Becoming a Type 1 Ironman – by Scott Jozefowski

A huge thank you to Scott, who reminds us that it might take a few tries to find something that we love doing. So don’t give up and certainly don’t let diabetes stop you from finding that something that makes you who you are.

Well, where to start? 

I was a normal kid growing up in early 80s, and a few weeks before my 13th birthday my immune system decided to destroy my pancreas! 

I lost close to 30lbs (13kg) in less than a month, I was thirsty all the time, and the more I craved sugar the weaker I became. Luckily, my parents warned me before the doctor appointment – my pediatrician was very blunt and said, “You have type 1 diabetes and you’ll be on insulin the rest of your life!” 

I spent an entire week in the hospital and had blood drawn every five hours from my arm (as you can imagine, after a few days my vein was inflamed), but the nurses persisted. I learned a lot that week, but the best was the hypo test: they gave me my regular insulin dosage and told me for the first time in a week, to jump on treadmill and go. Less than an hour later, my BG dropped so low I could barely walk. The juice started flowing and I lived – and learned what could happen if I let myself get too low. I lived through football, when the funny part there was the four thousand calories my mom packed in my lunch for two-a-day practices. 

I made it through college by bringing lifesavers and syringes wherever I went. At work, I started traveling for my company. It was fun to show my medical note to the TSA when I packed insulin, syringes, and all the other fun stuff with me. The exercise bug wasn’t really with me until I hit my mid-30s, and I started to realize that if I didn’t take care of myself I’d probably become pretty miserable and die. 

So I started training for the Portland Marathon in late 2006. Training didn’t go great, but I finished the 2007 marathon. I decided I didn’t like running that much, but was considering doing a triathlon. I heard a very motivational speech from Andy Holder (his foundation is Iron Andy). He was diagnosed type 1 at age 34 and decided to do something to show people and kids that type 1 was not a death sentence, but quite the opposite. He was getting ready for the Coeur d’Alene Ironman, which was his third race. 

Needless to say, I was inspired after watching him race the next day. The race opened for 2009 signups and the rest is history. Racing an Ironman is a crazy mental test because the physical part is made during training, but the mental part is your heart and your brain! Having type 1 diabetes adds to that and makes it even more interesting…to say the least. With an insulin pump (Omnipod) and a CGM (Dexcom), I have finished 10 full Ironman races and numerous other triathlon races. 

It’s true that anything is possible and if I was going to give one piece of advice, it would be:

Never ever give up, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something!