Category Archives: NaBloPoMo

The French Connection

What’s more traditional than having French food for Thanksgiving? Nothing, that’s what!

For the last couple of years we had gone to Montréal over the four-day Thanksgiving holiday. It’s nice to have so much time off all at once, and Montréal is so close by; it’s almost like going abroad, even though it’s only four hours away. (Vive le Québec libre! and all that.) This year we had planned on going a bit further down the Saint Lawrence River to the city of Québec, but with all of the traveling we’ve done recently, we decided it might be nice to stay at home for a change. Perhaps to make up for not going anywhere, Lisa suggested that we make a French dinner, which was something I’d wanted to do ever since Mom and I got back from Provence a couple years ago.

Last week we made the menu:

  • Hors d’œuvres: Gruyère gougères
  • Plats: Baked halibut with fennel and beurre blanc
  • Légumes: Sautéed haricorts verts, Pommes Anna
  • Déssert: Mille-feuilles

We knew it was going to be a big undertaking. In fact, I think it might be the biggest meal we’ve ever made. The logistics were daunting: six recipes, four different oven temperatures, and three “serve immediately” dishes. In the past my Thanksgiving meal timing has been all off, but this time over the span of three-and-a-half hours, we got it just right. Lisa made the appetizers and dessert, and I made the main dish and starches. And—even though we aren’t going to win MasterChef any time soon—the whole meal was delicious!

I’ve never cooked with so much butter! The beurre blanc sauce itself required three full sticks. Cooking, I’ve learned, requires a bit of faith; who knew three sticks of butter, white wine, vinegar, and minced shallots could turn out so well? I also wasn’t so sure about the fennel (even though I picked the recipe) but it turned out to be quite subtle and a perfect match for the fish. Lisa’s Napoléon dessert was fantastic, too!

I am so thankful for Lisa and family and friends and all of the good things in my life. I hope you have plenty to be thankful for, too. Here are a few pictures of our Thanksgiving.

Posted in 101 in 1001, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2013 | 1 Comment

2.4 Miles

“No school, no pool.” That’s been the rule for whether the high school pool will be open for morning lap swim. So we were all a little surprised—and quite pleased—when Pool Guy said he was going to open up the pool this morning, even though the kids around town had the day off. And he was going to bring coffee and pastries for afterward? Huzzah!

I knew today, the day before Thanksgiving, was going to be a light one at work, and I hoped that traffic would be good, too, so I decided Tuesday night that I would try to do something I’ve never done before: swim the full Ironman distance. I swam 4,000 yards last year without realizing how close I was. Today seemed like the day to give it another go, and this time I decided to figure out in advance how many yards I needed to swim. The Ironman swim is 2.4 miles long in open water; that’s 4,224 yards (3,862 meters).

Often when I do long distances in the pool, I start out strong (if not a touch fast) and then fade a bit near the end. I was determined to have a strong swim this time. My first couple laps were fast but relaxed. I looked at my watch after 500 yards and didn’t look at it again until after the first mile when Pat hopped out. About an hour in, I had covered 3,000 yards at an incredibly even (almost metronome-like) pace. And then it happened: The little bit of cramping in my feet that I had been able to swim through became a very painful cramp in my right calf. I had to stop halfway across the pool to put tension on the muscle and knead out the charley horse. Twenty minutes later I had to repeat this process for my other leg. And I still had 20 laps left to go.

What did I think about during those 85 laps? Swimming mostly. “Focus on a good reach and pushing all the way through the finish. Keep my hand flat, spread my fingers slightly, and maximize my feel on the water. Keep my legs up and my head down. Only turn my head a little while I’m breathing. Make a tight streamline off the wall.” Of course, I also took in the pool scene a bit, and there were a lot people to look at. After my first bout of cramping I started to think about how to prevent this the next time I swam long, especially during a race. I remembered a story about legendary coach Brett Sutton angrily tossing his athletes’ waterbottles off the pool deck, since there are no aid stations in the swim portion of a race. Clearly, being hydrated before the event is the way to go. As I was counting down the last 500 yards, I also thought about Céline, who had wished me luck the night before. And then I was done and feeling pretty proud of what I had just accomplished.

The post-swim donut tasted pretty good, too.

Posted in 101 in 1001, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2013, Reluctant Triathlete, Swimming | Leave a comment

Ironman

“When people first hear about this race. This event, they often have but one very simple thought, ‘Why? Why put your body through a test that doesn’t seem possible? Why put your mind through such an extreme exercise of will? Why try to become an Ironman?’”

“35 years in, only they know the answer, the men and women who seek the challenge of this race…. They discover it in a test of strength, resolve, endurance that altogether mirrors how they approach their lives. A challenge in which determination conquers fatigue, will overcomes pain, and struggle becomes the ultimate triumph. Why Ironman? Because it’s everything in the world they wanted to be.”

I’ve been watching a lot of Ironman triathlon lately, starting with the 1991 Ironman World Championships in Kona on YouTube and working my way towards the present day. I just passed into the new millennia online a couple weeks ago, and I watched the 2013 NBC broadcast on the 16th and then again Wednesday. If this year is anything like last year, I’ll watch it about a dozen more times before I delete it from the DVR.

A lot has changed in Ironman triathlon since 1991, not least of which is the athletes’ wardrobes and technology. Sometime around 1999, the men started wearing bike shorts—well tri shorts actually—for the entire event instead of speedo briefs. (Having done 70.3, I just can’t imagine that . .  at all.) Wetsuits and swimskins came on the scene. Coincidentally, the producers reduced the coverage of the swim. As for most triathletes, the producers seem to see the swim as something to get through on the way to the more exciting part of the race.

There’s also more focus on age groupers like you and me. (Unless you’re a pro triathlete, that is. And if you are, please leave me a comment, m’kay? Pretty please?) And the producers also pay more attention to the cut-off times. Apparently there’s drama in seeing if someone can finish the swim in two-and-a-half hours and the whole 140.6 race in 17. Thankfully, hair and fashion have definitely gotten much better since the 90s.

What hasn’t changed is how crazy the announcers make me, especially Al Trautwig. I love watching the event, but I just wish they would stop with the “These people are nuts!” schtick. We may, in fact, be a little touched, but there’s method to our madness. Things happen for a reason, and it would be nice if the announcers actually recognized that most of the people watching probably know something about triathlon and probably like it, too. Why be so condescending?

Now that I’ve done some shorter races, including a few 70.3s, the enormity of an Ironman is more obvious. Basically, it’s going to take a long time. There’s a kind of glow you get from watching something on TV, and that glow lies about how difficult it really is. On television an Ironman takes 90 minutes, including commercials. In 2012, Lisa was out of town, and I watched the coverage live on the Internet while cleaning house. Every 20-30 minutes I would check back on the race: “Yep, they’re still on the bike. Time to make dinner.” The winners took over eight hours.

I usually take 50% longer than the top finishers. If the best 70.3 time is just under four hours, mine takes closer to six. Winning Ironman times are routinely between eight and nine hours, so I’m looking at 12-14 hours to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112, and run 26.2. My only free-standing marathon took 4 hours, and I rode a fast and flat century in six hours. And I almost swam 2.4 miles in 90 minutes. Stitch them all together… at least 12 hours. Most certainly more. That’s a really long day.

The idea to do triathlon first occurred to me when watching the Port Macquarie Ironman recap show on the plane back from Sydney in 2010. “I swim. I bike. I run. I could do one of those. Man that seems like a long way!” I watched that race again on YouTube last spring, and I honestly don’t know what about it made me think it looked like fun.

But I do want to do it . . . at least once. Okay, who am I kidding? I want to go to Kona. I want to do that crazy race I’ve seen on television, one of the hardest of them all, although I didn’t know that when I first learned about it. Of course, first I need to do an Ironman.

Which brings me to 2015. At this year’s JDRF ride, I met a woman who is trying to get at least 50 people with diabetes to do an Ironman. So join me at Ironman Wisconsin in 2015. You have lots of time to get ready. Even if you only do one in your whole life, think about what a gathering like that would mean. Join me!

Posted in NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2013, Reluctant Triathlete | 1 Comment

Punching the Pool

In a kind of multitasking, I’ve been watching YouTube videos about triathlon while riding my bike on the trainer. Sometimes it’s a bootleg recording of the Hawaii Ironman World Championships from a couple decades ago. Other times it’s advice from seasoned pros about dealing with difficult times in races or how to have faster transitions, etc. Not only do these videos break up the monotony of going nowhere in my basement, they’re helping to make me a better triathlete.

There are a ton of swimming videos out there, which is great. I have a hard time translating what I read about swimming technique into practice without pictures. And even though there are static pictures in books, I find that I get so much more from actually seeing a video of a swimmer doing the drill I’m supposed to do or demonstrating proper technique. Of course, watching something isn’t the same as doing it, and it’s a difficult endeavor to retrain your brain and imprint new ways of doing something. But that’s why we go to the pool and practice, right?

On my Thursday bike interval session, I watched a video from GoSwim showing some drills to help me use more of my arm than just the hand to pull myself through the water. A good swimmer grabs the water with the hand, but a great swimmer does that and then uses their whole arm as both a lever and a contact surface for the pull. I can really feel it when I’m mostly using my hand for the pull. The drills in this video show how to focus on using more of the arm:

Yesterday (Friday) I gave it a whirl at the pool, using this as my workout:

300 swim (warmup)
150 kick with board
3 sets of 4x50 with 0:10-0:15 rest
  - first 4 with paddles
  - middle 4 regular swim
  - last 4 with fists
2x50 kick with board
2x200 pull with buoy
100 swim (cool-down)

Although I bought paddles about a year ago, I had never used them before. It took a few lengths of the pool to get used to them, but I could definitely tell when I was doing things inefficiently. After using paddles, the first few strokes of regular swimming felt like I had such bad purchase on the water with my forearms, and I guess that’s the point of the drill. A few minor changes, and I was feeling the water again. Just as I felt I was inefficient when I switched from paddles to regular swimming, the same thing happened when I balled up my hands into fists and swam the last set. Wow! That was an eye-opening experience. It took a bit longer to get used to this new way of swimming, but I finally started to feel my forearms doing their thing. Of course, it felt really awkward, and I’m sure compensating changed other parts of my stroke. Nevertheless, the lesson was pretty obvious, and I used the 400 yards of swimming with the pull buoy to focus on doing everything the right way.

I think I’m starting to see in my mind what I should look like when I swim. I see myself on an axis that extends from my hand and arm through my head and spine to my legs and foot. I see a hand and foot anchoring my body in the water while I put power efficiently into my stroke. I’m starting to see how my arm should move as I pull and what I need to do to keep my legs from dropping. Seeing it in my mind should make it a little easier to do correctly. Now I just have to keep practicing to make this happen outside of my mind.

Posted in NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2013, Reluctant Triathlete, Swimming | Leave a comment

They called my hair “The Aerofoil”

I’ve been cleaning up and cleaning out recently. While doing that, I came across a paper with my high school running times. It’s kinda fun to look at those results from 1990-91.

I started my career as a middle- and long-distance track runner: 800m, 1600m, and 3200m. My results that first year weren’t so great—usually bottom third in my division, often next to last or worse—even though I’d gladly take many of those times again. I mean, 5:38 for a mile? Are you kidding? It’s been forever since I set out to race a mile, but I’m not sure I could do it in under six minutes. (Although it would be fun to try, for a certain definition of “fun.”)

In May 1990, the month before we moved to Wyoming, I did a 5K—the Windsor Heights Annual Mini-Marathon—on a lark. I don’t remember much about the race, except that I thought it was really long, and I was happy to be in the top third with my 23:11 time.

Then I went to Wyoming and my running really improved. I ran over the summer and took to the altitude, dropping a minute off my 5K time. The following spring I had a very busy track season, running at least twenty-three races in just over two months. (It’s little wonder that it was my last season of running track.) It’s fun to see my times drop during the spring, setting PRs of 0:58 for 400m, 2:16 for 800m, 5:19 for the mile, and 11:28 for two miles (3200m). I ran a lot of 4x800m relays, and even now whenever I run around my local high school track and see the curved “break line” on the far end of the track (where the lead-off runner of the long-distance relays would break to the inside) I always smile to myself. It’s where I had to start using my elbows a little bit to stake out my place, and it’s also the place where in one race a young runner once made a sharp 90-degree to run from the outside of the track to the inner lane. Ha!

Since July 1991, all of my races have been 5K or longer, and until 1998 most of them were off-road. It’s hard to compare cross-country races, but my times went from 20 minutes at the beginning of the season to a PR of 18:57. I even led the junior varsity race at the 1991 northern Wyoming regional state qualifier for the majority of the race until fading and finishing sixth, one place away from qualifying for the state meet. Ah well.

For whatever reason, I stopped recording my results in my final year of high school. I probably wrote them in my journal, which I no longer have. (Which is good. No one needs to be reminded of my teenage angst, especially me.) I ran a lot during the summer of 1992. I ran up and down the steep mountain trails, reveling in the switchbacks and creek crossings. I ran through the wilder parks in town, crashing through the sagebrush that crowded the path and hurdling gates at the park boundaries. A friend went running with me once—just once!—and I think I almost killed him. Another friend returned the favor when he invited me to go for a run around town. We easily ran 10 hilly miles that warm August evening. (“Easily” might not be the correct word.) All that running paid off, and I had a good season in 1992. My times may be lost to the fog of history, but I remember them being fast . . . like 17-something for a 5K. Of course, the fastest guys on my team and almost all of the runners from Wyoming Indian High School and from Gillette were running in the 15s and 16s, but I was having a good time finishing higher up in the standings.

And then I made one of the two biggest mistakes of my life: I more-or-less stopped running. (The other being not having gone abroad when I was at Grinnell.) I didn’t race again for six years and then decided on a whim to hop into a local 10K without doing any training. It was not pretty. Less than a year later I was diagnosed with diabetes, and the next spring I decided that diabetes sucked and I wanted to start running again just to know that I could. Time passed, which brings us to today.


I also found some fantastic pictures from the early 90s, too!

Posted in Hoarding, I am Rembrandt, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2013, Running | 3 Comments

That Diabetes Feeling

A couple days ago Scully suggested that I write about how diabetes feels. It’s an interesting question, and the answer is hard to put into words.

I’ve written before about how diabetes is both part of who I am and something that feels separate and foreign. Managing this disease wasn’t something I did for the first twenty five years of my life, and now it’s something that I do all of the time. But really it’s not something I think about every moment of every waking hour. And yet diabetes is always there, whether I’m actively doing anything about it or not. In some way it’s always on my mind. “How am I feeling? Is everything normal? Do I need to eat? Do I have the supplies I need? Am I going to do something out of the ordinary, and what do I need to do to make that work?” Some of these thoughts are automatic and happen without me actually thinking about them. Others are really more of a gut feeling, literally. Blood chemistry affects brain chemistry affects mood, and I’ve learned to recognize some of my moods as originating from unbalanced diabetes. From time to time, the feeling are very conscious, especially when I’m having trouble influencing my diabetes to go where I want it. At those times, I feel frustrated, angry, despondent, inadequate, incapable. Sometimes diabetes is a motivator, and I feel an obligation to myself to do well despite/because of it.

This kind of omnipresent state of feeling or thinking about something is almost like any other relationship or obsession. When you’re falling in love, you think about the other person all the time. He or she is always on your mind, even when you’re not actively thinking about them. If the relationship goes bad, you can’t stop thinking about it. Sure, you’re making spreadsheets at the office, but you’re also thinking about the current troubles and how it was better and why can’t it be great now and can it ever really be great again and was it ever really that great to begin with or was it all just a big mistake. The same thing happens when a friend or loved one is hurting; you go about your day mostly doing what you always do but sparing some extra thoughts and effort trying to make things better, trying to soothe the hurt. Occasionally obsessions turn bad and you can get caught up in patterns of self-destructive thinking and actions. Thoughts can become disordered and distorted. We can lose perspective on what’s really happening or what’s the most important thing for us to be doing. We can get a little lost to those around us while we try to figure things out, sometimes because we assume that no can really understand what we’re going through or because our thoughts seem so unusual. And then things change; thoughts change; feelings change.

That’s pretty much how diabetes feels to me . . . but different.

Posted in Diabetes, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2013 | 3 Comments

My New Wardrobe


This winter perhaps I’ll take a cue from the MFA’s Hippie Chic exhibit and go retro with my wardrobe.

Then again, maybe not.

Posted in General, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2013 | Leave a comment

Cowboys and East Indians


Despite only living in Wyoming full-time for three years, it’s where I say I’m from. After 15 years in Iowa, Wyoming is where I really came to life. My first summer in Wyoming before school started saw me climb my first mountain on a bike and compete in my first (and last) criterium bicycle race. That summer I ran cross-country for the first time and really loved it. Every athletic event in Wyoming involved a long bus trip, and that first autumn on those trips two things happened: I made my first lasting friendships, and I fell in love with Wyoming. I loved the way the day’s late light slanted off the mountains and the mesas and framed the plains and hills with a fiery light. We traveled hundreds of miles on those trips, and we had hours to get to know each other and for me to get past most of my early life’s hang ups.

I may have been born in Iowa, but I grew up in Wyoming.

I went back to Iowa for my undergraduate studies, but I was a Wyomingite by that point. At Grinnell, I missed the mountains and the emptiness and the people’s laid-back, pragmatic, laissez-faire attitudes. My classmates liked hearing the stories I told about Wyoming. Stories about ranchers who were bitten by rattlesnakes which they brought to the E.R. in a pillowcase but only after finishing their fence-mending. Memories of being chased around our neighborhood in my friend’s car by drunken cowboys driving enormous diesel pickup trucks. Mostly true tales about militia folks and their decidedly crazy beliefs. True crime stories that most people in Wyoming know but are too horrible to retell in all their detail. The complicated histories of waves of people moving through in the mid-19th century, dispossessing other people, making a place to live, going bust, and having to decide whether to succumb to Wyoming’s inertia or flee forever.

I’ve been in Wyoming more over the last few years than any other point in the previous decade and a half. Last year we visited in the summer, and I remembered all of the things I missed about Wyoming: the mountains, the distance, the easy pace of life, the ability to do your own thing and just get away from everything and everyone and then come back into town and be in a place both ever-changing and static at the same time. A few weeks ago we were in Wyoming, and I experienced again how Wyoming is really just one state-sized small town, where so many people are willing to help a friend or neighbor out. I wish it were easier to get back to Wyoming and just be there more often. But such is the life of an ex-pat, always thinking about where you came from but liking where you are too much to want to move back.

Last night Wyoming came to me.

My good friend Nina McConigley came to Boston to read from her recently published book, Cowboys and East Indians (available from Five Chapters). Wyoming has a pull, and Nina seems magnetically drawn to Wyoming, always finding her way back there. She embodies the spirit of the place more than anyone else I know. She’s also about the least typical Wyomingite you can imagine. Her father is an Irish petroleum geologist. Her mother, from southern India, was a television journalist and then a state legislator.

This sense of differentness pervades all of the stories in her book, but there’s so much tenderness and humor there, too. During the Q & A session after the readings, someone asked Nina and Laura Van den Berg, who had also recently published a collection of short stories, how it’s possible that Wyoming (or any place) could be a character, could be more than just a setting. The answer—that Wyoming is a sparsely populated place of such vast enormity and visual power that it’s a force of narrative action—really resonated with me. Friends and family notwithstanding, that’s possibly what I’ve been missing most about Wyoming: just being there is in many ways transformative . . . or, at least, it reminds me of my transformation when I was there.

I had read a couple of the short stories beforehand, and Nina’s voice was the narrator’s voice in my head. It was so delightful to hear this same voice actually reading the same words aloud. Beyond being a wonderful person, Nina is tremendously talented, and her stories are little treasures.

Y’all should go get her book.

Posted in NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2013, This is who we are, Western Adventure | Leave a comment

Backstroke

My swim-peep/friend/sometimes-lane-mate Alex is learning backstroke. The results are amusing.


Posted in NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2013, Swimming | Leave a comment

In the Great Outdoors

I went for a bike ride yesterday, my first time outdoors since the JDRF Ride to Cure in Nashville. (Well, that’s not exactly true, but the less than two miles I rode with a bent derailleur hanger don’t really count.) A number of factors conspired to keep me off the bike—travel, marathon training, daylight savings time—but most of my reasons are self-imposed. I was recovering, cleaning house, taking it easy . . . slowly forgetting how much joy cycling brings me. But every time I get back on the bike after a break I feel an instant rush of joy. I remember how much I love doing this and why.

And so it was Sunday when I went out for a relatively short 27-mile ride. The air was fairly cool, and I was bundled up in my new jacket and inherited Bike Switzerland jersey. I decided to go up to Grafton and then loop back around toward home. I had missed the hills, and most of the roads where I live go uphill at some point, so we got reacquainted. After some rollers, I started the 4-mile climb up to Grafton. I could tell that I had lost a bit of my late season bike fitness, but without anything to prove I didn’t really care.

The weather was great, cool enough that I had to zip up my jacket on the downhills or when the sun went behind a cloud, and I had it zipped way down when going up the big climb that brought me back to the center of Upton. I could go straight and be home in six, mostly downhill miles. Or . . . I could turn right and add a few miles. “It’s all uphill, you know?” That little voice inside me said. “Yeah, but we’ve got nowhere to go, so why not?” I replied. “Damn straight!”

Here’s hoping that the nice weather holds up for a while longer.

Posted in Cycling, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2013 | 2 Comments

Dreaming and Swimming

I had an interesting dream this morning. I think I’m too tired these days to dream very much, so I was surprised by how vivid and cinematic this particular first-person dream was. The subject was also unusual: swimming.

I’m not sure I’ve ever dreamt about swimming before. In fact, for all of the swimming, cycling, and running that I do when awake—not to mention all of the thinking I do about triathlon—I don’t usually dream about any of it. When I do dream about them, usually it’s about how slow I feel, how I can’t move, how I’m faster at running if I push myself along the ground with my arms. It’s been a while since one of those dream, and I must be feeling more confident, because this dream started with me getting ready to race in a swim meet.

The anxiousness I felt in my dream was real. As I did on the morning of every race I’ve done this year, I was trying to maintain a fine balance between amped readiness, knowing I was eager to race, and not expending too much energy and excitement before the race actually started.

“I hate waiting,” I told Heidi Klum, who was lounging on a deck chair in resort swimwear. (And yes, of course she looked great.) For whatever reason, she was sponsoring the meet and seemed concerned that I might not be having a good time. When I started to tell her that, no, it’s just a personal trait I have to want to be competing already, she became instantly bored with me. (Sorry, Heidi, it would have never worked out between us.)

I’m not sure what distance I was swimming or what heat I was in. The guy coordinating the event (Andrew Lincoln, who plays the main guy on “The Walking Dead”) said some crazy stuff I didn’t fully understand about swimming different distances and eliminating people along the way and how there weren’t separate heats for different groups, so we would all be swimming together: old and young; boys, girls, women, and men; team swimmers, club swimmers, random fitness swimmers, and triathletes like me.

The pool was a cross between the high school pool where I train three times per week and the beautiful, new Grinnell pool plus a half-dozen other buildings. Certain aspects of it reminded me of what I imagine the new construction at the office will look like when it’s done. (Anxious waiting seemed to be the theme of the dream.) Alex and Jen from the pool were there, as were most of the high school boys and girls swim team, including the apologetic guy who swam into me yesterday when he deviated from his part of the lane. It was going to be interesting to see whether the former collegiate swimmers or the current high schoolers would be faster. I was keen to see how I stacked up.

I wish I could tell you how I did, but I never got past the warm up. The first heat of 100 freestyle was finishing. After waiting a bit for a teenager doing the backstroke to finish, I hopped in to warm up. The water was perfect, and I was swimming well. As I was doing a streamline kick on my back to return from the far end of the pool—hoping that I would be racing soon—there was a lot of whistling and shouting for everyone to get out. Somehow all of the lane dividers had come undone and were all around me like logs floating downriver to a sawmill.

I clambered over the dividers, hopped out of the pool, and watched as it drained of water. My impatience turned into boredom, and I checked out of my dream. A few moments later I was awake, ready to get on with my Saturday.

Posted in NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2013, Swimming | 1 Comment

Working on the A1c

I was really early for my endocrinology appointment this morning. It was one of those “arrive really early or struggle to make it on time” choices that had me sitting around in the hospital cafeteria, leisurely eating a muffin and reviewing my diabetes data. The hospital has free Wi-Fi, so I uploaded my data from my pump and meter into CareLink and then exported it from there back to MATLAB. (It’s an inelegant process, but it’s the best I can do . . . for now.) My endo’s staff was going to download all of it again when I got to her office, but I wanted to look it over myself so that we could talk about what’s going on.

My last couple of A1c blood draws have been near all-time (that is to say, “post-diagnosis”) highs. My endo is remarkably judgement-free, and she’s really eager to help me figure out what’s going on and what changes to make. It’s a partnership, and we both bring our own perspective and fresh ideas. I have the context behind the numbers, and she has experience with other type-1 patients.

For this visit, I decided that Saturday and yesterday were two good case studies that we might investigate.

Saturday was a typical weekend day: sleep in a little, clean house a bit, have lunch out, do some shopping, etc. The thing that made it interesting was that I slid into lunch a bit low and then I had a lot of trouble getting myself out of the hypoglycemic zone. We decided that it may have been because my Indian food lunch was rather “complex,” causing the carbohydrates to take longer to get absorbed into my bloodstream. She also noticed that I have a lot of “bolus stacking” going on, which I had also seen from my graphs. (She observed a lot of stacking on Halloween and the day after, too. “Yeah, you can see when the Tooth Decay Fairy showed up,” I said to much amusement.) The stacking isn’t a problem per se, but it does make digging myself out of an insulin hole harder.

Yesterday was typical of some of the other issues I’ve been having. I had good BGs overnight and before swimming. I ate a little bit before heading to the pool and finished my swim an hour later at about the same place I started. So far, so good. But then I didn’t bolus enough for the extra muffin at breakfast. I knew the amount was probably too little, but even with all those carbs it just felt like a lot of insulin. I was going to be walking around the campus a fair bit, going to meetings and preparing for a very important meeting of my own later in the day. I didn’t want to go high, but I also couldn’t afford losing time to the lows. Not surprisingly, I went way up before lunch and then really had to work to bring it back down. By dinner I was in a happy place, except (once again) I was worried about lows, so I delivered less insulin than required. This time it was totally the right thing, since I kept sliding lower throughout the evening, and I ended up in the low 60s (3.3 mmol/L) twice overnight.

That story garnered some more suggestions, and I have a bolus test or two to do. In a couple weeks I will send her more data.

The interesting thing, we both thought, is that if you look at the last two weeks (and take out the 24 hours after the trick-or-treaters left) my BGs look pretty good. We think that with a few changes, my next A1c will be much better. Let’s hope so.

Posted in Data-betes, Diabetes, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2013 | Leave a comment

BayState Marathon

The marathon is long. That’s pretty much the best way that I can describe it.

It’s not the longest athletic endeavor I’ve ever done—that would be a half-Ironman—but it was the duration of it that put me off the idea of it. Then I did a few Ironman 70.3 races, which took five-and-a-half to six hours, and it didn’t seem quite so long. Of course, two hours of running after more than three hours of swimming and cycling isn’t the same as running four hours straight. So the question I had going into the BayState Marathon a couple weekends ago was “How bad is this really going to be?”

I hadn’t been training long for the marathon. Or maybe I had. Either I started training for it right after Timberman. Or I started training for it last November when I started building up to the New Bedford half-marathon. At any rate, my official training where I ramped up from preparing to run 13.1 miles to being ready for 26.2 only lasted nine weeks. Some people train half a year to run a marathon, and I wasn’t sure how ready I was or how long it would take.

But Sunday the 20th came whether I was ready (really, super-duper ready) or not. The weather was perfect for a race. I find that if I’m not cold beforehand, I’m going to be hot after the first five miles. (And we were all cold as we waited around for the start.) I had my nutrition and insulin plan all worked out, and I was carrying all of my water with me. I didn’t really care if I looked like a dork with my hydration pack; other people don’t have to carry around a bunch of diabetes paraphernalia, and I can never seem to drink the right amount if I don’t bring my own H2O.

Here was the race in a nutshell:

  • The first few miles were too fast. They always are. Despite lining up closer to the 9:00/mile (5:30/km) sign, we were running the first few miles closer to 7:45 (4:50). I knew that there was a lot of race left, so I did my best to get close to my goal race pace, and after about five miles I was running along with the 3:35 marathon pace setter.
  • We ran along the river from the post-industrial center of Lowell out to rural Tyngsboro, crossed the bridge, looped back along the river to a different bridge, and turned right back around for another lap. The first 13 miles felt pretty good; I ran a 1:50 half-marathon and felt like I could keep going all day.
  • I saw Lisa on the bridge where we started the second lap. It was so good to see her on the course, and I think she helped me hold on to a better pace for a few more miles. Love that girl!
  • Around the 15th mile, my energy really started to flag, and I had trouble keeping the pace I was doing. I started walking through the aid stations a mile later.
  • The last six miles were just awful. I hurt, and I could tell I wasn’t really going very fast. I could also tell that I probably wan’t going to make the 3:30-4:00 finishing time I was hoping for.
  • I heard the announcer call out the four hour mark from a block away. That was a little disappointing, but I was already digging deep, trying to make the best of the last mile. It wasn’t pretty, but it helped me finish with a time of 4:00:24.
  • And I had a really good diabetes day. Not too high. Not too low. Not too worried. Not too shabby!

The BayState Marathon is known as a Boston Qualifier, since it’s so flat and fast. I only missed my BQ time by 50:24. Ha! I have a bit of pride, and I’m glad that I was just able to sneak into the range of times that I was expecting. But my time didn’t really matter to me in my first marathon. I now know what it’s like. It’s difficult, and it takes a long time, but I won’t go as far as my grandmother did when she said she “thought that a bit much.” I’ll definitely do another one some time. Perhaps I’ll do it the right way next time . . . and precede it with 2.4 miles of swimming and 112 miles of cycling. :-)


As always, Lisa took some awesome photos.

Posted in 101 in 1001, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2013, Reluctant Triathlete, Running | 1 Comment

Crêpes Rock!

Things I learned this evening:

  1. Cooking crêpes is not that hard. It’s true that the first one was a little small, and that none of the other three were completely round. But they were delicious. They weren’t perfect, but neither were they burned nor raw. For a first effort, I learned a lot, especially about how hot to make the pan. I’m looking forward to the next batch.
  2. 72% cacao chocolate was probably just a bit too bitter. Next time, we’ll just go with regular dark chocolate.
  3. I love the food processor we bought today! I’m not sure it was necessary just to mix the batter—as my cookbook suggested—but it sure made creating the raspberry filling very quick! I can’t wait to try it on something else.
  4. I need to find think of some other delicious fillings. Any suggestions?
Posted in 101 in 1001, Life Lessons, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2013 | 4 Comments

Hey, Stranger

“Hey, stranger! How was Germany?”

Pat was already standing inside the pool lobby, waiting for Pool Guy to show up and turn on the lights at 5:45AM so that we could get our swim on. I hadn’t been at the pool since the 2nd of October, about three weeks earlier. (That’s my longest no-swimming streak in about four years, by the way.) Between traveling and recovering from the Bay State Marathon, last Friday (the 25th) was my first chance to get back in the water.

“I dunno. We never made it past London.”

A lot has happened in the last five weeks.

Following the JDRF ride, I moved on to preparing for a 10-day European vacation with Lisa. There were lots of (mostly pleasant) details to attend to: figuring out what we might do and see in London, Brussels, and Berlin; attempting to cram in as many German lessons as possible; buying travel insurance; packing; getting as much done at work and around the house as possible; etc.

Meanwhile, I was building up to a peak in my marathon training. Fourteen miles one Sunday, sixteen the next, an easy week, and then eighteen miles three weeks out from the race. The morning of my birthday (the 4th) I ran 20 miles, finishing my long run about ten hours before our flight to London (via Iceland) took off. I was looking forward to some easy running somewhere in London and doing a tempo run in Berlin’s Tiergarten. My foot was giving me fits the first couple days in London, no doubt due to the accelerated marathon training plan. Ironically, it felt much better after I almost twisted my ankle in Cambridge. By Tuesday morning, four days into the trip, I really needed a run but still wasn’t 100% confident that running was a good idea.

Monday night had been a flurry of activity. We arrived home from Greenwich to find an urgent message from my mom on Facebook that we should call her. She and Miles, her husband of twelve years, were midway through a cycling trip in Austria, Italy, and Slovenia when Lisa and I landed in London. Through the modern miracle of Skype, we called Austria from my mobile phone. It’s an understatement to say I was shocked to learn that Miles had a heart attack and died earlier that day (the 7th). A month shy of his 63rd birthday, he was still fitter than most people half his age. When we rode together in the summer of 2012, he matched the fast tempo I threw down as we raced the dozen miles back to town so we could pick up the car after Mom had a ride-ending flat.

A few hours of Skyping later, we had canceled our Berlin hotel and changed our flights home. The earliest flight we could get was late Wednesday afternoon, so the next morning—instead of taking the Eurostar train to Brussels—we slept in, saw a couple of exhibits at the V&A, and toured Westminster Abbey. It’s a strange feeling to do things one enjoys yet also to want to be somewhere else at the same time. We enjoyed our day, but my heart was hurting for my mom, who was also trying to get home.

It had been a long time since we bought tickets and then immediately checked in for a flight, but that’s what we did on Thursday. We were home for about 36 hours . . . just long enough to do some laundry, repack, get a week’s worth of mail from the post office, and drop off more food at the kittysitter’s. The next day we were in Casper. We did a bunch of odds-and-ends for Mom over the next week, but really the most important thing we did (I think) was just to be there.

The memorial service was Thursday, the 17th, and it was a rather tough day. Miles had made a lot of friends after almost 40 years in Wyoming, and everyone had heart-warming anecdotes to tell. Mom made a really wonderful slideshow with pictures from throughout Miles’ life. Thinking about where he had traveled, what he had seen and done, and the people he was fortunate enough to have been with, it really made me realize that Miles lived the kind of life that inspires others to get out and do stuff, too. I hope that someday I’m lucky enough for others to say the same about me; Miles set the bar high in this regard.

Three days later, I ran my marathon. (I’ll write more about that soon.) The two weeks since have been an attempt by me to transition back into work, home, and athletic endeavors. Despite not getting the full vacation experience, we were away from home and work longer than expected. I’m using my down time to catch up on things I’ve been wanting or needing to do for a while: practicing my Spanish, reading the newspaper, watching “Breaking Bad,” declutterring my life, scanning slides, and (yes) even writing dispatches here.

It’s good to be back.

Posted in NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2013, Running, Travel, Über Alles | Leave a comment