Countdown – one day to go.
I am halfway between excited and terrified. I dreamed last night about swimming: I was swimming against the current of a river, going nowhere. I woke this morning in the darkness, with the leaden weight of anxiety on my chest and blood sugar higher than it should be. It’s been like this for the last two weeks during ‘taper’ mode.
Before a big event it’s normal to taper off, and cut down your training load so that your body is rested for the race. Initially that felt nice, a bit of relief from the constant ache in my arms and shoulders and the chance to sleep past five am. But after a couple of days, diabetes got demanding. Dropping my training load meant losing some of the epic sensitivity to insulin I’ve been enjoying for the last few months. Being more insulin-resistant means upping my doses, which makes me more likely to make mistakes.
I suffered with less-than-ideal levels for several days, and realised I needed to act before things went totally sideways. Diabetes doesn’t respond well to drastic changes: sitting on higher doses of insulin for two weeks and then having to drop everything back suddenly on race day is a recipe for disaster. Being rested is important, but I decided that insulin sensitivity was the priority.
I figured that my bike was the best bet. I’d still have a rested upper body, which is the part that cops all the heavy lifting in swimming, but I could hone my insulin sensitivity by riding. So I’ve been riding and riding and riding. Not going flat chat, but making sure I’m active in some way every day. And my insulin sensitivity, thankfully, is coming back.
I have always known that being physically active is important for diabetes management, but my swim project has thrown this into stark relief. Being regularly active primes my muscles and cells for max efficiency, making my insulin work harder and better: insulin sensitivity and blood glucose stability are innately connected. For a person with type 1, physical activity is critical – almost as critical as insulin itself.
Although riding has helped (I have a view that bike riding always helps), managing the taper and the epic build up to Saturday has also turned me into a bit of an emotional trainwreck. I’ve been all over the show: elated, excited, anxious, with lashings of fear. A few meltdowns, a lot of crankiness.
It’s at this point I’d like to raise a glass to the type 1 tribe.
The type 1 tribe
I have been buoyed up by an upwelling of beautiful, positive messages from the type 1 community coming at me from all directions through messages and posts and emails and phone calls. I am so lucky to be part of a community of people who walk my road too, and have taken the time to reach out and support me. Big love to my D-people! I get you, and you get me, and I am so glad we are connected. Thank you for your support and for the giant mexican wave of encouragement that has rippled through my world in the past few weeks. It has truly meant so much to me.
But the type 1 tribe extends out beyond people who have diabetes; it’s our friends, parents, partners and families too. And I’ve got some seriously special people in my tribe who I want to shine the light upon:
Amy, Liam and Layla
Amy works with me at the Family Centre and I am so glad and proud to call her my friend. She has not only recruited one of my paddlers (her husband Liam) and the skipper (her Dad Greg) and listened to a truly mind-numbing amount of swim chatter from me, she has reviewed my diet, helped plan my insulin and glucose management during the swim, celebrated nerdy diabetes detective moments with me, risk-managed as best she can with a recalcitrant swimmer (I’m still smarting from a ‘WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU HAVEN’T TESTED THIS YET?!’ conversation last week) and generally steered my entire swim ship in the right direction with expert care and enthusiasm. Thanks Amy. It’s been truly awesome to share this journey with you.
Liam is Amy’s husband and Paddler 1. An ex-pro basketball player, Liam has given me an insight into the laser-focus of a pro sportsperson, and has given me a few key pearls of wisdom that have helped me let the bad days go and just focus on what’s ahead. Liam is also about ten feet tall, so folding his body into a short, fat plastic kayak and paddling it at snail’s pace is not going to be pretty. I am so grateful for your support Liam, and I apologise in advance for your lower back pain.
Layla, Liam and Amy’s five year old daughter. What a kid. She had a friend over last week and Amy overheard her saying “I’m sleeping at Nanna’s house on Friday because Bec has type 1 diabetes and she’s swimming to Rottnest and my daddy is the kayak and Bec is going to swim so fast so she can get all the way there.” Apparently the friend was distinctly underwhelmed. Whatever – I’m chuffed you’re as stoked on the project as I am Layla. Thanks for being the best little cheerleader around, and for showing me your sparkly unicorn collection.
Kyle is my D-twinny: he’s the same age as me and we were diagnosed in the same year. We met about three years ago and our friendship is very special to me. Kyle runs his diabetes and fuels his training the same way I do, fat-adapted with a super low-carb approach, and is one of the people who has inspired me to tackle the swim by smashing epic endurance events like the Cape to Cape MTB race. We frequently swap tips and tricks and hacks in pursuit of better managed blood glucose, over rather a lot of low-carb Grill’d burgers. Kyle is Paddler 2 and I feel comforted and glad he’ll be by my side for half the swim.
Greg is my skipper. He’s actually got the hardest job of the whole day, driving a boat at 3km an hour through 3000 swimmers for 7-8 hours without running somebody over. Added to that is responsibility: Greg’s word is law on the day. He sets the course, he navigates, he makes the safety calls, including whether I need to be pulled out of the water. But Greg’s unfazed by the pressure. He’s got everything in hand. Greg – thanks for being so positive, helpful and awesome. And for offering up your boat for the race. And, when I was starting to wig out about catering, fuel and logistics, for telling me “Bec, we got this – all you need to do is shut up and swim”. You’re the best.
Mum and Dad.
Mum has coaxed me out of most of the meltdowns over the course of the season, and she is ALWAYS there for me. Including braving the Rottnest ferry to meet me on the other side, despite the fact that she gets horrifically seasick. Hang on tight and look at the horizon Mum. Thanks for your pep talks, hugs and patience… I love you.
Despite plans to do some swimming together, Dad and I have only got our act together to swim in one race, but it was a good one. The Coogee 5km feels like forever ago but it was a lot of fun and I’m so glad I can do stuff like that with my old man. Dad will also be waiting on the shore at Rotto for me to emerge, white with zinc, slick with wool fat and exhaustified (a Dad word), to ensure that charming photo will be broadcast to mainland-bound Clan Johnson within nanoseconds. Thanks, Dad. I think.
Aki is my bestie and her friendship is so many things to me. She’s my long-suffering and of late, rather abandoned, gym buddy. She is my occasional rescuer, having shovelled Mars Bars into my mouth after an epic hypo in an admin law lecture ten years ago and force-fed me lemonade on the floors of several nightclubs. She’s gone to great lengths to accommodate my dietary requirements, including arriving at a dinner party of mine close to tears after running all over town trying to find gnarly ingredients for low-carb brownies which turned out like dried cowpats. We’ve gotten into more sketchy scrapes than I care to remember, and she will definitely NOT be given an opportunity to speak at my next milestone birthday. Always a legend, always there for me, thank you for being on the boat cheering me on sister xxx.
Jeremy has not known me outside the swim project. Crikey, I hope he’s not been attracted to me because I go to bed early and drink water rather than wine, because he might be in for a little surprise after the swim. He has had a vertical learning curve, meeting and dating a girl with type 1 who’s in the throes of training for the biggest physical challenge of her life. I’ve been astounded by him; by his enthusiasm and interest in understanding my diabetes and its complexity, by his compassion and patience when this unpredictable, frustrating disease stalls our plans. Little by little, I’ve shared diabetes with him, and admittedly I’ve feared the point where he says ‘I’m out, this chick and her broken pancreas are too much for me!’. But he hasn’t. Instead, he’s taped on my sensors, planned out the time he spends with me so I can dose my insulin right, paddled by my side in my qualifying swim, put together a whole lot of awesome low-carbohydrate dinners, been repeatedly woken up ridiculously early to the sound of my first blood sugar check of the day, high-fived the good days, given me epic hugs when I’m low, listened and learned. Thank you for all of your love J, and for providing me with such a special photo when I requested a picture of you for my blog.
This bunch of legends have taken ‘Squad Goals’ to the next level. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every session with Elena and Lockie’s squad, E-Swim (apart from Lockie’s Christmas Special of 60x100ms perhaps). It’s been real guys. Thanks for being such a sociable, inclusive, committed, fun group. I loved my lane so much and I’m sad about it ending. I hope every single one of you has the swim of your life; I’ll see you all on Rotto!
And finally, there’s this guy, who I’ve not heard from for ten years but who took the time to send me this helpful advice:
HI BEC, GOOD LUCK IN THE SWIM – IF YOU SEE A BIG FISH = SWIM CLOSER TO FAT PEOPLE. CHEERS.
I’m a lucky gal. A toast to you, type 1 tribe! So much love and thanks for sharing the journey with me. See you Saturday!
You can keep track with race updates by checking in with the Family Centre’s Facebook Page and you can track my swim by downloading the MapSwim app and following race number 140.