Thursday, June 26, 2008

Each Of Us On An Island

On July 20th when I'm in Mirror Lake waiting for the starting gun to sound I'll be surrounded by 2,000 individuals each fighting their way off their own private island. Yesterday after a terrifying swim in White Pond in Kent, NY where I felt as if I was being attacked by 6 foot weeds I felt isolated from the world through Ironman training. All the struggles I've encountered in the past year were transformed into waves making me think I was standing alone on an island with 140.6 miles between me and the rest of the world.

I spoke with my Coach about this last night; she said that each athlete training for IMLP feels almost exactly the same way that I do. That each person will face an internal struggle during the race and each person will need to overcome those obstacles to call themselves an Ironman for the first time or the xth time. Each person will be on their own island and will be fighting the same waves. Their waves may be created from different fears and different struggles than mine but each person will need to navigate those waters, to shed the feeling of isolation and to fight through to the finish.

With IMLP looming like an enormous storm cloud 25 days away, bike issues that I've been struggling to fix and some 6 foot weeds that wanted to kill me my island felt like it was further off the shore than ever before. The last block of training is always the hardest according to Coach Egg. This is where mental toughness truly becomes a factor; the pressure of the race isn't there in January but it sure as hell is there in late June and especially July. I want each finger prick to give me a perfect result, I want each workout to be perfect, I want my muscles to feel the best they ever have and each time that doesn't happen I am frustrated. With my goal in sight this is the time where I must trust my training and not fear those waters but embrace them to break through to the other side. This is the time to leave that island and face those waves head on, to look fear and frustration in the face and work as hard as I possibly can to defeat them. This is what the journey to becoming an Ironman is all about.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." ~ Winston Churchill

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lessons From Mooseman: Pass The Salt

Last Thursday I met with Lauren to discuss where my nutrition plan went wrong during the Mooseman Half Ironman; here's what we found out:

1 - Too much protein for dinner the night before the race; the red meat I had with my pasta was too hard to digest, causing my early morning blood sugars to be very unstable. For Placid I'll be having regular whole wheat pasta with turkey meat balls. The combination of Barilla Protein Plus Pasta and Ground Beef was a really bad idea.

2 - I need to have about 40 more grams of carbs in my Pre-race nutrition, and some additional protein (currently at 14 g she wants me at 20 to 25 g). Protein helps delay the absorption of carbohydrates, the additional grams of protein will help my body more naturally maintain a blood sugar of 150 to 160 rather than having the peaks and valleys I experienced at Mooseman.

3 - Add some protein to pre-swim nutrition for bs stabilization. I'm still working on my pre-swim nutrition as OWS is vastly different from pool swimming; currently my pre-swim bottle has 2 scoops carbo pro and 2 scoops cytomax, replacing one of the scoops of cytomax with pro-formance should help maintain a healthier sugar level.

4 - I lost three pounds during a 70 degree morning run on Wednesday. This tests out to my needing 75 oz of water/ hour!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That's not going to happen - just too much fluid for someone my height and weight to take in but Lauren thinks I can handle 64 oz per hour. That means the 5 bottles of water I took in during the bike leg weren't even close to fulfilling my hydration needs.

*****5 - Salt, salt, salt and more salt - I tested out to need 2,500 to 3,000 mg of salt/ hour my sports mix only had about 1,500 mg of sodium on the bike and 1,100 on the run; after 3 hours on the bike I had only taken in 3,000 mg of salt when I needed 7,500 to 9,000 mg (probably closer to 9,000 in that heat), in total on the run I only took in 2,000 mg of salt when I needed 5,000 to 6,000 mg; so in total I had a salt deficit between 7,500 and 10,000 mg! Lauren hooked me up with a product only available to nutritionists that has 710 mg of salt per serving; the Succeed tablets I was using had only half that amount of salt per serving.

I was able to put the nutrition plan to test this past weekend. Friday called for a continuous swim of an hour, Saturday for a 100 mile bike ride and Sunday for a 13 mile run. The new plan led to no blood sugar issues, no cramping, quicker recovery and less fatigue during the workouts!!!! Additionally, I mapped out my nutrition needs for each workout rather than trying to do all the math in my head. By mapping out exactly what I needed to ingest per hour forced my nutrition to be a point of major concentration for all my workouts.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Good Luck To Some Friends of Team Ring The Bolus This Weekend!

This Sunday is Ironman Coeur d'Alene in Idaho. Two close friends of Team Ring The Bolus will be competing and I want to wish them both the best. Anne writer of Annetics and Cliff Scherb founder of Tri Star Athletes are both Type 1 diabetics and each has tried to draw attention to the disease through fund raising efforts, blogging about the challenges of training with diabetes and putting their athletic endeavors in a public forum.

Anne is a member of Triabetes; a training group comprised of several Type 1 Ironman that will compete in Ironman Wisconsin this year. Anne - you're amazing doing two Ironmen in one year!!! The focus of Triabetes is a year long documentary about the group's training program and competition. The full Triabetes team includes top-level coaches and Dr. Matthew Corcoran, founder of Diabetes Training Camps. The documentary should do a phenomenal job in expanding the knowledge base diabetic athletes have and help raise awareness to the everyday challenges Type 1s face. Anne has already finished 2 Ironmen and from the progress she has documented on her blog I have no doubt number 3 should happen this weekend. Best of luck Anne, you have been a tremendous inspiration for me during my training and have helped me through some really difficult moments.

I've discussed Cliff Scherb on my blog before. Cliff who was diagnosed with Type 1 as a 9 year old is a tremendous athlete, a former practice player for the Wake Forrest basketball team and a one time body builder. Sometime in his early 20s Cliff decided to turn in the weights for a pair of cycling shoes and the rest is history. He went sub 10 at Ironman Florida last year and has qualified for Kona in the past. Unlike alot of triathletes who compete as weekend warriors, Cliff competes in triathlons as a way of life; he is trying to qualify as a pro. When I first met Cliff at a Starbucks on 26th street for our initial consultation, I noticed he had two watches on. I couldn't figure out why this guy had two watches, until an alarm sounded and he took out an orange - Cliff is so dedicated he eats ever 20 minutes! He takes triathlon seriously and is as dedicated to the sport as any person I've met. I have no doubt that this weekend he'll post a number that will send him back to Kona to conquer the heat demons that hurt his race a few years ago. My training and theory sessions with Cliff have helped me tremendously, he's given me pointers on technique, nutrition and how to hit on female triathletes! He has been able to talk to me about the differences of power sports (like basketball and football) and triathlon as they relate to nutrition outside of diabetes and then help me understand how to incorporate insulin planning into race preparation. Cliff has helped me direct the lessons and nutrition plans of Lauren and Brian to Coach Egg's practices; without him I would have been lost. All the best this weekend Cliff - I just know you're going to reach your goal!

You can follow both Anne and Cliff this weekend at with me. Anne is bib number, 1930 and Cliff is bib number, 311. Send them your best as they each look to tackle an Ironman again; I can't wait to watch them both accomplish amazing things on Sunday!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Taper + Recovery = Basal Rate Blow Up!!!!

Last week I spent as much time struggling with my basal rates as I did searching for Tarpon to cast at in the Florida Keys. Since I'll be insanely busy with my coursework at Darden over the next couple of years I wanted to spend some quality time with my Dad before school started. We headed down to Islamorada to fish with Capt. Barry Hoffman in the search for Bonefish and Tarpon. Unfortunately, the conditions were pretty awful for sight fishing and the wind played havoc with our casts so we weren't able to prove our skills as anglers. But what proved more frustrating than landing one of the most prized game fish was seeing my blood sugars in the mid 200s consistently throughout the week.

Prior to the Mooseman Half Iron my daily basal rate totaled to 6.1 units of insulin; today my basal rate totals to 9.1 units of insulin and I'm not positive that's enough. I'm not exactly sure what happened on that hot and humid day in New Hampshire but it may have killed the rest of my islet cells. Or going from about 20 hours of exercise a week to 8 or 10 hours of exercise a week has really affected my insulin needs. Each day I've performed a different basal rate test and each day I met with disappointing results. Hopefully, I'll finally be able to avoid a 250 or 300 on my meter around 2 pm today. The day after the Half Iron was when things really became bizarre as my blood sugar was 450 some 3 hours after breakfast! My highest post diagnosis blood sugar yet.

This wrench in my nutrition is wreaking havoc on my recovery as I still don't feel "right". The higher blood sugars are keeping me dehydrated and haven't allowed my muscles to be fully repaired from the beating they took at Mooseman. I think this basal rate change could have also played a role in the cramping issues I had at Mooseman. While my numbers showed that I was on target with my nutrition the blood sugar readings may have actually been caused by a lack of insulin rather than proper carbohydrate intake. Therefore, a reading of 185 may have been 300 had I not been exercising.

Coach Egg and I are now revamping our ideas behind a taper and recovery week for me. Going into Lake Placid I can't have my blood sugars bouncing all over the place. So instead of the traditional two week taper that most triathletes have going into an Ironman we're working up to almost the day before the race. I won't be running much in the days leading up to IMLP but I'll be biking and swimming intensively so that we can take as many variables out of the equation as possible. It is going to be really interesting to watch what happens to my basal rates as my exercise gets ramped back up starting Wednesday.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Race Report: Mooseman Half Ironman; Just Gut It Out!

Hot, humid and hotter!!! Those are the 3 words I'd use to describe the Mooseman Half Ironman on Sunday June 8th. While the Mooseman course didn't present the 107 degree temperature that Eagleman did last weekend, the 95 degree heat was plenty hot enough! The day presented several highs and lows, offered tremendous learning experiences for Lake Placid and allowed me to accomplish my most important goal; to just have fun.


The heat & humidity wreaked havoc on my nutrition plan. From the moment I broke into a full sweat during my dinner the night before the race I knew Sunday was going to be "different." I didn't digest my bowl of whole wheat protein pasta and 1/2 lbs of ground beef as quickly as I normally do so an hour after my meal I was down to a blood sugar of 55. This low took 2 glasses of orange juice and a chocolate bar to correct for. However, that night I woke up to use the bathroom 3 or 4 times and was greeted by a blood sugar of 225 when my alarm went off at 4:45 am.

My blood sugar naturally returned to 165 by 5:10 am so I took 1.5 units of insulin for my pistachio muffin. At 6 am an hour and 1/2 before the race I turned my pump down to 35%, had a clif bar and then my pre-race nutrition drink, 20 minutes before the swim start I was at 189.

5 minutes before the swim I had 2 scoops of carbo pro and 2 scoops of cytomax, I had hopped this would allow me to exit the water at 200 but when I got through the wet suit stripping area I was down to 120. While that blood sugar would be awesome on a Tuesday at the office, my face in this picture tells you all you need to know about that bs on race day:

I waited in transition for close to 10 minutes while drinking my "emergency" blood sugar booster - a highly concentrated water bottle with 3 scoops of cytomax and 1 scoop of EFS. My blood sugar rose to 144 quickly after I finished the drink, I gobbled up 1/2 a clif mojo bar and then headed out for the bike.

On the bike, the heat really started to get to me, I drank 5 water bottles but never peed although my blood sugars was 180 both times I tested on the ride, I think they may have been higher then the finger pricks showed. Due to the pot holes on the Mooseman course I ejected a bottle of my nutrition during the 2nd lap of the bike - made the smart move by pulling over, running back to get the nutrition and then hopping back on my bike, staying healthy is way important than a fast time! Entering T2 my blood sugar was 212 which let me rush to the beach to begin my run.

Throughout the entire run I felt like no mater how much water I drank I couldn't get enough of it. At one point I asked an aid station for an entire water bottle, pounded it and was still thirsty as anything after it. The high heat and humidity made me look like someone spray painted my tri suit with salt and the cramps in my legs were unreal. Now that we're in the hotter summer months I'll be visiting Lauren again to revamp my nutrition plan and figure out why I couldn't quench my thirst at Mooseman.

Nutrition Grade: B-, smart decision in T1 to wait for my blood sugars to go up but did not use a dual wave bolus the night before the race for a high protein meal; needed to adapt nutrition plan to the heat better


After the Terrier Open Water Clinic last week and swimming with my Train-This friends in Newfound Lake the day before the race I was exited to get into the water to see how much I had improved since Bassman. I got into the lake 15 minutes before the swim started, warmed up doing backstroke and spent about a minute doing regular free style. At 7:30 I was ready to go, the first wave of the day was for men under 34 and male elites! Going off with the pros was pretty freaking intimidating.

When the gun went off, I put my face in the water and just swam - no freak outs, no major problems, which was such a huge improvement from Bassman. When my shoulder started to kill me I switched to back stroke, and to get a quick breather I did breast stroke during the swim. I stayed mainly on course and really enjoyed just being in the water. My stroke still needs improvement as I was breathing every 2 strokes instead of alternating sides every 3 strokes like I do in the pool but my time was greatly improved over the last open water disaster. I believe the biggest challenge is the mental block that an unknown distance presents. When I could clearly see the finish of the swim my normal stroke returned allowing me to feel much more efficient in the water; I think overcoming this mental block will allow a huge improvement without too much additional work.

Swim Grade - B, 39 minutes 16 seconds - huge improvement over Bassman still 4 minutes slower than the goal but not a disaster.


How can something this pretty:

cause me so much pain?????

I started the bike in a blaze of fury, at a cadence of 90 in a comfortable gear I sped up to 22 mph heading into devil's hill. I had heard so much about this hill and was expecting a battle with the beast. I shifted into the small ring up front, put it into an easier gear in the back and spun up the hill comfortably. Devil's Hill was short and steep, much different than the long more gradual climbs at placid; Coach Egg will be happy to know I didn't even have to leave my saddle to climb the hill. When I reached the crest of the devil, disaster struck.

I went to shift into my big ring but the gears wouldn't move - the freaking front derailleur issue happened again! I pulled over to the side of the road to lift the derailleur but still had no luck shifting into the big ring. About 5 minutes later my seat post fell, forcing me to pull over again where I worked on the gear issue and the seat post for a few minutes. 10 minutes after that my seat post feel for a second time and I still couldn't fix the front derailleur. Throughout this process I lost about 15 to 20 minutes off my bike time.

For the rest of the Mooseman bike course I was stuck in my little front ring. I had to coast the downhills because I didn't have a big enough gear to speed up on them and lost 1 to 2 mph on the flats. I was also forced to race at a cadence much higher than what I'm comfortable with. On the flats I hit 105 pedal strokes per minute and on the downhills was above 115. I negative split the bike by 5 minutes and gutted out a decent performance but am furious that a bike which cost me so much money breaks so consistently. I'm going to contact Orbea this week to find out WTF is going on with the issues I seem to always have.

Bike - B-, 3 hours, 14 minutes - a gritty performance with major mechanical issues, way off my goal time of 2 hours 50 minutes but I didn't launch my bike into the lake with all the mechanical issues like I had wanted to!d


The real fun started on the run. As I mentioned in the nutrition section from the second I started the run I could tell something was "off". I almost felt like I did prior to T1 diagnosis where no matter how much water you drank you were still thirsty. I set out with 2 of my Train This friends and was psyched to have 2 pretty fast people to run with. Sarah was able to maintain her pace, Kevin and I were not. My plan on the run was to start off at an 8 minute pace and then ramp it up to a 7:45 pace on the second loop of the course - that simply didn't happen. My legs were cramping so badly that I could barely muster a 10 minute pace; the heat was almost unbearable during the first 2 miles of the run course; the only section of the course without an aid station. I felt delirious, dizzy and awful for 99% of the run and tested about every 20 minutes. At one point my cramps were so bad that my right foot turned completely outward, I thought to myself all I have to do is keep moving forward. My blood sugars were near 200 for the run which I think led to some of the dehydration issues, I also may have screwed up my salt intake and was just suffering from a total nutrition melt down.

Run - C-, 2 hours 21 minutes, 10:48 pace; I pushed through the run on a very tough day but my pace is GOD AWFUL, my E pace for training is 8:50, and I've been able to easily maintain a 9 minute pace off the bike without hard effort for all my brick training. Nutrition had more to do with my performance than anything else but I am not satisfied posting a 2 hour 21 minute half marathon.


While I'm not happy with a final time of 6 hours 25 minutes I'm ecstatic with how I approached the race, and the gritty performance I needed to get through Mooseman. From blood sugar issues after the swim, to mechanical issues on the bike and finally a total blow up on the run I stared adversity in the face and made sure I willed myself to the finish. I've never had doubt in my will power, focus or desire so I know given almost any condition I'll be able to find the heart to get across the finish line; that however doesn't guarantee me of meeting my performance goals.

As I said before the race my goal was to go out there and have fun. Staying at Train-This New Hampshire's headquarters (2 cabins we rented on the north end of the lake) really set the tone for a fun weekend. Bill, Hannah, Shannon, Kevin, Jeremy, Adam and Sarah (who came in second in her age group!) are all just such great people and Bill's daughter Hannah brought smiles to our faces all weekend. Having others to race with and share the experience with let me soak in everything Mooseman had to offer. I met some great people in transition, cracked jokes with some guys on the run course, asked people how their race was, got a hug from a random sweaty girl at the finish and talked to other bloggers. On the 8th I found out what triathlon is all about; I pushed myself to the limit, left it all out on the course and asked everyone whom I could find how their race was. My time might not have been what I wanted but the insight I gained and enjoyment I had was worth every second of the 6 hours and 25 minutes:

Overall Grade - C+, a gritty performance makes up for alot but doesn't earn enough brownie points to let me be satisfied by my time.

I'm now feeling as tired as the pooch in the picture, but ready to get my legs fresh and push for Placid; Coach and I have some questions to answer, and some things to figure out. I'm now half way to the goal but the mountain is considerably steeper for the next 6 weeks.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Midterm!!!! Mooseman Half Ironman

On Sunday at 7:30 am I will begin swimming in Newfound Lake to commence my first half ironman. Training over the past few weeks has been going incredibly well and I'm as excited as a 5 year old at Christmas for this race to start! For the first time throughout this entire process I feel that my training, mentality, confidence and nutrition are all right where they are supposed to be. Of course I could be totally wrong but as with so many things in life 99% of success in triathlon is dictated by the belief you have in yourself and your foundations. When that driving rain in Lake Placid washed away so many of my doubts I began to truly cherish and enjoy this journey.

Last weekend I attended an open water swim clinic hosted by the NYC triathlon group I train with, Terrier-Tri. Coach Robert identified why open water swimming freaks so many people out. Triathlon is composed of 3 things that little kids love to do, swimming, biking and running around; but when adults do these 3 activities and competition enters the mix the enjoyment leaves and panic sets in. Coach Robert wanted us to "have fun in the water," and "just play in it." I thought back to how I used to swim underwater, backwards in my parent's pool or how my friends called me the walrus when we would wrestle in that pool or swim in Lake Mahopac. So for the first 10 minutes of the clinic I floated on my back like a fat seal and just kicked around; this allowed me to realize that just because it's a race doesn't mean you can't enjoy it like the guy they used to call the Walrus. Once I started to have fun in the water again the fear of open water swims went away.

We then built to swimming 20 yards out and 20 yards back at Conney Island as a crowd began to form wondering what all these people in oh so sexy latex body suits were doing. From 20 yards we built to 60 yard triangles to incorporate some turns and judging how the tide affected our stroke. Then the big test came, if we deemed ourselves "comfortable" in the water we could swim out past the breakers, take a right and swim a 1/2 mile down and a 1/2 mile back. 2 weeks ago I would have needed a new wet suit from the thought of swimming a mile in the open water; last weekend I had a huge freaking smile on my face and thought it was awesome to be just swimming out there all alone in the ocean.

The clinic also presented the opportunity for me to analyze how open water swimming affected my blood sugar. Between each set I ran up to my bag, tested, took a sip of my sports drink and then returned to the water. Each test greeted me with a blood sugar of around 170 - absolutely perfect. This helped ease my biggest fear, having a seizure in the open water. Up until this point I had no way of analyzing how my blood sugars reacted to a long consistent swim; thankfully I now have a base line to work with going forward. Cliff Scherb, the type 1 aspiring professional triathlete I work with here in NYC also suggested I keep a carb gel tucked into my wet suit or swim cap "just in case." That is an idea I'm without question going to utilize at Mooseman.

Back to this weekend - Mooseman is kind of like a "mini-Placid." The hills are shorter, a little steeper, the swim won't be quite as hectic and the crowd won't be as large. But the tests at Mooseman represent an excellent measuring stick for my preparation for Placid. Over the past 3 weeks I've really focused on hill work for cycling. I've been driving up to Westchester on the weekends to attack the hills of the Hudson Valley since the 2 hills on 9W aren't really representative of what I'll be faced with at LP. Plus I get to spend some quality time with this guy after my ride:

My only goal for this race is to enjoy it, enjoy the journey, push myself and not worry about my place, or my time. In the past the things I've achieved great success in have been driven by a desire for success but the underlying enjoyment of the challenge is what made me succeed. When I stand on that beach Sunday morning I need to remember that, I need to remember that the clock doesn't matter, that the battle is between my ears as I want to have as much fun on the course as the pooch above is having with that bucket. Sunday, the test will be passed if after the race I can truly say, "I had a hell of a time." For if I can say that, everything else will have taken care of itself.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Time To Taper

After 3 consecutive 20 hour training weeks it is time to taper for the Mooseman 1/2 Ironman I'm competing in this weekend. For most triathletes the taper brings about restlessness and unease as they transition from workout out 4 to 5 hours a day to at most an hour and 1/2 a day. The extra energy normally contributes to the pre-race jitters and neurosis but at least provides fresh legs on race day. But for a diabetic, the taper week brings about a whole different level of worries. It is essential to match carbohydrate intake to the reduced workload. If I increase the amount of my bolus or basal insulin too much to compensate for the reduced activity load my muscles won't recover to the level they are supposed to. However, if I keep the ratios I have for a 20 hour exercise week I'll most likely run high blood sugars all week which will reduce the effectiveness of the taper.

To make this transition a bit easier, Coach Egg and I have decided to ease into the taper period. For the first 3 days of the week 70% of my week's prescribed exercise will be completed. Coach Egg also gave me a killer weekend to ensure that I got in as much work as possible without totally burning out my legs for Mooseman. Yesterday I had mixed results shortly after lunch my blood sugar was in the high 200s but after dinner my blood sugar plummeted to 42. This week I'm going to try and eat foods that I know the carbohydrate content of so I'll be cooking most of my meals this week. I even plan on being a huge tri-dork and bringing my own food to the pre-race pasta dinner on Saturday night! In this sport you try and limit the unknowns as much as possible and since this is my first real taper week I'll be learning a whole new part of the game.