Thought for the Day

Thursday, September 23, 2010

House on Fire

A certain diabetic marathon runner said some controversial things recently. I would like to be a fan of this guy, but he makes it difficult.
Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas and candidate for President, compared the provisions in the Affordable Health Care Act which prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing medical conditions to enabling people to purchase home owners' insurance for a house that has already burned down.
As someone with a house on fire, you might have expected Mr. Huckabee to be more sympathetic to people with pre-existing conditions.
I think it's likely Mike Huckabee's viewpoint is influenced by his type 2 diabetes. He was over 300 pounds and a self-confessed foodaholic. He turned his own health around, corrected his diet and started exercising, lost over 100 pounds, and became a marathon runner.
He may have a tendency to feel that sick people are responsible for their own illnesses.
My position is probably influenced by my experience. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 15. No one is completely certain about the cause, but it certainly wasn't anything I knowingly did.
And I can't just eat right and exercise and have the symptoms go away.
But Huckabee has a point. Insuring that sick people will not continue to be sick is not a profitable proposition.
That seems simple enough.
It was called the Affordable Health Care Act, not the Profitable Health Insurance Act, because we need affordable health care. There is no great public outcry for a more profitable health insurance industry. Health insurance is, after all, extremely profitable.
Huckabee was right about this law being tough on insurance companies. It's another reason we need to get insurance companies out of our health care.
I don't think it's fair to make insurance companies insure houses that have already burned down, but when my house is on fire (As a type 1 diabetic, my house is definitely on fire.) I want to be able to dial 911 and get a fire truck.

Huckabee was speaking at the Values Voter Summit. It's clear that human health and life are not among those values.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Support the JDRF

If we know each other, you probably already got this in email, but I'm posting it here just in case.

Please bear with me for a minute. After writing this, I thought for a moment I might be getting over-dramatic.
But how can you be over-dramatic when kids are dying?

This October I'll be taking part in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Ride to Cure Diabetes in Death Valley along with riders from across the country as we try to help the JDRF reach it's goal of curing type 1 diabetes.

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 15, 37 years ago. Although I personally would like to see a cure for myself, that's not really why I'm riding for the JDRF.
I've been living with diabetes for a long time. I know I can survive, even be healthy, in spite of it. I'm used to it. But this disease is hard on kids.

In February of this year, a personal hero of mine, Jesse Alswager passed away at the age of thirteen, after 10 years of fighting type 1 diabetes.
When I say fighting, I don't just mean like all of us type 1 diabetics fight, with finger stick blood tests, injections or infusion sets, machines and medicines, counting grams of carbohydrate, thinking through the metabolic effects of every meal, every bit of physical activity, everything....
What I mean is that Jesse was fighting as if he was in a war.
When Jesse was diagnosed at the age of three, his mother, Michelle Alswager, declared war on the disease, and she took her son into battle.
Jesse raised thousands of dollars for the cure, a cure he will never enjoy. Michelle, as a member of the board of directors for several diabetes foundations and an executive at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, was involved in raising millions.
Jesse met governors, Congress members, First Lady Laura Bush. Politicians loved to be photographed with him and talk about him.
I never met Jesse. I wish I had the chance to thank him. He did a lot for me, and all people with type 1 diabetes.

One of the things that Michelle Alswager did to fight diabetes was to come up with the idea of a type 1 diabetic triathlon team, and a documentary about how they could train for and complete an Ironman.
That was how Triabetes began.
Triabetes has had a profound effect on my life, and I know that it has touched many more diabetics out there.
When I first heard that Jesse had died, it knocked the wind out of me. It was more than a little discouraging personally, to learn that the inspiration for Triabetes had died.
The inspiration had died.
Yeah, that's how I felt.
And it was heart-breaking to think that Michelle Alswager, who had worked to spread hope to people like her son, people like me, suffering from type 1 diabetes, had lost her son.
For several hours this was a hope-crushing thought for me.
But now I've decided that it's part of a war. I've been around for the war, but mostly on the sidelines. I have not yet begun to fight.
I have to take to the battlefield now.

I'm riding across Death Valley in honor of Jesse Alswager, and to help the children who now have this disease or will have it in the future.

Also riding will be Michelle Alswager, in memory of her son, and Bob and Jen Nicholson, who lost their 14 year old son Trent to type 1 diabetes in March of this year.

Please go to this page to donate to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation:

Thank you,

See this video to learn more about Jesse:
Or here:
Learn more about Michelle Alswager here:
And more about Triabetes here:

Memorials to Jesse:

Memorials to Trent:

Many employers do charity matching gifts. If you decide to give to the JDRF, please find out if your company will match your gift, and make your contribution count twice as much.

If you want to make a contribution in honor of or in memory of someone, whether they have diabetes or for any other reason, please state that in the "Message for Rider" box in the online contribution form. I will put that person's name on my bib number to wear while I ride across Death Valley. Thank you for the opportunity.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Diabetes Meme

This is a link in a chain of blogs started by Kerri Sparling of Six Until Me.

What type of diabetes do you have:
I have the bad kind. No, seriously I've got type 1 diabetes.
This question can rightly be seen as either vitally important or totally irrelevant.
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are both terrible diseases that have some things in common but are also extremely different from each other.
When we lump them together it's a little like lumping together muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis.

When were you diagnosed:
I don't know the exact date, but it was in the fall of 1974.

What's your current blood sugar:

What kind of meter do you use:
OneTouch UltraMini.

How many times a day do you test your blood sugar:
Usually 8 to 10 times, but depending on things that might be going on, like some kind of problem with an infusion site or some athletic activity, it could be over 15 times.

What's a "high" number for you:
It depends on context, insulin on board, if I'm about to do something like go for a run...
I will do a correction bolus for 130 if I haven't had a bolus recently, but shortly after a meal and a bolus, I will only think about whether or not to correct if I'm over 190.
Sometimes I go by both the number on the meter and by "feel."

What's do you consider "low":
This also depends on context, but I don't like to be under 90 ever. I wouldn't call it a "low blood sugar" or "hypoglycemia" unless I was under 75, but I would eat something.

What's your favorite low blood sugar reaction treater:
I love having an excuse to slurp down a juice box, but I always carry glucose tablets because they're so convenient, 40 grams of carbohydrate in a tube of ten tablets.

Describe your dream endo:
She would look like Halle Berry and be able to cure type 1 diabetes. Maybe it is Halle Berry.
I want my endo to listen to me and respect my opinions, and to stay up on the treatments even more than I do. Someone who understands my life would be good. A type 1 diabetic marathon running endocrinologist would be good.

What's your biggest diabetes achievement:
I'm not even sure what a "diabetes achievement" is. If there is an achievement, is it a diabetic achievement just because I have diabetes?
I got on the cover of Diabetes Forecast once.
I once ran 10 marathon or longer races in one year. I know faster type 1 diabetics. I know at least one type 1 diabetic who has run more marathons than I have. But I'm not sure whether there is another type 1 diabetic who has run 10 marathons and ultra marathons in a year. (8 marathons, 2 50Ks.)

What's your biggest diabetes-related fear:
Not waking up tomorrow morning.

Who's on your support team:
InsulInDependence, Triabetes, Glucomotive, DESA, Team Diabetes and Coach Dave, the DOC, Sue, my kids, my brothers, my parents, Penny, Rusty, East Valley Runners, Sole Sports Running, any friends not already mentioned...
Oh yeah, and my endo.

Do you think there will be a cure in your lifetime:
No, I don't think so. As many others have said, I've been told that a cure is only a few years away ever since I was diagnosed, in my case, 36 years ago.
I'm planning to get a Medic Alert tattoo, something I won't need if I'm ever cured.
But that's just what I think, and it's not an excuse for not working for the cure.

What is a "cure" to you:
A cure means not requiring any medicine or devices to keep my blood sugar in a normal range. It means being like I was before I had diabetes.
Oh, and this.

The most annoying thing people say to you about your diabetes is:
I'm not easily annoyed. It doesn't happen often, but the most annoying thing is when someone who doesn't know what it's like starts to talk about how easy the disease is to manage with all of the technology, like pumps and meters.
Oh, yeah. The most annoying thing is when insurance companies want to tell you that some technology that's been available for over a dozen years is "experimental," or that you want too many test strips, or insulin, or that you can't have this because your blood sugar management isn't good enough, or that because your blood sugar management isn't bad enough.
Basically, anything an insurance company says about your health care, any excuse for a short-sighted, unhealthy decision, is the most annoying thing people say.
And anything that Dr. Oz says.

What is the most common misconception about diabetes:
It's hard to pick one, but it's probably still the idea that there is only one kind of diabetes, that it's all pretty much the same thing.

If you could say one thing to your pancreas, what would it be:
I don't blame my pancreas. I blame my immune system. The pancreas is the victim in all this. I would ask my pancreas to keep fighting, but I would tell my immune system to wise up.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Coach Milam

I was just informed that Coach Rick Milam, who was my high school cross country coach, recently passed away due to a series of events. He had been fighting cancer for 8 months, and it had greatly weakened him. While driving, he apparently had a heart attack and subsequently an accident. He had another heart attack in the hospital and passed away.
I hadn't seen Coach Milam since a race in the '80s where he was race director. Although he was very busy that day, I was able to get over to see him before the race. He shook my hand and seemed to be glad to see me and curious about what I had been up to.
After coaching successfully at the high school level, Rick Milam went on to work in the field of Sports Psychology. He worked with many college and professional teams.
He was a fixture in Bay Area Track and Field, organizing meets and races, and working as an official at everything he could fit into his schedule.
He was a great coach. He worked us hard, but no one disliked him. We had fun running for him.
Coach Milam will always be connected in my mind to the onset of my type 1 diabetes. It was during my second year on the cross country team that I started to show serious symptoms. I'm sure the coach was wondering what was going on with me as I slowed down and seemed to get in worse shape rather than better as training continued.
I will always be thankful to Coach Milam that he never hesitated to encourage me to get back on the team and continue to run when I got out of a week in the hospital. Who knows how I could have turned out if he had a different, more cautious attitude.

A memorial service for Coach Rick Milam will be held in the Los Gatos gym on Sunday, Sept. 19 from 2-4 p.m.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

How Tough is Ironman St. George?

Holy crap!
That's the phrase that leapt to mind when I saw this analysis from of the easiest/hardest Ironman courses, based on average completion times:
Easiest/Hardest Ironman Course

Overall, St. George has the longest average finish time:
Finish Times

St. George is ahead by a wide margin, half an hour longer than the next longest time, over two hours longer than the fastest ones.
I can take some small degree of solace in the fact that St. George has only one year of results, so this may be an anomaly.

Swim, St. George is tied for 3rd slowest:
Swim Times

There is about 20 minutes between the slowest and fastest.
You would think that water is water and there couldn't be that much difference. The guy doing this analysis says that things like the crowding/tightness of the course, chop/roughness of the water, and currents matter. Temperature matters to me.
The St. George course is tight at the start, and the water is cold. The water didn't look choppy to me the first and only time the race was held, but according to some reports it gets windy sometimes and it could be worse in 2011.

Bike, St. George is tied for slowest:
Bike Times

There is about an hour and twenty minutes differential here between the slowest and fastest courses. The three slowest are almost the same, and about 20 minutes slower than the next course on the list.

Run, St. George is 6th slowest out of the 25 races analyzed:
Marathon Times

Having seen the run course, this is surprising. That's a tough marathon. I would have guessed it was in the toughest 20%.

St. George isn't just a tough course, it is the toughest.
So what does that mean for me?
I can't just train to be an Ironman. I have to train to be one tough Ironman. I can't train with the thought that I just need to be good enough to make it through this. I have to train to be a serious triathlete. To do all right at St. George, I have to be ready to excel on any other course.
Good enough isn't good enough.
I'm pretty scared.
Holy crap.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Happy Birthday, Peter

Years ago, I didn't know anyone else who was trying to stay athletic in spite of having type 1 diabetes. I met a few other type 1 diabetics, and I heard about athletes with type 1 diabetes, but I had no real connection with anyone like me.
Eventually, I became acquainted with other diabetic athletes via the internet. First I sought out the email addresses of people like Bill King. Then I joined DESA and other groups. That's how I made a connection with InsulInDependence and became a charter member.
For about a year I exchanged email with Peter before we finally met for lunch the day before the Rock 'N' Roll Arizona Marathon in 2008.
That's when I entered the third stage of my life as a diabetic athlete. That's when I became a part of a real community of diabetic athletes.
I was 48 years old, sitting across the table from this kid, from the same generation as my children, and thinking about the life he had already led, from hitch-hiking across Europe, to visiting Base Camp on Everest, to multiple Ironman finishes. I was amazed.
And I didn't know Peter well enough to be appropriately impressed.
I have met a lot of amazing and special people through Peter and InsulInDependence, but Peter is the most amazing for this reason.
He shows others, each of us, how special we all are. It seems to be his mission.
We are all better for having met him.

Happy birthday, Peter!