A 'Type 1' ironman

A Kelowna man is not going to let anything slow him down, not even Type 1 diabetes.

Tyler McClellan, 39, is running in his first ever Ironman Triathlon in Madison, Wisconsin on Sept. 11.

He was born in Penticton and moved to Kelowna as a toddler – he was diagnosed with diabetes on his 14th birthday.

“This year has been 25 years,” said McClellan. “It adds quite a sequence of events to everyday life. It is part of life now. I always envision it as you're given so many cards in life to play with and you have to play with what you're dealt.”

He said those with diabetes are always on an alert, considering everything they eat, drink and do.

“Everything you do can have an advantage or disadvantage to what your blood sugars are doing,” explained McClellan.

Competing in an ironman is a massive feat for any athlete, especially one that once survived a week-long coma from severe hypoglycemia due to his diabetes, but he is taking it on with a team of athletes just like him.

McClellan is one of 49 members of the Riding On Insulin (ROI) Endurance team who will put a year’s worth of training to the test Sept. 11.

He said the diabetes adds another layer to extreme athletics like the Ironman.

“A lot of the things that high-tempo athletes use are things that have a lot of carbohydrates in them,” said McClellan.

“So, every time I am taking carbohydrates in I have to be concerned with how much it is and if I need to take insulin to compensate for it or if the energy I am putting out is going to suffice. It is almost like another handicap.”

This will be McClellan's first ironman. Before this race, he spent 27 years officiating ice hockey, including 12 in the Western Hockey League – he ran his first triathlon in 2012.

“I always was a volunteer at things like the Kelowna Apple Triathlon and Ironman in Penticton,” said McClellan.

“Since then, I’ve done a Sprint and an Olympic Triathlon in 2013 and two Half Irons in 2015.”

He said he never thought that he would be an athlete or competitor, but technological advancements have allowed people with issues like diabetes to compete in extreme sports.

“A lot of people are doing a lot of things as a Type 1 diabetic,” said McClellan. “I have messaged a man out of Florida who was the very first Type 1 diabetic ever to finish an Ultraman. It is pretty cool to see.”

The ROI international team consists of athletes with Type 1 diabetes, and athletes who support those with Type 1 diabetes.

“Riding on Insulin is a not-for-profit organization that takes in donations for kids to learn more about their diabetes at places like snowboard camps,” said McClellan. “Learning about their body, learning about taking insulin and using food.”

Riding On Insulin hosts action sports programs for kids and teens with Type 1 diabetes in Canada and abroad.

The ROI team will all be defying the disease and pushing their bodies to the limit, in a 3.8-kilometre swim, 180-km bike and 42-km run – to be completed within 17 hours.

“I am working hard at staying positive, it is pretty nerve wracking for someone like me. It is going to be a long day and we are going to give it our best,” said McClellan.

To support McClellan's fundraising efforts and show your support, click here.

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