Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Revenge of the Swim Cap

On November 3rd, 2011 I wrote a break up blog. I wrote about the end of a rather short-lived and volatile relationship. One that we both tried to make work but we just could not find a way to overcome our differences.

Oh, and this is probably a good time to mention that I hated him with a passion. That probably didn't help.

A relationship that, after a 15-month hiatus, I've decided to take up again.

That's right my friends, me and my swim cap are going to give it another go.

This is not something I've taken on lightly (or willingly to be honest). I don't expect it to work out in the long run but perhaps we can survive long enough to build some sort of connection.

See, I got my hair cut last week and, while it is still long enough to go into a ponytail, some of the layers are a little shorter than normal and they fall out when I'm swimming...which is really really annoying.

So I decided to whip out the ol'swim cap for a few weeks until the layers grow out enough to stay put.  Which goes to tell you how annoying the hair in my face really is because swim caps rank pretty high on my list of things I dislike.

Swim caps are just below cod tongue on my dislike list.

I arrived at the pool on Monday morning with my pink swim cap. The one I got when I did the Grimsby triathlon last summer. I proceeded with my normal routine of taking a shower and wetting my hair with fresh water. I then added a bit of conditioner to protect it from the chlorine and tied it back into a bun.

I walked out to the pool, slid into the water and started pulling on my swim cap.

"You're wearing a bathing cap?" asked Christine. "That's so wonderful".

"I hate them" I replied (which is a rather strong word but I didn't know if she'd understand my level of dislike if I simply said "they're almost as bad as cod tongue").

"Oh no, they're great!" said every happy Christine.

I mumbled a few more things and headed off to swim - feeling ridiculous and feeling the need to explain to everyone that my hair was falling out of my ponytail. Like I had somehow failed as a swimmer because I succumbed to the swim cap. Which makes no sense because everyone else, including several of the boys, wear them.

Two things happened in the pool that morning.

1. We worked so hard that I was too busy being exhausted to even notice the swim cap.

2. I set a new record in the pool for my 100m sprints. I usually swim 100m in about 1:45. On Monday morning we had to swim 10x100m. Nine of them were under 1:42 and four of them were 1:39. The last one was 1:44 but I was totally spent by that point.

Why was I so fast? Perhaps I was rested and raring to go after a weekend away...or perhaps my swim cap made my head more aerodynamic and shaved seconds off my time.

I don't want to speak too soon but maybe, just maybe, he and I will be able to find a way to work through our differences...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Clear Language

We had a clear language workshop at work yesterday. During this workshop, we learned the importance of writing in a way that makes the message we are trying to get across very clear. We learned to avoid using the passive voice, crazy fonts and things that can DISTRACT!! the reader. Bullet points are helpful. Long, run on sentences with big words and lots of semi-colons are not.

We also learned not to use technical jargon and, if we must use it, to explain what it is we're actually talking about.

I immediately started thinking about Running on Carbs and all the technical stuff I throw in on a daily basis. I do try to take the time to explain things that only a swimmer (or runner, or curler, or pancreatically challenged person) would know but I don't always.

So I decided to make a list some of the terms I toss out that perhaps require a wee bit of extra detail. Because, apparently, just because I know what they mean doesn't mean you do.

Swimming - I swim three times a week so many of my stories have to do with the adventures we have in the wee hours in the morning. I think I've explained all the terms below at different times so you might as well get a recap all in one spot. Since the only stroke I know is the freestyle (front crawl) you can assume that it is the only stroke I am talking about.

  • Pull - this is when we swim using only our arms. We put a pull-buoy between our legs which allows them to float but prevents us from kicking. 
  • Pull Buoy - this is the device we squeeze between our thighs when pulling so that we can't kick. It also helps our legs float
This is a pull buoy. 

  • Drag - similar to pulling in that we only use our arms. This time, however, we do not use a pull buoy. This makes it harder because our legs tend to sink without a nice floaty thing to hold them up. We have to use our ab/back muscles to try to keep our legs from hanging straight down. Some of us are better at this than others and it is important not to laugh (out loud) at those whose legs are dragging along the bottom of the pool. Some of the more hardcore swimmers keep their legs tied together with a rubber loop thingie. I tried it once but the inability to kick my legs freely made me panic - it felt a little too much like getting your legs tangled up in weeds which is a fear of mine when swimming in open water...
  • Drill - drills are things we do to work on a particular part of our stroke. There are drills to keep your head down, to keep your elbows up, to keep your shoulders in the proper position or make sure your arm enters the water at the proper place. When we have to drill for 50m, we choose one of the drills we have learned and slowly swim back and forth, working on that skill. For me, it's as simple as swimming slowly and trying to breathe without lifting my head. Other times, I have my arm sticking straight up in the air while swimming on my side. Most drills look rather odd to the observer but make sense to the person doing them. 
  • Skull - skulling is when you lie face down in the water. You extend your arms out at your sides (like a crucifix). Then, bending at the elbows, not the shoulders, you bring your arms in towards your chest. Then back out again. Then back in again. This really works your arm muscles. There is no kicking involved so imagine a bunch of swimmers all lying face down, moving up and down the lanes at a snail's pace.  
  • Build - build means that you start off on one side of the pool swimming slowly and gradually build up so that, by the time you get to the other side of the pool, you are swimming as hard and as fast as you can. Christine yells at us if we're not churning up the water. I had a hard time learning how to increase my speed at the right pace and discovered that what works for me is to increase it every third stroke. By doing that, I can start off leisurely at one end and end up going full tilt by the other end. 
  • Explosive - this is the opposite of build. We launch off the wall like rockets, swimming as hard and as fast as we can. About halfway down the length of the pool, we begin to slow down so that we are swimming at a reasonable pace by the time we get to the other end. Christine likes to have us swim 100m repeats that are broken down into 4x25. The first 25m is build, the second is explosive, the third is fast (which means swimming like mad the entire time) and the fourth is easy. 

Curling - I curl twice a week. I don't write as much about curling as I do about running and swimming but it does get its fair share of blogging time.

  • Hack - the hack is the place where the person throwing the rock throws the rock from. It's a little rubberized mat that you place your foot on. Right foot if you're right handed, left foot if your left handed. It allows you to push off when throwing the rock. 
  • House - the house is the bullseye at the opposite end of the ice from the person throwing the rock. 
  • Button - the button is the spot at the centre of the bullseye. The team with the rock that is closest to the button after all rocks are thrown has won the end. 
  • T-line - the t-line is the line that goes through the centre of the house - perpendicular to the sheet of ice. When the person throwing is asked to throw t-line weight, they should try to throw a rock that will stop at the t-line...rather than go flying through the house and hitting the boards on the other side. This is where the finesse of the game comes in.  
  • Take-out - that's when you throw your rock and knock out an opponent's rock. The rock tends to fly down the ice in a pretty straight line and, if you did what you were supposed to, bangs right into the opponent's rock sending it careening out the back of the house. 
  • Draw - a draw is when you throw the rock so that it slows down and curls to a particular spot on the ice. Typically, the rock will curl around one or more rocks and hide behind them which can be pretty impressive when done properly. The most famous expression is to "draw to the button" which means that you throw the rock at the perfect weight and angle for it to slow down and curl, stopping perfectly on the centre of the bullseye. I usually draw to the button several times during a game but, more often than not, I wasn't supposed to. So it might look impressive but is actually a mistake.  
  • Sweep - to help the rock move further down the ice or stay in a straight line, we sweep the ice. Sweeping melts a thin layer of ice which allows the rock to slide more easily. The harder you sweep - the more impact you can have on where the rock goes. Sweepers can work up quite a sweat and many are down to their t-shirts by the end of the game. 
  • Curl - the curling rock weighs a lot (Doug knows exactly how much but isn't home right now for me to ask). It's shocking actually when you first try to move one. When the rock is thrown, it sails down the ice in a pretty straight line but, as it slows, it begins to curl. The direction in which it curls depends on the spin that the thrower put on the rock (clockwise or counterclockwise). If the person throwing didn't put a spin on it, then the direction is spins in will be completely random (ie. not a good thing). As it slows and begins to curl, the rock can actually curl behind other rocks - hence the name of the game eh? 
  • Skip - the Skip is the captain of the team. They decide where they want the rocks thrown and hold their broom at the spot they want the person throwing to aim at. Oh yes, and they yell at the sweepers to tell them whether or not to sweep. "Hard!!" is a frequently shouted word on the ice. You'll also hear a lot of "No! Yes!! Stop!!! Yes!!! HARD!!!!" which would sound ridiculous anywhere other than a curling rink. Doug is the skip for our Friday night team and his responsibilities also include trying to save the end after we've botched up many of our shots. The other three players on a curling time are Lead (they throw the first two rocks), Second (they throw the third and fourth rocks) and Vice (they throw rocks 5 and 6 and they also hold the broom for the Skip when they throw). 

Diabetes - did I mention that I have diabetes? And that, no, I didn't get it from eating too much candy as a child. Sigh. I talk about diabetes a lot so I might as well explain a few of the things.

  • Insulin - my pancreas does not produce insulin. At all. No amount of exercise or healthy eating (or cinnamon or prayer beads) is going to change that fact. I cannot live without insulin. 
  • Insulin pump - Insulin cannot be taken orally because it breaks down in the stomach. It needs to be injected (although I've read the odd mention of trying to develop an insulin that can be inhaled). I'm not holding my breath on that one (ha! Get it?). Some people take insulin via needles. Others use an insulin pump. I'm one of those people. The insulin pump looks like a pager (remember those?) or a garage door opener. It does not think for itself. I have to program it and tell it when I need more or less insulin. 
  • Infusion site - the insulin from the pump goes from the pump, through a thin tube and into my body. Where it goes into my body is the infusion site. 

My pump attached to my belt. See the tube running from the pump? It's tucked into my pants and then comes back out again to the infusion site that's on the back of my hip. 

  • Blood sugar - basically, the amount of sugar in my blood. For someone without diabetes, their blood sugar stays between 4 and 6 pretty much all the time. My sugar is ideally kept between 5 and 7 but anyone with diabetes knows that is pretty impossible. I've been as low as 1.2 and as high as 35. Anything under 4.0 is problematic and I have to eat sugar to bring it back up. Anything over 12 (give or take depending on a host of other factors) I would take insulin to bring the number back down. 
  • Basal - our bodies need a regular stream of insulin and this is called basal insulin. I set the basal rate on my pump and it changes throughout the day. I arrived at this rate through trial and error and it's never perfect. I'm currently struggling with highs in the morning so I'm working on adjusting my overnight basal rates to fix that problem without causing lows. 
  • Bolus - any time that I eat carbs, I need to take insulin. The insulin that I take for food is called a bolus. Last night for dinner I had salmon (no carbs) and orzo pasta with veggies (20 carbs). I took a bolus of 2.5 units of insulin. An important thing to note is the the insulin is the same whether it is basal or bolus. The role is plays is slightly different but I only have one medication, not two. 
  • Insulin On Board (IOB) - insulin takes a while to get out of my system. Typically it lasts about 3 hours. So when I bolused for my pasta dinner last night at 7pm, the insulin was still working at 9:30pm. Insulin on board is the amount of insulin left in my system. So I took 2.5 units at 7pm and, by 9:30pm there might have been 0.8 units left. It's not an exact science but it does help figure things out. 
  • Glucometer - this is what I use to test my blood sugar. I prick my finger with a lancet (needle thing), get a drop of blood, suck it up with a test strip that is inserted into the glucometer. Five seconds later, I know my blood sugar. 
  • Control - control is an imaginary creature, kinda like faeries and elves, that causes a lot of problems. See, people without diabetes believe that blood sugar control exists and, if we only try a little harder, is perfectly attainable. People with diabetes know full well that control is something wonderful to dream and beautiful in theory but impossible in real life. This can lead to a lot of frustration, depression and missed medical visits. 

In an effort to make my writing more clear I may have written the longest and wordiest blog post of my life. Hopefully it helped a bit. If there is anything else I write about and have taken for granted that you know (but you don't) - say the word and I'll be sure to elaborate.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Strength Training in the Pool

Friday morning at the pool is now officially strength training.

It doesn't mean we know what the workout is going to be - we just know that we are going to be working on speed and resistance rather than on long distance.

Friday morning at the pool we did a wicked fun workout. There were 8 of us there (well, 9 actually but one was nursing a sore shoulder so they didn't do the same workout the rest of us did). So there were 8 of us and we were broken up into two groups of four. We all did the same workout, we just alternated what we were doing due to lack of room.

We all warmed up together and then here is how it went:

300m pull (with a pull buoy)
6 x 30 seconds on the stretch cords
300m pull (with a pull buoy)
6 x 30 seconds on the stretch cords
2 x 300m (1st one drag - no pull buoy and 2nd one pull - with pull buoy)
12 x 30 seconds on the stretch cords
50m sprint

To break it down so that the above makes sense:

Four of us headed off to swim 300m with a pull buoy and the other four headed off to the stretch cords. Two of us were in the shallow end and two of us were in the deep end. We were all tethered to the cords and, when Christine yells "go!" we headed off full tilt, swimming as hard as we could. The cords stretch and we swim as hard as possible for thirty seconds until she waves her arm telling us to stop. We then head back to the wall and do it again thirty seconds later.

I was in the deep end with George and I joked that I was going to try to stretch my cord far enough to grab Leslie's fingers. Leslie was in the shallow end. Stretch cords are ridiculously hard to stretch and, on my best day, I get about a third of the way down the pool. Leslie and I had no hope of coming anywhere near each other. George goes a bit farther than I do but not much. Sasha, on the other hand, swam from the shallow end and made it two thirds across the pool meaning that George could have grabbed his feet.

I have seen him break two stretch cords in previous workouts and told George to be careful in case Sasha's cord breaks and he comes hurdling towards him like a freight train.

After we finished the stretch cords and the other group finished the pull buoys, we switched. Back and forth until we had completed the entire set - other than the final 50m sprint.

It was a few minutes before 7am. We had been swimming for 1 1/2 hours and our arms, in particular, had had a pretty challenging workout.

"I want you all to sprint 50m together. I want to see what you have left" Christine said.

We were all lined up in the shallow end. There would be no circle swimming - just swim up and back, as fast as possible. We didn't look ready to sprint - we looked ready to go to bed.

"Ready? GO!!!" she yelled.

We took off like rockets. After being tied up we took off like we were spring loaded now that we were free. Twenty five metres up the pool. I looked over as I swam and saw a group of 8 swimmers flying through the water - the way it must feel during an Olympic final. We had nothing left but there was no need to save an ounce of energy. We just had to survive 50m. We hit the wall and headed back, water churning.

I don't know how everyone felt but I could tell my energy was fading on the way back. I switched from breathing every third stroke to breathing every second in an effort to get more oxygen to my arms and my legs which were starting to tingle. Almost there almost there. I refused to slow down or back off - it was only a few more seconds.

I hit the wall and heard "42 seconds!" from Christine.

That, my friends, is crazy fast.

Not quite Michael Phelps' 23:20 but close enough to scare him I think...

As we were all collapsed at the wall, exhausted and panting, Christine walked over and said "we need to tie you up more - your arms were perfect during every sprint today".

Apparently when I'm swimming as fast as possible trying to prevent the stretch cord from pulling me back, my arms are perfect. It's only when I'm swimming slowly, with time to think and breathe, that things fall apart.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Shut the Eff Up Already!!

Last week, a fabulously depressing article about diabetes was posted by several people on Facebook. It was all about the changing face of diabetes in Canada and it reports on the rising rates of Type 2 diabetes, the contributing factors, the costs to our health care system and the risks for those who have diabetes.

The best thing I can say about the article is that the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 were explained. This is not always the case. The explanation was not particularly elaborate but at least the author did distinguish between the two types. No mention of LADA anywhere though...

Anyway, I could write several blogs about all of my various frustrations with articles like this one, the fear they create, the depression they can cause and the misconceptions about diabetes that they perpetuate.

Today though, I want to focus on one line in particular:

"Life expectancy for people with type 1 diabetes may be shortened by as much as 15 years. Life expectancy for people with type 2 diabetes may be shortened by 5 to 10 years."

That's right folks, you can shave as much as 15 years off my life because of my faulty pancreas.

Or so the article says anyway. 

Do you know what I want? I want to someone to write an article about the effects of healthy living on that life expectancy sentence. The effects of checking my blood sugar 10-15 times a day and keeping my A1C in range. The effects of exercising 5 to 6 days a week, every week. Of maintaining a healthy weight. Of eating my fruits and vegetables and quinoa and brown rice and salmon. The effects of having low blood pressure and low cholesterol. The effects of not smoking, of keeping a healthy work-life balance and of getting 8 hours of sleep most nights. 

I would argue that I am healthier than the majority of the population if you simply look at those factors. 

Add Type 1 to the list and I immediately get lumped in a the same health category as an overweight smoker with high cholesterol. 


I refuse to believe it. I refuse to believe that, with all the time and energy I dedicate to taking care of myself, I am going to drop dead of a stroke or heart attack at 65 years of age because of diabetes.

That may be naive on my part but I don't see any other way to deal with such depressing information other than to plug my ears and sing lalalala until the mean people who say these things shut the eff up. 

I have a chronic disease that has a list of complications that is so long and so scary that I cope by ignoring it completely, setting my alarm for 4:50am and going to the pool. 

I have a chronic disease that could kill me tonight if my blood sugar drops too much and too quickly for me or anyone around me to react. I cope by never being more than a few steps from a stash of fast acting carbs and by checking my sugar like a hawk. 

I have a chronic disease that leaves my fingertips scarred and calloused and my bank account much much lower than it would be otherwise. I cope by painting my fingernails pretty colours and always bringing lunch and my homemade coffee to work to save money. 

Diabetes is fabulous in the sense that it never, for one day, lets you forget that you have it. I don't need anyone to remind me of that.  

I don't want to read articles about the depressing life sentence that diabetes hands to people. I want to read articles about the amazing things people do in the face of that life sentence. I want to be inspired by others who beat the odds. I want to learn about the effect that even small changes can have so that I, and other like me, are inspired to try to be just a little bit better tomorrow than they were today. I'm sure others do too. 

So, dear medical profession - stop scaring the crap out of people by saying 'You have diabetes' and then handing them a pamphlet about all the awful things they can look forward to before they die of a heart attack at 65, blind and on dialysis. 

Dear media world - stop making us want to put our fingers in our ears and sing lalalala in a effort to ignore the awful things you remind us of.

If you can't say something nice - shut the eff up!

Friday, January 25, 2013

What I Learned...and Didn't Learn

I had an appointment at the Diabetes Centre yesterday. Sometimes my appointments are with my Diabetes Doctor, other times they are with a nurse and a dietician. I go because I have to go to three appointments per year in order to qualify for government funding for my insulin pump supplies. I also go because I like the opportunity to ask questions and, sometimes, get answers. And then there's always the dreaded A1C test results...

Yesterday's appointment was with a nurse and a dietician so there were no blood test results on the agenda. That will happen when I go back in March for my doctor visit. 

My goals with this appointment were:
- to have them sign and submit the annual renewal form for the funding for my pump supplies,
- to learn what I should do when traveling to Israel in terms of adjusting to the time change, and
- to give them my one-page profile that I had developed last weekend.

The annual renewal form was easy. I handed it to them, they filled it out and will give it to my Doctor to sign. They will submit it for me. 

The time change questions got a little more complicated. I understand, in theory, what to do. Once I arrive at my destination, I change the time on my insulin pump to reflect the current time in Tel Aviv. That's pretty much it and that will ensure that I receive the correct basal rates and bolus doses at the correct times. 

The problem, as I see it, is how does my body know that it's now on Tel Aviv time? Will it take a few days for my body to adjust to the new location and for things like the dawn phenomenon to happen at the correct time? If so, what happens during the adjustment period? Do I have highs and lows at odd times because the basal rates are on Tel Aviv time but my body is still on Canada time? 

"That's a very good question" was the response I got. 

Yes, I think so too. And the answer...? 

We talked about it for a while and the message was that I should test more often for a few days until things settle. 

"I am landing on the 12th at 2pm" I said "and I am running a half marathon on the 15th at 7:30am. That gives me 2 1/2 days to figure things out."

"Set an alarm to wake up during the night and test. Test a lot during the day. You should be fairly adjusted by your race."

They also gave me the name of a local Medtronic rep to call. Apparently he really knows a lot about pump settings. 

My problem is that I understand what to do with my pump - I just don't know what my body is going to do with the time change. That's not a pump thing - that's a diabetes thing. 

Anyway, I'll call this gentlemen from Medtronic and hopefully he'll have some more helpful advice. 

I know a lot of you bloggers and blog readers out there are avid travellers. Any tips for navigating time zones on the pump? I'd appreciate your insight...

Finally, I explained that I had created a one-page profile so that anyone who is supporting me will know a bit about who I am, what is important to me and how to support me. I wasn't sure what kind of reaction I expected but I did think that it was a pretty neat resource for them to have and I (secretly) hoped they might see the value of learning about each patient as a person rather than a patient. 

Person-centred medical support instead of making everyone fit into a similar treatment plan.  

Well, they seemed to think it was interesting and they put it in my file but that's about it. 

Perhaps it will grow on them as they continue to meet with me? Maybe a new person who is about to meet with me for the first time will open my file, read it, and be thrilled to know a bit more about me than my last A1C result and my diagnosis date. I hope so. I do think it's a pretty amazing tool if people take time to use it. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Flip Turns - Day Two

So I spent the weekend with flip turns in the back of my mind pretty much all the time. I wasn't fixated on them or stressed about them but the movement and the breathing was like a constant hum in the background. I thought about flip turns:

- while I ran 16k on a very windy Saturday morning

- while we watched the men's curling on TV and watched one team win $13,000 simply for making a draw to the button

- while I spent most of Sunday at my desk backing up my photos from 2012...and 2011

- while we watched episode 3 of Downton Abbey

I woke up on Monday morning eager and dreading getting into the pool.

I wanted to get better at flip turns and the only way to do that is to practice...which means more chlorine up my nose and more panicked breathing and unladylike gasps for air.

I was the first one in the pool and didn't even wait for instructions. I pulled on my goggles and immediately headed across to the opposite wall, took a deep breath and did a flip turn. Water went up my nose.

I immediately felt a sense of defeat.

Which I immediately pushed away and headed back to the other side. I took a deep breath and did a flip turn. I flipped, planted my feet on the wall, pushed off and continued.

I'm sure it wasn't perfect or particularly beautiful but I executed all five steps in order without inhaling the pool!

Mondays are endurance swims and we started with a 1,000m warm up which consisted of swimming, pulling with a pull-buoy and kicking. I did flip turns at every end (except when kicking because I don't think that's possible) and succeeded at most of them.

One, however was a little embarrassing. It happened when I was joined in my lane by another swimmer which meant that we now had to circle swim rather than swim up and down in a straight line. Circle swimming basically means swimming along the edges of the lane - you go up the right side and come down the left. This allows several swimmers to share a lane without crashing into each other.

I immediately wondered how to do a flip turn while circle swimming. Do I head up the right side, flip and then push myself off at an angle to head back down the left side? Do I angle myself across to the left corner before I get to the wall so that I can flip turn and then head straight down the left side?

I opted for option two. Swim the last few strokes at an angle so I'm ready to head back down the lane as soon as I flip. I chose this option because I'm not good at controlling my body in space and figured if I tried to push off at an angle, I'd end up three lanes over and at the bottom of the pool.  Best to swim at an angle and then push off in a straight line.

Here's how it went. I swam up the right side for about 20m (out of 25). I angled myself on the last few strokes so I was near the left side of the lane. I did a flip turn and...

...well that's where it fell apart.

See, I got to the wall at an angle (which makes sense in hindsight since I swam at the wall at an angle) and knew I'd have to somehow fix the angle or I'd end up pushing off at a weird angle. (That is indeed a lot of angles and reminds me why my head hurts when I try to figure out how to throw a curling rock at the correct angle to hit three opponent rocks out of the house...). So I moved my body in such a way as to correct my angle (I thought anyway), flip turned and tried to push off the wall.

Unfortunately there was no wall to push off of.

I popped up, completely disorientated, and discovered that I had flip turned parallel to the wall (rather than a normal perpendicular flip) and found myself with my head facing one ladder and my legs facing the other. The wall was beside me.

I looked around sheepishly but, thankfully, everyone else was too busy swimming to notice the spatially-challenged girl in lane four.

We swam 1,000m during the warm and an additional 2,000m during the workout. Other than the 200m of kicking, I flipped at nearly every turn. That, my friends, is over 100 flip turns.

They were not pretty. I struggled with my breathing and popped my head up at the wall for a last gasp on several occasions. I pushed off at weird angles and sometimes flipped so far from the wall that there was no wall to push off of.

But I did 100+ flip turns on Monday.

That is 100 more flip turns that I thought was even possible last week.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Spoken Too Soon

Saturday morning I ran 16k. It went quite well but I finished it on a mission of sorts. I was determined to have a happy blood sugar day and I wanted to avoid an afternoon of chasing lows after a morning of running.

Here is how the day went:
I checked my blood sugar when I woke up and I was 4.4. I ate two dates, a GU gel, a clementine and a small granola cookie thing. I ran 16k and I was 4.3 when I finished. That's cutting it kinda close but I was happy that I didn't go low but didn't end up high either.

Now the juggling began. "No lows today" was my goal. Here is what happened.

11:00am BG 4.3 (post run) I had a chocolate milk and took 1/3 of my regular bolus. I set a 60% basal rate for two hours.
11:30am Breakfast shake and 1/2 grapefruit while icing my legs. I took half of my regular bolus for breakfast.
2:00pm lunch BG 5.4. I calculated 20 carbs for lunch but didn't bolus one drop of insulin for it.
4:00pm BG check 6.2
6:30pm Dinner BG 6.4 I took the full bolus for dinner but miscalculated the carbs on our homemade pizza so I was 15.5 when I checked again at 9pm. I took a correction bolus and congratulated myself on a job well done. Not one low all day despite running hard for 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Sunday morning began at 1:00am with a low of 2.9. I inhaled two packages of fruit chews (40 carbs) which was way more than the recommended 15 carbs to correct a low. I waited until my sugar climbed back into the human range and went back to sleep confident that I would wake in a mildly high but not too high zone.

I woke up again at 6:30am with a BG of 2.9. I had a juice box (20 carbs), recovered, and fell back to sleep for another two hours. When I padded down for breakfast at 9:00am I discovered that I was 3.4. I had my regular breakfast shake and 1/2 grapefruit and took 5 units instead of 6.4 figuring that would do the trick.

Sunday is a day off from exercise so I spent most of the day at my desk trying to get my rapidly growing photo library under control again. Meaning that I basically did not move except to refill my water bottle and empty my bladder periodically.

At 11:00am I was 4.4 so I ate 35 carbs despite still being full from breakfast and having no interest in food.

At 1:30pm we had lunch and I was 6.7. The lows seemed to be under control again - whew! I reduced my lunch bolus by one unit just to be extra sure.

At 3pm I was 7.6 and by 4:30pm I was 3.5. I ate 30 carbs. At 5:30pm I was 3.6. I ate 25 more carbs.

Dinner was at 6pm and, despite having 20 carbs in it, I didn't take a drop of insulin.

At 8pm, I was 6.4.

Saturday, after my run, I didn't have one low.
Sunday, the day after my run, I had six.

You might suggest that the lows of Sunday were a residual effect from the exercise the day before. I would tend to agree except that I've been writing down all of my BGs for a month now and I can confirm that, on the previous two weekends, I had lows on Saturday after my long runs and no lows at all on Sunday.  So why this time?

I bet the crazy diabetes rabbit has a set number of lows it wants you to have after a long run and, if you don't cooperate, it just adds them to the next day's total.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Captive Audience

Last week I received an email from my favourite person at the Niagara Diabetes Centre. She asked me if I would be willing to speak at the Hamilton-Niagara Chapter of the DES (Diabetes Educator Section) in March.


An opportunity to speak to people who work with people with diabetes? To tell them what it is like to have diabetes, to struggle with a diagnosis, to dread medical appointments, to fear the A1C?


To tell them about the amazing things that I have had the opportunity to do because of diabetes? To tell them about the DOC and how important a role it plays?


To inspire them so that they can inspire others who are struggling with the daily tedium of diabetes management?


So now I need to prepare a presentation. There will be twenty-five minutes (give or take) of talking and then five minutes (or more I hope) of questions. The audience will be forty to fifty nurses, nurse practitioners, doctors, pharmacists, dieticians, social workers and psychologists.

This is the kind of thing that would have instilled terror a few years ago. Chances are, if I were asked, I would have said no.

Now I say 'bring it on!'.

So, dear readers, I will have a captive audience for half an hour. What do you think are some important messages that I should share with them?

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Wall is Power

It is NOT a place to stop for a second and catch your breath.

It's not??

On Friday morning, four of us showed up at the pool for Masters swimming. During the warm-up, Christine realized that none of us did flip turns. Only one of us had even attempted them before.

So she threw out her planned workout and announced that we were going to learn how to do flip turns.

Because "The wall is power. It is NOT a place to stop and catch your breath.".

Learning how to do flip turns is a five-step process.

Step one: do a somersault in the water. Unlike my rather horrifying lack of gymnastic ability on land, I am a little more agile in the water. It didn't hurt that I mastered the water somersault during our summer trips to Cape Cod and Florida when I was a wee lass. Others in our group were not quite so lucky and ended up with lots of chlorinated water up their noses. Not a fun way to start.

Step two: stand arm's length from the wall and do a somersault. "I promise you won't hit your head" Christine said. I stood what felt like two inches from the wall and took a few deep breaths. Omigod I'm going to hit my head!

I didn't.

"CĂ©line, you're not standing close enough to the wall." Omigod, I'm totally going to hit my head.

I didn't...but it was scary.

Step three: do a somersault next to the wall and end with your feet planted against the wall, ready to push. Once I had mastered the wall flip, adding the foot plant was pretty simple.

Step four: somersault, plant feet, raise arms above your head and push hard off the wall - staying on your back. Ok - that was pretty easy too.

Step five: somersault, plant feet, raise arms above your head, push hard off the wall and spin around so you're on your stomach again and ready to continue freestyle. This is where my awkward, inability to feel where my body is in space issues became rather evident. I pushed off, spun around and found myself heading straight down to the bottom of the pool at an angle that would have had me two lanes over in no time.

"Alright" said Christine "I want you to swim 250m and do flip turns. No more stopping at the wall.".

We all looked at each other with a slight look of fear and pushed off the wall. It became evident pretty quickly that flip turns while swimming take a bit of getting used to. Breathing rhythms that I've finally mastered no longer work when, every 25m, you have to do a somersault (blowing water out of your nose the entire time so you don't get chlorine brain), push off the wall, flip over and kick. That's a lot of time without breathing when you're already panting.

For the runners out there, imagine running hard and after every 50 steps you run you have to hold your breath for 8 steps. Actually, it's more like you have to exhale continuously for 8 steps.

Out of 10 flip turns we did, I managed two well and the other 8 involved chocking, water up my nose, missing the wall or pushing off in the wrong direction. Very frustrating.

"Do it again" Christine said.

We did it again. It went a little better and I probably did four respectable flip turns.

"Do it again" Christine said.

I was no longer afraid and was now determined to figure out a breathing pattern that would allow me to do a flip turn and not come up gasping for air. It got better with each flip but I was still having a lot of trouble with my breathing. All I could do was gasp and sputter from end to end.

How do people do this when they are swimming as fast as they can, panting like crazy?

I have no idea how they do it but I know that they do. So I will be able to as well - with lots of practice.

Friday, January 18, 2013

One-Page Profiles

I have decided to take my diabetes care to a new level.

Not that I am dissatisfied with the current care I receive. Far from it. My diabetes doctor, the nurses, dieticians and diabetes educators at the Diabetes Centre are great. They are positive and supportive. They answer my questions to the best of their abilities and they explain things clearly. I never feel rushed and I never feel as though I've been through an emotional roller coaster when I leave there.

That being said, I think it's time to bring it up a notch.

Many of you know that I work with adults who have a developmental disability. Where I work we take a very person-centred approach in terms of how we support people. Because many of the people we support are not able to express themselves in a way that everyone understands, we started creating one-page profiles for people. These profiles provide, at a glance, a good overview of a person: their likes and dislikes, what people like and admire about them, how to support them etc.

These one-page profiles are extremely helpful and we have now started doing them ourselves as employees. As more and more co-workers create them, I can learn, in seconds, what is important to someone I work with and how to support them. Sometimes it's as simple as: "please send information and requests over email - I don't remember things when told verbally" or "I don't work well without deadlines so please tell me exactly when you need something".

Those things are pretty helpful to know and make it easier to work with people who might do things differently than I do.

These one-page profiles have migrated beyond our doors and are making a difference in all sorts of places. Schools are getting students to do them so teachers and classmates can know more about them.  One of my co-workers' mothers was in the hospital and was so ill that she was unable to communicate for several weeks. The family created a one-page profile, complete with pictures and a personal history, that they posted in her room. All of the nurses were able to read it and quickly learn that the women in the bed was a retired pharmacist with three grandchildren who, among other things, likes to watch Big Bang Theory. In fact, one of the nurses also loved it and began making a point to turn on the television when that show was on so my friend's mother could watch it.

The hospital has begun trying to get more of its patients to create one-page profiles because of how helpful they are. Adding a few photos help make the patient even more accessible and provides a conversation starter for care-providers.

So I've decided that I want to create a one-page profile for the medical professionals who support me. And I want them to keep it in my file, right at the front. That way, whatever nurse, dietician, diabetes educator or doctor I am meeting with can see who I am as a person. They can learn in an instant that I am a runner and a swimmer, that I love to cook and to travel and that I write a blog. And, more importantly, they can learn how to support me. They can learn that I always want a copy of my blood test results. And that I don't like being interrogated about every low and every high blood sugar. And that I always have questions about managing blood sugar while running or swimming.

Who knows, they may toss it in my file and get on with their day. Or, they may realize that this would be a great way to really learn about the other people who they support and encourage others to do the same thing.

Here is my first draft - what do you think?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


I want to introduce you to two young triathletes. They swim, cycle and run triathlons together. Their names are Connor and Cayden Long and they were just named Sports Illustrated's SportsKids of the year.

Take five minutes and watch this video. Trust me.

Their story is not about winning the race. It is about giving something to someone else and finding a way to connect with someone you love. He could have chosen to bring his brother to watch his races from the sidelines. Or he could chose to race together.

This story is also about advocacy. It is pretty impressive how this articulate young man is able to explain how he wants to make a difference and to hear him say that he wants people who don't care to start caring.

At first they reminded me of the amazing Team Hoyt that I had the honour of watching run the last stretch of the Boston marathon in 2011.

Team Hoyt is a father and son team. They are incredible and inspire a lot of people.

But Team Long are two brothers. Young brothers who, at an age when many siblings don't want much to do with each other, decided to do triathlons together. Decided to train together. Decided to sacrifice speed for partnership. Decided to make a difference in each others' lives AND teach people a thing or two about false assumptions.

Watch the video.

And then think about all the assumptions that this five-minute video just challenged...about how kids behave, how families work, what disability means and what it really means to be an athlete.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

300m Time Trials

We're scheduled to have a time trial during our swim class tomorrow morning.

The whole point is to figure out our pace in the water for different distances.

I know my pace when I run and I get constant feedback as to whether or not I'm running the pace I want to run by simply glancing down at my watch.

Swimming is a different beast entirely. I am surprised more often than not when I finish a 50m, 100m or 200m sprint and Christine tells us our time. Sometimes I felt like I was flying and she'll tell me a number that was slower than expected. Just as often, I'll feel like I'm fighting against the water and she'll tell me a time that's much faster than expected. You can't judge your speed based on how fast the scenery goes by because there isn't any scenery...other than the odd hair elastic lying on the bottom of the pool. You can't judge based on the person beside you because you don't always know if they're swimming faster, slower or the same speed as they were the last time you swam beside them.

Time trials are helpful because they help you figure out your personal pace for certain distances and then you can get a better idea of your progress and your performance on any given day. Because, when it comes down to it, it's just you against the clock.

The first (and only) time I did a time trial, I had to swim 200m and then 800m. The 200m was ok as it was only 8 lengths of the pool. I headed off at a pretty good clip and was able to sustain it the entire time. The 800m was much harder because it was 32 lengths of the pool. It was impossible to keep track of how many I had done and I had no idea what pace I could sustain for that long. I started off at a conservative pace and was able to speed up towards the end which meant I had obviously been a little too conservative.

This time, we are swimming 300m but we are doing it three times - with breaks in between. The idea is that we can average out our times and get a more realistic number.

So tomorrow morning, we are going to take turns swimming 300m and then timing other swimmers as they swim 300m.

Let's see if my one-pace wonder skills kick in or if all three of my timed swims are completely different.

And let's see if my brand new bathing suit that I bought to replace the one that nearly disintegrated from the chlorine has any effect on my time...

By the way, buying a new swim suit is like buying a new pair of running shoes. The instant you put it on you realize how little support your old one was giving you.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Embrace the Headwind

There are 59 days left until the Tel Aviv half marathon. Training has begun in earnest and I have already survived successfully completed my 12k and 14k long runs. I have also completed two hill training sessions which is two more than I did in 2012.

The Tel Aviv half is pretty flat, according to their website, but I forgot how much I used to love hill training so I'm adding it to my schedule whether I need it or not.

As for training for running by the Mediterranean Sea, running in temperatures that a Canadian doesn't normally experience in March, and running through layers of history, I'm hoping my trusty Pelham Road route will be enough.

On Saturday, it was unseasonably warm. I'm talking 9 degrees when I headed out at 8:30am and 15 degrees by lunch time. I wasn't quite ready for shorts but I did shed two thick layers as well as my gloves and my toque in favour of a thin top, bare hands and a running hat.

It was warm and very windy. I could have come up with a 14 kilometre route that weaved its way through city streets and kept me relatively sheltered from the wind but I didn't. I put a pretty high price on quiet roads, few intersections and rural scenery. My Pelham Road route gets me out into the country within 3 kilometres and keeps me there as long as I want. For a 14km run, that means I have 3k of city running, 8k of countryside and then 3k of city running to get home again. Every week from now until March 15th, I get to add 2km of country running.

The only problem with my beloved route is that it is pretty much out and back. I can vary it up a little bit and go out one road and back another but it doesn't change the fact that I run into a headwind for 6 to 10 kilometres and then I'm pushed home for the same distance.

I used to dread the first part of the run. The first 5k of any long run is always the hardest for me and plodding into a headwind never makes it any easier. That is, until I did two weeks of hill training and remembered how much fun it is to push your body into a discomfort zone and feel yourself getting stronger.

So, on Saturday morning, when I woke up and saw the trees blowing outside the bedroom window, my brain immediately seized on the positive. "Yay - you get to do a wind resistance training run today!"

When I headed out I embraced the wind and my laboured heart rate and my slower than normal pace. I was doing resistance training! It is pretty interesting to see how a little positive thinking can turn a hard workout into something enjoyable. And, after seven kilometres, when I turned around to head back, I was actually a little disappointed. The wind was now pushing me down the road and my resistance run suddenly became an easy long run.

I used to push through a headwind so I could enjoy a tailwind on the way home. On Saturday, I pushed through the headwind and loved it. I used the tailwind to try to increase my pace a bit and had fun with that too.

AND my blood sugar started at 6.4 and ended at 4.8 thanks to a gel and a handful of raisins before my run. No mid-run BG checks, no lows, no highs.


Friday, January 11, 2013

What Would YOU Change?

There is a video that we watched at work the other day. In it, several adults with developmental disabilities are interviewed and they are all asked the same question: "what would you change about yourself?".

The video is interesting for lots of reasons and stimulated a lot of discussion in the group that watched it.

Some people in the video said that they would not change a thing about themselves. This surprised some viewers because they expected someone with a disability to wish that disability away.

Other people in the video said that they want to be nice to others or they want to learn how to control their anger. This raised red flags for many of us because it sounds like something that the people would have heard from their staff rather than something that they would actually want to change.

Of course it got me thinking about what I would answer if asked that question.

If I could change one thing about myself, what would I change?

Would I wish my diabetes away?

Would I wish for all the surgery scars to go away?

Would I wish to be taller or have thinner thighs?

Would I wish to be a faster runner or stronger swimmer? To finish at the front of the pack rather than lost in the middle?

Would I wish for more money?

Would I want to be a nicer person? A better person? A smarter person?

All of those things would be nice but I don't think changing any of them would change my quality of life to any significant degree. I really don't.

I have made many changes to who I am and will continue to do that for as long as I have the ability to do so - that is part of who I am. But the changes I have made are changes that I decided to make and changes that I work on - not changes that the magic change faerie makes for me. There is a much greater reward in going through the process than there ever is in the final product.

If I'm ever going to be a front of the pack runner - I want to earn it. If I am going to be a better, nicer, smarter person - it's because I have worked hard to become so.

And diabetes, well there is no wishing that away now is there? It is as much a part of who I am now as my gender and my eye colour.

So I guess I'm not wishing that away either.

I am who I am.

And I am happy to report that I am quite ok with that.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thirty Minutes from Fridge to Table

This week is kinda crazy in our house. It's back to work after the holidays week which is always a bit of a transition but it's also the Winmar curling bonspiel week which means that Doug is racing out the door before 6pm and doesn't pull in until after 9pm.

On Tuesday night I had to work later than my usual 4pm and knew I wouldn't get home until just before 5. Doug had a meeting and wasn't going to be home until 5:30pm. He would need to eat pretty much as soon as he walked in the door so he could then head out again before 6.

"Let's just have sandwiches" he said that morning.

I wanted something a little more substantial and interesting than a sandwich for dinner so I pulled out our recipe folder of tried and true favourites and decided that, with a little luck and a lot of focus, I could pull of a Greek pasta salad and grilled salmon for dinner. I made a grocery list over breakfast and had everything picked up when I walked in the door at exactly 4:55pm.

Here is what happened next.

4:55pm - put on pot of water to boil
4:56pm - take off coat, scarf, gloves, use the ladies room and brush teeth
5:00pm - turn on toaster oven to 350C, put salmon on baking sheet, add a bit of oil, seasoning salt, pepper and brown sugar. Put in oven.
5:05pm - add pasta to now boiling water. Chop cucumber, tomatoes, red onion and olives. Mix pesto and sour cream for dressing. Toss feta cheese in compost because of excessive mould (sad day).
5:15pm - strain pasta and run under cold water to cool off. Set table.
5:20pm - mix all salad ingredients together and put salad on table.
5:22pm - wash dishes, dry and put away
5:28pm - check salmon (almost ready)
5:30pm - Doug arrives home

Thirty-five minutes from start to finish, including setting the table and washing the dishes.

Instead of a sandwich we enjoyed a healthy, tasty dinner and now have lots of pasta salad leftovers for lunch.

So yes, it is indeed possible to make something homemade and delicious in as little time as it takes to prepare something pre-packaged and not so healthy.

Here is the link to the Greek pasta salad recipe and a great blog. We have tried several of their recipes and they are always simple to make and delicious.

So go on - make a grocery list and prepare something delicious tonight!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013



It's a question I ask all the time - I never outgrew that curiosity stage of being a kid. Why do things work the way they do? Why do people behave the way they behave? Why does one shampoo work better than another at removing chlorine from my hair? Why does pasta always take a minute or two longer to cook than the package instructions say it will? Why why why?

What I do not tend to do is ask why I run. Why I swim. Or, most importantly, why I care about taking care of the crazy diabetes rabbit. They fall in the same category as getting dressed in the morning or making my lunch for work.

I just do those things. They take planning for sure but the planning doesn't involve if, it just involves when and how.

Why do I run?

I run because it makes me feel like superwoman when I do. I run because I love the feeling of filling my lungs with fresh air (hot or cold) and I love feeling nature, whether it it working with me or against me. I run because there was a time when I couldn't and then there was a time when I wasn't sure I'd be able to anymore. I can and I still can and every run reaffirms that. I run because, when I am not running and I see another runner, I want to be running. I run because I get a kick out of doing things that are hard to do. I run because I love the feeling of stretching warmed up muscles and the shower afterwards.    I run because it makes me proud to say that I am a runner and even prouder when people ask me if I am because I look like one.

Why do I swim?

I swim because, everyone once in a while I am perfectly aerodynamic in the water and I feel like I imagine a dolphin must feel. The feeling doesn't last long before I go back to fighting against the water but I keep swimming because I keep trying for it. I swim because it was really hard when I started and now I can take whatever Christine throws at me. I am proud of that and don't want to lose it. I swim because there are some pretty amazing people who get up hours before the sun to swim and I want to be one of them. I swim because of how sleek my body feels when I glide along and how strong it feels when I sprint through the water.

Why do I take care of the crazy diabetes rabbit?

There isn't really a magic formula for taking care of diabetes day in and day out. The simple truth is that I can't imagine not caring about my blood sugars and not taking care of myself. Sure, there are plenty of days when it doesn't seem to matter how much I care - diabetes is still going to win the battle - but that doesn't matter. The next day I wake up and start fresh again. It's a challenge - I like challenges. It's a mathematical juggling act - I like playing with numbers and figuring out patterns. I know deep down that, if I stopped caring about my diabetes management, I would probably be ok for a long time before serious complications started happening. That, for many people, would be reason enough not to care. I don't think about it that way though. It's like saying that it's easier not to shower and brush your teeth in the morning so why bother. True enough but I sure feel better when I'm showered and minty fresh. I also feel better when my blood sugars are where I want them.

Maybe that's ultimately why I do what I do.

Because it feels better than not doing it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

12k Heart Rate Experiment

I'm not exactly known for playing by the rules so it isn't really a surprise that I'm already ignoring bending the heart rate 'rules' I wrote about last week.

Saturday I had twelve kilometres to run and I wasn't really in the mood to run at 7+ minutes per kilometre just to keep my heart rate in the 70-75% zone that I was supposed to stay in. Instead, I decided to run at whatever pace felt right and then analyze my heart rate afterwards to see if I could learn anything from it.

The route I chose was an out and back - literally. I ran down one road for six kilometres, turned around and ran all the way back. The way out was into the wind and (with a sigh of relief) the wind pushed me all the way home.

Does anyone want to guess what happened?

On the way out (into the wind) my average pace was 10 to 15 seconds per kilometre slower than it was on the way back. My heart rate on the way out was about 5 beats per minute faster than on the way back home.

So I ran more slowly with a faster heart on the way out and ran faster with a slower heart rate on the way home.

I now know that numbers - what to do with them?

My thinking is that, if I were racing today, I would have looked at my watch on the second half of the run and, even though my pace was faster, I would have realized I wasn't working as hard as I was working before and I would have pushed myself to speed up until my heart rate reflected the effort I wanted to have.

I guess what I'm going to need to figure out is what heart rate reflects an effort level that I can sustain on a long run. On Saturday I had an average heart rate of 161 and a max of 168. If I followed the rules of 70-75%, I should have stayed between 146-152 but the rate I ran at was comfortable, didn't feel too difficult and left me with lots of energy for the entire run. Could I have run a half marathon at that rate?

I think so.

Could I run it at a faster rate than that? I don't know but the research I did tells me that I should run a half marathon at 166-170 which might be possible.

I have 10 more weeks of training and heart rate experimentation to find out.

By the way, did I mention I booked my ticket for Tel Aviv? Woohoo!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Breaking it Down

Last Friday we did not have an officially official Masters class. Christine was going to be there and there were a few lanes reserved for us but the official classes were not scheduled to resume until today.

I showed up because I was going to swim anyway so I might as well get a good workout out of it - preferably one I didn't have to make up on my own.

It quickly became apparent that it was going to be a very small group. Very very small. As in me.

So I took advantage of having my own personal coach and asked Christine if we could work on my stroke rather than do a regular workout. She agreed.

She had me swim back and forth a few times and pointed out a few things that I needed to work on. When I turn my head to breathe, I do more of a lift and turn rather than just turn and it is not very efficient. I also have, as she described it, a very precise and efficient stroke that she sees a lot in endurance athletes (who knew?). The problem is that my precise and efficient stroke is compact rather than looonnnng so we were going to work on that too.

We also discovered, during the workout, that I don't roll when I swim. Not roll as in roll over but roll as in rolling your shoulders up and down with each stroke instead of keeping them parallel to the bottom of the pool.

We started by doing a drill where I had to stretch one arm out in front of me, lie on my side and kick my way across the pool. Switch sides, switch arms and kick back. This drill helps reinforce the elongated reach I am supposed to be working on and also helps reinforce the roll that we had not yet realized I didn't actually do.

That went well so we moved on to four-pause (whenever I hear that I always picture it written four-paws and imagine little puppies with oversized paws trying to do the drill). The idea with four-pause is to break down the arm movement in freestyle into four distinct parts so that you can focus on each part separately. The four parts are:

1. one arm extended at the front and one arm behind.
2. the arm behind bends at the elbow and pauses near your ear while the arm in front pauses halfway through the underwater pull.
3. the bent arm stretches out in front and the arm pulling extends behind you (you now look like you did in the first step but with the front arm now in back and the back arm now in front)
4. repeat step 2 with the opposite arms.

This drill forces the swimmer to really pay attention to each part of their stroke.

I was still pretty precise in my stroke (read rigid and stiff) so Christine had me do four-pause again and again but this time, when my arm came up out of the water, I had to wave it to keep it loose. I felt ridiculous. This feeling was reinforced when Doug was leaving after his workout and he waved goodbye with a limp, waving arms.


Finally, with a wicked grin, Christine said she wanted me to swim one-armed front crawl.


"One arm stretches out behind you and stays there. The other arms does freestyle. You're going to hate it so just prepare for that. It's really hard and really really frustrating."


I flipped a mental coin and decided to start with the right arm. I pushed off the side, pinned my left arm to my body and started...and it was FUN! I really liked the feeling of only moving one arm and had no trouble at all figuring it out.

I popped up with a grin and said "I love it - it's really fun!" and the response was "oh, you're one of those crazy swimmers."

Perhaps but it was only fun until I tried with my left arm. After months and months of swimming, I was shocked to find out that my left arm is significantly weaker than my right. So much so that I could hardly propel myself forward and had to lift my head up to breathe for fear of chocking. Good lord.

That's about the time we discovered that I don't actually roll my body when I swim - I just thought I did.

So the workout ended with my swimming 500m of freestyle, broken into 100m repeats which were further broken down into 25m. The first 25m, I had to focus solely on my head position while swimming and breathing, the second 25m, I had to focus on my arm entry into the water. The third 25m I had to focus on my roll and the last 25m I had to swim fast and pull it all together. Repeat five times.

It was not a particular difficult workout compared to the stuff that we normally do but it was really really hard. So many things to think about and so many things to remember all at once. Focus too much on breathing and I forget to roll. Focus too much on rolling and I forget to breathe.

Now let's see if I can remember everything after a weekend off and pull it all together when we resume our regular workouts.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Heart Rate - Part II

By 9:30am on January 3rd, I already had two runs under my belt for 2013. This isn't any more or any less than I would normally do but I still felt rather virtuous about it.

Anyway, on to the heart rate report. 

Tuesday morning I went for an 8k easy run. Easy runs, according to my heart rate research, are supposed to be run at 70-75% of my max heart rate (which is 186). Using the magic Karnoven formula, 70-75% of my MHR is 146-152. 

So I hit the road with two goals. Run 8k and don't let my heart rate go above 152. I met one of my goals and failed rather miserably at the second one. 

I started off at my usual 6:15 min/k pace but realized pretty quickly that I was going to need to slow down. I slowed, my heart rate dropped to, oh, 160 beats per minute. I slowed some more and it hovered around 158. 

I was now running 7:00 min/k and felt like I was hardly working. Part of me felt ridiculous running so slowly that I wasn't even out of breath. Part of me couldn't believe that, according to my heart rate, I was still running too fast. 

It took me just over 54 minutes to run 8k. Normally it would take between 48 and 50. My average heart rate for the entire run was 159 beats per minutes which was, apparently, still too fast. I just couldn't seem to get it down to the magic 70-75% zone. On a positive note, I finished the run full of energy and ready to do it again. 

Here is a little look at my heart rate during the run. Beats per minute on the y axis and distance on the x. 

(The drops in HR were when I had to stop at traffic lights and, at 4k, when I stopped for a good ol'fashioned nose blowing). 

Perhaps that's part of it? Easy runs shouldn't be tiring - they are just about moving the body and getting it ready for, say, a Thursday morning hill workout.

Thursday morning, I woke up, strapped on my heart rate monitor, bundled up and headed for the hills with Doug. We are lucky as we have a perfect training hill two minutes from our house. We trotted over and started the workout. He does a different workout than I do. My technique is to run the distance of three telephone poles and then head back down. Then I add one telephone pole each time until I eventually reach the top of the hill. It takes nine trips up and down to do that and each one is more exhausting than the next. The entire workout is just under 5k and takes about 40 minutes (including rest breaks). 

For hills and other interval workouts, I am supposed to keep my heart rate at 90-95% which is 172-179 beats per minute. 

I am happy to report that I was much more successful with this than I was with Tuesday's easy run. The first hill, I peaked at 169 but it wasn't very high so I wasn't too worried. The next one I hit 172 and then climbed steadily up with each repeat. My highest was 178 and that was when I was pushing it at the top of the last climb. Every repeat, other than the first easy one, was exactly on target. 

Not bad. Although I have no idea what it would take to get me to my max heart rate of 186 considering how hard I was working on those hills...

Saturday I am scheduled to run 12k which I think qualifies as a long run...which I think means I have to keep my heart rate at 70-75%. Based on the pace I was running on Tuesday, it means it will take me about three hours. 

If anyone out there (Jeff?) can confirm whether or not I really do need to run that slowly, I'd appreciate your insight before I pull on my shoes on Saturday morning. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Heart Rate - Part I

I've taken advantage of my time off to do several things - one of them being to learn about heart rate and how to use it to get the most out of individual workouts as well as my overall exercise routine.

Apparently the key to heart rate monitoring is that it teaches you how to do a hard workout hard enough and how to do an easy workout easy enough.

This is probably a good point in the story to point out that I am not a doctor, I don't pretend to be a doctor and I get most of my medical information from the internet so please take the rest of what I've written with a certain degree of skepticism. This is also a good time to point out that I am interested in learning all that I can so if you know more than I do, please share your knowledge.


So I read up on heart rate and learned several things.

1. You won't get far until you get a sense of what your resting heart rate (RHR) and your maximum heart rate (MHR) are.

a) Resting heart rate can be figured out by counting how many beats per minute your heart beats when you are at rest. This is ideally done first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. I checked mine and found it that I have a RHR of 52 beats per minute.

b) Maximum heart rate is a little trickier. There are workouts designed to help you figure it out (ex. run for 15 minutes to warm up, gradually increase your pace over the next ten minutes and then go all out for two minutes. Whatever your heart rate peaks at is your MHR). There are also calculations that you can use to figure it out. The formula that was referred to most often in my internet travels was:

205 - (0.5 x age) 

I did it and got 186. 

2. The next thing you need to do is figure out percentages of your MHR. I thought it would be as easy as 75% of MHR = MHR x 0.75 but it's not. There is apparently some dude named Karvonen who developed a formula that all the cool kids use. It is: 

% (MHR - RHR) + RHR

For example, if I want to figure out 75% of my MHR, I would do: 0.75 (186 - 52) + 52 = 152.5

Following so far? 

The next step was to use the Karnoven formula to figure out different percentages. I crunched some numbers and got the following results: 

Effort        Heart rate
100%        186
95%          179
90%          172
85%          166
80%          159
75%          152
70%          146
65%          139
60%          132
55%          126
50%          119

Finally, I wrote down the heart rate zones I should stay in depending on the type of run I am doing: 

Easy and long runs (70-75% = 146 to 152)
Tempo runs (80-90% = 159 to 172) 
Interval repeats (90-95% = 172 to 179)

Race Distance
5k (95-97% = 179-182)
10k (92-94% = 175 to 178)
1/2 marathon (85-88% = 166 to 170)
marathon (80-85% = 159-166)

What I learned in my reading is that runners are notorious for running too hard on long training runs and on easy runs which makes it difficult to recover properly before the next hard run. Many runners are also not good at knowing if they are working hard enough on hard workouts such as hill repeats. So using heart rate helps you slow down the easy runs and helps you push the hard ones. Watching heart rate is apparently more effective than watching your pace because the amount of effort it takes to run a certain pace can change from day to day depending on a variety of factors (fatigue and hydration being two examples). 

All sites I read warned that it will take a while to get used to running easy runs at 70-75% MHR because we normally run them at a higher rate. So patience was strongly encouraged and, over time, one can apparently run a faster pace at a lower heart rate. 

I applied this logic to my Tuesday morning easy 8k run and my Thursday morning hill workout. 

Check back tomorrow for Heart Rate Part II to see how well it all worked out. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Triathlon Planning

There are two race series in Southern Ontario that run duathlons and triathlons. There is the Multisport Series (that I love because a) they give out chocolate milk at the finish and b) they don't blast obnoxiously loud music with screaming race announcers for hours.). There is also the Subaru Triathlon series that does not give chocolate milk and that does blast obnoxiously loud music and announcers for hours...but they still have fun races.

I checked out both of their websites to see which 2013 triathlons have the option of the Olympic distance.

In the Subaru series, there is only one and it is the first (of two) Guelph Lake weekends. The Olympic tri is on Sunday, June 16th.

In the Multisport series, there are several. There is Huronia on July 6th, Gravenhurst on July 13th, Bracebridge on August 11th, Wasaga Beach on September 7th and Lakeside on September 15th.

In there is also the Welland Sprint Triathlon on June 22nd which I really want to do because a) it's local, b) it's flat and c) I like that one very much.

Before I saw the dates for the Olympic distance, I was hoping to do one at the beginning of August. It would give me most of the summer to train and, if nothing else, give me time to brush up on my cycling skills. Cycling is the longest (time-wise) portion of the race and it's also my weakest sport. Most likely because I swim 3x a week and run 3x a week - leaving one measly day a week to cycle. I can do the distance but always get passed by plenty of people with numbers higher than 60 written on the back of their calves.

Now that I've seen the dates, and the events, I'm a little torn. The two in September seem a little too late in the season for a non-wetsuit wearing swimmer like myself. The ones in June seem too early in the season for me to be in the shape I want to be in.

So it looks like either Gravenhurst or Bracebrige.

I'm guessing the deciding factor will be that Gravenhurst has the added bonus of having the start of the swim in the middle of the lake. You get there aboard the famous Seguin and then get to jump off into the lake before the mass start.

The Seguin is the boat that Doug and I were on two summers ago for my birthday brunch.

You can't actually see The Seguin in this photo but, trust me, it's there. And we're on it. And we're obviously having a ball. 

So Gravenhurst and The Seguin may, once again, be in my future. Oh, and did I mention that there is a great little market there too where they sell butter tarts by the six-pack? 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Running the Distance

On December 30th, I ran my last run of 2012. Seven kilometres on a bright, crisp, beautiful Canadian winter morning. I came home, stretched, showered, and plugged in my Garmin to upload my run. I then opened my 2012 running spreadsheet and entered the time and distance. My 7k was added to my yearly total, bringing it to 974.6km.

If I had known I would get so close to 1000km I would have added an extra kilometre here and there to push it over the edge.

That being said, 974.6 is nothing to sneeze at, especially when I opened my 2011 spreadsheet and saw that I ran just over 800km that year. Granted I was injured for twelve weeks but I was also marathon training and my monthly average (for the months I was actually running) was almost double that of this year's.

Keeping track of distance makes it fun to look back over the year and do what I like to do best - find patterns.

Here is what the year looked like:

- January 60km (just coming off a stress fracture)
- February 56km (still recovering...)
- March 97km (ramping it up for the Women's half marathon)
- April 111km (increasing the mileage)
- May 108km (keeping the mileage high)
- June 81km (taper, half-marathon and Welland Triathlon)
- July 70km (ease off after three heavy months of running)
- August 72km (Grimsby triathlon)
- September 111km (Guelph triathlon and then begin increasing my training for two fall races)
- October 66km (Twin-Cities ten miler and the Niagara Falls half)
- November 59km (recovery month plus busiest work month of the year)
- December 84km (ramp it up again to prepare for the Boxing Day ten miler)

My highest weekly total was 38km which was the week I peaked during my spring half-marathon training.

My average weekly distance was 18.1km and my average monthly was 80km.

There were only two weeks out of the year that I did not run at all.

I went through three pairs of shoes and am 137km into my fourth.

Goals for 2013 
- run the Tel-Aviv half marathon in March, the Women's half marathon in June and a fall half (yet to be determined). That will bring my total to 11 half-marathons!
- complete three triathlons, at least one of them an Olympic distance
- stay injury-free
- log over 1000km of running

Other training-related goals
- use my heart rate monitor and figure out how to train more effectively using heart rate rather than just pace
- commit to one workout per week that focuses on hills and speed. I want to get stronger and faster this year

Non-running goals
- get better on the bike. Period. It's my worst sport and all the people I blow past during a triathlon swim smoke me minutes later on the bike, making me look like I'm hardly moving. Bah!

Oh, and continue to run for the sheer love of running - in the cold, rain, sun, wind, heat, humidity, snow and ice that is Canada.

Thank you for sticking around folks. Here's to another year of Running on Carbs.