Diabetes Viking: How I learned to embrace pillaging and plundering

I unhooked my pump and glanced up the mountain. The freaking-steep-trip-and-fall-on-your-skull mountain. I rehooked the tubing of my pump, unhooked, re-hooked; my own soothing OCD routine to cope with nerves. I hear the little click and feel the snap of plastic catching in place. I’m not sure when such security-blanket neuroses settled in with my illness.

Viking-helmeted dudes and dudettes strut to the starting line alongside me. Warrior gear – chainmail, loincloths, plastic inflatable swords at the ready. I give one last twist of my pump and disconnect it for the duration of the race, lest it be caught in barbed wire or drowned in mud. My sister took a long look at me sidelong as I put my pump in my purse to leave with her husband. “If you have a seizure on top of that mountain,” she says with deadly seriousness, “I’ll freaking kill you myself.” I had no Sherpa back-up on this little expedition and no pump: I was on my own.

A little background perhaps: we set to compete in the Warrior Dash, a 5km race straight up Whistler Mountain (location of the 2010 Winter Olympics). 2.5km straight up the mountain, followed by 2.5km marked by a series of obstacles: climbing walls, fire pits, balance beams, rope ladders . . . culminating in a 100-yard army crawl through the mud beneath strings of barbed wire.

What in holy hell was I doing here? An interesting query, which my mother also voiced emphatically.

I signed the 40 point waiver acknowledging my willful participation in events that could lead to death or dismemberment and mulled over this question. Well, remember that whole “I’m going to train to run a marathon” stuff of mine? Thus far, this has consisted entirely of eating ice cream while reading books on marathoning at the beach. Enter: the Warrior Dash. The ass-kicking, gut-busting starting point I need to kick my marathon training into gear.

The thing about Diabetes is it’s always been an exceedingly convenient excuse for me. I can’t train as hard because I’m Diabetic you know. I can’t run as hard as the others because I’m Diabetic you know. I can’t play the game because I’m low. For much of my life, these excuses have sat on the backburner of my mind, ready to hop into battle at the slightest provocation to explain my failures, the easy excuse me and my family have used for much of my life to gloss over the painful bits. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t; followed by a highly rational explanation to that effect. How it really makes more sense to pursue brainy avenues that aren’t unduly sidelined by Diabetic complications. I fully indulged this line of reasoning from myself and others: it seemed to make things easier in the short time.

Until you buck up and take a good long look at yourself, and have to hold yourself from back from kicking yourself in your own pants. I’m tired of the endless sentences that contain “can’t” and “Diabetes” in cuddly proximity.

So that’s why I stood on that dusty mountain, staring at the furry, chainmail-clad butts of my fellow Vikings set for battle.

The starting gun blared and 4000 wannabe warriors charged up the mountain. I’ll spare you the gory details – there was much cursing, mud, sweat, and a few occasions where it looked as if vomit were in the cards. I would reach for my phantom pump for reassurance it was still there, before remembering it was at the base of the mountain, safe and snug in my purse. My sister and I didn’t come in first, not even the first couple thousand. But we finished the race with Viking pride, receiving our complimentary Viking hats, medals, and all the bananas we could eat (seriously, those bananas with ice water tasted like nectar of the gods in the 30 degree heat). I pillaged and plundered the banana table with reckless abandon, covered in mud. Believe it or not, my blood sugar after all this was a perfect 5.8. I survived without my pump and without the excuses lingering at the back of my mind.

Marathon training’s begun, bananas have been eaten, and at least for now, I feel like “can’t” isn’t in my vocabulary anywhere near Diabetes. Maybe those Norsemen were on to something . . . Stay tuned for more training updates, and of course, more Viking shenanigans ;)

Mud pit adorned with barbed wire; the gorgeous banana table!; my sis and me (I’m on the left :D )