Monday, August 31, 2009

My legs might fall off

Somehow Shenandoah Valley has turned into a giant outdoor sauna. If I was hanging out with a pair of slippers, towels and super models on each arm the outdoor sauna might be nice. However since I'm running and biking my butt off as per Coach E's orders the outdoor sauna is nothing over than a gift from the devil. Last week was also the start of second year courses at Darden, so the sauna was a bit of a pressure cooker - I forgot how tough it was to fit everything in!

The humidity in Charlottesville was topping 80% last week, so each workout performed was way more sweat riddled than it should have been. Even with the extra challenge my blood sugars were fine during exercise! I had a few dozen lows throughout the week during class and other non-exercise times, in large part to my declining basal rate. My basal rate has dropped more than 2 points since I returned to C'Ville 17 days ago. Currently my base line insulin is at 10.4 units per day, a far cry from the 17 units per day my basal rate was in January. The combination of diet and exercise has led to my body becoming more responsive to insulin again.

Now back to the training, on Tuesday I had a 2 hour bike ride which I did between my Sustainability Innovation & Entrepreneurship course and Leading Strategic Change course. I tried to design my class schedule to either start late enough in the day to work out in the morning (early week) or with a large gap in the day to have a few hours to fit in a long run, bike or swim (late week). Last week that schedule worked pretty well, Eric did have to alter one exercise for me; he had an hour bike followed by an hour run for Wednesday, but I had my second year coaches course (a 10 session course over the semester) and there was no way I had time for 2 extra hours of workouts having gotten out of class at 8:30 pm.

The 4 hour gap I have in my late week schedule provided an awesome opportunity to get in a great mid-day ride. The temperature was above 90 degrees and that cool blast of wind I look forward to as I scramble down a hill was anything but cool. With the high humidity and high temperature I felt as if I was riding on the edge of a volcano - holly cow! I was soaked through and through from sweat 20 minutes into the ride, but overall it was pretty solid. And A SNAKE TRIED TO BITE ME!!! I was riding on a slight uphill during a zone 2 recovery from a hard effort, looking at some horses at a farm I was rolling past. I look down on the road and see a small snake, that lifts it head off the road hisses and lunges at me! I'm also pretty sure it wasn't a garden snake - thankfully it missed, because dying on my bike from a snake bite is a pretty embarrassing way to go out!

After 5 days of classes it was time to celebrate Darden style, which means individuals in their mid 20s to mid 30s who were successful before coming back to school acting like college juniors again. Friday I had two of my good friends, Rob and Kent (who happens to be a world record holder in cycling) over for some buffalo burgers, grilled portabellos and drinks. For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to drink an entire bottle of Rioja by myself, and then we headed out in Charlottesville. I didn't drink a ton the rest of the night, but getting home at 2am with a 50 mile ride and a 1 hour swim on tap for Saturday had me going to sleep pretty wearily.

Each weekend my goal is to wake up by 8am to get my long ride in and still be able to enjoy the day - um yeah I didn't get my hung over butt out of bed until 11:30 am. Amazingly even with the hangover my blood sugars were only slightly low. I downed the banana - berry - chia seed - odawala super food shake I've been having pre workout and got out the door by 3 pm for my ride. 30 minutes into the ride, I was in rough shape. Sure I was hitting my speed goals, cadence instructions and heart rates but it was hot, I was getting dizzy and I had a huge headache coming on. I checked my blood sugar, was slightly high and took in some insulin. 100 minutes into the ride I decided I needed to take a break, find some shade and rehydrate. I stood in the shade for about 10 minutes letting my view come back into focus and hoping my headache would subside. I rode another 15 miles, and stopped at a deli for a snickers bar and diet coke before I finished the final 8 miles of my ride. That night I was the designated driver, after rididng off my hangover the last thing I wanted was another one! That night my friend's found it hilarious that I had eaten an entire flat bread pizza after my ride, then stopped for an enormous sub at Little Johns in between designated driving bar stops; the benefits of tri training!

Sunday I woke up early as I had an 11am meeting to discuss the business & public policy club I'm founding. Coach el diablo had a 90 minute run on my schedule, with 10, 2 minute intervals at a 7 minute pace, and an instruction to finish the last 10 minutes of the run at a 7:25 pace! With my legs heavy with lactic acid from the low cadence, high speed ride the day before I set out on my run on the flats of Sugar Hollow. I actually felt great at the start of the run, one, two, three interval sets rolled off, and I idiotically held paces of 6:30 for them - ugh I really need to learn to hold back. Interval four became a bit harder, five was arduous and six was painful. But that paled in comparison to intervals 7 and 8. On interval 7, after 70 seconds my legs stopped, my arms kept moving but my legs refused to go, so I walked the next rest interval rubbing my quads hoping to make the lactic acid dissipate. Interval 8 wasn't any easier, actually it may have been the most painful 120 seconds of my life, so painful that I had to hold back vomit; that one last only 55 seconds.

Thankfully I had some extra water with me and was able to recover for intervals 9 and 10 reaching my goals. I ran at zone 2 for 15 minutes and then hit the gas for my 10 minutes at the 7:25 pace. I was shocked that I had enough in the tank to push the pace, must be the chia seeds. 5 minutes into the set I started to slow a little and thought "no way, not today, I'm finishing this thing." I threw everything I had left in the tank and pushed as hard as I could for the next 5 minutes - my pace never slowed past 7:55 at that point - freaking awesome!

With tired legs I tried to fit in my hour swim that I had skipped on Saturday but I couldn't keep my hips up without a pull buoy, 1000 yards into the swim I couldn't keep my arms up anymore and figured if I survived the snake attack, I shouldn't tempt fate and decided to leave the pool. Eric is pushing me harder than I've ever been pushed before and I'm loving it. I'm getting leaner, eating healthier and every workout is faster than the previous. Whatever Coach el diablo is doing, its working.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Having A Voice

For some time now I have been frustrated as a diabetic with a ton of ideas but no one practical to share them with. Sure, I blog about some of my ideas that can improve blood sugar management, but there is a world of difference between blogging about ideas and applying ideas. I'm reminded of this in my Leading Strategic Change course as we analyze the knowing - doing gap.

With that, I can't begin to express my excitement when I received an e-mail from the product manager of the Freestyle Navigator!!! Jonathan had come across my blog through researching consumer opinion on the product; and reached out to me in part because we went to the same undergraduate institution. He was excited about my ideas (which I'll list in a later post) and shared alot of my desires. Even better, he told me that anytime someone calls their help center, the suggestion or complaint is logged so that data can be incorporated into newer versions of the product.

Anyway, it's nice to know that sometimes when we share our thoughts someone is actually listening.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What Came Before Does Not Define The Future

I'm a big fan of using famous quotes from people far smarter than me to draw inspiration from and help inspire others. Recently I came across a tremendous quote from Emerson when trying to send Kim some positive thoughts for the Timberman triathlon.

"Be not the slave of your own past.
Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far,
so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power,
with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

For some reason when I came across that quote it spoke volumes to me, much in the same way the "Man In The Glass," poem I posted last year did. But this Emerson quote can be applied so directly to my life, and many others right now that I had thought about it all weekend. As I embark on my second and final year at Darden, search for my post-MBA job in a field far different than the one I had thought I would love, and train for my second Ironman I realized that good or bad, our past does not define what we can accomplish in the future.

Prior to coming to business school I had obtained a Master's in Political Science and truly believed a job in emerging market investments could be a career path I would be passionate about. However, after a summer working in it, I realize that because I have had academic success in the study of political economy does not mean I need to focus my efforts so narrowly. That by being a slave to my academic past I was not being true to myself and would never become professional or personally fulfilled by looking at that industry alone.

Although I had a tremendously successful first year at Darden, I cannot think that the same effort will afford me the same success this year. I can be proud of my past accomplishments, but must realize that past success does not dictate future success. I must continue to broaden my experience, and swim deeper into the Darden community so that my second year surpasses my first year no matter how incredible my first year was.

As I train for my second Ironman, I realize that the struggles I had at IMLP, the learning process I went through with diabetes does not need to be repeated. I can take that information, put it in my back pocket as I plunge into my IMCDA training. With each new struggle, with each new disappointment, with each new experience and with each new triumph I am growing as a triathlete and getting better. Past disappointments do not mean I will have results that do not live up to my (admittedly high) expectations in the future, but give me motivation to train harder than I ever have before. Use the fuel of my past experience as motivation for the future, but never forget to enjoy every second I am training, because I am one of the lucky few who can challenge myself in the way that I do.

In short each new day and each new challenge gives the opportunity to dive deeper into life; and while new experiences are born through the old, they are not defined by the old. With each new opportunity we all have a chance to move forward, to redefine what is possible and to create our own path. The only requirement is the willingness to dive headfirst into the challenge or day, embrace it and enjoy it. That is a lesson I've learned from diabetes and one that has let me gain new knowledge and power in so much that I have faced.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Devil Is My Coach

I am pretty sure Coach E had every intention of killing me this week. In my two years of triathlon training, this has been BY FAR the hardest week I have encountered. Although the volume isn't huge - just over 10 and 1/2 hours; the intensity of the volume is insane.

Last week Coach had sent me an e-mail telling me to get my rest in because next week would be hard. I in my idiotic nature decided I needed to mock Eric for being the only person in "Born To Run," that McDougall, only praised his amazing coaching ability, not his looks. Throughout the book McDougall mentions how good looking specific members of the ultra community are. So I think I provided Coach E with all the incentive to turn into the devil this week.

Monday started innocently enough with 2, 35 minute runs and an hour lift; although the heat and humidity down here didn't help matters. Tuesday was when the fun started - hill repeats on my bike! 6, 2 minute repeats, 6 1 minute repeats and 6 30 second repeats. I had never done hill repeats on my bike before and holy cow are they tough! I decided to ride over to Free Union so I could ride the long hill for the 2 minute intervals and a short and steep for the 30 second intervals, by the time I finished I thought my legs were going to fall off.

But Coach wasn't done, he had more in store for the quadzillas. On the menu for Wednesday was a 70 minute run including 6, 5 minute intervals at a 7:20 to 7:30 pace. I left my apartment at 9:15 am and the temperature had already cracked 85 degrees and headed over to the shadiest road I could find. Showing my complete lack of intelligence, I forgot that there was one huge hill on this road, and I of course had to run up that hill for intervals # 3 and # 6. This run seriously kicked my butt and I was pretty much out of commission for the rest of the day - but somehow managed to rally to close out the bar with my Darden friends that night!

Yesterday Satan had me doing swim speed intervals and a recovery ride on the bike. The UVA pool has weird hours right now so I had to bike before I swam - bad idea. I got into the pool with my legs feeling pretty heavy. I made it through the warm up ok, and the first three, 100 yard intervals (in under 1:35) weren't awful, but then I thought my heart was going to explode on the next two. I then did my 50 yard kick set and on the first interval of my last set, I bonked, HARD. 75 yards into the interval I had to choke back vomit as my legs dragged behind me like dead fish. I danced with the devil and the devil won.

At least I close the week off in style, Sunday I have a nice easy brick which consists of a 2 hour ride and a 10 mile run!!!! If someone can drive through C'Ville on Sunday to scrap me off the side of the road that would be awesome. But the best part is - no blood sugar issues during the workouts this week and my basal rate is dropping like a penny from the Empire State Building. This is fun!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Southern Heat

I finally made my way back to Charlottesville on Friday and was excited to ride the C'Ville hills again and get some runs in on the lightly traveled roads. C'Ville is a triathletes paradise, the UVA pool is top notch, the riding is tough and the running terrain is so varied that on any given day you can run next to a beautiful river, torture yourself on hills or get away from it all on the Rivana trail. Trail running may be something I get into later this year, as there are a ton of trail races in the fall and winter around here and after finishing "Born To Run," I can't help but be excited to try my hand at it.

I had hoped to hop on my bike by 8:30 on Sunday; but after having a few beers catching up with my friend Matt on Saturday night, I didn't get out of bed until 9:15 am! An hour and 1/2 later I was on my bike and ready to ride. However, someone forget to remind me that the South is WAY FREAKING HOTTER, than NY or Boston. By 11am it was about 90 degrees with high humidity and like an idiot I had only brought 1 bottle of nutrition and 1 bottle of water for my 2 hour ride.

Prior to getting to the bad news, here's the good news. I am in much, much better shape than I was when I left Darden in the spring. I did the same ride on Sunday that I had done the day I left Charlottesville in May feeling strong, faster and fitter on it. Compared to my May 10th ride, my August 16th ride was 3 mph faster, at a slightly higher average heart rate which included attacking the hills harder. Best of all, although my back got pretty sore around the 30 mile mark, I was able to supress the pain; on May 10th the pain in my back got so bad I had to stop and stretch for 5 or 10 minutes, this ride I stayed on my bike and was able to pedal home.

Now the bad news; 1 bottle of water for a 190 lbs guy in 90 degree heat and high humidity is about as dumb as heading to the Artic in a speedo! By the time I got back to my apartment I was dizzy, disoriented and my arms felt tingly; I had also stopped sweating. I downed 3 glasses of water and got ready for my transition run. By the time I left my apartment sweat was pouring down my face after just 30 seconds of jogging. At that point I decided to return home and wait for the heat to die down. At that point I realized that the muscles in my legs were twitching like crazy, obviously searching for water.

Finally I got a bit smarter and started downing water bottle after water bottle. About 80 oz of water later I was finally able to pee again, but I continued to drink water to try and rehydrate. I'm not sure I ever properly rehydrated after my killer run last Tuesday so Sunday just exacerbated the problem. I think what frustrates me most is hydration is totally under my control and I screwed it up - lesson learned, I won't make that mistake again.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why I Train

I'm currently reading "Born Tu Run" by Christopher McDougall; an absolutely fantastic read and one I would recommend to anyone. I was originally attracted to the book because it features my Coach Eric Orton, who helped transform the author from a runner with a history of injuries to one who was able to complete a 50 mile ultramarathon. But the true plot of the book is way beyond a training manual, McDougall's words in some way capture the essence of training hard and pushing oneself, the purity one can find in sport and the motivation athletes find to get out of bed each day.

When McDougall introduces Scott Jurek, perhaps the greatest ultra runner of all time, the words used to describe him screamed at me; reminding me why I love sport, and why I love to train.

"Strictly by accident, Scott stumbled upon the most advanced weapon in the ultrarunner's arsenal: instead of cringing from fatigue, you embrace it. You refuse to let it go. You get to know it so well, you're not afraid of it anymore.... You can't hate the Beast and expect to beat it; the only way to truly conquer something, as every great philosopher and geneticist will tell you, is to love it."

McDougall's description of how an athlete embraces the pain, torment and fatigue faced during training and racing is why I am so passionate about sports. Since I have been a child I have been at my best when my body has been at its worst. I have strived to push myself to my body's limit then see if I had more left in the tank. In some weird way when the pain is at its worst, when the conditions couldn't get more dire that is when I am most at peace and that is when I feel most alive.

What the first 209 pages of McDougall's book has reminded me of is that sport for so many people and cultures around the world is how we can find ourselves. That the challenge presented with a run, a lift, a hike or a bike ride can allow each of us to find inner peace and power. When I have to look deeper into my soul to finish a training session; when I am alone, on a ride with my legs screaming and my head aching, when I am in the gym forcing myself to do one more rep, or having just finished throwing up after a sprint and thirsting for more that I feel most aware of who I am and most at peace with the world around me. In that, diabetes has become the ultimate motivator; through embracing the challenge I have been able to find great serenity.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fightining the Inferno

Saturday morning Kim and I said goodbye to each other as I was beginning my long drive back to Charlottesville and she was headed out on a bike ride. You learn a ton about yourself while living with someone and this summer taught me alot; more than just putting the toilet seat down! Although I don't know if I'll ever pick up my test strips to her satisfaction.

I was excited to head back to my parent's house for the week. It would be the first time I'd have an opportunity to train in the Westchester/ Putnam area since Lake Placid so I couldn't wait to go on some of my favorite bike rides. I was refitted on my bike by Jay Courant at Stage5 cycling in Arlington, MA a couple weeks ago and wanted to see how well I could hammer on the new fit. Jay is a former physical therapist who has since switched his focus to biomechanics - he knows his stuff and the fit is incredible. We dropped my front end almost 6" so my back is now totally flat and although I'm riding a less steep angle now (from 82 to 79.5) I'm still steep enough to post on slowtwitch!

Saturday's ride called for 3 20 minute intervals of riding in my hammer zone with a cadence of 80 to 90. Coach E wants to see if lowering my cadence during training will help reduce the stress on my back by evening out my pedal stroke. Normally I ride at a cadence of above 95 (thanks to Coach Egg busting my butt last year) so riding at an average cadence of 85 feels like a constant grind on my legs. However, during my 2.5 hour ride on Sunday I experienced almost no back pain and only minor stiffness in my hip - plus I didn't loose too much speed! The new fit is freaking phenomenal, my power transition on it is stronger than before and the more aero position gives me greater efficiency to pedal harder, longer. In short, I'm getting faster on the bike so I'm psyched about it.

Best part of the ride was my blood sugar dropping to 128 after my second interval. Rather than panic, stop on the side on the road and wait, I continued on my 20 minute recovery after eating half a clif bar and downing a little extra nutrition mix. I tested prior to my next speed interval and was happy to see a blood sugar of 167. I'm starting to understand that extra water helps in the absorption of carbohydrates so that a lower blood sugar than desired doesn't have to end a training session.

Yesterday, a 2 hour run was on tap, a 2 hour run on the hottest freaking day of the summer. I had to wait for UPS to arrive with my nutrition, so my run was delayed until 5 pm. I messed up my pre-workout nutrition a bit and started with a BS of 357; I knew a low blood sugar wouldn't be a problem on this run! However the heat, that was a big problem!

30 minutes into the run I was soaked from head to toe, and not soaked like sweaty, soaked like I had just stood under a firehose. 45 minutes into the run my shoes had filled with sweat and were shooting out water with every step. I had to stop for a minute to ring out my socks they had become so heavy! An hour into the run I believe my skin was starting to slide off as I had lost so much water! Yet I still had speed intervals left to run.

An hour and 20 minutes into the run I hit my first speed interval, of course this just happened to coincide with reaching the 3 mile low grade uphill climb on the Northcounty Trailway. The first 4 intervals were all great, I had maintained a pace of 5 minute miles for most of the speed intervals and slowed to a 12 minute pace during the recovery intervals. On the 5th I finally understood why this week needed to be a recovery week. 30 seconds into my fifth and final speed interval my legs stopped. Much like the time when I tried to run with Moose and he simply dropped down onto the grass refusing to move any further, my legs came to a pounding halt and refused to move. They had filled with so much lactic acid and had become so heavy they might as well have been stuck in cement. I was happy with the effort and began to walk during my cool down.

20 minutes later I was back at my parents house after a combination of fat man shuffle and walking to finish up the run. After jumping into the pool and downing 4 glasses of water, I weighed myself and still had lost 8 lbs on my run!!!!! Needless to say I probably should have brought a little extra water with me.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Like a Seesaw

Looking at my blood sugar log of the past seven days would make a mathematician question if everything was recorded on the same scale. My blood sugar has been as low as 29 and as high as 450 since last Saturday. Sunday night I woke up three times with glucose readings of 29, 48, and 55. Yet the following day I had blood sugars between 250 and 350 throughout the day. What gives!!!

Although my diet has not changed my exercise schedule has really been ramped up. I also believe there is some variability in my basal rates; it seems that my higher blood sugars shift from 3am to 5am at certain times of the year to 9am through 11am at other times in the year. I don't have a ton of statistics to back this up but its just a trend I've kind of noticed from time to time. I thought I really had my basal patterns set but now realize I need to start recording all my blood sugars, exercise activity, insulin intake and carbohydrate intake again. That unfortunately is the only way to stay on top of blood sugar management.

If this week has taught me anything, its that good control over blood sugars needs constant vigilance. Becoming lazy in recording blood sugar readings, and ignoring small trends can blow up causing huge shifts in blood sugars. The more variable my blood sugars are the harder it is for me to act like myself on a daily basis. Having the up and downs of the past week have caused me to feel more fatigued, miss a couple workouts and just not feel like myself. The 5 minute sacrifice it will take to write down the information I need to analyze my blood sugars will be well worth the pay off in overall health.