Runner Spotlight: Gabriela Sierra
Editor’s Note: Gabriela was a member of Beyond Type Run‘s 2018 TCS New York City Marathon Team sponsored byDexcom and Insulet, makers of the tubeless Omnipod Insulin Management System. Learn more about the 2019 Beyond Type Run team here.
When I was 10 years old, during the 1993 summer break I began losing weight. I was eating more, drinking lots of water and I practically always had to be in a place with a bathroom because I had to go constantly. One morning my grandmother took me to get blood work done because she thought it wasn’t normal and that same afternoon they called us because my blood glucose was >16.6 mmol/L300 mg/dl. The rest is my story with diabetes.
Life with type 1 diabetes is full of challenges, but the main challenge is with yourself, you have to understand that diabetes has become your faithful companion 24 hours a day, seven days a week, that you have to treat it and take care of it as you want your diabetes to treat you throughout your life. Understand that each of your actions have consequences in the short, medium, long and very long term.
My family’s support has been key throughout my life, first when I didn’t have diabetes, and later when my diabetes came home with me; their support has evolved as I have evolved. At first I remember that for the most part it wasn’t my diabetes, but rather it was my parents’ diabetes. They were the pancreas parents. But as I grew up and asked for independence, my family demanded responsibility and knowledge, until suddenly it was just me and my diabetes and I had all my family’s support. I made the decision to become a nutritionist and a diabetes educator because I wanted to help people with diabetes—as I would have liked to be helped. For many years I lead a life full of restrictions and it was not very flexible. I am currently working in the pharmaceutical industry, creating solutions focused on the control of diabetes, so I can say that I have reached my long-term goal of pursuing a career related to diabetes.
One day as a teenager I started reading a book that caught my attention from the first pages, right at the time when I had discovered a stationary bicycle in my house. I merged the book that I was passionate about with the bicycle that I knew was very good for me; and little by little the bicycle became my passion—a passion that I have to this day.
The benefits that I have found from working out are countless. Working out has taught me that there are no limits, that with discipline and perseverance everything is possible. Each time I cross a finish line or reach an objective it generates an indescribable satisfaction and pride. The health benefits include being stronger and healthier with greater protection factors. In fact my insulin requirement changes considerably with exercise than without exercise.
There are even economic benefits. I was a spinning instructor for many years; I was paid for something that I was passionate about! Can you think of anything better? I have had three great challenges that have required a lot from me both physically and mentally: a half marathon, a triathlon and more than 100km riding a bicycle.
Given the choice I would rather work out ALONE than with company. I like to go at my own pace, to push myself, to enjoy these workouts I leave for weekends. However training with a team will infect you with that energy that I often need to give my “WOW” during the training that I do during the week.
I decided to join the Beyond Type 1 Team for two main reasons: To have a new goal that would allow me to reconnect with my training, my perseverance and my exercise, which I sometimes leave in the background. The second reason is to educate and keep dispelling myths and stigmas, leading by example.
I couldn’t believe it when I was chosen and I realized that I was the only Mexican runner on the team. I thought—now I will know what good is—because running for more than four hours will not be easy. But when I cross the finish line, I will be confident that although it wasn’t easy, in the end it was worth it.
I want to be an example, as simple as that, because it is the best way to educate and to prove something.
A normal day of training is fasting in the morning, with blood glucose testing upon waking up. I then make the necessary decisions such as taking insulin, eating something and adjusting my basal requirement. During training I must always be aware of my blood glucose and I leave juices in strategic places in case it is necessary to use them. The end is accompanied by another blood glucose test to corroborate that everything is going well. The biggest challenge of my training is hypoglycemia—Avoiding hypoglycemia during training is key to achieving the goal of that session. The second challenge comes nine hours later and is also hypoglycemia… My blood sugar drops hours after I’ve completed my run.
The experience of the marathon has already started with my campaign, and even though it has only been a short time I have been surprised, inspired and thankful. I am sure that on November 4th I will close a beautiful story filled that began on March 26th: the day that I sent my video.
Don’t let diabetes stop you from pursuing your dreams. Don’t let anything stop you, just do it. If you are afraid, do it anyways. Always keep in mind your life goal. My goal was set more than 20 years ago by my dad, I share it with anyone who wants to adopt it—”Take care, take care of yourself, I know that the cure will come, we don’t know when, but take care of yourself so that when it happens it is worth it.”
To learn more about the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon Beyond Type Run team click here.