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Diabetes diagnosis inspires athletic milestone

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"One innovative thing that my coach does is he actually has me inject insulin before the race, which is quite scary, because intuitively your mind thinks that will cause a low blood sugar. But because of that adrenaline, it keeps you steady," Dahlin says. (Image: Sinclair Broadcast Group)

28-year-old Lauren Dahlin began training for her first endurance race in 2017, after being diagnosed with type one diabetes.

"I was looking for a way to feel like a strong and confident person, despite just having this life-changing diagnosis," Dahlin says.

She completed a half marathon, a marathon, a half Ironman and a full Ironman. A full Ironman is 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles biking and 26.2 miles running. She completed the race in less than 14 hours. And she completed all four races in just one year, an incredible athletic milestone, especially while she was learning to manage her chronic condition.

"I didn’t realize it was the achievement it was. For me, it was a way of progressing and getting through the day-to-day life and feeling good," she added.

Her achievement motivated her to take her athletic goals to the next level. She hired a coach, who also has type one diabetes and is accomplished in the world of endurance sports, and she got down to serious training.

Dahlin worked with her coach to make changes to her training and diabetes technology plan, and she made sure to have her doctor sign off on that plan.

"One innovative thing that my coach does is he actually has me inject insulin before the race, which is quite scary, because intuitively your mind thinks that will cause a low blood sugar. But because of that adrenaline, it keeps you steady," Dahlin says.

She also began to monitor her blood sugar on her watch and she has a button on her pump so that she's able to administer insulin through her jersey, so she doesn't have to look at the screen during workouts. And every week, she analyzed her health data including her blood sugar highs and lows, her meal plan and her workouts, to make adjustments to improve her performance and health.

It all paid off. This year, she finished her second Ironman more than two hours faster than her first Ironman.

"I’m very proud to have done that and to be a person with type one diabetes in roughly the top 5% of all Ironman athletes...If you really put your mind to it, and you're willing to educate yourself, you can really take on these huge athletic challenges," Dahlin says.

She's getting her Ph.D at University of Maryland in information systems. She's now using her background in technology and programming to help other athletes to set up their diabetes technology for endurance racing.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, known as JDRF, recommends that people with type one diabetes should exercise, but advises that anyone interested in endurance sports should always consult their doctor first.

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