Sebastien Sasseville has an incredible track record of athletic accomplishments. He’s climbed Mt Everest, finished six Ironman races and completed the brutal Sahara ultramarathon. In 2014 Sebastien ran across Canada – the equivalent of 170 marathon in nine months – to raise awareness for diabetes. He was diagnosed with type 1 as a young adult.
These days, Sasseville is a motivational speaker and author and late last year he teamed up with Tandem Diabetes as a brand ambassador.
This interview was taped in the summer of 2015 at the Friends for Life Conference.
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Stacey Simms 0:00
This episode of Diabetes Connections is brought to you by inside the breakthrough a new history of science podcast full of Did you know stuff?
This is Diabetes Connections with Stacey Simms.
Stacey Simms 0:19
Welcome to a classic episode of the show, as always, so glad to have you along. I’m your host, Stacey Simms, and we aim to educate and inspire about diabetes with a focus on people who use insulin. You know, on this show, we talk to people living with type one, you know, kind of what I call everyday people, as well as people who are really pushing the limits. And while most of us will never run multiple marathons, or compete under extreme conditions, like in the Arctic, it is so wonderful to know that if you really want to go to the extremes, you can do that with diabetes. That’s one of the fun things about bringing back these older episodes. And that’s what I’m doing here with these classic episodes kind of a bonus every week in 2021, bringing back episodes where I talked to terrific people with great stories in the first couple of years of the show. Not everybody listened in 2015 and 2016. And we have more than 360 episodes now. So these classic episodes have been really popular and I’m thrilled that I’ve heard from many of you who are enjoying them so that is fantastic. And I did speak to Sebastian Sackville for one of my very first episodes back in the summer of 2015. Sebastian made it to the summit of Mount Everest in 2008. anymore, an insulin pump and he talks about that he then completed six Iron Man races and the Iron Man. It’s a triathlon. And I always have to break it down because it always it always sounds ridiculous. It’s a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and then that a marathon 26.2 miles thrown on the end there. And Sebastian went on to complete the brutal Sahara race, you will hear more about what that entails. And then in 2014, he ran across Canada to raise awareness for diabetes. And that was the equivalent of 170 marathons in nine months. These days. Sebastian says Seville is a motivational speaker. He’s an author. Late last year, he teamed up with Tandem diabetes as a brand ambassador. I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more from him in that role. But I am fascinated by extreme athletes. I’m so different from that. I’d love to know what makes them tick. And I know as amazed you’ll hear Sebastian talk about when he says he’s who was never really good at sports growing up. I mean, I’ll let him tell his own story. But it was really interesting to listen back to that interview. Okay, this episode of Diabetes Connections is supported by inside the breakthrough surprising stories from the history of science, Dan riskin, digs deep and entertains, as he connects these old stories to what modern day medical researchers are facing. The latest episode looks at a scientific theory all around unleaded gasoline and the crime rate. It turns out that our policing may not be a match for better gas. It’s a wild one you can find inside the breakthrough anywhere you listen to podcasts anywhere you found this podcast, you can find them. And this podcast is not intended as medical advice. If you have those kinds of questions, please contact your health care provider. Just before I play this interview with the best in Sackville, I need to let you know about a little bit of sound quality issue here. This was conducted at the friends for life conference. As I mentioned, this was back in 2015. I was kind of just learning the technical side of podcasting. And there is some background noise. You’re gonna hear kids playing in the next room. I think some of them pass by in the hallway at some point shouldn’t be too distracting, but it is there. And I just wanted to give you a heads up. Sebastian, thank you so much for joining me. I there’s so much to talk about.
Sebastien Sasseville 3:56
Thank you. Well, I
Stacey Simms 3:58
first heard your name I think like so many people did last summer, when you had this incredible accomplishment. Or really last year, it wasn’t just the summer of running across Canada. There’s many other things to talk about. But let’s start there. Why did that come to mind, it’s something that was a good idea to do
Sebastien Sasseville 4:16
feel like a good idea when I was on the starting line. So the goal was to inspire, educate and empower the run across Canada was not a fundraiser. And that’s the interesting thing about it. All I wanted to do was to change how people felt about their disease. I wanted people to feel differently about what they felt they could do and couldn’t do with diabetes. And obviously, I think the sky’s the limit. I don’t think there’s any limitation that come with the disease, but I wanted to do something bold, something big. That would help people feel like that.
Stacey Simms 4:56
Well, it’s an amazing accomplishment. And I remember you start February February 2, I remember every couple of days or even weeks, I would think he’s still running like that guy is still there in case me still running. And you completed it on world diabetes day in November.
Sebastien Sasseville 5:12
Yeah, it took nine and a half months. So almost a full year running five or six marathon a week.
Stacey Simms 5:19
it’s inconceivable, I think, to most of us. Let me back up. Then, tell us a little bit more about your story. When were you diagnosed with diabetes.
Sebastien Sasseville 5:28
So I was 22, when I was diagnosed with diabetes, so reasonably late onset, I was in college, I was getting done with college. And I was not a very active kid. So with that disease came a choice. And I needed to choose what kind of lifestyle I wanted to lead. And I started to exercise a little more. And the whole thing was very progressive. Like, I didn’t start with climbing Mount Everest, I just started with it all started to climb a little bit started to run a little bit. And I wasn’t very good in sports. And I think that’s one of the most important part of my story. That’s what as is the first thing I want people to know that back in the days when I was in high school, I was that kid who was picked last in the team all the time, I was not that I still am not a very gifted athlete, I just worked really, really, really hard to to do the things that that I like to do. So yeah, diagnosed started to be a little more active. And then the projects grew bigger. And I think that that thrill really comes from helping people. The thrill comes from trying to make a difference. And that’s always been my paycheck. When we are getting letters and emails and phone calls from parents, of kids living with diabetes, and they tell me things like, Hey, you know, we followed the run, we followed the climb, and it really gave us Oh, nothing can can make me feel any better than that. So that’s why I do it.
Stacey Simms 7:10
Okay. So again, though backing up to when you were diagnosed, and you weren’t athletic, it didn’t really is amazing to think about that with everything you’ve accomplished since. Can you take us back to that time in terms of how you thought your life might change? Were you scared? Were you worried? Was it a challenge at the time,
Unknown Speaker 7:27
it was, I was scared, and I was worried. My brother also lives with type 1 diabetes, I’m the oldest so he was diagnosed before I was. And so obviously, when he was diagnosed was a big shock to the family and start to live with diabetes, we as a family learned more about it. And but so when I was diagnosed, I had my own dreams, my own, you know, life and things that I wanted to do. And that was the artist thing. At the time, my biggest dream was to travel, I wanted to backpack around the world. I was a college student and you know, like many college students, that’s what I wanted to do. And my biggest fear was my going to be able to do that. And I think we all go through those those moments of doubts and fear, regardless of what is that thing that is most important to us. We we all share that, that moment when we’re diagnosed when we don’t know. And I guess part of my message is that we do have that moment and comment in common. But what happens next is totally up to us. And each of us will have and should have a great individual story that we get to pick. And diabetes should never be a break to that.
Stacey Simms 8:54
So as a parent of a child with type one who gets concerned about packing for vacation to Florida, what is your advice, since you have packed in gone to Mount Everest? I mean, I’m kidding. But what did you bring? How did you prepare for something like that this was in
Sebastien Sasseville 9:09
2008 2008. And it took years to prepare. So picture a trip where you would spend years packing years taking notes years trying to figure out with a medical team with your teammates, what you shouldn’t bring or what you shouldn’t bring. So that to getting to a point where I was comfortable with my diabetes strategy going on monitor when I started running across the Sahara or running armas. That too was was progressive. So I like everybody just started with a weekend or with the camping trips and, and made mistakes and forgot stuff. And I think it’s really important to with diabetes to get rid of that concept of failure and just leverage and Utilizing cherish every opportunity, I think it’s important to educate ourselves to prepare well, and then to experiment. And if you go to that next logical step, even if it doesn’t go according to plan, you will learn something, even if you quote unquote, fail, it will be a positive experience. If you’ve been sincere and honest with yourself, if you went to that next logical step, good things happen. So that applied to Mount Everest, and I spent years traveling and climbing and taking notes. And one day, I felt comfortable about what I had learned and felt very comfortable actually going to Mount Everest, I remember looking at all my diabetes stuff, and supplies and strategy and my notes. And I remember showing up at base camp feeling actually pretty confident. But that took years.
Stacey Simms 10:56
Were there any hiccups and diabetes wise along the way? I mean, I’m sure Mount Everest has other challenges. But yeah, did anything go wrong?
Sebastien Sasseville 11:03
nothing went wrong diabetes way, diabetes wise. I did freeze some insulin in another trip, two years prior, which was a great, great, great learning experience. Because you, you have to learn about how to manage your diabetes, but you also have to learn how to manage your diabetes strategy contingencies, you know, where you’re going to store supplies, how you going to transport supplies. And that’s very key. When you’re in those environments
Stacey Simms 11:37
take us to the moment when you finish the climb. And Mount Everest, what was that like?
Sebastien Sasseville 11:44
That moment would be when you get back to Basecamp. Know several days after you reach the summit. And we tend to forget about that sometimes the this summit is the half mark, most people that die on Mount Everest have reached a summit did on the way down. So this summit was incredibly joyful and powerful, but it doesn’t last for very long. So he spent all those years, sometimes a lifetime. prepping for that moment. And if you’re lucky enough to make it to the top, you’re there for five minutes at the most. So So to me, it’s it’s a lot more about what it represents. And I and I was in such bad shape. I mean, you suffer up there and out to do this hard. And so I do remember to summit, it was very joyful. It was powerful, but it’s a big blur. Right? So I think the lesson that came out of that, for me in both my personal and professional life and diabetes, of course is that success is just a point in time that it doesn’t last for very long. Success should never be a new goal, it should be a consequence to all good things that we do. So instead of focusing on just the numbers, focusing on diabetes only focusing on you know, being obsessed with that perfect they won’t see, I think, if we, if we forget about that a little bit and just focus on on I call that I call them growth habits. So I don’t think about the numbers. I just focus on creating growth habits, creating things that are helping me learn about diabetes and things that are helping me make tomorrow better. And if I do that, then tomorrow comes a little faster, a little easier. And interestingly enough, I’ll be a little more successful reach more summit, so it’s definitely a win win.
Stacey Simms 13:49
A few minutes ago, you mentioned the Iron Man races. I think you’ve done six, is that correct? And the Sahara race in Egypt, which just seems crazy, that what is that race
Sebastien Sasseville 14:04
250 kilometers across the Sahara Desert in five days self supported, right that’s in for a person with type 1 diabetes. The self supportive part is absolutely exciting and challenging and scary and all of the above. Because you show up let’s on Monday morning and the start of the race you have in your backpack, which you also need to carry all your gear and all your foods and you’ve got a very limited amount of food and carbs. And that’s what you have for the week and trust me, no one’s going to share food during that week, because you have so little I lost about 14 pounds in five days. So you have a budget for how many low blood sugars you can afford. And you’re going to run anywhere from five to six hours per day. The first Four days, and then the last day is a double stage 87 kilometers, about 60 miles, and you run in sand temperatures, you know, into 100. And you got to manage diabetes. And that last day, that final stage takes about anywhere from 11 hours to 24 hours for some people. Boy,
Stacey Simms 15:22
we could talk about that for another half an hour, I do want to talk about the journey across Canada. But first, I have to ask you, again, as a parent, you have a brother who’s a type one, your younger brother, do your parents sign off on all this, you’re a grown up, you’re a grown up when you were diagnosed, they must worry about you. I mean, I wouldn’t want my son to not do things he wants to do. And I wouldn’t want to hold him back. But I’d be lying. If I would say I wouldn’t worry,
Sebastien Sasseville 15:47
yeah, they worry their parents, and it would worry me if they didn’t worry. So we were both my brother was 16 when he was diagnosed. So not not quite an adult yet, but we were both out of the house, you know, pretty, pretty young. So when I was diagnosed at the age of 22, I mean, I was living on my own, so they never had to manage our diabetes. So that’s, I guess, you know, a plus, that’s something didn’t have to go through. I’ve I’ve always thought that diabetes affects obviously the whole family sell diabetes, and any obstacles for that matter, I what I’ve found because I go to a lot of diabetes camps, I speak to a ton of patients to ton of parents. And I’ve always found that it’s, it acts a little bit like a magnifying glasses. So it will make what was already there. In terms of psychological traits or Abbott’s it will make what’s what was already there a lot bigger, a lot more visible. So the mom that, for example, cannot learn to let go, then that becomes a lot more visible with diabetes. But guess what, without even without diabetes, it would have been tough to let go when her son or daughter goes off to college. And that would have been a very difficult experience, regardless of diabetes. So the obstacle will make that kind of stuff bigger, it will make the good and the bad, bigger. So again, it becomes an importunity we’d go back to the it goes back to that concept of choice like am I going to try to welcome that and view it as a gift you as an opportunity, which doesn’t mean it’s it’s always going to be easy. And as a matter of fact, it’s probably gonna make things a lot harder, but it’s going to help everybody grow. And I think it’s helped my parents grow and learn a few things as well. And at the end of the day, we’re all thankful for diabetes.
Stacey Simms 18:08
The run across Canada take us through a day of that if you could, I’m sure every day was different. But especially towards the latter parts. How did you get through what must have been so physically punishing? Me day in day out? Keep moving how to do it.
Sebastien Sasseville 18:25
So I sometimes I don’t know. Good answer to that, um, it just happened. We just focused on on, you know, one step at a time running a little bit every day. If he can call almost marathon a little bit. The routine was was fairly simple. We got up I did breakfast, then I was being dropped off and the starting point I ran 20 kilometers. So that half marathon little short of half marathon every morning, then took a pause for for lunch, carved up, you know, looked after diabetes, and then a second 20 kilometer segment in the afternoon and then went back to hotel or campground wherever we were staying. And then the second shift started, which was the most challenging part of the day. I did about 125 interviews last year 41 events, we had a film crew we had a PR firm to deal with we add our partners, you know conference calls and emails and all that. So the run was actually very, I’m not going to I’m never ever going to say it was the easy part. But the second shift was the real marathon so the whole year was was definitely definitely exhausting and and how we got through tough days and I always say we’ve because I ran the whole thing but I always say we because for one guy runs across Canada you need a team. You need support and I’ll be forever thankful to the people that helped make make it happen. But we, you know, we, we just always made sure to stay connected with the reason why, when I started to work on the project, one of the first things that I would say was that like, I want the guy running to be the least important part of the project, what’s not what matters is not what I do. What’s really important is what it means. So how are we going to make this run meaningful and useful and beneficial for everybody who lives with diabetes in Canada and potentially around the world. So I wanted everybody to own the run, I wanted everybody to be able to be a part of it to run a little bit, or at least to be affected by it in some way. That was the goal number one that was much more important than running across the country?
Stacey Simms 20:56
Are you going to do it again, with any other plans,
Sebastien Sasseville 20:59
I flew back, flew back home. I didn’t. I don’t think I’ll do it. Again, I would love of course, and I know I will be involved in a project like that, again, it will be you know, a different form a different challenge, but the goal will be the same.
Stacey Simms 21:20
It’s great. And we’re here at friends for life. You’re meeting a lot of kids telling your story and really inspiring people. What’s it like for you to see these kids, they’re diagnosed many of them much younger than
Unknown Speaker 21:31
Unknown Speaker 21:32
What do you tell them? What’s the interaction like,
Sebastien Sasseville 21:35
it’s always a little different. But it always boils down to that, that same message, if they go home, this weekend, with the feeling that they can chase their dreams and accomplish pretty much anything to set their mind to and pursue their dreams. That’s, that’s the core of the conversation and, and they’re brilliant. They have a lot of things they want to do. So it’s it’s inspiring for me as well to see, you know, so many great kids with such positive attitude, I find him very courageous and strong. I don’t know if I could have done it myself at that age. So I get a lot of it. I get a lot out of it as well. Definitely.
Stacey Simms 22:24
Just curious. You have your enemy’s pump, you were outside, everybody can see it’s just any any hacks, suggestions, tricks, or tips that you can tell us? Because I mean, your desert every running every day. And my I’m thinking to myself, like, well, he must know stuff. Do you? Is there anything that you could share? Maybe about using a pump?
Sebastien Sasseville 22:45
i? Well, that’s I like the question. I don’t have, like a special secret, something that I do that nobody knows about. I have high blood sugars, I have low blood sugars. People should know that I have good days and bad days with diabetes. I think what we have today to manage diabetes is absolutely wonderful. It’s important to to make it a priority. I’ve spent a lot of time taking notes and writing down stuff and making experiments and and that definitely has helped me but on day one, I didn’t know anything about bombs. I didn’t know anything about diabetes. And I don’t think diabetes is that complicated. I just think what’s really hard is that there’s so many things and it changes every day. And in regards to diabetes and exercise. The one thing that I would say though, is that instead of trying to look for what works, you it is an equation. So it’s not a recipe, it’s an equation. And the minute people stop looking for what’s always going to work and try to find that special recipe, the better off they’ll be. So my job as a person with diabetes is to understand and learn as much as I can on each and every factors that impact my blood sugar when I exercise, and some impact my blood sugar directly. Some factors will impact my strategy, the things that I bring and the things that I don’t bring. For example, if I’m running a five key loop that I’m very used to around my house, or if I’m running 20k loop for the first time and the middle of nowhere. That’s going to going to have a big impact on what I bring with me. So really look at it as a formula, be willing and flexible and nimble so that he can adapt and so that you understand that what’s going to work is going to be different, every single thing and if you approach it like that, then again you you stop focusing so much on the summit on success but you focus on growth habits you focus on Learning, and that leads to pretty good results. Great.
Stacey Simms 25:02
Well, thank you so much for talking with me. It’s fabulous to meet you. Thank you so much. Thank
Sebastien Sasseville 25:06
You’re listening to Diabetes Connections with Stacey Simms.
Stacey Simms 25:18
I will link up more information on Sebastian cessful at Diabetes connections.com. On the episode homepage, every episode more recently has a transcript. So you can go and read that if you prefer or send that to a friend. I really enjoyed listening back. Although I gotta tell you with these classic episodes, it’s so funny for me just as a broadcaster to listen to myself in the early days of this podcast and remember how different it was I think I did that episode on a laptop or an iPad. I think I did it on an iPad with a microphone that I don’t use anymore. I was doing voice work back in 2013 and 2014 when I started the podcast, and I used to do it all on my iPad. And I really should bring up that mic and see if it does even still work if it was an Apogee microphone. If you’re a microphone person or a broadcast person. It’s great microphone, but I think I only could use it in the old iPad. It has one of those wide connectors. Anyway, as I was listening. That was what I picked up. You know, I don’t know a little bit of inside baseball there. But as always, more information on the actual guest and subject at Diabetes. connections.com. thank you as always for listening. Thank you to my editor john McInnes for audio editing solutions. I’m Stacey Simms. I’ll see you back here in just a couple of days until then, be kind to yourself.
Diabetes Connections is a production of Stacey Simms Media. All rights reserved. All rounds avenged
Transcribed by https://otter.ai