Issue 61 - Racing and Training with Diabetes
by Barney Storey
Training has been going really well and I am coming to the end of one of our road training camps with the GB Para cycling team, where I have been speeding round the Spanish Countryside on the road tandem with Anthony Kappes. I always enjoy road training on the Spanish island of Mallorca. With its varied terrain and usually warm climate, it is a perfect early season training location to escape the cold and sometimes snowy weather of the UK. This camp is the last real endurance camp for the GB Para cycling team in preparation for the Para cycling World Track Championships in Italy between 11-13th March.
As I approach the Para cycling Track World Championships this year in March, it will be the 30th year I have had diabetes, and I thought I would give you a little insight into some of the challenges I face with the condition.
I have been inspired to write about my experiences having read the article by Ian Rees (Wilier/BigMaggys/Prendas Ciclismo) on the British cycling website, where Ian wrote about his experiences with diabetes.
For anyone who is unsure about what Diabetes is, it is basically when your pancreas doesn't work in your body. The normal working pancreas produces insulin in the body which controls blood sugar levels.
Having been diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 4, my parents were very much responsible for not allowing this to be any barrier when it came to sport. There have been several changes of opinion with diabetes in sport by doctors over the last 30 years, and I am very glad to say it is now encouraged amongst those with the disease. Training with diabetes brings some of its own challenges, and at an elite level in cycling, certainly makes you challenge the way you approach dealing with changes in blood sugar levels.
I always test my blood sugar levels alot, as when fatigue sets in with your training it can sometimes be quite difficult to feel what level your blood sugar is in your body. Testing more frequently is something I have changed over the last 10 years, but I feel this really makes a difference in knowing you have consistent control.
Predicting how training affects your blood sugar levels is the next area I have learnt about over the last 10 years competing at Elite level sport. Certain types of training can affect blood sugar levels differently, so when I am sprinting on the track in competition or training you can experience higher predicted blood sugar readings, which come from the hormone response with adrenaline going into your system.
When endurance training for between 30mins to rides of up to 4 hours, this is where the steady burn of energy comes, and the constant need for fuel just like any normal person. Adding the two types of training together becomes tricky and you also have the accumulative effect from training. The body can react with a drop in blood sugar from the previous days training, which make dealing with diabetes a challenge at times!
Experience comes into play with managing your blood sugar levels, as you have to be flexible with the insulin you inject into your body to stabilise levels. This may sound complicated to manage with all of these varying factors, but I always look at this as a challenge and not something which will ever hold me back from competing in my sport.
When you do inject yourself with the Insulin Novo pen at cycling events, it does always create some strange looks with some people! I would imagine most people' reaction would be to think I was cheating/doping! However, most people do realise the insulin I do inject is to keep me alive!
I have a Therapeutic Use Exemption certificate which allows me to compete in international cycling events, so if insulin is registered in a test sample, it is totally legal. In the last 30 years the awareness of diabetes as a nation has grown, and certainly in sport there is a greater understanding of the disease now.
With the World Championships on the horizon, I'll let you all know how the preparations are going very soon.
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