Thursday, June 30, 2011

I Sweat Therefore I Am...a Runner

Hold your nose folks.

Today's musings are about running clothes.  Sweaty, stinky, can walk around the house on their own, running clothes.

There are some people out there who don't sweat. 

I live with one of them.

I am not one of them.

I'm sweating profusely before I get to the end of my February.

I know people who can get more than one wear out of their running clothes before they hit the laundry.  I peel off dripping wet, salt covered clothes after an easy 20 minute run and would never EVER consider not washing every article of clothing after every run - including my hat.

My first summer of running, I bought myself a super cool pair of CWX running shorts and I loved them.  I wore them, I washed them, I hung them to dry.  I was a runner!

A few weeks into the summer, I began to notice a certain odor wafting up from said shorts mere seconds after I put them on.  I wasn't even running yet!?!  I started adding baking soda to the laundry to help neutralize things a bit.  It didn't do much. 

I was embarassed to ask my running friends because no one else seemed to have this problem.  During a weekend in Guelph, I went into a running store and explained my problem to the nice lady.  It felt oddly like going to confession.  She immediately starting talking about her first summer of running and her encounter with the same problem.  She handed me a surprisingly small $15 bottle of special laundry soap.  I brought it home, tried it out and it seemed to do the trick.  Problem was that I needed to do three loads of running clothes a week meaning that the bottle wouldn't last more than a few weeks.  Meaning that I would be paying a lot of money to wash my already expensive clothes.

So I rationed it.  Waited until the odor came back and then used it.  I made it last all season but I was bitter about having to pay so much. 

Then, this past April, while we were gallavanting around Provincetown, I discovered Tide Sports Wash.  Same price as the regular stuff but specifically designed for stinky fitness clothes.  I bought the last bottle on the shelf and brought it home.  It works! 

Now it's almost empty and I can't find it in Canada. 

I've heard that there is a new PC brand of sports wash available.  I haven't tried it yet. The bottle looks small and expensive but it is available in Canada which is helpful.

I don't mind being a sweaty, smelly runner.  I just want my clothes to smell good when I put them on. After that, anything goes!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Culture of Wellness

I seem to be the go to fitness girl at work.  Maybe it's because I'm always in running shoes...

...or maybe it's the marathon training schedule and 26.2 sticker taped up in my office...but people often want to talk to me about health and fitness.  I love that and will stop pretty much anything I'm doing to chat about recipes or workouts.

Sometimes people want to talk about all the great stuff that they are doing for themselves.

Lately though, the conversations have focused more on the struggles.  The struggle to lose weight or feel better.  The struggle to stick to a healthy diet when people keep bringing unhealthy food to work.  So many people in one workplace who are struggling with the same issues.  And yet they all feel very alone.

Alone in their struggle.

Alone in their depression.

Their frustration.

Their guilt.

It got me thinking about our running group.  The group is made up of people of all shapes and sizes.  All ages.  All levels of fitness. All economic levels and all different stages in life.  We about bound together by a common goal - to run.  The reasons why we run are as numerous as the people themselves. And we've all discovered that it's easier to do it with a group of like-minded people.  They motivate us when we need it and we motivate them back when it's our turn.

That's what I want to create at work.  A place where the default lunch at meetings isn't pizza and croissants.  A place where people feel motivated and empowered to start a walking group and where people feel confident enough to join the group.  Where people want to sign up for the dragon boat team.  Or any other countless number of things that gets people moving, motivated and eating better. 

I want to create a place where making time for health and wellness is the norm - not the exception.

I'm just not sure how to do it.

Does anybody out there have ideas or suggestions of how to create a culture of wellness at work?

Today's blog was inspired by Michelle my workplace wellness guru who asked me one simple question on Monday that has had me thinking ever since. Damn you!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Day of Rest

When I used to run two to three days a week, I had more days of rest than days of running in a week. 

The math is fairly complicated so you'll just have to trust me.

Now that I faithfully run four days a week and cycle one, a day of rest has become a precious commodity.  My body and my soul look forward to them the way a kid can't wait for ice cream or Santa Claus.

Monday is my day of rest.

On Mondays, I don't have to worry about what I eat.  I don't have to say no to an afternoon snack because I don't want to take insulin so close to a run. I don't have to remember to change the basal rate on my pump at precisely 3:30pm so that I can run at 5. I don't check the weather, plan a running route or constantly check in with my shins to see how they're feeling. 

I can just be.

Yesterday after work, I popped over to see my friends John and Michelle.  We sat on the porch and chatted about life, love, wellness and grandchildren.  I stopped in at the grocery store to pick up strawberries, bananas, frozen yogurt and pickles because we needed them. I went home, was offered a glass of wine (which I readily accepted) and then Doug and I sat on the deck, chatting away.  When we felt hungry - dinner preparations began. 

Not once did I look at the clock or think about schedules.

After dinner, we sat in the living room, each of us working on our laptops but still together.

Fresh strawberries for a snack.

When we got tired, we went to bed.

I slept well and woke up refreshed - a nice change from the last few nights.

After only one day off, my body is excited to run tonight.

When I used to run two to three times a week, it was the running days that were few and far between.  The running days were the ones that loomed big on the calendar.  Now, running days are the norm and days like yesterday are the exception.  Which makes them all the more precious.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What's a Girl to Du?

So, I survived the whirlwind that was this weekend.  In a nutshell, I photographed the Cancer Society's Relay for Life on Friday night with my friend Breanne.  Doug and I were up at 6am on Saturday for the Welland duathlon.  Sunday morning, we were up again for a 40k ride with our cycling group, headed to Art in the Park and then I photographed a fabulous band called The Bends on Sunday evening as part of S.C.E.N.E. fest in St. Catharines. Crazy!

Saturday morning's duathlon was a little intimidating because I knew that I was going into it really tired from 6 hours of walking the night before and a restless night to boot.  I wasn't sure how I was going to find the energy to run, bike, run for over two hours. 

Then I realized that this is probably a bit like what the second half of a marathon was going to feel like.  Exhausted with hours left to go.  So I decided to just pretend I was training for that.  It took a lot of pressure off.

We arrived and set up our transition spot.  I was struggling with what to do about my hair. 


Stop laughing!!

I have long hair now.  It almost stays in a ponytail but chunks still fall out and hang in my face.  During the race, I have to start off with a running hat, then put on a helmet, then back to the hat.  I knew that my hair would be falling out, in my face and driving me crazy.  Causing me to lose precious seconds in the transition area.  I decided that the most logical solution was to put my helmet on over my hat for the bike ride.  Easy peasy right? 

I checked my pre-race sugar and it was 12.4.  I had a gel for good measure and headed up to toe the line, as they say.

Let the race begin!

The gun went off and everyone took off like a shot.  As per usual, I felt everyone pulling away within seconds.  As I fell further and further behind, I checked my pace.  5:00min/k.  That's crazy fast for me.  The hell with those other runners.  I was racing against myself now.  I kept up a good pace and, once everyone settled into their groove, I found myself not quite dead last and was actually able to pass the odd person. I finished the first 5k with a time of 29:25 (5:53min/k pace).  That blew last year's time out of the park (31:17). 

I am amazing!!

Then I rushed into the transition zone, put my helmet on over my hat as planned, changed shoes and grabbed my bike.  I ran/hobbled towards the spot where we can mount our bikes and was very unceremoniously stopped by a race official.  "Hey! Stop!! No one is allowed to have a hard brimmed hat on under their helmet." 


Because people who have fallen have actually been scalped by their hat.  Scalped...

Enough said. So I pulled off to the side, removed my hat, fixed my flyaway hair, put helmet back on my head, tied hat to handle bar and headed off.  My transition time went from 1:46 last year to 2:55 this year.  So much for the amazing time in the first 5k.

The bike ride went well.  Heading out, it was a wind tunnel and I pushed hard to keep the pace around 24k.  After the turn around, the wind was at our back and I made up lots of time with a brisk 33k pace.  All in all, my time for the 30k was 1:07:37 compared to last year's 1:05:27. 

Back in transition, I now had to remove my helmet, deal with a soaking wet head of hair that had fallen out of the elastic and put my running hat back on.  2:27 compared to last year's 1:49.

I was really dreading the second run.  I was tired and remembering last year's feeling of nausea during most of the run.  I told myself that I was allowed to nap for as long as I wanted as long as I finished the run. I started running and, while I felt slow and lethargic, the nausea was mercifully absent.  I can deal with slow.  I tried to keep my pace around 6:30s so as to beat last year's time.  It was a struggle and the last few kilometers seemed ridiculously long.  But I did it.  My second 5k was 34:18 compared to last year's 35:46. 

I crossed the finish line with Doug and my parents waving and cheering.  Sweaty hugs all around.

After the event, my blood sugar was 8.3 despite having completely ignored it for the entire race.  I helped myself to a wonderful chocolate milk followed by a chipotle steak sandwich on the way home. Once home, I luxuriated in a two hour nap.

This year's finishing time? 2:16:40.6

Last year's time: 2:16:03.0

I blame the difference on my hair.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Salt Licks and Oblivious Caterpillars

Milo lives next door.  He's a cute, mid-sized dog that I'm going to call a mutt because I don't know enough to recognize whether or not he's a specific breed. 

He's light brown.  Does that help?? 

Milo is cute and full of energy but he tends to limit our interactions to him barking at me as I wave to him.  We are acquaintances at best.

Yesterday, our relationship was taken to a whole new level. When I came home from my run, he was sitting on the front porch.  He ran over, barked and then proceeded to lick my legs with complete abandon. 

Summer running makes for tasty runners apparently.

After an hour in the humidity I was one big salty snack and he was more than happy to put aside our differences to take advantage.  I'm thinking he had some pretty nice dreams last night about the 5'9" potato chip that walking into his life.

I've decided to embrace the sweat.

Last summer, and the summer before that, I was training for half marathons.  Half marathon training still involves a lot of running but it's a little more forgiving.  If I missed a run...or a week of running...I could catch up again.  So I'd skip runs or cut them short when it was really hot.  I tolerated the heat and humidity but just barely.

This summer, I'm trying a different approach.  I need to find the positives in order to not want to throw in the towel every time it feels too humid. I'm going to embrace the heat.  Luxuriate in it.  Be proud of the fact that my clothes are soaked through and that sweat is running down into my shoes as I run.  This is my first summer running with long hair and it's shocking how quickly it can become a dripping mass of salt water. 

I'm just going with it.

Apparently we can get used to anything.  Run enough in the heat and humidity and it begins to feel less oppressive.  So here goes nothing. 

On a completely unrelated note, I did my 90 second plank again last night.  I'm proud to announce that the first thirty seconds went very well and I was feeling much stronger.  Things quickly deteriorated from there and I was a shaking mess by about 50 seconds.  Still, I'm sure it's getting better.

And I almost killed a caterpillar.  The little fluorescent green guy dropped from the tree above onto my mat just as I started my plank.  I watched in horror as he inched his way down the mat, directly under my stomach.  I still do not end planks gracefully.  I collapse in a heap.  He had about 15 shaky seconds to move or there were going to be serious problems for the caterpillar. 

He didn't move. 

I collapsed into a very ungraceful sweaty heap but managed to at least collapse off to the side a bit.  He's still alive and probably telling all his friends and family about the crazy adventure he had on the mysterious purple mat with the floating pink lady.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ninety Seconds is a Long Long Time

Did anyone watch Run Run Revolution a few weeks ago?  It was a CBC documentary about a bunch of high school kids in Ottawa who were chosen to be part of a fitness program.  They worked with a coach to prepare to run a relay as well as the 5k. They ran these races in Boston this year during marathon weekend.  Pretty neat story and amazing to watch how far the kids were able to push themselves.

One of the things that they had to be able to do by the end of their training was to hold a plank for 90 seconds.  It was hilarious to watch their first few tries.  Wobbly-armed, they would collapse in a heap after about 10 seconds, flatly refusing to get up again.  They slowly made it to twenty seconds, thirty seconds and, by the end, a 90 second plank was no big deal.

Now, runners are notorious for having weak upper bodies.  It's understandable.  We put in hours of exercise a week but all of it is focused on our lower bodies.  After all that, who has time to lift weights, do push ups or whatever else we're supposed to do to strengthen the arms, shoulders and back?

Watch us.  We have strong, muscular legs and spindly little arms.  It's kinda funny actually.

Well, I decided that I could certainly fit a 90 second plank into my post-run stretching routine.  I figured it would help build my core up a little bit, strenghten my shoulders and, well, just make me feel a little less guilty about neglecting those parts.

And, I figured that, if a bunch of high school kids could hold a plank for 90 seconds, well then so could I.

I set my Garmin face up below me, got into position and hit start on the timer.  I closed my eyes and concentrated on my breathing.  In. Out. In. Out.  This is soooooo easy. 

Open eyes. Fifteen seconds!?!  You have got to be kidding.

By thirty seconds I was shaking.

By 45 seconds there was sweat running dripping off the tip of my nose and by 60 seconds, I was no longer breathing as much as gasping.

I managed to hold on for the entire time.  I did not lower myself gracefully to the mat.  I collapsed with an audible sigh of relief.  Holy bananas!  That's HARD!

I have since done three of these 90 second planks.  I'm still shaking by thirty seconds and sweating profusely by 45. I have yet to lower myself gracefully to the floor.

I have a lot of respect for those kids.  They almost looked bored holding their planks for so long by the end.  I just look like I'm trying not to die.

I'm sure it will get better. 

But man oh man, 90 seconds feels like forever.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Finding the Time

It's always a challenge to make time for running. 

Don't misunderstand.  I love running.  It's not a chore or something that I do because I have to. I do it because I want to.

Nevertheless, it is a challenge to make time for it. 

I have a thirty minute run to fit in to my schedule tonight. Here's how it will go.  I finish work at 4:30pm.  I will drive home, change quickly, check my sugar, fill my water bottles, stretch for a few minutes and hopefully start running by 5pm.  Home by 5:30pm. Then I have to stretch.  Properly done, my stretching routine takes about 30 minutes.  Then I ice my shins and calves for about 15 minutes.  So it's now 6:15pm.  Time to shower and throw my running clothes in the laundry.  Best case scenario is that my 30 minute run is over at 6:30pm. 

Don't even get me started on the 13k Tuesday night runs we start in a few weeks.  Best case for those is that I'm in the kitchen ready to eat at 7:30pm.  That's assuming that Doug is home and able to make dinner while I'm out.  Otherwise, I start cooking at 7:30pm.

I'm not complaining.  Rather, I'm just painting a picture of the life of a commited runner.

There are periods when life is easy, I have lots of energy and runs just seem to fit nicely into my day.  That's when I run for fun.

Then there are periods where work is overwhelmingly busy, life outside of work is just as crazy and I can barely find the energy to get the runs in.  Those are the times when running is critical.  When everything feels chaotic, running calms things for a while.  Because, once the time is carved into the schedule and the shoes are on, it's just me and the road.

When I run I can tune out all the chaos or I can use the time to get organized in my head.  Either way, it's therapeutic.

Sitting on the deck afterwards with my chocolate milk and my yoga mat, I stretch my legs and watch the birds flitting through the trees overhead. It's peaceful and rejuvenating.

This week I'm feeling pretty exhausted and just want to curl up for a nap.  But there is no time for rest and the weekend is chock full of activities. I could crawl home tonight and sit on the couch.  Or I can go for a run.

I'm going to go for a run. It might not be fast and it might not be pretty - but it will be worth it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Just Du It

Last summer, I made the leap from running and cycling to runningandcycling and can now add duathlete to my resume.

It was a pretty crazy experience and I learned a lot that day - about myself and about the wacky world of dus and tris. .

We arrived and began setting up our transition area.  Luckily Doug has experience with such things because I just kept looking around thinking "how the hell am I going to find my bike?".  He walked me through how to lay out my shoes, my helmet, my gloves.  I set up my mini diabetes station (glucometer, juice, gels and other emergency snacks).  Once organized, I stood back to survey my creation.  My personal oasis felt very insignificant in the huge sea of bikes.

Of course, any fear that my bike would get stolen during the run was laughable as I took in the expensive, state of the art masterpieces that surrounded my trusty Trek.

Here's me all set up and ready to race!

So, as I triple checked my blood sugar, I went over the important details in my head. 

Detail number one: Don't go all out during the first 5k.  There is still a 30k bike rike and 5k run to do.

Detail number two: Don't waste time in the transition zone.  Precious minutes can be lost fumbling with shoe laces, helmets etc. So my cycling shoes were untied, open and ready to be slipped into in mere seconds. Must remember where the bike is...

Detail number three:  It's going to feel weird to run after being on the bike for an hour.  Just keep moving. It will get better.

So, here's how it went. 

I ran all out during the 5k and finished it in 31 minutes (that's fast for me). 

Apparently it's not fast for most people because there was absolutely no problem finding my bike.  It was the only left in the transition zone when I arrived (this is going well).

I was panting and shaking like a leaf but managed to only take 1:46 to transform from a runner to a cyclist and burst out on to the street, clipped in and ready to ride.  Luckily I'm a little stronger on the bike so I managed to pass people and move from dead last to not quite dead last. 

It was crazy though because all of a sudden there were super fast riders whizzing past me.  Where the hell did they come from?? 

Oh right, they're the elite triathletes who have just finished their swim.

I finished the 30k ride in 1 hour and five minutes which was pretty damn impressive considering my normal pace is about 24k/hour. 

Coming back into the transition zone, I found my stuff despite all the bikes that were now parked everywhere.  Only 1:49 to transform back into a runner again.

Three steps into running and I thought I was going to pass out.  I felt completely nauseated, shaky-legged and weak.  My first thought was my blood sugar.  I checked.  It was 9.6 (I still remember that a year later).  Sugar's ok so what the hell is going on? 

Ah right, detail number three.  Running after cycling is hard. Just keep moving.  I did.  It was hard.  It got better a few kilometers in but it took me 36 minutes to finish the 5k. I just couldn't find a rhythm and felt like I was running on sand. Rubber legged for 5k - fun!

I finished my first duathlon in one piece with a personal best of 2:16:03.  76th out of 82.  Nothing to write home about but it was fun and I learned a lot. 

So, I've signed up for the same race again and will be doing the Welland du on Saturday.  Let's see if I can speed up the transition zones a bit and have a better second run.

My goals:
- that there be more than one bike left when I finish the first run
- that I finish the second run a little faster than last year
- that I can knock a few minutes off my total time
- try to keep up with this guy

Monday, June 20, 2011

I'm High

There are a few fun things I get to say as a person with diabetes.

One of my favourites is: "I get to have the last piece of cake because I've already taken insulin for it.  If I can't have it, I might collaspe...or worse."

That's always a fun one.

The other one that makes me laugh in my head is when I get to say "I'm high".

It's probably funnier to me than to the people I tell it to.  I just think that, coming from the girl who have never used recreational drugs of any sort and who usually stops at one glass of wine, to announce "I'm high" seems rather out of character.

Anyway, I'm not high at the moment but I was on the weekend.  Just for a little bit.  But the timing sucked.

Travel back in time with me if you will...

It's Saturday morning at 8am. It's already hot and humid and I am regretting not putting on my brand spanking new running tank.  The new marathoners were all chatting about how this run is our last run for about 20 weeks that is not prescribed.  We can run any distance we want but, starting on Tuesday, we're following the marathon training schedule.

I chose 14k because I figured it was a good lead in to the training and a good distance to prepare me for next Saturday's 16k.

Now, in order to really understand what happened, I need to take you back a little futher in time. Saturday at 6:30am to be exact.  One and a half hours before any run is when I change my basal rate.  That's the amount of insulin that trickles in from my pump.  Now, after lots of trial and error, I have found that reducing my basal to 50% works well.  I rarely have lows during runs and don't typically go too high either. So every Satuday morning the alarm goes off at 6:30am and the first thing I do is reach for the pump and change the settings.

The problem was that, for the last week or so, I was going low at the end of every run.  Insteand of finishing a run with a blood sugar of 7 or 8, I was finishing in the 3s. Not good. So I decided to experiment a bit and reduce my basal insulin to 40%.  Seemed pretty sensible to me.

The other factor that is important to understand is that I always eat the same breakfast before I run on Saturdays.  It just makes it easier to calculate things.  So, on Saturday morning I found myself standing in the kitchen looking at my cereal and wondering what the hell to do.  I had reduced my basal insulin.  Do I change the amount I take with my breakfast (bolus) too? I already reduce it to about 30% so do I reduce it even more? Keep it the same? Or increase it to make up for the change in basal.  Option 3 would only defeat the purpose of what I was trying to do (avoid lows).  Option 1 scared me because I thought I might reduce my total insulin by so much that my sugar would skyrocket.  So I chose Option 2 and stuck to my regular routine.

So, back to the run.  I started off fine and full of energy.  I bounded through the first kilometer at a 5:50 pace. When we stopped to stretch, I had a get because I knew I was running 14k.  Nothing out of the ordinary there. The second kilometer, my pace was 6:02. The third, I was 6:20 and, by the fourth, I was running about 6:40. Jim spotted me and ran over to ask if I was hurt.  He said my running was looking very laboured.

I just felt exhausted and chalked it up to the late night the night before and the humidity.  By the 5k mark, I was done and knew in my heart that running two more kilometers away from the store was foolish. I comforted myself with the thought that I didn't really have to run 14k today and settled for 10k.

The run home didn't get any better.  No worse, but no better.  My right ear felt plugged and my neck felt tight. I yawned a lot (not as easy as it sounds when you're gasping for breath) and I drank every drop of water I had.  All things I have experienced before.

And still I did not clue in. 

It wasn't until I got into my car and decided to check my sugar that it dawned on me.  "I'm high".

Oh yes my friends, I ran 10k with a blood sugar of 20.0.

That in itself deserves a medal.  Two actually.  One for sheer strength of will.  And another for stupidity.

I changed my basal insulin and didn't even think to bring my glucometer along for the run and test every few kilometers just to see what was happening. 

Apparently a 10% change in insulin is more significant than it sounds.

Experiment number two happens on Tuesday night's 10k run.  This time I'm bringing my glucometer along for the ride and making good use of it.

Another lesson learned.

Friday, June 17, 2011

One Lazy Cat

This week has felt like a week of physical extremes. I have a desk job which means, other than when I get up to refill my water or take a trip to the ladies, I am sitting down. So I try to make a point of getting up a lot. I make tea, go upstairs to photocopy something, get water, go upstairs to ask a question etc. I just don’t do well sitting down for long periods of time.

Yesterday, today and again tomorrow, I am taking part in a pretty intensive initiation to a new data management system that our agency has purchased. When I say intense, I mean 9am to 4pm with two ten minute breaks and a quick lunch, eaten at our laptops.

This week I have not been moving around enough and I’m definitely not getting enough water.

The second I leave the office, I head home, pull on my running clothes and head back out for a run. I’ve run hard this week and I’ve run well. But I just don’t feel like I can make up for seven sedentary hours with a 45 minute power run.

It got me thinking about the amount of activity that I do. It certainly feels like more than other people I work with and definitely more than most people. And yet I only average 40 minutes or so on weeknights and perhaps an hour and a half on Saturday and Sunday. Not to mention the two days when I don't run or cycle. That level of activity will increase starting next week and Saturdays will get pretty long by the end of the summer but still…

Eight hours of sitting at work. A hour max of running after work and then an evening of sitting at home.  Then I’m in bed for eight hours a night. One hour out of 24 seems rather inconsequential.

Now I’m really not looking for more activities do cram into my days. They’re busy enough as it is. But it does beg the question: am I getting enough physical activity?

A quick google search comes up with recommendations that hover somewhere around 150 minutes of activity per week (or 30 minutes of activity for five days a week). I get that. In fact, I probably get about double that on a regular week. And it’s only going to increase from now until the end of October.

Yet I still feel pretty sluggish after sitting for 8 hours and still feel like a 40 minute run doesn’t quite make up for it.

I just find it ironic that, despite running four days this week and cycling one, I feel lazy. And sluggish. And rather embarrassed at my sedentary lifestyle.

I want to go from feeling like this 

To feeling like this…

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Get a Grip, Beauchamp

One of the best book series I've ever read are the Outlander books. I could easily dedicate a daily blog to the fabulous characters, crazy plot twists and amazing moments of tender love and steamy passion that fill the pages of these books. I’ve read and reread them and have passed them on to my friends the way a heroin dealer distributes their goods. Everyone who cracks open book one becomes a hopeless addict.

Love, medieval medicine and time travel are some of the main themes of these books. War is another important topic and a lot of time is spent on what it’s like to prepare for battle. The main character (Jamie) has gone off to battle numerous times. Before he goes, if at all possible, he goes to confession.

(He also ravishes his wife Claire but those details are for another day.)

The confession part is critical so that Jamie can go into battle with no remorse, no second thoughts and knowing that his soul is ready for whatever happens next.

I’m going into battle in a few days. The battle is going to be long and it’s going to be hard. I have every confidence that I’m going to survive but there will be moments when I will surely have my doubts.

So it’s confession time. Time to clear my conscience and bare my soul.

I am not wearing my Vibrams. At all. I love them and I wore them for several weeks. I was almost ready to try running in them. I really want to run in them and I really believe that they will help me get stronger. But my shins were getting so bad that I got scared and stopped wearing them completely. My shins got better. Maybe it was a coincidence or maybe they were the cause of the problem. I’m too scared to find out right now so I’ve packed them away in my closet – to be taken out once the race is done and the pressure’s off.

I’m not running five days per week. That was one of the goals that I set back in April – to work up to five runs per week. I’m stopping at four runs and replacing the fifth with a 30-40k bike ride. I just can’t do five – it’s too exhausting and it hurts too much. I just don’t feel like I have it in me to give more than that.

I’ve been running faster than I ever have before. Not record breaking fast but it seems like my body and I have finally figured out how to get out of the pace rut we’ve been in for the past two years. I like the little bit of extra speed I have now. But I have to be careful not to get too cocky. It’s a pace I can now sustain for 30 minutes easily. Sixty minutes is a challenge and anything beyond that is really very hard. I’m confessing to the sin of pride. Now that I’m getting faster I don’t want to have to slow down for the longer runs even though I know I have to. Damn it!

Thank you for hearing my confession.

Now it’s time to get ready for battle.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Just Call Me G.I.Jane

I think I’m going to like this marathon training thing.

Knowing that I’m going to have to run 42.2 kilometers in October is turning out to be a fabulous motivator.

I suddenly have the equivalent of a drill sergeant on all of my runs now. Here’s how it goes.

Scene: a long long road leading off into the distance. The sun is beating down. There is no breeze.

Enter diabetic marathon hopeful.

“Wow, this is hard. I’m getting really tired. I think I’m going to slow down my pace a little bit.”

Enter drill sergeant.

“Are you freaking kidding me?? You’ve only run 8k. You think you’re tired now. How the hell are you going to survive 42k if you’re tired now? I’ll show you tired. MOVE YOUR ASS SOLDIER!”
“Holy crap – 14k is a long way. I’m just going to walk for ten seconds once I get to the top of the overpass. Just long enough to drink some water. ”

“Don’t you dare think about stopping. I will shoot your feet if you even slow down. If you're going to stop it better be because you're doing pushups.  Fourteen kilometers is exactly one third of a marathon. If you can’t handle that, you might as well drag your lazy ass home and not come back until you’re ready to be a marathoner.”

He's a bit of an ass but he does have a point. I think I know what tired feels like but I really have no idea.

I got a taste of tired during the last few kilometers of Around the Bay. I was so exhausted that it just felt easier to keep running than to debate with myself as to whether or not I should stop. My mind was too tired to think up reasons to stop or reasons to keep going. So I just kept running because it was the fastest way to get the darn thing over with.

That feeling is how I imagine the last 12k of Niagara Falls are going to be like.

So my friendly neighbourhood drill sergeant has become a standard part of my running paraphernalia. On every run I bring my water belt, snacks, Garmin, Shuffle and a voice in my head that yells at me.

It really does work though. Any excuse that I might have had to slack off during a run is easily reduced to mush with one simple sentence. If you slack off now, how the hell will you be able to push through when it really gets hard?

So I suck it up and keep moving forward.

The other trick that has been working really well is to pretend that, whatever distance I’m running, that is the distance to the finish line of the marathon. So, when I ran 14k on Saturday, I pretended I was running the last 14k. I imagined feeling exhausted and pushing through it. I imagined feeling nauseated and pushing through that. I used my music to motivate me rather than just keep the pace and I would not let myself slow below a certain pace no matter how I was feeling.

I don’t know if doing this stuff is crazy or a great way to get into the marathon mindset. The voice in my head says it’s good...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Dark Side

Do you know what I really like? 

I like it when people recognize the seriousness of a situation and yet can still laugh about it.  Gut busting belly laugh about it.

Not everyone knows this but I have a sarcastic, irreverant and often downright dark sense of humour.  I normally tone it down a bit so that I don't horrify people.

Sometimes, when I'm feeling frisky, I'll toss out a random comment just to test the waters a bit.

Yesterday I was at a meeting in Hamilton.  There were eight ladies there, myself included.  We all have the same quality improvement type jobs in our respective agencies and we get together every three months to share resources, brainstorm and enjoy being in the company of other people who 'get it'.

At the end of the day, I was asked to do something for the next meeting.  I joked and said no.  One lady offered to bake me cookies if I would only agree.  So I responded with "Oh right, feed cookies to the diabetic.  Are you trying to kill me??" 

Some people would have been horrified if I said that to them.

Others would have been horrified that I would joke about something sooooooo serious.

Not these ladies. Instead of horror, the entire room erupted in laugher and teasing comments.  "Oh just pump some more drugs into your system.  I saw you steal a cookie earlier and you're still alive.  Just run around the block a few times." etc etc.

They all know what diabetes is.  They know how serious it can be.  And yet they all laughed and joked right along with me.

I love that.

You know what else I really appreciate?  People who ask questions.

Some people watch me out of the corner of their eye when I check my sugar, push random buttons on my pump or pull out a bag of candies.  Other people jump right in and ask questions.  "Is that a pump?  How does it work?  Really, it's attached all the time?"  

Yes, I will be the first to admit that some questions are frustrating.

"You're allowed to eat that?" 

"Why do you have diabetes?  I thought you were healthy?"

"So, your diabetes must have really been out of control if they put you on the pump."

It's frustrating because people often don't understand what diabetes is really all about.  The questions that I get asked sometimes clearly show that and it's hard not to take the comments personally.  But they're asking questions which is the most important part because it gets the dialogue going.  And there is no such thing as a stupid question. So I answer them.  Each and every one. 

I hope that, by the end of the conversation, people know a little more about me and about diabetes.  I hope that they understand a little more. And I hope that they won't be quite so horrified the next time I say "My sugar's 3.1. Anyone have anything they want to say to me in case I don't pull through?"

Monday, June 13, 2011

Experimenting with Dates

We received our officially official marathon training schedule for the Niagara Falls Marathon. 

It's a tricky thing, balancing all the runners in our group.  You see, the Chicago marathon is the race of choice this fall at Runners' Edge.  There is a rather large collection (a gaggle?) of runners heading to Chicago this fall for the marathon.  Many are first timers. 

And yet, several of us have opted out of that race and decided instead to run Niagara Falls.  Many of us are first timers too. 

The races are two weeks apart. 

Since marathon training is all about timing (building up, resting, tapering) it became a challenge to come up with a schedule for Niagara Falls.  Option one was to just take the Chicago schedule and move it ahead by two weeks.  But that would mean that the Chicago and Niagara Falls groups would be on different rest weeks, doing intervals on different weeks, running their longest runs on different Saturdays. Supporting the different schedules would take a lot of coordination and people power. 

So the official plan is that we are going to follow the Chicago training schedule and just add two weeks at the end.  For the most part, I'm ok with that.  We all get to train together which is great. The only thing I might switch is the timing of the longest run (35k).  It's five weeks out from race day which feels a little far for my comfort. The Chicago gang are doing their 35k run three weeks out which makes more sense to me.

Which means that I will, once again, be doing the longest run of my life on my own. 

This happened during my first half marathon training (I ran my first ever 18k down a lonely highway while camping in Killarney), my third half marathon (when we ran 22k on one of the hottest days of the summer), Around the Bay (when I ran 27k with Doug driving a support vehicle during the last 10k) and now Niagara Falls (where I will run 35k on my own). 

This pattern that I'm developing certainly helps me learn how to run long distances on my own but it's no easy feat planning out a run that long when you're a lone diabetic.  One option is that I can map out a short loop (10k or so) that I run several times.  It keeps me close to home and lets me restock supplies.  Or I can ask a loving partner to be my support vehicle so that I can run through the country rather than on city streets. 

I have a few months to figure out the details for that particular run.  In the meantime, I'm going to be spending the first two months of this training figuring out what food/energy works best for my tummy and my blood sugar.  Right now, I"m leaning towards dates.  Easy, portable, tasty and high in carbs. They're going to get their first test run next weekend.  My plan? Check my blood sugar every 10k (no more, no less) and eat a date every 10k (unless my sugar is really high) to keep my energy up and my blood sugars stable. 

Stay tuned for updates on the great date experiment.

Friday, June 10, 2011


My mother and I have decided that we're going to sign up for circus school.

It's never too late to follow your dreams.

For those of you who are aware of the genetic disorder my mother and I share, that first sentence would be rather amusing. You see, both my mother and I discovered very early on in life that we will never be the cute little girls who can do cartwheels and roundoffs.  Neither she, nor I, have ever been able to do a somersault.


I still have very vivid memories of Gymnastics Week in our gym class.  We had a checklist of things we had to work through in order to complete that portion of the class.  First thing on the list - somersault.  Followed by back somersault.  Headstand. Handstand. Cartwheel. Roundoff. Backflip.  It just became more and more horrifying as you looked down the list.  On day one, I spent the entire hour trying to do a somersault.  By the end of that same hour, all of the girls and most of the boys had made it to the backflip. I was mortified.

I went home and my mother helped me practice on the living room floor. Even in the safety of my own home I couldn't do it. I cried. She told me the story about how, when she was a little girl, she had to do a somersault in gym class and couldn't do it.  So her mother (my nana) helped her practice on the living room floor.  She never managed to do one either.

We are not gymnasts her and I.

And here we are, decades later, deciding that we're going to circus school. All because of some little show we saw called Quidam.

Put on by the folks from Cirque du Soleil.


I have seen several Cirque shows, including their first one put on at Canada's Wonderland before anyone even knew who they were.  Even then in their tiny little tent they were amazing.

Feats of strength that are so unbelievably controlled and graceful that you forget for a moment how impossible they are.

Aerial performances that make you feel like you're in the presence of angels.

And hysterical theatrics that had us in stiches.

It was a great evening.  We talked about it non-stop all the way home.  What roles we'd like to have based on our skill sets.  My mother hates heights and anything scary, is not very strong or flexible but is sure that there is a role for her.  I'm better at strength and endurance than grace and agility so I'm thinking I'd do well hanging from ropes or being one of the strong foundations in the human pyramid scenes. 

Seriously though - as someone who spends a lot of time and energy working on strength and fitness - it's pretty humbling to be in the presence of such strong human specimens.  They looked more like gods and goddesses than humans.

It's really inspiring and makes me want to dedicate a bit more time working on my upper body strength and flexibility.  Because you never know when you might be asked to be an understudy for the aerial ballet scene.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Life-Imposed Easy Week

Life takes care of me sometimes. 

Normally this happens when I'm too much of a doze to do it for myself.

When I'm training for a race there is a fairly strict running schedule to follow.  The basic routine is: run three hards weeks and then one easy recovery week and then three hard weeks again. Continue ad nauseum until race day.  Take a week or two off and then get back on the horse.

When I'm not training - I just run.  Four times a week including a long run on Saturday.  The long run distance is determined by how the heck I'm feeling.  Anywhere between 10k and 16k works for me.  The other days I do what I want.  I'll run 40 minutes, 10k, hills or intervals.  Whatever I'm in the mood for.  I like the freedom of choice.

This week, it seemed like the world was conspiring against my running routine.

I took Monday off, as per usual. 

Tuesday night, I planned on running about 10k.  I adjusted my basal rate and planned my route.  At the last minute, I happily cancelled when a wonderful friend agreed to stop by for some wine and stinky cheese.  I figured, what the hell, I'll run on Wednesday and Thursday.

Then my mother called to invite Doug and I to go see Cirque du Soleil with her and my father.  On Thursday night.  The selfish part of my brain said "what about running??" but the part of me that embraces adventure and loves family time won out and said yes.  So we're off to Hamilton on Thursday.

That left Wednesday night. As per usual, I was meeting my friend Matt for a 5k run. 

At 5pm it was 34 degrees with a humidex of 40.

I showed up hydrated, eloaded and ready to run.  He showed up in cotton shorts, a cotton t-shirt and no hat.

He lasted precisely 8 minutes and 44 seconds before he asked if we could turn around and head home.

That means that this week I will have run a grand total of 18 minutes.

Not exactly marathon training numbers.

It was driving home after the 18 minute run when I realized that life takes care of me.  I have not had an easy week in weeks - because it's not on the schedule.  There is no schedule...yet.  I've just been running and, while I haven't been pushing too hard, I haven't been taking the proper time to rest either.

I am apparently the victim of a life-imposed easy week. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The insulin pump battles continue.  A few weeks ago my sugar went sky high for a few days and seventeen became the most commonly seen number on my glucometer.  Not a fun place to be.

Once I eliminated all other variables that could be causing the highs (illness, stress, infection, faulty tubing, air bubbles and faeries), I decided to adjust my basal rates.  I mentioned that, whenever I do this, things tend to get worse before they get better.

I may want to consider changing my career to fortune-teller. 

Before I go on, here is a quick lesson in basal insulin.  Basal insulin is the insulin my body needs for all its metabolic activities.  Basically, a small trickle of insulin is constantly entering my body from the pump and that’s the basal insulin.  In contrast, bolus insulin is the insulin I take when I want to eat something or if my sugar is really high.  It's the same insulin but it's used in two different ways, hence the two names.

Basal needs can change throughout the day and I have several different basal rates – from midnight until 3am, 3am-7am, 7am-11:30am and 11:30am-5:00pm and 5:00pm-midnight. These rates are calculated through an interesting combination of mathematics, years of research, trial and error and witchcraft. 

What works today may not work tomorrow and, when I begin to see consistently high (or low numbers) at certain times of the day, I’ll adjust the basal rates.

And that’s what I did.

I gently increased all of my basal rates by 0.1 unit/hour.  For the next few days, my blood sugar readings were lower but still not in their happy place.  I was still hanging out between 11 and 14.  So I increased by another 0.1 unit/hour.

Then I started having lows around 1am - which meant that I was taking too much insulin in the evening.  So I lowered my evening basal back to what it was before this all started. 

Then I started waking up low and having lows after breakfast.  So I lowered my overnight basal rates back to, you guessed it, what they were before.

Now I’ve started having lows after highs.  In other words, if my sugar is 15 and I take a correction bolus to bring it down, I go down too low.  So my correction factor is off.  I’ve adjusted that so I’m taking less insulin when I correct.

Things are slowly stabilizing themselves again.  Ironically, by the time I will have worked out all the kinks, I will probably be taking less insulin than I was before I started playing with the numbers.

So to recap – my sugar starts to skyrocket which means I’m not getting enough insulin.  I increase my insulin and my sugar drops. I reduce my insulin to the point that I am now taking less than I was before. 

Good news is that less insulin means less pump changes which means less cost overall.  Not by much mind you but enough to, perhaps, go buy some chocolate... know, as a treat to celebrate my good control.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Howdy Pardner

I remember the first time it happened.  Up until that point, the only pain I had encountered while running was the little man on my chest that made it hard to breathe.  Occasionally my legs would burn.  Otherwise, running was hard but not painful.  

Then, one hot humid day in June, a few months after I had started running, a horrible burning started.  It quickly progressed to the point where I felt like my skin was being seared off. I was afraid to look down but would have bet money that I was bleeding right through the front of my shirt.  What the hell??!?

That was the day that I discovered the joys of chafing. 

Thankfully I did not bleed through my shirt and, should I ever have children, I can most likely still breastfeed but damn it hurt. The next day I marched into Runners' Edge to buy body glide and a non-cotton sports bra.  I had my first running war wounds and was in absolutely no hurry to get any more.

Body glide has become my friend and I apply it liberally to every place that has ever chafed, every time I run.  Doubly so in the hot humid months.  But the chafing gods are tricky.  They move around, they find new spots to torture and then they disappear just long enough for me to forget them and neglect my body glide routine. 

Despite my best intentions, I am regularly nursing a chafe wound of some sort.   

There are the sports bra chafes.  Right around my chest seems to be a favourite spot.  Along the straps is another. 

There is the running belt chafe right along my lower back where it bounces up and down ever so slightly for hours.

Then there is the dreaded thigh chafe – my arch enemy.  Every pair of running shorts or pants that I own has their own special place they like to rub.  And when the shorts don’t chafe, the underwear does.

And yes, I’ve tried going commando…

I bought a new pair of shorts a few weeks ago.  They are shorter than my regular CWX shorts and much cooler.  They have built-in spandex which is always helpful for the folks whose thighs rub together when they run.  I have used them for a few weeks already and they seemed to be chafe-free.  I was impressed.

Then came Saturday morning.  Four kilometers from the store, I felt the burn.  Three kilometers to go and I had completely changed my gait just to try to alleviate the pain a bit.  Two kilometers left and I was sure I was bleeding down my legs.  By the last kilometer, I was debating taking my shorts right off.  Not sure if it’s actually legal to run in only my underwear but I'm pretty sure someone would have stopped to offer me a ride…

The post-run shower was painful beyond words (salt + soap into open wound = ow!!) and I spent the rest of the day alternately applying aloe vera and walking around like a cowboy.

I've got to get me a pair of boots to match my sexy swagger...

Monday, June 6, 2011

You Gotta Know When to Hold 'Em

Here is how I see it.  When you put your shoes on and head out the door for a run, one of four things is going to happen:

1. You think you're going to have a good run and you do.

2. You think you're going to have a good run but you don't.

3. You think you're going to have a bad run and you do.

4. You think you're going to have a bad run and you don't.

I cycle through all four options so regularly that it feels like I should just write them down on pieces of paper and pull one out of a hat before I head out. 

I should probably clarify what I mean by bad run.

Sometimes, it's about battling shin, calf or foot pain that starts out bad and gets worse rather than better as the run progresses.  That's just so discouraging. Sometimes it's about riding the blood sugar roller coaster and either having to eat a lot of unwanted food just to keep the blood sugars steady or it's about running through a high which feels awful in a way that only someone who has done it can really understand.  Sometimes it's about just feeling blah and every step seems heavy and laboured. 

Good runs are much easier to describe.  The body does what you want it to.  The blood sugars behave.  Nothing hurts and you feel strong and capable.  The best runs are the ones when I run the distance and a) can't believe how fast it went by and b) want to keep running.   

I don't think it's a simple as saying that it's all about attitude.  If I always had bad runs, I would say that perhaps I need to check my attitude to make sure that I'm not causing them myself.  Negative thinking and all that jazz.  But I don't always have bad runs.  I'd say, on average, I have at least twice as many good ones, maybe even three times as many good ones as bad ones.

What's crazy is that I cannot find a pattern.  There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason for how a run will turn out. I've headed out countless times feeling awful - headachy, sore legs, exhausted after a long day at work -  fully expecting to suffer through a run.  Ten minutes in, I'm bounding down the road feeling great and I come home ready to take on the world. 

Other times I feel great, am well rested, well stretched and pain free.  I head out and, five minutes in, know that the run is not going to be pretty.

I've had great runs despite low expectations and a fabulous attitude does not guarante a fabulous run.

Sometimes I find it really frustrating.  I wish there was something I could do to understand what makes a good run - because who wouldn't want good runs every time?

Then I think that perhaps what makes a good run is actually all the bad ones.  Because, having struggled through some pretty rough ones, I recognize and appreciate the good ones.  I'm grateful when the run is good and the memory of running well carries me through the times when I hobble more than I run.

I guess it's a bit like gambling.  If the gambler always loses, they're probably going to stop gambling.  But sometimes they win.  Sometimes they win big.  And that keeps them coming back for more.

Purple dice - sweet!  

Friday, June 3, 2011

From Up Down to Round and Round

Poor Scully.  I honestly don't know why she likes us.  Every time we see her we drag her on some crazy running adventure that we promise will be fun.

Last week - hill training.  Last night - intervals.

At least we pick nice areas to run in. A lovely warm up run down tree-lined streets full of big ol' houses and beautifully manicured lawns.  Dappled sunlight filtering down through the trees.  Peaceful and quiet it was. 

Thirteen minutes later, we arrived at another lovely little subdivision which backs on to a ravine.  More trees, more beautiful homes, more lovely sunlight.  So deceptively calm and quiet.

This time however, instead of a leisurely run and enough energy left over to chat, we ran our asses off.  Four minutes of hell is how I like to describe it. 

Basically, the goal is to run around the 800m (half mile) subdivision as fast as you can without collapsing in a heap.  Two minutes off to catch your breath and get rid of the urge to vomit and then do it again.  Six times.  Seven if you're Doug.

Scully is a brave little lass and tough as nails.  She was hurting from her Tuesday night stair workout, tired and feeling under the weather.  Yet she managed to never be more than a few steps behind me the entire time.  We ran fairly consistent 4:12-4:20 intervals which means our pace hovered around 5:12-5:18 minutes per kilometre.  Crazy!

One interval actually broke the 4 minute barrier (3:56!) which I have never ever managed to do before - despite repeated attempts last year and even having someone pace me.  Apprently, if you throw two diabetics together, all sorts of crazy stuff happens.

The 6:15 pace we ran on the way home seemed almost too easy after the intervals.  We could talk (sort of) and breathe normally again. I was hurting, Scully was hurting, but we did it! 

Now I have to think up some other kind of hell to put her through the next time we run together.  Hills on Erion Road? Sawmill? Brock?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Postal Strike

There is talk of a postal strike in Canada. 

So much of our daily lives are conducted online now - is a strike really that big a deal?

On the news last night, they interviewed several people.  Many of the young folks said no, it's not a big deal.  They pay all of their bills online, communicate online and never use the postal system.  So a strike, in their opinion, will have aboslutely no affect on their daily lives.

Then they interviewed a gentleman who requires a lot of prescription medications.  He saves his receipts and mails them to his insurance company every month.  They mail back a cheque. He is going to be affected.

As soon as I heard postal strike, I thought: this had better be over before July.  Because July 1st is when I receive my next quarterly cheque to help cover the cost of my insulin pump supplies.  I count on that cheque.  It doesn't cover everything but it certainly helps and it is part of my budget calculations.  Delay that cheque by a month and things are going to be pretty tight.

I work with people who have a developmental disability.  Many of them receive a monthly cheque that is their only source of income.  And trust me when I say that they are not in a position to save money in case they run into a tight spot.  They live dollar to dollar.  A few days delay in a cheque would be a very big deal.

GST rebates, pension cheques - not everyone has the option of doing all of their banking online. 

The news last night got me thinking.  It's natural that, when something doesn't affect us, we don't worry too much about it.  And yet, a change to any service undoubtedly affects a lot of people. Strikes affect those who are striking and those who rely on the service that they provide.

Suddenly this looming postal strike seems very very scary.

Here's hoping that things work out today.  That discussions are positive and solutions are found that work for all sides.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Running Bug

Run for your lives!

Running, as it turns out, is extremely contagious.  A few years ago, I caught a bad dose of it when I got too close to a bunch a runners in Ottawa.  They were taking part in the Run for the Cure 5k and, not knowing how dangerous it was, I neglected to use universal precautions and caught the running bug.

I caught it bad and I now have two chronic conditions: Type 1 diabetes and running. 

The running bug is a sly little thing.  Sometimes it jumps out of the bushes and launches a full on attack but other times it waits in hiding for just the right moment to pounce. It’s been incubating for a while but it turns out that I may have infected my workplace.  At first it seemed like everyone I work with was immune.  It didn’t matter what I did, no one else seemed to catch it.  But then one person came down with it. And another. Then a third.  Now there is a small but growing number of people who seem to have been infected.  

Sometimes, people get sick for a while, recover and go on with their pre-running lives. 

Other times, people develop a chronic running condition that makes them want to run in all weathers, constantly pushing themselves to run farther and faster.

At work, we’ve formed a bit of a support group.  Sometimes we exchange email updates commiserating about the cold, the heat, the humidity, how long we’ve run or how hard the hill was.  Other times, someone will saddle up next to me at the photocopier and whisper: “I’ve started running!” “I’m not very good and not very fast but I love it!”  I’ve received out of the blue phone calls from people asking for advice on how to start and then follow up calls with updates on how they’re doing.

One co-worker burst into my office this morning and announced that she ran the equivalent of four times around a track! And felt fabulous!  She was so excited and couldn’t wait to share the news with someone who ‘gets it’.

Running is one badass bug so be warned.  Once bitten, you’ll never be the same.