AMSL Diabetes Ambassador, Jack Perkins, is gearing up for his next Bathurst 1000 Supercars run! Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Jack has been staying active in preparation for the great race, and keeping busy on his family farm too! We recently chatted to Jack about his new ‘normal’ and how his experience with the NEW Dexcom G6 has impacted his diabetes management.
Q. With Bathurst 1000 coming up, can you tell us how you get ready for a race?
Motor racing is a sport that requires a high level of physical fitness. Watching on TV you may not be able to see why, however the cabin temperatures inside a car are typically 20 degrees above ambient. The temperatures are high because the engine and gearbox all operate at temperatures between 70°C and 120°C and this heat soaks through to the cabin. Bathurst can often be 25°C – 30°C on a standard race day, therefore the temperatures inside the car often reach 45°C – 50°C. On top of this, we wear 3 layers of fireproof clothing, so it gets very hot!
During a stint racing, you can lose 2-3kgs of body fluid per hour as well. These conditions require high levels of physical fitness to be able to maintain concentration as any loss of concentration at 250km/hr or 300km/hr could be very dangerous.
For me, my training consists of 3 training sessions a week with my trainer and 2-3 cardio-based sessions a week on my own. With COVID-19 and the gyms being closed, we’ve been doing more activities outside or at home so the gym sessions have been different. However I’ve found it a good opportunity to get back on the bicycle and mix up running with various other training exercises.
Another type of training I’ve done quite a lot of in the past is heat training in a sauna. It’s normally a few exercises at 60°C followed by some maths or problem-solving puzzles to keep the brain working in such extreme conditions.
The reason behind all of the various forms of training is unlike many ball sports, we can’t go training in the car every day. In fact, we can only train in the race car with the team – 4 days per year! So, we have to maintain that physical fitness to be prepared to race and drive the car.
Q. How has COVID-19 interrupted your usual racing schedule?
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has had a big impact on motor racing, and indeed professional sports all around the world. The Supercars industry basically hit the pause button when the Australian Grand Prix event got cancelled in March this year due to COVID-19. Once everything started to get going again, Supercars were able to return to racing some months later, however many events were still cancelled. Unfortunately during this time, the team I had signed with had to pull out. This left me high and dry during the season, making it very difficult to get back on the grid. However, I was able to sign with another team, Brad Jones Racing. So fingers crossed we can still have the Bathurst 1000 in October because it’s the jewel in Australian motorsport!
Q. Throughout this period, you’ve been staying and working on the family farm. Did you find you had to adapt your diabetes management with this lifestyle change?
For some reason, whether it’s the slightly warmer climate or the fact there’s always stuff to do, my diabetes is always pretty good on the farm.
This time of year, the farm is all about maintenance and preparation for the up and coming harvest. The crops were put into the paddocks around Easter time and now we hope for rain and to get some of the machinery and tractors serviced and ready for harvest. This year we have predominantly Barley crops, some Wheat and also Lupins. We are currently doing some repairs on our enormous John Deere Harvesters, so a typical day involves getting my hands dirty working on the tractors, inspecting the crops, spraying the fence lines, keeping the house yard tidy and also keeping fit for racing!
Q. With your diabetes management, this year you upgraded to Dexcom G6. How was the process of switching from Dexcom G5 Mobile to Dexcom G6?
The process of switching to Dexcom G6 from Dexcom G5 Mobile was fairly simple. I actually thought it may have been a bit harder. I had been using Dexcom G5 Mobile for the best part of 4 years, so I was very familiar with that system and its processes.
With Dexcom G6, I had some assistance from my local AMSL Diabetes representative and basically followed the tutorials and I was away and racing! I’ve found the basic functions are similar however the actual mechanics of fitting a new sensor is different. And everything is more refined, it’s nicer and easier – so it’s a great evolution!
Q. How does Dexcom G6 differ from Dexcom G5 Mobile in the car or generally day-to-day?
This is an interesting question, because due to COVID-19 I haven’t done a race with Dexcom G6 yet! My first race with Dexcom G6 will be the Bathurst 1000 in October.
I’ve just recently acquired an Apple Watch and I’m finding it a very useful tool to monitor my diabetes with Dexcom G6. I use the watch to check my data rather than pulling my phone out of my pocket. This may be something I can use to my advantage in the car, before jumping in the car and when I’ve finished also.
Generally with Dexcom G6, the fact I don’t have to fingerprick is definitely the best part! Dexcom G6 has its own built in calibration so once the sensor warms up, it displays a level straight away. Dexcom G6 is also slimmer, so it’s less bulky and less noticeable.
Q. What are the most important features of Dexcom G6 for your diabetes management?
I think for me, and anyone that wears Dexcom G6, the number 1 best feature has to be no fingerpricks*! I always raved how good Dexcom G5 Mobile was, only requiring 2 fingerpricks to calibrate per day which was amazing, as previously, some race days I would fingerprick 25-30 times a day!!! But with Dexcom G6 – there are no required fingerpricks!
Another one of the new features that’s very handy is the ‘Urgent Low Soon’ alert which warns about going low. It gives you a timeframe of when you may experience a low glucose event and it alerts you to act now to prevent going low. This has certainly helped me when I’ve lost track of time or eaten new foods and perhaps had too much insulin. Especially when I’m on the farm as I may be some distance away from food like jellybeans etc.
Also, being able to wear the sensor for 10 days is great. The Dexcom G5 Mobile system only lasted 7 days, so [with Dexcom G6] over a month it’s 1-2 less insertions, which is handy. Plus, when I’m travelling for extended periods of time, I can carry less sensors!
Q. What races have you got coming up?
The next race for me and most likely the final race of 2020 is the Bathurst 1000. This is our biggest race on the calendar and last year I finished 3rd with James Courtney.
This year I’ll be heading there with a very solid team, Brad Jones Racing, racing with a young rookie driver Jack Smith in the #4 SCT Logistics Holden Commodore! I’ll be sporting the AMSL Diabetes logo on my helmet so hopefully we can have another good race and bring home a great result!
Q. How would you sum up the Dexcom G6 in 10 words or less?
My perfect tool for making my diabetes management much easier!
* If your glucose alerts and readings from the G6 do not match symptoms or expectations, use a blood glucose meter to make diabetes treatment decisions.
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“Another one of the new features that’s very handy is the ‘Urgent Low Soon’ alert which warns about going low… This has certainly helped me when I’ve lost track of time or eaten new foods and perhaps had too much insulin.”
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