Monday, December 21, 2009

Altitude – Lets Add Another Variable To The BSM System!

After a little help from some amazing friends I was able to ski during each day of my Aspen adventure and live to talk about it the next day. I'm still in awe of how my friends came to my aid when I was in need of a new blood sugar monitor last week and proved to me once again how incredible my support network is. As much as I'd like to be tough as nails and say I can face this disease alone, the truth is each day is a new battle and it takes a whole network of individuals who come together as family to let someone achieve everything they want to achieve. But, what Aspen let me realize is that there are variables I had never considered in my blood sugar management system analysis; by the time I flush out my thoughts for this thing I'm going to have a laundry list of things to quantify.

From the moment I landed in Aspen my stomach had angry gremlins running around in it. One of my friends politely referred to the gremlins as "alti-tooties," in less suave terms I was smelling up the joint quite frequently – no matter what I ate or drank. The altitude was wreaking havoc on my digestive process so for the first 3 days of fun in the snow I had to constantly eat to maintain a healthy blood sugar. Over the first 3 days in Aspen I think I had 9 to 12 lows. As my metabolic system slowly got adjusted to the altitude the leftover carbohydrates ingested to combat the lows were released into my blood stream causing some nasty highs. On Wednesday, our fourth full day in Aspen and the day I lost my meter my blood sugar was as high as 520 even though I had done nothing different from the prior day.

For the next two days I fought off highs as my body continued to digest the food from the previous 72 hours and become more acclimated to the altitude. I'm also sure that the copious amounts of alcohol had some impact on my blood sugars as well. So if nothing else the crazy blood sugars due to the travel put an additional log on the fire for my choice to pursue a non-traditional MBA path that will not have me travel as much as a job in something like consulting would have. I'm continually amazed by how variable this disease can be and how in-depth the system of blood sugar management is.

I also had the privilege of running hill repeats in the Colorado altitude – it was freaking awesome!!!!! Apparently two of my friends were talking about how I went out to do hill repeats and one said "but yeah well Ed's insane, so it's just a normal day for him," ahh the life of a triathlete. I could not believe how hard the hill repeats in altitude were. Coach Orton had assigned me 6, 1 minute hill repeats at a "train not strain," effort – or just below max effort without throwing up all over myself. I took off on the hill for my first repeat and thought my heart was going to explode. For the next 5 hill repeats I could only go for 30 second at a time. The intensity combined with the altitude was having me get light headed 30 seconds into each repeat so that's all I could last – unreal! On the "cool down" run home I was heading up the access road at a 13 minute pace with my heart rate hitting zone 5 – steep and light air = more craziness. Altitude training definitely has some huge advantages, I had a blast challenging myself in the thin air.

So in closing, altitude is awesome for training, kind of not so awesome for blood sugars, all in all it was one heck of a week!

1 comment:

mindbolus said...

Ed, I've been reading your blog for the past year or so. thanks for all the inspiration and motivation! I've never commented on anything here but your trip to Aspen prompted this. I have T1 and I live in Grand Junction, Colorado. our stories have some similarities as I was diagnosed at age 23 (I am now 39) while in my first year of law school. I struggled, adapted and went on living life, much like you are doing. In many ways, I think I am better off with T1 than I would have been without it. It focused me on fitness and health. I definitely notice changes with altitude and also with temperature. I live at about 5,000 feet so i'm used to pretty high altitudes. But I also need less insulin when it's cold out. i try to train outside as much as i can, often in 25 degree temps. I believe that the cold requires more energy to stay warm, t/f less insulin is required. I also road and mountain bike in the summer at high altitude and find the same to be true - less insulin required. Your wild bg swings also may have been due to dehydration which is common at altitude. If you were drinking booze on top of that, as well as not being acclimated, it's no wonder you saw crazy numbers. Been there, done that. Thanks again, i really enjoy your blog.