Friday, September 28, 2012

Plan A and B

My plan for the Fall was pretty straightforward.

My plan was to train for the Medtronic Twin Cities 16k but to toss in a few 20k runs so that I would have the training distance I needed to run the Niagara Falls Half Marathon two weeks later.

My plan was to focus on the TC 16k because that was my big Fall race. The half marathon was just icing on the cake.

My plan was to run the 16k and then take stock of how my body was feeling. If it felt ok, I'd sign up for Niagara Falls. If not, I'd call it a day. Because I've pushed my body all spring and summer and I didn't want to push it too far.

Yesterday I decided to check the Niagara Falls website just to make sure that it wasn't close to being sold out yet.

And I saw that the cost of the race was going to go up by $10 on October 1st.

So I panicked.

I grabbed my wallet.

I filled out the registration form.

I signed up.

So much for my plan.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

All Tied Up and No Place To Go

"Hi ladies. How was your swim?" asked the nice lady (whose name I always forget) in the locker room.

"Hard" I replied. "She tied us to the side of the pool today...I can't believe we actually pay for this kind of treatment!".

Everybody laughed, including my two swimming buddies who were also tied to the side of the pool.

I knew something was up during our warmup when I spotted Christine carrying a pile of stretch cords. Then she started tying them together. Good lord, I thought, it's 5:30am. Be nice!

After the warm-up, she explained what we were going to be doing. She broke us into groups of 2. I got paired with Jamie.  The other pairs were two girls and two boys (not that it really matters - I just like giving details like that). There were three activities to complete and we would rotate through them in pairs.

Activity one: swim 200m using a pull-buoy and breathing every 5th stroke and then swim 200m using the pull-buoy and breathing every 7th stroke.

Activity two: swim 5x100m. Each 100m was to be done on 2 minutes. This means that you check the clock when you start and check again when you finish. You have two minutes to complete 100m so, if it takes 1 minute and 30 seconds, you get 30 seconds rest. If it takes 1 minute and 55 seconds, you get 5 seconds rest.

Activity three: tie yourself to the side of the pool. Christine had hooked a waist belt thingie to a stretch cord. She then hooked the stretch cord to the side of the pool. "Tie this around your waist" she said. "I want you to swim out as far as you can. Once you stop moving forward, I want you to swim hard to stay in place for 30 seconds. Then swim back to the wall. Repeat 10 times. Each one on 1 minute.

Jamie and I started with the 200m pull buoy activity. The ladies started on the 100m swim and the boys started with the stretch cords. One of the boys is new (as of Wednesday) so I don't know him very well yet. The only thing I know is that he is built more like a bodybuilder than a swimmer.

I watched them both do their first pull. The first guy got about half-way across the pool before he stopped moving. Strongbad made it almost to the other side of the 25m pool. And then broke the cord.

Bloody hell. Seriously?

He swam back and Christine built him another, stronger, contraption.

He broke that one too.

She fixed him up again and then he managed to complete his 10 reps.

Jamie and I were next. We strapped ourselves in and started swimming. We both made it about half way across the pool before we stopped. I realized pretty quickly that you don't just stop and hang out. You stop and swim for dear life because the cord that is stretched now wants to contract and drag you back with it. Like water rushing up your nose drag back. I pulled and kicked like a madwoman, panting all the while. After 30 seconds Christine gave the signal to stop and I stopped with relief. Then I flashed a huge grin. With no more resistance, the cord contracted and I was flying through the water. Like Harry Potter on his broom. It was awesome. Totally worth the exertion.

We did ten of those. Swim like hell and then fly back. By the end, my arms were shaking with fatigue.

And no, I did not break a stretch cord.

(But thank you for asking)

After that workout, the last set of 5x100m was so hard it was ridiculous. Each one took 1 minute and 50 seconds so we had hardly any rest in between. And my arms were so weak that I could hardly push off the wall when I turned. I felt like I was swimming through mud with weights tied to my arms.

Apparently we're repeating the whole thing on Friday.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

In Spades

It's that time of year again.

The leaves are starting to run. Apple cider is being sold by the jug at every roadside fruit stand. Cravings for homemade soup and hot chocolate are starting. My nose drips every time I go outside.

And my marathon man is in training mode.

It's definitely autumn in Ontario.

The next six weeks are rather busy. I have two races coming up. Doug has one (New York). Two if you count the fact that he's my Global Heroes running buddy but I don't really count that because I don't think it's called racing when you have to slow your pace down on the day of the race. It's more of a recovery run for him...

Anyway, let's take a look at long runs for a minute, for a bit of perspective. Long runs are those Saturday morning runs that build build build over the race preparation period and then taper towards the end. Over the next four weekends, I'm going to run 20k, 16k, 10k and 21.1k for a grand total of 67.1k.

Remember, we're only counting long runs here. Not weekday runs.

During that same period, Doug is going to run 32k, 16k, 35k and 25k. A total of 108k. Then he still has a 15k long run followed by his 42.2k marathon.

During the week - I run twice. During the week - he runs four times.

The man is a machine.

You would never guess by looking at him that he's at the hardest part of his training. Not because he doesn't look fit and fabulous - because he does. But because he looks the same as he always does. Long-limbed, full of energy, a constant bounce in his step and an impish twinkle in his eye.

He thrives on this level of activity and, other than an extra yawn or two in the evening, he's good to go.

I used to be impressed by that. Then I tried training for my own marathon. Now I am in absolute awe of it.

Yesterday I wrote about fitness.

Doug has it in spades.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


I find the notion of ‘fitness’ interesting.

In my world, people mention the word with a fair degree of frequency but never really talk about it. Fitness is used more as a catchall term – I can run faster than I could last year because my fitness level is higher. I can swim more lengths because I have better fitness.

But what the heck is fitness? And why am I all of a sudden thinking about it?

Monday morning masters’ swimming is what triggered the whole thing. It was a busy morning at the pool and we had 6 people instead of the usual 3-4 in our class. There was a girl that I have not seen since the summer class whom I knew to be fast. Our assistant coach Jamie joined the workout and there was a new guy I had never seen but figured out from the way he did his warm-up that he had been in the pool once or twice before...

Then there was me and two other regulars who have been swimming hard three times a week for several weeks or more.

In other words, a bunch of people one might describe as ‘fit’.

After our 1200m warm-up, Christine has us do 12x50m followed by 3x(150m, 100m, 50m). Towards the end of the workout, you could tell we were all exhausted. The recovery period no longer felt long enough and our times were getting slower. Some people would groan every time she said ‘go!’. I mumbled ‘shit’ under my breath more times than I care to admit and the guy in my lane who seems to spend his life doing one activity or another was gasping and looking pretty humbled by the end.

Despite the grumblings and the heaping serving of humble pie, we all survived the workout because we are ‘fit’. We will all be recovered and ready for more on Wednesday morning because we are ‘fit’. Yet I found it interesting that, no matter what our overall activity schedule is – we were all struggling at the end of our swim. There are hard-core, competitive swimmers in our group. There are triathletes (me!). There are people who do a wide variety of activities in a week (running, cycling, swimming, weight lifting AND yoga). No one seemed immune to swimming exhaustion.

So I looked up fitness in Wikipedia. First of all, there are apparently two kinds of fitness: general (which refers to our overall state of health and well-being) and specific (which refers to our ability to perform specific aspects of a sport or activity).

The general health part takes into consideration things like: flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, muscle endurance etc. The specific skill part deals with things like: agility, balance, coordination, speed, reaction time and power.

Ok, that makes sense. But how do I know how fit I am?

I then went on to see if I could find ways to measure my overall fitness and found some pretty entertaining websites. One wanted me to power walk for a minute and then take my pulse. Then they wanted me to do as many pushups as I could. Powerwalking would be fine but the pushup thing would place me somewhere close to the nearly dead part of the fitness scale. I can’t do one – never have been able to.

Another site told me to get a stopwatch, measuring tape and a scale. I stopped reading at that point so I’m not sure exactly what I was going to be measuring. The distance from the couch to the fridge perhaps and how quickly I could get there and back? Followed by a quick hop on the scale to see what sort of damage the cheese tray caused?

Then I found some other sites that describe the fitness tests that those in the military have to pass. Scary stuff that is.

Fitness seems to be this umbrella terms that covers many things. The 100m dash runners in the Olympics have superb muscle strength and the ability to perform anaerobically. Marathon runners, on the other hand, have muscle endurance and the ability to perform aerobically. Is one more fit than the other?

I don’t really know.

What I do know is that, last year, when I was running five days a week I was exhausted and sore all the time despite having two days off to recover. This year, I am working out 6-7 days a week. I am working out harder and for longer periods. I should be more sore and more exhausted but I’m not. The opposite is true.

I might be exhausted after a hard workout in the pool but I can complete it and keep up with everyone else. I recover enough to run the next morning and swim again the morning after that.

Last year I was fit. This year I am fit. But my fitness level is better. I’m still not exactly sure what that means but I can sure feel it to be true. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Motivation Behind the Motivation

Last week I had essentially the same discussion with three very different people. 

Topic: What motivates us to exercise? 

Three different friends. The different body types. Three different jobs, lifestyles, eating habits and weekend schedules. The main thing they have in common is that all three of them exercise. Two of them are, among other things, runners. The third does not run but does other activities. 

All three people I talked with told me similar stories. They exercised to deal with stress or anxiety. They exercised because their bodies needed the release. Two of them even went so far as to say that exercise had nothing to do with health for them. It was all about managing their stress and anxiety. 

I told all three of them that my motivation for exercise is health. Or, to be more precise, my motivation for exercise is diabetes. 

Maintaining a regular exercise schedule does wonders for my health and my blood sugar. It is much easier to control manage appease the diabetes gods if I give them predictable activity. I have found a routine that works for me and makes me happy but I don't technically need to run, cycle and swim. I could just as easily row, powerwalk and take zumba classes. It's not about the sports, it's all about moving. 

Back to my conversations from last week... 

One of my friends was been injured for a few months and therefore cannot run. She is finding that very difficult because her stress level is less manageable without that regular release. She has tried swimming but it just doesn't cut it. 

Two other friends have found other ways to manage their anxiety levels and, as a result, the crazy drive they used to feel has diminished and they no longer have the push they need to get out there and exercise. They both recognize that their motivation has all but disappeared and are both trying to find other ways to push themselves but it is a struggle. 

During my Saturday morning long run, I was thinking a lot about those conversations. I realize the ridiculousness of this next statement but I still believe that there is a lot of truth to it: I am lucky to have a chronic illness that scares the bejesus out of me. 

I love cycling.

I love swimming. 

I love running. 

That alone is enough to get me moving most mornings. 

But knowing that I dramatically increase my chances of staying healthy and whole if I exercise keeps me moving when I no longer want to. When the mornings are cold and dark and I would rather curl up in bed. 

Unlike my friends who exercise because it helps them deal with stress and anxiety - my motivation will never go away. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Lungfuls of Air

Wednesday morning, after our 90 minute workout in the pool, the four of us left feeling like we hadn't really pushed our bodies very hard.

But we all also agreed that it was a pretty tough workout.

Wednesday was less about working our muscles and more about working our lungs.

We started off with our regular warmup which is always a combination of swimming, pulling, kicking and dragging. At the end of the warmup we had covered 1000m and were ready for the workout.

Let me backtrack for a moment. A few weeks ago, Christine was able to convince the pool folks to buy us a white board. So now, instead of trying to memorize our workouts, she writes them on the white board for us.

By the time we finished our warmup, the workout was written and ready for us.

It read as follows


100m    3-5-5-3
200m    3-5-5-3
300m    3-5-5-3
400m    3-5-5-3
500m    5-7-7-5
600m    5-7-7-5
700m    5-7-7-5
800m    5-7-7-5
900m    7-7-7-7
1000m  7-7-7-7


Four confused swimmers staring with goggle-clad eyes at the instructor must have looked rather amusing.

The translation of that was the following:

Every hundred metres is broken down into 4 25m sections. The 3, 5, 7 numbers indicate how many strokes you take between breaths. For the first 100m, you breathe every 3rd stroke in the first 25m, every 5th in the second and third 25m and every 3rd in the fourth 25m. Repeat this four times. Then for the next four hundred metres you breathe every 5-7-7-5 strokes. Finally, in the last 200m, you breathe every 7th stroke for all 200m.

Got it?

Breathing every five strokes is hard when you're used to breathing every third. After a few trips across the pool though, it starts to feel ok. Then you switch to every 7th and that's pretty hard. Every 7th never feels easy per se but it does feel easier after a while. I've gone up to every 11th before but that's really hard and I can't sustain it for long.

The trick, I've learned, is not to swim too fast. I used to think that I should swim as fast as possible so that the opportunities to breathe came at a faster rate. But I found that really difficult because my muscles were struggling for oxygen as I worked them really hard. So I slowed down. I now take deep breaths and I exhale slooooowly as I swim. As long as there is air in my lungs to exhale, I'm ok. As soon as I run out, I need to breathe. Therefore, the more strokes per breath, the more slowly I exhale.

So I swam a rather leisurely 1000m and worked on my breathing.

When we finished that, we were told we had to swim 6x25m. Each 25m we had to explode off the side of the pool and get as many strokes in as we could without breathing. We would then get 40 seconds rest before the next one.

Normally, I breathe more frequently when I'm working hard. But, after having finished that breathing exercise, I was surprised to find that I was breathing every 12-13 strokes during the 25m set. I would explode off the wall and just swim. Head down, legs kicking, arms flying - I would breathe once, maybe twice, the entire length of the pool. AND, I did 25m in about 18 seconds.

Holy bananas!

So, by the end, we did not have a very hard workout. But our lungs were put to the test. I don't know about the rest of my swimming buddies but I was pretty surprised at the result.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Really Real

The Medtronic Twin Cities race weekend is coming up.

It's been official for months but it's starting to feel really real.

On Tuesday, Doug and I received our e-tickets for our flights.

Then we received our email confirmations and details for the 10-mile race.

And finally I came home to discover a FedEx package sitting on the counter.

Inside were our race singlets and a lovely leather case with our luggage tags, weekend itinerary and all the information we would ever need to know about our hotel.

Two weeks today, we're flying to Minneapolis. We're being picked up at the airport and driven to our fabulous hotel. We get to meet the other 24 people from across the planet who were chosen as this year's Global Heroes. We get to have a tour of Medtronic headquarters. We get to be celebrated and celebrate some pretty amazing people.

Last week I knew I was looking forward to going but I was still pretty calm and cool about the whole thing.

Now I'm starting to feel like a giddy little kid and I can hardly stop myself from bouncing up and down with excitement.

I'll settle for trying on my race singlet and modelling it in the kitchen.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Watching Minutes Turn to Hours

Two weeks ago, I mentioned that I was at the Diabetes Centre and they told me about the Disability Tax Credit.

They said that, if I could prove that I spend 14 (or more) hours per week managing my diabetes, I could fill out the application form and they would sign it. That is, of course, no guarantee that it gets approved but a signature is the only way that the form will even been looked at.

So step one: track my time spent with diabetes for two weeks.

I have been dutifully chronicling everything I do since my appointment.

  • every blood sugar check
  • every insulin administration
  • every post-shower check for air bubbles 
  • every post-shower insulin prime
  • every pump change
  • every basal adjustment

I figured 14 hours a week equals, on average, two hours per day so I kept my eye on the daily totals. No point in doing this for two weeks if I am only averaging 45 minutes per day right? 

Well, it's almost laughable how close I am to the target. 

One day I'll be 120 minutes. The next I'll be 115. Then I'll be 125 followed by 110 and then 130. The days are all averaging out to 120 minutes or two hours. My numbers are so close to the target that it looks like I'm making it up. 

I'm not though - there is no way I'd be comfortable submitting false numbers. I'd be awake nights expecting the diabetes tax credit auditing people to descend on my house and demand to see my blood sugar logs. 

Still though, I'm not sure if I'm happy or sad to know that I spend 14 hours a week doing nothing but manage diabetes. 

I'm happy because it might qualify me for a tax credit and any little bit extra is always welcome. 

But holy bananas. Fourteen hours a week??  On a chronic disease?!?

I'll try to take comfort in the thought that it's my choice to spend that much time and energy taking care of myself. Because there is little comfort in the thought that I've spent 728 hours in the last year checking my blood sugar, changing my pump, adjusting my basal and priming my pump. 

Those minutes add up apparently.

I'm hoping that, in the end, it will be worth the time spent. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Head Down!

Monday morning and the alarm is set for 5am.

It doesn't go off though because I wake up at 4:52 and turn it off before it wakes Doug.

He, of course, is already awake and whispers goodbye as I slip out of bed.

Monday morning and I am due at the pool in 38 minutes.

When I get there, Christine has us do our warm-up. This time it's 200m of freestyle, 50 metres of drills, 50 metres of freestyle and then 100m of kicking.

I finish first because, well, because I'm a keener who hates being late so I was first in the pool.

She walks over. "Are you finished your warmup?".


"Great, you can try this then."

This, my friends, will apparently help correct one of my many swimming flaws. I lift my head too much when I swim. It's not aerodynamic apparently. 

The idea is that, if you have this on, it will force you to swim with the proper head position. Why? Well because, if you don't, water will go up the snorkel and you will choke. 


So I put the strap around my head, put the mouthpiece in my mouth (while stubbornly refusing to think where it had been last) and tried swimming. 

It certainly kept my head in the proper position. It felt weird though and water kept filling (but not really going up) my nose because I couldn't figure out how to exhale through my nose and mouth at the same time. So the water just kinda hung out there feeling weird. 

Swimming is so frustrating sometimes. We work on drills that help us get the feel of how our arms should enter the water, how our shoulders should rotate and, now, how our heads should be positioned. And yet, when we move from drills to a hard workout and we're swimming as fast as we can across the pool - it all goes out the window. 

My head is too high. 

My arms cross in front of me. 

My shoulders don't rotate nicely. 

I have a lot more respect for the professional swimmers out there who spend hours a day on their technique. Back and forth, back and forth, trying to make unnatural things feel natural. I wonder what goes through their head on race day...

"head, arms, kick!, rotate, damn he's beating me, head down dammit, stop crossing your arms, KICKKICKKICKKICK, yay, I'm beating him, oh wait, no I'm not, headdownheaddownheaddown, breathe, pace, crap there's water in my goggles, I can't see the clock, why is Christine waving her arms and yelling at me? have I been kicking??"

And all of this before 7am on a Monday morning.

It does seem rather cruel doesn't it?

Monday, September 17, 2012


You know those posters you see that say: "You know you're a runner when..." and then there is a list of crazy stuff that only runners would know about, admit in public or even be proud of?

Well, after Saturday's 20k run, I have one more checkmark to add to my list.

I'm not sure whether I should be proud of that checkmark but I do believe it's important to admit because people need to know that real people do this kind of stuff.

Before I fess up, I should elaborate a bit on which checkmarks I already have and which I have yet to achieve.

To date, I have never lost a toenail. I have never had a black toenail. I have only had one blister.

But I can proudly say:

  • I have had and can spell plantar fasciitis 
  • I take ice baths and actually like them
  • I have had chaffing in very odd (and very very painful) places
  • There are times during the year when I go through sticks of Glide faster than sticks of deodorant
  • I know that the most effective way of finding out where I have chafed is to take a shower
  • I have said "only" and "20k" in the same sentence
  • I have had a stress fracture
  • I can use up my year's worth of massage benefits in four months
  • I go through four pairs of running shoes in a year
  • I wear compression socks almost every day
  • I know a training route for every distance from 1k to 25k from my door
  • I know when and how to use gels, edisks, and salt tablets 
  • I have run in 30 degree heat and -30 degree cold
  • I have had a full bottle of pop whipped at my head from a passing vehicle (lucky for me they missed)
  • I have tripped over a tree root and gone arse over tea kettle which resulted in my hobbling home with blood pouring down my leg and having to pick a ridiculous number of tiny stones and bits of gravel out of the deep gouge in my knee
  • And yes, the first thing I did when I fell was pause my Garmin
On Saturday, Doug and I drove to the Niagara Parkway. He had 30k to run and I had 20. Being slower and having to stop for diabetes checks - I figured we wouldn't be too far off in our finishing times. I brought chocolate milk and my stretching stuff for the 20 minutes I estimated I'd have to wait and we were good to go. We parked the car. My plan: I was going to run 7k up the parkway and 7k back to the car. Refill water bottles, check my sugar, eat if necessary and then run 3k out and 3k back. 

The Niagara Parkway is lovely. It runs along the Niagara River so the river is on one side and kilometre after kilometre of extravagant homes line the other side. There are no restaurants, no gas stations, no stores. It's beautiful and feels very rich but I always make sure I have enough carbs on me since there aren't any options for me in an emergency.

It never occurred to me that having no restaurants, no gas stations and no stores also meant that there were no washrooms. 

Because I never need to use the washroom when I run. Even when I was doing 3+ hour runs - my body just kinda goes into runner mode and I run without worry. 

Saturday, I added another checkmark to the "you know you're a runner when" list. 

It involved me running awkwardly down the parkway, madly searching for even a bush I could hide behind. Because there is nothing but river on one side and nothing but manicured lawns and gardens on the other - I was getting more frantic by the moment. Finally I spotted a small forested area with some tall grasses in front. There was no one around and I could NOT afford to be picky. I forced thoughts of snakes, ticks and police officers out of my head, pushed my way through the grass and hid behind the tree. I came out several minutes later missing a wad of kleenex and feeling about four pounds lighter. 

I should have been embarrassed but I was kinda proud of myself. 

I took a dump in the bushes. 

And yes, I paused my Garmin while doing it.

I have passed another initiation test.

And come out the other side a little wiser. 

Friday, September 14, 2012


Does anyone remember the crazy problem I was having with my ears last summer during marathon training?

Like the problem of going almost deaf after 2+ hours of running?

It started during the longer runs last summer. I would be fine for the first hour or two but then my ears would slowly start to plug up and, by hour 3, I was pretty much deaf. If I stopped running, it would clear up in a few minutes. If I resumed, my ears started plugging again almost immediately. It got to the point where I wasn't sure I'd be able to run a marathon because I wasn't sure what would happen if I tried to run 4+ hours.

Would my head explode?

Luckily, I ended up sidelined with a stress fracture before I made it to the four hour zone...

Anyhoo...last fall, I was referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist. They tested my hearing (which was great - whew!) and did a bunch of other tests but couldn't find anything wrong. It could be allergies (but it also happens in the winter). It could be my earbuds (but I only wear one and both ears plug at the same time). It could be my blood pressure (but it seems to be fine). She rebooked me for a follow up appointment.

This appointment happened this past Wednesday morning.

They did the same tests again. My hearing hasn't changed so the doctor feels that, whatever the problem is, it isn't causing any permanent damage.

That's good.

She asked me to stand with my feet together and my arms extended in front of me. "Close your eyes and march up and down until I tell you to stop" she said. I did, feeling ridiculous as the seconds ticked by and she didn't say anything.

Was she even still there?

Did she leave for coffee?

I obviously have ok balance because I haven't fallen over yet. When is this going to end?

"Ok, you can stop and open your eyes."

I did and was shocked. I might not have fallen over but I rotated like a top and went from 12 o'clock to 3 o'clock without even feeling it.

What an odd sensation to open your eyes and not be where you think you should be.

She asked if I was ever dizzy. Last year, I would have said no. This year, I can say yes - but only when I'm asked to swim on my back. I hate it. Within seconds I'm dizzy and, even if I only swim 25m, the rooms spins for several minutes once I stop.

That's odd she said - I've never heard of that before. Do I get dizzy when I lie on my back? Nope. When I roll over in bed? Nope. When I swim on my front? Nope.


I seem to be causing a lot of hmmmmms in that office.

I was sent away with very little insight other than: whatever is happening doesn't seem to be causing damage. And call us back if things change.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Two Hours...and Still Stable

The second instalment of Masters swimming started on Monday morning.

The first session ended on August 31st. The pool was then closed for a week - the reason for this changed depending on who I asked:

  • "it's closed so they can do a good cleaning of the building" (the building only opened in July so I was kinda surprised to hear that it was that dirty already). 
  • "it's closed because the women complained that there wasn't enough privacy in the change rooms so they are making some adjustments" (seriously? There is so much more privacy than there was at the old pool that I feel almost isolated when I'm in the change room. What are they going to do - put up curtains next to each locker??)
  • "it's closed so that they can train all the new fall lifeguards since the summer students are returning to school" (for a week?)
Anyway, whatever the real reason(s), the pool reopened on Monday morning and the fall programs began. I signed up for another Masters class because, despite making progress in the first session, I don't feel that I'm ready to tackle Lake Ontario quite yet. 

When I was flipping through the Leisure Guide, deciding what I wanted to sign up for, I noticed a change to the hours of the class. During the summer, the classes ran from 6am to 8am. I could only stay until 7am because of my work schedule so I had three one-hour sessions per week. 

This time, the classes run from 5:30am to 7am. 

Gulp. Double gulp. 

5:30am is REALLY early. 

1 1/2 hours of swimming is a LOT of swimming. 

My second biggest concern about the new class times was the hour at which I would have to set my alarm. Setting a 4 on the alarm clock is just cruel but I need to get up about five minutes to five in order to make it on time. I decided to set the alarm for five am and just rush but now I worry so much about not having enough time to get there that I wake up at 4:45am on my own. Funny how that works. 

My biggest concern though was the amount of time I was now going to need to be unplugged from my pump. (Pssst! Medtronic, if you're listening. I have 16 months until I'm due for a new pump. If you could create a waterproof one before then, I would be really grateful. I love your pump and would happy sign on with you for another five years but really need that waterproof feature). 

When I was swimming for an hour, I was unplugged from 5:50am until 7:20am. An hour and a half total (including shower time). My blood sugar was really stable and my numbers would hardly change between my 5:30am BG check and my 7:30am BG check.  

There is, however, only so long those of us without a functioning pancreas can go without insulin. Exercise certainly helps keep blood sugar down but, without some insulin in the body, exercise alone isn't enough. 

On Monday, and again on Wednesday, I unplugged at 5:20am and plugged in at 7:20am. Two hours without a drop of insulin. 

What happened? 


My blood sugar hardly budged. 

I find that so surprising considering that I can't run or cycle anywhere near that long without insulin. Whatever it is about swimming - my body just loves it.  

So I now know that I can go two hours unplugged if I'm swimming. 

I wonder if I could go for three? Four? What's the magic time threshold? 

Wouldn't it be nice if, as long as I'm swimming, I can go without insulin indefinitely? 

If that were the case I'd totally be ok with gill implants. Or a tail transplant. 

Some red hair. 

A pet crab...whatever it takes. 

Heck, I'll even sing "under the sea" every morning if that helps. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bleat. Meh!

Some people turn to alcohol when they have a rough day.

Others turn to drugs if they've had a difficult time of it.

I apparently turn to goat cheese.


This week is a marathon of meetings. I wear several different hats at work and each hat comes with its own responsibilities, its own team of people to deal with and its own regularly scheduled meetings. This week, as it does every few months, all but one of the eight different meetings I attend fall into a four-day stretch. I am basically running from meeting to meeting for four days.

Yesterday, I had a three-hour meeting in the morning. A 20 minute drive back to the office. Forty minutes to catch up on some phone calls and emails and then a 2 hours meeting. As I drove back to the office after the morning meeting, I started thinking about the fabulous salad I had for lunch.

Spinach, avocado, cucumber, tomato, mushrooms, green onions, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and black beans. With a sundried tomato dressing. So delicious!

And then I drove by a grocery store and my stomach screamed "Goat Cheese!!".

Seriously? Who goes grocery shopping in the middle of the work day for goat cheese? "You're fine" I whispered back in my best soothing voice.




Bloody hell. Seriously?!?

I pulled into the parking lot, marched in and bought goat cheese. Not chocolate. Not wine. Not butter tarts.

Goat cheese.

To sprinkle liberally on my salad.

I drove back to work, made my salad and added the goat cheese.

You know what? It was perfect.

Apparently my stomach knows what's what.

Kinda like this fellow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Season Finale

It's almost the end of the running season.

Not that the season ever really ends but, once the last races in October happen, and now that triathlons are done for the year, running continues to be a regular physical activity but the long runs hover around 10k. Ten k is a nice place to hang out after the last seven months of training.

It's probably a good thing too.

After last winter's stress fracture recuperation, I was raring to go by the spring. Training for my June half went well and my legs felt great. Summer triathlons also went well, as did the first part of my training for my fall 10 miler and half marathon.

The last two weeks though - my legs have been squawking. No pain, no shin splints (yet) - just some unhappy feelings that tell me that they are getting tired.

It's frustrating because my running is going well. My body feels strong after a summer of consistent activity. My 18k felt almost easy on the weekend and my energy levels are good. But my legs have their limits and I'm not sure I want to push them.

Global Heroes is coming up in four weeks. The Niagara Falls half marathon is coming up in 6. I haven't signed up for the half yet and don't particularly have my heart set on it. It was just a race to keep my training going. So I'm ok if that doesn't happen. But Global Heroes is huge and I need to keep fit and healthy for that. No injuries in the next four weeks!

I've got massages booked. I'm making a dent in the couch from all my lounging and icing that I'm doing there. And I'm listening carefully to my body. Really carefully.

The running season is almost over for the year. Last year - it ended early for me. This year, I'd like it to end on my terms.

Fingers crossed.

Monday, September 10, 2012

To Wimp...or not to Wimp

I wimped out of my Saturday morning run.

I don't think I can honestly say that I never wimp out of long runs but I think I have enough evidence to argue that I rarely wimp out of long runs. I have dutifully headed out in 30+ degrees to run for two hours. I have headed out into -30 degrees to run for two hours. Wind, humidity, rain - I've run in pretty much everything.

Friday night, the weather folks were all screaming about the rain we were about to get. It's going to rain all night and all day Saturday they warned.

Doug had 25k to run. I had 18k. We decided to set the alarm and see what the weather was doing. If it was even close to ok, we'd risk it. If not, we'd decide what to do.

We woke up to pouring rain and this on the radar map.

We are the little red diamond in the centre of the yellow, red and green clouds. 

I really didn't want to run in the pouring rain for two hours. I just really really didn't. I didn't want to come back soaking wet, wrinkled and pruny, shivering. I didn't want to have to struggle to check my blood sugar in the middle of a long country road with soaking wet fingers. 

"Céline, stop being such a wimp" my brain chastised. "I know, I know" I thought, I should just get out there and run. 

I don't want to be a wimp. 

And still I wimped out. Put on my bathrobe and padded downstairs for breakfast. Feeling guilty. Wanting to run on Saturday so I could cycle with my friends on Sunday. Wanting to get the 18k done so it wasn't looming over my head all day. Knowing that, once I committed to breakfast and took insulin, I was closing the door on any chance of running for at least three hours. What if it cleared up? Then I'd be sitting at home unable to run because I took too much insulin. 


I made breakfast and took the full bolus for it. I decided that 11am would be the next magic number. If the rain stopped and my blood sugar was ok - I would run then. If not, I would have lunch and give up on the run. Sunday would have to do. 

As I sat on the couch after breakfast, the pouring rains turned into torrential sheets of rain. The kind that hurt just to look at. 

And I thought - there is sometimes a very fine line between wimping out and being smart. 

And then I thought - Céline, you are going to run 18k today or tomorrow. Either way, you are going to run 18k. I don't think there are too many people out there who would put the words 'running 18k' and 'wimp' in the same sentence. 

So I pulled out my book, curled up on the couch, and enjoyed the sound of the rain on the windows. 

And, at exactly 10:45am, the rain stopped. I jumped up, changed, checked my blood sugar (11.2), ate a banana and a gel and headed out. I felt like I was racing against the weather. The clouds kept changing from ominous and beautiful and I was rained on (lightly) several times. I galloped through 13k and then stopped for a quick BG check (9.2). I figured I would drop to about 5.0 by the end so I didn't eat anything. I finished 18k feeling stronger than usual and in world record time (1:52:07). My blood sugar was 5.2. Doesn't get any more predictable than that. 

Predictability despite not knowing when or if I was going to run. Predictability despite not setting a temp basal because I didn't know if I was going to run. Predictability despite running at 11am which I have never done. I mean ever. Diabetes - you are one crazy rabbit. You don't like doing what you're told despite working hard to meet your every whim. And yet, when I throw your entire schedule out of whack, you sit quietly on the sidelines and give me a fabulous run. 

I will never figure you out.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Sister gifts

My sisters sent me a gift certificate for my birthday. They are very much in tune with what makes me happy and are great gift-givers. They buy me gifts like purple laptop bags, makeup classes, olive oil from Israel and lip balm tested by surfers in Hawaii (which therefore makes it the best!).

This birthday, they gave me a gift certificate. For nail polish.

They are well aware of my love of bright colours and, when we're all home together, we love nothing more than going on sister dates to get our nails done.

Except for, maybe, sushi.

In an effort to learn a new skill and save a few dollars, I decided a few months back that I was going to learn how to do my own nails. The first few attempts were rather awkward and the final product was not exactly stellar but I'm getting better with each attempt.

So my sisters decided to help support my habit by giving me the gift of choice.

Armed with a gift certificate and the freedom that comes with knowing you get to choose something but don't actually have to pay for it I spent last Monday night looking at all the different colour options on the website. It was a little overwhelming and I found myself constantly drawn to colours similar to the ones I already had. So I forced myself to branch out a bit and go for shades I wouldn't normally buy for myself.

On Tuesday night, I went to visit the O.P.I. and Essie websites because I found their sites easier to navigate. I figured I'd pick some colours I liked and then head back to the site I have the certificate for and order them. To my chagrin I quickly discovered that the same nail polish looked very different on the different sites. What was pink on one site looked red on the other. What was almost black on one site looked bright blue on the other.

What colour was the correct one? There was no way I was going to order something only to have it arrive and not like it.

So, on Wednesday, I drove to the local Trade Secrets store and spent about 15 minutes looking through their nail polish colours. I took note of the ones I liked so I could go back home and order them (much to the chagrin of the sales lady I'm sure).

I took three night but I finally placed my order.

A few days later, these arrived at my door:

How much fun am I going to have??

Thursday, September 6, 2012

On a Whim

I would never sign up for a half marathon on a whim. I commit to those puppies months ahead of time and dutifully get all my long runs in to be as ready as possible for race day.

Half marathon take approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes to complete - for me anyway.

Apparently signing up for a sprint triathlon on a whim is a different story entirely - even though those things also take about 2 hours and 20 minutes for me to complete.

Last Thursday evening I decided to sign up for the Guelph Lake 2 Triathlon. The event was Saturday morning. I hadn't really thought much about doing it but I was aware that it was coming up. I was supposed to run 18k in preparation for the Niagara Falls half but, after a bit of agonizing, I rationalized that it would be ok to push the run off by a week AND it would still be a really tough workout. So I signed up...on a whim.

Saturday morning, at 6:15am, we were in the car for the 75 minute drive to Guelph Lake Conservation Area. Doug was generous enough to a) come with me even though he wasn't competing and b) do his 24k run the day before so he could join me. I packed all of my swim/bike/run gear and he packed all of his photography gear. I was about to become the best documented athlete there.

This being my second sprint tri, I did have some knowledge to build on in terms of blood sugar management. I tweaked my plan and avoided the big mistake I made last time which was to take in too many carbs before the start of the race. I turned down my basal to 50% an hour and a half before race time and I took a 75% bolus with my breakfast since I was eating at 5:45am and not racing until 9:09am.

Pre-race preparations:

Marker station: race number on your left arm, age on the back of your right calf. One of my goals in these races is not to be last in my age category so these ages are helpful. When I'm passed by a girl with a 28 or a 42 on her calf, I ignore her. But when someone between 35-39 passes me - game on! 

Pre-race blood sugar check #6. Gotta know where I am and what my sugar is doing so I check every 15 minutes or so. 

Setting up the transition zone. 

It's 8:30am. Time to take off the insulin pump and tuck it in my cycling shoe (thanks Jeff for that tip!). When I leave the transition zone at this point, I won't be back until it's time to hop on the bike. 

My blood sugar at 8:30 was 4.8. We walked down to the lake for my warm-up swim and I had a gel before going in. I swam for about ten minutes to calm my breathing and get a feel for the water. 

Heading in for my swim as the kayak rescue boats headed out to get into position. The lake level were really low so we had a long walk to get to deep water and a very long beach run back to the transition zone. 

Bring on the swim!!

After the warmup my blood sugar was 5.4. Climbing but still a little low for my comfort zone. So I had a pack of fruit chews and joined the swimmers who were gathering en masse. There were 7 waves of swimmers based on ages and genders. You are assigned a swim cap colour based on the wave that you're in. I was hoping for green, blue or purple (just because I like those colours) but ended up getting my second yellow swim cap of the swimming season. Wave four it is then. 

Ready or not - it's TIME!

Blue caps go first, then green, then pink, then me. 

Lesson 1: I decided, now that I've mastered the art of wearing contacts while cycling and running, that I was going to wear them for the race. I wanted to be able to wear sunglasses during the event but also wanted to see clearly. So the big risk was swimming with them. I figured at long as I didn't get water in my goggles I'd be ok. What I didn't think about until I got there was that I probably shouldn't wear prescription goggles when wearing contacts. FYI: you don't actually see better when you double up on your prescriptions. You see worse! Oh well, I don't need 20/20 vision to swim - just enough to see where the buoys are. Lesson learned. 

The swim was great. It was pretty busy at the beginning (as expected) but I placed myself in front and in line for the buoy. I wanted to be on the inside of the group so I didn't have as far to swim. I had to swim head-up front crawl for the first bit because there were too many flailing limbs and I found it easier to navigate around them that way. Once it settled a bit, I put my head in and swam. I made tight turns at each buoy and staying on course thanks to frequent sighting. I caught up to the pink wave and even caught the slower green folks who had left 6 minutes before we did. That felt good. 

The transition went fine and I headed out to the bike course. 

The course was changed this year due to construction so they had a 15k loop that we had to cycle twice. It was pretty hilly with a really tight turn. The good thing about cycling it twice is that you know what to expect the second time around. The bad thing about cycling it twice is that you know what to expect the second time around. 

Coming to the top of the last hill - for the first time. 

After the bike it was time for a blood sugar check. I was 11.2 which is better than the 15.6 I was in Grimbsy after the bike but still a little high. I didn't bolus though because I figured I'd drop another point or two during the run and then adjust at the end. 

Lesson 2: I put a gel in one of the pockets of my tri top. It's there during the swim in case I run into trouble. It's there on the bike but I have backup stuff on my bike bag. It's there on the run in case I drop quickly. I reach back periodically to feel it but it's more a reflect than anything else. I checked as I headed out for the run - it was there. I checked 500m later - it wasn't. It must have bounced out. I knew my sugar was 11 and knew I probably wouldn't go low during a 7k run but I now had no backup if I did. Scary. Thankfully, races have water and gatorade stations during the run so I was hyper-vigilant about how I was feeling and figured I'd drink gatorade if there was any risk of a low. Worse case - there were several hundred other runners out there with pockets full of gels who would probably share if I needed it.  Next tri - I'm tucking a gel in my pocket for the swim and ALSO pinning on to my race belt for the run. 

Heading out for the run. Doug told me that it was rolling hills. I would argue they were more hill and less roll but perhaps I was just really hot and tired by that point. An out and back course meant that the up/down/up/down hills on the way out were down/up/down/up hills on the way back. 

Made it! Hot, tired and grateful to see the finish line. 

I walked about 15 steps to the nearest tree and collapsed in the shade. Cancel basal rate and bolus 2 units to bring my sugar back down again and I was good to go. 

That ends the 2012 triathlon season. In 2011 at this time I thought triathletes were crazy and I couldn't swim 100m in the pool. Now I sign up for triathlons on a whim and live to tell the tale. What difference a year makes! 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bike Helmets versus Brain Injuries

Yesterday I went for my six month visit to see my doctor at the Diabetes Centre. It went well - bloodwork came back fine, logbook got the nod and my blood pressure was textbook. We were done the required stuff in about five minutes, including my questions.

"Have you heard anything about the Disability Tax Credit?" asked my doctor.

"No," I replied.

"Oh good, something useful I can tell you," she replied and proceeded to explain it to me.

The disability tax credit is something that some people are eligible for...if they meet the criteria.

"Basically," she explained "you need to prove that you spend 14 hours (or more) per week doing life-sustaining therapy".

She handed me a list of things that qualify, or don't qualify, as life-sustaining therapy.

- time spent monitoring blood glucose
- time spent setting up pump or equipment (site changes, drawing up insulin into the pump etc)
- calibrating equipment
- treatment of low or high blood sugars
- insulin adjustments
- logbook maintenance
- time away from normal activities

Doesn't qualify:
- pump delivery time of insulin
- travel time
- medical appointments
- carb counting (why the hell not??)
- exercise (really??)

I have to track for two weeks and, if I can prove that I spend 14 hours per week doing life-sustaining therapy, they will sign the paperwork and I will qualify of the disability tax credit.

I will most certainly be doing that.

But it got me thinking about a conversation I had with my mother a while ago. About the amount of money I spend to stay healthy. The cost of healthy food. The cost of my pool membership and now my masters swimming classes. The cost of my 4-5 pair of running shoes and inserts per year. The amount I spend on gels and other fast-acting carbs so I have enough emergency stuff for long runs. The cost of upkeep on my bike so I can cycle and help my legs recover from long runs. The cost of massages and chiropractor appointments to keep my body in good shape so I can keep exercising. The cost of all the test strips I use (10+ a day, every day). My compression socks to keep my circulation moving.

Rough calculation of annual costs:

$100 annual bike maintenance
$600 running shoes and inserts
$600 pool membership and classes
$150 gels and fast-acting carbs
$500 for massage (after my insurance covers $500)
$50 compression socks

Total: $2000/year

That doesn't include healthy food like my protein shake powder or race entry fees which, while not necessary, keep me focused and motivate me to train. That doesn't include the cost of running clothes or bathing suits because I wear them until they disintegrate. That doesn't include the cost of vitamins, of gas to drive to my pharmacy every two weeks or to my 15+ medical appointments a year - most of which are in a different city.

Two thousand dollars a year minimum to stay healthy and active. Not to mention the time I spend exercising, preparing to exercise, recovering from exercise or cooking healthy meals.

Two thousand dollars a year to stay healthy.

Who knows, I may still get good A1C results without all the cost, time and effort. I may still have textbook blood pressure and great blood test results. I may still maintain a healthy weight and fight off diabetes complications. Or I may not.

But I'm guessing two thousand dollars a year is much cheaper than the cost of dialysis. Or hospital stays. Or amputations. Or long-term disability.

My mom and I chatted about how nice it would be if the system encouraged and supported us to maintain good health instead paying for us when we get sick.

You can either buy me the bike helmet or you can pay for the brain injury.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labour Day

One upon a time I was quiet. I listened more than I talked. I observed the room, the interactions, the people. I took it all in and learned from it.

I'm a little less quiet now but I still prefer to listen and observe than to be the Chatty Cathy in the middle of the fray.

One upon a time I was vegetarian. For 18 years I did not touch fish, chicken, pork or beef.

I now eat meat regularly and lust after a good steak - medium rare.

One upon a time I had short hair and I wore mostly black, dark blue and grey.

Now I have long hair and covet bright colours. The brighter the better.

Why is that?

When I think back on my life to this point, I don't see my past self as a stranger. When I look back I just see 38 years of me. And yet, looking at pictures and thinking about the stages of my life, my past self is in many ways very different from my current one.

Despite the changes in eating habits, hair length and colour choices, I like to think, at the core, that I am who I am. The outer shell may morph and change but what's inside is pretty stable.

Can you tell it's the first day of school in Canada? Labour day weekend just passed - the time of year when I can't help but think about new beginnings and reflect on the past. I love the beginning of September - it always feels like a fresh slate has been put before me - ready for whatever I choose to write on it.

My journey to this point has been eventful and the journey from here will most likely continue on the same path.

But it's my journey.

And I don't regret a step so far.