Kris Freeman Show Notes

The Game Plan T1D Podcast: Episode 2 - Kris Freeman



Sam Benger

Published on Aug 1, 2018


This episode of the Game Plan T1D Podcast features T1D athlete and Olympic cross-country skier, Kris Freeman. Kris has competed in hundreds of professional races, has won a world championship, has earned 17 national titles, and has made 4 trips to the Olympics. Kris is considered by many to be the best American cross-country skier in the modern era of the sport. Listen in to hear Kris's inspiring story and his tips for excelling with Type One Diabetes.



I went down and I saw the liendo and he

diagnosed me in five minutes and told me

I had type 1 diabetes and I was just

kind of in shock and I really didn't

know what it meant but he told me that

no one had ever gone to the Olympics in

an endurance sport with it and that I

should that I could keep skiing at the

club level but then you know the

Olympics was not gonna happen he was a

good doctor he just had never seen

anyone do it he was trying to let me

down easy but I wasn't gonna be let down


welcome to the game plan to you indy


I'm your host - Sam bender this podcast

is focused on disproving the idea that

type 1 diabetes is a road block by

showcasing success stories from athletes

and performers with t1d

for more information on this topic

please visit our website WWE plan t1d

calm or follow us on social media at

gameplan t1d this episode of the

gameplan t1d podcast features athlete

diabetic and all-around good dude Chris

Freeman Chris is performed in the sport

of cross-country skiing with dominance

and consistency competing in hundreds of

professional races on his way to

establish and one of the most successful

cross-country skiing records the United

States has ever seen including a 1st

place in the world championships in the

under-23 age bracket a fourth place in

the 2009 World Championships 17 national

titles that's right 17 national titles

as well as for trips to the Olympics

Chris's performances solidify him is

arguably the best American cross-country

skier of the sports modern era but the

story of Chris Freeman the athlete

extends well beyond skiing Chris now

competes in triathlons and other

adventure racing type events most

recently Chris won the sea2summit

triathlon in which contestants swim 1.5

miles in a tidal river bike roughly 90

miles to the base of Mount Washington

and cap off the event with a run to the

peak Chris peed out all other

competitors completing the event in 5

hours and 44 minutes

after the swim was canceled due to

inclement weather Chris is an outspoken

diabetes advocate and uses his platform

built on his successful athletic career

to inspire other diabetics during this

podcast Chris and I discussed skiing the

trial and error of dialing and

management systems leveraging advanced

diabetes technology and much much more

for such an accomplished athlete Chris

was kind laid-back and incredibly down

to earth without further ado please

enjoy my conversation with Chris Freeman

all right welcome to the game plan t1d

podcast today we were sitting down with

Chris Freeman Chris how are you doing

today doing well so we talked a little

bit earlier about little run you got in

with Shira your dog you got up here what

was the run about today I woke up this

morning and I'm still really really

tired and sore from two days ago I

wasn't sure I was gonna get out today

but my dog needed some exercise so I ran

over the Welsh and Dicky mountain loop

with her I actually feel better now than

I did beforehand so I think I'm glad I

did it what um what is the current

training schedule looking like we were

talking a little bit about before how

your you're diving into and exploring

triathlons a bit a bit more now so I was

I was Pro cross-country skier from the

time I was 19 until this past spring so

18 years of professional skiing and I

put in base training between 700 and a

thousand hours of endurance training a

year for for 18 years so the the base is

really huge

so going from cross-country skiing into

triathlon it's more about learning

skills than it is getting fit so I've

been spending a lot of time with a swim

coach getting that type of technique

work down because swimming is all about

technique and putting a lot of time in

the saddle getting comfortable in a

narrow position but as far as actual

hours of training it's maybe 15 hours a

week it's actually quite a lot less than

I used to do yeah it's funny and I was

mentioning this earlier as well but

driving up here for

listeners we were just south of the

White Mountain National Forest is a lot

of your training this I mean it to me

this seems like a fantastic place to be

based if that's the type of training you

want to do are you staying local for

most of this training yeah for

cross-country skiing this is like a

giant playground this town I live just

beneath the Franconia Notch

where the old man the mountain used to

be Cannon Mountain Lafayette Franconia

Ridge it's all beautiful trail running

amazing hiking the roads around here I'm

very busy so for roller skiing it was it

was pretty perfect and now for for

biking it's some of the best riding in

the world I actually grew up 40 minutes

south of here I would drive to

Waterville Valley to ski probably four

or five times a week and now I live a

ten minute drive from Waterville Valley

and a ski there seven days a week talk a

little bit about how do you feel that

growing up in this environment led you

to these sports or was it more just

organic you know in your heart this is

kind of what I want to do and it just so

happens to be coincidental that I'm in

one of the best places in the world to

train for it so I was very fortunate in

the way in the area that I grew up I

grew up in Andover New Hampshire and and

it was a really small town two half-hour

north of Concord most of that town is

made up of a private high school called

Proctor Academy they had their own

Alpine mountain their own private Alpine

mountain their own ski jumps and ten

kilometers across country ski trails and

they also had high school coaches that

volunteered to coach the town kids from

the time they were five years old so I

joined just a town club program and

started competing when I was five years

old and skiing and it was just like

anything else you know I I played soccer

I played baseball there was swimming

tennis kayaking offered in my in my town

so I just picked up any sport Noblet

skiing was always what I gravitated to

and I actually was a very serious ski

jumper as well until I was 16 and then I

decided to focus just on cross-country

hmm so for sure I'm a product of my

environment but skiing is definitely

always grabbed my attention so you got

to tell me how does one fall in love

with arguably one of the most grueling

you know subcategories of skiing you

know I think you were mentioning the ski

jumping some of those more immediately

gratifying type events what about the

kind of arduous nature of cross-country

skiing kind of grab you well there is

actually an Olympic sport that's kind of

bizarre called Nordic combined skiing

mm-hmm and that's a combination of ski

jumping and cross-country skiing so it

is just as you said it's kind of

diametrically opposed one is instant

gratification and one is an endurance

sport so the people that do that sport

kind of interesting I actually realized

in my early teens that I wasn't into the

instant gratification I was much more

into the skiing side of the hard work

the endurance side of the sport and the

other people in order combined and

that's when I went across country

I never liked stopping for one thing

like alpine skiing I would actually get

kind of bored sitting on the lift um I

liked that every day I went out in

cross-quarter skied I learned something

a little different than me going down

the track that much easier and just a

little bit more like floating along the

snow so it just it becomes addictive was

it immediate success and immediately

being a standout once you started like

people like men Chris you you have some

serious potential here or was it you

know this is something I love and I

really want to devote time to you know

honing this craft it depends on your

perspective of what immediate success

was like I was always good at skiing but

you know I was maybe in the top ten in

New England and cross-country skiing

until I was 13 14 and then I took a

giant leap when I was

fifteen and I won Junior Nationals so if

you if it's funny you're probably like

well 15 you're having great success but

I still remember being eight and not

winning so yeah so but it did start

coming at around 15 and then 16 even

more success I won the overall junior

national championships and for sure that

was exciting but at the time I wasn't

thinking like Olympics Olympics I was

thinking college scholarship yeah

working it that way absolutely so when

did the word Olympics first kind of

enter your your mindset when I was 18 I

went to 18 I started thinking it might

be possible and that was actually a

really hard time hard decision for me

because I had I was offered I was

offered a full scholarship to the

University of Vermont and at the same

time I was offered full time training

with the US Ski Team that would be

mostly paid for in Park City Utah

coming out of high school and that's a

hard age to decide what to do in the end

I decided to go to college for a year

and while I was at college I realized

that I was majoring in skiing anyway and

you know I was doing fine in school but

I wasn't applying myself all I wanted to

do was be on the road skiing and I you

know I missed the first three weeks the

second semester racing in Europe and I

came back and my professors asked me who

I was and things like that so after a

year that I decided to go the US Ski

Team route and never looked back two

years later I made the Olympic team

so that's amazing and it's funny just

the timing of how things would work out

you're a young kid 18 17 years old and

you make that decision to say alright

skiing is my passion I'm gonna pivot

away from UVM I'm gonna pave it away

from school in sort of stability no

instability and and pursue this passion

and then about a year or two later at

age 19 we have a diagnosis kind of take

us through how you know was it

particularly jarring I imagine it would

be what were some of your immediate

reactions to that news so the way the

timing one of my diagnosis was about so

I decided not to go back for my

sophomore year and I moved out to Utah

in June and the diagnosis came in August

I didn't get symptomatic

so I didn't go to the doctor because I

felt bad my diagnosis actually came at a

fasting fasting glucose test that they

gave all of their athletes and it came

back at 2:40 and as you know that's not

really a symptomatic blood sugar you

know so the nurse yes normal yeah of

course I saw the the endo and he

diagnosed me in five minutes and told me

I had type 1 diabetes and I was just

kind of in shock and really didn't know

what it meant but he told me that no one

had ever gone to the Olympics in an

endurance sport with it and that I

should that I could keep skiing at the

club level but that you know that the

Olympics was not gonna happen

mm-hm and people hear that and they're

like oh my god what a jerk and this was

a good guy he was a good doctor he just

had never seen anyone do it he was

trying to let me down easy but I wasn't

gonna be let down that afternoon I went

I actually won training with the team

but I was we were just in a recovery

session and we were kayaking and you

know they were just being themselves

flipping each other over and stuff you

know you know I was I was in tears I

didn't know what was gonna happen so I

started studying and learning as much as

I could about the disease and trying to

find something that made me think I

could still do it

what really gave me the most inspiration

was just the fact that new insulins had

come on the market the fast-acting

insulin had only been around for a few

about five years at that point

glucose monitors were faster and more

accurate and I'm and I was looking at it

and I was like well with the old insulin

maybe you couldn't do it but maybe with

the new insulin you can mm-hm and so I

kept trying and in all honesty I think

the US Ski Team kept backing me because

they were ignorant of what having

diabetes means yeah they certainly

didn't support me emotionally in the way

that I needed to be it's no big deal

don't worry about it all going to the

pharmacy highs lows weight gain because

I had been eating like crazy and

absorbing my food and all on my own so

it was a lot taken do you think you

immediately after getting that diagnosis

and being told no did it immediately for

you turn to fuel inspiration motivation

whatever you want to call it or was it

more just thinking about what exactly is

this thing that I'm dealing with and and

since then is that now a place you go to

in some of your events some of these

long grueling events where you kind of

think back to that moment or other

moments where you've been told Chris no

it's not gonna work out

certainly from a motivation standpoint

when I would look when I think about

that diagnosis you know I was like here

you I got diagnosed with a chronic

lifelong disease and my first thought

wasn't like oh my god am I gonna die am

I gonna be okay can I keep ski racing

mmm-hmm so when you realize that that's

your first priority getting getting

outside for that second session isn't

really that hard anymore because you

know that's what you want to do so that

was good from the motivation standpoint

but at the same time a lot of what

started motivating me was fear that I


and proving to myself that I could which

is never a healthy place to be you

should know working off of fear is a bad

place to be I had a fair amount of

success anyway but it's not a fun way to

do anything obviously that news you

learned how to how to motivate how to

motivate yourself using that and you

talked about the fear aspect which may

not be the most healthy what were some

of the more positive sources of

inspiration that you had perhaps other

skiers I know you've mentioned Bill Koch

Vermont skier

Olympic medalist were there were there

fellow skiers were there books articles

that you look to for inspiration what

else did you use as as fuel during his

period well I looked for other athletes

that had been successful with diabetes

and you know I would I read about Gary

Hall jr. the swimmer he took a gold

medal in the 50-meter freestyle and I

believe it was in Atlanta in 96 I you

know I took some inspiration from that

except that you know his events about 20

seconds long my longest Olympic event

was two hours so there was definitely a

disconnect there but I thought okay but

it's not unheard of there's been there

has been athletic success the technology

is getting better and I really believe

that no one knew what was possible was

fast acting insulins then you know can

glucose then then pump started getting

more innovative continuous glucose

monitors came into this scene even the

resources that type ones have now for

taking care of themselves are just so

lightyears ahead of even when I was

diagnosed that no one can say what's

possible with diabetes because or what's

impossible because there's no way to

know because it's so new yeah it seems

that we're at the point now that you

know really every season there's a new

version of a piece of equipment that has

dramatic improvements and capabilities

the fact that we have technology that

allows us to integrate our diabetes

management right to our our cell phone a

huge advancement

and it almost seems like we and I do you

think we are accelerating in terms of

the technological innovations that are

helping us right people keep focusing on

Wednesday gonna be a cure when's there

gonna be a cure and I'll be honest with

you when I got diagnosed I looked at I'm

like yeah I'll have to deal with this

for 10 years and then I'll be cured well

that didn't work but what so instead of

just sitting around waiting for a cure

I've been very very active in embracing

whatever new technology I thought would


that being said it took me I was

diagnosed in 2000 and I didn't start

using a pump until 2008 and I adopted

the Omni pot at that point mainly

because I was getting to the point where

I was trying to find 10 things with my

insulin so much that I was taking 1012

injections a day I was taking two types

of basil and so when I was taking

humulin as well as Lantis because lantus

is a 24-hour long lasting humulin was a

12-hour and I was finding that if I took

enough lantus that I wouldn't rise when

I slept I'd go low all day when I was

trying to ski train so I'm taking two

different long-lasting insulins plus

eight nine injections of Humalog every

day I need to get on the pump but the

doctor I was working with I had a lot of

concerns that the tubing might freeze in

a traditional pump really yeah I mean

without so the mine the coldest

temperatures we race that is minus four

Fahrenheit and we're looking at you know

I'm wearing a layer of underwear and

lycra suit there's not a lot of

insulation there so the main thing that

was cool about the omni pod was that

it's out of the body and body gave kept

it warm so that was what first attracted

me to it yeah and then once I started

using a pump and I could change my basal

rates on the flies I'm never going back

huge huge and I was looking at doing

some some of the background research for

this interview kind of you posted about

alright here was the event here's how I

did but then again you also posted

here's how I adjusted and tailored my


rates which i think is is hugely

important for other aspiring endurance

athletes like yourself I did want to ask

I think you have by far the most unique

hominid pod placement sites I saw for

the most recent sea2summit wrath on

which Chris won of course he had you had

two Omni pods on your upper back so I

started wearing on my upper back

actually on the suggestion of an omni

pod representative that probably wants

to remain nameless because it's not an

fda certified spot but so when I'm

racing I'm running about 5% body fat

there's not much body fat anywhere so it

doesn't really matter if I'm wearing it

on my stomach or I'm wearing it on my

back we're looking at the same amount of

subcutaneous fat anywhere I go I've worn

it I'm if you look right now I'm

actually wearing it on my chest

so more than looking for places with

more body fat I look for places that are

out of the way and where I have the

least number of occlusions knock on wood

I've never had an occlusion in a race

wearing it on my back for whatever

reason that spot just works great in

addition to you know trying to find

those pump placements talk us through

how you kind of what was the trial in it

was it trial and error approach with

adjusting the basal rates to find

something that would kind of be the the

perfect solution for Union you were

mentioning some of these events or

upwards of five six seven hours of

racing well the initial initially were

if we back up to like when I was first

diagnosed there was a huge trial and

error period trying to figure out what

the right amount of insulin was that I

wouldn't go low but I wouldn't go high I

I actually tested myself at the US Ski

Team gym on a treadmill like we had a 10

foot wide treadmill that I could roll

ski on and so in a lab setting I could

go a trace effort and be relatively safe


mmm-hmm was kind of funny the lab

technician at the US Ski Team didn't

want to let me do it because he was

worried about my health but then after

we did it he wanted to publish the data

but anyway I got a baseline of where to

start but the thing about a lab setting

is there's no race nerves there's no

consequences so you get you get into an

Olympic race and you got the adrenaline

you got the cortisol changing everything

in your body you know adrenaline sending

out extra glucose from your liver

cortisol making the your insulin your

bloodstream not work

you'd be kidding it took a lot of trying

at trial there to get it right I was

able what I was able to discern from the

lab testing was I felt best racing with

a blood sugar above 120 and below 180 if

I was down around a hundred even though

that's a perfectly healthy blood sugar

something in my body was signaling to me

hey we're running too close to the line

here we don't want to go any lower and

if I got over 200 with the lactate in my

body would actually spike with the

higher blood sugar and lactate for those

who are listening and don't know is

basically the substrate that your body

makes when you go anaerobic which means

you have your you're working so hard

that your body can't keep up with the

oxygenating demand and so if your blood

sugar is over 200 you actually create

more of that lactate and lactate is

basically the stuff that makes you feel

crappy with you exercise and makes all

your muscles hurt is it an active

thought process for you during a race

trying to discern all right I'm on mile

X this is how you know my legs should be

feeling or maybe in Miami is this

potentially a hypoglycemic episode that

I'm about to enter into is it easy for

you to discern those at a later stage in

a race

unfortunately the difference between a

natural bunk and a and the artificial

bog from insulin feels the same the

difference is that an artificial bunk

comes on faster harder and takes you out

whereas a natural bunk just like I don't

feel very good and 20 minutes later I

feel even worse when it's it when it's

coming from synthetic insulin psyche I

feel very good

oh boy I gotta stop so I have really not

had too many lows in races I would say

that lows that made me stop inner race

or I should have stopped and didn't stop

there's more of those than there are

actual stopping it's probably less than

ten over twenty years of racing so or

eighteen years of racing so I've been

pretty diligent in how I'm doing it

we're talking about 500 races here

absolutely so it sounds like you've

dialed in the insulin equation nearing a

pretty darn perfect system I never want

to say perfect I am doing the best I can

I'm always looking for a better way to

do it but I'm and I am sure there is a

better way to do it I just haven't

thought of it yet mm-hmm and if someone

has a better idea I'm welcome to hear it

so let's talk about the the kind of

inverse of the insulin issue you're

taxing your body at an extraordinary

level the fuelling and the the nutrients

that you're putting into your body are

hugely important I read in one of the

articles about you that you were

consuming at some peak levels of

training upwards of 6,000 calories a day

other Olympic athletes that I've heard

about Michael Phelps has the insane you

know 12,000 calorie diet work I call BS

on that one doesn't just a absurdly

inhuman number where I think there's an

interesting to stay

action is I think he has the latitude to

be able to consume higher glycemic index

foods so things like you know starchy

foods he can throw down 5 to 10 pancakes

for breakfast and that's a really easy

chunk of you know there's a thousand two

thousand calories boom I'm done

I don't think diabetics enjoy that

latitude or if they choose to go that

route there's gonna be you know some

consequences with regard to a blood

sugar spike and it's just a much more

difficult equation to manage with those

high glycemic foods talk about your diet

during some of these these peak training

periods well as a cross-country the

normal methods for cross-country ski

training is to train twice a day if your

primary session in the morning in the

secondary session in the afternoon and

wouldn't it's not uncommon to go for a

three hour 60 mile roller ski in the

morning and go for a 1415 mile run in

the afternoon with about four hours

separating it that's that would be a big

day but it's not uncommon to they big

day so with that type of schedule what

happens is the timing is super important

for instance if I decided to eat a huge

pasta lunch at 2:00 o'clock with seven

units of bolus that bolus is still gonna

be active in my bloodstream by the time

I go out for my run and it's gonna drive

me low so instead of eating at 2:00

before a 4 o'clock workout a better

better at the latest eat at 1:00 and I'd

be better off eating maybe a smaller

meal or more protein centric some

healthy fats in there a lot of fiber so

I don't have to take a ton of insulin so

that that insulin tail doesn't drive me

down lower in the run and then actually

plan to eat carbohydrate throughout my

workout and get the same amount of

calories in through the whole time

otherwise I'm gonna eat a bunch of carbs

do my workout go low eat a bunch of

carbs again and I end up with twice as

many carbs as I wanted to eat that day

so planning my meal times

with the nutrients I needed to get in

through the day was definitely a

challenge and it starts when I woke up

in the morning with a board I chose to

eat for breakfast to get through that

first three hour workout what I chose to

recover and I knew the second workout

and then I would eat probably a larger

dinner than most people would because I

had the most time to make counter

adjustments afterwards if I had a

problem yeah so you know a nutritionist

might say well that's not ideal

well neither is having diabetes

absolutely yeah I think as a diabetic

athlete carbs are this double-edged

sword in that you know I think a lot of

endocrinologist and nutritionists with a

focus in diabetes will say avoiding

carbohydrates is really a great thing to

do if you want to strive for stable

blood sugar levels at the same time if

you're taxing your body at a high level

carbohydrates are an important fuel

source so it kind of sounds like you've

started to work it out with the timing

of when you consume these carbohydrates

as well but but talk about how you work

those in as a diabetic athlete so I

basically don't eat any high glycemic

foods at meal times so that I can take

the smallest bulletins that I can so

that I don't have a lot of insulin tale

now overlapping insulin if you think

about injecting insulin for example in

my body if I'm using Ebola insulin I

inject in about 15 minutes it starts

working at about 45 minutes to an hour

it's at its peak effectiveness but then

it continues to drive sugar into my

muscles for two more hours at an

ever-diminishing rate so you have to

always take that into account if you end

up taking a giant bolus then you're

gonna then I'm going to be prone to go

low for exercise for the next three

hours so I always have that in the

account with the overlapping insulin and

for that reason I high-fiber

whole-grain high-protein meals

throughout the day take a take a minimum

before my workouts and then actually

plan to get the carbohydrates in that I

would have normally even in the meal

time during the workout that's when I

might drink sport drink that's when I'll

have an energy bar and that ends up

working really well because once the

muscles are actually firing they're

actually working really hard for

instance you mentioned I did the


triathlon two days ago which is an

insanely long event it took me almost

six hours and I think I took a total of

two and a half units of Basel over that

time and in that in that race

I never went over a blood blood sugar of

160 and I consumed 80 ounces of Gatorade

three Red Bulls 6 ounces of Cola 16

ounces of sweetened iced coffee and 5 or

6 ounces of straight-up maple syrup

really on two and a half ounces I mean

two and a half units of insulin because

my muscles were working so hard

mm-hmm so you also have to take into

account what you're doing yeah another

really interesting facet in the life of

any diabetic athlete and this is I think

a part of the story that gets lost in

the shuffle with all of the individual

demands placed on the athlete is the the

support network I know you know for me

playing collegiate football I think it

it took a little bit of time for me to

fully open up to that support network

and I think when you get diagnosed as a

teenager or as a young person I was I

grew up with IBS I did you know

diagnosed at age five I think you kind

of internalized and and just say I'm

gonna take this on on my own and be

independent with this with this

treatment I'm gonna you know maybe open

up with just my under chronologist for

my doctor but it's really gonna be me in

charge of this talk about your support

network and in was that a network that

you were able to rely on and leverage

fully immediately or did it did it take

time to open up to that to that network

and those people and those role players

so that you could really leverage that

community to its fullest potential well

the problem there was there was two

problems that I had working with the US

Ski Team one is that I personally had no

control over who was the head coach and

the first coach I worked aware that the

US Ski Team was just absolutely awful

told me this is your problem you're

gonna have to deal with it basically be

a big boy and I was real I didn't know

why but I was real angry and I got

depressed like full-on depressed

training for my first Olympics it's it's

interesting that I had so much success

at that first Olympics because if you

read psychology books about sports about

where your head's supposed to be at my

head was not we're supposed to be at and

somehow I came it came away with some

really mind-blowing performances at that

first Olympics so I don't know how so it

makes me question sports like in some

ways and then you know that coach wasn't

that coach left we got a new coach in

for a couple years and that guy was

great you know he was every race that we

went to he would give the race

organizers glucagon and let him know

what was happening and tell him in a

cheery way well you know I had diabetes

but it wasn't you know don't worry just

this is what you do if there's a problem

I've never needed glucagon by the way

but then he left and the new guy came in

and he admitted to me they just forget

that I'd had that I had diabetes in that

instance I think it was partially my

fault because I would kind of hide what

I was doing hmm

not in the sense that you know I

wouldn't I never like I pull out and

give myself a shot and at the dinner

table because that's what I did or I

pull my PDM out after once I started

using an omni pod I never hit that way I

didn't talk about it I didn't talk about

what I needed and talk about the

difficulties unless I really needed

something and I think that was partially

a defense mechanism and you know you

don't I

never I've never thought of myself

okay there's an identifier I'm a

diabetic it's not that's not an

identifier for me and I didn't want

anyone else to identify me that way

either I'm a skier I've got diabetes

that's the way I think about it think

about it I'm not ashamed in any way of

having diabetes but it's not a personal

identifier to me yeah and I didn't want

it to be with anybody else I think I

relate to that in that for me it was

never a active process of hiding it or

being ashamed of it

it was more just something that

passively occurred by the nature of the

disease being sort of invisible you know

it's it's this seriously life impacting

influencing disease but you could go

your whole day and you know you do a few

injections here or check your CGM a few

times there otherwise no one would know

you have it and I had guys even through

my senior year of playing college

football to see me do a shot and they're

saying what are you doing right and I

think there is a world of difference

that can can happen from a support

standpoint once you actively start

reaching out to people in describing

your story and telling them about just

what it is explaining what the heck of

pancreas is because most people don't

understand what that is when you say you

know it's alright you're giving yourself

shots you're pricking your finger what

what is this all about now I'd have

people that you know I shared a room

with for months on the road have an

epiphany that you mean your CGM and your

omni pod don't talk to each other you

have to tell it what to do like

seriously no there's no automation but

going back to who was my support network

sometimes you know no the support

network isn't always one thing I've

learned is that the people you support

on may be who support you maybe aren't

all that good supporting you and you can

sometimes become very dependent on bad


I was in a previous relationship where

if I the risk of comparing on my

previous girlfriend of my wife you never

you never want to do that but I'm gonna

do it on tape because I'm an idiot if we

were you know at a movie theater and my

glucose alarm went off my previous

girlfriend who I was very reliant on for

support her first thought would be oh my

god you're disturbing the other people

in here because your alarms going off

can you shut that off and my wife has

never had that first reaction is Jose oh

my god are you okay

and that should be the reaction of your

support people are you okay

your alarm went off not your disturbing

other people around you absolutely and

the fact that I couldn't see that it was

kind of crazy the person that I probably

became most dependent on for my dosing

talking about what was going on with

diabetes from my racing standpoint was a

private coach that I had worked with

while I was in college he wasn't the

college coach but he had was a private

coach that I that I'd worked with for a

long time and I started working with him

again after 2006 and he was my coach

from 2006 until I retired he had zero

medical training zero physiological

training and he was my number one

resource for dosing advice for races

simply because he listened to me and he

remembered what I did last time and we

could talk about it and he knew what was

going on in my life so I think really

what is the most important for a

diabetes care person is someone who

really cares who listens and I think

that again speaks to just how different

this disease impacts people especially

athletes and we all have different

different demands facing us but it's

it's an incredibly everyone's impacted

in a different way by this disease

rather than trying to find the flat out

this is the diabetes expert this is the


I think perhaps like you said it's more

that person that's willing to take what

you said be malleable be flexible and

come up with a solution that's

tailor-made to you and one that's that's

based off your your feedback and your

your input I think that perhaps is more

important well a common conversation I

would have with this coach his name is

Zack would be so say I had a 50k race

which would always be the most difficult

one to dos for that's that's a race that

would take somewhere between two and two

and a half hours for do depending on

snow conditions and we try to figure out

how much insulin I should dose for

myself and then and we always do it

I'd always do the game this way you you

tell me what you think and then I'll

tell you what I was thinking and you

know well I was thinking you should

start out basal rate of 0.6 and then

lower it to 0.3 at an hour and a half

and maybe suspend it with a half an hour

to go and I've been like gene I was

thinking 0.7 with 0.25 and 45 minutes

before and then we'd look at each other

okay we're thinking basically the exact

same thing this is good this is probably

gonna work and if we had a too big of a

spread then we knew we had to sit down

and have a real talk if he was if he was

at one point zero and I was at point two

then there needed to be a conversation

why are we on different wavelengths yeah

yeah I think even after having the dot

disease for a number of years I think

it's so hugely valuable to have another

set of eyes especially when it comes to

pushing the envelope for for new events

new longer-distance

events perhaps because you might think

your body's gonna respond a certain way

but perhaps that other person who says

hey yeah let's suspend it with a half an

hour left as opposed to an hour and that

makes the difference you need to perhaps

go on to win that event right pivoting a

little bit on the topic of support so

we've talked about who you lean on but

quite frankly there are a lot of

diabetic athletes and diabetics more

generally leaning on you so for the past


correct me if I'm wrong ten years you've

been engaging in some diabetic camps

with some fellow young diabetics would

you talk a little bit about that

experience so I worked with I've been

working with Eli Lilly since 2002 and

they started sending me to summer camps

for kids with diabetes I believe in the

summer of 2004 became known as the Lilly

camp care program and I've gone to as

many as 20 camps in the summer to be

perfectly honest when I started I never

I never set out to be a diabetes role

model and then I started getting sent to

these camps because my story was

resonating with with campers and their

parents and I liked seeing the reaction

that I was getting and I think wow

people people are inspired by this story

I should probably keep telling it and I

I wish and then I realized that what I

really was looking for when I was first

diagnosed was a role model was a path

that I could follow to success and what

I wanted to do with diabetes so I think

it's important that people that are

successful with diabetes put themself

out there and show that it's possible

you know I fully intend to write a book

about what I've done and go into great

detail about how I've arrived at the

various basement programs that I've done

go into the details of how I eat when I

eat but also the emotional side of it

and and the depths I mean I you know I

mentioned two years after being

diagnosed I was I was clinically

depressed for sure I was a very

functioning depressed person I was not

happy but I'm not there anymore I've got

my own website now Freeman fortitude

comm so even though I'm not racing

full-time as a as a Olympic aspirational

cross-country skier I'm doing racist

that I've always wanted to do like I see

the summit I can't keep talking about

that race simply because I heard about

that race ten years ago

my first reaction is that sends all

now I know that's uncommon that well

let's go for a mile and a half swim in

the ocean right a hundred miles to Mount

Washington and run up at that sounds

like most people's version of health but

it sounds like a fun day to me and

rather than oh that's gonna be really

hard as a diabetic I saw it and I

thought I'm gonna figure out how to win

that thing

and that's the type of thing I talk

about on my website now I do I have

never not done something because I was

diabetic I've always looked at it made a

plan and attacked it and doing my best

overcoming as important as these success

stories are as a role model I think at

the same time admitting and discussing

and talking about experiences where

quite frankly we're down in the dumps

like you mentioned the the period of

time where you were a little bit

depressed and it's I think to show other

people that that is a completely normal

feeling to have is so important but at

the same time relate on that level but

then show you know way forward to higher

levels of Health to get out of that one

of the things that I definitely learned

over you know over a decade of talking

at these summer camps and was when I

first started doing it I very much

glossed over the bat parts you know and

then in 2010 I had a very publicized low

blood sugar episode at the Vancouver

Olympics in the 30k and what led to that

was I was at the high point in my career

at the year before I had just been for

that the World Championships I was a

second from a medal it would have been

our first or second ever world

championship medal in Nordic skiing and

the press caught on to it I was on the

cover of outside magazine that features

in the Wall Street Journal USA Today New

York Times so I was getting media and

with media comes pressure comes

attention comes stress hormones and I

thought I had stuff in check but when I

got to the Olympics the blood Sugar's


rising my basal rates kept going up to

cover that and by the time I got to the

race I was on more insulin than I

normally was on and as a consequence

it's pretty predictable everything adds


I went low halfway into the race fell

over in the snow and had to drink 20

ounce Powerade and some goo before I

could even stand up and I decided to

finish the race which was an example of

when I should really not have but when

that happened the last thing I wanted

was people to write about it and think

about that was what that make that my

Olympic career but ironically that is

what kids that can't respond to you the

most was wow you you almost passed out

at the Olympics and then you got up and

you finished and then you went to

another one so for sure it's a hard

disease and only talking about the good

things is just it's not honest for you

was that the the most was that your

biggest learning experience perhaps as a

diabetic what were you able to take away

from that experience I well I mentioned

that I I did learn that you can give

yourself all the symptoms of chronic

fatigue in a single day by driving

through a low so you know I I had that I

had the extra sugar and it got my blood

sugar back up for enough time to ski a

few more K but then it went low again

and I had to drink more sugar and I

basically ended my season finishing that

race and I but what I suspect that I

have done in from talking to some other

endocrinologist I suspect that I gave

myself adrenal fatigue in a single day

just by pushing through and which is why

I say I should have dropped out and it

took me about three months to recover I

tried to race again and there was just

nothing there there's nothing in my body

to give I came home after the Olympics

and I would

I couldn't go cross-country skiing cuz I

was too tired so I'd do some downhill

skiing and then I'd get sick and then

I'd go downhill skiing and then I get

sick again

and then about you know three months

later all of a sudden I went for a run

and I felt better

instead of horrible now true chronic

fatigue takes years to get over this was

a artificial version so what did I learn

I learned that when you have a true

blood sugar crash and you can't feed

your way out of it you stop and I also

started looking around for better

technology at that point and I believed

XCOM was on seven they called it the

seven at that point my same doctor who

directed me towards the Omni pod had

been hesitant to adopt the continuous

glucose monitor because he thought that

they weren't quite good enough yet but

he thought the deck saw him seven was

mm-hmm so I got that huge change overall

control started getting better it was

much so basically the 2010 Olympics I

was still using blood sticks I went to I

went to the Dexcom another example of

innovation making a life better and I

simply just don't know how I used to do

things before I had it and what I tell

the the campers is you know I had this

fatigue I got better didn't win an

Olympic medal but at the next race that

I competed in which was in Finland but

next November I beat the Olympic bronze

medalist so there you go I think

something that would be useful for our

listeners and type-1 don't get me wrong

type one diabetes has no off days

whatsoever no off days at all no time

off at all but when you have those

really challenging moments and rough

patches how do you as an athlete and a

diabetic it sort of like a reset button

what is that process like do you have a

routine after you know and this could be

recovering from that episode at the

Olympics where you were down in the snow

or it could be a particularly just a

rough day you know we had a few more

loads than we wanted is there a process

for you where you say alright I'm gonna

sit down I'm gonna get back on the horse

how do you hit that reset button well

the hardest I think the hardest thing

about having that fatigue in particular

and the reason I was going alpine skiing

this is my reset is training being

outside in the woods working out I like

that feeling I like I like going for

runs in the woods I like going for skis

in the woods I like exerting myself and

getting that that that push back from

the body and just it just feels good

that's my therapy but the other thing

that I very much learned at the 2010

Olympics was the my body can the

mind-body aspect you know I lost control

of my insulin dosage because I was too

nervous so I needed to learn how to how

to relax

so I started meditating I started doing

yoga and I was looking for some type of

you know breath control routine that I

could do before races ways to stay

relaxed and I would you know separate

myself from the group go into quiet

rooms do a stretching routine or just do

a really simple basic breathing session

for five minutes and that would

noticeably change my blood Sugar's

before a race I could be climbing lying

in bed climbing and you know calm down

do your breathing and things would reset

Wow is that one of you're just trying to

think on the topic of messages to the

campers that perhaps transcend athletics

that you've learned that would still be

relevant to them is that something that

you tried to pass on and and what are

some of those that's just we always try

to say that you know I'm an example of

athletic success but you can put this

towards any type of academic success or

art success it's because you have

diabetes it should not stop you from

doing anything you want to do I'm very

clear about that sports is just like

just what I like to do so tell us a

little bit about more of the developing

that meditation prat practice and how

you kind of apply that this could be on

raised it is to just be in general

because I think that's something that

like you said athletes but also with

regard to you know perhaps you're taking

a big test in that condemning setting

how do you leverage that and what was

that process like developing that

practice well for me the the biggest

challenge for anything is understanding

it so when I was first diagnosed with

diabetes I was terrified it loved it

because I didn't know anything about it

so I learned as much as I could because

that was my coping mechanism learning as

much as I could so with the breathing

techniques just as important as doing

them and learning them

it was understanding the reason to do

them understanding that being nervous

is counterproductive in those situations

makes me realize that when I'm getting

nervous and I get those butterflies that

I'm not helping myself remove yourself

from the situation get a grip on

yourself and if you need to do the

breathing to get it there just focusing

on breath it's the most simple thing

that we do just bring it down to the the

most basic level I'm a breathing

organism that's all I gotta do in your

years of research of the disease do you

think that the breathing aspect is

perhaps the most important revelation

you've had it's up there staying calm

before a race think staying calm for

race day and calm before public speaking

staying calm before my wife gives birth

in the six weeks we'll see how it goes

absolutely moving beyond perhaps

athletics and you just mentioned

starting a family as well what are some

of your goals at this stage in your

career and these can be moving forward

with triathlons as an athlete or it

could be you know beyond athletics what

are some of those things are thinking

about right now well I could have

retired as an athlete after I stopped

Olympic level skiing this past spring

but I thought from a diabetes advocacy

standpoint there was still more I could

do that and more that I wanted to do as

no not everyone relates to cross picture

scheme they don't know what it is

everyone knows what running up a

mountain is everyone knows what bike

racing is and I thought I could have

success with it and and enjoy it and so

far it's it's going really well and I've

had like it's like I said I started my

website Freeman fortitude calm I'm also

on Facebook Chris Freeman fortitude on

Facebook and I'm getting good following

and and great reactions and I'm

interacting with people and that feels

good so if I can be a positive example I

want to be and I'm gonna continue with

that one of the nice things about

triathlon is that because of the

duration of the events you can be a

little older and still be a top level

athlete cross-country skiing you tend to

peak out in your early 30s I went to my

fourth Olympics when I was 33 and this

past winter it all boiled down to I

needed a top two at US Nationals to go

to my fifth Olympics and I ended up

third a half a second from second you

know 18 mile race which was hard to take

but at the same time I actually spoke to

one of my old college teammates right

after the race he's been retired for ten

years he's like four five who cares yeah

what's the difference yeah I'd say four

times looking back you have a particular

race or a moment of race or moment of

training that stands out to you is one

of the highlights of your career well

I'm there several the best physical race

I ever put together was at a World Cup

in Finland where it was a nine point

three mile classic race everything's in

kilometres over there so it was a 15

kilometer classic ski race which is the

traditional striding race and

I just had an unbelievable body that day

and felt really amazing ended up fourth

on the day which no one likes to be

right off the podium but just like in

cycling we got dopers in this sport and

I got beat by two Russian skiers that

were later later banned from this past


so on that day I wasn't the best gear in

the world but I was the second best gear

in the world because there was a

Norwegian who legitimately beat me other

highlights I won the under-23 World

Championships by almost two minutes

which was just an unheard-of margin that

was fun get to listen to the national

anthem on the podium you always loved

that I had another fourth place at World

Championships where I got beat by

another doper who later got banned for

using human human growth hormone

so aside from diabetes there's all kinds

of things in life that can get in your


cheaters are always there and cleaning

up sport is going to be a very difficult

thing to do I think it's really

important and I think it's important for

clean athletes to you know realize

what's going on and just try to be the

best athlete they can be what were the

emotions like of representing the United

States in your sport at the Olympic

level but then also at the same time

representing perhaps for the first time

the diabetes community in an endurance

event at the Olympics I don't think I

really embraced representing the

diabetes community and little later in

my career because I was still in that

league not closeted phase but just kind

of pushing it aside phase but once I

embraced it I for sure enjoyed it and I

felt good about what I was doing and

once when you start feeling good about

what you're doing to succeed

representing the United States of course

is an honor

I wasn't like groomed by my parents to

be an Olympic athlete and they never had

those type of aspirations for me I mean

they were really supportive of doing

sports and once they thought I could pay

for college with sport they were super

psyched about it

but they never they didn't not the child

prodigy so it was just really cool

experience so starting to to wrap up and

conclude here one question we like to

ask is if you could send a message to a

diabetic that's perhaps was just

diagnosed perhaps is someone that's

going through a particular rough patch

has had a bad week some bad numbers or

perhaps an athlete who like you is that

kind of a crossroads when they've been

told maybe this maybe you won't be able

to continue down this road maybe you

won't be able to chase that passion what

would be your message to those people

first off that with the today's

technology absolutely anything that you

want to do is possible with diabetes

that doesn't mean that it's going to be


I would I would recommend to anyone with

diabetes to learn as much as they could

about the disease to learn about every

treatment option that they have to

really understand I'm at 78 that's not


to really go stabs if you need them good

to understand nutrition of everything of

all the foods that are around it but

become your own best resource as

important as your support system is

being able to rely on yourself above

everything else is more important and I

don't I don't think I've ever had a

discussion with an endocrinologist where

he tells me what to do and I do it

blindly I understand where he's coming

from I discuss it with him I challenge

him and I come up with what I want to do

and I think we're in a society with

medicine where

we look at doctors we want a pill to

make things better and it goes away when

you take the pill and I think the well

the biggest shocks people get with

diabetes is they give you insulin and

you take it it doesn't go away and it

might not even work it might actually

make you feel worse you might go low you

might go high there's no magic pill that

makes diabetes go away this is a

constant and that being said it is

totally manageable but you just can't

let it get away from you I think an

important word you use there was

conversation and especially where we're

at with diabetes care now with so much

new technology emerging and a lot of new

approaches whether it's dietary or

Fitness based being recommended and

advocated for it needs to be a


I mean you referenced earlier with your

coach you know what is the basal rate

need to be here's my thoughts

here's your thoughts let's weigh out the

pros and cons and come to a consensus

and I think for our listeners taking

that advice to heart whether it's with

your doctor your family your friends

whoever those support people are in your

life have it be a conversation and like

Chris said never even from a from a

diabetes health care professional or

expert take that advice as this is the

best approach hands-down there can

always be improvements made in there

certainly is always room to tailor the

care to better fit your life your

lifestyle and your needs so I think

that's an absolutely huge piece of

advice and I can't stress enough this

the importance of understanding the

nutritional makeup of your food I've

found that the majority of people I've

spoken to enjoy what I call willful

willful ignorance about their food they

don't really want to know what's in it

because then they kind of feel bad about

it but don't feel bad about your food

just eat the right food and you can't

eat the right food unless you know

what's in it yeah it's almost like

ignorance is bliss there and I think in

my personal life and Chris you can

answer this from your side but I think


is the biggest input that has the

largest effect on our on our blood sugar

and it's it's tough because it does

require a lot of effort to actively

maintain a proper diet but if you want

to find a way in a path to stable or

blood sugars I think you start with what

you're putting in your body right one of

the most useful things I found was just

when I'm lying I googled the glycemic

index it gives a list of how fast

carbohydrates break down in certain

foods in your body and I definitely use

that to make food choices throughout the

day and 100% agree that diabetes care

starts with the food the insulin

secondary so to end we've talked a lot

about challenges Chris what's the best

part about being part of this t1d

community one of the things that has

always impressed me the most going to

these camps is how mature young children

can become when they're given a

challenge you know I've had a

five-year-old asked me what my carb did

bolas ratio is and I don't think I knew

what a ratio was until I was 15 so it's

impressive what humans can overcome and

not only overcome but thrive so I'm

happy to be in a community that isn't

stopped by challenges I think and I ask

the question what would your message be

to that struggling diabetic and I think

for me looking back on coming up on 18

years of having been diagnosed with the

disease the the message from my

standpoint would be stronger because of

it however you want to define it

diabetes forces us to be more

accountable at that point of diagnosis

and for me it was age five for you it

was age 19 and whenever that diagnosis

happens there is such a higher level of

responsibility put on that person from a

dietary standpoint from you know never

going anywhere with that fast-acting

glucose all of these

you know constraints that are sort of

put on you and I don't even want to call

them constraints I would say you know

opportunities to become more independent

so I think you know my message would be

you're absolutely in the long run a

stronger person because of it mentally

the growth that it forces you to go

through his huge hundred percent agree

you did touch on planning is very

important you know I talked about all

the things that I never letting that

diabetes stop me but it doesn't stop me

because I plan very carefully before I

do them absolutely

so what's training for tomorrow I am

still resting from my six hour race

tomorrow I'm gonna go for a mountain

bike because it's fun all right Chris

Freeman thank you so much for being on

the podcast thank you my name is Chris

Freeman I have type one diabetes and I

have a game plan we hope you enjoy this

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