Back to Friends for Life 2010 Conference 2010 Friends for Life Special Guest Jen Alexander

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Special Guest - Jen Alexander

Jen Alexander was diagnosed when she was 13 years old - back when blood tests took 3-5 minutes. Her first open water swim was a diabetes camp, and after a fish gave her a funny look while she was swimming and she vowed she'd never do it again. Over 20 years later, Jen has swum from Alcatraz to San Francisco, around parts of Manhattan, and in lakes and oceans around the Maritimes. Jen never wears a wet suit, and moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia to be closer to the ocean.

In 2006, Jen attempted to become the only Canadian with diabetes (18th Canadian overall) to swim the English Channel. Conditions were rough: the largest waves peaked at 10 feet (3 meters), and Jen unknowingly faced the worst tide anticipated in the next 20-25 years. Despite the challenges, the official Observer documented that Jen was that happiest swimmer he had ever seen. After 6 hours and 37 minutes, the escort boat captain deemed the conditions unsafe and terminated the swim. Jen will try again in 2009.

In 2007, after swimming for 19 hours and 17 minutes, Jen became the first person to swim a double-crossing of Canada's Northumberland Strait. During the best 10 hours of this world-record swim, her blood sugar averaged 112 mg/dl (6.2 mmol/L) without any lows. (Hypothermia pushed her blood sugars higher toward the end of the swim, giving an overall average of 160 mg/dl (8.9 mmol/L).)

Jen believes that diabetes control is essential to athletic performance, and has learned how to test her blood sugar while treading water -- despite the darkness of night, 10 foot (3 meter) waves, blowing sea spray and howling winds.

In 2007, Jen was awarded the Canadian Diabetes Association's Inspiration Award. In 2008, Jen was honored with the Diabetes Exercise and Sports Association's "Athlete of the Year" award.

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