education

Andy Holder

Andy Holder was fit, a husband and father of two young sons. He ate well, lifted weights and generally led a healthy life. There was nothing that told him any of that would change.

Until, unexpectedly, life threw him a nasty curveball. Which he hit completely out of the park.

Holder learned in 2005 at the age of 36 that he had Type 1 diabetes. He turned the most surprising shock of his life into his greatest feat. Determined to beat diabetes, he taught himself how to swim, trained very hard and has now completed seven Ironman competitions.

Holder, 43, the national spokesperson for Good Neighbor Pharmacy and an inspirational speaker who created the Managing Diabetes: Living Without Limits campaign is back in Midland for the second straight year. “Iron Andy” is set to appear at 6 p.m. Thursday at Midland Hospital’s Towsley Auditorium and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at the Midland Community Curling Center. He will also be at the Apothecary Shoppe’s Health Fair booth from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday at the Dow Race Expo.

Staring in the face of a diagnosis in which its body turns on itself, Holder knew he had to stay positive and he did. Only 10 percent of diabetics have Type 1 diabetes, which strips the body of the ability to produce insulin.

“I couldn’t change it or make it go away,” he said. “I had to control my attitude and turn it into a positive. I was in good shape, but was the furthest thing from an endurance athlete. I taught myself how to swim. I created this really cool, motivational story to inspire people.”

It’s exactly what he’s done.

He targeted an Ironman, the first of which he completed in Lake Placid in 2006. An Ironman is a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride and then finished with a full, 26.2-mile marathon.

“Can’t isn’t in my vocab,” Holder stressed. “I knew I could do it. It was extremely difficult. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It’s a daily battle.”

Holder has learned through training and by listening to his body when he needs insulin. During races and Ironmans, Holder has learned to manage his diabetes effectively. He checks his blood pressure at least 50 times during a typical Ironman competition. He checks his blood sugar at least 12 times a day and wears an insulin pump while training.

“I’ve had an Ironman where I’ve tested myself 70 times during the race,” he said. “I have to do it manually on the fly. When your exercising, you can’t feel it. The adrenaline masks it. I have to continuously check my blood sugar. The real challenge becomes getting it in a perfect range. If I get too high, I feel horrible. If I get too low, you could have some major problems. It’s more challenging than the race itself.”

Holder, who lives in Philadelphia when he’s not traveling the country, has created a foundation to help people cope with diabetes and help raise money for families dealing with it. More information can be found at www.ironandyfoundation.org

“I’m lucky that I didn’t have to deal with this as a child,” Holder said. “I was very confused how I could have either of the diabetes. I took it as an opportunity. I couldn’t change it or make it go away. I wanted to inspire millions of children that struggled with diabetes.”
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