Tuesday, December 27, 2011

X Factors - Family Holiday Party!

Happy Holidays to all my readers!  I hope each of you had as fantastic of a holiday as I did.  Since I moved across the country family time has become increasingly more meaningful and special so this Christmas was extra amazing.  Especially since I had the opportunity to meet my significant other's entire extended family.

With each holiday season I am however reminded how tough family parties can be with the D.  From extra booze to your favorite Aunt's desserts bolusing is never easy.  Add to that a sporadic exercise schedule and a routine far from normal and you have a recipe prime for diabetes disaster.

On Christmas Day I went to my SO Uncle's house for her family's Christmas party.  Once there I was greeted with sausage rolls, roast beef on baguettes, baked bree and pigs in a blanket. In other words, a carb counter's nightmare!  When I woke up Christmas morning I did some hill repeats and made up my own cross-fit routine so had gotten in about 45 minutes of exercise.  For breakfast I had some greek yogurt and for brunch an omelet so I was a bit surprised that my blood sugar was 220 when I first bolused for the holiday appetizers.

After peeing no less than 5 times in an hour I wondered if my 5 unit 2 hour extended bolus wasn't enough.  Upon testing I saw that my blood sugar was 295 so I gave myself another 3 units of insulin.  5 pee breaks later my blood sugar had crested to 341 and I took in 10 units of insulin.  The next time I tested I was at 271 and for the most part hadn't eaten anything in the past 2 hours.  I decided to give myself another 5 units of insulin and told my girlfriend to watch out for the warning signs of a low.  Before leaving my blood sugar was still in the upper 200s so I took in more insulin yet again.

At that point I wondered if sausage bread really could be that bad for you or if there was any possible way I had eaten more than 700 grams of carbohydrates (or what my bolus rate would have translated to).  Once back at my gf's house I took in 12 more units of insulin since I was at 221 and had a bite of cheesecake assuming that I was headed low at some point. Finally my blood sugar dropped to 150 making me worry about a nighttime low but 30 minutes later I was back at 175 so I took in another unit of insulin and had a gel and some other sugar goodies well within reach.  When I woke up with a blood sugar of 281 I wondered if I was getting sick...

On the 26th I went out for a 10 mile run and finished with a blood sugar of 180 even though I had only taken in 1 gel and 2 fuel belt bottles of gatorade.  I felt my infusion site and realized it was a bit sore so I removed it.  Once I removed the canula I was greeted with a lovely 90 degree kink that for whatever reason didn't cause the occlusion alarm to ring!

I should have checked my infusion set far sooner than I did but I figured since the food on the table was so delicious that it must have been bad for you.  Live and learn I guess...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

X Factors - Red Eyes

Travel is pretty much unavoidable during the holiday season; especially when you and your significant other's family lives on the opposite coast.  Historically, changing time zones has been one of the most difficult variables to manage for my blood sugars.  Usually heading east I'll go low and heading west I'll go high. So last night it was with great trepidation that I tried Ambien for the first time.

I'm not a good flyer, even though I flew close to 100k miles during my time at Keas, I freak out just about every time my flight takes off.    Bumps make me break out in a cold sweat and god forbid the flight has more than a moderate amount of turbulence.  I can tolerate flying but frequently have to close my eyes and imagine I'm on a bumpy road riding my bike.  So I was excited to try anything that would take the edge off. 

But taking something that makes you stay and fall asleep has its consequences.  What if I encountered a low and did not wake up to the normal warning signs?  What if the effects of the medicine made me go extremely high or extremely low.  I'm nervous anytime I introduce a new variable into my system but was especially nervous to introduce Ambien to my system in an environment that I quite frankly hate.

So I got onto my Virgin America red eye, opened my bottle of water and swallowed the blue pill thinking of Neo.  About 20 minutes later I noticed a tingly feeling in my lips, took some food and then was out for the count!  For someone who hates flying this is a miracle drugs, bumps were met with the smile of a child on a roller coaster and the 5 hour flight felt like 45 minutes.  I did however sleep the entire van ride to my parents house and continued to sleep for another 4 hours once I got home!  But best of all my blood sugar was perfect!

When I got onto the flight my blood sugar was a slightly low 78.  I ate a kashi protein bar to up that a bit before passing out and landed with a beautiful bs of 98!  Upon getting to my parents house I tested again and was greeted with a 91 and haven't crested 125 all day.  Traveling and especially red eyes have always been met with blood sugar difficulty, I try and eat as cleanly as possible in the days leading up to them and get a bit of extra exercise but its never easy.  Good luck controlling those blood sugars as all of you travel home to your families!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Random Thoughts - Features that Matter

When I first received my Animas pump after years with Minimed/ Medtronic I was incredibly excited to be able to program my pump from my meter.  No longer did I have to awkwardly stare down under the table at dinner, contort myself in a movie theater chair or worry about lifting up my shirt just to get access to my pump for my bolus.  For the first few weeks I thought programming my pump from my meter was like the greatest Christmas gift of all time.  But as time wore on the bulk of the meter out weighed the cirque de solei act I perform to sometimes bolus.

That got me to thinking what features really would make managing diabetes easier.  I'm not talking all out revolutions like the artificial pancreas project just simple product feature updates that would have huge value at a low cost.
  • Pump programming from my cell phone - Several phone and health companies have been working on incorporating a glucose meter into a cell phone. That would be a huge help but what would also be useful and perhaps a quicker win would be an insulin pump that could be programmed from an Android or Iphone app.  Lets face it the interface of pumps are freaking awful; the amount of buttons I have to hit to perform a simple task makes a bolus seem like a lunar landing.  Cell phone apps provide a simple elegant cheap solution to improve the UX and make programming a pump more intuitive.  Plus my cell phone already has a happy place in my pocket so its not like adding another device to deal with.      
  • Size - My favorite glucose meter is the One Touch ultra mini.  Its far from the most feature rich meter on the market but what it lacks in bells and whistles it makes up for in ease of carrying.  Whether exercising or wearing jeans the ultra-mini meter takes up a fraction of the space of most other meters while doing exactly what I need (and nothing more).  
  • Readability - Although Animas markets their pump as the easiest to read because of its color screen in bright sun light its really tough to read.  Further, the ultra-mini does not have a back light and several other meters are hard to turn the backlight on.  One would think since loss of eye sight can be a major complication of diabetes  more effort would be put into readability.
  • When the lights are off - to my knowledge the only meter which has a "flashlight" type feature is Freestyle.  I thought that idea was GENIUS.  Having to turn on the bedroom lights just to test is annoying and can disrupt our partners.  Alot of the time rather than turning on the bedroom light I shuffle to the bathroom to test at night.  Not only is that inconvenient its dangerous.   That same thought process exists for movie theaters, or any other dark environment.  We should be able to test wherever we are, not be forced to find a light to test under.
Those are just some of my thoughts on features that would be a huge help at a low cost.  You guys have any others?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wednesday Wackiness - Business Lunches

One of the things that causes me some anxiety is testing for the first time with business colleagues.  I'm not embarrassed or nervous to test at all, its more the anxiety that in some way testing and bolusing will become a distraction.  After a business colleague knows "my deal," testing becomes routine as my office mates and peers will see me test and bolus multiple times per day.  But that dynamic changes when its a one off sales meeting, interview or other business meeting.

I think my anxiety stems in part from two issues:
  • In a business meeting when time is a scarce resource I don't want to take 5 minutes away from the task at hand to explain what I'm doing
  • And this is probably the bigger one - perception
The 5 minutes (if that) taken away from the meeting is easily over come; as long as the conversation doesn't rat tail into the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes (perhaps adding to my anxiety).  If that happens then 5 minutes could quickly turn into 10 if not 15 and greatly detract from anything I'm trying to accomplish in that hour.

But the bigger issue, perception.  In business meetings I want to be focused, viewed as attention oriented, determined and strong.  Although its a necessity for me to test and bolus prior to eating I never want to seem "distracted" during a business meeting.  Due to that I feel the need to explain what I'm doing (circling back to issue 1) which in itself is a distraction from the meeting.

So there in lies the challenge - excuse myself to the bathroom, test and bolus before the meeting (taking the chance I'll eat within 20 minutes) or roll the dice and deal with the anxiety...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Metrics - More Stabalization


Basal - 13.9
Bolus - 23.4
TDD - 37.3
Daily High - 41.74
Ratio Bolus:Basal - 1.68

Last week my blood sugars continued to stabilize as I get used to working out a bit more and am in my third month of operating the new pump.  I'm going to start tracking a ratio of avg bolus rate to avg basal rate.  I have a hypothesis that I may be using my boluses to compensate for a basal rate that isn't exactly perfect.  That may be why when I eat with less consistent patterns my blood sugar tends to either go high or low.

Also, the weekly high of 42 total units of insulin taken was in part due (at least I believe) to an infusion site that started to come out a bit.  While I really like the interface of the Animas pump the infusion sites I'm using are god awful.  I can't get the needle to bend the same way I could with the medtronic infusion set-up I was using and the insertion device was designing by a 3 year old on construction paper.  Who ever designed this insertion device seriously did no user experience testing.  I'm going to try and figure out a better option in the near future.

That's about it for Monday metrics, talk to you soon!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wednesday Wackiness - When You Can't Figure It Out

Some days I realize how little I or the medical community at large understands about an individuals metabolism.  Sure, the mechanics of a metabolism are well understood but the exogenous variables that impact the system at large are much less easy to define.  That's my nerd way of saying sometimes its impossible to figure out what the hell is going on with blood sugars.

I assume my fellow Type 1 readers have been there, after a string of great blood sugars I'll encounter a day where my blood sugars simply refuse to drop below 300.  In the past this occurred alot after 100 mile bike rides as I trained for an Ironman.  I understood that, my body was releasing a ton of cortisol to repair my sore and fatigue muscles but now that my long bike rides are closer to 40 miles than 100 I no longer have that explanation.  Is it a change in seasons, daylight savings time or perhaps the salad I ate went on an all night carb bender?

On days where I have 1 egg on whole wheat toast, some quinoa and chicken sausage for lunch and a salad for dinner yet have to take in 3x the amount of bolus I normally would to get my bs into a safe zone I just don't get it.  I know those days will pop up time and again and I know I'll probably never have an explanation for those days but that doesn't make those days any less frustrating.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Metrics - Some Ups & Downs

Daily Basal - 14.13 units
Daily Avg Total - 33.32
Daily Avg Bolus - 19.88
Weight - I think still 190 (I still didn't get a scale)

Was a very up and down week for my blood sugars.  I started the week on a nice streak of consistent blood sugars never going much above 150 or much below 90, but by Tuesday evening things started to change.  I was faced with a blood sugar that just refused to go below 300 that evening!  Made all the more frustrating by my dinner choice of chicken sausage and wild rice.  Normally my blood sugar would barely move after a meal like that.

Wednesday was much the same with my blood sugars hovering around 225.  Even a 25 mile bike ride done at an average speed of 22 mph couldn't get those pesky blood sugars down.  After a salad for lunch which saw my blood sugars spike above 400 I had, had enough and opted for a new infusion set.  After the switch my blood sugars became much more managable but I encountered some viscous lows.

The highs forced me to play with my basal rate a bit; the reason why my basal rate is about .5 units higher per day this Monday than last.  However, some further tweaking is necessary to really get it right as I'm trending low in the evenings and need to figure out where the extra IOB is coming from.  Further, I think my butt might be done as an infusion site location for a while.  I've noticed for a bit that my left cheek has been a bit less receptive to insulin than my right.  Now it seems my right is not a fan of novolog either so I'm going to have to use the side of my stomach for a bit.  Not a huge fan of using my stomach for a site but its better than high blood sugars!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday X Factors - Cross Fit

Each Friday I'll post a new story about something that has made me rethink how I have to manage my blood sugars.  The impact everything from eating out to exercise has on bs management can make this disease really variable.  This will be what I've learned from those scenarios.

Back in August I was itching for a new athletic challenge.  Due to life I didn't really have time to train as hard as I wanted for triathlon anymore and trying to fit in a century every weekend on the bike really just wasn't possible.  I still wanted to bike and run as frequently as my schedule would allow but I was dying to find something new.

One of the things I really missed over the past few years was a new challenge in the weight room.  From the time I was 8 years old until November of my 21st year I was a football player.  I lived in the weight room and got excited to push myself to lift heavier, faster and better.  To me nothing releases more stress than a good hard lift that leaves your muscles shaking.  But due to two shoulder surgeries, and some other joint issues I had to greatly reduce the amount of time I spent in the gym.  After 3 or 4 years away from heavy lifting I was ready to see what my body had left.  This would also mark the first time since my T1 diagnosis that I'd focus on high intesnisity exercise.

I had been hearing about Cross Fit for a while; CX sessions focus on a workout of the day which includes high repetitions of an Olympic lift, a body control movement like pull ups and some anaerobic activity like air squats.  The "box," as CF gyms are referred to, that I go to is LaLanne Fitness; founded by the nephew of legendary Jack LaLanne, the father of modern fitness.  The big issue for me was I had no idea how my blood sugar would react to a high intensity fast twitch focused session.

My first session was quite a learning experience; I did something like 75 push presses and 50 burpees; I couldn't lift my arms for a week, literally!  The blood sugars trended somewhat high during that workout but I just attributed that to nerves.  The second time I went to CX the workout of the day incorporated some more short sprints and a few other cortisol producing exercises.  Prior to the workout I had some muscle milk and had set my pump down to 60% of normal basal.  About 1/2 way into the WOD my blood sugar had spiked to 375!!!!!  I then realized this type of exercise would require a totally different protocol than long bike rides and runs.

I'm now three months into my CX experiment and while I still haven't mastered the kipping pull up my blood sugars are alot more consistent during classes.  As opposed to endurance training I try and start a CX class with my blood sugar around 120 (just in case).  About 25 minutes before class I'll have some muscle milk with non-fat milk and about a unit of insulin.  When class starts I'll reduce my basal rate to 80% of normal as the start of class trends towards aerobic versus anaerobic.  Then immediately after the workout of the day I take in 1.5 units of insulin (after checking my blood sugar) to make sure the extra cortisol in my system doesn't have any negative effects.  CX takes a totally different approach to managing blood sugars than what I was used to but its a blast!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wednesday Wackiness - The New Pump

Each Wednesday I plan to share a story about those moments where I think I have T1 totally under control until I encounter a new experience that makes me realize there's still more to learn.

For a T1 a new pump is a super exciting experience.  For more than 4 years every 3 days I had stuck my body with a large needle supplied by Medtronic, primed my purple pump and clipped the tubing into my infusion site.  For 4+ years I relied on Medtronic to essentially keep me alive.  I was able to put those infusion sites in drunk, hung over, in a rush, in the dark or when I wasn't feeling well.  But I had grown a bit frustrated with my Medtronic pump, I lost trust in the machinery working properly and since I do depend so much on the pump to keep me healthy I simply had to move on.

I flirted with Animas when I first got my Medtronic pump but my first Endo whom I had an awful relationship with strong armed me away from the company.  I had kept up on Animas' development, I liked the partnership with J&J, I liked that Animas integrated with Dexcom and I loved that the pump offered more flexibility in basal rates than Medtronic.  But.... what I did not realize was the small things can add up, when comfort with a system turns into habit its really hard to change.

Inserting my Minimed Silhouette infusion set had become second nature to me.  Much like knowing how to tie your shoes I had become so accustumed to the Silhoutte I could insert it in just about any situation.  Over the 4+ years with Minimed I had inserted this set at least 400 times.  I figured the Animas infusion set would be like driving a car; different make, different model but the gas is still on the right and brake on the left.  I was ummm.... WRONG.

The first time I inserted my Animas set it took me 30 minutes to figure out where all the pieces went.  I then went through 3 infusion sets before I figured out how to insert it properly.  The second time I inserted the infusion set I couldn't figure out how to prime the pump and the god awful Animas alarm went off at least 25 times letting me know there was no insulin delivery.  And the third time.... that's when the s*it hit the fan.

I was in San Diego for a wedding, after a one or two drinks too many and hours of dancing the gf and I were a bit hungry when we returned to the hotel.  I had enough insulin to last me through the night but not enough to cover a meal of Wendys.  I had brought 3 infusion sets with me, "just in case," knowing I hadn't had alot of success inserting the sites properly.  Thank God I brought 3!

On my first attempt the infusion set fell off when I removed the needle making the set useless to me.  On my second attempt the canula popped out of my skin after I inserted the infsuion set and bled kind of alot.  And the third attempt that's when it really got to me.

On my third attempt I was extra careful, In inserted the infusion set and began to pull the needle out of the canula but my hand slipped and the set did not stay in place.  At that moment I got pretty nervous knowing I would need insulin for the next 24 hours and knowing that I wouldn't return to my apartment until 9pm the following night.  with a half used infusion set in my hand I had to thread the needle back through the canula and attempt to insert it again. With sweaty palms, a racing heartbeat and a girlfriend nervous as heck in the corner I was finally able to get the infusion set into my body.

I'm now used to inserting the Animas set; but it took a while.  A seemingly easy and brainless task caused huge frustrations.  Each time I had to insert a site I was nervous for the first month or two of using my new pump.  The big change - I had to take the front level of tape off of the infusion site at a different step of the process than with the Minimed.  A 5 second task caused all my frustrations but that's what habit causes.  Sometimes you think you have this disease totally under control and then a 5 second task puts it all back in perspective.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday Metrics - Back in the groove

Daily Basal Total - 13.92 u
Weight - 195 lbs (total guess, I need to buy a scale)

Over the past month I've successfully reduced my basal rate by about 2.5 units per day.  September was a bit of a crazy month for me where I spent maybe a total of 5 days in San Francisco.  3 time zones, 3 weddings and a trip to Vegas took its toll.  Once the travel was over I had a 3 day string where my blood sugar barely came below 300; you can imagine how great I felt over those 3 days.  But that string of awful blood sugars was exactly what I needed to get back on track.

Upon the final return to San Francisco (post Vegas) I knew my weight was creeping ever closer to 205, that my basal rate was disgustingly high and that my aerobic fitness was a far cry from what my status quo is.  I frankly had, had enough and although my A1c was an ok 6.7 I wanted to be better.  With my general health as motivation I got back on the bike, upped going to Crossfit to twice a week and started running again.

My diet returned to focusing on vegetables and organic foods, I decreased my alcohol intake and upped the amount of water I was drinking. My blood sugars slowly returned to the 90 - 130 band that I like to see pre-meal and my absorption rate for boluses went way up.  Having a significant other makes it a bit more difficult to go hard core diabetic diet than it was when I was a simple Ironman Bachelor.  That difficulty also expands my food choices, who knew I was the only person alive willing to eat ground bison and quinoa everyday!

The goal is to get my daily basal rate back in the 12 - 13 units per day range.  Historically that is when I've felt my healthiest, I'd also like to get my weight consistently below 185.  Each Monday we'll see how I do with that!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Back in Silver & Black!

Hello friends, miss me? My past few months away from blogging have seen me go through some tremendous life changes both diabetic and non-diabetic. I've switched pumps, left Keas, moved in with quite possibly the world's most perfect woman, got back into training and attended my sister's story book wedding. Not a bad 4 month stint!

The big diabetic news: I'm now an Animas pumper! I began to grow frustrated with the quality issues I had with my Minimed pump and simply lost trust in the machinery. When you depend on a battery and screw to stay healthy trust is a pretty important thing. Once my third pump of the year started acting funky I had had enough and made the switch. I'll have more on the transition in a future post but lets just say after 4+ years with one device the transition was anything but smooth. But I'm up the learning curve and my fancy shiny, silver & black, pump and I are getting along just fine.

The future of Ring the Bolus: My time away gave me some great perspective on what I want this blog to become. The first 2ish years of blogging was great, I felt like I shared some really relevant information with all of you and you all gave me some great feedback. The business school came, the job at Keas started and the quality of my blogging fell way off. I care deeply about the diabetic community and want to share my successes and failures with you all. So some simple ways I'm going to do that:
  • Mondays - I will list my weight and current daily basal amount and highlight any big trends
  • Wednesdays - Stories of frustration, not a week goes by without a D Event that drives me bonkers; I have more than enough to keep Wednesdays entertaining.
  • Fridays - Training reports; I've started doing a bunch of different training stuff and the ways my blood sugars have reacted has been crazy.  Time to share the learning on all this!
Look forward to getting this conversation going again!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

We only part to meet again

After a few months of struggling with this decision I've decided to walk away from Ring the Bolus. I bid you adieu but will not say farewell; my desire to share my fight toward healthy blood sugar management remains strong but for the next six or seven months that focus is firmly on trying to help Keas grow.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my stories of triumph, failure and learning as much as I have enjoyed sharing them. Over the past four + years you have all given me the extra will-power needed to become a 2x Ironman finisher. And have all helped me with the most difficult obstacle of my life; my diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.

If anyone out there was even fractionally inspired to test their physical limits while fighting a chronic illness then one of my dreams has been accomplished. Thank you for letting me share my stories with you and for all the comments and inspiration you provided me. We will meet again but for now thank you and good bye.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Having a little confidence goes a long way

Sunday I raced in the Berkeley Hills Road Race, my first cycling road race. The crits I did in January were fantastic and alot of fun but I'm not the most graceful individual so 4 tight turns on a course with 50 other riders isn't the most comfortable position for me to be in. I was really excited to test my legs in a road race and was enthusiastic about it all week. The big difference between the road race and my tri two weekends ago, I wasn't nervous, I wasn't anxious; I was just psyched to have the opportunity to have some fun.

The contrast could not have been more apparent between the two events than in their respective days before. For the Half Iron I made sure to have pancakes by 10am, and dinner by 6:30 pm. Dinner was quinoa and buffalo for the half iron; for the road race; a big a** Taqueria Cancun Burrito. Yes that had my blood sugars sky rocket to 345 the night before the race (never said it was a smart decision) but it showed that I knew life didn't have to be "perfect," to have fun in a cycling race. I left Katie and her visiting friends around 9:45 pm after our huge burritos and a day of drinking some wine (yes I also had some wine the day before a race!) to get into bed for my 6am wake up.

Unlike a triathlon I didn't have to pack for 3 sports; fill up 100 water bottles with my nutrition or get to the transition area at the crack of dawn to have time to prepare. I simply got to the race site about 20 minutes before the Cat 5s were to start, signed in and hung out - pretty sweet!

Cycling feels like a huge grass roots movement; there wasn't a huge speaker blasting music, race numbers are pinned on with safety pins and while everyone has a sweet bike they aren't displayed as art pieces they are a piece of athletic equipment. Although unlike triathlon where I'm pretty close to the same height as most of the athletes I was a midget once again compared to the other cyclists - these dudes are tall! After taking 10 minutes to figure out which way my race # was supposed to be pinned on I was off to find a bathroom and get to the race start.

Race instructions were given, then the race started; just like that. No diving into frigid water, no getting punched in the face, just a clip and a pedal. I was a bit nervous right at the start and it took me a bit longer to clip in, I"m pretty sure it looked like this was the first time I had ever been on a bike.

The start of the race was pretty cool we followed a car out of the state park so I felt very much like a legit cyclist. Once we made it to the main road the car turned left, we turned right and were off!

For the first 5 miles or so I hopped to the front and tried to push the pace. I'm not yet well versed in the strategy of road cycling and some people had given me advice to just jump to the front and see what happened. I figured I could find another rider willing to push the pace with me and thin out the herd. In all about 50 riders started as Cat 5s, I think we had that down to about 30 riders by the time the "real" race started.

After the first fast 5 miles we were into Berkeley's 3 bears, bringing back memories from Lake Placid. I didn't really know the course so got caught totally out of position heading up the first Bear. As people were shifting into easier gears I had a water bottle in my mouth and was taking a breather. Within the first few hundred feet of the climb I had been gaped by the lead group; any chance for a top 3 finish was out the window.

Never one to give up I punched it trying to catch as many riders as I could. This course, NOT EASY! I think there was something like 1700 feet of climbing, most of it bunched together. After 1/2 of a lap where I pretty much rode solo to catch other riders I finally caught a few guys cranking away. This is where I learned the true beauty of cycling.

As I passed this group of riders, one of them hopped on my wheel. The idea in cycling is to do as little work as possible while still going fast. Drafting requires 1/3 the effort of actually riding as the rider in front cuts the air for you. The rider from Team Moustache and I took turns pulling for 30 seconds each, we were quickly catching other riders and having a blast doing it. Awesome learning experience and one that will have me much better poised for my next race.

In all I didn't finish first and I didn't finish last; I finished my first road race and couldn't be happier. Was an incredibly fun experience; can't wait to test my legs again on June 18th down in Santa Cruz.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Race Report: Napa Valley Half Iron - The Decision

I was dreading the Napa Vally Half Iron for the three weeks preceding the race. I knew that my fitness level was not as high as I'd like it to be heading into a race. I knew that my life had become busier than ever; that trying to build a business, develop a relationship and explore a new city had all taken priority over hours SBRing, and rightfully so. I knew that my passion for the sport was starting to wane and that my heart was not fully into triathlon anymore.

I proceeded like I would for any other race, I began waking up 15 minutes earlier each day starting on Tuesday. In the three days leading up to the race my sleep wouldn't cooperate and while I was waking up at 4:30 - 4:45 am I wasn't falling asleep until 11pm or later. The night before the race I had maybe 2 hours of sleep.

With blurry eyes, a splitting head ache and a pit in my stomach I drove to the race site early Saturday morning. I was silent for the entire drive, not because my intensity to do the race was peaking but because I was dreading toeing the starting line. It was becoming increasingly apparent that my heart and soul just weren't into the sport anymore.

Ever since my diagnosis of type 1 in 2007 I have fought tirelessly to prove to myself that I could accomplish whatever I wanted with a life changing disease. The way I mentally dealt with my diagnosis was signing up for an Ironman, and ultimately proving I could actually compete in an Ironman like I did at CDA. In my anniversary post I wrote that I was at peace with having diabetes, with having to test my blood sugars constantly and avoiding certain foods. I had mentally over come my diagnosis and had become 100% comfortable with everything it meant. While I still love sport and still love athletics I was realizing that triathlon was not what I loved anymore.

Once at the race venue the adrenaline kicked in a bit and for a few minutes I was excited to race. I went for my warm up run, got in my wet suit and did my warm up swim. But something weird was going on, I had one desire - to ride my bike. I did not want to swim and did not want to run I simply wanted to ride my bike, see beautiful sites, descend fast and climb hard. I stood at the starting line thinking how different it felt than starting CDA or even the start of a small race in South Carolina. Instead of feeling excitement and energy I felt dread and downtrodden.

We started in a time trial fashion, the fastest swimmer did the alleged 1.2 miles in 33 minutes (the water was brutal). My time was 42 minutes. I left the water my legs were killing me, I had cramps in my shin muscles, my feet arches and my calves. I tested and was at 118, I thought of stopping, I thought of not doing the one thing in the sport I still undoubtedly loved. My blood sugar spiked 6 minutes later to 154, I put on my cycling shoes and out I went.

From my first pedal stroke I knew this would be my last triathlon for a while. As I passed cyclist after cyclist I wondered why I didn't just focus on the one discipline that brings me almost as much joy as football did.

As I continued to ride the lack of sleep was catching up to me, my stomach was upset, I threw up a little in my mouth. I continued to ride, averaging close to 20 mph for the first 20 miles of the course, my back acted up a little bit but I pushed on. At one out and back I thought of heading back to the finish and skip miles of the race, just pull out without finishing the bike. I turned it into a training ride and kept fighting knowing I had my first road race the following weekend.

My speeds topped out at 28 on the flats, they slowed to 7 to 11 on the climbs. The course was brutal, my time 3:04, slow for me but respectful for a tough course. Not bad for a guy whose longest ride in the past 2 months was 50 miles. I can still ride, I can't still tri.

I got into transition, dismounted my bike and instead of jogging with my bike to my rack took a slow, long deliberate walk. The entire time I knew what was to come, the entire time I knew I was going to remove my timing chip the second I got to my rack.

I got to my rack, looked at Katie, smiled and asked "are you ready to drink some wine?" Her, knowing me so well smiled back and said "absolutely." She, unbeknownst to me knew for weeks that this would be my last triathlon for a while. She later told me she could see the joy in my face when I talked about cycling or went out for a ride but heard the dread in my voice when I would go for a swim or out for a run. She knew what I didn't yet realize, that I was ready to walk away.

I racked my bike, removed my helmet and tri top. I reached down, pulled apart the velcro and held my timing chip in my hand. It was as if a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders, I smiled as I knew it was time to take a break. I walked to the aid tent, and said "athlete 160 is turning in his chip." The two EMTs looked at me curiously, I responded "after doing something like 10 of these sometimes you just know it's time to walk away."

I smiled walking back to my bike. Triathlon has brought me so far, has helped me with so much has let me meet so many incredible people, has turned me into an endurance athlete. But for now, for this year I'm taking a break. I can't sacrifice what I need to, to train for tris and compete as I want anymore. Training doesn't bring the same smile to my face it once did, in a word I'm exhausted. For the next year I'll focus on what I enjoy so much. Its time to take a bit of a break; 3 days after the race I'm as happy as I was the second I turned in my chip, walking away was unquestionably the right decision.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

This is going to be painful

For the first time since my first triathlon I have doubts not about my blood sugars but about my fitness level heading into a race. I've prepared as well as time would allow but working for a start-up, moving to a new city, and well in general living life have greatly conflicted with triathlon training. I have real concerns about a DNF for the firs time I can remember. I don't doubt that I can cover the distance of a half-iron, I've been there, done that. What I worry is that by the time I reach the run my legs will be so fried that I won't be able to move and a 6+ hour half-iron just isn't my idea of a good time. I've proven to myself everything I could have ever asked for; I now race for fun and enjoyment - but is that possible when life has so greatly interfered with my ability to train?

I've put in between 10 and 13 hours a week of training for this race, I've gone on a few bike rides of more than 55 miles, a bunch of weekend runs of 10+ miles and have gotten in some ok swims. The last time I had the opportunity to do a brick workout was some 2+ months ago and I've maybe hit 2 or 3 double workouts in a day over the past month and 1/2. At times I've been functioning on 4 hours of sleep and poor nutrition and other times I'll forget to drink water at work. Essentially, I've transitioned from a grad school student who had it made to a guy working his butt off to make it all over again. Kudos to all of you out there who have balanced life with triathlon for so long!

I honestly don't know what to expect going into Saturday. Part of me wants to bail on the race and just drink wine. Part of me says go out in a blaze of glory and just hammer the bike. Yet still part of me says go out there and race like a rational triathlete that has fitness even if its not to the point I'd like it to be.

I drove up to Lake Bayressa to ride the course on Sunday. I cut off an 8 mile out and back and did the 40 miles in about 2 hours. Not bad for a training ride but I have no clue if I can run after. Bricks take something I don't have right now, time. I have serious doubts going into this race after leaving CDA with so much excitement and anticipation for continuing to improve in the sport. I'm 4 pounds lighter than I was at CDA; have been running faster for distance than I ever have before and have been doing great on my days on the bike. At this point I just don't know if I can put it all together on race day and if I have the fitness to even put myself in position to do well. I can hold it together and push through but I was ecstatic last year when I finally turned the corner and was able to compete, not gut it out. Saturday might be another one of those painful days that takes me a bunch of steps back instead of a step or two forward - guess we'll see.....

Friday, April 22, 2011

All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure

Mark Twain is the inspiration for this Triathlon and racing season. The combination of Coach E rubbing elbows with the rich and famous as he promotes Born To Run and my decision to work for a start-up post grad school has had me training myself. I'm self motivated enough to train consistently so getting out the door is never an issue. What is an issue is the ignorance I have for how important recovery is. My biggest need for a coach is to hold me back some so I'm not training till I throw up every day. But who am I to argue with Mark Twain, if ignorance and confidence are the recipe for success then this is sure to be my most successful season!

That ignorance was on full display a few weeks ago. With tired legs and a groggy mind I tried to push myself through a speed interval run. My goal was to run 6, 3 minute intervals at a sub 6:55 pace. I barely could muster the turn over to reach a 7:05 pace for those intervals and realized that my muscles were flat out fried. Since that time I've scaled back the intensity and gone for miles or just enjoyment and the results seem to be great.

My weight is down 4 pounds from IMCDA, I'm running faster for distance than I ever have and my bike continues to get stronger. Consistency in training has been a huge issue so I'm not sure how fit I'll be for my first half iron next week but I know my ability to perform is there. Working at least 75 hours a week really puts a dent in the consistency to train so I've had to be creative about what I can get in. This Sunday I'm headed up to the Napa Valley Half Iron course to check out the bike leg and see what I can reasonably expect on race day.

I signed up for this race with the intent of placing in the top 10, full discloser and the pressure is on. Had I continued working with Eric with the same consistency we had going into IMCDA there isn't a doubt in my mind a sub 5:15 half iron was within my grasp. Now I'm not sure, part of me is just praying I can go sub 5:30 again but part of me wants to push as hard as I can go to see what I can accomplish.

My blood sugars have been rock solid in training. The work I did to figure out how to train with blood sugars below 170 has paid huge dividends. I'm feeling much more awake, aware and consistent during longer days and my body is recovering a bit more quickly. The need for lower carbohydrate intake also helps me avoid some GI distress which I encountered in the past. Not entirely sure what to expect on the bs front on race day so time will tell.

So with that I have the confidence that I can perform and complete ignorance when it comes to my level of fitness for the start of this season. April 30th may be an incredibly painful day but I'm going into it with the same goals I had when I signed up for the race. The following week I'll race in my first road classic, 33 miles in the hills of Berkeley. I know I'll have fun in the races and I know I'll be racing for a cause, with the two most important things deeply ingrained in the reasons I do endurance sports its now time to translate that into some results.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I have become what I swore never to be....

A proud owner of a Cervelo!!!!

After two years lusting over sweet road bikes I finally bit the bullet and joined the legion of espresso drinkers. No longer will I be jealous of those on sweet carbon frames happily descending down Mt. Tam. No longer will I be terrified I'm going to be jilted off El Bastardo gripping my brakes for dear life as I fly down the descent to Stinson Beach. I now can go on bike shop group rides, happily shave my legs (too far?) and interject words like cobles, hammerhead and preem into my daily vocabulary. If Ksfka were writing today the Metamorphosis would not be about turning into a beetle, it would be about turning into a Roadie!

I still have had the opportunity to ride my beautiful new Cervelo R3 yet, that will come in Paso Robles this weekend. For now the yet to be named new steed is in a separate room from El Bastardo, I can't have the old guy getting jealous of his new brother.

Time to have some fun!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Riding the Queen K

Few times in life an athlete has the opportunity to compete in or train on the most famous venue their sport has to offer. Baseball had the old Yankee Stadium, Basketball Madison Square Garden, Tennis has Wimbledon, runners have Boston and triathletes have Kona. The Queen K represents the storied history of triathlon, it represents countless hours of sacrifice for those who have qualified. One stretch of highway signifies the thousands of stories that Iron distance races capture from Rudy Garcia to Dave Scott to dozens of others whose stories that only family and friends know. Yes, it was only a training ride, but the fact that I was incredibly lucky to train on such hollowed grounds was not lost on me.

I was in Kona for my girlfriend's first triathlon. Nemo crushed the race and did outstandingly well. Her main goal was to not crash on the bike; with the help of Bike Works in Kona I was able to rig together a make shift water bottle holder for her stem. Nemo still isn't comfortable reaching down while riding so not having to move her hands too much gave her a ton more confidence on the bike. With how hot it is out in Kona water was key. Without going into too much further detail she had a fantastic first race that surely won't be her last.

We arrived to Kona on Thursday night and I picked up my bike Friday. Giddy like a school-girl I walked into Bike Works to pick up my Cervelo S1 that I had rented for the weekend. I'm in the market for a new road bike and the Cervelo R3 is high on my list; so testing out an S1 on the road would give me a good idea of fit and feel.

Saturday I woke early, donned the Spandex and was ready to ride. On tap for the day was 65 miles of the 112 mile Ironman Course leaving from Waikoloa and heading north to Hawi for an out and back. The first 5 miles or so were spent adjusting the saddle height and forward position once I felt kind of dialed in it was time to just flat out ride.

My first impression of the Queen K is that it is a deceptively hard ride. There aren't any steep climbs, the roads are really smooth and one would be hard pressed to find a technical turn. What makes this course brutally difficult is the wind, heat and lack of change in landscape. Riding through the lava fields is like riding on the moon, the landscape is like nothing I have ever seen and the wind blows through it without challenge. In the distance you can see Maui, but the vision looks like a mirage, its simply a beautiful backdrop that never seems to get bigger or smaller.

Once through the town of Kawaihae the ride became brutally difficult. I was greeted by a wall of wind that had me struggling to keep a pace above 15 mph. Determined to make it to the turn around point I pushed on. About 5 miles from the town of Hawi I was greeted by a friendly face tearing down the other side of the Queen K. Matt, the husband of a TNT teammate of Nemo was doing the same ride as me. He thankfully added 5 miles to his ride and rode into Hawi with me - I was struggling at that point.

At the turn-around I grabbed a coffee, an apple banana, a smoothie and some extra water before hoping back on for the rest of the ride. On the 30ish miles out to Hawi both Matt and I had a spartan 2 water bottles, 10 miles into the return trip we had gone through that amount of water! Once the wind was at our backs the pavement heated up. I could barely get in enough water to keep my focus and to stay hydrated. In total I went through 8 water bottles on the return 30 miles - 4 times the amount of water I needed on the way out; weather makes this course difficult, and weather is something a rider has no control over.

On the way back I did my fastest mile ever - 1:22, on a flat or slightly downhill portion of the course with the wind at my back. The way out took me 2+ hours, the way back took me less than an hour and 1/2. The Queen K let me realize how truly special those pro-triathletes are. The Queen K is not friendly, the course is unpredictable and demands you be prepared for the toughest obstacles a rider can face; heat and wind. After 60 miles I have a whole new respect for those who have qualified for and competed at Kona.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Another Year, Another Apirl 2nd, More Lessons & Memories

It has now been four years since the April 2nd I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Each passing year has brought new perspective, new lessons, new moments of fright and new moments of triumph. As I reflect back on this past year I'm not sure I could have asked to accomplish anything more, with or without the big D. Graduation from a prestigious MBA program, gaining a job with a start-up in a field I was dying to break into, moving to the West Coast, accomplishing my goals at Ironman CDA, becoming more involved in Triabetes and meeting a fantastic and wonderful woman. The difference with this past year from each of the previous, in no way were any of my accomplishments "over coming" diabetes, I simply succeeded while having the disease.

After four long years of struggling with this disease, analyzing every blood sugar reading, every carbohydrate I've taken in I've reached a place where I embrace the disease. It is an incredible juxtaposition to say I've "embraced a disease," but I know how food will affect me, know what my body can accomplish at a given blood sugar and know what symptoms predict what my blood sugar will be. As I gaze out my window in Kona I think perhaps I've reached diabetic enlightenment.

"Chaos is inherent in all compounded things. Strive on with diligence." ~ Buddha

I've soaked in every lesson I could about the management of diabetes, asked as many questions as possible and put myself through nutrition experiment after nutrition experiment. Each opportunity to learn something new about blood sugar management has made me more comfortable with the disease. It has since turned from a fight to a relationship. I've become comfortable with the ebb and flow and know that at no time will my management of this disease be perfect.

After four long years I thank this disease for the world it opened my eyes to, I thank this disease for every opportunity it has presented. In no small way this disease changed me; and while my life has been fundamentally altered I would like to think I took the negatives this disease presented, embraced them and found a way to help them make me a better person. Now on my 4th anniversary of my diagnosis I'm hoping on a bike and riding into the blazing sun on the Queen K in Kona not worried about nutrition, not worried about the heat; simply thrilled that I have the opportunity to ride a stretch of pavement that all triathletes sacrifice so much for, even if its just a training ride for the day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How to break into road racing?

For the past few months I've been trying to find out how to break into road racing in Norther California.  The scene is super active out here but unlike alot of triathlon clubs there aren't meet and greets, happy hours or kick off meetings.  Pretty much people show up at a local bike shop, begin ridding together and then eventually land on a team, or so I think.  Problem is my work schedule is so crazy that it is next to impossible for me to commit to a Saturday shop ride and further I only have the Cannondale I built to ride on.  So a day on the Cannondale means a day where I can't go aero on El Bastardo.  A new road bike would greatly help this problem but for now I'm kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place.

A few weeks back I was fortunate enough to meet up with a guy on Team Roaring Mouse as I was trying to find the entrance to the GG Bridge.  Brian and I had a great ride together, I e-mailed the President of the team and thought I was all set to meet some great people.  The following week was the team's once quarterly meeting but sadly I was stuck at work until 10pm.  I've since joined the team's message boards but honestly have no clue how to hook up with some riders to go to a race with.

I'm utterly baffled by what happens at a road race and have no clue what the strategy is like so I'd really like to go to my first one with someone with some experience.  Knowing me as soon as the gun goes off I'm going to hammer away but I know that isn't what I should do at all.  So some experiential wisdom would greatly help me in this pursuit.  Alot of the teams out here say come meet us at a race to network with us - problem is I have no idea how to even register for these races.  Plus I'm not sure what category I should race, with only 3 crits under my belt I'm assuming I start as a Cat 5 but haven't a clue.

So if there is anyone out there who wants to throw a triathlete a bone I promise to show you that I have handling skills, won't bring an aero bottle and know to leave the aero helmet at home.  I'll even wear shoes that ratchet closed, bib shorts and if it's cold even have a pair of knickers to toss on.  Really I just need someone in NorCal to show me the ropes so I can start racing.  My goal was to race in the Regaldo/ Warnerville road race this Sunday if anyone who reads this is headed out that way.  I might be on an old Cannondale with a bunch of mis-matched parts but everyone's got to start somewhere.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Small Changes - Big Results

At the beginning of my most recent training cycle I decided to conduct a little experiment on my blood sugars.  The goal of the experiment was to identify what happens to my blood sugars if I cut out processed or refined foods (with the exception of clif bars) from my diet while ramping up cardio exercise.  The results after a week have been astounding!

I eat pretty healthily as is; normally my breakfast is a cup of store bought greek yogurt with fruit or ezikuel cinnamon raisin toast with almond butter, a clif mojo bar as a mid-morning snack, a salad or something similar for lunch, fruit in the afternoon then dinner which ranges from quinoa with chicken sausage to black beans to an evening out.  I was growing frustrated with some higher than I would like blood sugars in the morning and after lunch while my evening blood sugars remained pretty stable.  I knew the main difference between dinner and my other meals was that I was controlling everything that went into the meal so could cut any extraneous blood sugar demons.

So I made some slight changes in the morning instead of store bought greek fruit yogurt I'm mixing in fresh berries to plain greek yogurt with some chia seeds and almond slices.  For snacks I'm having almost exclusively organic fruit (awesomely provided by Keas) and for lunch I'm baking a sweet potato each evening and heating it up the following day and for dinner I'm sticking with quinoa and a lean protein like chicken sausage, turkey meatballs or ground buffalo with peas and avocado.  Thus far the results have been awesome.

The highest blood sugar I've had has been 235 and that's after a meal, most of the time my blood sugar has ranged between 75 and 135, and I'm running into far more lows than highs.  Any residual effects of high blood sugars are just about gone, no stomach aches, no head aches and my vision is greatly improved.  Plus I feel more myself with a ton more energy.  And my basal rate has dropped 1.5 units of insulin per day over the past 10 days!

It has taken me about 3 years of refining my diet to get to the point of actually really enjoying a totally clean way of eating.  Although I still crave (and sometimes eat) french fries after a long ride the days of eating fast food have been long behind me.  Small incremental changes over a period of three years has let me get to this point and if eating like this 90% of the time keeps the ill effects of crappy blood sugars away I'm all for it.  Will keep you all updated on how this progresses but if my blood sugars continue to stabilize I might have to write a diet book!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

If you ride your bike enough....

If you ride someone rides a bike almost everyday they are going to encounter all sorts of things during their travels.  Some of the things encountered will be awesome and some of them terrifying or death defying.  The wide range of scenery one can see during a bike ride and the different terrain faced are aspects of cycling that make it so awesome.  But over the past few weeks I have had way too many of those death defying experiences; today was perhaps the worst of them.

My string of crazy things happening on a bike without crashing started a few weeks ago during the second early bird crit.  They continued when I did the Geyser ride up in Healdsburg, CA.  During the fast and wet descent I came across a cattle grate that was hidden by the fog.  Crossing the grate at 40+ mph had my front end slide out and I was lucky enough to be relaxed to coax my bike back to control.  Sadly, that was the easiest and least scary of my string of weird luck.

Two weeks ago I was descending from Mt. Tam/ Muir woods with great control and comfort on my bike when all of a sudden.... my rear wheel popped out of the drops!!!!!  My rear wheel did nothing to balance my bike at that point as it was flopping like a fish out of water while still stuck in the chain.  I shifted my weight forward, didn't panic and gently feathered the front brake.  While my bike was skidding down the steep hill I was able to unclip and safely skid to a stop.  3 bikers behind me stopped and said "holly f*ck what just happened, are you ok?" and then said "I cannot believe you stayed up."  Apparently my uni-cycle skills are top notch.

Then this morning after weeks of staying up in situations where I almost certainly should have gone down it happened.... I finally went down.  No this wasn't during a morning training ride or even an all out hammer fest with a cycling club, it was on my freaking commute.  Nothing makes crashing worse than doing it on a crowded street looking like a turtle on its back as you try and stay up.  I'm fighting off a bit of a cold so my mental focus isn't as sharp as usual.  Normally I try and avoid Market Street at all costs as I think it is one of the most dangerous streets to bike on in the world (although the hundreds of bikers who take it daily may disagree). 

One of the things that makes Market so dangerous are the trolly tracks in the middle of the street - which oh by the way are the exact width of a 700c road bike wheel (smart city planning).  I've succesfully avoided said tracks for my 5 months living in San Francisco but today was a different story.  As I looped around a bus pulling to the curb my mind forgot about the tracks for a moment, next thing I know my rear wheel is being grabbed by the iron from hell and I'm gyrating my body to try and set it free.  Next thing I know I shoulder check the bus I was trying to get around, bang my knee and do a  side roll that would have gotten negative points from the Russian judge to avoid flipping my bike over.  As I go to pick my bike up and wheel it to the curb it won't move.  Once safely on the sidewalk I realized I had totally bent my wheel's rim!

So not only do I have a bruised knee and just crashed into a bus I had to load my bike onto my shoulder and carry it for a 1/4 mile to my office!  Not the best way to start off a Wednesday; thankfully was able to find a replacement rear wheel for $40 online for my single speed.  As I sit here with a bruised knee and elbow which could have been far worse I ponder how I crash on a commute but can stay up when my rear wheel pops out going down a steep descent.  The mysterious of biking continue.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Representing InsulinDependence at TCOYD

Saturday morning I had the privilege of representing InsulinDependence and Triabetes at the Taking Charge of Your Diabetes (TCOYD) event in Santa Rosa.  Given my recent schedule I haven't been as active with Triabetes as I would like.  I had to bail on the Carlsbad Half-Marathon weekend because of work and haven't been able to advice the 2011 captains to the degree I would have hoped for.  When Nate contacted me to man the table at the conference I was 100% game.  Plus it was a way for me to work on my BD skills without a suit on!

I introduced ID to each person who walked by the booth with a smile and the simple statement, "we're a national non-profit that promotes active lifestyles for people with diabetes."  What was really special about the event was the number of people who had a light bulb go off with that simple sentence.  Whether they were diabetics themselves or parents of diabetics the knowledge that there is a social network of people who face the same challenges made their daily struggles seem somehow less ardent.  Through my role at Keas I'm learning how important social networks can be in behavior change.  Diabetics know how important it is to live a healthy lifestyle but sometimes there isn't a ton of guidance on what a healthy lifestyle is when you're working with artificial insulin.  The things that work for Joe Smith down the street may be entirely different for Debbie Diabetes.  The collective wisdom in ID and on Phrendo makes it a bit easier to figure out what will work and what might not.

One particular story made the hour drive more than worth it.  I met a woman whose 11-year-old son was diagnosed with type 1 sometime in December.  Her son as she described him was a "super tough kid," with an untamable adventurous spirit who would be the "first to jump out of a plane," on a skydiving trip.  Her eyes totally lit up when I told her about the triabuddies program and the support network that is so important to ID.  In speaking with her I was reminded 1,000 times over how incredible the non-profit I'm a part of is and how influential Peter's vision is in the diabetic community.  As always I'm just psyched to be a small part of the mission and the growth of the organization.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

These legs were made for climbing

One of the things I did not fully appreciate before moving to California was how incredible the cycling would be.  Sure I had heard that Marin County was a cyclist playground but I assumed that just meant a quick spin over the Golden Gate Bridge would let one ride any number of routes.  I failed to understand that any one of those routes could be the best ride a given cyclist had ever been on.

It is almost becoming a cliché that after each long ride I do from my new home I finish and say, “that was the best ride I’ve ever been on.”  Saturday, may truly take the cake; I can’t say my Saturday ride was the most fun I have ever had on a ride but was by far the most challenging, zone 5 inducing, suffer fest I have ever had the privilege of testing myself on.

Poised for a day of cycling and wine tasting my new partner in triathlon crime, Little Nemo, and I left SF for Healdsburg around 7:45 am.  After a quick stop at Philz coffee we were on the road and excited for the days pavement.  Once at the parking lot of the Healdsberg City Hall we headed our separate ways; she was off to tackle the flats and I was off, like my normal idiotic self, finding the hardest ride I could in the general area.
Prior to heading up for the weekend I had come across the Sanata Rossa Cycling Clubs website which boasted the 10 greatest rides on their websites.  I was up for that Pepsi Challenge and of course had to go with one of the 3 rides that was listed as extremely challenging.  It just happened that the ride they described as the “quintessential Sonoma ride,” also left from the Healdsberg Court House, so I was sold.

The Geyser ride was unlike any I had ever done before.  My trials and tribulations on Afton Mountain and the Blue Ridge parkway came early in the ride.  After the first 20 to 30 miles training in Virginia I’d reach easier terrain so I was freshest when the going was hardest.  Tackling the 7 sisters provided outlets of relief throughout the climbs and was met with some of the most majestic views I had ever seen.  The Geyser Ride was a different story entirely.

Geysers starts off through a beautiful path in wine country.  I passed by vineyard after vineyard, pig farms, wild turkeys and gorgeous rolling  terrain.  I averaged just about 20 mph for the first 20 miles and was feeling strong.  After mile 20ish I entered River Rd and the terrain took a dramatic turn.  While still beautiful I felt like I was scaling Caradhras trying to save Middle Earth.

I climbed deeper starring down into a beautiful valley pushing my quads as hard as they could go.  About 3 miles into the 12 mile climb I felt a bit woozy, checked the blood sugar and grabbed a snickers bar.  After a 5 minute pause my blood sugar started to climb and I was off again.  The next few miles rolled along gradually enough as I averaged about 14 mph (between 11 and 18 mph) for 6ish miles.  

As I climbed and climbed I could see what I thought was a smoke stack in the distance.  I later found out that there is an actual Geyser on Geyser road in Geyserville and that the Geyser provides geo-thermal energy to the region, pretty cool.  Once I finally got even with the geo-thermal smoke I thought I had reached the apex of my climb, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Taking a right hand turn at the end of River Rd. onto Geyser Rd, I was hit smack in the face with the steepest, hardest, most grueling climb I have ever encountered.  Over the next 3 miles I climbed a net of 890 feet, declining just 52 feet over that same stretch.  I averaged 3.6, 8.6 and 13.1 mph in those 3 miles and had never felt as deep a burn in my quads as I did during that stretch.  I had to stop twice for fear my heart was going to explode out of my chest and could do nothing but collapse on my aero bars as I tried to muster the leg strength to continue.

To make matters worse I picked up a new pair of training wheels for El Bastardo.  I put my old Mavics on the bike I’m using for crits and found a great deal on a Mavic Kysirium Elite on Craig’s List with a cassette.  Problem is the cassette’s largest rear sprockete was a 25, on my old wheels I had a 28.  With a 43 small ring up front my old gear ratio meant my bike was advancing 1.12 times for every pedal stroke in 43 x 28, with the new 43 x 25 gearing my bike advanced 1.72 times.  The best comparison is taking steps up a hill, it’s a lot easier to take little steps up a huge hill than lunge forward; essentially the new gearing made the climb 35% harder than what I was used to!

Regardless, I pushed forward and finally reached the top and was rewarded with a screaming descent through heavy fog and a light drizzle.  The road would break apart at times into loose gravel and I’d frequently be met with cattle grates.  Over one particular cattle grate that I didn’t see until I was on top of it I nearly lost total control of my bike as the front tire skidded to the side as I glided over it.  Thankfully the handseling skills learned at the early birds paid off as I was able to regain control and safely continue on.  Crashing at about 35 mph would not have been fun!

Finally I was done with the most hilariously satisfying ride of my life.  Each time I ride out here I’m reminded of how badly El Bastardo needs a step-brother.  Sadly those sponsors still haven’t knocked down my door so I’m going to continue to be the crazy guy doing climbs no sane person would do on a tri bike.  The rest of the weekend was spent tasting some fantastic cabs, points and petite sirahs; but for 50 miles I was reminded of why few things in the world bring me as much joy as mile after mile on my bike.  I had some diabetic issues on the ride, felt pain like I had never felt before and pushed over the hardest climb I’ve ever encountered – not a bad way to remind yourself that no matter where you live the simplest things can bring the greatest joy.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

First Totally New D-Experience In A While

Over the past few days my blood sugar has been reacting pretty weirdly.  Since Sunday I have frequently had blood sugars in the 300s but have had symptoms of lows, not highs.  I received my new order of Dexcom sensors yesterday so should be able to zero in on any basal rate adjustments; but my big worry is that my body is not processing insulin as quickly as it should be around lunch time.  Since my diagnosis I have struggled with my blood sugars between 2pm and 5pm.  Historically my blood sugars have spiked about an hour and 1/2 after lunch, causing me to perform a correction bolus.  That correction normally leads to a nasty low sometime between 4:30 pm and 6 pm - this only happens during the work week, not on the weekends. 

Originally I had thought that the correction was necessary so began letting the blood sugar come down naturally, much to my dismay I was still encountering lows.  In fact it has seemed that no matter the meal (salad, sandwich, or whatever) and regardless the level of meal time bolus my blood sugar will still raise north of 250 and come crashing down sometime later.  I've been trying to figure out this pattern for nearly 4 years but still haven't had any success.

Yesterday I attended a conference for work in San Francisco and decided to go swimming after it.  Much like many other days my blood sugar was almost 300 around 3:30 pm but I felt like I was trending very low.  I reduced my basal rate and by 4:25 pm was walking to the pool.  After about a mile walk my blood sugar was 89 even though I hadn't given a bolus correction and had eaten a 35 gram nutrition bar while I started my walk.  I downed a Gatorade and hopped into the pool - probably not the best idea.

I swam well enough but then experienced severe leg cramps after 45ish minutes of swimming (about 1500 meters) and decided that was enough for the day and hopped out of the pool.  In the shower I had near debilitating leg cramps and came close to falling to a heap on the floor. After some time at my locker the cramps loosened and I was able to make it to the subway feeling pretty "weird".  I tested my blood sugar and was at 65 so I just reduced my basal rate in an attempt to naturally bring my blood sugars back up.

As I commuted home I began to feel even more weird and eventually felt my heart racing a bit.  I checked my blood sugar again and was at 31 - yikes!  I downed a clif bar as quickly as I could, made it to my apartment and held onto my bed until the world stopped spinning.  My blood sugar climbed to 109 by the time I had dinner and I felt much more like myself again.  Then this morning even though I had been waking up with a blood sugar of 220ish (its been off in the morning for whatever reason) I woke up with a bs of 77.  So either a ton of insulin decided to hang out in my butt cheek instead of going through my system or there was a complete 180 of environmental factors.  Hoping not to experience anything like those cramps or a racing heart anytime in the near future though - that was a new one that I'd rather not repeat.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Finished A Crit!!!!

What a weekend in San Francisco!  Having spent my entire life battling the bitter cold of the Northeast, 70 degree temperatures on a January weekend is like a trip to the tropics.  On Friday I had a conference call with a peer in Nebraska and couldn't help but smile when he said it was 5 degrees there as I looked out my window to beautiful rays of sunshine.  When the fog is gone from San Francisco and the Bay Area warms up this place is pretty close to perfect.  Sadly I had to choose not to join the Insulindependence crew in Carlsbad for the half/ full marathon.  In between training I worked all weekend as we have a high profile at a few up coming conferences and are working on all the stuff related to that - life at a start up, never dull.  But, CONGRATULATIONS! to Peter for putting on such an incredible weekend in Carlsbad - from the Facebook posts it sounds like it was Insulindepenence's biggest and best weekend yet.  The organization continues to grow and I'm continually to be proud to be even a small part of helping the growth of the organization.  Way to go all who volunteered, and raced.

Training is back in full effect and last week I hit close to 10 hours of workouts.  I signed up for the Napa Valley Half Iron on the last weekend of April and need to get ready for what I hope to be an awesome triathlon season.  This year I'm starting off my early season training doing things a bit differently and incorporating a ton more variety.  A big part of  my success this season will be trusting my body both from a blood sugar and endurance perspective to know I can push through the pain barrier to get faster.

To spice things up I headed to Fairfax on Saturday and hit up the Pine Mountain trails.  The drive was rewarded with 8 miles of glorious running and I felt fantastic.  The Pine Mountain trails offer some kick a** hills to test yourself on and some of the most amazing views anywhere.  I held back on the first 5 miles and then began to open it up on the last 8; my last mile, a pretty steep downhill, was run in under 7 minutes - was just a perfect run.  After the run we decided to hit up Sonoma where I joined the Medlock Ames wine club.  I'm not telling you about the vineyard as an Oenophile but rather as someone who really believes in sustainability.  I was sold on the vineyards use of sheep as lawn mowers, nature preserve built into their lands and overall organic and eco-friendly way of farming.  It's pretty neat to be able to support a local business that believes in the same methods of capitalism that you do so I was happy to support them anyway I could - plus the tasting room has an after hours speakeasy so I was sold!

Now onto the early bird # 3 on Sunday.  I woke Sunday pretty anxious to get down to Fremont, the focus of the day's clinic was on sprinting.  If you take one look at me its pretty apparent what my body is meant for - short, intense efforts; in the words of Bill Parcels, "it's what you lift all dem weights for."  Much to my chgrin the sprinting clinic was focused on rpms at 43 x 17 instead of rpms at 54 x 11 (the different ratios for bike gears).  During a sprint I can get my rpms up to 100 to 110 in my 54 x 11 gear on a flat for a short duration, using smaller gearing had me spinning like a lunatic to get up to speed.

The clinic was organized by Dan Smith of Sportvello, a legend in the Norcal cycling community and one of the best cycling coaches around.  He had an awesome approach and enthusiasm to coaching a large group and while I wish I had the opportunity to get clocked in my biggest gears I still learned a ton about sprinting positioning, dynamics and effort.  After an hour of tremendous coaching it was time to race, I couldn't wait.

After last week's crash fest the race organizers decided to split the field down the middle so that each race group had a mix of aggressive and passive riders.  Last week we were split into riders who had raced more than 5 races and those who had raced less than 5 races.  The big crash was with the newbies, not surprising since we're all trying to figure out what taking leadership during a crit really means.  This way the more experienced riders could control the flow of the race and the new guys could feel what an experienced race was like.

My goal for the race was to stay with the pack, finish but also push myself as hard as I could and be in the sprint at the end.  At the start I felt fantastic, my blood sugar was a stable 215 and I was hanging right in the middle of the paceline - probably rider 20 of 48.  Through the first few laps I held my position and was not feeling like I had to sprint all that often to catch the group after a turn.  My cornering was much improved but I still need a ton of work on it - losing those triathlete habits isn't easy!

Once we hit lap 5 I decided to test myself, left the paceline around the sweeping 4th turn and jumped to the front.  Another rider clad in white and blue joined me and we led for the majority of the 5th lap.  Sadly I haven't figured out how to maintain my position in the paceline, a larger group of riders was on our wheel and swallowed us up, since I don't know how to merge back into the line I had to float back to the end of that group and lost the solid position I was in.  I made another move with 2 laps to go and was up near the front again but got crowded out coming around a turn, I knew if I wanted to have a chance at the sprint I'd have to really crush it on the last lap.  After turn 1 I started to move up the pack working like a dog - I was out of the paceline so couldn't draft any of the riders.  I made it through turn 2 safely, moved to the inside and hammered to try and beat the pack to turn 3 (rookie move).  I was about 5 riders too slow and had to slam my brakes because I took turn 3 way too tight, like a new rider to crits or like a triathlete (take your pick) and at that point was 100 yards off the front riders and wouldn't be able to contest the sprint. 

I however, DID FINISH!  In the first crit I lost the pack when trying to learn how to corner with the mentors and last week my mechanical issues from the crash didn't allow me to finish.  This week I finished and was in near position to contest the sprint so couldn't be happier. I did make a bone head move at the end but am learning a ton about handling each time I go to the clinic.  Here are the quick items I learned:
  • I have the engine to chase down the pack even without drafting but need to learn how to draft to maintain position at the front of the pack
  • Don't be an idiot - if I 100% know I can't get to the front I need to stay on the outside of a turn
  • If courses were straight I'd be pretty good at this (that's my positive spin on holy crap I am awful at cornering)
At the end of the race I finished up with the mentors and one of them pulled alongside me and asked "are you a weight lifter," I laughed and said "no, I'm a triathlete," with a smile, then explained to him that I was a football player turned triathlete and now trying to learn how to be a cyclist.  He gave me some great positive words on my sprinting ability - can't wait to get out there again.  Also, I found out about a track clinic on Saturday mornings; I'll be hitting those up starting early February.

ps - if any riders who live in the San Francisco area stumble upon this blog and want to commute down to the crit or grab a ride sometime, or know of any teams looking to develop riders please post a comment, I'm all ears.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Crits, Crashes & More

The rainy season has finally ended here in San Francisco and the weather is unbelievable.  Sorry Mom, enjoy the 9" of snow in the backyard as I'm running in shorts and a t-shirt in beautiful 60 degree temperatures.  With the weather making it far more welcoming to exercise outside at this time of year I'm able to log some incredible base miles for the up comming tri season.  It also makes attending the Early Bird Crit series that much more easy.

Sunday was the 2nd EBC clinic/ race but the tone was much different than the first.  The second I arrived I saw a racer from the under 25 crew who was bandaged like a Vietnam War vet.  The young rider apparently had his front wheel clipped going around a turn, causing him to tumble face first onto the pavement, he was pretty banged up but hopefully only had cosmetic damage.  The women's race had 4 crashes which sent a couple riders to the hospital and right before the men 30+ cat 5 race one of the instructors fell over (we've all done it, but not fun to see before a race!)

This week's clinic was on cornering.  Apparently you're supposed to exit and enter wide so you don't get caught in the corners with other riders, can use the apex of the turn to your advantage and get more of a draft.  In week 1 my cornering skills were atrocious and I basically had to do a speed interval after each turn to even come close to the pack.  This week, I was able to stay right in the thick of things and maintain contact with the pack the entire time.

With 4 laps to go I was really happy with my position, I was right in the front of the middle of the pack, felt fresh and began moving up the field slowly.  My goal for this crit was to work on maintaining contact with the pack, corner well and then have enough left in the tank on the final lap to give the sprint a go.  All seemed to be working as I had hoped until we exited turn 2 of the 4th lap. 

After turn 2 the pack began to bunch a bit and one rider along the narrower straight away came off his line and locked handle bars with a rider to his right.  Both riders tensed up, lost control of their bikes and went down hard; all in about 10 riders hit the deck, I was maybe 8 riders behind the crash and was lucky enough to see what was going on, squeezed my brakes and wrenched my handle bars.  Thankfully I was able to stop just before slamming into one of the riders who had hit the pavement.

In all my years of playing football I had never seen such a scene.  Wheels were broken, bikes were smashed and riders were down on the pavement or laying in the grass in obvious pain.  The entire field was neutralized after this and I realized that I was riding on a bike whose handle bars were perpendicular to the front wheel.  Apparently I had wrenched my handle bars so hard to make my bike stop that I turned the stem sideways.

The great thing about crits is that it forces you to focus on form, concentration and riding well.  It's just a matter of time before a crash happens but this one was pretty bad.  Thankfully I was able to escape without going down and my heart felt get wells go out to the riders who weren't so fortunate.  More to come on blood sugar analysis, signing up for the Napa Valley Vintage Triathlon and other tid-bits from the West Coast.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Getting Back To Form Is Painful!

During my transition to life in California and getting acclimated to a new job that slams me with hours of work my workouts have been inconsistent at best.  While I totally love what I'm doing I long for the days when I could hit the Charlottesville roads for hours on end and still have time to fit in everything I needed to.  I've stayed in "ok" shape but fell out of "race shape" and am trying to get ready for the pending tri and cycling season.  For the past couple weeks I've been incredibly consistent in my workouts, upped the intensity and focused on what I need to get better at - speed stamina not strength stamina.

My god is this painful!  The crit on Sunday, day off on Monday, lift and 2,000 meter swim on Tuesday and 4 miles last night including a 4 x 400 on the track is not easy for this old man!  At the same time I'm also trying to cut my weight down to 175 so am forced to be really vigilant about my blood sugars.  In the past I was so worried about a sugar crash I think I had a tendency to over eat.  This year instead of filling 100s of fuel belts for a 6 mile run I'm trying to start my runs as my blood sugar is climbing.  Thus far it seems to work and I've been able to greatly cut my calorie intake.  We'll see what happens as I continue to up the duration of my workouts but its a pattern I'd like to continue.

Monday, January 10, 2011

My First Crit!

Yesterday I raced in the Early Bird Criterium series hosted by Velo Promo and Golden Chain Cyclists and OH MY GOD WAS IT FUN!!!!  The series is totally welcoming; Velo and Golden Chain have a clinic for each gender and category in the hour or so before the given race.  Yesterday's clinic was on pace lines (my first time ever in one) and just general information about a crit.  Unlike the first time I showed up to a triathlon where I felt like a babe in the woods, people at the crit made it super easy to figure out where to go and what to do - instructions were loud and clear and the mentors were flat out awesome.

After driving around Fremont, CA for about 15 minutes to find an ATM I finally made my way to Dumbarton Circle to check in, pay my $20 race and license fee and figure out what the heck was going on.  The first thing that I noticed was there were no racks for bikes, no transition areas and no compression socks; it was already a different world from the one I was used to!  I found a tree to toss my bag next to and then joined the group of close to 100 riders to listen to the pre-clinic instructions.

We then broke into small packs of about 15 to 20 riders each for some pace line practice.  The day before the clinic/ race I had put my road bike back together, normally I'm on my tri bike all the time which gets some inquisitive looks on the climbs of Marin.  However, in pace lines a tri bike is  recipe for disaster; you have much less control over the direction of the bike because of its aggressive geometry and your hands are always a movement away from the brakes or the gears.  For pace lines a road bike is pretty much necessary.  So rather than riding my trusty steed, El Bastardo, I was on my far less glamorous Haley - the red and gold clad frame with the cheapest components money can buy!  Nashbar groupo anyone?

I learned a ton in the 45 minute clinic; apparently I had a tendency to let the gap widen too much when I was about to take over the front of the pace line and then accelerate the pace a bit too much which causes an accordion effect.  The surges and slows of a pace line were really hard for me to get comfortable with.  I'm so used to riding at my own cadence and pace for miles upon miles that working in unison with so many different riders was totally foreign to me.  Also, going through turns without grasping for oh sh*t brakes was a novelty for me.  But in the end I improved on each lap of the clinic, learned to coast to the back of the pace line and learned how to maintain the pace when I got to the front.  All in all not bad for a dude in mountain bike shoes and pedals (purchased for my ambitions of doing cross)

The clinic was over and it was time to race!  I checked my blood sugar and was a bit high at 285 but figured that would be fine for the 40 minute all out effort.  Crits are done on a short course (not sure if the distance is universal).   This course is a 2.2 km flat road with 4 90 degree turns and one turn that kind of banks around.  At the starting line we were broke up into 2 race groups, Cat 5 races can't have more than 50 people in them for safety.  I was in the front line of the 2nd group, based solely on the position of where I was standing, this race was just to learn how to do it and for fun.

The gun went off and so did I!  In typical Ed fashion I figured I could ride at the front and use my power to stay at the lead of the race.  I was in front for the first 2 corners and nearly had a heart attack.  Soon I was swallowed up by a group of 5 riders working in a pace line that had no problem blowing by me.  I'm not sure if I was at the lead of that pace line around the first 2 turns or if they just caught me b/c of my gold awful cornering ability.  Had I been more aware of how to race I would have sucked onto one of those 5 riders wheels and kept the pace with them.  As it was, I was still working solo like a triathlete, not like a cyclist.

I would catch the pack on the straights, work my way back up to the front and then get spit out on the corners.  This pattern lasted for the first 80% of the race (I guess about 18 laps, I think we did 20ish laps in all).  The mentors would see me trying to maintain contact with the pack and would often give me a wheel to hang onto as I sprinted back to the pack.  I'd kind of make contact and then fall back out of the pack since I didn't understand how close I should be to maintain the draft.  I'd often feel like the pack would slow so then I'd try and go to the side of it to move to the front but then would get shot out of the back end around the next turn.

Eventually a mentor saw my obvious monkey on crack skills for racing crits and then helped me to learn how to go into the turns low and exit high, and how to maintain a powerful position to keep speed after the turns exit.  After working on that with him for a turn or two I had totally lost contact with the pack.  Without the ability to get into my big ring (did I mention I had put my bike together less than 24 hours before the race?) there was no way I was going to catch the peleton which was averaging close to 30 mph.  A fellow rider who had lost touch with the pack offered to draft with me so we could do some work to catch up.  But I felt like I was pulling him alot more than he was pulling me and eventually he couldn't hang my wheel.  With about a lap to go the race director told me to go back to the start; which I guess means my first crit learning experience was a DNF, no biggie this was all for the lessons and god I learned alot.

Some things I learned:
  • Stay with the pack, don't try and move up until the last few laps, and for the love of god don't go out too hard
  • Have a bike that can get into the big ring and road shoes and pedals probably would help
  • No matter how fast you can sprint or how powerful you are, you can't keep it up for 40 straight minutes unless you're on the tour
  • Crits aren't tris!
Needlesstosay, last night I hit up Sports Basement in San Francisco to pick up some road shoes and pedals.  I can't freaking wait for next Sunday's clinic and race; I love triathlon and all the sport has to offer but I honestly can't remember the last time I had as much fun as I did yesterday.  One of my goals for 2011 is to do as many different types of races as possible, Eric and I both thought that I might really take a liking to some of the power oriented cycling events and if yesterday is any indication that assumption is totally right.  Yesterday was a freaking blast!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Stories of Bike Commuting

One of the best things about living in San Francisco is the critical mass of people who ride their bikes into work.  Public transportation out on the left coast can be a nightmare so I built up a single speed to ride into work.  Each day I'm blessed with the opportunity to ride my bike 6 miles into work and 6 miles home; so even if I don't have a chance to get in a workout due to my crazy start-up work schedule I at least get in some exercise.

However, every once in a while you encounter a driver who views cyclists much the same way the Orkin man views roaches.  Or you may run into two homeless people having a sword fight in the middle of an intersection.  Both of those are pretty easy to deal with just by paying attention.  What I find to be the most comical is the avengers of public peace (or crankiness).

Today while riding in I came to an intersection in front of SF's capital building.  This is one of the less busy intersections downtown.  I came to a red light, stopped and waited for the traffic to clear.  Once the traffic cleared and there were no cars coming for at least 2 blocks I got up on my pedals and rode across the street.  That's when I had this exchange with a woman who must still be nursing a New Year's hangover:

Woman who hates the world:  "aren't you supposed to obey the traffic laws!?!?!?" said in the same tone and voice as the wicked witch of the west
Me: "Are you serious?" said in the same tone as one would after getting punched in the face for ordering a happy meal (as in surprised)
Woman who is angry at society:  "It was a red light you f*cking asshole!!!!!!!" said in a demonic tone that might have been followed by tounges
Me:  "Happy New Year To You Too!" said in my happiest and most chipper tone

Nice way to ring in the New Year.  And yes "technically," she was right but this is also the city where people refuse to cross the street when it says don't walk even if there are no cars coming for 5 miles; yet an 18 year old can get a medical 420 card as easily as he can get a pepsi.  It never gets boring out here, that's for sure.