Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Diabetes Awarness -Tom Kingery

We still need a ton more folks to sign up for the Virtual 5K.  You can Sign Up HERE!  Find Information HERE!  There are tons of prizes!! Please Sign up, get a friend to sign up, you can walk the 5K, you can run the 5K, you can run further, you can walk shorter and split it between two days, JUST SIGN UP!! Please, Pretty Please! 

Next up for Diabetes Awareness is an amazing athlete Tom Kingery.  He has Run Across the US, He has biked Across the US (twice), Competed in 5 Ironman distance triathlons, run countless marathons and if that isn’t enough is now helping lead Team Type 1 as their Director of Amateur Athletics.  I am in awe of all of his accomplishments.  If he doesn’t prove you can do anything you set your mind to (with or without Diabetes) then I don’t know who does. 

At what age were you diagnosed? 28

Does anyone else in your family have Type 1?
No, I was the first one.

Tom I know you were diagnosed about 8yrs ago and were quite an accomplished athlete prior to diagnosis and of course are an amazing athlete now. What were some of the hurdles you encountered after diagnosis so far as training goes?
When I was first diagnosed, I was training for my 7th marathon. After being told that I had Diabetes, I immediately thought that my athletic career was over - I simply didn't know enough about the disease to know that I could live a very active lifestyle and that I could actually become a better athlete. I luckily had a great endocrinologist who was also a biking friend. He really helped me see that this diagnosis wasn't going to limit my life if I took control right away. I won't say it was always easy thought - we had a lot of workouts that were cut short as I learned to manage my highs and lows and how my body reacts to insulin and exercise.

How long did it take you to get your diabetes under control so you could train at the level you wanted to?
I was never really out of control. Yes, my blood sugar was really high when I was diagnosed, but I think I caught it fairly early and from the start, tested my blood sugar constantly and controlled my blood sugar levels with insulin. I knew that I didn't want to give up training so it was just a matter of figuring out the right formula to do it all. I'm still working on that. It changes with so many things... what I eat, what I'm doing for training, the weather, the time of day, the location. Diabetes is a learning disease... I will learn about it until the day I die.

How do highs and lows affect your training? Both highs and lows negatively affect my training. If my sugar gets low and I don't get it up fast enough, my workout is over. I get really weak, I sweat a lot, and quite honestly it's too dangerous for me to go on. If my blood sugar gets too high, then my legs and arms tingle, I'm super sluggish and I feel like I hit the wall. That's why I constantly monitor what's going on with my body. If I tend to be heading low, I make sure that I consume fast acting sugar (a gel usually or some sports drink). If I'm heading high, I might take just one or two units of insulin. For me, exercise mimics insulin in my body, delivering the sugar to the right places so I find that I struggle with low blood sugar during exercise more than high blood sugar. But again, this is so individual. I have a bunch of teammates who will take 6-7 units of insulin before a workout. That wouldn't work for me.

Congratulations on your record setting Ride Across America. Can you tell us a little about that experience and specifically what goes into your diabetes care to make something like that possible?

Well Race Across America (RAAM) is an amazing event that's been going on for over 30 years. It's a 3000 mile bike race from Oceanside, CA to Baltimore, MD. Team Type 1, the team that I race for, has raced as an eight man team six times and has won the race overall (against non-diabetic eight man teams) four times. We currently hold the world record for the fastest transcontinental journey (5 days 9 hours and 5 minutes). I was lucky enough to be part of the team in 2009 (when the world record was set) and 2010. The experience was unlike any other that I've had in life - seeing the country from a bike! And knowing that we were doing what we were doing, all while managing our disease was pretty amazing. It really helped us get across our message that diabetes doesn't have to be a limiter and that you can do anything you want with proper control and exercise. As far as what it takes in terms of diabetes care - we all were just continuously on top of our individual management. With eight of us dealing with highs and lows, we all had to look out for each other too. But my body's reaction to the high intensity intervals was totally different than my teammates. Many of us are on continuous glucose monitors which help us know what our bodies are doing and we just made sure that we were always in range. Throw in sleep deprivation, heat exhaustion and altitude, all of us needed to test all day long and adjust our insulin levels according. This year, our team set out to Run Across America. We had 10 guys that ran from Oceanside, CA to New York City, ending the 3000+ mile journey in 15 days and ending in NYC on World Diabetes Day. It's just another example of how we don't let this disease limit what we are able to push ourselves to do.

What do you mean by your quote "You can't manage what you don't measure"?
Simply put... you can't control your diabetes if you don't know what's going on inside your body. There is no manual for the disease - it's a very individual disease and each of us needs to know our bodies and the way we react to things. I "measure" my blood glucose all day long. It's the only way to know exactly what's going on in my body. That number tells me if I need to eat some sugar or if I need to take some insulin. I'm lucky enough to be on a continuous glucose monitor which gives me a blood sugar reading every five minutes, and graphs for me if my numbers are rising, falling or staying the fairly constant. I can't workout if my numbers are too high or too low. For me to be in control of my disease I need to know what's going on at all times.

Do nerves before a big race mess with your numbers and how do you handle that?

For me, they don't really do much to my numbers, but I have a lot of teammates who have adrenaline spikes - as their nerves get the best of them, their blood sugar spikes. It can be a little hard to manage because usually as soon as they calm down, their blood sugars drop. So they don't really want to treat the adrenaline spike with insulin, but it's nerve wracking in itself to know if that's what's really causing the spike.

I run ultras, specifically I love the 100 mile distance, and during those races I have to be on top of my nutrition, I take in 200 calories an hour. What is your caloric intake like during an ironman distance triathlon? Does it differ at all from someone who doesn't have type 1?
First, that's amazing that you run ultras. I completely admire anyone who can run for hours and hours at a time! In terms of caloric intake, mine is no different than any other athlete's. I am probably a little more careful to make sure the carbohydrates are more slow acting so that my blood glucose numbers don't spike and drop. I always eat a big bowl of oatmeal in the morning because it is such a slow burning fuel. And then I try to take in 250-350 calories an hour. I'm a fan of solid food, because that's what I train with. I use bars, gels, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, etc. For my drinks, I am a little bit more careful to know what I'm drinking because a lot of sports drinks are really sugary. But my exercise kind of mimics insulin so I find that I don't take a lot of insulin throughout an Ironman.

You seem like the type of guy who believes he can do absolutely anything he puts his mind to doing? Were you always like that? How has Type 1 changed that if at all?
I've always been very determined. If I set my sights on something, I don't finish until I get it. That's just the kind of person I am. But I think diabetes just helps reiterate that in me. I constantly hear of people who were diagnoses and then told that they couldn't do something - play sports, eat cake, live a normal life, etc. That's not true at all. With proper management and understanding of the disease, you can do anything that you put your mind to. Team Type 1 is a group of 100+ "amateur" athletes. I quote amateur because these guys and gals are amazing people LIVING with their diseases. We have multi-time Ironman finishers, Boston Qualifiers, elite cyclists. We also have three people who have participated in Olympic Qualifiers, one who has summitted Mt. Everest, one who has won a 140.6, and more podium finished in running, cycling and triathlon events than I can count. Every single one of us is out to show that you can do anything with Type 1 Diabetes.

Is there anything you want kids out there with Type 1 to know? Any words of wisdom for their parents?
First and foremost, don't be ashamed of having diabetes - be proud... there are some amazing people living with diabetes. Tell your friends about it and make sure that they understand what you are going through and that it doesn't make you any different. Second, don't let diabetes stand in your way of what you want to do with your life. Make sure that you are in control of your management (not your parents) and follow your dreams. For parents... kind of the same thing. I think it's important that they don't do everything for their kids - there is a responsibility for the child, but the parents just need to be there to help. Also... there will be good days and bad days forever. Encourage your children to take risks and live a very normal life.
What is the craziest place you have found a test strip? This is probably a better question for my wife. She always gets on me for them being everywhere. She has found them on my mom's driveway, in her closet, all over the car. Really, they are everywhere... that's just the life of a good diabetic! :)

Thank you so much to Tom for answering all of these questions and for being an all around inspiration and leader.  You can find out more about Tom and Team Type 1 Here!


Anonymous said...

This is a great interview. Thank you so much, both of you.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.