Athletes Like You: Meet Kim
Making endurance athletics and diabetes work
Kim Portelli is a lifelong athlete with a true love for
what others might consider the daily grind of training.
On any given day, you can find Kim ? always with a
smile ? running the Scottsdale greenbelt, cycling the
hills of Paradise Valley or swimming hard at El Dorado
But Kim, 37, isn?t just pushing her muscles to work
harder ? she?s pushing the very notion of what it
means to be diabetic and a serious athlete.
?Everything was going along fine in the 8th grade
as a chubby, softball
player until I started to lose weight for no apparent
reason,? says Kim, who lives in Scottsdale with
husband and fellow runner, Jerry. ?I thought it must
be a miracle. But no. The summer before I began high
school, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.?
It was then that Kim developed a true passion for
running and triathlon.
?Throughout high school and college the one thing
that always remained constant - I ran,? says
Kim. ?Not always a lot, in terms of mileage, but
enough to stay healthy. I firmly believe that exercise
has kept me healthy and away from the
But that doesn?t mean it?s easy. While other athletes
stress about how many calories to take in to keep
their muscles moving, Kim must also think about her
body?s insulin level.
?Jokingly, I tell people that I am a human science
experiment,? says Kim. ?What I mean when I say that
is every single day I am constantly making decisions
regarding how much insulin to take to ?cover? or
counteract how many carbohydrates I eat.
?That may sound simple, but throw exercise into that
mix? lots and lots of exercise, in my case. Too little
insulin and my blood sugar becomes too high. Too
much insulin and my blood sugar becomes too low
(which means I bonk). It is such fine balancing act
that it sometimes feels like I am on a tightrope made
Exercise is a way for Kim to clear her mind, but she
can?t be unprepared. On every run or bike ride, Kim
brings a glucose meter and insulin. She also takes
cash and ID in case her blood suger drops and she
needs food fast.
?Another way that my diabetes has an impact on my
training and racing is that I have to stop and check
my blood sugar during activities,? Kim
says. ?Depending on my blood sugar level, I then
make a decision as to whether I eat something or
perhaps take some insulin. This only takes a minute
or so and I am on my way again.?
Kim is training for Barb?s Race, a women?s only Half
Ironman in Sonoma this August. She will also do the
Valley of the Sun Half Marathon this weekend, the
Tour de Cure metric century ride on March 25th, the
Tribute to the Armed Forces International Distance
Triathlon on April 30th and the Tempe International
Triathlon on May 20th. It?s a busy racing season, but
Kim is undaunted.
?I strongly believe that running and doing triathlons
has kept me healthy and out of ?diabetic? trouble,?
says Kim. ?It is such a positive thing in my life to
participate in endurance events. I absolutely love the