Thursday, January 29, 2015

You Know You're Getting Old When...

- you move your run from Tuesday to Wednesday morning because it snowed on Monday night. Not a lot but enough to make you afraid of the ice patches that may be hidden under the snow. Enough to make you cringe at the thought of slipping and falling. Am I too young to break a hip?

- you start thinking about signing up for 2015 triathlons but then decide to wait to see how quickly things warm up in the spring before you commit to anything in June. The thought of signing up for an early-season triathlon and swimming in freezing cold water is enough to convince you to focus on late summer tris instead.

- you wear sensible boots to work on snowy days. But you carry your nice boots in a shopping bag so you can change when you get there.

- you put hand cream on religiously partly because your hands are really dry and partly because, when they are dry, they look remarkably like your mother's hands. And then you think how wonderful it is that you're turning into your mother.

- you're perfectly fine with pulling on baggy pants complete with fuzzy lining, an oversized sweatshirt, a parka complete with furry hood and oversized black mittens in order to get to and from CoreFit class. You don't care one whit about what it looks like. You just know that you'll be soaking wet, and therefore freezing, on the way home and you can hear your father's voice in your head telling you to dress warmly and wear your coat with the hood.

- you get excited when your quarterly RRSP summaries arrived the mail so that you can check to see how much your retirement nest egg has grown. And then you get ridiculously proud of yourself for listening when you were younger and investing whatever amount you could.

- you leave bigger tips because you realize the value of good service and you also understand how hard it can be when things are tight.

- you don't bother complaining about things unless they're actually worth complaining about. And, if you think about most things that bother you, you quickly realize that they really are not worth complaining about. And that thought alone is enough to cheer you up.

Actually, I'm not sure these things are as much about getting old as they are about growing up.

I'm getting used to the idea of being in my 40s and I'm realizing with each passing day that it's quite a nice place to be.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My Diabetes-Fighting Team

Dexter has been in my life now for 14 months. Rose has been around for 9 months.

Together, the three of us make a great diabetes team. Not that we do actual battle with diabetes but we sure do work together to keep him in his corner.

As soon as he starts acting up, Dexter takes notice and sends out a bat signal.

Rose spots it and starts vibrating to pass along the message and then I step in with my bag of tricks (insulin, emergency carbs, water, exercise and a voodoo doll) and together in our slapstick way we bring things back to the way we like them.

We slay the vampires so to speak.

 I like to pretend we're like this trio - only a little more 2015ish. I keep flip-flopping between whether I want to be Willow or Buffy. I'm leaning towards Willow. And Rose is totally Buffy in her fancy pink coat. 

Anyway, so the three of us make a great team. 

Which made it all the more disconcerting when things started to go wrong last week. I was at day 9 of my sensor and things were fine until I got out from the shower last Wednesday morning. Instead of seeing my blood glucose number on Rose's screen, I saw the dreaded ??? instead. 

I hooked her back up anyway and crossed my fingers. About two hours later, she buzzed to tell me that my blood sugar was 3.9 (which it was) but it took two hours for the ??? to go away. 

The next day, it happened again. Right after my shower. And about two hours later, everything was fine. That night, I changed my CGM sensor hoping that was the problem. 

The following morning the same thing happened. It happened on Wednesday and Thursday with my old sensor and it happened on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday with my new one. Each day was the same pattern. Something was happening in the shower that messed things up. 

Since not showering was not an option, I really needed to figure this out. 

So, on Monday, I called Animas Tech Support and found myself speaking to a nice guy in California. He walked me through some of the things that it could be and none of them seemed to fit. He explained that seeing ??? meant that the sensor was reading my blood glucose but could not make any sense of what it was reading. Which eliminated the possibility that it was a transmitter battery problem. 

He said that it could be a problem with the back of the transmitter getting wet during my shower but we both agreed that was odd considering it never happened before and now it was happening every single day. Plus, I added, when I go swimming for 90 minutes, I never experienced any problems with Dexter finding Rose again afterwards (I didn't actually use their names for the record)

He finally concluded that I may have simply had two faulty sensors and he agreed to send me two new ones immediately. 

Hopefully he's right. 

I don't like it when Dexter sends a bat signal and Rose isn't able to read it. It kinda freaks me out. 

I spent the first 10 1/2 years with diabetes flying blind. Relying on finger pricks to keep my numbers in check and going to bed every night crossing my fingers that I would wake up if I had a problem. 

I've come to rely on my CMG and the feeling of security that it brings. Missing that for 2 hours every morning, particularly right after breakfast and a run, is really disconcerting. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Long Slow Distance

On Saturday morning I headed out for a run. 

My goal: run for an hour and keep my heart rate at 80-85% of my max. That, based on my calculations, was 144-153 beats per minute. 

I would not pay any attention to my pace. I would not care how far, or how not far, I made it in those 60 minutes. 

I was sensible enough to pick a route that did not have hills of any kind. I may one day be able to climb a hill with a heart rate under 153 beats per minute but I didn't think I'd be up to the task on the first try. So a flat route it was. 

I headed out and it took a grand total of 400m to reach 150 beats per minute. 

So I slowed right down and resolutely refused to care about how slowly I was running. 

The rest of the run went something like this: 

Look down and see a heart rate of 160 beats per minute and a pace around 6:50 minutes per kilometre. 

Slow down until my heart rate went down to 155 bpm. My pace, by that point, was about 7:50 minutes per k. 

Then, over a few minutes, I would find that my pace sped up to about 7:00 min/k with my heart rate holding steady at about 157 bpm. 

A few minutes after that I would find my heart rate back up to 160 bpm and a pace faster than 7:00 min/k. 

Slow down. 

Repeat process. 

It was a subtle game of ups and downs but, what I did notice most of all was how easy it was to run. 

I ran for an hour and felt like I had hardly run at all. I honestly believe that I could have run another hour at that pace with no issues. I also believe that I could have held a conversation the entire time which, for anyone who has run with me in the past, is pretty impressive. I'm usually limited to one or two words between gasps. 

So I did not set any land speed records but I am inspired by how much easier it was to run. 

From what I understand, if I keep doing this, I will slowly increase the pace that I can run while keeping my heart rate down. One day I should be able to run at my usual pace with a lower heart rate and, fingers crossed, I may be able to run at a faster pace with less effort. 

The numbers: 
- I ran 9k and every single one of them took over 7 minutes to run. Normally that would only happen in strong winds or when the streets are snow-covered. 

- I was technically supposed to keep my heart rate under 153 beats per minute but that proved to be really difficult so I focused on keeping it under 158 bpm. I have no idea if those 5 extra beats are problematic but it made it much easier to do so I did it. It still a big drop from my usual 170+ bpm on Saturday morning runs. 

I'm already looking forward to next weekend to see how it goes when I add another 20-30 minutes to my run. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Our Little Restaurant

Céline and Doug are on a new recipe kick.

Saturday evening, we tried the latest recipe on the Oh She Glows blog. It's called Warm and Roasted Winter Salad Bowl (you can click on the recipe title for the link). We made a few small changes right off the bat. The green beans were substituted for asparagus and we did not add avocado because the salad was already calorie dense enough (which I discovered after adding all the ingredients into My Fitness Pal) AND I had already eaten an entire avocado with my lunch.

The salad was quite tasty. No surprise there as I have rarely tried an Oh She Glows recipe that wasn't full of flavour. We did add a bit more red wine vinegar than what was called for but, other than that, we enjoyed it as instructed. We have two servings left over for lunch this week that I am already craving.

On a fun side note, Oh She Glows is going to be putting out a second cookbook. She put a call out for recipe testers and I put my name in. Wouldn't it be fun if I got picked? 

I also have two recipes bookmarked for later this week and they are both from my latest cookbook (Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi). Yotam is an Israeli chef who lives and cooks in London, England (oh how I wish it was London Ontario). He has several restaurants, releases a gorgeous cookbook every year or so and also wrote a cooking column in the Guardian for several years (not sure if it's still up and running). Plenty is a vegetable cookbook (he is not vegetarian but seems to have a knack for creating delicious vegetable recipes). We also own Jerusalem, one of his earlier cookbooks, that is chock full of recipes that remind me of my trip to Israel.

Here is the cover photo with a delicious-looking roasted eggplant recipe that is on my list to try. 

Speaking of trying, I'm trying out two recipe from Plenty this week.

The first is a roasted vegetable soup that involves roasting three eggplants, two red peppers and some tomatoes. Toss them into a pot with a few red onions, some oregano and basil and broth. Blend well and then toss in some lima beans. Ladle into bowls and top with a dollop of greek yogurt There is no picture of this soup in the cookbook. I'm picturing a rather odd coloured mixture that looks even odder with lima beans floating in it. But I'm also imagining that what it lacks in looks it more than makes up for in flavour.

The other recipe I'm trying is a pasta and zucchini salad recipe that involves grilled zucchini, bocconcini cheese, lots of basil and parsley, lemon, capers, edamame and red wine vinegar.

This one has a picture and it looks delicious.

In the next little while I hope to tackle the lentil salad topped with grilled eggplant recipe, a mushroom ragout topped with poached duck eggs (if I can get them. Otherwise, good ol' chicken eggs will have to do), the grilled eggplant recipe that is on the cookbook cover and a surprise tatin that is basically a potato pie served upside down. It looks quite stunning.

The tatin (aka tart) for your viewing pleasure)

Doug and Céline may be opening a restaurant if we keep this up for much longer.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Early Morning Hills and Max HR

I think I figured out my max heart rate.

I first did it by using the standard calculation of 220 minus my age which gave me 180. I'll let you do the reverse math if you want to figure out x (x being my age of course).

Having done that, I had read enough literature in the last week about how inaccurate this formula can be that I decided to figure it out the ol'fashioned way. Don't worry, I didn't do anything rash. I simply followed a suggestion that I read on several running sites. They all suggested that I strap on my heart rate monitor and head out for a good ol' hill workout.

So that's exactly what I did on Thursday morning.

As instructed, I ran 2k first to warm up. The instructions were then to run a big hill three times. Check my heart rate at the top of the first two climbs. On the third, go all out as hard as I could to the top. Check heart rate and that should be my max (or pretty close to it anyway).

After my 2k, I ran partway up the hill twice just to make sure I was warmed up enough. Once back at the bottom, I let my heart rate drop back down to below 120 beats per minute (bpm) and then I headed up to the top. At the top, I checked my watch and saw 170 bpm on the screen.

I trotted back down again.

The second time up I pushed harder. At the top, I saw 175 bpm.

The third time I pushed so hard that I didn't actually manage to run right to the top. I was so out of breath and shaky that I stopped two telephone poles from the top for fear of collapse.

My heart rate?

180 on the dot.

Exactly the same number that the heart rate formula spit out.

When I uploaded the run from my watch later that day, it confirmed that my max heart rate during that hill workout was exactly 180 bpm.

What have I learned so far?

- I've learned my max heart rate.
- I've learned that, for once, I am exactly as the textbook says I should be.
- I've learned that I'm not actually all the pleased about being exactly as I am supposed to be - I much prefer to be a little more interesting than that.
- I've learned that I have been doing my long runs at a heart rate that is way too high (172-175 bpm).

What am I going to do about that?

Well, since I'm not training for anything specific right now, I'm going to spend the next few weeks running in my heart rate zones. I'm going to do my Saturday long run at a slower heart rate (80-85% of my max) rather than what I've been doing it as which, as it turns out, is about 95% of my max.

I'm guessing that it's going to feel really really slow. I'm guessing I'm going to be annoyed at the fact that I'll have to keep slowing down to keep my heart rate in the zone (especially considering that I already feel rather slow). But I have enough friends who have had great success using their heart rate as a guide that I'm willing to give it a try.

Not a half-hearted try where I do one slower Saturday run and then resume my normal running pace but a real try. The kind where I pretend to forget everything I know about running and start over.

Because if using this technique can help me become a stronger running and allow me to run a half marathon at a pace that I can sustain from start to finish, I'll take it in a heart beat.

(Get it?)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Finding My Heart Rate in the Fog

I'm slowly figuring out this whole heart rate thing. It feels like I'm walking around in a fog, getting quick glimpses of things but still not seeing the whole picture. The good news is that the fog seems to be thinning a bit. The bad news is that the fog horn is still audible in the distance.

My friend Jeff was kind enough to write his own blog yesterday in response to my meandering questions. It's here if you want to check it out.

It certainly helped clarify a few things for me:

1. Once I figure out my heart rate 'zones', they should be the same for all of my aerobic activities (running, cycling and swimming).

I don't measure my heart rate in the pool but I have been measuring it when I'm running and when I'm on the indoor trainer (which is quite often actually as I seem to be turning into a cyclist who spends more time on her bike in the winter than in the summer months).

From what I can see so far, my typical runs (7-12k) hold pretty steady between 160-170 beats per minute. My heart rate while pushing hard on the trainer (climbing a mountain or sprinting) are usually 145-155 beats per minute.

So either I should be working harder on the bike than I currently am or perhaps my level of fitness on the bike isn't quite at the level of my running fitness.

2. I really should be a little more deliberate when planning my activities. I typically go for two 7-8k morning runs during the week and then a long run on the weekend (between 10-15k unless I'm training for a half marathon). I don't schedule easy runs and I don't often schedule hill or interval training except when I'm training for a half marathon because it just feels like the thing to do. If I did add easy runs and really hard runs to my regular routine, I would be running in various heart rate zones rather than always running in the same one. I'm guessing that would be a good idea.

I do the same for cycling. I hop on the bike and pop in a video based on a) which one I'm in the mood for and b) whether I'm sore from having done too many squats in CrossFit the night before. Too sore and I do a video that has more fast spinning. Not sore and I tend to do videos that have me climbing mountains or doing off-the-bike squats.

3. Finally, I really should figure out my maximum heart rate since it seems that most of the calculations and zones are figured out using that number. I can choose a generic formula to figure that out. I can use a more specific one that is apparently more accurate. Or I can do a few hills sprints. Jeff explained that the maximum heart rate really is just the fastest that my heart can beat. Several running websites have said that one way to figure that out is to a) warm up for a few kilometres and then b) do hill work. I'm supposed to watch my heart rate the first two times I run up and then, on the third, run it as fast as I can. The highest my heart rate gets is my maximum heart rate (or pretty close anyway).

So, on Thursday morning, before this post even goes up, I will sacrifice my beloved 7k Thursday morning run for a hill training session. It will be good for my legs and my lungs and will help me figure out my max heart rate at the same time.

Stay tuned.

I didn't expect to turn my Tuesday heart rate blog into a week's worth of stories but this does take a bit of time to figure out and I thought I might as well take you along for the ride in case you were interested.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wading Through the Heart Rate Literature

I sat down the other night to do a bit of research into heart rates to see if I could make sense of any of it.

I've done this before. Every 18 months or so I get interested in heart rates and I try to find a way to incorporate heart rate monitoring into my workouts. From what I hear from my friends who are in the know, running based on heart rate is the thing to do.

I understand the concept and it does make sense. Running based on pace only works if you run in similar conditions all the time. I cannot maintain the same running pace while running up the Niagara escarpment or while running into a headwind or on slippery roads as I can running down a long straight country road on a windless day. Trying to do so would only lead to frustration.

Running based on heart rate on the other hand would mean that I was maintaining the same level of exertion whether or not I was running up a hill, down a hill, into the wind or with it. Run faster when it's easier, slow down when it's harder but the heart rate should ideally remain pretty constant.

At least that's what I understand.

The problems begin to arise when I try to wade through all the literature about maximum heart rate, threshold heart rates, recovery run heart rates, tempo heart rates, interval heart rates and suddenly it gets rather confusing.

Oh, and don't forget the fact that all of these numbers apparently change depending on the sport I'm doing.  So my maximum heart rate while running is not the same as my max heart rate while cycling. I don't think anyway.

On top of all that, I can't quite wrap my head around what I should be aiming for. Do I want to be able to lower my heart rate so that, over time, I can run a faster run at a lower heart rate? Do I want to be able to increase the heart rate that I can sustain over a long run? If so, why? If not, why not?

I can find plenty of literature on how to calculate all of my different heart rate ranges but I can't find very much (yet) on what I should be trying to do once I figure out those ranges. The message seems to be to figure out my ranges (for easy runs, tempo runs, half marathons etc) and then stay in them.

It can't be that simple can it?