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The following athlete interview was shared with us by our friends at the Diabetes Sports Project Foundation (DSP). DSP is a non-profit organization built to inspire. Led by a group of approximately 150 world-class athletes who thrive regardless of diabetes, DSP aims to motivate through its athletes’ stories, athletic accomplishments and community outreach.
Bradford Gildon, a DSP champion, has never let diabetes stop him from achieving his goals in life. While Bradford has not completed a triathlon in several years, he ambitiously signed up for Ironman Tulsa in Oklahoma and accomplished this goal with no problem.
A few weeks after the Ironman Tulsa, Bradford decided to also attempt the Tulsa Tough Ace challenge 100 mile bike ride and again accomplished this goal despite dealing with diabetes along the way. While Bradford accomplished both the Ironman Tulsa and Tulsa Tough Ace challenge, he had to still focus on his blood glucose levels in order to optimally perform throughout the race.
Fortunately, DSP was able to talk to Bradford about his decisions on how he controlled his blood glucose levels throughout both races. Hopefully, this interview with Bradford will provide resources and motivation on how to control and manage blood glucose levels even in the midst of accomplishing a goal at large.
Diabetes Sports Project (DSP): Hey Bradford, while it looks like you accomplished the Ironman Tulsa and the Tulsa Tough Ace with no problem, it would be super helpful and resourceful to understand how you managed your glucose levels throughout the race!
Bradford: Absolutely, hit me with any questions you have!
DSP: What made you decide to complete this triathlon in the first place?
Bradford: I signed up for Ironman Tulsa which was set to happen in May 2020. COVID-19 had other plans, but that additional year gave me time to ensure I had adequate base training before starting to ramp up training this spring. Post-vaccination and with adequate safety measures being taken, I was excited to get on the IM Tulsa race course and give it my best effort this year!
DSP: Sounds like you knew what you wanted to do for a while, set the goal, and went out to achieve it! Why did you choose Tulsa to complete the Ironman?
Bradford: Well, I used to live in Tulsa, so the race course was part of my familiar stomping grounds. I knew that I would need to conserve on the swim, and definitely conserve on the bike—which had over 5,000 ft of climbing—in order to have a successful/manageable run.
DSP: Knowing your course and being familiar with an area always eases the nerves and gives you an upper hand! Love to hear it was your old stomping grounds! Transitioning to more diabetes talk, how were you able to manage your blood glucose levels throughout the race?
Bradford: Well, there were 2 different transitions I had to manage diabetes alongside. First, I had an isolated swim start and Transition 1 (T1) that family could not be at, and also, there was a 20-minute walk transition from T1 to the actual water entry! Since my blood glucose was lower than where I wanted it to be the last time I had tested in transition to the swim start, I made sure to pack plenty of food. I ate 2 gels after getting into the swim start coral because I was not wearing my CGM and didn’t have any meter.
DSP: Were you able to maintain a steady pace with taking the 2 gels prior to the race or did your blood glucose drop at all again?
Bradford: I tried to stay steady with my swim pace and felt good when I exited the water, completing the swim in 1:11. I was around 140 when I got out, which was exactly where I was hoping to be heading into the bike race.
DSP: Interesting! Have you ever had any issues before with your insulin or blood glucose levels?
Bradford: I previously had an insulin pump failure issue while traveling for a shorter race earlier this season which created its own headache of racing on MDI when I was used to pumping. So in order to prevent the issue of not having insulin out on the bike for many hours, I packed a quick-acting insulin pen and a needle cap on my bike as a backup. But my pump actually performed just like it was supposed to!
DSP: We are glad you didn’t have to deal with any insulin issues on the race, that causes stress and we would not want that to inhibit your performance. Did your glucose levels stay steady on the bike ride?
Bradford: I consumed too much glucose a little too early on the bike, and my nervous race excitement caused some insulin resistance as well. I was over 200 for the first 40 miles or so and bolused a small amount to correct that. I also conserved myself on the hills and finished the race in a slower time, finishing in 6:30, but when I came off the bike I felt confident that I was going to be able to have a good run. I kept approximately a 8:30-8:45 pace throughout the run and had no issues with my blood sugars!
DSP: Sounds like you got after it and knew exactly what needed to be done! How were your blood glucose levels after the race? What were your thoughts after completing the race?
Bradford: I was about 92 after the race, but this race time was not my personal record. However, because I had excellent blood glucose management success throughout the day, my thought was that this race was exactly the “win” I was looking for!
DSP: Wow! So proud of you for not letting diabetes stop you from achieving this goal! Transitioning to your Tulsa Tough Ace race, were you able to maintain endurance throughout the bike ride and stable blood glucose levels?
Bradford: Well, rolling as a group of 90 cyclists including some of the pro road team from Legion, we rolled the first 80 very quickly and easily, well ahead of pace. I maintained the pace of the group through 91 miles, even though all the hills and increase in pace ended up making me “burn through all my matches”. My Ironman training was solely for endurance legs, but not for speed-up-the-hills legs, so I had to keep the pace of the last ten miles pretty conservative.
DSP: That is still an awesome pace, and it seems like your legs not only were trained for endurance, but also strength even if you didn’t think so! When you were completing the race, did you have to change any insulin pump settings or consume glucose?
Bradford: I used a different basal rate reduction for this race than the Ironman Tulsa because of the higher intensity with more anaerobic efforts than I anticipated would be needed. I completed the race in approximately 4:40 with an average pace of 21.3 mph. My blood glucose levels were 171 after, but let’s just say I was SO ready to enjoy some post-race food and drinks!
DSP: Bradford, you really conquered this race like no other! That is awesome your blood glucose was 171 afterwards, and it didn’t spike throughout the race. Biking is physically exhausting and to achieve that time and stability throughout the race is very impressive. You should be proud of yourself and realize how much of a T1D Champion you are! Thank you for all the insight and knowledge on your experience and how you managed your blood glucose levels during both of these races. You are an inspiration to many!
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I was so excited to read about Bradford’s experience. He is an amazing athlete and advocate for helping others with T1D! He was so incredibly helpful to me when I was diagnosed 6 years ago as an adult. I was really struggling with sugar stabilization during my tennis and hiking and he made all the difference in my ability to continue my active life without constantly struggling!! Thank you for highlighting this amazing guy!!