Race Day: One Diabetic’s Triathlon Checklist


The time has come, people, and I’m getting ready.  I’ve had a rough week of workouts, but I’m not going to let it shake me.  I’ve trained for tomorrow’s sprint triathlon for the last two months and now the only item left on the agenda is to make it happen.

Let’s do this.

I thought it might be helpful for anyone else who will ever happen into doing their first triathlon to have a bunch of suggestions for what to bring.  Below you will find my photo checklist regarding sprint tri preparations.  Best wishes to all the athletes who will be competing this weekend!


1)      Glucose Tablets

Raspberry is my favorite flavor

I don’t really like Walgreens, especially because they are a giant corporation with wicked high prices on diabetes supplies, but there was a night in Austin when I was desperate for glucose tablets and the W was all that was available.  Well, I must now confess that this particular brand has become my favorite.  During some of my most intense workouts, I ate at least four tablets every 20-30 minutes.  A must-have for tomorrow’s activities.

2)      Medical ID Bracelet

Hard to get a good picture of the shiny bracelet, but you can kind of see the scars left-over from my infusion back in May!

When I was first diagnosed, I spent a good chunk of time trying to find good supplies that would meet my wants and needs.  I found a pretty sweet insulin/meter kit (please see # 3) and an amazing medical ID bracelet.  For anyone out there who’s interested in an ID bracelet that is different from the norm, look no further than Silverbloom Studio.  Suzanne, the master silversmith, went above and beyond to make a bracelet that fit me perfectly, had all of my information, and looked classy.  Since the day I received it in the mail, I have only taken my bracelet off when sleeping; it’s that comfortable and that low-maintenance.  I LOVE IT!

3)      Glucometer and Insulin

It tucks away all my pen needles, lancets, and test strips, along with my meter and insulin pen.

This may sound obvious to the expert diabetic, but I think I’ve been so caught up in worrying about what to do if I go low that I hadn’t given a lot of thought to making sure I have my insulin with me, as well.  My meter and insulin kit is simple and swanky and it has pockets that are perfect for what I need to have with me at all times.  Again, if you’re looking for something a little off-the-beaten-path, check out the type 1 self-starter at myabetic.  (I get tons of compliments on my “clutch” and it’s a wallet, too!)  The meter is a must; I’ll be testing at every possible opportunity.

4)      Wetsuit

(No photo available because I’m picking up my rental today!)

That’s right.  A wetsuit.  Where I come from, people only wear wetsuits when they’re far away, scuba diving in oceanic waters.  Around here, however, they are expected at all triathlon events.  I’m told the water temperature is mid-60s.  While I don’t really have a way to gauge water temperatures, I’m pretty sure that’s on the colder side.  And, even if it’s not, everyone reminds me that wetsuits help with buoyancy, making your body easier to transport through the thrashing waves of other swimmers.

5)       New Goggles

Lightly tinted in case it's sunny, crystal clear and anti-fog

This is the one item that I purchased specifically for the event.  I own three pairs of goggles from my many days of swimming, but all three of them are heavily tinted and significantly scratched on the inside.  I decided to invest in a new pair…  And I love them.  New goggles are a purchase you don’t regret.

6)      Coworker’s Bike and Roommate’s Helmet

It's the blue and white one in front

My coworker graciously allowed me to borrow her bike for the event, as I have not yet purchased one here in Seattle.  Most of my cycling training was on the stationary bikes at the gym, so I’ve only ridden this bike twice, but I’m confident that things will somehow flow just fine for the race.

7)      Old Shoes and Super Cush Socks

Picture taken after my rainy run through the park last weekend

I decided to stick with my old New Balances, dirt and all.  They’ve carried me through all of my training and they’re just plain comfortable.  Combine familiar, dependable shoes with extra thick running socks and you’ve got yourself a pretty good set-up.  We’ll see how they hold up tomorrow.

8)      Watch from My Grandma

See the brown-haired one with freckles? That's me.

My grandma gave me this watch for Christmas a few years ago when I was teaching at an early intervention special education preschool in Columbus, Ohio.  She bought it at a local craft fair and said the little faces were supposed to represent all of the different kids I worked with.  I rarely wore it to school, however, for fear that the little darlings would add it to their toy collection, one piece at a time.  As this is my only watch, I used it to train for all my outdoor runs and it doesn’t seem right to race without it.  Who needs digital stopwatches and durable plastic bands?

9)      A Grungy Towel, A Regular Towel, and Flip-Flops

Had to get my favorite color (yellow) in the line-up somewhere!

I mean, when in life do you not need these items?  The flip-flops will come in handy before and after the race, I’m sure.  And a helpful friend pointed out to me recently that not only do you need a towel to dry off with after the swim, but you also need one to sit and stand on in the Transition Zone while you get out of the wetsuit and into your biking gear.  No sense getting your feet and bum all muddy before attempting to put socks and pants on.  Thanks, Hannah!

10)   Faith that things will somehow come together

If open water and close-by mountains don't inspire confidence, I don't know what does.

This past week has been full of discouraging moments and unpredictable blood sugars.  And, despite all my planning and correcting, people have advised me that Race Day will bring surprises of its own, including hormonal changes inside my body that I have no way of controlling.  It’s not up to me to make my body perform perfectly; it’s up to me to try my best.  The two months I have spent training for tomorrow have been just as beneficial for my mental health as they have been for my physical health.  The amount of support I have received from my family, friends, and you readers has been overwhelming in the best of ways.  People from SDGNW have come to my emotional rescue and will be looking out for me at the finish line.  Even the dreamy guy at Whole Foods wished me luck!

I am able-bodied and thankful.  And now, on with my first sprint triathlon.

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Michelle S
Michelle S
10 years ago

Congrats on your race Emily, can’t wait to hear about it!

Aunt Karen
10 years ago

Wow! Glad to hear. Knew you could do it! Can’t wait for the post.

Emily Patton
10 years ago

THANK YOU SO MUCH, EVERYONE!  I had a great race and am feeling fine.  Blog post to come soon, of course, but thank you again and again for your support.  It truly carried me through.  LOVE!

Debbie Jo Pierce
Debbie Jo Pierce
10 years ago

Emily, I just love the way you write.  What a helpful and interesting article.  And I think I’m going to have to use a part of it as my new life motto:   “Race Day… and I’m thinking “Every day in this race called LIFE”) …will bring surprises of its own, including … changes … that I have no way of controlling.  It’s not up to me to … perform perfectly; it’s up to me to try my best.”  Thanks for sharing and I’ll be back here cheering for you!

Julie G.
Julie G.
10 years ago

Here’s hoping a very professional triathlete asks you what time it is during the race and you get to put that sweet watch to work! (Insert your grandmother slapping her knee here.) Good luck, and stay calm. You can do it!

Catherine Price
10 years ago

Good luck, be proud and have fun.

Laura Wilson
Laura Wilson
10 years ago

Today is a new day. ;)

Jeff Nobles
Jeff N.
10 years ago

Good luck, Emily, and thanks for sharing the story here. You’re an inspiration.
Best wishes!

10 years ago

Well, I typed you a fairly long & sappy comment, but there was an error, and apparently it didn’t go through. :(  I just wanted to wish you the best of luck and tell you that you are such an amazing woman AND an inspiration to so many people.  (At least, that’s what *I believe!).  I haven’t seen you since college, but I am so happy that you have been experiencing life to the fullest.  I’m sorry about your diagnosis with Type 1….but the fact that you’re forging through AND doing a triathalon makes you one woman I can’t help… Read more »

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