For Karl Amber, now 37, the hardest part of learning at age 12 that he had diabetes was the inability to “comprehend the longterm effects of my decisions and what I had to do in the short term to make the right choices…particularly about what I should eat.” A web server engineer for Fidelity Investments who lives in Berkley, Mass., Karl was remained active throughout his life. However, three years ago, Karl realized that he was beginning to put on weight. So, he started running and mountain biking. Karl soon became attracted to the idea of participating in a triathlon.
Support Goes A Long Way
“With the encouragement of some of my friends, who were active triathletes, I began having the notion of doing my first triathlon,” says Karl. “Through my years as a —person living with diabetes — I knew that I could do anything that I wanted. I knew there were other people who had done the Ironman triathlon with diabetes so I felt that I could do that as well.” With the help of a friend who also helped him train, Karl began corresponding with Ironman triathlete Andy Holder, also known as “Iron Andy,” the official spokesperson for the Diabetes Shoppe Managing Diabetes: Living Without Limits campaign. “Andy was very encouraging, and…realizing that he had the same challenges that I did and that he found solutions to them, made it easier for me to believe that I could find a solution as well.”
Overcoming Training Obstacles
The biggest challenge that karl says he faced in training for and completing a triathlon was “managing my blood sugar levels, especially in an Iron distance event. I finished my first Ironman in just under 13 hours, but that was the first time in my life that I ever exercised for 13 straight hours.” Checking his blood sugar levels frequently, Karl was able to manage his levels over the entire span of his first Ironman. If the test showed he needed to adjust his levels, especially during the running portion of the event, Karl would drink just enough Gatorade to balance his blood sugar.
Of course not all people with diabetes aspire to compete in an Ironman event, but Karl strongly suggests that everyone with diabetes participate in exercises that are pleasurable to them. “ Exercise,” he says, “makes the body use insulin more efficiently, and it also helps in providing freedom in terms of eating the types of foods that you want to eat.” “Some training days I burn 5,000 calories, and that makes it much easier to eat and stay healthy.” Karl jokes that if he was not exercising and “limited to a 1,800-calorie diet, I’d never be able to maintain my weight, have a fit body and still have the freedom to eat all the foods I want to eat. And doing an Ironman event is fun. I most certainly had fun.”