Monday, June 24

On Quitting

More than a month has passed, but here's the ending to my story: I didn't finish my marathon.

It still sort of feels like a bad dream.

I did all the work. I didn't show up on race morning unprepared--no, I did 18 solid weeks of training. 18 weeks of speed, long runs, tempos and high mileage. I tapered properly. I hydrated, I woke up early,  I was mentally strong. What I wasn't ready for was the weather.

WHY SPRING, WHY? I trained in the coldest temperatures, only to find 20+ Celcius on race day. Last summer I learned that heat is not my friend--I sweat like my dad, my stomach rumbles, and my blood sugar plummets. I knew that the heat would be bad, but I thought, surely, I'll be finished racing by the time it gets really warm out!

No. I felt totally great for 15k, right on pace, holding back even. Around 16-17k my stomach started to feel a little woozy. I tried to shake it off, but I was feeling more rotten with each step. At 18k I started to lose focus. Pretty soon we were running down Southdown, past a Pizza Pizza and into industrial land. It was hot, and even though I had been drinking plenty of water and Gatorade, I was heading fast into dehydration. My face was grainy with sweat salt. I passed 25k and knew I was in real trouble. I ran Around the Bay at a faster pace just a month earlier, feeling totally great the whole race. I ran 35k in training just three weeks before and felt completely fine--never had I felt this bad. This wasn't just muscle soreness or body pain--obviously I had those too--this was my body shutting down. I checked my blood sugar (which I never do in a race) and it was hovering around 6, but this was after shoving down a gel and downing two cups of Gatorade. My legs were shaking. I wish that was an exaggeration. I didn't feel confident I could keep my blood sugar stable over the remainder of the race.

At 27k two women running by me commented on the "running on insulin" bib I wore on my back: "Is that performance-enhancing insulin har har har," they said. "It's actually life-saving insulin," I said. And that's when I knew I wasn't finishing this race. "I hope you don't stab us with needles!" they said, cackling. Bitches.

I stumbled through a few more kms and then started to walk. A man stopped beside me and asked me what kind of insulin I used--holy crap, a fellow diabetic. He told me that he'd run 10 marathons since being diagnosed, but admitted that he always finds them tough and wondered if he'd run another after this. He pledged to keep running with me--walking with me, if needed. This was my second wind! This was my guardian angel! I tried running with him for a few minutes...but as soon as we came across the medic tent, I waved him on. My race was over.

This race was supposed to be the biggest accomplishment of my running career, and a defining moment of my diabetic life. Of course, I put way too much pressure on myself. I was hoping to run a 3:40-3:45 race, but I would've been content with a 3:50 or 3:55. The way I was feeling at 30k? I probably would've had to walk the rest of the course, or risk passing out. I knew for certain I would pass out if I kept running. And a diabetic passing out from dehydration and heat stroke in the middle of Mississauga? I would've ended up in the hospital. I got scared.

There are so many people that run marathons these days, and the prevailing opinion among nearly all of them is that the only thing that matters is finishing. Felt like death for the last 10k? Who cares, at least you finished! Fueled improperly and cramped and barfed and never want a run a marathon again? AT LEAST YOU FINISHED.

My goal for this race was to not feel like death for the last 10k. That's why I went out easy in the beginning. I shouldn't have felt like I was dying at the halfway mark. Something was seriously wrong with me, and I made the smart decision. Smart, but it sucks. I didn't finish. There's no finality to all the time and energy and blood and sweat I put in.

And that sucks.

But you know what? I'm ready to run again. I've peppered my summer training schedule with track parties. Through this winter training cycle I learned how to train properly, what not to do, how to stay mentally focused. And now, through this failed race, I've learned that I can't gamble on a spring race date. I need cooler temperatures. So maybe this fall will be it?

I didn't finish the race. My body said no. My body reminded me that it's built imperfectly. I never expected my "running on insulin" bib to be so prophetic. Insulin and I started the race, and then we quit it, but we're still running.

"You DNFed your first marathon???" At least I didn't finish DFL.

Friday, May 3

Nearly There: Marathon Training Update

So I didn't end up writing much about my marathon training cycle, mostly because I didn't want to curse myself. Writing about it would've made it real, made it possible to screw up. Instead I stayed quiet and kept on running. Now it's probably safe to put it out there: I'm running a marathon on Sunday! For real. No joke.  


Holy crap. 

This winter was hard, man. I truly thought things would end up a bit milder than forecast, but no--it snowed, it hailed, it thawed, it froze over again, it snowed some more. It was windy, it was dark, it was miserable, and I was out there every damn day. Well, five days a week at least. How I managed to keep  my training consisten in such terrible conditions, I'll never know. I didn't do as much speedwork as planned, but I did pull out two 21 mile long runs (along with 3 30ks and a few 28ks, too). I ran Around the Bay in March and managed a nearly four minute personal best, even running a negative split over the last (hilly) 10k. I mean...really? 

I don't feel as fast as I did this time last year, but I think I'm stronger. I've got more mileage under my belt, I've got my head on straight. I've got this...right? 

Let's see how this goes. 

Thursday, January 17

Hunting For: Cathrineholm for a Song

Scandinavian mid century design doesn't get more iconic than the lotus pattern enamel Cathrineholm pieces. I'm sure you've seen their bowls or platters or fondue pots somewhere--ever since Rachel Ray got her EVOO streaked paws all over them (she used a lookalike bowl on her show 30 Minute Meals), they've transformed into mid century for the masses.


That doesn't mean they're easy to find in Toronto, though. I've said it before and I'll say it again: TO's antique prices are off the chain. Ripped right off the chain. The smallest of teak pieces at antique stores are never under $200, Craigslist ads easily demand $500 for a 'retro looking' chair somebody else farted on, and I've even seen garage sales asking upwards of $1500 for a 1960's couch with cat scratches. There's no fun in that. And, trapped in my entry level job, there's no money for that.

I've never seen any lotus pattern Cathrineholm pieces for sale in this city. I've seen them in antique store windows, defiantly not for sale, but I've never spotted some at my usual haunts. In the summer, that means street sales and church bazaars and flea markets. The deals always migrate outside. In the winter, I hole up in thrift stores, desperate to find a treasure, but rarely do. I spend full days at "thrift corner" (Dixie and Dundas in Mississauga) where four thrift stores converge into one beautiful little shopping mecca, and still find nothing special. (Note: never go to thrift corner. Forget I told you about it. It's MINE.)

I still have dreams about finding that elusive piece of Cathrineholm, though. I don't want to pay through the nose for an avocado green lotus lasagna pan on eBay. Again, that's not the point. I want to roam through a stinking Goodwill and find an avocado green lotus lasagna pan hidden among the old Tupperware and chipped comic strip Cathy mugs (Ack!!). In a perfect world, I find two pieces: one to keep and one to sell. But for now I'll just keep looking.


Saturday, January 12

Moving, Still

Last January I started training for my first marathon. Last June I started training for my first marathon. Three weeks ago I started training for my first marathon.

This time I might actually make it to the end. Here's why:

- my previous attempts involved makeshift training plans and trial-and-error blood sugar management. This time, I think I've got a better handle on it all. I'm following Hal Higdon's Advanced 1 training plan, even though I'm not supposed to--this plan is not for first-timers. But I think it's the best fit for me, and his easier programs don't feature any speed or hill work, which are already staples of my regular training. I don't want to swap out 'quality' workouts for mere easy miles. I've already trained 3/4 for two marathons, and raced a 30k. I may still be an aspiring marathoner, but I'm an advanced trainer. I'm running five days a week on this plan. I also know how my blood sugars react to various runs--spikes in cold weather, drops in hot temps, fuel needed after 45 minutes--and I'm carrying all the right things (meter, cash, sugar) when I head out. That girl dropping bloodied test strips in the snow? That's me.

- I'm running less races this go-around. It's easy to burn yourself out on short races, particularly if you're me and you're disgustingly competitive and can't comprehend the concept of running a race 'just for fun'. Running fast is the real fun, but it's also draining and makes my blood sugars all wonky. This year I'm only doing Around the Bay before my May 5th marathon, and only because I loved it so much last year. It's also good solid distance training at the right time in my training schedule. Oh, and also because I already signed up for it--the new qualifying corral program really appealed to my competitive nature, not surprisingly.

- I've got my fingers crossed it'll be an easy winter. It might not be as wonderful as last year's non-winter, but the forecast is looking blessedly mild and dry. Whatever snow and ice (and unshoveled sidewalks, jerks) left out there is melting quickly, and today the city is hitting 12 degrees. Double digits! In high school I used to break out the shorts whenever it went above 10 degrees in the winter. Maybe I'll have to reboot that tradition this year. My diabetes seems to like the winter, too. I still don't know why. From everything I've read, it makes sense that my blood sugars should actually drop in cold weather as your body overworks to heat itself. My body, though, just settles in and feels fine. In low temps I don't need to set special basal rates, eat extra carbs (save for long runs), or worry about the unknown. It's a beautiful little break from my disease and makes me love running even more than I already do.

And, finally:

- because I just signed up. For real. For real for real.

See you at the finish line.

Sunday, December 23

Egg Nog Jog 2012

The Egg Nog Jog up in Terra Cotta is one of those races I hope to still be running when I'm old and slow. I first ran this race when I was just a baby: 15 years old, a running baby, back when I ran in long shiny shorts (a holdover from my short-lived tween soccer career) and big cotton t-shirts. I've run it about 6 times over the past 11 years. Only my previous two times are immortalized in online race results--I have no idea how what my number was back in those pioneer years. The last time I raced it, in 2010, it was the first time I raced with an insulin pump. I was undertrained, unprepared for the hills, and terrified. I finished just a touch over 1:00:00 for the 10.8km course, peppered with mean hills including one climb that lasts a solid kilometre.

This is the type of race that makes your flaws glaringly obvious. It beats you down. It makes you weak. Every time I cross the finish line I swear I'll never run it again, but I keep coming back. This year I wanted to beat it back. I wanted to go under 55 minutes, and I wanted to place in my age category. I wanted that computer print-out SO BAD.

The weather was my first sign that things might go my way: 0 degrees and dry, with no snow at all on those dirt roads. The second sign was near the 2km marker, when I realized that the sluggish 5:30/km pace I thought I was running was actually just my stupid mistake: I was going 3:50/km, downhill, and had read my Garmin wrong. 2k in under 8 minutes? Time in the bank.

I slowed on the hills but didn't stop. I made it to the top of the massive 1km climb without losing too much time. I sped up on the descent to the finish and pulled it off in 52:30.

Holy smokes.

Of course, all the fast runners also had great days and my time was only good enough for 5th in my age category, but can I complain? An 8 minute PR during my off-season? This is my race, man. It's my Everest. This year I wasn't weak, this year I showed it what I was made of. Pat on the back, me, for a year of running well done.

Wednesday, July 4

Fear Sweat

My marathon training officially started on June 25, but you wouldn't know it from looking at my Google calendar: just white square after white square after white square. My excuses have been plenty, and plenty legit too (achy shins againareyouserious, heat + humidity double-teaming me, long work days and low energy). My High Park tempo runs, which were such an important piece of my winter training--nothing makes you faster quicker or feel more like dying--have been pathetic failures lately. I've been quitting 8k tempos at 4k, 5k tempos at 3k. I've been sweating out little ponds and stinking up the apartment. It's been rough.

But then there's this other thing that's been slowing me down, and does it even need to be stated? In the winter I started experiencing high blood sugars after each run, ended up pumping myself full of insulin and still losing. Now, a season later, I'm facing low blood sugars at every turn.

Really, really low ones. On Friday I had the day off and chose to get my long run in early--by 8k I was down to 3.2 mmol/L, and by 15k I was at 1.9 mmol/L, crying in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart.

Crying in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Crying in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Yes, really. That girl was me.

1.9 is the lowest number I've seen in a long, long time, and a terrifying one to see. I walked the rest of the route home--6k, sweating, gross--out of fear that any additional physical exertion would just do me in. Dead in a Wal-Mart parking lot. There was no reason for my blood sugars to plummet so drastically; I'd adjusted my basal rates, downed two gels, and timed my carbs right. I should have been fine. So why wasn't I?

I bark "WHY?" at my diabetes a lot, a dozen times a day, and it never gives me any answers.

I didn't run for a few days after that incident, convinced that exercise might kill me. A day later the fear gave way to frustration: I have to figure out how to do this all over again? WHY. WHY ME.

And then I ran on Monday, mid-afternoon, feeling not-so-terrible in the heat and pulling off steady blood sugars and an inadvertent 10k at tempo pace. And just like that, it's not so scary anymore.

This cat saved its owner by sniffing out a low blood sugar and waking her in the middle of the night. If only my furbags were as helpful.

(via The Star)

Thursday, April 19

On Losing the Marathon

I lost the marathon today: I registered for the half instead. I gave it up, more like. Thanks for the fitness and improved pace, marathon training. We were good for a while there. But I was pushing you way too much, I know. We gotta take this easier.

If I had kept up with my training schedule after Around the Bay, I might have still been able to finish the full marathon on May 6. But then I took a few days off. And then I burned out, a little. And then I saw a 20 miler on my training calendar and just said no. I ran Harry's Spring Run Off (8k) on April 7 in 38:45, a pretty fast for me 4:50 per km pace, and knew there was no way I'd be content with "just finishing" the marathon.

Let's be honest. I crammed a lot of training into this winter/spring not to finish a marathon only, but to finish a marathon in a decent time. Diabetes is my beast and running this marathon looked like a good way to beat it, but would I be happy with a 4 hour plus finish time? Of course not. I'd beat myself up. All that training would be for nothing. Deep down, I know I have a 3:55 or even 3:50 first marathon in me. I need to work for just a little bit longer to get it out.

So I'm running the half in Mississauga on May 6--what up Hazel--and then throwing myself right back into a summer of training. I need to be stronger, more consistent. I need a few 22 milers (or more?) in the tank before I race the full, because I have no clue how my blood sugar will hold up in foreign miles.

October it is.

Thursday, April 5

Around the Bay

I slotted the Around the Bay 30k into my race calendar as an expectation, not a goal. The big stupid May marathon was the goal (um, still haven't registered for that yet). This was just a race, just 8.9k longer than a half, just something to do one weekend in late March. Of course I'd get through it. My expectations lowered even more in the week leading up to the race: my shins had been bothering me, I'd bailed on an 8k tempo less than halfway through, and we moved--our bodies, our selves!--into a new apartment a mere two days before the race. So now I had sore arms in addition to sore legs. I just wanted to finish in a decent time, grab my medal, and get the pain over with it.

But it really wasn't painful at all. In fact, this race was actually really good. It felt genuine. It felt supportive, and challenging, and enjoyable. The good weather probably helped a lot, but still: a happy race? Unpossible!

My blood sugar was sitting around 8 mmol/L before the start. I had a gel as a buffer--my blood sugars tend to soar during training but drop in races--and elbowed as close as I could to the start. My mom encouraged me to wear a long sleeve ("for the wind off the lake!") but I was too warm before the gun even started.

I spent the first 10k trying to slow myself down. I knew there were hills coming up in the last third, hills that I at least hoped were similar to the hills I train on in TO, so I knew it was important to keep my pace down. I ended up running alongside a woman and we paced each other through 20k. I also took my brother's advice to stop and walk at the water stations--getting down a few good gulps of Gatorade at each station was part of my blood sugar strategy, along with two Gus at 11k and 21k. My blood sugar was surprisingly, beautifully steady all the way through to the end. YES.

The hills started around 20k and I was happy to take the distraction. I held up pretty well on them, actually--my pace slowed, as I knew it would, but I had banked time going too fast in the start so my overall time was faring better than expected.

Then there was "the hill" about 4k from the end, but, I mean, really. That's "the hill"? I saw people ahead of me walking before they'd even reached a hint of an incline. I made it to the top and felt just a little winded-- and it's all thanks to you, Ellis Park Road repeats! The last few kms were sweaty and gross, but that finish into Copps Coliseum was pretty glorious. My blood sugar after the race was good (7.1) and my chip time was great, even (2:38:59!)

It was fun, full stop. I so needed this after a year of ups and downs in my running and my diabetes. Plus there was a guy on the course giving out bacon. I skipped the bacon.

Friday, February 17

Maybe Marathon Training

I still haven't registered for that marathon yet.

I've got a training plan! I've got a training plan that I've actually been following! I've got dreams of crossing the finish line in tears and screaming "I'M DIABETIC" just to make it all that sweeter.

But have I actually registered? Oh, hell no.

I am fully paid up for Around the Bay on March 25th and then Harry's Spring Run-Off on April 7th. One will be long and hard, but hopefully fun (ATB); one will be fast, fingers crossed (Harry's). But then there's that damn marathon just down the line...

It makes sense to pin this goal down now, to throw down 70-whatever dollars and just commit. But I'm scared. I'm scared of injuring myself again, and of training for an additional 5 weeks and still feeling ill-prepared. So my plan is to make the big decision on March 25--right after the running around the bay, but before Mad Men--and then run with it.

My training weeks have been just alright so far: I've got track days, tempo runs, extra mileage and then long ones on Saturday mornings. My pace is still too fast and my shin is still pretty sore. My blood sugars are still totally insane, impossible to rein in. But, still, I'm doing this? No shit.

Friday, December 16

4 of 4

My recent running life:

October 16: ran a half-marathon.
October 16-28: no running. Mostly sitting. Nay, all sitting, all the time.
October 29-November 23: gradual return to training in preparation for this year's Egg Nog Jog, a fun run in the boonies I've been doing since I was 15. Starting adding hill work to the mix.
November 24: pain in my shin. GAME OVER.

I've just been saddled with my fourth significant injury of the year. Something to do with a strained gastrocnemius muscle and lingering shin splints--basically, everything below my right knee is tight, jammed and useless. The pain when I ran was minimal, but I had a feeling it would only get worse. My physio tells me we caught this one "early", which I guess is some comfort, but I've been forbidden to run for at least one more week. Wah wah.

Mandatory rest ain't so bad, though, and it should help with my long term goal: on January 1 (...okay, maybe January 2) marathon training begins.

For real this time.
Already peeing my pants.

And it would be really nice to get into this training period without an old injury hanging around my calves. I'll be running Around The Bay in March (more hills!), Harry's in High Park in April (I can walk there from my house!), and then, hopefully, the Mississauga Marathon in May. I'm doing it for me, but also a little for this lady:


Gotta make you proud, Hazel.