On Saturday, January 30, 2010 I competed with some of the best of the best in the sport of raw powerlifting I began powerlifting exactly one year ago and this RAW UNITY event was my third competition in a full powerlifting event. ROCHE’s ACCU-Chek Glucometer sponsored my entry and flight to Tampa, and they also sent me a new meter and plenty of strips to keep me going during my training and the competition. My best friend, Tara, and my coach, Andrew Berry, came to help and support me during the event (couldn’t do it without my team!).
I knew going into this that this was not drug-tested, and therefore, some of the women were likely on steroids. Once I got to the event and really scoped out my competition, I knew it was basically impossible to win. But I also instantly knew this was a level of competition I had never participated in and it would be well worth the experience!
I knew what it felt like to win. Last May I won and set 7 records in the APA-WPA meet in VT, and this past November, I won and set two records in the 100% Raw federation – both drug-tested events. And winning feels great, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes you miss out on some other important aspects when winning might come too easily. This time I wanted to challenge myself, not worrying about this or that number making me a winner (because no matter what I scored, it wouldn’t be enough to win), instead, I challenged myself with numbers I’d never lifted before.
DIABETES & POWERLIFTING
During the week before my actual event, I had to make my weightclass by dropping 8lbs of water weight in 4 days. This is not TRUE weightloss and SHOULD NOT be attempted by anyone without knowledge and supervision. This is not a diet. It’s temporary weightloss that I do with my blood sugars completely in range and safely. As soon as I weigh-in, I have 24 hours to eat and drink to regain the loss of water of electrolytes. I’ve studied my body well enough to know how to do this with water flushing, limiting carbohydrates and reducing insulin doses enough to make up for the lack of carbohydartes. Needless to say, this time making weight was the easiest and my blood sugar only dropped low once during that week, and only went above 200 twice. It’s not easily, physically, but in terms of diabetes, I’ve got the control and insulin adjustment aspect down pat. :)
My main goal in terms of diabetes, this time, was to prevent the adrenaline-rush-induced high blood sugars (300+) I’d struggled with at my past meets. No matter how much short-acting insulin I gave myself during the day at the other meets, I couldn’t break through the adrenaline and cortisol naturally produced at high levels because of the excitement and stress of being a competitor.
This time, I gave myself 3 extra units of Lantus insulin (about 7% of my usual dose, 23 units). And it worked! My goal was to keep my blood sugar around 170-200 because anything lower would put me at too much risk for dropping low in between events and lifts. I can’t afford to drop low AT ALL because that would seriously drain the glycogen stores (sugar, energy) in my muscles and I wouldn’t have enough time to fully recover if I want to compete at my very best.
Competing with blood sugars that are TOO HIGH can seriously impede my muscles’ ability to function at their fullest and strongest capacity. Muscles need sugar for energy and if my blood sugar is too high, the sugar is clearly sitting in the blood stream without enough insulin to carry it too the muscles. I’ve competed and trained with my blood sugar around 200 and I felt completely fine, so I knew this would be a safe way to go.
I checked my blood sugar close to 20 times that day between when I woke up, during the competition, and after the competition. I started the day at 130, ate a breakfast of steak and oatmeal, took my usual insulin to carbohydrate ratio dose and drank plenty of water. During the next two to three hours before my first event (the squat), I checked three or four more times to keep an eye on everything. At one point my blood sugar got up to 233, I gave myself 1 unit to bring it down, but the Lantus increase was doing it’s job well, so I came down to 155 very quickly. TOO QUICKLY.
So I ate again, didn’t cover all of the carbs, and continued checking to maintain around 200. The increased Lantus dose worked perfectly because this time I HAD CONTROL over my blood sugar rising, not the other hormones in my body. This competition went so smoothly for my diabetes because I paid close attention to what DIDN’T work at my other competitions. Everything is an experiment. I truly do NOT believe there is such a thing as a “mystery high blood sugar.” There is always an explanation, but sometimes we haven’t yet acquired the knowledge to understand what happened. It takes time and patience!
I squatted 250lbs, failed at 270lbs. I bench pressed a new personal record of 187.5lbs. And I only deadlifted 275lbs, not a personal best, but I attempted 315lbs twice. The first attempt I finished, but the rules are strict, and I “hitched” the bar on my legs once, which is not allowed. The second attempt, I just couldn’t get it all the up! But I loved trying! I’ve never attempted 315lbs before and the challenged was purely fun. For videos on theRaw Unity event see RawUnity’s video stream, or see my blog https://gingervieira.blogspot.com (videos will be updated February 4, 2010).
Now that this event is said and done, I plan to relax a bit! Let some of my aches and pains from training heal (left elbow, left hip, left glute!) and I’ll return to some light training in a couple weeks, and more serious training in a month or so. Perhaps planning to compete in a drug-tested event in the USA-PL federation during the summer.
In the end, I do powerlifting because I love it, it keeps me healthy, it motivates me to make my diabetes a number one priority, I’ve had to learn so much about my diabetes/body in order to progress, and I love the pure challenge of seeing what I am capable of accomplishing.
Ginger Vieira has lived with Type 1 diabetes and Celiac disease since 1999, and fibromyalgia since 2014. She is the author of Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes & Dealing with Diabetes Burnout & Emotional Eating with Diabetes & Your Diabetes Science Experiment. Ginger creates content regularly for Diabetes Strong, Healthline, HealthCentral, DiabetesDaily, EverydayHealth and her YouTube channel. Her background includes a B.S. in professional writing, certifications in cognitive coaching, Ashtanga yoga, and personal training,with several records in drug-free powerlifting. She lives in Vermont with her husband, their two daughters, and their dog, Pedro.