Running on empty. Meter reliability in the cold.

My doctor: “Ditch the meter when you run.”

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My Contour USB meter has shown below 2 mmol/L (36 mg/dl) over a half dozen times mid-run these past few months. Once it said below 1 mmol/L (18 mg/dl), blog on that here.

I’m fully aware that meters are not 100 per cent accurate. 

The question: Am I really that low or is my meter being extra wonky in the cold?

  • I’ve tried pretty much everything to warm up my meter while running. Still reading bad lows.
  • Seems like no matter how many carbs I eat, I still can go really low when running. I don’t take any insulin with my meals before running (I’m on humalog-short acting insulin ONLY with meals, hello honeymoon!).
  • Often don’t feel my lows during runs (hard to tell with being numb/sweaty already). This equals danger.

Nurse says those dangerously low numbers could POSSIBLY be right and not the meter being off in the cold.

Times I’ve seen numbers below the 2’s (around 36 mg/dl) I usually pop 4-8 Dex 4 tabs. After 15 minutes my blood sugar is typically 4-5 mmol/L (72-90 mg/dl).

Tests afterwards/done running altogether don’t run high (over 10 mmol/L or 180 mg/dl).

My nurse said that means I just MIGHT be burning all those carbs and really that low. She said she’s seen people who have high functionality with such low numbers. At the end of the day, we don’t really know.

Narrowing down the problem

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My doctor and I tried testing my bg’s when I wasn’t running, at a time I knew my numbers would be stable. Test indoors, then put the meter outside, wait, and test again. It produced error messages.

New plan: Create a loop so every half hour I’m passing my house. Run inside. Test. Continue on.

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I’ve learned through this process that just ditching the blood prick accessories really messes with my head.

The plan was to run a slow, steady pace which I usually do, but I just couldn’t. Not feeling the weight of my diabetes stuff made me nervous. I ran faster, which meant higher bg’s. Pain crept up on my left side, which it usually does, and I ignored the pain and just kept trying to push. My foot was exploding with agony. I ended up limping and then walking parts of it. I was scared and just wanted to get home! I had glucose tabs on me but I hated that feeling of not having my stuff on me. I’ll have to get an extra meter to carry around with me when running even if I won’t use it.

Just changing the route and testing inside? Not as easy as it seems.

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Test 1: Run one loop. 

Pre-run 5.7 mmol/L (102 mg/dl). Lower than I’d like pre-run. I usually take carbs if I’m at this level but now I can’t remember if I did this instance. Pretty sure I did.

Post-run 7.2 mmol/L (129 mg/dl)

Test 2: Run two loops instead of one.

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Pre-run 10.2 mmol/L (183 mg/dl)

First loop: 5.4 mmol/L (97 mg/dl)

Second loop/run end: 6.4 mmol/L (115 mg/dl)

So does that prove the meter is wrong? Don’t know if there’s a concrete answer to that.

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There’s lots to learn, adjustments to be made and miles to run. Running is one of my huge passions and I refuse to give it up. It’s still early in the game.

So I come to you, more experienced #t1d athletes, what has been your experiences with winter running? I’d love to know your story and any tips. 

Every day I’m learning more about being active with type 1 diabetes. This journey has taught me to become more dedicated to my athletic goals and at the same time, to let go. No matter what I do, sometimes my bg’s are just not going to co-operate.  I’ve got to be okay with that. I’m pushing harder to reach certain achievements, but also learning to enjoy the process.

I have the ability to lace up my runners and go out on the road whenever I want. There are people who don’t have that luxury. That’s a perspective I’ve gained more and more after being diagnosed.

Yes working out can be difficult, but I can so I will.

See you out on the road,

J

Tips on winter running: 

  • Put your meter inside your glove. Keeps it much warmer.
  • Use the empty case of Listerine Pocketpaks to carry your test strips
  • ALWAYS carry some kind of fast-acting carbs with you
  • Wear some kind of medical identification
  • If you are running solo, leave your estimated time of arrival and route for a loved one. Also write down what you are wearing in case of emergency (saw this on Instagram, what a great idea!)
  • Let the people you train with know you have type 1 diabetes and the signs and symptoms of low/high bg’s

Scully gave me the first two great tips in a previous post. Thank you Scully! Check out her blog here.

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My worst diabetes day: lowest low, a diabetes proclamation without my permission & what helps

I am usually the queen preacher of positivity. 

The reason you don’t see me expressing my diabetes distaste or frustration often is because I think there’s enough of it out there. And it’s not to knock people for expressing a negative thought. It’s just not what I choose to do most of the time on my social media outlets.

I have my bad moments.

My dark days.

I think this is something you need to know about me. I find this damn hard. 

There’s been many episodes of uncontrollable tears and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. This is the part that many don’t see. And it’s not just us. It’s all people with invisible illnesses whether it’s mental, physical, or both. 

If someone asked me how I was handling my type 1 diabetes (diagnosed in 2012), my honest answer would be, “not well”.

 

I’m writing this entry after my lowest hypoglycaemic episode. I went below 1.1 mmo/L (or 19 mg/dl). This was 3/4 into my run.

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I managed to get myself up and out of trouble, but I’m sure the severe drop didn’t contribute well to what transpired after. 

Long story short, I was presented with an “herbal tea” that was supposed to “be good for my diabetes”. I scoffed at it, went to another room and just broke down. It was also given to me by someone whom I am…not a fan of. Deeply not passionate about, you know, that one person who gets under your skin and just makes your blood boil. I was NOT aware she knew about my diabetes (told WITHOUT my permission). All this was fuel to the fire, the latter revelation being the worst.

I think I could tell this story until I’m blue in the face to my non-d friends and family, but it wouldn’t do much. I would hear words of sympathy and smiles of compassion, however I know no matter how hard they tried to comprehend it, they wouldn’t get it.

I don’t get that same sense of peace I do when I connect and open up with other diabetics. 

The more d-people I meet and talk candidly about my type 1, the better I feel.

I sometimes feel like curling up into a ball and crying in a corner. There are so many things I haven’t decided yet: who I want to know, how I want to contribute to the diabetes community, what to keep private, what is important to share so others don’t feel alone.

While I’m telling this story my hands are usually over-animating, my eyes are slightly bulging and I’m trying to coherently express how angry/sad/frustrated I can become. Nowadays there is a person across the table at a coffee shop, that is part of my growing diabetes family, who is looking at me and saying, “I understand”. 

So maybe they don’t understand and are just humouring me? It doesn’t really matter. I feel less alone. Less scared. And a moment of feeling just so miserable gets a little bit better. 

It doesn’t solve the ignorance. It doesn’t take away the pain. But it acts like a big bandaid, providing a buffer and sense of support until things get a bit better. 

The one blessing I have gotten from this horrible disease is that of finding amazing people who have helped me through my darkest days.

I am forever thankful for them, and for you the #DOC. I don’t know what I’d do without you. 

J