What Happens When You Show Up And Try
Editor’s Note: Robin and a team of T1D athletes took on the Wildflower Triathlon with Type One Run this month. Learn more about getting involved with Type One Run chapter + keep an eye out for future events!
The longer days were starting to feel like summer and the Woodstock of Triathlons awaited us. The car was packed, my body was (reasonably) trained, and my two indispensable Type 3s — my husband and my dog — were on board and as excited as I was. We were driving north to join Type One Run for the weekend at the Wildflower Experience on Lake San Antonio in Bradley, CA, where we would swim, bike, run, camp, cheer on our friends and likely take part in some Woodstock-esque festivities. I was pumped.
My event for the weekend was one-third of an Olympic Triathlon relay: I was running the 10k course, a diabuddy from LA was handling the 40k bike ride, and a new diabuddy (and Chapter Leader of Type One Run London) had flown all the way from the UK to take on the 1.5k swim. We were a team, and together we were part of something bigger: a motley crew of other diabuddies and loved ones, all representing Type One Run, some racing a triathlon for the first time, with one particularly courageous soul taking on the Half Ironman distance. Inspiration and excitement buzzed in the lakeside air from the moment we pulled into the campground.
My blood sugars hadn’t been in great shape for the past few months; it was the classic combination of stress, busy-ness, and good old fashioned burnout that had kept me from paying closer attention and staying off the roller coasters. Getting ready for this race meant just being able to run 6.2 miles, but even that was something that felt daunting in my body as of late, and I wasn’t sure how I’d do or if I’d bum my teammates out by not being in top shape for the race. I decided to push my nerves down and ride the waves of Wildflower/Woodstock excitement, and just take the best care of my body and my sugars as I could during the trip. All I could do was have fun, and give the race what I had.
On Saturday, one of Type One Run’s founders, Craig Stubing ran for his very first multisport experience the Half Ironman distance triathlon. While the rest of us awaited our events on Sunday, we gathered ourselves into the feistiest cheering section next to the transition area, where Craig and all the other athletes would return when switching from swim to bike and from bike to run. We waited and watched, stayed hydrated and shaded, and thanks to some smart gadgets were able to track some of Craig’s movements. When we saw our racer come through transition after each leg of his race, we cheered like wild, thrilled at his pace and his grit through the punishing distance. 70.3 miles later, Craig crossed the finish line as our little cheering section, including Craig’s younger sister Jen, exploded in excitement and celebration. One of the finest moments of the weekend was seeing the pride on Jen’s face as she welcomed her brother to the end of his race. Type 3s can be anyone — a sister, a husband, a dog — but you can spot them by how they celebrate, support and encourage their Type 1s. It was a sweet reminder that we are never in this alone.
Sunday came and my race approached. I cheered on our swimmer, Emma, as she hit the water, then returned, out of breath and near collapse, to transition to hand off the timing chip to our cyclist. Maybe from jet lag, maybe from stubborn high blood sugars, Emma had had trouble getting a full breath throughout the swim and had switched at times to backstroke, just to catch her breath. She was still recovering when Leslie hopped on her bike and cycled out, leaving me to breathe through my mounting nerves. Ninety minutes later, it was my turn to race. Leslie sped back into transition, handed off the timing chip, and I hit the ground running, ready or not.
I didn’t feel good at first — it was hot, and I was stiff. But after seeing what Craig had done in his race the day before, and how Emma had just handled the challenging swim that she didn’t think she’d finish, I didn’t need any more motivation. “Easy, light, smooth” I said to myself, as I loosened up. “Head down, keep going,” I repeated as the sun scorched the trail. “Diabetes doesn’t win,” over and over, through gritted teeth and gnarly hills. Every time I slowed to a walk, I walked with purpose, power, and as much speed as I could muster. At long last, I rounded the last turn, saw the finish line, and summoned my very last reserves to sprint down the finish. With 100 meters to go, Emma and Leslie stepped into the lane and ran with me in lockstep, finishing the race as a jubilant team. I actually couldn’t believe that I was running as fast as I was, and had to throw a nervous glance at Leslie to get her and Emma to rein in their thrilling speed just a bit. When we crossed the finish line, I thought for sure I would keel over from the heat and exhaustion, but a cup full of strawberries handed off by a volunteer instantly revived me. We had done it. I had survived. And my teammates shouted “that was so fast!” as I chowed down on the juicy, glorious red fruit.
I knew I had left everything out there. I left my roller coasters out there. I left my disappointment in my recent blood sugar control out there. I left my shame and embarrassment at what other diabetics might think of me out there, on the trail. For the first time in a very long time, my score, my A1c, my weight didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was that I tried. All weekend I watched my teammates show up and try, outcome not guaranteed, to do something hard, new, even fun. That’s what had been missing from my diabetes management of late — the willingness to try, to see my diabetes every single day as something hard, new, even fun. Walking up a hill, stopping in the middle of a race to treat a low, even not finishing a race aren’t failures. They are part and parcel of trying.
As we packed up our campsites and got ready to head back home, I knew I was leaving Wildflower with incredible friendships and a new kind of grace with my diabetes. I saw Type 1s who never stop trying, and Type 3s who cheer them on at every turn. I saw laughter in the face of frustration and camaraderie in the face of a challenge. I showed up to the Woodstock of Triathlons prepared to have a good time but not expecting to accomplish much. But with this group, there is nothing to accomplish. We were all there to try, and to see how much fun we could have supporting each other. Turns out, you can have a blast watching your friends take on incredible feats of endurance with Type 1. Turns out you can actually have a blast taking one on yourself.