Thought for the Day

Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Motto

I've been giving my motto some thought, specifically, my family motto. Please bear with me. I'll try to tie this into the basic topic of this blog, being a type 1 diabetic endurance athlete.
I don't know what my family motto is, historically. There have been several different Nairn mottos used by various Nairns and Nairnes over the years. I have no idea which one would be appropriate for my branch of the family.
Nairn is a sept, a sub-clan, of the clan Mackintosh. Clan Mackintosh became part of Clan Chattan in 1291, when the chieftain of the Mackintosh clan assumed leadership of Clan Chattan through marriage.

The most common motto used for both Clan Chattan and Clan Mackintosh is the old English, "Touch not the cat bot a glove," or in Gaelic, ""Na bean don chat gun lamhainn."
There are two similar interpretations of this motto. It is either taken to mean "Don't touch the cat without (unless you are wearing) gloves," or "Don't touch the cat unless his claws are sheathed (gloved)."
At any rate, the cat is the symbol of the clan, and it means "Don't mess with us."
One family member suggested that this motto was a historical variation of the modern warning to practice safe sex, "No glove, no love."
I'm not sure about that interpretation.
I could see this as a pretty cool motto. Someone might say, "Oh, it's just a kitty cat. You gonna scratch me?"
But this is actually the Scottish wildcat, about 50% larger than the average domestic cat and supposedly impossible to tame, even when raised in captivity.
Of course, if a motto needs to be explained, that's a strike against it.
It is also a threatening, war-like motto which may have been appropriate for the feudal clans of the Scottish Highlands, but doesn't really match up with the life I lead.

Moving on, there are mottos more specific to the Nairn Clan.
Maybe part of the reason it's hard to find a definitive Nairn motto is the fact that Nairn is an armigerous clan, meaning it does not have a recognized chief and has no legal standing under Scots law.

One motto used by Nairns has been "Sero, sed serio," Latin for "Late, but in earnest," or "Late, but serious."
My first reaction to this was, "Huh?" But it refers to the Battle of Ancrum Moor.
The battle was a 1545 victory of Scottish forces over a larger English army. The victory was achieved by attacking with a small group which retreated and led the English into a difficult position, at which point the main Scottish force attacked, "late, but in earnest." The English, and their German and Spanish mercenaries, found themselves on uneven ground, fighting uphill into the setting sun.
About a third of them were slaughtered and the survivors scattered into the surrounding countryside. Several clans in the battle adopted this motto.
So this could be kind of a war-like, kick-a$$ motto.
It applies to my life a little bit in that I am slow but steady. I may finish back in the pack, but I am serious about finishing.
But that explanation is way too long.
Another motto was "Spes ultra," Latin for "Hope beyond," which is combined with the French, "L'esperance me confort," "Hope comforts me."
The hope I have for a cure for type 1 diabetes could be symbolized in this motto, but that hope is guarded. I don't see it as a key part of my philosophy.
I like to remain optimistic, hopeful, but I don't find this an inspiring motto.

So what's left? The Latin, "Plus ultra." "More beyond," or "Farther beyond."
That already sounds more like me.
(You thought I wouldn't get back into the topic of this blog?)
The tie-in with ultra-endurance events, ultramarathons, etc. is pretty obvious.
This phrase, "Plus ultra," has been used fairly often as a motto, because it refers back to an inscription which was supposed to be on the Pillars of Hercules. According to Roman mythology the pillars were built by Hercules near the Straits of Gibraltar and marked the edge of the world. On these pillars was the warning "Nec plus ultra" or "Non plus ultra," "nothing further beyond," a warning to go no further.
I might have glimpsed the Pillars of Hercules as I was diagnosed with an incurable disease back in 1974. I might have seen it as the end of a lot of things in my life.
I was fortunate that no one around me tried to tell me that diabetes was going to stop me. Unlike some other people I know with diabetes, I had no one saying, "Non plus ultra." "No more after this."
I thank my family for that.
Instead I was left to make my own choices on what was possible, and while it's often been a struggle, it's clear I chose "Plus ultra." "More beyond."

OK, that is an explanation, but it really isn't required.
"Plus Ultra" is my motto.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Desert RATS Trail Running Festival

About a week and a half ago, April 17th, I was in Fruita, CO to run the 25 mile trail race of the Desert RATS (Race Across The Sands) Trail Running Festival with Peter Nerothin of InsulInDependence.
If you pay any attention to the chart of my running log on the left hand side of this blog, then you know I didn't prepare for this at all. A while back Peter had been talking about this race, specifically the 50 mile race at this event, and I said, "I'll do it if you will."
Famous last words.
Anyway, with next to zero miles in the bank, after driving most of the previous day and arriving after midnight, I managed to convince Peter we should switch to the 25 mile race, which is an option allowed by the race director.
The 25 miler was so tough, and I am so out of shape, that I wasn't able to finish 25 miles before the cut-off time for continuing on the 50 mile course anyway.
I'm not sure what to say about the run. I definitely felt the altitude. My blood sugar was a little high in the first few miles, then when I got it down, it was bouncing, over 200 to under 70. It was 70 at the finish. I was cramping on and off for much of the run. I walked all of the uphills. The sad story you would expect to hear about someone doing something like this with no training.
Other than that, it was great weather and beautiful geography. Without further ado, here are some pictures:





Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention I fell down in the first 5 miles. I had superficial scrapes on my legs, right forearm, and hands, with bruises under each scrape. I took a pretty good Superman dive. I hurt my pride as much as anything, as there were still lots of other runners around.

Peter striking a pose I have seen in other pictures of him. Apparently he thinks this is his best look. He calls it "Blue Steel."
Note the guy in the background rethinking his breakfast.



Peter hung with me all day in spite of the fact that I was going tediously slow. I much appreciate it.


I'm sure it sounds terrible from my description, but I hope the pictures tell a better story. As I said to another runner on the trail, "The worst day running is better than the best day at work."
I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A pro cycling team named Team Type 1

The news this week from the Team Type 1 Weekly Update is that "Team Type 1" was successful in the Tour Maroc and "Team Type 1" is going to race in the Tour of California.
Why do I not care?
I have been a Team Type 1 fan for years. I am eager to hear good news about what Team Type 1 is doing.
However, the professional cycling team that is called "Team Type 1" is mostly non-diabetics. Whenever I see an article about "Team Type 1" I do a quick scan to see if it involves the mens professional cycling team. If it does, then I will probably skip it.
The exception is if it deals with one of the type 1 diabetic riders, Joe Eldridge, Javier Megias Leal, Martijn Verschoor, or Fabio Calabria. If there are no diabetic riders mentioned, I have no interest in it.
Maybe you have trouble determining whether you're reading about a diabetic when you see a story from Team Type 1. Here's what I find usually works:
If it doesn't say the rider has diabetes in the story, he doesn't.
A lot of diabetics are, as you would expect, unaware that "Team Type 1" does not mean a team of type 1 diabetics. After all, for years, Team Type 1 was all type 1 diabetic riders. There are still teams bearing the name Team Type 1 which are all diabetic. You have to read the small print to know what is going on with the professional cycling team.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
If the people that have worked very hard to create the Team Type 1 brand want to use it for a professional cycling team, that's their choice.
I don't think they are intentionally trying to deceive. The professional cycling team does serve the diabetic community in a way. They have diabetic riders on the team, and more diabetic riders in development.
I don't know what it means to be on a development team, but that's because I don't know much about professional cycling.
I've tried to figure out what the professional team is about.
I didn't find a mission statement on the Team Type 1 web site, but this statement is prominently displayed:
We strive to instill hope and inspiration for people around the world affected by diabetes.
That is clearly what the all-diabetic teams, like those competing in RAAM, are about.
I think the diabetics who are most inspired by the professional cycling team are the ones who don't know that most of the riders aren't diabetic.
From my current perspective, the pro team seems to be more about selling to diabetics than inspiring diabetics.
The pro team is not inspiring to me as a diabetic.
I have some understanding of what this team does for diabetic riders. I like to associate with other diabetics involved in the kinds of athletic activities I like. We share experiences and feelings, we inspire and help each other.
I've never been close, in any sport, to the level at which the diabetic riders on the "Team Type 1" professional or development cycling teams compete. If I was a competitive cyclist, I'd want to be on the "Team Type 1" professional team.
However, I think that success in cycling, like success in other sports, depends on individual abilities. No one can be put at the pinnacle by someone else.
There are diabetic athletes at or near the highest levels of almost every sport. Almost all of them have gotten where they are without being given special consideration for being diabetic.
Having this mostly non-diabetic professional cycling team gathered specifically to elevate diabetic cyclists seems to imply that diabetics can't make it in the sport without special consideration.
I don't buy that. I see it as a marketing gimmick for the team sponsors.

I wish all of the athletes on all of the Team Type 1 teams continued success, whether or not they are diabetic. I am naturally more excited about the successes of the diabetics.