Competing in an Ironman competition is no easy task for anyone. It’s especially difficult if you’re living with Type I Diabetes. But that didn’t stop Grace member Wendy Ludbrook. Here, Wendy reflects on the journey that led her to this amazing challenge:

Wendy & kidsOn September 13 I toed the line at Ironman Wisconsin with 2,800 other brave souls. Ironman triathlons consist of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride followed by a 26.2 mile run. This was my first attempt at anything this crazy but I was in good company. I competed with a team called Riding On Insulin that consisted of 63 athletes, 36 of which have Type 1 Diabetes like me. Our goal was to become the largest group of Type 1s to compete in a single Ironman and not only did we reach our goal, but we also raised over $100K for outdoor adventure camps for kids with Type 1 diabetes.

The race itself went about as smoothly as could be expected. The swim was a mass start with all 2,800 athletes in the water taking off together. Exiting the water in an hour and thirty minutes I picked up my diabetes supplies, got my wetsuit stripped off of me and headed in to change for the bike leg.

The bike portion of this particular Ironman is exceptionally hilly and I was worried as to how I would fare as the day went on. Surprisingly it went very well and with the amount of cheering fans that lined all portions of the course and the Wisconsin dairy land as a backdrop there was plenty to take your mind off the long miles. My personal support crew of Chris and the kids, my parents, Chris’s mom Helen, and my sister and her kids were camped out along one of the steepest hills on the course. We passed by them twice and the kids were able to run alongside me cheering as I rode up the hills which was a welcome boost of encouragement. In all, bike portion took seven hours and thirty minutes.

Once back to the transition area and all changed into my running clothes I headed out for the marathon. I had no idea what to expect since I was in uncharted territory at this point and I wasn’t sure if I would run a mile or two and just fall flat on my face or be able to hold on for multiple miles. Turns out I was able to run the bulk of the time, only walking at the aid stations that were set up along the course and amply stocked with a variety of foods. The fans lining the run course were great with lots of energy, music and signs. The course wrapped around on itself a lot, so I was able to see my support crew numerous times. We also got to run through the University of Wisconsin football stadium twice. The run took just under five hours and 14 hours and 37 minutes after I started swimming I crossed the finish line.

Managing diabetes during long endurance events is a constant litany of testing your blood sugar, eating, dosing insulin – all in the right amounts, at the right time. Having a huge team of fellow diabetics to bounce ideas off of during the nine months of training is at the heart of these types of events and camps run by Riding On Insulin. Peer to peer information sharing is really an underappreciated resource in diabetes management not only for Ironman training, but just for general day to day management.

And of course there was a large sacrifice at home by my support crew to get this accomplished. The training peaks at around 15 hours per week, which leaves a lot of weekend mornings away riding your bike and running. Fortunately Chris and the kids got in on some of the action with Chris joining me for the hours-long rides and the kids riding their bikes as I ran behind them.

This was a wonderful nearly yearlong journey and while I would consider doing it again, I will be switching gears next year and heading up the support crew as Chris will take on his first Ironman.


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