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Shooting up at the Adventure Racing World Championships

Every so often we all find ourselves having to ask questions about what is possible – presented by someone who has achieved something I would have almost swore blind was not possible. This how I felt after talking to Bjorn, who had just run, peddled and paddled 700km and come 2nd in the Adventure Racing World Championships. To even being towing the start line alongside the 60 other teams would be worthy of admiration..

Team Haglofs Silva (Bjorn on Right)

Adventure Racing for readers who have not heard of this world is a multi-discipline event, that requires navigation and often in teams (great video here). The pinnacle of each year is the Adventure Racing World Championships – this year held in Wyoming in the good olde US of A. Casper was the host city with the event starting some 500km away in Yellowstone National Park – 60 teams of 4 had gathered for this event, for most the objective is simple.. to get to the end!!

My role was around the tracking and timing of these teams – the live coverage online of these events has turned them in to a bizarre online spectator sport with 10,000’s of viewers wishing little dots to go faster across the screen – knowing full well that under that little dot is a team of 4 going through a wealth of trauma to make a cut off or beat another team – or just find their way out of a forest they are lost in.

In the midst of the organised chaos is a team from Sweden Haglofs Silva – veterans in this world having sniffed the top spots for a number of years, made up of accomplished athletes in their own various sports, with a unique love of racing together as a team.

Rob Howard the local almac and journo for the event, had highlighted this team in his pre-race report (here). Singling Bjorn who 2 years ago was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. At the top of his game in mountain running, it popped him down a step or two. I’ve heard of a few people take on AR (Adventure Racing) with Type 1 but often its either very hard or doesn’t end well.

If you are reading this thinking surely just take a pill and get on with it. Well for Bjorn and for me – our bodies have sadly decided that producing insulin is not for them – the pancreas that does this job has stopped working. Without that liquid gold – we will die, as was the case back in the 1920’s prior to Bantings discovery (see picture here of a young lady pre / post taking insulin back in that era). Since that day for those who are fortunate (and still many people in this world don’t have access to insulin).. its kind of been OK, with a balance of eating the right food at the right time along with an injection or two you would eek out a life.

Without insulin your body slowly poisons itself – in the short-term go in to what is known as DKA which can kill, if just a little bit high but for many years it leads to horror stories around loosing limbs and sight.. Yuk.. Conversely put too much of this stuff and blood sugars go low – much the same as hitting the wall in a marathon (but it just gets worse).. neither situation is partial to a good life let alone racing.

In the last 20 years monitoring these levels has moved on from peeing on a stick, to blood testing with a small meter to devices that record you blood sugar levels almost live. Getting that insulin in – comes in two forms – injecting or using an insulin pump.. I prefer the latter whereas Bjorn injects citing extreme temperatures not being friendly to insulin.

Oh I should add – exercise brings blood sugars down and as I’ve found out any insulin injected is 5x more potent!

So back to Bjorn – Bjorn was on the start line of the AR world championships in Jackson, Yellowstone. The event kicked off with a very high paced run, a 15km run that for many of us would finish us for the day let alone being the start of a non-stop race over 4 days.. they paddled down a river then trekked overnight through a mountain range, biked, trekked biked.. and so on it just did not stop – they slept for a mighty total of 3hrs in just over 80hrs of racing and came 2nd.

That first run

But what sets this team apart was these guys were mixing it up in the podium places, the pressure not to make mistakes or loose any time must have been immense. Which in the context of having a T1 in a team who may just pop a little too much insulin in or need to faff to check blood sugars either equals a very lucky Bjorn or most likely a very understanding team.

Pack rafting on day 3 (snooze anyone) photo Rob Howard

As we say in the UK I’ll don my hat to Bjorn for an amazing achievement for me its up there with top achievements for T1’s in the world of sport ever. But also I can not but offer respect and a shake of the hand to the rest of his team – you did good and Bjorn is very lucky to have you as racing comrades.

Team Haglofs Silva have put together a short blog on their experience on the event here

5min recap video on the event

Worlds ReCap

ReCap the 2017 Adventure Race World Championship

Posted by Adventure Enablers on Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Bjorn uses a Freestyle Libre to regularly check his blood sugar levels.  He is on Levimer and Novarapid insulin injections – he did not inject any Novarapid during the event but rather altered what he was eating to maintain good blood sugar levels.

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