I was excited to head to Chicago for the race; neither Katie nor I had ever spent time in Chicago and I was competing having raised more than $1,000 for Insulindependence adding some special flare to the event. Heading into the race I had felt in pretty decent shape, my training was a bit off in the weeks heading into the race as we had switched apartments and work became absolutely crazy but I was feeling good nonetheless. Ironically, however, in the race I had raised money to support a non-profit that promotes active lifestyles for people with juvenile diabetes I was deeply affected by high blood sugars for the first time on a race day.
We left for Chicago Saturday morning and my blood sugar was a happy and stable 110. Once in Chicago we walked to the Hilton to pick up my bike from Tri Bike Transport and on the way home my blood sugar dropped down to the 40s, the only period my blood sugar would be below 250 for the next 14 hours.
Once I finally got my blood sugar to rebound it continued to climb no matter how much insulin I took in. From 3pm until I went to bed at about 11pm my blood sugar stayed above 300; I took in about 10 units of insulin with little or no impact. The high blood sugars were making me feel sick, very sick.
I woke the next day at 5am to a blood sugar of 275, decided to change my infusion set and headed off to transition to rack my bike. After riding to transition (about 3/4 a mile away) and walking back my blood sugar dipped to 230 but would then start to rise again post my breakfast of an extremely low glycemic cereal.
Once at the race site for my 8:30 am start time my blood sugar was still above 200 but started to trend just slightly downward. The declining trend had me really worried about going low during the race so I took in a gel, got to the swim start and was off. About a 1/4 of the way through the swim I started to feel pretty nauseous but got through it in 35 minutes (sans wet suit) and then was off for the 1/4 mile jog back to transition.
In transition I tested and had a blood sugar of 185; the downward trend was continuing so I took in another gel and headed off on the bike. Once on the bike I knew I didn't have the pop in my legs I normally do as my mouth was getting more watery by the pedal stroke. I finished the 25ish mile course in an hour and 10 minutes, a bit slow compared to where my cycling is and I just didn't feel right. On the second half of the bike I was going in and out of focus; my vision was blury from time to time and I felt like I was holding back vomit as the miles ticked by.
Back in transition I tested again and had a blood sugar of 105; uhoh still trending down and time for a run. I took in another gel and 2 minutes 30 seconds into the run I was spent. I could barely focus, my stomach felt like it was in a vise and all I wanted to do was sleep. I started to walk less than a 1/2 mile into the run and had to refrain myself from punching someone who shouted words of encouragement "that's it just keep going at your pace." I thought, "dude I'm about to throw up everywhere all my pace is doing is keeping me from projectile vomiting on your face." Realizing that I was in no condition to keep moving I found a grove of trees to "hide in."
I sat for about 10 minutes trying to get the energy to run again. Once I felt like my legs were coming back and that my blood sugar was rebounding I got back to my feet and started to jog again. About another half mile in my stomach started to kill me and I started throwing up a little bit at a time. I then began walking for the next 2 miles. The first 2.8 miles of the run took me 45 minutes; just under the time it should have taken me to finish the entire run.
At mile 3 I was able to start jogging again fighting off stomach cramps and overall just feeling incredibly crappy. Once down the finisher shoot I could barely focus, was starring at my shoes and just wanted to cross the finish line to throw up again. I crossed the line, found a spot on the railing and waited for Katie to meet me with my Uncle and cousin (they live in Chicago and were awesome to come out to support me). Once Katie met me at the railing I handed her my stuff and said "sorry I'll be back I need to go throw up."
I found a private spot and began to yak (note to self warm clif shots coming back up are disgusting). After emptying my stomach my cramps started to go away and I began to take in a ton of fluids. Finally back at transition I tested again and had a blood sugar of 150. It seemed that whatever was going on my blood sugar was finally getting back to normal.
But, I finished; when I set out on this journey my goal was to prove that a chronic illness does not have to prevent what someone can accomplish and to inspire children with type 1 to chase their dreams. The Chicago triathlon was by far the worse race I have had, the stomach cramps, weird blood sugar and just overall sickness I felt made this race emotionally and mentally more challenging than any Ironman I had done. While laying in the trees I thought to myself, "I'm sick of this disease, I'm tired of fighting, I'm tired of being affected by a condition which is invisible to so many." But by the time my mental focus was coming back I felt a renewed desire to fight this disease.
Managing type 1 diabetes isn't easy and sometimes I lose sight of that. I've accomplished so much in my 5 - 6 years with this disease that I forget it is a constant, daily struggle to live as healthy as I can. Each day a diabetic faces a new challenge; each day a new lesson is learned. At the Chicago tri the money I raised for IN reminded me of that. I was reminded that yet again diabetes cannot define who I am, but it does in part make me who I am.