This lifetime love affair with racing began with a trip to the 1964 Los Angeles Times Grand Prix, at Riverside Raceway, in California. Parnelli Jones won the race. At 13 years old, I thought the men who drove these cars were gods. I set out to learn everything I could about race driving and race cars. Some kids followed baseball, but I was a race fan. Every night I put myself to sleep with a fantasy of driving Riverside Raceway.
It took until 1979 to finally buy my first real race car. I had been auto crossing a Jensen-Healey and a Porsche but that experience fell short of my desire. Through a friend I found a formula ford (Titan Mk 5 vintage 1968) for $3,800. I lived in Denver. The car was in Dallas. On the way home with the car I was very tired and irritable. I was hungry and thirsty, especially for a Coca-Cola. A few days later I went to the doctor who immediately diagnosed me as a Type I Diabetic. More than anything, I was angry. Why me? I was the picture of health and athleticism. My new race car was in the garage – still on the trailer. Could I get my competition license?
To my knowledge, there were no glucose monitors in 1979. Diabetic control was more art than science. It was hard to learn to give yourself shots but worse was to learn to control your blood sugar by the feeling of bouncing off the highs and lows. After a few years the doctor gave me my first glucose monitor. It was so big it came with a shoulder bag. It’s hard to remember how involved the testing process was but I recall calibrating, drawing blood, rinsing, inserting in the monitor and waiting for the result. It took at least ten minutes so I didn’t do it as often as I should. The process has improved and today I check my blood sugar 5 or 6 times a day – more on race days.
It’s very important to have good control on race days. Nerves sometimes make it hard to eat. Knowing your glucose level is important but knowing what direction it’s heading is critical. In the early years, I started every race with a piece of hard candy in my jaw – mostly for the feeling of security. Now I test often and eat only a little. It’s best not to take a lot insulin on a race day. Keep it lean.
I will be 59 years old in October and I’m still racing a vintage 1967 Porsche and an SCCA Spec Racer Ford. I’ve quit racing a few times but it never lasts. The attraction is strong and a lot of the fun is getting together with my racing buddies. I think I’ll race until I’m 60. For sure, diabetes won’t stop me.
The story on ESPN about Charlie Kimble hit very close to home. I have resisted gadgets like insulin pumps but Charlie’s wireless glucose monitor is very interesting. Although I receive regular check ups from the doctor, I had not heard of this. Good stuff.