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50th Diaversary 5X Iron Triathlon Challenge

~10/1/2022 thru ~10/15/2022
EXACT DATES TBD PENDING WEATHER

12-mile open water swim
560-mile bike
131-mile run

Why do a 5x Iron "challenge" event?

2022 marks my 50th "diaversary."

For those of you not familiar with the term, it's the anniversary of the date you were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Diaversaries are milestones of sheer survival, proof that we've persisted despite life-threatening hypoglycemia and inevitable hyperglycemia that even the tightest control can't entirely avoid.

And for those of us who've experience a transformation in our outlook from depression and victimhood to hope and possibility, it's a reminder that no matter how bad it gets, it's not over 'til it's over.

Transformation

For me, the transformative event was laser retinopathy treatment in 2003. It stopped the retinal bleeding, but left me with a few blind spots and a permanently damaged retina in my left eye.

The retinopathy wasn't inevitable. It was the result of 30+ years of avoiding physical activity and tight control because of my fear of extreme low blood sugars after exercise.

Now I had to come to terms with a very rational fear of dying in my sleep and find a way to get active anyway.

For me, there was no other choice.

I started with the smallest steps possible—and I never looked back.

After 50 years, I am still afraid of low blood sugars. And it's still scary sometimes to exercise. But you #keepgoing because you have to. I've grown more confident as I've learned how to exercise safely and I've tried harder things. Each time, I've learned something.

Epic happens one step at a time

Ever since I did my first Ironman in 2017, I've dreamed of doing triple, quintuple, or even a 10x Ironman. So doing the equivalent of one Ironman for each decade I've had Type 1 seems like the perfect way to celebrate my 50th diaversary in 2022.

I call it a "challenge" because I haven't done it (yet!) and of course don't know exactly how things will turn out. I'll see what I'm capable of, what I can learn, and what lessons I can share with others.

And with luck, someone else out there with Type 1 is dreaming--and (safely) doing--even bigger things!

Stuff I Get Asked

Will you be doing this all at once?

Well...it's 703 miles, so I'm going to have to sleep (I tried the alternative, and it doesn't work).

SWIM:

I do plan to do the swim all at once, with brief feed breaks on the shore. I know that for true marathon swims the feeds are typically done in the water while treading, but since this is my event and I'm not shooting for any records, it's my rules.

BIKE:

On true IUTA (International Ultra Triathlon Association)-certified multi-iron/multi-anvil  events (the latter is the non-copyrighted term), the bike portion is generally one continuous sub-event that spans multiple days. Cyclists typically log around 180 or more miles a day, and because time is limited, completing the bike on time if you're not fast becomes a bit of a mind game centered around trading sleep for the ability to continue at a slower pace as the race grinds you down.

For my challenge, that's now how I'm doing it. I plan on logging around 60 miles a day for 10 days, with the last of those days ridden at the American Diabetes Association's Texas Tour de Cure.

RUN:

I plan on logging a little over 50 kilometers a day (31 miles or so) along my usual running route until I've completed 131 miles. That should take about 4 days, give or take. There's nothing to be gained from  putting time pressure on myself to keep piling on the miles until I get blisters.

Will you do all three sports in a day, then repeat? If not, how will you do this?

The International Ultra Triathlon Association makes a distinction between what they call "X1s" (multiples of a single iron/anvil event, all three sports each day) and "classic mode."

There are advantages and disadvantages to each. By doing, for instance, a 5x1 (five 140.6 "anvil" distance races, all three sports in a day, in a row), you know that each race has to be completed that day, with in 17 hours (basically by midnight). With a "classic mode" event, if you're slowing down, you can sometimes skip sleep and catch up by riding through the night. You're going to be doing that anyway since the goal is to get the distance done one way or another and sometimes that doesn't conveniently fit into a single day, especially if you're getting on the bike in the evening after a 12-mile swim, hoping to log some miles before sunset. So you budget your time and your sleep and do the best you can. It's a bit more relaxed, and in some ways, it's easier to complete the multiples. The downside is that that's a LOT of time in the water, in the saddle, or in your running shoes.

Even though my event is a "demo" (not a race) intended to raise awareness about issues related to diabetes and exercise, I've chosen to follow the Classic Mode model...and add a decent amount of sleep.

Will you take rest days?

Most definitely. The plan is to take a rest day between each of the sports.

How do you stay on top of your blood sugars?

The two-word answer is: Very Carefully.

First, I use the Garmin-Dexcom integration, which is Dexcom's officially-approved way to view blood sugars on smartwatches. They partnered with Garmin on a joint release and promotion of the integration, which is a significant step up from third-party apps like xDrip and Nightscout that require GitHub downloads, builds, and connecting up multiple apps and servers by hand.

In my experience, I've found that the integration works best when the Dexcom CGM transmitter is near, at, or above the surface of the water and I'm using a normal swim stroke that gets the watch out of the water enough to receive a reading. Since I swim in open water and always use a visibility buoy with a built-in sealable dry sack, I put my phone in a drybag inside the dry storage in the buoy. If the system doesn't pick up a reading, it typically buffers it on the transmitter until it can send one to the phone, which shares it with the watch.

My other option--and this is just a common-sense backup strategy, is to train consistently so I know what my blood sugar is going into the water and at each fueling stop, typically around a mile. That's when I usually take in 50g of carbs from either two Untapped maple syrup packets tucked into my jammers or wetsuit, OR have my kayaker toss me a feed bottle with that same amount dissolved in water.

It's hard to tell in cold water if you are sweating or feel shaky, so I look for clues like a sudden degradation in my swimming technique, clenched jaw, or a feeling of doom and gloom; and when in doubt, I get carbs.

I want to come watch? How do I do that?

Sure! As the event date approaches, I'll post links to routes, locations, etc. and suggest what might be the best way to watch.

The one thing I won't be able to do is stop and talk much during the actual event. If we need to chat, let's keep it short or make time for talking longer when I'm not trying to log miles.

I want to follow you remotely. How do I do that?

During the event day, I will have a Garmin InReach satellite tracking beacon. We'll post a tracking link on the main T1Determined.org page.

Do you need anything? How can I support you?

What I really value most, as corny as it sounds, is your faith in the indomitable human spirit and your own ability to handle what T1D throws at you or your loved ones. If you took that home and bottled it, then paid it forward, I'd feel like I'd accomplished my goal,

The van is well-stocked and we're not generally in need of supplies.

I'm self-funded, but you can contribute to me directly if you feel like it.

My ultimate dream is to provide a free, practical source of information for people struggling with how to balance diabetes and exercise--to close that last mile between "You're diabetic" and "How will I ever do anything active again?" In the mean time, though, we can help each other.

Right now, you can point people to one or all of these Facebook groups: Type 1 Diabetic Athletes, TypeOneRun and its many local chapters, the local chapters of my own Diabetes & Exercise Alliance, and the Diabetic Ultra Endurance Athletes Facebook group. There are many more, around the world, but these will get any T1 off to a good start.

You can also support one of these non-profits that help us thrive, fight discrimination, and look for better treatment and cures.