In the second installment of a two part interview, Mount Everest climber and endurance athlete Sebastien Sasseville talks about the similarities of successfully managing diabetes and managing an athletic event and how building upon small challenges can evolve into realizing greater achievements.

By: John Parkinson, Clinical Content Coordinator,

Managing an athletic endurance event has some similarities to managing diabetes, according to athlete Sebastien Sasseville (pictured here).

For example, marathon runners during a race measure their pace by looking at their numbers on their watches to make sure they are on track. If they are not where they want to be time-wise, they make adjustments to their running speed. People with diabetes measure their glucose multiple times a day and make adjustments as needed.

Of course with diabetes, there is no finish line or end point. Nonetheless, the rudimentary maxims applied in endurance events can be applied to diabetes management. Don’t get too high or too low; stay at a nice even pace; pay attention to what your body is telling you; and keep a positive mental attitude.

Sasseville, a type 1 veteran, has evolved over the years from someone who was initially seeking adventure, which culminated in his Mount Everest climb, to a man on a personal mission to show that people with diabetes can overcome their personal obstacles and excel at their management.

Some people with diabetes (PWD) don’t believe they can do everything other people can, especially for fear of going low into a hypoglycemic episode.
Thus Sasseville is leading by example showing fellow type 1s they can do whatever they set their mind to. Sasseville participates in endurance events and has completed 3 Ironman triathalons. He recently became a member of Team Type 1, which is a group of athletes—most who have diabetes themselves—who try to inspire people around the world with diabetes by competing in various sporting events, including marathons, bike races, and triathlons. 

In addition to participating in these athletic endeavors, Sasseville does motivational speaking to both corporations as well as young people with diabetes. In the first installment, Sasseville talked about climbing Everest, and overcoming challenges up on the mountain and managing his diabetes. In this second part of the interview, he talks about his major athletic endeavors for 2012, and how people with diabetes can grow their confidence and transform their lives. In our previous discussion, we have talked about the Everest climb and how it is like an endurance event. Let’s transition to another endurance sporting event you have competed in: the Ironman Triathalon. Whereas, Everest is a long-term endurance event set out over a two month period, the Ironman is one day of exhausting endurance events and acute pain. What are some of the challenges associated with the Ironman both physically and in terms of managing your diabetes that day?
Sasseville: It is a very long day. One of the biggest challenges with the Ironman is getting to the starting line. Training for the Ironman requires a lot of sacrifices. Most times, you train alone. You get up early to train and sacrifice for many months building endurance and preparing for the race. And on race day, you are going to suffer quite a bit. However, there are a ton of people there supporting you and it should also be considered a fun day—a celebration of everything you have trained for.

The diabetes does make it a little trickier. You have to think about how you are going to manage it so your levels stay in good ranges. Nutrition is a huge element to triathalons. There are four disciplines to these races: the biking, swimming, running, and nutrition. A lot of people forget about this last element. People know it is important to eat during the race, but a lot of people approach the race where they say, I’ll just eat. Having type 1 forces you to show up on race day with a very clear nutrition strategy. That can be an advantage.

I race with Team Type 1 now, which is sponsored by Sanofi. Team Type 1 is a wonderful group of athletes who try to encourage people to have healthy lifestyles. I have learned a lot from the other type 1 athletes that I compete with. You have climbed Everest and completed three Ironmans. What is your next athletic challenge?
Sasseville: I have two full Ironmans coming up this year. I’m also looking forward to doing the Sahara Race this fall. 
It will be my first ultramarathon. It is a 250 kilometer marathon in the Sahara desert over seven days in Egypt. You literally run across the Sahara desert, and it starts on October 28 and it ends on November 3. In thinking about 250 kilometers, you are nearly running a marathon everyday?
Sasseville: For the first four days you run 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) a day and then on the fifth day you set out to do 80 kilometers, and on the seventh day you run 10 k. Along with your athletic endeavors, you are now doing some motivational speaking. Why the decision to do so, and what is your message to audiences?
Sasseville: It all started by accident. I took a group of kids up Mount Kilimanjaro in 2005 and raised money for the JDRF. And when I got back, people wanted to hear about it. I found I really enjoyed doing it, so I went back and refined my speech.

You don’t do these talks to showcase the things you have done; you do so to help other people and to share the things you have learned. Specifically, I want to share with people that they can do anything they want—with the right amount of work. A lot of people don’t know that. Some people feel limited because they have diabetes. They might not have self-confidence.

You can achieve the belief you can do these things by building upon challenges. For example, you might say to yourself, ‘I challenged myself with that little climb; so I should do a bigger climb.’ In this process, you learn that if you build realistic goals and carry them out, there is nothing you can’t do.
I also like to talk with people about the varying perceptions around obstacles. People seem to think obstacles are imposed, but it really depends on how you want to view them. You can learn and become stronger from obstacles. When I chose to climb Everest, I picked that obstacle and I thought I could grow from it.

When I speak to a corporation, I create a thoughtfully prepared speech. However, I don’t want them to be all the same, so what I’ll do is work with the company and figure out what their goals are. I try to find out what their corporate environment is; if the audience is in a leadership position; if they had a bad year financially. From there, I can build a talk that is impactful and helps motivate the troops.

My main focus has been speaking to corporations, but I also enjoy speaking to different types of groups. There is nothing I like to do more than talking at a diabetes camp where I sit down with kids and deliver a completely spontaneous, from-the-heart speech. I love it!

Twitter users can follow Sasseville on his Twitter handle: @SebInspires. To hire Sasseville for a public speaking engagement, go to his website. To read the first installment of the interview with Sasseville and his climb up Mount Everest, readers can go here.