Monday, July 11, 2016

Spring Update

March- Solvang Century  
My cousin Claudio and I made a weekend of one the West Coast’s most popular century rides. Solvang is a small California town in Santa Barbara County with quaint Danish architecture and bakeries. Growing up, it was one of my grandparents’ favorite daytrips. The landmark windmill brings back memories of freshly made waffle cones and ice cream.  

Claudio, Kurt, and me
This year, the cycling expo featured a talk by Kurt Searvogel, the world record holder for riding over 75,000 miles in a year. That's more than 200 miles per day for an entire year! The record is most impressive for being an incredible feat of endurance AND athleticism in the sense that he had to ride fast in order to get the necessary mileage and still have time to sleep a couple of hours each night.  

The weather at the 2016 Solvang Century was great. Fortunately, predicted rain hit on the early side of the forecast and cleared in time for Saturday's ride. The main remnant of the storm was especially green picturesque countryside.

My strategy was to minimize stoppage time so I skipped all the aid stations until mile 75. I carried a pack with plenty of water and fuel in the form of a new, multiple serving Gu gel container. I should have poured that product into flasks, but I just carried it as it was packaged despite directions to the contrary. I dropped the lid and it ended up oozing all over one side of body while I rode. This caused me to reduce my consumption, resulting in my blood sugar dropping coming into the mile 75 aid station.

Century rides are not races, but my cousin Claudio and I had an unspoken friendly competition. We got separated in the crowd at the start. I assumed he was far ahead of me the whole day. To my surprise, he was entering the mile 75 aid station as I was leaving it. He and a group he was riding with caught up and invited me to join them for the last stretch, but I was utterly unable to match their pace. I was busy catching up on calories as best I could with supplies I picked up at the aid station. I felt better soon enough, and tackled the last climb feeling reenergized.

Also in March- Hiking in Yosemite
Just a fun trip to Yosemite on the last days of Winter. The waterfalls were raging and there was a little bit of snow at the higher elevations.

April- Ahmanson 12k

I often equate trail running with ultrarunning. However, some ultramarathons take place on tracks or roads and there are plenty of trail races shorter than all day ventures. Ahmanson 12k was the shortest trail race I have ever participated in. The race is put on by Race Director Nancy Shura-Derwin’s Trail Run Events. They are best known for the newbie welcoming Ultra Ladies training group and the infamously hot Bulldog 50k.

Jenny and I got there before sunrise. We volunteered at the registration table, earning comp entries. My goal was to run a decent pace considering the short, runnable course. This effort
was out of my comfort zone, but a great workout.

May- Ironman Saint George 70.3  

Jenny, me, and Martin at the finish
I signed up for this race to commemorate five years since competing in the 2011 full Ironman Saint George with Insulindependence Triabetes, a team of 10 type one diabetics from around the country. I hoped some of them could join me, but nobody was able to make it after all. I was not alone, though, as my friend Martin came along to complete his first Ironman.  

Jenny, Martin, and I left Los Angeles on Thursday bound for a one-night pit stop in Las Vegas. We were about two hours into the drive when I realized I forgot to pack my Levimir, the long-acting basal insulin I use. What happened next is nothing short of a miracle.  I posted about my dire situation in a Facebook group called “The 1’s” which is a subgroup of the Los Angeles chapter of JDRF. I have previously shared test strips and insulin with online acquaintances in need. I guess that built up some good karma because not only did I get multiple offers of assistance from complete strangers, but the very first response came from someone who was literally just a couple of miles away.

Jamie graciously dropped what she was doing to meet me in a supermarket parking
lot and give me a whole vial of precious insulin and needles. Jamie, I can’t thank you enough for your generosity. Just know that I will continue to pay it forward. Thank you!  

Martin and I went on a couple of training rides and runs, but I always had an excuse not to hit the pool. In fact, I only swam once or twice in the past year. Not surprisingly, I struggled in the water. It took at least 15 minutes before I gained any sort of rhythm. Once I did, though, I felt good and could have easily continued another mile around Sand Hollow Reservoir.  Before the swim, my blood sugar was high. I had eaten an even bigger breakfast than usual and may have under bolused Humalog, the fast acting insulin I use. Also, it was my first triathlon in years, so I can’t discount the effect of normal race anxiety.  

My morning blood sugar was high enough that I had to give a correction bolus before the swim. For safety reasons, I carried two gels under my swim cap. In case I went low, I could just flip onto my back in the water and eat the gels. Actively managing my blood sugar, nutrition/hydration, and exertion is a constant task. I usually get it right, but it’s impossible to always do so perfectly with all the variables involved, both external and internal. I learn from experience and try to be prepared for whatever the day may bring.

It started to sprinkle a bit while in the first transition. Once on the bike, I noticed a woman riding in her wetsuit. I laughed to myself, but not for long because it soon started pouring rain and got really cold. I regretted not wearing a rain jacket or gloves. To make matters worse, I dropped my sunglasses which despite the lack of sun were serving the purpose of shielding my eyes from the rain.

What slowed me down considerably was needing to pull over constantly to pee. I had stabilized from the morning high blood sugar, but this was the lingering effect. The run was similar, I felt good but needed to pee constantly. My friend Martin caught up to me at mile 2 and we ran together until around mile 10. He did really well for his first 70.3. It’s racing etiquette to stay with a friend or fellow competitor to the finish if you run the majority of the race together unless that person insists that you pull ahead. Martin did just that, so I happily revved up the pace for the last few miles. It’s always nice to finish strong.  

Like I mentioned, I did this race to commemorate the 2011 Saint George experience as a Captain with Insulindependence Triabetes. Forgetting my basal insulin and leaning on the diabetes online community (DOC) for support encouraged me to renew my involvement as an advocate. My contribution or platform is to share my experiences participating in endurance sports as a type one diabetic. I may seem to glance over the diabetes management process at times because when things go right, which is thankfully most of the time, it really feels like it happens in the background. If I emphasize my mistakes, it’s to draw attention to potential pitfalls and demonstrate that most problems have a solution.

June- Bryce 50M
Jenny and I flew into Las Vegas for a few days of rest and relaxation before driving the scenic route through Zion to Bryce. This would be Jenny’s first 50 miler and yet she picked a very difficult course. Not only is there a good amount of climbing, it all takes place at high elevation. Running at high altitude is tricky because it requires that you slow down and pay extra attention to hydration and nutrition.

I agreed to run with her the entire way, basically acting as a pacer for 50 miles. Pacing or crewing your significant other can be especially challenging, more so than doing the favor for another friend or training partner. You know that they will suffer and yet the task is to push them to continue despite exhaustion, pain, and moments of self-doubt.

Jenny did amazing, though, keeping steady throughout the day despite her feet blistering before we even reached the halfway point. She persisted, able to tape up her feet at an aid station and continue. We tried to keep our stops short, but made sure to properly refill our packs. Some of the aid stations were fairly spread apart, but they were really well stocked and the volunteers were awesome. They had the usual sports nutrition products, old school “real food” options, and even homemade baked treats.

Another cool feature at Bryce 50M and all RD Jamil Coury’s Aravaipa Running events is that they are proudly “zero waste” events. Trash is seperated into organic matter, recyclables, and miscellaneous garbage. Afterwards, they turn the garbage into compacted solid material that is used for construction projects in economically depressed tribal lands.

I had as perfect a day as possible in terms of diabetes management. Everything went so smoothly that I have little to say about it. I was sipping water constantly, eating every 30 minutes, and grazing at aid stations. I only deviated from the schedule once when my blood sugar crept up a bit. I just skipped one gel and things got back into good range.

As impressed as I was with Jenny’s performance throughout the day, her best moment came at the very end. GPS watches are very accurate nowadays, but can be less reliable in certain areas where the devices lose reception. In any case, the finish line seemed an extra mile further than we expected. We were sure that we’d finish, but as her pacer, I wanted to complete the course under the official cutoff time. Jenny accepted the challenge which meant she needed her last mile to be the fastest of all. We crossed together with just three minutes to spare. Congratulations, Jenny!

July- Masterlab Diabetes Advocates Conference

I had the opportunity to attend the Diabetes Hands Foundation Masterlab conference in Orlando, Florida. In the past, I have connected with groups of type one diabetics with the common interest of either running or triathlon. This time, it was a collection of fellow t1d’s with a variety of platforms. 
We heard from experts in nutrition, diabetes education, psychology, legislative insiders, lawyers, and industry. Spending time with fellow advocates made me reflect on my own efforts at managing my condition and making a positive impact on the community. Masterlab takes place immediately before and in the same location as a much larger conference, Friends for Life, for children with diabetes and their families. Being part of such a large, diverse event was inspiring. I certainly take strength from feeling part of a resilient, optimistic community.

In my application for the generous scholarship which allowed me to travel across the country for this conference, I depicted myself as a dedicated endurance athlete living with type one diabetes Spending time and resources on training and racing can feel like a selfish endeavor. I do it because it helps keep me healthy, physically and psychologically. I share my experiences on this blog because it provides an outlet for me to dream aloud, stay accountable to my commitments, learn from my mistakes and generally share the journey with anyone who may take some inspiration from it.

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