The Obstacle Course of Diabetes

Posted by tony on Thu, 02/07/2013 - 18:24 in

I have participated in numerous sports. My preferred method of covering ground is my bike. So, when my friends approached me about doing an extreme-style mountain race, my initial reaction was "I'm in!"  Wait. Mountain race? Mountain "bike" race?


Ahhh, my first introduction to Rebel Race.

Rebel Race is a 5K or 15K obstacle course designed to implement a challenging foot race in extreme conditions. It is coupled with several obstacles, like a 60-foot drop into a freezing cold mud pit. Then you have to run another length, climb over 300 hay bales stacked 25-feet high, while 500 rather interesting characters dressed in anime costumes, feather boas and tuxedos are competing to be ahead of you.  And it just keeps going.

It's a race of a different color, for sure.

As is the case with many things I do in life, I decided to take this race on as a platform to raise awareness about diabetes. My friends, my fiancée, Diane, and I decided to ask the powers that be at Rebel Race to consider the JDRF as a charity (as these folks, while extreme in many areas of their lives, are incredibly philanthropic and charitable), to which they agreed and we were off. I posted links to the race on several social media sites, we paid our entrance fees, enlisted our friends (who are AMAZING people) to do the same, and just like that, we prepared for something new.

The Day of the Rebel Race

The training process is no stranger to me. I work out regularly and consider myself having a solid fitness base. However, I set out to Haverhill, MA with Diane in cycling bibs and our Blue Heel Society shirts, unsure what to expect. I wasn't nervous, just anxious to see the course and survey what in the world I had gotten myself and my friends into.

We pulled into this beautiful farmland. It had huge rolling hills, barns and work sheds, and we were promptly directed into a field the size of a mall FULL of cars and people of varying degrees of muddiness and wetness.







We encountered several competitors who had just finished the last wave as we descended into the registration field. One person was wearing a Walk to Cure Diabetes shirt. Diane and I introduced ourselves, asked the gentleman if he had a diabetes connection, to which he replied “No,” but said he he’s participated in the Rhode Island Walk to Cure Diabetes every year for the past six years. Word.

I shook his hand – and Diane may have hugged him.

Then as we proceeded into the lower field where the registration tents, first aid, changing area, and food and drink tents were, we began to notice the "teams." It was awesome. There were SO many people with creative wigs, interesting Santa socks and there was even a team with green neckties. It was a ton of fun seeing all of these people coming together for a good cause – and diabetes was one of them!

We spent some time hiking around and surveying the scene. I introduced myself to the First Aid Team and met up with the rest of Team Blue Heel Society. Showtime.

We opted for the 1:00 PM wave. Massachusetts isn't known for warmth in November, so we figured the later in the day the warmer it’d be, even though it would be muddier.

It was a perfect 55 degrees. The starter pistol fired and Diane and I started off on our first 5K to promote awareness for diabetes, hand-in-hand and in Rebel Race style. First up: the steepest, rockiest trail climb I have ever seen.

It was impossible to run this hill, as there were 500 other cats trying to do so, so we bottlenecked and the race creeped to a walk...oy.

As soon as we summited, or as Diane claims, ascended to the first base camp on Everest, we trotted on to our first obstacle: the hay bales. Sounds easy enough. Yeah, well these bales of hay are not tied together, nor are they stable, and they are wet. And you are navigating them with other people who want to be ahead of you.

The Obstacles of Diabetes

Our discussions waxed and waned about how much these obstacles on the course were just like the obstacles we face with diabetes: that first climb, the signs and the uncertainty, the hay bales, the undeniable symptoms, the time to deny. Then as we rounded the next corner, there it was. The aforementioned 60-foot drop into a pit of mud of an unknown depth. This represented the diagnosis. One by one, the team took the plunge, and just like the DOC (diabetes online community), we assisted each other out of the vast, muddy pit. We all moved on to the next obstacle, cheering each other on the entire way. The 25-foot vertical walls represented the rises and falls of blood glucose levels. The 50-foot long balance beams were similar to working through the fun of being a child at a birthday party and managing insulin delivery.

I won't go into long detail about each obstacle, but I will tell you this: We finished. Everyone on the team finished.

We weren't first, but we were nowhere near last.

Of most importance, just like living with diabetes every day, none of us quit.

Our white shirts were now brown and my Omnipod insulin pump survived all the bizarre obstacles with no issues whatsoever.

We took on an out-of-ordinary approach to raise awareness about diabetes and found out more about ourselves along the way. I highly recommend getting involved in an event such as this.  If not for the challenge itself, at least so you can get a little mud on you.