Diabetes Forecast

One Man's Adventures in Pole Vaulting

By Lindsey Wahowiak , , ,

Robert Dixon

Robert Dixon: Pole- Vaulting Vanguard

Athlete: Made the leap to pole vaulting in his 70s

Age: 73

Hometown: Soquel, CA

Occupation: Retired firefighter

Diabetes: Type 1 diabetes (diagnosed in 1974)

Gear: Medtronic insulin pump; 10 to 12 blood glucose checks a day

A former long-distance runner, cyclist, and surfer, Robert Dixon had mostly been walking for exercise after “a couple of mishaps” in the ocean. His hilly hikes often took him past a local high school, where he saw the school’s track coach working with students at the pole vault pit. Dixon’s interest was piqued, and he made his way to the track to learn more about a sport he had mostly seen on TV. He’s come a long way since the coach agreed to train him: He’s now reaching heights of about 6 feet on some jumps.

One step at a time

Hitting the vault exactly right takes a concentrated effort of body and mind. Vaulters run as fast as they can, all the while thinking about getting the steps right. “It’s not easy for anybody, and at my age it makes it a little more difficult,” Dixon says.

Testing limits, testing blood glucose

Dixon tests his blood glucose quite a bit on days he plans to vault. He tests before leaving the house. If he’s low, he won’t jump that day. He removes his pump during practice and tests 20 to 30 minutes into each workout to make sure his blood glucose is still in target range. He tests after practice to make sure he stays within range and keeps fast-acting glucose with him in case of a low. He has noticed that intense exercise has helped him keep his blood glucose in fairly tight control. “It’s all part of dealing with this disease that doesn’t want to give you too much latitude,” he says.

Motivation in motion

“You may get tired of doing the same thing over and over again. I try to always throw something new in that I’m not that good at but that I’m always trying to get a little bit better [at],” Dixon says. “Pole vault really does that for me.”

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