TriCamp with Coach Cliff | TriRidgefield

Last summer, Colin had a very exciting and fun week at TriRidgefield’s Kids Camp. For about a year before, Colin had great interest in running and that extended to triathlon training the more and more he heard about it.

He had no hesitation about signing up again this year. When I asked Caleb if he wanted to go, he said. “No, that’s Colin’s thing. My thing is baseball.” I could not influence him to change his mind.

Then his school held a Rod Dickson Kids Marathon training event and Caleb got the bug. His interest did a 180 degree turn. He was in for Kids Camp 120%.

Colin cheering on brother Caleb

I was thrilled to see Caleb excited about this discipline, pleased to see him and his brother share an interest and tickled to know that he would be under the tutelage of Coach Cliff Scherb, Ironman.

Cliff and Caleb both have type 1 diabetes, use the OmniPod and DexCom Seven Plus systems. They both have rocking buzz cuts which enhance their speediness. 🙂

Caleb had a fantastic week. He had so much fun. I was worried it would be a little too intense for him. He said the workouts were exhausting, but only when I asked. His consistent reference to his days at camp were “That was fun. Camp is so much fun. I can’t wait to go back because it’s so fun. Fun, fun, fun!!”

Colin finishing the bike

Since last year’s camp experience, Colin got a new bike. It is just about the only thing he got for Christmas this year. He saved up every penny that came his way and asked anyone interested in getting him a gift to contribute to his bike. After the first day of camp he felt validated in this investment. I wouldn’t describe camp as uber competitive, but there are some serious kid athletes in attendance. Colin made a great improvement this year over last and finished second in his age group.

Caleb didn’t place, but he did fabulously. I was so proud of both of them.

photobomb by Grandma Grace

When I interviewed Cliff in 2010, I asked for advice on Colin’s behalf. He emphasized swimming for the younger crowd. I saw firsthand how important this part of the race is. Colin was not the fastest swimmer, but he came out pretty strong and made up some time in the bike and run. I could see how not having any prior swim experience other than goofing around in the pool impacted Caleb’s performance. He and Lila are now in weekly swim lessons! But I have to say that the improvement in his technique in just the one week of tricamp was astounding.

I cannot say enough about what nice, professional and encouraging people Evan (the camp director) and Coach Cliff are. The kids were great, the parents were great – it was a fabulous week all around.

It’s been said over and over what a terrific guy Cliff is, but you’ll have to tolerate me saying it yet again. He really is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. This was not a diabetes camp, but Caleb and Cliff had that connection. Just knowing that there was someone around him that understood was a great influence to Caleb, and the fact that it was Cliff, a humble, kind and skilled athlete, made the experience even sweeter.

I was lucky enough to contribute to an article in Diabetes Forecast that featured Cliff that I invite you to check out. He talks about being an Ironman and living with diabetes and balancing the two. It’s really no joke – this guy is an expert when is comes to endurance training and managing blood sugars. Every time I talk to him I get a new tip. I am so blessed to have had so much direct exposure to that brain trust. If training of this nature is at all an interest of yours, please read Cliff’s story. He is the founder and principal coach of TriStar Labs in Norwalk, CT. We’re looking forward to cheering him on this August when he races in the Ironman US Championship in New York City.

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#DSMA live Tonight with Cliff Scherb

Cliff at Ironman, Kona 2010

I’m very excited about tonight’s dsma live episode. Cliff Scherb will be the guest. I was lucky enough to spend a morning with Cliff last year. He is kind, generous and knowledgable. I could have spent the entire day picking his brain, but after nearly three hours, I figured I was already pushing it.

Cliff is a triathlon coach and founder of TriStar Athletes LLC. He has competed with Team Type 1 and in several Ironman events including the World Championship in Kona and is also a record holder in more than one of these events.

Isn't this picture amazing? Click on it to enlarge - you MUST!

Since meeting with Cliff, I’ve wished everyone could have some time to hear him talk about his strategies and techniques for keeping his blood sugar in range not only on a daily basis, but also during intense training and competitions. Tonight, that wish comes true!

Please join the live conversation tonight, 9PM EST on Blog Talk Radio. If you’ve ever been frustrated by unpredictable blood sugars while exercising or training, I’m pretty sure you’ll be glad you tuned in.

Meeting Cliff Scherb | A Day I Won’t Forget

Cliff at Ironman, Kona 2010 - 1629

To my utter delight, Mr. Cliff Scherb met with me!  For about two and a half hours he talked with me and generously shared his experiences and perspectives on being a triathlete and living with diabetes.

I’ve been struggling to write this post because I’m afraid I won’t be able to properly repay his generosity. I don’t think I have the words or skill to do Cliff justice. Everyone I spoke to before I met him said he was a great guy – a genuinely nice, humble, super fast, superhuman guy.  He completely lived up to all those accolades and here I am, little ol’ me, trying to relay his greatness to you.

I went into this meeting thinking I would do an interview on his recent achievement at the Ironman World Championship. But seriously, who was I kidding? I know virtually nothing about racing in any capacity. I did my best to prepare appropriate questions and we did indeed talk about it, but I will leave Cliff to tell you the details about that event. Cliff describes the race step by step, breaking down each transition including descriptions of the weather, what his bg was and his thoughts throughout the race. Whether you are an Ironman enthusiast or not, I invite you to read it. His positive attitude leaps out at you and, well, he had a phenomenal and inspiring performance.

Congratulations Cliff!

Ironman - Kona 2010

Cliff was diagnosed with type one diabetes at the age of nine.  He talks of his childhood with diabetes as just another thing to manage along with brushing his teeth and other daily chores. We’ve heard this before, right?

Well when Cliff says it, I actually really believe him.

Not that I don’t believe other people when they say it, but with diabetes there are dichotomies. Yes it can be simple – just check your sugar and push a few buttons or the like and you’re good to go. But it’s also a matter of making yourself bleed throughout the day, stopping to tally up your carbs, hoping that you estimated that 1/2 cup correctly and oh yeah – let me stick another needle in me so I can finally eat.

I don’t think Cliff thinks much about that second part at all. He takes care of himself and does all those things, but he doesn’t overthink them.

He attributes this to the way he was raised, his inherent personality, his competitive nature, his desire for continued self-improvement, and to incorporating three elements into his care routine: food, family and exercise.

I’m used to the reference of balancing food, insulin and exercise.  To hear “family” as an official part of managing diabetes made me think.  Of course I agree that the support of family is imperative, but it’s always been more of an assumed, in the background kind of thing to me.  When it comes to a care “plan”, I think of carbs, bolus’ and activity.  I like this mindset of including family, of including emotion, more directly.

I believe that the support system that made him the person he was when he was diagnosed gave him this balanced perspective from the very beginning. He is confident, without the slightest trace of arrogance, with who he is. Taking care of his diabetes is just something else he has to do. He accepted it and incorporated it into his life. Period.

Isn't this picture amazing? Click on it to enlarge - you won't be sorry - I promise. 🙂

Here’s another thing he said that struck me – he never worries about diabetes on race days.

I repeated that back to him to make sure I heard it right. The thought of Caleb heading out to a baseball game or stepping into the pool still makes me tense up a bit, so how could diabetes not be in the forefront of his mind when it comes to intense races, particularly triathlons, particularly the Ironman World Championship?

He explained and I came to understand.

The Ironman World Championship 2010 - Cliff at the finish line

Cliff has spent a tremendous amount of time and effort refining his approach.  He’s a self described type A personality. He’s raced many races unsuccessfully and has learned from those experiences. He’s charted his insulin needs to the nth degree and has developed a literal database of information that drives his dosing plans.  He has basal programs for various training, race and rest days.  He knows how his body – how athletes’ bodies – respond to the different disciplines of swimming, biking and running and defines a precise plan for each.  He knows exactly how many calories/carbs he needs to take in each hour of each activiy.

He’s done his homework and done it well. So, no – he doesn’t worry about diabetes on race days because he’s working with a proven plan – a plan proven by the many races he has raced successfully.

He credits OmniPod a great deal with his ability to develop this tailored approach. “It’s all about the basal”, he says. When he was on injection therapy, he had less control over the long lasting insulin in his body, and he wouldn’t consider a tubed pump with his level of training and competition. I love the way he talks about insulin therapies in this video – comparing injections to a chainsaw and pump therapy to a laser. He’s using that laser to its fullest potential to develop the greatest level of precision he can.

Cliff is the founder of TriStar Athletes Coaching and has a great deal to offer other athletes and in particular athletes living with diabetes (check out his page dedicated to Diabetes Coaching). He is building a facility adjacent to his home in Connecticut (including a small indoor pool) that he plans to use for training and coaching, but also wants to develop a retreat program like diabetes camp for grownups. Cliff provides consulting services in person and via phone or skype – more details on his coaching page. You can find Cliff on Twitter and Facebook too.

When asked for advice for T1D kids, Cliff mentions the following –

  • Understand the food you eat and how it affects your blood sugar, like the difference between a complex and a simple carbohydrate.
  • Don’t get down on yourself about any particular day. Each day is a fresh start.
  • Be active – it helps with managing insulin.
  • Be a sponge – constantly educate yourself, learn and be open to new things, particularly technology, that have the potential to improve your life.
Colin with his autographed race bib - "To Colin, Run fast and strong - Cliff"

My older son, Colin, currently has aspirations of becoming a triathlete. He wrote Cliff a note expressing his admiration of him. To compound Cliff’s greatness, after asking him to sign Colin’s first 5K race bib, he pulled off his Ironman bracelet that he was still wearing and signed that too!

A few things have happened in recent months that have given me a calmness about diabetes. Meeting Cliff is a significant one of them.

I think often about the time when diabetes will take its toll on Caleb and he finally breaks down. I do the best I can to prepare him to care for his own diabetes. I try to give him age appropriate autonomy without overburdening him. But I still wonder if it will wear him down emotionally some day.

Many people, including those who have grown up with diabetes, have told me it may not happen.  Diabetes may just be a part of his life that he accepts and handles. I’ve heard of examples of this, but I have still wondered if it’s really possible. I’m an auditor. I’m skeptical.

Meeting Cliff live and in person and hearing his story first hand about how he grew up with diabetes without ever letting it get to him, may have been the peak of a turning point for me. I spent more than two hours with him and I became a believer.  I now know it is possible.

Cliff, the impact you have had on me, and therein Caleb, is tremendous. You have been so kind and giving and I am eternally grateful. I will never be able to repay you for showing me what is possible for my son. From the deepest, most sincere part of my heart, I thank you.

Cliff and I - A meeting I will truly never forget

Special thanks to Cliff’s brother, Ryan Scherb of Ryan Scherb photography who took all of the above race photos.

Cliff Scherb | Triathlete and Inspiration

Cliff Scherb - Ironman Arizona - 2008 Photo by Ryan Scherb of Ryan Scherb Photography

This won’t be the first time I say that meeting, talking with and learning the stories of adults living with diabetes provide me great support, hope and inspiration.  The thing – the only thing – that gave me comfort when Caleb was first diagnosed was hearing about anyone leading a normal life with diabetes.  We had just entered a world we knew nothing about and had great uncertainty.  Knowing about anyone managing this disease while achieving their uncompromised goals is what got me through those early days.

Since then I’ve encountered more people than I can count who have continued to inspire me.  Among them are athletes.  Athletes touch me in a special way.  It has everything to do with the difficulty I personally have with keeping Caleb’s blood sugar in range when he swims, plays baseball or just generally runs around outside like the free spirit he is.

The commitment, dedication, planning, determination and tenacity it takes to be an athlete with diabetes is something I cannot completely wrap my brain around.  The enormity of that compared to Caleb going for a swim is too much for me to fully appreciate.

I am in awe of what these athletes accomplish.

I root for my friends Bradford and Gary. I look forward to hearing about their race successes and soak up their blog posts like a sponge. Other heroes: Phil Southerland, Kris Freeman, Jay Cutler, Brandon Morrow and now Cliff Scherb.

Cliff is currently in Hawaii preparing to compete in the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona – the Ironman of Ironmans.  Cliff holds the Ironman title of second fastest type 1 diabetic with his success in Florida, but hopes to beat the world record for a type 1 diabetic in Kona of 9 hours and 50 minutes.

If you don’t know what an Ironman entails, read this excerpt from the Ford Ironman World Champion site:

How long are the distances in the Ford Ironman World Championship and what are the cutoff times?
The swim is 2.4 miles and the cutoff is 2 hrs. and 20 min., the bike is 112 miles and the cutoff time is 10 hrs and 30 min from the beginning of the race and the run is a full marathon which is 26.2 miles and the cutoff time is 17 hours from the beginning of the race.

I find managing type 1 diabetes through 30 minutes of uncompetetive swimming a complete struggle.  Cliff is undertaking more than 9 hours of swimming, running and biking. Saying it’s remarkable doesn’t seem to give it proper justice; it’s so much more than that.

I first heard about Cliff about a year ago when this local news report aired:

Yep, he’s an OmniPodder. Not that he has to be to get my respect, but since Caleb also uses the OmniPod, it makes Cliff just a little more relatable.  I remember being excited for Cliff then and thinking this report was well done.  Both Cliff and Max Gomez did a nice job explaining type 1 diabetes and how difficult managing it and being a triathlete is. Bravo gentlemen!

I’ve read more about Cliff here.  If you read nothing else of this article, scroll down to the final question and his response. Cliff has an amazing attitude.

So on October 9th we’ll be excited and watching to see if Cliff meets his goal.  You can watch the live stream too – right here.

Cliff is yet another inspiration to help make our own personal journey with type 1 diabetes a little easier.

Thank you Cliff and best of luck!