Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Being an Athlete

For years I have been pushing myself to reach my goals, whether it was finding a way to go “out of state” for college, or, more recently, working madly to fit in a linear algebra course at Berkeley while also working full time and training for the Boston Marathon. While last year’s Ironman experience was both a physical and mental accomplishment for me, I have felt that I have been doing things (or not doing things) that were holding me back. Going to Diabetes Training Camp helped me to once again realize that it is okay to dream big, and gave me some practical tools and knowledge to get me on the path.

There is so much to say, so I will just include a few highlights…

Triabetes team coming together. I was finally able to meet most of those I hadn’t met—Steve Ahn, Steve Chop, Dave Shack—and to visit with Peter Nerothin and Bill Carlson again as well. I look forward to meeting the rest of the team soon. It was wonderful spending time with the documentary team and family, and I look forward to getting to know them better over the coming months. Dave’s comments during our educational sessions at camp were priceless, and I was impressed that he hammered out some tough miles on our climb up San Marcos Road. I think this was his 3rd time riding a road bike (and being clipped in!) and he just didn’t stop. By the end of camp, I had a new perspective on the Triabetes project and realized that not only could it help others, but also that it had already changed my own life.

Here I am with Bill C. on our ride with Peter N. up past the avocado orchards. Those trees were just out of reach--dang! I would like to say that I blazed past both of them on the way up but it just wouldn't be quite true. (gotta get a better camera phone)

Did someone say “swimming?” My theme for the week was swimming, swimming, and more swimming. With Oceanside (aka California 70.3) this coming Saturday, I initially felt a little nervous abandoning my normal swim workouts, but soon realized that this would be far more helpful. Each day at camp, we had two training sessions of either swim, bike or run skill sessions and workouts and an occasional other option like yoga or wall climbing, and one session of strength- or flexibility-based fitness workouts such as pilates, yoga and strength training. I decided to swim at least once a day. Josh Gold and Celeste St. Pierre, who trekked all the way from NY and NH, patiently took apart our stroke and then put it back together again. By the end, I had increased awareness of my body position in the water and felt longer and much more balanced, and had learned tools to help me continue to improve once I got back home.

“This might be a little harder than your average stress test.” I believe this understatement was the caption on the cartoon above the treadmill at UCSB’s physiology lab where we did the VO2 max testing Tuesday. Hooked up with EKG leads and a breathing mask, I ran my little heart out. My max heart rate was as I expected (193, which was my max going up Welch Creek Road last fall) and I was relieved to see that my EKG showed no abnormalities. My biggest concern with my training this year has been my inability to get my weight down; Rick Crawford, the training coach on staff for DTC, worked out a plan that is already working well. He suggested that I focus on eating higher carb-content foods during and after exercise, and otherwise eat meals focused on protein with fruit and veggies/legumes. Since last Tuesday, my weight is down 3 pounds and I am highly motivated to bring it down to a more competitive weight. Furthermore, I feel relieved mentally to have a plan that I am not constantly fighting against. My biggest concern right now is dropping weight too fast since I’m pretty sure that would have an adverse effect on my fitness. Later in the week, Rick and I went over the numbers from the test and I realized that, perhaps, those hours and hours and hours of exercise over the past 20 years may have paid off after all. My attitude has changed from thinking of myself as a person who likes to exercise (a lot) to that of an athlete, and I am 100% committed to reaching my potential, whatever that may be.

Developing the mind as well as the body. We had many engaging educational sessions, ranging from topics like sports nutrition, exercise physiology related to exercise and diabetes, hypoglycemia and how to prevent and manage it, and just a conversation on how to get better medical care. One of the themes for the week was on designing training plans to start with a couple months of base training, to then enter a transition phase, and finish with a more intense phase leading up to a race. Within these phases, there are also periods of recovery. While this talk was focused on training for physical performance in a sport, it became clear that the ideas were also applicable to managing one’s diabetes. In particular, the idea of being patient, and including some periods of recovery (perhaps not logging for awhile) could be helpful. Another session was on relaxation techniques that will come in handy before my races this year. Although you might not suspect it, I am definitely one of those athletes who needs to “hype down” before a race. Take a look at my pre-race blood sugars and you will believe it. (Adrenalin causes a spike in blood sugar.)

All are welcome. The campers who came to DTC were a diverse group, ranging from many-time Ironman finishers and avid cyclists to those just embarking on their athletic careers. What was most impressive to me was the respect with which all athletes were treated. So much of the time I have wondered, “Is there anybody out there who understands this diabetes and exercise thing?” While there still are a lot of unanswered questions, it was a relief to be surrounded by a team of health and fitness experts with experience and insight into diabetes. Still, diabetes was not viewed as an excuse to perform less than any other athlete out there, an attitude I consciously try to maintain.

I would like to say “Thank you” to Matt Corcoran for having the vision and dedication to create this camp, and for all of the staff who worked to put it together. I feel enthused with a sense of hope and determination that will carry me forward for a long time. And I hope that I can also spread the message that living an active life with (or without) diabetes not only improves one’s health but also one’s spirit. It is not a burden but a pure joy.

I would also like to sincerely thank Andiamo Production and our sponsors who shared in the vision of the Triabetes project. We had some great news down there--Triabetes was just granted non-profit status, which means that any donations are now tax-deductible. If you would like to be involved as a sponsor or donate for a particular team member, just check out this page. We still need significant financial support to allow this project to be as successful as possible.

And as a last note, for those who were there, didn't Kathleen & Josh both have nice abs?


Scott K. Johnson said...

Great post Anne - sounds like a wonderful group!

Liz Findlay said...

Anne- you are my hero!! What a great Sunday we shared-- thanks!!

LindaF said...

The training camp sounds wonderful in every way! What a wonderful experience you are having being around fellow athletes, doctors, and trainers, all who have an understanding of diabetes. I can't wait to cheer you on in Wisconsin!

Your loving mom

Steve Chop said...

Best wishes on your race Saturday! You are an inspiration for our Team!


Wingman said...

I'm DYING to attend one of those camps but none of the dates fit into my schedule this year.

Did they go over any real technical stuff for nutrition?