Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sudbury and Beyond!

February, which feels like a long time ago now, was not a stellar month when it came to physical activity.

March, on the other hand, has been pretty darn good.

Wanna see what happened?


Training is ramping up for the Niagara Falls Women's half so I've been adding a few extra kilometres every week. Plus I tossed in some speed and hill training to get my legs and my heart pumping. Things are feeling good and my running is going well.

Distance covered: 118km
Number of workouts: 14
Time spent: 14.5 hours


My cycling went down a bit this month but for a good reason. I've added swimming back into the mix and, let's be honest, there really are only so many hours in a day.

Distance covered: 38k
Number of workouts: 2
Time spent: 1 hour and 48 minutes


Yes my friends, I am back in the pool again. I hopped back in two weeks ago and have been trying to go twice per week. No Master's class. Just me and my little workout tucked into a waterproof baggie. I'm enjoying it much more than I did last fall and look forward to the workouts again.

Distance covered: 10,000m
Number of workouts: 4
Time spent: 4 hours

Erg'ing (aka rowing machine)

I've been going to my new fitness centre on Sunday mornings and doing a nice little workout. Thirty minutes on the erg followed by weight training. The distance is adding up and I'm getting a bit faster and a bit stronger with each session.

Distance covered: 31,822m
Number of workouts: 5
Time spent: 2.5 hours

Corefit and Weight Training 

I'm tossing any weight training I've been doing into one big pot. Whether it's an hour CoreFit class or an hour lifting weights, it's going here. Sadly I haven't figured out how to convert ten minutes on the bench press into distance so I'm only going to report on the number of workouts and time spent doing them.

Number of workouts: 8
Time spent: 6 hours and 15 minutes

Grand total for March:

Number of workouts: 33
Time spent: 29 hours
Distance covered: 196.8km

Where does that get me to?

I have covered a total distance of 547km in three months.

In January I had made it from my house to Barrie. By the end of February I was just north of Parry Sound. And now?

Well, I've made it all the way to Sudbury, Ontario with enough left over to turn west and head another 70km towards Sault St. Marie.

Just to remind you, my goal is to run, swim, bike, row and walk (on the golf course) my way to Regina, Saskatchewan by the end of 2015. The total distance is 2396km from my front door. In the first quarter of the year, I've covered just under one quarter of the distance (23% to be precise). Which means I'm well on my way to getting to Regina by New Year's Eve.

The challenge for April?

Where to fit in my Sunday morning erg/weight workout once it warms up enough for our Sunday morning cycling group to hit the roads again? The schedule will once again have to be tweaked.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Spoonful of Sugar

Yesterday was a bit of a disaster in terms of blood sugar (mis)management.

Roller-coaster doesn't even begin to describe the dramatic ups and downs.

18 and climbing an hour after breakfast for no apparent reason.

3.5 and dropped two hours after that, again for no apparent reason.

Four lows between lunch and dinner. Each treated with plenty of carbs. Each sending me up to 10 and then straight back down again. All with no insulin on board.

Rose beeped during dinner (which I did not bolus for despite many carbs worth of potatoes) to say that I was 3.1 and heading down again.

I got up from the dinner table, sweaty and shaking, to down two tablespoons of maple syrup.

Ten minutes later I felt fine again and was up at the sink drying and putting away the dishes.

"You don't have to help you know?" Doug said gently.

"I know. I felt awful a few minutes ago but I'm fine now that the syrup kicked in" I replied.

And that's when it hit me.

Diabetes can be pretty annoying sometimes but it sure doesn't take long to recover from the ups and downs of it. At least compared to some other things that cause us to feel crappy.

Strep throat? That sucks. Here, take these pills and hopefully you'll feel better in a few days.

Seasonal allergies? Too bad. Here, take these pills and eye drops and hopefully you won't feel too bad for the next three months.

Stomach bug? Yuck. Well, once you throw up a bunch of times and spend a few hours in the washroom, you might be ready for a few crackers and some ginger ale.

Low blood sugar? Here, have a spoonful or two of maple syrup, wait ten minutes and then get on with your day.

High blood sugar? Take some insulin and I bet you start to feel better within half an hour.

Highs and lows can be pretty dramatic but so can the recovery of those highs and lows.

One minute I'm shaking and sweaty, pale-faced and pretty much useless. The next I'm chatting away as I dry the dishes feeling no worse for wear.

Maybe that's why I get so impatient when I'm real people sick. I can't fix that crappy feeling with a spoonful of yummy tasting maple syrup.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Don't Tell Me What To Do!

I'm not a big fan of being told what to do.

I'm even less of a fan of being tricked or manipulated into doing something.

And I'm stubborn enough to cross my arms and refuse to budge when someone tries to push me to do something...even if it's something I secretly want to do.

It wasn't until this weekend that I realized how that particular quirk of mine could be put to good use.

Remember the book I wrote about last Friday? The book called The End of Overeating by David Kessler?

Well I had a bit of time on the weekend so I've made some good headway into it. And what I've learned so far has been fascinating and more than a little disturbing.

The first section of the book is completely dedicated to the science of food production. Specifically the science of producing food that people will anticipate, crave, and, in many cases be unable to resist eating large quantities of....even when they are not at all hungry.

Turns out that, when it comes to producing a lot of the food that graces our grocery store shelves and restaurant menus, it's not about producing food that is delicious, healthy or satisfying. It's about producing food that has the right combination of fats, sugars and salt to trigger a physical response. A response that leads people to come back for more. And more.

As I continued to read, I got more and more annoyed as I thought about all the products on the market that fit this description. Those bags of sweet and salty popcorn that people bring to meetings. Chips, chocolate, fries etc etc. None of these things are good for us and yet these are the things that we are constantly battling against when cravings rear their ugly heads.

Chocolate is one of my weaknesses and I do battle every day in my head against the little voices that try to convince me to buy some.

It's one thing to crave a chocolate bar.

It's another thing to know why I crave it. Turns out that I crave it because a bunch of people did some research and figured out how to make it taste and what ingredients to include so that I would crave it. Then they make commercials and posters that advertise their products in enticing ways that make me want it even more.

They are trying to manipulate me.


Funny thing is that, since I read about how this happens, it's been much easier to resist. In fact, when Doug and I were at the bulk food store buying Easter chocolates for next weekend's Easter egg hunt, we bought exactly the number of eggs we needed and I wasn't even tempted to add one more to the bag. When we were in the grocery store and my favourite chocolate was on sale, I wasn't even tempted to toss one in the cart.

Instead of feeling that familiar ache of a chocolate craving, I felt a twinge of annoyance. I wondered if the reason it was my favourite chocolate bar was because it really was a delicious piece of chocolate or because the manufacturer got the combination of fat, sugar and salt just right to trigger the pleasure receptors in my brain.

So I've learned a few things this weekend.

Turns out that the best way to beat back a craving is not to use self control or distraction techniques. The best way to beat back a craving is to learn why the craving exists, get pissed off about it, and refuse to play their little game.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The End of Overeating

A few weeks ago I wrote about a book I was reading called Vitamania.

I finished it the other night and, I have to say, it was a fascinating read.

There was enough science in it to keep the geeky part of me really happy. It's been 18 years since my last university biology class and books like this one remind me how much I loved learning about anything biology-related and how much I miss being immersed in that kind of brain-expanding knowledge.

You might remember that I talked about hearing an interview with the author of Vitamania on NPR during our road trip and that was how I learned about the book. Well, during that interview, the author mentioned another book called The End of Overeating - Taking Control of the Insatiable North American Appetite. The author is Dr. David Kessler.

I downloaded both books onto my iPad and, now that I've finished Vitamania, I'm moving on to The End of Overeating.

I wasn't sure what to expect with the second book but, within the first few pages of reading, I thought "this man is on to something". In fact I had a slightly creeped-out feeling that he has been following me around, hanging out in my head and analyzing how I think about food.

He writes about the challenge that many people in North America (and perhaps elsewhere) face around food. He writes about how people lose the ability to focus during a meeting if there is a plate of cookies or a bowl of M&Ms on the table. About how much time many of us spend every day thinking about food, starting off the day with noble goals of eating healthy, convincing ourselves that we don't need to eat something that's unhealthy (like the office meeting cookie), breaking down and eating it anyway, feeling guilty about it, and then having another. And another. And waking up the next day and doing it all over again.

I'm not too far into the book yet but the author has moved from writing about our relationship with food to writing about how the food industry has learned to develop foods that trigger a response in us that has nothing to do with actual hunger. We no longer eat food because we are hungry. In fact we often continue to eat well beyond the point of being full. Dr. Kessler is arguing that we eat food because of how our body responds to the combination of sugar, salt and fat in the food that we eat.

Having type 1 diabetes already puts me in a difficult position when it comes to food and hunger. Low blood sugars have forced me to eat when I am full more times that I want to count and high blood sugars have prevented me from eating when hungry just as often.

My life is often a matter of eating when I have to or when I can rather than eating when I want to and blood sugar readings often supersede feelings of hunger or fullness.

So I will be very interested to learn what Dr. Kessler has to say about the North American diet in general,
the food industry and the unhealthy relationship between the two.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Waste of a Good Spoon

A colleague of mine shared an article the other day about spoons. 

Click here for the link to the full article (which is worth a read) but I'll give the Coles notes version (for those of you who remember Coles notes).

In the story, a conversation happens between two friends, one of whom has lupus. The girl who has lupus is asked by her friend what it's like to have lupus. The friend is not looking for a scientific answer, she is looking for what it's really like to live with lupus every day.

So the girl gives her friend 12 spoons. And she tells her that these are all the spoons she has for the day. And that every time she does something (like take a shower, or make lunch or meet a friend for coffee) it will cost her a spoon. She then makes her friend talk through an imaginary day and her friend quickly realizes how much it 'costs' to simply get out of bed, shower, get dressed and have breakfast. She was down to 6 spoons before she even left the house.

It was a pretty powerful way to describe the decisions and the compromises a person has to make when, for whatever reason be it physical or emotional, they struggle to do what most of us do without a second though.

I read the article and it really got me thinking. After a while, I sent a response back my response. I borrowed the spoon analogy but tweaked it a bit to see if I could use it to describe diabetes.

I said that living with type 1 diabetes is like carrying 10 spoons around all the time.

Each spoon represents a question that needs to be answered. And all 10 spoons (or questions) must be answered before you move on to the next activity in your day be it getting into the car to drive to work, having lunch, going to an afternoon job, or even just going to bed for the night.

1. What is your blood sugar?
2. Is it going up or going down?
3. Do you still have insulin in your system from your last bolus?
4. Have you eaten something recently that has carbs?
5. Have you done any activity today that might affect your numbers?
6. Are you going to do any activity later that might affect your numbers?
7. Are there any other variables that might affect that number? (illness, what phase in your monthly cycle you are in, stress, extra sedentary day, bad sleep the night before, not enough water to drink etc etc).
8. Do you need to do anything (take insulin, eat something, drink water, lower basal insulin) before undertaking whatever thing you're about to do?
9. Do you have enough insulin left in your pump to get you through to the next activity with enough left in reserve in case you need it?
10. Do you have emergency carbs with you in case you answered any of the above incorrectly or in case the diabetes gods are feeling frisky?

Once these questions are answered, you can move on to the next activity in your day.

My colleague responded with a rather shocked-sounding email. "I had no idea it was that complicated". To which I responded "I think that's why I don't get worked up about most things. It's just not worth wasting a spoon."

Not worth wasting a spoon.

What an interesting way to look at your day.

If you only have so many spoons in a day what would YOU do with them?

What activities would you stop doing because, when it comes right down to it, they really are a waste of a spoon?

And which activities would you make sure to prioritize because they are totally worth the cost?

And since we have no way of knowing how many spoons other people get for their day, maybe we could cut them a little slack sometimes eh?

On a funny note, I went online to see if I could find a funny picture of a spoon to include in this post. I found two that I really enjoyed. Hope you like them too!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Ups and Downs of a Sunday Workout

I haven't written too much about diabetes lately because, for the most part, the diabetes god have been pretty well behaved. They still throw plenty of highs and lows my way but they've been pretty predictable and easily remedied.

Sunday morning was a different story and I was not impressed with their shenanigans. I guess, in hindsight, I was partly to blame but I'm still disgusted by their behaviour.

I woke up on Sunday morning to Rose vibrating next to me. I had just dipped under 4.0 (3.9) after a long slow descent over the last 5-6 hours. To deal with the low, I had four Dex4s. I also turned down my basal rate by 40% for 3 hours since I knew I was going to the fitness centre once I got up.

By the time I was up and dressed and down in the kitchen, my blood sugar was 9 and climbing. Seemed pretty dramatic after only having four Dex4s but I figured it would come back down once I started erg'ing. In fact I knew it would drop down so I had half a banana for good measure.

Ten minutes later I was on the rowing machine and, after 30 minutes of hard work, my blood sugar was 10.4 and dropping. Looking at Rose I could see that I had climbed to 11.5 during the workout before turning south again.

I figured 10.4 was a good number to start my weight training at and that I would probably keep trending downward. I did indeed keep trending downward and got all the way down to 9.0 before heading back up again.

Sixty minutes of weight training later I was 13.5 with an arrow heading straight up. It didn't make sense at the time, After my workout I bolused two units and headed home.

I kept climbing, double arrows up, until I reached 16.9. By then I had 6 units of insulin on board, was starving for breakfast and unable to eat.

I guzzled water, showered, and patiently waited for the insulin to kick in. After an hour, it finally did and my blood sugar did exactly what I expected it to. It tipped downward, gathered speed and within 30 minutes I went from 16.9 to 10.

I started making breakfast, which was technically now my lunch. By the time it was ready I was 6.4. I ate, my blood sugar climbed up and back down the way it normally does when I eat my breakfast and things were fine for the rest of the day.

Doug asked me why I went so high during the workout.

I guessed that it was because I was lifting weights. That used to happen years ago when I weight trained but I had forgotten.

The combination of 30 minutes of cardio (which usually drops my blood sugar) followed by 45-60 minutes of weights (which apparently brings it up) will take me a few weeks to figure out.

I'll start by not lowing my basal insulin next week and see if that helps avoid the awful high without triggering a low.

Good thing I like to exercise, love numbers and don't mind experimenting. Otherwise I can see how it would be pretty tempting to just stay in bed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Heart Rate Update

I think it's about time for a heart rate update. Seeing as how I track it pretty religiously these days, I might as well report back in case anyone out there is thinking about training using your heart rate.

Since running is the sport that I do the most (3 times per week rather than just 1 or 2) it's the activity that I am getting the most practice with in terms of figuring out heart rate.

What I've been trying to do is to keep my long runs under 160 beats per minute while keeping my shorter runs under 165. Last week I started doing speed work again and I'm planning to get back into hill workouts this week. For those I just go full speed ahead and then check what my heart rate is at the end. For the speed work I peaked at 174 beats per minute and for hills I'm guessing I'll max out at 180 since that was my max last fall.

Here is an example of how things have been going:
Saturday I ran 14k. I tried very hard to keep my heart rate between 155-160 and it stayed there easily for most of it but kept creeping over 160 during the last few kilometres. That being said, I ran 14k without too much effort and I did not stop once. Not even for 15 seconds at a red light. I just started running at the end of my driveway, ran 7k, turned around and ran back to my driveway. Best part was that I didn't want to stop. It felt easy enough that I knew I could do it so I did.

The tradeoff is that I'm slower than I used to be. Not by a lot but still slower.

That being said, I'll take 15 seconds per kilometre slower if the tradeoff is that I can run for 90 minutes with no great difficulty and feel completely fine for the rest of the day.

I'll be ramping up the mileage over the next few weeks as I train for my spring half marathon. I'm running 16k next week, 18k not long after and then I'm in the 20s for a few weeks in a row. If I can keep my heart rate down and glide through those distances too, I'll be completely sold on this new way of running.

On to other activities!

I have used the erg (aka rowing machine) four times now at my new fitness centre. I've tracked my heart rate each time as well as my distance. During my first two 30-minute workouts it was a struggle to get 6000m done. On the third one I did 6400m and just this past Sunday I was able to do 6650m. So I'm obviously getting the hang of this thing.

My heart rate numbers are pretty similar to my running ones. Once I get going I'm hovering in the high 150s, up to 160, for the rest of the workout. Strangely, that heart rate makes for a pretty easy run but it makes for a pretty intense erg session. At the end of 30 minutes I'm dripping wet, panting and exhausted.

For cycling, I can't seem to get my heart rate up to 150, never mind above it. Even when the dude on the video is yelling at us to climb faster or spin faster or push harder, I tend to hover around 145bpm. I feel like I'm working pretty darn hard but it's not reflected in my heart rate.

Tracking my heart rate during a swim is not an option at this point because I don't have the waterproof watch to do it.

Lessons learned so far?

1. Running using heart rate works very well for me. It might not work for the speed demons out there who like to give it their all during every run but it works for me as I try to find a way to run long distance races feeling strong from start to finish.

2. A given heart rate (say 155bpm) is easy to reach during some activities, hard in others and seeming impossible in others still. Yet the effort I'm putting out is different for each activity.
- 155bpm = pretty easy running
- 155bpm = pretty tough erg'ing
- 155bpm = I've never reached that on the bike so I'm guessing it might kill me if I do

Heart rate training may not be for everyone but it's definitely a tool I'm keeping in my fitness toolbox.