Artisinal Data Visualization

While looking around the web for interesting ways to visualize diabetes data, I came across Jana Beck’s iPancreas blog and her foray into D-data visualization. There I found a link to Sarah Groff-Palermo’s talk from August about “Artisanal Data on the Web.” This quotation resonated with me:

When we see the stories we want to tell and the stories the tools try to make us tell, in that clash eventually we ourselves are revealed.

Yes! Thinking about what we want to show and the (possibly more limited) way that we can express it leads us to think differently about what we’re actually trying to show.

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With apologies to Skee-Lo . . . Here’s an extract from Blünt Lancet’s new album.

I wish I was on a box of Wheaties.
Wish I had faster feeties.
Wish my blood when drawn was a little less sweeties.
I wish I had a rabbit in a hat with a bat,
Who would kick the ass of ‘betes.

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Somehow I simultaneously (1) brought down my estimated A1c over the last 30 days, (2) reduced the variability of my readings overall, and (3) added many more outliers.

Diabetes data - December 2014

The true outliers (the red “+” markers) are mostly on the higher side, while the range of “normal” values (i.e., the width of the bell curve, represented by the dashed lines) has shrunk in the latter parts of the day and grown overnight and in the morning. At least that’s what the sensor data says. I’ve definitely been having more hypos over the last few weeks.

My awesome endo and I will definitely have lots to talk about tomorrow morning.

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Fuckity fuck fuck fuck!

I know that my lab results are just numbers, but an A1c of 8.9 is a rather troubling one. It’s time to take a really hard look at what I’m doing and make some changes.

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Snowy Dia de los Muertos!

Last season, I learned a really valuable lesson about winter riding: If you wear the right clothing, there’s no reason you have to stop just because the temperature drops near freezing. (Although I do stop once the snow starts accumulating on the roads.) The key is having the right layering. On Sunday I was excited to get back out on my bike after a little hiatus and give it a go again.

Getting ready to head out

On Saturday a nor’easter blew in, bringing with it cool temperatures, rain, and lots and lots of wind. We drove through quite a bit of that on our way to and from Lincoln Center to see Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera. (It was fantastic, by the way.) Here’s a fuzzy picture after the end of the show.

"Carmen" at the Met

I could hear the wind blowing against the house on Sunday morning when I woke up. So I put on a pair of thermal bib tights, an undershirt, arm-warmers, a JDRF jersey, and my thermal waterproof jacket. It sounds bulky, but it really isn’t. I also wore a normal pair of cycling socks and the waterproof cycling boots I got as a give last Christmas. Oh and gloves. I also loaded up with enough food for three hours of riding, my phone, and a bit of cash in case I got peckish or had to bribe someone.

When I walked out of the house, I was a little worried about being overly warm, but as soon as I started riding the wind dispelled that notion. I was actually quite comfortable. And then it started to rain a bit. And then it started to snow. For an hour of my two-hour jaunt I rode into and out of snow flurries, occasionally thinking thoughts like this: “I hope the drivers who see my don’t think ‘There’s a crazy person’ when they see me. Or, if they do, I hope they also recognize that this is the kind of craziness I must embrace in order to be ready for next year.” And then it happened; about an hour-and-a-half into my ride I was waiting at a light to make a left turn onto highway 109 (the most boring road in the Commonwealth) when I saw a car approaching with two bikes atop it. The driver slowed and gave me a big thumbs up as he passed. It kinda made my day.

After a bit of snow

A few random observations from my ride:

  • My full-finger gloves are not waterproof. So my fingers got cold.
  • Rainwater ran down my legs into my shoes. Because they’re waterproof, I finished the ride with standing water in my shoes and rubbery feet.
  • The chia-based energy gel Victoria sent me was . . . interesting.
  • I forgot how firm Clif ShotBloks get when it’s cold.
  • I think I have a non-race-day diabetes plan that I can use when I’m riding. My BG barely budged over those two hours.
  • The last time I washed my bib tights, the spin cycle didn’t get all of the soapy water out. My knees started foaming a bit in the wet weather. :-)
Posted in Cycling, Diabetes | 1 Comment

Lost in Berlin


We had a midday flight returning from Berlin, and I wasn’t ready to be done sight-seeing, so I decided that going for a little run would be a perfect way to take in a bit more of the city. The plan was to take the train to the 1936 Olympic Stadium and run back to the hotel via the Tiergarten (where I had run a couple days earlier).

Turns out, I got a bit turned around getting there and a whole lot lost getting back.

I made wrong turns from the moment I got off the train. I left the hotel at 6AM, and it was still dark when I got off the U2 train at the Theodor-Heuss-Platz station. At that time of the morning, my train stopped a couple of stops short of the Olympiastadion station, so I decided to run the mile to the stadium instead of transferring to another train. All I had to do was follow Reichstraße (a major road) to the stadium. Unfortunately, there were four main roads, and I picked the wrong one. A sign for motorists suggested I was going the right way, though.

About a half-mile in, I asked a man walking his dog for directions. (Pro-tip: Older people in Berlin are much friendlier about giving directions than younger people.) A mile later, after running through a rather posh neighborhood, I was taking a selfie at the stadium.

Me at the Olypic Stadium

All I had to do to get back was (1) run down Olympischestraße away from the stadium, (2) turn right on Reichstraße, and (3) bear slightly left where I got lost getting off the train. Something about the Reichstraße intersection threw me off, and I ended up curving to the left.

I knew I had made a wrong turn when the street names didn’t match any on the cue sheet I’d written on the hotel stationary and stuffed in my pocket along with my pump, glucose tablets, U-bahn ticket, and a few Euros. When I turned around and ran back, I was on the opposite side of the road and missed the turn onto Reichstraße.

Schloss Charlottenburg

Four miles later I still wasn’t where I thought, and no one knew the main roads I was referring to when I asked for directions. It was around that time when I discovered the bus stops all had maps showing me how to get back onto my original route. By then I had run out of time to do the extra three or four miles back to the hotel. I didn’t want to miss my flight home or worry Lisa, so I decided to find the subway and (alas) subject some commuters to my smelly self.

On the train back I tried to look on the bright side: I got to experience some Berlin neighborhoods, see the Olympiastadion and Charlottenburg Palace, watch the city come awake, and talk to some locals all before 8AM.

What’s your best “lost in a foreign city” story?

My crazy-lost run in Berlin

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Wednesday, 5:45AM: Episode #213

Super-creepy Rob Lowe at the pool

Things I can’t post about without seeming super creepy #37: Attractive people at morning lap swim.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Posted in Swimming | 2 Comments


Earlier this month, Lisa and I went to Berlin. Here are few notes from my journal and some photographs, too.

10 October 2014 — We’re having a pretty relaxed time here in Berlin so far. Berlin is interesting . . . in a mixed kind of way. I’m doing my best to look beyond it as a city with a past—National Socialism, the Wall, and reunification—but it’s there in so many things. The city is so new, and it’s hard to forget why. (It’s very vibrant, though.)

We went to the Brandenburger Tor, the Reichstag, and Holocaust Memorial. We also stood in line for 1-1/2 hours to go to the Riechstag’s dome tomorrow. The rest of the weekend will be more typical fare once we’ve gotten some sleep. We’re running on fumes now.

12 October 2014 — We’re having a splendid time in Berlin. Since our sleepy Friday, we have done much without feeling rushed. Before going to the Reichstag in the late afternoon on Saturday, we walked through the rain to and from Potsdamer Platz and Gemäldegalerie. I loved the paintings—especially the Vermeers, Rembrandts, van Eycks, Titians, and Bruyghels—although it did become a bit overwhelming. (It’s the kind of place to visit over and over again. As Lisa said, their collection of (mostly) religious and history paintings “isn’t very broad, but it is very deep.”) It was wonderful to see Vermeer’s “The Glass of Wine” and “Woman with a Pearl Necklace.” I’ve seen so many of his works online that I wonder whether I’ve seen them before “in the paint” (as it were) but I know from how much I saw in “Woman with a Pearl Necklace” that it was my first time.

After some lunch and a quick return through the gallery’s temporary exhibits, we went through security at the Reichstag and spent almost as much time touring it as we did waiting for tickets. It was gray and the view was obscured, but the building was neat. Afterward, we walked to the Hauptbahnhof, rode the S-Bahn to the west end of the Tiergarten, walked to the Siegeßäule, and hoofed it the rest of the way to the Pariser Platz and back to the hotel (about 2-1/2 to 3 miles). At the Pariser Platz, we watched a light show projected onto the Brandenburg Gate, as part of the Festival of Lights. (We saw more tonight in our neighborhood . . . Gendamenmarkt, Humboldt University, Staatsoper, Hotel de Rome. We even saw the lights on the TV tower in Alexanderplatz.)

I ran this morning along the Spree and through the Tiergarten. It was quiet, owing to the early hour I left (6:20) and the darkness of the park. I like running on vacation; it’s a good way to see a place. After breakie, we happened upon Checkpoint Charlie, where we read about GDR/FDR politics, Cold War hostilities, and how that played out in Berlin. It was a nice reminder about what the “canvas” of the East Side Gallery paintings/graffiti represented. The painted wall was a mixed experience: Some of the iconic paintings were there and well-maintained, but others were so covered in spurious tagging that it was impossible to appreciate the “original work.” It made Lisa a little sad. We talked about street art vs. “high art” and impermanence, and I totally get where she’s coming from, because she saw them almost 25 years ago when the wall was newly down, and it really meant something to all of our generation. And now it’s just another “me, too!” thing to do (tagging a part of a tourist attraction).

(I felt similarly when we saw youths running through the very moving Holocaust Memorial. I hope one day they can appreciate the gravity of the what and why beneath where they are. BTW, at first I wasn’t impressed, but when you get into the depths of it . . . Wow! Very moving.)

We had an unexpected, unplanned lunch at a falafel place in Friedrichshain because my blood sugar tanked. It was delicious. (I have to say, I was disappointed with the currywurst we had on Friday, though.) Berlin—as we’ve experienced it—isn’t the best for casual eating. Although, we’ve had good ice cream the last few days. We’ll probably have more tomorrow. We returned to Mitte via Alexanderplatz, the Berliner Dom, and Museum Insel. The church wasn’t as ornate as the French churches we know and love, but it did have charm. (It’s hard to know what was almost or completely destroyed during WWII, and the Germans are extremely vague and circumspect about “National Socialism Germany” and anything that isn’t now.) The view from the dome was fantastic! Today was a beautiful, mostly sunny day, and we could see the whole city. We took it easy after the church (and ice cream) and tomorrow looks to be full of laid-back excitement, too.

13 October 2014 — Lisa described today as “breakfast, church, shopping, lunch, shopping, dinner, and church.” That’s pretty accurate. The Berliners aren’t so good with French pastries [tant pis, yet not unexpected] but the laugen-ecke is very tasty. The Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche is a remarkable and sad memorial to what so many in Germany (and Berlin in particular) lost to World War II. [There's a photo in the museum of parishioners holding services in the bombed out church that just broke my heart.] And the new church is a triumph of simplicity, infusing a space with light.

KaDeWe was a bit overwhelming, and we were tempted by many nice things. We did buy delicious food. We did not buy a 150€ Kosën plush of a fox/huntsman. We probably should have. [It was so adorable.] We most certainly should not have bought the 2,700€ suit ensemble, the 7,000€ wristwatch, or the 31,500€ attaché case. (We didn’t.) We did buy a porcelain pot at a dealer near our hotel. The rest of the day was pretty relaxed, with more of the Festival of Lights® after dinner. It’s one of those random, spontaneous things I love about traveling.

Tomorrow, we go home. :-(

14 October 2014 — The cheese did not make it. The couple bites I had of the Napfkäse were good, but it was past its prime, perhaps having traveled too much yesterday and today at room temperature. The truffles we got from Fassbender & Rausch were so delicious! The filings had a velvety texture, and the chocolate quality is impeccable. The other food we bought at KaDeWe was great, too: a chocolate éclair, strawberry tortalette, and an almond croissant. Lisa and I ate some of these in the shadow of the Gedächtniskirche as the bells tolled the one o’clock hour. It was beautiful! And not in a melodic way. No, in an atonal, “ring all the bells to a different theme/variation and slowly peel that back to reveal structure” kind of way. Tintinnabuli at its finest. It might be my favorite moment of the trip, similar to when we stumbled upon Vivaldi at the St. Pi church in Barcelona a couple years ago.

Posted in 101 in 1001, Travel, Über Alles | Leave a comment

Forest to Park to Forest

It really was ridiculously beautiful.

Saturday morning I went for my longest trail run ever. I’ve been thinking about this run for over a year, since I first discovered that it’s possible to link the trails in Upton State Forest and Hopkinton’s Whitehall State Park. Several times I’ve set out to run from one park to the other, go around the lake, and then return back whence I started. Despite getting stymied a couple of times by ice, I’ve run from one park to another. The lake has been another matter. Until Sunday I had never gotten around the lake. A couple of times my blood sugar has dropped or I’ve gotten lost and had to cut the run short. Mostly it’s just taken longer than expected, and I’ve run out of time or daylight.

But I finally did it, running 13.1 miles on a cool autumn morning.

The trails in my part of the world are hilly, and the footing is tricky. The name of the game is roots and rocks. It’s not a technical trail at all, and for the most part it was very well blazed. For the better part of seven of the thirteen miles, I was able to look over my right shoulder and see the beautiful lake.

The beauty took the edge off how difficult it was. By time—2:40—it’s the longest I’ve run since last October’s marathon. My heart rate was pegged for almost the entire run, despite my best efforts to slow my pace and hold back. There was simply too much constant acceleration as I went up and down hills, hopped over and around obstacles, and followed the winding trail as it hugged the shoreline.

When I completed the loop after running nine miles, I had a choice: Go straight back to the parking lot (and finish after roughly 11 miles) or add some extra distance to get the full 13.1-mile, half-marathon distance. Y’all know which one I picked. The “funny” thing is that the 12th mile included over 200 feet of climbing. Fortunately, the last mile was all downhill.

Here are some pictures from the trail.

Posted in 101 in 1001, Diabetes, Running | Leave a comment

MATLAB, HDF5, and Reference Datatypes

Editor’s note: This post, which has been sitting around for years (literally!) while I put the finishing touches on it, is for all of the techies out there. You know who you are. Everyone else, I’ll get back to the normal swim/bike/run with diabetes posts soon.

A while ago, I worked on a feature in the Image Processing Toolbox to store and read multi-resolution data sets in HDF5 files. One of the things we did was efficiently store the out-of-bounds data using “virtual tiles.” We only wrote one tile and then all the rest simply referred to it.

It occurred to me that, while the HDF5 library’s H5R API makes it possible to create virtual datasets, it’s not altogether straightforward understanding how to use them in MATLAB. Here’s a concrete example showing how to do it:

function cdata = readHDF5Tile(filename, dataset)

fid =, 'H5F_ACC_RDONLY', 'H5P_DEFAULT');
dsetID =, dataset);
dspaceID = H5D.get_space(dsetID);

if (H5ML.compare_values(H5T.get_class(H5D.get_type(dsetID)), ...

    % Read a "virtual" padding tile that is stored elsewhere in the file.
    ref =, 'H5ML_DEFAULT', dspaceID, dspaceID, 'H5P_DEFAULT');
    dsetDeref = H5R.dereference(dsetID, 'H5R_OBJECT', ref);
    cdata =, 'H5ML_DEFAULT', 'H5S_ALL', 'H5S_ALL', 'H5P_DEFAULT');


    cdata =, 'H5ML_DEFAULT', dspaceID, dspaceID, 'H5P_DEFAULT');



Posted in Fodder for Techno-weenies, MATLAB | Leave a comment

The “Just In Case” Scenario

It’s easy to read posts on diabetes blogs and get the sense that we’re not letting diabetes slow us down at all. That we’re invincible. That, sure it’s an annoyance, but we’ve totally got this.

I don’t think any of us set out to cultivate this idea in our interactions with others, but diabetes is a disease that’s easy to look past, particularly because it is such a 24/7 affair. We lead such normal lives doing normal things the overwhelming majority of the time that it’s conceivable that it’s like that—normal—all the time. Test your blood sugar, wear a pump, refill prescriptions at the right time, and diabetes is all taken care of. Even if we don’t like to do all of the nonsense associated with diabetes, most of us do it so naturally that it doesn’t look difficult. And because the effects of fluctuating blood glucose aren’t something you can usually see, it’s hard to tell when someone is having a good or bad diabetes day. To the external viewer, it’s all just “normal life” with a little bit of finger-pricking and insulin-pumping thrown in.

And I’d say the majority of the time this is true. Even if we can’t get our blood glucose to do exactly what we want—and this can be very frustrating—it’s a relief not to worry the people around us unnecessarily. Sure, in the back of most of our minds is the understanding that every diabetes decision has consequences, but who can have a good life giving that thought constant attention?

I don’t like to write about the challenging times, because I don’t like them when they happen and because I know it makes others concerned on my behalf. I can’t stop that from happening, and I get it. But it would be wrong for me to avoid posting about the troubling moments, even if it causes worry in others. Mortality is worrisome, which is why we do our best to ignore it most of the time. Seeing someone struggle is difficult, especially when you want to help them and can’t and when it causes you to think about all the “what ifs?”

All this lead up for a very short story . . .

Glucagon at the ready

Yesterday afternoon I ate delicious cookies from the café. I love these cookies, but I still have trouble accepting (and acting on) the fact that they have in excess of 25 grams of carbohydrate each. It doesn’t seem possible that something so small can be so potent, so I usually under-dose the amount of insulin I truly need.

Consequently, at dinner time my blood sugar was 281 mg/dL (15.6 mmol/L). Which sucked. I was hungry and grumpy. Lisa had gotten delicious ice cream treats at Dairy Queen for dessert, and I didn’t want to wait to eat them. But I did, because 281. The plan was to give insulin for the full amount of dinner plus the correction, wait about an hour for my blood sugar to come down, eat dinner, and then go on like nothing had happened. And that’s what I did until everything went wrong.

As we were watching the Bruins-Canadiens hockey game, the announcer started to sound odd, and my body felt wrong. I was hyper-aware of everything and able to concentrate on very little. (People with diabetes will know what I’m talking about.) I checked my blood sugar: 44 (2.5). This is the lowest I’ve been in a long, long time. And I still had over 8 units of insulin flowing around my bloodstream, taking care of the carbs from dinner and trying to lower my BGs even more.

The combination of low blood sugar, lots of active insulin, and my fuzzy-headedness triggered us to get ready for the “just in case” scenario. As I was eating glucose tablets and holding on to the world, Lisa got the glucagon emergency kit. Fifteen years ago, when I got my first kit, Lisa let me know her feelings about it. “So help me. If I ever have to use this to save your life, I’ll probably kill you afterward.” Or something like that. 15 minutes later I was still at 49 (2.7). We discussed where to give the shot: thigh, arm, or butt. We settled on the upper arm.

Fortunately, I didn’t pass out. No one had to use the glucagon. Crisis averted.

But this is diabetes: 99% banal. It’s just that last 1% . . .

Posted in Diabetes | 2 Comments

Workout Power Mix… Not!

Pool Guy has started to play music in the mornings over a loudspeaker on the pool deck. This is why last week I heard Katy Perry and other pop singers whenever I pushed off the wall. (Plus the beep-beep-beep of my Finis Tempo Trainer.)

The high school swim coach/lifeguard/guy who is nice enough to open the pool at 5:30-ish AM has switched up the music during my last couple of trips to the pool. Smooth jazz now serenades me as I recover in the shallow end between sets. While it does make the rest period extra chill, I found myself wishing for something a little more up-tempo. “Maybe a little Public Enemy or Ministry or Rage Against the Machine. Yeah! ‘Killing in the name of . . . UNGH! Yeah!’ That’s the stuff! Of course, most of those songs drop an F-bomb every measure or two, so maybe not. Still . . . Fuck yeah!” And then the lap clock hit the top of the minute and I was off again.

That, of course, got me thinking about the “Workout Power Mix” that I play when I go to the gym or hop on the bike trainer or treadmill. Just for you, I put the playlist on shuffle and recorded it below. What’s your go-to genre when you’re exercising? Anything that always gets you instantly into your workout?

  • Huey Lewis & The News – Hip to Be Square
  • Prototypes – Je ne te connais pas
  • Guns N’ Roses – Welcome to the Jungle
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Isis (listen…)
  • Capella – We Met at a Party (drums and best bike video ever!)
  • Tupac – California Love
  • Jedi Mind Tricks – Terror (NSFW listen…)
  • 50 Cent, Cashis, Eminem & Lloyd Banks – You Don’t Know
  • Vulgaire Machins – Petit patapon
  • The Osborne Brothers and Red Allen – Ruby, Are You Mad? (pretty sweet pickin’)
  • M.O.P. – Ante Up (with muppets)
  • Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out
  • Motörhead – Ace of Spades (They totally ripped off Blünt Lancet on this one.)
  • New Order – True Faith
  • Timbaland feat. Nelly Furtado & SoShy – Morning After Dark
  • Lady Gaga – Bad Romance (How does anyone not love this song?!)
  • Les Cowboys Fringants – Tant qu’on aura de l’amour (écoutez…)
  • The Arcade Fire – (Antichrist Television Blues)
  • The Killers – When You Were Young
  • Glasvegas – Geraldine (listen…)
  • Dropkick Murphys – I’m Shipping up to Boston (I know, Lisa Mather. I know. He should be able to get one from the on-ship carpenter, but that wouldn’t make for a good song, would it?)
  • James – Laid
  • The Crystal Method – Name of the Game
  • Croftwork – Peatbog Faeries (listen…)
  • Boyz N Da Hood feat. Yung Joc – We Ready
  • Engrique Iglesias feat. Pitbull – I Like It (Don’t judge me!)
  • 22-20′s – Devil in Me (Unbelievably, I first heard this hard-rocking song in India.)
  • Bedrock feat. KYO – For What You Dream Of (If a workout starts with this song, it’s going to be a great one!)
  • Indigo Girls – Yield
  • L’Algérino, IAM, Pay 4 de la Rime, Chiens de Paille, Bouga, Said & Veust Lyricist – La ronde
  • Dixie Chicks – Goodbye Earl (A murder ballad for the ladies.)
  • Grim Skunk – Vive le Québec libre
  • DJ Khaled feat. Akon, T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Baby & Lil Wayne – We Takin’ Over
  • Donna Summer – I Feel Love
  • Sam & Dave – Hold On, I’m Comin’
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Maps
  • Tots & The Maytals – 54-46 Was My Number (Et tu, Maggie?)
  • Wolfmother – Woman (Not to be confused with Woman!)
  • Snap! – The Power
  • Camper Van Beethoven – Pictures of Matchstick Men
  • Plasticines – Pas avec toi
  • Nelly Furtado – Powerless (Listen. I mean it; listen to the woman.)
  • Les Cowboys Fringants – Histoire de pêche (écoutez…)
  • Sum 41 – Underclass Hero (Not to be confused with this cheeky cover performed on live TV minutes after the original band sang it.)
  • Tomoyasu Hotei – Battle without Honor or Humanity
  • Wolfmother – Back Round
  • Cindy Lauper – Girls Just Want to Have Fun
  • U2 – Vertigo
  • Elvis Crespo – Suavamente
  • The Cranberries – I Can’t Be with You (Who said it all has to be happy?)
  • Destiny’s Child – Lose My Breath
  • Morrissey – Irish Blood, English Heart
  • The Duke Spirit – The Step and the Walk (listen…)
  • Jedi Mind Tricks – Heavy Metal Kings (I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a more paranoid song.)
  • Sean Kingston – Fire Burning
  • Timbuk 3 – The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades
  • Jimmy Eat World – Big Casino
  • Public Enemy – Welcome to the Terrordome (Often I’ll just start the workout with this song and then shuffle the list.)
  • Asobi Seksu – New Years (聞く…)
  • The Killers – Somebody Told Me
  • Kaïn – Mexico (écoutez…)
  • A-Ha – The Sun Always Shines on TV
  • Bomba Estéreo – Fuego (¡Escucha!)
  • Weezer – (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To
  • Sherry Austin – Jolene
  • Van Halen – Why Can’t This Be Love?
  • Dick Dale – Misirlou (With the NSFW “Pulp Fiction” excerpt, natch’)
  • Depeche Mode – Never Let Me Down Again
  • Indochine – Alice & June
  • Belinda – Ni Freud Ni Tu Mama
  • Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way
  • Rohff – La puissance (écoutez…)
  • Tech N9ne feat. T-Nutty & Sundae – Check Yo Temperature (NSFW listen…)
  • Taio Cruz & Ludacris – Break Your Heart
  • Lee Ann Womack – I’ll Think of Reason Later
Posted in Swimming | 1 Comment

Three Rides

A few people have asked me some variant of this question, “Now that you’re done with tri season for the year how are you keeping?” I tell them that I love this time of the year because I can do whatever I want now that I’m free of the training plan. What they have a little harder time understanding is that I’ve been spending so much time in the saddle. But it’s all guilt-free. Want to ride 100 miles one day and 75 hilly more miles the next? Sure! It’s not going to mess up my focused training, since I’m not doing any. Plus it was fun! And that’s what this time of year is all about.

Ride #1: Charles River Wheelmen Fall Metric Century
Ride #1 - Metric century

Robyn, my college classmate and fellow triathlete (easily) talked me into riding a metric century (100 kilometers, or 62 miles) with her and some of her peeps a couple of weekends ago.

It was dark when I left the house around 6AM, and it never really got brighter on my half-hour drive to the start of the ride. In fact, I drove through light rain for most of the trip. My bike had just returned from Tahoe, and I was glad I remembered to put the blinking lights on it before leaving home. I was also glad to have grabbed my heavier, waterproof jacket.

The first hour of the ride was pretty soggy, alternating between a warm drizzle and a heavy downpour. Eventually, the sun came out and dried up all the rain—but not before I approached an unexpectedly tight corner too fast and went across someone’s front lawn rather than trying to see if my tires would hold in the rain. Lesson learned. :-)

The ride was fun. Robyn and I had roughly the same time at the Mass State Olympic-distance triathlon in July (which evidently I forgot to write about) so we rode together off the front of our little group for most of the day. I think I convinced her to ride in Burlington, Vermont, next year. (You can join us, too!) The 65 miles passed very quickly . . . except when we were reviewing the cue sheet after making the wrong turn which added three “bonus” miles to our ride. At the end, Robyn invited me to ride a century with her the next Saturday.

Ride #2: Nashoba Valley Pedaler’s Fall 2014 Century
Ride #2 - Century

On ride #1 we followed the yellow arrows on the pavement marking our route, but we saw a bunch of “N”s with arrows for a good portion of the course. On ride #2 Robyn, Matt, Katrina, and Kate followed each “N” from Sudbury, Mass., to Hollis, New Hampshire, and back via Stow, Harvard, Littleton, Ayer, Groton, Pepperell, Dustable, Westford, Carlisle, Acton, Concord, and Lincoln. With the exception of the previous weekend, this was new riding territory to me. But it shur was purdy. The New England leaves have started their annual fireworks show. It’s also the height of apple- and pumpkin-picking season, and the wild grapevines are laden with deliciously smelly fruit. Unlike the previous weekend, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. As we rode through small towns and farm country, I felt like we were rolling through a postcard.

Although we were following the NVP’s route, we were a couple of weeks late to the organized ride. So it was just us. Our group of five would spread out into little clumps for most of the ride, stretching out on the flats, breaking apart on the climbs (yay, real hills!), and regrouping at turns and stop signs. We were all pretty strong riders, but it was on this ride that I was reminded others don’t like the hills as much as I do. Matt had arranged with some coworkers who lived ride on the route to let us use their house as impromptu rest stops. At one we used the water spigot on the outside of the house, and at the other we refilled our bottles and ate snacks Matt’s wife had dropped off earlier in the day. It was a great, easy-feeling hundred miles!

Ride #3: Impromptu JDRF ride through NW Connecticut
Ride #3 - Hilly 70

Hills are my friends. From my earliest days of teenage riding, I haven’t been bothered by them. People have called me “stoic” before—including a Russian student at Grinnell!—and this basically described my feelings toward hills for a long time. They were just part of the ride, not an obstacle in getting to my final destination. At the same time, I idolized the mountain climbers of the Tour de France. Those guys suffered and succeeded, and there was no doubt how difficult it was. I wanted to be like them.

Over time my attitude towards climbing has changed a little. I’ve discovered that hills and mountains treat me well, so I seek them out. It’s wrong to say that I find them easy. Pushing 160 pounds of bike and rider against the force of gravity for minutes upon end is never easy, but my mind is wired to seek the top of a hill and enjoy the process of getting there. It’s difficult, but I need that feeling of suffering for a ride to be truly complete. There’s something redemptive and transcendent about being able to shut off the part of your brain that says “No!” or “Why?” and just doing what needs to be done. Moreover, I take no small measure of pride in being able to do it well, which of course motivates me to try to do it even better, regardless of the difficulty.

I had this realization as I was pedaling up the last big climb of the day outside Hartland, Connecticut . . . for the second time.

Four other JDRF riders and I had rolled out of Windsor Locks, just north of Hartford, a few hours earlier on the morning after my century ride. All of them had done the Ride to Cure Diabetes in Burlington earlier in the summer. Steve and Erin, who rode with me around Lake Tahoe, were getting ready for Death Valley in a couple weeks. We chatted on the flat sections of rural road and when we stopped for breaks, but early into the big climb I had ridden well off the front.

Here’s what you should know about me: I am not a patient person when it comes to the bike. Waiting for a ride to start? Don’t like it. Waiting at stoplights? Don’t like it. Anytime I’m kitted up and not turning the pedals? Don’t like it. Not pushing a hard gear when I’m turning the pedals? Don’t like it (usually).

Don’t get me wrong. I like talking with people as we ride down the road, and I like hanging out before and after the ride. Plus, I don’t go into any ride intending to be first or to embarrass anyone. Furthermore, if I know that the ride is going to be a casual affair, I can get into the right mental space and enjoy the experience. On those outings, it’s just the appropriate thing to do: Look around, take pictures, socialize, relax every hour or so, eat pie, etc. Occasionally, I’ll let the bike run, but those are short and atypical.

But when I want to ride, I want to ride . . . especially when there are hills involved.

Which brings me to my dilemma and why I was riding my bike up the 2.4 mile-long hill for the second time after summitting it once, turning around to descend it, and then starting over at the bottom.

I had found myself unintentionally riding off the front all day whenever I came to a hill. One the first big climb of the day, I put myself into the easiest gear I had and hung out, keeping everybody with me. The back half of the ride was full of hills, though, and I found this strategy to be both unsatisfying and ineffective; despite my best efforts I was riding away from my group. As I was going up one particularly long climb, I realized that this would be a perfect road to chat with Erin about triathlon (since she had questions). When I got to the top, I turned around to catch her again on the uphill, and we talked for a while. She’s a very good rider, by the way, and we hung together for the majority of the rest of the day. This strategy seemed to work out pretty well: Hang with the group for most of the ride just enjoying the scenery and the company (as I did on ride #2) and then accept that the hills are my strength and indulge them.

All of that climbing meant some really wonderful descending. There was the big sweeping descent into New Hartford. Then the fast downhill to the start of the 2.4 mile climb. And of course, the 2.4 mile hill itself. The best was yet to come though. After the last big climb, we turned onto Mountain Road. With a name like that, I knew it was going to be steep. We went down one long stretch, with Steve the Coach blowing past me like a rocket. After that, I was checking the cue sheet to make sure I didn’t miss a turn, when I saw the “12% Grade” sign. I quickly put the sheet back into my pocket and prepared for the excitement.

The road was recently paved and beautifully smooth. There were no cracks or debris on the road whatsoever. Best of all, it had great sight lines. I quickly ran out of gears, got into a tuck, and hit 50 mph (80 km/h)! It was the best.

Do I ever love riding a bike!

Posted in Cycling | 2 Comments

Three Rides’ Data

Over the last eight days, I did three big rides of 65, 102, and 72 miles. I’ve been treating each of my rides as experiments, trying to figure out what the hell I’m doing with diabetes and exercise by the time I start Ironman training in the spring. I’ll write more about these rides soon, but I just wanted to share a little data.

Diabetes data

Ride #1

Ride 1:

Insulin-on-board (IOB) at the start = 0 units
Insulin during = 1.5 units
Carbs during = 250-270 grams
BG @ start = 240 mg/dL
BG during = 175 @ 2.5 hrs, 155 @ 5 hrs
BG @ end = 138

Ride 2:

Insulin-on-board (IOB) at the start = 0 units
Insulin during = 1.3 units
Carbs during = 280-300 grams
BG @ start = 220 mg/dL
BG during = 358 @ 1.5 hrs, 377 @ 2.5 hrs, 204 @ 4 hrs, 240 @ 6 hrs
BG @ end = 274

Ride 3:

Insulin-on-board (IOB) at the start = 2.0 units
Insulin during = 0 units
Carbs during = 325-350 grams
BG @ start = 226 mg/dL
BG during = 169 @ 1 hr, 132 @ 2 hrs, 162 @ 2.5 hrs, 128 @ 3.5 hrs, 157 @ 5.5 hrs
BG @ end = 213

Every day a little closer . . .

Posted in Cycling, Data-betes, Diabetes | Leave a comment

Fourth Grade Math to the Rescue!

Earlier today, I found myself trapped in a “knowledge forum.” The meeting’s content wasn’t right for me, but I had picked a chair where I couldn’t easily leave. Worse, after returning home late from last night’s Emmylou Harris concert, I was starting to feel a little sleepy. What to do? What to do?

Fourth grade math to the rescue!

“Writing things down keeps me awake. Doing math keeps me awake. So handwritten long division and multiplication should keep me awake,” I thought. “What shall I compute? I often think about Ironman, so why not compute something related to that?”

My swim speed has been improving recently, and I was curious how those and future improvements might impact my Ironman swim times.

Swimmers measure speed by talking about the time it takes to swim 100 yards (or 100 meters depending on your pool). Swimming an Ironman’s 2.4 miles? Great! You still talk about time per 100.

For a long time I had plateaued at almost exactly 2:00/100. At that rate, it takes 1:24:29 to complete the iron-distance swim.

Lately my long swims have improved to right around 1:48/100. Those 12 seconds per 100 yards don’t sound like much—it’s only 10% faster—but over 2.4 miles, that’s almost eight and a half minutes! 1:16:02.

Between now and next September, I’d like to try to take another 10% off. Maybe it’s possible; maybe it’s not. If I can get my swim pace down to 1:40/100 yards, I should be able to swim the distance in 1:10:24. I would be extremely happy to see that.

Now that I think about it, that was exactly my pace in the Gulf of Maine during last month’s Rev3 half. Hmm . . .

For your consideration, here are the results of my in-meeting calculations:

Pace (/100 yards) Time to swim 4,224 yards
2:00 1:24:29
1:48 1:16:02
1:45 1:13:55
1:40 1:10:24
1:35 1:06:53
1:30 1:03:22

How do you stay awake in meetings?

Posted in Reluctant Triathlete, Swimming | Leave a comment