I’ve had some poor timing lows too, Kris…

Exercise is a key component of diabetes management, but sometimes it seems nearly impossible to balance my workouts, insulin, and food. I’ve had many days when my exercise is interrupted by diabetes. Just last Thursday, I hit 54mg/dL near the end of my boxing class, forcing me to take in calories I had just burned, and causing me to miss the last few minutes of drills on the heavy bag. And my first half marathon performance was dampened by the fact that I was running unexpectedly high the whole morning. Despite all of its benefits, exercise can be one of the trickiest things to manage with diabetes.

And this is why my heart goes out to Kris Freeman right now. Kris Freeman is an Olympic cross-country skier, and has Type 1 diabetes. After an impressive fourth place at the World Championships, Kris entered the Olympic games as a favorite in the men’s cross country skiing events. However, he was forced to pause because of a low blood sugar at Saturday’s 30k race, and finished a disappointing 45th because of it. Because carrying carb fuel would add extra weight, Kris surprisingly doesn’t race with a sugar source readily available. During his low on Saturday, one of the German coaches provided Gatorade and GU which allowed Kris to at least finish the race, but at the back of the pack. Kris had this to say about the low:

“I’ve been gearing toward this for four years, and in my worst nightmare, I can’t imagine that these races could’ve gone any worse,” Freeman said. “I had bad skis in the first race and miscalculated on my blood sugar today. Just all of a sudden, lights out.”

Even Kris, an Olympic level athlete who has access to the best doctors, a carefully regimented diet, and does nothing but ski all day every day, had a “bad diabetes day.” Diabetes doesn’t care if it’s the Olympics, or a first date, or during an important presentation. And although Kris is disappointed that he didn’t get a chance to perform his best on Saturday, I hope that he knows that even these “low points” (every pun intended) are actually inspiration to people like me.

Knowing that he has bad days too, days where he can’t believe something went wrong, days where he feels like diabetes has the upper hand, it makes me know that I am not alone in my struggles with this disease. Saturday’s race could have just as easily been a practice round, the World Championships, or any other day as far as diabetes was concerned. It just so happened to be the Olympics – and a day he got low while working out. Lows happen, highs happen, diabetes happens. And success is not measured in the number of perfect blood sugars you have – it’s measured in whether you get up every morning willing to try again. Thank you for your inspiration Kris, and good luck in the 50k!

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Hey Alexis. Great post. I really enjoy your blog.

I felt the same way when I heard what happened to Kris in the 30K. I felt a lot of sympathy for him, but it helps to know that when he succeeds, it’s not because he has it all figured out and under control. When he succeeds it’s because he’s been tough enough to stick it out through the hard times.
Besides reassuring people like me, I think it also helps the public perception. People should know that what he’s doing is hard. Like a lot of the things we see in the Olympics, it only looks easy sometimes because these people are working very hard at it.
Like a triple toe loop for figure skaters, Kris’ diabetes management only looks easy to observers who don’t have the experience that we have.
Here’s hoping he nails it in the 50K.

Carey – thank you so much for the feedback and for checking out the blog!

Jerry – that’s so true – sometimes they really make it look so easy. When I think about how hard they train and then Kris managing diabetes on top of it? I am blown away. Thanks for your comment – I am hoping he nails the 50k too!

Well written, especially the last couple of paragraphs. Exercise is the trickiest part for myself as well. Aerobic exercise is predictable and often easy to manage. Anaerobic exercise is where it gets complex. I wasn’t aware of Kris until the start of the Olympics.

Thanks for the feedback Troy, and for checking out the blog!

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