Long distances

By Hannah Gauthier


I remember sitting on the couch reading “The Blood of Olympus,” enjoying the fact I didn’t have to work that day. I remember settling into the armchair. It was my reading spot, with coffee stains and red ink on the cushions left over from the last time I wrote in a book. I remember being completely content. That’s when I heard my mom crying from the living room. My mind was racing. I thought of the most horrible things that could have happened. I thought of my great aunt who’s ninety-five and was sick recently. I thought my grandma was sick. A million things that could have gone wrong whirled around in my head. I needed to know, it didn’t matter what was wrong, I needed to know. My sister and I surrounded my crying mom and we held hands. We don’t normally do stuff like that, but we held hands. She choked on the words at first, but then it hit us, my dad had lost his job.

Killington Mountain is 4,263 feet tall. I read that on a bulletin board at the base of the mammoth mountain, stretching out my calves before the race of a lifetime. This is the Spartan Race. This race was founded by a man who made fun of other “extreme races” for not being tough enough. I stand at the entrance, shaking in my Nikes. A four-foot barricade separates the crowd from the official start. My dad, the man whom I have run crazy races with for years, and I assumed the barricade would be removed but then people started jumping over it. In their movements I see this primal look, and I know instantly. I am nowhere near being physically ready for this race. In my worry my dad and another racer pick me up and throw me over the barricade. We are corralled like gladiators before being presented in the Coliseum. Above us stood an announcer, he spoke in this “Gladiator” voice to lead us in this war cry. For a moment it was all consuming. My fear melted away as I joined in on this war cry. I left, ready to march into battle and take on an army. I was engulfed in energy and I screamed out “I am Spartan, Aroo!”

Diabetes: “a disorder in which your pancreas stops producing insulin. It is subdivided into two groups; type one and type two. Type one, is generally inherited, or juvenile diabetes is a disorder of the immune system.”

Or, Diabetes: a wallet draining, arm scaring, seeming high because your blood sugar is too low, disorder.

I honestly thought she said he had killed someone. So I stood there processing until I figured out what she had said. My sister bawled her eyes out. I don’t blame her, I did too. We had just gotten home from vacation and the very next day he was let go. My sister and I stood next to our mom, we all held hands and cried a bit. I sat and cried in my car. My dad is the hardest worker I know. He takes such pride in his work, I could only imagine how upset he was. My mom apologized, she didn’t mean to react in such an extreme way. I told her what I had thought she said and my mom laughed. It lightened the mood momentarily.

Let me set this straight. I run for cool t-shirts. I’m not great at running over long distances and I'm not good at sticking to running everyday. So needless to say, as I looked up from the base of the mountain, I felt my unpreparedness catching up on

me. We weren’t far up the mountain when we saw people sitting on the side of the pounded down grass path. Honestly, I wished I was one of them. My legs were already burning and my lungs were on fire. The grade of the incline was vertical. When I looked up all I could see was mountain and sky. And of course all the people who were struggling. A man dressed up as Super Man wasn’t doing too super. We ran at this vertical incline for what felt like forever, but morale never failed, in the moments when it wavered someone, a total stranger, would cheer you on and everyone would join in. For those moments it made the mountain tolerable.

“The key to T1D control is a careful balance between food, exercise, and insulin. It’s a juggling act to keep blood glucose levels within the target range. Therefore, people with T1D should stick to scheduled blood sugar checks, insulin injections or boluses, and snack times. Even small departures from your diabetes care plan can cause blood glucose levels to rise or fall.”

My first thought was college. I had gotten no financial aid and my parents said they were going to help pay for it, but how could I ask that of them. I wondered if I should put it off, or if I would have to take out more loans. I also thought of my sister. We have gone to a private school and it gets more expensive every year. Would she have to change schools? I would have given up my college savings for her in an instant so she could go to the school six generations of my family had attended.

“Whose idea was this?!” My dad said as we struggled to carry a forty pound bucket of rocks up a hill. Each bucket had to be filled above the line or else you would have to do thirty burpees. It’s not like you could skip out on them either, they had patrols making sure you did your punishment if you couldn’t complete the obstacle. I tried carrying the bucket in a variety of ways, the most comfortable was wrapping my hands around the base. The hill was steep, my whole being felt like a giant pulled muscle. Moving was painful, it took every ounce of my being to keep moving. I could feel the resistance with each cringe-inducing step. I went to put the bucket down and it toppled over, rocks spilling into the grass. I fell into a panic trying to pick up all of the rocks. Most of which fell and got buried in holes in the grass. I gathered as many as I could and tried to smooth them all over to make sure all the holes were covered. The rocks covered maybe two inches above the holes. I picked the bucket up and made a dash for the end of the obstacle, it needed to be over. I had to lift my bucket to my eye level to dump it over onto the pile of rocks where I collected them. My bucket was deemed passable and I then struggled, summoning the energy needed, to physically lift it up any higher. At this point I was running on reserve energy. For a 5K it felt never ending.

myth: People with diabetes can’t participate in athletics.

fact: Physical exercise is important for everyone’s health, and is especially important for people with diabetes. Regular exercise helps lower blood sugar levels and keeps them in the target range. There are countless examples of athletes who have had great success,

from Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer Gary Hall to ice hockey great Bobby Clarke.

My mom explained that they offered him a position, it paid much less but we would be able to keep our health insurance, which was highly important in our case. I live in a family with three diabetics. All of us have highly expensive medical bills and prescriptions. Without health insurance, the cost of them would go up exponentially. This was essentially the worst-case sinerio. My dad’s employer screwed him over.

Well as it turns out, it wasn’t a 5K at all. It was five miles, not including obstacles. I wasn’t ready to run 3.2 miles, much less a five plus mile race! My dad and I had gotten along well so far, minus the encouraging yells to get my slow butt up the mountain. He was getting tired too. We had been running literally for over three hours. A worry became present to both of us, as type one diabetics we hadn’t been on our pumps in hours. We also haven’t been able to see what our blood sugar was. Feeling woozy, I ate a packet of fruit snacks. That was the worst idea ever. The terrain had been somewhat smooth, except for the quarter mile of barbed wire under which we had to crawl. I crawled over rocks, into holes, and got caught on the barbs, tearing small holes into my shirt. Crawling under barbed wire isn’t all that hard, all races have it, but it was just that there was so much of it. Finally emerging at the end of the obstacle my knees were bleeding and I was stiff. We took a two-minute break following that, so I could eat my snack. As I ate them I could feel it wouldn’t end well. But it didn’t matter. I could feel that the finish line was coming. We only had a few obstacles left. On the horizon a great wall rose in the distance. I vaguely remember there being information on an eight-foot tall wall. I stepped on my dads back to pull myself on top of the wall. Once up there the terror set in. It was only eight feet tall but from sitting on top of the wall it looked much higher. I flat out told my dad I wasn’t going to be able to get myself down. That’s when the brigade came in, my dad and these three elderly women literally pulled me down from the wall. My thigh scrapped against the wooden board as I went down. They weren’t easy on me, I was all scratched up from my assent and descent from the eight-foot wall. Following the wall, we ran along the path and this massive structure was ahead (this obstacles a personal favorite). We had to lift a forty-pound pancake shaped sand bag, which was connected to a rope, up into the air. I started on my feet lifting it up half way until I crept lower to the ground, using my lower center of gravity to continue lifting. At one point I was laying on the ground and then it rang the bell. I heard a guard congratulated me on finishing it so quickly.

Q. How do I know whether my plan has a coverage policy?

A. Medicare, Medicaid, and many commercial and health exchange plans list their coverage policies publicly on their websites. Some plans make them available to members or participating physicians by request. If you are unable to find your plan’s coverage policies online, contact the plan by phone, and ask the customer services representative for a copy of the policy. If they cannot provide you with a copy of the policy, ask them about their plan’s coverage of the item or service you’re interested in.

My mom said not to worry about school, to both of us. I kept worrying, it’s what I do. She said we wouldn’t loose our house, we wouldn’t have to move. She said we would probably not go out to eat or the movies as much. “Your dads a brilliant guy, he will find something new.” She’s right and I know it. He’s the hardest worker I know, he’ s probably where I got my work ethic and never give up attitude from. When he came home you could tell a cloud of disappointment, fear, and anger hung over his head. That night my house was silent. My house is never silent. There is always someone watching TV, with the volume turned up so loud it’s like an old person with broken hearing aides is watching it, talking/yelling, or the parakeets are yelling. But not that night. That night the whole house was silent. We were all silent and even the parakeets didn’t have anything to say. As I sat there in the silence, I knew as shitty as it was currently we would survive. He would find a new job and all would be well. For now we would just have to wait but as always we will survive.

The final obstacle was the hardest. We had to go back up the mountain. At this point I was exhausted, sore, and ready to be done. My dad gave me a little pep talk and we kept moving forward. The path was entirely vertical and there wasn’t even much of a path. The path was overgrown, large old trees had fallen over, and I couldn’t even see an end in sight. I started feeling sick to my stomach about half way up. The world was spinning, so I would have to break every once in a while. After maybe thirty minutes of climbing we reached the top, and I emptied my stomach on a cluster of flowers. I was ready to quit, but my dad said that was silly for ‘what goes up must come down’ and I looked down and there was the finish line. Before I ran as if I was so ready to do it, my dad made me promise not to “Hannah” him. Being Hannah’ed consists of my sprinting away from the pack, nearing the finish line, leaving my friends and family in the dust. He wanted a picture of us at the finish line together and I agreed. We ran down the hill together, jumping over rows of fire that came up knee high. We hit the finish line together. As much as we may yell during the race at each other, we always finish it proud of each other and thankful for our special dad and daughter memories we are creating. I got a finisher metal that qualified me for their other races. But most importantly, I got not one, but two t-shirts. Five miles. Fifteen obstacles. Three hours and forty-three minutes of pure hell. One question: Can we do it again?

FACT: Diabetes does not define you.