Monthly Archives: May 2011

Local Race Report

I like local races. They’re small, collegial, laid-back. Just like the bigger races, they draw all sorts of people, but it’s so much easier to see, meet, and eavesdrop on 150 of them compared to when 1,000 people — much less 10,000 — show up.

Take last Sunday’s 5K race in Holliston, just one town over from where I live. (Yes, Sunday. The day after I ran a 5-mile trail race. I know.) There’s the 22-year-old local cross-country hero who you just know is going to win the whole thing. (And he did, in 17:21.) On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the gray-bearded guy telling anyone who will listen that he’s racing in the same racing flats that he’s been wearing since 1975. In the nebulous middle, there’s the guy with the 80s mustache and the too-short running singlet. When I toed the line, I was right next to some high school girls who were trying to decide whether they were going to run six or ten minute pace. After the race, the winning woman (age 19 — 21:06) and the second place finisher (48, mom of several — 21:07) cooled down together. Throw into that mix dads with running strollers and couples out for a fast run/walk. And me. And lots of other people like me: people who like running but aren’t eccentric or fast enough to really be worthy of much notice.

This was the company that I found myself in on Sunday morning at 9:00 when I set out to run my second race in two days. I could definitely tell that I had run a race the day before, but I felt good. (For the record, this was my first time running road races on back-to-back days.) I wasn’t sure what kind of time I was going to get. I had a difficult training week with some trouble hitting my tempo run splits, and I was slower than expected on an easy run earlier in the week. Plus, I’d just done another race.

I had no expectations, though I had my hopes. After all, here were my goals for 2011 that I set down in January:

  • Run a half-marathon (with a stretch goal of 1:45) — Done
  • Do a sprint triathlon — Done
  • Run a 5K in 24:00
  • Bicycle in Provence and feel good
  • Get a food+insulin plan that will help me exercise how I want

I was positive that I could go under 24:00, and I felt confident about breaking 23:00. My big question on Sunday morning as I was pinning my number to my bright orange running shirt was whether I could beat 22:00.

The first mile felt good, but I knew the 6:23 was too fast. I always go out too fast. My first mile split during a tempo run: too fast. My first interval during speedwork: too fast. My warm-up mile during a long run: too fast. So I forced myself to slow down slightly, which was difficult, as a couple people passed me right afterward. It was the right decision, though; by the end of the second mile (in 7:00) I was thinking hard about the perseverance lessons from Saturday that I was still trying to incorporate into my running psyche. “Just keep going! Only 8 minutes — tops! — until I’m done. Last big uphill right here. Just a couple more minutes. Let’s go try to catch that guy up there. Etc.”

Coming around the corner into the finishing strait, I saw a time in the low 21s on the clock, and I knew I had to give everything I could to break 22:00. Although I didn’t catch the 12-year-old kid who beat me by five seconds, I did manage 21:48. Woo hoo!

No race yesterday. (I’m not a complete masochist.) And I’m going to do my best to make this an actual recovery week by running short distances, trying to run my recommended training paces instead of my typical too-fast pace, getting plenty of sleep, and not overdoing it on the bike. Slow running is hard for me, so we’ll see, but I’m positive it’s what I need to do if I want to have a good race at the end of the month, when I run the BAA 10K in Boston.

Posted in 101 in 1001, Running | Leave a comment

Running up that Hill

“What did I just do?”

The guy from the Hudson River Valley who was parked next to me and who had also just finished running the Wachusett Mountain Road and Trail Race looked over and said, “Yeah, it’s a really great course. It has a little bit of everything.”

It’s true that it has a bit of everything in trail running. We started by running 1.25 miles up Mountain Road / Mile Hill Road; with names like that it’s probably not surprising that it averages a 6.5% grade and is a “Category 4″ road cycling climb (except that we were running). Then we turned right around and ran down the Donbrowo hiking trail, which was quite technical, having lots of rocks and tree roots. Later on we ran up and down some fire roads. But at least I was running on all of those parts. The middle of the course, was mostly me (and my cohort) walking up the 10-12% Old Indian and Semuhenna Trails. I thought walking would let me catch my breath and then restart running up the mountain, but I was wrong; that mile-long stretch was just too steep. So I walked; everyone did, except maybe the people who won.

So what did I do today? This morning, I (mostly) ran 4.7 miles up and down Wachusett Mountain in 46:10. That’s a lot slower than my usual road race pace of around 7:15/mile, but it was my first mountain race.

What did I learn? Here are the easy, straightforward answers. I am not great at running steep climbs — that’s clearly something to work on — but I’m a demon running downhill. I’m not trying to be immodest, but I fly downhill on the trails. After a fellow runner and I passed someone going a little slower down the trail, I just threw myself into it. At the bottom of the hill, I heard, “Nice one!” And then, as I came bombing down the steep, rocky, root-laden trail into the finishing area, I heard someone shout, “D-A-M-N!” That was awesome! So, while I didn’t have a great uphill section, it’s nice to end strong.

The harder, tricky answer is that I have learned a lot about perseverance. As I was running up the opening hill, I was certain that this was the last thing I really wanted to be doing, that I would never want to do it again. The same thoughts occurred to me as I was fast marching up the trails in the middle of the course. (Also during the swim portion of the tri three weeks ago.) These aren’t exactly thoughts that I’m proud of, but as I’m getting physically stronger, I’m also trying to get mentally tougher, so that I can push through the difficult parts and finish all out. I have trouble holding on to people who pass me, but I’ve been finishing too “fresh” on most of my races. I need to figure out how to keep a stronger pace throughout or to start my final kick much earlier. I suspect most of that will just come from me building up more grit and having more experience to draw on.

I think I’m on my way. 2009, the year I got my bike, was all about losing weight and developing some conditioning. Last year, I focused on getting more physical strength. This year, I’ve been racing, and that’s been a source of tremendous growth. I’m learning by doing.

Oh, and the runners who specialize in running up mountains are a crazy group of people. I expect that they sit around saying things like, “Why do we run up mountains? Because that’s the kind of running we did in ‘Nam, kid.” Trail running is definitely the bomb-diggity, though.

I got a little muddy on the race. Yay!

Posted in General, I am Rembrandt, Life Lessons, Running | 4 Comments


I’m not sure what they’re saying, but I think the Italian dialogue could probably be translated as “Holy shit! People are going to ride their bicycles down that at over 40 miles per hour!”

Posted in Cycling, Video | Leave a comment

More Triathlon, Please

Quick update here, since I need to go to bed so I can get up early to swim laps at the pool. (As Peej said, “Humans were not meant to get up before dawn. Humans were not meant to swim. Such a bad combo!”)

In a nutshell, I would like to do an Olympic-distance triathlon, but only after I’m more comfortable swimming longer distances in open water. So I have some goals and a plan. My goals? Become a faster swimmer who is more comfortable in open water. Build back up to swimming more than 1500m, and learn what to do with so many other swimmers around. How to do it? Do more sprint triathlons with swims of 1/2-mile or less, join an open-water swim group for the summer, take an open-water swim clinic, and work with a swim coach.

Oh, I also want to run another half-marathon in the late summer plus a 5K or 10K or two and be ready to bicycle in Provence in September.

And maybe clean my home office (again).

p.s. — I also need to respond to all y’all’s comments here.

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

Diabetes Snapshots: Paint Talks

Day 6 of Diabetes Blog Week: Snapshots!

In case you didn’t know: I’m in DC. I drove down here yesterday (Friday) to see a major Gauguin exhibit at the National Gallery of Art and to see some people from the diabetes community. Both experiences were really great.

I went to a few other museums in addition to the NGA, and it struck me that the people in the paintings and I had a lot of the same things on our minds. (I recommend clicking on the first image so that you can see all of the “What They Were Thinking” captions.)

Posted in Crusty Old Paint, Diabetes, Diabetes Blog Week, General, I am Rembrandt, Photography, Travel, USA | 4 Comments

Cupcakes are Awesome

Technically, it’s still Friday, so I still have a chance to be legit with today’s Diabetes Blog Week post about . . . what’s this? Diabetes and awesome?

There are a lot of thoughts on my mind recently about diabetes and something in the neighborhood of “awesome.” But as for actual awesome, the only really legit thing is meeting a whole bunch of really great people. For example, take this fantastic couple:

We had cupcakes in DC today.

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We Hates It

It’s Thursday, day four of Diabetes Blog Week. Today we vent.

Ten Eleven things I hate about diabetes:

  1. Carrying extra crap. Because I got the ‘betes, I don’t get to travel light. And I don’t get to wear running shorts without pockets, because I gotta have place on the long runs for the pump, glucose tablets, meter, and energy gels.
  2. Being woken up in the middle of the night (more than once thrice) because my BG is high, I’m going low, or my pump is lonely and will not be ignored.
  3. Not being 100% confident that I’ll get the chance to let my BAMFness express itself fully when I’m racing.
  4. That tiny, hissing, malevolent voice in the back of my head that says every choice has a downside and that I might not be making the best choices to bring my A1c down or to hold off complications.
  5. Spending money on test strips, insulin, glucose tablets, copays, and so on.
  6. Orange glucose tablets.
  7. Not being able to eat something delicious when I’m hungry because my BG is high.
  8. The concern that I cause I other people.
  9. Not being free to exercise anytime I want.
  10. How difficult it is to figure out anything that involves more than one variable (such as balancing nutrition, active insulin, and exercise).
  11. Gushers:

But since I don’t really like focusing on the negatives, let’s balance this post out by listing ten eleven of my favorite films:

  • Casablanca
  • Dr. Strangelove
  • Hero
  • In The Mood for Love
  • Joint Security Area
  • Lady Vengeance
  • Lilo and Stitch
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  • Sling Blade
  • Some Like It Hot
  • Unforgiven
Posted in Diabetes, Diabetes Blog Week | 8 Comments

Insulin Firehose!

Today’s Diabetes Blog Week topic, diabetes bloopers, should make for some good reading. Here is my “man hit in groin by football” contribution. (BTW, this post contains videos that might not show up in your RSS reader. You might want to visit the page directly.)

I make a bunch of diabetes mistakes. (I know, I know. No stop; it’s true.) Mostly they’re miscalculations based on too little information or because I’m too busy/distracted/asleep to put the effort into getting things “just right.” Sometimes this causes me to have hypoglycemia and say ridiculous things, but mostly my life is pretty boring. (And that’s not always a bad thing.)

Occasionally, I make a big mistake or one of my devices malfunctions. Those are the real bloopers. Usually, they’re pretty tame and good for a “you’ll never guess what happened to me” story, but every so often one turns into a slow-motion, should’ve-seen-it-coming disaster.

This is one of those tales.

Those of us intimately familiar with the Medtronic Minimed Paradigm insulin pump know that it has an insulin-filled reservoir with a plunger at one end and tubing at the other. The tubing connects to our body, and the plunger is pushed by a very finely tuned stepper motor that pushes (usually) small amounts of insulin into our bodies.* Every few days, the pump has pushed all of the insulin into the body, and it’s time to change the “consumables.” That process goes something like this: disconnect the pump tubing from the body, rewind the motor, put in a freshly filled reservoir, start a “manual prime” to fill the tubing with insulin, insert a new infusion set into the body, attach the new tubing to the new infusion set, and give a very small “fixed prime” to finish the process.

As you can see, there are a few steps. If you do this enough times — about 100-150 times per year — you get pretty proficient. You can do it quickly in a variety of settings: at home, at the office, in the passenger seat of a car driving down the Kansas Turnpike, in a terminal of the Oakland airport, etc. In fact, it gets so routine you might be tempted to not think about it too much or to cut some corners. Which is usually fine.

A year or so after I got my first Minimed Paradigm pump, it started to have a problem. As noted above, there are two priming steps: “manual prime” and “fixed prime.” The manual one starts the motor moving rapidly toward the plunger and then continues more slowly after a sensor detects the initial contact. A typical manual prime moves about 20 units of insulin to fill the tubing. None of that prime goes into me initially. The fixed prime fills the space left by the starter needle and is only 0.3 units, which goes straight into the part that’s attached to me. It does this so that the next the motor steps, the insulin actually gets delivered and I can get it’s blood sugar-lowering goodness.

The problem with my pump is that the motor wasn’t detecting that it had made contact with the plunger. Can you see where I’m going?

On that day years ago, while changing my insulin and infusion set at the office, I started the manual prime like normal — that is to say, with the pump completely disconnected from my body. After seeing insulin drip (or rather spray) out of the end of the tubing I attached the tubing to my body and (by habit) pressed the button that should have delivered 0.3 units of fixed prime.

Instead, I heard a whirring of the motor as it delivered a whole bunch more insulin. I looked at my pump and saw that it still said “Manual Prime.” After disconnecting, I estimaged that I had given myself somewhere between 15-20 units of insulin, enough for about 150-200 grams of carbs, or about 1/3 to 1/2 of my daily dose at the time.

The good news is that I was ultimately unharmed by this adverse incident, and I had a new pump the next morning. But at the time, as I was drinking glass after glass of orange juice at my kitchen table with my meter next to me — having quickly driven home to be near new pump supplies, my refrigerator, and Lisa, not to mention a fire station full of first-responders just down the street — I made myself a promise that I’ve kept to this day: “I will never again attach the tubing to the infusion set before I see the flashing words ‘Fixed Prime 0.3u.’”

* — The pump bone connected to the reservoir bone. The reservoir bone connected to the tube bone. The tube bone connected to the infusion set bone. The infusion set bone connected to the skin bone. The skin bone connected to the fat bone. The fat bone connected to the blood sugar bone. . . .

Posted in Diabetes, Diabetes Blog Week, Life Lessons, Video | 7 Comments


I’m of two minds about today’s Diabetes Blog Week topic. Part of me wants to take it very seriously and write a letter to my 24-year-old, post-diagnosis self, telling me to be as active a participant in my treatment as I can be, to get off the NPH as soon as I leave the hospital, to get myself on an insulin pump much sooner, and (most importantly) to give myself all of that proof from the last few years that diabetes doesn’t have to slow me down at all very much. That would be the inspiring thing to do. But instead, Imma give you KANYE.





Posted in Diabetes, Diabetes Blog Week | 3 Comments

What Next?

I have been blissed all day long. I didn’t mind the extra half hour of stop-and-go traffic on the commute this morning, because the music in the car sounded nicer, like I was hearing it for the first time. I didn’t get upset when I had to skip my Monday morning chocolate croissant — it’s a ritual to help me get the week started right — in order to fast before my annual physical. Nor did I feel much chagrin that my doctor ended up not drawing any blood at all since my endo had ordered a full panel before my last visit. Even getting a stiff bicep from that pneumonia vaccine didn’t bring me down.

I think we know why. Yes, it was yesterday’s triathlon.

I’ve been thinking about the whole thing — a lot — both the good (bike and run) and the not so good (swim and transition). Weeks ago I gave myself permission to take a couple days to decide what I would do after the triathlon. Would I want to do another? Would I want to focus solely on running? I didn’t want to rush into making a decision about what’s likely to be a large and on-going time commitment. I still don’t.

But I’ve been reassessing my swim experience. The main reason that I didn’t much like the swim was that it felt like I was never going to get to the end. At a quarter mile, it was short, but unlike at the pool I wasn’t changing direction every 25 yards; I only started to get some sense of pacing after reaching the second (of four) buoys. I also ran into a whole bunch of people through the first half. It took me a long time to get going, and by then my brain was telling me stupid stuff about how I wasn’t doing such a great job at this whole triathlon thing.

Basically, I had a rookie experience. I need to get beyond that, HTFU, and develop some open-water and mass-start swimming skills. And if there’s one thing I don’t like it’s being bad at something that I can control. I’m not so much a type A personality — I’m actually quite mellow — as I am stubborn determined. I want to get better at swimming outdoors because, dammit, I signed up to do the Nautica NYC olympic distance triathlon last year, and I can’t stand the idea that I wouldn’t be able to swim the mile 1500m of that course.

I had fun yesterday after the first 12 minutes of the race. I like the fact that I finished squarely in the middle with plenty of energy left over and lots of room to grow. I enjoyed talking about the event with my coworkers. I felt really great all day today. I really savored today’s ride, and I am looking forward to training for more of whatever comes next.

Posted in Life Lessons, Reluctant Triathlete, Swimming | Leave a comment

Diabetes Tribes

It’s Diabetes Blog Week again . . . time to write about diabetes each day for an entire week. Once again, Karen has done a fantastic job creating the topics and organizing the logistics. Kudos to her! Today’s topic touches on the differences between the various kinds of diabetes and the people who have “it.”

Hi, everybody! I have type 1 diabetes. It’s the kind where my pancreas doesn’t work so well because it was eaten by a velociraptor — I mean it was attacked by my immune system. I think, technically, I have LADA (“latent autoimmune diabetes in adults”, a.k.a. type 1.5) since I was diagnosed at age 24, but I’m not 100% sure, because there seem to be only two categories to pigeonhole me into on all of the forms. That “.5″ seems to really throw the medical establishment off. And not just them. I’m still a bit fuzzy on T1.5; in fact, I had to use the Google to find out what the LADA acronym means. (“Latent autoimmune deficiency . . . uh, no that’s not right.”)

LADA is something I’ve been meaning to ask my endocrinologist about for quite a while, but we’ve always been too busy trying to figure out ways to tweak my insulin dosing to help me get my A1c down, and we run out of time to get to more esoteric conversations like this: “So, uh, what exactly am I sick with?” I’ve heard anecdotes from other T1.5 people that there might be different treatment options than the “normal” T1 folks who were diagnosed as kiddos, so it’s definitely worth checking out, but I kinda hope that if there were major changes that one of my endos would have taken advantage of it. You never know.

So usually I just put myself in the T1 tribe. We speak the same language as the T2s and share many of the same customs, but we’re different enough to be distinguishable. I asked a while back for T2s to tell me about their experience with the ‘betes, and I’m still interested in learning more.

. . . Fortunately, we have today’s prompt to help me know my fellow peeps better.

Posted in Diabetes, Diabetes Blog Week | 1 Comment

Flail, Bike, Run

Today, I competed in (and finished) my first triathlon. It was occupying ever more of my mental real estate for the last couple months, and I’ve been thinking about this morning’s event a lot, trying to decide how I feel about it. It’s time to debrief, to see how it matched my expectations and worries.

Before getting into that, I want to give my heartfelt appreciation and thanks to everyone who gave me words of encouragement and support. And a huge “Thank you!” to my loving wife, who not only had to put up with a bunch of my early-morning and weekend training but then had to listen to me talk about it afterward. Lisa even got up early to watch the event today.

I had a good first triathlon, finishing the quarter-mile swim, 10-mile bike, and 5K run in 1:16:34, good enough for 171st out of 366. (I just missed finishing in the top 10 of newbies.) My time goal was 1:30, so I’m quite happy. And knowing that I was going to make a lot of rookie mistakes was pretty liberating — though I tried to make as few as possible, of course.

I’m going to need more time to reflect on this triathlon thing. On the one hand, I didn’t really enjoy the swim leg. My swim time wasn’t bad for me — a couple minutes slower than I am in the pool over the same distance. I just didn’t enjoy it. The camaraderie in the water before my wave started was nice, but I felt like the swim would never be over, and I had a lot of trouble getting my rhythm. I felt slow and was close to panicking a couple times. Rolling over onto my back didn’t help my time, but it helped me get my mind back. I don’t know if I just wasn’t used to swimming in a wetsuit or if it was because today was my first open-water swim, but I got out of the water thinking that I wasn’t really having very much fun.

On the other hand, I earned (and had) a good time after the swim. In fact, I did something that I’ve never done before: From the time that I got on my bike all the way through the end of the run, I only passed other people. I’ve never been in a race where I did all of the catching; it was actually quite amazing. My experience on the bike was really, really good, and I had plenty of energy left over for the 5K run, where I averaged about 7:20/mile. (My transitions between swim and bike and run were really s–l–o–w, though.*)

Would I do it again? I don’t know. I need time to think it over. I liked the bike and run segments. If I can learn how to swim faster and get some more confidence outside the pool, maybe it won’t feel like that part takes forever. If I can get myself used to the swim, I would definitely do another. But I’ve been hot and cold throughout the day — not to mention during the event. When I was in the water, I was pretty sure I never wanted to do another one again; by the end of the run, though, I had mostly forgotten all about that.

So we’ll see. I’ve given myself some time to make up my mind. (So I think we probably know what that means.) In the meantime, I have a lot of running and cycling to do.

Here are some of Lisa’s photographs from this morning:

* — I can’t even blame diabetes for the slow transitions, since I wasn’t even the fastest person with diabetes. Team Type 1′s Patricia Brownell totally smoked me on the swim and her transitions were twice as fast, too. It was nice to see another PWD representing and kicking ass.

Posted in Cycling, Diabetes, General, I am Rembrandt, Reluctant Triathlete, Running, Swimming | 6 Comments

Diabetes Blog Week, Part Two

OMG! It’s coming.


You’ve all been warned.

Posted in Diabetes, Diabetes Blog Week, General, MetaBlogging | 1 Comment

I’m Ready

Hey, y’all. Sorry for being relatively absent here lately. There was the wedding in the Hudson River Valley a couple weekends ago, plus a few lectures about the Silk Road at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and a 20-mile charity walk last weekend. I’ve been occasionally dragging myself out of bed at 5:00 AM in order to keep up with my training schedule, so I’ve been going to bed obscenely early (for me). All that adds up to not much writing here.

On top of that, about a week ago I got some kind of “real people” illness that started with a fever and quickly progressed to a sore throat and fever, accompanied by fatigue. After a few days with the sore throat — and the nagging worry that I was going to be sick going into the last week of training for the triathlon — I went to the doctor who diagnosed me with an upper respiratory infection and strep pharyngitis, which was later downgraded to plain-ole pharyngitis. I feel much better and hope that by Sunday I’ll be 100%.

After finally buying a wetsuit* (at a significant discount) and trying it on Monday night, I’ve gotten myself into the headspace where I feel pretty okay about what’s coming my way this weekend. Getting the wetsuit was really the part that made it the most real. It’s the acknowledgement that, yes, I have everything I need to get into the (chilly, chilly, 55ºF) water, make it to the other end of the 1/4 mile swim course and do what I really feel confident doing: riding my bike and running like a fiend. It’s been a long process from thinking I would never do a triathlon to actually looking forward to it.

I’m at the point where I know there are a bunch of things that I don’t know and that I will learn on Sunday and that (at some point) I will be “that guy,” the FNG, the newb, the one doing things the wrong way. It’s a hard place for me, but I think doing all of this incremental learning despite being pretty confident that I’m going to mess up on a bunch of stuff has been good for me.

In fact, all of the little things that I’ve done recently to make this weekend more “real” have really helped my confidence. I put the cleats on my new triathlon bike shoes and the pedals on the bike. I rode the bike portion of the tri course on Sunday. I’ve been swimming lots all autumn, winter, and spring. I’m faster than I was at this time last year, and I swam 1.25 miles a few weeks ago, just to see how that felt. (Not bad, actually. I can totally do one quarter mile.) And I did the half marathon in March and the 5-miler last month.

Furthermore, the last couple weeks of morning workouts have been really good diabetes-wise. I’m hoping to replicate that as much as I can . . . although I know that it’s going to be all different because of adrenaline and timing and running around before the start. I’ll try my best.

And last night I attended a newbie session at a bike shop in Arlington hosted by the folks putting on the triathlon. They went through the whole triathlon, from what to do a couple days beforehand to everything that’s going to happen on race day. There was a ton of practical information and they answered a lot of questions from the 30-or-so other people in attendance. (And even one diabetes-related one from me afterward.)

But mostly I’m feeling pretty confident because, as Lisa keeps reminding me, I’ve been training a lot:

* — It still feels really odd to be wearing anything in the “small long” size.

Posted in Cycling, Diabetes, General, Life Lessons, Reluctant Triathlete, Running | 4 Comments