Take Care of Yourself

A few weeks ago some of us were talking while waiting for Pool Guy to show up and let us in. Somehow diabetes came up in the conversation. I might have been saying how I had a very good diabetes day during the 70.3, or someone could have been mentioning how they heard about an advance in diabetes research and thought of me. I can’t honestly remember. I don’t make a big deal about the ‘betes at the pool (or most other places for that matter) and not everyone I swim with knows that I live with it.

“My sister has type-1 diabetes,” one of the pool regulars said. “She doesn’t take very good care of herself, though.”

Honestly, this is one of the hardest things for me to hear and respond to. It’s easy enough to educate someone about how the various kinds of diabetes actually work. I can tell people what my diabetes experience is, but I wouldn’t imagine trying to speak for others. Nevertheless, I know that lots and lots of us try hard and alternately succeed and struggle. And I know that friends and relatives don’t see enough of our lives with diabetes to get an accurate picture of how it’s going. Most of all, I know that comments about how well we take care of ourselves are rooted in concern for our well-being. I try to tread lightly and politely all without throwing any of my fellow type-1 folks under the bus. Besides what does “taking very good care of oneself” really mean?

So I made a sympathetic face—at least, as sympathetic as my face gets—and said what I usually do. “Diabetes is tough. There’s a lot that goes into taking care of ourselves, and it’s not always easy to see.” Fortunately, Pool Guy showed up shortly afterward to let us in to swim.

Fast forward to last Wednesday when I went for a run after work. I had miscounted the amount of carbohydrates in my lunch, and my blood sugar by the time I was ready to exercise was 410 mg/dL (22.8 mmol/L). I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go for my regularly scheduled run, but I also figured that exercising would be the most effective way of bringing it down. I took a unit of insulin, put on my running clothes, laced up my shoes, and headed out toward the rotary two miles from my house.

I had originally intended to run to the rotary—which, BTW, hasn’t been a rotary since they did the construction work to turn it into an intersection with 3-way STOP signs—but I was feeling the need to go a little farther and to do something a little badass, so I kept going once I got there. Soon I was running down one of the biggest hills in town, dropping over 150 feet in less than half a mile. And then I was running up the other side of the valley, gaining 200 feet in 2/3 of a mile, before making a left turn to drop down another, shallower hill, and looping my way back to the foot of the first big hill.

It was slow, steady work to get myself back up those 150 feet. This is one of the most difficult hills in town (#3 by my estimation), and there are a few places where it doesn’t feel like you’re actually making any forward progress. Eventually, I got back to the not-rotary at the top of the hill and turned right, towards home, which was just two miles away.

About a half-mile later, I started to feel “not quite right” in that way that accompanies hypoglycemia. Is it possible that I had dropped 340 mg/dL (18.9) or more in less than an hour? It seemed inconceivable, but I had taken that insulin, and I’d been running a little longer than I had expected, so it was entirely possible. It certainly felt like it. My CGM hadn’t said I was low, but it was pointed sharply downward.

I ate four glucose tablets and kept running at a slower pace. And then a few minutes later, the feeling was more pronounced. I ate four more glucose tablets, stopped running, and walked slowly toward home. If I were riding my bike, I would hang out on the side of the road for the 10 minutes or so it would take to get over the low. For whatever reason I don’t do the same thing when I’m running; it just seems like a waste of time in my hypoglycemic-but-not-yet-incapacitated brain. So I walked and ate the last two glucose tablets in the tube.

I gritted it out and held on and got home. Testing my blood glucose, I saw 70 (3.9), and I could feel that my BGs were on the way up.

Later I thought about the somewhat one-sided conversation I had with the person at the pool about her sister. Would she say that I’m not taking very good care of myself? Some might look at that 410 mg/dL or the 340 drop on my run and say, no, I’m not. I didn’t almost pass out, but it was a possibility, especially with a drop like that, which clearly I had contributed to by taking more insulin than I needed.

It’s also possible to look at that experience and note that I’m training for an Ironman triathlon (with diabetes!), that I train everyday, that this kind of drop is uncommon but more likely given the amount I train, and that I prepared for the possibility of hypoglycemia by carrying glucose tablets every time I leave the house. Clearly, there’s a lot of gray in “Taking Care of Oneself.”

Diabetes is a constant fixture in the lives of those of us with it, and the best we can do is work with it, trying to actively manage it. Doing so falls on the tedious end of the excitement spectrum. Most of the time, we do the best with the information we have and the variability in our disease. Occasionally we get tired of it, have a momentary lapse in judgment or attention, or just do a plain ole half-assed job. But that’s true in all aspects of our lives, diabetes or no.

Posted in Diabetes, Life Lessons, Running | Leave a comment

June Round-up

I’m having trouble accepting that it’s July. It just doesn’t seem possible.

Fitness-wise, May and June look a lot alike. The weather didn’t really cooperate for my long rides on the weekend, but I started commuting to work more by bike. I definitely need to get some longer outings in this month. (And with JDRF’s Burlington Ride to Cure Diabetes just around the corner, I’m going to get my wish. You can help make it a success with a donation to help fight diabetes.)

I also didn’t do quite as much running as I had expected. The brutal 70.3 on the 7th left me feeling pretty flat for a couple of weeks afterward. I definitely need to start adding some length to my long runs so that I’m ready for the marathon at the end of the Ironman. (That’s just 10 weeks away!)

Without further ado, here are the totals:

June — 43 workouts

  • Swim: 12 times, 9:39 — 28,500 yards (16.2 miles, or 26,000 meters)
  • Bike: 15 times, 24:03, 387 miles (623 km)
  • Run: 12 times, 11:09, 78.7 miles (126.7 km)
  • Kayak: Once, for just over an hour
  • Strength: 3 times

While we’re counting stuff, lots talk about license plates. Every month I play my own version of the license plate game. I keep track of all the different states and provinces whose plates I see. Last year, because of my RAGBRAI road trip, I think I got all of the U.S. states. June brought a pretty good haul, too. (Well, for the U.S., at least.) It’s probably easiest to list the states I didn’t get, since I saw 40 states plus the District of Columbia.

  • States missing: Oregon, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia.
  • Provinces I saw: Ontario, Québec, Alberta, Nouveau Brunswick
Posted in Cycling, Reluctant Triathlete, Running, Swimming | Leave a comment

This Old Man Cray Cray

Last Friday I posted about how I’ll be riding my bike more because, when it comes right down to it, cycling is often a more relaxing way to commute than driving. Earlier in the morning I had driven to the lake, swam 1.7 miles (about 3,000 yards, or 2,700 meters), and tried to take it easy on the bike into the office. I had a nice tailwind that moved me right along before it turned into light rain for the last 10 minutes.

After putting in a full day at work, I headed home, telling myself that I wasn’t going to work too hard or add too much distance. An hour should do it. An hour of relaxed cycling on a beautiful afternoon. The first 59 minutes of that ride were great, and then it got weird.

Some background: There are some things you should know about me. (1) I’m pretty laid back when I’m riding, and I like to follow the rules, but I don’t take shit when I’m within my rights. (2) I have a very loud yell when I need it. (3) While I usually reserve the yelling for people who aren’t paying attention and are about to hit me, I will occasionally chastise bad driving behavior. (4) My biggest pet peeve when I’m riding is drivers who pass me and then immediately turn right. Someone hit me this way when I was a teenager. (5) It’s illegal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to turn directly after passing, and it’s not a legal defense for a driver to say that he or she didn’t see the rider.

With that set up, back to our story.

I’m literally one minute from my car at the lake when I sense a car behind me. We’re at the crest of a very steep uphill on a narrow road without lane markings. I’m going 10-15 mph, but in 10 seconds I’ll be going 35 mph. At the bottom of the hill there’s a dangerous intersection, and I frankly don’t want to deal with being behind a car going into that intersection, so I’m in the middle of where my lane would be if it were marked.

The driver has personal issues, so he decides to pass me on this blind uphill, gets just past me, and puts on his right turn signal.

So I shout, “HEY, C’MON!”

And he hits the brakes and comes to a screeching stop. I’m getting ready to go past him—like I said, it’s a fast downhill—but I’m cautious, which is good because he just about doors me.

I stop, and this old man is immediately in my face, raving and cursing.


I’m calm, but I’m thinking, “This old man be cray!” He had already done three dangerous things, and now he’s raving. Who knows what he’s going to do next. I couldn’t see myself making any headway in a reasonable conversation, and I could honestly imagine him trying to take a swing at me. So I start to clip back into my pedals preparing to leave. I simply say, “What you did was illegal and dangerous.”


Like I said, the sputtering old man cray-cray, so I just said at a normal voice, “That’s not true,” and I take off. And he pulls into his driveway, which is 20 yards after where he passed me.

As I was pulling up to my car in the parking lot I was still thinking about what had just happened. Mostly I was bemused by how ridiculous that old man was. I’ve had altercations with drivers who didn’t like cyclists in the past, but this was the most ludicrously venomous one of all. And I was also feeling just a little proud of how I handled the situation. A couple of years ago I was occasionally chasing down drivers who acted dangerously. Now I’m trying to stay Zen about the whole thing.

I’m going to call that ride a success.

Posted in Cycling, Life Lessons | 2 Comments

Rock Beats Scissors. Bike Beats Car.

My office is 16 miles from my house. That’s via the most direct route, which is frequently slow in a car because the backroads are actually main streets, and it passes through four town centers—Milford, Holliston, Sherborn, and Natick—each of which brings traffic to a crawl. It’s usually faster to take 495 and the Mass Pike; sure it’s 8 miles longer, but it usually gets me there in 30-40 minutes depending on when I leave. Coming home has been a crazy-making experience the last few weeks. Yesterday, I spent 90 frustrating minutes in the car crawling along to get home. I actually went 20 miles out of my way, going past the interchange I needed and then taking some roads I know from my weekend bike outings.

When I ride my bike from the house to the office, it takes 60-70 minutes depending on how energetic I’m feeling and whether I throw in some gratuitous hills. If I leave my car at the lake after swimming, 40 minutes later I’m at work. On the return trip, lately I’ve been choosing routes home that have me riding for 80-90 minutes, either home or back to my car at the lake. Sometimes it’s so that I can miss a particularly rough or busy stretch of road, but mostly because it’s so nice to be in the saddle. By the time I’m home I’ve done my workout(s) for the day, and I can help out and settle in for the evening.

Last night, as I grumbled to myself while going nowhere in traffic, I decided to commit to something I’ve been thinking about for a while: I should bike to and from work more often. I’m happier when I ride, and it seems to take almost as long whether I’m in the car or on a bike. Plus, it will help my training. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. And here comes the tricky part. I’m going to have to slow down most days when I ride. (I’m not sure how many days each week I’ll be able to ride because of weather or after-work commitments or really long swim sessions at the pool. Although that last one might not be a thing. I’ll have to think about it some more.)

Slowing down is going to be hard. Riding a bike is fun, especially in that “I’m kicking ass!” kind of way. My legs and lungs and heart have a set-point where we like to be: just at the edge of too hard. The pedals are always turning, and there’s the hint of a burn on my muscles and the knowledge that, while I could go faster, I’m moving right along. My PM commute is often my hard bike workout for the week, and I push the pace according to my training plan. Riding three or four days a week isn’t going to be sustainable if I always take the long or hilly route or if I treat it as a tempo ride. I figure I need to drop my speed by 1-2 MPH and my heart rate by 10-15 BPM (basically from zone 3 to 2) in order not to commute myself into over-training. It’s going to be a challenge to do and to feel okay with. (And I’m also going to have to figure out how to fit my running and recovery days into this plan.)

I was thinking about this last week on one of my rides to work, and I shared the following reflection on a Facebook fitness group.

I opted for the 20-mile route on my ride into work today. It’s kind of a beautiful morning out there in New England. I did my very, very best not to treat the commute in as a training ride by keeping my heart rate low. (The ride home is the training ride.) I mostly succeeded.

I’ve noticed on my rides recently that, the more traffic there is, the harder I push myself. I think I have some kind of need to “perform” the activity of cycling to all of the drivers out there. And riding “slow”—even if it’s what the terrain or the PLAN requires—is very difficult to be okay with. What’s wrong with me?

I don’t feel this need very much when I’m running, and I don’t care so much about getting passed by other cyclists. I pass tons of people, and if you’re stronger than me today, you are awesome, too! (Although that one time when the teenager with sagging shorts passed me on a mountain bike going up the big hill into Grafton when I’d bonked… that was a tough one to be okay with.) I kinda feel like I have to prove that bikes belong, and it’s harder to feel that way when I’m going 10 mph up a hill (because the PLAN) than when I’m pushing myself to go a few mph faster. Or if I’m just leisurely tooling around on my commute vs. throwing down and (almost) keeping up with traffic.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

Posted in Cycling | 2 Comments

I Like Big Hills: Quassy Half-ironman

Training for an Ironman is a funny thing. The distances and times involved in the event are so long that, on one level, I sort of forgot that a half-ironman is the longest athletic event I’ve ever done. In the days leading up to Sunday’s Challenge Quassy half-ironman, I was feeling pretty relaxed about the distances but kept reminding myself not to underestimate the event.

For one thing, everyone I ever talked to about Quassy took a particular amount of glee informing me that it was a hilly course. I live in the hills—and I’d been riding them this year since there was still snow on the ground—so I wasn’t terribly worried. But still . . .

And then there were my wicked high blood sugar readings during my last few triathlons. This is stuff I can’t practice during my regular workouts, because the highs are from race-day stress, and I just don’t get that worked up on a daily or weekly basis. This triathlon was a chance to make some changes involving extra insulin, which is scary stuff. So I was a little nervous.

What would happen? Would the hills kill me? Would my BGs behave? Would extra insulin put me in the BG penalty box? How is my nutrition and hydration plan working? Is my fitness where it should be just under halfway through my Ironman training?

Let’s find out . . .

Swim: The Flat Part of the Race. Once upon a time, I wasn’t very good at swimming. At least, that’s what I told myself. I mean, it was kinda true. Compared to my peers, I was near the back. Nowadays, I’m gradually coming to terms with the fact that I can keep up pretty well—actually, that I’m far enough ahead of the flailing mob that the swim doesn’t seem so bad.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

On Friday I went to a diabetes technology conference. Cliff Scherb, who at one point held the record for the quickest Ironman by anyone with diabetes at 9:07, was also there. We talked triathlon a bit, and he told me how he balances insulin, food, and tri. It involved a lot of insulin going into the event and was frankly a bit scary. In a recent comment here, Peej told me what she did. Not surprisingly, it included more insulin than I had been taking. I decided to be a little conservative and change what I had been doing in a small way.

It started on Saturday by upping my insulin intake by 20% for the whole day. I went to bed needing a little snack, and when I woke at 1AM to have my “breakfast” peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I saw this CGM trace:

Boom! 104

BOOM! I bolused slightly less insulin than the sandwich required, was woken an hour later by my CGM’s “Predicted High” alarm, delivered a bit more insulin, and tried to sleep for a couple more hours. (It didn’t really work.) I felt fine—more or less—knowing that having a bit of insulin on board would probably be okay. Probably.

Fast-forward a few hours. While setting up my spot in transition, I saw one of my fellow triathletes, who was doing the bike leg on a relay team. But that was later, right now he was wearing a crown and heavy red cape and talking with the race director. He was pretty fly. I dubbed him “El Rey de Tri,” the king of triathlon. He would become a recurring figure throughout the rest of the day.

When I left my CGM in transition, I was hovering around 160 mg/dL (8.9 mmol/L) and feeling alternately good and nervous. About 15 minutes before my start, I ate a Clif Bar, took 1.5 units of insulin, and got ready for the swim.

The water was the perfect temperature and it was so clean and clear. I sighted well, held a nice straight line, and swam hard. A few times I felt people drafting off me, as they accidentally grabbed my feet. The 1.2 miles of the swim passed quickly in 35:36. When I got back to transition, my continuous glucose monitor told me good news.

Bike: I Like Big Hills and I Cannot Lie. Quassy wasn’t my first choice, but I missed my opportunity to sign up for the Patriot Half, so I did this other kind-of-local race I’d heard about. Hills? Ironman Wisconsin is supposed to be hilly. Why not do this race?

Although it’s hilly where I live, you can find some flattish stretches if you try. Whoever made this course decided to find the hilliest 56 miles possible, it seems. Anyway, this course had it all: long, gradual uphills; short, steep uphills; long, steep uphills; and wicked-fast descents, often with sharp turns along the way. One of the climbs was 4.5 miles long and gained over 750 feet (roughly 3% grade). Another, shorter hill had me out of the saddle, struggling to stay upright.

My speed was about 2.5 miles per hour slower than my usual 70.3 pace. I got passed by so many people on the bike. I guess this is the downside of having a stronger swim. :-) Clearly it’s something to work on for the next few months. The bike was a bit painful, all 3 hours and 15 minutes of it. I finished just ahead of El Rey.

Run: Satan Made This Course. And when I said “painful,” I meant it literally. When I headed out for the run, my left groin felt really tight, and there was a bit of a hitch in my gait. I’m sure it was from pushing up the hills on the bike. And, of course, the run course started on an uphill. I wasn’t sure how much of the run I was going to have to walk. It turned out, none of it. After about the first mile and a half—when I got to the first downhill—my muscles had loosened up. I played a bit of leap-frog with a guy whom I would pass on the downhills only to have him pass me on the ups. He was never more than 200 yards away from me until the final three miles when I threw down. I finished the run in 1:53:57, which is much better than I had expected.

Right around the time I left my leap-frog companion behind, I saw Cliff Scherb. He’s a coach, and several of his triathletes were racing. He was running around to give his athletes encouragement, when he saw me. About 15 seconds after we saw each other, I felt a big strong arm around my shoulder, literally propelling me forward. We chatted for about a minute, with him giving me lots of encouragement. It really got me going for the last couple miles.

The run course had 1,900 feet of elevation gain and barely had any flat sections. It made a sort of figure eight, and the crossover was a spot near the start/finish. Just before starting the second loop of the “8” I saw El Rey, who was standing on the course with a bullhorn, just being awesome and giving encouragement. “¡El Rey de Tri!” I called out, and he gave me a few motivating words. Six miles later, I was finishing the last, painful uphill when I saw him again. “It has finally come to pass. Competitor number 1-2-3-8 is heading into the finish.” I gave him some finger guns and made a left turn . . . straight into the finish.

I saw Lisa a few times out on the course. She’s been wearing her bright orange “Team Jeff” T-shirt, which makes her nearly impossible to miss. I love that woman! It just makes me so happy to see her there. On the way home I looked over her pictures and we talked about our respective race experiences. You’ve read my take. Here’s Lisa’s view.

Posted in Cycling, Diabetes, Reluctant Triathlete, Running, Swimming | 2 Comments

Come What May (Round-up)

“It’s the First of June,” I told myself on the way to work this morning. “Huh. I guess it’s time to recap the last month of fitnessy good times.” Between working from home, volunteering, and riding my bike to work, it was the first time I drove to the office in 12 days.

May — 48 workouts

  • Swim: 10 times, 7:40, 23,375 yards (The pool was closed a lot in May.)
  • Bike: 19 times, 23:22, 367 miles (Eight of these were commutes. Five other rides were with Lisa.)
  • Run: 13 times, 13:31, 92.8 miles (There was a lot of exploring new roads in my neighborhood.)
  • Walk: Once, 2:29, 9.1 miles (I’ve been doing the same charity walk every year since 1999. This year I ran part of it.)
  • Kayak: Once, for about an hour. (Super-duper fun!)
  • Strength: 4 times

Stats for the previous months

Posted in Cycling, Reluctant Triathlete, Running, Swimming | 1 Comment

Pimp My Ride

It’s the time of the season for riding my bike to and from work. It’s bright in the morning. The temperatures are warm . . . well, warm enough. And the crack in Tommy V’s carbon fiber chainstay is fixed. I’m aiming to ride twice a week, which leaves plenty of time for running and swimming and—I’m really trying here—strength training.

Last Friday I started swimming at the reservoir. The pool is closed for the school year, although it will reopen in a couple weeks for those of us looking for some speed and strength workouts. It’s great being back at the lake! The water is still cool, but it’s warm enough for a sleeveless wetsuit. The first couple hundred yards are cool, but after that it’s perfect for swimming fast!

Today and last Friday I put my bike on the car at 5:30, drove to the lake, swam, and then rode my bike 10 miles to work. Friday I found a 20-mile route from the office back to the ‘res. Today’s ride was slightly more direct at 16 miles.

After my swim this morning, Sir Alex discovered that my car was going to be hanging out a couple miles from her house all day without me. When I arrived back at the lake this afternoon, I saw her handiwork. I love my crazy friends!

Lots of leis

Not a parking ticket

IM Wisconsin training

I got lei'ed

Posted in Cycling, Reluctant Triathlete, Swimming | Leave a comment

Round and Round We Go

This post about trying to set a 10K PR has been sitting around in my drafts folder for over six months. It seems relevant to today, when I headed over to the track to do speedwork for the first time in six months. Alas, the lacrosse team was practicing, so I’ll have to wait for another day. But at least I can post this. :-)

Sunday [November 9th, 2014], as I drove home from donating platelets, a thought came to me: “Next Saturday I should go to the high school track and try to set a 10K PR.”

Yesterday [the 11th], as I drove home from work, I had a different thought: “The weather is beautiful tonight, and I’m feeling good. I should try for the PR tonight.”

The Track

I tried to remember my best 10K time as I ran from my house to the track for a little warm up, but I couldn’t. An online race-time calculator estimated that I should be able to run it in 43:47 based on the 5K I ran in 21:00 a couple of months ago, which was almost exactly the same time as my season-opening 5K in April. I figured that if I was below 45 minutes, I was going to call it a PR. (I’ve since looked it up. I ran a 44:58 at the 2002 James Joyce Ramble.) As I changed into my track spikes and did a short warm up lap, I figured that I would need to run better than 7:15/mile (4:30/km).

Rounding the corner at a jog, I hit the start line, started my watch, and picked up the pace. The track wasn’t too busy, and I only occasionally had to swing wide to pass other walkers and runners. The 10K would require 25 laps of the 400 meter track, and I tried to hold back a bit. True to form, though, I did the first mile too quickly: 6:53.

At first I wasn’t thinking about the number of laps I would have to run. Twenty-five is just an abstract number when you’re not that tired, but it became much more concrete the further into the run that I got. So I decided not to think about it. Instead I thought about my pace and what was going on around me. Some students started a pickup soccer game. At one point a ball crossed my path, and I kicked it back better than I ever did when I played soccer as a teenager. Runners came and went. At one point, a father and his two young children started running, and every time I ran past them, the five-or-so-year-old would race me. It was pretty cute.

When I came through the 5K at 21:57, I was feeling pretty good. It was tough, but the fact that I was hitting my goal pace buoyed me. But I was only half done. I kept going. I’m sure it must have seemed odd to anyone paying attention that I was running so many laps. The last mile was tough. Without anyone to chase, I only had myself to push the pace. I watched my heart-rate creep higher. I kicked the last 400 meters, giving everything I had. (I also ran an extra 50 meters, just to make sure Strava would give me credit for the full 10K.)

My time? 44:27! Woot woot!

My 10k

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What’s new, Canada?

Hey, Canada? What’s up?

You know, I think about you all the time. You’re home to some of my favorite people. I read their blogs and Facebook updates. I see details about their cycling and running on Strava. I’d love to see you and them again soon. Et j’écoute à ta musique francophone sur la radio et les balados tout le temps.

For whatever reason a few weeks ago I got interested in the October Crisis of 1970, when the FLQ took some hostages and Pierre Trudeau instituted martial law in Montréal. I quickly fell down a Wikipedia vortex, which “required” me to read the relevant portion of my copy of J.M. Bumsted’s A History of the Canadian Peoples that I bought when Lisa and I first visited Montréal in 2001. Of course, chapter 10 (“Edging Towards the Abyss, 1958-1972″) led to chapter 11 (“Coming Apart, 1972-1992″), and before I knew it, I was reading the chapter on international relations and then the final chapter (“Freefalling into the Twenty-first Century”).

The only problem is that my book was published in 1998, which means the “end of history” and the freefall pretty much coincide with the time I was listening to the CBC’s “As It Happens” on public radio as I drove around Iowa and Wyoming before Lisa and I moved out to Massachusetts. At the time it really did seem like Canada was having an existential crisis about what kind of confederation it was going to have: Urban vs. rural. Francophone vs. Anglo. Liberalism vs. conservatism. Federal vs. provincial governments. Vive le Québec libre vs. a unified Canada. Alberta vs. everybody else. First Nations’ rights. Etc. Etc.

But that was 17 years ago. Surely a lot has happened since then.

What have I missed?

Posted in Canada | 1 Comment


Diabetes Blog Week Banner

I intended to post this last Friday for Day 5 of (the now past) Diabetes Blog Week, but life got in the way.

“Write a post documenting what you eat in a day! Feel free to add links to recommended recipes/shops/whatever. Make it an ideal day or a come-as-you-are day – no judgments either way.”

Last Friday I did my typical #FridayLongSwim at the pool. All of these workouts are at least 3,000 yards, and many of them are just endurance swims without any real structure except swimming continuously. I figure—if nothing else—I’m building mental fortitude for the Ironman swim. Friday’s swim was 4,525 yards long (4,138 meters), and I was powerful hungry by the time I got to work. (I almost ate my lunch on the drive there.)

Mmm... Breakfast

Mmm… food. Lunch (seen below) was a little more sedate, and dinner was spaghetti with sauce. There might have been ice cream.

Mmm... Lunch

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Deferents and Epicycles

Diabetes Blog Week Banner

Hey, we’re halfway through Diabetes Blog Week 2015! So far so good. I’ve been doing my best to write to the prompts this year, but I think I’ve taken a few liberties. Anyway, I think I stuck close today.

“Today let’s talk about changes, in one of two ways. Either tell us what you’d most like to see change about diabetes, in any way. This can be management tools, devices, medications, people’s perceptions, your own feelings – anything at all that you feel could use changing. OR reflect back on some changes you or your loved one has seen or been through since being diagnosed with diabetes. Were they expected or did they surprise you?”

I’ve been doing triathlon for five seasons now. Tri training is all about cycles. There are two big cycles that last many months: the training/racing season and the off-season. During the main training season from March to September, there are smaller cycles of 3-4 weeks. These build and then have a recovery week. And each week is a kind of cycle, too, with hard and easy days, peaking on the weekend. The “off-season” is really a misnomer, since I still do about 7-10 hours of exercise per week; it’s just unstructured and fun.

Each of these cycles requires a change in how I manage my diabetes. The harder I train, the more insulin-sensitive I become and less I have to dose. And the more I train, the more I eat, which means more insulin . . . but not too much, of course. Saturdays and Sundays are my long run and ride days, and I’m most insulin-sensitive on those days and Monday, too . . . even though it’s my rest day. On recovery weeks, the 25-30% reduction in my training volume really shows up in increased insulin needs.

Add to this another pair of cycles related to insulin. Every three days I change my infusion set and insulin reservoir. I’ve noticed that the insulin loses a bit of its potency by the last day. (I’ve heard various reasons: insulin starts to stick to the tubing; the tissue around the infusion set changes; the insulin in the reservoir gets a little warm and less potent; etc.) Insulin definitely works best when the vial is new, and sometimes it almost seems not to work very well at all by the time the bottle is empty.

Finally, I swear that my body has its own cycle with the occasional week when—all other things being equal—I’m extra insulin resistant. Maybe it’s the accumulation of training stress. Maybe it’s hormones. Maybe it’s just the psychological pendulum swing that happens when I have several bouts of low blood sugar, which leads me to be more conservative with my insulin, which leads to higher blood sugar and the need for a little more courage and insulin. Who can say?

Being an athlete with diabetes—just having diabetes, actually—definitely requires a lot of flexibility and adapting to changes.

For an explanation of this post’s title, see the animation on this page.

Posted in Diabetes, Diabetes Blog Week, Reluctant Triathlete | 1 Comment

Swim Selfie

Last month, someone from my college sent me a little gift in the mail. It happened to arrive the same day as some new goggles.

Excellent mail day

Naturally, I had to thank her with a picture of me making the most of it:

In the pool

Enjoy your Thursday!

Posted in I am Rembrandt, Swimming | Leave a comment

In the Cupboard

Diabetes Blog Week Banner

Here we go: day 3 of Diabetes Blog Week.

“Yesterday we kept stuff in, so today let’s clear stuff out. What is in your diabetic closet that needs to be cleaned out? This can be an actual physical belonging, or it can be something you’re mentally or emotionally hanging on to. Why are you keeping it and why do you need to get rid of it?”

Last April, I posted some pictures of all my diabetes stuff. One of those photos still seems like the most appropriate response to today’s prompt.

All of the diabetes stuff

Since I took that picture, I got rid of some of the stuff I knew I wouldn’t need. But it’s tricky because with diabetes you never know. So now my diabetes cupboard looks like this:

My Diabetes Cupboard

What’s in yours?

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Impromptu Masters’ Swim Workout

Last week I posed my tri-peep Alex this riddle: “Guess what we call Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the Mather house.”

Alex thought about it for a moment and said, “I dunno. What?”

“Bath day!”

She feigned horror and then laughed before starting the next set of her swim.

Usually Alex and I spend our Bath Day mornings swimming near each other but not actually with each other. This is the way things work at my pool: Everyone shows up, stakes a claim to part of a lane, and then swims his or her own workouts. Usually there’s a single lane divider in place to create a very isolated section for some of the oldest/slowest swimmers, but for the rest of us, it’s the Wild West. Pool Guy is fond of saying that if we all would just circle swim, he could easily accommodate twice as many of us; it never works out that way, though, when he tries to make it happen. Mostly because we’re all doing something different and going at different paces. This chaos is nothing like a typical masters’ swim workout. It’s pure anarchy three times a week.

When the pool is not crowded, it’s no big deal. Six lanes with one person on each side of the black lane line means that twelve people fit comfortably into the pool. Some people tend to swing a bit wide, especially when they’re doing the backstroke. You just figure out whom you want to swim near and/or avoid when picking your spot, and it all works out. People finish their swims and leave, and new people show up, taking their place. Occasionally we shuffle around a bit when space gets tight, but usually it’s just switching from one side of the lane to the other.

This morning everything was Tutli-Putli (as Lisa and I say). There just wasn’t enough space for the two high school swimmers who wanted to swim together. After finishing my warm-up and watching them hesitate for a few minutes and eventually sit down on the pool deck to wait for someone to leave, I scooted over to where Alex was catching her breath.

We decided it would be nice to circle swim so that the girls could get some time in the water, too. Our only difficulty was deciding on a workout, since circle swimming more-or-less requires that we coordinate our laps. I needed about 2,800-3,000 yards today, and Alex’s plan sounded flexible so we went with this:

  • 500 yards as 25, 50, 75, 100, 100, 75, 50, and 25 yard segments, each with 15 seconds rest
  • 300 yards pulling with buoy and ankle strap
  • Repeat

Alex pushed off first, and I waited for her to get 2/3 of the way down the pool before starting so that we would have some separation. Then I proceeded to chase her for 500 yards. We’re pretty equal in speed—she’s a bit faster at the lake, but I’m quicker off the walls—and we ended about as we started. For the pull set, we decided to each stick to one side of the lane line, since this would make turning easier for us both. For this set, we started at almost the same time so it was a bit like a race, each of us trying to keep up with the other; she would catch me about halfway down the lane after my fast turn, and I would work to keep up with her the rest of the way. (One lane over I could see the high school girls making us both look super pokey.)

This impromptu masters’ swim workout was great! The 1,600 yards passed quickly, and I felt I pushed myself a little harder than usual. When we finished the second set, Alex hopped out, and I swam another 500 straight through to round out my morning. Before she left, we decided to do more of these workouts in the coming months.

Happy Bath Day!

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A Secret Is Something You Tell Another Person

Diabetes Blog Week Banner

On today’s installment of 2015 Diabetes Blog Week, we talk about secrets.

“Many of us share lots of aspects of our diabetes lives online for the world to see. What are some of the aspects of diabetes that you choose to keep private from the internet? Or from your family and friends? Why is it important to keep it to yourself?”

I don’t really have a lot of diabetes secrets, but I do downplay some things or keep them within a small group of people (usually other people with diabetes).

The nature of diabetes is that we’re usually not too sick to do all the same things that people without it do, and then it can totally knock us down. Often people fixate on one aspect or the other. Some expect only the best out of us, based on the awesome things we do, and are surprised to find out that we have high BG readings or the occasional debilitating hypo or undesirable A1c results. Because we’re doing things, we seem to have everything “under control,” and it’s mentally disorienting that we can easily switch from high to low. Others latch onto the variability and wonder how we can go out and do stuff at all.

“What does this have to do with secrets or sharing?” you might ask.

When people ask me how my diabetes is going, I wonder what kind of answer they expect to hear or what new thing I can say about it. My diabetes doesn’t change very much. I still go high after breakfast and slide into lunch on the lower side. I can still more-or-less get my blood sugar to do what I want when I exercise in the morning. I still drop more than I want when I exercise in the afternoon. I still haven’t figured out what I need to do have good diabetes mojo when I race. My A1c is higher than I would like, despite my efforts. My diabetes isn’t what I would like it to be, but it has a sort of predictability that I appreciate.

Honestly, I’m not sure this is what people want to hear when they ask about my diabetes. I suppose I could say what I just wrote, but I’m not that articulate most of the time. Or perhaps I should ask them what they want to know. But mostly I just keep my diabetes to myself.

Posted in Diabetes, Diabetes Blog Week | 1 Comment