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Endurance walking with diabetes

So last week, as I told you all, I went on a long, long walk: 50km, to be exact.

Here are all the facts:

What? A two day, 50km walk from Bloubergstrand in Cape Town to Darling (the Rocking the Daisies Music Festival, to be exact).

How? As part of a team of walkers (100 in total) to raise awareness around 350.org and our carbon footprints (Walking the Daisies was organised by culture talent and sponsored by Fruit and Veg City).

Why? For a number of reasons. I love walking and it sounded like a great adventure. I also get fired up any time there’s an opportunity that could be seen as more challenging for someone with diabetes – I want to do it to show that just because you’re diabetic doesn’t mean you should hold yourself back from anything. And in a year or two I want to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain, which is 3-6 weeks of walking 25-30km a day, so this seemed like an easy entry point to that!

What was it like? Wonderful, challenging, frustrating, beautiful.

Let’s start with wonderful: being able to walk along beaches and through nature reserves and fields and along routes that I wouldn’t normally get anywhere near was amazing. I really like walking, and the challenge of covering such huge distances was great (25km a day). It was really well organised, and we had regular rest stops with great snacks (fruit, nuts, water) and lots of different people to chat to along the way.

Challenging: Because we travelled in a group it wasn’t possible to take a break whenever you felt like it, you had to stick with the team. This wasn’t a problem on Day 1, when I felt fresh and my blood sugar was stable and I loved walking on the beach, but on Day 2, when I was tired and headachey and with really high blood sugar (more on that later), it was difficult.

Frustrating: To explain this properly, I need to go back a few weeks. I get my insulin delivered to the post office every month, where they keep it in the fridge till I get there, and then I transfer it to my fridge at home. As anyone who is on insulin knows, keeping the cold chain unbroken is really important or the insulin risks being less effective. But for some reason, for the last two months, the post office staff have left my insulin out on the shelf, unrefrigerated – for days! So it’s been a bit of a challenge having more sensitive insulin than usual.

Add to that the fact that for the first day I had to carry it with me in a backpack (wrapped up in newspaper with a cold pack, but still in a backpack in the sun alllll day) and it’s no surprise that I woke up really high (10.2mmol/l) on Friday morning – the second day of our walk. I had spare insulin with me, so I switched to that, but it took some time to kick in. Also, the breakfast was delicious but not very healthy: muffins, sweetened yoghurt, bananas, so my blood sugar went through the roof in the first few hours of the day (I was so scared of going low because of all the exercise that I didn’t want to take too huge a dose). So there I was, walking along a long, straight road in the sun for 3 hours with sky-high blood sugar. Not fun!

As you all know, high blood sugar makes you feel pretty awful. Tired, headachey, emotional (at least, that’s what it does to me) – add strenuous exercise to that and it’s a recipe for a bad morning! Luckily, by lunchtime my blood sugar had stabilised and I spent an hour in the shade under a tree and recovered enough to really enjoy the afternoon’s walk.

And finally, beautiful: There are some truly stunning landscapes around Cape Town, and to walk from the coast (Silverstroomstrand) all the way to Darling in one day was breathtaking – especially looking back from a high hill that let us see the whole day’s journey. I really enjoyed knowing that my body is capable of endurance walking (once I sort my insulin situation out!)

So all in all, it was an adventure!

I’m curious, though – how do you all feel about diabetic adventures? Do you think I’m silly for putting myself in a situation where I had really high blood sugar for a day when if I had stayed at home I wouldn’t have had to worry about that? Or is it worth it to live a ‘normal’ life?

Let me know what you think!

For now, I’m nursing my two (only two!) blisters, and getting back into the everyday routine of life…

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.