Team Diabadass runner Don Muchow has had Type 1 diabetes for 42 years and uses an insulin pump and CGMS.
An ultra runner, distance cyclist, and just-becoming-a-decent-open-water-swimmer, his goal is to find out just what he can’t do despite diabetes.
What’s the toughest run you ever did?
The 2013/2014 New Year’s Double marathon. The New Year’s Eve run wasn’t bad, but on New Year’s Day not only were my legs wobbly, but I hadn’t “refilled the tank” in terms of liver glycogen. I kept almost bonking every 6 miles for the entire thing.
How do you train?
I run half marathons every other day or so on the treadmill, except on Wednesdays when I swim. On weekends I either do a marathon-length run or a long bike ride.
How do you stay focused?
I count animals and assign points based on a scale of cuteness and rarity. Squirrels are 50 points, bunnies 35, and so on. The most unusual animals I’ve seen on runs are coyotes, bobcats, and nutrias.
What’s the worst and best advice you ever got about diabetes or exercise?
The worst advice anyone ever gave me was in junior high school when officials recommended I not take PE because they were afraid I would have a low blood sugar. The best advice I got was from Ginny Ives at the Ruth Collins Diabetes Center at Baylor, who taught me how to back off my insulin when I was training.
When and why did you start running?
I started running in 2005 when my wife and I registered for a 5K. Running was something I could do without a lot of expensive gear, and I knew I wouldn’t drown or hit the road at 25 mph.
How do you manage your sugars during a run?
I usually get a 30g carb runner’s gel (Honey Stinger) about 30 minutes before heading out, then one every 3-4 miles. If I’m running high I’ll switch to Accel gels. I also stop gelling about 45 minutes before the end of a run. This seems to work well for me. I test fairly frequently and always carry a CGM during training. During an actual race I skip some tests and rely on the CGM (Dexcom), which seems to be very accurate.
What would you tell someone just diagnosed?
When it comes to your physical health, don’t take “you can’t do that” for an answer. Maybe THEY can’t do that, but you can.
What do you wish someone had told you earlier about diabetes and exercise?
That I could be physically active and it would be safe and manageable.
What keeps you motivated?
I was first motivated to run by my wife, Leslie. I was further motivated by friends from the Diabetes and Exercise Alliance, Carol Ezell, Julie Kuehn, and Donna Doherty, all of whom helped me be confident I could do long runs safely. I can never fully repay the gift they all gave me, and I am determined not to waste it.
What do people in your support network do that you especially value and appreciate?
I appreciate two things: one, that other diabetics I know are willing to trade tips for what works and doesn’t with exercise; and two, the endless patience and “sherpa-ing” that my wife does when I participate in athletic events.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Yes! Thanks to everyone who’s listened to me whine and watched me grow as a diabetic athlete despite starting over 10 years ago 50 pounds overweight and totally clueless. It’s given me hope and it’s a gift I’d love to share with others.