially with the games on Match-days being in the Morning times soon after my injection.

My insulin then altered as a boy to Novomix, which was quite similar but perhaps an improved version.

To begin with, I was a left back. Whilst we had John Church, our Millwall supporting gaffer on the side-line barking out orders such as “if in doubt kick it the f**k out!” we also had a good team of supporting Dad’s involved. Eddie, a lad named Matt’s dad, was a fitness crazed Hell’s Angel and would have us doing press ups during training sessions… Richard, whose son Charlie played upfront, was the coach we all needed, doing the lino-flag whilst barking out motivation on the side: “don’t let him beat you Gav! He’s not getting past you is he Gav!” and then when the speedy winger knocked the ball past me to try and do me for pace, “take him down Gav!” and we also had Trev who was the calmest of the bunch and his son Bill played in Midfield, he was like our assistant manager.

On one of our training sessions former England, Crystal Palace and Arsenal legendary left back, Kenny Sansom, came down and trained us. It was a great experience for us all and he liked me as I had an Eagles hat on my head, played left back and had developed a nicknamed of “Chopper”.

kenny

Richard had come up with it, for my first key skill playing football was mastering the slide-tackle. They were usually perfect; I would time it so the ball would get taken first and then the follow through made sure the player felt the tackle and hit the deck. Nowadays this would be deemed a foul as football is a pantomime and players get hurt without even being touched. But, a real tackle kids, is when you take the ball first, before the man, then the man goes down afterwards. Football is a contact sport and it’s about time diving, which consists of pretending you are hurt and rolling about on the floor with no shame, was deemed the wrong and not perfectly good and solid tackles.

After a game in the mud of crunching tackles, Rich started to shout out: “go on Chopper!” when the opportunities to make tackles arose.

It helped give me more confidence.

In playing Left Back, it didn’t require a dramatic amount of running as perhaps other positions. I would work up and down the left side, mainly in the defensive areas, so this meant I didn’t create too much of an adrenaline buzz – which can have other affects I will mention in diabetes.

As my teenage years came about, eventually my insulin patterns changed with my body growing. I then took Levemir as my Basal insulin (long acting) and Novorapid as my Bolus (quick acting, for meals etc).

My position on the football pitch also changed, I played Centre Midfield. My role there was to simply keep on running!!! Something I am very used to in the present day!

I would wear other teams out more than anything, working hard, getting back and winning the ball, getting forward and creating goals or opportunities. I was box-to-box, up and down the pitch like a nutter. With all the running, it would seem my Blood Sugar levels would drop through burning so much energy, but instead it was quite the opposite. I would constantly be involved with the game, which meant my pace kept on changing – sudden sprints, to darting runs back or forward. This adrenaline rush meant that my body triggered the ‘Adrenaline Effect’ and my blood sugars would rise. This happens when the body reacts, possibly caused by the sudden sprints, and in that reaction the Liver releases Glucose which, without any quick acting insulin on hand such as when eating  meals, meant my levels shot up high.

DCF 1.0

I would come off the pitch with a Blood Sugar of around 20.0 sometimes, which was quite higher than the targeted range of 4.0 – 10.0mmls. The other lads without diabetes on the pitch would be keeping a blood sugar level of around 5.0 – 7.0mmls comfortably of course. So for me, I was battling my body and the opposition, and being hyper meant that concentration levels become much more difficult.

It was hard to notice though, it has to be said. In my latter years at Crayford, I was the main player in the team, being the midfield engine, and was a class-act!

But when playing football or any sport, to be at your very best you want full levels of concentration.

It was more and more frequent when I played for semi-professional standard Dartford FC. I had a successful trial with them and with it being a higher level, in being closely watched and monitored all the time and in a big squad, the pressure was always on and this meant much more adrenaline – so therefore, much higher sugar levels for me. I had to work out a way to overcome this, so I tested more regularly and decided that upping my Quick Acting insulin with meals would not do it as it would mean I crashed towards a hypo quite quickly. Instead, I looked at upping my Levemir, background Long Acting insulin.

The problem with this is that despite levels going higher in a game, within 2 hours I found that my levels went from the teens or possibly 20s in blood sugars to absolutely crashing down towards a hypo, under 4.0mmls, sometimes as low as 2.0mmls. This happens with the Adrenaline Effect, as hypos are delayed by the glucose release, yet, the energy has still been burned up.

In upping my background insulin by one unit, I found although it did help prevent the hypers during game-time, it meant the CRASH of blood sugar levels happened much more quickly – within an hour.

The key to defending this was to eat right after kick-off.

Fortunately, when at Dartford, it was the kind of level where sandwiches were always provided – so I would dig right in!!

I recall scoring an absolute wonder goal in a training game for Dartford against the age group below. It was still a high level game and the one goal decided it, but it deserves a mention as it was sensational. The ball was laid back to me along the smooth all-weather artificial grass pitch they had and I just stroked it with much belief and instinct perfectly… it looped up, curled and lobbed the goalkeeper. To do that my levels of concentration had to be at the maximum, supplied with self-belief. That was what I had in my game as a boy.

I returned to Crayford for their final season and enjoyed a year where we went on to win our League. I won a Jack Petchey achievement award that year too, which meant funds went towards an all-weather training pitch at the ground, the lads joked and called it ‘The Gavin Griffiths Pitch’ every time we trained on it.

I did have another stint back at a higher level in my later teen years before taking Long Distance running more seriously, but a part of me will always love a good kick about. To be honest I feel the modern professional game is filled with far too much money and greed, which is why although I look forward to the World Cup in Brazil, I don’t expect anything fantastic from any of the teams. But back in the days in the Sunday morning mud as Chopper – that was what real football was about to me.

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The fact is I was a decent player as a boy – and diabetes never held me back. I even got to live my childhood dream in a sense and walk around Selhurst Park to an applause of the fans after being an Olympic Torch Bearer, it was through diabetes and keeping positive which earned me that honour too.

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Key facts in control with diabetes and football:

  • Make sure your club / coaches understand you do have a medical condition
  • Have supplies handy on the side-line such as Energy Drinks, Gels etc
  • Test your blood sugars regularly: before, at half-time and after
  • Do not panic: if sugars go low, take what you need to take and get back out there. If they go high, alter your running which is difficult but go for less sprints and more consistent running
  • Have a good energy meal before a game and have a good meal ideally within an hour after the game too. Do not adjust to more insulin after game if levels are high, keep it the same.
  • Go out and give it your all!

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Stefanie Cesile Diathlete Interview

Stefanie Cesile is an IDF Young Leader in Diabetes from Hobart, in Tasmania, Australia and after a Diathlete chat, I’m pleased to share some info on her project which intends to unite young people in the Tasmania Diabetes Community with cool activities…

 

Stefanie aims to reach out particularly to teenagers with type 1 diabetes down under, starting in her local community, and with many interesting activities – such as an upcoming Rock Climbing event – in getting people working together she targets the following outcomes through this project:

  • For teens and young adults already living with diabetes this will provide another opportunity to meet, grow friendships and strengthen the diabetic community.
  • For those teens and young adults recently diagnosed this will allow an avenue for meeting those already living with diabetes, as a means of an instant support network if they chose.
  • For all newly diagnosed teens and young adults to have the opportunity to connect in Hobart.
  • For 50% of newly diagnosed teens and young adults to join the regular activities in Hobart and surrounds

Stef, Shane and Franco YLDImage: Stefanie (left) rowing down under with fellow IDF Young Leaders in Diabetes, Shane (right) from Ireland and Franco (back) from Chile. 

Diabetes may be seen as a negative in being a serious medical condition, with constant responsibilities and no cure; however, all around the world you will meet incredible people living with diabetes creating this global community circle, which can turn life with diabetes by many means into positive too. Stefanie’s work definitely reflects this!

Awesome stuff Steph!

 

Still Running!

This weekend marks 1 year since I made it to Land’s End during the GBR 30/30 Challenge, which saw me take on 30 ultra marathons in as many days.

Time really does seem to whiz by sometimes, so make sure you make the most of it!

I’m pleased to say that 1 year since the feat of running the entire length, breadth and wrong-turn country lanes of the United Kingdom, I am still running – and I’ll always keep on running for the diabetes cause so long as I have legs and so long as I have heart!

The 30/30 Experience

Without a shadow of a doubt this was a once in a lifetime experience, which doesn’t happen in too many lifetimes at all! I feel this is possibly why to say it was a year ago seems crazy, as it was such an incredible experience that it continues to seem like just yesterday.

Run pic 1

Going into that challenge there were a number of feelings and thoughts, the key feeling being that I never had any doubt I would somehow succeed – even when counting up the marathons and miles in my head and thinking, is this humanly possible? Always from within there somewhere, I knew I could do it.

To be perfectly honest, in going into a challenge of running over 900 miles in the space of a month, the feeling I had was relief more than anything! Relief that the challenge was going ahead – there was very little help for me to organise such an endeavour, more or less, I worked alone to arrange everything. 30 events in 30 days is a big project for 1 person! I was motivated even more though by some individuals sitting on the ‘Political Thrones’ of diabetes and stating to me words such as ‘foolhardy’ and statements like ‘I don’t mean to p*ss on your parade, but there is no point trying to raise awareness of type 1 diabetes.”

I let those people know my thoughts, don’t you worry about that…

I was extremely grateful to a number of volunteers for getting involved and joining in, and this continued to grow in amazing numbers throughout the challenge. Matt Wood and his wife Clare were immense, just so keen to help out – Matt running the first marathon and last one, travelling from South London to both John O’Groats (the furthest Northern point in mainland Scotland in the North East) and Land’s End (the furthest Southern point in mainland England, in the South West). Gary Pettengell also was a key part as he put in time to help train me for many, many months beforehand and the fact I completed the feat and rose back to my feet each morning, declares that Gary’s work was effective. And there were SO MANY incredible people I met throughout the journey, each day.

On Day 2 I experienced the ‘danger’ zone for the first time, where I had to run on the main road into Inverness – a dual carriageway. It was quite terrifying at times, cars whistling by at speed right next to me! I remained safe there, but come Aberdeen on Day 5, where I had great support from Phil McLean – who had volunteered to be the saviour of that day for the challenge just hours beforehand, I unfortunately had a slight collision with a rather fast, black Mercedes vehicle. Basically he wasn’t stopping and there was no pavement… it was only minimal contact as I nudged towards a drop into the River but fortunately kept my balance! I didn’t actually realise the contact was made until that night in my hotel, where I came across the bruising on my elbow, but it shook me up a wee bit.

Fortunately I wasn’t hit by any more cars on the journey, not without the near misses though! Coming out of Liverpool, after a wrong ferry across the Mersey (which meant instead of simply crossing the river, we had a lovely tour of where-buildings-used-to-be in Liverpool) and then a wrong turn onto the Rock Ferry Bypass out of Liverpool. It is a fast main dual carriage way – absolutely not for pedestrians – that I found myself with support runner for the whole day, and fellow type 1 diabetic, Thomas Jones, in the back of a Police Car for running on… Now, if you are a Police Officer from Merseyside and have in the back a fellah with a London based ID and cheeky, common Southern accent, it may be a rumour, but surely that’s a bonus right there!? After speaking to the Officers of my mistake and challenge I was enduring, they opted to give a warning and put us back on the right path! With the cars coming at us at around 70mph down that Rock Ferry Bypass – we were lucky not to have been seriously injured, it has to be said.

On another occasion, on a Somerset route from Cheddar Gorge to Taunton, edging towards the final week where I had gained much road experience and lost all fears, I made an important call as my Sister Kaylie and support runner Jeff Astle, parent to Mimi who also has type 1 and ran with my Torch that day too, running behind in support:

“Cross Over!” was my order as we ran towards a wide bend on a main and pavementless country lane.

We crossed over and 2 seconds later a ploughing tractor came storming around the corner, taking all branches and hedges on the side of the lane with it!

Those were extreme experiences on the journey, which I’ll always remember, but the key part was what I was doing it all for. The people involved and showing support in each area, that really mattered to me. Especially with young people recently enough diagnosed with diabetes, coming to terms with it at young ages, out there supporting. Examples are of young Alfie Huke who ran with me a good few hundred meters holding my Olympic Torch, which was twice the size of him! He went a great pace and I’ve heard since from his Dad, Chris, who also ran 10 miles in support that day, that Alfie has gone on to compete in his School’s sports day and win 5 out of 6 races, finishing in 2nd in the other… diabetes certainly wasn’t stopping him in any form – which is the message of the challenge, keep positive, keep being yourself and don’t let diabetes stop you, and you can accomplish anything you want in life.

Bristol school

Another incredible example was young Amy Winchcombe, who then aged 12, cycled an entire day along side me, along with her Mother Jayne and Father, Kev. Kev cylced 4 days in a row of the final few days – and only fell off his bike about 4 times..! He was brilliant.

Amy completing that hilly, hilly, hilly… HILLY(!) route was amazing, the best bit though was how she finished it – obviously whilst all the way controlling her blood sugars. As the finish point at St Agnes beckoned, Amy hopped off her bike and had a sprint – UP the biggest hill of the day! Once I get my strides going at the end of races, you aren’t catching me for pace – especially in long distance, I’ll always finish sprinting. I tell you what, I might have opted to push Amy’s bike up the final part, but I was not catching her!

Family was the other key area – as well as family friends (kind of more family too in a way). Gary Gunner, my drink-cyclist! Gary cycled 8 days in a row on the tough second week after the ligament injury problem that had me limping. I needed family at that point and with my Dad, Vince, and Gary joining me for the week, it was great. Gary is old fashion and doesn’t believe in technology – so he had no mobile phones. On a few occasions we lost him! How do you lose a support cyclist I don’t know, one thing was for sure though, without fail he’d be parked up outside the first pub in the next town for a quick pint to refuel with!

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He was immense, jokes aside, out with me in all weather conditions – and along the North West, it absolutely poured down non-stop! And my Dad was a support driver for a week, the pair made a great team for me, to wind down with afterwards too.  My Mum was there when she could be at 3 of the weekends too, so it was always a boost to see my parents – who of course had to deal with diabetes directly, so well, when I was diagnosed as a child.

My auntie Jayne was another exceptional Team Member for my final week in the West Country, her and sis Kaylie became my unofficial Support Team on the venture – and kept me supplied and amused!

It has to be said, there was a spiritual element of belief in me on this – as though, in a weird way, I was being protected (and boy did I need it!). The above experiences of dangerous roads and me being unharmed being an example, but things kept happening in my favour, such as a man called Esk coming out of nowhere on his bike for a casual Sunday cycle to end up guiding me safely through the first half of the 2nd route, avoiding the dangerous roads for a good section. The key bit was on 10th May, a date which has seen both my Grandad Harry pass away and also Michael, my Aunt’s husband and someone who supported every challenge of mine in the past, so an Uncle to me really, also sadly passed before his time in recent years. On the 10th, after struggles with an injury out of Scotland that was supported by a great physio called Cloutilde and miraculously recovered as I kept going, doing the assigned exercises as I went, I met a brilliant young girl also with type 1 diabetes named Angel – supporting me all the way! Angel’s mother, Bev, handed me a wooden Angel to carry with me for the rest of that journey, and the first day I ran with that was on the 10th! Now that’s an odd coincidence.  Coincidence or not, it gave me an added boost to have it in my pocket for the remainder of the challenge.

Some further incredible experiences was the support from the Sports world. I wanted to target sports clubs, particularly football team stadiums, because I love sport and it shows support against discrimination in a sense – having big clubs support me as someone with diabetes, enduring tough athletic feats, it resembles that the big professionals do care and won’t leave people out because of diabetes (it happens in the world). I went to many clubs, 28 from the football world and a cricket ground (Somerset County) and a music/entertain venue (Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle). There were clubs such as Wick Academy FC from the Scottish Highland League, who welcomed me in halfway through my first route with Matt and Clare, to absolute giants of the game – Glasgow Rangers at Ibrox being one, Manchester United FC at Old Trafford another. Man Utd gave me a guided tour around Old Trafford – so I probably added on about 3 miles that day.

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To top it, after completing the run, the very next day I found myself at Wembley Stadium after travelling through the night – to watch my Crystal Palace beat Watford 1-0 and gain promotion to the Premier League. On a Sky Sports News interview by their reporter Kate Riley, she asked me my prediction, I said it would be tight and went for “1-0 to the Palace, Kevin Phillips to pop up late on.”

Miss Riley now knows I’m a psychic!

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Doing it Diabetes Style

The objective of the challenge was to complete it, but furthermore, to do so managing my diabetes and showing it wasn’t holding me back.

It wasn’t plain sailing by any means – there were some bizarre levels at times. But I think the fact I completed it, alive and well, shows my message how diabetes can’t stop you to any extreme with the right resources available – my Blood Sugar Meter and Insulin. The levels went up and down a fair bit, generally with Marathons levels lower, but there was so much adrenaline, so much passion and so much efforts to keep everything stable, in the extremest of endurances it wasn’t always to plan! My main aim though was to prevent the hypos and short-term affects that could hamper my progress out running. I think to say I had 7 hypoglycaemic levels (low blood sugars) shared across the 30 days, that says job done. It means on 24 days of running ultra distances (as the final day had x2 hypos) I prevented hypos from happening.

My insulin plan was crucial. I started keeping to my background insulin of Levemir split into 2 dosages. However, with a much lower amount than my average day. I saw the background insulin as key to my success in control. I had as little as 4 units in the morning to begin with and 12 units in the evening (down from my normal ratio of 14u in morning, 14u in evenings). I found this still meant hypos early on in the runs, or distinctive drops in levels – so I adjusted my plan. 2units in the mornings, 10 in the evenings (after runs) and the timings of the injections were key as it would measure how much insulin was in my body when running. As the morning background insulin wore out, and perhaps on many days the adrenaline also kicked in, my levels increased in the afternoons – sometimes as ridiculously high as 20mmls!

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In running you are battling your own mind and levels of endurance as it is, in being hyperglycaemic it makes that mental fight even harder as your focus and concentration goes all over the place, your body feels differently and it became all the more challenging. I’d get frustrated and hot-headed with high levels! So I made a plan to inject for a 3rd time my Levemir, during runs. If I injecting quick acting insulin whilst high, even just a unit when as high as 20.0, I would crash immediately. If I injected 1 unit of Levemir, things actually gradually balanced out effectively. On one of the days, when running to Worcester I believe, my levels started at 6.7mmls and finished at… 6.7mmls – you can’t better that!

Another lad who deserves a mention and made me reflect really proudly on the challenge was young Danny Moon, then aged 15 he set out to run over 15 miles having never ran any long distance before, from Blackpool through to Preston. We were out in the pouring rain all day, yet, he kept trotting on with a brilliant attitude to just keep on going. He learned from it, I hope, which was also key – as he came out in the morning with no blood testing meter and a limited supply of energy boost. I made him use one of my spare needles to check his levels on my meter and of course, fortunately, had energy resources for emergencies – and his levels crashed to 4.0mmls, boarding the hypo. So the lesson on the day was always be prepared with diabetes – have supplies on hand, have your testing meter prepared and make sure your body is doing ok. In doing so, he was absolutely able to achieve a great feat in running that entire first half, keeping right up there with me. I was really proud of him.

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Overall I look back at this challenge 1 year on and do feel proud in accomplishing this. It is something I can tell my family about, something my families family in generations to come can talk about as a challenge I completed. And what counts with this, is I done it as someone who lives with diabetes. The feeling after doing it was of uncertainty I will admit, and more frustration in some respects – I had hoped to raise more money for Diabetes UK and JDRF UK, to support them more in consideration to the giant feat I had put myself through. But – it was a 7 grand or so they didn’t have beforehand! There were some feelings of being let down in some areas, a little welcome into the bad sides of the political areas of diabetes and it was hard for it all to sink in that I had actually completed what I had just completed. Every day afterwards I was waking up, even at the earliest hours of the mornings, thinking to myself… “I gotta run! I got another Marathon to get through!” It was difficult to comeback to reality.

Here’s the thing: screw reality, I’m living the dream! I’m achieving what people told me was impossible and diabetes, it can be all the negative things it is, but it will never beat me and has made me achieve in life and meet so many brilliant people through it – that’s an absolute positive in my book.

One Year On

There’s always something to run for in any path of life, right? I’m literally doing that for my cause; I live with diabetes every day, therefore I see it as my duty to beat diabetes every day – running super crazy distances is one of the best ways I enjoy doing so.

After the 30/30 challenge success, I went to Australia and had possibly an even more brilliant experience – becoming an IDF Young Leader in Diabetes, representing the UK, one of 70 nations, as 1 of 132 members in the Young Leaders. I met absolute legends from all over the world – you’ll never get the togetherness, bond and general friendship unity that the Young Leaders shared in so many different cultures, backgrounds and religions in any other aspect of the world really. It nearly makes me think if everyone in the world had diabetes and was a part of our circle, the world would be an incredible place. Of course, I do not wish diabetes upon anyone! But the feeling was because of diabetes we all instantly hit it off and became great friends.

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The stories of all the leaders touched my heart, something for each story I relate to, yet, being from the Western world it can be said there are experiences I do not have or that absolutely should not happen, yet, these Leaders and many people in their countries have been or go through all of the time. The IDF atlas statistics were worrying, 5.1 million deaths caused by diabetes in 2013 worldwide. By 2035, ONE BILLION people will have or will be at serious risk of developing diabetes – that counts for type 1, type 2 and pre diabetes. 1 Billion – that’s a Seventh of the world!

Over in Aussie I completed another Ultra Marathon in Adelaide too, it was hot – but I got through it in the end. I had some time out to work on projects, but, one year on, I am back in training, back saying “diet coke or water please” at bars instead of my notoriously preferred pints, and I am back as THE DIATHLETE – RUNNING FOR DIABETES.

I’ve a lot, lot more to offer, many more miles to run and all the while these horrific statistics exist and keep growing, the stories of hardships for people with diabetes and of discrimination go on, I’ve got a body to give for the cause – and I look forward to giving it my all.

My hand is out for anyone in the world to come and join me.

knackered

 

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Fasting

Do you ever have it when you wake up in the morning and ask the question to yourself, in a somewhat frustrated manner: “WHY AM I FRIGGIN LOW!!!???”

Or, perhaps, vise versa… “WHY AM I FRIGGIN HIGH!!!???”

Now the latter of the two questions there is referring to of course hyperglycaemia in diabetes, not anything else…

In recent times it has been the ‘Hypo’ factor sometimes playing a part, or, asides from waking up with a level around 3.9mmls, my blood sugar levels have been in range (4.0mml – 10.0mml is what I tend to go by) yet, I have noticed a significant drop from the level I had before going to bed.

There are two possibilities in this fact, swaying much more towards one than the other. Possibility one (the more unlikely source) is that with dinner I have taken too much quick acting insulin and my levels have lowered through the night. The reason I deem this unlikely is because quick acting insulin (Novo Rapid for me) is exactly that – QUICK ACTING. Therefore, it is more likely I would be hypo before bed-time, unless in some odd circumstance I have eaten a sweet meal/treat which had spiked my levels up but then taken too much insulin to possibly crash the levels.

The main possibility though, surely, is with my other insulin my background ‘basal’ insulin (however you like to say it!) – which for me is Levemir. Too much background insulin in the system, through the night, will gradually lower the blood sugar levels. This insulin has to be more accurate to suit your daily routines, from exercise to the amount of meal intakes through the days, whilst also suiting your body and size. So, there is one thing to do in checking this is operating correctly… FAST!

Insulin Management with Diabetes by Fasting

It just so happens that in recent times I have been up fairly late into the early hours of the mornings, working on a few big potential Diathlete projects. This worked to my favour in regards to Fasting – as I did not have to wake myself up at some ridiculous hour, I was simply already up!

So to fast and check levels, the routine is that you do not eat and keep a test going. If Dinner was say at 6pm, that’s fine but requires a 3am blood sugar check in the night. And then, in the day, no breakfast meal with a lunch-time blood sugar test.

The night-shift saw that my Blood Sugars at 10.30pm registered a 10.1mml reading, which if I were to go to sleep on, which I would have been absolutely delighted to have done, I would be happy with. It may be slightly over-range, yet, isn’t alarming and is definitely a safeguard above a hypo.

HOWEVER – and do note I made the ‘however’ in capitals right there… come 3am and the blood sugars were much altered: 5.1mmls!

Now, that is quite a drop.

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Although I may have a slight reputation for being a crazy-betic runner, I hadn’t been out running in the late hours that’s for sure! The form of potential exercise, if this can remotely count as ‘exercise’, perhaps was my fingers punching away at the keyboard working on a few documents. But a 5 level drop is quite drastic for finger punching!

It was quite clear there for me that my background insulin needed altering a touch.

My average day had been 14 units of Levemir in the morning, then, around 12 hours later, 14 units again in the evening – so a flexible 28 units daily. On exercise/running days, I would alter this quite a bit, depending on the exercises. In terms of Long Distance running, for example, that morning background insulin, depending on the distance, could be as low as 2 units with possibly an additional unit or 2 in the early afternoon after exercise. For my average ratio of 14u/14u morning and evening, I decided to lower the intake down to 13 and 13 units. The evening certainly required less background insulin – however, that didn’t mean to say that the morning dosage does.

I find that I alter my morning insulin dosages of Levemir each day more or less. If I am in office and typing away my proposals for upcoming Diathlete adventures and am limited in exercise – I tend to find that actually 14 units works quite well through the course of the day. On Sunday’s I enjoy going to the PUB!!! Although now I am off the alcohol as training has resumed, if I was having a pleasant drink, 14 units or maybe even 15/16 units of background would be suitable (varying on the consumption of drink). If training, as I have mentioned has resumed, then maybe I need much less – such as the mentioned long distance runs which can be as little as 2 units with an additional unit later on. But, if I have a walk or any kind of more ‘normal’ activities during the day, I definitely feel 14 units is too much and 12/13 units is much more suitable.

Here’s the key element to knowing: TEST BLOOD SUGARS REGULARLY AND YOU WILL KNOW YOUR BODY!

Diabetes is a complex calculation in life, one, as I always say to people that can NEVER hold you back if you have the supplies you need; and, as this post probably shows… having diabetes makes you become quite GOOD AT MATHS!

So, in the words of Eric Idol: Always look on the bright side of life…

(and keep testing!)

I now need to catch up with my sleep!

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JDRF Reading Discovery Day

JDRF Reading

 

On Saturday (10th May) I was a guest speaker at the JDRF Reading Discovery Day at Blue Coats School.

It was an incredible location, somewhere I referred to as “Hogwarts Schools” – with historic buildings and impressive grounds. Personally I couldn’t have attended such a school – I had a hard enough job getting to classes on time in my small secondary school in Belvedere, which just had about 800 students!

The first speaker was Dr Els Henckhaert, speaking on her work in research, particularly in the cells that stop the immune system from attacking the pancreas. The funded research is important in the work to find new solutions to, one day, make a break through to possibly develop into a cure. It was very interesting to hear and as the fellow speaker, I had an opportunity to chat a little further on it.

“How far away are we from really finding a cure?”

Although I won’t share the exact answer, I will say that my follow up question was:

“How far away are you from being ready to test it on mice?”

Now, although many, many hopes are there for a cure – sooner rather than later; this is a long and ongoing process. It needs to be blended together in time, the right formula needs to be found with the right results in the labs… and then it will be tested on the mice. It will be a further long step before anything, once found, will be then ready to take a transition from mice into people for testing.

So, to put it plainly, this research is of course vital for the future of diabetes and that hope and aim to one day find a cure. Therefore, it is important funds remain to get raised to support such work. However, I feel it is important people also concentrate their focus on the points I then made in my talk:

DIABETES SHOULD NEVER STOP YOU FROM LIVING YOUR LIFE TO THE FULL!

You have to be responsible for yourself and for your diet; be on the ball with your blood testing, knowing your body, taking the insulin…

BUT – if you maintain that level of responsibility, as shown by some of my feats to the extreme of running the length of the UK, 30 marathons in 30 days – you can achieve in any path of life that you go down, and diabetes will not stop you. In fact, it has been my motivation to accomplish more.

To begin my talk I made a clear point to the audience, which for me is the most incredible part of diabetes that I doubt any other communities can portray as strongly: I asked the audience to raise their hands up if they felt diabetes had been a bad thing in some way in their lives. Once every person had raised their hands up, I asked them to take a look around the room and said: “Now take a look around and see how many people also feel the same as you do. You’re never alone with diabetes.”

And that’s my point… the diabetes community, wherever you are in the world, is so strong and supportive. For me, that’s where a negative is changed into a positive and we the people directly affected by diabetes have the power to make the change, by working together.

I enjoyed meeting all the people I did in Reading and talking to the attendees! And seeing a few familiar faces such as Mark who was a fellow Diabetes UK young leader with me 2012-13, and the Winchcombes, with young Amy still as positive as ever about her diabetes.

It’s always a pleasure to be able to do my thing and provide energetic diabetic talks to the diabetes community!

One day in the world, keep believing, there will be a cure. But, for the now in the present day… keep positive, you can always accomplish anything you put your heart into. Let diabetes be your added motivation to succeed.

JDRF Reading Event

Diathlete receives Bexley Award for Outstanding Achievement

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Bexley Civic Award for outstanding achievements in support of people living with diabetes, 30th April 2014 at Bexleyheath, UK.

I am very grateful to the Diabetes Clinic team at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup, for their nomination of me and it was an honour to receive such recognition with this award in my local area. What counts the most for me though is that a real difference gets made to the current and future worlds of diabetes, which can be achieved through awareness, fundraising, advocacy in this cause and the dogged relentlessness of the People With Diabetes – therefore as a diabetic myself, I have still much, much more work to accomplish.

 

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Receiving the award: a hug with Mayor of Bexley Sharon Massey, whose daughter Tori also lives with type 1 diabetes.

30/30 Challenge for Diabetes – 1 year on!

I can’t believe how fast the time has gone by! Today marks 1 year since I ran the first day of 30 as I endured the 30/30 challenge from John O’Groats to Lands End to raise awareness and hopefully some encouragement towards people living with diabetes, whilst supporting charities Diabetes UK and JDRF. 27 april pic

Enduring it for Diabetes

Since I can remember I’ve always enjoyed a challenge, whichever life wishes to throw my way. Above them all registers diabetes in my life, after diagnosis at the age of 8. I had so many questions: what happens now? Can I still play sports? Will this be with me for the rest of my life?

Indeed it is a big ‘challenge’ to live with, keeping on the ball 24/7 to remain in control of your health. And we all have those off-days in life, which, with diabetes, means potential serious affects can happen – from hypoglycaemic lows to hyperglycaemic highs in blood sugar levels. BUT I feel that in being educated and responsible you grow to understand your diabetes and if the necessary supplies are available – insulin and blood testing meters above all, we can take back control of our health and live to achieve absolutely anything. That does not mean every day isn’t something of a challenge – keep testing the sugar levels, have I gone high – what is the right decision to correct that and vise versa when hypo… It is a constant challenge of balancing everything, in living with type 1 diabetes you more or less master walking on the tight ropes! It was through the daily experiences of keeping on top of my diabetes, or attempting to the best I could, and dealing with that challenge itself, which made me determined to try and make a difference through my life and endure extreme feats. The 30/30 Challenge being a main one! I faced 30 ultra marathons of approximate 30 mile routes, every day for 30 days as I planned to run the length of the UK!

30/30 Challenge for Diabetes Day 1

After my travel journey on 25th April went horribly wrong, missing a train from Edinburgh to Inverness, which meant to catch the next one cost me more funds and that I’d miss the only train to Wick that day… where I would then make my way to John O’Groats from, I was relieved to be there and ready to go on 27th April. 30 30 challenge Day 1 The weather in John O’Groats was extreme… it could just change in the blink of an eye. In fact, about 10 feet away it could have some sunshine, yet, be pouring hard with rain where you stand. I’d never experienced anything like it! I’d firstly like to again thank every person who supported the entire challenge, from putting me up in and B&B for a night or accommodating me in some way, feeding me, being a ‘support driver’ for a day to take my bags from one point to the next or follow me along with my diabetes essentials on hand, running or cycling beside of me in support – everyone was amazing. It reflects the strength particularly in the DOC (Diabetes Online Community) and Diabetes Circle as a whole – everybody has each others back!

After a stay at Gordon Asher’s Hamnavoe B&B I met Matthew Wood and Clare Wood early in the morning and headed to the John O’Groats sign post! Matt and Clare were absolutely fantastic throughout – Matt running the first day with me and the final day with me down in Cornwall, with Clare being the support driver. The pair had come up from my neck of the woods in South London to support, driving all the way to John O’Groats (probably a 12 hr journey) through the night of the 25th and morning of 26th April. This also bailed me out – they picked me up in Inverness on the way!

With my British flag wrapped around me and London 2012 Olympic Torch in hand, we left the sign post and proudly got the challenge underway. My blood sugars were 13.9mml – which fitted in with my plan to aim to keep levels between 7.0 & 14.0mmls whilst running. Running slightly higher in ultra distance running provides a platform for the levels to gradually lower, but I was also aware I DID NOT WANT TO RUN TOO HIGH!! It becomes difficult to concentrate above all else with hyperglycaemia in the system. Under 14 for me worked well though. Wick AFC Unfortunately within the first 2 hours I crashed to a hypo! I was gutted, I had secret ambitions to stave off the hypo levels! And when running that is the last thing you want! But I had a stop and sorted it all out… it was just 1 of 7 hypos across the entire 30 days, so in that respect I think the hypo avoiding plan went well in consideration to the fact I was out running 900 miles (1450km) that month!

Matt and I, this time last year, faced an on-slaught of weather… sunshine, bursts of hardcore rain – sometimes coming straight down, other times coming in at a fierce angle, and then… hail stones! That was the worst… just being out in horrid stones which absolutely rebounded off of my head. I had been ribbing Matt about his bright yellow cap… I then envied that cap once the stones came! The first day went to plan after that hypo. The levels were picked up, we kept on this one road down the North East Scottish coast, through Wick – where we had a half time stop. A great thanks to all the incredible sports (mainly football) clubs who welcomed me to their stadiums on the journey of the 30 days all over Britain. Wick Academy FC of the Highland League were the first, and they refilled me with a bag of hypo-treats, with many Mars Bars. They worked very well during the following week!

We progressed along the route, running down the one main road and saving an escaped baby lamb at one point… keeping a steady but constant pace going which got the job done in 6 hours (including the halfway stop). It was perfect, energy saved, 35 miles covered 1 down… 29 to go! And my finishing blood levels were at 10mmls, which reflects a positive end to a long day of endurance with diabetes! (I was 9.9 with 4 miles to go!) 9.9 The journey had began and I had an enormous adventure ahead, 29 more gruelling days with injuries, police cars, many more sheep, hills, cliffs… mountains, many, many country lanes, cars that do not stop, a few hypos, a few more frustrating hypers, and diabetes communities all over the UK! I’d meet so many incredible people! And… I’d go on to complete an extreme challenge, perhaps against all odds!

Always believe in yourself and something like diabetes, you can handle it, you can control it and you can achieve absolutely anything you set your mind to accomplish whilst living with it. gavin day 1