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Posts tagged ‘athletics’

Surfing with Tiger Sharks and T1D

I’ve always wanted to surf and recently got the chance in Maui. As soon as I managed to stand up and catch a wave, I thought, “Luke’s gotta try this.” Never mind that he’s 3, can’t swim, and had never been to the ocean before that week. He needs to get hooked on things that are pure joy and will make the grind of diabetes worthwhile. This had to be one of them!

And our instructor, M., was the man. 6’6″, incredibly patient, and able to hip-hop on the waves like a kid at a skateboard park, he had learned to surf by riding his dad’s board starting at 2. My ears perked up. “So we have a three-year-old who can’t swim…” I began. “No problem,” he said. “We can start with him sitting on my board – we’ll see what he likes.” (When Captain Cook arrived in Hawaii, he thought the locals were gods, “walking” over the water toward his boat. Had M. been part of that crowd, any women on Cook’s ship would have thrown themselves overboard immediately.)

We were back early the next morning, with grumpy toddler in tow. The logistics were a little challenging: how to take everything we needed for testing and low blood sugar into the water with us? Board shorts, LokSak bags (for BG meter and Dex), “Sugar Shots,” and a box of juice all came together. Board shorts should be standard D-wear: they hold everything! (And look really sexy when loaded up.) Luke wore his pump (BG goes high when he’s in the water, probably due to stress and excitement) and Dex, hopefully heading off the need to test for a couple hours.

M. took Luke on his board, and we headed out.

While Erik and I were shredding the waves…

Luke was having a blast with M. Before long, they went from splashing in the water to Luke riding on M’s shoulders to standing up (with help). The huge grin never left his face.

“We should head in closer to shore,” M. said. “There’s a shark.”

“Shark?” I yelped.

“Shhhhh,” he gestured, looking at surf classes spread out next to us. “Say mano.”

“Uh, so it’s a little one – a reef shark, right?” I asked helpfully, thinking of the small white-tipped reef shark I’d seen the other day whisking away like a cat.

“No, this is a big old one who gets hungry and comes in about once a month to feed on turtles.” Ah hah. The turtles we’d paddled out to watch yesterday – a few hundred yards away. And there we were, a bunch of haole flailing about on surfboards in murkey water while some cranky, near-sighted shark with low blood sugar was squinting about for a snack.  “Catch the next wave in,” he said, “and we’ll meet over by that rock. The other surfers are safe – we should just be extra careful with your little one.” Our little pupu.

I stopped asking questions. Erik later told me it was a tiger shark, longer than our boards (12+ feet).

End of drama, really – but surfing isn’t so different from trying to balance on an ever-shifting tide of carbs, exercise, moods, hormones, and a million other factors. Leaving the hospital with Luke two years ago felt like trying to surf when we could barely dogpaddle. We kept sucking down saltwater, looking out for lurking low blood sugars and unexpected rocky highs, and falling over and over.

But since then we manage occasionally to stand up and ride, and in those moments even the sharks can’t stop us from having a damn fine time.


Sugar Bolus Giveaway – Not Dead Yet

If you haven’t read Phil Southerland’s “Not Dead Yet,” here’s your chance to get a free copy (plus the free time to read it – hah!)!

As parent to a kiddo diagnosed at a tender age (14 months), I’d been wanting to read Phil’s story in part because he was diagnosed at 7 months – the youngest case on record at that time.  When Luke was diagnosed, we were told his life wouldn’t be shortened much by diabetes. Joanna Southerland was told her son would be dead or severely disabled by blindness and kidney disease by twenty five. You’ve got to love a title that flips the bird to the doctors behind that diagnosis.

If Phil did OK, I felt, so would Luke. “OK” in Phil’s case meant becoming one of the top long-distance cyclists in the world, competing in the Race Across America (a  3,000-mile non-stop relay race across the country), and founding Team Type 1 (the 2012 Tour de France needs them!). Through all of that, he surprised himself by evolving into an advocate and role model for Type 1 diabetics.

It seems people rarely walk away from an encounter with Phil or his indefatigable mother untouched, and just meeting them on the page was no exception. I read the book in one sitting, thanks to a weekend getaway girlfriends organized to Hat Island in Puget Sound. (I did not Photoshop the sun into this picture – it was really there! It was!)

Instead of kicking down the shore, looking for bald eagles and seals, I settled in with the book and occasionally came up for the view before diving back in. (Hey, what else would you do with friends on a gorgeous island besides read a book about Type 1 diabetes?)

Phil and his mother made me reconsider our T1 management on several fronts:

  • When Phil was dianosed, Joanna invited friends and neighbors over for wine, cheese, and “Diabetes 101” instruction. She didn’t ask if they wanted to learn: it was part of life now, and people around Phil needed to know how to deal with it.
    We haven’t done this. Aside from a few people who practically pried the glucose meter out of our hands and demanded we teach them, we have not forcibly armed family or friends with the basics – or reassured them that “you can do this.” I think it’s time!
  • Phil had all the space and freedom I remember having as a kid. He lived on his bike and rode until dark – without CGMs or cell phones. I think we recognize generally that today’s kids have lost the freedom to be bored, to have long, unscripted summers to noodle around and try things out – but it really struck me how that freedom put Phil squarely in charge of his T1. He took ownership at an early age. I want to figure out how we can let Luke do that (setting aside the very urban nature of our neighborhood).
  • His passion for riding made the pain-in-the-arse grind of diabetes management worthwhile (and let him eat Snickers). Luke will need a Snickers-worthy passion.
  • Phil is very open about his T1 and very good at telling them what he needs (his mom set a great example) if/when he goes low, and it has saved his life on many occasions. Luke will need to be this up-front – and as a T1 friend of Erik’s has noted with a sh#%*-eathing grin, it will get him chicks, who love a strong man with a hidden vulnerability.

To enter the giveaway – leave me a comment before midni1ght on Thursday, August 11. Include your first name (I can’t ship a book to “anonymous”!).
To earn extra entries (post a separate comment for each):
       ●  Tweet about this giveaway on Twitter, and leave me an additional comment. 
       ●  Share a link to this contest on Facebook, and leave an additional comment here to let me know.
       ●  Blog about this contest, and post a link to your blog here.
       ●  Subscribe to my blog via WordPress or email.
Winners will be selected via random draw at,  and names will be posted here on this blog on Friday, August 12. After winners’ names are posted, winners will have 48 hours to send a message to me at krisfitz (at) live (dot) com. If I do not hear from the winner within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.

And then – head over to Candy Hearts, where Wendy’s hosting the next Sugar Bolus giveaway on August 12!

Was it diabetes or not?

Like many, I was rooting from the sofa for Kris Freeman (type 1 athlete) in the 15K and 30K cross-country skiing events this winter Olympics. What struck me in the aftermath was the difficulty of sorting out: to what extent was/wasn’t diabetes behind the outcome? Kris just posted his analysis, and the first thing on his list wasn’t hypoglycemia (though that obviously affected the 30K) but losing control of his emotions and thoughts.

With type 1 hovering in the background, management does become as much a head game as a physical act. How much energy do you spend on nailing the cause of an unexplained high or low? How do you wall off concern when you need to, so constant vigilance doesn’t leave you burned out? How do you acknowledge the effects of diabetes without making them constraints? For parents – how do you care for your kids without driving them (or yourself) crazy? 😀

Performance is a head game. Having the mental discipline to juggle diabetes along with the rest of game makes Kris Freeman an inspiration, Olympic podium regardless.

Type 1 athletes

When just going to the playground for half an hour can drop a toddler’s BG 100 points, it’s hard to imagine them playing sports, let alone competing in the Olympics.

But Jackie Robinson quietly stole the field decades ago, and hearing about athletes like 3-time Olympian Kris Freeman competing in cross-country skiing at this year’s Olympics has shaken me again out of preconceptions.

Another contemporary bad-ass athlete is Tony Cervati (a competitive mountain biker and type 1 since 8 years of age), who has a great blog about combining mountain biking and type 1. Serious mountain biking – the crazy, 24-hour, endurance kind.
My husband introduced me to mountain biking before Luke was born, and although geoducks are more daring riders, I love feeling the earth unroll under me and the larger perspective the fast pace provides. I hope Luke will take to it as well, and it’s great that he’ll have role models like Tony, Kris, and others (I’m sure there are women out there I’m missing – feel free to fill in the blanks).

Come down to it: my kiddo’s biggest hurdle will likely be me.