Monday, March 31, 2014

Seasonal Ambitions

To everything there is a season. Except when there isn't. 

Curling season ended on Friday night. That's it now until some time in late October. 

Which means that golf season is starting. 

Some years there is a bit of overlap. In fact last year by mid-March, many curlers were squeezing in a round of golf before their curling games on Friday nights. It was a little surreal. This year, because of the cold, the golf season is still a few weeks off. 

Once it starts though - watch out!

When the weather starts to turn cold in the fall, my curling friends and I start getting excited to get back on the ice. We sign up for bonspiels, we show up on Sunday mornings to practice, we love it! 

A few weeks before the end of March, when the season is wrapping up, we start showing up less than ten minutes before we need to be on the ice. We still have fun when we're there but we also start talking about how much we are looking forward to having Friday evenings free. The curling season is over and so is our excitement for it. 

We're already dreaming about golf. 

And golf is the best thing ever...until about October. That's when I start looking forward to taking a break from the golf course and getting back on the curling ice. 

It got me thinking about the other activities I do. The ones I do all year-round. When it comes to swimming, cycling and running, there really isn't a season. 

Sure, there is an indoor cycling season and an outdoor one. An indoor swimming season and an outdoor one. But the activity itself never stops. Just where I do it changes. 

How come I don't get tired of those activities the way I do with curling or golf? Is it precisely because there is no 'season' and I can't afford to get tired of them? Do I approach seasonal sports differently because there is a 'finish line' of sorts? Is it all in my head and, if curling went year-round, I would enjoy it year round? 

To everything there is a season. Except when there isn't one. 

Speaking of golf, how fun is this golf skort? A lovely little nod to the Irish half of my heritage don't you think? 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Guilt. Fear. Enjoyment. Ad infinitum.

Sometimes these three little words live independent lives. Other times, they are so intertwined that they look like those writhing piles of snakes (think Indiana Jones) where it is impossible to tell one snake from another and where you really don't want to stare too long.




I was pretty darn tired on Thursday morning. I hadn't slept well on Tuesday night thank to the Dexter/Rabbit wars and I slept better, but not must better, on Wednesday night. Not enough to catch up anyway.

My alarm was set for 5am. I had an 8k run to do. The alarm went off. I lay there for a few minutes thinking and then slipped out from under the warm blankets, pulled on my layers of running clothes and headed out into a -12C morning.


Guilt? Because I had skipped my Wednesday morning swim and didn't want to have to admit to missing two workouts in a row?

Fear? Because every time I miss more than one day of exercise a little part of me starts thinking about how sedentary I am becoming and I imagine all sorts of bad things happening to my heart, to my body? Or because diabetes always looms large and the knowledge that exercise is really important means that fear kicks in when I don't do it enough?

Enjoyment? Because I really do enjoy those quiet morning runs, all alone, in the dark, hearing my feet pounding the pavement and watching the sky change from night to morning?

Yes, yes and yes.

Sometimes I force myself out of bed purely because of the guilt I would feel if I didn't. I don't want to get up. I don't care what lying around for the day will do to my body. I just really want that extra sleep. But I get up anyway because I know I will regret it later and feel guilty for wimping out.

Sometimes it really is the fear. If I know I have the kind of day ahead where I'll be tied to my desk and only get up for water refills and pee breaks, I force myself out of bed so I can move my body, at least for an hour. Other times I know that two days off in a row means higher blood sugars and other diabetes nonsense and the fear kicks in because I don't want to deal with the realities of high BGs that day nor do I want to think about what they do to my body in the long run.

Many times, I get up because I really do like exercise. I love the quiet runs. I love the tough sweaty workouts on the bike. I love the quiet peace I feel when I slip into the water for my swim. I get up simply because I want to.

Most days though, there is a bit of guilt, fear and enjoyment mixed together and together they get me up when the alarm goes off. Together to keep me moving through my days and keep me fit and keep me strong.

Alone, I don't think any of them would stand a change in the long run. Alone, I don't think any of them have the power to get me up day after day to do what I do.

Together, they work well. Trading back and forth. When one loses a bit of power, the other two step up to take its place. There is strength in numbers.




To infinity and beyond!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dexter versus the Crazy Rabbit

Most of you who frequent Running on Carbs with any regularity will know that Dexter is what I lovingly call my Dexcom...also known as my continuous glucose monitor.

Crazy Rabbit hasn't made his presence known recently but he is who I use to describe the unpredictable curveballs that diabetes likes to throw. Check this story out if you want a good example.

The last 36 hours have been a showdown between Dexter and the Crazy Rabbit. I have no idea who is winning but it sure as hell isn't me.

Tuesday morning is when it all began. I went for a lovely 8k run before work, enjoying one of the last crisp cool mornings before spring begins (I hope!). After breakfast and my shower I noticed that Dexter was barely hanging on. He was already 8 days old, had been zombified once and was covered in Tegaderm to keep him in place.

I carefully dried him off, asked Doug to hold him in position and secured him with a new Tegaderm. He seemed ok as I gingerly pulled on my coat.

I headed off to work and during my 75 second commute to the office, Dexter started buzzing. Three vibrations means I'm under 4.0. Four means I'm under 3.5. Four loud siren-type noises means I'm under 3.0. He was yelling at the top of his lungs as I walked into the office. I had just finished breakfast and felt fine. I checked my blood sugar and I was 7.5. I calibrated Dexter and put him on my desk where he sits during the day. Within fifteen minutes he was chirping that I was 17.5 and climbing.

My glucometer said I was 8.5.

Not good.

I told the ladies I was heading out for 15 minutes and drove back home. I took off the failing sensor and put on a new one. It takes two hours for a new sensor to be ready to go. New sensors always work well so I figured things would be back to normal once the two-hour sensor setup routine was over.

Two hours later, Dexter beeped telling me he was ready for me to calibrate him. To calibrate, I need to test my blood sugar twice and enter both numbers. Not having eaten in several hours, I was holding pretty steady. I entered my numbers (both in the mid 7s) and put him back on my desk.

A cold, dark and evil wind from the north blew in, bringing my old friend with it.

At 11:30am  I tested and I was 6.0. Dexter said I was 11. I re-calibrated, took insulin and ate my salad.

By 12:30pm he was alarming that I was dropping fast and already down to 3.9.

I was 7.5.

I re-calibrated.

All afternoon he told me one thing and my glucometer told me another. By dinner, I was apparently 17.5 again despite a blood test telling me I was 8.5.

By 6:30pm I had had enough and decided to shut down the sensor. I shut it down, lied to Dexter by telling him I had inserted a new one and started it back up again hoping things would settle down.

At 9:00pm the sensor was ready to go and the craziness started all over again.

By 10pm, I shut down the sensor a second time knowing it would wake me up at midnight to tell me it was ready to go.

At midnight, after hours without food and what should be a steady blood sugar, I re-calibrated him and went back to sleep. He had me up several times in the night telling me that I was several numbers lower or higher than I actually was.

By the morning, my fingers were bruised from all the testing and I was exhausted. No swim for me.

I could have changed Dexter again and put in a new sensor but I persevered. I was not sure what the problem was but I didn't want to lose an almost new sensor if I could help it. Those puppies are expensive!

After breakfast, Dexter told me I was 8.4. I tested to confirm and my glucometer said 4.2. Impossible. I just ate and felt fine. I retested on a different finger and this time my glucometer said I was 8.5.

4.2 on one finger and 8.5 on the other?

Now I'm starting to wonder - is Dexter having a bad day or is my glucometer on the fritz? Have I been trying to force Dex to calibrate using numbers that weren't accurate to begin with?

All day Wednesday I tested and calibrated every hour. By dinner, Dex was either bang on with every test or off by a bit.

I headed to bed early. Exhausted. With fingers that ached from all the testing.

Between all the sensor restarts, calibrations and double-checks, my fingers endured over 30 tests in 36 hours.

I'm not sure how things will look by the time this post is up on Thursday morning.

All I know is that, if this keeps up, I'm making rabbit stew. With a serial killer thrown in.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Working on the Little Things

I was reading the latest Triathlon Canada magazine yesterday.

It's a magazine that mysteriously started arriving at our door without either of us having actually subscribed to it which is a little odd. The magazine is in Doug's name so my best guess is that, if someone makes it on the podium at a triathlon event in Canada they get a free one-year subscription.

If the magazine were in my name I might think that, if you compete in several triathlons and finally make it out of the bottom 5 in your age group they congratulate you buy giving you a subscription. But it's not in my name so that hypothesis is out the window.

Whatever the reason, it's a fun little present to get in the mail every two months.

The latest issue had an article about things that triathletes should work on to improve their overall race day performance.

In running, the goal was to increase speed and so the thing to do was interval training.

In swimming, the goal was to get better at kicking so they had some kicking drills to do at the pool.

In cycling, the goal was bike handling. Not bike speed or hill climbing or whatnot but bike handling. Specifically, braking efficiently and at the right time as well as turning tight corners.

Almost every triathlon or duathlon event I've been in has been an out and back course. That means that, at some point, I get to a pylon in the middle of the road and I am expected to slow down, and negotiate a rather tight turn before heading back the way I came.

Every time this happens, I spend the first half of the ride dreading that turn. I slow right down, unclip both pedals and almost always end up with one foot on the ground to stabilize me and prevent a spill.


Because I have really bad balance. And because I'm not particularly good at handing my bike. Point me in the right direction and I'm good to go but please don't ask me to make a quick turn, to go over loose gravel or even reach for my water bottle without a long stretch of flat road ahead of me.

So the article suggests that people like me head to a quiet parking lot and practice turning in tighter and tighter circles. The ultimate goal is to be able to turn between the lines of a parking space without falling off your bike or unclipping your pedals.

Guess what I'll be doing once the weather warms up?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Little Too Impressive

Last Friday, I went to hear Vicki Keith speak. She is a pretty famous Canadian who has accomplished some pretty impressive swims.

Vicki swam across Lake Ontario doing the butterfly. Imagine that for a moment. Imagine the amount of energy that would take. It makes swimming across the lake doing freestyle seem almost easy.

Another time, she swam a return trip across the lake. Swim across, touch the 'wall' turn around and swim back. They told her it could not be done. So she did it.

She swam across all five Great Lakes in one summer even though they told her it could not be done. In fact she swam across all five Great Lakes in one summer precisely because they told her it could not be done.

While I listened to her speak, I kept leaning over to my friend next to me to whisper words of shock.

She swam for 100 hours straight?!?!

She swam the butterfly across Lake Ontario!?!?

Vicki Keith is a pretty impressive athlete and is equally impressive outside of the water. She coaches swimmers with physical disabilities. She has raised over $1,000,000 towards this cause. She is a motivational speaker. As they introduced her I lost track of all the world records she had set.

Last Friday I went to hear what she had to say.

I was impressed. I really was.

But I was not motivated.

Vicki has accomplished such incredible feats that they seem superhuman.

If she had been an accomplished 10k swimmer, I would have been motivated. I would have felt that she was someone to look up to, to pin up in my locker, to read more about.

Instead, the things she talked about were so big they almost didn't sound real.

Is it possible for people to be so impressive that, instead of motivating, they actually do the opposite? Most humans could never do what she talked about doing. It's just too big. Too overwhelming.

The idea of swimming for 10 hours is inspiring. The idea of swimming for 100 hours is not. Not to me anyway. That sort of thing falls into the category of fascinating. Of interesting. Of amazing.

But not motivating.

I know. It surprised me too.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Just Add "Yet"

I often see motivational messages that say things like "there is no such thing as "I can't"."

It's a good message and probably helps encourage people to do things they don't think they can do.

I don't particularly agree with the message though. There are all sorts of things that I could say "I can't" to and be perfectly right in saying them.

I think the more empowering way to think about it is to say "I can't...yet."

"I can't" sounds so negative. Even when it's perfectly true.

Add the word 'yet" to the end of the sentence and suddenly a whole world of possibilities opens up.

"I can't run a half marathon in under 2:20" sounds self-defeating.

"I can't run a half marathon in under 2:20...yet" inspires me to go figure out what I would need to do to make it happen.

I can't do a half-ironman.

I can't cycle any faster than 30km/hour.

I can't run 10k in under an hour.

I can't swim 100m in under 1:35.

Add the word "yet" to any of the above and suddenly I have a list of goals to work on.

I think "yet" is my new favourite word.

Friday, March 21, 2014

When Ted Talks - Listen

Last weekend, on a drive up to Toronto, Doug and I were listening to the radio. Most specifically, we were listening to a Ted Talk about health care. The person speaking was a young lady who had been doing some kind of internship in a medical centre. While she was there, she asked the doctors all sorts of questions. One question in particular changed everything.

She asked the doctors what they would do if they could change the way they provided service.

The doctors said that they would take more time with each patient to find out what they really needed. The said that they were frustrated with having to prescribe antibiotics for someone with recurring infections or inhaler refills for a child whose asthma is triggered by cold...knowing that the family could not afford to pay their heating bills. They were so busy that all they did was write prescriptions to treat the condition, not solve the underlying issue.

It was about getting people healthy. Not keeping people healthy.

This girl took it upon herself to change how the clinic worked and the interview was about the changes that had been made.

Now, when a patient comes in, the first person they meet with asks them all sorts of questions. Not questions about their health but questions about their lives. Questions like "do you run out of food before the end of the month? Do you life in a safe place? Do you have trouble paying your utility bills? Do you have access to fresh fruits and vegetables?".

They then meet with the doctor for the medical reason they came about (ex. refills for their child's asthma inhaler).

The doctor then writes a prescription. Or two. Or three.

They write a prescription for refills but they might also write one for heat. Or fresh produce.

The person is then sent to the last stop - to meet with a highly trained community advocate that helps connect them to community resources. Resources such as a local food bank. Or a community garden. Other times, they advocate for the person by calling the heating company to apply for reduced billing due to low income.

The clinic now gets people healthy again and then helps keep them that way.

Pretty amazing stuff eh?

I took notes in the car as we drove. It got me thinking about the presentation I'm doing in a few weeks at a conference on diabetes. To diabetes doctors. And nurses. And dieticians. And all sorts of other people who help people like us.

I don't think it's realistic to ask them to prescribe heat and fresh veggies to people they support but I do think it's a pretty powerful message to ask them to really think about the person sitting in front of them. As a whole person. With life challenges and stressors and children at home and work deadlines and unpaid bills and depression and whatever else that person in front of them might have hidden in their back pocket.

Health care has got to be about more than the label of illness and the test results. It should be about helping people to get healthy and, more importantly, helping them stay that way.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


I played soccer for one season way back in elementary school. Why? Because my best friend at the time signed up so I did too.

I really wasn't very good. In fact I think this is one of those times where the word "sucked" applies.

I didn't run very fast. I didn't really like running at all. I hated the thought of running into, bumping into or otherwise colliding with another player. I don't like fighting so fighting for control of the ball was out since I'd rather give it up than tussle. Plus kicking the ball hurt my foot. And don't even get me started on how much I hated using my head to control the ball. OUCH!!

So I played soccer for one season and, as luck would have it, ended up on the strongest team in the league. We easily won all of our games and I have a soccer trophy that says first place on it.

No thanks to me.

I just tried to stay out of the way and let the good players go at it.

I also played basketball for one season. Same reason for signing up only it was a different best friend this time.

Despite being tall (which seems to be important), having long arms (also important) as well as very large hands (easier to keep control of the ball I figure), I was not very good.

I'd run but forget to dribble the ball at the same time. I'd also dribble but forget to run. Coordination is not a particularly well-developed skill of mine. My aim is pretty bad at the best of times so ask me to put a ball into a basket while under the pressure of having people trying to block me, my coach yelling at me and the clock ticking and, as you might imagine, I missed every single shot I attempted. I also don't like things flying towards me and I hate the pressure of having to catch said flying thing so I'd do my best to look helpful while also making sure I was not in a position to actually have the ball passed to me.

As luck would have it I was put on the worst team in the league this time and we lost every single game.


Why am I telling you all of this?

As a very rambling and probably a bit too long segue into the real point of this story.

March Madness.

Weeks of NCAA basketball frenzy that even I get into. Doug and I watch it most evenings and he tells me all kinds of things. By the final game, I've learned all sorts of interesting facts about all the different teams and schools involved and figured out how the game actually works. I forget again when the next season begins but the learning curve is a little less steep every year.

This year, Doug printed out the entire play down bracket (probably not at all the correct way to say it but hey, I'm still learning!). He and I both had to sit down and make our predictions for who would win. From the first games right to the final.

Our predictions are up on our kitchen chalkboard and we get to spend the next few weeks laughing at who is good at guessing and who is not so good. No money down - just bragging rights.

As you might imagine, Doug made his predictions based on each team's odds of winning, past performance and other important factors.

I made mine based on the names of the teams, my preconceived notions of the school (be it correct or not), the number of letters in the name and other random things like: "well really smart people go to Harvard so they're probably a little geeky and not particularly athletic. I predict that they're going to crack under the pressure. Plus they won't care much about the game anyway because they have school work to do."

My predicted winner?



Partly because I liked the name. Mostly because there are two g's and a 'z' in the name. There are 7 letters in Gonzaga which is not as good as 8 but there are no i's or u's which make up for the missing letter. Plus their name is a little awkward, and I bet they get made fun of, so a nice big win will put all the other schools with the cooler names in their respective places.

Makes sense to me.

Doug's predicted winner?

Hard to say. His final game is down to Duke vs Florida but he hadn't decided on the final winner by press time. It doesn't really matter anyway since I predicted Florida to lose in the semifinals to Tulsa and Duke won't even win their first game. Mercer is going to come out of nowhere and kick their butts.

Game on!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Time to Shake it up Again

I am often surprised at how quickly I can settle into a routine. A week or two is often all it takes for me to turn something new into a habit.

This is often a good skill to have and I take advantage of it when I can.

It can often, however, leave me at a disadvantage.

Last fall, I decided for reasons unknown to me at the time, that I needed to get better at running hills. I also decided that I did not just want to do hill workouts. I wanted to incorporate hills into my regular runs.

So I changed my weekday morning route from 5-7k to 8k and added a pretty tough hill into the route. I also changed my long runs to incorporate that same hill as well as anther tough hill. No matter how tired I was, no matter how much I didn't feel like forcing myself up those hills, I refused to change the route. And trust me, at 6am, I often wanted nothing more than a mindless (and flat!) running route. As a result of my stubbornness and my new-found routine, I've gotten better at hills and better at recovering from them in the middle of long runs.

My Boxing Day PB proved that as did my 20k long run in Florida that, as I discovered, was chock full of hills - some of them pretty tough. I ran up them all, continued running once I reached the top and still had enough energy to do the distance.

Getting better at hills is the positive outcome of my forcing myself into a new habit.

Getting slower overall was the negative one.

During the winter months I ran more slowly than I was used to running simply because of all the snow and ice. It was impossible to gallop down the street and I setting into a safer, slower pace that slowed even more when I climbed hills.

Now the snow is melted and I've done a few runs on bare pavement. My pace, despite efforts on my part to push a little harder, does not seem to want to come back to it's pre-winter speed.

It looks like I'm going to have to get into a new running routine. One that has me continuing to run my hilly routes but that also includes one speed workout per week. I haven't done specific speed workout in over two years. Between injuries, recoveries, and triathlon training, it just never seemed to fit easily into the routine.

Guess it's time for a new routine.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Confessions of a Serial Killer

Zombie Dexter bit the dust yesterday.

It's weird having a friend like him. He arrives and we instantly bond. We spend, literally, every moment together. He sees me at my most vulnerable and at my least ladylike. He sees everything.

Seven days later, he dies.

Without a second thought, I push a few buttons and I bring him back to life. Two hours later, he's back and in full form.

Then, somewhere between day 12 and day 14 of our relationship, he starts giving me wonky numbers. Says I'm low when I'm not. Says I'm dropping when I'm not. I have learned the signs and, after two bad numbers within a few hours, I end it.

Just like that.

No relationship therapy.

No 'let's work together to see if we can make things better' nonsense.

Two mistakes and he's tossed to the curb.

Then I pull out a fresh, new, still perfect Dexter, insert and go.

A new relationship forms. We bond, he spends the night.

A few weeks later I toss him out with the trash.

Does that make me a serial monogamist?

A serial technologist?

Or, since I'm the one who actually ends Dexter's life, a serial killer?

What goes around comes around eh Dex?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Le Dress and La Life Lesson

Last Friday, I was in Toronto shopping for bridesmaid dresses.

And no, I was not just hanging out for moral support. I will indeed be one of the people actually wearing the dress.

I learned a few things about dress shopping.

I learned that just because it looks good on the hanger does not mean it will look good on.

I learned that just because it looks good on one of the other bridesmaids does not mean it will look good on me.

And I learned that just because it did not look good on the other bridesmaids does not mean it will not look good on me.

We started off by trying on dresses that looked pretty.

That ended pretty quickly. At least one of us always ended up looking ridiculous. Who it was depended on the cut of the dress. Or the colour. Or both.

I learned that I have a rather athletic build. Broad shoulders made broader by a few years of swimming. Strong legs made stronger by years of running and cycling.

Put me in a strapless dress and I look a little more manly that I would like.

Put me in pastels and I look a little more corpse-like than I would want.

Put me in a dress that works with my body shape and suddenly I look like a bridesmaid. Put me in bright, rich colours and suddenly I look alive.

We ended up each picking our own style of dress. We also ended up each picking our own colour. The dresses look good together and look good on the person wearing them.

I am not a fashionista by any means and this blog is certainly not morphing into a fashion one. But I learned something that I think is an important lesson.

Don't covet what looks good on other people. It might look ridiculous on you. Wear what looks good on you.

Love your body. Don't lust after someone else's.

Be proud of who you are.


For those of you who are not bridesmaids this summer, my latest life lesson translates well into whatever works for you. Don't compare your running pace to someone else's. Don't compare your swimming stroke to the person in the next lane. Don't compare personal bests, shoe sizes, number of injuries, how much you sweat or how good those shorts look on.

Love your body and everything it can do.

Be proud of who YOU are and of what YOU can do.


Here endeth le life lesson.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Mow Tee Vay Shun.

Motivation is a funny thing.

You'd think we either have it or we don't.

We are either motivated to exercise...or we are not.

But it's not that simple.

Some people are motivated to run but only if they have someone to run with. Take away their running buddy and you take away their motivation.

Other people are good to go...until their iPod dies on the way out the door. No music. No motivation.

Running is the easiest activity for me to do. As long as I have even the sniff of a goal off in the distance, I'm good to go. I don't need to run with other people. In fact, I avoid it most of the time. I run with music but can do just as well without. And my pace is so consistent that the threat of my Garmin dying isn't enough to keep my home either. I can predict my return time within a minute or two and am usually right. And I know my running routes so well that I can figure out how many kilometres I've run without any technological assistance.

Swimming on the other hand is greatly affected by the motivation monsters.

I am always happy to go the long as I know that there will be someone there to tell me what to do...and as long as I am part of a Masters class which guarantees that we have our own lanes with people who are all there to do the same thing.

There are no Masters classes this week or next because of March break. Guess who didn't go to the pool once? Guess who doesn't feel the least bit bad about it? I keep track of our workouts so it's not hard to write one down and do it on my own but I know myself. If I went I would get at least an hour in but I would find it boring because I was doing it alone and I would get annoyed with people in my lane if I even perceived them to be 'in my way'.

Actually, it might be a little less about lack of motivation and a little more about being a brat...

Cycling is the same.

I'm happy to get up early and head down to the basement for a workout on the trainer. But it's only going to work if there is a cycling video with some hyped-up person with a stopwatch telling me that I'm doing a great job and that I only have two minutes of high cadence spinning left before I get to spin easy for 60 seconds.

Those people who can cycle while watching episodes of House of Cards seem very strange to me. If I did that I'd find myself sitting stock still on the bike watching the plot unfold.

When I swim, I need someone to tell me what to do, how long to do it for, and how hard to push.

When I cycle I need someone to tell me what gears to use, how fast to spin and how long my breaks are allowed to be.

When I run, I get up, put my shoes on, head out the door into (almost) any weather, and run the distance that I know I'm going to run.

Motivation is so strange sometimes isn't it?

It's not about whether we have it or we don't. I think it's more about figuring out what it takes to get it and then making sure we have what it takes. Even if it means skipping the pool when there is no one to yell at me and watching the same damn cycling videos over and over until spring.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What Does That Mean Anyway?

"Are you in control?"

Four little words that have the power to make me cringe.

Especially when asked by a medical professional.

Latest example:

I went to my GP's office a few days ago for my physical and to get a few prescriptions refilled.

Before I saw the doctor I had to meet with a young lady (a nurse?) who goes through the usual things. She checks my weight, my height, my blood pressure and asks what medications I'm taking.

Then she asks the dreaded questions:
"Do you check your blood sugar every day?" and "Are you in control?"

"Do you check your blood sugar every day?"

I forced my face into my best impression of a pleasant/patient smile and responded in my calmest voice "I have Type 1 diabetes. Of course I check my blood sugar every day".

(I wanted to add - I check it 10 times a day AND I have a continuous glucose monitor - but I didn't. I also wanted to say - even if I didn't, how are you going to know if I'm lying? - but I didn't.)

"Are you in control?"

Again, using a picture-perfect look of patience, I responded "I have Type 1 diabetes. It's impossible to be 'in control'. My blood sugar is constantly going up and down. I just do my best to limit those ups and downs. My A1C was good though if that is what you're asking."

"Great!" was her response. End of discussion.

Seriously though - I don't get it. When someone in the medical profession asks "Are you in control?" I always wonder what they are really asking.

Is my blood sugar between 5 and 7 all the time? Of course not.

Do I have lows? Of course I do.

Do I have highs? Of course I do.

I have an A1C of 6.5, my diabetes team is pleased with everything I do but every day, and I mean every single day, my Dexter graph looks like a roller coaster. Sometimes I stay between 4-10 all day long. Other times it's a bit wilder and I go from 3-18. But it's always always always up and down and up and down.

So what does 'in control' mean?

I really don't know what they are asking but I never ever answer that question with a yes or a no. I always answer it with some version of "I have type 1 diabetes, there is no way to keep my blood sugars 'in control'.".

That usually either ends the discussion then and there or, as in the case of my optometrist last year, starts a conversation about my idea of control versus hers. I had no hope of convincing her that I could have highs and lows and still get a gold star from my doctor. She was extremely concerned when she heard that, of course I have lows and of course I have highs, and cautioned me on all the awful things that will happen if I let that craziness continue.

You can imagine how hard it was to keep my 'patient' look going that day.

"Are you in control?" feels a lot like greeting people with "hi, how are you?" We don't really truly want a long drawn-out answer to that question. We just want them to say 'fine thanks, and you?' so that we can get on to the real stuff we want to talk about.

"Are you in control" is supposed to be answered with a simple "yes".

I refuse.

Because I feel that it is important to gently teach people that questions like that are silly. And useless. And insulting. And, in my opinion anyway, tells me that the person asking the question does not really understand what Type 1 diabetes is anyway.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Not-So-Marketable Job Skills

I have a whole pile of rather bizarre talents that help me through my days but really would not do much to plump up a resume. Still, it's important to celebrate the little things sometimes. Here is a sample of things I could put on a resume but don't. For obvious reasons.

- I can eyeball whether or not the drop of blood on my finger tip is big enough to fill a test strip.

- I can also eyeball the silhouette of a drop of blood at 3am and know whether it's big enough or not.

- I can test my blood sugar and then use one hand to input that number into Dexter and the other to program in a bolus for my lunch. All at the same time people.

- Using only dates and raisins I can start and end a 13k run with my blood sugar the same at the beginning and the end.

(I won't mention the days when I can finish a run with a blood sugar that is three times what it was when I started.)

- I can sit on the couch watching television. Beside me is a plate of chocolate just waiting to be eaten. And yet I can ignore its tempting cries for a half hour as I wait for the insulin bolus to kick in.

- I am so stealthy that I can pull out my glucometer, unzip it, prick my finger, draw blood, test it, put the glucometer back in my purse, end the number in Dexter, lean over to my pump, program in a bolus, listen to the whirring noise as it goes in and the beep when it is done. And the person sitting next to me in the meeting or on the plane won't even notice. So very very stealthy.

- Speaking of stealthy, I can have a low in the middle of a curling game, eat a few packages of fruit chews on the ice and carry on like nothing happened.

- I can bring food and water everywhere. Even in places where it is not allowed. Why? Because I have diabetes. And that makes me exempt from many of the rules that apply in sports arenas, government buildings and art galleries. For a small fee I am happy to put your snack in my purse when we go through security.

- I can jab sharp objects into my skin. At will. Over and over and over and over again.

- At 3am I can tell the difference between all the different vibrations coming from my bedside table. One for an email, two for a high blood sugar, three for a low one. Four for a really really low one. Five or more for a phone call.

- I can spot insulin pump tubing sticking out from under someone's shirt from 100m. And I'm perfectly comfortable walking up to that total stranger and saying hello.

- I can laugh at myself.

References available upon request. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Invisible Medals

I was reading the latest Runner's World magazine and enjoying one of my favourite columns. It's called The Newbie Chronicles and it's written by a guy named Marc Parent.

I like The Newbie Chronicles because:
- he tells stories about his learning how to run adventures and makes me feel like I'm not the only one to do crazy things
- he comes across as a big tough guy but there is usually an undercurrent of emotion that makes me think he's a big tough guy with an even bigger heart
- his first name is spelled the French way
- his last name is downright awesome

His latest article is about the emotional stories behind some of our runs. And the fact that no one knows these stories except the runner who is running them.

He talks about the medals that we have hanging somewhere in our homes that symbolize the races we finished and then he talks about all of the other medals, the invisible ones, that hang beside the ones everyone can see.

Like the medal of the first half marathon we ran that wasn't a race. It was just a long run that happened to be over 21.1k (13 miles) in distance. I remember my first unofficial half marathon. I was in the throes of marathon training. I had run 20k the week before. This time I was running 22k. And 900m from the end of my run, I lifted my arms in the air and grinned.

I had just run a half marathon. And no one knew or cared but me. No cheers. No name announced on the loudspeaker. No medal.

I also remember the first few long runs after an injury. Where my emotions looked a lot like a bad diabetes day on my Dexcom. The ups of excitement at the fact the I was running, the downs as I struggled and faced the knowledge that I did indeed lose some running fitness during the two months off. The ups as I remembered how good it felt to run again. The emotions that bubbled to the surface as I was flooded with memories of race finishes and tough runs. The downs as I wondered if I had the strength to build up the distance again and then the ups as the perfect song comes on my iPod and reminded me that I most certainly did have it in me.

Those runs that were not so much about the run as about using the run to work through some of life's tougher moments. The runs where we are grateful for our cool-looking sunglasses because they hide the tears. And the runs where we slow our pace a bit so that we can breathe through the bouts of crying. The runs where we feel so much better for having done it and we feel ready to face whatever life throws at us.

Those runs where we try something new. Something scary. Something we know will be really hard. Like the first time we tried a hill workout. Or a speed workout. And we worried so much that we almost didn't show up to the running group that night. But we did. And we did it. And we realized that running will never get easier. But we will get stronger. And that is a powerful realization that spills over into other parts of our lives.

Runs where diabetes throws everything it has at us in an effort to mess up the long run we need to do. And it does indeed screw it up. And we come home battered and beaten, dehydrated and exhausted, 30 minutes later than we should have because of all the walking we had to do. But we did it. And from that run came the knowledge that, if we can get through that, we can get through any tough run. In a twisted, messed up kinda way, we thank diabetes for teaching us how to fight back.

I have a whole pile of medals hanging on a hook in our stairwell. The visible ones make a pretty impressive sight. But, as The Newbie reminded me, it's the invisible ones that really tell the story.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tightening up a Bit.

When I first started using Dexter, I set the low alarm to go off at 4.0 mmol/l (72 mg/dl).

I also set the high alarm to go off at 13 mmol/l (234 mg/dl). The simplistic thinking behind that decision was that 13 is high and I wanted to know when I was high.

After a while, I decided that I needed to tighten things up a bit. Thirteen is high and I wanted to prevent highs. I don't want to wait until I'm 13 to find out that I'm high. I want to catch the high before it hits the high notes. If you know what I mean.

So I set the high alarm to go off at 11.0 mmol/l (198 mg/dl).

Two things happened:
- I caught highs and corrected them before they got too bad.
- I became even more diligent about bolusing and then waiting 15 minutes before eating in order to avoid setting off the alarms.

My bg became a little less roller-coaster looking. Not all the time mind you. But on those days when things go relatively well, I'm seeing straighter lines that hold pretty steady even after meals. And I'm learning that it's not just about avoiding highs and lows. It's also about minimizing the ups and downs. I can ping-pong between 4.1 and 10.9 all day and not set off any alarms. But I'm learning that having a flatline for hours on end feels much better.

So what did I do yesterday?

I tightened up the high alarm a little more and it's now set to alarm at 10.0 mmol/l (180 mg/dl).

This should be interesting. When Dexter was set to alarm at 11.0 there were many days when I never reached 11.0. I would, however, hover around 10 for a few hours. Not high enough to alarm but still high.

I really don't like being in the teens. I don't like being 11-12 either but it feels a little less bad somehow. Maybe because I can hang out at those numbers and not feel too awful. In fact sometimes I don't feel anything when I'm 11-12. Without the alarm to wake me up at night, I'd sleep right through.

But I know that numbers like 11 or 12 are still too high.

So I'm tightening up a bit tighter.

I'm sure that will mean a few more alarms in the middle the night and a few more alarms after big meals. I am also pretty sure it will help me make a few more changes in my blood sugar management to avoid the highs without getting the lows.

There isn't that much room between 4-10 when you really think about it.

Let's see if there is enough.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Just a Spoonful of Sugar...or Ten

Is it just me or has anybody else been reading and hearing a lot lately about how sugar is really bad for us?

I'm not talking about natural fruit sugars. I'm talking about the stuff that food manufactures put in things like pop and chocolate bars and pasta sauce and frosted breakfast cereals and bagels.

Yesterday, on my drive home, CBC radio was doing an interview with someone (I'm sorry but I don't remember who) and they said that, ideally, people should eat no more than 10 teaspoons of sugar per day. Less would be better but they realize how difficult it would be to even keep people to 10. They said that was the equivalent of one can of pop and one package of ketchup.

I don't drink pop - ever. Even as a kid I hated anything carbonated so pop is not a weakness of mine. Neither is juice which I dislike and will only drink to treat a low.

I do however have a few treats that I enjoy regularly and look forward to. For example, most nights after dinner, I sip a glass of red wine (dry, not sweet I swear!) and nibble on a few squares of chocolate. I start thinking about that chocolate sometime around 2pm. I eat it one little square at a time and it can take a half hour to eat all six little squares. I don't eat that chocolate. I savour it.

A few squares of chocolate certainly won't tip the scales on the daily sugar quota.

Oh, but wait, that's right. I have diabetes. And, like it or not, I eat all sorts of sugar. Even when I don't want it. Because, if I don't eat sugar when I need to, I will quickly end up in big big trouble.

Question: Does it count towards the 10 teaspoon limit if we don't actually want to eat the sugar?

Totally not fair!

I must admit that Dexter has been great at helping me cut down on the crappy sugars that do nothing for my health other than raise my blood sugar. For example: Dex 4s. They're wonderful at getting me out of a dangerous low but it's not like they're high in Omega 3s or iron or anything that can help justify buying them in the quantity that I do. They're just empty calories that I sometimes eat by the handful at 3am.

With Dexter, particularly during the day, I'm often able to spot a low coming on long before it arrives. When that's the case, I treat it with something a little healthier like dates, a banana or an apple. I can do that because I have enough warning and there is time to digest it and have it enter my bloodstream before I get in trouble. Still though, I do have lows that I can't treat that way and still end up eating packages of fruit chews, Dex 4s and drinking juice boxes. Sugar that I don't want. Sugar that the news reports are increasing telling me is bad bad bad for my health.

Funny how something that saves my life regularly is so darn bad for me.

I guess it could be worse.

Imagine if the only way to treat a low was to smoke a cigarette?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

What are YOU Afraid of?

I'm not afraid of flying.

I'm not afraid of spiders - unless getting the heebie-jeebies counts as being afraid.

I'm not afraid to go running alone in the morning before the sun rises.

I'm not afraid of standing up to make a speech and realizing that I forgot to put my pants on.

I am afraid every time I set foot in an elevator. Just for a second as the doors close. I always wonder if I have enough food, water and insulin with me to keep myself alive if I get stuck in there for a few days.

I am afraid to bolus before driving, no matter how much it makes sense to do so. For example: on mornings when I'm high after a swim. Ideally I should take my breakfast bolus and give it a 15 minute head start. That means bolusing, getting in the car, driving the ten minutes home, and then eating breakfast. But I never ever do that. Why? Because I'm afraid. What if that's the morning I get into an accident? What if I'm knocked out, my sugar drops and no one around knows what's happening?

I am afraid of ending up in the hospital for one reason or another and having my pump removed because the medical team feels that using a sliding scale makes things easier to manage.

I am afraid, down the road, of no longer being able to manage my own care and having to rely on others to recognize that I'm high or low and deal with it properly.

I am not afraid of public speaking.

I am not afraid of traveling halfway around the planet by myself.

I am not afraid to be home alone at night.

I am afraid of being kidnapped and having no hope of survival because I only have a day of insulin left in my pump.

I am afraid of being caught in a natural disaster and not being able to get insulin.

I am not afraid of the things that many people are afraid of.


Because I face the scary realities of diabetes every single day. And that has made me much braver than I have any business being.

So I trade one set of fears for another. All of my fears now involve highs and lows and the inability to fix them.

Pretty messed up isn't it?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Long-Lost Community

I belong to many different communities.

My work community - where we are all connected by the desire to make a difference in people's lives as well as, let's be honest here, the need for a regular paycheque.

My curling community - where we are all connected by the Friday night ritual of not really caring whether we win or lose because winning comes with bragging rights and losing means free drinks. So really, it's win/win.

My diabetes community - where we are all connected by our faulty pancreases (pancrei?) and our twisted desire to laugh about the craziness of it all.

My Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Divergent community - where we plan our movie dates months in advance and get way more excited than we should with each release.

My Outlander community - where we talk about each character as if they were real, where we discuss the most insignificant little details and laugh our heads off at the shenanigans that a bunch of Scottish folk get up to.

My golf girlfriends community. My triathlon community. My Masters swim community.

Last week I was sent to an all-day session for work...on a Friday no less. I didn't know much about it other than it was to learn more about Ontario's French Language Services Act. I am responsible for ensuring that our agency meets all of the requirements of the FLSA so I get sent to these sorts of things.

The meetings usually involve a bunch of mostly English-speaking people who talk about how they are struggling to make sure that their agency provides French-language services when no one at the agency speaks French.

This meeting seemed a little more hard-core right from the get go. The agenda was sent in French. And only in French. It informed us that we would be working in teams, doing ice breakers and team challenges...and learning all about the FLSA. In French.


I showed up feeling a little nervous as I wondered if my French would hold up. I quickly realized that the people I sat with were wondering the same thing. We had all learned French as young children but lost a lot of our vocabulary simple from lack of use. There never seems to be anyone to speak French with in our daily lives.

We started off speaking English at our table but, once we realized that we were encouraged to speak French, that we were supported to speak French and that everyone else's French sounded a lot like ours, we jumped right in and fumbled our way through the day.

I laughed as people used expressions I had not heard since high school. I stumbled over words but managed to get my point across anyway. The memory floodgates opened and I felt a sense of kinship with a roomful of strangers who had nothing in common other than a language that they rarely spoke. And I realized how much I missed being part of a Franco-Ontarien community. How isolated I sometimes felt in a primarily English world and how wonderful it felt to flex my French muscles after so many years of disuse.

I spoke French for 7 hours that day. I took notes in French. I wrote down expressions that I didn't want to forget. I giggled at French jokes and felt proud to be Canadienne et francophone.

They asked us if we would be interested in arranging regular times for everyone to get together and just speak French. I, who showed up not looking forward to the day, happily raised my hand. Sign me up!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Guess what  I didn't do last weekend?

I did not run the Chili half marathon that I had trained for all winter. The race that had me running 18k in -25C weather with winds that seemed to come straight from the North Pole. The race that had me running 20k in Florida to make sure I got the distance in. The race that I clearly listed as the first of my 2014 goals.

I'm not one to take goals lightly and I love putting a big check mark next to each big goal that I set.

So why did I skip out?

The weather?

Nope. It was a cold winter's day to be sure but it was nothing out of the ordinary and nothing I could not have run in.


Nope. Thank goodness. My training runs went well. My body feels ok. Things are tight and sore from running in the snow for so many months but there are no problems going on that would keep me from the start line.

To be honest, I don't have one good reason for not running. I do however, have a few pretty good reasons that added up to be enough for me to feel that not running was better than running.

I had not signed up before we left for our trip. I wanted to make sure I would get the last few longs in run during our trip before I paid for the race. I did get them in but, when we came back from our two-week adventure, I did not think that adding another $100 to my credit card was a particularly sensible idea.

Right before we left for our trip I received an invitation to my cousin's baby shower. On the same day as the race but too early in the day for me to run, shower and get there before everyone left. While we were in Florida visiting New Smyrna Beach, the place where my family, including my cousins, had spent our summers, it suddenly seemed silly (and selfish) for me to say that I couldn't celebrate with her because I had to run. Plus, there are so few opportunities for family time these days...and so many races I can run.

I thought a lot about it. I agonized during last week's taper and went back and forth between running and not running.

Ultimately, I decided that the reasons not to run were bigger than the reason to run. And the only reason I could come up with to run was so that I could meet all of my goals for 2014. That, I finally decided, was not a good enough reason.

I did all the training. I ran all the long runs. I kept running all winter despite the never-ending cold and snow. I know I could have run the Chili half and added another medal to my collection. And sometimes the knowledge is all I need. So I didn't get the medal. Or the race photos.

Instead I got to spend a great day with my sisters, my mother, grandmother, aunts and cousins - celebrating our growing family and the ties that hold strong through the decades.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Dexter's Many Talents

There are a lot of things I love about Dexter.

The fact that, at a glance, I can see if I'm climbing or dropping and (try at least) to deal with small blood sugar changes before they become big ones.

The fact that he wakes me up when I'm in a wee spot of trouble before I end up in a big one.

The fact that he teaches me what is going on between finger pricks. Thanks to him I really do see the value of bolusing 20 minutes before I eat instead of waiting until we have put the dinner on the table. I also really do see the effect that sitting all day (in the car or in meetings) has on my blood sugar during the day and during the next night.

Thanks to Dexter, I have fewer lows that I used to have simply because I catch them at 4.5 instead of at 3.5. I also have fewer and less dramatic highs thanks, in part at least, to the fact that I've set him to alarm the minute my blood sugar hits 11.0. I wouldn't normally feel any different at 11.0. Those awful high blood sugar feelings don't usually kick in until I'm 13 or higher. Without Dex I could easily sleep 8 hours with blood sugar numbers in the 12s. Now he wakes me up, I bolus and drop down to a much safer 6-7 for the rest of the night.

All this to say that, after three months of living with him, I was pretty excited to see my latest A1C results.

Would the fact that I have had fewer and less dramatic highs and lows translate into a good looking A1C? Would my A1C go up because I had fewer lows?

Last week I headed to the Diabetes Centre to find out.

My last test came back with an A1C of 6.6 but I was still having too many lows according to the doctor.

Last week's test results?


And I could, without even a hint of dishonesty, say that I reached that number with fewer lows. Not no lows, but definitely fewer and, when they happened, I usually caught them when they were 3.9 rather than 3.0.

Yet another reason why I have a mighty big crush on Dexter.

He teaches me things, he keeps me safe AND he helps me get an A+ on my tests.