Today is Father's Day 2013. I had the opportunity to see both of my parents last week, as well as my sister and her family. Someone asked earlier today "what is the one thing you learned from your father?" While there are many things - too numerous to mention - one that stands out in particular is the importance of exercise in managing my diabetes.
When I was first diagnosed with Type1 diabetes in my early teens - I was fortunate enough to have a pediatrician who recognized the value of exercise as an element to managing the disease - and 35 years ago that was not the norm. Shortly after I was diagnosed - my dad started going to the YMCA several times a week, and encouraged me to go as well, to lift weights, to stay active and involved in sports, and to continue doing the things I enjoyed doing before I was diagnosed. I played basketball, swam, ran track, and played football in high school - and went on to letter for 3 years while playing football at Allegheny College. As I got a bit older, I tried to remain active, but with small children and a job where I travelled quite a bit - it wasn't as easy and it became less of a priority.
Fortunately some changes in life and lifestyle provided me with an opportunity to become more active again - first by attempting (and completing) a half marathon, then a full marathon. As I sought to learn more about how to manage blood sugar levels while doing endurance sports (and using a pump) - I was also able to find a "community" of diabetic athletes through DESA (Diabetes Exercise and Sports Association) and at one of their 2008 conferences met the leader of a group of 12 diabetics on the Triabetes team who were seeking to complete Ironman Wisconsin later that year.
Needless to say - my father (who was diagnosed as a Type2 a while back and continues to work out at the YMCA several times a week) and my mom have been supportive of my various athletic endeavors over the years (though I'm guessing they have not always been so sure that there wasn't something malfunctioning between my ears). In 2011, as I was preparing to complete my first Ironman in St. George, UT, I received word that I was one of 200 lottery slot winners from around the world selected to participate in the Ironman World Championship race in Kona that October. But just two and a half months earlier - my daughter had been diagnosed with Type1 as well - and I started to face the challenges associated with being a diabetic parent (hopefully avoiding being the "diabetes police".
As I trained for the Kona race (long rides and intense runs in the hot Georgia summer, and swims in heavily chlorinated pool water as well as murky lake water) I had lots of time to reflect on the many lessons learned in life, the many people who have helped and inspired me along the way, and the communities I've been a part of along the way. In many cases those thoughts could be easily traced back to my youth and my parents. The man in the red Hawaiian shirt in the short video clip attached is my father (he was also driving when some of the bike footage was shot). After 13 hours and 51 minutes I crossed the finish line in Kona - after a brief stop to hug both of my parents. While it was a proud accomplishment for me - I know where I got the drive to dream of doing the "impossible" (or things that "diabetics aren't supposed to do"), to believe and persist during the difficult times, and to make it across the finish line....it was inherited.
Kona Ironman Footage
Thanks dad! Happy Father's Day!