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.

10 fun facts about type 1 diabetic and US Olympic cross-country skier Kris Freeman

Kris Freeman is set to race at 5 a.m. EST tomorrow.

As a newly diagnosed type 1 diabetic, I started doing some research on him. Here are 10 fun facts about this diathlete!

Click on the fact to see its source.

1. Kris was a high school runner. 

2. His brother was a 2006 Olympian in cross-country skiing.

3. This sweatbetes pro listens to Motley Crue, Velvet Revolver and Guns n Roses.

4. The four time Olympian dblogs at krisfreeman.net and he has been updating from Sochi.

5. The Team USA member uses Omnipod and the One Touch Ultra.

6. At 2 years old, Kris was already skiing. 

7. Sorry all, he’s taken. I included this tidbit because when searching, one of the top search results I found was “Kris Freeman girlfriend”.

8. This is the first photo that pops up if you Google image Kris Freeman.

9. Even he has dealt with insurance troubles.

10.  My favourite quote: “I want to make sure that no other child is told that they have to give up their dreams when diagnosed with diabetes. Being an Olympic athlete allows me to send an important message to everyone living with diabetes: You can do anything with this disease as long as you manage it properly.”

Here’s a video from 2013 on Freeman via dLife.

Follow Kris on Twitter. 

Let’s all cheer him on tomorrow!

J

My ScotiaBank Waterfront Toronto Half-Marathon Race Report

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You: This entry looks long. What is it really about?

Me: This is a race report, summarizing my training, but more importantly focusing on actual race day. It explains what I learned, what went wrong, and what I should certainly do again. It’s meant to be a personal guide so my next race will be even better. This was my first half-marathon, done a year and three months after being diagnosed with t1d.

I hope this will help other newly diagnosed type 1’s on their fitness journey. You can do any distance you want, any race you want. It’ll take a lot of prep, but anything is possible. Don’t let your broken pancreas stop you from anything.

Goal: Complete the Scotiabank Waterfront Half Marathon feeling good!

Goal completed? YES! Finished in 2:39:10, no medic tents and great bg’s *happy dance*

Lessons learned: 

  • Cross training is essential for running or any other sport you decide to do
  • Be patient. Really patient. What works one day won’t work another day. Enjoy the little victories and don’t dwell on the bad numbers or yucky runs. If you have a type A personality like me, this will really drive you up the wall. Stay strong!
  • Don’t listen to anyone else. Only you know your body. Everyone has an opinion about what you should be doing and many times those people don’t have your disease and don’t know even know what type 1 diabetes really is anyways. So smile, say thank you (because they mean well), and in one ear…out the other.
  • Plan for sick days/weeks and allow enough wiggle room in your training to rest and recover if need be
  • Don’t eat/drink ANYTHING new on race day, stick to what you know
  • Warm up. I preach this all the time and yet on race day, I did not do this. I could have saved myself 3km’s of grief.
  • Bring clothes you can throw away after you get warmed up
  • Be prepared for your bg’s to do anything they want to. I was so surprised at how many carbs I consumed. My body was just burning up everything. In future I need to carry a lot more with me
  • Bring your support team. At the end when you are really drained, your support team cheering will carry you home.
  • Write race report RIGHT after the race or you’ll forget the details

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How I got to the start line (aka. training): 

Before I started training for the half-marathon, I was coming off of my first two try-a-tri’s (that’s a mini triathlon 400m swim-10km bike ride-2.5km run) that took place at the end of July/early August. Prior to that, I took part in an triathlon training clinic that had me exercising about 5 times a week (on top of my usual weights at the gym, roughly 3 times a week).

Since I had never done a triathlon before, my body was definitely feeling strong and getting solid from all the cross training. I believe this provided a great base for me. By working other parts of my body aside from running muscles, it made me a better runner.

Key Lesson: Everything is Connected. 

After the two triathlons I felt like I needed to play catchup. The half marathon clinic my friends were part of was in full swing and I had missed a significant portion of it. I ran on my own and tried to follow a general schedule. I was frequently going low and remedied the situation by taking no insulin prior to runs and 50 per cent less post runs. I got to this after many long meetings with my team at the hospital and LOTS of trial and error. LOTS.

I eliminated hill training and speedwork as after many attempts, it just made me feel sick. My numbers would spike and since I have a really tight range of bg’s at the moment, it made me go high and I would feel like vomiting. One scary run took place when I tried to attempt a faster-than-a-jog 3k. I upped my speed just a tad (I miss running at a faster speed since being diagnosed) but by the time I made it home I fell to the floor and was dry heaving in a dizzy mess. That was my tipping point where I said enough is enough and to just not push too hard. I have a hard time giving myself a break with these things so that was a huge breakthrough that my goal should be to have fun and enjoy the process.

Capital F for Frustration

I found it extremely frustrating and at times, I just wanted to take off my running shoes and hurl them into the air (but I didn’t. Because I love my running shoes. And they are expensive). Sometimes I felt like all I was doing was going in circles. Test, eat what I thought was a lot of carbs pre-run, run, test, felt dizzy, thinking “am I low or just tired?”, stop, test…

I’m tired from just writing it out. Let’s just get it out there. When I ran on my own I broke down. A lot. All I wanted was my body to just co-operate. But no. My pancreas was like Newman from Seinfeld, coming in and disturbing me at the most inopportune times.

As I was and still am in a type of honeymoon phase (that’s when your pancreas is still working somewhat, and it’s never consistent), it made it even more difficult to calculate my insulin and how many carbs I needed for each workout.

What’s worse is that I was dealing with the post frustrations of guessing three different kinds of exercise for the triathlon. I think my patience was running out.

Correction, I KNEW my patience was running out.

Go away flu. No time for you. 

Then came the flu.

It was my first time getting the flu since being diagnosed. It seemed to have lasted three weeks.

Realizations include: not all medicine is carb free, it takes much longer to recover from the flu, my blood glucose levels were significantly higher and dehydration can creep up on you, so drink lots of water.

It was a huge interruption to my training. I tried a few times to run and push my body but it wasn’t having any of it.

Finally I came out of it but by then there were only a few weeks left before the half.

I did some long runs running a lot slower than I would have but I managed to get them in so hurrah!

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Race Day: 

Woke up around 5:15 a.m. as I had to be on the bus by 6:30 a.m. I ate my usual breakfast (coffee with two stevia packets and almonst milk, one slice of gluten-free toast with almond butter, with chia seeds sprinkled on top).

Disclaimer: if you don’t want to hear about digestion issues, please skip to Start Line. 

Before I left the house I went to the washroom as usual. I was happy! Typically for races I get nervous and can’t go. However by the time I got down to the race site I had to again. And again. It was not fun. I was happy that my system was empty however I was worried that this pattern would continue well into the race. Luckily it didn’t.

Start Line. 

Stayed near the 2:45 pace bunny as I thought that would be a realistic time to follow. I was estimating I would finish around 3  hours if all went well (so my final time was a surprise!). Bonus: it wasn’t too cold.

The first 3k were so painful. Because I didn’t warm up and it was slightly cold, my calves just seized up. I could barely keep up with the 2:45 pace bunny and I just kept thinking to myself, “I don’t know how I’m suppose to run a half marathon. This hurts too much.” Luckily my legs got warmed up and I was able to keep going.

Never try new things on race day

Was feeling fine, testing and downing Gatorade at each stop including water, which worked out wonderfully. Again, I didn’t take any Gatorade during training runs. I also downed a PowerGel having never tried it before. I now realize this could have caused some major gut rot.

13k my right knee started to feel very painful. It got to the point where I was hobbling on it. It was hurting with every step. I don’t know if I eventually became numb to the pain or it went away, but either way, I worked my way through it.

The last km was such a rush. I got a bolt of energy. I saw my Connected in Motion friends first! I gave them both sweaty hugs. Then I saw my cousin, then some run club friends. I was on a high! I sprinted the last stretch and was so happy.

Post race I had a banana, and half a can of Coke and my numbers were still good. I was afraid of going low before bed so I ate a lot and was subsequently high but I think it’s worth it going to bed at 13 after your first half when you don’t know what on earth will happen as you sleep. I’d take that over having a low.

I’m not sure if I’ve covered everything but this is what I’ve got so far. If you have any questions, let me know. Good luck on your fitness journey and let me know how you exercise with t1d 🙂

Race Day bg summary (mmo/L)

*food/water times are mostly guessed for actual race time

5:24 a.m. 6.4 wakeup/before breakfast

-1 coffee w/ two Stevia packets, almond milk

one slice gluten-free toast with almond butter and chia seeds sprinkled on top

7:00a.m.

-one granola bar

8:28 a.m. 5.4 (last check before race)

-ate another mini Lara Bar

gatorade and water

chocolate PowerGel

10:12 a.m. 5.2

-gatorade and water

-ate mini Lara Bar

11:20 a.m. 5.7

-Lara Bar

-gatorade and water

12:13 p.m. 6.6

-banana

-1/2 bottle of Coke (tasted so good)

1:22 p.m. 6.8 (before lunch)

-gyros wrap, french fries

-50 per cent less insulin

4:03 p.m. 5.8 (after lunch)

6:09 p.m. 4.7 (before dinner)

9:26 p.m. 6.7

-I can’t remember but must have ate up a storm

11:56 p.m. 13.6

Next day 5.6 morning bg

Please share with me your race experiences. Thanks for reading