Friday, June 29, 2012

WHO Says...

What does the word disability mean to you?

I've been thinking a lot about what disability means lately thanks to a few blogs I've written, a few I've read, a few conversations I've had and a comment that was made to me. The comment is what started it all actually.

A person I have not yet met in real life but have been writing to online made a comment to me about my disability. And about my being an advocate for people with physical disabilities.

My first thought was 'wow, that's a really nice thing to hear' and it was quickly followed by a second thought: 'whoa wait a minute, I don't have a disability!'.

Do I?

I have type 1 diabetes which is a chronic disease.

Is it a disability?

I would hazard a guess that the first thing that comes to mind for many people when they think disability is probably a wheelchair. If they think a little harder, they might add blindness or deafness to the list. Perhaps MS? But really, what does the word disability mean?

According to the World Health Organization disability is “any restriction or lack (resulting from any impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being”.

I can run a half marathon in two hours and eighteen minutes but I have to stop several times to check my blood sugar and eat carbs or take insulin depending on the number I see on the glucometer. I perform the activity in the range that is considered normal (if by range they mean time) but I don't think my particular way of running a half marathon is in a manner that is considered normal for a human being (which or course then begs the question 'what is normal?' but we'll save that one for another day.) 

On the other hand, when I go swimming, my blood sugars behave so well that I can remove my insulin pump and swim for an hour without my blood sugars going up or down. So I swim in a range and a manner that is considered normal for a human being. 

Am I disabled when I run but not when I swim? 

And really, who cares? Does it matter whether I have a chronic disease and a disability or just a chronic disease? Does my life change somehow if I'm suddenly using the word disability as a way to define myself? 

I would argue that it does. 

I don't pretend to speak for other people who have type 1 diabetes but, because I have type 1 diabetes, I seek out others like me. I encourage others people like me. I share stories and experiences with other people like me. If there was a chronic disease parade - I would march behind the type 1 diabetes banner. 

If I have a disability, then am I not challenged to share my stories and experiences with other people with disabilities? To join the disability pride parade? 

Disability is a pretty big umbrella - just like chronic disease is a pretty big umbrella. I don't pretend to understand what it's like to have lupus or MS or arthritis just because I take insulin every day. I also can't possibly imagine what it's like to be unable to see, walk, hear or feel just because I am unable to make insulin.  

I have no answers to my questions. I just continue to have more questions. But it gets me thinking which raises my awareness which in turn forces me to think outside of my comfort zone. And that, my friends, is what growth is all about. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

So Close...

...I can almost taste the chlorine.

Some of you might remember the pool saga I described a few months back when my beloved pool had some boiler issues that caused it to be closed down for a few weeks while the debate raged about whether or not to repair the problem. Some of you might also remember that our city is building a new municipal pool that is was scheduled to open months and months ago but has yet to unlock its doors to the public.

Well, they fixed the boiler and the old pool reopened but only until the new pool was ready. That was the deal.

Last Friday, the City announced that the old pool was closing for a week for annual staff training. Since I have not yet been swimming for a year, I was not aware of this annual tradition.

The new pool has still not opened but, when I visited the City's website on June 22nd, it clearly stated that the pool was scheduled to open by the end of June.

On Monday, June 25th, I was missing my Monday morning swim so I texted the City to see if they could confirm a date. They responded almost immediately with "Announcement on the new pool opening coming soon".

On Wednesday morning, I had now missed my second swim of the week and was feeling a little antsy. So I checked the website again but there were no changes. I texted again figuring once every two days isn't technically considered harassment. Plus, the end of June is rapidly approaching so they should probably have at least a sense of when it might open.

They responded with "The StC Kiwanis Aquatic Centre and new St. Catharines Public Library Branch will open to the public July 3. Opening ceremonies @ 3pm".

Yay! We have a date.

So my old pool is still closed for staff training until Saturday the 30th and I'm assuming it will not be reopening for only a day or two, particularly considering that there is a statutory holiday on Monday so it would be closed anyway. The new pool opens to the public next Tuesday. Does that mean it will be open at 6am for the morning swim? I sure hope so because, by then, it will be been almost two weeks since my last real swim workout.

I tweeted again....and have yet to hear a response.

I'm thinking I had better schedule an open-water swim this weekend. My gills are starting to dry out!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Wreck of La Julie Plante

Monday was a lovely day. So lovely in fact that I skipped out of work an hour early so I could go for a bike ride.

Ever since Saturday's triathlon I've been inspired to get better on the bike. More comfortable going down hills, more steady while drinking from my water bottle, stronger and faster on the flats and less wobbly on turns. We went out on Sunday morning and rode a fast 45k. I kept up a pretty good pace, I practiced bending down over my handle bars (rather than my usual position) and I didn't brake on the ride down the escarpment.

It went so well that I was eager to head out again. So, Monday afternoon at 3:30pm I found myself pulling my bike out from the basement for a solo ride. I figured I'd ride about 10k to warm up, then I'd climb the escarpment using the 9th street hill which is a nasty climb, ride around at the top of the escarpment and then got down the same hill (Effingham) we rode down on Sunday to see if I could go faster this time (are you reading this Erin??).

I headed out and was a little surprised at the wind. It didn't feel that windy when I left work...

Oh well, I'm a triathlete now. A little wind won't stop me!

I rode head on into the wind for a few kilometres, turned and found the wind at my back for the next few. So far so good...

I got to the bottom of the 9th Street hill and made my way up to the top. That hill is never going to be easy but I do think it's getting easier so I took some comfort in that as I stood at the top panting too hard to drink my water. Panting too hard to even pretend I wasn't panting when cars pulled up beside me.

After I recovered from the climb, I continued on and realized pretty quickly that I was now in a spot of trouble. The wind which was gusting pretty hard at the bottom of the escarpment was hurricane-like at the top. It was, I learned later when I received Doug's warning text, gusting South at over 40km/hour. The first half of my ride was North/South so I was either heading into the wind or I was being pushed along by the wind. Either option is fine with me.

The top of the escarpment found me cycling mostly East and West. Or North West. Or South East. There were no North or South roads.

No matter what I did, I was being buffeted on my side by wind gusts that threatened to knock me off my bike. It was crazy. I know I have some irrational fears when I ride but this was the first time I had real, valid concerns for my safety. I headed for Effingham road because I figured it was the safest way down the escarpment. Pelham Road would have had me rushing down a busy hill with the wind gusting from the side. At least Effingham would have me riding down the hill directly into the wind. It would be slower but there was less chance of my being blown into the path of a car. As I rode east towards my escape route, I found myself clenching the handlebars and locking my frame in an attempt to keep the bike steady. I rode down the middle of the quiet roads for fear of being blown over a few inches and tumbling into the ditch. And I repeated 'you're ok, you're ok' over and over in my head to keep me focused and calm(ish).

I forced myself to keep going until I reached Effingham. Once there, I stopped to catch my breath and compose myself for the descent. Sunday I clocked about 40 km/hour on the downhill. This time, I had to pedal down the hill and couldn't get above 20km/hour even on the steepest section. I felt like I was being pushed back up the hill.

Halfway down the hill, to add to the excitement, I could tell my blood sugar was low. I weighed the risks and decided going down a hill with low blood sugar was safer than trying to stop on a downhill in a hurricane. I got to the bottom, ate a gel and a pack a fruit chews and checked my phone while I waited for my number to climb back up. That's when I found Doug's text warning me about the wind...

The ride home alternated between cycling head on into the wind and cycling with it blowing me several inches sideways with every gust.

Instead of an hour of cycling to practice my speed and my downhills, I spent an hour and a half giving my legs, my lungs and my nerve a fabulous workout. In hindsight I'm glad I did it. It pushed me a little farther out of my comfort zone and taught me that I do indeed have control over the damn bike - even when Mother Nature is trying to wrestle it out from under me.

But the next time the wind blows like that - I'm going running.

_____________________

To explain the title of this blog - it comes from a poem that we read in grade nine english class. It's a fabulous little poem that's written with a french accent and it tells a sad tale of a windy night on Lac St. Pierre. Join me if you will on a walk down high school memory lane:

The Wreck of La Julie Plante

On wan dark night on Lac St. Pierre,
     De win' she blow, blow, blow,
An' de crew of de wood scow "Julie Plante"
     Got scar't an' run below--
For de win' she blow lak hurricane;
     Bimeby she blow some more,
An' de scow bus' up on Lac St. Pierre
     Wan arpent from de shore.

De captinne walk on de fronte deck,
     An' walk de hin' deck too--
He call de crew from up de hole,
     He call de cook also.
De cook she's name was Rosie,
     She come from Montreal,
Was chambre maid on lumber barge,
     On de Grande Lachine Canal.

De win' she blow from nor'-eas'-wes',--
     De sout' win' she blow too,
Wen Rosie cry, "Mon cher captinne,
     Mon cher, w'at I shall do?"
Den de captinne t'row de big ankerre,
     But still de scow she dreef,
De crew he can't pass on de shore,
     Becos he los' hees skeef.

De night was dark lak wan black cat,
     De wave run high an' fas',
Wen de captinne tak' de Rosie girl
     An' tie her to de mas'.
Den he also tak' de life preserve,
     An' jomp off on de lak',
An' say, "Good-by, ma Rosie dear,
     I go down for your sak'."

Nex' morning very early
     'Bout ha'f-pas' two--t'ree--four--
De captinne--scow--an' de poor Rosie
     Was corpses on de shore.
For de win' she blow lak' hurricane,
     Bimeby she blow some more,
An' de scow, bus' up on Lac St. Pierre,
     Wan arpent from de shore.

MORAL
Now all good wood scow sailor man
     Tak' warning by dat storm
An' go an' marry some nice French girl
     An' live on wan beeg farm.
De win' can blow lak' hurricane
     An' s'pose she blow some more,
You can't get drown on Lac St. Pierre
     So long you stay on shore.

William H. Drummond

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bibimbaping in the Kitchen

Last night I was alone for dinner. This doesn't happen that often. Doug and I don't always eat dinner together if we're both running here and there but one of us will usually make dinner for the other person to eat when they can.

Sometimes Doug is out for dinner so I'm alone in the kitchen.

Those are the nights when I play around creating dishes that make me happy but that don't exactly turn his crank. He always knows I'm planning something 'yummy' when the grocery bag has things like kale, sweet potatoes and quinoa in it.

My latest go to meal is a hybrid dish that I invented but have not yet named. It's based loosely on a dish I had in Toronto a few months ago with my little sister but the way I serve it is inspired by bibimbap, my favourite Korean dish.

The end result is colourful, not very pretty but super healthy and, in my humble opinion, very very tasty. Plus it makes leftovers for three or four lunches. And who doesn't love leftovers?

Here's what I do.

Step one, bake two sweet potatoes. This takes about an hour in the toaster oven at 400 degrees so I'll usually put them on and then sit at the kitchen counter to compose the next morning's blog (which is basically what I'm doing right now).  When they are nice and soft, remove them, toss them in a bowl and mash the heck out of them with a fork. I always keep the peel on because I'm all about squeezing as many nutrients as possible out of my food.


Step two, slice up an entire bunch of kale and steam it.


Step three, cook some quinoa. I like to mix red and white because red is prettier but white has more iron. I cook 1 1/2 cups of quinoa in three cups of water.


Simmer on low for 10 minutes, remove from heat, let sit for a few minutes and then remove lid and fluff with a fork. I'm not sure if that last step is critical but fluffing is fun and having a fork just gives me an excuse to steal a few bites.

To prepare my bibimbap-inspired dish I put a bunch of quinoa at the bottom of a deep bowl. I then put some mashed sweet potato on top, some kale beside it and then, wait for it, a big hunk of goat cheese beside that (oh so good!). When I have an avocado that's ripe enough to eat, I'll chop that up and toss it on top as well. The ones at the store were kermit green so they'll be ready for leftover lunch number two.


I drizzle some olive oil (straight from Israel courtesy of my little sis) and a bit of tamari on top.



And then I nibble away, feeling my iron levels climb with every bite.

Note: my apologies for the picture quality. I was too lazy busy cooking to grab my big girl camera so these were taken with my phone. They will NOT be making it on to the Céline Parent Photography website any time soon but at least you get a visual of what I'm talking about. Bon appétit! 

Monday, June 25, 2012

I am Triathlete

Hear me roar!

I really enjoy running.

I like cycling a lot but wouldn't say I love it.

Swimming is my favourite form of physical activity.

Put them all together and what did I learn? I. LOVE. TRIATHLONS!

I think my sister and I approached Saturday's race the right way. We signed up for the super sprint triathlon which is the shortest triathlon option. It's kinda like signing up for a 5k race before doing a 10k - which makes sense. We were able to try it out, and get the hang of it, without killing ourselves in the attempt.

Of course we're now talking about doing the sprint tri (the next longest distance) and the Olympic tri and I've half convinced Janice and Doug to join me in a half-ironman relay next year - yep, I'm hooked!

The day leading up to the event was a little hairy. My sister (Gabrielle) was flying here from Israel and was scheduled to land on Thursday evening. Thanks to a freak storm in Toronto, she was rerouted to Ottawa where she sat on the plane for 4+ hours, spent another 3+ hours waiting in line for a hotel room, got 2 1/2 hours of sleep and then flew to Toronto. She finally arrived at my parents' house on Friday afternoon, a mere 16 hours before the race. She had spent most of the previous day without sleep, food or water.

I showed up Friday evening armed with printouts of transition zones as well as swim, bike and run routes so I could go over the race with her. We went over what she needed to pack, we parted ways, she had an early dinner and went to bed.

Saturday morning dawned and it was beautiful. It was a hot day but the humidity had broken (thanks to the freak storm that kept Gabrielle's plane from landing) so the breathing was good. Race day was busy. Doug was doing the duathlon and his race started at 8:30am. The super sprint tri started at 10:30am. So we arrived at 7:30am, set up our bikes and then I watched him start his race before I turned my full attention to the sprint triathlon. I figured I'd watch their swim and learn lots of tips in time for mine. I learned that I really like how they do the swim in Welland - they do a very dignified staggered start and one swimmer takes off every five seconds. This helps avoid the craziness that accompanies a regular mass start.

Gabrielle showed up and we went to the transition zone to set her up. We got there in time to watch Doug come sailing in from his first run and grab his bike.

Running man...

...turned into cycling man

After cheering Doug on, Gabrielle and I got ourselves ready and then made our way down to the water. We wanted to get some warm-up swimming in before the race. It's a good thing we did - it helped calm the pre-race jitters and helped us get our breathing sorted out before the race started. By the time we got out of the water we were ready to go.


Waiting in line for our turn to swim. 

The swim was by far my favourite part of the race. When it came my turn, I just put my head in and started. I had imagined being part of a line of swimmers and me just following along. I had hoped not to get passed. Well, no one passed me but I sure as hell passed a lot of people. Gabrielle, who started right after I did was near me the entire swim and we came out of the water one after the other. Apparently we share some sort of family swimming gene because we both swam the 400m in exactly 8 minutes and 51 seconds (3/28 in our age group and top third overall!). 

We then had to run 400+m to the transition zone. That was my first ever barefoot run and my poor shins who love supportive, orthotic-filled shoes, were not impressed. But I did the distance in just over 2 minutes which surprised me because I felt like I was gingerly making my way. 


I got to the transition zone just after Gabrielle did (she managed the run in 1:40) and she was out of there a good minute before I was (which I blame on the time spent hooking up my insulin pump and stuffing more gels into my pockets just in case).

Insulin pump re-attachment

I hopped on the bike and set off to chase her down. I had her in my sights by 5k and I had closed the 1+ minute gap to about 20 seconds by the end of the ride. Another kilometre or two and I would have had her!!

The end of the bike ride (20k in 22 minutes)

The biggest lesson I learned was during the second transition. I got in just in time to see my sister park her bike, yank off her helmet and start running. She was in and out in 55 seconds. I parked my bike, yanked off my helmet, changed from cycling to running shoes, pulled on my running hat and ran out in 2:07. That's a HUGE time difference in a race. I learned that, unless you're cycling longer distances (30+k) or cycling up a lot of hills, don't wear cycling shoes. The time I lost changing my shoes was not made up for by the time I saved wearing cycling shoes. 

I took off after her but she was out of sight and well on her way through the 2.5k. I saw her near the turnaround point and she was flying. So was I, comparatively speaking, but I was not going to catch her without a jet pack. 

Gabrielle came blazing in having finished the 2.5k run in 11:19. 

She finished with an overall time of 47:28 and placed 7th in our age group (of 28 competitors). Not bad for a jet-lagged, dehydrated, exhausted little sister eh?

I finished my 5k run in 12:31 (5:01min/k) and finished the race in 50:13 - putting me 9/28 in my age group. 

Blood sugar-wise, it went well but I learned some important lessons. I lowered my basal rate to 60% an hour and a half before because I figured the swim would not affect me much if at all but the run and bike would. I then removed my pump 30 minutes before the swim (because we had to leave the transition zone) so the pump was off for about 45 minutes (waiting patiently in my cycling shoe - thanks for that tip Jeff!). My blood sugar was 5.2 before the start and I had a pack of fruit chews and a gel right before getting into the water. I did not test during the race but I was 10.2 immediately afterward. I bolused for the finish line chocolate milk and my blood sugar an hour later was 21 and climbing. I'm guessing that spike was mostly due to my being disconnected from the pump for so long. An extra bolus took care of the high but it would have been nice not to have had it in the first place. I'll have to figure out what to do about that for next time. 

Because there will indeed be a next time. Holy bananas that was fun!! 

The proud father of two triathletes.

Other race reports: 

Doug did his 5k run / 30k ride and 5k run in 1 hour and 53 minutes. The exact same time as last year. That man is a metronome. 

Janice did her first super sprint with us and placed first in our age category with a time of 44:10. 

Klari completely bypassed the super sprint and leapt right into the sprint tri. She finished third in her age group - despite some wetsuit removal struggles that were kinda fun to watch! 

We're all coming back next year! 

Friday, June 22, 2012

My Other Love

The month of May was consumed by the Cabot Trail Relay Race. For about three weeks straight I felt like I was living and breathing the multitude of tiny details that threatened to consume Klari and I. It was tons of fun and I am fully prepared to do it all again next year so I'm not complaining - just telling it like it was.

June has been the month of races - my races. Between the half marathon almost three weeks ago (already!) and the triathlon tomorrow I've been building up, tapering, racing, building up, tapering and racing again. 

July is the month of wedding photography. 

You see, by day I am Céline, the quality improvement coordinator / team leader who does her best to make life a little better with people who have a developmental disability. On evenings and weekends I am Céline the runner, swimmer, cyclist, friend, sister, daughter, lover, volunteer...and photographer. I don't tend to blog a lot about my love of photography other than to post many of the photos I take. But I sure do love being behind the camera. 

The love affair started years ago - during one of my life's big transitions. My life had just taken a huge turn (my choice) and I suddenly found myself living in a tiny apartment, struggling to pay the bills and wanting desperately to have my own camera. I have no idea why I wanted one so badly all of a sudden but I just knew I did. So I saved $20 every paycheque until I could afford my first digital camera. I bought it and promptly convinced my mother to take a photography course at Niagara College with me. 

By the end of the first class I knew that I would love my new little camera. The buttons were intuitive, making photos look the way I wanted them to look quickly followed. I was soon showing all the ladies who sat with me how to use their cameras and shooting EVERYTHING. 

One of my favourite photos - taken back in the day when I was learning about depth of field.

My mother quit after the first class - having learned all she ever needed to know. I saved my pennies again until I could buy my first SLR and lens and I took every class the college had to offer. During these classes I made some pretty amazing friends who are still a part of my life. We meet up a few times a year, take pictures, brag about pictures and check out the coolest new gadgets. During the classes I learned all sorts of neat tricks and I decided to start a little side business - Céline Parent Photography. I began offering to take pictures of anyone who would let me. I did family portraits, pet photography, boudoir, sports photography, aerial shoots (so much fun!) and wedding photography. I said yes to every request (no matter how nervous it made me) and I continue to take on whatever I'm asked to take on. If I don't know how to do it - I'll say yes and then quickly learn what I need to learn before the big day. 

My first attempt at aerial photography - Doug flew the plane and I snapped Niagara Falls. 

Photography, in my opinion is 80% technical and 20% creative. I'm pretty good at technical things - I understand how to create the effect I want to create, how to let just enough light in and how to adjust the shutter speed to capture a runner sprinting toward the finish line or create a fairy tale waterfall. 

My favourite running model - I need a fast shutter speed to catch this guy! 

I love the technical part of photography. I enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to do something - like painting with light. 

My friend Breanne and I got together one night to try painting with light. We set up shop in my living room, picked a subject, turned off all the lights and used a flashlight to paint with light. After a few failed attempts, we were able to turn a small stone statue into an impressive, imposing eagle. 

The creative part of photography? Well that's where I struggle a bit. I'm much better at replicating something than I am at creating it out of thin air. So I spend the days leading up to an event devouring photography books and magazines in an attempt to fill my brain with pose ideas. I even have apps on my iPhone that provide pose suggestions if I completely freeze. 

I tend to do about two or three weddings per year. Mostly by word of mouth. Mostly for people I know. They don't usually fall two weeks apart however. So July is quickly turning into the month of wedding photography. Between preparing for the event, shooting the event, editing the photos, preparing for the next event, shooting and editing that one, I'll be spending a lot of time behind the camera and at my computer. I'm excited though. It's been a while since I've shot that kind of event and I'm ready to flex my photography muscles a bit. 

So race day tomorrow and then I trade my racing bibs for a camera bag for a few weeks. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Language of Labels

Last week I drove to a meeting with one of my co-workers. I'm not even sure how the conversation started but we ended up having a fascinating discussion about definitions and terms that are used to label people.

Specifically, we discussed the terms disability, condition, illness, and disease.

I explained to her that I have met a few people with type 1 diabetes who find the word 'condition' to be very offensive. They argue that condition is defined as a state of health. As in, he was in critical condition or she was in prime condition.

So, arguably, we can have type 1 diabetes and still be in pretty darn good condition. Or in really bad condition. But diabetes itself is not a condition.

So I said to her that I don't have a chronic condition, I have a chronic illness.

And she replied "I don't think that's the right word either".

"Chronic disease then?" I asked. "That sounds better" she replied.

Then she launched into an explanation of the term disability and the conversation really became fascinating.

According to what she learned in school, disability is a transient rather than a permanent thing. For example, someone might have a physical impairment that requires them to use a wheelchair to get around. The impairment is permanent - they will always have that impairment. But it doesn't necessarily mean that they always have a disability. If they live in an area where everything is completely accessible to them - then technically they are not disabled because they are able to function the same way everyone else can. But if they live in a area that is full of barriers - that's when they become disabled.

So I asked "if the person lives in a large city with an accessible home and accessible transit, buildings, workplaces, stores etc then they are not disabled but if they move to a small town where they cannot take the bus, get into stores or buildings, then they are disabled?"

"Pretty much" was the answer.

That's fascinating.

"Just like how, if someone with Down Syndrome lives in a small town and they are a fully accepted and active member of that community, then they really don't have a disability. They still have Down Syndrome but they don't have a disability. Take the same person and put them in a larger city where they can't easily integrate into the community, get a job, contribute, access services etc and suddenly they have a disability."

That is SO interesting. I had never thought of disability that way before.

When I got home that evening I looked up the terms illness and disease. According to my research, an illness is a state where a person has feelings of pain or discomfort for no identifiable reason.

Identify the reason (eg. diabetes, cancer etc) and then they have a disease. So I guess, based on that definition, I have a chronic disease. Not an illness and not a condition.

I don't know about you folks but I find language absolutely fascinating. I am amazed how some people are able to weave words into eloquent stories that describe perfectly how they are feeling or what they are thinking. And yet what is often the case is that people can't quite find the correct term to explain how they're feeling or what they're thinking - it can lead to all sorts of frustrations and misunderstandings.

Language can set people free and it can also put people into tiny boxes that limits their ability to do what they want to do. I see that every day and I hate it.

But on a purely intellectual level - it sure is fun to debate and discuss the meaning of things and the nuances that make our language so beautiful and so powerful.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

No Longer a Choice

In the fall, winter and spring - running in the morning before work is a treat. First thing in the morning is my favourite time to run. The world is quiet, the streets have more rabbits on them than people and it's just a really wonderful way to start the day.

In the fall, winter and spring, I only run before work when I'm not feeling overly tired. I already get up three mornings a week at 5:30am to swim so doing it an extra time or two can get to be a little much. But, if I eat well, go to bed at a good time and sleep soundly - my treat is an early morning run.

We have now entered the time of the year when early morning runs are no longer a luxury. They are a necessity.

Southern Ontario summers are hot and humid. Breathing through cotton, sweat running down your legs and dripping off the end of your ponytail humid. At the moment, we are in the middle of an official heat wave and the temperature as I write this is 30 degrees Celsius and it feels like 38. The humidity is 62% making it a very dangerous temperature for running.

Some people love to run in the heat. Some people love to lounge in the sun. Some people wait all year for this kind of temperature. I am NOT one of these people (although I do live with one). I was made for East Coast weather. Irish weather. Cold, foggy, windy, wild, changing weather. So, during the Canadian summer, if I want to run, I run before work.

It doesn't matter if I'm exhausted. It doesn't matter if I was up all night with crazy blood sugars or bad dreams. It doesn't matter if I have 13k to run and need to be out the door by 5am. The only thing that matters is that, no matter how bad I feel at 5:30am, I will feel 100 times worse if I wait until after work to run.

Yesterday morning, I set my alarm for 5:30am. I only had 30 minutes to run so it wasn't too ridiculous of a time to get up. We woke up to a temperature that was already 23 degrees and very humid. On top of that there was a really strong wind that sucked whatever breath you did have left as you tried to breathe through the humidity.

I hit the road before 6 and noticed something different almost immediately.

I was not the only one out there. Not by a long shot. And it wasn't rabbits that were keeping me company.

Humans were everywhere. And they were running.

As I ran through the neighbourhoods I counted twenty runners. All were weaving up and down the streets. North south, east west.

Any aliens passing overhead must have looked down and wondered what everyone was doing. Back and forth, up and down, in a weird and wonderfully arbitrary pattern.

I ran into (well not literally) my friend Barb on the way back. We stopped to chat for a moment, both of us dripping wet and gasping. And grateful that we ran as early as we did.

I was home and on the deck stretching by 6:30am. I was overheated but felt great. Not only great but grateful that I knew enough to get up early.

During the fall, winter and spring - running in the morning is glorious.
During the summer - running in the morning is all about getting'er done.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Day Off

Last Saturday, I woke up to discover that the diabetes monsters had checked out for the day. I have no idea where they went but they were gone gone gone in a way that they have never been gone - not once in the 9 1/2 years since they set up camp in my pancreas.

I woke up in the morning after having slept soundly all night. I usually sleep soundly all night when I'm a) utterly exhausted or b) when my blood sugar is really high. I didn't feel utterly exhausted so I checked my blood sugar with more than a wee bit of trepidation.

It was 5.6.

That morning I had a rather unusual workout schedule. At 7am I was going for a 10k run. By 8:15am I would be stretching, by 8:45am I would be eating breakfast and by 9:30am we would be in the car heading to Welland for my first open water swim.

I had absolutely no idea how to adjust my insulin for that kind of schedule so I just SWAG'ed it (Scientific Wild Ass Guessing for those of you not in the know).

I did not adjust my basal rates at all. I had a gel and a handful of raisins before my run and did not test during.

After the run I was 6.0.

I stretched, ate a bowl of cereal with fruit and bolused 2.8 units instead of the recommended 4.0. I know from experience that swimming doesn't really lower my blood sugar but I've only ever been swimming first thing in the morning with no insulin in my system.

I tested my sugar before heading into the water and it was 12.8 which was fine because I had only eaten about 45 minutes prior.

I swam for 30 minutes and then checked again: 7.9. It dropped but no more than it would have if I hadn't been swimming.

We drove home, I showered and then we had lunch. I was 5.6 before we ate. Normally, when I run in the morning, I tend to have a low in the afternoon. I did not. I was 5.7 two hours after eating and miraculously did not drop below that.

Before dinner, I was 4.2.

Two things happened that day that don't often happen. And the fact that they happened on the same day may be a first.

I did not have to eat when I didn't want to eat

and

I was able to eat everything I wanted to eat when I wanted to eat it.

No highs to wait out and no lows to correct. No impending highs or lows to deal with either - you know, the ones where you're 7.0 but you know you're falling fast so you eat to avoid the low? Or the ones where you're 7.0 but you should be 5.0 and you're feeling thirstier by the minute?

Despite a double workout with a meal in the middle - nothing went wrong. I was able to just do my thing just like everyone else.

Insert big sigh of contentment here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Open Water Swimming

Saturday morning at 10am I joined Janice, Klari and Doug on the dock of the new South Niagara Canoe Centre in Welland. The parking lot was packed and people were dragging rowing shells in and out of the water, a dragon boat was parked (totally not the right word I know) a few hundred metres off shore and athletes were milling around like ants. It was a busy place.

We three were the only swimmers.

Janice and I prepared ourselves - which basically meant taking off our shoes and pulling on our swim caps and goggles.

It's been months since I've worn a swim cap and my abhorrence of them has not lessened over time.

Ow!

This is my 'regal' look apparently. 
(Honestly, I think I was just trying not to move my face for fear of the swim cap popping off.)

Klari had a wetsuit to yank on, which apparently takes a while, so Janice and I started working out our plan. We would swim to the first buoy which was who the hell knows how far away. Janice thought perhaps 25-50m. I thought at least 100m. We figured we would see how long it took us to get there and that would help us figure out the distance. So we would swim to the first buoy, swim around it and head back to the dock. Repeat three times.

That would help us practice sighting and keep us from going too far from help.

We sat on the dock and dipped our toes into the water.

"OMIGOD!" yelped the girl who likes cold water (me). That's really really cold.

Unlike my beloved pool, we couldn't see the bottom so we had no idea how deep it was. I lowered myself gingerly up to my waist - no bottom yet but holy hell it's cold! Dropped in up to my neck and still no bottom. Janice figured it was safe to jump in so she did and surfaced with her own half-frozen yelp.

"Well, the cold water will help our legs recover from this morning's run at least" she said. I'll take silver linings wherever I can get them so I nodded in agreement.

We started swimming. It was so cold that it felt like my lungs were shivering. I realized within seconds that breathing every third stroke like I do in the pool was not going to work. So I breathed every second stroke instead and immediately felt better - less like I was hyperventilating. Sighting for the buoy was not easy as it's fairly small and pretty much the colour of the water. But, we found it and we circled it and we headed back.


This photo is Janice and I heading to the dock and Klari heading out for her first 'length'. Can you see the tiny buoy off in the distance? 

I got to the dock feeling absolutely invigorated from the water which had gone from freezing to perfect. I tore off my vile swim cap, gave coach Doug a smile and headed back out for the second swim. 


The second trip out and back felt much better. I figured out a little breathing/sighting routine that seemed to work. Stroke, stroke, breathe left, stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe right, sight, stroke, stroke, breathe left. Repeat. 


It's amazing how low my head looks when I breathe...



...compared to when I sight. The videos I watched showed swimmers with just their eyes above the water. Should probably work on that...

After three trips to and from the buoy, we figured we had swum about 600m. It felt great and I decided that I really really like open water swimming. I'm sure it will be a little more frantic on race day but it's certainly an enjoyable way to swim. 

I had tucked a gel into my shirt pocket a) just in case and b) to see if it actually stayed put during a swim. I'm happy to report that it was not needed and it stayed where it was supposed to the entire time. Even during our very un-ladylike struggles to hoist ourselves up on to the dock. Thank goodness that's not part of the race requirements. I don't think bursting into giggles halfway out and falling back into the water will help our time. 

Race day plan: get in the water before the race starts to a) get used to the temperature and b) get my lungs warmed up so they stop shivering. That first few minutes in cold water is pretty rough and, if you add race day panic to the mix, I'm thinking it's not going to go well. 

We headed back to our cars and all had the same response to our first open-water swim. It went much better than expected and, this time next week, we're all going to be triathletes!!

Big grins all around. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Welland Multisport Weekend

Next weekend is the Welland Multisport race weekend. On Saturday the 23rd there is the duathlon, triathlon and the try-a-triathlon. On Sunday, there's a half ironman, a half ironman duathlon and a half ironman swim-bike.

Welland is where I grew up. I live a few towns over now but can be out the door and sitting in my parents' kitchen within 25 minutes. It's a town full of memories and familiar faces.

I'm not sure how long these races have been going on in Welland but this will be my third year participating. I competed in the duathlon twice and will be trying the tri this time around. Every time I go, I'm shocked at the number of athletes that descend on my little hometown. I guess technically it's not that little, but it certainly doesn't feel like a big metropolis like Toronto or Montréal and it doesn't have the name recognition of Niagara Falls. It's just...Welland.

And yet hundreds upon hundreds of people have signed up. At last check, over 400 were doing the half ironman alone. That just seems crazy to me.

This will be a year of firsts in Welland.

My running/cycling friend Vince is doing his first duathlon. He's been doing some pretty dedicated training sessions to prepare for the event - including weekly brick training. I'm not sure if he was disgusted or impressed when I told him that I just kinda winged my first duathlon and had never once tried doing more than one sport within a 24-hour period - never mind back to back.

Doug is also doing the duathlon but he's a pro at these now so I'm not too worried about him.

My little sister Gabrielle and I are trying the tri together. She arrives next Thursday from Israel, we're doing a quick open-water swim on Friday, I'm giving her some pointers on transition zones over dinner at my parents' and then we race the following morning. She has never even seen a triathlon before and has no idea what to expect so this should be fun.

Janice and Klari are also trying the tri. They've both done a duathlon before but three sports in one event is new for them too. The three of us are heading out for our first open-water swim practice tomorrow morning. Janice is hoping she is able to actually swim 400m as she has not had much pool time of late. Klari will be trying out her new wetsuit for the first time and I will be testing out my tri outfit and learning (hopefully) how to sight. Doug is coming along to laugh at us, take pictures and call 911 if needed.

We will all have stories to share when the races are over. We will all secure personal bests (which I one of the reasons why I love first time races) and we will all learn a lot of things we wished we had known before the gun went off.

And hopefully we'll all be back next year to do it all again.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

That Sucks

As many of you know, I work with adults who have a developmental disability.

I love my job.

Many people I serve don't talk a whole lot. Or they say things in a way that doesn't quite make sense...to me at least. But most of the time, if you listen closely enough, they are bang on in the way they can summarize life.

Last night, we had a baby shower for one of our employees. The room was packed with staff and people using services. One guy came up to me and pointed to my pump.

"Whazzat?" he said.

"It's my insulin pump. I have diabetes" I replied.

"Why?" he asked.

"I have no idea" I answered.

"That sucks" he said and walked away.

Pretty much summarizes it doesn't it?

Type 1 diabetes - we can guess why we have it but no one really knows. Was it the result of my horrible car accident? Was it genetic? Did I do something to get it? There is no way to know but, whatever the reason, it totally sucks.

But it sucks in a way that's not really worth stressing about. It's not like how losing your wallet totally sucks. Or getting stuck in an elevator totally sucks. This totally sucks for the long haul so we just get used to the fact that it totally sucks and then carry on.

I'll let you all in on a little secret. Do you remember how last week I mentioned that I was chosen as one of this year's Global Heroes? Well, I received an email on Monday with a list of questions they wanted me to answer about my running, my diabetes, my insulin pump and what inspires me. One of the questions asked was: what I would say to someone whose life has been affected by a condition similar to mine?

I thought for a few minutes and came up with this: Use diabetes as a motivator not an excuse and you'll be amazed where it can take you.

So yeah, it totally sucks.

What are YOU going to do about it?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Not a Team Player

I received an email at work yesterday about a United Way fundraiser that involved playing volleyball or dodgeball. I dutifully shared it with my team in case anyone was interested. I figured just because the words volleyball and dodgeball give me the heebie-jeebies doesn't mean that they have the same effect on everyone.

There are some things about me that change over time. There are some things that do not.

My absolute abhorrence for team sports has not changed at all since I was a very young child.

I do not play well on a team. Never have. Particularly when it comes to sports that involved balls flying towards me at high speeds.

Volleyball. Dodgeball. Basketball. Soccer. Baseball. All of these bring out the terrified child in me. Perhaps it's my rather poor hand-eye coordination. Perhaps it's my inability to judge speed or distance very well. It might be my fear of letting the team down as I scream and cover my head rather than actually hit the ball.

Whatever the reason - I do NOT join sports teams and I can't imagine how much money would have to be offered before I agree to play first base.

(not that anyone would actually want me to play first base because I totally suck at catching and throwing things but still - it would have to be a lot of money)

Solitary activities tend to be my sports of choice. I don't mind running, cycling or swimming with other people, I just don't like other people's performance hinging on mine.

Oh, and did I mention I hate things flying towards my head at high speeds?

I must admit that I have joined curling and I really enjoy it. It is a team sport and I do feel the stress mounting when the score is tight but the league we play with is out for fun, not to win, so I'm ok with it most of the time.

Plus the rocks are just too damn heavy to lift, never mind hurl, so I'm not too worried about stray curling rocks hitting anything other than my feet.

I don't know why I have this irrational fear of things hitting my head - it's not like some traumatic head hitting event happened to me as a child...

...that I remember at least...

omigod!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

You Should Try Kicking

So here's the thing.

When I swim - I don't kick.

Never have.

Not even as a kid (at least as far back as I can remember anyway).

Swimming has pretty much always been an activity that only involved my upper body. Sure, there would be the occasional flutter of my feet as I moved about in the water but these flutters were few and far between. Normally my legs just follow me around the pool and enjoy the break from running and cycling.

I casually told Doug this a few weeks ago and he gave me a very odd look. Apparently this is not normal??

Pretty much every time I've made any comment since then about swimming and speed - his reply has been consistent. "You should try kicking".

Well, of course I've tried kicking. When I started this whole swim adventure last fall I tried kicking. All it did was make me feel completely unbalanced and it seemed to slow me down. When I only used my arms, I seemed to move through the water like a torpedo (although not as fast as an actual torpedo) but as soon as I added my legs I felt like I was floundering around like an injured seal. I convinced myself that my legs dangling behind me were actually aerodynamic and I was saving time by not creating drag by kicking.

I tried again, halfheartedly, a few times but just didn't like the whole kicking thing. It never felt right - kinda like waving your arms madly above your head while running.

Not that I do that of course.

My triathlon is now 12 sleeps away so I'm starting to get a little nervous about my swimming prowess. So yesterday morning I got into the pool and decided to stop my halfhearted attempts and just do it. I forced myself to kick. Not crazy churn up the pool like some of the folks there but a smooth, controlled, consistent kick.

I hated it for the first few lengths because I felt wobbly, I felt slower than normal and I every time I stopped focusing on kicking I stopped kicking. It was pathetic actually. Kinda like if you stop thinking about walking and just end up standing still on the middle of the sidewalk.

Enter my head if you will. At the start of my length I always say the number out loud (in my head) so I don't lose count.

Length one: "One!" "kickkickkickkickkickkickkickkick - gawd I hate kicking"


Length two: "Two!" kickkickkick what should we have for dinner tonight? dammit I stopped kicking kickkickkick"

Length three: "Three!" kickkickkick ooh, cabbage rolls would be good! seriously?!?I stopped kicking again. Must. FOCUS. on. kicking"

Length four: "Four!" kickkick I hate kicking. Omigod I stopped kicking because I thought about how much I hate kicking instead of thinking about kicking. I suck"

It might be a good time to point out that the pool is 25m long so it takes me just about 30 seconds to swim from one end to the other. I couldn't even focus on kicking for 30 seconds straight.

This went on for a while and then the lifeguards did their first fifteen minute rotation.

Holy bananas!

Since I can't see the clock very well, I always use the very predictable lifeguard rotation as a gauge to see how fast I'm swimming. On a typical day, I swim 22 lengths before the first lifeguard change. On a good one, I swim 24.

Yesterday, I swam 26!

Maybe there IS something to this kicking thing. The next 15 minutes went a little better because I was no longer focused on reminding myself to kick. Instead I was focused on trying to feel whether I was actually moving faster or not.

Thirty minutes in and I had swum 50 lengths instead of my usual 44-46.

I finished 80 lengths in 46 minutes.

Normally I finish them in 50.

I knocked 4 minutes off my time just by moving my legs. And I probably only moved my legs 50-60% of the time. Imagine how super fast I'll be once I actually have the mental fortitude to focus on kicking for the entire 30 seconds!

For someone who cycles and runs, you'd think I'd know all about using my legs but apparently some lessons are a little slower to be learned than others.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Brick Training

The first time I did a duathlon, which is two years ago now, I was told that going from running to the bike was pretty simple. Change shoes, pop on your helmet and start pedalling.

They were right.

I was also told that going from bike to running was another beast altogether.

They were right about that too.

There is something that happens when you leap off a bike and try to run. Your legs feel like they're in drugged-induced state and they alternate between feeling like lead and feeling like jello. Oh, and I'm not sure if this happens to everyone but I completely lose all ability to judge my pace. The first time I did the bike to running transition I felt so weird that I thought I was having a very very bad low blood sugar. Like scary bad.

Nope, my sugar was fine.

I kept running and, after a few kilometres, I felt better but the entire run felt 'off'. Off like, if I looked down, I might discover that my legs had been replaced with couch cushions. And that someone had stolen my feet.

That's when I learned about brick training.

Not knowing much about it, I did a bit of research to find out where the term brick comes from. The most consistent answer is that it's how your legs feel when you get off the bike and try to run.

The best answer I found online was: bike-run-ick!

Brick training is when you train for that transition from cycling to running. Apparently, brick training is very helpful when preparing for a duathlon or a triathlon. So I've been told. I completed two other duathlons after that first one and did not do one minute of brick training in preparation for either of them. I just knew what to expect and knowing is half the battle (G.I.Joe!) right?

This past Saturday, I was going to run an easy 30 minute run. It was my first run after my half marathon so I figured I should take it easy and see how the legs felt. Then, on Friday night, I had the brilliant idea of going for a 40 minute bike ride and then going for a 30 minute run. That way I'd get more of a workout without pushing my legs too hard too soon. AND I could do some brick training.

Just typing "I could do some brick training" makes me feel so hardcore! 

Anyway, I went to bed with that plan in my head and woke up to pouring rain at 6am. Doug got up to meet the girls (Maria and Janice) for their early morning run and I rolled over and went back to sleep. Seven am arrived and the rain had stopped. Wicked!

I changed into my race day outfit and prepared to give it its first trial run.

I waterproofed my pump in case the rain came back.



And I headed out the door.

I carefully laid out my running shoes (laces undone) and my running hat and then I hopped on the bike. I cycled for a lovely 40 minutes and decided that my tri top and tri shorts work well on the bike. Not as much padding in the shorts as I'm used to but enough to make it bearable.

I got home, jumped off the bike, hauled it on the deck, changed shoes in a flash, changed headgear in a flash and ran back down the driveway.

Barf.

Even when I know what to expect it still feels completely bizarre.

I felt like I was running about 8 min/k so I guessed I was running 7min/k. I glanced at my watch and I was running 5:30min/k. Good lord! I'm supposed to be doing an easy run.

SLOW DOWN!

I forced myself to slow down and, when I felt like I was now running 6:30min/k, I looked at my watch again. I was now running 5:15min/k! And yet my legs felt like lead and I felt like I was moving at a fast walk. It's just such a bizarre feeling.

I spent the remaining 20 minutes trying to slow down. Seriously, I think the slowest I ever got was 6:30s and that didn't last very long before I was back under 6 minutes again. I ran 4k in under 23 minutes which, if I had continued, would have put me at 5k in about 28:30. That's crazy.

Oddly fun. But Crazy.

The outfit held up during the run fairly well. I didn't notice the padded shorts which was a bonus and the tank top had enough support (if you know what I mean) for running. Although without my running belt on, it tended to slip up and needed a good tug every few minutes.

Next Saturday, Janice and I are heading to the Welland River for my first open water swim. I'm going to practice sighting, practice swimming in water with a current and try out my tri outfit to see how swimming in it feels. Janice said she might even swim over top of me so I can see what that feels like and learn not to panic on race day when faster swimmers literally swim over top of slower swimmers to get by them. That is SO rude!

Can't they just go AROUND like civilized runners and cyclists do?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Getting My Hands Dirty

It might sound kinda weird but I like sticking my hands into things.

Like cookie dough.

And dirt.

I just like feeling the textures and smelling the rich smells. The trick of course is remember NOT to lick your fingers after playing in the dirt.

After work last night, Doug and I hopped in the car and headed to one of our many local nurseries. We were on a mission. We needed one boxwood shrub and a whole pile of pachysandras.

When we moved into our little house two years ago (I can hardly believe I just wrote two years ago), we had our font yard landscaped. We figured the professionals would do a much better job of designing and setting it up and we were right. We have a lovely yard AND we never have to mow a lawn again.

Over the course of that first summer, two problems arose with our lovely little garden.

Problem one - a row of boxwoods (4) were planted along the path to our front door. It took the neighbourhood dogs about 15 seconds to decide that the boxwood closest to the sidewalk would be the new water cooler where they would all stop and share their stories and the local gossip. Within a few weeks, the other three boxwoods were thriving and the first one was turning more and more yellow. The poor thing finally died after having been peed on several hundred times in succession.

I would have died too.

Problem two - we had all the grass removed from the boulevard and had pachysandras planted instead. I love the look of pachysandras as a ground cover. They're just so lush and such a nice green. We were told to be patient because it takes them a while to get established. So every few days I watered them, studied their every move and tried to convince myself that they were growing. Sending up new shoots. Preparing to fill our boulevard with lush green leaves. Not much happened that first summer except several of them died. The second summer, we ordered another load of mulch, piled it on the garden and watched the pachysandra die at an even faster rate. After a few weeks of this we pulled back the mulch only to discover a whole world of mould, mushrooms and other scary things that only grow where it is REALLY wet. Our poor plants were rotting. We turned the mulch trying to air it out and the plants stopped dying but they were looking pretty rough.

This spring, they still looked rather unwell so we decided that perhaps the problem was the black weed blanket thing that the landscapers put down under the mulch. We raked back the mulch and removed the blanket to discover a network of pachysandra roots and shoots that had probably spent the last two years trying to find their way through the material. So, as we enter year three of our front garden, everything looks lush and full except our pachysandra patch that is still struggling.

Last night we bought nine new pachysandra plants to fill in the gaps and hopefully speed up the ground cover process. And we bought a brand new boxwood shrub to replace the poor guy who died (of embarrassment or nitrogen overdose - we'll never know).

And I spent a happy hour with my hands in the dirt.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Semantics

Well, the half marathon is over and my tight muscles and body fatigue are already fading into distant memory. My shiny new medal has been added to our medal collection. My race bib has been added to my bag of race bibs.  C'est fini.

Guess I had better start ramping up for the next event.

It's triathlon time folks. As in my first ever triathlon. Well, to be honest it's technically called a try-a-tri but it's still swimming followed immediately by cycling followed immediately by running so I will proceed with calling it a triathlon unless someone tells me I can't due to some technicality I'm not aware of.

I mean really. Triathlons and duathlons are crazy. They never have the same distances. I've done a duathlon where I've run 5k, cycled 30k and run 5k. And I've done one where I ran 2k, cycled 25k and then run 7.5k. You can't possibly compare the two and you certainly can't compare your results between races.

So, I'm calling my next race a triathlon and we're moving on.

It's not like I'm claiming to be running a 5k marathon...

And, by the way, it always makes me laugh when people say stuff like '5k marathon'. I know that not everyone knows the running lingo but a marathon is a set distance (42.2k/26.2miles) - it's not a perceived effort. Just because you ran your 5k really hard doesn't mean you ran a 5k marathon. I told a lady at work once about a 1/2 marathon I was about to run. She later asked me how my marathon went. I reminded her that it was a 1/2 marathon and she replied "oh you trained really hard - you can call it a marathon". Ummmm...

I digress....

So I have exactly 15 sleeps until I swim bike run in sequence for the first time in my life.

At the moment I'm feeling excited and yet calm, brave and yet completely nauseated.

Pretty much how I feel about any upcoming race.

Between now and then, I need to get myself into the Welland Canal for some open water swimming. I have spent lots of time playing about in open water but have never actually tried to swim in a straight line with my face in the water. Never mind the whole trying to breathe thing. Or dealing with water that is anything other than perfectly calm and totally chlorinated. So I'd rather have a trial run or two before I hurl myself into the water with a bunch of other crazies and attempt to master everything while trying not to get royally kicked in the head.

I think I've figured out my race day diabetes plan and I'm poaching a lot of ideas from Sensei Jeff. Basically, remove insulin pump at the last possible moment and put into cycling shoe so I don't forget to put it back on after the swim. Put a gel or two in the pocket of my tri top in case I go low out in open water (wouldn't that be a blog-worthy experience?). Keep quick drying towel handy for post-swim blood sugar check. Lower basal rates to 70% 90 minutes before the race. Cross my fingers.

The entire race should only take about an hour after all. What could possible go wrong?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Two Years in the Making

It happened more than two years ago now. It was the middle of the night. Three am so the story goes. I was fast asleep (as usual). Doug was lying beside me, drifting in and out, half listening to the radio.  NPR was quietly playing in his earbud and the voices were soft and soothing.

In between interviews and news stories, he heard a commercial. A commercial about Medtronic. A commercial about Medtronic's Global Heroes Program. 

In the morning, Doug told me about it. Apparently Medtronic has some sort of program that people with medical devices can apply to. That's all he remembered. 

So I googled it and discovered the Medtronic Global Heroes website. And I watched their promotional video. 

And I cried. 

Medtronic has a Global Heroes Program that honours runners from around the world who have medical devices used to treat medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, chronic pain or spinal disorders. Twenty-five people are chosen every year and they come from around the world to run in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon or Ten Mile races. I immediately looked at how to apply but I was too late. The application process had closed for the year. So I signed up to receive a notification the following year when applications opened again. 

Ten months later, I received the email. I applied and I convinced my friend John to apply too. We thought it would be fabulous if we could both be Medtronic heroes together. We imagined ourselves crying together, running together and crossing the finish line together - he holding Michelle's hand and me holding Doug's. 

We applied and, a little while later, we both received emails. John was accepted. I was not. It was hard to be sad when I was so very excited for him. I lived the experience through his stories and photos and I felt like I was running the race with him. 

Two months ago, I applied to be a 2012 Global Hero. I asked Doug, John and Sherri (a nurse from the Niagara Diabetes Centre) to write letters of recommendation for me. They did and every single one of their letters brought me to tears. I completed my application, they submitted their letters and we all crossed our fingers. 

Medtronic sent out their emails yesterday. Over 175 people received emails thanking them for their applications. And 25 people from around the world received emails of congratulations. 

This year, I was one of the lucky ones. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Just Like Everyone Else

There are days when I'd really like the diabetes gods to behave.

There are days when I'd really really like them to behave.

And there are days when they do.

Sometimes I think they behave simply because they're not in the mood to cause trouble and they'd just prefer to curl up in front of the TV and let me handle the remote.

And there are other times when I think they actually realize how important it is for them to just give me a break.

Usually these days, hours or moments happen not long after they have put me through the ringer.

Sunday - the diabetes gods were on their absolute best behaviour and I like to think it was a gift.  

They had tossed two pretty horrific blood sugar disasters my way during my half marathon training which derailed my last two long training runs. My confidence in my ability to handle long runs and diabetes was a little shaken.

So was my confidence in my ability to run long distance.

But there was no more time to practice - I was down to one taper week. No more trial runs.

I know enough about running to know that race day is not the best day to try something new. Don't wear a new shirt or sports bra. Don't try a new kind of electrolyte. Don't mess with your blood sugar routine.

But I had to do something. I couldn't have another run with record high blood sugars. Not on race day.

So I messed with my routine - but just a little.

Instead of turning my basal rate down to 50% an hour and a half before, I turned it down to 70% an hour before.

I ate breakfast two hours before the run so I took almost my entire bolus for it rather than 50%.

I had a lot more insulin floating around in my system than I normally do for such a long run. But I wanted to avoid the ridiculous highs of the last two long runs and I wanted to be able to eat on the course. I hate running with high sugars, feeling starved and yet being unable to eat anything.

I started the race with a blood sugar of 10.9. I had a gel.
At 11k I was 10.6. I had another gel and some edisks.
At 17k I was 10.8.
At the finish I was 8.6.

Some people may find my numbers a little too high but I was just so grateful to have stable numbers that weren't in the high 20s.

Half marathons are hard enough as it is. Riding a blood sugar roller coaster at the same time is just awful.

When I got to that start line, I felt like I had a lot to prove to myself. I needed to prove that I was indeed healed and that I could again call myself a distance runner. I needed to prove that I was indeed faster than I was last year. And I needed to prove that I could manage running and diabetes.

My legs held up beautifully.
I didn't meet my finish time goal but I was close enough to know that it's entirely possible to meet it next time.
And the diabetes gods gave me a break and, for once, let me be a runner. Just like everybody else.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Runner Girl is Back

The inaugural Niagara Falls Women's Half Marathon was a success - for everyone.

The race itself was incredibly well organized. Almost 1200 women signed up for the brand new race - some came from down the street, others came from all over Canada and the US - but they came. The swag bag was promoted as the best ever - and it was fun. I'm not a fan of stick on toe nails but I did enjoy the bottle of Château des Charmes wine, the candy and the other goodies.

The race was obviously organized with women in mind. There were tons and tons of porta potties at the start line. I joined the line and didn't wait five minutes before I was next in line. I opened the porta potty door to discover this in the urinal:



And lavender scented spray. And a motivational quote.

I decided then and there that I really like women's races. Not that I don't like racing with the boys - but it is nice to be pampered.

I stretched.



I got my game face on.

Apparently this is my game face

My pre-run blood sugar was 10. I had a gel and crossed my fingers that the blood sugar gods would cooperate.

I joined the runners in the start line. I planted myself next to the 2:15 pace bunny but was quickly sucked forward when I spotted Barb, Klari and Cathy standing at 2:00. These ladies are fabulous and, as usual, looked festive and ready to rock. Their cute skirts, pink hats and bling had me feeling a little like an oversized Amazon - but in a good way. Chris, Janice, Todd and Enzo popped by to say hello and wish us luck. And my Doug was all set to assume the role of my own personal support vehicle. He was responsible for carrying all of my supplies. I wore a running belt to have something to clip my insulin pump on and to carry my kleenex and lip gloss. He carried the rest.

My plan was pretty simple. I really wanted to run a 2:15:00 half. I didn't know if I could but I thought it was possible. With no stops, I would have to maintain a 6:23 min/k pace to succeed. Factor in two blood sugar checks and I figured I needed to run a 6:15 min/k pace to even have a hope. So my goal was to see a number that was lower than 6:15 every time my Garmin beeped.

As we stood at the start line, we were treated to a marching band from Laura Secord high school. They parted the runners like Moses parted the Red Sea as they marched through the crowd.



Oh Canada was sung by one of the runners and then we were off.

The first few kilometres were fast, they always are. I ran the first 5k in 29:40. That's pretty fast for me considering I had another 16k to go but I didn't feel like I was really pushing that hard. It was a fun 5k and I felt pretty comfortable. We ran by Niagara Falls twice and were serenaded by a lovely harpist.



I slowed the pace a little bit enjoyed the next few kilometres. I ran into Cathy and we ran together for a bit.


The course was nice because we had two opportunities to turn around and therefore see runners who were ahead, and behind us. There was a lot of waving and cheering going on.

Cathy, Barb and Klari - fast and fabulous as usual

I hit the 10k at precisely 60 minutes. Still fast but a little more reasonable. I was still feeling good and figured I had banked a few minutes for blood sugar stops. The plan was that Doug would meet me at 11k - with everything I could possibly need ready and waiting. He was right where he was supposed to be with my glucometer primed and my supplies laid out.

I checked and I was 10.9. Pretty fabulous in my opinion. I had a gel, two edisks and a salt tablet. I sucked back some water, planted a firm kiss and carried on. The time for that kilometre went from 6 min/k to 9.

I felt pretty good for the next few k as well. Strong and fast, although I had slowed to about 6:15 min/k. At 16k, I suddenly faded and, even though my blood sugar felt ok, my energy did not. I was done. Despite my best attempts to keep moving, I dropped to 6:30/k and couldn't pick it up again. I saw the 2:15 pace bunny and waved her on.

Not going to happen.

Doug was standing at 17k and I decided to check my blood sugar again just in case. It was 10.6. Stable and holding. I had two more edisks and a salt tablet and he headed to the finish.

At 19k, I stopped to enjoy the most delicious orange slice I have ever eaten (thank you volunteers!) and I trotted on. I was really tired but made myself run to the finish to see what kind of finish time I could get. At the final corner I spotted Erin (hi Erin!). I got a huge grin, a high five and a reminder of why I was running. "Welcome back" she said. Three months ago - this race did not seem possible. Welcome back indeed.

I trotted to the finish - thrilled to be so close. Nauseated from the effort. Too stubborn to slow down. My parents were there and there is no better feeling than being swept into a big dad-hug after crossing that finish line.

I did it.

I ran a 2:18:30 half marathon and missed my PB by 16 seconds. Missing it by that little did one thing and one thing only - it inspired me to try again.

The runner girl is back.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Cabot Trail Relay Race - Part Three

You've read about the Cabot Trail Relay Race and you've read about (some of) the Mojitos' adventures as they ran the race. Today, it's all about what I learned when I was there.

I signed on for several different jobs on this relay. I was one of two co-captains. I helped organize and run meetings, I typed up meeting minutes, I agonized with Klari over all the tiny little details. I also signed on as a driver so I spent 14 hours (out of 27) driving round and round and round the Cabot Trail making sure everyone was where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be there.

What I didn't sign up to do was run.

My reasons for this were pretty clear and reasonable (in my opinion anyway).

  • I can't run the required 6:00min/km for more than 10k and I certainly can't run that pace on any kind of incline. There are no flat, 10k legs in the race. 
  • I don't do well when I'm tired so the thought of driving for 14 hours AND running a race somewhere in there was enough to make me cry from exhaustion. 
  • I have diabetes. Yes, I know, people with diabetes can do everything that everyone else can do (trust me, I prove this all the time). Problem is that running in a relay means that people are counting on you to run, and finish, your part of the race. Diabetes doesn't always co-operate and it never gives advanced warning when it's going to roar and gnash its teeth in anger. I have had to end many runs due to ridiculous blood sugars. That's fine when it's just me - it's not ok in a relay. Our team was working too hard for me to have to bail on a leg. I just couldn't bear the thought. 
  • I am running a half marathon on June 3rd. My first race since my stress fracture last fall. I did not want to compromise that race by racing the weekend before. 
For those reasons, I made it very very clear that I did NOT want to run. Instead, I was going to do everything possible to help the runners and that I did. 

Here's the thing though. When the Mojitos get together, I immediately feel surrounded by love and friendship and I am honoured to be part of such a great group of people. I am also, as much as I hate to admit it, always a little embarrassed. These people, and I mean every single one of them, are some pretty fantastic runners. Qualify for Boston on a regular basis kind of runners. Pull off several marathons a year, run Comrades, travel the world running races kinda runners. Not all of them do all of these things but all of them do some of these things and, if you put them all into a room together, it's a room full of lean, strong, experienced running superheroes. 

And me. 

They never make me feel anything other than an equal but it's pretty humbling nonetheless. I just tell myself that it's all relative and try not to blush when they ask me about my last race. 

I headed to Cape Breton with 17 of these creatures. Other teams assumed I was as fabulous as they were simply because I wore the Mojitos t-shirt. But I know my Mojitos runners and I know myself - and I know the difference. 

And I'm ok with that difference. 

Because, it's all relative. Right? 

Hanging out with the smartest people in school and feeling inadequate doesn't mean you're inadequate in all circles. Hanging out with some of the fastest people in Niagara doesn't mean I'm any less fast that I am when I hang out with people who can't run to the corner. It's all relative. 

What I learned this past weekend is that it's always relative. 

I spent the weekend watching my beloved Mojitos feel humbled. Feel inadequate. Feel downright embarrassed about their running skills. My Mojitos, some of the best runners around, were suddenly toeing the line with teams made up of the best runners around. The Mojitos were no longer the people who win their age category - they were racing their equals and they were racing people they will never be able to catch. 

They felt the way I feel when I hang out with them. 

And I learned a really important lesson as I watched them swallow their fear and step up to the start line. It's not about other runners. It's about yourself. It's about doing your absolute best - no matter who else is running. They ran fabulous times and they did their very best. They may have come in 50th out of 70 runners but they ran the best race they could run and, in any other circle, they would have caused jaws to drop in astonishment. 

It's all relative. 

So, on Sunday, I will be running my first post-injury race. My first goal, of course, is to cross the damn finish line. My second goal is to beat my typical 2:22:00 time. My third goal (you know, the secret one you don't tell anyone) is to run it in under 2:15:00 and get a new PB. 

Many of the Mojitos ladies will also be running and, chances are, they will all finish in under 2 hours. 

A few weeks ago, I would have been embarrassed. 

After the Cabot Trail, I learned that a personal success is a personal success, no matter who did or did not beat you. If I get a 2:15:00 time and come in last in my age category, it doesn't take away from the fact that I kicked ass. 

It's all relative.