Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Power of a Dexcom

One of the great things about the Dexcom is the wealth of data it provides for analysis.  I'm about as big of a data nerd you can find, so if I have data to play with to help identify needed changes in nutrition protocols I'm as happy as a soccer hooligan will be on June 12th.  Today I finally had some free time to download my Dexcom data from my long brick on Saturday and the data helped highlight some interesting developments.
The highlighted red area shows the bike portion of the brick, while the highlighted green area shows the run portion of the brick.  The first thing that grabbed my attention was the stark drop off in glucose measurements over the last 20ish minutes of my ride.  That steep slope coincides with the period of time my crash occurred. Putting two and two together it appears that I had not kept up with my nutrition prior to my last hard climb attack of the day.  The drop off in glucose meant that my body would not be functioning at its optimum awareness, so when I waved to the other rider the slight change in balance was magnified exponentially.  While I crashed because I'm an idiot for waiving while out of the saddle, the blood sugar dynamic probably impaired my judgement and ability to react.

Prior to starting the run portion of my brick I had to rebound my blood sugar.  Two things of note are the double dip effect of the rebound meaning that my body was super efficient in burning off extra sugars, but more importantly during a race if I'm low in transition I will have to stagger when I take in carbohydrates to rebound.  For the most part my blood sugars were stable or trending upwards for the better part of the run.  I may have to scale back the amount of carbohydrates I'm taking in as I'd much rather race at a blood sugar of 160 than 200.  But the Dexcom gives me the data necessary to be able to do that analysis.

Anyway from this I see that my nutrition is in good shape heading into IMCDA and with a few minor tweaks over the next two weeks I should be right where I want to be.  Finger pricks don't allow this type of analysis, only a CGM does.  In other news, I went to the ENT doctor today, my purple ear will recover to a normal state so I'll be as beautiful as ever!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Purple Ears & Graduation

Well it's official - I'm an MBA!  I now can call myself a Darden alumni; it's a bittersweet end to an amazing  2 years.  I'm ready to return to the "real world," for a while but will miss my amazing classmates, incredible professors and the opportunity to explore intellectual puzzles dearly.  What a 2 year ride it has been, and to close off this chapter of my life with my second Ironman will just be a perfect way to start the next book.  Although this chapter almost took an ill fated turn during a training ride on Saturday monring.

My parents, sister and Moose were in town for graduation weekend.  So I set my alarm for 5:30 am on Saturday to get on my bike bright and early to make sure I finished my hour and 45 minute ride and 3 and 1/2 hour run well in advance of the 25th annual Darden pig roast.  By 7:15 am I was out the door, blood sugars right where they should be for a ride where I was to attack the hills and recover on the downhills and flats.  Attack I did!  I went on a route that has several short steep hills, no climb greater than a 1/2 mile, but enough rolling terrain to really get a workout in.  On three of the longer hills I thought my heart was going to pound out of my chest as I was out of the saddle grinding away to get up the hill as fast as I could.

That style of riding was totally foreign to me, normally I look to crush the flats and try to mantain a steady heart rate during climbs.  On Saturday the goal was to have a screaming heart rate on the up hills and a descending heart rate on the flats.  I averaged just about 20 mph for the ride and realized that this strategy worked amazing.  A half mile per hour difference in my speed on the flats led to a 10 bpm lower heart rate - basically into full recovery zone.  Getting up the hills faster led to an overall faster average pace so the riding style worked great, but made my legs super wobbley.

After taking a left hand turn back onto Garth Rd.  I got out of the saddle to get my speed up and waved to a passing rider coming in the other direction.  The next thing I know I'm flying over my handle bars with my face breaking my fall.  Thankfully I landed in dirt rather than the road but I did crack my road cycling helmet and wound up with one of the weirdest bruises in the history of the world.

Yes blog readers, that purple hue that you see is a bruised ear!  I had a bit of cauliflower ear from high school wrestling, but no where close to as ugly as my ear is right now.  I'm seeing an ENT doctor on Wednesday to make sure I didn't break any of the bones of my inner ear.  The picture really doesn't do justice how freaking weird it looks to have a bruised ear.  And how I broke my fall with my ear I will never know.  My neck and shoulder are super sore today, and I have some nice cuts around my eye, thankuflly my Oakley lenses kept my eyes totally protected and my bike made it through in one piece.  I don't have any balance issues and I'm pretty sure I can hear perfectly fine, just a weird way to land I guess....

After I crashed the guy who I had waived to made a bee line to yours truly to make sure I was ok.  I stood up, dusted myself off and assured the older rider I was totally fine.  He made me smile to check to see if I lost any teeth and looked me up and down for any bones sticking out.  At the time I was more concerned about El Bastardo than anything else.  During the crash I remember seeing my bike above my head as I was still clipped in as I went head over handle bars!

While the other rider was talking to me I said "nope I'm fine and that's good news because I have a run after this."  He tried to convince me to put off the run but no such luck, IMCDA is too close to be worrying about bruised ears.  As long as I could walk I was going to get my run in.

I made it back to my apartment, pounded a gatorade to get my blood sugar back up and changed into my running clothes.  From there it was off to a 3.5 hour run.  I was anxious about this run.  Over the past several weeks I've had some major blood sugar issues affect my long run performance.  And as I mentioned in my last post the run I had in the OBX on Wednesday was the first run that I felt confident in since Oceanside.  My goal was to hit 21 miles in the 3.5 hours I had scheduled.  That distnace would be 8 miles greater than any run I've had since the Charlottesville Marathon in April '09 and I knew it was imperative to hit 20 so I had the confidence that my training was on schedule for CDA.

With that I left my apartment and set out at a zone 2 pace for 20 minutes.  After the 20 minute warm up I was supposed to run for 2 hours and 30 minutes at varying paces between zone 1 and zone 3.  I had strict instructions not to spend the entire run in upper zone 3, so I forced myself to vary my pace.  To help pass the time I varied my speeds in 10 minute increments, for one 10 minute set I'd run in upper zone 2, then in zone 3, then bring my pace down so my heart rate returned to the 130s.  The varrying pace worked amazinglly well and kept my mind fresh because I was thinking about stuff 10 minutes at a time rather than 150 minutes at a time.  My endurance strength was great as I was able to run sub 9 minute miles well into miles 18 to 20; I would have had no issues at all running a marathon on Saturday.

The killer part of the workout was 15, one minute speed intervals followed by one minute of a slow jog/ walk starting 2 hours and 50 minutes into the run.  Shockingly, I was cranking out between a 6 minute to 7:05 pace for the 1 minute speed intervals, drenched in sweat.  The Rhino was in full charge during the speed intervals and my muscles felt great.  At the 3:19 mark I hit mile 21 exceeding my goals and finished just over 22 miles in the 3 and one half hours.  This run gave me the confidence I needed in my endurance strength to know that I'll be ready for CDA!

So all in all it was a great weekend, purple ear and all!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Just the Rx - The Beach, Friends and flats!

Monday morning I wrote my blog post from a beauitful beach front rental house in the Outer Banks.  Darden has a tradition for the graduating class to spend a week in OBX each year as our final send off before we re-enter the real world.  Gone are the days of late night drinking and acting far younger than our age would indiciate as we go back to the professional world.  So beach week as the tradition is called is the last chance we have as MBA students to let our immaturity shine!  But I started the week with a melancholoy attitude, I was bummed out that my run on Sunday didn't go super well and was pretty nervous about all the lows I had been fighting off.

Monday, right after my blog post I set out for my run in OBX.  The first thing I noticed was FLAT GROUND!  I wouldn't have to face any of C'Villes rolling terrain, I could just sit back and focus on my stirde - just what I needed.  1 hour and 28 minutes later my 10 miles were  up and I was feeling great. For 4 miles I ran in zone 2 at an 8:48 pace and then cranked out 4 miles in zone 3 - 4a at an 8:24 pace with a 2 mile cool down - some of my speed had returned and my blood sugar stayed mostly stable throughout the run.

After the run I continued to fight off pesky lows; I decided to reduce my basal rate to 80% for a 15 hour period and that seemed to help keep my blood sugars above 70.  Also, when my friends went out to another houses' party that night I decided to stay in and go to sleep early like the old man I am!  Thankfully I finally had a full nights sleep and woke feeling refreshed.

The next day I had a killer 6 X 500 swim on tap.  A few of my housemates joined me at the local Y as I swam away.  My swim felt fantastic, I entered the water with a blood sugar of 198, tested after my 4th 500 with a stable bs of 161 and then finished up strong - the 80% basal rate seemed to be doing the trick.  With that knowledge I adjusted my basal rates to try and stabalize my blood sugars further.  With the Dexcom I'll be able to refine my hourly basal rate further, but the past two days my blood sugars have been more stable than they had been at any point over the last 3 weeks.

Wednesday was the big test, a 2 hour bike with 2, 20 minute time trials followed by an hour run.  I fueld up as per Eric's instructions throughout the day on Tuesday as each of my classmates were shocked by the amount of food I'm able to consume.  I think each of them asked me how many calories I consume per day, and when they would respond with "I wish I could eat like that," my retort was - actually eating kind of becomes a full time job so it's not as much fun as it sounds.  Although eating ice cream and still lossing weight is pretty cool.

So Thursday I woke up early and set out for a rainy bike ride.  I freaking crushed the time trials!  I covered 40 miles in 1 hour, 54 minutes; the first 20 minute time trial had an average pace of 25 mph and the second of 22 mph (into the wind).  Better yet my blood sugars were right at 205 when I finished the bike portion of my workout so I could safely go out for a brick!  I downed some water, got some confused looks from my friends and was off.

The run was mixed intervals, 8, 30 second max efforts and 4, 4 minute build intervals.  At no point during the run did I feel fatigued and my last 4 minute build was my fastest.  I was able to maintain a sub 8 pace for each of the 4 minute builds and my heart rate stayed lower than expected throughout.  Honestly, this run was the first time since before Oceanside where I felt like I could run again.  I'm not sure if my basal rates have been screwed up since then or what but holding a 7:45 pace with a moderate effort felt amazing.

The plan was to leave right after the brick workout for an 80 mile ride today, but then I remembered that my classmates and the time I spent at Darden is way more important than one workout.  I texted Coach E and asked him if I could switch my 80 mile ride to a 2 hour trainer session today so I could spend one last night with the Darden crew.  He of course said that was totally cool, so right after that text I grabbed a Bahama Mamma at our beach party and enjoyed some more time in the sun with individuals who I've gotten to know like family over the past 2 years.  My friends were psyched that I stayed and spending one extra night, waking up a bit hung over put my mind at ease and let me relax a little bit as I was starting to stress about the race a bit too much.  Now it's time to hop on the trainer!

Monday, May 17, 2010


It has been about 2 years since I was fully emersed in Iron distance training.  I had forgotten how much planning, preparation and eating was needed to complete a full week's workouts for this distance of a race.  Over the past couple years I pretty much got the half iron training program down pat - iron training is a whole different story.  My training schedule for the end of last week looked like this:
  • Friday - 40 minute continuous swim; 2 X 1000 increasing pace
  • Saturday - 100 mile ride (20 min zone 3 - 4b, 40 min zone 2 per hour), 15 minute brick
  • Sunday - 18 mile run:  2 mile wu, 10 mile zone 2, 4 mile z3-4a, 2  mile cool down
Friday's swim went off without a hitch.  Each of the 1,000 yard intervals was done in about 16 minutes, so all in all I swam 3,000 to 4,000 yards.  Saturday I woke up a bit later than I had wanted so instead of starting my ride at 8am as planned I started at 11am.  Sadistically I thought that riding during the hottest part of a very humid day would prepare me for any conditions I'd encounter on race day.  The thing I forgot - training isn't race day!  I sweated up a storm and stopped twice for an ice pop to try and cool down my core temperature.  I got through the ride without too much problem although I was exahausted by the end of it.  When I finally made it back to my car about 5.5 hours later I was so thirsty I drank the gatorade I had in my car which was about as hot as coffee, bad idea!  10 minutes into my 15 minute brick I threw my guts up and called it a day.

That evening I ate a pizza (yeah a whole one) had some more gatorade and pretty much whatever else I could get my hands on.  I fell asleep at 11:30 but was awoken about 6 times that night because of lows.  I took in close to 300 grams of carbohydrates during the course of the night but still couldn't fight off the lows.  The next morning I woke up, had my breakfast shake and a clif bar in my pre-run protocol.  I started the run with a blood sugar of 399, a bit high so I took in .5 units of insulin.  I skipped my first feed interval trying to get my blood sugar down into the 180 - 200 range but by the time I tested 6 miles into my run (52 minutes) my blood sugar had dropped to 104!  I took in a gel and a fuel belt bottle, jogged a bit, then walked for .25 miles seeing if I could spike my bs again - it was a no go, my blood sugar had only gone up to 130.  Knowing my bs had somewhat trended up I ran mile 7 to 8 and called it a day.  That turned out to be a prudent decision as the rest of the day and into the night I was fighting off low after low.

I forgot how hard it is to keep up with a fluctuating basal rate due to 10 hours of workouts in a 3 day span.  I'm working on establishing a few different basal rate protocols and am trying to be as vigilent with the Dexcom as possible (which really is an awesome device).  Right now my basal rate gives me 13.5 units of insulin per day - I probably should be closer to 11.  Today with some changes and on the flats of the beach (in the Outer Banks for beach week) I hope to nail my 10 mile run and not encounter any lows.  The key with Ironman training and diabetes is to not get frustrated, to keep a positive outlook and to know that I'm putting in the hours to have a solid race.  I got pretty down on myself last night after I couldn't finish my run - but I know my legs are fully able to run 18 miles, sometimes the best laid plans just don't work, I'll be ready and I'll stay positive.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Dexcom - First Thoughts & Impressions

When I returned from my trip out to California a month or so ago I strated to become really interested in Dexcom.  A few of the people I had met on my trip worked for Dexcom and the people whom I met who use the product had nothing but rave reviews.  So as I started to tool around the Dexcom website I was surprised to see an offer for users of the Abbott Freestyle Navigator.  My issues with the Navigator are well documented on the blog so I won't go into them again; the "special offer," had me very curious as to what was up.

So I did some more google research, called Dexcom and then called Abbott.  It turned out that Abbott was having severe supply chain issues with the Navigator and if your product was on the list for replacement they were offering cash in exchange for the old device.  Since that particular CGM never worked for me I gave them a call to see if in fact my Navigator was defective.  As we went through the motions of testing the product it turned out that over time the battery connectors fell out of the device.  By the grace of God I was able to return my Navigator for a nice chunk of change!  Maybe feeling deathly ill during the C'Ville Marathon in 2009 because of that thing was worth it - well actually the cash wasn't that much.

After I received my return authorization I talked to the people at Dexcom and receiving the device was potentially the easiest medical transaction EVER.  Insurance approval took about a day, and the Dexcom people were in constant contact to make sure I knew where the processs stood.  Less than a week after our initial conversation I received my Dexcom Seven + and was set to re-try the world of CGM!

Out of the box I was psyched at the clean, simple design of the device but also the intuitive nature of the interface.  I would like the receiver to be a bit smaller or perhaps in watch form (please oh please will a CGM manufacturer take a page from the Polar or Garmin play book and realize that a small device can be more technologial advanced than a big one - I would KILL for this to be in watch form).  But beyond the receiver being a tad on the large size it was totally functional and intuitive.

The big difference from the disaster that was the Navigator is the transmitter.  Unlike the Navigator the Dexcom has a full circle of tape around the infusion site (not dislike the minimed silhoute) and the applicator is less a Chinese torture device and more in the pen style.  The transmitter is also small and unobtrusive at no time has it woken me up at night because of how uncomfortable it is and after a week of wearing it including one half ironman it hasn't come close to falling off!

The accuracy of the Dexcom has been pretty darn good.  I have some graphs and stuff to post next week that highlight how the device works, but don't have the time to post all that jazzy stuff today.  The big test was when my Ultra Mini gave me error 2s right before the Kinetic Half on Saturday.  I was a little bit freaked out but decided to fly with the Dexcom.  As best as I could tell the Dexcom gave me directionally accurate blood sugar readings, showed a stable bs on the bike and a gradually declining bs on the run.  I confirmed those data points the next day during my 70 mile ride where the Dexcom was always within 20 points of my finger prick tests.

Over the course of the week the Dexcom alerted me to several night time lows, and allowed me to readjust basal rates that were causing some annoying bs issues.  Additionally it kept up with my blood sugars during a zone 3 - 4a trainer ride and maintained its accuracy throughout the week.  The Dexcom doesn't report rising or falling blood sugars as quickly as a finger prick test does but eventually comes back into line.  Only 3 times during the course of the week was my Dexcom more than 5% different than my finger prick test.

All in all I'm really happy with the device.  The technology still needs to improve before blood sugars are continuosly reported in real time, especially during periods of rapidly changing blood sugars.  But as a tool to adjust basal rates, reduce the number of finger pricks per day and provide insight into baseline basal rates the Dexcom is an amazing product.  Geeky graphs to come next week!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Learning To Focus - Kinetic Half Race Report

Quietly I went into the Kinetich Half Iron in Lake Anna Virginia this past Saturday.  I realized I hadn't talked about this race much, at all, when on Wednesday evening my Mom asked me what I was up to this weekend, when I responded "I have a race," she said "you do?!?"  The race was coming in the middle of an intense training block and I'm honestly trying to shift my mindest to races being training days with just a few more people and a heart rate that's a few beats higher and more steady.  So rather than put any expectations on this race I quetly preparred and was out to just have fun.

Earlier in the week I had e-mailed Coach E to let him know what my one goal for the race would be.  In each of my previous races under Coach E he has texted me the night before asking me what I want to take away from the race, what lesson I want to learn.  Rather than wait to the night before I wanted to focus on this goal during my last few days of training leading up to the half and really let his teaching sink in.  On Wednesday I e-mailed Eric:  "My goal for this weekend is to maintain a steady focus without getting too high, or too low and to have my fastest splits of the day at the end of the race. That isn’t a physical performance goal, it’s a mental performance goal, to no time during the race get down on myself and at no time during the race to doubt my abilities."

Coach E responded with some incredible advice.  His key inisghts were: a mile is a mile is a mile, you can't shorten a race by running faster and blowing yourself out, if your body is tense your muscles will prematurely fatigue and most importantly, identify a trigger to refocus.  My younger sister was surprised to hear me tell her that my goal for the race was to work on my mental focus.  During most of my athletic career I was known as the guy who you could throw a brick at and I wouldn't notice because I'd be so focused on the goal at hand.  The difference between my past and present however is that now my focus needs to be sustained for 2 to 12 hours, not for a play at a time.  During football maintaing my focus on the field was easy, a long dirve was 12 - 15 plays and maybe 20 minutes; after that I'd return to the sidelines, put a cold towel on my head, collect my thoughts then head out to do it again.  In triathlon, there are no breaks, there are no moments to sit back grab a towel, close your eyes and adapt - everything is done through continuous movement.

Coach E suggested that everytime I feed that I use that as my trigger to refocus.  I liked this idea, it gave me a tangible event to use to clear my mind and get back to work.  He also suggested that this would let me listen to my body, be intune with whatever was going on and learn how to control my heart rate throughout the entire race.  On the bike as my focus wained at the end of a 15 minute feed interval I would reach back, grab my water bottle, close my eyes for a moment and then outloud say "focus, focus on your race and worry about no one else, you are racing within yourself, not against them."  The results:  my best race yet!


I headed out to Lake Anna with Rami, a classmate of mine at Darden who was part of a relay team, on Friday afternoon to stay at his friend's lake house.  I had preparred my usual pre-race meal and all that good stuff and was also wearing my brand spanking new Dexcom (full report on that later this week).  We arrived at the house and I think I was honestly more calm and relaxed than I had ever been before a race.  Nothing eventful happened last week, there were no heart attacks on planes, no long drives to a race venue, no personal issues to deal with, just a nice normal week of preparation leading up to race day.  We were actually staying with the parents of Rami's fiances friend with whom we shared some tremendous conversations.  They were really curious about how I race and prepare with Type 1 diabetes and each had some amazing stories about their professional life - all in all it was a really nice Friday night.

My blood sugars were a little high after my pasta dinner but I got them under control by my 10pm bed time.  However, the Dexcom woke me up 3 times during the night because of lows so I didn't have my best night's sleep.  Whatever, it's not like anyone has a great night's sleep before a race with a 4:30 am wake up call anyway.  So I woke up at 4:30, filled my nutrition bottles, had my breakfast shake and was out the door to head to the race site.

The bs continued to climb pre-race so I went out for a quick one mile warm up run to try and bring it down naturally.  After the mile my bs had come back under 250 so I took in .5 units of insulin before my clif bar and pre-race mix and also skipped my swim nutrition for the day.  All in all I was well set up for a steady blood sugar day.


It was WINDY on Saturday; the gusts must have been reaching 20 miles per hour and the water was choppy.  Thankfully I'm a bi-lateral breather when swimming because I could only breath to the right during the race.  Everytime I tried to breath to the left side I was greeted with a face full of water and no oxygen.  From all accounts the swim was short, it sounds like people finished the swim about 4 to 5 minutes faster than expected.  I, as usual, got lost on the swim and found myself in the middle of no where trying to figure out how to get back into the race.  Maybe for my next race my goal will be to not get lost on the swim!

I exited the water in 28:40, good for 161st, I think I could have been a bit faster but honestly I'll take it, I was expecting a 33 minute swim so if the course was 4 to 5 minutes short that puts me right on target.  I was slightly disoriented in T1 so I took my time getting on my bike shoes.  My finger prick meter broke right before the race so I had to blindly trust the Dexcom and my nutrition protocol to get me safely through the race - yikes!


The real work began when I got onto the bike.  But right out of transition a fellow pump wearer started talking to me!  I had my full Triabetes race kit on so he was telling me he loved all the stuff that our organization is doing.  In fact, over the course of this race 8 or 9 people mentioned to me how awesome they think the work we're doing for juvenile diabetics is.  It was an incredible feeling to have total strangers talk to me about how inspired they were to see me out there as each of them had been touched by the disease in some way and wished they could get a family member to just exercise some more - that made this race really special.

As I started out on the bike I knew was ready for a pretty good day.  My back was a little tight from the softness of the mattress I slept on the night before but Eric's advice to listen to my body kept resonating in my head.  With each little twinge I felt I adjusted my legs slightly to alleviate the stress on that muscle; I continued to monitor my heart rate and continued to focus on my mind and body - lose body, tight mind I remineded myself.  My Dexcom finally started to give me blood sugar results around the 5 mile mark, 238 came up on the screen so I opted to skip my first scheduled feed interval.  At the 30 minute mark my blood sugar had dipped below 215 so I took in my nutrition as usual.  As I felt the bottle in my hand I repeated to myself the focus montra, got back in my aero bars and continued to pedal away.

At the 1 hour mark I was 21 miles into the race and feeling very strong.  I was biking conservativley and into some heavy winds but I felt nimble on my bike.  If anyone passed me I let them go, if I reeled anyone in I didn't think about them, I thought about my cadence, my heart rate, how my body felt.  No one else on the bike course mattered, it was just me and El Bastardo.  Well that was until a super cute girl (1 of only 2 females to pass me on the bike) and I thought about trying to hang with her and tried to develop a strategy to get her phone # during the race.  Thankfully that thought process was very close to a feed/ focus interval so I quickly had to get that thought out of my mind and get back to work!

I continued to speed along and knew that if I maintined my effort and focus I'd finally come close to averaging the 20 mph for a half iron I knew I was capable of.  But as Eric said, a mile is a mile is a mile, so instead of forcing the issue I biked within myself, checked my Dexcom, continued to feed and continued to bike smart.  Then at mile 40 - it happened, I realized that I was starting to learn how to be a triathlete, I realized that all the work that my Coach has me do that I'm pretty sure comes close to killing me is really paying off.  At mile 40 I felt stronger than I had at mile 1, at mile 40 I started to reel in people who had hammered past me during the race.  At mile 40 I actually sped up!

My pace upped as my heart rate declined, I continued to focus, I continued to feed, I continued to listen to my body.  At this point I also, for the first time in my life, got hit on during a race!  As I passed a woman spectator she said "looking good # 77 (my race #)" and followed that with, "and your arms are looking really good!"  That did make me laugh a bit and I said thanks as I sped away trying to finish up the last 10 miles of the bike leg.  I crossed back into Lake Anna state park and got to the dismount line in 2:45!!!!!  It was a slight awkward jog to the transition timing mat so my official bike time was 2:46, good for 106th overall! And better yet a 20.4 mph average!!!! I finally achieved one of the goals I'm been trying to achieve since I strated this sport, a 20 mph average on a long course - freaking awesome!


The run course was one of the hardest I've ever encountered.  There weren't any particurally steep hills, but each of the 3 loops started with a 3/4 mile up hill climb.  The best way I can describe the climb is if you go to a treadmill and set the hill incline somewhere between 2.5 and 3.5; not very much fun and takes a bit of extra effort to get your pace to where it should be.  This climb was also the only portion of the course that was shadded.  The rest of the course was roasting in a strong sun.  My first mile was done at a 9:14 pace, and my second at a 8:27 pace - perfect I thought, my heart rate was averaging 156 bpm, just 1 beat higher than I wanted; but somewhere between mile 2 and 3 something happened.....

There were no sponges or ice on the run course and even though it was early in the run, the water was already starting to get warm.  I couldn't get my core temperature down and at about the 2.5 mile mark I started to see stars and got really, really dizzy.  Learning from Eric's lessons of the past, keep moving forward so instead of forcing the issue and ignoring my body I listened to it and slowed to a walk to get my core temperature back in line.  As my breathing continued to be shallow I stepped to the side of the grass, stretched for a moment, closed my eyes and breathed slowly.  Forcing the issue now would mean ruining my run later on, take a step back to move forward, focus.  Mile 3 and 4 were done at an 11+ minute mile - dreadful but I think that decision saved my race.

By mile 5 I returned to a 9:43 pace and upped that to a 9:12 pace at mile 6.  I knew due to the heat, hills and no ice on the run course I wouldn't be setting a pr in this half marathon.  I also screamed at myself anytime I strated to think about my time instead of focusing on my foot strike.  A mile, is a mile, is a mile I continued to think to myself - forget thining about breaking 5:30, or 5:20 or 5 hours, just run, just focus and just stay in the moment.  I continued to use my success in short term focus by using triggers to reset.  In the end this worked out beauitfully.

With the exception of mile 12 all my splits after the decesion to take a step back and get my core temperature down were below a 9:45 pace.  My average heart rate during all those intervals were in high zone 3/ low zone 4 (amazing for a really hot day) and I was able to keep my blood sugars on a very slight downward trend for the entire race.  My half marathon finishing time was 2:07, a far cry from the disaster I had at Cali 70.3 but also way off from the great run I had at the South Carolina Half.  I know I'm capable of running much, much faster but given the envrionmental limitations I'm really happy with that run.  Given that heat I very easily could have full out bonked on the run but I maintained my focus and knew what my body was capable of.  In 70 degree temps I can run sub 8:20 miles, in 90 degree temps I can't - that will come in time but that time isn't yet.


5:29!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I broke 5:30!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  For some reason I have always felt like 5:30 is this huge milestone in a half iron.  It's like there are different goals the first is finishing which is a huge accomplishment in and of itself, then after you finish 6 hours is the target; but after you get your time to 6 hours a ton of work is required to break the next barrier, the 5:30 mark.  I don't really know how to describe the emtion at the end of this race.  Over the past 3 years I've learned how to manage blood sugars, am turning into an endurance athlete and am now understanding how to adapt what I was really good at athletically into an entierly new envrionment.  I've been training for 12 to 20 hours a week for the past few months and while I had a blast at Cali 70.3 I was pretty disappointed to return north of the 6 hour mark.  In this race I accomplished each and every one of my goals, my focus was the best it has ever been during a triathlon, I listened to my body and most importantly I raced smart.  I no longer need to gut out races, now I'm learning how to race within the constraints of my body to have a succesful and awesome day.  The small victories are starting to build up and now I'm ready to bear down and grind it out until the starting line in Coeur d'Alene.  The next 6 weeks will be intense but I wouldn't have it any other way - it's time to get after it.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Back To Normal (well for me...)

Not sure that normal and me have ever been used in the same paragraph let alone the same sentence; but my blood sugars seem to have returned back to normal.  After the weird spike after breakfast yesterday and a nice 75 minute trainer ride with some zone 4b efforts my blood sugars returned to a nice steady state.  Although I was fighting off some lows in the evening as opposed to the 300s I was battling in the days before. 

Now that the blood sugars have steadied themselves it's time to just sit back and relax as I prep for the Kinetic Half Ironman tomorrow.  If nothing else, the lead up to this race has been VASTLY less stressful than the lead up to California 70.3.  There have been no frantic calls to Continental to find out where my bags are, no scavenger hunts to find triathlon gear and really no stress related heading into this race (save a few weird blood sugars).  Kind of nice to do a Half that's just an hour away from where I live. 

The difference with this race, no tapper, it's smack in the middle of a huge training block and my recovery from the race - a 70 mile ride on Sunday.  I blindly trust Coach Orton and think his methods are incredible but I'm pretty sure my legs hate him.  I'm actually really intrigued to see how my legs are going to respond to a half iron with no taper - I've always wanted to try this.  During my college football career I always played better after a really hard week of practice - getting used to pain lets you play in pain!  Either way this is less a race than a long training day.  No pressure, no expectations; the only goal is to stay focused, and stay positive - oh and maybe reduce some of those transition times.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Blood Sugar Is Driving Me Crazy!

For the past week or so my blood sugar has shown no consistency and has had no discernable trends.  My blood sugar has alternated between a high day and a low day each of the pat 7 days; I've never experienced something like this and have no clue what's going on.  No matter how much data I collect or how actively I manage my blood sugar with insulin I can't get it under control.

Originally I had thought my 300 - 400 day on Sunday was due to all the salt and water I lost during my hellish 100 mile ride on Saturday.  I figured that the intensity of that workout caused my body's metabolic rate to go totally out of whack.  The previous week my blood sugars had been a bit funky but were only a little outside the realm of normal.  Monday after my 15 mile run my blood sugars were fine throughout the day, they never crested above 210 and I was pretty happy with how my body reacted to insulin intakes. 

Tuesday it was back to a day of highs, where I had to fight off 300s throughout the day.  I was able to get in all my workouts on Tuesday including a pretty hard swim with a 10 x 100 hard effort but my blood sugar was still in the 300s for a few hours from 9pm to 12 am, no matter how much insulin I took in.  Then yesterday my blood sugars returned to the normal range, I even had a few lows, including one particurally bad low around 12 pm. 

Fast forward to 9pm last night - my blood sugars crested back into the 200s (maybe a basal rate, maybe too many carbs at dinner).  I woke up with 2 low blood sugars below 60 last night and woke up with a blood sugar of 85 - seemed like it would be a day of steady blood sugars.  At 9:30 am I had my regular breakfast of 1 bannana, a 1/2 cup of frozen berries and 6 oz of odawala superfood; a total of 45 grams of carbohydrates.  My blood sugar seemed to be stable, until it spiked way up to 251 - I have the same breakfast just about everyday and I can't recall a time delayed spike like that at any previous time. 

This every other day trend is driving me crazy and I can't figure it out.  I'm nervous to play around with my basal rates because I seem to fluctuate between hi and low and don't want the lows to get too dangerous.  I have my regularly scheduled appointment with my endo tomorrow so hopefully we can come up with a strategy to solve what's going on.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My Quinoa Addiction

Over the past few months I have become obsessed with quinoa.  Quinoa is one of those superfoods with complete proteins that help your body build muscle, has 9 essential amino acids, is high in omega-3, has healthy fats and is gluten free.  Quinoa is commonly mistaken for a grain when it's actually a seed, native to Peru (a wikipedia search during a dinner party last night gave me that insight!) and is one of those foods that has kind of been neglected over the years.  But no longer, you can make some really tasty, nutritious and low glycemic meals out of this amazing seed.

At an end-of-MBA pot luck dinner party last night I made quinoa salad.  I've been eating this salad four to five times a week for the past month or two.  The great thing is it quinoa does not give you the full feeling that rice sometimes does, is great cold so its awesome after a workout and stands up to dressing better than other grains. And much to my delight my friends loved the salad and were really curious about quinoa, its nutrition benefits and more importantly wanted to get the recipe:

The recipe:

1 and 1/2 cups quinoa boiled in 2 and 3/4 cups water with salt to taste, after the water boils turn the burner to medium, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

1 can organic corn - remove quinoa from burner when water is absorbed add corn, cover for 10 minutes.

1 avocado
Chopped cilantro (I like to use alot but that flavor is up to you)
1 organic orange pepper
3 stalks of scallions
2 jalapeno peppers
1 english cucumber
Chop above vegetables and add to quinoa and corn in a large serving dish/ container

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt, pepper, cumin and chili powder to taste
whisk the above ingredients together and then stir into salad

The whole meal takes about 10 minutes of actual work, is highly nutritious and easy to bolus for.  A bowl of the salad has about 50 grams of carbohydrates and really is a delicious and healthy meal.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Heating Up

Heat and humidity returned to the South this weekend; while the later part of last week was beautiful with temperatures in the mid-80s and low humidity, the weekend had temperatures in the 90s with humidity rising by the hour.  It was one of those weekends that when you step outside you feel as if you walked into a sauna.  That weather is great for a day at the beach, for your first century since January, not so much.

Friday evening was one of my favorite social events at Darden, Darden Days.  The entire school gets bused out to King's Family Vineyard (with breathtaking views) for some great music, free wine and BBQ.  Thankfully my friends have finally accepted my complete tri-dorkiness as they only looked at me with a raised eye brow when they realized I brought my own food.  I love pulled pork as much as the next person but eating it the day before a century ride just sounded like a bad idea.  So I packed a container with quinoa salad (will post the recipe in the future) and ate a healthy and organic meal.  After a great night with friends I got to bed around midnight and was excited for the big ride the next day.

I got  a bit of a late jump on Saturday, I had wanted to wake up by 7am to get on my bike by 8:30 am but of course left my apartment 2 hours late.  I finally got to the Church parking lot I've been using as my staging area just outside of Afton, VA and started by bike ride around 11:30 am.  The heat was really starting to come on strongly by this point, and my climb up Afton Mountain was BRUTAL.  I huffed and puffed up the mountain and was drenched in sweat by the time I reached the top.  Over the first 15 miles the ride climbs 2800 feet - in the humidity that felt like 10,000 feet!  During the climb my heart rate crested into the 160s which set the tone for the rest of the ride. 

Two weeks ago when I did an 80 mile route over the first 60 miles I averaged 16.7 mph, on Saturday I gained .5 mph and upped my average pace to 17.1 mph.  Most of the gain was on the climbs which is huge, my legs are getting stronger climbing up the hills and I'm able to sustain a much higher cadence.  More importantly my blood sugars remained stable the entire ride as my nutrition was spot on (except for the salt).

Given the nearly unbearable heat on Saturday I didn't have close to enough sodium or eletcrolytes in my nutrition mix.  I ran out of Thermolytes and had to use my backup Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes.  Endurolytes have about 1/2 the amount of sodium in them that Thermolytes do.  Given that by the end of my ride on Saturday I was dizzy, had a terrible head ache and could barely see straight.  As my clothes dried I was shocked to see the amount of salt on them, my black bib shorts turned almost entierly white.  In a word I was hyponatremic.

The last time I had felt that sick after a bike ride was 2 years ago after my first half ironman at Mooseman.  I ate as much salty food as I could Saturday night but it wasn't enough.  The ride on Saturday took quite a toll on my body so my blood sugars were a mess on Sunday.  I was supposed to run 2.5 hours on Sunday which I tried to get in twice.  I woke up at 8:30 am, and was to my running route by 10am.  When I left my apartment my blood sugar was 240 - a tad high but not too bad to start a 15 or 16 mile run.  10 minutes later when I got to the parking lot I was going to start my run from my blood sugar sky rocketed to 460!!!! 

At 460 it just isn't safe to start a run because of dehydration and the serious risk of kinesitosis.  In the short run it is very hard to take in nutrition when blood sugar is that high so starting a run is pretty much a no go at that point.  For the rest of the day I battled highs but tried to be as conservative as possible with my insulin as I wanted to get the run in.  I had planned to go for my run again at 5pm hoping the humidity would break by then.  Of course at 4pm when I started my pre-run prep my blood sugar began to drop.  I left my apartment with a blood sugar of 220 and by the time I started my run I was down to 206.  14 minutes into my run my blood sugar had dropped to 130 so I turned around to head back to my car, when I arrived my bs had slipped to 80.  Prior to my run I had a clif builder bar and a clif shot - both should have sustained my blood sugar well above the 130 it dropped to.  The issue was from batteling highs all day long there was way too much IOB.  I also believe that my system was thrown so out of whack from the day before that my body wsa in active recovery mode which will also promote higher blood sugars.

Thankfully this morning I'm finally feeling a ton better so it's time to go out for that 2.5 hour run!