Well we can cross that career milestone off my list; my first DNF. With the line I toe for blood sugar management during each race, a DNF was bound to happen sooner or later; thankfully my first and hopefully only DNF came in an offseason race where I was just out to have some fun. The laissez-faire attitude I had heading into this race may have had a lot to do with the blood sugar nightmare I encountered; I'm going to have to really think about what went wrong to prevent the same situation from happening in the future. The good news; when I was able to run, the race was AWESOME. Plus, there was a canine walk/ run 5k going on at the same time so a ton of cute pooches were out on the trail as well!
Before getting into the particulars of the DNF; some things I learned about a trail half marathon – THEY ARE FREAKING HARD!!!!!!!!!!! I ran the race with my good friend Laura, who is trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon, her stand alone half mary time is south of 1:45 on a bad day and below 1:40 on a good day, but her finishing time Saturday was 1:57. Hills were abound, there were a few deep water crossings, and forget about trying to run on level ground. I felt like Lewis or Clark during half the race navigating my way through an unknown wilderness just praying a bear wouldn't jump out and try and eat me. So in that, the race was a huge success because I did have a blast with it.
For the first 6 miles of the race was running great; I was about a minute or two behind Laura so in the rear of the front group of runners. My heart rate was sky high because of all the hills so I kept having to back off the gas. From the start my legs felt tired and heavy but I assumed that was from all the cold medicine I've needed the past week and ½, may have been some dehydration issues as well. At mile 6 my vision started to get a little blurry and my legs felt really unstable. I stopped at the side of the trail to test – my blood sugar was 100 and I knew it was trending well lower than that. So I took in a gel and walked a ½ mile, I tested again and my blood sugar had only rebounded to 105. I then pounded a fuel belt bottle and walked another ½ mile, my blood sugar had bounced up to 125. At that point I thought I would be able to run again so I took off. By mile 8 I felt AWFUL, I didn't feel safe running on the trail, couldn't keep my footing and my vision was surrounded by a fog. I tested again and had dropped back down to 115. That was also my last test strip! For the next mile I walked/ slow jogged until there was finally a volunteer I could ask for a shortcut back. A little over a mile later I was back at my car where I was able to test again feeling like I was about to vomit and had a blood sugar of 254.
The roller coaster of blood sugars made my legs feel totally unstable and I 100% believe I made the right and safe choice pulling out of this race. I think more than anything this shows the maturity and growth I have gained over the past two years. I can finally say I've learned to run within myself and that I know that whether I run a half marathon at a 6 minute pace, or a 15 minute pace it doesn't change my perception of myself and will not change the message I am trying to provide for others. In the past I would have fought with my mind on that trail, gotten angry that my blood sugars were preventing me from performing and stupidly forced myself to run which could have caused a dangerous situation. Without test strips, in the middle of the woods, feeling sick and feeling low the smart decision was to call it a day, for once I made the smart and rational choice.
I had to delay my Sunday bike ride by 45 minutes because my blood sugars went low during my pre-ride nutrition. That points to my basal rates having some effect on the lows I experienced during the race on Saturday. I also learned a really valuable lesson on Saturday, I cannot take my blood sugar management for granted; whether it is the biggest race of my life or a simple off season fun run, my nutrition needs to be the same priority in each. Because of my disease, nutrition isn't just something I can "do," it's something I have to live and Saturday reminded me of that. From going out to dinner and drinking wine on Thursday to not eating totally healthy on Friday and not finishing my pre-race nutrition drink I made some really poor choices heading into this race. This disease is very individual and while some of my diabetic friends can go out for a run with a blood sugar of 140; for me that's playing with fire. My muscle mass and sweat rate make me a glucose feeding machine, add to that some hills and tough terrain and you might as well call me Jabba the glucose. From now on, for any race, before having fun, before anything else, nutrition is my number one priority.
Had this been an IM, or a race that I was looking to perform in I'm sure my mentality would have been different. For an off-season race where my only instructions were to just have fun, the pressure was off so that probably allowed me to make the smart choice a lot easier than under different circumstances. As much as a DNF sucks I'm proud of myself for staying safe and staying smart. The race reinforced that all the effort I have put into understanding my nutrition needs was well worth the struggle. I'm frustrated by the DNF and at the same time it may have been the best reminder I could have ever received for how important my focus on nutrition is for achieving what I want to do in endurance sports.