Monthly Archives: November 2011

Closing the Books on November

Here we are: November 30th. The last day of November. The last day of post-something-everyday month. I feel this year’s NaBloPoMo has gone better than last year’s, and I’m thinking about some possible tweaks for next year. Maybe I will take a little hiatus starting tomorrow, using the time to read books on my reading list and further purge the office of mental baggage. We’ll see when I’m moved to post write something new next.

One thing I had hoped to do a month ago was to clear out a bunch of the things I had in mind to post. I posted roughly half of them. Yay! This dispatch aims to tidy up some loose ends. It will probably be long, and it might be rambling. Beware! If anything turns out to be just a bit too long or important, I’ll break it out into its own post.

It’s a good time to clear the decks. Lisa is out for the evening, I’m streaming a concert by Cœur de Pirate (mp3), and I’m in the mood to write. In fact, I’m in the mood to do just about anything to take my mind off the fact that I’m basal testing and have to skip dinner. Fortunately, at lunch I had some of the very delicious Comté cheese that we bought in Montréal last weekend; I hope that it will fortify me for another four-or-so hours when I can eat a very late (10PM) dinner.

Oh, one more thing before I get going with the things I had intended to write about. I’ve been listening to (and loving) the new album by Caracol. Unfortunately, it isn’t available in the US yet. (Next year, she hopes.) But you can stream the tracks from the web site. It’s so good! In my book, it’s one of my Top 5 for 2011. Go check it out and tell me what you think and what albums/CDs/whatever you really liked this year.

On with the show.

Basal Testing: I hate basal testing. I don’t think anybody who uses an insulin pump likes to do it. Why would we? It involves eating a normal meal, waiting at least three hours since the last insulin bolus, skipping the next meal, waiting 4-6 hours after the normal meal time to eat again, and recording blood glucose every two hours (or so). And that’s just during the daytime. At night, the requirement is to go to bed without a snack and then wake up at 1:00 and 4:00 (for example) to test.

Ideally, you see an awesome, tight range of numbers that make you feel confident that your basal (background) insulin rates are correct. But if there’s too much movement one way or another, you have to stop. This means you get to eat early, but it also means that you have to make an adjustment in the pattern and then run the test again on another day. Plus, who actually does a basal test when everything is going right? No one except crazy people. No, you only do a test to figure out what is going wrong.

But in October I decided to bit the bullet and get my all my basal rates as correct as they can be. I was noticing a lot of trends in my CGM graphs and decided against just making changes willy-nilly. I still suspect that most of my problem is under-bolusing for meals, but I can never know without checking that the basals are correct first.

One big problem with basal testing is each day is a big ole cycle that leads straight into the next. Where do you start? Some people say, “Overnight. Get that right and then you can start your march through the day.” Maybe for them. My evenings are cray-cray, going high after my after-work training and then bouncing around after dinner before I give myself my final “well, I’ve messed up today pretty good” insulin and/or snack before bedtime. That makes overnight testing difficult.

For me, it’s been easiest to find a few mornings that seemed designed for testing—in-range BGs, flat/normal CGM graphs overnight—and skip breakfast. Then I tested my breakfast bolus ratio and timing. Then I skipped lunch for an afternoon basal test, followed by the lunch bolus test. And now here we are at dinnertime without dinner. Once I’m done here I can figure out a rubric for my afternoon/evening workouts and test that before taking a stab at dinner and (finally) the overnight basal.

One hard question I’ve had to answer is whether to exercise on days when I do basal testing. Since I train 5-6 days each week, I feel okay skipping one for the greater good. But then there’s the admonition that you should do what you normally do, which for me means exercise. Today I skipped a bike session in the basement, which is “okay” since I swam this morning, but it’s also torture because I really, really want to ride my new bike. Greater good.

By the way, to any CDEs, endos, etc., who might be reading this, please note: I’ve been on the pump for over ten years, and this will (hopefully) be the first time that my basal rates and bolus ratios are correct/proven. If you’re going to put someone on the pump, you need to (a) make sure y’all work together to get the settings locked down from the start, and (b) work on all of the behavioral issues that come along with multiple daily injection (MDI) therapy. Just saying.

I just hope that when I get through with this process, I’ll be able to translate all of this hunger into a baseline for making amazing observations about exercise+insulin+food.

Three hours to go.

Organized Bike Touring: I was asked several times right after my trip (photos) whether I would do another organized bicycle trip. Most of the people on the tour had done several already and were talking about which one they would do next. I always played coy. “Maybe.”

I enjoyed myself quite a lot. The scenery was great. I really enjoyed spending time with Mom in France. My fellow travelers were wonderful. The tour leaders were fantastic people. It was terrific having so many details taken care of; all I had to do was get on my bike and ride. And there was plenty of time to do things other than cycling.

But two things brought me down. (1) I wish there had been more actual riding. I could easily have gone an extra 20-30 miles most days, and I wouldn’t have minded a slightly faster pace. I certainly wasn’t expecting a race or even a hard ride each day, but I think the tour company we used was aiming at a more casual riding experience . . . which is totally cool, if that’s what you’re after. No judgement from me. Honest. And (2) Lisa wasn’t with me. I was having a great time doing and seeing interesting things, eating delicious food, and going to beautiful places that she would have also loved . . . just without the bike.

If only there were a way to bring Lisa, a noncyclist, along on a trip that involves some (longer distance or more intense) bicycling. Oh wait, maybe there is! Clearly it involves bringing a larger group of friends to France, some of whom ride and some who don’t. We’ll see what happens in a couple years. :^)

Two and a half hours . . .

Occupy This! will be posted tomorrow.

Two hours to go.

iOS v. Android: I have an iPod Touch. It’s great. I have all sorts of useful apps, and I use it all the time. It syncs with my Mac apps, including iTunes. It doesn’t make phone calls.

I have a Google Nexus One phone. It has a nicer-than-the-iPod’s input editor coupled with its not-quite-as-nice touchscreen keyboard. It has a couple of apps that I used when I was in France, only one of which was not already on my iPod. It kind of plays music. It shares data with “useful” Google apps on the web. It makes phone calls, is unlocked, and accepts normal SIM cards like the one I bought in France that let me call home at 4¢/min. (No shit! 15€ gave Mom and me so much talk time over two weeks that we had a bunch left over when we returned home.)

I wish I had a mythical, nonexistent, unlocked iPhone that supports pay-as-you-go and takes regular SIM cards. That would be perfect.

Are we there yet?

Before There Was Facebook: A Short, Subjective, Incomplete Insider’s History of PlanetAll will be posted Friday.

Almost there! By the time I write one more and then proofread, it should be “dinner time.”

Cyclocross: Early in the month I had thought about writing about how I was considering cyclocross as an off-season pursuit. But then I saw one and decided that it looked painful (and not in a fun kind of way). Although this did make me laugh.

Yay! I made it! I did my proofreading, took one more BG test, and had dinner while chatting with Lisa, who just arrived home. The results are mostly good news: I was incredibly stable until 9:00, at which time I started to drop slowly but steadily. That happens to be just an hour after my basal rate kicks up from 0.4 u/hr to 0.7 u/hr. That hardly seems like a coincidence.

Posted in Cycling, Data-betes, Diabetes, General, MetaBlogging, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2011, Travel | 2 Comments

Heart Rate Training?

How do you get faster at any endurance activity? Ironically, you get faster by doing it faster than usual. If you run every run at one pace or do every ride at the same tempo, then you’ll never progress. You can only build up so much aerobic capacity, since you can only move so much blood and oxygen around. What you need to do is to work harder so that the muscles themselves are stronger and capable of giving more.

My running plan includes plenty of tempo running and interval sessions. And I’ve finally gotten to the point where there’s “normal swimming” and “harder swimming.” But how do I know how hard to work when cycling?

I think the answer is heart rate training, which is new to me. Have any of you had success doing this?

I’ve figured out several of the basic calculations based on my computed maximum heart rate (183 bpm) and resting heart rate (52 bpm). According to an online calculator, these are my target heart rate zones:

Zone 1: 118-131
Zone 2: 131-144
Zone 3: 144-157 (Aerobic)
Zone 4: 157-170 (Anaerobic)
Zone 5: 170-183 (Maximal)

Now, where do I go from here?

Posted in Cycling, Data-betes, Fodder for Techno-weenies, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2011 | Leave a comment

The Writing is in the Wall

Today was a busy day. I brought this home:

I had the second part of my bike fit today, actually riding my own bike. Turns out, my left leg is longer than my right one, and it was affecting my pedal stroke. I also have narrow feet and very collapsed arches. We tweaked a lot of things, added shims between my shoe and pedals, added orthotic inserts to my bike shoes, and more. Tonight when I was riding on the trainer, I started to feel some of those changes for the better. Tomorrow or Wednesday, I’ll swap out my road bike and my new one and give it a longer ride.

And then there was the beam-signing at the office. We’re adding another building (and parking garage and traffic flow patterns and landscaping) to our campus after we’ve outgrown the other three. Everyone in the company was invited to sign the last structural beam before it was set into place this afternoon. Here are a few pictures.

And as the last photo says, we’re still hiring. Why not apply?

Posted in Cycling, General, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2011 | 1 Comment

A Question about Bilingualism

From “Big Bang” at the Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about bilingualism. For political reasons, Montréal is outwardly very French, but English is right there everywhere you listen. Half the people walking down the street are speaking French, the other half English. When we walked into a shop, often we were met with “Bonjour/Hello.” And often we were just greeted in English. (I guess we look American or anglophone—or maybe they heard us talking. Who knows?)

Lisa doesn’t speak French, and it seems rude to carry on a three-way conversation with a bilingual person in a language she doesn’t understand. (It’s Canada, not France, after all.) So I was happy enough to use a little French here and there, to speak with people en français when it was easiest, and to read plenty of French throughout the day. (I even picked up some new words.)

But it got me wondering about how to navigate the English/French divide. What’s the most appropriate way to initiate a conversation or interaction?

In France, if you just start speaking to someone in English, it’s very rude. In fact, even a simple «bonjour» and «Parlez-vous anglais?» is usually enough to negotiate the “I don’t speak your language well, so please bear with me” barrier with sensitivity. And when I spoke the French that I knew, it got me through quite well.

Quebec being bilingual, though, is different. If you answer a «bonjour» in kind, you invite continued conversation in French, just like in France. That leads to that eventual moment when your partner in conversation realizes you don’t really speak French as well as they do. At one such moment, a friendly clerk at the HMV, where I was buying francophone music CDs, kindly said, “You can just speak English; we’re all bilingual.” But I’ve had a few conversations where it’s clear that not everyone speaks English . . . or that their English is only about as good as my French, and that French would be better for everyone.

So, my dear Canadians, Canadiennes, and fellow travelers to Quebec, what is the “right” way of getting by? Do you just start out in the language you want to speak? Do you ask whether they speak English? Do you start in French and go until it becomes painful? Something else entirely?

Posted in City of Light, Life Lessons, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2011, Travel | 1 Comment

Le Cœur de St-André

Lisa and I have never spent this much time in Montréal before. Usually, we arrive one day and have to leave the next. This four-day Thanksgiving weekend, though, has given us the opportunity to spend some extra time doing extra things. (That is to say, this weekend wasn’t just a food booty call.) We actually had to figure out some extra things to do.

So what have we done? We went to three churches yesterday (Chapelle Notre-Dame-des-Bonsecours, Saint Patrick’s, and Basilique Notre-Dame) and to the Oratoire Saint-Joseph today. We aren’t religious people, but we do really enjoy the artistry and architecture of churches. (And the really interesting stories—like the one about the theft of the heart of St.-André, the Brother responsible for building the Oratory. And I don’t mean “he gave his heart to Christ.” No! In the 70s, someone stole his actual heart from the reliquary at the oratory. It’s back now.)

It’s basically the same reason that we enjoy going to art museums. I’m a big fan of photography, 19th century French painting, and Aboriginal/Native American/Inuit arts, while Lisa likes to take it all in. But our brains have trouble—we are not ashamed to say—with contemporary art. Let’s face it, a lot of it is just shit. I know, I know; I’m being very judgmental. However, in a post-modern world where it doesn’t matter what the artists’ intentions were, it’s completely up to us as the viewers to ascribe value. And a lot of it is just boring, unapproachable, poorly executed, or (worst of all) irrelevant.

So why did we go to the Musée d’Art Contemporaine yesterday? Well, why not? You have to speculate to accumulate in the art world. You never know what you might like until you see it. Besides, it was hosting the Québec Art Trienale: “The Work Ahead.” If you want to see what’s coming up, an -ale is a pretty good, very avante garde way to do it.


The sad thing is that the “Big Bang” exhibit of Canadian artists at the newly renovated Musée des Beaux Arts was head-and-shoulders better than the trienale exhibit. Is that an indictment of the MDAC or of Québec artists? I don’t know. Probably neither. I will say, though, that the smaller museum’s inclusion of video art was interesting (to me).

Between bouts of art-watching and church-hopping, we shopped a bit and ate delicious food and walked around and basically enjoyed ourselves. It was, incredibly, the nicest weather we’ve ever had on our five trips to Montréal. (And the weather never touched 50ºF!)

Until next time, Québec.

Posted in NaBloPoMo 2009, NaBloPoMo 2011, Travel | Leave a comment

Montréal Pictures

We’ve had a great day in Montréal. It started with crêpes, ended with a ridiculously delicious, two-hour meal, and was full of a leisurely stroll around the Ville-Marie and Vieux Port sections of the city. We visited three churches, shopped a bit, and took in the Musée d’Art Contemporaine. Tomorrow, we’re planning even more adventures (although with slightly subdued meals compared to today, I suspect).

Here are some pictures from our adventure.

Posted in I am Rembrandt, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2011, Travel | Leave a comment

Where in the World are Jeff and Lisa?

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the United States, and I am very thankful for so many things: the day off, a good job, my cute kitty, chocolate croissants, relatively good health, great friends and family, etc. Most of all, I am thankful for Lisa, who loves me more than I ever thought possible. She truly is a wonderful person, and I feel very fortunate that she picked me.

She’s a great travel companion, and we’re off on a little adventure right now. Can you guess from these hints where we are?

We used our passports.

Overheard on the street — Yuppy man to guy handing out black-empowerment leaflets: Do I look black to you?

Leaflet Guy to Yuppy Man: No, you look like a jackass, you white-supremacist bitch.

Lisa and me, a few paces back, quietly: Tee hee! D-a-m-n.

We saw former NESN host Hazel Mae on television here while eating at a restaurant that serves poutine.


On the way back to our hotel, we passed the “Club Super Sexe”—situated incongruously between a jewelry shop and an Italian restaurant and across the street from a Marc Jacobs store and Old Navy—where we noticed a sign advertising “Buffet Gratuit.” I’m sure the free food is not the real draw. Also, Lisa and I wondered how you tip a stripper in a country that doesn’t use dollar bills.

Can you guess where we are? More hints tomorrow!

Posted in NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2011, Travel | 4 Comments

We’re Heading North

Take kitty to his kitty resort? Check.

Clean the kitchen? Check.

Map my 12-mile running route for tomorrow? Check.

Write blog post? Check.

Watch the Bruins beat Buffalo in an overtime shootout? CHECK!

Pack for the weekend trip? Um, not yet.

Figure out what we’re doing on the trip? Uh . . .

Dig out the passports? Okay, okay. I’ll get going.

Posted in General, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2011, Travel | Leave a comment

Just Give Me the Dorky Helmet and I Will Be “That Guy”

In order not to bury the lede, I’m going to start with the big news: I put down a deposit on a new bike today, which I will pick up (hopefully) on Monday after a final fitting session. Here it is:

You should know a few things about my decision to get this bike:

  1. I have been saving money to buy a new bike at some point in the future ever since I bought my last bike in 2009.
  2. I hadn’t expected to buy a tri-bike after just one season.
  3. Lisa suggested, out of the blue, that I should get one. Merry Christmas from my sweetie (and my slush fund)!
  4. I’m deeply, deeply ambivalent about this bike for so many reasons.

A couple of my coworkers and I joke that “triathlon is a rich white person’s sport.” And while I’ve seen people riding all sorts of bikes and wearing all manner of kit during various triathlons, the joke is uncomfortably close to the truth. Even though swimmers can wear just about anything (although a wetsuit will give you some advantage) and running is running is running regardless of your income level, anything involving a bike—including triathlon—is going to start to seem like thoroughbred horse racing. Cycling is where all of the money is spent, often for diminishing returns

“$2,000 for an aero wheelset to save a couple of minutes over 112 miles? $500 to save 30 grams by switching pedals? Yes, those are just what I need to get me to Kona.” Um, right. It would be like most of us thinking we can buy our way to a Boston Qualifying time by getting better shoes. I’m not saying the advantages aren’t real or that people shouldn’t be able to spend their money in whatever race-legal way they want. It just seems that common sense goes out the window whenever our reptilian brains see anything associated with two wheels.

So how did I end up standing around in my bike shorts and jersey this afternoon at Landry’s bike store waiting to get fit for a super-aero time trial/triathlon bike? Believe me, I’ve been asking myself that question and second-guessing myself and looking deep inside my athlete’s soul for the answer.

I guess it’s the simple fact that tri-bikes are faster than the bike I have now. Not just a little bit faster. No. A lot faster. A couple years ago I was just a guy with diabetes on a bike, but after this past year I consider myself an athlete. I feel I can be competitive in several of the races on next year’s docket, and I’d like to see how far I can go by giving my potential just a bit of help. [1]

This is the big, up-front investment. While it’s true that you never really “just buy a bike,” I don’t plan on putting much additional loot into this one right away. I hope I’m more down-to-earth than that. After all, it’s “not about the bike.” There’s a whole lot of hard work for me to do to feel like I’m living up to the potential of this bike, and that’s a big motivator.

Of course, maybe I’m just making a big deal out of nothing at all. Why don’t I just get on with telling you about the bike fit process.

When I bought my road bike (at a different store) the fitting was really simple: “Sit on the bike on a trainer while I get out my calipers and protractor and we will adjust the saddle.”

Today was nothing like that. Over the better part of an hour I was videotaped riding a highly reconfigurable “bike.” A specially trained bike shop guy reviewed the video frame by frame, measuring various angles, reconfiguring, retaping, remeasuring, repeating, . . . He used a laser level to aid in making extremely accurate measurements throughout the process.

Having recorded myself swimming, it was interesting to have this applied to another event. (Now I just need someone to film me running and to analyze my stride, in order to complete my mini-series triathlon.) Turns out I have very long arms and legs and a rather short torso—which I already knew, since most of my clothes must be tailored in order to fit right. I also have very flexible hip, knee and lower back joints, so I can get into a pretty aggressive aero position. That was unexpected.

Forty-five minutes after stripping down to my bike clothes (which I was wearing under my regular clothes [2]) I was ready to get bike recommendations. Or rather one recommendation. “Can we at least pretend like I comparison shopped?” I asked; so we played that charade quite convincingly. If I got that less expensive bike I would need to spend more money in accessories to get the same fit as the “right” bike. Or I could spend twice as much for the same fit with better components (like aero-er wheels and lighter pedals and shit like that.)

And then, the soft sell: “Do you want to take it for a ride?” Without a helmet? “We can lend you a helmet.” Outdoors in the cold? “Do you want a jacket or something? [Seriously, man, HTFU.]” I can manage without one for a few minutes.

It wasn’t the same pure joy that I had when I first pedaled my road bike. That feeling of effortlessness and the fluidity was replaced by wobbliness as I got used to the equivalent of driving a Porsche with a go-kart’s steering wheel. Because I was in a residential neighborhood, I didn’t really get the chance to open it up; nevertheless I could feel the responsiveness of this almost weightless bike.

I can hardly wait to give it a try.

1 — 2011 really was the year when I became an athlete. I competed in nine different races, and I used a couple of training plans to prepare for them. I was actually a bit haphazard in the events I chose, and I’m trying to be a little more focused next year. Of course, I’m also trying to keep a lot of the spontaneity and love for what I’m doing, which is precisely why I rebel against most triathlon training programs. “Life is choices.” [Back . . ]

2 —  I put my new office gym membership to use for the first time today over lunch so that I could change clothes. OMG, those were some chatty guys in the locker-room with me. I thought we were genetically programmed to become mute and blind in the presence of other naked men. (It’s a mutation on the Y chromosome. That’s a fact. Look it up.) This is going to take some getting used to. [Back . . ]

Posted in Cycling, Fodder for Techno-weenies, General, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2011, Reluctant Triathlete | 3 Comments

Updates to “A Miscellany of New England Iconography”

What started as a chance discovery of an old headstone in a corner of the MFA Boston morphed into an interest in cemeteries that I cultivated while photographing the cities and towns of Massachusetts. I gradually came to realize that you can see a lot of American cultural and art history expressed in the headstones of our cemeteries and burying grounds. (In fact, the whole idea of a cemetery as compared to a burying ground is interesting in itself.)

As my fascination grew, going to see local cemeteries became something that Lisa and I could do together on a whim. As I walked around with my pen and paper looking for names, Lisa would look at dates and ages and try to piece together family relationships. It’s been a while since I posted any of the more interesting names or headstones here. That’s about to change.

This headstone has it all: death with his scythe, cherubs, devils, crossed bones, an hourglass, scroll-work, the sun, and a snake eating its own tail to signify the unending cycle of life and death. See below for many more headstones.

Through this new crop of photographs, you can see similarities within regions and times, the effects of mass production, differing regional concepts of piety and sense of style . . . not to mention the role of wealth, the presence of master craftsmen, the concept of personhood, and so many other things.

Many markers are memorial stones—not actual headstones—and are often very simple. Many of the dead only got initials on their marker, if they had a stone at all. Some markers were added decades (even centuries) later, usually in a moment of civic pride.

The earliest remaining headstones with names and dates tend to be very ornate and were for extremely important clergy. There are vastly more 18th century headstones remaining, and they tend to be more simple. Unfortunately, machine-carved and die-cast stones signaled an enormous change in the interestingness of grave markers. By the late 19th century, everyone had a headstone, but most of them had no pictures at all. Almost 150 years after mass-production changed them, it’s interesting to see machine-etched pictures starting to return to stones in the late 20th century.

By touring cemeteries, you can see the transition from early Puritan to Georgian and Federal styles and themes. The macabre and religious iconography gave way to the secular and harmonious. In later stones, you can see hints of Transcendentalist sentiments (such as practicality and comity, symbolized in shaking hands) as well as the Second Great Awakening’s self-satisfied piety in skyward-pointing fingers exhorting you to look for the buried in Heaven. You can even occasionally see Art Nouveau and Art Deco stylings in New England.

Throughout the entirety of American grave markers, Bible verses or short secular poems appear. These usual implore the living not to mourn the dead but to seek to follow them into heaven. Indeed for a long time after the English first appeared in America in the early 17th century, images on headstones were one of the few acceptable forms of public art. Despite Biblical exhortations against the graven image, you can see the shape of a body in some of the early headstones. There are the shoulders; there is the round head. Eventually the skull gave way to the cherub and then to the fleshy human face.

Numerous themes appear in New England grave artwork, often combined together onto one stone:

  • Skulls with crossed bones
  • Skulls with wings
  • Cherubs (or faces with wings)
  • Faces and the “memento mori”
  • Urns with trees
  • Drapery, columns, arches, “false tombs” (This is a form of 18th/19th c. landscape art.)
  • Scrollwork, vines, leaves
  • Flowers
  • Hourglasses
  • Heraldry (Though this is usually very limited, very aristocratic, and very Tory.)
  • Crosses, Jesus, Mary (These are almost uniformly Catholic.)
  • Hands pointing toward heaven or shaking hands (These appeared during the Second Great Awakening.)
  • Finials

A tour through a single large cemetery is often a fascinating way to see the generational changes in American orthography, typography, diction, expression, language, and style.

  • “ye” versus “the”
  • The ligature “s” (as f)
  • The change of year didn’t always happen on January 1st. For example, you’ll see 1691/2.
  • In the mid-19th century there was the same crazy typographical mishmash that you might see in a typical newspaper.

You can also see the change in tooling and craftsmanship that made these markers.

  • Hand cut on slate by a local craftsman, often with visible guidelines — Until about 1820.
  • Hand cut on marble by someone on a more regional basis, probably by mail order — Starting in earnest around 1840, just in time for the Civil War and its massive carnage.
  • Cast from moulds. If you tap them, you can tell they’re hollow, and you can see the seams where they’re joined — ca. 1840s-1850s.
  • Mass produced by machine with automated cutting tools — from 1860 onward.

I hope you will look at these photographs and start to see some of what I’ve noticed over the years. And I hope that, as you encounter things I haven’t noticed, you’ll tell me what you see.

Click on any photograph to enlarge it. Click on the enlarged photograph to move to the next one in the series.

Posted in 101 in 1001, Burying Grounds, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2011, Photography, This is who we are | 1 Comment


titration: (noun) the process of gradually adjusting the dose of a medication until optimal results are reached.

I remember doing titration in high school chemistry class and not really enjoying it. You wait and wait and wait for something to happen while adding more and more and more reagent to a flask in the hopes that it will turn a pretty color. Or rather, after a game of rock-paper-scissors, your lab partner adds the reagent to the flask while you write down measurements and try to stay awake. Even though I loved learning about chemical reactions and trying to recreate some of them at home—how did I not burn the house down playing with purloined magnesium tape?—I think the titration lab was the one where I realized higher-level studies in chemistry weren’t for me.

It feels so similar now as I try to titrate the correct dosage of insulin to give when I exercise. It’s still the process of running multiple experiments involving adding a known amount of chemicals—in this case food and insulin—coupled with a lot of record-keeping. The big differences of course being that (a) I’m the flask to which the chemicals are added, (b) I have to wait a week between experiments, and (c) there are reagent strips I use with my blood glucose meter that together tell me the values and keep track of them for me. And, of course, the really big difference: If I mess up the experiment too badly I can’t just poor the contents of the flask down the lab desk’s drain.

After all this time, I still don’t really like titrating—it’s scarier to mess with insulin than it is to burn magnesium tape—but I also don’t like these other things when I’m training:

  • being hungry
  • running out of energy
  • experiencing hypoglycemia
  • having high blood glucose
  • not knowing what’s going to happen

Unfortunately, in this lab experiment, each apparatus person with diabetes is different. Otherwise I would just ask my awesome internet friends. Even I probably won’t give the same results from one week to the next. That being said, last week’s experience of going way up during the first 45 minutes of my long run and then holding steady for the next 45 minutes (eating beforehand and along the way) was the same as today’s.

Next long run (in two weeks) I’m going to add some bolus insulin and see what happens. I’m going to start minutely small and go from there. I have about sixteen weeks until Around the Bay, and I don’t feel any particular need to approach the problem via bisection. I’ll just use the normal titration method, starting small and gradually adding more until I find the “right answer. . .” or something near it.

Today’s run was actually quite good, elevated BGs notwithstanding. The weather was beautiful in the Bay State this weekend, and I got up early enough that I didn’t feel rushed to get home before we went to see the film “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” (It’s good, but bleak. Wicked bleak. “Winter’s Bone” bleak. Life lesson: stay away from John Hawkes.) I picked the 10-mile loop with three mile-or-longer hills, and I threw about fifteen minutes of tempo running into the middle of it. I figure I’ll gradually keep adding longer stretches of high intensity as I add more distance.

And Tuesday I’m going to see a guy about a bike.

Posted in Data-betes, Diabetes, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2011, Running | 1 Comment

Be Right Back

Dear Internet Friends:

I’m busy working on a post right now, and I’ll get back to you soon . . . as soon as I can get myself out from between these rocks where I’m trapped. I hope I won’t have to cut off my own arm or anything.

Posted in General, I am Rembrandt, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2011 | 2 Comments

Breakthrough, Friday, 5:45AM

It’s a good thing I had a mini-breakthrough this morning at the pool.

The morning started with a tired me getting my game face on only to show up at the school and find a bunch of cars in the lot. (Well, a bunch for 5:40AM.) Inside I found all of my swimming peeps standing outside the locked door to the pool. Fortunately I was able to keep this thought inside my head: “So, this is what y’all look like with your clothes on.” Eventually Pool Lady showed up, still sick with bronchitis and cranky.

A few minutes later out on the pool deck, Pool Lady plunked the sign-in clipboard on a small table. “If you’re a member, just check the member box. Don’t also check “resident” or “nonresident.” And if you’re a member, I’m not going to look up your number for you anymore. Either remember it or bring your card with you.” I was standing behind her, and I think a few people saw my WTF/mreow! face. We cut you some slack today, Pool Lady, because we know you’re sick and because you were sweet (to me, at least) when I left for the day.

I picked a lane and hopped in. And by “lane,” I mean one of the five lanes that doesn’t permanently have the floating lane markers separating it from its neighbor. I think they just keep one lane divider up so that people could have a place to swim laps during evening open swim, but we all treat it as Dara’s domain and always let her have it. I swam one lane over from Dara this morning—not because I’m fast but because it was uncrowded.

A few minutes later, as I was going through my drill routine, I noticed Pink Suit swimming in my lane. Okay, everybody has to swim somewhere. Then I realized that there was a lane divider on each side of me. It seems that Pink Suit was swimming up and down lanes attaching lane dividers. I had my lane back to myself; all the better for doing drills. About five minutes later there seemed to be extra people on the pool deck.

Eventually I realized that there were a bunch of young women standing at the end of my lane. I figured the high school girl’s swim team could use my lane more effectively than I would, so I hopped down a couple of lanes to share with a guy who’s roughly the same speed as I am. (When I left, there were six girls sharing my former lane. Yikes! But also, Well Done! for respecting our need to swim, too.)

By the time that I moved over I had already had my breakthrough. After several weeks, I was staring to wonder whether I would ever be able to transition from bringing my hand into the water with my arm fully extended (the wrong way) to driving my arm into the water when my elbow is inline with my ear, spearing with my hand so that my arm comes to full extension underwater.

Proper freestyle hand entry. The Guardian article I lifted this from is very useful and even distills all of the wisdom into a one-page PDF file.

I had been working on this diligently, and I was so happy to realize this morning that I was actually starting to do it. I’m sure it’s not anywhere near 100% correct, but this is significant progress in unlearning what I was doing wrong.

Hope springs eternal!

Posted in Life Lessons, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2011, Swimming | Leave a comment

Just Do It

“There’s no secret to it. It’s just a lot of years and a lot of getting up, putting on the shoes and getting out the door on those days when it doesn’t feel good and when it’s not all that fun and still putting in the work.”

I read this Jenny Barringer Simpson quotation from Running Times early this morning before going to the pool. You might remember Barringer Simpson from that awesome photo of her winning the 1500m. It’s kind of what I needed to help getting me going today.

Posted in Life Lessons, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2011, Running | Leave a comment

On My Way to Around the Bay

Several weeks ago, I expressed some interest in possibly running the Around the Bay 30K race in Hamilton, Ontario, in late March. It was between the New Bedford Half Marathon and Around the Bay, which are on subsequent weekends. The decision depended on the dates of our trip to Barcelona. We booked our tickets to Spain over the weekend, and I moved on to picking a race.

I talked it over with Lisa and Scully (friend and future Team Type 1 women’s cycling team rider) and Céline (friend and possible future multisport athlete). The decision: I’m going to run Around the Bay.

It will be my longest race ever. I’m sure I can do the distance, but I’m still working through how I want to approach it. I love running, and I love racing, but they’re often at odds. When I race, I expect to go as hard as I can, but I’m not a masochist. I expect that running a 30K (18.6 miles) is much more like running a marathon—which I’ve never expressed any interest in doing—than running 5K or 10K races, which I like because they’re short enough that I can go all out the whole time.

The ironic thing is that, despite not planning to run a marathon anytime in the foreseeable future, I’ve started a marathon training plan. (I know you’re saying it’s just a matter of time. La la la . . . I can’t hear you.) It looks doable, peaking at 20-mile long runs instead of the 14-milers of the half-marathon plan I was using. It only has three days of running each week, which leaves me plenty of time for my other tri training, but I wonder if that’s enough volume to help me get faster at the longer distances.

I showed my plan to 2:22 Marathon Man, my awesome coworker. (He’s a fantastic guy. We’ve worked on some great features together that I can’t tell you about yet. We also had a lot of fun in San Diego and the Imperial County backcountry some years ago before a medical imaging conference. He’s also a wicked fast runner and very generous with training advice.) His assessment was that it was pretty good, but that if I want to run a consistently fast pace for longer periods of time, I need to run longer tempo runs, possibly as part of my weekly long runs. This will also, he noted, give me a chance to work on practicing my race-day nutrition plan and diabetes management. That was already on my list of off-season goals, and this will (I hope) expand my chances of success.

Tonight I put on my bright yellow shirt, strapped on my headlamp, and went for the first tempo run using my new training plan this evening. In the dark. In the sleet. On the completely uncrowded rail trail. It was great!

Posted in NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2011, Running | 4 Comments