Wednesday, October 31, 2012

To Flu Shot or Not to Flu Shot

There are certain topics that are triggers for people. Topics that, once raised, cause a person to immediately respond with a lot of emotion, sometimes anger and often a sense of self-righteousness.

Religion can do that to some people.

So can politics.

Mac versus PC.

Heck, even gas stoves versus electric can get some people fired up.

The topic that I have found to be one of the most volatile these days is...the flu shot.

(insert angry psycho music here)

Seriously folks. You have two options. You can get the flu shot. Or you can chose not to get the flu shot.

Neither choice is going to send you to hell or send others there. Neither choice is likely to harm the environment. Neither choice makes you a better person.

Yes, both choices have a slight chance of killing you. You can opt to have the shot and have a crazy allergic reaction to it and die right there in the waiting room. Odds are pretty good that you won't but there is always a chance.

You can also opt to not have the shot, get the flu and be one of the 8,000 people (in Canada anyway) who die every year from the flu.

Chances are though that, shot or no shot, you will survive the winter.

People have their own reasons for getting it or for not getting it. Many of them are based on fact. Many of them are based on superstition and misunderstanding.

  • No, you can't get the flu from having the flu shot (the virus is dead).
  • Yes, you can get the flu minutes, hours or days after having the shot (which probably just means you were already infected but not showing symptoms yet - it doesn't mean that you were accidentally injected with a live virus by an incompetent nurse). 
  • Yes, you can get the flu weeks or months having the flu shot (there are many different strains of flu out there - they don't vaccinate us against all of them).
Everyone needs to make their own choice. 

Whatever that choice is, please RELAX when you hear mention of annual flu shots. Don't get your knickers in a knot if a schedule of flu shot clinics is posted at work and you don't want to get a shot. And don't get all high and mighty if you choose to get the shot and other people don't. 

Let's all just try to get along shall we? 

That being said, in the interest of full disclosure, I choose to get the shot every year and am one of the first in line. I have type 1 diabetes. That puts me immediately in the high risk category and, when there are flu shot shortages, I still get to go to the front of the line. I take that pretty seriously. 

I also really really don't like getting sick. It feels yucky and it wreaks havoc on my blood sugars and my body. So, if I can have a vaccine that may help prevent me from catching the flu this season - sign me up. 

I promise though, that if you choose not to head to your nearest pharmacy, doctor or flu shot clinic, I will not judge, I will not preach and I will not get my knickers in a knot. Kindly please do the same for me. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Hola amigas,

This blog will be short and sweet today.

"Why" you ask?

Not because we lost power during the Frankenstorm. Not because I was out gallavanting on the town all night. But because my friend Klari came over last night and we spent the better part of the evening together. She is taking a Spanish class and asked for my help on her first presentación.

She decided to write about las maratones because she, like many of my other running friends, is a super duper marathoner.

So I spent the evening surrounded by Spanish-English dictionaries and dusting off the Spanish cobwebs in my head. Years ago I took class after class in Spanish and had reached the point where my Spanish was comparable to my French. I loved it. I thought in Spanish, I spoke it, I listened to Spanish radio and I read Spanish magazines. When I went to Cuba and Mexico, I chatted away, albeit hesitantly, with the locals.

Sadly, I do not have any Spanish-speaking friends with which to practice so my skills have faded a bit.

Until last night!

Funny enough, it doesn't take much to get those synapses firing again. Two hours and I'm already thinking in Spanish.

Poor Doug!

Monday, October 29, 2012

High Dynamic Range

I'm wearing my photography hat today so all you runners and swimmers out there will have to bear with me.

Doug and I both really enjoy photography. He has, on average, more opportunity to play with his camera than I do but we both like to go out and try play with our cameras, lenses and flashes. A few weeks ago, when the fall colours were at their peak, we headed out to capture the Niagara sights and then came home and played with HDR.

For those who don't know, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range.

Photography lesson: cameras can only capture a certain range of light and it's nowhere near the range that our eyes can see. So, for example, if you are looking at a scene that has bright sky and trees with deep shade under them, the camera will not be able to capture what our eyes can see in the sky (clouds etc) and the shade (the flowers under the trees). The range between the dark and the light is too far for the camera.

High Dynamic Range tries to deal with this by letting you layer photos on top of each other.

Here is how it would work for the scene that I just mentioned. I would take three photos. In the first photo, I would expose for the sky so that I could capture all the lovely clouds. In the second photo, I would expose for the mid-range (the trees for example) and make sure they looked good. In the third photo, I would expose for the dark areas (the shade under the trees) and make sure I captured the detail in there.

Then I would layer the photos on top of each other and, voilà, I create a photo that has the range of light that we see with our eyes.

Watch below:

In this photo I exposed for the shady areas. Note how the sky is really blown out? 

In this photo I exposed for the mid-range (the trees etc).

In this photo I exposed for the sky so you can see the clouds but the vineyards are very dark. 

Then I tossed all three photos into my HDR program and, voilà! Everything exposed properly in the same photo. 

Sometimes HDR can be really over the top and the photos end up looking really fake and oversaturated. When it's done with a bit of control, it can work out quite well. Particularly with landscapes. 

And that, folks, is the kind of stuff I do when I'm not running, swimming, curling, cycling or cooking yummy dinners with Doug. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Another Hero in the Family

My races are done for the year.

I get to spend the next two months running simply for the joy of running. No training schedules on the chalkboard. No required distances to run.

I also get to pack my bags because we're going galavanting again.

This time, Doug gets to be the hero.

One week from now, we'll be packed and ready to head to New York City so my marathon man can do what he does so well and check one more fabled race off his bucket list.

In the past three months, we have gone cycling for a week in Québec. We travelled to Minnesota for Global Heroes. Doug also gave up Saturdays and Sundays so he could support me through two triathlons and one half marathon.

Oh, and somehow he found the time he needed to train for a marathon.

He managed to run five days a week. He managed to run for 3+ hours, multiple weekends in a row. He managed to squeeze in his hill training as well as weekly swims and bike rides.

Now it's his turn to wear the hero cap. And it's my turn to chase him around the running route and scream my head off at the finish line. To take his pictures and carry his dry change of clothes. To slowly walk with him back home after the race, make sure he drinks his water, rub his legs and feed him electrolytes.

I can't wait!

This video made me cry when I first saw it years ago. Watching 45,000 people running across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge from Staten Island to Brooklyn was jaw-dropping. Little did I know I would get the chance to watch my own marathon man join the ranks of the NYC marathon runners.

November 4th 2012. Exactly four weeks after I had my hero weekend, Doug gets his turn.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Different Kind of Shaky Arms

I took Monday off from swimming to recover from Sunday's half marathon. I took it off from running too (obviously) and also refrained from cycling.

But I didn't take it off from everything.

Guess what started this week?

Go on - guess!

Fine, I'll give you a hint: what do rocks, brooms and hurry hard! have in common?

That's right - it's curling season folks!

This is the third year that Doug and I curl together on Friday nights. Doug also curls with the boys on Thursday nights. On registration night a few weeks ago I debated signing up for Monday nights as well. After a bit of thought, and some financial assessment, I decided that all of my fitness pursuits were becoming a little too expensive so I stuck to Fridays...and signed up as a spare for Monday nights.

Which means that my name is on a list and, if someone can't make it, they might call me to fill in on their team. Which means I get to curl an extra night most weeks and I get to play on different teams and in different positions so I can, hopefully, get better at the game. Did I mention that being a spare is free?

Brilliant non?

Doug and I were recruited for a team that was missing two members on Monday night. They asked us over a week ago at which point curling the day after a half marathon seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea. The fact that I hadn't have a moment to squeeze in a practice session also seemed like no big deal.

After an early dinner, I donned my yoga pants, grabbed my (not even remotely) sexy shoes and my purple broom and we headed to the curling club for the first time since April.

We met Gene and Lons, our teammates for the evening, and quickly decided that Doug would skip and I would throw second. As soon as I walked out into the cold, crisp air and smelled the fresh ice (yes, it has a smell), I sighed.

It was good to be back.

We played, my body (happily) remembered what to do, I made several good shots (which means the rock ended up where it was supposed to), I made two new friends AND I was recruited to play again for them on November 12th. Woot!

I also discovered that swimming hard three times a week doesn't mean that you develop the arm muscles you need for sweeping hard. In fact, I think swimming made it worse. I was so confident in my upper body strength that I swept like a madwoman. By the end of the fourth end I was starting to feel it in my shoulders. By the end of the game I was having to stretch after each rock just to keep my shoulders happy. When I woke up the next morning, my legs had recovered from the race but my abs and my arms were now sore from the sweeping.


As for diabetes - I guessed and guessed well. I was 7.4 before dinner. We had steak sandwiches and a salad which added up to 25 carbs. I should have taken 3.5 units for a dinner like that. Instead, I took nothing. We curled for two hours and 15 minutes. A 8:15pm we got off the ice and I checked - I was 4.0. I wouldn't want to cut it any closer than that but I'd say it was pretty good after 6 months off.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Shaky Arms

Last Friday morning was quite entertaining for lane swimmers who like to watch the shenanigans that go on in the Masters class.

It was also the first time I have ever seen Christine cut our workout short because we were too exhausted to finish it.

Friday was bring a long sleeve shirt to the pool day.

I grabbed one of my three Around the Bay shirts which are all lovely but don't fit all that well. The neck is always too tight, the arms are too tight but the body is too big. So I don't wear them. Until now.

We did a 800m warm up and I watched Christine assembling stretch cords and tying them to the side of the pool. Funny how "uh oh" and "yay" can sometimes pop into one's head at exactly the same time.

Christine explained the set.

We would break up into two groups. Group one would put on their shirts and swim 4x200m with 20 seconds rest in between. Group two would do the stretch cord thing ten times. Basically, swim as far as you can with the stretch cord tied to you until the cord is stretched as far as you can stretch it. Then swim like mad to hold your position until Christine blows the whistle (after 20-30 seconds). Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat ten times.

We had 20 minutes to complete that and then we switched up so those doing stretch cords did the shirt thing and the shirt folks got to do the stretch cords.

Then we had to swim 5x100m fast in our shirts followed by 5 more stretch cord pulls.

That was the plan anyway.

Leslie and I got to swim with our shirts on first. Pulling on a tight fitting shirt when you're soaking wet should totally have counted as part of the workout. Once clothed, we headed off and immediately felt the resistance of the shirt. Who knew a little extra layer could feel so heavy? Back and forth we swam - Leslie had more energy at the beginning of each 200m so I would chase her but ended up catching her at the end of each one as she started to fade. We'd hold on to the side panting and humbled before doing it again. And again. And again.

We finished all four just as the boys were finishing their pull set. As we pulled off our shirts, the swimmers in the other half of the pool finally got to voice their curiosity. "Why are you swimming with clothes?". We explained and then told them to stay tuned next week for when we showed up with pants and shoes too. They laughed but I think they were secretly grateful not to be us.

The effect of the first workout was immediately evident when we started the second. The boys, who had just had a crazy hard pulling workout started swimming their first 200m with their shirts on. Christine, Leslie and I started giggling. They could hardly get their arms out of the water. Of course we were no better as we struggled against the stretch cord.

After we survived that, we were supposed to switch up again. We all huddled at the edge of the pool and Christine took one look at us and edited the rest of the workout. "How about just one 100m swim with shirts on? As fast as you can." Ok. We pulled our wet shirts back on with shaky arms and she yelled 'go!'. We gasped our way through and she yelled our times at the end.

"How about one more hundred, this time without shirts?"

We pulled them off again and she yelled 'go!'.

I started, so did Sasha. So did Leslie. A few people didn't. Those who started finished and collapsed at the side - totally spent. Those who hadn't even bothered didn't look much better off.

"Don't forget your pants next week" she said.

I got home and told Doug that, if I ever fall off a cruise ship, I will totally drown. To which he sensibly replied "well, you don't have to keep you clothes on if the boat sinks. Take them off - you'll be fine."

Fair enough.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Niagara Falls Half Marathon

Some half marathons are relatively easy. Note the use of the word 'relatively' as there ain't nothin' easy about a half marathon. But some aren't too bad.

Some half marathons are hard.

Some are easy for most of it and then hard at the end. Some get easier as the kilometres fly by.

I have stood at the start line of 8 half marathons. I have crossed the finish line of 8 half marathons. That feat alone I am pretty proud of. There are some that I ran beautifully and there was one in particular that I thought I might need medical intervention at the end. There are some where I am embarrassed to say how much I walked and I don't think there's one so far that I didn't walk at least once or twice for a minute just to catch my breath and regroup.

No matter what happens between that start line and that finish line, there's one thing I can be pretty certain of: my finishing time.

All 8 races have been between 2:18:00 and 2:30:00.

Regardless of performance, of blood sugar, of weather, of injuries and of energy level.

I'm rather metronomic in my running as it turns out.

Yesterday's run started off in a mild state of panic. We left the house at 8:15am - plenty of time to drive the 30 minute drive to the 10am start line. Once we passed the last possible highway exit before the Garden City Skyway bridge, we saw a sign telling us that the highway was going down to one lane on the bridge and, within seconds, we were in huge gridlock. Doug, bless him, did a U-turn and drove down the on ramp (the wrong way), did another U-turn and got us headed in the right direction. We probably lost one minute rather than 45.

We got to the half marathon start at 9:05 and I immediately spotted a very long line for the sole porta potty so I headed right to it. Doug went off scouting and said that there were others, all with similar lines. So I waited. And waited. And waited. At 9:40, I checked my sugar, had my gel and box of raisins. At 9:45 I changed from my t-shirt into my long sleeved shirt because the wind was whipping and I was worried about the cold. At 9:50, I pulled off my warm-up pants, tied up my shoes and handed all my stuff to Doug. Still waiting.

I got my turn at the porta potty at 9:52 and made it to the start line at 9:56. I pulled on my running belt, turned on my Garmin, popped in my earbud and the gun went off. Wow!

My goal was to stay ahead of the 2:15 pace bunny because I wanted to try for 2:15 and knew I needed a diabetes buffer. I ran 5K in 29 minutes (pretty fast for me). I spotted Doug at 5.5k.

I ran over, did a lightning fast sugar check (11.2 - yay!) and trotted off.

Proudly sporting my Medtronic Global Heroes shirt. 

 I ran 10k in 61 minutes. Still fast. I spotted Doug again at 13k.

 I did blood sugar check #2 (11.4 - still?) so I had two edisks and took a 0.3 unit bolus just for a bit of insulin.

Water + edisks = hopefully enough je ne sais quoi to get me home.

As we were doing the diabetes business, the pace bunny ran by. Damn it! One quick kiss and I was off. I chased him for 3k and kept my pace with his but I just couldn't hold it. I was starting to fade. I stopped at the water station and chose electrolytes over water. I grabbed three jelly beans from the nice kids at kilometre 18 and washed them down with more electrolytes. I was worried I would spike my sugar but my legs were feeling weird and I was more worried about hydration and electrolytes. For the first time in my life, I think I was getting close to cramping up. So I upped my basal rate to 150%, crossed my fingers and carried on.

As promised, at kilometre 19, the road dipped down and we had a lovely downhill to the finish line. Niagara Falls loomed in the distance and the cheers of the crowds were getting louder. I soldiered on and found that last bit of energy that always surges when you know you're almost done.

I missed 2:15. I missed 2:16. I missed 2:17 and 2:18. I pushed it to beat 2:20 and made it just under the wire at 2:19:48.

A wave a few hundred metres from the finish.

I found Vince in the chute. Two more half marathons complete! 

The most famous finish line in the world. That would be Niagara Falls behind me. We finished the race with the falls, the Skylon Tower and a rainbow to carry us home. 

And then the wind picked up and started whipping my shiny silver cape around - making for fun photos. 

Final thoughts: As soon as I stopped my legs felt twitchy and I thought they might seize up. I willed them not to. Blood sugar check was 6.7 (thank goodness) so I ate a granola bar and had some chocolate milk. Doug found me and we walked the long, slow hike back up to the car and my legs slowly relaxed without any major distress.

I got my Niagara Falls half marathon medal. I finished in good (and typical) time and I pushed myself harder than I usually do which makes me proud.

Now it's time for a running rest. No more races until 2013 for me...unless I decide that a Boxing Day 10-miler is in the cards.

But first, rest my legs. They've had a busy year.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Rambling I Will Go

D'ya ever wonder why we do certain things the way we do them? And why we place such importance on doing things a certain way?

Doug and I always shop at the same grocery store. Partly because we are creatures of habit, partly because it's the closest store to our house but mostly because we have finally figured out where everything is in that store so why go somewhere we have to wander the aisles again when we're out of fig newtons or powdered mustard?

The other day I needed to do groceries on the way home but was coming from another city so it was just easier to stop en route - at a different store (gasp!). I needed about 10 things. It took me about 30 minutes to find them all. Worst part was that all the labels were different. The rice crackers were a different brand. So was the yogurt. I bought everything we needed but secretly wondered if it would taste as good.

Guess what?

It tasted fine. Of course it did. In fact, in a blind taste test, I guarantee that I could not distinguish between PC yogurt and whatever the hell I bought at the store that had me all turned around looking for the dairy section.

Doing something a certain way is important to me. If I notice someone doing something and, if they do it differently than I do, I get kinda freaked out because I want to fix them (like I can actually fix people) so they do it right.

But you know what?

Whether you put cheese on your pizza first and then pile toppings on top or you put toppings on first and then cover in cheese - it still tastes the same. Whether you put your running belt under or over your running jacket really doesn't matter either. Not really. Even though it feels like it does in my head.

And just as critical to remember: if I think something is important (say turning off lights when I'm not in a room or not checking my phone when I'm in a meeting) it doesn't mean that someone who leaves the light on or checks their phone is a bad person. Even though my brain tells me that it's BAD!

It's so easy to impose our own morals and even our own habits on other people and then judge them when they don't live up to these artificially imposed expectations. I mean it's not like it's against the law to leave the light on or check your phone. Just against my moral code.

And who the hell am I to judge someone else anyway?

Unless of course they are standing behind me in line at Tim Hortons and start going on about all the immigrants in Canada (while glaring at the group of Asian students happily chatting away at their table). Going on about how 'those people' have more rights than Canadians do and how they are taking over the country. How we, as real Canadians, end up behind the 8 ball because of people like 'them'. Gosh, we can't even go for coffee anymore without seeing 'them' - it's just horrible.

Then I feel that I might, just maybe, have the right to judge him as a wee bit of an asshole. I'll add the 'wee bit' part in case there are other issues at play that I'm not aware maybe his family was killed by a bunch of foreigners jacked up on Tim Hortons coffee. Or he was ambushed in the parking lot by immigrants who wanted his double double...

And that, my friends, was a very rambling, roundabout way of telling everyone that I met a very bigoted man in Tim Hortons today...and didn't kill him.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Drag Queen

So far, I have been tied to a parachute.

Tied to buckets.

Tied to the wall.

All in an effort to build strength in the pool.

Guess what the latest plan is to create resistance and increase drag?

No ropes. Nothing dragging behind us. Nothing tethering us to the pool. Just some good ol'fashioned clothes.

Apparently, swimming with clothes on is really hard. It creates lots of drag. Lots and lots of drag. Also, apparently, if you jump into the pool fully clothed and try to swim, you can cause all sorts of injuries.

So we're building up to it.

Friday, we have to show up with a tight fitting, long-sleeved shirt. We are going to wear it during our workout.

Monday, we are supposed to bring socks and an old pair of running shoes. We are going to be swimming with shoes on. (Did I mention I was running a half marathon on Sunday??)

Then we will work up to pants, then pants and a shirt, then pants and a shirt and shoes. The ultimate goal is to swim 200m fully clothed. I'll let you know what day that is so you can show up for lane swimming and just laugh at the whole lot of us floundering around. I may bring my toque for extra fun...

I'm predicting after all the drag we'll be training with, when we try to swim in only our bathing suits, we will swim across the pool so fast we could actually damage the wall on the other side. Perhaps we should wear helmets...?

And I figure it's great training for when I'm on a cruise ship and it sinks in the middle of the ocean. I will jump into the water in my ball gown, tiara and high heels and tread water easily for three days until the rescue ship arrives, holding up eight other people the entire time and catching fish with my teeth.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Not So Elementary My Dear Watson

So it's been a weird few days in blood sugar land. Not crazy rabbit weird though. More like Sherlock Holmes weird.

Something was very very off and the challenge was to figure out what exactly that was.

On Saturday morning, I did the time trial at the pool and mentioned that, for the rest of the day, I was fighting highs.

I kept hovering around 13. I took a correction bolus and, an hour later, was 13. Then I took a double dose (enough to cause a pretty serious low). An hour later, I was still 13.

I managed to get it down to 9 by dinner and took three times the amount of insulin I should have for the meal. Two hours later, I was 13. I double-corrected and went to bed.

At midnight, I was 14. I double corrected again.
At 4am I was 7.6 (thank goodness)
At 6am I was 6.7
At 8:30am I was 4.2

I had a 10k run to do so I took one gel and a small box of raisins. It wasn't really enough carbs for that long of a run but I was willing to risk a low to avoid a high.

After 10k, I was 12.9 instead of the 4-5 I should have been. Everything seemed ok with my pump. No air bubbles etc and my blood sugar was coming down, albeit slowly, so I didn't think my insulin was the problem.

I took a full bolus (which I never do after a run) for chocolate milk and a few graham crackers. I waited 40 minutes before eating it (which I would never ever do after a run) and then I checked an hour later. I was 10 which was promising.

An hour after that, I was 19.8 and was now showing mild ketones.


We were getting ready for lunch and I did need to eat something so I decided to experiment. I entered my blood sugar and 20 carbs in my pump and it told me to take 7 units. I then cancelled it and pulled out my old trusty needle. I took 10 units the ol'fashioned way.

I figured if my pump or my insulin was the problem, then using the needle would solve it. If I was still ridiculously high, there was something else going on.

When I checked 30 minutes later, I was 18.4 so I decided to change my pump - might as well fix one of the variables right?

I then checked my blood sugar every 30 minutes for 4 hours. Here is what happened.

1. 18.4
2. 16.3
3. 8.3 (uh oh - dropped fast)
4. 9.6 (damnit! I bolused again)
5. 6.0
6. 5.7 (I ate 20 carbs)
7. 4.7
8. 3.9 (just in time for dinner)

Things were fine after dinner and during the night. Perfect - I solved it!

Monday morning I was 4.2. I had a small box of raisins and headed to the pool for my regular workout. I did the same routine I always do. No variations whatsoever. After the swim, instead of my usual 6-7 BG, I was 14.8.

Double bah!!

I bolused for breakfast and a hefty correction dose, waited 30 minutes before eating and was fine for the rest of the day. Still, there is something weird going on.

These things always settle and the process of figuring out what the problem is can be fascinating on a purely scientific level. The fact that it's wreaking havoc on my body while I figure it out is not so fun.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fingers Crossed

I headed to the post office the other day with two envelopes to mail.

One was headed to Toronto, one to the East Coast.

Both have to do with diabetes.

The first one is my application for the Disability Tax Credit. It contains a cover letter, a five page summary of what I do every day to keep myself alive and healthy and a 9+ page application signed by my diabetes doctor.

I should hear back in 6 to 8 weeks re whether or not I qualify.

The second envelope contains a request to my insurance company to cover the cost of my continuous glucose monitor (CGM) sensors. There is a two-page letter from me explaining how they work and the importance of having them, an application form and an estimate from my pharmacist of the cost.

I called the insurance company last week to see if they covered the sensors and was told that no, they do not. But I could request a review of that decision and should hear back within a week once they receive the information.

Why am I doing this now?

Because of a conversation I had with a new friend from Israel and a new friend from Norway.

Both use the CGM. All the time. Neither couldn't believe that I didn't.

"I have tried it before" I said "they're just so expensive".

"That is not an excuse" was the reply.

Fair enough.

I understand the value of continuous glucose monitoring. It helps identify patterns to better control your blood sugar but, more importantly, it helps keep us safe. Alarms sound when blood sugar drops below a certain number. In the middle of a run or in the middle of the night.

CGMs have saved people's lives - woken them up from a bad low that they didn't feel.

I know. I get it. I agree.

So I'm starting the fight to have them covered by my insurance. So I too can take better care of myself.

All because of my two new international friends.

Thanks boys!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Time Trials

It's Saturday morning at 7am. It's cool and crisp outside and the sun is coming up. A beautiful morning for my last long run before the Niagara Falls half next weekend.

So what am I doing at the pool you ask? Why am I standing around with a whole bunch of nervous strangers instead of running under the rising sun and fading stars?

Because it's time trial day.

This is Christine's doing. She encouraged, cajoled, pushed and shoved her swimmers to the pool on Saturday morning. She brought a whole pile of stopwatches, clipboards and time sheets. The goal? We were all going to be timed as we swam various distances and this would give us our baseline upon which to improve our speeds.

I arrived in the lobby of the Kiwanis building and was followed in by a woman I didn't know. She was using crutches. Oh wow, I thought (naively), she must have an injury. I wonder if she is coming to do some pool running like I used to do? That sucks.


She was in the same section of the changeroom as I was. She undressed and then proceeded to remove her prosthetic leg. She pulled on her bathing suit and swim cap. She followed me to the main pool and Christine greeted her with a smile. No recovery pool for her - she was time trial'ing it with me.

I didn't count but it looked like there were about 20 of us. I knew about 5 people. We all hopped into the pool to warm up (200m swim, 200m pull, 200m kick). During this time, Christine's daughters installed a mirror on the bottom of lane 1. Once it was set up - she asked me to swim over it. I did and popped up with a huge grin. "That's awesome!!". I could see myself swimming. I could see what I was doing with my arms and that darn crossover she's always on me about. When you run, you get a sense of how you look when running by store windows but I've never had a sense of what I look like swimming. It's pretty cool to see.

The setup looked liked this. Apparently you can tether yourself to the side of the pool and swim in place which really allows you to check your form. I just swam over it a few times but it was still pretty cool. 

Everyone piled out of the pool. "We are going to have a 200m, a 400m and an 800m timed swim. What is everyone going to do?" she asked.

"I'll do a 200m and a 400m" I said. "No" she replied, "you can do a 200m and an 800m".


800m is 32 lengths of the pool. Without stopping. As fast as you can.

Everyone chose their distance(s) and sat down to wait their turns. There would be four swimmers in the water at a time.

We started with the 200m. I hopped in lane 3. The lady from the changeroom hopped in lane 4. The whistle blew and we were off. She was my speed but a little faster. So I chased her but I couldn't quite catch her. I finished in 3:48 and she finished in 3:47. I think I may have just met another hero...

I watched the next few 200m swims. It's such an odd thing - when you're swimming you feel like you're working so hard and swimming so fast. But, from the surface, everyone looked pretty leisurely.

Then it was time for the 400m. Sixteen lengths of the pool. I watched. I watched swimmers pushing hard and I watched them start to tire. When it was over, several people's arms were shaking with exhaustion and they could hardly pull themselves out of the water.

Good lord. I was going to have to swim that distance - twice.

Into the pool I slid. I adjusted my goggles, took a deep breath and waved to show that I was ready. There were three other swimmers doing the same distance at the same time. Two of them I knew and one, an older and rather unassuming gentleman, I did not.

We were off.

The first 200m were really tiring. My arms were still spent from my first 'event'. The second 200m were really really tiring and I began to think "uh oh". In the third 200m, something kicked in and I suddenly felt better, stronger and faster. That's about the time that the older gentleman in the lane beside me lapped me. Still, I did feel better all of a sudden. I guess it's like running - it always takes me 5k to warm up and feel good.

Two hundred metres to go. Eight trips across the pool. I counted down but no longer felt the desperate need to stop that I had felt at the beginning. I touched the side and my timer yelled "last 50m!!". Back and forth once more and it was over.

Fourteen minutes and 47 seconds. Which meant that my pace was a little slower but not much off my 200m one. And apparently I was pretty consistent and didn't slow down toward the end. Céline Parent: human metronome.

Never having done a time trial before I didn't know what to expect. But that time felt good. It felt fast but with plenty of room for improvement.

And I adamantly refuse to think about the guy in the second group who did 800m in 10 minutes.

Absolutely refuse.

As for diabetes - it was an interesting morning. I am usually done my swim by 7am. This time I was starting at 7am and we were going to be there until 9 but not swimming the entire time. I would be sitting a lot and then swimming hard and then sitting again. I would be unplugged from my pump for two hours.

I never eat before a swim (unless I'm low and even then it's only a small handful of raisins). I knew I would be hungry by 9 but I didn't want to eat before because I haven't practiced eating and bolusing before a swim. I was not in the mood to have my first in-pool low during a time trial. So I had a handful of raisins and a spoonful of peanut butter. I unhooked and crossed my fingers. I felt ok for most of it but could tell when I was finished my 800m that my sugar was climbing. I waved goodbye and headed for the showers. My blood sugar was 11.9 by the time I was ready to reattach my pump. Not awful but higher than I'm used to after a swim.

I increased my basal rate as I usually do but chased highs for the rest of the day.

Just over year until I am eligible for a new pump. Bring on the waterproof one!

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Race

The alarm went off at 4:45am.

This is it. 

It was time to put on my superhero costume and represent something much bigger than myself. Much bigger than diabetes. Much bigger than all twenty-five of us put together. 

It was time to transform ourselves into living, breathing, running examples of hope and of perseverance. 

I took one look at the weather forecast and thanked the gods I had the sense to pack for all weathers. On came the running pants, long sleeve shirt, singlet and gloves. I grabbed my apple and granola bar, I double checked my bag of supplies, I tied on my running belt and we headed down to the lobby - the sun still hours away from rising. 

We checked in with Mary-Jo to confirm that we were indeed awake and were indeed ready to run and then we climbed onto the bus for the ride to Minneapolis. The race is called the Twin Cities 10-miler because we start in Minneapolis and run to St. Paul. Down the dark streets we drove. I stared straight ahead, I stared out the window, I choked down my apple and I gripped Doug's hand. 

Can I live up to the expectations that my superhero costume put on me? Can I run the race and run it well? Can I be that person in the video that I watched over and over again - full of life and energy and hope? 

We got off the bus and headed in to the Minnesota Vikings stadium to await the start of the race. Nine thousand runners were about to run the 10-miler. Several thousand more were gearing up for the marathon. And yet we found almost all of the Global Heroes in that stadium. We definitely stood out in our bright shirts. 

We found Troy and Kobi - the Aussies who knew how to dress for cold weather

We found Matthew - grinning from ear to ear and ready to run.

We found Patrick and his wife - who went through multiple wardrobe malfunctions but finally figured out how to dress for the cold weather.

And I had my Doug, my running buddy, to keep me warm, help keep me on pace and help keep my emotions in check.

Fifteen minutes before race time, we headed out into the dark. The race start was at 7:09am so the sun was still well below the horizon. It was freezing cold and dark as thousands of runners filled the street. We huddled, we listened to the Star Spangled Banner, we waited for the gun to go. 

Once the gun went off, we shuffled our way to the start and, before we knew it, we were off and running. We trotted along for a few minutes and enjoyed the feeling of our bodies warming up. Soon enough we could feel our fingers and our toes again. 

We were told before the race that there would be a video camera at mile three and at the finish line. We were told that the first camera would be just past the Medtronic water station. We were told that there would be a spotter on the bridge near mile three who would keep an eye out for Global Heroes. 

We were not told that the spotters would get all excited when they saw us. We were not told that they would scream "Go Céline!!!" when we ran by. And we were certainly not told that, as we passed the Medtronic water station, there would be an announcer on a loudspeaker screaming "here comes Céline, Global Hero!!". 


As we ran along, I had complete strangers come up to me and say hi. Some congratulated me. Some just gave me a high five. One was excited just to have found one of the heroes en route. 

Doug was a wonderful running buddy. He slowed his pace to match mine and we ran well together. Every once in a while he would dart up ahead and take running pictures for me. Then he would rejoin me and settle in half a step behind me so I could set the pace. 

I stopped around mile four to check my blood sugar and all was fine. Then, around mile six we caught up to Matthew and his running buddy. Matthew was darting behind a tree for a 'wee' break. 

We waved and ran on. Not long afterwards, Matthew sped by with no sign of his running buddy. He told me after the race that he resumed his run with the goal to catch "the Canada lady" and left his running buddy in the dust. I lost sight of Matthew and never caught him again. Fifteen years old with cerebral palsy and he kicked my running butt. What a hero! 

Only a few miles to go. I ran and Doug pointed out beautiful homes and lovely architecture. The route had been a hilly one and I was getting tired. Funny thing though - when you're wearing a hero costume, you can't really stop running. Because you have a job to do. 

So I did it. I kept running and, soon enough, the capital building loomed in the distance. We had made it. The fabled finish line, with the fabled cheering section was almost here. 

I waved to the spotter and they waved back before mumbling into their walkie-talkie. Céline Parent, global hero, was coming in to the finish. 

They announced my name. They announced my hero status. Doug and I joined hands and waved them in the air. I was too busy smiling to even think of shedding a tear. 

Soaking wet, freezing cold, tired and hungry - and complete elated. 

We made our way through the crowd and to the Medtronic tent where hot drinks and lots of snacks (sweet and salty) awaited us. So did grinning heroes and other friends. 

Ellie and her running buddy and husband Ryan after the 10-mile race

Mary-Jo and Rich - extraordinary event organizers 

Torbjørn - marathon runner and fellow T1

Gabriela - T1 marathon runner and her husband

Doing my post-race interview. 

The race, and the weekend, was everything I expected it would be. In fact, there were almost no surprises from start to finish. 

And yet, the weekend was overwhelming and emotional in ways that I could not have imagined. We met on Thursday - strangers from across the globe, joined because we were selected by a panel of people who had read our stories. Joined because we all had something 'wrong' with our bodies. Joined because we had found ways to overcome. 

We parted on Monday as friends. As kindred spirits. As superheroes.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Weekend

We left our little house with the purple door early on Thursday morning. We had three suitcases and two carry-ons, each with the special Global Heroes luggage tag. I was calm and excited at the same time. I had the itinerary, I knew what to expect and knew how the weekend was going to play out. And yet I felt this deep sense that life as I knew it was going to change.

We stopped briefly in New York to switch planes for Minneapolis. I kept looking at all the other passengers hoping to spot a Global Heroes luggage tag. There could be one of them on the plane with us!! Omigod! 

I met the first hero at the airport when we arrived in Minneapolis. Kobi and his travel buddy Troy had just arrived from Sydney, Australia and were dressed for winter. I'm talking down jackets and toques. Being a good Canadian, I arrived wearing a hoodie and no jacket. Turns out Kobi and Troy had it all figured out. Little did we know it was going to turn into the coldest race weekend in 10 years... 

We arrived at the hotel and checked in with Mary-Jo, event planner extraordinaire. We then joined the other heroes in the hotel bar. I met Lance and his wife Jodie from Australia. She's a super triathlete (you know, the kind who gets their name on their race bib rather than a number) and Lance was full of stories of trying to keep up with her in various ironman races. He had decided to apply for Global Heroes this year because he couldn't apply the last few years. It falls on the same weekend as the famous Kona Ironman in Hawaii and Jodie has competed in it - twice. They spotted my triathlon necklace and asked about my races. I shuffled my feet a bit and said I had just started triathlons this year. They were so supportive and encouraging and curious about diabetes that I started to feel like a bit of a superhero myself.

More importantly, they taught me the proper way to eat TimTams - bit the opposite corners off, dip it in coffee (not too hot!) and suck. (That was the first thing I tried when I got back to work after the weekend. I think it takes some practice but it's super tasty.)

On Friday morning, the events began. We gathered at the top floor of the hotel for breakfast. I had brought a wee gift for all the heroes from Canada (ask me later about the border smuggling experience). I seized the opportunity to go around the room, shake every hero's hand and give them a bottle of good ol' Canadian maple syrup. 

I met Gary, Global Hero alumnus from 2011. He was our camp counsellor for the weekend and was a great combination of knowledgeable, funny, emotional and total crazytown. 

After breakfast, we boarded the bus and headed to Medtronic headquarters to meet the people who make the magic happen. 

It was pretty neat to see the little logo on my pump transformed into a huge sculpture on their front lawn. 

What an experience it was to be there. The building was stunning and the staff were so excited to see us. We explored the laboratories, we saw the latest technologies...

 ...and we got to ask questions. 

I asked my burning question: When will Medtronic have a waterproof pump? As a swimmer, I really really want that option. 

I took my question right to the top and asked Katie - President of Medtronic Diabetes. "Three to six months before it's out in Europe, six to nine before you get it in Canada. And it will have a colour screen and a louder alarm." 


The tour ended with an awards luncheon where we met more amazing Medtronic staff and board members. It was really neat because they were wowed by us but we were just as wowed by them. One by one, the hero stories were told and the heroes were called up to receive their award - right from the hands of Stephen Oesterle, Senior Vice President for Medicine and Technology. 

You have to love an organization that puts the accent on my name and pronounces everyone's name flawlessly. 

While he doesn't sport the official title, he definitely is my hero. 

After lunch, some of us headed back to the hotel while others hopped on a bus to tour the marathon route. Those who toured the route came back with two key messages: "it's SO beautiful" and "omigod there are SO many hills!". 

I was glad we opted to go to the expo instead. Some things are better left unseen...

Saturday morning dawned bright...and freezing. 

I'm talking 1 degree and windy with snow clouds overhead. 

We had a 9:30 photoshoot to be at - and it was outdoors. So much for having nice hair and wearing shorts and my singlet. I yanked on my running pants, long sleeved shirt, singlet, jacket, gloves and our new Medtronic toque. Hat-head be damned. 

The photoshoot included head shots:

Running shots:

(like my matching blue headband I found at the expo?)

and group shots:

Some of the crazier folks stripped right down to their shorts and singlets for their running shot. As the only Canadian, I was sensible enough to stay bundled. 

Afterwards, we all rushed back to the hotel for warm clothes. 

We had a few hours before our pre-race pasta dinner so Doug and I went out to explore St. Paul for a while. Then guess who I got to meet??

The one and only Scott Johnson!

Scott and I hung out in Port of Call for a while chatting like old friends about illegal border crossings, playing the diabetes card, the difference between a hat and a toque and the little differences we can make in people's lives that turn into big ones. Oh, and I tried to convince him to apply to be a Global Hero next year...right Scott?

Days one and two were over. The heroes had gone from strangers to acquaintances and were quickly moving on to something more. 

Tomorrow: race day!  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Making of a Hero

When I was a little kid I used to think Aquaman was really cool. He could breathe underwater AND talk to the fishes. Then I thought Superman was really cool because he could fly AND lift really heavy stuff.

Last weekend I met a group of real heroes and discovered that Aquaman and Superman have nothing on them. 

We're home again after our Global Heroes weekend in Minneapolis/St. Paul and I am going to try very very hard to capture in words all of the emotions whirling around in my heart. I will most likely not succeed...but I will try. 

Over the next few blogs I will take you through the weekend and the race but today, I want to take you to meet some of my new friends and ask: what makes a hero? 

I learned, last weekend, the answer to that question. 

First you take a regular human being. 

And then you throw a really big challenge their way. Like cerebral palsy. Or a chronic disease. A heart condition that requires a pacemaker or an ICD. A car or a surfing accident that results in a spinal cord injury. 

And watch how they react. 

If they take it all in stride and stubbornly refuse to let the challenge get in their way, they might be a hero. 

If they hear the words "you can't" and turn them into "I can", they might be a hero. 

If they take their medical condition and use it as a motivator to do more than they ever would have done without it - they are a hero. 

I met 24 people this weekend who put Superman to shame. 

I met Lance (left) from Australia who ran a 2:56 marathon on Sunday. He has a pacemaker. Lance brought his finisher t-shirt from the Golden Coast marathon as a gift for Matthew despite having never met Matthew before. I met Matthew (right) from Florida who has cerebral palsy and an implanted drug pump to help manage muscle spasticity. He runs. Fast. He is eloquent, really funny and had us all in the palm of his hand by the end of the weekend. 

I met Pat (left) from South Africa who has a deep brain stimulator to manage the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. And Patrick from Florida who resumed running just weeks after having surgery for a serious heart condition. I met Erin who nearly died from sudden cardiac arrest and now has an ICD implanted. And Bob who, like Lance, has a pace maker. Anna (front) who suffered a spinal cord injury from a car accident and competes in races using a hand bike. 

And I met people like me. With diabetes. Sporting insulin pumps that all make the same beeping noises. Gabriela and Daniela, twin sisters from Brazil. Dave from Alaska and Torbjørn from Norway. All grinning after having met Katie (in red) from Medtronic who heads up their diabetes research. 

When we first arrived in St. Paul, we were 50 strangers. Twenty-five Global Heroes each with their travel/running buddy. I had a hard time finding out which half of each pair was the hero because everyone looked the same. Regular folks wearing regular clothes talking about regular stuff. 

But then they handed out the hero jackets. And the hero singlets. And the hero hats. And suddenly we could spot the heroes and seek them out one by one to hear their stories and to share our own. 

Every hero has a uniform. Ours is a blue jacket, grey toque and an often invisible medical device. Together they make us powerful, strong and ready to fight. For ourselves, for others, for our health and so others could feel hope when they saw us. 

When I first heard about the Global Heroes program, a little part of me thought that the name hero was a little over the top. That is, until I met them. Now I don't think it's big enough to capture the power of these superheroes. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

What I Have Learned So Far

I haven't even arrived in Minneapolis yet but I've already learned a lot about what this Global Heroes weekend is going to be like.

I've learned that I am about to be blown away by the hospitality of the Medtronic Global Heroes team.

I've learned that I am going to be humbled and inspired when I hear the stories of the other heroes.

I've learned that I am going to be amazed by the history of St. Paul, Minnesota.

I've learned that I'm going to be treated like a princess for four days.

I've learned that I'm going to be cheered on by the runners, the volunteers and the spectators at the race.

On Tuesday morning, I got up in the dark to run my last 5k run. I pulled on my running clothes, stocked my pockets with carbs, plugged in my earbud and headed out under the starry sky.

I ran, I thought about the weekend ahead, I listened to the music and I felt the deep sense of responsibility for the incredible honour that has been handed to me.

And I learned that it's really hard to run and cry at the same time.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Shaving Seconds

I am a Monday, Wednesday, Friday morning swimmer. I love that routine - it works for me, I get three great workouts in and it still leaves time for other activities.

Christine used to bug me a lot during the summer about coming to the pool more often. More mornings a week or even in the evenings. I came out one extra time during the entire twelve weeks. It was good but I really don't want to spend more than three days a week swimming. So I didn't do it again.

On Monday morning, Christine looked me in the eye and said, "you HAVE to come to the pool on Saturday". "This Saturday?" I asked, already thinking about the Medtronic race. "No, the one after - October 13th."

Ok, why?

We're doing time-trials.

Ummmm what?

Apparently, on October 13th, we will be swimming various distances (25m, 50m, 100m etc) as fast as we can and they will be timing us. Don't ask me who they are, I have absolutely no idea. This time trial will give us some sort of baseline on which to work and increase out speed.

I did a quick calendar review in my head. It's the week after the Twin Cities 10-miler and it's the week before the Niagara Falls half marathon. So I should be running 10k. I can squeeze a 10k in at some point during the weekend so...ok. I'll come.


In preparation for our time trials - we swam 50m sprints. Thirty of them. After our 900m warm-up.

One easy and four fast. Each one on a minute and fifteen seconds. Repeat six times.

"I want you to keep up your pace. Swim through the burn. Don't slow down! Your last one needs to be as fast as your first".

My first 25 were all between 47 and 48 seconds. I am a consistent little metronome and proud that, the last time we did this, my times were all about 51 seconds.

"Ok, we have four fast ones left. Céline, I want you to do them in 46 seconds!".

Thankfully I was panting too much to say what I was thinking out loud.

"Go!" she yelled.

I chased Sasha who was in the lane beside me. I chased him hard. I hit the wall and Christine yelled "forty-six seconds exactly!". Woot!

"Do it again!".

I did.

"This time, try forty-five."

I did it in 45.7 seconds.

"Last one everyone! Céline, I want a forty-four."

Damnit! I was already giving it everything I had and had already done 29 of these damn things.

"Sasha, I want you under 37 seconds."


The guy was swimming under forty seconds? Bloody hell. She yelled go and I chased him hard. Normally he pulls ahead by about 12m but I kept right up to him for the first 25 metres. I lost him when he did his impeccable flip turn and I did my clumsy wall turn push routine but I could still see his bubbles and I chased those instead.

"Forty-four!!!!!" Christine yelled.

I have no idea what time Sasha did his in because he was seconds in front of me but I went from 51 seconds in July down to 47 seconds in October and then, despite having already swum 2400m, I dug deep and pulled out a forty-four second swim.

Usually, after a hard workout like that, I need to get out of the pool, shower, change, drive home and have breakfast before I can even begin to realize what a great workout it was. On Monday, as I gasped my way through the last 50m, arms aching and legs flailing, I was smiling.

I. Love. Swimming.

Oh, and next week we're apparently doing 16x100m sprints.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

One One One

Last April, I ran 111km in 30 days as I trained for my half marathon. A combination of long runs, easy runs, mid-week runs and the odd hill training thrown in for fun.

This fall, I've been training for my second half marathon of 2012 (oh, and the Medtronic Twin Cities 10-miler which I am SO excited for!!). After Saturday's 20k, I entered the run into my spreadsheet and the grand total for the month popped up.


Despite skipping a long run to complete a triathlon. Despite missing a few mid-week runs in favour of resting my legs. No hill training either.

I like numbers and I love patterns.

I think it's pretty cool that two very different training months with two very different approaches to running and recovery can end up, essentially, identical.

At least on paper.

April - I was recovered from my injury and fresh after three months off and a few months of rebuilding my mileage. I was fast and frisky and ready to run.

September - I am wrapping up six months of non-stop training. I feel strong and confident - a solid runner. But I don't feel quite as fast as I did in the spring. Nor do I feel quite as bouncy. I feel like I've had a good season and I'm ready for a bit of a rest.

So, in the past few weeks, I've eased up on the number of runs as well as the distance I ran during the week - saving it for the long runs on the weekends.

I think it worked. My legs still feel good and I have no nagging aches or pains.

And apparently I still got a lot of mileage in.

One one one.

I like that number.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Friday evening. It's Day One of the Ryder Cup which, as I've recently learned, it a really big deal.

Doug prepared a pork-chop dinner and popped it in the over. "We have an hour" he said. "Do you want something to tide you over?"

"Let me check my sugar. If it's ok, I'm fine. If it's on the low side, I'll have a snack."

I checked.

The glucometer said 2.8.


I felt 100% fine. Even when I saw that number looking at me, I still felt fine. No low symptoms kicked in - which sometimes happens when I check and discover that I'm lower than I think I am.

I don't get it.

I don't believe it.

I checked again.

The glucometer said 4.2.

That's better.

But scary.

I rarely second guess my glucometer readings. If it says 5.0, 10.0 or 15.0, I bolus or treat accordingly.

Two checks, ten seconds apart, went from 2.8 to 4.2.

I treat a 4.2 very differently than I treat a 2.8.

I treated for a 4.2 feeling a little less confident in the medical technology that is there to keep me healthy and, even though I hate to think about it this way, keep me alive.

What if my glucometer is off on a regular basis? Would that account for some of the unexplained highs and lows I see? Or worse, what if my pump was a little off and gave me a little too much insulin? Or a lot too much?

I poured a glass of wine and sat down to watch the Ryder Cup - resolving NOT to think about THAT.