Kris Freeman is America's top Cross-Country skier, he is also a type 1 diabetic. On Saturday Kris was competing in the 30 kilometer mixed-style pursuit race. The race itself takes a heck of a lot of endurance and the athletes who race this distance are in insane shape. However, the race had temperatures reaching into the mid-50s; anything but normal conditions for a Nordic event.
Kris Freeman was well poised to medal in the event, about halfway through the race he was in sixth place, hanging with the pack and looking strong. Then like so many of us have had occur, the blood sugar demons attacked. Kris' pace fell of sharply and he eventually collapsed on the snow, a German coach rushed to his aid giving him some Gatorade and Gu which elevated Kris' blood sugar level so he could continue racing. While I'm sure it is a huge disappointment for him not to have medaled but his 45th place finish after facing the blood sugar demons is more inspiring to me than a gold medal.
Every athlete in the Olympics has faced challenged and adversity. Each athlete is in incredible shape and probably has a resting heart rate in the 30s! On an athletic level they all work tremendously hard, they all have sacrificed so much for sports that they love. But for us type 1 diabetics we can associate with Kris Freeman, how many races or days at work have we had to salvage due to a low blood sugar. How many of us have had a goal time or place be swept away from us because something screwed up the blood sugar management system. Kris' race on Saturday reminded me that each time I toe the starting line I'm racing two battles. I'm racing against my competitors and I'm racing against the demons. While I am 100% mentally past the barriers that my diagnosis presented the blood sugar management challenge is always there. The conditions on Saturday totally screwed up Kris Freeman's blood sugar management system, he may have fallen well past his Olympic goals but Saturday was a huge win for diabetic athletes all over – in the face of adversity we all will preserve.