Living Without Limits

Andy Holder is going non-stop.

He just returned from the Hawaii Lavaman Triathlon, which was sandwiched between several speaking engagements and a bunch of media interviews. Now he’s back home in East Norriton, Pa., dropping off his youngest son at kindergarten. When he finishes this telephone conversation, it’s off to compete in the Morgan Hill Sprint Tri in San Jose, Calif. 

Oh yeah, he really needs to update his blog, too.

On the way to California, he’ll stop at the HMG Health and Fitness Expo in Jonesboro, Ark.  After San Jose, there’s a speech in Paducah, Ky.  (Or maybe that other event in Alabama comes first. He can’t recall. He’ll have to check his schedule, which is already jam-packed well into the fall.)

Holder rarely slows down. Neither does the disease he races to defeat.

“I knew I’d never be the person to find a cure for diabetes, but after I was diagnosed five years ago I wanted to do something to help other people who have it,” he says. “I wanted to do something extraordinary. I just didn’t know what it was going to be.”

Holder was 36 years old when doctors told him he has type 1 diabetes. The discovery was made during a routine health-insurance exam. He had shown no symptoms.

“I’ve always been fit, so you can imagine my shock,” he says.

Type 2, which is largely the long-term result of poor nutrition and other factors, accounts for the overwhelming majority of the 24 million cases of diabetes in the United States. Type 1, also known as juvenile diabetes, accounts for only 5 to 10 percent.

“I didn’t know an adult could get type 1,” says Holder.

Truth is, he was born with it. Doctors can pinpoint if a person has the genetic marker that makes him or her susceptible to the disease, but that’s no guarantee it will surface. Nor does it give the person any way to prevent it.

Type 1 diabetes is a time bomb. Holder’s fuse just took 36 years to ignite. So he started insulin injections to control his blood sugar and tried to come to terms with how his life was about to change.

Now, back to that “extraordinary” thing he wanted to do in response.

Holder didn’t own a bicycle, nor did he know how to swim. But he decided to become a triathlete. The idea: A new career. He would tour the country to compete, raise awareness, generate money to help young diabetes sufferers go to summer camp, and spread the word about “living without limits.”

He’ll do all three when he comes to West Des Moines for the Hy-Vee Triathlon June 12-13.

“My hat’s off to Hy-Vee for everything it does as a company to promote health. I’ve been blown away by the effort,” says Holder, who founded the Iron Andy Foundation to help chronic-disease sufferers “stop using the word can’t.”

Holder dropped out of the investment business to launch what he calls his “mission.” He started by hiring a trainer and pointing to the Lake Placid Ironman race, a 2.4-mile swim and 122-mile bike ride capped by 26.2-mile marathon. He had less than a year to prepare.

“I’ve always been an athlete, but when I was diagnosed, I decided to step things up a notch,” he says.

Now he is the national spokesman for Good Neighbor Pharmacies and works closely with summer camps that cater to children with long-term disease. His foundation helps families pay for testing supplies and medications and offers nutrition education, fitness programs and scholarships.

Holder, as his foundation’s name suggests, specializes in longer-distance endurance events. He checks his blood-sugar upwards of 20 times a day and has learned to do it while traveling at 20 mph on a bike during a race. He has completed five Ironman races since he started his foundation. He also squeezes in several Olympic-length events, such as the Hy-Vee, and other shorter sprint races throughout the year.

“Am I talking too fast?” he asks after his son is dropped off and he’s back on the road, headed to the next speech, the next race, the next chance to inspire. “I can slow down if you want me to.”

Nah, Andy. Keep going.

For more about the Andy Holder, click here or call (877) 815-8538, x701.

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