Guest Post: Diabetes Training Camp, A New Kind of Paradise

I met Fran Damian last year at the Diabetes Sister’s/BDI Weekend for Women. She showed up for the running group I was leading early Sunday morning, and we spent the next hour with other Type 1 women working out and discussing the frustrating issues of athletics and diabetes. Fran recently had the opportunity to attend a camp exclusively for Type 1s who want to learn more about managing their diabetes while doing endurance athletics. The Diabetes Training Camp helps atheletes understand how to manage their diabetes in the sports environment. Through the process, campers learn all-around management skills that can be applied to every day with diabetes. I was dying to know more about her experience, and I’m delighted that Fran has agreed to share her story here on the blog. She’s the gal on the right in the photo below, and the woman on the left is a Mental Skills Specialist on the camp staff. Mental Skills Specialist? I love this camp already! Read on to hear about Fran’s amazing experience, and click here for more info on the camp. Thanks for sharing Fran!

Up and down, up and down! It’s not just the hills that can get to me when I’m biking, it’s the fluctuations and unpredictability of my blood sugars that  challenge my endurance. But thanks to some one-on-one coaching at the weeklong Diabetes Training Camp (DTC) run by Dr. Matthew Corcoran M.D., C.D.E. (Matt), I’ve figured on some new strategies to level out the course.

I had been training for a two-day, 150-mile bike ride and wanted to learn more about cycling and managing my blood sugars while cycling from the sports coaches and endocrinologist at the camp. On day three of the camp, I got ready to head out for a 21-mile ride through the rolling hills of Lancaster Pennsylvania. Before clipping into the pedals, I adjusted by basal rate as Matt recommended.  Twelve campers and three coaches left together and headed toward the countryside. The coaches all knew my cycling goals, and each of them spent part of the ride beside me teaching me about pace, hill climbing, posture, and turns. The part of the ride I relive over and over again was a hill climb I thought I couldn’t make. Before we started up the steep, long road, one of the coaches, Rick, told me he knew I would make it, and said he would be beside me if I needed help.  I was halfway to the top, and all I could hear was his voice cheering me on, “You’ve got this”!  I knew I did. When we finished the climb, he said, “You have one heck of a motor in there.” I felt so proud, and grateful to Rick who instilled so much confidence in me.

We all checked our blood sugars before resuming the ride. Of course the dependable staff was right there with snacks and beverages for refueling and correcting lows. I was satisfied with where I was,  170. When we returned, Matt sat with me for a while and discussed my levels during the ride. I was 130 and holding steady. The basal adjustment worked well for me. I would try it again the next day.

During dinner that evening I talked with the other riders about the experience. We all agreed that the beauty of the area spurred us on, but most important, we felt that the expertise, encouragement and understanding from the coaches made all the difference in the world.

It’s hard to describe the tremendous impact and strength we gain from sharing a week of exercise, learning, eating and just hanging out with others who struggle with the same challenges this disease presents day in and day out. The team of experts at the camp really understands our needs and works with us in groups and as individuals with intensity, wisdom and compassion. Plus, we learn new ways to manage and cope from one another.

The lecture and discussion on exercise physiology the evening of the ride, presented by Matt, was filled with practical advice and new information. Along with the rest of the team, he’s right up to date on the latest research and knows how to explain recent findings in understandable terms.

 I always learn something new about diabetes in the classes at camp, and from the comments, feelings and questions shared by the campers. I am reminded how complex managing exercise and diabetes can be.  Matt ended the forum that evening saying to all of us, “With diabetes, there is imperfect physiology, and each person is managing using imperfect technology, and that is why I think you are all SO AMAZING”.  When I remember those incredible words, my eyes still well up!

There are so many stories to tell. The camp offers so much to each of us.  The staff is always available to talk one on one about anything and everything such as nutrition, insulin, monitoring, mental skills and  fitness goals. I began the week thinking that I was really doing a good job managing all aspects of my life with diabetes. I realized, with coaching, I actually had opportunities to do some things differently, perhaps better. I’m inspired to pursue new ways to be stronger, healthier, and feel better in every way every day. I am so thankful for the gifts the coaches in my life have given me.  Many of these coaches are at the DTC. I brought home so much from camp this year; cherished friends, strategies for optimal glucose control, CGM pearls, and the idea it’s ok to “let go of the numbers.”

My 5 year old nephew told me earlier this year that Legos were his paradise. He said, “I love playing with Legos.”   “What’s your paradise Auntie?” he asked. I thought about that question often afterwards, not sure how to respond.

Later I asked him, “What does it mean for something to be your paradise?”

He said, “It means that something is really cool, or totally awesome, and it makes you really happy when you are doing it. I know my answer now. Diabetes Training Camp is my paradise.

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Thanks for sharing this. I would love to go to camp. It is only about 3 hours from my home, but the money is a sticking point for me. How much do you spend on yourself when you have a family to take care of? Of course, if you aren’t there then you can’t take care of the family, so maybe it is priceless advice and coaching.

It would be awesome to have the interaction with others trying to do the same running and biking as I do.

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