Friday, August 15, 2014

It Takes 2

Well it's been a while that's for sure!  Since the last time I blogged I've gotten married, been promoted a few times, became a two-time Uncle and have had more diabetic lessons than I can remember.  I stepped away from blogging for a while so I could focus on handling my disease while my life was totally changing.

I learned that diabetes is a heck of alot easier to manage when you make 100% of the decisions for yourself. But when a person starts thinking as two and the other's happiness is even more important than your own blood sugar management becomes harder. K has always understood what I struggle with but she had to get up the same learning curve we all did when first diagnosed: what foods affect my blood sugars when, how to make time for cooking each meal, how to avoid unprocessed foods and how to help me make smart choices at each meal.  As we struggled up the learning curve my A1c and weight bounced around, my highest A1c was 7.2 (which had alot to do with the Animas infusion sets not working for me) and my weight at times crested 200 lbs.  But now she is a fully certified type 3 and understands how each piece of food will impact my blood sugar and fully supports why I'm obsessed with getting in hours of exercise.

With K's help my A1c was a shockingly low 6!  And my weight is now back under 190.  In her own subtle way she has taken over the grocery shopping, gotten me to refocus my diet and is making sure we eat out a ton less.  She lets me bring my bike on vacation and does whatever she can to help me fit in a long bike ride or run if there's going to be a feast that night.

Without her support there is no way I could have reached the lowest A1c I've had since I was still producing some insulin.  I once thought that I could fight this disease head on, that each day was about staring my blood sugar down and out working the problem.  It's way more of a dance than that; I can't do an Ironman everyday and I can't live my life on an organic farm.  It took a few years but K has taught me how to achieve amazing results while being less intense on how to get there.  No way could I have gotten to an A1c of 6 without her love and support.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Race Report: Chicago Triathlon; Ouch!

I was excited to head to Chicago for the race; neither Katie nor I had ever spent time in Chicago and I was competing having raised more than $1,000 for Insulindependence adding some special flare to the event.  Heading into the race I had felt in pretty decent shape, my training was a bit off in the weeks heading into the race as we had switched apartments and work became absolutely crazy but I was feeling good nonetheless.  Ironically, however, in the race I had raised money to support a non-profit that promotes active lifestyles for people with juvenile diabetes I was deeply affected by high blood sugars for the first time on a race day.

We left for Chicago Saturday morning and my blood sugar was a happy and stable 110.  Once in Chicago we walked to the Hilton to pick up my bike from Tri Bike Transport and on the way home my blood sugar dropped down to the 40s, the only period my blood sugar would be below 250 for the next 14 hours.

Once I finally got my blood sugar to rebound it continued to climb no matter how much insulin I took in.  From 3pm until I went to bed at about 11pm my blood sugar stayed above 300; I took in about 10 units of insulin with little or no impact.  The high blood sugars were making me feel sick, very sick.

I woke the next day at 5am to a blood sugar of 275, decided to change my infusion set and headed off to transition to rack my bike.  After riding to transition (about 3/4 a mile away) and walking back my blood sugar dipped to 230 but would then start to rise again post my breakfast of an extremely low glycemic cereal.

Once at the race site for my 8:30 am start time my blood sugar was still above 200 but started to trend just slightly downward.  The declining trend had me really worried about going low during the race so I took in a gel, got to the swim start and was off.  About a 1/4 of the way through the swim I started to feel pretty nauseous but got through it in 35 minutes (sans wet suit) and then was off for the 1/4 mile jog back to transition.

In transition I tested and had a blood sugar of 185; the downward trend was continuing so I took in another gel and headed off on the bike.  Once on the bike I knew I didn't have the pop in my legs I normally do as my mouth was getting more watery by the pedal stroke.  I finished the 25ish mile course in an hour and 10 minutes, a bit slow compared to where my cycling is and I just didn't feel right.  On the second half of the bike I was going in and out of focus; my vision was blury from time to time and I felt like I was holding back vomit as the miles ticked by.

Back in transition I tested again and had a blood sugar of 105; uhoh still trending down and time for a run.  I took in another gel and 2 minutes 30 seconds into the run I was spent.  I could barely focus, my stomach felt like it was in a vise and all I wanted to do was sleep.  I started to walk less than a 1/2 mile into the run and had to refrain myself from punching someone who shouted words of encouragement "that's it just keep going at your pace."  I thought, "dude I'm about to throw up everywhere all my pace is doing is keeping me from projectile vomiting on your face."  Realizing that I was in no condition to keep moving I found a grove of trees to "hide in." 

I sat for about 10 minutes trying to get the energy to run again.  Once I felt like my legs were coming back and that my blood sugar was rebounding I got back to my feet and started to jog again.  About another half mile in my stomach started to kill me and I started throwing up a little bit at a time.  I then began walking for the next 2 miles.  The first 2.8 miles of the run took me 45 minutes; just under the time it should have taken me to finish the entire run.

At mile 3 I was able to start jogging again fighting off stomach cramps and overall just feeling incredibly crappy.  Once down the finisher shoot I could barely focus, was starring at my shoes and just wanted to cross the finish line to throw up again.  I crossed the line, found a spot on the railing and waited for Katie to meet me with my Uncle and cousin (they live in Chicago and were awesome to come out to support me).  Once Katie met me at the railing I handed her my stuff and said "sorry I'll be back I need to go throw up."

I found a private spot and began to yak (note to self warm clif shots coming back up are disgusting).  After emptying my stomach my cramps started to go away and I began to take in a ton of fluids.  Finally back at transition I tested again and had a blood sugar of 150.  It seemed that whatever was going on my blood sugar was finally getting back to normal.

But, I finished; when I set out on this journey my goal was to prove that a chronic illness does not have to prevent what someone can accomplish and to inspire children with type 1 to chase their dreams.  The Chicago triathlon was by far the worse race I have had, the stomach cramps, weird blood sugar and just overall sickness I felt made this race emotionally and mentally more challenging than any Ironman I had done.  While laying in the trees I thought to myself, "I'm sick of this disease, I'm tired of fighting, I'm tired of being affected by a condition which is invisible to so many."  But by the time my mental focus was coming back I felt a renewed desire to fight this disease.

Managing type 1 diabetes isn't easy and sometimes I lose sight of that.  I've accomplished so much in my 5 - 6 years with this disease that I forget it is a constant, daily struggle to live as healthy as I can.  Each day a diabetic faces a new challenge; each day a new lesson is learned.  At the Chicago tri the money I raised for IN reminded me of that.  I was reminded that yet again diabetes cannot define who I am, but it does in part make me who I am.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Kinks

I've been making great progress getting my blood sugars back under solid management.  Since my A1c wake up call I've gotten myself back to having blood sugars consistently in the 90 - 140 range and can totally feel the difference.  The constant headaches, stomach cramps and other issues related to bouncing blood sugars have left.  I'm able to focus more consistently, enjoy all my workouts and eat like myself again.  All this has left me feeling great and hopefully made me a lot more pleasant to be around.

But... from time to time I'm still getting some really annoying/ weird blood sugar situations.  I'm not sure if the infusion sets that Animas uses are less sturdy than the sets Medtronic uses but I have vastly more issues now than I did with OPP.  I've noticed a few things with the Animas infusion sets:
  • Kinks at the end of the animas set are alot more likely
  • The cannula has a much greater tendency to dislodge itself
  • Leaving the infusion set in for more than 3 days leads to a bit of a calcium/ scar tissue build up
I felt like the Medtronic sets were alot more consistent and that if I had solid skin contact on initial insertion I could be confident the cannula would be in there when my reservoir ran out.  With the Animas sets that simply isn't the case.  I'm running into case after case of the kinks; where the end of the cannula gets pinched or crimped leading to improper insulin flow.

For the past few weeks the only times I've gone above 225 have been from a case of the kinks.  I have no real desire to ever get off an insulin pump but at least with shots you know the insulin was delivered.  With a pump getting a case of the kinks is just something you have to deal with; but with tighter regulation I can be pretty sure that if my blood sugar is above 250 something is going on.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Race Report: NJ State Triathlon - Maybe I should have done a brick...

Well it's official, I'm back to being a triathlete!  On Sunday for the first time since July of 2010 I crossed the finish line in a triathlon; granted this time it wasn't an Ironman but the joy I felt when crossing the finish line almost rivaled that in Idaho a couple years ago.  The short report - I loved every freaking second of the race, I was excited to get started from the moment I woke up and even though my legs felt like I had spent the past year in a prison torture camp when I got across the finish line I finished with a smile on my face.  The long report - well keep reading...

It struck me the day before the race that I had never been more comfortable or more relaxed heading into a triathlon.  I woke up at 8am to go for a morning jog, picked up some last minute necessities from Jack Rabbit Sports and then hopped in the car with Katie to head down to Princeton.  Once there I picked up my packet and was so laisez-faire about the whole thing I didn't even have my race number memorized.  After check in Katie and I headed to the hotel which was having major room change issues which forced us to wait 2 hours to get into the room.  Historically that would have sent me off the deep end but this time around I simply said, whatever lets just grab lunch outside.

So either one of two things, or a combination of both happened.  I've realized that old man sports should just be fun and a day out racing is better than about 95% of other stuff I could be doing.  Or my girlfriend has finally rubbed off on me and I've started not to take every challenge so seriously - either way it's working.  We finally got into the hotel and I was off to bed at 10pm with a 1/4 ambien to help me sleep.

I slept fairly well for the night before the race and woke up with a blood sugar of 62; on the low side but I had an infusion set issue the evening before so I wasn't all that surprised.  I took in about 35 g of carbs with Ezekuiel cereal, strawberries and almond milk and left the hotel by 5:30 am.  The race site was fairly empty at 5:50 am so I set up my transition area in a breeze and was off for a quick warm up jog.  Post warm-up my blood sugar was a high 281, so I took in some extra insulin, finished listening to my warm up mix and was down to the water to swim - without a wet suit!

Although the race was just wet suit legal with the water topping out at 78 degrees I figured I'd over heat in my fat baby seal costume so I opted to do it in the tri kit.  (By the way Pete, when you design the tri kit next year lets try and avoid see through white on the legs) I warmed up and felt pretty smooth in the water so was excited for my wave to go off.  A complete 180 from the Napa disaster I was smiling with Katie before the race, posed for her camera shots and overall just felt really excited and happy to be racing again.  I ate my clif bar, peed on myself as soon as my body was in the water and when the gun went off I was off, no freak outs, no nerves just a nice easy pace.

As I had mentioned last week, I was pretty nervous about completing the swim; while I knew I had crossed more than 2x that distance before I still feared my lack of training would catch up to me.  Much to my surprise I excited the water in about 32 minutes, just about the median for the field and without a wet suit.  I without question have a ton of work left to do but getting through this swim painlessly was a huge bonus as I work my way back into triathlon.

However, once I exited the water it was my time to really have fun.  I've been working so hard on the bike the past couple years and wanted to finally perform in a race the way I do while I train.  I had always felt like my training rides were vastly superior to my results in a race and just wanted to hold it together for one day on the bike.  In transition I was happy to see a blood sugar right around 180 so I went out without hesitation (although my t1 took 2 minutes and 34 seconds!).

Once on the bike I knew I was in for a good day, I flew down the first stretch of the course blowing by a ton of people who had come out of the water before me.  The course was perfectly suited for my riding style, mostly flat, some technical turns and 2 very small inclines - "hills" I could just power over.  3/4 of the way through the first lap I realized I was on pace to ride the fastest 10 miles I ever had and finished the first 12.75 mile loop in 34 minutes - by far the best I had ever ridden in a race.

The second lap was a bit more crowded as people who went off in an earlier swim wave were now on their first lap of the bike course.  Thankfully the crits I've been racing prepared me to move in a pack as I nimbly weaved around people avoiding any drafting and maintaining my speed. Throughout the entire bike I believe I was only passed 3 times (all by discs) and ended up negative splitting the bike leg!  My second lap I did in just about 33 minutes for a 25.5 mile time of 1 hour 7 minutes and 35 seconds for an average pace of 22.6 mph or 102nd best in the race!  I could not be happier with how I performed on the bike; I've been working incredibly hard to have a solid race day performance and it finally happened now if only the transition after the bike didn't take me 3 minutes and 44 seconds (only about 30 people were slower than me!)

I'm thinking part of the reason transitions took me so long was the transition volunteer.  A 40ish year old guy was the most energetic volunteer I had ever encountered.  For each person who came into transition he had a personal message and hardly 10 seconds went by before he would shout some other words of encouragement.  At times he did come across as a bit over zealous but really his energy and enthusiasm was awesome; I thanked him as I left transition but honestly I should have given him a hug, the guy is pretty much volunteer of the year!

Then it was time for the run... the last time I had run after a bike ride was February or March of 2011 so it had been quite some time and the last time I had run more than 2 miles after a bike ride was July of 2010.  So lets just say I was anticipating some pain but thought I was in good enough shape to just power through it.  I'm pretty sure thinking was my problem because nothing could have preparred me for how my legs would feel - but first the good part.

For the first 3.2 miles with tired legs I was rocking my run, the first 3 miles ticked off in just under 26 minutes about 90 seconds slower than I had hoped for but well within range of having an incredibly solid run.  My plan was to run for the first 4 miles of the race and then walk as I drank water at the mile 4 aid station.  At the mile 3.3 aid station that plan fell apart as I could no longer hold out for water and my walk started .7 miles early.  Once I slowed the legs down they had no desire to speed back up and I was stuck for the next 2.7 miles of the race stuck somewhere between a fat man shuffle and a walk.  While the first 3.2 miles took me 26 minutes the next 2.9 miles took me  45 minutes!  My legs had never been so tired or mad at me before, but I finished.

With legs screaming and barely able to keep my head up anymore I finished the race with a smile on my face.  I was so incredibly happy to simply just race and have fun, not worry about a time and enjoy everything the day had to offer.  I gave Katie a quick thumbs up as I shuffled down the shoot knowing that all the work I've done in the past 4 - 5 months to get my blood sugars back under control, my weight back below 190 and a renewed focus on everything is paying off.  It was a hell of a race and a tremendously fun day but the moral of the story is do some bricks before you hop back into tris or your legs will still be killing you 3 days later!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Last Push

This Sunday I'll hop into the water to start a triathlon for the first time in nearly a year and 1/2.  My last tri, well that didn't go so well.  After the worst swim I've had in a half iron and a far too painful bike I decided to call it quits and go drink wine.  For that race I was under trained, not motivated and really had no desire to actually push myself; at that point I was burnt out.  But ever since moving back to NY I've been excited to race again, my schedule has more stability, I'm loving my new job and couldn't be happier back home.

I've been training incredibly consistently logging about 15 hours a week of work outs.  My weight is down to 189 and my basal rates while being wonky of late have slowly crept down from the 16+ units a day they were back in May to about 14.5 units per day now.  Although I still become incredibly frustrated with my pump from time to time (seriously I don't remember a love-hate relationship like this with OPP) my blood sugars have become much more stable.  So everything seems to be moving in the right direction.

But... I'm nearly as nervous for this triathlon as I was for my first way back in 2008!  After today I'll have swam a total of 6 times since March of 2011; so although I know I can cover a .9 mile swim I'm not sure my arms are going to agree with me.  My bike has been incredible of late, I'm not sure if I've crossed the 10,000 hour threshold Malcolm Gladwell has written about or if the weight loss has made me faster on the bike but in training I'm sustaining faster speeds for longer than I ever have before.  And my run is super solid my zone 3 pace has dropped from an 8:45 min mile to an 8:25 min mile and I've been able to ramp that pace up at the end of runs without bonking.  Most importantly, I have not hit one low that has cut a workout short in some 2 months.

But with that I haven't done a brick yet, I'm off for my last swim today and I don't know if I can string together a race.  Katie keeps telling me to treat this race as a practice race, to just let it come to me and have fun; that it's been so long since I've raced to take it one step at a time.  I'd love to say I can do that, I'd love to say that all this is just a step to getting back into great shape and having fun with the sport again.  I guess Sunday will really tell me how far I've come physically and mentally, stay tuned....

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Those Whoops Moments

Over the past 10 days or so I've had a few "whoops" moments.  A whoop is a time when you think you know better than your cgm or glucose monitor, could swear you have a low coming on, or just totally miscalculate the amount of insulin you need.  My two most recent whoops moments were rice pudding and a cupcake.

Katie and I had made a pact to skip dessert for the foreseeable future but passing up rice pudding at one of our favorite shore restaurants proved to be too much of a temptation.  Before ordering I looked at my CGM and saw that I was still in the mid 140s after dinner; and that was after a 2 hour period where I was fighting off lows.  Thinking I "deserved" dessert after 4 hours of workouts that weekend we opted to go for it.  Mid-way through the drive home my CGM went off and I confirmed with a test my bs was rising and fast.  Apparently the rice pudding needed more than the 2 units I added to my dinner bolus as I was up to a bs of 300, whoops.

The other day at work I was 100% convinced I had a low coming on.  My legs felt wobbley, my mouth felt dry and I was speaking coherently but I'm not sure how the words were forming coherent sentences.  So when an email came through from the marketing team that simply stated "treats... come get em" I couldn't resist.  The sight of a moist, delicious looking cupcake was enough to make me certain I had a pending low so I devoured the treat and took on just a unit of insulin to prepare for the spike.  So I may have been heading slightly low but 20 minutes after the cupcake I began to develop a ragging head ache and had to take on a good bit of insulin to bring my blood sugar down from the sugar spike.  Next time I'll stick with a bit of OJ when I think I'm going low, whoops.

A few years ago I would have been majorly frustrated at those mistakes but now I know that every so often I will make a mistake with this disease.  It's alot easier to say whoops than to kick myself for a 30 minute mis-management of my blood sugars.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Back IN the Game

I've run into alot of memories over the past few weeks.  A couple weekends ago it was my first bike ride on 9W in more than 3 years reminding me of how much I used to struggle on that road as I learned to ride.  Then it was seeing all the jerseys of the various tri teams out training for whatever summer races they have coming up.  After that it was returning to my old pool at Stuyvesant High School only to learn the pool was closed for a year.  That of course brought up the panic of a NY triathlete wondering where the heck a pool with a free lane could exist (the Cobble Hill Y...).  But this past weekend the biggest flood of memories came to me.

I decided to jump back into the world of triathlons this summer.  I'm a bit late to the party as I had to wait until I was employed to determine if I'd have any funds to race and also needed to have a schedule and a place to train from before I knew if I'd be in shape.  When both those things happened in May I decided to sign up for both the NJ State Triathlon and the Chicago Triathlon.  Rather than jump head first back into tris after my painful experience at the Napa Valley Half Iron more than a year ago I'm easing back in with Olympics this time around.  And I'm giving back to the organization that has met so much to me.

Saturday reconfirmed how much Triabetes has meant to my evolution as a diabetic.  I received my 2012 tri kit and when I put on the jersey I felt a rush of pride.  It's not the same feeling as when I would put on my football jersey back in college, it's more a feeling that I'm part of an organization that is promoting something that is so near and dear to my heart and my ability to live.  What Peter has accomplished is nothing short of amazing and I'm humbled to be able to help give back to him.

Wearing the new kit reminded me of all the growing pains I had learning to manage my disease and learning how to be a triathlete.  If it wasn't for the people in Triabetes like Anne or Pete or so many countless others I never would have been able to accomplish what I have.  So please help me support triabetes with a small donation as this organization truly touches and helps all those trying to tackle their goals while dealing with diabetes.  You can donate here.