One of the first things Sehome cross country coaches Mark Kerr and Kevin Ryan preach to their athletes is to learn to listen to what their bodies are telling them and adapt.
"You don't want to end up pushing through and injury and hurting yourself worse or pushing yourself to the point you pass out from exhaustion," Ryan said in a phone interview. "You need to adapt to what your body is telling you. You need to stay within yourself."
Perhaps no Mariner is better at that than Lindsay Hodgson, who daily makes decisions that could affect her health and her life.
Just over six years ago, Hodgson was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic.
But the senior refuses to let the disease derail her from her goals of earning a top-seven spot on the ultra-competitive Sehome girls' varsity team, which is taking aim at regaining the Class 2A state championship after having its string of five straight titles ended last year.
"I love cross country so much, and I feel lucky to run for Sehome," Hodgson said in a phone interview. "I think that running with diabetes, for me, is just another obstacle. Every runner has obstacles. I have teammates with anemia or injuries or a number of other things, like breathing problems. On days I do get frustrated, I think about my teammates and all those other runners that have gone through things and how those things will make us stronger in the end."
Though Hodgson said she didn't feel sick on Aug. 3, 2006, when she went in to get shots so she could enter the sixth grade, her mother had an idea that something might be wrong because Hodgson was tired more often and continually was thirsty.
"I have a cousin who was diagnosed with diabetes two years before, so my mom knew what to look for after her sister had gone through it all before," Hodgson said.
As her classmates were preparing for the challenges of making the jump to middle school, Hodgson was learning how to monitor her blood sugar.
That, of course, meant all the needles associated with testing and giving herself insulin.
"Getting used to all the needles was pretty tough," Hodgson said. "But I realized if my cousin could do it, I could. I'm a quick learner, and I'm pretty self sufficient. I don't want other people to do things for me. At first, I didn't know what it was or how to take care of myself. I guess it was fear of the unknown. But now, it's just one of the things I have to deal with. I don't know any different."
The disease obviously hasn't kept her from sports.
She actually didn't take up cross country until her sophomore year as way to keep in shape for basketball season.
"I originally just thought I'd run over the summer and do cross country so I was ready for basketball," Hodgson said. "After the season, I ended up quitting basketball and training over the winter and ran track for the first time that spring. I had never run before I was a sophomore - not even in middle school track."
But she hasn't stopped running or improving since.
She capped off her junior season by finishing ninth at the Northwest Conference Championships last fall.
This year she finished ninth at the South Whidbey Invitational with a time of 21 minutes, 5.45 seconds and had a personal-best time of 20:39.6 at last weekend's Nike Pre-Nationals in Oregon.
Her goal is to lower her time below 20 minutes by the end of the season, because she says she remembers watching a number of runners on the team accomplish that feat during her sophomore year, and "It's always been sort of the mark I've thought of as being pretty good."
Though Hodgson is fighting to earn a spot on the varsity team the tremendously deep Mariners will take to state in November, she's definitely already pretty darned good.
"She's a grind-it-out runner," Kerr said in a phone interview. "She's a runner that uses her conditioning base to work harder than other runners over the course of a 5K race. She runs a good, consistent race pace."
The key for running that style of race is to build a solid foundation through hours of conditioning. To that end, Kerr and Ryan both said Hodgson was one of the Mariners' top mileage runners during the offseason.
Of course the more work Hodgson puts in, the more she needs to monitor what her body is telling her.
"When you exercise, your blood sugar becomes unreliable," Hodgson said. "Adrenaline can cause it to spike and go high. But at the same time, your body is working hard, and you're burning it up quickly. The biggest thing is to check your blood sugar before you run to make sure you're in the range you're supposed to be in. Of course, sometimes I check it, and it's fine, and then midway through the run I feel shaky and know that I'm low. That's when I need to stop and check it and get some food."
Hodgson says she wears a small fanny pack with snacks that will help give her blood sugar a quick boost without causing her to cramp up for just those times, but even she admits having to stop is frustrating.
"It's tough when you're training with your teammates and all of a sudden, you have to say, 'I've got to stop now to eat something,'" Hodgson said. "But it's what you got to do. And my teammates are great. They all get it, but it's just me. It's frustrating when you have to stop."
Fortunately, Hodgson said she's never had her blood sugar drop low enough to make her stop during a race.
Part of that, she said, is she's learned how to properly prepare her body throughout the day leading up to the race by eating the right foods at the right times to prepare herself for the stresses and strains of running a 5K.
"She's always self managed," Kerr said. "She is completely autonomous and self-sufficient about it. Kevin and I check with her, but she's always right on top of it. She's an extremely mature young lady, but you know, she's got to be."
And that maturity has spilled over to help make her a strong senior leader for the Mariners, as she's been instrumental in organizing team events during the offseason and the first month of the season this year.
"She's always been an amazing and inspirational leader," Ryan said. "I mean, she's one of the nicest, most positive girls you'd ever want to meet, and the other girls look up to her. She's dealing with her diabetes, and she never says word one about it. She just goes out, and runs her race to the best of her abilities."
And when she's running to the best of her abilities, Hodgson knows she's pushing teammates to run their best.
"What I love about our team is how we are able to push each other so hard on race day and in workouts, and then turn around and be so supportive of each other," Hodgson said. "Everyone is very determined, and everyone has their own individual goals. But at the end of the day, everybody out there would do anything for the good of the team."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.