WHY I AM PASSIONATE ABOUT ADVENTURE
WHAT DOESN’T WORK
On the morning of October 23rd, 2009, I was already crying before I even opened my eyes. I rolled over and grabbed my meter from my nightstand and tested. I was 458. And I was probably 458 all night.
I could taste the ketones running through my veins and I swear I could feel my blood, as thick as syrup, oozing its way around my body.
I got up and dragged myself to the kitchen to eat, but of course just the thought of food made me want to throw up. I didn’t know what else to do, so I slid down the cupboard into a pile of tears right there on the kitchen floor.
I wish I could say that at that point in my life that was just one crappy day. We all have those. Those days when everything goes wrong and our sugars are just freakishly high.
But it wasn’t. This is how every day of my life had become.
I had no more strength to test. I was so down about my numbers that I hated testing because it would be just one more bad number to look at. I hated having to deny myself my favorite foods every day. I found every excuse in the book to avoid my workout for the day.
I had spent the last twelve years fighting my hardest, giving everything I had to be the perfect diabetic and now I was on empty. And I still had 76 more years to fight.
Something had to change.
I needed something more to bring me out of this slump. I needed an adventure and that winter I found it.
When I was diagnosed with diabetes, my doctors laid out a list of things that I could no longer do. I couldn’t drive a big-rig, fly an airplane, or sail alone. I can remember sitting in the doctor’s sterile office during my visit and swearing to myself that I would do just that. There was no way he was going to set limits on my life.
The time had come to make good on that promise.
At the very tip of Florida there is this string of 1724 tiny islands that extend 100 miles into the ocean like a giant fingernail at the end of the Florida finger. I decided I would sail from mainland Florida to the very end of that strip, to a place called Key West. And I would do it alone.
And you know what happened?
As soon as I decided to go, I noticed something in me had changed. My motivation started flooding back. I started to test again because I knew I had to be in good control if I was going to be on a boat in the middle of the ocean by myself.
And I started to exercise every day because I had to be prepared. When you sail alone, there’s really no one to save you if you fall off the side of the boat. There was one point in my trip where I would be about two and a half miles from the nearest piece of land so I wanted to be able to swim 3 miles in case the boat sank and I was left out in the ocean.
And all that exercise made my blood sugars even better.
Diabetes wasn’t about some complication the doctor threatened would happen to me in forty years anymore. It was about my adventure and being prepared so I would enjoy it.
I started testing again ten times a day (that was before I got a Dexcom) not to please someone else, but so I would know exactly how my body would respond to a new sport.
And I choose foods that were going to make me stronger during my trip instead of foods that would taste good for the minute I was eating them.
In 2011, when I finally got on board the 25’ Catalina sailboat that would be my home for the next four days, I was so completely proud of myself. I had spent the prior year doing diabetes really well. And to celebrate, I had a four-day adventure waiting for me.
About a year after that trip, I realized my diabetes care was slipping again. I had lost my motivation, again. Adventure worked the first time around to resuscitate my motivation, I wondered if it would work again.
This time I decided to do the 12.5-mile Swim Around Key West, but I didn’t want to go alone. So I grabbed two of my type 1 friends and started training. In 2014, we became the first ever all type 1 team to finish the Swim around Key West. And as soon as I decided to go I was motivated again.
After the swim, I knew I couldn’t let a day go by where I didn’t have an adventure to train for. I had to plan at least one adventure a year.
After spending countless hours staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool while I swam hundreds of thousands of yards in training, I wanted to be able to look at something on my next adventure, so I chose Stand Up Paddling.
Last June I took a team of 3 type 1’s and a type 1 researcher 100 miles up the Intracoastal Waterway from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to Wilmington, North Carolina.
THE LONG ROAD
Diabetes is, for now, a life-long disease. It is a monster that sits forever on our backs, constantly distracting and complicating our life.
He demands blood and pain and tears. He craves restraint and self-control and moderation. And he is never satisfied.
It would be easy to take care of diabetes, if it were a month long affliction. Even if it were just for a year. But an eighty- or ninety-year-long run is just too much.
We could try harder, push more, focus all of our attention on diabetes. We could forget about everything else going on in our lives to make our numbers perfect. We could spend every ounce of our energy on it.
But in the end we would end up in the same place, burnt out and not doing as well as we would like.
Or we could do it differently. We could instead focus on something we love. Something that will make our hearts take flight. Something that will, as a by-product, better our diabetes care.
We could find an adventure. Adventure works. And it works for so many reasons.
WHAT IS ADVENTURE?
Webster’s dictionary defines adventure as an exciting or very unusual experience, a bold, usually risky undertaking, a hazardous action of uncertain outcome.
When I think of adventure, it has three parts; travel, exercise, and enormity.
An adventure is something that brings me to a new place. This world is huge with so many amazing places to see. And I want to see them all.
When we go to a new fresh place, our senses are heightened. We notice the small details. We pay attention to a new smell of trees that we have not experienced before. The ocean smells a bit saltier. The sun rises above the water instead of setting over it. All of these new sensations refresh us and bring us renewal.
Because we are using adventure to refresh our motivation to take care of our diabetes, exercise is an integral part of adventure. It reduces stress, challenges us in new ways, and makes our bodies more sensitive to the insulin we have.
It also combats some of the complications of diabetes by strengthening our cardiovascular systems and fighting heart disease. It gives us something to focus on as we train to be able to take on such a big physical challenge.
Adventure needs to be big enough to force us to take it seriously. If we are using adventure to change our lives and our relationships with diabetes, it has to be big enough to produce those changes.
But my big is not your big.
You don’t need to swim around an island or sail 100 miles or run an ultra-marathon (which scares the crap out of me, by the way). It only needs to be big enough to challenge you, to cause you to re-evaluate how you do things, and to inspire you to do more.
Adventure will delight you with newfound motivation. It will challenge you physically as you train for it. It will counter complications with a stronger cardiovascular system. It will make far off consequences more real.
And it will provide you with amazing tales to share.
So let’s begin dreaming. And then let’s plan, train, and execute our adventures.
We can share our tales along the way so we can be inspired by each other. I am excited to see what you come up with.