I received the labels of “fencer” and “type 1 diabetic” virtually simultaneously. One by choice, after becoming obsessed with fencing while watching the Olympics. While I was looking up Youtube videos about fencing parries and practicing in my kitchen with a wooden spoon, I had no idea that my body had turned against me and was starting to attack itself. The other label, type 1 diabetic, was thrust on me randomly and a huge shock. I think I only had three or four fencing lessons before my diagnosis.
Fencing and diabetes is a bit messy. White fencing gear and checking my blood sugar between bouts isn't the best combo. Plus, shaking an opponents hand after the bout with a finger still spewing blood isn't that great!
I thought lancets kind of looked like sabers. Sabers looked kind of like giant needles. Those three hours of fencing a week became the best part of my week. I can't thank my fencing group enough for not minding me stopping at random times to check my blood sugar or minding all the blood that didn't always stay on my meter or hand. Everyone was supportive but not overbearing and I still can't thank them enough.
One time, I felt really tired, shaky, and nauseous during a bout and my opponent kept asking me, “Are you okay?” I thought I was just tired from an hour and a half of fencing, but when I checked my blood sugar, it was 2.3 mmoL/ 41 mg. That's really low. I showed her my glucose tab stash after that.
At my first fencing competition, my blood sugar had the opposite problem, shooting up to 14 mmoL/ 252 mg. I had heard that adrenaline could change your blood sugar, but I was surprised to see it shoot up that much over nothing but the adrenaline of competing. I won my first bout, made it to the semi-finals, won my semi-final bout, and advanced on to the finals. The final bout came down to two Americans, the other was a type 2 diabetic! We got to 14-14 and I lost the final point, so I ended up second. My first fencing tournament was a lot of fun, but it was only when I was translating the back of my medal that I saw “Icelandic National Championships.” Wait, had I just competed in the (adult beginner category, but still) Icelandic National Championships? I asked my fencing instructor the next practice if it was really the Icelandic Nationals and learned that yes, it was. My fencing class remains one of the things I miss most about Iceland!
I've joined a fencing league back in Colorado and so far, my blood sugar has cooperated fairly well. As far as my white uniform goes...the tiny blood stains from testing my blood sugar in the middle of practice have not cooperated so well!
This post is a couple of weeks overdue, but lately I have been travelling so fast it is taking my writing a while to catch up. So I will continue sharing my Colorado adventures last month and also get you up to speed on this European adventure!
Estes Park is home to loads of shops right up my alley, including Inkwell and Brew, a notebook and coffee shop. I've been to bookstores with coffee shops before, but never a store that exclusively notebooks. There was also a Christmas store that greeted every customer with, "Merry Christmas!" Another store I loved was the Highlands Music and Minstrel Scottish and Irish store, where I spent quite a bit of time conversing with the worker about her trips to Ireland. I decided it would be a good idea to buy an autobiography about an American woman who takes up the bagpipes, ends up marry a Scottish bagpiper (that counts as a British musician!), and travelling around the world. I also decided to play bagpipe music on the car ride back to our lodging. Luckily,my friend swore she wasn't judging me for either choice!
Estes Park is near Rocky Mountain National Park and the wildlife made sure we noticed their presence. Right at a street called Elkhorn Road, two giant elk appeared, stopping traffic as they leisurely made their way across the street.
I was in Estes Park for a wedding and it couldn't have been a more beautiful venue or day.
As I said in my last post, I spent quite a bit of time in the car. The perk of this was the gorgeous scenery like Independence Pass.
At the top of Independence Pass is the Continental Divide. Raindrops that fall on the east side will eventually end up in the Atlantic Ocean, while raindrops that fall to the west will one day emerge in the Pacific Ocean!
I had visited Aspen before, but had never taken the gondola. I've skied many times in Colorado, but the landscape is totally different in the summertime.
At the top, I took a free walking tour by ACES, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. I took one of their sunset beaver walks a couple of years ago and got to see beavers in action while building their dams. What this hike lacked in beavers, it made up for in interesting facts. What looked like just a rusted landfill was, well, exactly that but from when Aspen was in the silver mining era and was much older than I anticipated.
Colorado is so photogenic it is hard to take a bad photo. However, sometimes the wind attempts to foil this.
We also went to the John Denver song garden, where I met this lovely steam punk Aslan.
And then crossed a bridge with a lamppost at the end. (Have you ever noticed how strange of a word "lamppost" is? Doesn't it look strange?)
And took a photo by the Narnian lamppost, reminiscent of Oxford.
No trip to Aspen is complete with a stop at the Maroon Bells, Colorado's most photographed mountains. I had walked around Maroon Lake before, but this time we decided to venture further and take a two hour each-way hike to Crater Lake.
We decided to take the free hike directed by ACES and were the only people on our hike so we had our own private guide.
Once we had returned back to civilization, the next stop was the Aspen Historical Society. Unfortunately, we got caught outside in a thunderstorm and I did not have any sort of jacket. I walked in soaking wet and the lady working shouted to the back room, "I have a very wet girl here, do you have a towel she could borrow?" She returned with a bright yellow towel that I could use for the duration of my visit. When we were upstairs, I could hear her relaying the towel story to everyone else who entered!
Included in our admission was the Aspen Mining and Ranching Museum, which was set in a historic building.
Though the two are not in the same direction in any way, we left Aspen by 6 AM so that I could finally visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Let me tell you, it was worth the early wake up call!
The high sand dunes did not look like something you'd expect in Colorado and I felt more like I was in the Sahara Desert. That is, until I turned around and saw the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan mountains.
This site is truly otherworldly and one of Colorado's greatest masterpieces.
Since these Coloradan travels, I've visited Pennsylvania, Ontario, Spain, and am currently in France so I have lots of blogging to catch up on!
Hi, I’m Crystal! Just like you, I love to travel. You’ll get all the best tips and insights from my experiences as a former ice-skating coach in Iceland and former study abroad student. Of the 24 countries I have visited, a type 1 diabetes diagnosis has been the strangest land yet. Type 1 has not slowed down my travels and you'll learn how to take type 1 with you on the road! You can connect with me further on Instagram @CrystalChilcott, or send me ideas of where I should travel next via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgHappy Travels, Crystal
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