Original article published in PowerUp Magazine May issue and can be found here
What happens when a diabetic person becomes an IRONMAN?
The answer is simple, he becomes a superhero in our modern world. This past April 10, for the fourth time in my life, I did an IRONMAN in South Africa! This time, episode 4, it was not as easy as before, I felt like I was fighting both Batman and Superman at the same time!
My training was during the winter time here in Bahrain, so that meant that the weather was very pleasant for long rides and runs. The good thing about this is that sustaining energy becomes radically easier relative to the warmer and hotter time of year.
The bad thing is that it is difficult to carefully plan your nutrition when your actual endurance event is in a much warmer climate. This is what happened to me. I did do the South Africa IRONMAN before, but this time the weather was not as friendly, it reached 37 degrees Celsius at times. What this did to me was that I underwent a 12 hour and 54 minutes continuous battle with my nemesis, the dreaded diabetes disease. It began during the swim, the waves were not friendly, and I forgot to take my energy bar before the start.
I was so excited about my 4th IRONMAN, that I was afraid I would forget something during my preparations. Bike and run shoes, socks, wetsuit, goggles, bike, food on bike, helmet, numbers, cap, sunglasses, Vaseline, gloves, compression socks, salt tablets, more food, more socks, and extra of everything, I had it all. The only thing I forgot was that energy bar before the swim. I said to myself that it shouldn’t matter, it should be an easy and fast 3.8km swim. It was actually a long, hard, wavy, and tough swim.
Battling hypoglycemia made me consume most of my packed nutrition right at the beginning of the bike leg. By midway, I lost faith and power in my legs to push my bike forwards, I was about to give up. But a 10-minute stop to take in two cheese sandwiches were to me like spinach to Popeye, albeit a bit longer to process. In no time, I was pushing again, trying to catch up where I have left off.
But it was the catching up part that emptied my fuel all over again. The lesson learned here is once bouncing back, don’t get over excited again, but this is easier said than done. After a grueling on and off bike, it was again a hot, humid, and hypoglycemic run. I had the legs, probably for the first time in any IRONMAN or IRONMAN 70.3 that I have done, but I kept on losing my sight and balance. I knew I had to drink a lot coke, eat, and walk for a while until my body processes the intake. So I decided to do the right thing, accept temporary defeat and build up for the remaining 24km of running, and it worked! I recovered and finished a strong last few kilometers.
At the end, it was a diabetic rollercoaster war in an IRONMAN field. It was not a fair battle, but I re-strategized in the midst of conflict and came out a winning champion at the other end. I didn’t have a Bat-mobile, I had a bicycle, and my grin was my mask, I am not an IRONMAN, I am a Diabetic IRONMAN, a proud and hopeful DIAMAN!