Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ups and Downs

The past week has had its share of athletic ups and downs. Might as well toss them all into one story.

I can now officially put "ability to swim across a 25m pool under water" on my resume. The first time I did it was really exciting. But the next time I tried I couldn't do it so I thought perhaps my one success was a fluke. After that brief setback I managed to complete the crossing in each of the last three attempts so I can now officially declare myself an underwater swimmer.

I am now well into my fourth season of cycling. Season one (which technically was only a half season since I got the bike in the fall) was just about getting comfortable with clip in shoes, shifting gears, climbing hills and keeping up with the group (or at least keeping them in my sights). Season two was pretty much the same thing with two duathlons thrown in for fun. Season three was about using the bike as a recovery tool during marathon training. I cycled after long runs to help my legs but I was so tired from the running that the bike rides were more about survival. Season four - I want to be a better cyclist - faster, braver, stronger.

With that new attitude, and a winter and spring of swimming and running for cross-training, I'm already feeling better after only a few weeks on the road. I climb hills with a lot more strength than I used to and rarely have to shift right down to the 'granny gear'. Sometimes I even pass people (imagine that!). I also decided that I'm going to force myself to get better at downhills because, after that unfortunate mishap with the squirrel two years ago (1) - I've been pretty scared of high speeds. I now force myself not to brake, or to brake less often or less hard than I want to and, last Sunday, I reached 44.7km/hour and felt ok doing it. I have no ambitions of becoming a 60+km/hour crazy downhill rider but I do want to learn to enjoy rather than dread the downhills.

As for running - I am now 10 days out from my half marathon. In January, I was running mere minutes at a time and I've slowly and (I think) safely rebuilt my strength and stamina after my stress fracture. I've done everything I've been told to do and things have gone well - shin-wise anyway. My last two long runs were tough, for different reasons, and that's a little disconcerting considering how close the race is. Two weeks ago I ran my last pre-race 20k and the heat really, really, got to me. My pace was sluggish and I had to walk...a few times. I finished it but was pretty humbled by the end.

Last Saturday's 16k was a diabetes nightmare. I woke up to a blood sugar of 4.7 which was fabulous. I dropped my basal to 50% (as per usual), I had two dates and a gel without bolusing (as per usual) and I headed out the door. My legs felt good and strong and my pace was brisk and steady - reassuring after the previous week's run. I was going to wait until I got to 10k to check my sugar (I find it psychologically easier to run more than half the distance before stopping) but, by 7.5k I was feeling 'off' so I stopped at 8k instead. Normally, at this point, my blood sugar would be around 8-9 and I would have a gel and trot on home.

This time, I was 18.9.

For no apparent reason.

I checked my pump and all seemed fine. I went through all the variables in my head and couldn't figure out the problem. I hesitated to take insulin in the middle of a run but knew that I couldn't stay that high. The pump recommended 3.0 units. I took 0.8. I figured it would be enough, combined with the running, to at least get me going in the right direction. I ran another 4k and stopped to check again. I expected to see something like 14 on my glucometer.

Instead, I saw a 22.3.

I was 4k from home, feeling more dehydrated and downright awful by the minute and worried that running with a BG of 22.3 was putting me at pretty high risk for ketones and other monsters. I took 0.8 more units and slowly trotted another kilometre to see if the original bolus might kick in. I checked again using the last test strip I had on me.


Bloody hell.

I called it a day. I took another 1.2 units so I now had 2.8 floating in my system and over an hour of running to help kick start it. I was running dangerously low on water. I had brought plenty for a regular 16k run but not enough for a dehydration-plagued one. So I walked the last 3k home as fast as I could. Made it, checked again and I was 16.

And hour later I was 12 and I floated down to 8 where I stayed. I drank 3 32oz bottles of water in an hour and then continued drinking for the rest of the afternoon. It took several hours before I was able to pee and most of the day before I managed to get it to go from looking like apple juice concentrate to lemonade.

Diabetes, most days, is a fairly manageable disease but, every once in a while, it shows you how quickly it can seize control of your body and turn it against itself. Saturday was a pretty startling reminder of how dangerous and scary it can be.

I still have no idea what caused that ridiculous high and my numbers have been fine since so it was not a pump or insulin malfunction.

Here's hoping race day is a little less dramatic.

And those, folks, were last week's ups and downs in the life of this little diabetic.

(1) As for the squirrel mishap - it all happened on a training ride with Erin as we prepared for the Grimsby Duathlon. The bike portion of the race had us riding up, and then back down, an incredibly steep portion of the Niagara Escarpment. I had ridden up the hill once but wanted to give it a second go before race day. We made it to the top, rode the rest of the route and then headed back down. Steep uphills mean fast descents. I took a deep breath and followed Erin down the hill. I was clocking about 50km/hour when a squirrel ran out into the road and stood right in my path. A car was coming up the hill in the oncoming lane so I had very little room to move and very little time to think. In the two seconds I had, my options ran through my head. I could swerve but I was going too fast and would probably crash. I could stay exactly where I was and run the squirrel over, trying not to lose control while doing so. I chose the run it over option because, at that moment, the odds seemed better. I braced for impact. At the last possible second, the squirrel spotted me and darted away - right under the wheels of the oncoming car. I heard the crunch and made it to the bottom of the hill alive and trembling. That moment taught me that high speeds on a bike leave incredibly little room for error. It also put the fear of god in me and going downhill has not been the same since.


  1. Too bad about the high BGs during your run. Is it possible that you were dehydrated started out and that's what caused the highs, instead of the other way 'round? At any rate, that stinks.

    In other news, I think it's kinda adorable that you think of 45 km/h as fast for a downhill. (I get where you're coming from, BTW.) Don't worry--literally--and you will feel better about going fast and be faster in no time.

    Stay safe and have fun out there!!

    Oh! The other day, I swam across my local 25yd pool on one breath. But I was doing freestyle not the whole swimming along the bottom business. Does that count? (I only know one swimming stroke.) Even if it does, the way you do it sounds more badass.

  2. Sorry about the BG. Both of my half marathons went the same way and I have not run since going in four years now.

    But you and Scully both inspire me. :-)