Ryan Reed Show Notes

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The Game Plan T1D Podcast: Episode 5 - Ryan Reed



Sam Benger

Published on Sep 3, 2018



This episode of the Game Plan T1D Podcast features T1D athlete Ryan Reed. Ryan is a professional stock car racing driver and competes full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series where he races the #16 Drive Down A1C Lilly Diabetes Ford Mustang for the Roush Fenway Racing team. Undaunted by his diabetes, Ryan has captured two wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series since his diagnosis. Ryan also founded his own non-profit, Ryan’s Mission which helps give back to the Diabetes community. Listen in and be inspired!



what is going on gameplan t1d community

I've got a great episode for you today

with Ryan Reid before I introduce our

guest today I just wanted to make a

quick little public service announcement

coming up this will be our fifth episode

we hope you guys are enjoying the

content that we're putting out there but

if not let us know hit us up on either

social media or you can send us an email

through our site WWMT wendy calm and

just let us know is there an athlete

that you want to hear their story do you

want to publicize your own story we can

make that happen is there an area

regarding a certain athletes life that

you want to hear more about let us know

and we will do our best to make that


for today's episode I was lucky enough

to have the opportunity to sit down with

Ryan Reed

Ryan is a type 1 diabetic diagnosed at

age 19 and went on to do some amazing

things on the racetrack he's currently a

driver in the NASCAR Xfinity series and

is just crushing it his racing career

began way back at the age of four he

grew up around racing with his dad being

involved in NASCAR and being a racer

racecar driver himself so I was really

looking forward to hear Ryan's story and

also the other amazing thing that Ryan

is doing is he has his own

non-for-profit Ryan's mission that's

another thing that we talked about in

this episode just giving back to the

diabetic community which is just so

refreshing to see him doing at such a

young age so without any further ado

please enjoy my conversation with Ryan



welcome to the game plan to indie

podcast Ryan how are you doing today

doing great just hanging out at my home

in North Carolina and middle the weeds

so just kind of getting ready for for

the next race it's this weekend busy

busy time the middle of summer it's kind

of fun we're in full swing so just yeah

just enjoying the middle to racism

absolutely so how is this season going I

took a look at your your race schedule

in it like you said it's pretty hectic

so how is the season going so far and if

you don't mind you can maybe talk about

your upcoming schedule and maybe sort of

what a normal week of of racing looks

like yeah so you know but to answer your

question about how two seasons ago in I

feel like uh you know our season felt

long you know so we go through you know

I mean obviously a great season is when

you're when when everything goes great

and there's no problems on here long but

that that's really rare so I feel like

we've we've had you know great runs and

we've had not-so-great runs so I felt

like in the front part of season we we

strong a lot with consistency and being

able to put together good finishes week

in and week out and kind of closing out

races where we should finish over the

last six weeks I feel like we've really

rebounded nicely we've been able to

finish in the top ten really

consistently and really build our gap to

the cutoff one in our playoffs which

some of those listen you know what

racing is a unique sport and so we do

have a playoff system that spends about

three or four years old but I think it's

been awesome for the drivers and for the

fans and so we're state claims about the


we have spirit four races left and until

our playoffs start you know right now

it's just about continuing that

consistency that we've built over the

last month or so and really grinded it

out until until the playoffs start then

obviously once you get in the playoffs

it's it's like I mean a whole whole

nother level you know and I think that

it's funny because in force we see a lot

of people talk about playoffs and ever

reason like this racetrack

we you know we everyone who touches a

racecar just gives 100% but once the

playoffs start man it's a whole nother

level and you can't really describe why

just intensity wraps up your gram stuff

your team elevates everyone elevates and

so it's pretty cool to see and it's a

special time here it's funny I am

for me growing up it was always football

was my background so racing to me is

really foreign but definitely overlap

there between the excitement and the the

energy behind kind of that playoff run

so talk a little bit about how the

travel factors in it sounds like on a

week to week basis the whole team is

pretty busy preparing for these

different venues do those changes in the

race tracks and the venue's does that

play into how you prepare for the

different races oh absolutely you know I

think that that's that's probably the

most unique thing about our sport is

that the the change in venue it makes it

impossible to practice you know it's not

a it's not what we can go run drills and

we can go we can go create we can go

actually simulate on track stuff like a

test track or something the only way if

you were to go I actually do meaningful

you know having a meaningful practice

like you wouldn't other sports you could

go to that race track and actually

practice because every track is so much

different whether you're talking about

the just the general shape of it the

banking the surface you know how old the

surfaces plays a major factor I mean

even even down to what it was like when

they poured the asphalt or the concrete

like all that stuff played such a vital

role to how you setup the race car and

how you drive it so the only way we

really can practice is with simulators

and Ford all the manufacture all the

major manufacturers have a have a

state-of-the-art simulator that it's

really I'll be on it tomorrow

getting ready doing some pre-race kind

of test stuff but it's not obviously not

not the real thing so when I reckon the

simulator we had a reset button there's

there's no there's no reset button in

real life obviously but so that's kind

of how we how we prepare which you think

has changed a lot over the last five to

ten years and then like you said the

travel was definitely grueling you know

we're on a form point every weekend

headed somewhere and so this weekend

we're headed up to accountant and we're

gonna race it Road America which we have

the four road courses a year where we

actually make left and right turns I

think what people think of NASCAR

obviously it's the last turn thing and

we do make our fair amount of left turns

but for a year we make left and right

turn so this would be a lot of fun you

know like I said week in and week out

we're getting on a plane traveling

somewhere and that's that's tough I mean

though I think having for me you know

being being regimented and having a good

consistent scheduled routes throughout

the weekend

and knowing what I got going on and

making sure that I that I get to keep my

house in order week in a week out is it

so important to being able to be as

paired as possible for each weekend yeah

I think for me it's just shocking

because usually when you associate you

know all that travel and all of that

that work that has to get done you're

going to be mentally fatigued and in

your sport like you said with the

simulator you need to be so sharp

because there is no reset button you're

in a you know a car going around the

track hundreds of miles per hour so you

need to be very very mentally sharp and

on point you talked about you found kind

of a good schedule and a good regimen

that works for you what does that kind

of look like for you and how do you stay

so mentally sharp throughout all the

travel and all the work over the course

of the season yeah I think ideally you

know we grape on physically Saturday

afternoons and we'll fly home right

after the race and you spend Sunday just

enjoying your Sunday right I mean just

taking a day decompressing and I chew

just 1025 and so do mean it's all the

same stuff you know hanging out my

buddies and having a good time whether

on the lake or go golfing whatever it is

and then Monday usually the first thing

I do is wake up and go to the gym and

you know our bodies get I mentioned turn

25 I feel like I'm my 55 I you know we

usually spend most of Monday morning

just working through and rolling out

doing kind of a stretching routine that

I have to make sure that I kind of

decompress my body a little bit just

because you know sitting in those race

cars and dealing with those g-forces for

three hours every Saturday take toll and

so yeah it's probably said first Monday

morning a chase I'm just working out and

kind of getting hitting the reset button

but all the fatigue and my body's gone

through and then Monday afternoon you

either go to race shop typically try and

go to the race shop Monday afternoon for

a little bit and then it's a laundry and

dishes and Elda get my house back a good

spot every once in awhile the peanuts

the race track stops and it's like okay

I got it I got to do laundry I'll begin

in like I said yeah exactly and then

prepare Tuesday we have we have a team

meeting talk about the weekend before so

every Tuesday afternoon everybody on our

race team at Roush Fenway get together

and we really break down the weekend

that gives the bad the ugly and figure

out how as a whole team we can get

better pretty much after Tuesday

afternoon you stop thinking about what

happened weekend before whether you won

the race or you finished at last


put it to that it doesn't matter how you

ran because I next weekend is obviously

the most important thing so as soon as

that meeting closes the door I'll walk

over and get my kerchief and I say okay

what do we got for this weekend we talk

about setup and game plans and then

Wednesday is usually a day where if I am

going to be simulator work and about

half a day Wednesday doing that and gym

every day so Tuesday's meetings and gym

and Wednesday is simulator and gym and

then Thursday is like a nice little day

off you know it's packing getting ready

for the weekend ahead if I could have

fun - time to go play around a golf or

just whatever going to Lake whatever I

can you know my buddy don't like to surf

a lot and wake surf and so we'll do that

just whatever we can do to just enjoy

ourselves and and really kind of clear

our head before the race weekend starts

you know I think we all all it's young

guys we school with there's a lot of

pressure on us perform and so we we take

that very seriously so it's nice to just

go clear the head and get you a really

good mental spot before we forget the

reconverted so Ryan you talked about

from where your career is now having

just turned 25 middle this season but I

want to go back to the start of your

racing career so if you can fill our

listeners in on when that all started I

understand you you grew up around racing

your father Mark who was a former NASCAR

driver as well but talk to us how you

found racing as kind of a passion when

this all started

yeah you know like you said my dad race

and so it was something that just some

time I can remember racing was it was in

my life my dad be booboo the same thing

you know with either me my brother at

the racetrack watching him or we were at

my grandmas off my weekend while my dad

was was at the racetrack and I loved it

it was just so cool and although it's

definitely a very energetic child and

felt like I was just constantly needing

need to know what's going on and then

being able to you know run around and

just was always very good play set an

energetic child and then but when the

race started and I was able to go to

watch my dad it was like I didn't even

care like I mean I could sit there for

three and a half hours and just watch my

dad make laps and study it and I think

those are some of my earliest memories

around racing is just watching my dad

race and like you know trying to figure

it out and try understand what was going

on then when when I was old enough I got

my first yellow car I was 44 years old

sounds awful young but seems like


towards nowadays you know you're

starting as young as possible and push

our racing go-carts and from the time I

started my go-kart you know I mean I

remember growing up you know eat apple

out in school what you wanna do any grow

up I never wait it was always a it was

always a NASCAR driver not not it not

just a racecar driver I mean there's

obviously a lot of forms of racing it

was I want to be a NASCAR driver I grew

up with that and went to do all of

school with us through high school and

then obviously I was racing go-karts all

the time you you're kind of climbing a

ladder just like you would manage for

you're getting into

for us it's heavier faster cars that

they don't drive is good faster being

you know one of the key words just every

time you get into a the next class or

the next

there's a cut for division it's always a

faster racer you're going faster and

faster and faster and so so I'm out 17

years old I was out racing full-size

cars doing you know 140 miles an hour

130 miles an hour my local short track

which is really cool you know I think I

had to I had a lot of you know grew up

in California so racing wasn't overly

popular but I was good friends it all

love to go to racetracks actually you

know when we would get done with high

school we would that was the first thing

we did we make sure our homework got

done so mom dad would let me race and

then it was a good work on race cars and

those were some of the coolest time for

that felt like it wasn't just driving

race cars it was figuring out how to

work on them and hang out my buddies and

send them from there obviously I'm Jack

North John 17 years old

North Carolina's kinda hub so obviously

I said weren't thought today and yeah

and I was I was so fortunate to you know

I think once you walk people can can

race to that level in their 17 or 18

then I got a few opportunities to race

in NASCAR and racing Xfinity series I

had a five race deal with the Ross

Fenway did pretty well in those five

races and they find me and partnered up

with boy diabetes which we can talk more

about a minute but you know once we want

to be partnered up with Ross runway and

really diabetes you know that's really

what gave me the opportunity to start

racin full-time it's one of the most

with five levels so what was that

process like I mean you talked about

having never wavered as a kid flatout I

want to be a NASCAR driver that's it

that's what I want to focus on to

actually see that kind of come to

fruition what were or your feelings at

that time it sounds like it was just a

long time coming ever since the age of

four working on that goal but having

that initial five race contract what was

that feeling like when you kind of

realized this dream was

coming to pass as reality it's hard to

put words I think that anyone who's

like you grow up in this RV NASCAR

driver and I think people are like oh

that's cool do you want to do that but

no one ever really takes it serious I

think for a lot of reasons you're so

young but you don't know really know is

if you're any good at it right and then

also too even if you are really good at

it it's not even an especially for the

odd there's so many unbelievably

talented individuals at whatever sport

that don't make it they don't get to be

a professional football soccer NASCAR

Hawking you you know etc as you get

older as I got older and got you know in

my teens and obviously a lot of talks

too with my parents and they explained

to me hey you're choosing a really tough

road and this being outworked out you

know you have to mentally prepare

yourself this and you're willing to give

everything you have and you're willing

to dedicate your life to this and you're

dedicating your life to something that

there's a good chance that we won't

reach the level you want to that doesn't

mean that you believe that that just

means that that's better that you

recognize us the real possibility and my

dad always gave me a great perspective

on and it was just hey you have to truly

believe that you have the talent to be

one of the best and that you're going to

make it but also know the risk also to

you never when I was gonna have to go

out and race for every weekend you get

hurt and never drive a race car like

that just like any other sports it

taught me a lot throughout that time

about without commitment and dedication

and and it's helped me not not just my

professional and my racing career but in

other endeavors in my life that I want

just you know about about like I said

that commitment dedication it takes yeah

no I think that's an important message

because at the end of the day it's you

choose the direction of your life and

and like you said it can be scary to

kind of put all your eggs in that one

basket but if that's your passion you

have to go after it and by all accounts

your career was really accelerating

throughout those teen years we talked

about your chance getting a shot at

NASCAR and then kind of at a point where

you're fully in on on this dream you get

a diagnosis in 2011 and doctors didn't

think you'd be able to continue racing

with type 1 diabetes what was sort of

your gut reaction to that news having

having just been delta hand that buy a

lot of accounts and from a lot of

different doctors having them just say

you know what Ryan this career isn't

going to work out with type 1 diabetes

it was a lot of confusion that I didn't

know what type of diabetes well didn't

know when the Hat and

have any experience with it it wasn't

like I could I could even argue with the

doctor I mean I just had no knowledge of

it you know they flat-out told me you're

never going to race and you know my

first question when I got diagnosed was

how this can affect my racing and they

just said no but that's you know you

know the words were you have to focus

I'm living a normal life and when you

tell a kid who they're you know 17 at

the time you know ever since I was four

so I mean 13 years of my life of my 17

years I've been under the belief that I

was gonna drive race cars and so you

know when they say a normal life that

doesn't even better than make sense to

me because I'm like I don't know what a

normal life is I'm kind of racing and

trying to be a professional racecar

driver it was devastating you know and

it was you take a 17 year old and you

give them a disease they had no choice

you know they didn't didn't do anything

to get that you know they didn't they

didn't there's no responsibility to be

given there as to why they now have to

manage type 1 diabetes let stop that's

tough pill to swallow tough to get your

arms around so oh it was really tough

and it was a time in my life where I

thought it you know I was winning races

on the west coast getting ready to move

back North Carolina at 17 I was moving

out there on my own nonetheless so like

I'm getting ready to you know I mean

every seventeen-year-old right you can't

wait you like it spreading your wings

you're flying you getting out of the

parents house and it was a really

exciting time of my life

for so many reasons professionally and

personally and then that stop that was

over and you know I didn't know what was

next it was it you know every everything

that I looked forward to in life was put

on hold and you know it was us but I

mean I think the biggest thing that I

look back on that is in them in those

trying moments and in those tough times

I realized how great both my parents

were her nurse so supportive you know

and I think that you know a lot of times

is 17 years old you can take for granted

what you have certainly my parents

always had a good relationship I was

really close so is really I love my

parents but it were when when that all

went down I realized you know how

fortunate I was and we really you know

pulled together throughout that time and

you know those next couple months it was

it was really trying but we got through

it together I think you kind of

highlighted two really common threads

that have heard from other other

diabetic athletes number one is support

networks and I want to return to that

topic in a little bit here because I

think is a obviously a lot of overlap

between a diabetes support network and

and your support network as as a NASCAR

driver with your pit crew but I wanted

to go back to that initial feeling and

again I think this is another

commonality it's really not what most

people think when they think you know

what was your gut reaction to a

diagnosis like how angry were you were

frustrated or scared it's more just like

what is this thing I don't even know so

it's I wanted to get your take on how

did you kind of transition out of that

I've talked to a lot of other athletes

who said my kind of coping mechanism was

that I just dived in and I did as much

research as possible to try to figure

out how I could kind of beat this thing

and how I could regain control of my

life but how did you take that first

step back I read that you were back on

the race track within four months that's

incredibly impressive considering your

adult diagnosis at a really young age

talk about how you were able to take

those starting steps to get back where

you wanted to be on the race track yeah

I mean you hit the nail right on the

head it was driving myself into research

any athlete there's an been so bested in

their hair and their crafts or sports it

when that stops it turbo that most

athletes are pretty compulsive in a way

that you know they are all in you know

and that's what makes them great and I

don't think it was any different for

myself but I was also all-in and I

always sudden have this kind of

compulsiveness and I just said you know

what I'm just going to go understand

what what this is that what at least

understand why it's holding me back

from there it was a lot of research and

just you know reason about what diabetes

is and we're standing it another 10 you

know the just spins and outs of it and

then you know it was that was like you

know what let me read about happy to

diabetes because it's 2011 there's

someone out there doing something with

with diabetes that's when I started to

you know come across all these amazing

and super and that's when things I think

started to kind of turn the page for me

I didn't come across mean Astro drivers

and so there wasn't there wasn't that

element where I was like oh cool I get

to do this you know I mean here's a

story right here I didn't find that one

thing I can point you on my boat it's

all good now but I just I started to

quit being so negative I guess it was

like you know what there's all these

people doing amazing things just gave me

that little bit of that just a little

bit of hope

just keep digging and you know from

there through all that research and do

reading all these stories I heard I read

about an endocrinologist diabetes

specialist that worked with several

athletes she I grew up Baker California

about two hours north of LA and ensure

poor practices in Los Angeles and so we

reached out and she it was multiple

phone calls but finally after she heard

my story just you know just how you know

basically how much I needed to get in to

see her she she cleared a spot and got

me and shared a huge waiting list and

she got me in and December going in

there and you know still pretty dejected

and still pretty for the first time my

life I was shy guys just you know kind

of timid and never been that way in my

life and so I'm still doing with this

and I went to see her and I think she I

think she probably recognized that and

she was like you can listen to me and

everything I'm trying to do you know I'm

gonna take this very seriously but yes

yes yes I'm sure that okay we're gonna

get back into race car and I had been in

there I've been talking for five minutes

or 10 minutes and she said that and I

think that that's that was when it was

like a weight was lifted off my

shoulders I didn't know how I didn't

know how much my life is gonna change

didn't know all everything I wasn't have

to do to manage diabetes you know while

rates and all that yet as long as as

long as I had someone there to tell me I

could do it that's all in it that's all

the that's all that's all I needed to

know to be you know back in 110% and to

say this isn't going to stop me and I

think right there is when I realized you

know it changed so much more than just

me thing I get I can race car I change

my whole mindset towards towards disease

talk about what that moment was like

you've had this kind of dream and

passion taken away from you and then go

through the process of researching these

other athletes and then you get that

final validation that we're gonna we're

going to make this thing work was that

immediately inspiring but like

motivating to you where you fired up to

get back in the car

what was that moment like for you I

think that it was I mean I was really

excited but I think it was you know

because that that whole that whole

experience first time meeting and and

going through all that and so many

emotions but I think it was we come

because we immediately went to work it

wasn't I mean I was there for probably

three hours and it was getting me on

CGM i mean like that day like we're

gonna see GM we're going to

changed obviously my whole kind of

medication regiment out you know my

insulin regiment got me and I was

working with nutritionists that day it

was kind of a whirlwind that whole

experience and so ferocity oh I had so

much so many different emotions going on

throughout that throughout that

afternoon that it's hard to tell you one

thing but I think the the underlying all

was just I was so so relieved I mean it

was you know weight lifted off my

shoulders and felt like I could be

myself again and I did didn't I could

hope for things again and I think that

that's a big part of what what inspired

me not only 16 racing obviously I didn't

need a whole lot of help with that

because I was some love the sport but

it's what inspired me to want to make a

difference when I left at the doctor's

office that day I knew that I wanted you

know once I got back in a race car I

wanted to use the racing platform I

wanted to use my story and everything

that I had went through over those first

couple months of being diagnosed so to

tell people that we're going through the

same thing because I knew there's people

out there going through the same things

there's people being told they can't

when they absolutely can that's all that

changed I think that you know those were

those were some of the things that I

look back at and know that I left that

afternoon with that I didn't I didn't

walk in with so Ryan we talk a lot on

the podcast about utilizing support

networks and you certainly talked about

leaning on your parents during this time

leaning on certain endocrinologist

having grown up around pit crews and

sort of the teamwork associated with

competitive racing what was the

transition like to utilizing your

diabetes support network I think

sometimes at least in my own life as a

diabetic athlete when you have trainers

trying to help out sometimes you try to

take on the burden of diabetes alone and

it can be a process to open up and and

fully leverage those people what was the

the transition like to starting to

utilize your diabetes support network to

its fullest extent and were there

similarities and differences that you

could see between that support network

and the support network of say a pit

crew yeah absolutely the people I mean I

talked when I was first diagnosed you

know I mean I year your your diabetes

support network starts right away I mean

it's the first person you talk to after

you're diagnosed and I was obviously for

me my mom and dad and then you know you

talk about and my doctor you know and

and you taught and so you know for me it

was little diabetes that are really cool

little video series a while back where

they drew all these parallels about you

know my pit crew and then my diabetes

pit crew and thank you it's really

interesting because it puts in

perspective for me how important all

these people are because it doesn't

doesn't work like you know my diabetes

management doesn't work just like my

racing doesn't work with without each

individual and it's so so important you

know I mean like you know my neurologist

my doctor and she's the crew chief you

know she's the one making you know help

make all the decisions she's the one

giving me all the information I need

she's the one coming up with a game plan

and then you know I'm the driver I'm the

I'm the I'm the person who lives with

diabetes on the person who takes at home

and I'm the one who has to just like

when when the race starts I get in the

race car and everything we've done all

this setup all the engineering all the

everything we've done to that point

rests on me just like when I go home and

I have all the information I have all

the tools and resources and I'm the one

giving myself insulin injection I'm

going carb counting I'm the one - I'm

the one who actually has to implement

all that and so there's a ton of

similarities and you know you your your

diabetes support network is there's just

key you know it's key to your to your

success and your personal life is you

know I mean it's just working with you

you know I mean I've talked a lot about

it and you know a front people ask me

all the time like what's the advice you

can give and we know what do you have

for you success like what what helps you

it's a hundred thousand percent working

with my doctor and managing my diabetes

to the best of my ability because that's

that's the cornerstone to all of it I

mean we all know how how trust anyone

who's been affected by Typhon diabetes

whether it's you living with it or you

see a loved one living with it you know

how tough it is and you know how how

hard the the lows and highs literally

and figuratively are and if you if you

know on top of that and you're not

managing it obviously bad days I mean I

have I have plenty I had about a roller

coaster yesterday with my blood sugar

and those things are tough but you know

day in and day out you know strive to be

the to be the best at it that I can be

and and do the best job I can and that

makes a huge difference so I think one

of the most sort of uplifting and

exciting parts about diabetes treatment

and management right now in addition to

these support networks of people is the

technology that we have out to

can you talk a little bit about your

current management system and that I've

heard that you kind of have some cool

custom setups with like a dashboard CVM

but what are sort of some of the

technologies that you're leaning on

right now to help you with your diabetes

management yeah I said the the

technology side of diabetes has changed

the way that we live live with this

disease and now I've only had I've only

lived with it I mean that's the only but

like I live with type 1 diabetes for

seven years now there's people obviously

they've lived for 40 years with 50 years

with it and or more and but even even in

my seven years with diabetes I've seen

technology change infinitely I mean you

know I've used a CGM of user Dexcom

since the first time I went and saw and

Peter's and that was you know a key part

to me getting in the race car was was

having a CGM on on in my race car so you

know my blood Sugar's at all times and

to see how much the accuracies improved

to see now that you don't you don't even

I mean we you don't have to finger prick

anymore you know I mean that is


my fingertips are you know ecstatic

about that and I also use an app called

my sugar to help blog on my blood sugars

and they communicate and like it's just

crazy to see all that and then obviously

you know I and you so I still use pens

and phone pens and the main reason for

that is that if you sell hava race

carminative chicago health weeks ago it

was over 155 degrees in the car so

obviously keeping insulin at those

temperatures is not that's not realistic

so rather than change delivery methods

throughout the week consistency so

important for for what I do so I do

depend I use a pen all the time and but

I mean you know I mean I'm so aware and

know how much the pump technology has

changed how much has changed it was live

and so I mean you know I mean not not

just not just what I use but across the

board even the stuff that I don't use I

know it's making a huge difference

because lives to live with diabetes but

you know you talk about this uniqueness

of me having a CGI mama - we built a

really cool bracket but I actually just

slide my receiver my standard CGM

receiver into this bracket on the - and

I'll spec to all my gauges that you know

I mean with water temperature oil

pressure voltage

feel pressure etc etc that's a watch of

those anyway so I mean watch my blood

sugar is just just an extra extra gauge

but they did Dec Tom create you know

basically made one to where I can leave

the backlit backlight lit up so I don't

have to reach up and push the button it

stays lit next to all my gauges which

obviously being able to keep both hands

on the wheel at all times makes it makes

it a nice little difference equipped

with all this technology equipped with a

great support network you're going into

race day you're set to go walk us

through what a race day is actually like

what's the mindset going in and God

forbid a an issue does arise with your

blood sugar as you're racing sort of how

do you handle that and how does the team

adapt to a blood sugar being too high or

too low during a race yeah it's funny

you know we talked a lot about this and

me my friend Connor Daley who's actually

going to be my teammates this weekend it

wrote America for the first time he's

IndyCar driver he's had type 1 diabetes

and I've and race Indy car for a number

of years now and we've talked so much

about this nothing but each other

obviously and then also we've done a lot

of media talking about this and our race

day regiment is really strict I mean it

but our regiment for managing diabetes

starts I mean I'm going through things

today that'll make a difference you know

what you're talking about

diet exercise gym you know and obviously

you know my bullet thing in Basil's and

all that everything I do today is gonna

is going to make a difference come

racing and that's going to play a key

role in making sure that I don't have a

diabetes related incident while I'm on

the race track but that being said we

obviously all plan for the worst hope

for the best and so my doctor and I both

worked really hard on coming up with a

system and so obviously we have a drink

inside the car and have a drink inside

my truck if I'm driving on the road and

have a low blood sugar so obviously I

have a drink to treat a low blood sugar

if need be inside the race car and so

that's the first thing that you know I

think it's pretty pretty standard and

then also to one thing that is not

standard that is unique and if you look

at my fire suit you know obviously

you're going to see Willy diabetes you

can see drive down a1c calm on the fire

so you're going to see all the sponsors

I'm you threaten white but then they

also you're gonna see a yellow and red

targets on the left leg of my fire sues

the stands

a lot and no driver has a bull's-eye on

their fire suit but that's actually

where to indicate where I would need an

insulin Jackson during a race if my

blood sugar is too high and so we have a

guy trained on a pit crew to go over the

wall and we could get four tires fuel

and insulin if need be

in the middle of race and I don't never

had to do that it's more of a safety net

it's not a percent of safety net but we

practiced it we know what's doing that

in that situation and we have two-way

radios that I can communicate that to to

my team if I'm if I need that and so you

know that that's probably the most

unique thing in our sport as far as

someone you know a system in place to

help me because I have diabetes my

understanding is that some of these

races are you know multiple our events

were you like what we talked about

earlier have to be really turned on

mentally is it is it common to not kind

of like refuel with a snack or something

like that at some point during the race

because it sounds like you're trying to

really avoid taking on any insulin

during the race um it is I mean I think

a lot of guys do that where the it will

eat us eat a snack you know eat

something throughout the race to to help

you know replenish you know

carbohydrates and proteins and stuff but

you know I think that that I have to

really make sure that I do a good job of

my nutrition before the race yeah and

you know that was the main thing that we

you know a doctor wanted to make sure is

that you know I didn't want me to the

show competes to compete we wanted me to

contend and win races and be one of the

best you know and that takes you know

training like an athlete eating like

that but doing everything that athlete

does and obviously you know you come to

a you know point where you just some

conflict obviously managing diabetes and

you know you said you're an athlete and

so you know how tough it can be you know

I mean carbohydrates and diabetes don't

always mix well and carbohydrates are

energy source and so are a big part of

our energy source yeah I mean it

certainly is tough and and that's not to

say that I don't because I do have that

drange and I will drink I will I will

have some of that drinks out the race

but it's just got to be a camp obviously

can't be too much because I'm not

planning on taking any insulins out the

race but obviously before the

when I still can't take influence I I

mean I've carve up I you know you lean

proteins and lots of vegetables and

healthy fat stuff like that that you

know I mean are going to are going to

give me the energy that I need to to get

through that race the pre rate not it's

not just pre-race meal but you know the

night before a couple days before

keeping making sure that I am you know I

have the nutrients that I need to be not

just get through the race but to be

contender is I mean that's one of the

biggest parts of it I think a big part

about being diabetic athlete is being

aware of what you can control and then

like you said you're planning for the

worst and hoping for the best you know

my football career was like I can

control what I can control right up

until about the first whistle and then

it's you know everything that I've done

in the preceding week that will

hopefully empower me to be able to go

out and perform at a high level but I

think we touched on an important note

earlier about even for the most dialed

in diabetic athlete they're going to be

some highs and lows and I wanted to ask

you Ryan if you could send out a message

to a diabetic that's struggling out

there right now perhaps they were just

diagnosed or perhaps are just going

through a particularly rough patch and

their diabetes treatment what would your

message be to that person and why I

think you know the first thing I would

say and we've talked about is lean on

the lean on the people around you you

know and for me that was a lot my

parents and and a lot my doctor you know

I mean so I talked about it before you

know and gods in the research knowledge

is so empowering especially for people

living with diabetes you know I mean

once you once you feel like you

understand what's going on once you it's

so empowering and so just try and take

control of the disease you know I mean I

think that once you even though a lot of

days that you feel like you have control

over your diabetes and you feel like you

know exactly what to do and nothing goes

right just try your best to take control

your diabetes and and working with your

doctor can be so crucial to doing that

but then also - yep and I know this is

simple and cliche and all that but just

don't give up you know I mean yeah I was

you know obviously told to give up and

and you know and there's a lot of days

you know that you feel like you want to

it's just not I mean like this is so

difficult and you know this is just

unbelievably hard

and so it does seem I giving up would be

a lot easier but that's that's obviously

that's not going to get you to worry

that's not going to get you to achieve

your dreams and goals and soso work you

know as hard as you can and as people

living with diabetes and as athletes

with living with diabetes

we're probably have to work a little

harder than than than everyone else but

that's okay when you achieve your goal

and I know you know for me it all kind

of came to kinda came to a peak with a

when I won at Daytona in the NASCAR

Xfinity Series for the first time and I

you know that was like it was a

culmination of every single thing that I

went through it was like man this was

worth it this was worth all the you know

sleepless nights and all the difficult

times you know the tears the everything

if you can you know my message is if you

can do your absolute best at every and

work work hard then you know I can

promise you that those efforts will be

paid off I think on that topic of

support and not giving up and we talked

about how you felt the urge to kind of

give back to the diabetic community

after you were given the news that hey

we're going to get you back in a race

car after your diagnosis you personally

have started an initiative called Ryan's

mission would you talk to us a little

bit about what that experience was like

and what some of your experiences have

been in trying to serve the broader

diabetic community yeah you know I

talked about you know when I was at my

doctor's office and I was for the first

time you know felt empowered to go chase

my dreams again that I wanted to get

back and you know started just with I

just want to I just want to put up a

website and just share my story just I

mean nothing crazy just you know here's

what happened to me and hopefully today

we can find some you know inspiration in

it and find some fun some light in my

story so we put it up and we we called

it Ryan's mission you know obviously was

just Ryan's mission was to tell my story

in to help hopefully you know help some

other people and we got an amazing

response to it I was I wasn't racing in

NASCAR at the time I was just racing

developmental series and so I I didn't

have a following I didn't I didn't have

you know I mean I didn't have fans or

anything but if I had people that were

reading this and sharing it on Facebook

and stuff and I had a you know people

reaching out to me and want this come

meet me and you know kids you know they

wanted me know parents wanted me to tell


is the story in you know I started

working with JDRF and a DA and you know

all the you know different different

organizations that you know obviously

surround diabetes and that was that was

kind of how it was all born and so I

never thought that it would it would

grow into what it is today and certainly

once he wants that partnered up fully

diabetes and obviously once I got to in

a NASCAR the platform and the scale grew

so much and we were able to do so much

more I mean like I said we're on a plane

every week and go into different markets

we try to use that you know whether it's

Children's Hospital diabetes summer

camps and acknowledge this office visits

or just as simple as there's a fan at

the track that you know they're there

with their parents and they're the

others race fans and they you know that

they heard my story and they they just

want to meet me and so just go take 15

minutes other day to go hang out with

but a kid who lives with diabetes and

those those moments those those impacts

they're what I mean they they far they

far outweigh the what I get to do is you

know as far as strapping a race car you

know I mean that's cool and all but

after being diagnosed and after going

through what I've gone through that

those five or ten minutes they had to

spend with a kid who lives the diabetes

defines inspiration my story those those

are what I think about I know what I

will think about what my career is all

said and done that's amazing yeah I

think what's particularly unique about

your stories to have that drive to give

back at such a young age I think a

common thread again with with diabetics

is we're dealing with a chronic disease

that can be really invisible if you want

it to be so as an athlete when you have

that platform it almost takes the

mindset that you need to be active and

demonstrative with your treatment to

show people that like hey I am dealing

with this chronic illness because if you

went through you know just a normal day

doing injections here and there maybe go

to the bathroom to do an injection

people might not know that you're a

diabetic so I experienced the same thing

in football even up to my senior year I

was doing injections and guys would come

up to me that I'd been playing with for

four years and say what are you doing

I'd say I'm a I'm a diabetic I said I

didn't know that we all as diabetics

bear an obligation to to be active in

terms of you know how we manage our

disease so that we can try to be an

inspiration for others because we all

have a platform whether we know it or


to some extent so I think what you're

doing with Ryan

mission is awesome we can see we wish

the best in you Google for work and

continue with the service of the broader

diabetic community so Ryan what's next

we want to know what are your future

goals as a not only as a NASCAR driver

but as a diabetic yeah obviously you

know as an athlete and yeah I want to be

the best racecar driver can be I wanna

win full races only 1 championships and

I just want to continue to be the best

race car driver it can be in container

we all we all get better at whatever

we're doing every time every day every

day we work at it we get a little better

and so just continue that and try and

continue to get to the next level which

is obviously the Cup Series and NASCAR

and just continue my work you know and

I've been so fortunate to be partnered

up fully diabetes who's you know been

extreme you know mirrored my passion

making an impact and continue to work

with them and continue to find new ways

to to to make that impact and and

obviously that's going to be something

that does it doesn't go away regardless

of where my career goes if if I soft

racing tomorrow um you know I just give

me that much more time to invest in

making that difference and so I don't

know exactly what's next there and I

think that you know for today it's just

continue what I'm doing you know

hopefully being able to continue to find

new ways in more meaningful ways to make

that to make that impact yeah you know I

think it's been it's been a mazing 7

years especially over the last five

years when you know racing racing

profession in racing full-time you know

we've been able to obviously achieve a

lot of my goals and dreams but with Mike

I said earlier what's been more

meaningful than that is then to see the

impact that this program is meant system

and made in people's lives but to see

how much it meant to so many people just

it just motivates me that much more to

keep going into community make a bigger

difference amazing stuff it's awesome

work well Ryan we will let you go we'll

be looking for you out on the race track

thank you so much for coming on the

podcast man I appreciate it yeah

absolutely thanks everyone my name is

Ryan Reid I have type on diabetes and I

have a game plan


we hope you enjoyed this episode of the

game plan to you indie podcast for

related content please visit

Alizee Agier Show Notes

0:00 / 30:51

The Game Plan T1D Podcast: Episode 4 - Alizée Agier



Sam Benger

Published on Aug 28, 2018



This episode of the Game Plan T1D Podcast features T1D athlete Alizée Agier. Alizée is a five time French national champion in karate, a five time European medalist, and has twice claimed the world champion title in karate once as an individual and once as a member of Team France. This episode covers training routines, competitive mindsets, goal setting, and much more. Karate will be featured for the first time as an Olympic sport at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan. Listen in and be inspired!



what's going on guys welcome to this

edition of the game plan t1d podcast I

am your host Sam bender we've got a

great episode for you today I was able

to sit down and hear the story of

five-time a French national champion in

karate at Lee's a a ga

Alizee was also a five-time European

medalist and to top all of that off she

is a two-time karate world champion and

she has her sights set on the 2020

Olympics in Tokyo where karate will be

featured as a sport for the first time

this conversation was awesome on just a

number of levels Alize is the first

female athlete we've had on the podcast

also the first international athlete

we've had on the podcast so I was

excited to get her perspectives on

living and thriving as an athlete

despite her t1d so without any further

ado please enjoy my conversation with

Ali's a a ga


welcome to the game plan to you indie

podcast this is your host Sam bender I'm

sitting down today with Alizee GA yes hi

welcome to the show thank you so let's

dive right in I wanted to ask you what's

your current training schedule looking

like and what are some of the next major

events you have coming up so for now I'm

at home with my family but I'm going to

be ready for the next season in

September I go to some training camps in

France and I have to train every day God

you trained in karate and then I have

competitions in September I have main

events like the World Championship in

November and European Championship ursa

and it's big event because they are

going to give us many points for the

Olympic qualification so it's really

important it's starting in September

when it what is the next Olympics here

it would be 2020 2020 in Japan if the

first one for kotti this is the first

time karate will be featured at the

Olympics what's that like as a karate

competitor to be potentially on Team

france going to the Olympics yeah it's

it's a big dream you know I always look

at the Olympics on TV and I've maybe the

chance to go there to have to work out

for it

so Orchestra you said your training

every day is it a lot of strength

training is it actually like grappling

on the mats with people what's kind of

in like I imagine you do you guys are

crazy flexible look I was looking at

your Instagram so you must do like a lot

of stretching and yoga out I would

imagine so walk us through what's a

normal day of training yes we have one

or two twenty in a day so in the morning

we do strength or cardio training or

personal training we can train with our

coach only

to work out on what we want and in the

evening we have to collective training

you know with everyone in sometimes we

have to fight and we have to do some

strategy and it's like it's like this

everyday you know join one or twice do

you get sore I mean if you guys are do

you go full-on like 100% fighting and

training most days and what kind of a

toll does that take on your body yes we

we have to be 100% every day but

sometimes we are tired it's not easy

every day but yeah go 100% and I am

always happy to go to training you know

it's important absolutely so let's

backtrack I want to know when did karate

in competing in karate really start to

become something that you were

interested in and something that it

appears to be a massive you know passion

in your life yeah

so I'm 24 years old and I started karate

at 5 and thanks to my brother because we

used to practice karate too and I was

always watching his training so I

thought and I did some other sports like

gymnastics so it was great for my

flexibility you know I did some genetic

some water skiing I still practice it

but I have to choose between those two

spots between karate and genetic because

it was too much for me I was young and I

wanted to go to every competitions you

know and I of course I choose karate and

I don't regret it so maybe around 11 it

was really my passion I wanted to go to

competition to be the best and to train

that I was dreaming did you know what

was it do you think about karate that

kind of resonated with you and what

about it did you really enjoy as opposed

to some of those other sports like

gymnastics I really enjoyed to fight you

know because in karate you don't take

the French you have to go fast and first

and it's not the we don't have kayo

taking calc you may be like a knockout

yeah yes now guys we don't have knockout

we have to kick

the face over the belt you know not

endure and it's really a beautiful sport

because you have to know what you do to

be focused and the other one it's not

only you you have to have a big strategy

to look at your partner to be ready and

to anticipate what are you going to do

you know so it's really difficult spot

but also you open the possibility you

know yeah clear yeah so it's I think in

in any sport and my background is

football you have to study the opponent

so what is what is that process like do

you go into a fight do you watch you

must watch film on the other fighters to

try to get an idea of okay their

strategy is they like to do like these

high kicks or whatever it may be what's

that process like yeah we rewrote the

opponent we see every time the same

opponent as a big little you know and we

what we take time to watch her fight and

to take what she likes to do what she

don't like to do what she watches cross

and what others got on her you know I

know every opponent by heart either I

have to so I work I work on it with my

coach and welcome it alone too

so we've talked about you getting

started in karate when were you actually

diagnosed with type 1 diabetes I was

trying to find that out on your

Instagram but I couldn't seem to find

anywhere for me it's a little bit

strange because six years ago my doctor

looked at some rigid blood sugar

reserves and he asked me if I ate before

the test because my blood sugar was a

little bit high but not too much so I

say no because I would seek at this time

so he sent me to another doctor who told

me that I will be very thick but I he

didn't know when maybe three in three

day or three years a year after this I

officially diabetes so it was five years

ago five years that's nineteen yep

nineteen years old what was that

when you officially got the diagnosis

what was your reaction to that and how

did you think it was going to impact you

in your competitive sport it was not

easy not how do you know because it was

not a surprise I have it in my man but

not I was not always thinking about it

but when tell me I was their diabetic I

you know I I thought myself it wasn't a

challenge you know I liked challenge I

liked him thanks to sport you know I

think practicing karate has me a lot for

this you know I want to I have the power

to have a good diabetes you know so it

was not easy because I wanted to be a

police officer in France so I passed all

the tests and I succeed but they were

medical disease you know and they say no

to me and because of my diabetes it was

really frustrating I don't know it's if

it's the word oh yes I was I was sad

because I I would like you know I'm

world champion I just fought every day

one or twice a day and I can be police

officer you know so now I'm working out

on it you know I want to change this low

but it's not easy next time so having

diabetes affect me for this and not for

my sport because I'm a fighter you know

when I was like okay it's okay I'm gonna

show to everyone that I can do karate

and I can I have diabetes I can be the

best we have to know that I have

diabetes and you're after I became world

champion so yeah you can do what you

want everything exactly I was going to

say it's almost like you're just taking

on a different fighter like diabetes is

just this other fighter yeah next person

up here's what their strategy is and

here's what I need to do yes exactly

this disease so as you mentioned you've

had just a little bit of success in

karate and being world champion twice

now talk to us about what that

accomplishment was like yes so the first

one wasn't individual in 2014 and it was

my first one in senior so I was

impressed and there's been stressed that

it was the perfect day for me it was

awesome because my family was there I

share it with my coach with my teammate

with my family it was really a good

moment and I think the best man was when

I heard the national anthem on the first

place you know who are you competing

against for the world championships King

no wait Norway both times for both

championships it was again no four

individual championships the first one

and the second one I was I win with Tim

you know by team okay so we are far in

the chin and we beat Spain oh wow I know

you were mentioning what does it feel

like to be able to compete for France I

know you were discussing how proud you

were feeling as the national anthem of

France was playing as you're standing on

the podium talk a little bit a little

bit more about what those emotions were

like I I've always wanted to be on

national team when I started to get some

resistance competition so yes I'm proud

and maybe that's a part of why I wanted

to be a police officer it's another way

to represent my country you know and I

want to do my best in everything I

thought you know being in the national

team makes me proud and I think it makes

my family proud of me so I wanted to

talk a little bit about what your

current system of management looks like

we talked a little bit about what you're

up to in terms of training but what

sorts of technology are you using to

manage your diabetes and how does that

all sort of blend into what you're doing

with Ferrari yes I use them no for my

diabetes for no it's good for me I have

a good blood sugar level with it may

in a few years I will be with a pump

maybe and I start testing their

freestyle oh yeah it's my second one so

I was wondering if it would be okay with

karate and for no it's it's okay

and before I use them you know like

shake I know like a finger stick is the

mystic before I do my injections every

day before eat and one who works for 24

hour and it's good for me I'm okay with

it because for now I don't really have

something on me no because when I went

to the hospital - no bad diabetes

everything five years ago they give me

the pump and they did the I don't know

eight you know in the like a an IV or

the injection with a you know yes form

and I was really impressed that I didn't

feel good because I didn't know anything

about diabetes and they gave me that

like that is like what I'm supposed to

do with it

and after they give me ten so okay good

yeah so for now you know it's hard for

me to think about the pump but maybe

later I would be okay and I know it

would be better for my diabetes but

Phenom I'm good with stands and it works

yeah I think the the pens are are great

are in there a good transition into the

pumps and like you kind of mentioned I

think men you know dealing with the

technology the new technology of a pump

can sometimes be overwhelming for people

but you know I kind of know the feeling

of you don't want to have a pump on you

because your sport is so yes even if I

you have the Freestyle you know it's not

the same yeah and it's easier with

karate to use them them to use a pump

oh yeah no I I played college football

and I would have an omni pot I wear it

on my back now but you know first

quarter goes by second quarter goes by

all of a sudden I realized the pump that

I had on my hip is like falling out of

my like football pants and it just gets

ripped off very easy so I'm sure you've

experienced that before and I'm sure you

realize how pens kind of give you an

advantage on that but yeah so let's keep

talking about your Olympic aspirations I

was super impressed by what I've seen

but what's some of the the training and

also the team training heading into 2020

so in September I will be back in Paris

to train every day with with the best in

French you know we are 20 and we train

together every day and we have to be

there every day with the crutches and

it's it's long season I think because

it's the first time we'll be Olympic and

we have the chance to go to many

countries for many competition so we

have to be focused every day I don't

really think only about the Olympics I

think about competitions after

competitions because it's a long way

until 2020 so for now I am focused on

the first competition in September and

after I think about the other and of

course the World Championship very

important but for now I have the

Olympics in mind man but not too much so

who are some of the powerhouse nations

in this new Olympic sport of karate is

it as France yes we are we are in the

top five you know France is a really

good nations in karate

there is Japan Italy are there bhaijan

Turkey and I think there is a top five

you know whispering mmm

interesting so you guys should be again

contending for logic medal I hope yeah

that's awesome I wanted to ask in a

sport like karate I imagine there's a

lot of adrenaline

yeah leading up to the event how do you

kind of manage that and how do you

remain calm because as we know

adrenaline can really spike our blood

sugar and you don't want to be dealing

with the high blood

you guys are heading into a fight so how

do you kind of stay calm leading

management I never did keep abuse in

there you know but sometimes I'm high

and before competition I you know I

listen to my music I do the same thing

every time competitions to be focused on

me and on the on the event trying to

stay calm and focus so I listened to my

zk I warm up and then I go to fight and

really focus mm-hmm so do you have I

have interviewed a few athletes now and

I've actually had a couple of them say

that they have kind of like a unique

breathing routine that they go through

and they found that really helps control

their blood sugar do you have anything

kind of like that with your music where

you are either you know breathing

certain way or doing a routine that you

kind of go to every time yes it's my

music is my routine warming up before

competition I do the same thing even

before the competition I start packing

my my things for the competition with my

father you know so I do already same

thing and then I look at the shadder

like I'm ready I know where I'm going to

fight when so I'm really focus on it and

I don't think about the event never

because that makes me high during height

yeah so you reference your coach and I

wanted to ask you a little bit about

what your support network is like for

your diabetes management I know a lot of

us rely on family friends doctors

trainers especially as athletes there's

kind of an added level of people that we

kind of rely on to support us can you

talk a little bit about some of the

individuals that you rely on and how you

utilize and leverage those people to

help you you know perform at eye level

yes my family had me out because I can

always to talk to them about anything my

coach is in and if sometimes you don't

win you always learn you know so they

help us to be the best to go back on

track to go to fight again and win some


it's a circle to group of my friends

family coaches and I know the people

like in Lyon it's like my parents my

brother and my family my family my

friends and the coaches and my teammates

also because sometimes I we talk we when

we lose here we are in the in our attend

room together so we can talk about it

even if we win we share it with them so

they are important where the

relationships like with those teammates

who they understand you're kind of

dealing with an additional challenge on

top of the already pretty heavy demands

of being a top caliber athlete do they

have you know words of encouragement or

they're things that they do to kind of

support you when you're say out of

competition or out training yes

we don't talk too much but competition

you know but we know that before

conviction we want to talk about other

things I want to escape from it you know

they are really high put actual on it so

it's not really worth it because they

are here every day sometimes I see them

more than my family even if only these

are here I know that it cookie that's


I think any athlete can relate to the

camaraderie of a sport and just how

important those relationships are and

having great teammates this is

completely unrelated but I have to ask

what was the environment like in France

you talked about the deprived at the

national anthem at the world

championships but what was the

environment like there just about a

month ago or two months ago now with the

World Cup it was crazy we were really

proud was I was living 20 years ago and

then they did it again it's it it was

awesome we were really proud it was I

say we all win no it was for them only

then it was us too so we were really

happy did that kind of fire you guys up

in training were there any events or

competitions that you guys had where

you're like alright we did the soccer

team did it now we're going to go and do

our two hours yes yes we want to do it


want white but I want a third one

another again again so they show us the

way to do it so we have to do it again

and we know as at least that's a long

way too hard way it's really many

training so we know the way to two women

to work every day and we get repeated

work every day yeah it's a it's kind of

a can be a boring cycle sometimes that's

really the only way you find success is

just showing up every day can you talk a

little bit about your goal-setting

process obviously the Olympics are kind

of living in the distance but like you

mentioned as a competition in September

and there are many more competitions

that are going to happen in between now

and the Olympics how do you approach you

know you're fighting schedule and set

both personal goals and goals as a team

I do it step by step for now I'm focused

from the creation in September and after

this competition I will take two days to

rest and to think about anything that's

not karate you know anything yeah yes

and then I will go back to work to work

to train for my girls so I don't fit

they don't really have a process you

know it's step by step competition and

repeats you know I do same thing again

and again so it's important to take

times after competitions to do some

activity to do other things and like

like now because I'm on holiday so I can

do many things I want to I do a lot of

training but not too much karate you

know because I will do karate for a long

season so I have to to do other things

too ya know I think any athlete has to

do those other things to kind of stay

fresh and to stay excited about the

sport because it is such a day in and

day out process what are some of the

things that you do to take your mind off

of karate when you kind of have that

downtime what are some of your other

hobbies yes I left I like to go to movie

to watch some movie on Netflix or a

serious enough it

it's little times you know in a day but

it seems like nothing but at the same

time you are in the movie so you don't

think about the other things

last year I was today so we take you

outside cavity to because you have to to

be graduated to get a job you know so it

helps to think about the other thing

so you mentioned you're just 24 you've

had a pretty long and successful career

up to this point what is next perhaps

beyond karate how long you foresee

yourself competing and maybe you haven't

set a timeline for that yet yes I did

not have a timeline for it but I know I

do my best to go to the Olympics in 2020

and I think after it I will take some

day to think maybe I will not be in 2020

maybe I will maybe I will be no not you

know so Fona I know that I would


maybe maybe to 2024 in Paris

you know maybe 2024 is in Paris yes

acquire so not now but it's in 92 but I

want to take time to enjoy every day for

now and I will think about after or

later but after my career that maybe I

will teach karate somewhere you know

because I I can stop completely for from

karate so what is and I know you talked

about the pride associated with

competing for France do you feel any

sort of connection with the type one or

the p1d community the diabetic community

in trying to be a role model and an

inspiration for other diabetic athletes

maybe I think the diabetes community is

really strong you know I saw it it a lot

you know I think for everyone we need to

talk and to

all that you can do everything you can I

complete a big thing even if you are

diabetes for me diabetic for me I never

stopped dreaming even if I debit sort of

on the on that topic a question we like

to ask our athletes is if you could

speak to a diabetic that was perhaps

just diagnosed or perhaps you're going

through kind of a particular rough patch

patch right now what would your message

be to that person in what first I would

tend to talk to anyone even family to

find someone to talk about it because if

you don't talk about it you you are

close to yourself you know so open up in

yourself and talk to everyone and second

I would tend to show that he is diabetic

you know I never hide myself when I do

my injection and I think it's ask me a

lot because even if sometimes people are

looking at you like what she's doing

don't be mad at them because they

sometimes you don't know what it is

simply I never hide myself because I

want to explain people what it is and to

feel that they understand that it's not

it's not a big deal in the end you you

can live with it there are many things

that are worse than it so show it and be

in some way be proud of it because it is

a challenge and you have the power to do

the best in the ativ yeah I think that's

a great mindset and I think something

that I encountered with my diabetes in

people will see this across the board

but it's a it's really an invisible

chronic illness so I mean you could go

through and I'm on a pump now and it

kind of looks like a cell phone is

essentially you if I just went through

my day someone I don't think would be

able to say see visually that okay that

person's dealing with a serious chronic

illness but like you said at the same

time I think it's important to be kind

of demonstrative and show what we're

dealing with and

kind of invite those conversations with

our friends and invite those

conversations with other athletes and

teammates to show them in the broader

diabetic community that like you said

it's not a big deal it can't hold you

back what if some of those conversations

have been like if have you ever been out

of the competition where you have done

an injection say or checked your blood

sugar and someone kind of came up to you

like hey like what are you doing I'm not

in competition but I think they

sometimes they looked at me and I never

noticed them but now you know even in

French team when I if they didn't they

don't even notice that I did my

injection because I do it every day in

front on them so sometimes they ask me

did you do your injection I didn't show

you as I kiss yes I did it but you know

it's kind of added for everyone so

that's why you really need to show it

because it's get familiar for everyone

you account only you people can help you

with words even if they are not diabetic

you know so it's not a shame to ask for

help or to talk about it I think another

really cool thing about diabetes in

terms of how it affects athletes is that

it's kind of this double-edged sword

where there's obviously a lot of

challenges that we face as diabetic

athletes but at the same time there are

a lot of advantages or opportunities for

advantages what disease where you have

to be more aware of like the food that

you're putting into your body how much

sleep you're getting what kind of stress

both physically and mentally you're

going through do you find that there are

some advantages in terms of just how

accountable you have to be of your body

yes you have to know your body my heart

thanks to sports you a to it clean -

okay sometimes I eat pizza burger you

know it's it's no much but thanks to

karate I get clean I know what I want

and I know what I have to do and

rich my god it helped me to advocate Lin

and then to know me you know I know when

I have to stop and it's important that

you cross the red line you know red zone

mm-hmm so I would say is there anything

else you want to say while you have the

platform to the t1d community at large

practice spot and be proud of your day

everything there you go sweetie thank

you so much for taking the time with me

I know your sounds like you certainly

have a busy training schedule no we'll

be pulling for you best of luck in

September and hopefully we'll be

watching you at the 2020 Olympics win a

medal I hope to thank you thank you

take care my name is Anastasia and I am

type one diabetes and I have a game plan


we hope you enjoyed this episode of the

game plan to indie podcast for related

content please visit

Jim Edwards Show Notes

0:07 / 58:28

The Game Plan T1D Podcast: Episode 3 - Jim Edwards



Sam Benger

Published on Aug 17, 2018



This episode of the Game Plan T1D Podcast features T1D athlete and former world-class swimmer, Jim Edwards. Diagnosed with Type One Diabetes at age 12 in 1958, Jim would go on to set numerous American records, as well as a world record. At age 17, Jim was traveling across Europe competing in pools in Spain, Portugal, Wales, and Monte Carlo. Jim preserved through primitive treatment methods slashing records and dominating the pool. Listen in to hear Jim's amazing story.



what's going on guys welcome to a game

plan T Wendy podcast this is your host

Sam bender thanks for tuning in this

week I think we have an amazing episode

for you

I had just one of the most fascinating

conversations with swimmer Jim Edwards

I'll go on to read a bit about Jim's

accomplishments in a minute here but I

just wanted to to give our listeners a

background on the fact that Jim was

diagnosed at age 12 back in 1958 so this

episode really dives into just how far

the medical field has come in terms of

treating diabetes and and what I found

was so inspiring and moving was what Jim


despite the treatment technologies

available to him at that time it's

really astounding to give you a bit of a

bit more background on what Jim's career

was like he began swimming in his teen

years and he joined an AAU team at

around age 15 just at his local YMCA

so it was around this time that he was

diagnosed at age 12 and despite his his

type 1 diabetes he went on to attend

williston Academy prep school in East

Hampton Massachusetts for two years

where he was a 12 time all-american

swimmer in six different events the 50

100 200 400 free 200 relay and 400 relay

and he also set 10 national records

there while also serving as a co-captain

of the team Jim was twice voted the New

Hampshire male athlete of the year and

appeared in Sports Illustrated he also

competed in the 1964 US Olympic trial

where he missed the Olympic team by 0.1

seconds what I found perhaps most

fascinating was some of Jim's travel

when he was on a US State Department

squad that competed in Germany in 1966

where they finished third in 103 second

in the 400 meddle medley relay and sixth

in the 400 free we talked about some of

Jim's travel during this time while he

was on this State Department team and

traveling to Wales Portugal Spain and

Monte Carlo just doing amazing things in

the pool Jim would go on to attend the

University of North Carolina

where he said American Records in 110

free in the four by 200 relay and a

world record as the anchor of the 440

yard free relay once again Jim led the

team as a try captain now after school

Jim went on to set national records at

the Masters outdoor national

championship as well

again I think you guys are gonna love

this episode

there were several points in our

conversation where my jaw just dropped

listening to what Jim had to persevere

through in terms of treatment with

diabetes and just how far we've come so

without any further ado please enjoy my

conversation with Jim Edwards well with

that why don't we get started welcome to

the game plan to you in the podcast this

is your host Sam bender and today we're

going to be sitting down with Jim

Edwards Jim how are you doing today I'm

doing fine Cham how are you doing doing

very well so talk to us a little bit

about how you got started in swimming

and when you started to realize that was

a passion for you sure it was before I

was 15 I swam in several Boy Scout meets

where the Boy Scouts have the team or

the Boy Scouts troops of the teams that

were in or the public troops that were

in Manchester New Hampshire where I

started swimming were trying against

each other and and I realized then that

hey this is fun you can get in here we

can do this we can enjoy that the the

idea of camaraderie and and competing

against one another and water my try and

pursue it further and I was asked to

join the AAU club that was stationed at

the Y

the AE Club swam in a 50-yard pool and

the normal normal size of pools four

four four we in the United States

indoors or 25 yards so we would have to

swim on odd lengths to make a hundred

yards an odd number of lengths of the

pool to make a hundred yards and it

doesn't really did really convert until

such times we got the beer pool point is

I was hooked and I had some of my

friends and we walked down from high

school every day and and go to lie and

swim or swim practice and why I got

hooked knowing I can't tell you other

than the fact that I was I spent my

summers on Lake Winnipesaukee growing up

and that's in central part of the Lakes

region in Hampshire and that was great

fun and eventually I set up a 50-meter

course in the lake to swim in and get

the get the 50 meter outdoor pool

lengths in so it just gets fed on itself

and I did it in and realized that it was

more than just fun anymore it was truly

a passion and just starting out like you

mentioned before the age of 15 I imagine

just kind of messing around racing with

friends here and there were people able

to see early on and did they ever tell

you hey Jim you're pretty good at this

or was it kind of a self realization

that you know this is my passion and I

think I have some potential to do some

serious have some serious

accomplishments in this sport you bring

up a good point and not my whole game

plan at that age wasn't a game plan it

was right Who am I I can't beat the guys

I'm not good enough so let's try and

beat the girls first

so look exactly yeah that's me that's

exactly what I did


I tried tried violate was able to do

that and then became on on that team

that's really good Springer and that's

how I positioned myself in your getting

better it was just these incremental

goals that that got you going

mm-hmm so we're talking about you

starting your swimming career around the

age of fifteen have been swimming kind

of throughout your childhood it sounds

like and then at the same time we have a

pretty serious incident in your

diagnosis at age twelve in this for our

audience the year was nineteen


I wanted to get your take not only on

your personal kind of gut reaction to

that news but also what was the opinion

of the medical field at that point of

time in 1958 on a life ahead with type 1

diabetes good question we lived in

Manchester New Hampshire at the time and

my nice my brother who was two years

younger than I had gotten the disease at

six years old and I got when I was 12 he

my parents had to live with it then so

that it was for me to get it was a shock

yes especially for my father because now

here's two people that my mother is

going to have to weigh our food which he

did constantly in grams and I subscribed

to the diets at the Joslin clinic where

I was I went and spent a week getting

getting adjusted initially and where I

would go back to every six months and

talk to dr. Priscilla white which was

one of the original doctors there

and and then I was also fortunate enough

to meet dr. Jocelyn himself and it was

quite a quite a learning experience now

how it impacted me what they thought of

in those days they did share with us I

truly thought that I would be okay but

I'd also heard the horror stories we

don't have a long life and you better

make the most of it and so that's what

again motivate motivated me once I go to

destroy me

it was it was the idea of hey hey take

it take a day at a time

and do the best you possibly can and you

will you will you'll survive so and it

turns out I did my brother did he died

at 43 and I was 45 at the time and he

died because of the disease so it was

unfortunate and but it happens and when

you abuse the when you abused the

disease like my brother unfortunately

did you you end up paying the

consequences and I still I still was

very active and he he wasn't as active

and wasn't as good with his was dietary

restrictions yeah I think it's a very

fine line we walk even the people that

are very active like yourself you know

all all it takes sometimes is is one

lapse in judgment whether it's with

insulin or something you eat that can

really put diabetics in a in a dangerous

situation you mentioned at the time that

you were following a diet prescribed by

Joslin do you recall what that diet

consisted well it changed throughout the

years but but no I really don't because


we both Wade and and use a measuring cup

to to decide how much of carbohydrates

for instance mashed potatoes

what kind of carbohydrate amount is that

quark upper half cup to meet the and

they tell you at it Jocelyn the

dietitian would tell you this is what it

means in the form of measurement since

we this is the way we count our our

intake of carbon carbohydrates weren't

even considered in those days it was all

caloric and weight and in a good mix of

protein protein carbohydrate and fat so

it you know I lost considerable amount

of weight when I first you're diagnosed

and I had a blood sugar of 500 plus but

my parents were quick to realize that

this is what was going on and so they

got me to the hospital

Wow and I loved what you said earlier

about the realization that sometimes or

at least at that point 1958 doctors

thought there's a risk you may have a

shorter life and you said that just

means I have to go and make the most of

it so going forward from that diagnosis

as an athlete as a competitor what was

the system of management you developed

and talk to us about the mindset that

you adopted it certainly sounded like

the diagnosis was almost a motivation to

encourage you to go and really pursue

swimming in athletics even more than you

had been before Sam it's it's odd but

what when you when you first start out

and you swim so much and you think okay

now am I like tired right now do I need

something to eat right now like sugar to

bolster myself well we didn't test with

blood sugar we tested with urine strips

and you're in strips told us as we know

today Zippo

so what

what I did was I made the mistake of

having a candy bar before during a meet

and not realizing that the candy bar

would probably raise my blood sugar call

me big calm I caused me to become more

lactic acid prom and and fail at

whatever I'm doing now the fact that I

was young and the fact that I was on a

DVI which is an old form of diabetes

diabetic control back then pill and I

was on two different dosages of that

pill a day so that means that my

pancreas was still producing some

insulin so I was able to to perform

better in those earlier years than I did

my later years and that's what kept me

to to really focus on that and realize

that it was a shape I was in it counted

not the fact that I needed something to


necessarily but that was a guessing game

oh really purely guess and I think

what's particularly fascinating about

your store in the timing of your stories

as athletes were so diabetic athletes

were so dialed into our blood sugar

because we understand how it impacts our

performance their sin for example today

you know I was I played college football

from 2014 to 2018 and I was acutely

aware of where my blood sugar was every

five minutes per reading from a CGM and

that I think of and to talk about your

accomplishments and what you were able

to do with you know the technology at

the time being those urine sticks it's

hard to fathom how you were able to do

that and just outside of that how far

the diabetes community has come in terms

of treatment all right

my head every day saying going what if I

had had this what could I have done

would I have what I have been the tenth

faster in 1964 to make the Olympic team

absolutely but I wasn't and I didn't and

that in the fact is that it be and this

will this will amuse you because you may

not even refer to this but would the

with the urine sticks in that they

didn't exist in 1958 what existed was

this oceans blue solution that my poor

mother had had to put in it in a what do

you call it a test tube on the stove

boil it and put four drops of urine in

in in one that was mine and four drops

that was my brothers in order to get the

get the blue blue solution to change

color and tell our tell our urine sugar

which which again didn't mean better

very much back then but that was the

only thing we had I yeah it's it's hard

and I imagine it'll be hard for our

younger listeners to just understand how

difficult that must have been in the

other thing too is so you take the time

to boil the solution or boil the water

and then you you drop in you know urine

sample and by that time your blood sugar

has probably already likely changed so

however a capsule in the first place its

compounded by the fact that you know

this was you know 15 20 half an hour has

passed since you took that sample so

again it's just crazy to think of how

far the treatments come but clearly

despite those things you where will that

carry on despite that burden and I

wanted to talk about you going to the

Williston's to Williston school and all

right just how miners

any that's a boarding school like a

boarding high school is that correct

that's correct it's a prep preparatory

school in East Hampton Massachusetts

yeah so my you know and I was talking to

my parents about this just how what was

the relationship like with your parents

and sending you to a place where they

were putting a lot of faith in you

to be independent in your management of

your diabetes that's another good

question I was at the time I was very

cognizant not as cognizant as I am today

be cognizant of of how how important

diet was and I was it was suggested to

us by the coach at Williams College that

we try williston because of the coach

and the reputation that the school had

and I had been swimming for two years

and I had gotten some notoriety by then

in New England and so I went ahead and

we went down we visited the coach and

the coach was a fairly analytical man

meant by the name of Babcock and and he

was actually the head of the business of

the school ran the run the business

section the money section of the school

and got me a job which nobody else had

this of working in the food area the

food preparatory area for the school so

that I could get the precise amounts of

food that I needed and the types of food

that I needed to stay away from the

sucker assured so that I could I could

you know in essence survive not get fat

and and not not and be prepared for

whatever the day would offer me and

that's where I really learned that the

type of

things like diet we were doing clintus

then and that's again urine sugar and we

still hadn't started with the blood


so it was it was the old butter dish and

inside the butter dish in the morning

was a glass syringe with a with a

stainless steel needle and pork insulin

and this Humalog none of this minute

mmmm this novalog it was all pork

insulin and it was just you know that

and that is you can look at that and say

hey that's improper - sure was but was

all we had

it's how you lived and that's what so

that's what went on they paid it Wilson

and then we worked out in the afternoon

and I typically worked out again right

after dinner and and went on to to do a

pretty good job at it wills to my junior

year Wow and just to clarify so that

that syringe the stainless steel syringe

was that I'm assuming it was not I'm

sorry what unis it was a stainless steel

stainless steel needle and a glass

syringe so that was that was not

disposable that was you're using using

that on a daily basis oh yeah Wow till

you couldn't handle the and and a pork

insulin would cause divots in your leg

and that's where we give ourselves a

shot mostly time so the Porkins is an

insulin because it was in so impugn your

legs when we started using for the

Humalog or the the no lock we were

better off because they because it was

less pure and it was going to give us a

better margin of safety poot because it

was a human Wow

this is I'm just genuinely shocked by

these these details and just how far

the treatments come and not only that

but how you endured those things so I I

introduced you prior to the our

conversation and talked a little bit

about some of the accomplishments and

records you were able to set but just to

recap your two years at Williston and

give our audience again an appreciation

of what you're able to do there despite

you know using pork insulin and you know

a strange in a stainless steel needle

from 63 to 65 you set ten national prep

Records twelve all-american recognitions

and six events voted twice the New

Hampshire athlete of the year competed

in the 64 Olympic Trials you appeared in

Sports Illustrated you were setting

American and World Records in addition

to being a captain on the Wilson team

but I did want to ask it also notes that

you competed in Wales Spain Portugal and

Monte Carlo talk what was that

experience like being able to travel at

that age boy it was interesting I made a

team as a result of that 1965 outdoor a

results I made a team that it traveled

all over Europe the the we were I was I

guess forth in 103 or 100 mega freak and

or third man omega-3 yeah

and then fourth in 100 and the 200 meter

free and that enabled me the first team

was the first two people they went to

the world student games one place we

went to all those different places so

the extravasated and I set the American

record for the hunt for the 4x4 40

freestyle relay and I set to 110 because

I let it off so and that was the

American American that I said there

Spain we we went to the ball and

Portugal was Lisbon and we had that we

had to get the starts found you know the

then starts

we're fine because they give you in

there cuttin in there in their language

put the take your mark and then bang and

so we into this day I remember 50 Sh and

and that's take your mark in take your

marks in in Portuguese Monte Carlo was

the height of the trip I'll tell you why

Monte Carlo I have a picture on my desk

and the picture is of Prince Albert who

is the current Prince of Monaco Monte

Carlo and and I have a picture of him

when he was six and he's in his speedo

and I'm in my speedo and we're in the

side we're in the palace and we're in

the side where the pool is we ate there

and we met Princess Grace and Prince

Rainier and it was and they gave us

these these nice fish on a platter

outside and and was huge huge utensils

and it was just a dream come true I mean

you can you you can ever have thought to

be on a trip where you met these people

who you'd seen in movies before and just

a marvelous time and we had it was very

great it just I really learned a lot

then learned a lot about going out to

learned a lot about how other people

live what fine countries are like what

we were invited in what in in Wales we

were invited to the the castle it be

said that the mayor lived in and we got

these I still had the very very original

and hand done invitations to each of the

swimmers on the team we had 23 stores I

think on the team and half of them women


man and just a neat neat time if you can

ever make a team like that and have some

of the travels that I've had both there

and in in Germany it's just it's more

than worthwhile it's it's absolutely

experiential learning like that is

absolutely the way learning should be I

mean it's just you're there you're

living it Wow that that sounds like an

adventure if I have ever heard one but

hum it's funny how oh you have never you

have heard some unit has the good

stories didn't and I'm not going to tell

you those but well I did want to ask you

know you're in Montecarlo you're in all

of these exotic places are you still

carrying around the you know the syringe

in your pocket there or what would how

were you able to manage your diabetes as

you're kind of traversing Europe okay I

had a stainless steel syringe shaped

gizmo that held that the syringe along

with the needle and in those days I'm

sorry in those days we started to have

disposable needles so here's one throw

it away so it was a lot easier and they

were wrapped up individually but the and

that there's a rubber top to that

stainless steel looking syringe looking

thin and I put alcohol in it so that's

how I kept it clean and then I had the

disposable wipes alcohol wipes that I

used to make certain that I was sterile

on my skin where I gave myself a shot so

that's kind of what went on in I'm

wondering that your blood sugar at this

time in addition to the shots no still

still was

for coming in hmm now it was it was

after school when I started using then

when it started when I started using a

butch bloodshirt real blood sugar taking

there was a long time he would be all of

the diabetics today I need to realize

that your predecessor has lived a very

very stark untechnical in technical

world and it once it started to develop

once the being I don't know I'm on the

mini of a pump what so many made people

started they were just going whole hog

and I think they were the first first

pump manufacturer but the person that

really developed the pump was a guy by

the name of with a guy in Manchester New

Hampshire who developed the first pump

which is the size of a woman's small

purse and and it was it was the same guy

that developed the Segway and so it it

in it took off a great deal and that was

in the 90s when he developed I started

the pump in the night so he developed

that and I think in the eighties Wow

so it pumps had not been wrong that long

really every day you know more and more

and especially in speaking with you I am

thankful for when I was born and when I

was diagnosed but um I talked a little

bit about this with Chris Freeman who

was on the last episode of the podcast

Chris's height of those of those of our

listeners that don't know a four-time

Olympic cross-country skier so a

particularly grueling sport he said he

was sort of able to develop a personal

system where he could discern feelings

of just general fatigue that everyone

feels versus low blood sugar when you

were abroad and in just in general

p-ting in not having accurate blood

sugar testing or CGM or anything even

remotely close to that were you able to

sort of distinguish between general

fatigue in legitimate low blood sugar

episode yes and and and here's why

before you compete adrenaline flows and

I was in Christmas was truly is truly a

great athlete an amazing athlete in that

he can he can keep going from four

kilometers and kilometers and flowers I

never did that the most I ever swam was

was 400 meters or 500 yards and I swam a

1650 once but I tell you what the ones

that got me most excited where the

adrenalin built up inside you that's

when you sugar goes out of control and

you your gut and I learned throughout

the years and with with particularly my

coach at North Carolina that that I can

control that in part by doing more work

actually during the meet so he had me

working out during a meet doing the 10

100 freestyle with 10 seconds rest

before my events so that might the the

adrenalin build-up was mitigated by that

work and I wouldn't get as excited with

it and it you build up the adrenaline

your blood sugar goes goes high your lap

tick acid you're prone then to quicker

lactic acid buildup and therefore you

get fatigued a lot easier in a race so I

was I just I learned that a little bit

when I was swimming in prep school but a

lot more when I was in college and

learning more about that you know how

you get how you can mitigate your your


the adrenaline and the lactic acid build

up by some work beforehand for instance

if I were if I were in a hundred meter

freestyle race and there were 400 meter

freestyle it was if there was a 400

meter freestyle race beforehand say a

half hour I'd go in that and the logical

of going that is to burn through is to

calm yourself down get yourself to the

point where you can you're able to to

sprint and swim your hydrometer race and

you have controlled your your adrenaline

flow and are able to do better at

100-meter race so it was I wasn't doing

tests I wasn't doing anything but

understanding my body to the point where

you can you can help to mitigate the

negative effects of higher sugar by by

working harder at the beginning it's so

interesting I love you know strategies

such as that one that are organic in

nature and can still bring down our

blood sugar and stabilize their blood

sugar without the use of artificial

drugs like insulin and I know Chris

talked earlier on the last podcast about

how pre-race he would he kind of

developed his own breathing technique

and that he could literally see as he's

breathing over the course of 5 to 10

minutes his blood sugar on his CGM go

from rising to plateauing to eventually

starting to come back down I just think

similar to your strategy that it's so

great to see we can do things to save

lies or blood sugar by just like you

said knowing our bodies yes no question

about that and it takes a lot of long

time to recognize it you're not like the

other person in the pool you have things

that can hold you back and you have

other things that can absolutely help

you in the form of regulating yourself

better and that's what I depended on

absolutely yeah that's that's a great

point too I really think sometimes in

athletics being a type 1 diabetic

obviously comes with challenges but at

the same time we're forced from the

point of our diagnosis to become much

more acquainted with our body and how it

functions everything from dealing with

adrenaline like we were just talking

about - all right what specifically am I

putting in my body to fuel it and how

does my body respond to those different

nutrients so I think in some ways

dealing with type 1 diabetes can almost

be a blessing in disguise in for

diabetic athletes there is absolutely no

question about that because you have to

learn more about who you are and how

your body reacts and if you can do that

you can control it there absolutely I

wanted to talk about so we've talked

about some of the success at Williston

some of the highs in now I want to come

to what I was what I would you know

assume was a massive learning experience

for you I wanted to talk about the

Olympic Trials where you came up a tenth

of a second short of qualifying for a

trip to the Olympics obviously you've

overcome a lot of adversity throughout

your life but how were you able to

internalize this experience learn from

it and bounce back okay I was 17 years

old and I was a was in between my junior

year it Willis and we were at the story

of pool in New York City for the Olympic

Trials and every every every every hot

sore in the United States was there and

I was showing the 100 200 and 400 meter

free cells the hundred was sherilee is a

fairly quick race you down back

and the 200 is the one that I did I

missed by a tenth now the interesting

part was a fella by the name of Mike

wall and I were in the trials together

in that event and I beat him by a tenth

of a second in the trials so he and I

went to the files and he was in lane two

and I was in Lane six so we didn't see

each other like we did in the in the

heat so I went out and did that did the

my previous strategy was was to which is

typically to go out fast and come back

as hard as I can on the second hundred

and and he beat me in the trial and the

files by tenth or second and he went to

the Olympics and got a gold medal in the

four by two hundred relay obviously I

didn't go now what did I think of that

well I'm a fairly positive guy so I

thought well I guess I have four more

years I'm going to be my peak I'm ready

I'll make the 68 and go to Mexico well

it was I didn't make a 68 I got sick I

had the best summer of my life

in the water but I got sick from

overwork and ended up in the inter

school in University North Carolina's

hospital and was was recovering from

that while they did the trials in Long

Beach California but it really didn't it

didn't affect me at 17 as much as it did

by not even making the trip at 21

because I was I was I thought I was in

better shape even at 21 so looking back

now what was what is your takeaway from

that experience what can you say you

learned as a as a result

by not making the team yeah bye-bye

coming up short in the 64 trials I

didn't tell ya you know it was like a

any other meet you you want some and

sometimes you didn't fit and it you I

think my parents and my grandparents and

and my aunt who all attended the meet

were were more devastated than I was but

I figured four more years man I'm going

to be I'm going to be ready so look I

was look out world here I come

yep that's a long way you can do it so

you mentioned UNC in moving on to your

college years what was what was the

college experience like after such a a

unique time at Williston well let's stop

let's call a spade a spade here I had

the best three years of my life showing

when I was a junior Wilson and senior

Wilson a freshman at Chapel Hill

now why whether the best three years of

my life

we can't I came into Chapel Hill as a

freshman we had 28 all-american swimmers

all-american high school swimmers we

came in with my with my freshman class

and those days freshmen didn't swim on

the varsity team we we did the swim

meets with Michigan State that would

call Telegraph meets where we we'd swim

in our pool mates woman there's and we

Telegraph the times and the winner was

the winner and we won we we set tons of

most school records and and several US

records for freshmen because of the

depth of talent that was a positive sign

the negative side was is the fact that

there was so much competition a lot of

these 28 guys were

the big fish in their pools back in high

school and now we're all of a sudden not

big fish at all and discourage them so

buy this by our sophomore year we lost

some of them and and it even even by our

junior year we lost more so it was it

was something that that I'll never

forget it was in when I say that did the

freshman year was probably a peak of my

career I'm not saying that my that my

sophomore junior and senior years were

any less of a peak because I didn't go I

didn't fall off and my swimming the

times but he didn't improve and one of

the reasons I didn't improve is because

I think I didn't get a real good handle

on on all of this adrenaline build-up

until later maybe nice maybe my junior

year when I could control it a little

bit better before he took so much time

of learning and took it away from my

ability to improve so and had it been

and I had a continuous glucose monitor I

would have been able to control that one

heck learnt better but they didn't have

those back then they didn't have the

blood blood tests back then so except

when you went to the doctor was the the

process of under strand understanding

the adrenaline spike and then dealing

with it was that more a personal process

or was that something you did with the

team with team trainers or with personal

doctors what was the support network

like for you during that process what

well it consisted of a physiologist by

the name of dr. patty Rhee who was a our

coach and and we didn't really have

trainers back then we had we might have

had a few athletic trainers that help us

in offseason work but that was about all

and he understood the physiology of the


I don't he didn't explain it to me but

that's one of the reasons in in the ACC

Championships he made meet 110 100

before any big event because he knew

that would mitigate or ease some of the

stresses like the adrenaline was putting

on me and would make it so that I could

swim better times and I did but it that

that is something that came later in my

in my college career you know I was

better than halfway through and and it

just it's that's the way it goes and you

need a big meat like a NCAA Championship

so we went did we go to every year you

just you can't do that because the pool

is not big enough it's usually simple

bait laying 25-yard pool and the lanes

are available for the particular event

right then and they aren't available for

a person to be showing like like Pat one

way to swim so that's kind of the way it

went did you try to transition when that

pool space wasn't available to a

different method of controlling the

adrenaline perhaps you know breathing

we're dying well was on the diving well

was often open at that point in time so

if you use a diving oil for or swimming

down or you know after you've raced it

was Igor even before you race because

there's a lot of time between races so

you could use that but it wasn't it

wasn't nearly as nearly as is as

efficient as using the regular pool

doing prescribed amount and having a

watch on onion and that's what my coach

used to do would you know nowadays the

pools are so advanced that there's

always another pool in the in it on the

on the campus is you use foot through

that's works man hmm

so we've talked a lot

about different career accomplishments

but I wanted to get your take on what

you felt was the accomplishment or

perhaps the record or relay team even

that you were most proud to be a part of

her to be associated with well I'm very

proud of the fact that I was on world

record-breaking for by 110 yard

freestyle relay team that was guys from

USC Villanova UC Berkeley and myself and

and we we got together as a result of

how well we did in the in our national

sodor nationals and in Wales we swam

this event and did that and in 1965 I

had the best I was made the best world

times list and was ranked fifth in the

world in the hundred layer freestyle and

six in the world and the 200-meter

freestyle and I I I could these were

events it well these two events took

place in in in Maumee Ohio where outside

of Toledo

when we had our our dual 55 Outdoor

Championships in a 50 meter pool and

this and and the other people that made

this ranking fit at all over the world

so being able to be with the felt people

that individuals that helped them set or

set these individual times and then you

are being among them is just I mean I

look at that as okay that's got to be a

peak that's got to be a it's going to be

something that I'll never forget I never

have in your mind I it's funny my

background has been and is I played a

lot of sports growing up but it was

always football and

college football was really where I kind

of find found my you know athletic

passion that was a sport for me and I've

always kind of viewed swimming as an

individual sport you have a preference

on the events that you look back on I

know you just mentioned the relay team

but did you prefer to compete as part of

a group like that and how did that

compare to competing as an individual

well Sam I always did always did better

as a relay participant and it's odd but

when you're dependent on three other

people and you're on the relay to you

all you don't let them down because

you're there for a reason you're there

to win and or a place as high as you can

and and this I've been in many

circumstances where I've swum a split

time and immediately it was it was a

start it was enabled by by getting off

of the block you know fairly fluid

motion before the Union had to go buy a

gun you went by the guys hand it was

hitting in front of you and it was on

your team that was a previous

predecessor swimmer and I always was

psyched for those sort of events but

that doesn't take away from the

excitement I got from from really

getting out there and swimming

individual event as well all of them got

me going in it got me verbally going and

and physically going because I remember

one time very clearly I went up to my

high school I mean like my Williston

team members in in the New England prep

championships and and they were the last

event and for us to us to be able to to

place first in the New England's we had

to win the event it was not our number

one team we had already suami our

individual events and we all had a look

we had a limit of two but then she could

swim this was a team that had swum

before and was good but they weren't on

our vest so I went up to them before

they took off and I said them fellas

I've got faith in you so you know that

you can win this you know that that

there's nobody in this pool it's going

to beat you and they won and to this day

I get people from that team coming up to

me and saying I'm so glad you said that

good god I was psyched and we just we

blow them away and that was part of the

fun to the coaching aspect of psyching

out the aspect of getting people to do

things maybe they had never done before

but we were able to listen to somebody

other than their coach and and really

get enabled by more stories I mean

that's yeah that's really at the core of

what athletics and competitive sports is

all about is like you mentioned pushing

people beyond what they thought was

possible and you know you have that

underdog team just shocked everybody

that's amen on that so again I wanted to

revisit this idea

you've mentioned you're on an insulin

pump now and you're checking your blood

sugar multiple times a day what what

sort of emotions do you have looking

back on what you're able to do given the

limitations of diabetes treatment at

your time during your swimming career is

it is it bittersweet in some ways I

certainly think there would be a fair

deal of pride there and in saying you

know look at what I was able to do

despite having to use pork insulin

despite having to use urine sticks

despite having to use what we would now

consider you know certainly outdated

diabetes treatment what are some of the


that's a good one uh first of all I'm

not I'm not upset at all about what I

wasn't able to do I was able to

accomplish during the time I was

shilling and I was the only diabetic I

knew it swimming in the country at the


it in my level and I accomplished a

great many things and I shared this

spreadsheet that I gave to you with my

wife and she look good she said wow you

accomplished so much and I said well I

we're talking if it is no there's no

doubt about that and there was certainly

some some some natural ability on my

part to to do something there versus

versus play foot playing football or

basketball and a jar thing and and and

she understood that but she's here on

one page she said I just I still can't

believe you were able to do that I said

well you know it took a lot of time I

mean from 58 to 240 when I was in 1958

when I was 44 and that would have been

12 to 24 it would have been 32 years I

swam and and like 20 different age

groups and I experienced the highs and

the lows and I and that was okay you

learn to live with that it's a matter of

don't compare yourself today with what

you were 20 years ago it's impossible

prepare yourself with what you believe

you can do today and a lot of people

have tried different events and they get

away from comparing themselves because

they're trying something totally

different and that's fine too

the fact is your exercise you're feeling

good about and

that's what you should be doing focusing

on that on that level on that level on

that bed plot process well that is some

powerful powerful insight and powerful

advice I love what you said about why

compare yourself to the person you were

20 years ago it's it's in the past and

be detrimental to what you're trying to

become going forward I think and that's

who would agree with this it's a daily

process of getting better and trying to

be your best self that's who we're so if

I were to I'll go ahead well if I were

to say one thing to the to the current

people who are trying to manage their

diabetes learn to manage it don't learn

don't look at your diabetes it's

something that's going to keep you back

look at it as an opportunity for you to

improve in the manner in which you are

seeming look for look for ways you can

do better on a day to day basis well

from a needy perspective from an

Exercise perspective and from the

testing and insulin intake perspective

it's always room for improvement and and

by knowing that and by practicing it

you're going to live longer and you're

going to be happier because you will

have achieve those little picks if

there's little pixel improvement every

day and learn how your body's going to

react and that's important for you I

think the other thing that comes with

learning to manage your diabetes and

opportunity is that if you do a good

enough job of it you have a chance to be

a massive inspiration to countless other

diabetics and to counter people with

other chronic illnesses with other

adversities in their life because

they're looking at you and saying

they're not letting this disease this

roadblock get in their way so I couldn't

agree more

with what you said and that was actually

my next question so you answered it

perfectly oh good but yeah

Jim Edwards thank you so much for coming

on the show I appreciate it this was one

of the more fascinating conversations

that I think I've ever had with a fellow

diabetic thank you Sam

and my name is Jim ed which I had type 1

diabetes and I have a game plan my

French we hope you enjoyed this episode

of the game plan to you in d-pod cast

for related content please visit

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

episode of the game plan to you indie

podcast for related content please visit

Brandon Denson Show Notes

0:22 / 57:30

The Game Plan T1D Podcast: Episode 1 - Brandon Denson



Sam Benger

Published on Jul 22, 2018



Join us for the first episode of the Game Plan T1D Podcast. Host Sam Benger sits down with Brandon Denson, Michigan State linebacker, Canadian Football League player, American Ninja Warrior contestant, current JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) employee, Type One Diabetic, and all around awesome dude! Listen in to hear Brandon's inspiring story and his tips for managing his Type One Diabetes.




Add a public comment...


the best analogy I can give for you Sam

and you you could probably relate to

this it's kind of like you get that uh

that stretch play from running back that

tackle doesn't quite get the edge and

you gotta cut it back a lot sooner than

you thought you're gonna have to it's

just one of those things with the

diabetes I just I looked at it as if it

was my ball and I just took it around

with it welcome to game plan to und


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 ante windy calm or

follow us on social media at gameplan


this episode of the gameplan t1d podcast

features t1d all-star brandon Denson

brandon grew up playing many sports

before settling on football Brandon went

on to play at Michigan State where his

standout career propelled him to the

professional level Brandon had a short

stint with the Carolina Panthers before

moving on to the CFL in addition to

football Brandon was a competitor on the

hit TV show American Ninja Warrior

outside of athletics Brandon currently

works as an outreach manager for the New

England chapter of JDRF the Juvenile

Diabetes Research Foundation listening

at the end of the episode as Brandon

discusses JDRF's mission and

opportunities to get involved during his

podcast Brandon and I discussed football

utilizing support networks engaging the

younger t1d community and bouncing back

from university for such a successful

athlete I was most impressed by

Brandon's positivity and how humble he

was please enjoy my conversation with

Brandon Denson welcome to the game plan

to und podcast this is your host Sam

bender we're sitting down for our first

ever episode with Brandon Denson Brandon

welcome to the show

thanks for having me Sam I appreciate it

before we get into the question of who

is Brandon dense and we want to ask you

if you could imagine you had a million

square foot billboard that all diabetics

their families could see what was your

message be to that community and why

that's a pretty tough question that's

why we're here we're trying to answer

the tough questions um I probably

honestly would say or the Billboard

would say who's gonna stop me and I say

that because it can be relatable the t1d

type one diabetes are can be relatable

to anything that you're going through or

in life but I think it hits home with me

because in everybody living with t1d

because we have these barriers that

sometimes get in our way and it's just

another another saying that I think this

makes perfect sense it's who's gonna

stop me so it sounds like for you that's

almost like a personal credo that you

kind of live by let's talk a little bit

about you growing up you grew up in

Michigan correct correct when was it

that you kind of started to develop this

passion for athletics and when was it

that you kind of adopted that mindset of

you know nothing's gonna get in my way

because you know we'll talk about your

track record later on but you've got

some serious accomplishments on the

athletic front how did those things sort

of come to pass when did you start to

realize these passions um I think Sports

is just it's very universal I think

growing up seeing my father played

softball and always being around like

his buddies and at the games and you

know thought playing catch with him and

his friends and my older brother which

is who's five years older than me I'm

just kind of being around I will say

essentially competition so bent being

younger I always had to kind of prove

myself to either kind of fit in or gain

the respect like oh man this kid can

really play you know so I really got

involved with organized sports with

baseball first that was kind of like my

true love a lot of people don't know

that but baseball just came very natural

to me and I end up playing basketball

football and also ran track but for some

reason I just love football

early on I think watching Barry Sanders

it just it took foot BOTS a whole nother

level because the things that he was

able to do

was just so amazing that was like one of

my favorite players growing up to watch

him you know being living close to

Detroit and having the opportunity to

actually go see him playing a person you

know with my father and with my brother

and my family I think was just uh it was

just so amazing so I think I really

think from the first time me seeing him

play like live at the Silverdome the

Pontiac Silverdome which is no longer up

I think that really just that that that

gave me that extra Drive like I wanted

to be like Barry that's awesome I

totally get that I was a running back

myself and Barry did some crazy things

that I unfortunately wasn't able to see

live but no he's an absolute stud but

tell me so you're a defensive VI yeah so

tell me you couldn't necessarily model

your game after Barry was there a guy on

the defensive side of the ball that you

kind of tried to aspire to be like um

well I didn't make the transition to uh

to playing defense officially until my

junior year of college so that was my

first time playing defense so up until

that point you know I I was always on

the offensive side of the ball but when

I started playing defense some of the

people that I looked at were Ray Lewis

obviously from playing linebacker he was

he was probably pretty much one of one

of the main people that I kind of tried

to look at just because his role on the

field his intensity the way he he took

every play so serious like he never took

a playoff and I think that was

throughout the whole course of his

career that's what I got from anytime

you see him play even when I play

offense you still knew who related who

Ray Lewis was because he was just a

Smash Mouth football player and he

always brought this high energy and high

intensity and I think whatever side of

the ball you are even if you're a coach

I mean he will he'll get you amped up

and if he doesn't then you don't need to

be playing football no it's funny I

actually there was a certain Ray Lewis

video with like Eric Thomas talking over

it I think it's called like beast or

something you guys can try to find it on

YouTube but I would listen to that

for every game and it would get me so

jacked up I think there was one play

where he legitimately tore his tricep

off of his arm bone yes and you know

he's telling his teammates he's like I

heard a pop and they're like you're good

right he's like yeah no I'm good and the

trainer is like no you are not good like

you just ripped your muscle in half and

he's like no I gotta get back in there

and play with my guys so he is an

absolute beast but no that's interesting

I did not know that you transitioned to

defense during college because I mean

you know being an offensive guy pretty

much my whole career I played two ways

in high school but you know at the

college level trying to run down on even

kickoff and cover a guy this is pretty

pretty challenging so tell me a little

bit about your experience on the

offensive side and what that transition

looked like um so I actually had the

opportunity to walk on at Michigan State

University in 2005 I was a preferred

walk-on and I played wide receiver my

true freshman year under the coach named

John L Smith after that after he was let


Mark Dantonio the head coach now came in

and I made a transition to running back

and when I made the transition at

running back we were stacked we had man

so much talent Javon ringer Ju cotry AJ

Jameson David Spears Andre Buford Ashton

Leggett Andre Anderson these are all

scholarship guys and you know that I

mean let's be honest collegiate sports

it's a competition you know you know the

best eleven on the field and you know I

not that I didn't have hope or faith or

believed in myself to play the position

I just know I want to get on the field

quicker and I was willing to do anything

that it took to get on the field other

than just running down on kickoff and

being on kick return and punt return and

punt you know so I wanted to add another

role to my position by actually playing

a position on the field so Marc Dantonio

asked me one day at practice he said hey

come here at Denson he said what you

think about playing deep

I said coach I just want to play other

than special teams he told me to come

out on Thursday in the white jersey

offense was in green we weren't white he

said I'm a lot about safety and I

remember like it was yesterday I was uh

he was coaching me up and then he threw

me in there and I got a pig my first my

first time getting in there at safety

and I did exactly what he told what he

told me to do say you did you have to

stay deep and I seen this dig and I've

been on it and I probably said that but

I picked it you know to me so it was

like it was kind of cool to see like I

got coached up that fast and you know I

used my athletic ability and then also

what my coaches were telling me and you

know I was able to make a play I'm kind

of embarrassed to tell you what happened

after that I know it was a pick six but

I didn't tuck the ball I thought I was

Deion Sanders and let's just say I got

kicked out of practice but it was the

end of practice so it was okay but yeah

my coach was pretty upset because I

played running back and we you know at

Michigan State ball security is

everything defense we get the ball off

of us we keep the ball so you know it

but it was it was cool so it was all fun

and jokes and he gave me a hug out there

after practice and you know just kind of

kind of told me his gave me his to sing

song you know with what he thought about


running in the endzone like I was the as

football player situations where you get

the ball and it's one of those

situations where you didn't think you

were gonna get the ball and you're just

like oh my god start doing things that

you don't usually do but so you talked a

little bit about the competition within

the team fighting for a role and anyone

who's played a sport understands that

there's there's competition against

other team for them there's also

competition within the team to kind of

establish yourself at the same time that

you're fighting that battle there's a

diagnosis that happens so walk me

through you know what that process was

like and how you were able to balance

that with what at the d1 level is

essentially a full-time job being a

football player at Michigan State

correct so for me I was diagnosed when I

was 17 years old and I was going into my

senior year of high school and you know

as as any senior that

doesn't have everything lined up far as

what University they're going to or you

know whatever they're gonna do after

they graduate you know I was kind of the

type one diabetes being diagnosed with

type 1 diabetes kind of added you know

more on to my plate I was coming off of

a knee surgery I was trying to get ready

for my senior year because I knew it was

a it was gonna be a big year for me and

you know I had to go out there perform

so I had to be mentally and physically

ready I just remember telling my mother

that I was urinating a lot and you know

kind of from there that's when

everything really started and she told

me if you continue to let her know the

next day and I did after practice I

think I used the bathroom like 15 times

within 20 minutes and it was kind of

crazy so I ended up calling her and she

she told me drive home I drove home she

took me she took me to my primary care

physician after that they checked my

urine for ketones I had no clue what

ketones meant that at that time the

doctor told her that she needed to take

me to the the erm ER immediately so she

drove me to the University of Michigan

unfortunately the University of Michigan

so she took me there they already had a

room ready for me when I got there and

soon as I got there to end up giving me

a shot and that's kind of really hot

everything really really unfolded from

from that moment on and I remember after

the nurse gave me a shot which I hate

shots at that time I hated shots my mom

ended up stepping out in the hallway

with the doctor and the doctor ended up

telling my mother that I had type 1

diabetes so when she came into the room

I didn't know I didn't know anything

about it and I just see my mom bawling

crying and I didn't know I didn't know

what to do so I just hopped off the bed

I just gave her a big hug and I said mom

I'm gonna be ok I said we're gonna be ok

and you know I made a promise or and I'm

a man of my word so like I'm living true

to that and you know every day you know

it is tough I'd be lying if I said

dealing with this disease isn't tough

but you know it could always be worse

than what it is I think one of the

biggest distinctions for at least when

it comes to diagnosis is when

happens so for me my personal background

as I was diagnosed when I was five so I

grew up with type 1 diabetes and all of

the constraints that come with that from

a dietary standpoint from you know never

going anywhere without fast-acting

glucose all of those kind of

prerequisite lifestyle things but you

know when this is happening to you at an

older age as you're about to go into

college when you've had habits and you

know certain parts of your lifestyle

have become kind of more solidified how

how are you able to you know take that

diagnosis information and then pretty

much adjust your entire you know a large

portion of your life to fit the demands

of this disease it's uh the best analogy

I can give for you Sam and you you could

probably relate to this it's kind of

like you get that uh that stretch play

from running back that tackle doesn't

quite get the edge and you got to cut it

back a lot sooner than you thought

you're gonna have to it's just one of

those things with the diabetes I just I

looked at it as if it was my ball and I

just took it around with it I knew I was

getting ready to go to college even

though my mom I love her to death it was

something that I had to kind of man up

on my own because she wasn't gonna be

there with me so with me knowing that I

knew I just took for responsibility

because at the end of the day it wasn't

gonna be my mother giving me my shot it

wasn't gonna be my mother checking my

blood sugar it wasn't gonna be my mother

waking me up to to make sure I'm okay

before class these were things that I

knew that I was gonna have to do so I

just had to step up and you know at the

end of the day it wasn't gonna affect

her I mean it could if I wasn't taking

care of myself but ultimately it was

gonna I was I was gonna be the one that

was affected if I wasn't taking care of


it wasn't gonna if I didn't take care of

her I wasn't gonna be able to play

football I wasn't gonna be able to hang

out with my friends I was gonna be able

to do those things that I enjoy doing so

I always felt that long as I long as I'm

proactively doing the things necessary

to take care of my diabetes and I'll be

fine and you know I'm here with you

talking to you now and you know nothing

has changed from

when I was first diagnosed to where I'm

at now you know it's still it's still a

heavy burden but I know that I'm the one

that's in control and ultimately I have

to take care of my diabetes would you

have handled the diagnosis news as well

if you weren't an athlete do you think I

think so I definitely think so because

I've always been the type of person

regardless of what it is being told no

or you can't do this or this and that

I've always been one to maybe kind of go

against the grain a little bit I it's

almost like I want you to say that I

can't do something so when I was

diagnosed with type 1 diabetes I know

you can't play football and it's like

why can't I oh you can't eat that why

Cannot you know that I mean it's one of

those things like like why cannot so I

mean when you look at fool yeah at the

end of the day we all need to eat

certain things in moderation you know

but the fact that I have great devices

to deliver me insulin I have great

devices to look at my blood sugar on a

consistent basis throughout the course

of the day without having to check if I

don't need to that you know though those

things kind of play a huge role but no I

don't think it would have changed

anything I think you know I'm I'm a very

optimistic person and I'm very positive

and at the end of the day I feel like I

can conquer anything how was the support

network you had at Michigan State I know

for me the trainers and our coaches and

even my teammates were some of the

frontline most important people in terms

of managing my diabetes and as much as

they would you know give me a hard time

for giving myself an injection in the

locker room and being like oh man this

guy's doing some steroids in it at

halftime but tell me what that support

network is like because I know you know

in a diabetics life and really anyone

with a chronic illness there's so many

different role players from doctors to

family to friends to teammates you know

what was how were you able to rely on

those people to kind of help you out um

I definitely started start off with my

with my suitemates from my dorm freshman

year well one of them was like a brother

to me and I didn't have a roommate so he

spent a majority of his time

my room like it was his room for

whatever reason but it's fine my buddy

may will you make Elroy my support

system was really good and I think I

would say from a high school standpoint

when I was first diagnosed my trainers

were on top everything as much as they

could be you know it was new to me it

was new to them so you know there was a

lot of precautions taken but I would say

at the collegiate level I mean I we just

we had great trainers Jeff Monroe Sally

no Golu like those ladies and gentlemen

eight I mean even even the RGA s like

they just they were they were on top of

it if there was an issue or I was having

an issue I could let them know and and

we could get it taken care of I do

remember one time I think I probably had

a at the time I didn't know I was low

but when I look back on it now I

realized I was and I was very irritated

during a winter morning workout at like

4:30 in the morning and I like I

literally just depleted myself of all

the guys I literally had in my body and

I just could not I could I couldn't I

just couldn't go anymore I mean I drink

I just drink a whole bottle of Gatorade

and you know I'm not telling you

anything you don't know the winter

workouts are are pretty intense I can

honestly say for us they work but you

know it's just one of those things like

I didn't feel defeated because I knew I

was giving it my all at the end of the

day but like the support system was

amazing from my friends to my teammates

to my trainers I mean to my family back

at home I mean my mom you know she

checks on me almost every other day if

not every day you know so the support

has never been a lack of support and

also you know going to see the

endocrinologist at Sparrow which is in

East Lansing and then also University of

Michigan when I used to come back home I

would see any kind endocrinologist there

so you know as always it's all the

support system has always been very

very very good do you think and I know

this is speaking from you know my

personal experience but do you think

there is a process of having to try to

open up and to let those people help you

I think for me when I came in as a

freshman I was like you know this is

something that I take care of on my own

like you guys don't understand it

you know if I'm higher low during a game

I know how to fix it just let me handle


and then you know going into my senior

year I remember our first game after we

were in st. Louis after the game I were

walking to the bus and I almost passed

out and it really took me you know a

quarter of the way into my senior year I

think to fully open up and say all right

I need to leverage this network of

people they know what they're doing they

want to help me but I think for whatever

reason maybe it's you know we grow up

and we feel like we have to be

independent I think you in control of

the entire process of our diabetes

treatment that we kind of pushed these

people out without meaning to do so so

what did you feel like you kind of went

through that process I would I would

definitely say in the very beginning

when I was first diagnosed to high

school I kind of was I don't want to use

the word guard it but I was I kind of

like you said I kind of just felt like

it was just me that I needed to deal

with and not anybody else you know and I

think that's just maybe how we raised it

could be a toughness thing or it could

be like I got this or you know confident

with it but one thing I will say a lot

of my friends just act like oh what's

that's for what's that for like I'm

taking a shower or I'm drawing up

drawing up the insulin from from the

vial or I'm checking my blood sugar or

I'm popping some gummies for a snack to

bring my blood sugar up but what I

realized is they weren't accident cuz

they were trying to be nosy they were

accident because they weren't they cared

and they wanted to help so as I set as

the 17 year old Brandon in the Brandon

now obviously there's a big difference

and I think from me making that

transition from high school to college I

realize like I'm not trying to hide

anything but at the end of the day the

people that are closest to me they need

to know what's going on just in case

something was to happen you know so

early stages yes I will say when I was


diagnose it was kinda like I I kind of

want to just deal with it on my own but

I realized my network of people that

were asking what was what they just they

they just genuinely cared and want to

make sure that I was okay so switching

gears a little bit

sports enables us and empowers us with

kind of a unique platform to reach out

to people and to try to be an

inspiration to you know all people

especially those with type 1 diabetes

like us we were talking a little bit

before the show about a connection you

had with a fellow type 1 diabetic tell

us a little bit about that story and

what that looked like

definitely hey Bob god bless his family

as him and his family and their it

they're just they're just awesome his

mom is Jackie Bob ney Bob he just

graduated from Michigan State University

with the nursing degree just that he

ended up writing me a letter I believe

my sophomore year at Michigan State and

it actually made me realize what type of

platform that I was on to actually speak

about my diabetes and to be honest if he

never reached out to me I can't say that

you would be listening to this now for

the simple fact he got me involved with

JDRF and it's probably been one of the

best things that I think I've ever been

able to do and be a part of and that the

letter I mean it just speaks for itself

the fact that he was 13 at the time he

was a type 1 diabetic he had never

missed a game at Spartan Stadium like

he's a die-hard fan and you know he

wrote something in the in the letter

very specific that I saved a touchdown

on kickoff and you know and like it's

like that whole letters just stuck in my

head and at the bottom and said please

be Ohio State next week and I'm just

like I mean this is coming from a 13

year old kid that has diabetes and you

just understand you understand

everything he's just younger than you

but like he gets it he understands and

you know for him to reach out and have

the courage to write me the letter I

think that shows a lot about him as a


after I got the chance to meet him and

he had came to a Michigan State High

School camp summer camp and man I just

got to see him excel and I'm like wow

like he has the same thing I have and

he's out there like doing this thing and

I remember I just got out of class and I

want to hurry up and get over there

before it before lunch for they broke

for lunch and soon as I literally walk

to the outside to our outside facility

he had just got a pic and took it to the

crib and I was just like this is crazy

he had his insulin pump on and

everything and it was just like it was

just amazing feeling to see people doing

the same thing that you do and they're

so passionate about it you know so like

he he definitely holds a special part of

my heart his family holds a special part

of my heart that was like my family I

was like my home away from home they

always took care of me took care of me

made sure I was good I had everything if

I ever needed any diabetic supplies or

if I ever needed help with anything like

they were always there like they're

there the true definition of a true

family true family that's awesome I

think there's so much you know power

juice energy whatever you want to call

it in the diabetic community and it's

when it's only when you make these

connections and these links in these

relationships that you can kind of like

unleash some of that power I got to give

a shout out to I had a similar

relationship with a kid Jack Harbin he's

a young man from Pennsylvania who you

know his family reached out to me after

my sophomore year and we started

corresponding and eventually he was able

to come down to one of our games against

one of our big rivals and it's funny

these younger people with t1d they reach

out to you and you know they talk about

how you're such an inspiration but I

think and I think you could probably

attest to this too you know it's I think

we end up getting so much more out of

those those connections and those

correspondence with those younger people

because you know they're doing these big

things but that's such a younger age and

it's it's just such an inspiration to

see these young people just absolutely

thriving it make it just awesome it

makes you feel it makes you feel good

deep down because it's like I've been

able to

accomplishes accomplish whatever I

wanted to accomplish but then you see

younger people accomplishing the same

thing at such a high level as well and

you you understand where they're where

their head is like I can't be stopped

and you love saying that ya know it's I

think that's one of the more special

parts about being a type 1 diabetic and

being part of this community obviously

there's so much toughness and challenges

that come with this disease but at the

same time you're part of a really unique

tight-knit community let's switch gears

again you were on American Ninja Warrior

you are a ninja in addition to your

football exploits and Brandon as we

touched on made it to the CFL but we'll

dive into that a little bit later I want

to hear about your ninja days so the the

ninja days I think you're not human if

you don't like American Ninja Warrior

because if you don't I really don't know

what to say to you but I think growing

up once an American Ninja Warrior and

seeing where it's at now it's like night

and day literally and when I used to run

the course they used to run through the

day and now they start at a desk and run

to dawn it was a cool unique experience

if you can ever if you can never get the

opportunity to either submit a tape and

get on the show I'd suggest you do it I

believe they're doing like T ninja

warriors now so you can be under 18

which is kind of cool because I think it

gives the teenagers a platform to

actually go out there and compete and

have some fun like the adults but you

know having have an opportunity to run

and my human circle in Indianapolis was

was absolutely amazing it was about a

hundred and fifty participants out there

other than 150 I would probably say I

was probably probably one of the

heaviest ones that was out there along

with a couple other big fellas but that

was pretty much it so like being able to

kind of showcase athleticism ability

strength quickness all that type of


I think the guitar Bertoni from American

Ninja Warrior was very very huge and I

I'm very thankful for having average

do that but I think my main reason for

doing it is I wanted to show people with

that no matter what size you are no

matter what color you are no matter what

disease you have no matter what

obstacles you face we all face different

obstacles in life and obviously anybody

that seen the course or knows about

American Ninja Warrior

none of the obstacles are the same and

they change them every year and they

change them every course and that's kind

of like having diabetes nothing nothing

is ever the same

one day my blood sugar could be

completely perfect the next day it could

be it could be low the next day it could

be high or it could be high for a week

it could be low for a week you know so

it's just about facing adversity in

different obstacles and different

challenges and you know I I'm glad I had

the opportunity to do it and I kind of

would like to do it again or maybe put a

team on D team together and get out

there and hit the course yeah I was

doing some research before the show and

I'm looking up Brandon dents in American

Ninja Warrior and there's this picture

of you on the starting mat and you've

got Dexcom g5 and you're looking like

part bionic what was the feedback like

from some of the other competitors were

they asking about hey what are those

like her are those like giving you

special that those conversations like a

lot of them obviously I mean I didn't

take my shirt off inside she was about

to step up onto the stage to actually

run the course but after a lot of people

didn't know I was a diabetic so you know

it's one of those things you know then

you don't know like if you just walked

up to me you didn't know anything about

me you wouldn't know that I had diabetes

and it's not like I'm trying to hide it

or anything like that but my main reason

for taking off they're taking off my

shirt was to show people one that have

diabetes they know but their parents and

kids you can do whatever it is that you

want to do in life you know no no

setbacks no barriers nothing and you

know if you feel like you can do

something then at the end of the day you

owe it to yourself to try it you know

what I mean

think sometimes we get so so guarded and

sell ourselves short because we we think

that we can't do this or we don't know

how to do this I think that the best way

to figure out how to do something or see

if you know how to do it or don't know

how to do it is just to do it you know

and I think that you know with that you

can do anything so continuing on that

that trend of doing anything what was

the process like for you as you were

coming to the end of your college

playing days and thinking about trying

to pursue football at the next level a

goal of mine was really to just play

collegiate football but I think after my

first time actually playing in a game

running down on kickoff and making a

tackle in my head I said this is easy I

said like I think I want to try to do

something with this and I remember like

it was yesterday running down on kickoff

we were playing Illinois at Michigan

State and in Spartan Stadium and I made

a solo tackle one thing about kick-off

for me my head is on a swivel and I'm

and I'm zooming down I'm soon like I'm

assuming that I'm trying to be the first

one down every single time and it's just

uh it was pretty pretty pretty pretty

cool to be you know just thrown thrown

in there and and getting after it but I

think after I made that first tackle I

was like I think I think I want to try

to try to pursue this and go to them go

to the next level I never really had

dreams on being drafted even after

playing at Michigan State I didn't think

that I was gonna get drafted but I knew

at the very least that I will probably

get a shot maybe with an NFL team as a

free agent or you know get brought in to

Ricky minicamp and things like that

and you know a little adversity kicked

in you know I was uh I let our team and

special teams heck was my junior or

senior year I was a third leading

tackler on our team my senior year and I

didn't get a I didn't get a shot and you

know I didn't get a shot I didn't get a

shot to try out for any teams any NFL


you know I kind of took that as as I

have to do something to bounce back you

know I knew I was a walk-on at Michigan

State so I knew things weren't gonna be

given to me but it's all I needed was a

chance and the opportunity just like I

had at Michigan State to showcase my

talent my ability and my skills and you

know I I didn't I didn't get the call my

agent then get a call for me to go on

the minicamp

or you know any rookie mini camps or any

workouts or anything like that but I

stay I stay persistent in training you

know I never stopped training and then I

ended up coming back home and I trained

one time one of my mentors Jeffrey


that's like he's like a father figure to

me his family

Rosaria Johnson his boys Jace D'Angelo

and Julian like those are like my little

brothers and you know with open arms we

just got we got back in the lab and we

got after and you know shortly after

that probably I would say six to eight

months later I had a different agent and

I had to work out with a Canadian

football team and I worked out for them

on a Friday they had a contract for him

you ready for me that Monday and I kind

of just it was once again I just took

the ball around with it was an

opportunity for me to kind of get

experience get exposure and also learn

about the professional realm as it's

very different from the collegiate realm

of football ya know I I wanted to ask

you too about we have a shared

experience and trying to prep for a pro

day and I remember very vividly as this

was only you know for three or four

months ago for me the process of

everything has to be so incredibly

dialed in over those two to three months

leading out so your diet your sleep

you're not you know drinking anything

that's gonna put your performance at

risk everything or even thinking about

your mentality has to be so positive and

then you know as type 1 diabetics we

have this additional dimension of we

need to be so on top of our blood sugar

because you got Scouts looking at you

you know you're about to do your vert

your bench your 40

if you're not at the ideal level that's

going to impact your performance which

is going to reflect you know your

ability in those Scouts eyes so talk

about like as you were prepping you

talked about getting back in the lab and

you know your prep for going to the CFL

workout but talk about when you were

trying to dial in that performance and

how you were able to to manage the your

diabetes during that time I think like

you said Sam it's such a crucial time

you don't have any time for anything

other than what you're chasing after and

that's trying to make it to the next

level so your eating is it's probably

the cleanest has ever been your sleep

you're probably focused on getting a

true eight hours or plus more of sleep

breakfast it you know it consists of the

same thing every day you know the

consistency of everything is is the same

because you want you want that that end

goal result whether it's the forty or

you trying to get one more on the bench

or you trying to squeak by a perfect

shuttle or a short shuttle or a long

shadow or you know you're trying to bust

a half inch more on your vertical like

all these things matter I mean down from

every piece of food that you put in your

mouth to so everything that you drink to

stand on top of your stretching to

making sure you're getting the proper

treatments they needed like I mean you

have to your body ISM is a machine

essentially and it has to be fine to at

perfect time to peak in front of these

individuals whether like I said whether

she running a fast 40 maybe they know

you can do you can bench 30 but they

want to see you in a for a mid four five

five you know what I mean all these

things they matter you know and not the

discredit or taking anything from

anybody else you know sometimes I think

there's a lot more over weighing that

you have to have this because I think

the measurables

sometimes can be a little ridiculous you

know like in regards to what you can do

in a test versus what you actually do on

the field but

you know at the end of the day we don't

have the final say-so in those decisions

so it's kind of like we got to show up

and show out you know and you know

always looked at it I don't mind being

an underdog I feel like I've been an

underdog a majority of my life and it's


I think it keeps me hungry and it keeps

me humble and it keeps me focused you

know so you you you really I know for me

I have made some huge changes for those

three months that I was training I

trained that out in Chicago EFT with the

liest cares great new great facility he

trains collegiate athletes professional

athletes high school athletes he also

has tutoring set up for his high school

athletes just just an amazing place to

Train it but you know at the end of the

day you know things didn't work out for

whatever reason it had nothing to do

with how I was trained or anything like

that it's just at the end of the day

maybe I didn't display the right

performance for them but you know I knew

I was still good enough to play at the

next level given opportunity I still

remember it was spinach brown rice black

beans ground turkey and mixed veggies

for lunch and dinner out of this little

plastic tray for three months and I

still to this day cannot eat that stuff

I would say go ahead say my my since I

was training in Chicago my weakness was

gears popcorn and Giordano's pizza and

if you haven't had a Chicago style pizza

Giordano's is I could probably only eat

one piece out of that pizza because that

pizza was amazing did you like pig out

after the pro day just be like I need

like one day I went crazy back to back

to the CFL so you got that came in

performed well on the workout signed the

contract and then you were you were off

and running tell me about playing in the

CFL CFL is amazing a lot of people ask

me like Oh why'd you plant a CFL not the

NFL or the NFL didn't really give me

that many chances I had the opportunity

to play in Carolina but it was very


it was at the same time Luke Kuechly was

drafted so it probably wasn't the best

situation for me to be there Beeson was

still there Anderson was there so they

were pretty stacked that linebacker but

you know I took the opportunity after

leaving the Hamilton tiger-cats I

actually be released and they ended up

granting it I don't know you know if it

was the best decision but at the end of

the day you know I had an opportunity to

play up and you know that was something

that I kind of set my sights on after I

made that first tackle versus Illinois

side Michigan State I said you know I

owe it to myself because if I don't take

the opportunity I don't know what will

come from it if I if I don't take it I

won't know if I take it at least I at

least I tried you know but planning the

CFL to me personally I like it better

than the american-style football as they

say down south being in Canada

down south are you from down south but

the the game is is really the fans are

into it starts I'm sorry is 12 people in

the field so you got one extra guy the

field is 10 yards longer the end zones

are 20 yards and the field is about 15

yards wider so in its three downs so you

have to be prepared for a lot of running

and if you're a defensive guy oh boy

this is just be just be ready to go

that's all I can say because the field

is so much bigger it's just like a huge

playground for the office but it's it's

so fun the game it's so different it's

football but it's so it's so it's so

fast-paced and just so much fun

I mean I I wish someone at NFL guys had

an opportunity to actually play I know I

do know a ton of guys that maybe were

least are cut from NFL teams and they

went to the CFL you know they they like

it as well you know it's a it's um it's

not as many teams there nine teams and

you know it's not as many as the NFL

which has 32 and then obviously it's a

million multi-million dollar industry

not a multi-billion dollar industry like

the NFL but it's a it's a fun way to do

something that you love and get paid for

awesome Utley and just go out there have

fun each and every day

how are your coaches compared to you

know your college days in terms of

responding to your diabetes that were

they completely understanding because

now you're at the professional level it

is a business at the end of the day how

are they in terms of assessing you know

where you were with your diabetes I

would say um I had a tight-knit with the

trainer's and I would tell this to

anybody if you have diabetes and you

play sports at a high level you should

have a strong relationship obviously

with all your coaches if you can but

especially your trainers because I think

those are the people those are gonna be

your caretakers to take care of you if

things are not good or things are great

so I think having that relationship with

your trainers and your coaches is very

very good I never really dealt with any

issues with my diabetes as he related to

having to deal with like my coaches or

anything like that but they were always

very understanding if I did need to do

something or you know I remember I think

my work here in camp I end up having

like a really high blood sugar and you

know obviously when you have a high

blood sugar sometimes you tend to

urinate a lot more and then obviously

with the hydration being on top of

hydration that we were in camp so I was

urinating a lot and you know I had to

let him know like you know this is this

is someone I'm gonna be in and out you

know I mean in and out of film and now

in and out you know my blood sugar was

high and I had to use the bathroom a lot

but uh you know I mean other than that I

never really had any issues my coaches

knew I'm missing a state they knew in

the CFL they knew and with the Panthers

they knew as well so you know it was

just you know just is this always good

to be on the up-and-up because anything

you know anything could happen it's just

one of those things I want to be as

honest as I can so if something does

happen to me but you know if if if I

can't be honest about something I really

have no control over and I didn't

actually be diagnosed with this and it's

kind of like if they hold it against me

then that might not be the best place

for me to be in the first place

so we've talked a little bit you know

myself included about instances where

we've really struggled with diabetes you

know for me I can think back to you know

growing up I

few times where I got solo I was you

know having seizures but really I think

one of my and I'll call it like an

important failure for me a learning

experience was this past season I had

never really had an issue playing

football with diabetes until my senior

year of college where after the game

passed out essentially walking to the

bus but at the same time I think that

was probably my most important failure

because it's set up in my mind you know

I just realized all of a sudden I need

to be more on top of this that I'm you

know current currently am I need to

improve my system of management did you

feel like you have or have had a failure

that sets you up to improve your system

of management going forward have you do

you have like a most important failure

that you can think back to it's funny

that you mentioned something about your

senior year because looking back on it

for us under Mark Dantonio the era of

Mark Dantonio at Michigan State we have

to take a half gas or test to report the

camp and my first two years it was

completely fine my senior year I really

couldn't tell you what happened but I

took the test and I didn't pass it and

once we get to about 12 half geysers we

get we get an extra second to complete

them I made it I made it to 12 and I

believe I missed I missed my time on 13

13 and 14 I made 15 16 miss 17 18 and

made 19 and 20 and for me I had never

been in a situation to where I didn't

pass the test so I felt like a failure

one I was a senior and I failed the test

but two it was one of those things like

like what is going on like this is huge

like if I don't pass my test I don't get

to practice I'm a starter I'm a senior

you know so I felt like a failure in the

inside but at the at the end of the day

I had the real

like I'm dealing with something nobody

else on this field is dealing with and I

had to take that into consideration but

I am I am my toughest critic and you

know I want the best for myself and I

always want to achieve whatever goals I

set out for the rest of that day my

blood sugar was just ridiculously high

like ridiculously high and I don't know

if it was because the added stress that

I didn't make the test or that

everything was just all off or what

but I remember our tight ends coach at

the time coach Mark stating great guy

absolutely great guy I had this thing

for spongebob I like spongebob a lot so

the next day this this this guy drops

this big spongebob off in my locker with

a card in it from the little Michigan

State car and I can't remember verbatim

what it said but it said something

similar to dense and keep her head up

you're doing great and like I said he

knew I liked spongebob I had a spine

everybody know I like spongebob I used

to keep a spongebob sleeping bag in my

locker with a pillow and a spongebob

pillowcase so everybody on my team know

I like spongebob but the fact that he

went on his way to do that it made me

feel good about myself and realize like

I can't be so hard on myself for not

making like not making the 25 gassers

like I knew that I gave it my absolute

all in the fact that another coach from

the other side of the ball is kind of

saying like hey man you can't be so

tough on yourself like you're doing a

hell of a job you know what I mean so

like that made me realize like you know

what it's all good I'll come back and

whatever if they maybe do two or twenty

again tomorrow in the morning now door

20 came back the next morning Mike

Russell was my position coach and you

know in their staff meeting they made a

day they made an agreement that I only

had to make up six of them the next


which is fine because I'm not those

puppies out I was ready to go I just

wanted to get in just to clarify gasser

is across the field back and then across

one more time but we just do that we

just did to have

so down just down down in back okay yeah

but yeah it's uh it's no joke so if you

ever want to try to do 2025 guys there's

time and go ahead and make the make the

first set in 14 seconds and then do the

do this the the second the second half

the the other eight do those in 15

seconds let me know the brandon Denson

challenge post acting plenty you and ii

and we'll check it out i think we

touched on an important topic of being

our own harshest critics and i think i

can definitely relate to that in

multiple facets of my life but i want to

talk about you know a kind of revelation

that i had a kind of moment of clarity

that really I think started to set in

as I started game plan to you Indy and

that is kind of reframing my diagnosis

of type 1 diabetes as a massive blessing

in disguise I think you know we there

are so many hard parts about the disease

but at least growing up with type 1

diabetes really set me on a path of good

health where I had to be so accountable

and dialed in when it came to you know

what I'm putting in my body in terms of

fuel you know tracking my blood sugar

making sure that I exercise making sure

that I have a positive mental state all

of those things have such a more

important role in your life as a type 1

diabetic do you feel like you've kind of

experienced that and you can you relate

to that that idea of type 1 diabetes

kind of actually being a blessing in

disguise I tell a lot of the kids that I

talked to it truly is a blessing in

disguise because you really you don't

really realize what you're capable of or

who you're capable of helping or you

know being able to potentially turn

their life around or help them in

certain situations because you know

dealing with this disease can be very

overwhelming let's just be honest we

don't get a break from it kids that are

growing up with it they don't get a

break from it

their parents don't get a break from me

you know I could only imagine if I had a

kid and they had diabetes like even

though I have it I still would be

worried crazy on my

because it's always that what if or do

you have this or are you sure you have

this or you know like it's so when you

really think about it it's kind of scary

it is but at the end of the day you know

kids still have to be kids and live live

a full healthy fun successful life but I

do I do carry that's a blessing in

disguise just because you have some

people that handle it very well you have

some people that hand it okay you have

some people that are kind of terrible

and handling it but I think the fact

that other individuals that don't do as

well with it can talk to other people

that have had tremendous success with it

I think he essentially helps them out

when they do talk to those individuals

because they realize like wow like he or

she's going through the same thing that

I go through every day and they've been

able to achieve this amount of success

so it's like well you know what I can do

that too so is you know it's cool

because you're able to give inspiration

and give hope and give drive to where it

may not be there but the fact that you

can talk to somebody and instill that in

them and they they're able to see that I

think it goes a long way like you can't

you just the feeling that you get from

that it can't be explained so on that

topic if there is a type one diabetic

listening to this who's really

struggling really down in the dumps

maybe they just got diagnosed what would

be your message to them we talked a

little bit about the the no barriers

being kind of your big billboard message

but maybe this could be something a

little bit more specific to that person

that's really struggling right now I

want to see say no matter what in life

we're gonna have ups and downs gonna

have challenges we're gonna go through

adversity but the thing is you can hang

your head and deal with it or you can

hold your head high and deal with it the

the fact that the matter is you have to

hold yourself accountable and be

proactive about what's going on first to

saying I have this disease it sucks I

can't do anything with it you have to

kind of reverse that and say I have this

disease I'm gonna embrace it and I'm

do whatever it takes so I can be

successful and my family can be

successful my in my friends around me

can be successful there's I honestly

feel there's no there's no tax too small

or too big that type one diabetics can't

deal with their handle I think for me my

my response to that would just be it's a

choice like you said you have a choice

we all have choices in our lives but

like you said you can either kind of

face that challenge head-on or choose to

be passive and kind of let it take your

life in different directions and not be

in control but the biggest thing I would

say is just lean on that community lean

on your friends who want to help you

lean on your family lean on your

endocrinologist your nutritionist those

people that are there in a position to

help you and if you can make that choice

to live in a positive state of mind this

like we just touched on can be a

blessing in disguise and it can be a

gratifying character-building challenge

that makes me that makes you and me the

strong people that we are today and

makes people with type 1 diabetes that

ad asses you know it's it's it's a big

challenge but I'll tell you what

you know athletes diabetics we're

stronger because of that challenge sure

sweet all right Brandon thank you so

much for being on the show man first

episode in the books

JDRF is the one of the leading

fundraisers for type 1 diabetes and

research and the research covers covers

anything from finding a cure to

fundraising dollars to have have pumps

like the 670 G or C GM's as it relates

to Dexcom g 6 g 5 g 4s they have a

they're huge player in these departments

and also in creating getting the SDP

sign which is a special diabetes program

that just got renewed this year thank

you to everybody in DC that was a part

of that and if you ever need any help or

resources we are always here for you in

that department you can always visit


nation die org we have plenty of

resources that can be downloaded on

there and then for newly diagnosed

patients we also have a bag of Hope

which is offered from anybody from that

from the infant ages to the age of 15

and then we have t1d care kids from the

ages of 16 and up for adults and

teenagers that are diagnosed so it's


JDRF has been near and dear to my heart

ever since Nate Bob kind of got me

involved in it at Michigan State and

whether I work for JDRF or I don't work

for JDRF I always have it always have a

special place in my heart because it's

always given me a platform to speak

about diabetes and to help others that

are living with this disease and

caregivers as well definitely some

important resources and again that goes

back to the idea of we can improve our

system of care and you know the

stability of our blood sugar by leaning

on these communities and leaning on

these resources and obviously JDRF I've

experienced I've done the walk ever

since I was a little kid it's it's a

really important program they're doing

great work over there so we have three

walks that we'll be having for JDRF 2018

the first one will be Saturday September

29th is gonna be in Boston Massachusetts

at the DCR

hat show then we'll have another walk

Sunday September 30th 2018 and Lancaster

Massachusetts at the boat and

Fairgrounds and we'll have one more JDRF

warm walk Sunday October 14 2018 in East

Greenwich Rhode Island and Rocky Hill

School I'm Brendan a Denson I have type

1 diabetes and I have a game plan


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