Joining the Rat Race – by Helen May


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Sometimes I question whether I go too far proving “diabetes should not stopping you doing anything”. The Rat Race is a question in point: this is an Urban Adventure Endurance Race. I have no problem with the Urban Adventure bit but I’m more of a sprinter than an Endurance kinda gal and I do things for fun rather than to be first (although you can do both). On the other hand, it’s a chance to do some cool things I wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to do … but more about that later.

The format of the event is three hours on a Saturday evening running around the centre of a city map reading and doing activities. This is followed by a day (nine-to-five) cycling 40km around the city and beyond doing more activities as you go. This is all achieved in a mixed team of three.

My team mates were two chaps from work who had run marathons and the like. They were also keen cyclists. I wondered what skills I bought to the team; I was light which was good if anyone needed to be carried and I was female which helped with the team mix. Oh yeah, and I can climb. But without a doubt (and even without the diabetes), I was the weakest link.

The first time we competed, we had little idea what we were going to be asked to do. So our training was mainly cycling with a bit of climbing and abseiling as a team. I also tried to get my running up to a reasonable level (my target was to be able to run 2 miles), tried out some cross country cycling and a couple of hours in a kayak.

All our training came in handy: on the Saturday night, most of the three hours were spent running from point to point up and down hill doing abseiling, our own interpretation of “rhythm gymnastics” and “water polo” (during which I got very wet but my team mates managed to stay dry) to name a few activities, all while trying to read a map. Then on Sunday we were on our bikes trying out the BMX circuit, off our bikes for a short orienteering circuit, back on our bikes off-road through the woods, off our bikes again pushing a Smart car around a circuit, onto our bikes to the football stadium where we left he bikes again and climbed pot-holing ladders up to the rafters, did a little traverse and came back down. Then back to the start for some kayaking and accurate bike work along narrow beams.

Being suckers for punishment, we were back the next year. Our training was a little more focused this time: 60 minutes of cycling in the rain followed by 90 minutes of climbing (indoors) followed by 60 minutes cycling home in the rain again. I also did some more with some more running mostly into work to build up my miles.

Then on the Saturday we were back with more climbing, a bit of organized legal graffiti and inching along the wall of the new cinema about a foot from the ground. Then on Sunday we had some more running, cycling, kayaking as well as some abseiling through the middle of the spiral exit ramp of the multi-storey car park and some less glamorous activities like shoveling horse manure.

As you can tell, I did it again so I definitely enjoyed the challenge of the activities. I enjoyed the challenge of managing my diabetes less: as much training as we did before the event, there was nothing that could prepare us for a night of rigorous activity followed by a day of rigorous activity (apart from perhaps a night of rigorous activity followed by a day of rigorous activity). And nothing could prepare my blood sugars for such a variety of activities over such a short period of time. Thankfully, my team mates understood. This was one occasion when The Orange Box was out of the fridge and after some instruction, I’m sure my team mates were relishing the idea of “sticking the big needle in” (boys will be boys!). They never complained when I asked for “a short break to take a reading”, usually followed by some insulin or some dextrose. In fact, if I started to flag, they preempted me with “Are you ok? Do you want to take a reading?”

As always, I didn’t let diabetes hold me back. But one of the lessons I learnt was the value of team mates understanding the needs of diabetes in such a situation and, despite being very independent, it was great to know I could depend on my team.

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It is great to see and hear of others being type 1 doing these things. Absolutely fantastic it is.
I also am type one, ride fast bikes, climb big trees using chain saws, I also practice martials arts to a degree and am at the gym regularly. My kids think I’m nuts.
Would like to meet like minded folk who are type one like myself to network with and mix up the experiences, maybe help those getting going.

Good stuff Helen May