Thursday, October 29, 2009

Food Intolerance & Diabetes

Recently I randomly picked up "The Epoch Times," in the Pepsico Forum at Darden and was surprised to find an article titled "Can Wheat Cause Diabetes?" in the life and science section of the paper. The article starts off with a plot twist discussing how wheat requires extra insulin production and then Dr. Briffa switches gears and states "However, this column is not about the relationship between wheat and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is actually the focus here." At that point I read with a new level of interest.

An article in the Journal Diabetes highlighted a study conducted by Dr. Fraser Scott that analyzed the relationship between wheat polypeptides and immune response. The study was conducted on 42 individuals with 20 of the individuals demonstrating a reaction to the protein. According to the article the rate of individuals who had reactions was much higher than expected. Similar studies that focused on milk proteins have demonstrated the same relationship. Interestingly, other auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis have already been linked to food intolerance, so why not juvenile diabetes?

Prior to my diagnosis I had always noticed that a glass of milk made me feel like a balloon and caused my derrière to be a musical instrument. I always associated that with a form of lactose intolerance but could still eat cheese, yogurt and other dairy products without any discomfort. This article makes me think there may have been something more there. The causes of juvenile diabetes are still unknown, statistics have demonstrated the form of the disease is changing though. A decade ago it was exceedingly rare for someone over the age of 15 or 16 to develop type 1, however examples of that are abound now. Interestingly, most of the people I have met who have developed adult onset type 1 have been fairly high level athletes as well. While the causes were previously thought to be viral it is becoming clearer that environmental factors are playing a huge role in auto-immune and chronic illness.

The Natural Step a consultancy focused on sustainable business practices and industrial eco-systems was founded by Dr. Karl-Henrik after he noticed the number of children he was treating in his oncology practice was rapidly on the rise. The argument over the threshold level of toxins that causes disease and illness has shifted in the past several years. Originally the argument focused on the level of toxins that would cause a severe reaction. However, scientist have now identified that a low level of toxins over an extended period of time can cause genetic triggers to turn on and off. In our sustainability class first quarter we had a scientist tell us that everything from breast milk to proteins could contain toxins and that everyone had some level of toxins in their body. As Dr. Briffa's column identifies, the game has changed and the environment is becoming a much larger component of disease creation than it was in the past.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Old Rag Mountain Hike


On a beautiful fall day in Charlottesville some classmates and I decided to forget about interview prep and case studies to hike one of the most famous hikes in the Shenandoah National Park at Old Rag Mountain. The 8 mile hike climbs more than 2,500 feet and has some of the most breathtaking views I have ever witnessed. Whether skiing or hiking there is just something about staring out from the top of a mountain that puts life in perspective.

For blood sugar management, I turned my pump down to a 75% basal rate and had more than enough Clif Bars with me for the hike. When we started the hike my blood sugar was actually above 300 from the Pumpkin Muffin I had for breakfast screwed that up a bit so I adjusted with a 1 unit bolus. After climbing for about a mile my blood sugar was down to 71 so I gobbled up my black and white lumpy scone (it's the offseason I can't be healthy all the time!) About an hour later I had a clif mojo bar and then had a clif protein bar about a mile from the top.

Now for the fun stuff – pictures:











Sitting on a ledge with a view like the one above reminds me that high blood sugar or low, tough workout or off season there can be something magical about everything that we do.  There can be beauty in everything that we see, triumph in everything that we overcome and joy in everything that we encounter.

"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth
find reserves of strength
that will endure as long as life lasts." 
~ Rachel Carson

Friday, October 23, 2009

Off Season Basal Rates

I’ve often talked about how consistency can be the key to good blood sugar management. As my operations professors say; variable is the enemy of good. The more variability a diabetic introduces into their blood sugar management, the harder it is to maintain happy blood sugars. During the peak of triathlon season the amount of carbohydrates I eat, length and intensity of exercise and amount of sleep are all pretty consistent. During the off season my Coach has instructed me to just have fun to recover both mentally and physically; that means training is no longer a top 3 priority, having fun with friends, focusing on my job search and enjoying my last year at Darden all take precedent.


In the past week my basal rate has jumped 1.5 units of insulin per day and my blood sugars have been much less consistent. I’m not sure why but I am still shocked by the effects exercise has on blood sugar management. For breakfast I’m now eating egg whites instead of a fruit and protein shake, I have switched from turkey sandwiches to salads for lunch and am having just chicken sausage and brown rice for dinner and am eating far fewer clif bars during the day than during the season. In all I’ve dramatically decreased my calorie and carbohydrate intake, yet my insulin needs have still increased. It’s crazy to think that reducing my exercise from about 14 hours a week to about 8 hours a week would increase my basal rate by more than 10% per day.

The off season is a necessary evil as I know my body and mind need recovery. However, I also know that when I get Coach Orton’s e-mail telling me to hit it hard again I’ll be faced with blood sugar lows instead of blood sugar highs as my basal rate is re-calibrated. Perhaps the most frustrating part of type 1 is that when a lifestyle change is introduced, all the work done to calibrate basal rates becomes inaccurate. The more I learn about blood sugar management, the more I realize how a holistic vie of all metabolic variables is essential. Maybe I’ll just skip the off season and live on a hamster wheel!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

That Whole Hydration Thing

This post is going to get filed in the "I'm an idiot," category. Just because it's the offseason does not mean I should forget about nutrition or hydration. Thus far I've done a pretty good job with nutrition, even if I've enjoyed some of the delightful fattier foods like burgers, fries and guacamole my weight hasn't really gone up and my body is still pretty much the same. However, I have been totally lax on the amount of water I've been drinking and electrolytes I've been taking in. Since Friday I swam 2,000 yards, biked for 30 miles, lifted for an hour and ran 11 miles; add to that drinking three of the five nights and some very high blood sugars on Friday gives the recipe for some dehydration.

Last night I had a couple of glasses of Malbec while I watched House and then my buddy Joe came over for some beers during Monday Night Football. Each time I got up to fill my wine glass or grab a beer I felt dizzy but really didn't think anything of it. After Joe left I turned off the TV and went to bed, after tossing and turning for 10 minutes I decided it was time for a change of venue; I haven't been sleeping all that well and moved to the couch. At 2 am I woke up pretty light headed and went to make my way to bed – huh what….. smack, my face cracked into the beam of my door and I was down and out. This is the first time I've passed out since a pretty bad stomach bug in my first year after diagnosis.

Worried, I crawled into my bedroom and tested, blood sugar of 160 so I was a little high, a relief as I was worried I was headed for some glucagon. I got into bed, gave myself some insulin and was out. When I woke up this morning it dawned on me – I have hardly been drinking any water. During the season I was having at least 60 oz of water outside of exercise with some thermolyte tabs for electrolytes. However, I'm only having one or two glasses of water right now (plus some coffee and diet coke) but the alcohol, exercise and high blood sugars pretty much canceled out any of the hydration I was trying to take in. Thankfully my gorgeous mug isn't bruised and I learned my lesson – it's back to carrying around my water bottle at school; just because it's the offseason doesn't mean I can ignore the important stuff.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Reminded Of Life Pre-Diagnosis

Friday night I had a couple of my friends over for the first game of the ALCS. It had been a while since we had a low key night to just watch some sports and chill out; a lot of nights at Darden quickly turn into all out black out booze fests for no particular reason. Knowing that it would be a night of sports, sports and more sports Jeff and I headed to Whole Foods to pick up some craft beers, pizza dough, tortilla chips and guacamole. Our buddy Rob brought over more beer and some wings – so this was going to be a gluttonous night, my blood sugars have been solid recently so I thought what the hell I can bolus for all of that – ummm I think I was a little wrong with that assumption!

At some point I will learn my lesson that either due to the high fat content of guacamole or something else it is just about impossible for me to bolus for one of my favorite condiments (is it a condiment or dip?). Combining guacamole with home made whole wheat pizza, wings, and beer makes for a blood sugar disaster. I first tried to use a dual wave bolus for 70 grams of carbohydrates for the chips, beer and wings, I then added a second dual wave bolus for 50 grams of carbs for the pizza. About an hour after eating the pizza my blood sugar was down in the 80s with a ton of insulin on board so I ate a no-fat pumpkin yogurt (delicious!) After my friends left I was still feeling kind of funky but for some reason was craving diet coke – then the memories started to flood into my mind.

Prior to my diagnosis one of the scariest moments of my life happened during a ski trip to Sugarbush in Vermont. A group of us were at my friend's ski condo, had been drinking pretty much all day and ate a ton of pizza for dinner. As the night wore on I remember feeling like the condo was 300 degrees and was convinced that a diet coke would make me feel better. I got in my car and drove from town to town trying to find a gas station that was open, or a soda machine (stuff closes pretty early in Vermont) but had no luck. As I drove the dark, snowy Vermont roads I felt confused, emotional and lost. I remember feeling like I was having an out of body experience yet could only focus on the idea of finding a diet coke. I returned to the condo thinking regular coke would be a good alternative – God only knows how high my blood sugar was by the end of that night; about 10 days later I went to a party with my friends who were on that ski trip, each of them were shocked at how much weight it looked like I lost over the past 10 days – that's when I started to think I may have a serious problem.

Friday night a lot of those feelings of confusion, heat and mental loss began to overwhelm me again. Although my glucose meter showed a blood sugar of 87, I knew it was only a matter of time before my blood sugar sky rocketed. I became emotional about things I shouldn't be that emotional about, I remember at one point collapsing on my ottoman just trying to get the world to slow down around me. My mind was racing from thought to thought, the walls were closing in and I was scared. I knew this time that it wasn't a diet coke that would make me feel better, but insulin.

Even though my blood sugar was below 90, I decided to give myself 2 units of insulin; I had my emergency supply of sugary food and decided if I tested every 10 minutes that I would be able to correct a low before any serious problems occurred. 10 minutes after I gave myself the bolus my blood sugar was up to 130, 10 minutes after that I was up to 168 – I added .7 units of insulin. I laid in bed at 11:40 pm and decided to read, at midnight I tested again and my blood sugar read 230. At that point I upped my basal rate to 150% and added another 1.5 units of insulin. Finally the world around me began to slow down, finally I was able to collect myself and feel as if my feet were on the ground again. I tested again in 20 minutes and was happy to see a blood sugar of 225. Although nervous because of all the insulin on board I was pretty confident that I had not over corrected; I really believe my blood sugar was headed north of 500 and the quick action I took to correct saved me from a pretty painful night.

I woke on Saturday to a blood sugar of 150 and was happy to see that; although higher than I would have liked it gave me some confidence that the bolus I gave myself the night before was just about right. It also reminded me of the dangers of thinking I can eat anything; all foods can't be exercised out of your system and good choices need to be made. Eating wings, pizza and guacamole is all ok in moderation, but eating all 3 on the same night while drinking 5 or 6 beers probably isn't the best idea for me. Usually I'm pretty good about my choices, and Friday reminded me of the reasons why that is so important.

Thankfully I was able to get my blood sugars under control to have my first cold weather outdoor bike ride of the season on Saturday and an awesome fall run on Sunday. Coach Orton has me in off season mode right now meaning I get to do whatever I feel like for exercise. I hammered away for 26 miles on Saturday in 40 degree weather with my leg warmers and winter vest on; at one point I maintained 32 on a flat for 2 miles with the biggest smile on my face. Sunday I went out for a run on Ridge Road, the leaves have started to change in Charlottesville making the farms look more beautiful than ever; I ran with joy and enthusiasm and finished the 8 mile run in an hour and 7 minutes – it's kind of fun to lay it all out there; in the off season you can take that extra day to recover, it's nice just going out there to have some fun.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Nike Frees

Prior to doing distance running for triathlon training I had never had what one would call a typical runners injury. For the better part of my life I had trained in minimal sprinters shoes; as most of the training I was doing was targeted towards getting my 40 time as low as it could go. However, once I transitioned into endurance training, got a beefier, more “technologically” advanced sneaker I started to get pains in my lower back, knees and flare ups in the joins of my toes. Maybe I was just too heavy to run for distance I thought. As my weight dropped the pain remained and I thought there was something more to it.

While reading “Born To Run,” in August I was shocked to find out that as shoe companies have advanced corrective technology in their sneakers the incidents of runners injuries (plantar fasciitis, IT Band syndrome, etc) has increased. Even more shockingly, when Nike visited Stanford University in 2001, they noticed that the Stanford track team was running in Nike’s cheapest shoe, not the one with uber technology. Vin Lananna, the legendary coach, told the Nike Reps that his athletes preferred the cheaper shoe, were faster and got injured less in them.

The research Nike performed led them to develop the Nike Frees, the shoe I am currently running in, healthier and faster than ever before. The crux of the argument is, in our physiological evolution our feet were our initial sensors for protection. Our feet have an unbelievable amount of nerve endings in them (as certain pursuits will let you know) which are made deaf through the advances in shoe technology. In other words, corrective shoe technology may have been correcting a problem that was never a problem – your feet tell your body how it should run, your body doesn’t tell your feet how they should strike.

Nike developed a shoe that provides shock absorption but lets the foot move naturally or “freeing the foot”. The sole is constructed through individual compartments that act as receptacles for the nerve endings but provide protection since we now run on pavement not dirt. Since I have been running in the Frees I have felt no knee pain, hardly any back pain and the tightness in my hamstrings and hips has all but disappeared. Additionally I am back to the form and speed I had when all I did was speed work but can maintain that stride style, cadence and pace for much longer distances than ever before (the pace thing is all about training though).  This is the shoe I also ran in for the South Carolina Half Iron.

So why am I writing all this? I’m not a doctor so I can’t say that the Frees are the solution to runner’s problems around the world. I however do know from my experience that I have run more comfortably for longer periods and at a faster pace than ever before. Sometimes getting back to the natural way of doing things is just what the doctor ordered. I can’t promise they will work for you but if you’ve tried everything else they just might be worth a try. If you do give them a try it is suggested you use them for just a half hour at a time on grass as you build the strength in your foot muscles if you haven’t done barefoot work or high intensity speed work in the past


Monday, October 12, 2009

A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words



It's safe to say I was pretty happy at the finish of the South Carolina Half.  And yes Coach, I promise I have only been doing functional strength training!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Finding Myself – South Carolina Half Ironman Race Report

On an early morning in the middle of South Carolina I arrived at the transition area filled with more doubts and apprehensions then confidence or inner strength. As my last post touched on; over the course of the past few months I had lost a big part of myself, the fuel in my confidence tank was running low and I was starting to lose faith in my ability to ever perform in the sport of triathlon. The combination of some really tough personal stuff, perhaps for the first time being totally over my head intellectually during my summer internship (working with a guy who has a PhD from Harvard in physics can tend to do that), crashing and blowing up during the run in my last race create the perfect confluence of events for me to wonder if I ever could get back to the confident person I was. My journey to South Carolina answered all those questions and more. For the first time in any of my previous triathlons, I can hold my head high not for the great achievement of crossing the finish line, but for the awesome achievement of having hours upon hours of training and sacrifice finally produce results. This will be a pretty long race result so the abridged version – 5:33!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Days Leading To Race

The days leading up to the race were actually pretty interesting. Normally life is as life does leading up to my triathlons for this race I attended a U2 concert, took a 7 hour drive, and was fascinated by the people at a Waffle Works. Thursday night U2 played at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville. The atmosphere of the town could only be called electric. Our professors talked about the concert, a 60 year old woman at the pool asked me if I was going and if there would be a "mash pit," the woman at Whole Foods asked me if I was tailgating for U2 – it was crazy. I can only imagine the atmosphere on Thursday was like the atmosphere for a 1970's stadium concert during the hey-day of rock n' roll.

Attending a concert sober is a totally different experience; my friends were hammered but I had a race to run dammit and had given up so many drunken nights already that wasn't going to change for Bono & Co. The concert was great and actually started to relax my mood, I had been pretty down in the dumps but just hanging out and having fun with my classmates really started to make me smile. When Bono wailed "It's a Beautiful Day," I thought he just might be onto something. And in an informal poll women are more attracted to Bono than Edge by a ratio of 5:1.

Friday I drove two of my classmates down South; one was dropped off in Danville, VA and the other in Charlotte, NC. In Danville Lauren and I stopped at Subway for lunch; for some reason Subway absolutely messes up my blood sugars. After lunch my blood sugars remained above 350 for 5 hours! I had then totally over corrected for the blood sugar high that I had to continuously eat to make sure my bs didn't plummet. I finally had it corrected after dinner of some South Carolina pizza and clif bars. After dinner I fired up Net Flix on my computer and watched the Peaceful Warrior. The video store clerk at IMLP recommended it to me last year but I never had a chance to watch it. As will happen when you watch a movie about an athletic struggle as you're trying to find yourself through your own journey the movie can feel like it's speaking directly to you. These quotes from the movie moved me closer to my goals from the weekend:

"A warrior is about absolute vulnerability"

"Accept you don't control what will happen"

"The journey brings us happiness not the destination"

I slept a lot later on Saturday than I had planned, so I didn't get out to the race site to do my final warm up until 10am. At the race site I couldn't figure out where the swim was actually going to start from so I skipped it to just bike and run. During my run I began to throw up and realized that my blood sugar was trending very low – time for waffles!

Waffle Works in South Carolina was an experience unlike one I have ever had. Thick southern accents, more camouflage than an Army/ Navy store and conversations about what I have no idea. I loved this experience as its not often one can be exposed to a totally different side of America than the one you've come to know and expect. Shift your perceptions and open your eyes to new experiences – ok I'm really starting to remember what I was all about at this point. Oh and the waffles – chocolate and strawberry – deeeeeeelicious.

I went back to the race site to pick up my race packet, drove the bike course, then headed back to my hotel room for the rest of the day. I consumed a ton of clif bars, and had my typical pre-race dinner of whole wheat pasta and buffalo meat much earlier than usual. This proved to be a great decision as I had a nice ummm "movement" by 10pm and was actually able to sleep that evening. I was beginning to drop my "bag of sh*t" as Coach Egg used to call it. I still couldn't have full confidence in my race visualization like Coach Orton wanted me to do, but I was able to relax and view my race plan, things were starting to slow down.

Race Morning

I woke up race morning at 4:45 am feeling a bit different than I had for the previous month. I began to feel the fog that had been surrounding my mind lift and when I looked into the mirror I saw a bit of fire return to my eyes. My eyes still didn't show the passion and intensity they normally have but they didn't look as confused as they had for the past month and ½. For breakfast I had a cup of coffee, and my breakfast shake of a banana, mixed berries, odawala superfood and chia seeds. I arrived at the race site at 5:50, pumped my tires and headed to transition – it was still pitch dark out!

Listening to my pre-race mix on my ipod Van Hallen's "Right Now," ceased to be about winning, and became a reminder of how important living in the moment is and how this moment, this race, this day was all about getting back to the right mindset, finding myself and getting back to Ed. I crotched down at the edge of the lake and starred out to the darkness. I thought about all the days of the training, the two years I had devoted to the sport, my emotions the day I was diagnosed with diabetes. I thought about the e-mails I had received from people who have supported me, I thought about my friends and family. I thought about all those who have helped me along the way, I realized on this race morning although I was so far away from everyone I knew, I was not alone; I also realized the only person who could get my confidence back and find myself, was the person I look at in the mirror every day. With that the song came to an end, and it was time to eat my clif bar finish setting up my transition area and head to the water for my swim warm up.

Swim

My blood sugar had been a bit high prior to heading over to the swim start, so I took in a tad more insulin than usual. In total I took 1 unit of insulin over the 1 and ¼ hours I was at transition before the race; .6 units for my clif bar and .4 units before heading to the water – this turned out to be perfect! I downed my nutrition mix prior to my warm up, hopped in the beautifully warm water and felt great. My shoulders were a bit sore, but nothing to be too worried about, just needed to stretch some more.

The open division wave went off and we were set to enter the water. I said hello to a few of the people in my wave and talked to the guy next to me in the water as we bobbed water waiting for our horn to go off. For the most part I just kept thinking to myself, this is it; let the race and the day come to you. I refused to let a time goal cross my mind, my only goal was to enjoy the race, find my confidence and be able to run when I got off the bike; I tried to stay calm and refused to let my mind drift to the dark places it used to before football games.

The gun went off and so did I! I was swimming up towards the front of the pack and felt amazing. My arms felt strong, my legs felt light, my hips were up as I glided through the water. Hot damn this was going to be a good day. My swim was fantastic – except for a period where I swam totally off course. There were just 8 or 9 buoys for the entire swim course in this massive lake; at one point I could have sworn I was on course, but a few strokes later when I looked up I realized I had take a 90 degree turn and was totally off course. I was all alone in the middle of the lake and had to swim diagonally to avoid a dq as I needed to make my way around the next buoy – probably lost 3 or 4 minutes due to this mix up. No big deal, got back on track and finished my swim pretty strongly.

My swim time was totally consistent with the time of my past couple of races. More importantly I came out of the water with a blood sugar of 140 – perfect! Since you're horizontal when you swim the digestive process is totally slowed down. Additionally blood flow during swimming isn't as good as it is while not swimming so a slightly lower blood sugar is fine coming out of the water. From my experience at Musselman when my blood sugar went sky high on the bike; I knew at 140 I didn't need to take in any additional nutrition; so I left T1 confident my bs would be fine; this proved to be an awesome decision.

Swim Time: 36:39, 71st overall

Swim Grade: B+, points have to be taken off for going that far off course

Nutrition Grade: A

Bike

The big challenge: loose my ego; just let it go, I have nothing to prove to anyone on the bike, triathlon is not about how you perform against other people. Triathlon is about how you perform for yourself, triathlon is about embracing the journey, to find motivation through internal struggle and living in the moment is vastly more important and powerful than finding motivation in biking faster than the "other guy." Would I be able to expose my vulnerability, have the confidence in myself, my coach and my training that letting people pass me on the bike is "ok?" Or would I let fear rear its ugly head and think I needed to hammer on the bike to justify being out there? The 56 miles on the bike let me answer those questions and more, the 56 miles let me find some of that intestinal fortitude that had been lacking the past couple months.

The bike course was not suited to my strength on the bike at all; at no point was there a stretch of 5 or 10 miles where I could get into a rhythm and just glide, rollers were everywhere. No hill was super steep, but a bunch were pretty long; and no descent lasted too long but each was long enough to let my heart rate settle back down. Orton wanted me to keep my heart rate in high zone 3/ low zone 4 for the bike; and man did I stick to that. In the Patriots I blew up my run because I was biking at a heart rate in zone 5a for the entire bike leg – not smart. Race smart Ed, let the course come to you and bike within yourself, don't worry about the next guy, I kept repeating that to myself as I biked.

From the moment I started to pedal my legs hurt, and I don't mean sore from lactic acid, I mean they hurt like someone was taking a pick and scrapping away at my muscles. I have never felt pain on the bike like I did on Sunday; my bike seat may have been a bit lower than my ideal fit from the new frame or I may have slept wrong, I really had to struggle to keep pedaling. I thought about quitting when my legs really hurt, I thought about unclipping, throwing my bike to the side of the road, and screaming "I'm done!" Then….. I woke up…..

The conversation in my mind went something like this, "Ed, when did you let adversity, pain and disappointment stop you from being who you are. At what point did you lose the passion for the journey and the ability to turn adversity into a positive. At what point did you stop believing in yourself and stop trusting all that you have accomplished in your life. At what point have you allowed yourself to give up? You have the choice right now to stop being who you are and accept defeat and disappointment or you can forget the pain, remember why you're out here and find your strength and confidence to turn negatives into positives – the choice is up to you." After that conversation my "bag of sh*t" got a little bit lighter; after that conversation I forgot about the pain, overcame the mental demons and rode with a smile on my face; after that conversation I became one step closer to being me again.

Maybe 20ish people passed me during the first 35 miles of the bike. With each person who passed me I had to remember to just let them go, this is my race, I'm racing my plan not theirs. Those who are really good at tris will tell you, let people pass, you'll catch them later if you just hang back, just race within yourself. And holly crap – they are right! From mile 42 to 56 I reeled in about half the people who had passed me previously. As those people who hammered past me earlier in the bike struggled up the final hills, I rode by them smiling and enjoying the ride – no wonder those people who are really good figured that out.

In each of my previous races I had been so obsessed with seeing my average speed over 20mph for the bike, I forgot that the bike was just one component of the race. At Musselman, Patriots and others I tried to crush the bike; this time I said screw trying to crush it and just enjoy it. Instead of going out at a 25 mph pace, I went out and followed my heart rate and didn't pay any attention to my pace. By the time I finished the bike leg I was astonished at my results – I broke 3 hours!!!! Are you kidding me? Biking within yourself, following your coach, trusting the training can lead to better results than riding like a maniac????? Wow, how have I been so wrong for so many races – this was an incredible experience!

Bike Time: 2:58:57

Bike Grade: A+, I didn't ride like an idiot, and had legs for the run; I guess that's riding like a triathlete. I raced my race and lost my ego – athletically this is my greatest accomplishment of the past couple years.

Bike Nutrition: A+, I came off the bike with a blood sugar of 212 and was fully hydrated – perfect to start the run.

Run

"Ed it's now or never, you are either a triathlete or not, you either are dropping the rest of that bag of sh*t or you're not going to find yourself, enjoy the run, remember the journey and believe in yourself." That was my thought process as I took my first steps on the run course. 2 miles into the run, something was different; instead of my pace slowing my pace increased, instead of my legs cramping they felt fresher, instead of my back tightening I stood more upright; I was able to run!

Coach Orton had told me that losing a minute or two on the bike could save 10 to 15 minutes on the run, I'll tell you what, the guy is onto something! This guy who has totally kicked my ass over the past couple months knows what he's talking about. From long and slow to interval training everything had been preparing me for these 13 miles.

With each passing mile an article from my bag of sh*t was left behind; as the miles ticked off my confidence came back. Mile to mile I began to believe in myself again, I began to truly understand that this was my race and not about anyone else who was on the course. I began to run past my last few months of heart ache and found the inner passion I had lost. I started to understand my journey and I started to find myself.

Having legs for the run was simply incredible. Although this race was not about beating or passing anyone, I could not believe the amount of people I was able to run past. I saw a bunch of my fellow competitors slowing or stopping due to cramps and could only think of how I failed in past races. My stomach felt great, I had no cramps and I was able to run each and every mile. So this is what triathlon is all about!

For nutrition I used 4 fuel belt bottles so that each bottle would be more diluted. For a half marathon I can fit all my nutrition into two bottles, but the nutrition is so concentrated it makes it really hard to digest; the less concentrated nutrition formula really helped me out. By mile 10 I still had legs, still felt strong and went after it. I turned to the shaved headed 41 year old who had run the previous 5 miles and asked, "ready to bring it home?" He answered with a resounding "yes sir!" and the two of us ran almost side by side for the final 3 miles of the run – that was a lot of fun!

Amazingly the final 100 meters of the run was up a very steep hill. I couldn't help but think that this was a fitting end to an amazing journey. I truly had to climb a mountain to find myself again, I had to scratch and claw my way back to being me. To find my confidence and to find my inner strength I fell to low valleys and needed to navigate my way out of the darkness. I strode up the final 100 meters, clapped my hands 3 times in triumph and gave a gun show when I crossed the finish line. For the first time in my triathlon career I was as happy with my performance as I was with finishing the race.

Run Time: 1:51:45

Run Grade: A++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Final Thoughts

I was lost heading into this race; as a student, triathlete and individual. I had forgotten all the things that had gotten me to where I am and had all but lost every shred of confidence I once had. I had forgotten how to trust and had forgotten how to believe in myself. I went into this race questioning what direction my life was headed let alone my triathlon career. I began to wonder if I was truly inspiring anyone or if I would ever accomplish what I had wanted to. I felt like I lost so much over the previous few months that I didn't know how I would find my path to the future.

After I crossed the finish line I sat on a hill alone with my thoughts and shed a couple tears; finishing this race with confidence meant the world to me. My 2009 triathlon journey taught me to live in the moment; taught me to expose my vulnerabilities and reminded me that forcing something is hardly ever the right path. The journey for me was learning to let the moment come to me, not forcing the moment. I learned to accept that I can't control the future and that dictating terms or obsessing on an outcome does not achieve results. In the South Carolina Half I found myself, I found the confidence I need to let life come to me and reconnected with my inner strength. This journey has allowed me to once again believe in myself, it was a hard struggle to find that again but a journey that I will not soon forget – next up California 70.3 in March; this journey is starting to get really exciting and I think I'm finally doing it the right way.

Total Time: 5:33:16; a perfect day

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I Face This Journey – Alone

On Sunday I will compete in my “A race” of the season; the South Carolina Half Ironman. Coach Orton had wanted me to target a fall Half Iron so that we would have a full training block to prepare for it. However the much bigger race for me this weekend is the one between my ears. Thankfully, a friend of mine is traveling to Charlotte, NC for the weekend and will share the first 5 hours of the drive with me; but after I reunite her and her fianc√©, I am on my own until I return to Charlotte Sunday after the race.

From about 1pm on Friday until about 3pm on Sunday I will be alone with my thoughts, with my doubts, with my ambitions and with my fears. I have never before gone into a race without either knowing someone else racing or knowing the course. This time however I will be 7 hours away from my Charlottesville home and countless miles away from those who normally support me on race day. I haven’t yet determined if all that time with my mind will be a good or bad thing. The one thing for sure is I have no excuse to not be mentally prepared come 7:30 Sunday morning.

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself. "I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

I don’t speak much about my vulnerabilities on this blog and tend to be a fairly private person around those whom I don’t really know. I thought this was a great opportunity to break out of that and state perhaps for the first time I can’t predict the future and do not know what direction this weekend and this race will go in. I have no time predictions, I have no goals, I just want to race smart, enjoy myself and let my time fall where it will. After my poor run performance at my most recent triathlon I thought about walking away from the sport. I felt as if my effort should produce better results and couldn’t understand why my performances have been so lackluster.

Somewhere along the way I had forgotten why I got involved with triathlon in the first place. I had forgotten my goal has always been to inspire others, especially children with chronic illness, to push their physical boundaries and redefine what’s possible. Somehow since IMLP ’08 I lost sight of that, I became determined to get better, I became determined to use time as my goal instead of having my goal be a greater cause.

I’ve noticed a change in the past few weeks of training as I have tried to remind myself of my original goals. I have fought and struggled to get back to who I am, and have tried to find my inner strength to use my disease as a vehicle for inspiration. For too long I felt beaten and dismayed, for too long I felt like my voice wasn’t as loud as it could be. Perhaps this was due to not being as involved with Triabetes as I had wanted or not being able to post times that would qualify me for Team Type 1, I’m not sure. At some point I forgot that the person who struggles the most, who faces the most adversity, who doesn’t post the best time, but who races selflessly can be the greatest inspiration to others.

I had gotten so caught up in trying to get better, that I forgot how much I can enjoy the physical struggle. Perhaps I had been driven by my sometimes obsessive nature to be the best. Perhaps I lost faith in myself that just showing up and struggling through blood sugars was more important than any time I will ever post. Perhaps my dreams became twisted as I lost sight of what is truly important.

“To dream anything that you want to dream. That is the beauty of the human mind. To do anything that you want to do. That is the strength of the human will. To trust yourself to test your limits. That is the courage to succeed.” ~ Bernard Edmonds

I will never be satisfied with just going through the motions; I’m way too competitive for that. At the same time my current struggle is about embracing the challenge in a non-obsessive way. Enjoying those who I train with, not proving that I am the biggest “hammerer,” on the bike. Once I became obsessed about time I could not enjoy just a simple bike ride with a loved one – that is just plain dumb. Enjoy the journey, enjoy the ride, embrace the challenge but remember what’s important; how I lost sight of that last statement I will never know.

The close to 72 hours I spend in Ninety Six, SC will be about remembering what’s important, reminding myself that my goal with triathlon has always been about something bigger than myself. I will remember that I took more joy in receiving an e-mail from a Grandfather of a 3 year old juvenile diabetic that stated knowing the struggle I went through at Placid gave him confidence that his granddaughter could live a tremendous life than I did when I crossed the finish line. My goal on Sunday will not be to race for a time, it will be to race for my cause and to hope I can continue to provide confidence and inspiration for those who haven’t been sure if they can chase their dreams. For my MBA application essays I had stated if I inspired just one child to chase their dream all the blood, sweat and tears of triathlon training would be more than worth it. On Sunday with each swim stroke, with each revolution of my pedals and with each step I run I need to remember that. If that inner passion returns this weekend, everything else will fall into place.