Anyone following us on Facebook or Twitter a few days ago will have seen a small flurry of posts about the SoCal Ragnar, a 195-mile relay race from Huntington Beach to San Diego.
Insulindependence organized two teams for this race, which GlucoLift sponsored: a 12-person team and the first-ever all type-1 Ultra team, which consisted of 6 people.
(you can read more about each team member here)
A Ragnar is a tough event, no matter which team you’re on. You run anywhere from 12-37 miles, both day and night, spread over 3-6 legs and around 34 hours. When you’re not running, you’re in a van with the rest of your teammates, heading to the next exchange point. Managing diabetes while enduring that much physical exertion, with little (or no) sleep, limited food options, and the challenge of actually finding your meter kit under the shoes, socks, water bottles and empty coffee cups littering the floor, is not to be taken lightly. Indeed, there were some potentially dangerous lows (one of which required glucagon) and some crippling dehydration/heat exhaustion experienced by both teams. Still, everyone managed to make it to the finish line.
It’s important to stress that we didn’t complete this race because we were teams of elite athletes (though there were a couple of those sprinkled in for good measure) or because we all have perfect blood sugar control. Blood sugars went as low as the 30s and as high as the 400s. We made it because we were regular (whatever the hell that means) people with diabetes who set a fantastic goal for ourselves and put in the work to achieve it. Most of us were able to set that goal because we were inspired by other people with diabetes who have achieved amazing things before us, and all of us hope that by completing this race, we will inspire other people to take on new challenges in their lives. But most important of all is this: we did not finish this race in spite of our diabetes, we all did it BECAUSE of our diabetes.
I ran the last leg for the 6-person team, which was supposed to be a five mile flat run from Point Loma to the Embarcadero behind the San Diego Convention Center. Along with a number of other runners, I overshot a turn (yes, I have lived in San Diego for 6 years) and ended up running onto and down Harbor Island, which, as the name implies, does not connect back with the mainland. This meant that I had to retrace my steps and add about a mile to the run. I was frustrated, tired, sore, hot, and losing steam. It was sunny and in the high 80s. I had slept about 45 minutes out of the previous 33 hours and hadn’t had a proper meal in as long. I had run almost 25 miles before I even started this final stretch. But after I corrected course, just as my spirits were at the lowest they’d been the whole race, a headwind began to blow on me. Normally, headwinds are unwelcome- you have to work harder, and you feel like you’re being held back. But at that moment, the wind focused my energy and quickened my pace. My head came up, my shoulders went back, my feet felt lighter, and I began to smile. It gave me something to push against, much the way diabetes has given me something to push against in my life, and focus my energy on accomplishing bigger things than I might have otherwise considered. It didn’t make my run easier, but it made it better.
Before I knew it, I was weaving through tourists in Seaport Village, and had crossed the street behind the Convention Center, with the end in my sights. I was waved into the corral heading towards the finish line. My team was there waiting for me and we all crossed together. It was a beautiful end to a great journey, in both life and diabetes, not despite the fact that it was challenging, but because it was.