Robin has always been active. She’s run cross country, played soccer, been a lifeguard, and is an ironman finisher. She had a brief brush with gestational diabetes that opened her eyes to what the disease was like.
Following the birth of her son, she dove back into exercise, only to be beset by atrial fibrillation. Following surgery and recovery, she returned to sports. Then during a check-up after being sideswiped by a car during a bike race, she encountered her worst fear: a diagnosis of type 2. As with previous challenges, she never looked back. She continues to compete, and to coach diabetic friends on combining diabetes and physical activity.
Bryan Ritchie has had type 1 diabetes since the age of 30, for 15 years. He manages it with multiple daily injections and uses a continuous glucose monitor and regular exercise. He started running two years ago to lose weight and become more active. Living a more active lifestyle has improved my overall diabetes management.
What was the toughest run you ever did?
My first half marathon. I didn’t train properly for the race and my longest run was 8 miles prior to the race. The final 3 miles were challenging and tested my resolve to finish. Made it through and haven’t looked back.
How do you manage your sugars during a run?
I fuel with UCAN about 20-30 prior to the run and supplement with Hammer gels as needed, which is usually about 1 an hour after the first hour and a half. I wear a Dexcom G4 to monitor my blood sugar levels during the run and rely on it (probably a little too much). If I see or feel irregularities, then I will test, but often do not test for runs under an hour and a half. For runs beyond that, I usually test every hour just to be not he safe side.
How do you train? How often and how far do you usually run?
I have been training by myself for quite some time, but recently joined a triathlon team to have more accountability and more precise coaching. I tend to run 5 days a week for a total of 20-25 miles a week. I also swim twice a week for around 45 minutes and try to cycle at least once a week for an hour.
How do you stay focused on longer runs?
While I love the simplicity of tuning into nature and all, I usually am listening to a podcast or music on my longer runs. I need a little entertainment.
What’s the best and worst diabetes advice you ever got from anyone?
The best diabetes I advice came from several members of this C2C team. Simply stated: We can do anything with diabetes. Nothing should hold us back from achieving any goal we desire. The worst diabetes advice was to not exercise. I was told that it was just too difficult to manage diabetes with exercise.
What would you tell someone who’s just been diagnosed with the same type of diabetes you have?
It is a great time to have diabetes. While it certainly can be a pain, it is very manageable in our current era. The technology is moving so quickly as well. Even if we don’t see the cure we all desire, the technology is certainly making the day-to-day management of the disease easier. Everybody has hurdles in their life. This is just ours. Learn to run with them on the track and enjoy the experience. Don’t ignore it. Don’t fight it. It is a part of you. Learn to enjoy the ride.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known earlier about diabetes and exercise?
How large of a community of diabetic athletes exist. Diabetes can be a very isolating disease leaving you to feel like you’re the only one facing these issues, but there are thousands of active diabetics out there. Find some and learn from each other.
What keeps you going / keeps you motivated?
I enjoy being outside. While I’m not terribly competitive, I enjoy being out there and experiencing nature.
What do people in your support network do that you especially value and appreciate?
Many of the folks just model what can be done. Watching other diabetics crush an Ironman is inspiring on those days when you just want stay on the couch. Others are always there to get a workout with you whenever they can. There is some power in working out with fellow diabetics and seeing the highs and lows of their accomplishments.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’m just excited to be a part of this team. My C2C relay team is filled with incredible athletes and several folks that I admire. To be a part of this effort is extremely exciting for me. Can’t wait!