The Type 1 Athlete Landscape

An interview with extreme athlete John Moore

Michelle Alswager BioBy Michelle Alswager

As I sat down to interview John Moore about his life as an athlete with diabetes and how the landscape has changed over the years, he received an email from the mother of 17-year-old Ashlee Ernst. He had met Ashlee in 2010 during an Insulindependence-sponsored event called the "14'ers Expedition." The email asked him if he would be interested in participating in the Rock n' Roll half marathon this year.

Eight years prior to that, John began training for Ironman Arizona. "I didn't have a bike, couldn't swim, and had a broken ankle," said John. "I decided to sign up for Ironman after finding out that I would be unable to run the Leadville 100 due to a stress fracture in my ankle." It was 2005 and John knew of no one who had ever run a 100-mile race with diabetes and, in actuality, didn't know of anyone with diabetes who was involved in any endurance sport, period. He took up swimming and bought a bike to start the road to Ironman, all on his own.

"Come to think of it, at that point in my life I didn't know anyone with diabetes at all," John said. "Besides not having the right equipment, no experience with open-water swimming, and never having participated in a triathlon, I had no idea how I was going to do it with diabetes, and didn't even know anyone that I could even talk to about how."

I had the pleasure of interviewing John back in 2005 as he was about to embark on that very Ironman competition. Ironman is an extreme sport. After swimming 2.4 miles, the athlete hops on a bicycle and rides 112 miles before lacing up the running shoes and doing a full marathon — 26.2 miles. It is hard work earning the 140.6 miles sticker you see on a handful of vehicles across the country. Now imagine doing it with very little help from the medical world — sports medicine doctors with no training to help an athlete with diabetes and endocrinologists saying, ‘Maybe that's not the best idea."

Times have changed dramatically in less than a decade.

Going to the Extreme Together

In late 2006 I gave John a shout about an idea I had. The idea of putting 10 type 1 athletes together to do a documentary (Triabetes) about training for ironman and completing it. John was instrumental in scouring the Internet, blogs, and contacts to find people with diabetes willing to go to the extreme. Not only did we find 10, we found 12.

By the time the training was over and the race was done, people were hearing about John and the other athletes and had started contacting them for training advice. When the documentary was complete, new type 1 athletes were pounding on the door of Insulindependence — who was now housing the Triabetes program — to become part of the growing team.

Organizations such as Insulindependence, Riding on Insulin, TeamWILD, Connected in Motion, and others were building strong athlete communities. The world of social media made it possible to train TOGETHER. It is not uncommon today to see blood sugar readings as a tweet or Facebook status with many responses on how to manage those differently during a swim, bike, run, or climb.

3 years ago John inspired Ashlee on a mountain. As Ashlee's mom was composing that email to John she was waiting for Ashlee to finish the Lincoln half marathon — her NINTH one in those 3 years. In that email her mother asks John to race once again with Ashlee. "It has been 3 years exactly as she started with Denver in 2010. You and her should do it together."

Oh how the landscape has changed. Cheesy as it may sound, the type 1 athlete group has grown from a vast desert to a blooming, rich environment full of so many opportunities for not only adults, but for children as well. Young athletes like Ashlee or young Ryan Maloney who bills himself as "Athlete/Type 1 Diabetic" are part of the ever-growing athlete community jumping on surf boards, paddle boards, and racing triathlons. As I write this article, Insulindependence has announced the 14th North American Conference on Diabetes and Exercise called "New Frontiers in Diabetes and Sport" in San Diego, CA this August with all the big names in the world of diabetes and sports.

As for John, he is the process of getting back into shape. Major life changes including starting a new job and having twins altered his definition of endurance training. "This past weekend I ran a 25K. When I finished, I had the itch for more," states John.

John offers up this challenge to you, the dLife reader. He has committed to doing the Denver Rock N Roll half marathon with Ashlee in October 2013. Want to join them? Join the team! For more information please contact John at

dLife's Daily Living columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: June 12, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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