ODDyssey Half Marathon 2013

This past Sunday was the 2013 running of the ODDyssey Half Marathon. I first ran this last year (in only the second year of the event) and was impressed with the organization, course, overall vibe, and perhaps most importantly free pint glass (filled with delicious Sly Fox beer) at the finish.

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The now empty pint glass…

The timing of this race is interesting for me. It’s too late to be a proper “Spring Half”, and not late enough to be part of a build for a Fall Marathon. This year however it fell at a good time: my injury had finally cleared up and I had about a month of consistent (if limited) running. This would be a really good yardstick to let me know what my starting point was before proper training starts in a little over a month.

Last year when I ran this race it was with the intention of pacing my friend Mike to his goal time (unfortunately it was crazy hot/humid and he missed it). This year he and his wife were going to be there again (but just running it for fun), and as coincidence would have it the girlfriend had signed up, too. She and I ran Broad Street together this year and had a great time, but decided to run this one at our own paces.

As is often the case, 5am came far to quickly. I got up and tested (123), then had a protein bar for breakfast with a full bolus. The drive down was uneventful and before we knew it we were waiting at the starting area. One of the cool things about this race is that it encourages people to dress up and not take it too seriously (there are even optional “challenges” along the course like a bean bag toss and a dunk tank). Looking around at the start was kind of crazy: there was a bride and groom in actual gown and tuxedo (to add to it the bride was obviously very pregnant and he pushed her around the course in a wheelchair), there was Thing 1 and Thing 2, Borat (complete with sling bathing suit), and much, much more. I of course wore my typical Insulindependence singlet, but maybe one of these days I’ll run something in costume…

Anyway eventually the race began and I glanced at my Dexcom to see a 180 with an arrow straight across. Just about perfect. As I knew my fitness was not great, I started toward the back with the hopes that it would prevent me from going out too fast. Mission accomplished… only perhaps a bit too well. I spent much of the first three miles passing people en masse, which in retrospect probably made me expend even more energy zigging, zagging, and accelerating. Lesson learned. After mile 3 the course opened up a bit and I was able to fall into a bit of a groove only to find out that the course had been changed from last year. Where last year the only uphill section was toward the very end, this year there was a significant effort from about 4.75 to 5.75 that made the previously mentioned groove decidedly un-groovy. It was also around this time that I took another gander at my Dexcom to find a 195.

Huh.

I should mention at this point what regular readers (Hi Mom!) already know – I don’t reduce my basal rate at the start of a race. I find that if I do I don’t drop quickly enough to be able to take on enough carbs to perform. So here I was almost at the halfway point and my blood sugar had actually gone up! I’m used to this in a hard 5k, but a half? I decided to wait until mile 7 and decide on a course of action after that. Looking back this was a Bad Idea. Halfway came and went, then 7, then 8, and no changes in my blood sugar. So of course I did the smart thing and took on fuel anyway with a small bolus, right? Wrong. I ate nothing. By mile 9 I could feel the lack of nutrition starting to take hold and by 12 I was really starting to genuinely consider just stopping. I actually was reduced to a walk briefly on the final climb, but still had enough in the tank to finish relatively strong.

The front of the medal...

The front of the medal…

...and the back.

…and the back.

So the results:

  • First Half -00:55:32
  • Second Half -00:54:29
  • Total – 01:50:01
  • 289/2036
  • Starting BG – 180
  • Finishing BG – 208

I’m really happy with the splits, and all things considered I’m quite happy with the total time (though 2 seconds faster would have been nice). I think with cooler weather and the ability to fuel properly I could easily grab a couple more minutes which leads me to believe that if I can stay healthy a decent time at Philly isn’t out of reach.

Oh and the wonky blood sugar? After fighting with it for most of the rest of the day I changed out the cartridge and infusion set. Good as new!

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Counterpoint.

I posted a link to a blog discussing Bill Cosby and his misstatements regarding diabetes. Here’s another viewpoint from Steve at Living Vertical that I think is worth your time.

http://livingvertical.org/outrage/

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Read this. Now.

Very well written blog entry by the always thoughtful and entertaining Kelly Kunik. It will bever cease to amaze me the depths of ignorance that exists in today’s information age.

http://diabetesaliciousness.blogspot.com/2013/06/it-is-my-belief-that-bill-cosby-is.html

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When question marks attack

Fail.

There are few things more annoying than the Dexcom Question Marks of Doom. At least the sensors are inexpensive.*

*The sensors are not inexpensive.

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Knowing Better

I really should have known better. I did know better, and it still happened.

The other day after work I met up with some friends for a really interesting event in which we learned about off-flavors in beer and how to taste for them (it’s much more interesting than it sounds – really!). Though there really wasn’t much actual consumption of beer, I still had to take a few units to stay in range. Nothing unusual. Afterward I drove over to a friend’s house and we went out for a run. I should point out here that I was in a hurry as I was leaving home, and neglected to re-stock my backpack with Shot Bloks or the like. In 3rd grade English class you learn that’s called “foreshadowing”. Anyway the first mile was quite pleasant, but shortly after that I started to feel… off. Those of you with diabetes probably already know what’s coming next: a glance at the Dexcom showed 68 with two arrows straight down. At this point I was reduced to a walk. We started heading back to my friend’s house, and I actually had to ask her to walk more slowly. By now the Dexcom was showing 59 and still two arrows. Fudge*. I could feel myself swerving a bit as we continue to walk to the house. Words were coming slowly. I found myself trying to explain the physiology of a low just to keep focused. Finally we got to the house and I pulled out my meter:

This can only end in tears...

This can only end in tears…

Double Fudge*

Now we move to The Third Mistake In This Sequence: remember further up the paragraph when I mentioned being in a rush leaving home? Yeah, right up there. Well it seems I also somehow neglected to ensure I had GlucoLift in my backpack, so there I was staring down a rabid low blood sugar with no glucose. My friend was awesome, and slowly I was able to eat enough oranges, pretzels, and coughcupcakescough to come out of it. In the interest of full disclosure, I did actually overshoot, but the cupcake was so worth it and I corrected quickly.

See that nearly vertical downspike?

See that nearly vertical down slope?

So why do I bother writing all of this? Well I moved from Multiple Daily Injections to an insulin pump in January 2012. Since that time I’ve run nearly 2,000 miles and I still made a rookie mistake like this. And you know what? I will again. And probably so will you. And that’s okay as long as we learn from it and keep getting out there.

The good news? The weather is amazing today and I’ve got an easy seven miles on tap.

*only I didn’t say fudge…

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Type 3?

Living with diabetes can be unrelenting. Everything that passes your lips must be considered for how it will effect your blood sugar and the appropriate treatment applied. “Appropriate Treatment” too often being nothing more than an educated guess seemingly more art than science. Take the same diabetic and feed them the same meal at the same time for two consecutive days with the same insulin dose, you’d expect the results to be the same, right? Well… sometimes. So many other things can change the way your body responds including:

  • How much (or how little) exercise you’ve had over the past 24 hours
  • Age of the insulin you’re using
  • For pumpers, how long the infusion set has been in place
  • Placement of infusion set or injection
  • Because it’s Tuesday
  • Existing insulin on board
  • Whether Bahl approves of your sacrifice or not*
  • Illness

And the list goes on and on. Frustration tends to be common, and it’s hard to imagine any of the non “pancreatically challenged” around you truly have a grasp of what we go through. Well the truth is: they don’t. And that doesn’t matter.

When I first became involved with Insulindependence I heard them use the term Type 3 Diabetic. A “type 3” can be described as simply anyone who does not have diabetes themselves, but whose life is effected by someone who does. We all know them; it’s a girlfriend, a wife, a close colleague, a friend, a mother, a daughter, or even someone you’ve never met in “real life” reaching out through the magic of the internet (please feel free to substitute boyfriend/husband/father/etc. We don’t discriminate. Much). These are the people without whom life with this disease would be unbearable. The people who are there when you have two separate 200 point swings in the span of six hours but don’t judge or think you’re a bad person even when you feel like one. They’re the ones who quietly get up at 3:00am to get you GlucoLift when your CGMS starts going off in the middle of the night. You know, they say friends help you move, and real friends help you move bodies, but it takes a special person to put up with you when you’re blood sugar is under 50 and all you want to do is eat and go to sleep. At the same time. And you’re cranky. Again.

The point to all this is to say that no matter how hard we work to manage our diabetes, no matter how many miles we run, no matter how diligently we count our carbs, no matter how often we test, we’re going to still be imperfect. Inevitably this leads to frustration and sometimes worse (a brief glance at the published studies linking diabetes with depression shows too strong a positive correlation to ignore). It’s the type 3’s around us that help us through these long, dark, teatimes of the soul. I’ve been so fortunate to have an amazing group of supportive and caring people around me, and it helps me be a better diabetic, athlete, and person.

So the next time you feel alone with your diabetes, like no one around you understands, remember that you’re not alone. The people that care about you are effected by diabetes, too. They may have a shiny, healthy pancreas, but let’s be thankful for the type 3’s in our lives.

*If Bahl isn’t your thing feel free to sacrifice to the elder god of your choice.

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Tour de Cure

Let me start by saying that while I think the American Diabetes Association does some great stuff, I’ve become somewhat reticent to attend their events after participating in a couple of their “Step Out” walks and feeling a little like a red headed step child. I understand that we Type 1’s are a minority in the diabetes world, but we exist. We’re here. So when all of your speakers talk about getting out and getting active so “you too can get off insulin” and other such gems it can be a bit off-putting. I prefer to take an approach of us being in this together; that proper diet and exercise is vital for us all: Type 1, Type 2, or even Type 3! Bearing this in mind, when I received an email from a work acquaintance earlier this year asking for donations to his Tour de Cure page I had to stop and think. On the one hand, here is a fellow PWD getting outside and on to a bike to raise money for a good cause. On the other hand, I tend do give most of my discretionary dollars to Insulindependence (see the button up and to the right? You know you want to click it). So I emailed him back with my solution: while I would not be donating, I would get out there and ride. He graciously accepted and we were set!

Time passed as it is wont to do, and suddenly the date was upon us. True to recent form, I trained hard for the event with approximately zero miles logged on my bike. Where I deviated from recent form was in deciding to opt out of the 63 mile route and go for the more manageable 35 (see? I can learn from my mistakes. Sometimes.). The only issue was that several of our group were going to do the 63, and it started at a different time. The solution? We would all start together regardless of the intended distance. So at 6:30 in the morning I found myself pulling in to the parking lot at the start. Did I mention that it was already over 80 degrees at that hour? But I digress…

Trusty Steed

The trusty steed…

After picking up my bib (said bib in a fashionable red for being a “Red Rider”) I met up with the amazing “Team Genesis”. This would be the group I was to ride with and was the brain child of the previously mentioned work acquaintance and his wife. When they made the decision to do this, they really went all out. Not only did they manage to recruit 6 additional riders, but as a team they managed to raise a staggering $5,000 for diabetes. They even got a sponsor to donate custom team jerseys! (Side note: apparently when your team raises that much money, you are provided a tent to use with table, chairs, et al. This is absolutely the way to roll. Strongly recommended.)

Go Team Genesis!

Go Team Genesis!

Before we knew it 7:30am had decided to pop over and say hi, so we made our way to the start. As is typical for these sorts of events, a local personality made a brief speech before the start. It should be mentioned at this point that the personality in question (I feel terrible for not having noticed who, exactly, it was) is a Type 1. I bring this up merely to point out the contrast between this event and previous ADA events I’d been a part of. I really felt like this was a much more inclusive environment; that it was really all about the cause. I’m getting preachy, aren’t I? Sorry about that. Suffice it to say the start went over without a hitch and we were off.

I won’t get into detail about the ride itself, except to say that it was very well organized and supported while having a great, scenic route. I also realized along the way that I really miss riding my bike. Back in my triathlon days I would ride at least twice a week, but before the TdC I genuinely couldn’t tell you the last time I went for a ride. I don’t have the passion for it that I have for running, but I truly do enjoy it. An added benefit is that cycling doesn’t beat one’s body up quite so much as running and due to the lower impact I think blood sugar management is easier, too. So while I’m not yet ready to start shaving my legs again, I do think it’s time to get back on the proverbial horse.

All right, I’ve rambled enough. I’ll wrap up by saying that if you get the chance to ride in an ADA Tour de Cure you owe it to yourself to give it a shot. I can’t think of many events I’ve done, especially of that scale, that were as well run, and they really do a great job of recognizing diabetics with their “Red Rider” program (several times I’d pass/be passed out on the course and hear someone say “Way to go, red!”).

I’ve already signed up for next year.

 

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Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks

Ever have one of those days?

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Catching Up

“There is no failure. Only Feedback.”

-Mark Allen

More than half a year has passed since I’ve written here. Far too much has happened to cover in a single post, so I’ll just give some highlights and perhaps expand in the coming days.

When last we spoke I was training for the Philadelphia Marathon. Everything was going well, and I was beginning to feel like I was really ready. Then, during an easy long run somewhere around mile 18, my hip began to give me grief. A few slow, tentative runs after that confirmed my worst fear:I was injured. Now I can hear what you’re thinking, “He’s not new to the running game, and he’s a bit of a research nerd, so he did the smart thing and rested while cross training to maintain fitness.” And you’d be right. At least about the first two points. The third (most important) point was a miserable failure. Here’s what I actually did: zero running for nearly five weeks then run the marathon anyway. It’s actually not as bad of an idea as it initially sounds; Philly is unique in that the half- and full- distanced start together and run the first 13.1 together. Once reaching the halfway point anyone registered for the full can cross the line and be counted as a half. After speaking with (the legendary, amazing, incomparable) Missy Foy the day before at the Insulindependence symposium, I decided to go out easy and, if there was any sign of pain, bag it halfway. So I did exactly that, running a very comfortable 1:52 and feeling great. Once reaching the line there was never really a question: of course I would continue on. A mere 4 miles later I would come to regret that choice as my hip went again and I struggled to what I can only assume is the single worst positive split in human history. It was terrible. People looked upon me and wept. Children hid their faces. Dogs awkwardly turned away while pantomiming looking for a misplaced wallet. You get the idea. It was awful. Adding insult to (literal) injury somewhere around mile 20 my blood sugar absolutely crashed causing me to ingest every carbohydrate I could find while performing my death shuffle.

Artist's Rendition

Artist’s Rendition

This paragraph of course is where I talk about what I learned from that experience and how I buckled down and took care of the injury, emerging later like some distance running butterfly from it’s cocoon. But that would be a lie. Instead I:

  • Ran the Carlsbad Marathon
  • Ran Ragnar Del Sol
  • Ran Ragnar Southern California on an Ultra Team

So to put my stupidity into perspective, from November through April I ran about 115 miles with only 12 of those miles being training. I was stuck in this horrible feedback loop and needed to break free.

So, with help from a friend, I did. I stopped signing up for races. I started running a few times a week. Nothing far and certainly nothing fast, but the most amazing things began to happen. My hip feels fine. The excess weight is beginning to come back off. My blood sugar is stabilizing. I feel better both mentally and physically. And, importantly, I’m remembering why I run.

Thanks J.

-S

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Iron Andy Cup

(Two posts in as many days! Zoiks!)

I generally have a hard time saying “no” to a race whose cause I appreciate. The Iron Andy Cup directly benefits the Iron Andy Foundation whose mission is sending diabetic kids to camp. I was diagnosed later in life and managing this condition is difficult enough; I cannot even imagine how difficult this disease is for a kid – see, good cause! In any event I ran this race last year and really enjoyed it (winning my age group may have had something to do with that) so when I saw registration open I signed up. What I hadn’t considered at that time was that I would be just over a month from the Philadelphia Marathon (donate!) and I’d have a long run scheduled that day. So I did the only logical thing – I did my long run Saturday and raced on Sunday.

Saturday’s long run was… concerning. I expected to run 20, but bagged it after 18 due to my hips telling me in no uncertain terms how unhappy they were. Other than that it was really nice; the weather was perfect and I ran it at Forbidden Drive. In retrospect I probably should have gone a bit slower. Most of the interviews I’ve heard with folks who train with the Kenyan or Ethiopian marathon clubs remark that the real key to their success (aside from altitude, genetics, culture, and socio-economics) is that they run hard sessions really hard, and easy sessions really easy. I know I’m among the most guilty when it comes to not following this advice, and it’s beginning to really show in my training and racing. So Saturday I averaged 8:28/mile, and while it felt fairly easy, given how my training has been going (which is to say not spectacular) I really should have been closer to 9:00/mile. Ah well, hind sight and all that. Anyway while the first 12 or so miles felt great, my legs and even more so hips began to feel the fatigue for the last 6 miles. This is a bit of a worry for me roughly five weeks before a marathon. I know I’ll get around and I’m not overly concerned about my time, but I suspect the experience is going to be far less pleasant that it could be.

Fast forward to Sunday morning I stumbled out of bed bright and early, legs feeling heavy, stiff, and tired (long live the Oxford comma! – grammar references are fun!). Had my usual breakfast and took an 80% bolus for it, then made the 30 minute drive to the race. Got my number, checked my blood sugar (198 – a bit higher than I would like but not high enough to correct), and thought about doing – but didn’t actually do – a warmup. Soon enough we were gathered at the start where Iron Andy himself said a few words before sending us on our way with an old school “GO!”. I had seeded myself about halfway back to prevent myself from going out too hard, but I needn’t have worried. I had the unusual sensation of my heart and lungs just loping along easy, but my legs felt like they were cranking for a 7:10 first mile. We hit some hills leading toward the turnaround, but nothing serious, though at said turnaround something happened to me that hadn’t happened before: a volunteer stepped RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME! Interestingly I had a brief moment of mental clarity in which I had to decide whether to stop short and spare her or drop the shoulder and drop her like whatever it was Snoop Dogg (now Snoop Lion!) dropped like it was hot (I like to think it was a potato). I chose the more humane route. You’re welcome, volunteer lady! So the second mile went by in 7:22, legs still protesting like mad, but now many of the people that had raced away from me at the start were coming back. There was a brief moment of panic in the third mile when I though that the 9 (yes 9) year old that I passed was going to re-pass me, but I managed to hold on and crush his dreams. Final time 22:36, over a minute and a half slower than last year but somehow still good enough for top 20 overall and third in my age group. Blood sugar had dropped to 160, which is another sure indicator that on fresh legs I could have gone much faster. So I guess what I take from this is that I’ve got good cardio fitness right now, but my legs probably need some rest. Maybe I’ll consider that…

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