Friday, January 30, 2015


Ten: the number of work days left after today before we pack the car and head south with our golf clubs. I have a brand new set that I haven't even swung yet and am itching to get out there and try them. Oh, and some warm sunshine would be nice.

Nine: the number of extra minutes of sleep I get if I hit snooze at 5am. On a run morning, when every minute counts, I sacrifice one kilometre every time I hit snooze. Yesterday I planned to run 9k before work. I ended up running 7k. But those 18 minutes sure were warm and snuggly.

Eight: the number of weeks left before I officially start training for my spring half marathon. I'm kinda in training mode already but I'm looking forward to discovering whether or not 8 weeks of focused heart-rate running makes a noticeable difference when I start ramping up the mileage.

Seven: the number of workouts I try to squeeze into a week. Tuesdays and Thursdays are double workout days because I run before work and do CoreFit or Tabata at night. That means that I can have two off days and still meet my goal.

Six: the number of weeks I can go now between haircuts. I used to be able to go eight but my hair is short again so it needs more attention. Just got trimmed yesterday so I'm good to go until March.

Five: the minimum number of days I can go now without having to refill my insulin pump. It used to be four. A combination of My Fitness Pal, Dexter, exercise and proper serving sizes means that I'm regularly using 10-15 units of insulin less per day than I used to.

Four: the number of pounds I have lost in the last five weeks thanks to a bit of extra effort on my part and My Fitness Pal Sidekick. I'm very happy to see that they are coming off slowly but steadily. Best way to do it non?

Three: the number of gears on my bike that are no longer working. Every time I put the bike in one of those three gears, it jumps right back out of it. Very annoying considering they are the three most popular gears in most of my cycling videos. I will be bringing it in today after work for a little look see.

Two: the number of extra months I got out of my three-month supply of Dexcom sensors. Thanks to having learned the art of dragging each sensor out for as many days as possible, I ordered my three month supply this week rather than at the end of November as I should have. And I do heed my friend Jeff's very sage advice. The minute I start seeing wonky numbers, I call it a day and put on a new one. No point in dragging out a sensor another day or two if that day or two are completely inaccurate.

One: more day until the weekend!

Zero: the number of glasses of wine I've had since last Friday. Every evening I enter my dinner into My Fitness Pal, take a look at how many calories I have left to play with and ask myself "it is worth it?". Every night this week I have said no. I miss it but much less than I thought I would. Not sure if this is a phase or a new habit - only time will tell I guess.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

You Know You're Getting Old When...

- you move your run from Tuesday to Wednesday morning because it snowed on Monday night. Not a lot but enough to make you afraid of the ice patches that may be hidden under the snow. Enough to make you cringe at the thought of slipping and falling. Am I too young to break a hip?

- you start thinking about signing up for 2015 triathlons but then decide to wait to see how quickly things warm up in the spring before you commit to anything in June. The thought of signing up for an early-season triathlon and swimming in freezing cold water is enough to convince you to focus on late summer tris instead.

- you wear sensible boots to work on snowy days. But you carry your nice boots in a shopping bag so you can change when you get there.

- you put hand cream on religiously partly because your hands are really dry and partly because, when they are dry, they look remarkably like your mother's hands. And then you think how wonderful it is that you're turning into your mother.

- you're perfectly fine with pulling on baggy pants complete with fuzzy lining, an oversized sweatshirt, a parka complete with furry hood and oversized black mittens in order to get to and from CoreFit class. You don't care one whit about what it looks like. You just know that you'll be soaking wet, and therefore freezing, on the way home and you can hear your father's voice in your head telling you to dress warmly and wear your coat with the hood.

- you get excited when your quarterly RRSP summaries arrived the mail so that you can check to see how much your retirement nest egg has grown. And then you get ridiculously proud of yourself for listening when you were younger and investing whatever amount you could.

- you leave bigger tips because you realize the value of good service and you also understand how hard it can be when things are tight.

- you don't bother complaining about things unless they're actually worth complaining about. And, if you think about most things that bother you, you quickly realize that they really are not worth complaining about. And that thought alone is enough to cheer you up.

Actually, I'm not sure these things are as much about getting old as they are about growing up.

I'm getting used to the idea of being in my 40s and I'm realizing with each passing day that it's quite a nice place to be.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My Diabetes-Fighting Team

Dexter has been in my life now for 14 months. Rose has been around for 9 months.

Together, the three of us make a great diabetes team. Not that we do actual battle with diabetes but we sure do work together to keep him in his corner.

As soon as he starts acting up, Dexter takes notice and sends out a bat signal.

Rose spots it and starts vibrating to pass along the message and then I step in with my bag of tricks (insulin, emergency carbs, water, exercise and a voodoo doll) and together in our slapstick way we bring things back to the way we like them.

We slay the vampires so to speak.

 I like to pretend we're like this trio - only a little more 2015ish. I keep flip-flopping between whether I want to be Willow or Buffy. I'm leaning towards Willow. And Rose is totally Buffy in her fancy pink coat. 

Anyway, so the three of us make a great team. 

Which made it all the more disconcerting when things started to go wrong last week. I was at day 9 of my sensor and things were fine until I got out from the shower last Wednesday morning. Instead of seeing my blood glucose number on Rose's screen, I saw the dreaded ??? instead. 

I hooked her back up anyway and crossed my fingers. About two hours later, she buzzed to tell me that my blood sugar was 3.9 (which it was) but it took two hours for the ??? to go away. 

The next day, it happened again. Right after my shower. And about two hours later, everything was fine. That night, I changed my CGM sensor hoping that was the problem. 

The following morning the same thing happened. It happened on Wednesday and Thursday with my old sensor and it happened on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday with my new one. Each day was the same pattern. Something was happening in the shower that messed things up. 

Since not showering was not an option, I really needed to figure this out. 

So, on Monday, I called Animas Tech Support and found myself speaking to a nice guy in California. He walked me through some of the things that it could be and none of them seemed to fit. He explained that seeing ??? meant that the sensor was reading my blood glucose but could not make any sense of what it was reading. Which eliminated the possibility that it was a transmitter battery problem. 

He said that it could be a problem with the back of the transmitter getting wet during my shower but we both agreed that was odd considering it never happened before and now it was happening every single day. Plus, I added, when I go swimming for 90 minutes, I never experienced any problems with Dexter finding Rose again afterwards (I didn't actually use their names for the record)

He finally concluded that I may have simply had two faulty sensors and he agreed to send me two new ones immediately. 

Hopefully he's right. 

I don't like it when Dexter sends a bat signal and Rose isn't able to read it. It kinda freaks me out. 

I spent the first 10 1/2 years with diabetes flying blind. Relying on finger pricks to keep my numbers in check and going to bed every night crossing my fingers that I would wake up if I had a problem. 

I've come to rely on my CMG and the feeling of security that it brings. Missing that for 2 hours every morning, particularly right after breakfast and a run, is really disconcerting. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Long Slow Distance

On Saturday morning I headed out for a run. 

My goal: run for an hour and keep my heart rate at 80-85% of my max. That, based on my calculations, was 144-153 beats per minute. 

I would not pay any attention to my pace. I would not care how far, or how not far, I made it in those 60 minutes. 

I was sensible enough to pick a route that did not have hills of any kind. I may one day be able to climb a hill with a heart rate under 153 beats per minute but I didn't think I'd be up to the task on the first try. So a flat route it was. 

I headed out and it took a grand total of 400m to reach 150 beats per minute. 

So I slowed right down and resolutely refused to care about how slowly I was running. 

The rest of the run went something like this: 

Look down and see a heart rate of 160 beats per minute and a pace around 6:50 minutes per kilometre. 

Slow down until my heart rate went down to 155 bpm. My pace, by that point, was about 7:50 minutes per k. 

Then, over a few minutes, I would find that my pace sped up to about 7:00 min/k with my heart rate holding steady at about 157 bpm. 

A few minutes after that I would find my heart rate back up to 160 bpm and a pace faster than 7:00 min/k. 

Slow down. 

Repeat process. 

It was a subtle game of ups and downs but, what I did notice most of all was how easy it was to run. 

I ran for an hour and felt like I had hardly run at all. I honestly believe that I could have run another hour at that pace with no issues. I also believe that I could have held a conversation the entire time which, for anyone who has run with me in the past, is pretty impressive. I'm usually limited to one or two words between gasps. 

So I did not set any land speed records but I am inspired by how much easier it was to run. 

From what I understand, if I keep doing this, I will slowly increase the pace that I can run while keeping my heart rate down. One day I should be able to run at my usual pace with a lower heart rate and, fingers crossed, I may be able to run at a faster pace with less effort. 

The numbers: 
- I ran 9k and every single one of them took over 7 minutes to run. Normally that would only happen in strong winds or when the streets are snow-covered. 

- I was technically supposed to keep my heart rate under 153 beats per minute but that proved to be really difficult so I focused on keeping it under 158 bpm. I have no idea if those 5 extra beats are problematic but it made it much easier to do so I did it. It still a big drop from my usual 170+ bpm on Saturday morning runs. 

I'm already looking forward to next weekend to see how it goes when I add another 20-30 minutes to my run. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Our Little Restaurant

Céline and Doug are on a new recipe kick.

Saturday evening, we tried the latest recipe on the Oh She Glows blog. It's called Warm and Roasted Winter Salad Bowl (you can click on the recipe title for the link). We made a few small changes right off the bat. The green beans were substituted for asparagus and we did not add avocado because the salad was already calorie dense enough (which I discovered after adding all the ingredients into My Fitness Pal) AND I had already eaten an entire avocado with my lunch.

The salad was quite tasty. No surprise there as I have rarely tried an Oh She Glows recipe that wasn't full of flavour. We did add a bit more red wine vinegar than what was called for but, other than that, we enjoyed it as instructed. We have two servings left over for lunch this week that I am already craving.

On a fun side note, Oh She Glows is going to be putting out a second cookbook. She put a call out for recipe testers and I put my name in. Wouldn't it be fun if I got picked? 

I also have two recipes bookmarked for later this week and they are both from my latest cookbook (Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi). Yotam is an Israeli chef who lives and cooks in London, England (oh how I wish it was London Ontario). He has several restaurants, releases a gorgeous cookbook every year or so and also wrote a cooking column in the Guardian for several years (not sure if it's still up and running). Plenty is a vegetable cookbook (he is not vegetarian but seems to have a knack for creating delicious vegetable recipes). We also own Jerusalem, one of his earlier cookbooks, that is chock full of recipes that remind me of my trip to Israel.

Here is the cover photo with a delicious-looking roasted eggplant recipe that is on my list to try. 

Speaking of trying, I'm trying out two recipe from Plenty this week.

The first is a roasted vegetable soup that involves roasting three eggplants, two red peppers and some tomatoes. Toss them into a pot with a few red onions, some oregano and basil and broth. Blend well and then toss in some lima beans. Ladle into bowls and top with a dollop of greek yogurt There is no picture of this soup in the cookbook. I'm picturing a rather odd coloured mixture that looks even odder with lima beans floating in it. But I'm also imagining that what it lacks in looks it more than makes up for in flavour.

The other recipe I'm trying is a pasta and zucchini salad recipe that involves grilled zucchini, bocconcini cheese, lots of basil and parsley, lemon, capers, edamame and red wine vinegar.

This one has a picture and it looks delicious.

In the next little while I hope to tackle the lentil salad topped with grilled eggplant recipe, a mushroom ragout topped with poached duck eggs (if I can get them. Otherwise, good ol' chicken eggs will have to do), the grilled eggplant recipe that is on the cookbook cover and a surprise tatin that is basically a potato pie served upside down. It looks quite stunning.

The tatin (aka tart) for your viewing pleasure)

Doug and Céline may be opening a restaurant if we keep this up for much longer.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Early Morning Hills and Max HR

I think I figured out my max heart rate.

I first did it by using the standard calculation of 220 minus my age which gave me 180. I'll let you do the reverse math if you want to figure out x (x being my age of course).

Having done that, I had read enough literature in the last week about how inaccurate this formula can be that I decided to figure it out the ol'fashioned way. Don't worry, I didn't do anything rash. I simply followed a suggestion that I read on several running sites. They all suggested that I strap on my heart rate monitor and head out for a good ol' hill workout.

So that's exactly what I did on Thursday morning.

As instructed, I ran 2k first to warm up. The instructions were then to run a big hill three times. Check my heart rate at the top of the first two climbs. On the third, go all out as hard as I could to the top. Check heart rate and that should be my max (or pretty close to it anyway).

After my 2k, I ran partway up the hill twice just to make sure I was warmed up enough. Once back at the bottom, I let my heart rate drop back down to below 120 beats per minute (bpm) and then I headed up to the top. At the top, I checked my watch and saw 170 bpm on the screen.

I trotted back down again.

The second time up I pushed harder. At the top, I saw 175 bpm.

The third time I pushed so hard that I didn't actually manage to run right to the top. I was so out of breath and shaky that I stopped two telephone poles from the top for fear of collapse.

My heart rate?

180 on the dot.

Exactly the same number that the heart rate formula spit out.

When I uploaded the run from my watch later that day, it confirmed that my max heart rate during that hill workout was exactly 180 bpm.

What have I learned so far?

- I've learned my max heart rate.
- I've learned that, for once, I am exactly as the textbook says I should be.
- I've learned that I'm not actually all the pleased about being exactly as I am supposed to be - I much prefer to be a little more interesting than that.
- I've learned that I have been doing my long runs at a heart rate that is way too high (172-175 bpm).

What am I going to do about that?

Well, since I'm not training for anything specific right now, I'm going to spend the next few weeks running in my heart rate zones. I'm going to do my Saturday long run at a slower heart rate (80-85% of my max) rather than what I've been doing it as which, as it turns out, is about 95% of my max.

I'm guessing that it's going to feel really really slow. I'm guessing I'm going to be annoyed at the fact that I'll have to keep slowing down to keep my heart rate in the zone (especially considering that I already feel rather slow). But I have enough friends who have had great success using their heart rate as a guide that I'm willing to give it a try.

Not a half-hearted try where I do one slower Saturday run and then resume my normal running pace but a real try. The kind where I pretend to forget everything I know about running and start over.

Because if using this technique can help me become a stronger running and allow me to run a half marathon at a pace that I can sustain from start to finish, I'll take it in a heart beat.

(Get it?)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Finding My Heart Rate in the Fog

I'm slowly figuring out this whole heart rate thing. It feels like I'm walking around in a fog, getting quick glimpses of things but still not seeing the whole picture. The good news is that the fog seems to be thinning a bit. The bad news is that the fog horn is still audible in the distance.

My friend Jeff was kind enough to write his own blog yesterday in response to my meandering questions. It's here if you want to check it out.

It certainly helped clarify a few things for me:

1. Once I figure out my heart rate 'zones', they should be the same for all of my aerobic activities (running, cycling and swimming).

I don't measure my heart rate in the pool but I have been measuring it when I'm running and when I'm on the indoor trainer (which is quite often actually as I seem to be turning into a cyclist who spends more time on her bike in the winter than in the summer months).

From what I can see so far, my typical runs (7-12k) hold pretty steady between 160-170 beats per minute. My heart rate while pushing hard on the trainer (climbing a mountain or sprinting) are usually 145-155 beats per minute.

So either I should be working harder on the bike than I currently am or perhaps my level of fitness on the bike isn't quite at the level of my running fitness.

2. I really should be a little more deliberate when planning my activities. I typically go for two 7-8k morning runs during the week and then a long run on the weekend (between 10-15k unless I'm training for a half marathon). I don't schedule easy runs and I don't often schedule hill or interval training except when I'm training for a half marathon because it just feels like the thing to do. If I did add easy runs and really hard runs to my regular routine, I would be running in various heart rate zones rather than always running in the same one. I'm guessing that would be a good idea.

I do the same for cycling. I hop on the bike and pop in a video based on a) which one I'm in the mood for and b) whether I'm sore from having done too many squats in CrossFit the night before. Too sore and I do a video that has more fast spinning. Not sore and I tend to do videos that have me climbing mountains or doing off-the-bike squats.

3. Finally, I really should figure out my maximum heart rate since it seems that most of the calculations and zones are figured out using that number. I can choose a generic formula to figure that out. I can use a more specific one that is apparently more accurate. Or I can do a few hills sprints. Jeff explained that the maximum heart rate really is just the fastest that my heart can beat. Several running websites have said that one way to figure that out is to a) warm up for a few kilometres and then b) do hill work. I'm supposed to watch my heart rate the first two times I run up and then, on the third, run it as fast as I can. The highest my heart rate gets is my maximum heart rate (or pretty close anyway).

So, on Thursday morning, before this post even goes up, I will sacrifice my beloved 7k Thursday morning run for a hill training session. It will be good for my legs and my lungs and will help me figure out my max heart rate at the same time.

Stay tuned.

I didn't expect to turn my Tuesday heart rate blog into a week's worth of stories but this does take a bit of time to figure out and I thought I might as well take you along for the ride in case you were interested.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wading Through the Heart Rate Literature

I sat down the other night to do a bit of research into heart rates to see if I could make sense of any of it.

I've done this before. Every 18 months or so I get interested in heart rates and I try to find a way to incorporate heart rate monitoring into my workouts. From what I hear from my friends who are in the know, running based on heart rate is the thing to do.

I understand the concept and it does make sense. Running based on pace only works if you run in similar conditions all the time. I cannot maintain the same running pace while running up the Niagara escarpment or while running into a headwind or on slippery roads as I can running down a long straight country road on a windless day. Trying to do so would only lead to frustration.

Running based on heart rate on the other hand would mean that I was maintaining the same level of exertion whether or not I was running up a hill, down a hill, into the wind or with it. Run faster when it's easier, slow down when it's harder but the heart rate should ideally remain pretty constant.

At least that's what I understand.

The problems begin to arise when I try to wade through all the literature about maximum heart rate, threshold heart rates, recovery run heart rates, tempo heart rates, interval heart rates and suddenly it gets rather confusing.

Oh, and don't forget the fact that all of these numbers apparently change depending on the sport I'm doing.  So my maximum heart rate while running is not the same as my max heart rate while cycling. I don't think anyway.

On top of all that, I can't quite wrap my head around what I should be aiming for. Do I want to be able to lower my heart rate so that, over time, I can run a faster run at a lower heart rate? Do I want to be able to increase the heart rate that I can sustain over a long run? If so, why? If not, why not?

I can find plenty of literature on how to calculate all of my different heart rate ranges but I can't find very much (yet) on what I should be trying to do once I figure out those ranges. The message seems to be to figure out my ranges (for easy runs, tempo runs, half marathons etc) and then stay in them.

It can't be that simple can it?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Threshold Heart Rate

I have been using Training Peaks for 13 months now.

Training Peaks is an online site that allows me to upload my cycling and running workouts from my Garmin watch and pour over the data (pace, elevation, distance etc).

It also allows me to enter workouts manually (like CoreFit and swimming) and keeps track of time spent doing each one, total distance and calories burned among other things.

I have not signed up for the full version yet because the free one has been meeting my needs so far. and I really like it.

A few weeks ago I started getting interested in measuring my heart rate during workouts (something I tend to do every few years until I stop caring and go back to just looking at pace and distance).

Two Saturdays ago I ran 10k with my heart rate monitor on. I uploaded it, checked out all the data, noted my heart rate and then hopped in the shower. I came out of the shower to find an email from Training Peaks in my inbox congratulating me on my new threshold heart rate of 162.

My what?!

The email told me to log into Training Peaks and change my threshold heart rate to 162. It also explained what a threshold heart rate is. They used a bit too much jargon but I think I understood it to mean that it was the heart rate that I could sustain for long periods of activity such as running. The idea seems to be that increasing my threshold heart rate is a good thing because it means that I am able to sustain a higher (harder) level of activity than I used to be able to sustain.

Does that make sense?

So I dutifully logged in and changed my number to 162.

This past Saturday, I headed out to run 10-11k but ended up running 13k because it was so lovely out. Again, I wore my heart rate monitor. Again, I uploaded the data, checked it out and then hopped in the shower. And again I received an email from Training Peaks congratulating me on my new threshold heart rate of 167.

So now I'm extra curious. I have not been using my heart rate monitor with Training Peaks until now so I had no idea about any of this.

My next research will be to figure out if there is a threshold heart rate that I should be aiming for. Because, let's face it, for all I know a number of 167 is completely laughable. I have nothing to compare it to and only know that increasing the number is positive because the emails I'm getting from Training Peaks include the word "congratulations!" at the beginning.

My questions:
- is there a threshold heart rate I should be aiming for or is it different for everyone?
- are there different threshold heart rates for different sports? Because my heart rate on the bike never gets as high as my heart rate on a run and it's even lower during CoreFit and Tabata classes. There doesn't seem to be a distinction in Training Peaks - there is just one threshold heart rate.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Wrong Line of Work

I was having lunch the other day with a few ladies that I know through work.

One of them mentioned that she had type 2 diabetes and then I mentioned I had type 1 diabetes and we got down to chatting.

She said that she was really struggling with keeping her blood sugars in check, particularly in the mornings. She said that her doctor was not happy with her numbers and was saying that, if she didn't get a better handle on then, she would have to go on insulin.

"I really don't want to end up on insulin" she said to me, with a hint of fear in her eyes.

"Stop right there!" I said holding my hand up.

"Let me guess" I said. "I'm going to guess that, every time you go to your doctor, you are told about all the awful things that will happen to you if you don't get things under 'under control'."

"I'm also going to guess that you leave there terrified of all the predictions, the fear helps motivate you for a week or two but then you go back to the life you always live because it just feels so overwhelming."

"And I'm also going to guess that you think 'ending up' on insulin means that you failed. That you were not able to 'control' diabetes on your own and this is a sign to the world that you failed."

"Everything you said is true" she said, her eyes filled with tears.

"Listen" I said. "Taking insulin is not a sign of failure. If that is the best way for you to lower your blood sugar safely and effectively, then what's the problem with that? You would feel better and it's better for your overall health. I would much rather be on insulin and have good blood sugars than resist it and have higher numbers. Wouldn't you?"

"Yes!" she said brightening.

"And don't let your doctor use scare tactics to try to get you to do what they want you to do. They don't work, they end up making people feel worse and you'll go back there again in six months and hear the same speech all over again. You need to find people like you who get it, who can support you and who can inspire you to make positive changes in your life."

"You're right" she said. "I feel better just talking to you."

"And I also want you to remember that diabetes has a bad rap. People are judged immediately by the term and the stereotype is that you brought it on yourself by poor diet and lack of exercise. There are so many other factors involved that people just don't understand. You're pretty new at this too and you probably believe a lot of those stereotypes yourself and then feel bad because you think that you 'fit' that and you deserve what you get. That's not true. You have diabetes so figure out how best to deal with it, how best to take care of yourself but don't you dare feel guilty about it."

"Thank you" she said with a smile.

And the three of us carried on with our lunch in friendly conversation.

I told Doug about the conversation when I get home.

"You know baby" he said, "you are in the wrong line of work."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Diabetes Gods Have Gone to Florida

I probably should not say this out loud. And I really shouldn't write it in a blog.

But I'm going to anyway.

Diabetes management has been feeling rather easy lately.

Like remembering to brush my teeth or doing laundry kinda easy. The kind of thing you have to do but it's so routine that you just do it without really giving it much thought.

I'm not sure what is responsible for this little diabetes management nirvana but I'm pretty sure it's not just one thing.

It's probably the fact that I have been exercising regularly for weeks now, never missing more than one day in a row. Exercise has always been key in keeping the BG numbers down.

It's probably the fact that I have been a little more careful with what I eat.

It's probably the fact that it's January in Canada and the diabetes gods have up and left for Florida to enjoy a few weeks of sunshine and golf.

Whatever the reason(s), it's been nice.

It's been nice to have fairly stable numbers.

It's nice to bolus for breakfast and watch my blood sugar do what I think it will do.

It's nice to correct a high blood sugar and watch it float down nicely to a reasonable number rather than crash land into a major low.

It's nice to have my bedside fig newton stash go stale before I finish them because I have not been having night time lows in a while. And, when I do dip below 4.0, I can take two Dex 4s and it seems to be enough to get me  back in range.

Another trick that I've been using lately is one that I never made much use of before. Temp basals. Instead of stopping lows that I know are coming with food, I have started preventing them with a strategic lowering of my basal insulin.

In other words, if I'm heading to bed and notice that my blood sugar is on a slow trend downward AND I just came back from CoreFit, I can pretty much guarantee a low in a few hours. I used to deal with this by eating an extra snack before bed.

Now, I turn down my insulin by 20-30% for a few hours.

It works. No high. No low. No pre-bed snack that I don't want to eat because I'm still full from dinner.

Diabetes is a disease of subtleties. If you try to deal with it with a heavy hand, it fights back with a heavier one. If you are gentle and kind with it, it usually responds in kind.

(My guess is that the diabetes gods will jump on the first plane back from Florida as soon as they read this post and  I will be writing another blog in a week or so about the horrors of blood sugar roller coasters. Still though, it's important to celebrate the diabetes victories as they come. And the last few weeks have definitely been victorious) 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My Fitness Pal - Observations

I've been using My Fitness Pal faithfully for almost three weeks.

In exchange for my diligence:

- I now use about 10 fewer units of insulin per day which means that I am getting an extra day before I have to refill my pump. No complaints there.

- I lost another pound for a total of 3. Slow and steady folks.

- I feel better. I know, that's a little vague. The best way I can explain it is that my body just feels happier because it's getting all the food it needs but isn't getting more than it needs. I'm running on full rather than on overfull.

- Doug and I have tried several new recipes. Tilapia tacos being the latest one. Some are ok. Some are good. Some are delicious. No matter the result, it's fun to play in the kitchen.


- I seem to be spending more on groceries than ever and am going through veggies at an alarming rate.

- leftovers last longer in the fridge because, when I package them into a healthy serving size rather than what I used to think was a serving size, we end up with more servings.

- because I feel like I'm just eating a slightly healthier version of my typical diet, I don't feel deprived in any way. Which means that everything I am doing will be easier to stick with in the long run.

Who knew that little app would turn out to be so useful?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Post-Run Lunch

Saturday morning I went for a very cold, tough, snowy but overall quite lovely run.

I got home around 10am, had a chocolate milk, two pieces of homemade Irish soda bread with almond butter and a banana, took a shower and then headed out again to pick up some groceries.

I had no plans for lunch so I figured I'd see what looked tempting in the veggie aisle.

I ended up putting a portobello mushroom in my cart. Plus a container of grape tomatoes (which are surprisingly tasty this time of year) and some spinach.

Add that to a few ingredients we had at home already and I was all set to make something warm, healthy, tasty and filling.

Step one: chop the mushroom and tomatoes, add some green onions and toss into a frying pan with a smidgen of canola oil. Grind some pepper on top. Stir fry until mushrooms and tomatoes start releasing their juices. 

Toss in several hands full of chopped spinach. Stir until wilted. 

Add in two eggs whisked with a bit of water and stir until cooked. 

Put on dramatic black plate. 

Slice an avocado. 


P.S. A dash or two of Franks Hot Sauce would be a delicious addition. As would, I'm guessing, a wee bit of curry in the eggs. 

Plans for next weekend's post-run lunch are already forming in my head. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Three Hundred and Eighty-Four

Yesterday morning I headed down into the basement to do a cycling workout. I decided that it was high time I dusted off my ol' nemesis.

Bending Crank Arms.

For anyone who has been reading my blog for a while, you may remember that name.

Bending Crank Arms is by far the toughest cycling video we own. It's 57 minutes of hard core cycling all of which, other than the rests, is on the hardest gear. And then, in between sets, we have to hop off the bike to do squats. Lots and lots of squats.

I usually pull it out around January every year. I usually struggle through the first and second runs through and then have trouble climbing stairs for two days afterwards.

The squats are the worst.

The first set is 30 seconds of squats (up down up down) followed b a 45-second isometric squat (ie. squat down and hold the position for 45 seconds). Repeat three times with 30 seconds off in between.

The next set, after having bent the crank arms for a while, is 45 seconds of squats followed by a 60-second isometric squat. Repeat three times.

The third set is 60 seconds of squats followed by a 30-second isometric squat. Repeat 3 times.

And the very final one is 60 seconds of squats followed by a 60-second isometric squat.

I survived by counting down the number of squat cycles left. If you could a cycle as the up down squats + the isometric squat, here are ten cycles in total. I also survive by counting the number of squats I can do in the time given. It's helps me focus on something other than trying not to throw up.

In the first 3 sets of 30-second squats I managed to do 69 of them.

The second 3 rounds of 45-second ones I managed to do 113 of them.

The third 3 rounds of 60-second ones I did 150 of them and I managed 52 in the final one.

So I did 384 squats. Plus all the other stuff we actually do on the bike.

When I went to log my workout in Training peaks I decided to have a little look see at how I was doing in January 2014.

The first time I did Bending Crank Arms in January 2014, I managed to do 290 squats. The second time I did 331 and actually had an exclamation point beside that number so I must have worked really hard. The third time I did 329 and then I didn't do the video again for the rest of the season.

This time I did 384 squats on the first try.

And my legs are weary but not at all sore. Even the next day.

That feat, my friends, is entirely due to my CoreFit classes.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Calories Burned and Other Witchcraft and Wizardry

I've learned a lot in the 2 weeks that I've been using My Fitness Pal.

I've learned that I was eating way too much food and that what I thought was a serving is actually enough to feed both Doug and I.

I learned that, if I eat healthy balanced meals and snacks, I can eat a more reasonable amount without feeling any more hungry. In fact the only difference is that I don't feel that heavy full feeling that I felt after most meals.

I've learned that eating 3 squares of chocolate as a treat after dinner tastes more delicious than eating 6 of them. I think our taste buds turn down a notch or two after the first few bites of food so I'm learning to take a bit of something, eat it, enjoy it, and then decided if I need a bit more.

In the last two days, I've also learned that calculating the amount of calories burned during exercise is less of a science and more of a combination of witchcraft and ruby-slippered heel clicking.

Calories burned

Since day one, I had been entering my runs and my bike rides into My Fitness Pal and it would immediately spit out a number of calories burned which it then added to my daily calorie total. All I had to do was pick the activity from their list, enter the time I spent doing it and voilà!

But then I tried to enter my CoreFit class on Tuesday night and the wheels fell off the cart. CoreFit is not a cardio exercise and it's not a strength exercise. It's both. And it's not on the list of activities that My Fitness Pal has for us to pick from. So I started looking at how calories burned are actually calculated and one website brought me to another one and soon enough I realized that it's just plain overwhelming to try to do anything other than estimate.

I learned that having a sense of my average heart rate over the course of the activity is helpful so, for research purposes, I put on my heart rate monitor for my Thursday morning bike ride. My average heart rate over the 51-minute ride turned out to be 121 beats per minute (bpm).

I entered the workout into My Fitness Pal (without the heart rate because you can't actually put that in) and it said I burned 498 calories.

I uploaded the workout into Training Peaks (with heart rate) and it said that I burned 602 calories.

I then tried plugging my age, weight, heart rate and time spent cycling into a formula that I found referenced at a variety of online sources and it said that I burned 333 calories.

One workout, three very different numbers.

For fun, I decided to wear my heart rate monitor to Tabata class on Thursday night. It's another workout that isn't easily plugged into My Fitness Pal. After class I uploaded the data into Training Peaks and learned that my max heart rate was 152bpm and my average was 116bpm.

Training Peaks said that my calorie burn over the 42 minute class was 319.
My formula said that it was 252.

Those two were a little closer this time.

I'll be wearing my heart rate monitor on Saturday's run and am very interested to see what that tells me.

My guess is that I will have to take any number given with a grain of salt, eat more food on days when I exercise more but not worry too much about the details.
P.S. the formula I was using for anyone who is interested is:

C = [(A x 0.074) - (W x 0.05741) + (H x 0.4472) - 20.4022)} x T / 4.184

C = calories burned
A = age
W = weight (in pounds)
H = average heart rate in beats per minute
T = time in minutes

Note: this formula was for females. There is a slightly different one for males that you can easily find by Googling if you want it.

P.P.S. I also learned that I apparently have a crazy low resting heart rate. I was walking around the house and my heart rate hovered around 65-75. I sat down and, within 15 seconds, was down to 48 beats per minute. I Googled that too and discovered that I'm supposed to tell my doctor if my heart rate is consistently below 60. So I sighed, stopped Googling and went to Tabata.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

There are Limits

Getting ready for bed last night I checked the weather for this morning's run.

-13C at 6am.

No problems there.

Will feel like -23C at 6am.

No worries. My super duper winter jacket will make that feel balmy. I probably won't even need gloves.

Wind will be 30km/hour.

And.....we're done.

-23C is no problem for running.

30km/hour winds are tough but not enough to keep me home either.

Smoosh both of them together into one morning and I'm pulling out my cycling clothes for a morning workout on the trainer.

I know my limits.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Did I mention?

Did I mention...

...that I chopped my hair off before Christmas? That it's too short for a ponytail now? That I love it?

Did I mention...

...that I make a mean antipasti platter?

Did I mention...

...that I received a pair of slippers for Christmas and have been living in them ever since. Who knew slippers could be so nice to wear? How did I miss this? 

Did I mention...

...that I nearly finished this crossword puzzle over Christmas. 

(It's one of my favourite traditions and I have very strict rules about no looking things up. Using the collective knowledge stored in our heads, Doug and I ploughed through at least 4/5 of it before throwing in the towel.)

Did I mention...

...that I've been using My Fitness Pal religiously for almost two weeks now?

Did I mention...

...that I have lost two pounds?
...that I have discovered that I really really don't get enough protein or calcium in my diet? 
...that I pay much more attention to food labels now and have no trouble saying no to things that really aren't worth it?
...that I enjoy all the extra veggies that seem to have made their way into my day since I started paying attention?

And did I mention...

...that the small changes I have made to my diet continue to result in more stable blood sugar numbers and much lower daily insulin requirements? 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Back in the Pool

I mentioned in yesterday's post that I went swimming twice last weekend.

Friday morning, Doug and I headed to the pool. It was my first time in the water since September. I had no expectations and one goal.

Swim, pull and kick my way through 1500m. No more. Hopefully no less.

I fell easily back into my locker room routine and managed to get to the pool without forgetting anything or showing up with my jacket still on. Bathing suit, swim cap, goggles, flip flops, emergency carbs and electrolyte drink - check, check, check, check, check, check.

I grabbed a pull boy and board en route and showed up looking like a swimmer if not exactly feeling like one. I half expected someone to ask what I was doing there.

No one did.

I broke my swim up into 50m sections and set a goal to do 35 of them. I swam for five, pulled for five, kicked for five and repeated over and over until I did 34. It felt good to be back in there but, despite being 'in shape' from all the other activities in my life, I felt very out of swimming shape. My arms and legs tired quickly and the pulling and kicking was good for giving different parts of my body a rest.

I saved the last 50m for a very leisurely breast stroke and headed home.

Sunday, I headed back on my own with one goal - swim 2000m. No less.

The second time was easier and much less of a shock to my muscles. I did the same routine of swimming, pulling and kicking for 1450m but then cut that short on a whim. I was nice and warmed up and not too exhausted so I decided to see how I could handle 4x100m sprints. I decided to do them on 2:30 to give myself a decent amount of rest and was grateful that there was no one left in my lane.

I waited until the red hand reached the top of the clock and I pushed off. I pushed hard all the way through despite the fatigue that quickly weighed down my arms. As I hit the wall I looked at the clock. One minute and forty-five seconds! Not bad. There was a time when I couldn't break 1:50 no matter how hard I pushed. (There was also a time when I could do 1:35 but I wasn't worried about that.)

I did the other three in 1:48, 1:50 and 1:50.

I cooled down for 150m and got out, feeling much more like a swimmer than I did on Friday.

On the way out I signed up for the next Masters swim session that starts this week. I'm not exactly at that level yet but I figure there will be plenty of folks coming out of the woodwork to prepare for the 2015 triathlon season. Might as well join them.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Easing My Way Back Into Reality

Today is my first day back to work after being off for just over two weeks.

It also happens to be the morning after the premiere of this season's Downton Abbey which means that I will have stayed up extra late the night before I have to get up extra early for the first time in two weeks.

It's going to be a bit of a shock to be sure but worth it to see what Mr. Carson and the gang have been up to.

Over the holidays I was able to maintain some pretty good habits, test out a few new recipes and come out feeling better than I felt on the way in.

In the time I was off I worked out 12 of 17 mornings. Running and cycling mostly with two swims thrown in late last week to see if my body remembered how to move in the water.

When we weren't partaking in holiday fare, Doug and I tried several new recipes that we enjoyed and have a few more printed out and ready for upcoming dinners. None of them are so good that they need to be included here but they were good enough that we kept them in our repertoire for future meals.

We also found a few recipes for homemade snacks (like bars, muffins and cookies) that have much less bad stuff and much more good stuff than the store-bought ones tend to. We tested the Glo Bars from the Oh She Glows cookbook and both of us agree that they are absolutely delicious. So good in fact that a) we made a second batch for the first week back to work and b) I'm adding the link to the recipe for your enjoyment.

Diabetes-wise, things went rather well actually. Fewer highs and lows than I usually have and, interestingly, much less insulin used. Typically, I use at least 40 units a day and average about 45. During the last two weeks I only hit 40 four times and never went above 45 once. The other days were mostly in the low to mid 30s.

What's up with that?

Since I didn't change my basal, the difference was entirely due to the amount of insulin I bolused for meals and snacks.

Perhaps a combination of moving around a bit more since I was not sitting at my desk + not snacking as much + stocking the house with healthy snack options and actually eating them.

Example: I entered the holidays with three chocolate bars in the cupboard and left the holidays with the same three chocolate bars in said cupboard (unopened).

Here is to a new year and a renewed effort to keep those healthy habits of the last two weeks and carry them with me into the craziness that is my working life.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Gently Taking the Bull by the Horns

I'm standing on the edge of 2015 looking into the fog, trying to spot any clues of what the year might hold.

My ability to read the future has never been particularly strong so there is no point assuming that it will work this time.

And, to be honest, I prefer to think that life is what you make of it rather than what it makes of you. Don't waste time waiting around for life to do things for you. Just make it happen yo!

So let's grab this 2015 bull by its proverbial horns and steer it in the right direction shall we?

In 2014, I decided to try a new online program to help me keep track of my activity. It's called Training Peaks and, after a full year of use, I can say with surety that I do like it. I have not signed up for the full version but even the watered down free edition has enough to keep me happy and on track. Getting to see weekly, monthly and annual totals for each activity is ridiculously satisfying and I will be continuing to use it in 2015. 

A few days before the beginning of this new year, I decided to try another new program. This one is called My Fitness Pal. I know I know, I'm a little late getting on this bandwagon. After only a few days, I have already come to appreciate the value of this wee app. 

I had several reason for trying this app but the main one was to get a better sense of the type and amout of food that I consume every day. As someone with Type 1, I'm pretty good at figuring out how many carbs I consume in a day but I am also pretty abysmal at knowing how much protein, iron, calories, vitamin A or B12 I consume. And, let's be honest here, the fact that I am 5 pounds heavier than I was this time last year is another good reason for me to pay a little more attention. 

I've been logging my food and activity for one week already and I have learned that: 
1. I easily consume enough fibre every day for two people

2. I don't eat enough protein. In fact I did not eat enough protein even once during that first week. 

3. My diet is naturally low in sodium but also naturally high in sugar, most of which comes from all the fruit I eat, especially with breakfast. My Fitness Pal usually starts warning me by lunch time that I am over my sugar quota for the day. And that's before my evening baklava treat. 

4. Exercise makes a big difference in terms of the number of calories I can eat in a day. When I run or cycle, the number of extra calories that translates into makes it easy for me to stay within range. When I don't, I have to be more vigilant to avoid going over. 

5. Avoiding lows is a great way to avoid overeating and spotting incoming lows early enough to treat them with something nutritious like an apple or a banana is much better than taking in empty sugar calories. I now wince when I have to add two packages of fruit chews to my daily total. 

6. Wine should really come with a nutrition label so that I know how many calories in each glass. Once I looked it up I realized that I had better really want that second glass before I pour it. And I had better have gone for a run that morning too.

So 2015 looks like it's shaping up to be a year of paying closer attention to what I eat in addition to paying attention to what I do. Stay tuned as I am sure I'll be nattering on about all the stuff I am learning.

Other goals?

Find my swimming mojo again and get back in the pool.

Be able to call myself a triathlete again. Last summer I did not do one triathlon and I mean to change that this year by doing several.

Two half marathons - minimum.

Do more speaking engagements in the type 1 diabetes world. I did two last year and would love to do 5 or more this year. They are a wonderful way to help others and inspire myself at the same time.

Lose those five pounds I put on last year - slowly, safely and without sacrificing my health or my sanity to do it.

Get my damn golf handicap below 35 by the end of the 2015 season.

And, by adding up all the kilometres I run, walk, swim and bike, I want to make it all the way to Regina, Saskatchewan, via Thunder Bay of course. That's 2747km, 300k farther than last year.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My Year in Review

Hi kids!

Happy 2015.

Now that 2014 has drawn to a close, I'm tempted, as always, to reflect on the year that was. Twenty-fourteen was a year filled with more than our usual share of things. Travel adventures, important family moments, personal challenges, illness and injuries made it a year to remember as well as one that I'm glad in some ways to wave goodbye to.

I am, however, grateful for the lessons as well as the opportunity to see how strong and brave we can really be in the face of adversity.

Carry on.

Also, as a reminder, I do tend edit my life a bit when I write Running on Carbs. Not edit as in make stuff up but edit as in make a conscious decision as to what I will and what I will not share with the world. In that spirit, let's look back on the year that was as seen by Running on Carbs.

Fitness-wise, I think I did quite well depending on what sport we are talking about.

In 2013, I logged 888 km so I set a goal of breaking 1000km in 2014. After I completed my last run of the year I logged it and then did the grand total. In 2014 I did not run 1000km. I ran 1104k! Also known as I ran for 123 hours (not in a row of course). And despite all of that extra distance I have had no running injuries to speak of. So I'm proud as punch about that.

Swimming and cycling
I didn't actually set any distance goals for these two but here is the final report:
I logged 830km on the bike (or 40 hours of riding) and I swam 129km in the pool (or 57 hours of swimming).

Those numbers are nowhere near those of 2013 but, when I consider how little cycling I did this summer and how I haven't been swimming in 3 months, I'm not too disappointed.

I tracked all the walking I did this summer on the golf course and it turns out that I walked 340km (or 136 hours) on the golf course alone. Carrying, yes carrying, my golf bag every step of the way.

CoreFit and Tabata
A new activity for me in 2014 were my evening CoreFit and Tabata classes. I started them in mid-September and, after the first few classes that nearly killed me, I grew to love them. I was able to complete 24 of them in 3 1/2 months and have the arm and ab muscles to prove it. In fact I had to start bringing my own weights in the last two weeks because the ones in class were no longer heavy enough. Look out!

To recap: in 2014 I did 380 hours of physical activity and I logged 2,403km of movement.

To put it another way: I ran, walked, swam and biked the distance from our home in Southern Ontario to Brandon, Manitoba (via Thunder Bay of course). Or, for my American friends, I made it all the way to Miami and then had enough left over to swim to Cuba.

I'll be back tomorrow with some of my goals for 2015.