Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How Big Crazy Lofty Goals Begin...

The craziness of the running world is something that I discovered over time as I met and read about crazy runners. Half marathoners, marathoners, ultra marathoners, back to back to back marathoners, runners who race across deserts or across the tundra. Runners who race up mountains. Runners who run gruelling relays and ridiculous obstacle courses. Heck, you can even run races where you get chased by real live zombies or have brightly coloured powder thrown at you. If you can dream it up, there is probably a run out there for it.

Now that I’m swimming, I’m discovering that the aquatic world is just as varied in terms of the crazy activities people challenge themselves with. I have not yet discovered swimming challenges that involve zombies or paint and swimmers don’t swim up mountains (that I know of anyway) or across deserts (again, I could be wrong). Instead, with swimming, you challenge yourself with the distance, the water temperature, the currents, the waves and the sharks.

Last weekend, I learned that two people were going to attempt to swim across Lake Ontario. Christine, my swim coach, was going to be accompanying one of them on their 54km journey. She posted on her Facebook page about the swim and mentioned that the swimmer was raising money for JDRF because his son has Type 1.

Swimming and diabetes in one FB post? I had to respond. So I wrote a comment telling her to wish him luck and to thank him on behalf of myself and other T1s out there.

Minutes later, I received a private message from someone I have never met who, as it turns out, is a marathon swimmer with, you guessed it, Type 1 diabetes. She mentioned that she was trying to organize an event for next year where athletes with Type 1 diabetes swim across the Northumberland Straight. For the Canadians out there, that’s the body of water that links Nova Scotia to PEI – it’s 12.5 kilometers long, is quite cold and, because of the shallow waters there, doesn’t have too many sharks...


 Yep, seriously. In fact, here’s the link if anyone is interested.

Apparently Jen, the swimmer who contacted me, has swum the Northumberland Straight several times. One time she actually swam across and back without stopping, the only person ever to do that. It took her 19 hours and change. Did I mention she has T1?

I read about her adventures online and I also read about her diabetes management strategies. If you folks think that daily diabetes management is tricky – try testing your blood sugar every thirty minutes while treading water in the ocean – when your fingers are so cold you have to cut them to get blood. Guess the fact that there aren’t many sharks there was part of the appeal...

I then read about the swimmers who swam Lake Ontario. And thought about what swimming for 24 hours straight might be like. Not being able to touch the boat, not being able to put your feet down, not being able to stop moving until you reach the other side. Swimming in the dark, unable to see bottom, unable to see shore, just trusting your crew to lead you safely home.

I thought about how easy it would be to panic, to lose hope, to hallucinate in the middle of the night, to give anything to just climb into the boat, wrap yourself in a warm towel and sleep.

And I thought about how amazing it must feel to hear the first cheers from shore as they spot you coming in. To know that you’re almost there and that you’re about to join the ranks of the brave, strong, incredible few who have gone before.

And I wondered if anyone with T1 has ever swum across Lake Ontario before...

Monday, July 30, 2012

Keeping it Predictable

Diabetes is weird annoying unpredictable what it is.

And I'm learning that it is happiest when life is predictable - even unpredictable predictability is ok.

Here's what I'm talking about.

Last year, when I was a runner who cycled on Sundays, I had several days a week where I did not do any exercise. Rest days they were called.

This year, I don't have very many rest days. I do something most days and, while I do take a day off, it's not even once a week.

Exercise has become the new predictability.

The type and timing of the exercise is anything but.

Sometimes I swim at 6am for an hour. Sometimes I swim at 7:45pm for an hour but it's less intense and more technical. I run in the mornings at 5:30am during the week, at 7:00am(ish) on Saturdays, and sometimes in the afternoon around 4:30pm. I cycle after work occasionally but I also cycle on Sunday mornings at 8am. When I'm feeling really ambitious, I do a brick workout which means that I cycle and then I run.

I have a system for each sport. Sometimes I lower my basal rate, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I increase my basal rate, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I eat before, sometimes I eat afterwards, sometimes I eat during. Sometimes I take my pump off, sometimes I put a raincoat on it. Sometimes starting a workout with a BG of 4.5 mmol/l (80 mg/dl) and a handful of raisins is ok, other times I prefer to be over 8.0 mmol/l (150 mg/dl) with 30 carbs in my system.

My systems don't always work but, more often than not, they're fairly effective. I rarely have lows during a workout anymore and I have a better handle on post-exercise lows and highs. But what I'm noticing more and more is that my body and my diabetes thrives on activity. I use less insulin, I have less highs and less lows...oh and I feel better too.

I think it has something to do with the fact that blood sugar can be affected for more than 24 hours after exercise. Keeping up a higher frequency of activity keeps me constantly in that 24-hour zone. Which makes it predictable and keeps me in better overall control.

Win win.


Friday, July 27, 2012

My Week In Bullet Points

Things that happened this week

  • I registered for the Niagara triathlon (yay!) but, when it came time to choose my shirt size, I was stumped. Ladies medium is size 8-10 and Ladies large is size 12-14. Hello! What about people like me who are a 10-12? I crossed my fingers and chose large. Here's hoping...
  • I bought luggage. I'm not really going anywhere for a while but the only wheelie suitcase I have is a carry-on size which doesn't work well unless I'm going somewhere really hot for the weekend. The Bay is having a crazy sale (like 70% off) so I bought luggage. Beautiful, red, big enough to fit all my stuff, luggage. The only problem is that it clashes with my beautiful orange camera bag. Oh the horror! 
  • I had a back massage. I go for a monthly massage but my legs always need tending so my back, shoulders and neck are ignored completely in order to keep me in running form. In fact, my last back massage was in 2009 - I remember because it was during a very stressful time at work. Well, apparently something doesn't have to hurt for it to be really really tight. Janice ripped me apart for an hour and, two days later, I still feel like I was tied to a pole while people shot golf balls at my back with a potato gun. I keep thinking I'm getting sick because my neck and throat hurts and I have to keep reminding myself that, no, I'm not sick - just a little uptight. 
  • Dogs can be really scary. I like plenty of dogs and don't mind others. I've never been scared by one before...until last Friday. I came out of a house after an appointment. A strange dog that had a pit bull look about him darted out from the bushes and started jumping up on me, clawing at my pump, scratching my arms and drooling all over me. I was halfway down the driveway and far enough away from my car to be worried I wouldn't make it. I shuffled along, my arms wrapped around myself to protect the pump and infusion site, mumbling "it's ok" over and over again (more to myself than to the dog). I managed to get to my car, open the door enough to slither in and push his face away with my foot to shut the door. He then proceeded to jump up against my window, clawing and slobbering as I slowly backed out. My car door and window looked like something out of a scene from Cujo. 
  • I write a lot. I bought a fountain pen a few months back which I LOVE. It is my writing instrument of choice and I bring it with me to all of the meetings I attend...and I attend a lot of meetings. In a few short months I've gone through five ink refills. I have placed an online order and asked for two boxes of five. Hopefully that lasts until Christmas. (don't tell anyone but I also ordered another pen).
  • I went bathing suit hunting the other night because all the stores seem to have bathing suits on sale. I have been wearing the same suit since I started swimming last October. Between the 15-pound weight loss and the thrice weekly dips in chlorine, it's getting a little frumpy. Unfortunately, only the bikinis and the old lady suits with the tummy taming ruffles and the skirts seemed to be on sale. Oh, and the athletic ones in really ugly colours. I left empty-handed. 
And that, folks, is that. 

Looking forward to the Opening Ceremonies tonight and two weeks of watching the best of the best. Vas-y fort Canada! 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Not Worth it Sometimes

I like treats. I like desserts and chocolates and pies and cakes and ice cream. I'm not one who worries too much about how many treats I have - but I do think a lot about when I have them.

Because sometimes they end up being a lot of trouble and are just not worth it.

If I'm going to have a slice of pie before bed, my sugar had better be on the low side. If it's in the normal range or, heaven forbid, too high and I bolus for pie and then go to bed, one of two things are going to happen.
  1. I will miscalculate for the pie and take too little insulin. I won't realize this because I will be asleep but I will wake up in the morning desperately thirsty having dreamt crazy dragon dreams all night and I will see a number like 14 mmol/l (260 mg/dl) staring back at me from my glucometer. 
  2. I will miscalculate for the pie and take too much insulin. I will wake up two hours later in a complete sweat and have to suck back two juice boxes and perhaps some fruit chews. This is very annoying AND having two juice boxes and some candy on top of the piece of pie means I ate way more calories than I wanted to eat. 
So basically, I eat pie before bed if, and only if, my sugar is on the low side and still dropping. 

The other day, I was sitting at my desk buried in paperwork and not really in the mood to do any of it. So I put on my sunglasses and waltzed across the street for a box of Smarties. The perfect treat for a day like that because I got to separate them into little colour piles and nibble away as I worked. I was happy and got my stuff done. 

I had checked my sugar before and bolused for the number of carbs on the box. Easy peasy....right?

An hour later I was 5.0mmol/l (90 mg/dl). Uh oh. That meant I was dropping FAST. 

I ate 6 giant rockets which I really didn't feel like eating and I went back to work. A little while later, I was headed to the mall after work and I could tell I was low. I ate 6 more rockets which I REALLY didn't want and waited a few minutes until I felt better. I went in to the mall, grabbed what I needed and headed home. As I walked up the driveway, I could tell I was dropping again so I ate, you guessed it, 6 more rockets. 

And then I had dinner. 

My little box of Smarties was delicious and exactly what I wanted but it resulted in a whole pile of sugar and calories that I had to eat which are are a) not good for me and b) not wanted. 

I mean really - who wants to scarf back 18 giant rockets? They're tasty in small doses but a little nauseating in large quantities. 

Sometimes it's just not worth it. Sometimes it is. 

Either way - diabetes can be really freaking annoying sometimes. 

If I could do it all over again, I would waltz across the street and get the damn Smarties. But I would bolus less so I could enjoy them and call it a day. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Racing Chalkboard

I just posted my new training schedule up on the kitchen chalkboard. I don't think race schedules was what Doug had in mind but our cute little chalkboard has become the place to post the latest training plans as well as the place to write little notes to each other that often look like: 'Gone for a run. Be back by 5. Love, C' or 'peanut butter and raisins'.

Last night, my training schedule was posted just below Doug's NY marathon training plan. I made sure mine looked like his so we could glance at it and see what each person was planning to do on any given day.

I have three, maybe four, races planned for the next few months and, until I sat down with my calendar, I had no idea when to start training. I've been running three times a week since my half in June: 5k on Tuesdays, 7k on Thursdays and 10k on Saturdays. Enough to keep my legs moving but not enough to help me get faster and stronger. And I don't typically run other races during a training schedule - I just focus on the race at the end of the plan. This time though, it's looking a little different.

Race number one is the Niagara triathlon on August 12th. That's coming up a little too quickly for comfort. I can already swim, bike and run the distances so I just need to keep healthy, get a few brick trainings in and make time to train on the notoriously nasty ride up the Niagara Escarpment. I've ridden that hill four times now and it still scares me. The ride up is really really hard and the ride down is really really scary. I need to practice it a few more times so I feel a little more comfortable on race day. Other than that I am guaranteed a personal best since it will be my first sprint triathlon and I'm just doing it for fun and for the experience. No expectations here.

Race number two is the Guelph triathlon. I'll decide about that one once I do Niagara and once I have a few weeks of longer runs under my belt. If all is going well, I'll sign up. If not, I'm not too worried. It will be there next year.

Race number three is the Medtronic Twin Cities 10-miler on October 7th. Doug and I just completed our registration the other night and it's getting pretty exciting to think that, in a few short months, we will be wearing our Global Heroes singlets and racing together.

Race number four is two weeks later - the Niagara Falls Half Marathon. I've never run that half but I ran long stretches of that route several times training for the marathon last year. Enough to know that it's beautiful and very flat.

None of these races are very complicated or problematic. I just needed to sit down with my calendar and my training schedule and work out the days of my long runs, my easy weeks and my taper. Now that the schedule is up, I get to make a little checkmark next to every run I complete. It's fun to watch the weeks go by and the checkmarks pile up. It's reassuring to feel my confidence grow as I run 12k, 14k, 16k, 18k...

This is my first half marathon training when I also want to make sure I fit in three swims a week and, ideally, two bike rides. That's a lot of activity and more than I've ever done before while training for a race.

First things first - post the training plan.

Then I can start freaking out (just a little) at all the other stuff I'll be doing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Stroke Correction

Apparently, when I swim, I have a very long elegant stroke. My arms extend languidly before me, my fingers dip gently into the water and I hardly disturb the water as I move. Even when I'm kicking as hard as I can, I don't break the water surface.

My love of peace and quiet extends to the pool and I try my best not to make a splash.

Apparently, this is not a good thing.

Friday was stroke correction day. Not for everyone, just for me. Because apparently the way I swim will only take me so far and, if my one pace wonder swim is any indication, I have maxed out my speed.

So Christine announced that she was going to retrain me how to swim.

There were three key issues to work on. My arms cross in front of me as they break the water and that is a big no no. My thumb goes into the water first when (who knew??) the baby finger should be the first one in. And I kick completely underwater instead of breaking the surface.

We did drills. Lots and lots of drills.

I had to swim back and forth with my arms going in at 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock which felt ridiculous but was supposed to help me learn to keep my arms from crossing. Then I had to swim head-up front crawl while keeping a ball between my arms as I moved. Again, ridiculous, but Christine promised it would help.

I had to use the flutter board and try to break the surface of the water as I kicked. My brain did not like that one. Splashing is just so...childish!

Then she tied my feet together with a rubber band thingie and told me to work on pulling while trying to keep my legs from hanging straight down. "You will need to really work your core and it will take you a while to figure out what muscles you need to use to get your legs up".

I never did get them parallel but at least they stopped dragging along the pool bottom by the end of the hour.

We did these exercises for an hour and, despite all the gadgets I had to use, I managed to get 2,000m of swimming in. And I still felt ridiculous. Everything about this new stroke felt foreign and, while she mercifully didn't time any of my lengths, I felt so much slower than before.

"You have to get slower before you get faster" she said.

"So I'm doing well then?" I asked.

"Does it feel weird and awkward?" she asked.


"Then you're doing well".


Saturday morning, I met Gabrielle, Janice and Klari in Welland for our open water swim. I debated explaining that I was working on my new technique in case they made fun of me for being so slow. But, when we started swimming, I started passing them. I felt like I was sailing through the water and Gabrielle commented that it looked like I was swimming on a skateboard.

Apparently it's working...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Training for the Zombie Apocalypse

I ran after work yesterday. 

I haven't done that in weeks and weeks - it has just been too damn hot to run any time other than at 5:30am. 

Yesterday however, it didn't even reach 30 degrees and the humidity was pretty manageable. Thanks to the Weather Network's predicted temperatures, I slept in until 6:30am (heaven!) and ran at 4:30pm instead.  

I felt pretty energetic before I left so I was looking forward to a good run. One minute into it I started to get a little worried. It felt harder than it should have and I was having trouble breathing. I pushed a little harder and it only got worse. I checked my watch and I was running 5:45min/k. 

Good lord! 

No wonder I was struggling. I normally run my first kilometre or two in 6:20s and then slowly get faster as I warm up. I ran the first kilometre in 5:57. I tried to force myself to slow down because I was worried I would crash before I finished my 7k run. The next kilometre was under 6 minutes. So was the next one. I reached 3.5k in 20 minutes and change and was still running like I was being chased by zombies. 

What the hell?

I continued to try to slow down until I looked at my Garmin and realized I had reached 5k in 29 minutes. 

That's when I sped up. 

Occasionally, I can run 7k in 42 minutes and a handful of seconds which is a 6:00min/k pace. That's fast for me. Once, I ran it in 41:?? minutes and that was crazy fast. I have never once run 7k in under 41 minutes. I figured I had 2k left so, worse case, I had 12 minutes of hard running. I had already run 30 minutes at a crazy clip - what was another two?? 

So I pictured myself being chased by groaning, lumbering, scary zombies and I ran hard. I panted. I gasped, I wheezed. I like to think I look strong and intense but I probably looked like a runner who was trying to escape a gaggle of zombies. I didn't care. I rounded the corner and, about a hundred metres from the house, my watched beeped to announce 7k. 

I made it in 40:49. 

Oh yeah baby - bring on the zombie apocalypse! 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Look Into My Eyes

Eye appointments + diabetes = every twelve months.

Every year, for the past (almost) ten years, I have been going to see an ophthalmologist to have my eyes examined. I shuffle from room to room, going from test to test, having my pupils dilated to the extreme. I am usually the youngest person there - by at least 30 years.

I'm cool with that because I am all about prevention. I will dutifully sit through the eye dilating discomfort in order to catch problems early.

My ophthalmologist has just retired and I am due for my annual appointment. I asked my diabetes doc who I should be referred to and she told me I could go see any eye doctor I wanted to see. According to her, they do all the same tests. They just can't deal with diabetes complications so, if I develop any, they will refer me to an ophthalmologist.


Let me back up another decade. Ten years ago (almost), I developed type one diabetes. Ten years before that, I was in a really bad car accident. Several parts of me got pretty messed up for a while and one of them was my eyes. So I was referred to an ophthalmologist whom I saw regularly until he retired...not long before I developed diabetes. Basically, I've always gone to a specialist for my eyes for one reason or another and have never gone to a regular eye doctor. What are they called anyway? Opticians?? Optometrists?

Yesterday, I called a local eye doctor based on a recommendation. "Are you taking new patients?" I asked. "Yes we are" I was told. "I should probably tell you that I have type 1 diabetes" I said. "Oh that's fine, we have lots of patients with diabetes" she replied. "Ok, so what happens now?" I asked. "Well, get your doctor to write you a note saying that you have diabetes and then we can bill OHIP directly for your appointments. Shall we book for July 30th?"


I called my doctor and they are going to fax over a letter next week confirming my diagnosis. I asked if I could just show them my insulin pump but apparently that's not proof enough. Perhaps feeding me lots of candy and then testing my blood glucose would work??

If the letter goes through next week as promised, it looks like I have a new eye doctor. A regular eye doctor. The kind that everyone goes to see.

It feels weird after spending so many years seeing specialists to just go to a regular doctor.

Very weird.

I'm just going to be one of the crowd. Another set of eyes to check out.

On a kinda exciting but I'm not yet sure how I feel about it note, I'm going to ask about contact lenses at my first appointment. I have NEVER tried them before but I'm finding that I'm getting more and more frustrated with wanting to wear protective sunglasses and not being able to see without prescription lenses. So I'm going to ask about contacts and try them out. I expect long hours spent at the mirror trying to get the damn things in and out but my easily freaked out little sis says that, after a few tries, it's no big deal.

We'll see about that...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

No Contest

If there was a battle - Christian versus Jamie or Anastasia versus Claire - Jamie and Claire would win hands down. 

If you know who I'm talking about, you know who I'm talking about. If you don't - here's the primer. 

Christian and Anastasia are the main characters in the ridiculously popular 50 Shades of Grey series. There are three books in the series and I have read the first one. At the risk of alienating people who loved the books, I will NOT be reading the next two books in the series. Why? Because I just really don't care one whit about what happens. 

Christian and Anastasia are beautiful, gorgeous, perfect in every physical way but they have no oomph (well, outside the bedroom anyway). They are not real people, they have no real personalities, they are mere shells (albeit pretty ones). I am drawn to books that have memorable characters. Characters that are well-developed, that have depth and breadth. Characters that I can relate to, that I want to be like and that I care what happens to. 

When I started writing this blog entry I had to Google the first names of the main characters of 50 Shades of Grey because I had forgotten them already. 

Jamie and Claire, now they are another story altogether. I can spend all day talking about those two. They are the main characters in the series called Outlander. A series set in Scotland back in the 1700s, with a few visits to the 1900s just for kicks. A series with characters that grow and develop over time until you feel like they have always been part of your life. A series where people struggle, some to do the right thing, some to just survive, some to figure out who they are. One of the only series I have read more than once and one that I am currently considering reading again. 


Because they just announced that Ron Moore will be adapting the series for Sony Pictures TV. 


Diana Gabaldon, the author, announced it on her Facebook page yesterday afternoon and had over 1,200 comments in under ten minutes. There are a lot of vera vera happy people out there right now. 

I'm picturing a series that looks kinda like Game of Thrones in terms of its visual richness but with Scottish accents, kilts, and no dragons. Just regular folk trying to survive, falling in love and growing old together. 

In 50 Shades of Grey - there is a lot of hot steamy sex. In Outlander, there is also a lot of hot steamy sex. 

But it's what happens between the sex scenes that really counts. And Jamie and Claire win that contest hands down. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Me and my Parachute

Yesterday I wrote about how I am a one-pace wonder in the pool.

Well, Christine seems to be on a mission to fix that because she showed up at the pool on Monday morning with a parachute and a set of exercises to do.

Here’s how it went.

I started off with my warmup which always consists of 600m-800m of some combination of regular swimming, pulling and kicking.

Then she taped this workout up for the two people in my lane (Greg and myself).

200m pull (ie. put the pull buoy between my legs and only use my arms to swim)
4x50m fast (ie. 50m as fast as you can, rest 15 seconds, do it again)
200m pull
4x50m fast
2x100m negative split (the second 50m of each hundred had to be done faster than the first 50m)
200m pull
2x50m fast

“Make sense?” she asked Greg and I.

“Yep, we replied”. I can’t speak for Greg but I was a little surprised. It seemed a lot easier than last Friday’s interval session.

“Céline, I brought a parachute for you. It will help you swim faster. I want you to wear it when you do the 50m fast parts”. (I’m pretty sure she was sporting an evil grin at this point but I already had my goggles on so I couldn’t tell for sure).

Anybody ever tried a swim parachute before? They look like this:

And they work like this:

They create a pile of drag and slow you down, making you work a hell of a lot harder.

After I finished my first 200m pull, I strapped on the parachute and took off. Within the first ten seconds, I hated it. I kept kicking it and, as expected, it slowed me down and made it really hard to swim. I was panting after the first 50m.

“Céline, I really need you to work hard here. I want to see white water churning” Christine said.

I almost cried – I kid you not. My eyes actually welled up and, for one brief second, I debated saying the hell with it and taking it off. I really did.

Then my stubborn side kicked in and I set off for the second of four 50m. It didn’t get any easier. I still kept kicking the rope, I was panting and struggling and exhausted by the end.

The next two were no better.

After I finished all four, I got to take it off and do 200m of pulling. That, my friends, was the easiest 200m of pulling I had ever done. I enjoyed the first 150m but, as I started the last 50m, I began to panic a little bit because I knew I’d be tying the parachute back on again.

I tied it on with more than a wee bit of trepidation and headed off. This time I was angry. How dare she tell me to try hard – I WAS trying hard. I felt my chest heaving, my arms burning and I was having a hard time breathing properly because I was panting so hard.

That's when I noticed that I was keeping pace with the person in the lane beside me. And they weren’t dragging anything. Yes, they are slower than me normally but still, I was keeping pace. Might as well see if I can beat them back!

Christine urged me to kick harder, turn my arms over faster and, this time, instead of trying not to cry, I nodded and headed off again. My tears were gone, my anger had subsided and I just swam – hard.

I finished the workout completely spent. I have had running workouts like that, running hills and intervals until I was ready to collapse, but I have never had a swim workout like that before. Christine's parting words: “If we do that for a week or two, you’ll be surprised how much stronger and faster you’ll become. When I was training for my lake swim, I used to swim with a parachute all the time. In fact, for an extra workout I used to go to the Welland canal and pull kayaks behind me.”

Oh good lord.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Human Metronome

Last Friday morning, the Masters swimming class was packed.

Relatively speaking.

So far, the most I've seen is two swimmers other than me. This time there were six swimmers plus me.

After our individual warm-ups, Christine broke us up into three groups and explained that morning's plan.

Interval training.

We were going to swim 20x50m. The first five of these would each be done in two minutes. In other words, the clock starts as soon as we take off and, no matter how long it takes us to swim the 50m, we don't start the next one until two minutes after the clock started.

The faster you are, the more time you get to rest.

The next five would be done in 1:55s, the next five in 1:50s and the final five in 1:45s. So less time between swims.

"Go!" she yelled. I took off like a shot (I like to think anyway) and made it back first in 51 seconds.

"Awesome! Now go a little faster next time" she said.

The second one took 51 seconds - despite my best effort to speed up.

"You have to kick harder. I want to see white water churning behind you".

Ok. I kicked hard. I pulled hard. I was flying!

"Fifty-one seconds" announced Christine when I finished that one.


"I want a faster turnover rate on your arms"

Ok. I gave her a faster turnover rate AND remembered to kickkickkickkick hard.

Guess how long that one took?

51 seconds of course.

I did all twenty of them. Everyone else in my group started getting tired and slowing down. They added a few seconds to each 50m until some were taking a minute and a half for each one. I was still doing 51 seconds every time.

"I will break you of this. We're going to make you FAST!" promised Christine after my last one which was, you guessed it, 51 seconds.

I took great comfort in the fact that I had the energy and strength to finish the workout as strong as I started it. If fact I was exactly as strong at the finish as I was at the start.

I am a little curious as to how she's going to break my one-pace-wonder swim technique.

Guess we'll find out.

Friday, July 13, 2012


On Wednesday night I was sitting (well more like lounging) on the couch with my laptop.

I did three things in the space of about 15 minutes.

  • I responded to an email about some possible research being done re rights and adults who have a developmental disability
  • I sent a final shot list and confirmation details to the bride and groom whose wedding Doug and I are photographing this Saturday
  • I made the final corrections to Thursday's blog entry for Running on Carbs

Rights, disabilities, diabetes, and photography.

Just a few of the things I love to talk about, write about and include in my everyday life.

Other things I did this week? Swam three times (with my new Masters coach!), hit the road on my bike to practice my rpms, watched the sun rise on my early morning runs, watched the sun set as Doug and I went for an impromptu flight over Niagara, hosted a baby shower, volunteered for Hospice Niagara, went to the theatre and had a massage.

My days and weeks are busy and packed with activities.

Activities that I choose. Activities that make me happy, that make me think and that keep me healthy.

At dinner the other night, Doug and I were talking about what it takes to get to the Olympics. Not that we really know because neither of us have been to the Olympics (despite my best attempt at swimming 200m in under 1 minute - I can't get my time under 3:48). But we can sort of guess how much time and commitment it might take to get to the level that it takes to even qualify for a spot.

And I got a little bothered.

If someone told me that they worked long days, seven days a week. That they gave up almost everything else in their life, that they left their family and friends and that they committed their life to work, I would have a few choice words to say to them. I am a firm believer in and advocate for finding a balance between work and life. Work to live, don't live to work.

And yet, elite athletes essentially do the same thing except instead of attending meetings, making business deals, and writing reports, they commit themselves to their sport...and we idolize them for it. They are heroes. They are so high up on the pedestal that they are unreachable. We watch in awe as they do things at speeds we can't attain or sustain for even a few seconds and with a strength that we will never have.

Please don't misunderstand - I am not criticizing the choices that our elite athletes make. I'm just commenting on how differently the two forms of incredible commitment and dedication are perceived. Tell me someone does nothing but work and I get annoyed. Tell me someone trains seven days a week and I think "wow, I wonder if I could do that".

I will NOT be part of the 2012 summer Olympics despite my very respectable super sprint triathlon time.

I have not yet received my invitation to join Canada's swim team despite the fact that I swim faster than ALL the seniors in the pool.

But that's probably for the best because, in the space of fifteen minutes I can advocate for diabetes, finalize wedding photography details and discuss rights research. I thrive on variety and can't imagine spending most of my time doing one thing.

So I'll watch the Olympics every second I can, I'll cheer on les Canadiens, the underdogs and the heroes. I'll dream of being able to (insert sport here) as fast or as well as they can, even for one day and then I'll go back to my very fun, very active, very fulfilling life.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Back In Time

Two things happened the other day:

1. I ran out of test strips for my current glucometer, and
2. My pump beeped to tell me that I was down to 20 units just as I was heading out the door to work.

So, I did the following:

1. I grabbed my old (as in I was using it last year) glucometer and test strips, and
2. I grabbed my old (as in I was using it before I got the insulin pump 3 1/2 years ago) insulin pen

I figured I'd just use the old glucometer until I could get more strips after work and I also figured I'd use the insulin pen to bolus for lunch because I had enough insulin in the pump to get through the day but not if I bolused for food or highs.

With me so far?

Here is what I learned:

1. My old glucometer is agonizingly slow. It takes like two whole seconds to suck up the blood. My current one sucks it up like a Dyson vacuum. It beeps (beeps!!) once there is enough blood and it beeps again (again!!) once it has the result. Those two extra seconds felt like an eternity. I actually thought that I would never take it with me to a race because I would lose my mind waiting for it. We're talking two extra seconds folks. That could keep me from getting on the podium!

And the beeping is just obnoxious.

2. My life has become a hell of a lot more precise since I started using the insulin pump. When lunch time came, I checked my sugar which took FOREVER (beep......................beep) and then I entered my BG in the pump followed by the number of carbs I was about to eat. The pump told me to take 3.5 units of insulin. So I cancelled the pump, grabbed the insulin pen and proceeded to dial in 3.5 units.

Except I couldn't dial in 3.5 units.

I could only dial in 3 units. Or 4 units.


I guess I had taken for granted how precise my diabetes management has become since I started using the pump. I mean I'm constantly taking small (like 0.2 units small) boluses of insulin to correct slight highs, to help deal with morning swims etc. That wasn't possible for me before. One unit was as small as it went. These days, one unit is a lot. I'd have to have a BG over 10 mmol/l (180 mg/dl) in order to require one unit.

Perhaps the new insulin pens are more precise, I don't know. I haven't needed a new one in a few years now so I haven't paid attention.

Luckily, I was quick enough on the draw to figure out the easiest solution. Take 3 units with the pen and 0.5 with the pump.

What a difference a year, or three, makes.

Kinda made me feel like this:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wiper 'Blades'

I wear glasses. I have worn them since grade 12. My vision isn't awful by any means and I can see perfectly well close up without them. It's distance that I have trouble with. Things start looking a little fuzzy about a metre away and they are pretty much unrecognizable in the distance.

As in 'is that a person walking with their dog?' 'where?' 'right up there on the left, by the corner' 'what corner?' 'by the big tree!'

'oh, you mean the no parking sign with the garbage can beside it?'


So I wear glasses all the time. Not because I need them all the time, mostly because I really really don't like not being able to see things clearly. Not being able to recognize people at a distance, not being able to read street signs and not knowing if it's a dog or a garbage can - there is something about not being able to see clearly that makes me very uncomfortable.

My eyes are also really sensitive to light and I'm constantly squinting and tearing up when I'm outside. This is a bit of a problem, particularly in the summer, with all the cycling and running I do. I need sunglasses and I always want prescription sunglasses so that I can see.

Problem is that those cool-looking glasses that a lot of runners/cyclists wear don't usually come with a prescription lens option. There are some where you can pay hundreds and hundreds for prescription lenses and there are some that let you put a prescription lens in behind the regular lens. But the prescription options are so expensive that they have never been an option. The last time I got new glasses, I bought the biggest pair I could find and I put transition lenses in them so that they would darken when I was outside. They do the trick (sort of) but they don't go high enough to stop the sun from sneaking in up over the top of the frames - especially when I'm cycling.  So I squint all the time and get headachy by the end.

Last week I decided that I wanted to try the sports glasses. I'm not even sure that they're called but they look like this.

When we are at the bike shop last week I tried on a few pair. I quickly discovered two things. They sit beautifully right against my eyebrows and effectively prevent any sunlight from coming in over the top. Perfect! The other thing I discovered, well not discovered but was reminded of, was that I have really really long eyelashes. 

Not quite this long but close!

I'm not complaining - it's nice to have long lashes but they do get in the way when buying glasses. I tried on a few pair of the sunglasses that actually pushed against my lashes enough to make my eyeballs hurt. Weird but true. After a few failed attempts I found one pair that fit well, looked ok AND didn't push my lashes into my brain. So I bought them to try. 

I gave them two test runs on the weekend. Saturday,  they went cycling. It was very weird at first to not be able to read street signs until I was a metre or so away from them but I chose a route that I knew so I wouldn't have to think too much about where I was going. I could see well enough to spot anything on the road I should avoid and was able to tell the difference between a car and a tree. As for blocking the sun, they worked really well, were quite comfortable and kept the blinding sun from sneaking in over, under or on the sides. Fabulous!

Sunday morning, they went running. A few of the garbage cans in the distance did look like dogs but I'm getting used to not being able to see 100%. The run went well but it was hot and very humid. Very very humid. Halfway through the run I stopped for water and a few edisks. I pulled off my glasses to wipe my face and noticed that the glasses were all fogged up. Weird, they hadn't seemed foggy when I was running with them. I held them up to my face and laughed out loud all by myself on a country road. 

My eyelashes had been fluttering against the lenses the entire time and had kept my field of vision completely clear of fog. 

I have my own built-in wipers!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Swim Master

Last Friday, as I was leaving the pool after my swim, I heard someone call my name.

It was my friend Nancy and she was in the other half of the pool. The half where there were only two people in the water and one person on the side of the pool. I had wondered what was happening on the empty side of the pool and was about to find out.

"We're doing a free Masters class!" she announced.


To celebrate the opening of our new aquatic centre, and probably to drum up some business, there was free swimming offered for the entire first week. That meant that I could get free lane swimming in before work and didn't have to buy my new 3-month pass until July 10th.

What I didn't realize was that at the new pool there was going to be a Masters swim program for swimmers who want to work with a coach to improve their stroke, increase their speed and even get ready for competition. What I also didn't realize was that the Masters lessons were free for the first week. Damn.

Luckily the free week included this past Monday (to make up for the Canada Day holiday last Monday) so, on Monday morning, I headed to the pool and met the swim coach. Her name is Christine Arsenault and, less than a year ago, she swam across Lake Ontario. Fifty-four kilometres in 22 hours and 33 minutes.

I'm guessing she knows a thing or two about swimming.

Four people, including yours truly, showed up on Monday morning. A young guy of 18, another guy who looked a little younger than me and a woman. Within a minute she had us all in the pool. Young guy was told to do a 400m warm up. Other guy and other girl were told to do a 200m warmup. Christine asked me how much I swim and I told her that I do 2000m three time a week. I was told to do a 400m warmup.


I did that and then she handed me a pull buoy.

I was told to put it between my legs and then swim 400m just using my arms. "It keeps you from kicking" she said in response to my puzzled look. (I didn't think now was the time to tell her that getting me to kick is the challenge). 

After that, I was told to do 200m with the flutter board. Kickkickkickkickkickkickkick...

Then she gathered us around and explained that we were going to work on our speed. Other guy and other girl were told to swim 150m as fast as they could. They would repeat this three times. 

Young guy and I were told to swim 200m five times. We had to use the big swim clock on the wall (which I have never paid attention to before) and she wanted me to finish every 200m in under 4 minutes. Fifteen seconds rest and repeat. 

Before I started, she said that I had to swim as hard and as fast as I could so it would be a good idea if I kicked. So I launched into the first 200m like a madwoman. Back and forth back and forth four times. "Three minutes and 48 seconds! Awesome" she yelled as I gasped my way to the edge. 

"Ok go!"


The second 200m were a little harder and I finished in 4:09. "You slowed down. Don't slow down. You have to push yourself" she said in the fifteen seconds before she yelled "Go!" again. 

I finished the next one in 3:58 and the last one in 4:00 exactly. The last 50 metres she walked up and down the side of the pool waving her arms and yelling at me to go faster. 

At the end she asked how I felt. I told her I was out of breath but otherwise ok. 

"Then you didn't push hard enough" was the answer I got. 

I had two thoughts at that moment: Omigod I love this woman and omigod she's going to kill me. 

I was there for an hour and, including warm up and cool down, I swam 2200m. My legs felt tired for the first time ever during a swim and my shoulders definitely got a workout. 

Looks like I might be signing up for the Masters group. 

The clincher? I got out of the pool and she immediately spotted my infusion site. "Hey, you have an insulin pump?" Yep, that would explain the juice box next to my flip-flops. "I was wondering who brought that." End of discussion. No, you have diabetes are you sure you should be doing this? Just acceptance and a 'see you on Wednesday!'. 

  • I told someone at work that I did a Masters swim class that morning and they responded with: "Masters? Isn't that for old people?"
  • When I went to pick up my prescriptions after work, my pharmacist asked what was new. I told him I started a Masters swim class. "You're doing a Masters in swimming? - good for you!" No, not a Masters in swimming, I'm doing a Masters swim class at the new pool. "Oh, you want to be a lifeguard?"

I think they may need to change the name...

Monday, July 9, 2012

An Exercise in RPMs

Last week I asked what the logical, mathematical, physics-based answer was for how to get faster on the bike: cycle in a harder gear or cycle at a faster cadence (i.e. revolutions per minute: rpm).

The answers I received (all two of them) were unanimous. Cycle in a higher rpm.

Okey dokey.

This past weekend was a little crazy as we juggled dinners out, Ragtime at Shaw, volunteering for Hospice and hosting a baby shower so we had to squeeze our runs and bike rides in where we could.

I managed to find time on Saturday evening so I headed out on my own for a 30k ride. My goal(s): see if I can get to 90rpm and, if I can, maintain it for as long as possible.

The first few kilometres were tricky as I tried to get out of the city. There are so many stop lights and stop signs that it's hard to get any speed at all before you have to slow down again. But, once I made the final turn onto Third Avenue, the road stretched out in front of me.

Now or never.

I started pedalling quickly...and quickly noticed that getting to 90rpm isn't as hard as I thought it might be. In no time I was doing 100rpm. Ok, switch gears, keep going. Still doing 95rpm. Switch again, 90rpm and holding. Speed: 30km/hour.

Within less than a minute.

That, my friends, was pretty compelling proof. Start in an easier gear, get my legs spinning and then keep changing gears until I find the one that keeps me at 90rpm. Cycle on.

My ride had several long flat stretches that let me practice this new trick. The long stretches were broken up by trips up and down the escarpment and stop signs.

During my ride I learned that cycling at a higher rpm:

  • doesn't automatically make me go faster but it makes it easier to get to speeds I normally struggle to get to.
  • is easier than I thought it would be but my legs were pretty tired by the end. It will take some practice to be able to maintain a fast rpm for an entire ride.
  • seems to affect my blood sugar differently. I was a lot lower than I thought I would be after that ride. It will take a few more rides to know for sure but I may have to adjust my diabetes routine if this was any indication.

Best part of the ride? When I was able to hit 35 km/hour on a flat stretch of road while cycling into a headwind. I can hit 30 km/hour but I have never, EVER, reached 35 km/hour without the help of a downhill or a tailwind to push me along.

There is hope for this girl yet!

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Real Pain in the Neck

When I cycle, I'm not one of those who easily or comfortably leans forward. I don't tend to get as low as I can in order to be as aerodynamic as possible. Partly because I'm not a particularly bendy person (at least I don't bend particularly easily into that position) and I feel rather off balance as soon as I lean forward too much (although I am trying to get better at that part). 

So I sit up. Not upright like I'm sitting on a chair but probably more upright than a lot of cyclists do. 

That is not a problem most of the time (other than I'm sure it slows me down a bit) but it becomes a problem as soon as I'm on the bike for more than about 40k. That's about the time when the pain starts at the back of my neck and begins radiating out into my shoulders. Once it starts, it doesn't stop until I get off the bike and stretch. And don't get back on again for a day or two. 

I'm guessing this is going to become an issue as I try to cycle longer distances. 

So I took the bull by the horns (or perhaps the Trek by the handle bars?) and I headed over to our local bike shop. I needed a few things anyway and, while I was there, I asked the nice guy at the counter about my shoulder/neck pain. 

Kyle, as it turns out, is the guy who sizes (fits?) bikes and people. He asked what kind of bike I had and immediately suggested that my handle bars were too low.  Apparently this is a fairly common problem with Trek road bikes (who knew?). 

Next Friday, the 13th, my bike and I have a date with Kyle. We're going to be sized, measured and adjusted so that we work well together. We already get along fairly well but I'm looking forward to seeing whether a little couples therapy helps us work out the kinks. Because my bike can be a real pain in the neck sometimes...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Kiwanis Aquatic Centre

Our new pool is open!

The opening ceremonies were held on Tuesday evening so Doug and I headed over after work to check out the place. The place in question is the new Kiwanis Aquatic Centre which boasts a big bright new branch for our public library and two new pools (an 8-lane 25m pool and a leisure pool). Construction delays, problems and pool battles were forgotten as car after car pulled into the parking lot of our newest community gathering place.

And that's exactly how it felt the moment we walked in - this is a community gathering place. Families, kids, teenagers, adults, groups and individuals - everyone was there. Including my friend, and 2011 Global Hero, John. Big hugs all around as we talked about the new pool, about his son heading to University and about when exactly summer starts. Doug insisted that it started about five minutes ago while John and I agreed that it started back in May and it's already half done. Either way, the pool looked very inviting and I couldn't wait to jump in.

Wednesday morning, I hopped in the car ten minutes earlier than I normally would have and drove all the way across town. It took just under ten minutes to get there - not bad! I pulled in to find the parking lot already busy. Our old pool used to have three lifeguards and that was it. Now, there were four (perhaps five?) lifeguards on duty, two employees at the front desk, a cleaning crew and (gasp!) a security guard. All at 5:45am.

I found our fancy new locker room and all my swimming friends were there. We were all excited to get back into the water after almost two weeks off. We spent the first few minutes getting our bearings in the new space. Where are the showers? Where can we put our stuff? Did you bring a lock for the lockers (we never locked anything up at the old pool)? Are you bringing your towel out to the pool area? Look how big the mirror is!

We made our way out to the pool and the lifeguard explained that we have four of the eight lanes for lane swimming (down from 6 at our old pool). The other half of the pool seemed to be reserved for some sort of master class swimming with a personal coach. Only one swimmer was there so they really had a lot of space to move. We were a little crammed with only four lanes and, as far as I could tell, all the swimmers there were from the old pool. Once new people start discovering this place, they may have to consider giving us a few more lanes. For now though, it seems ok.

Overall, the pool is quite nice. I'll have to get used to having a lifeguard on each end of the pool who stands right at the edge rather than sit in a chair. I'll have to get used to the fact that there is no place to put your stuff (other than on the floor) in the showers, that you can't control the water temperature and that the shower is on a one-minute timer so the water keeps turning itself off.

Two suggestions I had for front desk on the way out:
1. install large clocks by the pool so people can tell what time it is.
2. put garbage cans in the washrooms so ladies with their periods don't have to walk out of the stall, wander around the washroom and finally wander around the locker room searching for somewhere to put their garbage. Because that can be rather annoying...just saying.

Other than that - I'm all set to jump back into the water on Friday morning!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Faster or Harder?

I have a question for all you fine cycling folks out there. And for you folks who might not cycle but who understand the fine art of it. Oh, and you folks who don’t cycle, don’t know much about cycling but might just want to hazard a guess for fun.

Here is my question: what will make me go faster on the bike?
And no Erin, the answer is not ‘stop gripping the brakes when you go downhill!’.

See, here’s the thing. I’m working hard to get stronger and faster on the bike and I’m also working hard to understand how exactly one does that. My original thinking was that, in order to get faster, I needed to get stronger. So I always try to put my bike in a fairly hard gear, a gear with lots of resistance. I figured that forcing myself to pedal with increased resistance would build muscle, therefore make me faster.
It seems to have worked for hills, at least a little bit. I’ve noticed in the past few weeks that I’m catching up to and even passing people when we get to a hill. But on the flats, I’m still chasing people from the back of the pack. Nothing much seems to have changed and the gap between them and I doesn’t seem to be closing.  

And no, I am not willing to drop a few thousand dollars to buy a bike that weighs 6 ounces and is as streamlined as a shark. Nor am I willing to wear one of those crazy space helmets that the really fast guys wear in races. 

I mean really, does the seconds this thing shaves off your time really make it worth the looks you're gonna get when you wear it? 

That's when I recalled a conversation I had with Ian probably over a year ago now. Ian cycles with us on Sundays AND he works at the local bike shop so he knows most of the cool kids in town. He was telling me about the fast cyclists he works with. He said that they kept their cadence (ie. the number of times their feet do a complete circle while pedalling) at 90-100 rpm (revolutions per minute). He said that they just keep changing gears in order to maintain that magic 90 rpm number.

So it's not about pedalling as hard as you can but more about pedalling pretty much as fast as you can? 
That would mean that they have their bikes in a lower gear than I do (or they have superhuman leg muscles) because 90 revolutions per minute is pretty damn fast. I typically do 60ish rpm in the second or third hardest gear on the bike. When going up hills, I try to stay on the big ring (unless it’s a really steep escarpment climb) and I promise you that I am doing nowhere near 60 rpm going uphill.

Doug and I had a long chat on the weekend about cycling speed. He agrees with Ian's higher rpm logic and also agrees with my current practice of working in the harder gears. But neither of us are sure if there is some magic number I should be working towards. Do I go down to easier gears and get used to cycling at a higher rpm and then, once I can do that, start trying to do it in the harder gears? That's the part we can't figure out.

So my friends, what should I be working on? Is a higher rpm the secret? Is keeping it in a harder gear to build muscle strength the secret? Do I need to work on both so that I can someday maintain high rpm at a high gear? Are there speed or hill workouts I should be doing?  
I am the young grasshopper looking to poach some wisdom off those who have gone before me.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

All My Eggs in Three Baskets

I had a wee bit of an epiphany on the weekend. I'm not sure if it's possible to have a wee bit of an epiphany or whether one must have an epiphany in its entirety but I had something.

Here's how it went.

On Friday afternoon, I came home from work, hopped on my bike and cycled 30k in the scorching heat and oppressive humidity. Why? Because I felt like it. I left the house, made up my route as I went along and I threw in the big ol' hill on 9th just for fun.

On Saturday morning, I ran 10k. Why 10? Because I felt like it.

After the swim, Doug and I hopped in the car and drove to Welland so I could meet up with Janice, Erin and Klari for an open water swim. We (well they) jumped in (I lowered myself gingerly) and we swam to the buoy and back as many times as we felt like swimming. Then we got back in the car and headed back home again. We figure we swam about a kilometre.

Sunday, we went cycling with the Runners' Edge group and logged almost 40k. Up and down hills, down long straight fast stretches and into unrelenting headwinds.

Lots of activity and lots of variety in a few short days.

And I feel fine. I have energy and, more importantly, nothing hurts.

That's when I had my mini-epiphany.

Last summer, I was marathon training. Which means that running was pretty much all I was doing except for our Sunday morning rides which were supposed to help with recovery but were absolutely exhausting after Saturday's long runs. I remember having to second guess whether or not to wear sandals when Doug and I were going to see a play last summer because we might have to walk a few blocks and my shins were so beat up that I wasn't sure I could walk any distance without my running shoes on.

This past weekend, after three days (and almost 6 solid hours) of physical activity, I photographed a wedding. I was on my feet for four hours without a break and I wore my very flat, very unsupportive sandals the entire time. How did I feel the morning after? Fine. We're going to see a play on Friday and I've jokingly said that we can park as far away as we want from the theatre and I'm still wearing my sandals.

I apparently thrive on variety. My body loves it. It doesn't get worn down, it doesn't get beat up. It doesn't even mind doing more than one sport in one day. Nor does it really care if it gets a day off or not.

Last summer, I ran four days a week, cycled one and lived for the other two when I could have a break. This summer I'm looking for free hours before or after work every single day just to squeeze something in because it feels so good to move. Run three days a week, swim three days a week and now I'm trying to cycle three days a week. That's nine activities in seven days. Six if I take a rest day.

And I feel fine.

Perhaps there is a marathon in my future. But it's not this year. I'm too busy having fun, doing races, getting stronger and feeling good.

I don't want to put all my eggs in one basket again. It hurt too much when I dropped the basket. So I'm putting my eggs into three baskets and having a grand ol'time.

Oh, and just because I think it looks so cool, here's a photo I snapped of my favourite camera bag while I was shooting the wedding on the weekend.