Going the distance : T1 diabetics walk 100km
What germinated as an absolutely crazy idea few years ago finally came true when four friends with type 1 diabetes successfully completed the 100 km Oxfam Trailwalker in Karjat, India becoming the first type 1 diabetes team in the history of the event and the country to do so.
Meet team 'Walking on insulin'
Sonu Patel has had type 1 diabetes since 2013. She's a jolly and fun loving engineer and she loves to go dancing. Zumba is one of her favourite ways to workout. She believes in the power of theplas and positive thinking.
Raj Jagdale has had type 1 diabetes for the last decade. If it weren't for adulting, you would probably find him on a football field all day! He enjoys CrossFit and walking his dog, Ari.
Chinmay Tambole aka the 'Deadlift Dude' has lived with T1 for about 15 years. He enjoys gymming, CrossFit and spending time with his young nephew, Shrimay. What's really commendable is that Chinmay was on a hospital bed, down with meningitis only a few weeks before the 100km walk but still participated and completed! Isn't that absolutely amazing?
I have been T1 since 24 years and ever since I can remember I've been fascinated to push the boundaries of my mind and body, be it marathons and ultras or martial arts and compulsive coffee drinking while hunching over a book. I was the Team Lead of our iconic team, aptly called 'Walking on insulin'.
None of us had ever done a distance like 100km before. This was new for all of us and we had no idea what was in store for us.
Practice (and more practice)
It would be impossible and very stupid to attempt a challenge of this sort without adequate practice. We have been practicing since 6-8 months, walking together most weekends and working out and strength training individually on weekdays. What worked for us in practice, worked for us on race day too.
The sweat and tears in practice are directly proportional to the smiles at the finish line
The actual event
December 12th, 2019 : We were expected to reach the starting line at 4AM on December 13th. We piled ourselves and our bags into two cars and left Pune for our hotel in Karjat on the previous afternoon so that we could get some rest before D-day. We reached by evening and had an early dinner while going through checklists with our crew. Raj's throat was hurting and he sipped on warm water. There was a mix of anxiety and excitement in the air.
December 13th, 2019 : Oxfam promised us the best 48 hours of our lives but we were a little apprehensive since it eerily started on Friday the 13th. On a dark morning while the world slept, we reached the starting point at Gajanan Vidyalaya, Kadav and were greeted warmly by our Oxfam friends. The excitement kicked in; there was foot tapping music, people warming up, doing zumba, talking selfies, drinking chai and generally monkeying around. We did our customary photo sessions with friends and were even interviewed by NewsX, the official media partner at the event!
The format of the event was such that we needed to cover 100km within 48 hours as we walk through trails, villages and roads. There were 10 checkpoints including the start and finish point, roughly every 10km. At each check point we could meet our support crew (we could only meet them at checkpoints and not otherwise), eat, rest, use the washrooms and get medical and physiotheraphy support as needed. This meant that we needed to carry a backpack with us for essentials such as hypo kit, glucometer, maps, glucagon, insulin, first aid, snacks etc and leave the rest of our stuff with our crew.
We started with a smile and a silent prayer on our lips and soon reached checkpoint 1. We felt strong and enthusiastic and didn't take more than 15 minutes. Those feeling peckish grabbed tea and a banana (which I skipped in anticipation of my favourite low carb breakfast, eggs!) and we planned to meet our crew at checkpoint 2 for a proper breakfast. The sun was up and it was getting warm but we were prepared. We slathered on sunscreen, wore our caps and sunglasses and kept walking.
About 10km done and 90km to go..we had only just begun the best 48 hours of our lives.
It was past noon by the time we reached checkpoint 2. We checked our BG, got some much needed stretching and taping done, took our shots and were ready to eat. Call it breakfast, brunch or lunch - we gratefully wolfed down the packed omlettes and bhurjee (with bread for those who wanted it) that our crew brought us. We refilled our water bottles and set forth towards checkpoint 3 which was relatively closer as compared to the distance between checkpoints 1 & 2.
It was HOT, sweaty and uncomfortable. In the larger scheme of a 100kms, we had only just begun and couldn't let this get to us, so we trudged on. We reached checkpoint 3 in the sweltering heat, took a short break to stretch, refill water, use the washrooms and were back on the trail. We intended to reach checkpoint 6 before we retire for the night and we had a loooong way to go. Rohan and Simiran from our crew joined us for the next leg of our walk between checkpoints 3 & 4 and kept our spirits high.
We took a slightly longer break at checkpoint 4, we were exhausted mostly thanks to the afternoon heat. All of us did a nice physio session, posed for photos, had chai or electrolytes, depending on what we needed and everyone dug into some low carb chocolate and coconut laddoos and cheese crackers courtesy my mum. Rohan even took a quick power nap!
As much we would have loved to hang around longer, we needed to move on towards checkpoint 5 (and then 6,7..you get the picture). We set off, with our bellies full while the sun became a little forgiving as it became evening. We marvelled at the beauty of the wilderness in the dusk as we kept walking to our next goal. Sunsets are beautiful until the sun is still around and once it gets dark, well, you miss your cozy, well lit room. We managed to reach checkpoint 5 with one torch and our mobile phone torches.
Pro-tip : Always carry a torch, you never know when or how fast it gets dark. We were tired, hungry (thank you crew, for the dinner!) and it was beginning to get chilly. It wasn't particularly motivating to keep walking through the dark and cold night, so we decided to call the common sleeping arrangement at checkpoint 5 our home for the night and by the time we wound down it was 1AM and freezing.
December 14th, 2019 : We were up by 4-4:30AM, freshened up, got ready, packed up things we needed, left behind the rest and started for checkpoint 6 at 5:30AM. We were groggy, it was cold and Sonu developed a bad throat and cold over the night.
We stuck together and marched on.
We saw the 50 km trailwalker participants starting their event and realised we had been on the road for 24 hours now! No mean feat! We also witnessed the most beautiful sunrise and suddenly felt good again! We reached checkpoint 6, got physiotheraphy and taping done and trotted off confidently.
The walk between checkpoints 6 to 7 was going to be a long one. As the day dawned, it began to get warmer. We knew the drill now. Even though it was day 2 on the road, we felt stronger and in control. Sunscreen, check, cap and sunglasses check. The heat is a difficult element to deal with since it saps your energy. We kept replenishing water, electrolytes, checking BG and taking shots when needed. We had lunch (we chose between bhurjee, brinjal, chicken, salted cucumbers, paneer and rotis) at checkpoint 7 and took a hour long nap (can't stress the magic of power naps enough!)
Checkpoint 7 to 8 was my favourite part of the walk - I felt mechanical, magical and invincible. We sang songs (thanks Rohan) and had fun!
It was dark by the time we reached checkpoint 8. We ate, changed into warmer clothes, stretched and mentally prepared oursleves for the long night ahead. We had about 18km to reach the finish line and we were beginning to feel a little worn out. Checkpoint 8 to 9 was surprisingly smooth and the route was relatively flat (compared to the other parts we had walked) - it was a welcome break. Raj felt unwell and threw up at checkpoint 9 and we were all just TIRED! The Oxfam and physiotheraphy team joked, sang, danced and motivated us to keep going and complete the last leg. Dr. Pallavi who led the physiotheraphy team was a huge support to us.
December 15, 2019 : Rohan got us Diet Cokes at 1AM! I am pretty sure I would have fallen asleep walking, were it not for the caffeine (I had zero tea/coffee at checkpoints since they had sugar and milk). Checkpoint 9 to the finish point was painful and absolutely ruthless to say the least. We were drained physically and mentally and just wanted to be able to shower, get into a warm bed and sleep. Our exhaustion turned to exhiliration in the last kilometre as we heard the beats of the dhol at the finish line and our friend Anand joined us to walk together with us. We finished at about 4:40AM. Our crew was waiting for us with big smiles and warm hugs!
BG management and live tracking
48 hours of intense and continous physical activity had all our families concerned about our sugars. We found a brilliant solution - a live link that would show our BG continously over the 48 hour period. Chinmay, Raj, Sonu and Rohan were wearing Libre Pros and I was wearing my Libre Pro with a Miao Miao (more on that later, promise!). There is no easier way to manage sugars while doing a 100k, you have got to keep testing and here's where diabetes technology has made our lives easier. I am happy to report that thanks to low carb, my sugars remained in the range of 70-130 mg/dl throughout the 48 hours, not ONE hypo or hyper!
We shared this link with our loved ones and a lot of you sent us heartwarming messages and calls of support, concern and love - we were touched, thank you all! Our community is family.
We would be nothing without our wonderful and selfless support crew. One of our loudest cheerleaders was Rohan who flew down from Delhi to participate as the only T1 support crew. He walked parts of the trail with us (almost 35-40 km!) and carried our backpacks. Another T1 friend, Madhur's Dad, Vilas and his adventure loving friend Nitin were also on our support crew. They kept our spirits high, joked with us and brought us water and food at checkpoints. Their sense of adventure was evident in the fact that they set up a tent to stay overnight. While we walked, Chhavi remotely and tirelessly shared our live updates on social media with the world 24*7 - be it our live sugars or our out of tune and hilarious singing. My parents Hansa and Ramesh and sister, Simiran who have been really excited about this for the better part of the year drove down from Bombay to crew us and stuff us with low carb laddoos everytime we were in sight. Our crew were so awesome, they even sourced us Fevikwik in a village!
Apart from the crew, I am immensely grateful to my dia-buddies Chinmay, Sonu and Raj for agreeing to sacrifice their social life, weekends and common sense to participate with me in this absolutely crazy challenge of walking a 100km trail for 2 days without showering or sleeping. This wouldn't have happened without you guys!
Walking a 100km even for someone without diabetes is huge. We were 4 people with type 1 diabetes who did the distance without any major hypos or hypers needing medical intervention. The main antidote to the intense physical exhaustion was sleep. I slept for 2 days straight, only waking up for meals. We also did some short distance recovery walking over the next week to avoid soreness and stiffness in the body. We were back to our normal routines soon enough!
Living with diabetes is like doing a 100km trailwalker - it's endless, tiring, painful, lonely but also something that makes us stronger, smarter and is extremely gratifying when managed well and done together as teamwork with friends and a supportive community.