Monthly Archives: June 2011

BAA 10K. Bah!

I’m trying hard to keep some perspective on my 49:27 result in today’s inaugural BAA 10K in Boston.

It’s not the best 10K I’ve ever run, but it’s also not the worst. (That would have been the one where I finished last, well over a half-hour slower than today. I didn’t even have diabetes at the time.) I finished just out of the top quarter, so there were plenty of people who would have been happy with my time.

I ran into a bunch of people I know from work — Alex, Alexander and Portia, not to mention Annapoorna and Kaushik. I had a nice time warming up with Alexander, who finished about a minute behind me, and chatting with him and Alex afterward. (Alex finished about 20 minutes ahead of me, but we knew that he would be way up near the front.)

I saw the winners of the race a bit before my turnaround on the out-and-back course. (I couldn’t tell if women’s runner-up Kim Smith heard me when I cheered her with a “Go Kimmy!”) And there were loads of good-looking women up in the first-wave starting corral and around me during the race. It was when I couldn’t keep up with one of them — the one with the really steady 7:00 pace — that I knew something was amiss.

My first half of the 5K was really, really good. I knew I’d had trouble pacing myself in the past, so I decided to go out a clip that didn’t feel too fast. First mile: 6:53. Second mile: 7:08. These miles felt really comfortable . . . not easy, but I was certain that I could do the rest in that neighborhood.

In short, I was having a good great race, the kind that I had been envisioning when I visualized my performance and that I expected after looking over the previous couple weeks in my training log. This was my first “A” race since the triathlon seven week ago, and I had been feeling good about where I was with my conditioning and taper.

After slowing down at the tail end of the first 5K (which I did in 22:00 — just off my short-rest PR time last month) I had to walk a bit. I choked down a few chalky glucose tablets, though I wasn’t sure I was low. It took a lot of effort to push through the last few miles; the last one was a particular challenge. When I finished more than twenty-seven minutes later, shuffling along at more than 25% off my desired pace, I had the bright spot in my vision that I see when I’m low.

As I walked through the post-race corral, I had visions of myself needing a little help getting to my BG meter in my baggage, but I managed on my own alright, despite having “baby giraffe legs.” My finishing BG was 68 mg/dL (3.7 mmol/l). I suspect that’s the low-rent BG neighborhood where I was most of the last three miles.

So there’s the bad: diabetes got me (again) during one of the races that I’ve trained hardest for. But here comes the second slice of bread in the happy sandwich.

This is my first race at a distance that I’ve done before within the last ten years. The day would eventually come when I would have a disappointing performance in a race where I had a benchmark. Today was that day. This had to happen.

There will be more 10K races. There’s one every weekend it seems.* And I’m in the best shape of my life right now. I like how I’m progressing, how I feel and look, and what I’m capable of doing. I suspect that I have more potential left to develop, and I’m excited about giving it another go.

And, as always, this is another diabetes learning experience. I’m still just a novice badass diabetes mofo. (BA-D-Mofo?) Next time I’ll remember to lower my temporary basal rate 30-45 minutes before the start. (I made that mistake at New Bedford, too. On race mornings, I should write myself a note in Sharpie next to my watch that says, “Lower your basal!”) I’ll figure out how to eat something before an event so that I have something in my stomach and legs without messing up the insulin and/or BG. I’ll have more things worked out, and I’ll get that sub-43:00 I know I can do.

* — The only good thing about running those last few miles so slow is that my legs still feel relatively fresh. I could probably run another 10K next weekend, but I’m no crazy Mzungu. After all, I need to put some serious miles in on my bike so that I can ride all over Provence in a few months . . . and maybe do something else exciting, too. :^)

Posted in 101 in 1001, Diabetes, Running | 5 Comments

I Wish I Were Swimming

I have a confession: I kinda like swimming.

Shocking, right?

When Lisa convinced me to start swimming in the winter of 2009 as part of our collaborative “let’s lose weight and get ready for snorkeling in Australia” kick, I was bad at it. I mean really, really bad. Barely make it to the other end of the pool bad. Get lapped a dozen times by Lisa bad. My six-foot long wingspan looks like velociraptor arms (without claws) bad. Dog paddling would be better bad.

Swimming got easier, but I didn’t warm up to it. At first it was something I did because I said I would. Then I was doing it because if I’m going to do something I’m going to do it as well as I can. If I didn’t really enjoy the mile swim that we did at the pool every Saturday afternoon, at least I could be happy that our pace was improving and that I could probably save myself during a capsize in the tropics.

This winter and spring I was going to the pool because of the triathlon. I never really looked forward to the swim portion, and then I did the race. And I hated the swim. I mean really hated it. It couldn’t have been over fast enough. But I liked the other parts quite a bit.

Because of my stubbornness it only seemed appropriate that I was back at the pool less than a week after doing the triathlon. If I couldn’t love the swim, I thought, at least I could finish it quickly. And I asked my pool peeps about open water swimming. Jumping in the deep end, so to speak.

That second swim in open water started off feeling like the first, but then it got better. My technique started to conquer my reptilian “I’m going to drown and/or never be finished” brainstem’s protestations. I felt the sun on me and enjoyed the people around me and decided it was worth doing again. Which I’ve done . . . a couple more times.

While I’m definitely not the fastest person in the lake, it helped me to know that I wasn’t the slowest either. And I don’t swim a very straight line from one point to another. After all, I can barely see where I’m going, and I drift really hard to the right, mostly because I currently can only breathe on one side of my body. The one time at the pool that I decided to work on breathing bilaterally, I had a wee freak out . . . quietly . . . in my own lane so no one would notice.

A big part of me doing something is feeling confident at it, so I signed up for an open water clinic at a local lake hosted by a company that runs triathlon events. My goal was to figure out how to cope with having so many people around me during the swim. In the triathlon, I was always swimming up on people, hitting their feet with my hands and knocking me off my rhythm.

Surrounded by about fifty other newbies a week ago, I had a plan: Swim 100 meters out to the buoy and see what happens. (I know. I have the simplest plans, but they’re usually achievable. Aim low and go from there, but just get going.) Everyone was told that an easy way to avoid running into lots of people was to spread out and make a diagonal toward the first buoy. So many people did just that, leaving plenty of room near the actual lie of the course, which is where I placed myself.

And we started. And I swam straight-ish, sighting on the big, red buoy. And I was shocked when I got to the buoy first, which I rounded without a problem. And I was even more shocked when I got to the beach first. (Although I was not shocked when one of the coaches told me mid-course that I had veered back across the middle line and was steering into head-on traffic.)

Because of a trip we made to Oregon, I’ve only been in the water once since the clinic. On that outing with just a couple other people from my triathlon training club, I still had trouble sighting, and I still pulled to the right, and I still had some worries and wonders about my blood sugar. But I didn’t worry about the other things, and it was the first swim that I really enjoyed from start to finish.

While on vacation, I was thinking about that swim and a couple of the other open-water outings that I’ve had in the last few weeks. My main thought was, “This is a beautiful morning. I wish I were swimming.”

Tomorrow morning is threatening rain, but I’m going to meet others at the lake just the same. It should be fun.

Posted in Life Lessons, Reluctant Triathlete, Swimming | 1 Comment

You Can Do This

Note: This post contains a video that might not display in your RSS reader. Why not come see the original page?

Recently, Kim kick-started the You Can Do This project. Here is my small contribution to it. You really can do it!

You can watch other videos on the project’s YouTube page.

Posted in Diabetes, I am Rembrandt, Video | 6 Comments

CGM Weekend

Every seven days (or so) I have to stop using CGM for several hours while I wait for the CGM clam shell transmitter to recharge and for the new sensor to marinate. Usually around day six, the CGM trace looks like an EKG reading as the sensor loses its mojo, and by day eight the transmitter’s battery has lost all of its juice.

Today is that day.

While I do have a faint sense of liberation when I’m disconnected from my device, I still really miss it on these 8- to 12-hour-long “CGM weekends” — despite all those bad things that I say about it. My cyborg-ness has a pull on me like a phantom limb. I catch myself reflexively reaching every hour to look at the CGM trace to see where my blood sugar is going, but of course it’s not there. I keep expecting to hear a high or low BG alarm, which never sounds. And I find myself switching back into a more attentive mode where I’m frequently thinking about my blood glucose, trying to “feel” it, intuiting where I am on the hypoglycemic—normal—cranky-high BG scale.

Mostly, I crave the (occasionally false) security that my CGM brings. Before exercising, it’s nice to know whether I was going up or down so that I can adjust my carb intake. Before eating, I like to get a sense of when I should take my bolus: 15 minutes? a half hour? with the meal? I like seeing the steady, gradual rise or fall after I misjudge a meal, when there’s still time to correct for it. And I miss — more than anything else — looking down at the steady, quiet flat line on those times that I get it “just right.”

(I also find myself wondering how the artificial pancreas project is going to cope with this “And on the seventh day the CGM rested . . .” problem.)

How about you? What do you do during your CGM weekends?

Posted in CGM, Diabetes | 2 Comments

Don’t Give Up, Wednesday, 6:00AM

“Who is that guy over there?”

“I dunno . . .”

I was wearing my wetsuit and standing up to my waist in Ashland Reservoir, thinking about the first open-water swim that I was going to do since the triathlon one month ago. I was going to do it last week, but I totally wimped out.* I was still a bit unsure about swimming a mile — four times longer than the triathlon, which seemed to take forever. I was only expecting to swim a half-mile, but the group I was meeting for the first time decided to switch it up.

I waded over and introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Jeff. I’m kinda slow, and I’m wicked nervous.”

A few people said nice things to set me at ease. One woman who claimed to be a bit slower gave me some tips on how and where to sight and said she would hang back to keep an eye on me.

Standing in the water I was happy to be there. After all, the morning really was beautiful . . . the kind of morning that you see in commercials for retirement funds . . . the ones with the video of a New England lake, wisps of steam rising in the early hours of the morning, soothing music, and a confident voice-over.

I was anything but confident when I put my face in the water and started to swim toward the beach around the corner that I couldn’t see. Immediately I had that feeling from the triathlon. I was floating just fine, and I was warm enough. But the water just seemed so close in; two feet in every direction of me was a dull, wet brown trailing off to darkness. A few minutes in, I wanted it to be over. I contemplated how bad it would be if I decided to turn around and say, “Sorry, y’all. But this swimming and tri thing isn’t for me.”

But unlike last time, I didn’t panic. Nor did I feel as tired. My breathing was good, even when I was trying to sight. My wetsuit, although tight, wasn’t preventing me from finding a good rhythm. I think I actually swam relaxed. And when my new swimming buddy Lisa said, “Well, you’re faster than me,” I started to think that maybe this swimming thing was something I could do. I decided to just do it and enjoy the morning’s swim.

Of course, my swim friend also said that I needed to try to sight better and swim straighter, since I was “swimming twice as far” with all of the course corrections I was making. And I realized a few times that my technique was suffering. So that’s something to work on, too.

Just before we all left, I got invited to the next session on Friday. As long as the weather is nice, I’ll be there.

* — I really did wimp out last Wednesday. I was wide awake at 4:30AM thinking about being the slowest person, about having diabetes issues, about not fitting in, about not having time to make it to the lake in time, about what I was going to do afterward, about looking like a shlemiel when I went to meet Miriam Tucker at a nice restaurant in Boston that evening because I hadn’t showered, and about all sorts of little issues. It makes me a bit embarrassed when y’all say I’m awesome, because you don’t know about all of these insecurities and the times that I let them get the better of me. I do my best, but sometimes I cave. Not today, though.

Posted in Life Lessons, Reluctant Triathlete, Swimming | 3 Comments

Mt. Tom

I like hiking.

Really . . . I do.

Posted in 101 in 1001, General, I am Rembrandt | Leave a comment

Visual Acuity and Color Confusion

I’ve been working on a project at work that involves visual acuity. We’re basically asking the question, “How easy is it to notice the difference between two parts of an image with the assistance of color?” As part of the process, we take two grayscale images and make a false-color composite from them. Similar regions of the image are gray (which includes black and white), while the differences show up as one hue or another.

There is an almost infinite number of colors we could use for the false coloring by spinning the color wheel, but it’s easiest to pick a primary color (red, green, or blue) and use its complementary color for the opposite. Some colors are harder to distinguish against bright backgrounds; think about picking out a bright yellow object against a bright white background. While other colors are harder to pick out against dark backgrounds; blue on black, for example. Is there an optimal choice that’s also inexpensive to compute?

Let’s find out. Here’s what happens when you perform the “What’s different?” test using the three obvious choices of red/cyan, green/magenta, and blue/yellow:

(Click any image to see it larger and/or full-size.)

The blue/yellow version is not very good because it suffers from the problems listed above, while the green/magenta and red/cyan false colorings seem to produce fairly equivalent results. What to do? The ever-practical Loren suggested that we see what happens if we ask people with color-blindness color confusion. Turns out, we know a couple of such folks, but they were in meetings. What to do?

Oh, that’s right!! A while back, I wrote some MATLAB code that simulates the two most common forms of anomalous color vision. Let’s run that and see what happens. (The speckling in the images is an artifact of the conversion and doesn’t represent how they actually look to people with protanopia or deuteranopia.)

The results are a no-brainer! (Sorry about the pun.) While the red/cyan and green/magenta images are very similar for the majority of us with normal color vision, the red/cyan images become very difficult to use for people with any kind of anomalous color vision. Even though the green/magenta starts to look a lot like the blue/yellow row, which has its own issues of color discrimination, it makes a very good compromise. Green/magenta it is.

Posted in Color and Vision, MATLAB | Leave a comment

Dear Medtronic…

. . . you’d best be getting your shit together and releasing a CGM sensor that I can believe in. You have between now and when that new Animas/Dexcom pump+CGM combo comes to market in the US. I like your pump offerings — even if they have tried to kill me — but the CGM accuracy is just a joke.

Sincerely yours,

Posted in CGM, Diabetes | 6 Comments