Friday, March 30, 2012

Serve From the Left

I have never had a waitressing job in my life.

I'm guessing that's probably a good thing considering:

  • I like to pick food off of other people's plates
  • I'm not good at faking pleasantries or being nice to people who aren't 
  • I'm a wee bit clumsy 

Wednesday night - we put my non-existing serving skills to the test. 

Doug and I were just two of a gang of volunteer servers at a fundraising Iron Chef event. 

We had to dress head to toe in black which I did (secretly hoping they weren't checking undergarment colours) and I pulled on my only pair of black shoes (which of course have heels). 

We had five courses to serve but were not responsible for pouring wine (thank the gods). 

We were told that we had to grab two plates, bring them to where the nice man or frantic woman told us to and then put them down in front of the person they pointed to. Go back, get two more plates and do it again. Then clean up the plates. Then repeat with the next dish. And the next and the next and the next. 

Ok, I told myself, all I have to do is follow the person in front of me, not trip and not drop the plate of food on anyone. 

"serve from the left and clear from the right" whispered Doug. 

Ok I said and then promptly forgot what he said. 

I took my two plates of food. "The cold part of the dish goes on the right" said the very serious man handing it to me. 

What's the cold part? The whole plate feels cold. Serve from the left but put the cold part on the right? But you put it in my hand so the cold part (I think!!) is on my left. So do I rotate the plate to put it on the right? Or do I put it down and then rotate it? 

Don't trip, don't trip, don't trip...

I ended up serving the first plate from the right and the cold part stayed on the left. The poor person's cutlery was too close together so I also ended up putting the plate on top of their fork and was too frazzled to do anything other than say 'sorry'. 

Back to the kitchen for two more plates. 

Why are everyone's forks so close to their knives? How the hell am I supposed to put the plate down properly?!?

I served, I cleared, I served again. 

I was only propositioned by two people, one very drunk annoying person and one guy I used to know years ago. Both rather awkward moments but I carried on like a trooper. 

After we served dessert, there were a few extra dishes of cannolis left over and we were told we could try one if we wanted. Having just witnessed the craziness of what goes on in a restaurant kitchen and the fact that I had touched several hundred dirty forks and plates made me say 'no thank you' to homemade italian cannoli. 

How sad. 

I think I'll stick to eating in restaurants. 

And leave the act of balancing five plates of food to the professionals. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Little Red Box

I've been talking to Scully about glucagon. We were complaining about how, in Canada, when we get a glucagon prescription filled it comes in a cardboard box.

When one puts a cardboard box in their purse - things disintegrate pretty quickly.

She mentioned that, in the US, glucagon prescriptions come in lovely red boxes, complete with easy four step instructions. Then she told me that Colleen was nice enough to send her an old red box that she no longer used.

So I'm tossing this out there to the world to see what happens.

Do any of you lovely DOC members have an old red box or two that you'd be willing to send to a Canadian lass?

She'll pay for postage.

She'll write a blog post about how amazing you are.

She'll mail you a bottle of real maple syrup if you want...

...or a can of Tim Hortons coffee.

Igloo-making instructions...?

Name your price - we'll negotiate.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

From Fast Slow to Slow Fast

When I started running - I was slow.

I mean really sloooooow.

I am a pretty fast walker so I must have looked ridiculous as I power walked for five minutes and then slowed down to a run for two minutes and then sped up to a walk again.  Things went on that way for a while. I added minutes to my runs but I always walked faster than I could run. I tried not to be mortified by that fact but it was pretty embarrassing.

I joined Runners' Edge after a few months of trying to make a go of it on my own and they taught me a few tricks that helped me learn how to run faster than I walked. I sped up a bit but settled pretty quickly into a 7 minute per kilometre pace. Always being the last one to finish a run, I described myself as a slow slow runner.

I was ok with that because a) I was running! and b) the thought of going any faster was enough to make me want to faint so I really didn't think there was any point in fretting about my pace. I was working hard dammit!

Over the next year I trained for a 10k, a half marathon, another 10k and then another half marathon.  We did speed work, hill work, long runs and lots of them. But I never got faster - the only thing that happened was that it got a little easier to run my 7 min/k pace.

Both 10k races took 70 minutes and both half marathons were exactly 2 hours and 30 minutes. After that I figured I had found my pace and that I was always going to be a slow slow runner.

In 2011, I started off the year by training for Around the Bay and then leapt right in to marathon training. I started running four days a week instead of three. I did all my speed work and all my hill work and I taught my body how to run for hours and hours.  Somewhere along the way, I started speeding up a little bit. I went from 7 min/k to 6:45 to 6:30 and then, on really fast days, I could even handle 6:20 for short periods.

I was no longer right at the back of the pack and I, occasionally, passed someone!

I had become a fast slow runner and it felt good.

Then I got injured.

Twelve weeks off followed by a really slow comeback.

One minute runs. Two minute runs. Three minute runs. I huffed and puffed my way through 60 seconds of running. It felt ridiculously hard and I felt like I had gone back to the days of walking faster than I ran.

But I kept at it and, as I added one minute at a time, my body slowly remembered how to run. But it seemed to forget what pace it used to run because every time I looked down at my Garmin, I would see 6:00 and 5:50 and 5:40min/k.  Those paces were the ones I used to struggle to maintain during my speed work - never mind during regular runs.

I kept adding minutes and I kept up the pace. It felt crazy fast and I kept waiting for my body to rebel and slow back down again...but it didn't.

The big test came two weeks ago when I had to run 60 minutes for the first time. My pace hovered around 6:00 the entire time and, as I approached 58 minutes, it dawned on me that I might be able to get 10k done in under an hour. For the first. time. ever.

I pushed a bit and, when my watched beeped, I looked down to see 59:51 on the clock. I did it. I broke 60 minutes for a 10k without even trying to.

I ran 60 minutes two days later and pulled off another 10k in 59:47.

Last night, I headed out for another 60 minute run. I wasn't feeling super energized and had decided not to push it. I trotted along at a comfortable clip, not too fast, not too slow... I thought.

10k in 58:32.

That my friends, is insane.

I think I've graduated again. I am no longer a fast slow runner.

I'm now a slow fast one.

Bring it on!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Taking It Up A Notch

For 8 1/2 years, I did the diabetes thing on my own.

Not alone - for I have too many loving and supportive people around me to ever do anything truly alone.

But on my own nonetheless.

I had quarterly appointments at the Diabetes Centre to ask my questions and then I would go back to my life and carry on - on my own.

Then I discovered the DOC.

I began reading about other people's adventures and misadventures with diabetes. I learned about what things scared people and what things I can look forward to once I have this disease for another ten or twenty years. I found athletes with diabetes and discovered we all do things differently to try to keep our blood sugar under control while we exercise and nothing ever works all the time (read: I can always do better but I'm doing ok).

I learned about diabetes humour that no one else gets but 'us' and I've discovered diabetes lingo that makes me feel like I'm part of a secret community.

I read a blog a while ago that asked people to write about how many times a day they checked their blood sugar. I expected people to say 4-8 times a day. I was surprised to read that most people had 8 as a bare minimum and some went up to 20 checks a day. Even those people using continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) technology.

That's a whole lotta test strips.

Last night I sat down to start a list of things to bring up at my appointment next week. Normally I don't ask too many questions - I just explain my numbers, get my blood test results and head back out into the world.

Spending so much time reading about what other people are doing has inspired me to do more for myself.

I want to ask them if they have any advice for finding less expensive CGMs. The ones for my insulin pump cost $50 each and last for six days (at best). If I want better control and I want to see trends in what my sugar is doing - I can only do it using CGM. But not at $50 a pop.  It's too expensive.

I also want to ask about options for testing my ketones. Glucose is normally what the body uses for energy. When there isn't enough insulin in the system, the body can't access the glucose so it breaks down fat for energy instead. The byproduct of this breakdown are ketones and they are pretty toxic and can cause diabetic ketoacidosis. When I was first diagnosed I used to have keto-sticks and I would diligently pee on them every time my sugar went above 15. Then the strips began to expire before I would finish them and I just stopped renewing them.

That's not good. If I get sick - I need to know if I have ketones. If my sugar spikes - I need to know if I have ketones. So I want to know what the modern 2012 options are for ketone testing and get back to being diligent about it when I'm sick, spiking or just feeling nauseous.

Then I want to ask about glucagon. If my blood sugar drops to dangerously low levels, an injection of glucagon could save my life. For years, I would get a glucagon prescription filled, train my co-workers, life partners and parents on how to deliver it, watch it expire and fill it again. I have never, ever needed it. I haven't filled it in a few years now.

I wonder what you would say to someone with an epi pen who didn't fill their prescriptions?

It might save my life one day - so yes, I should get back into the habit of having one - at least at home for those night time lows.

I thought I was really good at taking care of diabetes. I am really good actually - much more diligent than a lot of people are. But not nearly as much as others are. So I'm going to my appointment next week armed with my questions and hopefully can take things up another notch.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Visit From Boston

Last Friday, Doug and I went to the curling club as per usual.  The second last game of the season.

That's where our typical weekend stopped and the real fun began.

As we were pulling on our so-not-sexy curling shoes, Scully waltzed in. She drove all the way from Toronto to watch our game...and to meet up with Jeff. He showed up a few minutes later and Scully and I beamed - he's here!! All the way from Boston just to hang out with us and run all the way Around the Bay.

I don't think the Curling club has ever had three T1s in attendance at the same time. With matching Medtronic pumps and plenty of fast acting carbs to boot.

We piled onto the ice and Erin arrived to teach them the fundamentals of curling and provide colour commentary while we played.

After the game, Doug took Jeff out on the ice for his first curling lesson. There were lots of laughs, lots of photos, and the conclusion was that perhaps he should stick to least for now.

Saturday, it was pouring rain. So after a trip to the Around the Bay race expo and Hamilton Market, we headed out for a road trip with me as tour guide. And I could think of nowhere better to bring three T1s than Nigh's chocolate shop. It's a tiny little shop in the middle of nowhere (to steal Jann Arden's line) but has the most amazing array of chocolates anywhere around. We completely ignored the sugar free chocolate section and proceeded to purchase ridiculous amounts of full fat, full sugar, full flavour chocolate.

I had hardly started the car when we heard the unmistakable sound of Scully ripping into her first bar. Followed by the sounds of blood sugar testing and insulin pump beeping. Yep, there were lots of beeps going on in that car.

Off to Niagara-on-the-Lake for some cheese tasting and history lessons before we then back home again.

Sunday morning dawned cool but clear and we all found ourselves in Copps Coliseum. Race time folks!  The 118th Around the Bay Road Race was about to begin.

Doug, Scully and Jeff headed for the start line, Erin and I headed out on the course, and the game of chasing runners began. We spotted everyone at least once, collected cast-off clothing as the temperatures began to soar and made it back to Copps on time to see everyone cross the finish line in victory.

Thanks Jeff, for braving the wilds of Canada to hang out with two Canadian girls for the weekend. We had a great time!

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Rabbit Hole

Join me, if you will, as I journey down the rabbit hole of diabetes madness.

Before we leave on our little trip, there are a few travel terms that everyone needs to understand.  The story is crazy enough as it is - best if you know the road signs. 

Basal: that is the insulin that is continuously trickling into my body from my pump. It's set at a rate (which changes depending on the time of day) that takes care of my body's insulin needs when I'm not eating anything. If my basal rates are calculated properly and if, for some crazy reason, I didn't eat anything all day, my blood sugar levels should stay relatively steady all the time. 

Bolus: that is the insulin I take when I'm going to eat some carbohydrates or when my blood sugar is high and I want to bring it down. It's like a burst of insulin rather than a trickle. 

The same type of insulin is used in both examples, it's just the name that we give it and the role that it plays at that moment that differs. 

Got it? 

Ok, let's go! 

Yesterday was run day. Ten kilometres was the distance. 4:15pm was the run time. 

I ate my perfectly ordinary lunch at 12:00pm (small serving of pasta with shrimp, yogurt and pineapple) and took the regular bolus for that amount of food. 

At 2:30pm, I had two things to do: 
  1. Change my basal insulin rate. When I'm running more than 45 minutes, particularly in the afternoon or evening, I reduce my basal rate to 40%. That has to happen  1 1/2 to 2 hours before the run because insulin lasts a while in your system and the reduction wouldn't actually be noticeable until a few hours later - just on time to run at 4:15pm. With me so far?
  2. Check my blood sugar. It had been 2 1/2 hours since I ate so it should be somewhere around 8-9. It should then continue to slowly drop down to about 5-6 by the time I'm ready to run. I take a gel, a date or two and run for an hour. 

That, my friends, was 'the plan'. 

Enter crazy rabbit. 

I checked my blood sugar and it was 13.8.  Unexpected and rather disheartening.

Here's the problem. If I take a bolus to bring that number down, the bolus will still be active in my system when I head out for a run at 4:15pm - increasing my risk for a low. 

If I don't bolus, I'll stay pretty high and, since I just reduced my basal insulin, I'll probably climb a bit. 

So I took a baby bolus of one unit (instead of the 2.8 that my pump said I should take) hoping I would drop down to 10 or something. 

I checked again at 3:30pm (one hour later) and it was 12.2.  Ok, that's good. I can live with that. 

At four pm, I packed up my work and did one final check before going to change. 

It was 15.8. 

Bloody hell!!

Now we're getting into the dangerously high zone where one really shouldn't exercise for risk of ketones and other fun things. Running for an hour no longer seemed like a very good idea. 

But I had high blood sugar (exercise helps bring it down) and I have already reduced my insulin so it's only going to keep climbing.  What to do??

"How about a bike ride?" asked my wise Doug 

Well, I haven't been on my bike in months but it's a lot less stressful on the body than running and since I shouldn't really head out for an hour run with crazy sugars, perhaps I could head out for a ride with him...

So, I looked at all the variables. Cycling has less effect on my blood sugar than running so I would not normally have set the 40% basal rate for a bike ride. That means my blood sugar won't drop (much) on the ride unless I give it a bit of insulin to help it I took one more unit. Not much but enough, hopefully, to at least stop the upward trend. 

We headed out for an hour ride and the rule was we were going to stop and check every twenty minutes. 

Check one: 14.4. Ok, I dropped from 15.8 but that's not too drastic or too fast of a drop.  Carry on. 

Check two: 7.7.  Ok, I dropped from 14 to 7 in twenty minutes. This is NOT good. Do I eat? Do I not? If this trend keeps up I'll be dead in ten minutes so it was a pretty easy decision. I ate one bag of fruit chews (20 carbs) and we headed home. 

We got home at 5:15pm and I checked: 5.9

Ok, it's still dropping but not as fast. Should I eat something else? I've gone from 15.8 to 5.9 in one hour.  That's not good...

"YES!!!  EAT!!!!" screamed the crazy rabbit.  

NO said my brain.  Just wait and see what happens. 

So I waited and checked every twenty minutes for an hour.  

5:15pm 5.9
5:40pm 11.0
6:00pm 8.8
6:20pm 10.0

And that's when I said the hell with it and had dinner. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Perfect Strangers

I have a friend that I've never met.

I have never talked to him on the phone.

I probably couldn't pick him out of a lineup.

If he walked up to me and said hello, I'd probably stare at him wondering who he was.

Still, I consider him a friend.

His name is Jeff.

He has Type 1 diabetes - just like me.

He runs, he cycles, he swims - just like me.

He takes pictures, likes to travel, and reads lots of books - just like me.

He blogs about life - the good, the bad and the diabetic - just like me.

Tomorrow, he will be flying from Boston and spending the weekend in Southern Ontario.

He's going to run Around the Bay, a race that's, ironically, 'Older than Boston'.

And I get to meet him in person.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Just Purse Your Lips and Whistle...That's the Thing

I think I tend to write one blog a week on diabetes and the rest focus more on exercise and fitness. This is the third day this week that I'm all about the diabetes and you can blame it on my upcoming Diabetes Centre appointment. This happens every time I start documenting my food and my blood sugars in preparation for the appointment.

When I am forced to write things down and review them, diabetes, who already takes over a lot of my life, looms even larger. If I think too much about diabetes, I become less able to handle the daily ups and downs with grace. I start looking back on the 'good old days' and I feel overwhelmed when I look ahead at a lifetime of diabetesness.

Amazing how one's mindset can be affected by having to write things down in a little notebook.

I've decided that enough is enough. One Monday, you put up with me whining about my appointment and you've read yesterday's trip down diamemory lane. Today, we're looking on the bright side:

Whistle along if you will...

Dear Diabetes:

Thank you for teaching me to enjoy my food. Thanks to you I no longer mindlessly eat what's in front of me and, instead, I choose things I really want and I enjoy them.

Thank you for teaching me to take care of myself as a whole. I no longer go to the Y and focus on having nice abs or strong arms. Thanks to you I take care of myself from top to bottom, inside and out. I am healthier now despite you.

Thank you for teaching me about priorities and teaching me about living in the present. Yes, I still save for retirement but I live for this moment. And the next one. Because you taught me that those are the only ones that are guaranteed. The same is true for all people but most don't realize how tenuous life is. You remind me every day so thank you.

Thank you for teaching me to be independent and brave. When you first came into my life I was afraid to go anywhere alone. Then I was afraid to do anything different in case my blood sugar plummeted and I was alone. I was afraid to go for a walk to the corner - even with three juice boxes in my bag just in case. Slowly but surely my confidence grew and now I'll tackle anything. The more afraid it makes me, the more stubbornly I tackle it.

You taught me to laugh at myself. To be organized. To be prepared. To be spontaneous and to say yes to everything.

You introduced me to some amazing people who remind me daily that diabetes doesn't end life. It enriches it.

And if you don't like being dragged to the pool at 5:30am, on 25 kilometre runs in the sweltering August heat or on 40 kilometre bike rides up and down the hills of Niagara - well that's just too darn bad. I do these things because of you so you might as well learn to enjoy them. 

...Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best...



Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Change

Ten years ago today, I did not have diabetes.

Ten years ago tomorrow, I probably didn't either.

But at some point, around ten years ago, things started falling apart in my pancreas. Beta cells started having trouble producing insulin and my body started having trouble doing what it was supposed to do.

If I look back at pictures, I think I was ok in April.

I think I was ok in May but I was no longer 100% ok. I had started losing weight which was not normal for me but, since everyone loves to lose five pounds, I didn't worry much about it. I just thanked whatever lucky stars one thanks when weight falls off easily and carried on.

In June I had lost a few more pounds. Still nothing drastic but my clothes were looser. I remember bragging to people who asked that I wasn't doing anything different. In fact, I was eating MORE than I normally did. Maybe it was all the water I was drinking...?

Things slowly progressed. I drank more and more water and I was eating ridiculous amounts of food. In fact I remember pulling in to the Avondale by our house and buying two chocolate bars every single day trying to satisfy my sugar cravings.

We had a two-week trip to France planned that September. I was tired and dragging but was definitely going. The thing that was stressing me out the most wasn't the foreign country, the cost, or the planning - it was the thought of being on a flight and not having enough water to drink. Because I really really really drank a lot of water those days. I brought several large bottles with me that I finished somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. I kept going up to the flight attendants and asking them to refill my bottles. They kindly did and I survived the flight.

We spent two weeks gorging on French foods, French pastries, French cheeses and I came home shockingly thinner than I was when I left.  I wouldn't be surprised if I had lost ten pounds in fourteen days.

Still I chose the denial route for a few more weeks. But everywhere I went people were commenting on how I looked. I was no longer "wow, you lost weight!". Now it was "omigod Céline, are you ok?"

So I called my doctor and got an appointment. I walked into her office on November 1st and a few hours later I checked myself into the intensive care unit of the hospital - thirty-five pounds lighter, severely dehydrated and in ketoacidosis. They put me on insulin immediately and the rest is history.

But ten years ago today, I did not have diabetes.

If I think back really hard, I can remember what that felt like. I think I can remember what it was like to eat what I wanted, when I wanted. What it was like when food was just for eating and it didn't have the power to hurt me. What it was like to head out the door with nothing but my house key. What is was like to have fingertips that aren't callused and a stomach that isn't covered in pin pricks and fading bruises.

But it's getting harder and harder to remember.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Every Bite

I have an appointment at the Diabetes Centre in two weeks. Seeing that appointment looming on the calendar means a few things:
  • bloodwork
  • meal tracking
  • A1C results 
  • guilt
I got my bloodwork done last week. It is SO much easier when I don't have to fast before going.  Ever since I got my cholesterol down to the ridiculously low number required for proper diabetes management, I no longer have to have my cholesterol tested every time I get lab work done. No cholesterol test = no fasting.  Which, for a pancreatically-challenged person like myself, can be quite challenging. (Last year's post chronicles one particular fasting adventure if you're interested.) Anyway, I waltzed into the lab at 9am, after all the fasters had come and gone, and I was out the door again in 15 minutes with my bloodwork and requisite pee in a bottle done in plenty of time for my appointment.

I am also required to track blood sugar numbers for two weeks. That's the fun job of writing down every morsel of food I put into my mouth, every blood sugar result, every basal change, exercise, bolus correction and whatever else I can think of that might somehow explain why my blood sugar was a particular number at a particular time on a particular day. I'm tempted to include weather reports and pollen counts in case they might help decipher the numbers.

I really dislike this part. I dislike writing down a 3.9 an hour after exercise because I know what they're going to say. I dislike writing a 16.5 after a big meal because I know what they're going to say. I hate having more than one low in one day because I know the look I'm going to get. And I hate having to explain every number that they've circled in red pen.

"Can you explain this low?"  "This high?"

And the comments like: "Oh, you exercised yesterday, that's why you were low" (Um, I exercise pretty much every day). "Wow, you exercise every day? What do you do to your basal rates before you exercise?"

Well, that depends on:
  • what time of day I'm exercising
  • what sport I'm doing
  • how intense the workout is going to be
  • how long the workout is going to be
  • whether or not I have my period
  • what my blood sugar was doing for the few hours before the activity
  • what I'm planning on doing after I exercise
That's usually when I get the comment "Wow, you're really active. We don't see a lot of diabetics like you. We can't really suggest any changes to what you're doing. Just try not to have lows so raise your basal rates a bit to avoid them."


I know that the Diabetes Centre is really really important for a lot of people. They teach so much and have so much advice about nutrition, carb-counting, healthy living etc. I'm sure they have helped countless people.  But I go because I need my bloodwork results and I need to go there a set number of times per year in order to quality for government funding for my pump supplies. They really like me and they love the fact that I take care of myself so most of the appointment is spent chatting about little things like my blog and what race I'm training for.

I also dread going to be appointment because of the A1C results. (For those of you who don't know what that is, this blog tries to explain it). My A1C is usually pretty good (around 7.0) but I've had higher and lower numbers and there's always a sense of randomness about it. I feel like my control is pretty consistent in terms of highs and lows and overall care so when it goes up to 7.5 or down to 6.8, I never really know why.

So I see the A1C result and I start trying to explain things (I was injured, I was sick a few times, I had more lows, I had more highs, I was training for a race, I wasn't training for a race). I feel like that number somehow explains me and defines me and I feel guilty when it's not exactly what it's supposed to be.

I know it's ridiculous - it's one damn number. An average of my blood sugar over the last three months. Someone with horrible control could have an A1C of 7.0 and someone with fabulous control could also have an A1C 7.0.  I know the effort I put in and I'm ok with how well I'm doing - but when I see that number I suddenly feel 'not ok'.

I have a love/hate relationship with that test. It validates what I'm doing and yet it invalidates how I feel about it.

So for the rest of this week I will dutifully document how many mini chocolates I snack on during the day and write down every low and every high (trying not to cringe as I do it). At in two weeks I will find out what the A1C results are this time around.

And then I get a few months of just taking care of myself before I get to do it all again.

Aside: Is it just me or do other people care a little less right after your A1C test is done? I figure the next test isn't due for four months and it's only a three month average so....yes I will have baklava for dessert thank you very much!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lego Crushes

You might remember me mentioning the Cabot Trail Relay Race that I somehow got convinced to co-captain.  Well, time is marching on and we need to get organized so Klari and Steve came over the other night to join Doug and I for a strategy session.

Despite having co-captained a team of runners for two other relays, I really didn't realize until after we signed up that 275+km of rocky, treacherous terrain + 17 runners + 3 vehicles + 28 hours of running = a heck of a lot of strategizing.

Klari (I love this woman) showed up in a purple leather jacket with a rolled up piece of paper and a shoe box.

I was, to say the least, intrigued.

We cleared off our coffee table and poured some wine.

She unrolled her paper and unpacked her shoe box.

And voila!

A Cabot Trail route map, 17 Lego runners, two Lego drivers (complete with pirate hats) and three Lego vehicles.  

I wasn't sure if we were planning our race strategy or playing Risk...but it was fun! 

Using the Lego cars to act out how we would shuttle people back and forth we got a much better visual sense of what this relay is going to look like. It's going to look downright crazy but I think we figured out a plan that will work. And that might get me, the pirate-wearing driver of Van 2 and 2B about 5 hours of downtime between gigs. 

Uh oh, looks like the poor sucker running leg 15 just keeled over...

And it looks like the co-captain has a wee crush on Mr. G-17. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Super Sprint

So I'm just going to come right out and say it.

I went on line, did some research, texted Erin and then decided to sign up for the Triathlon in Welland this June.

I can see you grinning from here Jeff!

The first thing I had to do was figure out my options.  Turns out if you want to swim, bike and run you can do one of the following:

Super sprint Triathlon (or Try-a-tri)
Sprint Triathlon
Half Ironman

I quickly eliminated two of the options and won't even waste your time by asking you to guess which two.

That left me with the super sprint and the sprint.

The super sprint distances are:
400m swim
10k bike
2.5k run

The sprint distances are:
750m swim
30k bike
7.5k run

I've done the duathlon a few times so I've run and then cycled 30k and then run again.  So I figured I'd do the sprint (aka, the regular triathlon).

I texted Erin to confirm (she knows these things) and she suggested I start with a super sprint. "Don't let the name fool you" she said. "It's still hard. It's a good distance for your first try (tri?)."

Having exactly zero experience with these things, I will rely on the wisdom of those who have gone before.  Super Sprint it is then.

I have three months to get back on the bike and remind my legs how to pedal and I have three months to get into open water and flail about until I'm quasi-comfortable.  The distances on their own are all quite manageable. Put them together and I'll get a pretty good workout.

If all goes well, I'll cross the finish line in good shape and be ready for my first full triathlon!

The other fun part of this story has to do with my lovely little sis.  She's coming home for a month this summer and just happens to be around that weekend. She knows how to swim, she knows how to cycle and she can probably pull off 2.5k.

So I asked if she wanted to join me at the start line.

I could hear the excitement from here.  She's never done anything like it before and loved the idea. I've never raced with anyone in my family before so I'm excited to share that part of my life with someone.

It's in our home town so my parents, our youngest sis, our grandmother and heck, even the dog, can come out and cheer.

How fun will that be??

And, for the record, if my little sis kicks my ass on the course, I'll kick hers right back to Israel again.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Big Girl Hard

I haven't been on my bike since last November. In fact, I haven't even seen my bike since last November. I'm assuming it's still hanging in the basement but for all I know it just up and left in disgust.

Last winter a few die hard members of our cycling group got together every Sunday morning at 8am. Through the wind and ice and snow we lugged our bikes, our shoes, our trainers and our padded bum shorts to the running store. We would set everything up, Doug would pop a cycling video into his Macbook and off we would go for an hour or so.

This winter, we didn't. We didn't have a winter spinning class. We didn't set up our bikes at home. We didn't get out on sunny days. We just didn't.

I'm ok with that because, thanks to swimming, I'm exercising 6 out of seven days a week already. Really folks, when the hell am I supposed to cycle??

Or so I thought when the snow was flying and my winter tires were still on my car. Now that the ice has melted and the crocuses are in full bloom, the urge to pedal is back. Members of our cycling club are popping up everywhere asking when we're getting back on the road. It's only a matter of days (weeks at most) before we're flying down the Niagara roads again.

So now what?

There are a few basic exercise facts that I believe to be true (correct me if I'm wrong)

  1.  Cross training is important - particularly if you run because it helps you recover. I run, swim and cycle so I have that covered.
  2. If you stick mostly to one sport (ex running) it's really important to have rest days during the week. So don't run more than five days a week. 

My question is: if you don't do any one sport more than three times a week, how important is it to have a rest day?

Right now I swim Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I run Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Sundays are off.

Soon we'll be cycling on Sundays and I may even want to toss in an extra bike ride during the week (perhaps on an evening when I swam in the morning?).

Is that ok? Am I crazy?

I asked Doug what he thought. He gave me a sheepish little grin and said "well, considering the pace and distance we ride - I really don't think it's a problem".

"Are you saying that, even though I'm panting and dying during rides, what we're doing really isn't that hard?" I asked.

"Pretty much" he replied.

"So our bike rides are 'baby hard' not 'big girl hard'?" I asked just to clarify.

"Yup" was his answer.

A man of few words he is.

Good news is that I won't have to cut down my swims so I can cycle.

Bad news is that I'm really not a very good cyclist...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Bell Curve of Digestion

Digestive systems are funny things. They grumble, they gurgle, and they have their own little routines just like everything else.

I don't know about you but my digestive system is so routinized that, if I somehow lost the ability to understand or remember what week of the month it is, I could always figure it out based on how it is behaving. It has its own fun little cycle that is closely tied to my water retention, weight gain, crampy mood swing cycle.

And don't worry, that's as much detail as you're going to get about anyway.

Digestion, or at least my digestion rate, also wreaks havoc on my blood sugars.  It took me a while to figure that out because what happens (to me at least) feels very counter-intuitive.

For me, the problems start when I eat a big meal.

With a normal meal I can count the carbs, take my insulin, eat and expect my sugar (if I calculated the carbs properly AND there are no other variables in play such as exercise, illness or periods) to climb up and then fall back down to 11-12 (mmol/L) within about two hours and back down to 6-7 within three. If you wanted to draw it, it would look like a pretty little bell curve.

With a larger meal, it takes longer to digest the food so that nice little bell curve of blood sugar activity starts to look more like an upside down curve.

Instead of my blood sugar climbing, peaking and then dropping back down again - what I've discovered is that my blood sugar drops first, quite significantly, and then climbs a few hours after it should.

Here's what happened on Saturday night when we went out for Mexican food. There are lots of numbers so hopefully I don't confuse anyone...

I was 6.3 before dinner. I ate nachos with guacamole, a chorizo flauta (sausage meat and potatoes in an egg-roll type cover) and then a quesadilla. Lots of carbs, lots of cheese and other high fat things to mess up digestive efficiency.

An hour after dinner, we decided to have dessert. I checked my blood sugar - it should have been about 15 by then. It was 5.2.

On a normal night that would be cause for panic because, if I'm 5.2 that soon after eating, I'm only going to keep dropping thanks to the pile of insulin that's still floating around in my system. But, because I had such a big meal (and because I've been through this before and learned the hard way) I knew that I still had a lot of digesting to do.  Within an hour or so, my blood sugar was going to start to climb.

I had a piece of cake but did not take ANY insulin for it. I figured I'd wait another hour to see what was happening before tossing more insulin into the mix.

An hour after having cake, and now two hours after having a huge meal, I was 5.0.

My brain was yelling at me to eat something because that was WAY too low after all that food. Again, I've been down this road before so I did not eat anything. I just kept up the hourly testing.

Two hours after having cake  I was 9.2

Alright, now I've digested enough for my blood sugar to start climbing. The next step is to see how quickly and how high I was going to climb before taking any insulin to bring it down. Because the last thing I want to do is overcompensate with the insulin and be forced to eat more food.

And hour later - I was 10.1.

It didn't look like I was climbing too quickly so I took enough insulin to (hopefully) bring my 10.1 back into the happy 5-6 range and went to bed.

I woke up two hours later and tested - I was 14.1.


Another insulin bolus to bring the 14.1 down.

Two hours later I tested again. I was 9.8. Still too high. More insulin.

Woke up at 8am and I was a very happy 4.7. I was also a very tired little diabetic from all the testing but such is life.

Small meals = as predictable as it gets with diabetes.

Big meals = crazy...but sometimes worth it anyway.

And yes, I know I can do that square bolus thing with my pump but meals like that happen so rarely that I haven't mastered that trick yet. So until I start making big, carb heavy meals a regular part of my diet, I think I'll rely on frequent testing and lots of little boluses to bring me back down safely.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Chalkboard Schedules

There's a new schedule taped to the chalkboard in the kitchen.

Last summer and early fall, there was a marathon training schedule up there.

Then, for a few months, there was nothing.

In December, up went the stress fracture return to running program.

That just came down and now my half-marathon training program for the June 3rd Women's half marathon is proudly featured.

It's my own schedule that I pieced together from previous half marathon training plans. It's pretty tame. There are no hill or interval training sessions on Thursdays. I will not be running 13k every Tuesday. I will be running 60 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday and I will be adding 2k to my long runs every Saturday. I get rest weeks every four weeks and I peak at 22k a few weeks out from the race.

I'm not going to break any land speed records. This schedule is all about building up my distance at a very conservative pace while making sure I have enough down time to keep my body strong and healthy.

I still haven't signed up yet - I want to get myself to about 16k before I drop $100 on a race entry. As long as I sign up before April 30th I get the t-shirt so I have until then to test my legs and see if they're ready.

If not, I will NOT be pushing them. There is a time and a place to push through pain. This recovery time is not one of them. If I start hurting, I will back off. If I keep hurting, I will drop out. I'd rather postpone my return to running half marathon than be sidelined again.

I'm cautious, I'm realistic and I have a tight rein on my optimism.

With a little bit of Irish luck I might just get to that start line.

Oh, and did you know that 50 minutes is apparently the magic time when you suddenly need to worry about applying Glide to all those chafing spots? I didn't know either.

Now I do.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Crack in my Armour

I am runner - hear me rawr!

I could write a book about what I've learned in the last six months about injuries and recovery. Running teaches you a lot about yourself. So does not being able to run. And so, apparently, does returning to running.

Here is what I learned last night as I headed out into the rain, the wind and the rapidly dropping temperatures for my 50 minute run:

  • when you haven't been able to run you become so grateful when you finally can that pesky little things like weather no longer matter 
  • you actually can smile as the wind and rain try to beat you down.  Smile, wave to the gods and carry on as if it were the perfect day
  • when you haven't been able to run you return to it with a whole different outlook. Now I no longer check my watch to see how much longer I have to run or how much farther I have to go. I check it to see how far I've run and how long my legs have been carrying me. It's a subtle difference but it changes everything.
  • I now celebrate what I can do rather than mourn what I can't.
  • I let down my guard a little bit last night and guess what happened? My love of running saw the wee crack in my armour and blew it to pieces.  I have been cautiously optimistic about running since I started back in December. I refused to let myself get too excited in case I had a relapse. Last night I galloped through my run as if it were speed training. I felt strong and capable and I finally let myself imagine what it might be like to run a half marathon in June.
  • all those annoying strengthening exercises I've been doing religiously for months actually work. Seriously. Tying bands to the couch legs and doing countless repetitions to build up my thighs, my calves, my shin muscles (whatever the hell they're called) - I can actually feel the difference all that work has made. Thanks Geoff. 
  • Oh, and remember how I told you that I'm working from home for a month?  Well I had my work laptop open and this picture of me is on my desktop. It was taken 2 1/2 years ago. 

Doug saw it and said that I don't look at all like that anymore. I thought he meant I looked different because my hair is so much longer. No, he said your body has completely transformed in the last year. 

I don't have any current running pictures but this was taken last September so it will have to do. I guess I HAVE changed a wee bit haven't I? 

I am runner.  Hear me RAWR!!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Brain Versus Body Fitness

It's Wednesday evening at 5pm and I'm sitting perched at my kitchen counter. I have a glass of 13th Street Riesling beside me and I'm staring numbly at my computer screen. My brain hurts. I just spent six straight hours in meetings (correction: running meetings) and then spent the last two hours of my day madly typing up the meeting minutes. I feel more exhausted from having sat all day thinking and talking than I do after getting up at 5am to swim or run and then putting in a full day.

I find physical activity invigorating.

Mental activity, on the other hand, is draining.

Is that because I'm out of shape? Mentally speaking?? (shut up Breanne!)

Or is it because I spent the day nibbling on peanut butter cups, Oreos and Swedish berries? My blood sugar is a fabulous 5.5 but I'm pretty sure my digestive system is reeling and my brain is in some sort of sugar coma. So we're having chicken and a salad for dinner. No carbs to send things climbing and low calorie to balance out the day.

Poor Doug - I overeat during the day so he gets a light supper.

I'm sorry folks, I'm nattering on. I'll blame it on the fact that I'm in a bit of a brain fog. This blog does have a point actually.

It's all about exercise and timing.

Here's the deal. Normally, my day involves a lot of sitting at my desk typing, interspersed with conversations, trips up and down the stairs and meetings with people. On average, I think I'm alone about 5 hours a day, I talk to people 1-2 hours a day and I'm walking around doing stuff for about an hour. That system works for me. I swim before work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and, unless I have something after work, I run after work on Tuesday and Thursday. If I can't run after work, I run before. I'm happy either way but I must admit I do get tired if I have to get up at 5:15am more than three days a week.

Starting today, things are going to change and I will be working for home. For four weeks. I am overhauling our policies and procedures and it's just too hard to do that at work. Too many interruptions.

So I'll be working from home.

Sitting at the kitchen table either thinking, typing, talking on the phone or tearing my hair out. My original plan was to either run or swim every morning before work to get the blood moving and fill me with energy for the day. But as I sit here in a brain fog after a long day of sitting, I am beginning to wonder if it makes sense to exercise after work to get the body moving after sitting for 8 hours.

It will be a bit of trial and error but if anyone else out there has a 100% sitting job with limited human contact - I'd appreciate some advice. What do you find the best and most effective time is to exercise?

And when my brain is a little less mushy, I'm going to start thinking about how I can give that poor sucker a good workout too.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Crotchety Crocks

I got yelled at in the YMCA change room.

Seriously yelled at.

By a little grey-haired lady wearing Crocks.

It felt like a weird Saturday Night Live skit.

I had finished my swim, gone to my locker to grab my shampoo, soap and towel and headed to the showers.  After decontaminating myself by scrubbing as much of the chlorine smell off as possible, I towelled off and headed back to my locker.  As I approached, there was a lady hanging up her coat in the locker beside mine.  I put on my best friendly smile and said "Hi, sorry, I'm in the locker right beside you".

She stared at the floor, at the half-dry puddle I had left when I grabbed my shampoo and said "do you have any idea who left THIS mess?"

"I did. When I got out of the pool."

"You are NOT supposed to do THAT!" (she was actually yelling).  "How am I supposed to stand here when the floor's all wet??"  "Now I have to wipe it up."

She stormed off, grabbed one sad little hand towel and proceeded to mop up my 'mess'.

Now I am a very nice person and I probably apologize more than I need to. I apologize even when I didn't do something. It's the Canadian in me. I apologized when I had the locker beside her.  But I will NOT apologize when I'm yelled at. No way.  Discuss reasonably and I'm all yours - raise your voice and the discussion is over.

There are over twenty lockers in the little section we were in. There were only two taken - mine and hers.  If she chooses to pick the one with the puddle in front of it - that is her choice, not mine.

So I smiled prettily, wrapped my towel around my head to prevent any further drips and took my time getting dressed. I figured it's harder to yell at a half naked stranger - especially one who is hooking on her insulin pump.

She changed in a huff and, irony of ironies, headed off to the pool. If I didn't have to work I would have happily sat there waiting for her to come back to her locker after her swim - daring her to get from the pool to her locker without leaving a drop of water on the floor.

I miss my community pool where we all throw our bags on the only table there and chatter away as we get dressed. The floor is soaking wet, people forget shampoo bottles in the shower and leave their shoes in the middle of the room. And no one seems to care.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mixed Blessing

On Saturday night, I went to bed around 9:30pm.  Before you start making fun of me, this is not a post about how uncool I am.

I fell asleep by about 10pm and woke up at 7am with my alarm.  I didn't toss and turn and I didn't wake up once.

That rarely happens.  I usually wake up two or three times a night, every night.  I stumble to the washroom at least once and I check my sugar once I've stumbled back to bed.

On those rare occasions when I sleep straight through the night I wake up with two thoughts in my head:
  1. yay, I caught up on a bit of sleep, and 
  2. oh shit - my blood sugar must be through the roof.
I only ever sleep straight through when my sugar is high.  I checked and, yup, it was 15.0.

Nights like that are such a mixed blessing.  I really do feel rested in the morning and, surprisingly, I don't feel crappy from having been high for hours and from being really dehydrated.  In fact, I feel so much more rested that I kinda, secretly, wish I could have more of those nights.  And yet, as we all know, hanging out with numbers that high for hours on end is NOT a good thing and not something we should make a habit of.

It's a tricky little window.  Normal blood sugar means I sleep lightly and wake up easily during the night.  Higher (12-15) means a wonderfully sound sleep.  Really high (16+) means an unsettled night of crazy nightmares that last until I can wrench myself from sleep and pump myself full of insulin.  

I'm grateful those nightmares don't happy too often but ohhhhh, it's soooo nice to sleep through the night.

Monday, March 5, 2012

All Gone

The title of this blog is much more effective if you imagine a little kid at the dinner table, with an empty plate in front of them, saying "all gone!" in a sing song voice.

Remember I was complaining that I had been running 30 minute runs for four weeks and was still experiencing a bit of shin pain? And then, finally, Geoff agreed that I could add five minutes - probably to save my sanity more than anything else.

So two weeks ago, I ran three 35-minute runs and I didn't feel any shin pain at all. Not even when I pressed hard on my shins looking for sore spots. I ran 30 minutes for weeks and the pain remained. I added five minutes and the pain vanished completely. Bizarre.

Last week, I graduated to 40-minute runs. I ran a few of those and, again, no pain.

I don't know if you realize how crazy that is. I haven't had zero pain in my shins since, well, probably since I started running years ago. There's always at least a twinge or two.

I saw Geoff on Thursday and told him my news. His jaw dropped a few inches. He was expecting me to, at best, have the same amount of pain or, horror, have gotten a bit worse. He did not expect me to bang my shins and say "I got nothin'!"

So now I get to add five minutes every second run as long as things stay as they are. By this weekend I'll be running 55 minutes and, by next week, I may cross the magical 60-minute threshold.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Boiler Issues

On Monday morning, at 6:00am, I slipped into the pool. I was still half asleep but knew that, within a few minutes, my heart would be pumping and I would be fully immersed in another great early morning swim.

As I slipped into the water, I noted with some discomfort that the water was unusually warm. The water is never cold, or even cool, at my pool but it’s not usually nauseatingly warm either. This morning, it was. 

Oh well, I was already there so there was no point in going home. Perhaps I could use the uncomfortable temperature as a way to push myself a bit. Get’er done as quickly as possible so I could enjoy a cool, refreshing shower.

Every morning, at about 6:15am, two gentlemen arrive at the pool. Watching their movements I have determined that they are in charge of maintenance. They arrived, as per usual, spoke to the lifeguards for a few minutes and then disappeared. They came back at 6:30am, spoke to the head lifeguard and then the whistle blew. 

Everyone out of the pool! Now!!

Good lord.

We all clambered out and they announced that we had to leave the building. We could shower but we had to get out as soon as possible.

Since no one else spoke up, I asked the obvious question: “why?”

“There’s something wrong with the boiler but we’re not sure what”.

Well, it sure beat my fears of pH levels being out of whack or chlorine levels being toxic (I figured we were not dealing with poo in the pool since there are no wee kids swimming at that hour of the morning). So eight ladies piled into the showers, changed and headed back out into the dark morning. I got fifty lengths in and made it home before Doug had even ventured down to the kitchen. 

That evening, there was an article in the paper about the pool. Apparently the boiler is shot. They are waiting to find out what the cost will be to fix it before they decide what to do. 

Here is the dilemma:

The City announced a long time ago that our pool would be closing once the new Aquatic Centre opens. The Aquatic Centre was scheduled to open last fall but has been delayed until at least May 31st of this year. Since our pool was slated to close, the City has not been putting any money into maintenance. So our pool is quickly deteriorating and the new pool is being built much too slowly.

As of Monday morning at 6:30am we have no municipal pools in our city. 


If the City puts money into fixing up the pool that is slated to close, people will be angry at a perceived waste of money. If they just decide to close it early, people will be angry because, for the next two months at least, there is no municipal pool available for use. People have paid for memberships, swimming lessons, March Break camps etc. Events have been scheduled and swim teams practice there most mornings.

It’s a huge problem that, days later, seems no closer to a solution.

In the meantime, I am driving across town to the YMCA and paying $10 per visit just to get my swims in.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

One More Hurdle

Last Sunday morning I woke up at 7am. I was scheduled to run 40 minutes for the first time in months.

I woke up excited to tackle a new distance but I also felt slightly out of sorts. I don't usually feel that way and I couldn't figure out what the problem was. I just knew that I was not entirely comfortable with something to do with my upcoming run.

As we lay in bed enjoying a few quiet moments before starting the day, Doug asked me where I was going to run. I immediately felt a flash of annoyance.


I responded with "well, three loops of our neighbourhood is 35 minutes so I guess I'll just tack on an extra five minutes".

Doug gently suggested that I should consider driving out to Grapeview School, parking the car and heading out into the country.

I became even more irritated at the world.

I hate not knowing what's causing me to feel something so I tried to figure it out as I got dressed. I had no problem looping my neighbourhood for 35 minutes but the thought of doing it for 40 was enough to drive me batty.

And yet the thought of running 20 minutes in one direction, surprisingly, scared me. I have not been more than 750 metres from home during a run since I was first injured in October.

That, folks, would be what you call the 'aha moment'.

I was scared. I was scared to run down a long stretch of road. I was scared to trust my legs. I was scared to run alone.

Thankfully, when I get scared, my stubborn side takes over. Which meant that, because Doug suggested it and I was too proud to admit my fears, I was going to get in my damn car and drive out to my old running grounds.

For the first time since my marathon dream ended I was going to run up and down Third street. Up and down the two hills, past the familiar farms and fields. Right past the 5k turn around sign that new runners smack in celebration of making it that far and around the corner to the top of the Gregory Road hill. And then I was going to turn around and run all the way back to my car.

So I did.

And it was lovely. The sun was shining, the birds were signing - it really was that nauseatingly lovely.

I listened to my music, I thought about all those long summer runs, and I didn't cry once. I think I'm past the part where I feel sad for what I lost and I'm at the spot where I just feel happy for what I have worked my way back to. That's a good place to be.

On Tuesday morning, I had to run 40 minutes before work. I didn't have time to drive back to Third Street so I left my house and headed out to do a big loop instead of just looping my neighbourhood. I ran down the stretch of road that had been the start of many a 2.5+ hour run. The road and the time of day felt so familiar that my body was surprised (and somewhat disappointed) when I turned towards home instead of heading out to the country for a few more hours.

I think the biggest hurdle when overcoming an injury is overcoming all the mental barriers that get put up. Bodies can heal but sometimes the mind and the heart take a little longer.

I think I'm almost there.