Monday, December 31, 2012

Crazy - 100 times over.

Our Masters swimming class is on hiatus for two weeks over the Christmas holiday. Our pool is still open though and there are time slots dedicated to Masters swimming. The difference is that we have to pay for a day pass ($3 and a handful of cents) and our instructor (Christine) shows up and swims with us. She has a workout for us to follow but she is there to workout just as hard as the rest of us.

Oh, and instead of 5:30am-7am, it runs from 6:30am to 8am. I soon discovered that an extra hour of sleep in the morning is tantamount to absolute decadence.

After a few days off for Christmas and the Boxing Day run, I showed up on Friday morning. Only a few days after Christmas and still feeling full from all the feasts we've indulged in, I figured Christine would say we were going to have an easy, post-festivities workout.

I believe her exact words were "so, I was thinking we could swim 100 x 50m. Everyone ok with that?".

I believe my response was "ummm, I thought we only had a class from 6:30-8am?" to which she responded "oh, we'll probably go from 6:30-8:30am" to which I responded "well, I have only planned for 1 1/2 hours and don't want my blood sugar to climb too high so I'll do what I can before I have to leave at 8am".

And so it began.

There were 7 of us and we had four lanes. Six of us paired off and were going to do each 50m on 1 minute and 15 seconds which gave us 15 seconds (or so) recovery between each one.

Brad, the seventh swimmer, was going to do them all on 55 seconds. That gave him lots of rest as well so I'll leave it up to you to imagine how fast he swims.

The entire workout was:

10 x 50m freestyle
10 x 50m pull
5 x 50m drill/swim (do 25m of a drill and then swim back the second 25m)
25 x 50m (butterfly, back, breast, free - repeat over and over until you complete 25 sets of 50. Or, for people like me - swim 25 x 50m of freestyle because that's the only stroke you can do).
10 x 50m kick
10 x 50m pull
5 x 50m swim
25 x 50m (build, explosive, fast, fast, easy - repeat five times)

Which, if you do the math, is 5 kilometres of swimming.

Good lord. So much for a post-turkey easy workout.

We didn't start until 6:45am and I was bound and determined to leave by 8am. My sugar climbs by the minute when I'm unhooked from my pump. I had started with a blood sugar of 5 and figured I'd be around 9 by 8am. If I stayed until 8:30am, I'd be up around 13. Plus I have never done more than 3k before and didn't think jumping from 3k to 5k in one go was a particularly good idea.

So I swam. Back and forth, sip of Nuun, back and forth, sip of Nuun. Over and over again until 8am. I managed to swim 60 x 50m, which is 3 kilometres, in 1 hour and 15 minutes. I was pretty tired by the end and my swim technique was beginning to suffer as my arms grew weary.

At 8am, I said goodbye and hauled myself shakily out of the pool as the rest of the group prepared to swim another 40 x 50m. As I left, Christine said "Have a great day. Are you coming tonight?".


I just swam 3k.

Was I coming back that evening to do it all again?


But apparently people did. They swam their 100 x 50m, went home, had a nap, did a few things and then went back for another two-hour workout.

Just when I thought I was hardcore...

Friday, December 28, 2012

Boxing Day Ten-Miler

I was stalking the Weather Network for days - watching with ever-increasing dread the doomsday predictions of 25-30cm of snow, 45+ km/hour winds and a temperature of -10C with the windchill. Boxing Day was not shaping up to be a very nice day for a ten-mile race.

Running 16 kilometres, a huge chunk of which goes along Hamilton Harbour (which empties into nearby Lake Ontario), with winds howling off the lake and snow accumulating with every step was not exactly how I wanted to spend Boxing Day.

But we signed up, I had trained (well, sorta) and a whole bunch of us were committed - including my Israeli brother-in-law who had never before run in temperatures below +10C. If he could do it, so could I.

By the time race day had arrived, the predictions dropped to 15-20cm of snow and 35km/hour winds - which seemed rather trivial in comparison. The race started at noon and snow was not supposed to start until the late afternoon. The wind, however, was whipping at 7am when we woke up and showed no signs of stopping.

It was hard to know how to dress. Minus ten isn't that cold for a run but with high winds like we were having, I didn't want to underdress...or overdress.

I settled on running tights (not lined), short little socks that left my ankles exposed (the only kind I ever wear), a thin, long-sleeved shirt, a thick, windproof, long sleeved shirt and a thin jacket. I wore a running toque (as opposed to a wool one) and my gloves that have a wicked mitt that you can pull overtop in the dire cold and pull back when you get too warm.

Oh, and lots of lipgloss and face cream.

Running at noon means that there is plenty of time to hydrate (a big bonus the day after Christmas) but it also means that I have to make up my blood sugar routine as I go since I normally run before breakfast rather than midday.

I got up at 7am and my blood sugar was 7.0. I had cereal and a banana with a full bolus at 7:30am. By 9:45am I was 10.0 which was pretty good and figured I would drop back to 6 or 7 by race time.

At 10:30am (an hour and a half before the race, I dropped my basal to 60%).

At 11am, I was 12.2 (dammit!). I wanted a date and a gel before the race or I would be starving. I didn't want any insulin in my system if I could help it. I obviously couldn't help it so I bolused one unit at 11am and crossed my fingers that I wasn't making a big mistake.

At 11:30am I was 10.0 (dropping fast!). I had a date and had my gel at 11:50. The race began ten minutes later.

Five minutes in, I began to regret my decision to wear three layers as I was already overheating. Ten minutes in, we turned a corner and were hit face on by the wind from the lake. Regret turned to gratitude and I immediately hoped that my brother-in-law, who started farther back in the pack, didn't start crying in despair when he felt the full force of the wind. Never having run in a Canadian winter before, he was in for a pretty intense initiation.

Fifteen minutes in, I was now used to the wind and the cold and I began to have fun. We ran along Hamilton Harbour for several kilometres and the waves were crashing something fierce. Gulls were trying to fly but were struggling simply to hold their position. Flocks of geese were landing and taking off and, every few minutes, we passed a hardy spectator who cheered us on. The sky was wild with clouds and I was suddenly very grateful to be a Canadian and to be able to run in all weather. Not much makes one feel more alive than being part of a weather experience like that.

The race went quite well - despite the weather, my lack of training and my pre-race blood sugars. I drank a small glass of gatorade at all three water stops and, at 12k, my blood sugar was 8.2. I ran well other than the short walk at the top of the nasty hill and I finished with a blood sugar of 8.0 and a PB of 1:43:40.

My brother-in-law came roaring in a few minutes later, looking strong and totally Canadian in his toque and winter running gear. He finished with a huge grin and proudly got his snowman finisher medal.

Sadly, there are no photos to post because the regular race photographers were all running and no one other than my crazy sister in her parka even waited for us at the finish line. Too cold!

So you'll have to trust me when I say that the Boxing Day Ten Miler was bitterly cold, horribly windy and an absolute blast.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Eve Debt Management Plan

On Christmas Eve, I was sitting on the couch enjoying a cup of coffee and a post swim endorphin glow. Enjoying the last few quiet hours before the family festivities begin.

Not that I don't enjoy the family festivities of course...I just like my quiet time too.

So I was sitting on the couch, reading the newspapers and thinking about 2013.

I'm not a big resolution maker myself - I prefer to make plans rather than resolutions. And I made a plan.

The last few months, I've been working hard to keep credit card debt from rising during the Christmas shopping rush. I forced myself to pay cash for everything and, when I had to order online, I had to transfer the amount I spent from my bank account to my credit card immediately.

I've made it through Christmas unscathed. That doesn't mean that I am debt free. Far from it. Between my car, my loan and my credit card - I'm managing but it feels like a never-ending battle. My car will be paid off in 18 months. My loan in 48 months. My credit card - as soon as possible.

So I've made a plan. Not a resolution but a plan.

1. Set up a by-weekly system to put money into savings. I need to build up a cushion for those unexpected things that set me back on my debt-reduction path.

2. Do not use my credit card unless absolutely necessary (ex. race entry fees) and only if I have the cash on hand to pay it down immediately.

3. Pay down my credit card bill by June 2014 and reduce the limit as I go so it stays low.

Regroup next December. If I have managed to pay down my credit card debt and scrape together some savings - then I decide whether to pay down my loan faster with the extra cash on hand or increase my savings.

One step at a time.

Kinda like running a half-marathon...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Olympic versus Iron

On Sunday, between wrapping presents, running 9k, burning DVDs full of wedding photos we took last weekend and painting my nails Big Apple Red in honour of the holidays, Doug and I watched a documentary on the Kona Ironman in Hawaii.

Good lord.

I like to think that I know what it feels like to swim really hard - if only for 100m. And bike really hard - up the 9th street hill. And run really hard - for 5k.

I also like to think that I know what it feels like to really push through and finish a triathlon. By push through I mean I feel crappy during the run, I'm pretty tired by the end and happy to be done. Not like this kind of push through...

More like I just wanted to stop but didn't. No ambulances were needed during my triathlons - thank goodness. 

Watching that documentary was awesome. Really it was. I know enough to know that I have nowhere near the strength, perseverance, sheer will and crazyness that it takes to do an ironman. I don't know if I ever will. 

I also know that the half marathons and triathlons I do manage to finish seem like the Kona Ironman to my non athletic friends. Unbelievable and seemingly unattainable. 

And yet not. 

The biggest lesson from that documentary was that people can indeed push beyond their barriers - real and imagined. 

The second biggest lesson was that the Ironman is really really hard and the training and dedication needed is all-encompassing. 

So no, I will not be training and signing up for an Ironman in 2013.

But I will be setting my sights on the Olympic distance triathlon. 

Not nearly the Ironman distance but farther than the sprint triathlons I did last year. Far enough that I feel the need to plan ahead, set the goal and create a training plan. 

2013 - the year of the Olympic triathlon. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

It's the End of the World as We Know it...

I hope the zombie apocalypse doesn't start in Kenya...because we are in big trouble if it does. Those guys are FAST!

It's the last day of the world folks!

It's also the winter solstice.

And four days before Christmas.

So I'm not sure if, by the end of the day, I will have been eaten by zombies.

Or killed by a fireball.

Or overcome by a plague of cold-resistant locusts.

My guess is that I will have gone to work, wished everyone a Merry Christmas and gone home to begin my two weeks off, had a nice evening with the family and gone to bed.

Just in case though, I'm waiting until Saturday before I pay my credit card bill...

Good luck with the end of the world - I'll see you all on the other side :)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Subtle Voices of the Body

I try hard to be in tune with my body. To listen to it and respond to the often subtle messages that it sends me.

Like the little signals that tell me that my iron is on the low side. Or the little twinges in my arches that tell me that my shins are going to start acting up. 

And don't forget all the little signals that tell me that my sugar is low. Is falling. Is high. Is climbing. Is holding steady. Is dancing the tango. Whatever. 

If you listen - your body will talk to you. 

That's why it's interesting to try to decide when to listen and when not to listen to what it's saying. 

Anything to do with blood sugar - I listen. 
Anything to do with sharp pains or nasty aches - I listen. 

Anything to do with whiny, I don't want to work out I just want to sit on the couch - I ignore it. 

When it comes to fatigue - I don't usually pay that much attention. I have learned that, no matter how tired I feel before a swim or before a run, I usually feel better a few minutes into the activity. So I just push myself to start and push through the first few uncomfortable minutes and then forget that I was even tired. 

Sometimes though - the fatigue feels different. 

And I listen. 

Wednesday morning at 4:55am. The alarm went off. I was supposed to swim. It was also the first day of my period which usually means I feel awful when I get up, when I get dressed, when I drive to the pool and when I slip into the water. I feel awful during the warm up but then, once we start sprinting around the pool, I am too busy working hard to feel awful and, once the workout is over, I no longer feel awful. 

Swimming is usually the perfect cure to cramps and period headaches so I force myself to go no matter how awful I feel. 

Wednesday morning at 4:55am the alarm went off. And I turned it off. Because there was something about the level of fatigue I felt, and have been feeling all week, that told me that I should sleep until 6:30am instead of going to the pool. 

I would normally agonize for a few minutes and then crawl out of bed anyway. This time I reset the alarm, whispered to Doug that I was staying home, and fell back to sleep for another hour and a half. I didn't feel any guilt whatsoever and didn't regret the decision at any point during the day. Instead, I was grateful that I had listened and the extra rest helped me get through the 5-hour meeting I had to run. And my post-work massage. And my evening of photo-editing from the wedding Doug and I photographed last weekend.

I am glad I listened.

And I will be in the pool on Friday morning - raring to go!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Monday nights I am a spare for curling. Which means that I might get a phone call any time asking me to fill in for any player on any team. Things that make me uncomfortable, that push me outside of my comfort zone, are things that I like to sign up for.

Showing up and introducing myself to three strangers and then having to play on their team and not let them down definitely throws me outside of the realm of comfortable. The first time I spared, I knew no one. I shook hands and wondered whether or not to tell them that I'm not really good at takeouts. Or finesse shots. Or throwing out turns...or aiming.

I decided not to say a word and just pretend that I knew exactly what I was doing.

I played lead (the person who throws the first two rocks) and held my own...sort of. We won anyway which always helps endear teams to their spare. I was asked to spare for another team the next week. I played lead again, held my own again...and we won again.

Then I was asked to spare for someone I actually knew. He was sick but his wife was there so I had a friend on the team. I played second (the person who throws the third and fourth rocks) and...we won again.

The following week I was asked back to the same team to spare for the wife this time. She had injured her back and would be out until after Christmas. So I've been adopted and have been playing second position for them for a month. It's been fun, we've won and we've lost but we're turning into a real team. And they ask me to make shots I don't normally make so I've been learning how to make take outs and do out turns.

This past Monday night, two players were missing from the team. I spared for one and another woman was called in to spare as well. The skip (ie. the captain) decided that I was the most experienced player of the three so I was now going to play vice.


The vice has a lot of little jobs that are traditionally their responsibility. They flip the coin to see which team will throw first. They agree on the score at the end of each end and then have to post the score. The part that makes me go 'eeeep!' though is the fact that the vice has to hold the broom when the skip throws their two rocks and they have to call the shot in terms of when to sweep and how hard. Call it wrong and it's just as damaging as throwing it wrong. You can completely mess up a perfect shot.

So I held the broom and I screamed "Hard!!" when I thought I should. I messed up a few shots by waiting too long to get the sweepers sweeping but I also saved a few with a mix of luck and more luck.

We won 9 to 8 and it was hard fought all the way through.

Best part? They've asked me back after Christmas to spare for their vice who will be away for most of the season.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Underwater Pacing

Pacing in the water is really hard. Particularly if you want to keep moving.

On land, I have a Garmin watch that helps keep me on track. I glance down every so often to make sure I'm not running too quickly or too slowly and, every kilometer, it beeps and tells me how long that kilometer took to run. Very helpful.

In the pool, things are not quite as straightforward. I don't wear a watch at the pool. Some people do but I just can't be bothered to buy it when I have my own personal coach to yell times at me. And even if I did have one, I'm not going to stop in the middle of a 100m sprint to check my pace. With my arms flailing around like a windmill, it would be pretty hard to read the tiny numbers...

I can also use the clock on the wall. You know, those pool clocks with the four hands (all different colours) that go around and around? I never knew how those worked before I started swimming. Now it all makes sense.

Or at least it made sense once I splurged on prescription goggles so I could actually see the clock...

Again though, it's hard to judge pace by the clock because you have to be able to breathe at the correct time and in the correct direction in order to see the clock as you go by. Then you have to be able to remember what the clock said the last time you went by so you can determine how long it took you to get back to that spot. I'm not good at either of those things.

So I'm one of those swimmers who pushes off from the wall, swims the required distance at the required effort level (easy, cruise, build, explosive, fast, pace, pace -5 or pace -10) and finds out at the end of 50m, 100m, 200m or 400m how close I was to the pace I was supposed to go.

Monday we had to do the following:

800m warm up
200m cruise
400m pace
100m pull - cruise
400 pace minus 5 seconds
200m cruise
400m pace minus 10 seconds
100m cruise
300m scull/swim cool down

Basically, the hard part was the 400m swims and the recovery part were the 100m and 200m cruise sections.

I swam the first 400m at a pace that felt hard but a pace that I could easily maintain for the entire distance. The only problem was that I stopped after 350m accidentally which completely screwed up my time. I thought I had counted 8 trips back and forth but apparently doubled up somewhere along the way and only ended up doing seven. I figured that out when I found myself standing with the fastest swimmers while I watched the slower (but still faster than me) swimmers complete their final 50m.

(see what I mean about keeping too many things in my head while swimming? If I glance at the clock and try to do math, I immediately forget how many 50m I have left)

So it took me 7 minutes and 7 seconds to swim 350m. I guessed I would have taken about 7:50 to swim the entire distance.

That meant that the next 400m would have to be 7:45 if I wanted to do pace minus five seconds.

This time, I was the second person in my lane to start so I immediately knew I had to subtract 5 seconds from whatever time I got. I swam what I thought was the same speed but just a wee bit faster and finished in 7:30 (or 7:25 with the adjustment). In other words I swam pace minus 20 seconds. Which means that either my first swim wasn't actually at pace or my second swim was way too fast.

I did the third 400m but this time ended up leaving about 8 seconds after the first person in my lane. I swam that 400m in the exact same time as the previous one (7:30) but subtracted 8 seconds to get 7:22 which was three seconds faster than the 2nd 400m and 23 seconds faster than the first.

I don't really know what all of this means. I just know that it's hard to get a feel for speed in the water. Sometimes I feel like I'm flying and then find out that I must have been flailing. Other times I feel really slow but actually end up with a really fast (for me) time.

Fast or slow, I swam 2900m on Monday morning and had it all done within an hour and 20 minutes. Compared to last year - I'm flying!

Monday, December 17, 2012


I'm tired. 

I always get tired as vacation approaches. It's like my body knows it is going to get a rest and it loses its ability to push as hard as it normally pushes. 

This time, it's been a long time since I've had a restful vacation. I've had plenty of fun adventures this year. We went to the Cabot Trail for a relay race. We went cycling through Québec for four days. We ran the Twin Cities ten-miler and we went to New York...twice. 

I love adventures and you won't hear any complaints out of me. 

But I must admit that I am looking forward to having two weeks off. 

Between December 22nd and January 7th, I plan on a lot of family time and visits with friends. I plan on lots of runs and trips to the pool. 

But I also plan of lots of time on the couch. And naps in the sunshine. And no alarm clocks set for 4:55am. 

My life is full of fun, adventure and hard work. I live life on the edge of exhaustion and sometimes I cross the line and need to recuperate for a few days. 

2pm on the 21st can't get here soon enough...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Active Recovery

Christine is introducing some new things into our swimming routine. Nothing too crazy - she's not tying us up or making us wear clothes. She's just not letting us stop swimming very much.

When I first started swimming with her, she would have us doing sprints or distance swims (25m, 50m, 100m, 200m etc) and, after each one, we would get a bit of a rest. Not much but usually 20-30 seconds to catch our breath and grab a quick drink.

Now, she wants us to get used to sprinting with less time in between. Like I'm talking 5 seconds.

AND, she's having us do active recovery which means that, after a hard sprint, we swim an easy 25 or 50m to recover rather than stand panting at the side of the pool to recover.

To illustrate: here's what we did on Wednesday morning.

Warm-up (swim, kick, pull yada yada yada for 800m)

Then we did:
25m active recovery
25m active recovery
repeat four times with less than ten seconds between each one

Then we did:
50m active recovery
repeat 5 times
these 250m swims were on 4.5 minutes which means that, for someone like me who takes about 3:45 to swim 200m and then another 45 seconds to swim 50m, there was very very little rest in between.

The idea is to get us used to pushing ourselves for longer and longer periods of time. Since she probably would have a mutiny on her hands if she told us to swim 1000m fast, she breaks it up into 200m chunks with 50m active recovery chunks tucked in between each one.

This swimming thing, as with most sports, is half physical and half psychological.

Kinda like how she told us to swim 300m during which we had to scull for 25m and then sprint for 25m (repeat six times for 300m). She said swim 300m scull/sprint and do that twice.

As I pushed off the wall I thought "why not just tell us to swim 600m scull/sprint?". Probably just it just sounds way too far..

...and probably because we lose track so quickly of how many lengths we've done that it's easier for us to count up to 300m twice.

(it's true - we ARE pretty dopey at 5:30am)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Mere Twelve Months

This time last year I was struggling to swim 500m in the pool.

This week, I just started my third (count 'em) third Masters 12-week session at the pool.

It's shocking sometimes how much things can change in a year.

Last year, I was struggling through 500m of swimming.

This past Monday, I was relieved to see that we only had an 800m warm-up followed by 1800m of relatively easy swimming and kicking to do. It was the first day of the new Masters class after all and Christine needed to get a sense of the swimming ability of the new folks in the class. Plus I was still tired and recovering from my cold and hadn't swum in a week.

So 2600m in an hour and a half seemed like a great way to ease back in to swimming.

Ah-mazing what difference a year makes. Ask me to do that last year and it would have been impossible...or it would have taken me all day.

Oh, and did I mention that I ran 14k last weekend without too much trouble?

Anyone remember this time last year? I had a stress fracture last September and, after taking 12 weeks off, was just getting back to running. And this week last year I was walking for nine minutes and running for one. That's it - walk nine minutes, run one minute - go home.

That one minute was hard. Harder, in a lot of ways, that last weekend's 14k was. Not just psychologically (although that certainly was a challenge) but physically too. I could hardly breathe with the effort of running a leisurely one minute.

Who knows where I'll be this time next year. I may run a marathon. I may be off running again with an injury. I may have swum Lake Ontario. I may have decided that I no longer want to run or swim and have taken up roller derby and rugby instead (doubtful but always a possibility I guess).

Nothing to do but wait and see. The way time flies, December 2013 will be here before we know it. Which reminds me - have you started your Christmas shopping yet?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Give and Take

Last week, when I was sick with a cold, my blood sugar readings were higher than normal.

Which is perfectly normal. Frustrating as all get out but perfectly normal.

I'm sure it's a combination of a) I'm sick and b) I'm sick therefore I don't get up at 5am every day to run or swim.

Last Tuesday, when I woke up to a lovely 14.4 on my glucometer, I increased my basal rate to 120%.  After several hours, 120% did not seem to be having any effect whatsoever so I upped it to 130%.

On Wednesday and Thursday I had my basal rate set at 130%. All the time. I saw a 7 every so often, quite a few 8s and 9s but fewer 12s, 13s and 14s so I was ok with that. (FYI the 19s and 20s didn't start appearing until Friday). 

Thursday night, while we were heating up our dinner and I was figuring out how many carbs we were about to eat, it occurred to me that I was taking a lot more basal insulin than I normally do. Which means that my pump would run out of insulin a lot faster than it normally does. I knew I was supposed to run out of insulin on Friday evening but that was before I got sick.

Pump change day is pretty predictable because, unless something out of the ordinary happens, the insulin in my pump keeps me going for 6 days. Two weeks ago, I changed my infusion site on Saturday night so last week it was Friday night. Then this week it's Thursday etc etc.

So I checked how many units were left in the pump. There were 43 units left...which was exactly enough to get me to Friday evening.


I had just spent three days at 120% and 130% basal - there is no way I should have enough insulin left to last until Friday evening.

So I went into the pump menu to the option called Utilities. I then went into Daily Totals to see how much insulin I had been taking every day.

Normal days range between 47-50 units (a small window I know but, no matter what I eat, it just seems to work out that way).

The last three sick days were 48, 45 and 43 units. A little lower than normal.

That's when I realized that I hadn't been eating as much because my blood sugar was higher than normal. I didn't have my mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks and I didn't have my pre-bed snack of pomegranate seeds or yogurt. No snacks means less bolusing which means that the extra basal I was taking was balanced out by fewer boluses.

A very interesting example of give and take.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Beating Back the Demons

It's fourteen days until Christmas.

Which means it's fifteen days until the Boxing Day Ten Miler.

The first weekend in December, I ran 12k. Last weekend, I was due to run 14k and next weekend I'm supposed to run 16k. Taper down to 10k the weekend after and then it's race day.

I ran 12k and then promptly got sick with a cold. I swam last Monday but didn't do any form of physical activity after than. Not until Sunday morning.

I was pretty much over my cold other than the left-over congestion that always takes a few days to work itself out. I was not however over the cold-induced blood sugar crazies. I have way too many examples of ridiculous, stubborn, crazy rabbit blood sugars from last week.  Examples like: I would eat my normal breakfast and take my normal insulin but then spike to 20 and stay there for hours despite repeated boluses and a 150% basal rate. Or examples like: I would be 6.0, I would eat a normal lunch and take a normal bolus and then be 22 two hours later. Hours of bolusing and water drinking finally resulted in a 7.0 before dinner - a meal where I steadfastly refused to eat anything remotely resembling a carbohydrate for fear of starting all over again.

Steak topped with onions and mushrooms makes a fabulous no-carb meal by the way...

So Sunday morning I woke up to a 3.8 blood sugar which, after the last few days, was fabulous. I had two glucose tabs (8 carbs) and bounced up to 7.0. Uh oh.

I wanted to run. I wanted to run 14k. But I didn't know if my body had the energy and I certainly didn't know what my blood sugar would do.

But I had to try.

I packed my running belt with lots of water, emergency carbs and my glucometer. I ate one gel (instead of one gel, a handful of raisins and some nutella) and I headed out the door. I didn't know if I'd be back after 1k, 5k, 10k or 14k. I planned an out and back route so I could turn around at any time and know exactly how far I had to run to get home.

I quickly discovered that my body was energetic after a week off but also kinda tired after being sick. I settled into a 6:15min/k pace and trotted down the street. Everything felt ok other than an annoying stuffiness in my head that required regular stops for decidedly un-ladylike nose-blowing.

At 5k, I checked my blood sugar and whispered "please" as the glucometer counted down. I was 8.6 ("thank you!"). I ate one pack of fruit chews (instead of fruit chews AND a gel) and ran 2 more kilometres. Seven down - time to turn around and head home. I was still feeling pretty energetic which was encouraging considering I had run 7k from home and was now committed to running the full 14k.

I checked again at 11k. I was 7.0 ("thank you!") and figured I could make it 3 more kilometres on that number. I was tiring by that point but still moving forward and doing much better than I had expected to be doing.

I finished 14k in 1 hour and 21 minutes with a blood sugar of 6.0.

Along the way, I managed to beat back the diabetes demons who had been hovering over my head all week. The ones who reminded me that the 'control' I normally have of my blood sugar is really only an illusion of control. That the best we can ever do is stay one step ahead of the demons but we can never really escape them. That one sick day, one stress day, one unexplainable crazy rabbit day can take days to recover from.

I probably spent 24 hours over 7 days with blood sugars in the 20s. Despite having insulin, a glucometer and a lot of diabetes knowledge at my disposal. Despite my best attempts to get those numbers down. What kind of damage was done? What long-term effects did last week contribute to? Maybe none. Maybe lots.

I left for my run feeling scared and beaten down after days of fighting against high blood sugar and fighting back my diabetes demons.

I returned exhausted but victorious. I had a firm grip on my blood sugars again and that grip stayed for the rest of the day. So much so that I made homemade chicken noodle (yes, carbs!) soup for dinner and had a cupcake snack for dessert.

I live to fight another day!

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Power of Colour

You know those lists that go something like this: you know you're a runner when...?

I have a new list I've just started. It begins with - You know you're getting over your cold when... think you can manage to not sneeze or blow your nose for an hour and are willing to test that theory by painting your nails.

If that theory blows up, so does the nail job.

I risked it and ended up with some lovely nails proudly sporting Cocoa a Go Go. And yes, I do buy nail polish half for the colour and half for the name.

Here's the deal. A few years ago, I didn't wear nail polish. I also didn't wear makeup.

Now, I wear eye makeup pretty much every day and my nails more often than not are sporting a funky colour. I do this partly because I like it, which I freely admit, but partly because it keeps some of my nervous ticks at bay.

I discovered it purely by accident really. I used to bite my nails and pick at my fingers. I still do if you give me half a chance. When I had my nails done last year for my sister's wedding I discovered that I don't touch them when they are painted. I don't want to wreck the paint job. My nails actually grew and looked nice. So I kept going back for manicures...until I realized that was a crazy waste of money. Now, I have a collection of colours at the ready and do my own nails. When they're painted - I leave them alone. Take off the polish and I am right back at them again.

I discovered the same thing with eye makeup. I constantly rub my eyes which, particularly during cold season, is never a good idea. I just can't help it and the more I rub, the more I want to rub. Last fall I had my makeup done for my friend's wedding and realized at the end of the evening that I hadn't touched my eyes once. Didn't want to mess up the paint job. That, and the fact that I liked the look, inspired me to purchase a few items and figure out how to do it on my own.

So yes, while I do enjoy the look of eye makeup and nail polish, I also appreciate the role they play in keeping me in check. I know my weaknesses and I've found a way to easily deal with two of them.

Manicure done, trying valiantly not to sneeze...

Thursday, December 6, 2012


I think all of us folks of the diabetic persuasion would agree that we settle into little patterns of behaviour when it comes to our diabetes management.

We have our little routines when we change our infusion site.

Our little routines when we prepare to inject insulin.

Or check our blood sugar.

I have become aware of late that there is a little step in my blood glucose checking routine that I hadn't really noticed before. Maybe I never used to do it. Or maybe I always have but never noticed.

Here's what the routine looks like:

- I open my test kit.
- I prime the lancet thingie.
- I take out a test strip and put it into the glucometer.
- I prick my finger and squeeze.
- I place my finger by the test strip and watch it suck up the droplet of blood.
- The glucometer starts counting down from 5 and I think to myself "please".

Please what?

Please don't be too high? Or too low?

And, more importantly, who am I saying please to?

Not being a religious sort of gal, I am pretty confident when I say that I don't think I'm praying.

Perhaps I'm asking the diabetes gods for a bit of help? Perhaps I'm asking the glucometer itself to spit out a number that I want to see.

I'm not really sure but, when the number isn't what I want it to be, I don't feel even remotely upset towards who (or what) ever I was saying please to.

I'm not sure if anyone out there is listening when I say it but it has become as ingrained in my daily diabetes routines as counting carbs.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ginger Tea

On Monday morning I went swimming. We had a really challenging set that involved being tied up with pull cords followed by swimming 800m followed by being tied up again followed by another 600m. It was exhausting but I completed the workout feeling fine. Tired, but fine.

On Monday night I went curling. I was feeling tired but ok. We curled a six end game and, while we lost by a lot, I played one of my best games ever. I felt good.

We went to bed. I lay my head down and then sneezed. I sneezed again.

My throat immediately felt scratchy and my sinuses immediately plugged up.

Within seconds, I had a cold.

I'm sure those little cold germ buggers were hanging out in my system for a while before making themselves known but the onset of symptoms was quick and unmistakable.

So now it's Tuesday night.

I dragged myself through a full work day, participating as best as I could in meetings with a head full of cotton and the reflexes of a drugged rhinoceros. In between meetings, I pulled into Wal-Mart and picked up some cough drops, some day-time cold medicine, ginger and lemons. Let the battle of wills begin.

I do not take a lot of cold medication. Not because I'm all high and mighty about it and want to fight my cold using my own body's defences and nothing else. But because I have learned the hard way, repeatedly, that medications that make most people sleep turn me into an insomniac.

Tylenol Cold, nighttime, the one with the huge warnings on it about not driving heavy machinery - well  if I take it I could fly a plane across the Atlantic singlehandedly and probably not even blink the entire time.

Even Cold FX and echinacea keep me up. I googled that the last time I couldn't sleep and, apparently, those immune boosters do have that effect on a few lucky folks.

So I am allowed to take two daytime cold pills but the last one needs to be down my gullet before noon to allow it a good 8 hours to work its way out of my system. Which means, of course, that by about 4pm, I'm sneezing and coughing and feeling decidedly wretched with no medical options to turn to.

Hence the lemons and the ginger.

While homemade ginger tea probably doesn't do much to actually cure a cold, it goes a long way towards making me feel better.

Take lemon, ginger and honey. 

Peel ginger and drop into a small pot of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until it tastes gingery enough for you. 

Juice a lemon or two, depending on how lemon-y you like it. 

When the water is gingery enough, remove the ginger pieces and toss in the lemon juice. Add honey to taste. 

Stir it around and pour into your favourite mug 

Add a wee dram (or two) of the secret ingredient and enjoy.

Oh, it also helps to have an impish, perfectly healthy, charming little man to entertain you while you sip your tea.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bowls of Food

I realized the other day that, while I don't have a favourite kind of food, I do have a favourite way of eating food...if that makes sense.

I realized this as I was preparing my dinner which consisted of the following:
- one large bowl
- quinoa
- steamed kale
- roasted, mashed (with peel) sweet potato
- black beans
- goat cheese
- avocado
- olive oil
- soy sauce

Add all ingredients to bowl, stir, enjoy.

Might not be much to look at but it's super tasty and packed with vitamins.

My lunch that same day had been:
- large bowl
- oats soaked in milk for a few hours
- banana (sliced)
- apple (chopped)
- granola
- raisins

Toss everything into a large bowl, stir, enjoy. By the way, this yummy concoction is also known as Bircher muesli if anyone is interested. I learned all about it last weekend on our trip to Ottawa and am hooked.

One of 8 million variations of Bircher Muesli

Oh, and did I mention my breakfast had been my regular shake (or gorp as Doug affectionately calls it) which consists of:
- a large container
- banana
- frozen raspberries and blueberries
- chia seeds
- Vega powder
- yogurt
- soy milk

Blend well and enjoy.

I love almost all types of food. I am equally happy eating sushi, korean, italian, indian, middle eastern, thai, south american, steak and potatoes, pizza and wings, or vegan. I just really enjoy food.

But, as I sat down to my dinner concoction I realized that my absolute favourite way to eat is to toss everything into a big bowl, stir, and enjoy. Preferably with a spoon. While wearing comfy pants and a sweatshirt.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Shelf Life

I've been swimming regularly (as in three times a week) for 13 months now.

I have gone through two bathing suits.

The first was an old one that I had bought years earlier but had never used. It had sat abandoned in my running clothes drawer until I pulled it out and dusted it off last October. I wore it until late August at which point I decided that it was high time to retire it and get a new one. Not because it was falling apart. Just because I had, by that point, lost 15 pounds and it was looking a little frumpy.

That suit was a TYR and  I really liked it so I went out and, with the help of a nice lady at Sport Check, found a TYR suit in my new size and brought it home.

I now had a new, flashy (well there was a splash of blue on it!) TYR suit to carry me for another 10-12 months of swimming.

I treated the new suit the same way I treated the old one. I took a quick, freshwater shower before each swim. I swam for 1 1/2 hours in a chlorinated pool. I came out, showered in freshwater and rinsed out my suit. I drove home and hung it to dry in the bathtub.

Last Friday, as I was getting dressed after my swim, I notice that my suit was really starting to break down. The back was turning white from all the little elastic bits that fray with use. The bottom was thinning as well.

After only three months.

I'm not that well-trained yet in swimming culture to know how long things last and what brands are the most reliable. I know exactly how long my running shoes last but bathing suits are another story.

My first lasted 11 months but hadn't really started breaking down yet - it was just too big.

My second suit, after 3 months, is showing enough signs of decay that I'm thinking I had better take advantage of Boxing Day sales and stock up.

Both were the same brand.

Any tips swimming friends? Any brands you know that stand up to chlorine and regular swimming? Anything else I should be doing besides rinsing out my suit after each swim?

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Loop

I was contacted by Medtronic a few weeks after the Global Heroes weekend and asked if I'd like to be a guest blogger for their blog: The Loop.

Of course I said "yes!".

So today's blog entry is one more click away.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Home Sweet Home

I've been away for almost a week. Living out of a suitcase. Sleeping in strange beds. Wondering if I should be worried about bedbugs...

What did I miss while I was away? Aside from the very obvious answer of Doug of course...

  • my fruit, yogurt, vitamin, fibre-filled delicious morning shake
  • my bed
  • moving
We put in three 13+hour days and I also spent hours driving to and from so, in the past week, I did not manage to squeeze nearly enough exercise into my schedule. I fit in two runs (one on Saturday and one on Tuesday) and that was it. No swimming. Not even a five minute walk. 

Days started at 6:00am and didn't end until after 9pm. I sat, walked down the hall, sat again. We had working lunches and working dinners. My brain got a fabulous workout but my body suffered the consequence. It feels swollen and decidedly unfit. 

My blood sugars held their own for the first day (thanks to residual exercise benefits) and did relatively ok the second day. After that, I fought constant highs because of the lack of movement and the food options. 

It was a great few days and I certainly learned a lot. But I'm glad to be home, in my bed, eating my breakfast shake and with the time to run, swim, stretch and just take care of my body as well as my brain. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

While I'm Away

It's been a crazy week away with long long work days and very little blogging time. I did not have time to write something wise or witty for this morning's blog. So I'm leaving you two short videos to watch that may inspire. Both videos are from the 2012 Global Heroes weekend that I had the honour of being part of.

This one is the Global Heroes 2012 promotional add. All those fabulous people running were the people I had the honour of meeting back in October. If you look carefully, I'm in there too...twice!

This is a slightly longer video that introduces the heroes and includes clips from our interviews. 

So meet my new friends, feel inspired and I'll see you all tomorrow. Friday at the latest. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Living on the Edge

I am away this week for work. The location I'm at and the timing of it worked well with Doug and I squeezing in a trip to Ottawa last weekend. We arrived late Friday evening and left on Sunday morning. Not much time but enough to squeeze in a trip to the Byward Market and the Art Gallery...and a run down the Rideau Canal.

We woke up Saturday morning and pulled on our running clothes. The Weather Network said 0 degrees with a bit of wind so I pulling on my running pants, long sleeved shirt, vest, hat, ear warmer thingie and gloves.

Ottawa is a lovely town. The Rideau Canal runs right through it and has beautiful paths on both sides for running, walking and cycling. The Canal heads straight for the downtown and takes you right by the parliament buildings. In the winter, when the canal freezes, it is used as a mode of transportation and Ottawatawans(?) actually skate to and from work. As we ran along, we spotted the cabins and warming stations that had already been set up along the riverside. The thin layer of ice forming in the more shaded areas of the river gave a hint of the freezing to come.

We made out way past Carleton University, past the University of Ottawa and into the downtown core. We saw the Ontario parliament buildings and the Château Laurier. I spotted a statue that my sisters and I climbed when we were kids. At 5 kilometres, we crossed over the river and headed back down the other side. We lopped along at a decent clip, a little faster than I would do on my own but not so fast that I couldn't hold it.

At 6.5k, I heard a faint beeping noise coming from my pocket. I knew I wasn't running low on insulin so the beep meant low battery. The cold weather had taxed my already aging energy source to the point where I wasn't sure it was going to make it home.


Who the heck carries spare batteries (and a quarter?) with them? Not I. I picked up the pace a little bit. We only had 3.5k to go so it's not like it would have been that big of a problem if I didn't get insulin for that time. My biggest concern was that, as far as I know from reading the manual, if the battery is completely dead for so many minutes (5?), all of the stored data on the pump (oh, like my basal rates and bolus calculations) are lost.


My battery has been stretched to the max twice - both times during long cold runs. Neither time did it completely die on me. But it got close enough to freak me out a bit.

Apparently not enough to actually write down the pump settings though.

Someday I really have to do that...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Strong Like Bull

Friday morning at the pool was all about resistance.

We were told to bring pants, a shirt AND socks. So we did. I didn't think adding a pair of socks to the now familiar pants and a shirt routine would be that big of a deal. Little did I know...

Christine went over the plan.

We were going to break up into two groups. One group had to put all of their clothes on. They had to swim 200m four times. The goal was not to go fast - the goal was to swim it well. Elbows high, proper entry, legs kicking etc.

The other group had to head to the deep end where the stretch cords were set up. Ten pulls had to be done. Each one involved pushing off the wall as fast as possible and swimming as far as possible. Once the cord was stretched as far as it would go, Christine would start timing. You had to hold your position for 10 seconds. She would gradually add time and, by the tenth one, we would have to hold it for 30 seconds.

I chose the clothing option first. It's a long, slow slog through the water and I figured it would be easier to do it while I still had the energy. As Leslie and I swam, I watched the boys who were working hard on the stretch cords. Sasha, our monstrously strong swimmer, was able to stretch the cord more than halfway across the pool. It doesn't look that impressive until you try it. I can get just past 1/4 of the way and it's a lot of work.

The 200m swims with clothing went ok, once I stopping fighting it. At first, you want to swim as fast and as elegantly as possible. You can't do either of those things well so it takes a while to settle into a rhythm. It's like running into the wind. It isn't until you accept the fact that you can't run your regular pace that you can find a grove. The extra weight that the socks added was surprising. My feet felt like there were weights tied to them. They kicked halfheartedly and it was easier to drag them behind than it was to kick them.

After Leslie and I finished our 800m we pulled off our wet clothes and headed across the pool to the stretch cords. The boys pulled on their cotton(!?!) shirts and pants and started swimming. It was hard not to feel sorry for them as they struggled through the water - they could hardly lift their elbows up.

I love the stretch cords. I love the short burst of energy that we had to do. I love working as hard as I possibly can knowing that we only have to do it for 10 seconds. I'm guessing it's sort of like power lifting in the Olympics. Focus all of your energy for a few seconds and then you're done.

After we finished our pulling and the boys finished their swim, Christine had us do a final four sprints on the stretch cord. Then she told us we had to sprint 100m. Just once, with no clothes or cords to hold us back. Having just completed an hour and a half of pulling and dragging, we were all pretty tired.

When she yelled "go!", I pushed off the wall. My arms immediately felt weak and my breathing was laboured. I was exhausted. I pushed as hard as I could but everything felt like it was going in slow motion. I was the last one to hit the wall and I expected Christine to yell out some awful time like 2:00 minutes. Instead she yelled "1:40!!" which is about the fastest I have ever swum 100m.

George and Leslie did it in about 1:35 and Sasha did it in 1:15. As Christine put it, it's like we were all springs - bouncing off the wall and flying through the water. I may have felt slow and tired at the end but apparently didn't look it.

Strong like bulls we were. As fast as fishies.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Monthly Cycle

Every fourth Wednesday I wake up the same way. I have a headache. My stomach churns and makes loud rumbly noises. I am bloated. I am exhausted. I always think I am getting a cold.

It's annoying and it's perfectly predictable.

I used to sleep in as long as possible on those mornings and drag myself to work, counting down the hours until I could go home and back to bed. By the next morning I would be right as rain.

Now that I swim on Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, I don't really have that option. Yes, I guess I could forgo my swim to stay buried under the covers for an extra two hours but I don't. Partly because I'm stubborn and partly because I paid for the class so I'm going dammit!

This past Wednesday was the day. I woke up with the headache and the rumbly tummy. I woke up exhausted and with a scratchy throat. I woke up at 4:55am and yanked myself out of bed with a grumble.

I got to the pool and read the workout for the day. It read:

Warm up
200m swim
100m kick
100m pull

8x50m swim (each 50m on 1:15)
8x25m kick (with fins - each 25m on 30 seconds)
2x100m swim (each on 2:15)
100m drill (which means a slow recovery swim where you practice a particular technique that you're bad at. I practice getting my hands to enter the water in the proper spot and I practice keeping my head down)

Ok, I could live with that workout - in fact it seemed rather easy for a Wednesday morning.

That's when I spotted the little 4x beside the workout. Which meant we had to do the entire set four times.

That would be a grand total of 4000m of swimming in an hour and a half.

You know my tummy is rumbly right? And my head hurts (insert whiny voice here).

I debated, as I do every fourth Wednesday, of telling Christine that I'm feeling poorly. I never do though, out of pride more than anything else.

Half way through the first 8x50m she yells "you're doing great, only four more!". I do the math in my head and debate yelling back "actually, we technically have 28 more" but I don't. Best to tackle the workout in little bites so we don't choke right?

Swimming is so bizarre in how it works. The first part of any hard set seems to be the hardest. By the 4th or 5th 50m sprint, I'm always exhausted and unsure if I can continue. I push through and, all of a sudden, I feel like I can go for a long time.

The first run through the set, I felt pretty crappy and my headache was like a vice around my eyes.
The second run through, I was so exhausted I was not sure I could finish.
The third run through felt great.
The fourth (which we didn't quite finish because of time) was not long enough and I was sad that we didn't get it all in.

I left the pool feeling a little less crampy, tired and headachy. I also survived the day with more energy in the tank than I normally would have had and I managed to stay up until 9pm.

Remind me of that in four weeks when the alarm goes off on a cold December Wednesday morning and I wake up feeling awful and convinced I'm getting a cold.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ants in my....

I dream a lot. Most nights I have, and remember at least for a few minutes after I wake up, all sorts of dreams. 

Most of them are just fun - like I'm traveling through Italy or making dinner. 

Some stretch reality a little bit - like I'm suddenly living in Tel Aviv with my sister. 

Others are high-blood sugar induced - like the time I dreamt that I was being attacked by fire breathing dragons

The dream I had the other night gave me the heebie-jeebies.

I dreamt that I had to check my blood sugar. I pricked my finger with the lancet and I squeezed to force a drop of blood out (which, let's be honest, is kinda heebie-jeebie worthy on its own). Instead of blood, I squeezed out a live ant. He popped out, fully formed and disgusting. 

I pricked another finger and squeezed out another ant. 

Everywhere I tried, ants began crawling out of my skin. 

I held out my hand and I could see them moving under the skin - this constant, rippling movement that covered both hands and moved up my arms. I woke up, thankfully, before I felt my face. Because the only thing worse than having ants in your fingers is having ants in your face. 

I check my blood sugar for real this time and I was perfectly normal. No high to explain the weird dream. 

Which means that I dreamt that I had ants in my fingers all by myself with no help from the blood sugar gods. 

My skin has been crawling ever since. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pool-side drinks

Every morning at the pool starts off the same way.

We all shuffle from the locker room to the supply room to grab a pull buoy and a board. We all shuffle to the dry-erase board to check out what our warm-up will be. We all place our pull buoy and board at the edge of the pool next to our drink of choice. In my case, that's also where I leave my flipflops and my ziplock back containing my juice box and my emergency gel (which, after 13 months, I have still not needed!).

For the first few months of Masters class, I was the only one without a poolside drink. Everyone else had their favourite energy/electrolyte drink at the ready. I didn't because I refused to drink or eat anything that might mess with my blood sugar and I wanted to avoid taking insulin before my swims if I could help it.

Weeks into the class, and weeks of being gently asked by Christine why I never had a drink with me, I suddenly remembered that I had a sample pack of NUUN in my sports cupboard. NUUN is an electrolyte drink with almost zero carbohydrates in it. Which means no blood sugar spike. I had bought it to try as a running drink but had, at the same time, discovered edisks and found them much easier to carry than a bottle. So the NUUN sat neglected...until last week.

Early one morning, on the way out the door, I grabbed one of my running belt bottles, tossed a NUUN tablet into it and filled it with water. It immediately began fizzing which was shocking after the rather boring non-fizzy eload I was used to. (Mind you, at 5am, anything out of the ordinary (like seeing my own shadow against the wall) is rather shocking. I startle easily in the wee hours.) I tried to put the lid on the water bottle but the fizzing caused some pressure to build up and bubbles started oozing out of every little opening.

Day one lesson: mix drink immediately upon entering the kitchen to allow tablet to dissolve before trying to put the lid on the bottle. It makes the walk to the car much less awkward.

I arrived and proudly put my bottle poolside next to my pull buoy and board. I make a point to stop and take a sip every few minutes. It was tasty and certainly nice to have something to drink but I'm not sure I noticed much difference. I had no more energy but, then again, I didn't really expect to since there aren't any carbs. I felt no less dehydrated or tired after the workout. I'm sure it's doing me some good - just quietly, in the background, keeping my electrolytes in their happy place. I have been drinking it during every swim for the past two weeks.

Happily, my blood sugars continue to remain wonderfully stable during my swims. That alone is reason enough to stick with my new friend NUUN. Still, it's worth tossing a question out to the DOC. My dear pancreatically-challenged swimming friends - do you have any other magic drinks or snacks that you recommend? Unlike running, my blood sugar doesn't drop when I swim so I want to avoid high carb things like gels or powerbars.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


"It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows." Epictetus

I was driving to Toronto on Sunday morning to meet up with my two childhood friends Brigitte and Pam. En route, I was happily listening to Michael Enright on CBC. He began an interview with that quote and my brain immediately forgot to pay attention to the rest of the interview. Apparently it preferred to ponder the quote rather than listen to the voice on the radio.

Is it impossible for a man (or woman - to be fair) to learn what he (or she) thinks he (or she) already knows?

Is it impossible to see a person for who they are today when we have a preconceived notion of who they were years ago?

Is it impossible to recognize that ones opinion of something might not be the only reasonable way of looking at it?

Is it impossible not to judge someone when they do something that we believe to be wrong?

I spent a few hours with Pam and Brigitte. I didn't mention the quote but the flow of our conversation gave me new examples.

Two out of the three of us are in mommy-mode so we talked about babies, specifically breastfeeding. More specifically the frustration of feeling judged for not breastfeeding and facing downright nasty looks for other mothers when they spotted a bottle of formula.

Is it impossible for the owners of those nasty looks to fathom that perhaps there are very good, and perfectly healthy, reasons for not breastfeeding? Is it impossible for those people to imagine that a person may have medical, physical, emotional, logistical or any number of reasons for not breastfeeding? Even if they went to class that discussed the pros and cons of all newborn nutrition options, I'm guessing it would be hard for a breastfeeding advocate to consider that there might be other comparable options.

Just like how it's hard for people not to make assumptions the second they hear the word 'diabetes'. I've been on the receiving end of the looks and been asked the questions. "Wow, you must be really out of control if you're on the pump" being one classic example.

Where do these beliefs come from and why is it so hard to unlearn them?

Later the day, Doug and I were watching Sixty Minutes and there was a story about a study done on babies. Using stuffed animals and bowls of cheerios, they were able to prove that babies are born with an instinct to favour those who are most similar to them and to be ok with punishing those who are different. From as early as 3 months old, these behaviours were evident.

Is it impossible to learn that what we think we already know?

People often feel that they know what is best and they force those assumptions on other people, places, things, technologies, religious or political choices. It becomes very difficult to unlearn those assumptions. To the detriment of all those who are unfairly judged.

Wouldn't it be nice if every day started with a clean slate and an open mind?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hardly Easy

Doug and I often watch a home improvement show on Saturday evenings. Typically we're puttering in the kitchen together and it's fun to watch old, decrepit houses in Boston and New York transform into castles while we transform a bunch of ingredients into our supper.

This past weekend, two of the main characters in the show took a bit of time off from shims and drills to try their hand at rowing - the sport of choice at Cambridge apparently. They had a lesson on land and then took to the water. As they tried to steady the boat and move it through the water with some degree of grace they both exclaimed "wow, this is A LOT harder than it looks!".

I immediately thought of curling and how, the first time I tried it, I thought the exact same thing. It WAS a lot harder than it looked.

So was running.

Swimming definitely was too.

Ditto for cycling.

Golf was SO hard when I tried it that it has taken me 2 1/2 years to feel like I might want to try it again.

So I turned to Doug as we sat down to our beef barley soup dinner.

"Can you think of any sport that is EASIER than it looks?".

He thought for a moment and replied with "No. No, I can't think of any sport that is easier than it looks".

Neither could I.

I could think of plenty of people who could make the sport look easy.

Is that part of it? In order to be good at a sport you actually have to make it look easy?

Or at least make it look easier than it is.

I do know that the people I know who excel in a particular activity are most often the ones who look like they are not working as hard as the rest of us. They glide through the water, float along the road and slide across the ice with a grace that completely hides the fact that what they are doing is really quite difficult.

I don't know if this observation can translate into greater speed or grace on land and in the water but I did think it was rather interesting.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Infinite Loop

On October 12th, I dropped two packages in the mail.

One headed off to Canada Revenue Agency and contained my application for the Disability Tax Credit.

The other headed to my health insurance company and contained an application to have continuous glucose monitor sensors covered.

I have not yet heard about the Disability Tax Credit and don't expect to hear for a few more weeks at least.

I did hear back from my insurance company.

Before I tell you their response, I will explain the process I had to go through.

1. I called them to ask if continuous glucose monitor sensors are covered. They said no.

2. They then explained that, if something is not covered, I could complete an application form and submit a quote from my pharmacy for the cost. They would then decide whether or not to cover it.

3. They would review that application and let me know within 7 business days of their decision.

Make sense?

Here is what happened.

1. I completed the application, obtained a quote from my pharmacist AND wrote a very lovely cover letter to explain the need for CGM sensors.

2. I mailed it in on October 12th.

3. I waited 12 business days (which is way more than 7) and then called them. They said that they had received my application and had no idea why it would take so long to decide. The promised that I would hear back within a few days.

4. Seven days later I received a letter in the mail that stated: we are unable to accept your claim because your contract does not cover this type of appliance / service.

Well no kidding folks.

We all knew after the original phone call a month ago that my contract doesn't cover it. That's why you told me to complete the application to have it covered.

They don't cover it - they tell me to apply to have it covered - they tell me that they won't cover it because they don't cover it.

Insert never-ending loop infinity and beyond!

So of course I will be calling them to find out if there is a better explanation than that and to find out what the next step might be in the appeal process.

The story does not end here and I will certainly keep you posted.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Backing Up the Backups

As I mentioned yesterday, I was away at a conference for a few days. It was two hours from home and in the middle of civilization. In other words I was not hours from a hospital or drug store and I was not in a foreign country.

So I did the bare minimum of packing when it came to diabetes. I didn't bring three insulin pump changes. I didn't bring enough carbs to save my life 50 times. I didn't bring three containers of test strips...just in case.

I brought one set of pump change supplies.

I brought one vial of insulin.

I brought one pack of 25 test strips and a ziplock bag of carbs.

Tuesday night I went to bed with 11 units of insulin left in my pump. When I woke up at 6am for my pre-conference 6k run I had half an hour of insulin left. I figured there was no point in wearing my pump for the run since I would run out part-way through anyway so I unhooked and ran naked. For the record, running naked is extremely liberating!

I returned to the room to a completely empty pump. No surprise since I knew I was low but I just want to reinforce the fact that my pump was completely empty. Not a drop left.

I pulled out my insulin pump supplies and my vial of insulin to prepare for a set change. That's when the little voice in my head started chirping.

"You only have one vial of insulin. If anything happens, you have nothing left." "You only have one set change, if you kink your cannula you don't have a backup."

Gulp. It was seven am. Even if I could find an open pharmacy at that hour there was no guarantee they would have the supplies I needed on hand and no guarantee they would even give them to me without a prescription.

That little vial of insulin suddenly became very very precious.

I carefully opened the packaging on the reservoir and I carefully began drawing the insulin into the reservoir. I was so careful that I actually became more clumsy than usual and ended up dropping the glass vial of insulin and the attached reservoir into the sink.

Nothing broke, thankfully, and I yelled at myself in my head.

"Céline relax! Stop being ridiculous".

I have never dropped an insulin vial. I have never kinked my cannula. I have never screwed up a pump change - not in 3 1/2 years.

"Yes but you have changed your pump and then prompted walked by a door and yanked the fresh new cannula out by hooking it on a doorknob...."

Shut up!

With shaky hands and a sense of doom, I managed to change my site with no more near misses.

I did spend the entire day checking that my tubing was tucked in and at no risk of catching on doorknobs or other innocuous conference items.

The conference ended and I survived the trip home. I made it back on time for dinner with no mishaps.

I learned a lot at the conference. Including the fact that, even in the midst of the Canadian urban jungle, it's a good idea to bring a back up for your back up.

Because you really just never know.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Diabetes Travel Guide

Diabetes and traveling are not always friends.

Sometimes they work well together - sometimes they don't.

I'm currently away at a two-day conference and diabetes is playing nice so far. No highs and no lows - despite sitting all day and eating weird food. Not fried snake weird. Just fewer fruits and veggies and a lot more empty carbs than I'm used to. It's only two days though and I have a run planned for the wee hours so things should be fine.

Being with a lot of people that I know but who don't see me regularly means that they know I have diabetes and are comfortable enough with me to ask questions.

A brief roundup from the day's conversations:

"You have diabetes - so you can't let your sugar go below 7 right?" Nope. Shouldn't go below 4 but I've been as low as 1.0 before. Still alive. "Oh, well my aunt can't let her sugar get below 7. Are you sure you can?". Pretty sure.

"You're having dessert?" Yes indeed I am.

"Are you allowed to drink?" Because I have diabetes or because I'm driving? Yes to the drinking with diabetes. No to the drinking and driving.

"So if your sugar goes too low, what happens?" Call 911. And there is a glucagon needle in my purse if you're feeling keen. "Don't we just give you juice?" Only if I'm conscious. Otherwise I would choke. "Ok, so, if your sugar goes below 7, we give you the needle?". Nope, if my sugar drops so low that I am no longer conscious - then give me the needle. If it just drops a bit and I'm still conscious, juice is fine. But only if I'm below 4, not 7. I'll tell you if I need juice.

"Your pump controls things though right?" No, it doesn't. I just tell it what to do and it does it. It doesn't make any decisions on its own. (Insert loud beeping noises from pump as it proudly announced that I was down to 20 units of insulin).

"How long have you been on the pump?" Three and a half years. "Is that when your diabetes got really bad?". No, the pump is simply another way to take insulin. It works better for me than needles but lots of people prefer the needles. It has nothing to do with how 'bad' my diabetes is (or isn't).

I love that people feel comfortable enough to ask me questions.

It does make me realize how little people know and understand about diabetes though.

And then I start thinking that, if people know so little about diabetes, which is not that uncommon, how little we must know and understand about things that are less common. And how frustrating it must be for people affected by those things who put up with questions and judgement every day.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lost in the Middle

There is something odd about how the number of years that you attach to a particular activity defines you. I've been running for five years now which is not long enough to be impressive but no longer short enough to be impressive.

As in, I've only been running for a year and I already ran my first half marathon impressive.

I'm now just one of the running gang. I have not yet been around long enough to say things that make people gasp like "I've been running for 25 years".

Swimming has been fun for the past few months because I've been able to tell people that I've only been swimming for a year and I'm (kinda) keeping up to the faster, more experienced swimmers.

Curling has also been fun because I could claim that I had only been curling for 8 months. Our team did relatively well on Fridays despite the inexperience of three out of four members so only curling for 8 months seemed like a big deal to people.

Now swimming is entering year two - which means that I'm no longer the new kid on the block and yet haven't been swimming long enough to be a veteran. I'm now one of the gang who has not yet been around long enough to know everyone.

Curling is entering year two as well - so I'm now expected to know what I'm doing. No more 'wow, you've only been curling for a year - you look like you've been curling longer than that'. Translation: 'wow, you haven't fallen on your a$$ once tonight. Good for you!'. Now I'm sparing for teams who have decades of experience and the fact that I don't fall on my a$$ when I throw the rock isn't going to cut it anymore. There are now expectations to be met.

So in all my favourite athletic pursuits I have now officially passed being a newbie and yet have nowhere near enough experience to stand up and be counted.

Is there a name for that phase?

Never never land?

Middle age?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Last Rock

We're three weeks into the curling season. 

I've curled 6 times so far. 

I've won 5 games and lost one. 

The ones we won were won well. Some were hard-fought down to the last rock. Some we dominated from the first rock. 

When we win, it's tradition for the winning team to buy the first drink for the opposing team. So I've been buying a lot of drinks. 

On Friday, we were scheduled to play against our good friends Chris, Janice, Benny and Leslie. We decided to switch it up a bit and went with a good ol'fashioned girls against the boys game. 

The boys team: Chris (lead), Benny (second), Ian (third) and Doug (skip). 
The girls team: Cathy (lead), Leslie (second), me (third) and Janice (skip). 

The experience teeter-totter was significantly heavier on the boys side but we made up in ambition what we lacked in skill and experience. 

So we hoped anyway. 

We play a six end game on Friday nights. 

By the end of the fifth end we were losing 13 to 0. 

You'd never have know though because the scoreboard said we were tied 5-5. The boys were kind enough not to broadcast to the world the real score. 

The game was fun but it got really interesting when we were down to the last rock in the last end. The boys were poised to take 3 or 4 more points. The only possible way we could stop them was for Janice to throw a hail mary kinda shot. She had to squeeze her rock through two of their rocks and hit one of ours on a perfect angle to send it through two more of their rocks and settle nicely on the button for us to get one point. 

It's not like we had a chance of winning so we decided to give it a whirl. The experienced boys didn't even think it was possible but they had enough sense to stand back and let us try. 

Janice got into the hack. I held the broom for her to aim at. Leslie and Cathy were ready to sweep on command. 

Janice threw. I dropped down to get a view of the line. It had to hit perfectly and with the perfect weight. I help up my hand to let them know not to sweep. I watched the rock. It began to slow just a hair and I yelled "Yes!! Hard! Now!!". 

They swept. Hard. 

Janice's rock squeezed through the boys' rocks and hit ours at the perfect spot. That rock then squeezed through two more of the boys' rocks and settled absolutely exactly where we wanted it to. 

We lost 13:1. 

But you'd never guess from the way we screamed and celebrated and the fact that it was the only shot any of us talked about as we shared drinks and food.

It was the kind of shot you see on television. Not at our little curling club on a Friday night. So we enjoyed our free drinks and milked the memory of that heroic shot for all its worth.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Swimming the Distance

So, um, I may have signed up to swim across Lake Ontario next August.


I should just end my blog post there and watch the comments come pouring in.

"What?!?" (from Erin)
"Are you crazy?" (from Scott)
"That's freakin' awesome!" (from Jeff)
"Where the heck is Lake Ontario and why is that such a big deal?" (from my non-North American friends)
"Aren't there lampreys in the lake? EWWWWW" (from Janice)
"So, like, what if you have to poo while you're swimming?" (from Scully)

Honestly, I signed up to swim across Lake Ontario next part of a relay.

This is Christine's latest brainchild. You know Christine, the lady who ties us up and makes us swim with our clothes on? That one.

She wants to form a team of six swimmers to do the relay plus a support crew. We would each swim for an hour at a time and rotate from one end of the lake to the other. The entire distance ranges from 40-52km depending on the route chosen. It can take from 15 to 24 hours to do it.

So I'd be swimming one hour out of every 6. I could be swimming in the middle of the night, the early morning, under the beating sun or at sunset. I'd probably have to do 3 to 4 legs of the relay which would mean 3 to 4 hours of swimming within a 24-hour period.

That feels pretty doable to me.

Figuring out blood sugar details would be a challenge but also quite doable.

And it would certainly give me enough of a taste (literally) of lake swimming to tell me if my top secret, don't tell anyone about it yet dream about being the first T1 to swim the lake is completely crazy or not.

So I'm swimming across Lake Ontario next summer - sort of.

And 2014? Who knows? I may consider trying the entire distance on my own.

And yes, if you have to poo, you just go in the water. Like the fishies do.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Radio Silence

On Sunday morning we were pretty quiet. I kept imaging where we should have been. Doug would be on Staten Island, I would be just getting up.

Doug would be heading to the start line. I would be heading out with my backpack and camera. I would be wearing my bright red Canada hoodie, ready to grab a coffee. 

Doug would be crossing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. I would be walking up First Avenue to secure my spot at the base of the Queensboro Bridge at Mile 16. 

Doug would then head up First Avenue and I would head to Central Park for his big finish. 

We would meet up at the rendez-vous and head back to the hotel - Doug and I nattering away about our unique experiences of the day and everything we had seen. 

Instead we were sad. We were quiet. 

We packed up our suitcases and got them ready by the door. We had managed to change our flight from Monday to Sunday and needed to leave before noon to get to the airport. 

We headed out in search of muffins and coffee. It wasn't long before we saw people running. I saw a group of Asian runners heading towards us. A group of runners from another country were coming up behind us. The groups cheered when they saw each other. Maratón!!

We saw runners in their orange marathon shirts wearing their race bibs and timing chips. Some had their race bibs on upside down. As a joke? Or in protest? 

I fought back tears. Doug was somber. 

Some people chose to run the marathon route anyway - on their own and without support. 

Some people ran around and around Central Park until they had clocked 42.2km. 

Some headed to Staten Island to volunteer where they could. 

We walked the streets taking it all in and then headed to the airport. Because the tunnel was still closed, we had to take a slightly longer route which took us, of course, over the Queensboro Bridge. We hit it at just about the time Doug would have been running over it. The sun was shining. The weather was perfect. 

And we were heading home. 

There has not been any word yet from the New York Road Runners about what the next steps will be. No word yet as to whether runners get guaranteed entry next year. No word yet whether they will be reimbursed for this year's entry fee or whether next year would be free. No word yet to even acknowledge how many runners were affected by the way the decisions were made and the timing of their announcements. 

It has been radio silence. 

So we wait to see what the options are. Wait to see if we can go back next year and at what cost. And then I guess we decide if we want to. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Language of the Maratón

Saturday morning was sunny and beautiful.

We sat in bed for a while devouring every marathon story in every newspaper we could find. The same three messages were everywhere:

1. runners understood why it was cancelled
2. runners were (furious, upset, angry, overwhelmed etc) about the timing of the announcement
3. runners were even more (furious, upset, angry etc) that they had been told to come and then the decision was reversed.

We read stories about people who overcame huge odds to get there.

One woman was coming from Italy but there were problems with her flight. So she flew from Italy to Hong Kong and then to New York just to get there on time. She found out as soon as she landed in New York.

One group of runners from Europe had spent $30,000 to get there. They found out at the Expo that they should have stayed home.

We dressed and headed out. We figured we might as well enjoy our day in New York City. We strolled around exploring the famous spots. Some we had seen together in January - others we discovered for the first time.

Look who was in town for the race? Apparently he was NOT happy to find out their rules against running with sharp objects. 

Our midmorning snack was a muffin (or in my case a piece of baklava) and some coffee.

Notice Ebenezer's Eyelash Extension across the street? 

We made our way to the New York Public Library where Doug was supposed to join thousands of runners at 5:30am on Sunday morning. We talked about how crazy that would have been - up to a thousand busses were going to be needed to shuttle everyone. How much fun would it have been to watch that orchestration? 

We settled on a photo at the base of one of the huge pillars. Notice his orange gloves? The name of each of the five boroughs the race goes through are written on the fingers. A fun little souvenir from the Expo the day before. 

We're getting much better at the whole aim the camera and take a picture trick. 

We went for lunch. I was wearing my Medtronic jacket and was approached by a Spanish-speaking runner. He pulled out his Medtronic pump. I pulled out mine. We grinned. He explained that he was from Spain and was there with a group of 15 runners - all of whom have Type 1 diabetes. They came with a support crew of 15 others. They were part of a study of how long-distance running affects blood sugar. They were, of course, supposed to run the marathon. 

We walked to Rockefeller Centre which was all set up at Democracy Square in preparation for the November 6th election. 

A map of the US painted on the ice and American flags flying everywhere. Methinks there is an election going on. 

I met one of the candidates. He was so charming that I brought him back to my hotel. Was that wrong? 

We went to the Apple Store which had a line up down the street to get in. 

Apparently this little gadget is quite popular at the moment. 

We played with puppets. 

We marvelled at the size of candy bars in the US. 

If I ate these two peanut butter cups I would need to take 40 units of insulin to cover the 240 carbs in it. I get kinda panicky when I take more than 10 units at a time... 

We walked through Macy's, Times Square and the Art Brown Pen shop that we love. 

Everywhere we went we saw runners. Many wearing their orange race shirts. Every runner seemed in tune with every other runner. In a town that has drawn together because of Sandy, I felt like the runners were developing their own special bond. Marathon sounds a lot like maratón which sounds a lot like maratona. Mention the word and people responded with sad eyes as they pointed to themselves or the person they were with. 

Nobody was happy but, like it or not, we were in this together.