For our GGTC February Newsletter, I asked Kathleen to share her triathlon story with the club. Enjoy reading her story! -Chris Nosek
Why did you decide to get into triathlon?
March 2008, I attended a week long "camp" entirely devoted to diabetes,
fitness, exercise and sports education. The sport was triathlon and a
fellow camper organized a group of women with diabetes to do the
Longhorn 70.3 in Oct 2009. Team WILD: Women Inspiring Life with Diabetes
How long have you been racing?
first sprint was the See Jane Tri in Sept 2008. I was floundering on my
own and attempted Wildflower Olympic in May 2009. I didn't have a
structured training program and the race did not go well athletically or
diabetes wise. I immediately got hooked up with GGTC, TAG and then HIT
for a successful 70.3 finish at Longhorn. I continued with Olympic
distance races in 2010 (did TAG again!) and in September 2011, eleven
Team WILD women with type 1 diabetes participated in IronMan Wisconsin,
What main challenge did you have to navigate in order to participate in triathlon?
1 diabetes requires balancing blood sugar levels and insulin dosing.
Sounds simple but it's actually quite complex. I analyze every morsel of
food that goes into my mouth and then I make an educated guess on
insulin dosing. Salad, pasta, tootsie roll, GU, Clif Blox, electrolyte
drinks, recovery drinks, all of it requires evaluation and then some
kind of action. I also take into consideration the energy I'm currently
expending, will expend over the next few hours and have expended in the
last 24 hours. I also need to account for variables like sleep,
hormones, stress, etc. All of this and more affects blood sugars.
Whether it's a casual stroll in the park, a 4 hour bike ride or an 8
hour race, I'm thinking about and actively managing diabetes in addition
to concentrating on the actual swimming, biking, running,
swerving/honking cars, seals, unleashed dogs, etc.
How has Type 1 Diabetes impacted your training and racing?
affects absolutely everything I do on a daily basis and even more so
training and racing. When people are meeting at 8am for a long bike
ride, many get up at 7:45 throwing back whatever's in the fridge or a
protein bar in the car. Some forget to bring nutrition or they will buy
something along the way. I eat at least 3 hours before I'm going to get
on the bike because it helps reduce my risk for a low blood sugar on the
ride and hours later. I have to pack absolutely everything I need to
eat with me. I can't take the chance that a place will be open for me to
get fuel and just the right fuel. I'm also carrying additional food in
case I have a low blood sugar as well as a ton of medical supplies.
There's no "winging it" with diabetes but often times I'm better
prepared than those who do not have diabetes b/c I have to be and that
is a good thing. It takes careful planning and vigilance. Despite my
best efforts, high and low blood sugars are part of having diabetes,
emergencies still happen and my risk for lows increases when I work out
and they can be quite serious. Most can be treated if I stop what I'm
doing, eat and then let that fuel do it's thing but by the time this
"back of the pack" gal does all that....I'm really back of the pack and
often times the very last person out there. It kinda sucks to come back
to your car and everyone is gone but that also somehow makes me stronger
and more determined to work even harder yet.
What are your goals for this year?
signed up for HIT to Wildflower. I will not race b/c I'm doing the
American Diabetes Association (ADA) Napa Tour de Cure bike ride that
same weekend. I will do the Steelhead 70.3 in Michigan in August with my
women friends with type 1 diabetes and my first marathon in Chicago in
October with the ADA.
What advice do you have for others who don't think they can do it?
all have our challenges and as unique as they may be, we are united in
the fact hat we are all imperfect. Don't compare yourself to others. I
did it for years and until I accepted myself and my limitations, only
then could I truly overcome them, succeed and feel really good about my
personal and individual growth and accomplishments. I'll never be fast
on the bike or the run. NEVER! So what! I'm out there just the same as
the people who are already driving home when I'm crossing the finish
Is there anything you think other members should know?
of us are completers and not competers. Just finishing is HUGE and it
somehow takes away from it when people just ask, "What's your time". If
someone is totally psyched about their time, they'll let you know. How
about "Congrats!! Great job!". For many of us just getting to the start
line is an accomplishment and yes, it sucks not finishing (been there!)
so please don't say "better luck next time" or "didn't you train
enough". Acknowledge the disappointment, pat that person on the back,
and remind them how awesome they are and that not finishing doesn't take
away from the weeks or months of training. Then there of those of us
that just getting to a training day took a ton of effort. Thank you to
everyone who has supported me, cheered me on or pat me on the back. It
means a lot. Really. -Kathleen
Thank you, Kathleen for sharing your story with us and continuing to inspire so many of us as we embark on our own swim/bike/run journeys. You are part of the reason GGTC is a great club!