Diabetes Training Camp - A Coach's Review - Part 1

Last week, I participated in my second Diabetes Training Camp at Franklin & Marshall College in my home of Lancaster, PA. The fact that the only camp of this type is four miles from my home is just coincidence, though I was reminded by a friend recently that there are no such thing as coincidences, so we’ll leave it at that.

Though it seems incredibly difficult to condense the week’s worth of learnings, emotions and activities into a cohesive review, it also seems a worthy challenge. If a prospective attendee finds value in these words, great. If an alumni of the camp can look upon these thoughts and be reminded of their own high-points, all the better. But in the end, I’m really writing these posts for me, so that I can capture my memories while they remain fresh.

To the reader, it’s important you know my role in all of this, small as it was. Among a staff of a dozen or so, I’m the Running Coach, a position I picked up a year ago. I’m a member of the Coaching team, which comprises of a Head Coach (who also serves as the Head of the cycling program, an Assistant Cycling Coach and a Swimming Coach). There are similar sized mental skills teams, medical and nutritional teams, as well as one Exercise Physiologist. And of course, none of this would work without a crack admin team that puts it all together. In short, it’s a big team with a goal of providing a personalized holistic program for campers.

As Running Coach, I’m there to choose the routes for daily workouts and provide insight into the proper way to develop and/or execute a running program. As one of the staff with diabetes, this often also involves discussing the ramifications of the workouts on blood sugar.

The campers this year consisted of two dozen or so (If you notice the 1:2 ratio for staffers to camp, you’ve already picked up on something unique about DTC), coming from as nearby as Leola, PA (15 minutes) to Canada and California. Largely promoted by word of mouth and through social media, it’s a small, intimate camp.

Though my further posts will attempt to portray the entirety of the DTC experience, there is nothing greater I can say than this: forty percent of the campers were alumni from previous years, and in the weeks that led up to camp, they were joined by many more on social media lamenting the fact that they couldn’t return this year.

The campers had age differences of more than forty years, and experience with diabetes ranging from one to forty-seven years. Athletic experiences ranged from minimal to marathons, and goals from finish a 5k to qualify for the Boston Marathon. It’s a diverse crowd, to be sure, but if that might make people uncomfortable early on, it’s likely one of the most important reasons the camper bond becomes so great by the end. As human beings, we seem hardwired to be able to spot the differences among us and can forget the magic that comes from an understanding of how similar we all are.

The day before the campers arrived consisted of staff training, most of which involved reviewing the bios of the incoming campers. I was excited, if a little nervous. My experience the previous year had been with a cycling-heavy camp, and my running pack rarely outnumbered a half dozen. This year, the number of campers with running experience and goals was more than twice that. Coupled with a new walking program for campers just beginning an exercise routine, it was obvious to me from the beginning that I’d be a lot busier this year, which was fine.

I went to bed that night excited for tomorrow when I’d be able to put faces to the goals, hopes and concerns I’d been learning about all day. Chances are, my own feelings would’ve made sleep difficult but I’d had an early morning long run prior to orientation. I pulled the blanket of fatigue up over my head and slept the sleep of a man who knows an exhausting and exciting experience was just the around the corner and I'd be wise to be ready for it.

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