Thought for the Day

Friday, December 4, 2009

I Am Not An Ironman

Well, the day of reckoning was almost two weeks ago, so I apologize for keeping you waiting for a report.
The race result was what I had been worried about since before I signed up. I did not make the time cutoff for the swim. I needed to swim 2.4 miles in under 2 hours, 20 minutes, and I only made it about 2.2 miles when time ran out.
I thought about writing something about biting off more than I could chew, but the truth is, I came close enough to finishing the swim to know that if I had started seriously working on my swim earlier, and worked harder on it once I started, I could have done it. And I didn't.
When we challenge ourselves, when we set out to do difficult things, we learn about ourselves. Sometimes not everything we learn is good. I told everyone that I would do whatever it took to finish the swim, and I didn't.
I was too cocky early on. I had some fun and impressed a few people with my craziness by running 5 marathon distance or longer races between January 18th and February 15th. But looking back, it was just silly. I had one specific goal I had to achieve, and I wasn't even getting started on it.
Then I went to Diabetes Training Camp with my teammates, but I had the Old Pueblo 50 Mile in the back of my mind the whole time. I should have had more respect for the really important task at hand. I should have been concentrating on what I needed to do to get to the point I could swim 2.4 miles.
I was too stubborn. If I had been working on my swim sooner, I would have realized earlier that I needed someone to teach me how to swim. I was not going to get from splashing across the pool to gliding smoothly through lakes just by reading and watching videos. But I wanted to try to do it myself. This was also cockiness.
I was too lazy and disorganized. Sure I got up at 4 AM lots of mornings to go to the pool, but that's what everyone training for Ironman does. I missed a lot of days, too, sometimes because I didn't prepare well, and sometimes because I was too lazy. When I say I was lazy, I am comparing myself to others who trained for and completed the race, not the general public.
I know no one is going to say it, but I let a lot of people down. I don't think anyone is more disappointed than I am, but all of the people who backed me and supported me expected more from me. I was given so much support from so many sources, I don't think I can list everyone here.
Thank you all so much.
I'm disappointed with my result from race day, but race day was an awesome experience from the sidelines, watching the rest of the team shine.
I'm glad I signed up. I'm glad I challenged myself and set out on this tremendous, life-changing journey. It was well outside my comfort zone.
It's not over.
I'm continuing with my swimming, and I'm buying a bike. I don't know where or when it will happen, but I will meet this Ironman challenge.
Congratulations to all of the Triabetes teammates out there who had a successful race. You guys are awesome!
Please remember that it's people like me that help make people like you look good. :-)

Friday, October 23, 2009

I Believe...

I haven't been blogging much even though a lot has been going on. The thing is, I've been apprehensive about swimming 2.4 miles. And the events that I've been doing generally haven't been very reassuring.
However, on Thursday night I did a Splash & Dash race at Tempe Town Lake, a 1000 meter swim and a 4K run. The swim was not great, but I know I can do better. And I managed the pace I will need to do to complete the Ironman swim within the cutoff time.
The following morning I got up and went to the pool and put in a good workout.
I'm swimming better every time, and feeling more comfortable every time I get in open water and swim in a crowd.
It's not going to be easy, but there's no reason to believe that I can't make the swim. It will take focus and hard work, but I should be able to make it.
I'm still scared, but I'm starting to believe...

Monday, October 12, 2009


You got to cross that River Jordan,
You got to cross it for yourself;
O there can't nobody cross it for you,
You got to cross it for yourself;

Those words from an old spiritual, sung by slaves on plantations before the Civil War, have profound meaning that can be broadly applied. There is the spiritual, religious meaning, but these spirituals were sometimes used as veiled ways for those held in slavery to sing about seeking freedom. There are many meanings to this song.
Since March of this year, I've consulted six different swim coaches. I have had as many as three different swim coaches writing workout schedules for me at one time. I've read swimming instructions from dozens of books, articles, and websites, and watched several demonstrations on web sites and DVDs. I've almost lost count of how many friends and acquaintances have given me advice.
All of this help has gotten me closer to actually doing a 2.4 mile open water swim in under two hours, which is what I have to do on the morning of November 22, Ironman morning. I'm grateful to everyone who has contributed to getting me this far.
But I haven't done it yet. It all comes down to me swimming. And swimming and swimming and swimming.
No one else can do it for me. I've got to do it for myself. It's a pretty simple idea, but an important one.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

David, my Triabuddy

A part of the Triabetes experience which I haven't mentioned much on this blog is the Triabuddies. Triabuddies are kids who inspire those of us training for Ironman, while we try to return the favor.
When we cross the finish line at Ironman, we will each take our Triabuddy with us. This is a way to connect the older generations, like mine, with the younger ones coming up. Facing physical challenges, living adventurously instead of sitting at home in front of a TV, is a concept that applies to everyone who wants to live a healthier life.
My Triabuddy is David Auth, a great kid I unfortunately have not been able to spend enough time with. He lives in Carlsbad, California, and I'm here in Chandler, Arizona. We have exchanged a couple of emails and talked on the phone, but we finally met face to face for a short time last week.
Sue and I were in California helping Sue's father get some of his affairs in order after he moved into an assisted living facility. We made a detour through Carlsbad on our way home.
David and his family, Mom, Dad, two brothers and little sister, had just gotten home from camping. David had the bad luck of finishing his trip by falling on the camp fire and burning his hand, so he kept his hand in a glass of ice water the whole time we talked. He was clearly in pain, but he's tough.
He had already told me in email to "remember to never give up!"
David has never given up in his battle with type 1 diabetes. He's been fighting it since he was 4 years old. There's not much that could be more challenging than that, but to David, it's just part of life.
He enjoys lots of activities besides camping. We talked about how his hand injury might cost him some flag football practice the next day. He also likes soccer, basketball, skateboarding... He says street hockey "is the coolest sport."
David does it all with the enthusiasm of any other kid, but it takes a little more for him than for most other kids. It takes counting carbohydrates in his food, being aware of how much insulin is in his system, testing his blood sugar with frequent finger sticks.
But David says, "It's just what I do."
David does these health-maintenance chores because he knows that managing his blood sugar helps him feel better and keeps him healthy for all of the things he enjoys.

David is looking forward to the three-day sailing and kayaking journey to the Channel Islands he will take with the other Triabuddies. They will enjoy hiking and camping and diving with certified wilderness guides, experienced diabetes mentors, and kids just like themselves. This trip, and participation in the Ironman, aims at teaching these diabetic children not just that they can live normal lives, but that they can do anything.
No stranger to swimming in the ocean and exploring nature, David has been a YMCA Adventure Guide and an Oceanside Junior Lifeguard. He loves the outdoors and hopes to someday have a career which involves being a wildlife expert. A couple of his favorite TV shows are "Survivorman" and "Man vs. Wild."
Please consider helping David reach his fund-raising goal, and Triabetes continue this inspiring program.

David's page:



Monday, October 5, 2009

Don't Worry...

With apologies to Bobby McFerrin

Here's a little song I heard
Hope no one minds I changed the words

Don't worry
Be happy

Swimming is easy in your wet suit
A heat wave can make that point moot

Don't worry
Be happy

Tempe Town Lake's not really a sewer
But on a bad day smells like manure

Don't worry
Be happy

Swim coach said keep your head down
Try to remember that while you drown

Don't worry
Be happy

Gotta find a way to swim downhill
Mill bridge to Rural then Rural to Mill

Don't worry
Be happy

You've got two hours to get ashore
Or they won't let you race no more

Don't worry
Be happy

Transition 1 takes extra time
Reconnecting your Paradigm

Don't worry
Be happy

Check your sugar and adjust your plan
And then continue the Ironman

Don't worry
Be happy

The Beeline Highway on windy days
Feels like riding uphill both ways

Don't worry
Be happy

Spend some hours in the aero pose
Weight on your crotch and clipped in toes

Don't worry
Be happy

After three trips out to Fountain Hills
You get to test your running skills

Don't worry
Be happy

Friday, September 18, 2009

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

On his blog, Marcus Grimm responded to this list, and I thought it would be a good way for me to start blogging again, too.

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

1. The illness I live with is: Type 1 Diabetes

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 1974

3. But I had symptoms since: Not sure.

4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: Thinking about my blood sugar all of the time.

5. Most people assume: that "managing the disease" is like having a cure. Insulin is a killer, too. It's bad medicine.

6. The hardest part about mornings are: waking up with a blood sugar that's way off, too high or too low. There's the frustration of trying to figure out what went wrong, but it also can throw your whole schedule off. A high blood sugar will mean that I shouldn't eat breakfast for a while. A low blood sugar will mean that I'll want to eat something right away, even if I was planning a workout.

7. My favorite medical TV show is: an odd thing to ask. I'm not really into medical TV shows. Scrubs was funny. Is it still on?

8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: There are different meanings to that phrase "couldn't live without." In the context of chronic diseases, you could take it literally. There's no "gadget" that I couldn't literally live without. Type 1 diabetics were able to survive with regular insulin and glass syringes.
But there are several pieces of technology which will help me live a longer, healthier life, my pump, my CGM, my meter and test strips.

9. The hardest part about nights is: trying to feel safe going to sleep, trying to be sure that your basal and bolusing has been well matched to your activity and food and your blood sugar won't go high or low while you're not awake.

10. Each day I take lots of vitamins, and insulin.

11. Regarding alternative treatments I: don't have any.

12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: depending on how the illness was visible. If it wasn't obnoxious, I'd like people to see the illness.

13. Regarding working and career: most of the time diabetes doesn't matter, but it sucks when it does interfere.

14. People would be surprised to know: how often I'm thinking about my blood sugar.

15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: (not a new reality) I have to keep explaining it to people.

16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: run marathons.

17. The commercials about my illness: are not aimed at my demographic.

18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: not thinking about diabetes, not trying to think like a pancreas.

19. It was really hard to have to give up: orange juice, except as a treatment for lows.

20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: crossword puzzles. Seriously, I only started doing crossword puzzles to kill time for the couple of weeks in the hospital after my diagnosis. I'm still at it, 35 years later.

21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: just relax and eat like there was no tomorrow, burgers and fries, steak, Boston cream pie, cheese cake, ...

22. My illness has taught me: I can deal with hardships.

23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: "I couldn't do that." There was also one guy that said, "Yeah, but you just check your blood and take your shots and you're fine, right?" Most people aren't that ignorant.

24. But I love it when people: contribute to my cause.

25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is:
"Nothing you can know that isn't known.
Nothing you can see that isn't shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
It's easy.
All you need is love."

26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: Don't believe a cure is just around the corner. They've been saying that for decades. Do whatever you can now to keep yourself healthy in spite of the disease.

27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: I have an extended family of diabetics out there, going through a lot of the same things I'm going through. They're my brothers and sisters of the needle.

28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: take me to a doctor.

29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: I had a dry spell in my blogging.

30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: Did you read all the way through this? Wow! Thanks! I'm grateful.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hearts Go Out

More running poetry.

hearts go out
Written 9/26/01
by Jerry "Geronimo" Nairn

I'm like everyone else, but
I'm told my
because I run.
I go out to run before dawn
just to feel my blood flowing
my legs flowing
my body
the sweat
and the beneficial side effects like a
and seeing the sun rise through the mist of a grey September morning
before I wash the sweat from my body in the shower
before I step out and my wife tells me
in very plain, simple words
that something that could
has happened.
"...and now both towers have crumbled to the ground."
I run
for the beneficial side effects
like seeing the sun rise through the mist of a grey September morning
before I know thousands of beating hearts were suddenly
crushed into stillness
before, like millions of others
my heart stops
my heart breaks
my heart goes out

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Uncle Bernard and Aunt Gertrude

I'm thinking again about how lucky I am to be living now. One thing that makes this very clear is hearing about my relatives who had diabetes. Apparently type 1 diabetes skipped a generation on my mother's side of the family. Mom had two brothers and three sisters, none with type 1 diabetes, but her mother, my grandmother had two type 1 siblings.
Dude, as they called my Grand Aunt Gertrude, married young, and at the age of 19, was pregnant and diabetic. A specialist put her on insulin, but her own doctor didn't think insulin was safe. So she and her baby died.
Grand Uncle Bernard, six years older than Gertrude, was also diagnosed with diabetes, and stayed on insulin. He was a farmer and worked hard his whole life. When I was diagnosed, I was told of his vigorous health in spite of diabetes. It was only recently I heard that he didn't live to reach 40.
I never met either of my type 1 relatives, but I find their stories interesting, and I think there are lessons I can learn from them. Maybe the most important thing to be learned is that I should be grateful for the medical treatment available to me, and make the best possible use of it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I'm not sure why, but I have been absolutely slothful for a week.
Well, I know how it started. My sister-in-law passed away. I was not so close to her that I could claim a need for mourning, but of course, Sue, my wife, was broken up. So my priorities shifted to family matters. I got in one last swim before we left for the funeral. I jogged with Sue in the neighborhood near our motel.
When it came time to go to the funeral, Sue's father couldn't get out of bed. To make a long story short, he had a stroke. It was one of those things where most of the symptoms pass, but he simply can't live alone any more. He needs help to make sure he doesn't fall down when he tries to get anywhere, and someone to make sure he takes all of his meds correctly.
So when I returned home, Sue stayed to help her dad get his affairs in order and get into a new living situation.
I've been here with my son, Francis, who is grown and attending Mesa Community College. It should be easier for me to get up and go do my workouts. I can turn the alarm up. There's no reason to keep the lights out in the room and try to be quiet so I don't wake Sue at 4:30.
Yet somehow I've been a sloth for the past week. It came to a peak yesterday, when I actually got up, started the coffee maker, laid down on the couch, and woke up late for work.
I lost a week of training I really couldn't spare. Well, I didn't totally lose it. I did some kind of exercise after work for the past five days, but I haven't been training enough. It's hard to get back at it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

S.I.P.E. at Mountain Man?

Anne Findlay, one of my Triabetes teammates, suggested that what happened to me at the Mountain Man Sprint Triathlon may have been SIPE, swimming-induced pulmonary edema. After reading about it on Anne's blog and, I think that's a strong possibility.
The idea that the lack of oxygen would affect me like that just didn't make sense to me. I have run several races in the Flagstaff area, including the Flagstaff Marathon, which tops out at over 8600 feet in elevation, and I never felt anything like I did trying to run that 5K at Lake Mary, about 7000 ft.
However, SIPE would explain what happened in the swim, and my weakness for the rest of the day, especially when trying to run. I didn't have the worst symptoms of SIPE, but mild congestion in my lungs combined with the natural effects of altitude provides a good explanation of what happened.
And if I know what happened, I know some things I can do about it:
I can start taking an ACE inhibitor, which can strengthen my capillaries. These are often prescribed for diabetics as a precautionary measure, to protect the kidneys.
I can get more time practicing swimming in my wet suit which I just purchased.
I can make sure I'm warmed up before I start swimming hard.
I can avoid taking electrolyte tablets and drinking a lot of water until after I finish the swim. This may not be the standard advice, but it can help with this problem of pulmonary edema.

Just one more thing to think about and be prepared for.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mountain Man Sprint Triathlon 2009

This is a long story, so I'll just put the short version here at the top for those who don't need all of the details.
The 700 meter swim was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life.
Except for wiping out 3 times, the bike ride was uneventful.
I could not run during the "run" portion. I don't know if it was exhaustion, dehydration, lack of food, lack of oxygen, or all of the above.
I finished last, but I'm glad I stuck it out and finished.

Now the long story:

Before the Mountain Man Sprint Triathlon Sunday, July 19th, at Lake Mary outside of Flagstaff, I thought I knew that doing Ironman Arizona was going to be very hard. I've done some pretty hard things.
I didn't have a clue.

The night before the race I laid out everything I was going to need for the race on the extra bed in my room in the Budget Host Motel. I made lists of what I needed in each transition:
Transition 0, at the start, Triabetes tri-shorts and top, sunscreen BodyGlide, wet suit, goggles, swim cap, ankle strap chip, gel...
Transition 1, swim to bike, gels, water bottles, bike shoes, helmet, gloves, sunglasses, more BodyGlide, ...
Transition 2, bike to run, gels, running shoes, hat, more BodyGlide, ...
I get kind of nervous before races that I'm... well, nervous about. And I was pretty stressed out about the 700 meter open water swim I was going to have to do. Swimming is a very weak area for me, and I had dropped out of the Tempe International Triathlon Sprint just a few meters into the 400 meter swim in that event.
I had so little concern about the bike ride and the run portion of this triathlon that when my son asked me how long those portions were, I had to admit that I didn't know. I hadn't given any attention to them until he asked. It turns it's a 700 meter swim, an 18K bike ride, and a 5K run.
I set the alarm for 4 AM, but I wasn't able to sleep very well. I finally got up at 3 and didn't go back to sleep. My blood sugar was 145 mg/dl when I checked, and I took a 0.8 unit correction bolus with my insulin pump.
I had a PureFit bar and some coffee at 4 AM and took the bolus wizard recommended 1.8 units to cover it. I took care of some biological necessities and at about 4:45 I loaded my stuff back into my car, dropped my key off at the motel office, and hit the road out to Lake Mary just as the sky was starting to get light.
There had been a few drops of rain the day before, but it didn't look like there would be any of that on race morning.
I got lucky with parking and took a spot across the road and just a few yards north of the entrance to the parking lot where the transition and finish areas were. With no concern for speedy transitions, I set up in a fairly clear area at the back of one row. It hardly mattered how much space I had when I got there, though, because it all filled up quickly.
The bustling pre-race atmosphere had a special Mountain Man touch added by the presence of actual Mountain Men on horseback. They were riding and walking around, getting their pictures taken, talking to athletes and supporters, and lightening the mood. The horses contributed by leaving a couple of large, steaming piles in the walkway through the transition area.
Adding even more rustic, frontier charm, outside of the fencing and on the uphill side of the transition area, just a few feet away from where I had carefully laid all of my gear out on a towel, one of the horses stopped to urinate. He went buckets. The Mountain Man atmosphere almost took my breath away.
Fortunately for me, the slope of the parking lot had the flood flowing away from my bike, but toward others. From what I could see, most people were able to move their belongings in time, but the flow continued on out of my sight. I don't know if everyone was spared. And of course, the already crowded conditions got worse over that way.
At about 6:15 my blood sugar was 143. I set my basal rate to a lower level, not so much in anticipation of the swim as to be where I wanted it to be for the bike and run. I was going to have to disconnect from my pump, getting no basal insulin, before leaving transition for the swim.
At about 6:30, I had a juice box and took half a unit bolus, disconnected, pulled on my rented wet suit up to my waist, and walked barefoot over to the swim start, about a quarter mile. The pavement had been shoveled clean, but I tried to watch out for where those horse piles had been.
The last wave of swimmers scheduled to go out was mine, all of the males in the sprint competition, about 140 of us, at 7:17 AM. I listened to the swim instructions to the women in the sprint race, then hung around nervously on the boat launch ramp for about twenty minutes to hear them again for my group.
I suppose I should have gotten into the water and tried to get used to the temperature and the feel of it before the start. This was my first time swimming in a wet suit. A couple of minutes splashing around with no pressure might have helped.
The thing is, I didn't feel like I had any pressure to do well. I just wanted to finish. Speed was not an issue. So I didn't want to waste any energy.
When it was our turn to start, I walked into the water up to my knees and stopped, in the last row. Some men were out up to their chests. The starter warned some of them, up to their necks, to back up a little, telling them the steps they were trying to save wouldn't matter, unless they got disqualified for it.
I was content to be way in the back, maybe the last person, in any wave, to start swimming.

When the start went off, I put my head down and started swimming, the way I've been training, as smoothly and efficiently as I could. I kept telling myself not to get too excited, keep cool. It fascinated me the way it seemed like the crowd of swimmers around were pulling me along, like I was in a strong current flowing away from shore. Perhaps it's the way a school of fish help each other swim together faster than one can alone.
After about seven strokes I realized I wasn't breathing. I took one breath, two strokes, another breath, and raised my head to look around. I was still doing all right, and I put my head down and swam for another few strokes and breaths.
Then I had that feeling like I had to see where I was again. I was still in the rush of the crowd then, but as I breast-stroked a little, they got away from me. There were others around me, also not sticking to a freestyle stroke.
I tried to get back at it, but it was somehow terribly uncomfortable, head down, nothing but green water and bubbles, and the breast stroke was easy and comfortable, and I could always see where I was going, and that I was making progress.
So I gave up on freestyle.
There was already one guy hanging onto a kayak a few yards away from me. In another minute, as I was calmly, more or less, stroking toward the first buoy, a kayaker out ahead of me raised his paddle in the air signaling that he had a swimmer who wanted out of the water.
Another kayaker looked directly at me and raised his head as if to say, "How you doin'?" I gave him a thumbs up and kept going. The breast stroke felt easy, and I could see I was approaching the first buoy.
The swim course for the sprint was very simple, about 150 meters straight out to the first buoy, a big, red, inflated tetrahedron, about six feet on each edge, then turn left, parallel to shore for about 400 meters to the second big, red, tetrahedron, then left back to shore.
The first buoy was collecting swimmers, first one, then another... I think at one time there were five guys hanging on there. I imagined for a few seconds that all of those guys might actually be pulling the buoy away from me, making me swim farther, but the feeling passed when I saw I was getting close.
I felt no need to rest at this point, and I set it as a goal not to get any help or hang onto anything. I wasn't moving fast, but i was making steady progress.
On the long swim between the buoys, it became pretty clear that I was in last place. Others would stop and float on their backs, or hang onto kayaks, and I would almost catch up, but there was no one behind me. I was bringing up the rear.
After a while, one guy in a yellow kayak, the one who had looked at me for a high sign early on, cruised along within a few feet of me.
Somewhere about two thirds of the distance between the buoys I started to think I had made a mistake. I was trying and trying to do it without any help, but I saw others hanging onto the kayaks and the buoys, then swimming on. My energy was fading fast, and I started to think maybe if I just rested a moment...
My friend in the yellow kayak asked me how I was doing. I call him "my friend" even though he didn't know me because it would be weird, even though appropriate, to call him "my guardian angel." I finally told my angel that I could use a rest, and he let me grab onto the nose of his kayak.
Once I wasn't trying to swim, I noticed something strange going on with my breath. It had a reedy sound to it I had never heard before. The word "asthmatic" came to mind, but I don't have asthma. I didn't want to think about it.
After a minute or so, I swam on toward the buoy. There were other swimmers there, hanging on, but they were gone by the time I was almost there, and I was begging for another chance to hang onto the kayak.
I took another break just before reaching the buoy and, thinking maybe I was so beat because my blood sugar was low, I pulled out the gel I had shoved into the sleeve of my wet suit, tore off the top, and slurped it down. The guy in the kayak took the litter off my hands.
After that, I swam around the buoy, and a little farther on. Another swimmer near me, the last swimmer near me, got pulled out of the water onto a motor boat. There were about four or five drop outs in wet suits on the boat.
I could see other swimmers in the water, the last of them, approaching the boat ramp where they could exit the water, finishing the swim. I knew I was only a few pool-lengths away, but I just couldn't swim it. The breathing noise was getting louder. Hanging onto the kayak again, I asked the angel, who had a goatee and was wearing a ball cap, if he could hear my breath. He said yes, and I told him it wasn't right.
We talked a little, and he was convinced I had just let too much water down my gullet. I knew that I had been swimming with my head out of the water, but I didn't want to use that word I was thinking of, asthma.
I coughed and spat, and tried to clear my throat, but it didn't help.
I kept swimming and stopping, the swims getting shorter, the stops getting longer. I kept trying to clear my throat. I started breathing more forcefully, inhaling and exhaling harder because it seemed to work for a little while. All the while I was getting closer to shore, but it always seemed like it was still too far for me to make it, because I was more and more exhausted.
Finally it was just so close that I could not give up. And for what seemed like hours I kept stroking for those last few yards, seeming to advance only inches at a time... and suddenly... my feet were on concrete and I stood up.
The few volunteers who were there waiting for me applauded, and one guy in a cowboy hat came toward me, held up his hands and said, "Now take a full breath. Take a few deep breaths."
Apparently some people faint when they reach the shore and try to walk out. Fortunately that didn't happen.
I walked slowly out of the water and tried to grab the strap on the back of my wet suit. The volunteer said, "I'll get that," and unzipped me. I pulled down the front of my suit, then could not pull my arms out. I just kind of stood there looking at my arms as I tried to move them. It wasn't that there was too much friction. I had lubed up with BodyGlide before putting the suit on. My arms were just too weak to move.
Finally the volunteer realized what was going on and yanked my right arm most of the way free. I just didn't have the energy. My left arm stayed stuck as I walked away.
I was halfway up the ramp when the guy who helped me with my right arm finally ran up and helped me with the left.
My friends Erica and Lara, there to cheer others and to race on a relay team, had been watching and waiting for me. They congratulated me for finishing what was obviously a difficult swim.

I crossed the timing mat into the transition area with a touch of doubt about the rest of the race.
But my breathing had already returned to normal. By the time I got to my bike, I felt like I could at least go out and coast for a while.
So I checked my blood sugar. 310! So I wasn't low in the water. Dang. Talking with Erika, David Bourdon's wife, who was there at the edge of the transition enclosure, she told me that David has the same attitude I do sometimes. Sometimes you look at that glucose meter hoping it will give you an excuse.
Not today... at least, low blood sugar was not going to be an excuse.
The guy who had helped me with my wet suit came by and said, "There you go! There you go!" He could see that I wasn't going to drop out, and he seemed pretty happy about it.
I took a 3.5 unit bolus and headed out on the bike. If I wasn't in the middle of a triathlon, I would have given myself at least twice as much insulin.
The ride was going pretty well. The lake and the shore, tall green grass with a few wildflowers, piny woods, it was all beautiful, and a welcome change from the desert around Chandler, where I live.
I felt no need for speed. My race was all about finishing after that swim, but once I was out on the road, in the race, it seemed silly to just coast through it.
My shoulders and arms were very sore, and I didn't feel like staying in the aero position, but I tried to keep spinning as much as I could. It felt fine. I was about halfway back after the turnaround when, for no reason I can explain, I went off the road.
I was looking down at the edge of the blacktop thinking I was getting too close, and I guess I was just so out of it, and my arms were so weak, I just drifted over the edge. I rolled along into the ditch, full of high grass, for a surprisingly long time before I flew off the bike, rolled onto my back, and had the bike land on top of me.
I wasn't hurt at all. It was very comfortable lying on my back looking up past my bike frame at the sky. Without the road and countryside whizzing by, I became aware of my breathing. I hadn't realized how hard and loud I was breathing until I was lying there otherwise still.
After a decent rest, I got myself out of the ditch, thanked a couple in a station wagon who had stopped to see if I needed help, and set off down the road again. In a little while, I became worried about a little wiggle I felt in my rear wheel. I was thinking maybe I had a puncture and the tire was going flat, but I wasn't sure.
I tried to stop to check this, and for the first time in months, I fell while trying to get my cleats off the pedals. I scraped my calf on the front gears right over the spot where I still have a scar from the last time this happened.
My tire was fine, though, so I just reassured the motorcyclist who asked if I was OK, got back on the bike and headed toward my next transition, for the "run."
To make it into transition, I had to make a left turn across the road in the last few yards. Volunteers had momentarily stopped traffic on the road for a couple of us to cross, so there were lots of spectators and people in their cars watching at this point.
As soon as I started to turn, my back wheel popped loose and got wedged into place in my frame. It had been loosened up when I went off-roading, and that's what caused the unsteadiness I had felt. As soon as I tried to turn, there was enough torque to pop the wheel out.
My tire scraped across the ground unable to turn and my tube blew out.
I was able to dismount without incident this time, and after a moment of hesitation in the middle of the road, I picked up the bike and carried it into transition.

In transition, my blood sugar was 284, still way too high. In hindsight, I probably should have bolused more and eaten something, but at the time, I was just thinking it was coming down and it would be all right.
I tried to run out of transition, but the first few yards were uphill, from the parking lot onto the road, and I was feeling faint. So I walked until I was up on the road, then I jogged across the road and tried to keep jogging.
But I could only do this slow, plodding pace for about 50 feet before I felt like I was going to pass out. I could have been starved for oxygen, dehydrated, or just weak from lack of nutrition. I hadn't eaten anything since the gel I had out on the lake. I had done a lot of swimming after that.
There was no way to hydrate during the swim, and I hadn't thought very much about drinking while on the bike.
And even though I didn't have that noise in my breath any more, I still felt like I was constantly in oxygen debt.
So I just walked the 5K. Walking felt OK. I could actually do it fairly easily, with no worries. But when I tried to run a few times, I felt light-headed, dizzy, and like I might pass out.
I was amazed that it took me over an hour to walk this 5K. It didn't feel that slow. But it doesn't matter. I was just trying to finish.
Finishing was the best I could do, and I did it.

My blood sugar was 267 after the finish, and I finally bolused enough so that it would come down and I could eat something in a little while.

Afterwards, heading out of town, I turned on my radio and hit the seek button to find a station. It stopped at "The Magic 106.1" and I left it there because they were playing the kind of "classic rock" I usually listen to. Then the DJ said he was about to play a Mily Cyrus song, from the "Hannah Montana" movie soundtrack. I've heard of Mily Cyrus, but I don't remember ever listening to her sing, and I wasn't sure I wanted to. I was thinking about changing the station, but I gave it a chance, and they played "The Climb," by Jessi Alexander and Jon Mabe.

The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I'm not breaking

I may not know it
But these are the moments
I'm gonna remember most
Just gotta keep going
And I gotta be strong
Just keep pushing on

'Cause there's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

It broke me up pretty much. I was cruising south down Highway 17 with tears streaming down my face. It caught me in a weakened state.
Anyway, as I said earlier, I thought I had some idea how hard Ironman Arizona was going to be. I don't think I really had a clue. I may still have no idea.
But this is going to be hard.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Last Sunday's Ride

On paper, there was nothing difficult about this ride. It would be flat and not very long, just over to my Mom's house and back home. Going the "long" way, it would be 17 miles.
But it turned out to be good experience. The ride out was uneventful. It was hot out, since I was starting in the middle of the day, over 100, I'm sure, but I had plenty of water, and I wasn't working too hard.
I stopped at Mom's and had a nice, cool drink in the air conditioned house, talked about stuff, and started back.
About a mile and a half later, as I was starting out from a standstill at a traffic light, my right foot came off the pedal. I thought my cleat had come off the pedal, that I had improperly popped it on, but when I tried to put it back, I saw that my cleat was still stuck on the pedal. It had come off my shoe.
There were only two of the four screws still in the cleat. Who knows when or where I lost the other two. There was a rock stuck in the cleat where one of the screws should have been. I wondered how this happened for a second. I had one shoe, the left one, with no problems, and the other shoe was all messed up.
Then I realized that I always unclip on the right side when I stop, and I usually leave my left shoe on the pedal. The right shoe gets the extra stress of getting popped on and off the pedal, and also keeps getting put to the ground, sometimes kind of forcefully as I stop or push off for a start.
Fortunately, I was only about a hundred yards from Curbside Cyclery when this happened. I went in and asked to borrow a screwdriver, but they took my shoe, got the rock out of the cleat, replaced the missing screws, and put it all together for me.
Meanwhile, while I was waiting, they had Tour de France coverage on a big screen TV, with free drinks and cookies set out for anyone who wanted to stop by. I felt pretty lucky.
I got my shoe back on and hit the road, and did all right for two more miles, when my ride suddenly got noisy and rough. My rear tire had gone flat.
I've changed the tube in the front tire several times, but I was a little scared to mess around in the back, where the derailleur and gears are. But now I had to do it.
I got the wheel off the bike, and was looking for a way to lay the bike down or prop it up without scratching it. I leaned it on a low bush in the landscaping off the road. It was only later, as I was about to leave, that I realized this bush was covered with thorns. It was just luck I didn't flatten another tire.
I got the tube off the tire and put a new one in without much trouble. It's much easier to change inner tubes when its over 100 out and you've softened everything up by heating it up on the blacktop.
I took out my CO2 inflater and put a cartridge in it. When I tried to tighten the top down I couldn't get it to go on straight, and I partially punctured the cartridge, so I was struggling to get the top on while I was losing the pressure I had hoped to fill the tire with. There was a maddening and frustrating minute or two before I had to give up.
Then I was sitting there with one last cartridge to try the same thing again. Somehow, miraculously, this second time I did it perfectly. Glad I brought two cartridges.
It took me a minute to figure out how to get the wheel back on with the chain around the gears, and I was back on the road.
So all in all, it was a great ride. I had some hardships, but I got through them. I'm sure that the next time I have a flat, and it will happen, I'll be able to deal with it. That was something I couldn't be sure of before.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Results are in

The results from the little triathlon I did this past weekend are in. Considering I was DFL* in the swim, I did all right. I was 17th out of 39 competitors, 7th out of 12 amongst masters men.

A fellow Triabetes Team member, Julie, was first place woman! She swam more than twice as far as I did, biked a mile farther, and was right behind me on the run. In short, she kicked my butt, but I can't feel bad about that. She kicked almost everyone's butt.

*DFL means Dead Last.

I was 10th on the bike, and third overall on the run. I can't be too thrilled with my run finish because obviously I didn't wear myself out as much as others did in the swim.

Still, at the risk of repeating myself, it was a lot of fun.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Lifetime Fitness Indoor Triathlon

I am now a triathlete. I have actually completed a triathlon.
Of course, it was kind of a different, and easier triathlon. It was all based on time, so there was no way, once I entered, that I could not finish.
It was a 10 minute swim in the lap pool, a 10 minute transition, a 30 minute ride on a stationary bike, a five minute transition, and a twenty minute run.
I had turned down my basal rate an hour before the start time, but when I checked my blood sugar in the parking lot, with about 35 minutes to go to the start, it was 68. I ate a Pure Fit bar and washed it down with some water.
I did only nine lengths in the pool, with lots of long breaks at the end of each length, and a few mid-length stops. That's just 225 meters. I don't know if anyone did less.
It was probably very good practice for me. I was right up against one wall, sharing a lane with another guy. I hit the wall with my arm several times, and a couple of those stops in the middle of a length were because I was disturbed by how close I was to the other swimmer. He did nothing wrong. I just need to get used to swimming with other people around me.
I got to the bikes and threw my stuff down by one of them. I checked my blood sugar, and it was 173. That was cool.
Then I went to get on the bike and see if I needed to adjust anything, and I saw that it had no toe clips! Some of the bikes had toe clips, and some just had cleats. I was in my running shoes, and needed the clips. So with only a few minutes to go, I was frantically looking for an unoccupied bike with toe clips. I found it with only a minute to spare, and had no time to adjust it. In fact, I only had one foot really into the clip, and had to stop to force my other foot in after the start.
And the seat I was on was way too low for me. I wasn't getting anything close to full extension. Oh well, there was nothing to do about it but ride.
I tried to stay consistent, but I was aware of times when I realized I had slowed down and I needed to pick it up.
My odometer hit 14.0 when we finished. I don't know if that means I could really go 28 mph for half an hour.
Checking my blood sugar before the run, it was 145. I thought that was fine, but if it continued to slide, I would go low, so I ate a couple of clif shot blocks. That was a bad idea. I know things about what happens when I run in different ways, but sometimes I ignore the things I know. For example, I know that when I run a 5K, the race environment and the intensity of the effort can drive my blood sugar up. At least I know I never need to turn down my basal for a 5K. I leave it alone, then check to see if I need to bolus after the race.
So anyway the run went well. I had some of that brick feeling, but I just gradually upped the speed on the treadmill as I got comfortable at each pace, and pretty soon I was running a 7 minute mile pace. This worked for a while, to about 1 mile, but I realized I wasn't going to be able to keep it up for 12 more minutes.
I cranked it back to 7:30 for a while. Twice, I turned back up to 7, then back down to 7:30 when I felt like I couldn't hold it. Going into the last three minutes, I tried to speed up again, but I gave up on it after a few seconds. I was just too beat.
Amongst the people around me whose distances I heard, my 2.71 miles seemed to be the best. I'm sure some people did better, but I did all right.
I will have to wait to see the results. It was a great learning experience, and fun!
Oh yeah, after showering and walking out to my car, I finally checked my blood sugar again and it was 270! It's totally understandable, and I should have known better, but it kind of delayed my recovery meal.

Friday, June 19, 2009

When to Educate

I picked up some test strips from the pharmacy today, and had a brief conversation with the pharmacist that I don't think I handled well.
She expressed some surprise at how many strips I was getting, and actually asked me, "Do you really test 10 or 12 times per day?"
At the time, I wasn't insulted. She didn't ask in an accusatory way. But looking back, when someone asks that in that context, it implies you're scamming the insurance for more than you need.
I just answered, "Yes, I really do." So she asked, "Does your blood sugar really fluctuate that often?"
I smiled, thinking, "You have no idea what this is like..." but all I said was "Yes, it does."
She made a couple other statements about how "strange" it was that my blood sugar should "fluctuate that much," but I just smiled and left.
As I was leaving, though, I thought I really should have set her straight on a few things. It is not "strange" for someone on insulin to be checking that often. If you think about testing only before and after three meals and one snack, that gets you up to 8 tests per day. If you test before and after exercise, and you exercise once per day, that's ten.
And don't get me started on the fluctuating blood sugars.
Yet here is a pharmacist, a person in a position to offer me consultations on my prescriptions, who has absolutely no idea what life is like for type 1 diabetics, saying things like that. Sure, it doesn't affect someone who's been diabetic for 35 years, but someone else might actually believe her. She's in a position of authority. Some newly diagnosed diabetic might think, "Oh, maybe I don't need to check my blood sugar so often." or "Maybe there's something wrong with me because I don't always predict the perfect dosage for every meal I eat."
I should have tried to educate her, I suppose.
Then there was a woman a couple of weeks ago who, upon finding out I was diabetic, told me of a diabetic child she knew who had a "very severe case." She knew this because he was always testing his blood sugar and taking insulin. To me it just sounded like living with diabetes, but I didn't correct her either.
One of the reasons I'm training for Ironman is supposed to be to change people's ideas about diabetes. I need to do that more in my personal life.
I think I had given up on educating people. So many think they already know it all, and whatever you say to them, they misinterpret to confirm what they already believed, or it goes in one ear and out the other.
But I really should continue to try. It matters.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sorry, My Bad

Apparently the health care crisis is caused by "exercise freaks" like me. Sorry about that.

In the words of Rush Limbaugh:

Folks, I gotta tell you, I, uh, I think that those of you who regularly exercise, playing softball, baseball, basketball, soccer, mountain biking, running, rock climbing, skiing, skating, running, you're the people getting injured. You're the people showing up at the hospital with busted knees, and tendons and skin cancer, ankle sprains, knee and hip replacements, broken bones, concussions, muscle ligament tendon cartilage strains and tears, tendinitis, rotator cuff tears. All you exercise freaks. You're the ones putting stress on the health care system.

What happens when people don't regularly exercise, keep their weight relatively under control? Nothing. They probably don't even know their doctors names.

So you're urged, what, to do all this stuff and you end up in the hospital all the time with these injuries, and some people think these injuries are badges of honor, knee surgery scars are badge of honor, shows toughness.

Yeah, toughness somebody else has to pay for.

Overweight drug addicts are bearing the burden of the medical expenses of people who go outside and exercise. Hm. I've had that all turned around.
I know Rush Limbaugh is strictly for entertainment and should never be taken seriously, but I find it hard to believe this rant strikes a chord with even his most steadfast admirers.
Don't play softball or baseball? Isn't that un-American?
It's odd Mr. Limbaugh seems to have omitted more violent sports like football, boxing, wrestling, and martial arts.
I guess tennis is OK, too. Golf is fine, I'm sure, as long as you drive a cart.
Running is so bad he mentions it twice.
Anyway, I'm sure he was talking about me, because even some people who exercise think I do a lot. I'm sure I seem like an "exercise freak" to someone like Mr. Limbaugh.
However, Rush Limbaugh definitely knows his doctor's name. He probably has more than one doctor on speed dial, if only to fill his prescriptions.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Tim Bolen is a generous and gifted coach and triathlete. He holds a track workout at a local high school every Wednesday morning, and anyone who wants to show up at 5:30 AM for a little training is welcome.
I feel very lucky to have the option to add a workout like this to my training, and I've been going there for the past few weeks.
Sometimes I feel great about it, and sometimes I would compare it to being forced to join a graduate class on quantum physics some time in the middle of the semester. I'm just not physically ready for it.

This past Wednesday, Tim started out by saying, "If you're racing this weekend, don't do this workout."
At this point several of the several dozen certifiable nutcases gathered there before most sane people are out of bed turned to each other and ominously whispered, "That's not a good sign!"
Then Tim went on to say, "If you're injured, or you think you might have an injury coming on, don't try to do this workout."
Another wave of fearful muttering went through the crowd of lunatics.

Then we started in on drills, hop on one foot, forward, back, side, other side, forward, back, etc. for a minute.
Then frog jumps, feet wide, squat down low, leap up high, reaching up, then right back down, again, for a minute.
Then walking lunges, reaching ahead with forward leg, keeping back leg straight, not touching the knee to the ground.
Then side to side, on one foot, jump to right side landing on right foot, lower knee of left leg almost to the ground, then jump to other side landing on other foot, lowering the other knee.
I am beginning to wonder if Mr. Bolen is just making up new ways to punish us on the spur of the moment.
Then 200 meters fast. 20 secs rest.
400 meters at 5K pace, 20 sec. rest.
200 meters fast.
Then the series of drills again. hops, jumps, lunges, hops.
Then the 200, 400, 200 series again, twice.
Then 2 X bleacher steps, 3 at a time.
Then timed 1600 meters.
Then cool down.
I still suspect that this whole series of activities was made up right there on the track for the express purpose of causing pain.
Drills were hard for me. I did not do great.
I did the 200s well, but the 400s slow.
The bleacher steps 3 at a time I could not do. I could either do 3 at a time walking fast, or do 2 at a time running.
I did the final mile in about 7:30, which I can't be too unhappy about.
That workout was a tough five miles.

I have been sore from this workout for two and a half days.
So I just want to tell Tim thanks.
And ow.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Trigger Finger

There is so much good stuff going on, I don't know why it so often ends up being the bad stuff that finally motivates me to write on my blog.
Good stuff is that I'm feeling like I'm making progress with my swimming. I'm getting more mileage in, both biking and running. Training is going pretty well.
The bad thing is trigger finger. I have a self-diagnosed case of trigger finger in the pinkie of my left hand. I haven't seen a doctor about it yet, but it's a pretty obvious thing to diagnose.
Trigger finger occurs when a tendon that flexes one of your fingers gets a nodule of cartilage stuck on it, so that it can no longer easily slide through the sheath of tendons that hold it in place as you flex and extend the finger.
The finger can get stuck in a curled position, like it was wrapped around a trigger, and make a slight pop or snap as you extend the finger and the nodule moves past the tendons obstructing it.
So now I am waking up in the morning with my pinkie curled over and locked, and it's getting harder and harder, and more and more painful, to extend it out normally.
This condition is way more common in diabetics, and especially in those who have had diabetes for a long time. Treatments include rest, cortisone injections, and surgery.
I'm going to start by resting it. I'll start by splinting the finger in an extended position. The hope is that once the tendons aren't rubbing against each other all the time, the nodule will break up and go away.
I suspect that leaning on my hands while riding may have started the problem, so I'll get a new pair of biking gloves with more padding. And I'll try to spare the pinkie while I use the handlebars.
However, often this condition eventually strikes more fingers once it has hit one.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

National Running Day

It's National Running Day! I don't know what that means except that it's a good day to get out and run.
Of course, every day is a good day to run.
I ran a track workout this morning, and I'm considering a group run tonight. My mileage is too low, running mileage, biking mileage, and swimming mileage.
My swimming is actually improving. I'm actually looking forward to my next swim, maybe tonight after the run. I would bag the run and just swim, but hey, it's National Running Day!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Memorial Day

I know this is late, but I've been thinking about, and I did think about what Memorial Day is about while I had a burger and a hot dog and a beer on Monday.

We say, and it's true, that this training for Ironman takes commitment and dedication, but it doesn't bear up to any comparison to the commitment and dedication of those we honor on Memorial Day. Their solemn dedication is on another level.
It takes some courage to sign up to toe the line at Ironman, but it's nothing like putting your life on the line for your country in the chaos of war.
So, as long as I've got this public soapbox here, I should take at least a moment to say thanks.

On another note, I've been reading Joe Friel's Triathlon Training Bible, and I found his description of the evolution of a wish... to a dream... to a goal... to a mission, to be very accurate and worth thinking about. I believe I need to move on from the dream/goal stage to the goal/mission stage.
I need to get on a mission.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tempe International Triathlon

On Friday, I had no intention of signing up for a triathlon. But there was the Tempe International Triathlon, just a few miles from my home. All of my local Triabetes phrends were doing it, Kevin, David, and Julie. They all encouraged me to "give it a shot."
So on Saturday I went down to Tempe Beach Park, registered, and checked my bike in. I fretted about it Saturday night, getting my stuff together. I got up at 4 AM Sunday morning and ate a quick breakfast.
I went back over everything I had prepared for the race:
- chilled water bottles to go onto my bike, partially frozen because it was going to be a hot day.
- insulin and a syringe in my Frio, in case my infusion set came out during the swim.
- bike shoes.
- running shoes.
- new Giro helmet and sunglasses.
- bike gloves.
- socks strategically rolled up to be easily unrolled onto my feet after the swim.
I drove back to the park for the race. The start was to be at 6:30 AM for the first wave, and I was in the third wave. I got there about 5:40 AM.
I got my chip on my ankle, got my number and age written on my arms and legs, and went in and carefully laid out my stuff for transition. I had turned my basal rate down thinking I didn't want too much insulin on board during the swim. When I checked, I was at 200.
I didn't want to be too high. I remembered everything I heard from my diabetic friends who have done this was that the adrenalin at the start of the swim will always send your blood sugar up. So I bolused half a unit.
I met with Kevin, David, Julie, and other friends. I talked for a while with Aaron.
Then it was time to actually walk over to the water. I pulled on my swim cap, put my goggles on my head, and got in line.
I watched and waited while the other waves were starting. I kept a look out for other people who looked like they might be as bad at swimming as I am. I saw a few people who stopped and did a side stroke for a few feet before swimming again. I was a little encouraged.
But I was getting a little doubtful looking at the actual course. It is a long way. I knew it was farther than I had ever swum before.
Then it was time to get in the water. I was far back in my group as I could get. I got in and started treading water. I can't say that it wore me out. I felt comfortable enough at that point.
And soon enough the horn went off and we were swimming ahead.
I only swam for a few strokes, then I looked up to see where I was. I was right where I should have expected myself to be, at the back of the pack. I took a few more strokes, and felt compelled to look up again.
I could only bring myself to swim a few strokes at a time, and I kept feeling more and more uneasy. So of course, I was falling farther and farther behind my wave.
Maybe I was hyperventilating. I can't say for sure. It just seemed like I couldn't bear to just put my head down and swim and keep swimming.
I had some thoughts running through my mind, things like maybe I should have checked my blood sugar again, maybe I'll go low because it's so far, the next wave is going to swim right over me, etc.
But it really wasn't a decision I made because I thought about it. I didn't reason it out, weigh the pros and cons, and decide I should quit. I was swimming a little, then stopping, swimming and stopping. I was looking at the girl in one of the kayaks thinking, "Will she help me?" Then out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the little piers they have paddle boats parked at. I had been drifting closer and closer to the shore.
I saw an easy way out, and I took it. As I said, I didn't think about. It was more like how you'd expect me to react if I'd fallen in. I found the quickest way out.
All of the preparation, everything planned and set up for the race, none of it mattered. I didn't even consider it. I just wanted out of the water.
Once I had grabbed onto the pier, I thought about all of the people watching. Most of them hardly noticed me climbing out. They were watching other people in the race. Still, I was surprised that I wasn't mortified. I ought to have been more embarrassed, but there didn't seem to be any point. It was done.
I just got out and sat down. I thought about it for a while, then went to the finish line and turned in my chip.
I'm seriously shaken up by this wake up call.
I was embarrassed at the race, but when I think about it, I'm ashamed that I had the audacity to get in the water without doing the necessary work first. My friends who rocked at the race yesterday were able to do it because they had done the work to prepare themselves.
I don't blame anyone for "talking me into it." No one knew where I was better than I did. Both registering for the race and quitting were my decisions, right or wrong.
So now, after hundreds of races, including dozens of marathons, I've got my first DNF in my first triathlon.
I'm trying to take the best lesson I can from this experience and re-commit myself to training harder, especially in swimming.
After bailing out, I actually had a nice morning walking around talking to people and watching the race. I had breakfast with Sue at a creperie in downtown Tempe.
Then I got back down to the finish just in time to see David, Kevin, and Julie finish their successful races.
Congratulations, Triabetes Teammates!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Avenue of the Giants

If it looks like I'm really suffering in this picture from the Avenue of the Giants Marathon, then it's a good likeness.
I was not in shape for a marathon last weekend. I did a 65 mile bike ride that I wasn't in shape for the week before.
So I almost got the marathon I deserved. The thing that was better than I deserved was the fact that this is a beautiful course, and the weather was perfect for running. The temperature stayed in the 50's for the whole race, probably cooler in lots of places due to the shade of the forest.
Anyway, I got my 49th lifetime marathon out of the way, and I won't do any more of those until after Ironman Arizona.
The marathon was just part of the trip to Northern California. The more important part was the visit with my daughter, her fiance, and my grandson, River.
Now I'm sick. I've got a head full of mucous. It's hard to get motivated feeling like this. The main motivation right now is the dread of having an awful time trying to finish in November.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Learning to Swim

As a runner, being around other runners for decades, I've heard and read lots of stories that start like, "I couldn't make it around the block..." or even "I couldn't run to the corner..." Then this person runs around the block, then a mile, gradually becomes a runner, perhaps even runs marathons or longer.
Well, that's me with swimming.
Last night I reached a milestone by swimming without stopping farther than I have in more than three decades. Now I only need to work up to swimming 160 times as far by November 22.
Later on at home, I reached down to pick up a can of juice, and water ran out of my nose. That hasn't happened since I was a teenager, and I used to body surf for hours.
A while back I bought a nose clip for swimming, but I haven't been wearing it. I don't see anyone else wearing one, and I feel dorky enough without it.
But maybe I need it. I do have freakishly large nostrils.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Anyone can run a marathon

That's right. I said anyone can run a marathon.
Well, I'm exaggerating just a little bit. At Pat's Run this past Sunday, I competed with several people with various fractions of the usual complement of limbs. I saw the same thing at the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon.
Sarah Reinertsen made the cover of Runners World with only one leg.
So almost anyone can run a marathon, or at least complete a marathon somehow.
The same is not true for Ironman. And I may not be saying this for the reasons you would think.
You see, there are thousands of marathons. There are big ones and little ones all over the world. No matter where you live, there is probably at least one within easy travel distance.
And there are reasonable entrance fees. Some marathons are more expensive than they seem to have any right to be, but some are down-right cheap, even free.
And the required equipment is negligible. Not even shoes are a necessity. Abebe Bikila won the Olympic Gold Medal barefoot in the 1960 Olympic Marathon.
Although training, and knowing how to train, will help a marathoner, all you need to know is how to run.
In contrast, there are few Ironman competitions, and they are expensive to enter. (I'm not saying you don't get your money's worth, just that it's a lot of money.)
They require a bicycle. The better the bike, the better a triathlete's chances of finishing. Mechanical considerations can make or break the race. An ability and willingness to spend money matters on the bike.
It goes without saying that knowing how to ride and swim, and hours of training in those disciplines, are required.
The Ironman, in addition to being very difficult physically, is financially exclusive.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that it's not worth the money. I'm not saying that it isn't a tremendous physical challenge.

One of the things I love about running is the simplicity and commonality of it. Running is universal.
Triathlon, and especially Ironman, while it has a lot of other things going for it, does not have that.

Monday, April 13, 2009

On doing it Oprah-style

A while back I said I had some mixed feelings about the fantastic treatment I got at Diabetes Training Camp.
You see, back in 1994 Oprah Winfrey ran a marathon. I hate to pick on her, because many other celebrities have completed things like marathons and Ironman triathlons much the same way, that is with personal trainers, personal nutritionists, basically everything that can be done to make it easier, given nearly unlimited financial resources.
To me, this always put a qualifier on Oprah's marathon. She ran it, *BUT* she had help, even to the point of having her personal trainer with her every step of the way on the course.
I never had that much help. Like most marathon runners, I did it myself.
And yet, here I am training for Ironman and taking all of the help I can get. Well, I have to be honest about this. If I could have had the help Oprah had, I might have taken it. And in the end, it was Oprah who ran her marathon. No one else can do it for you.
(Unless you're that Big Loser, Dane.)
I appreciate the help I'm getting. I don't think there's much chance of anyone who knows me thinking I wouldn't do this without the help. There have been many times that I drove for hours alone to the start on the morning of a marathon or ultra, ran the race, got in my car, and drove home.
As silly, and maybe arrogant, as it is, I still have some mixed feelings about not doing this on my own.
I suppose an important thing to realize is that almost no one is really going solo. I always have the support of my friends and my family.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Zone

Some running poetry. Something I wrote a couple of years ago.

The Zone
by Jerry "Geronimo" Nairn

It could be anywhere.
Any piece of pavement
running in the midst of normal people passing
oblivious in cars
Any remote trail
dirt collecting in the sweaty creases of my skin
Any night in a park
dodging through tree trunks, ducking branches, dimly remembering
things ancient ancestors did
I've never done.

I can only ever get there after several stubborn miles
miles going nowhere
until something brings me out
Maybe someone passes
or I glance at my watch
or I'm struck by a desire
to just finish this run

A step quicker
suddenly I'm there

The legs move without effort
My friend momentum follows
one footstep to the next
until footsteps blur
striding so easy there are no strides
only moving
only flowing
I am running but it's not running
which now moves me
my feet play on the ground
as the earth passes under me
breath flows in and out
on its own
it isn't running now that moves me
like swimming downstream
in a deep, fast river
and becoming water
it isn't running now that moves me
It's the world I set in motion
running miles ago
days ago
years ago
and all the rushing air, all the rolling earth,
all the flowing body
asks in return
to run like this forever
is to never stop

Photos by Steve Craft

Monday, April 6, 2009

No Tour for You!

Since I did the Tour de Cure Phoenix a few weeks back, and the 62 mile ride didn't seem too tough, and I've done some riding since, I thought I could do all right at El Tour de Phoenix on Saturday. It's a 72 or 74 mile ride (depending on which part of the web site you read), and it has some good climbs in it. I knew it would be a challenge, but I thought it would be good for me.
Man, i feel stoopid.
I went down to the expo to register, payed my money, got my chip, went to the orientation seminar. Five minutes into it, the race official says, "No aerobars," and keeps right on talking.
Duh. I raise my hand, "What's that mean, no aerobars? Is it all right if they're on the bike, but I don't use them?"
Apparently everybody but me already knew this. I got a very bad vibe from everyone there.
No aerobars in the tour!
I have only one bike I'd be willing to ride 70+ miles, and it has aerobars on it. So I got my money back and left. They weren't happy to return my registration fee. I mean the woman handling it didn't argue, but she didn't smile either. And she didn't waste any words on me. "Where's your receipt?" "Where's your chip?" "Here's your money."
I had no idea there were such rules.
Later, talking with more bike-savvy friends, I was told there is some conflict and even hostility between triathletes and bike riders. Triathlons usually don't allow drafting. "Tour" type rides usually don't allow aerobars.
Who knew?
In my defense, the Perimeter Bicycling web site that has the El Tour information on it is a labyrinth.
Anyway, I ended up not doing much of anything over the weekend, a 10 mile run and a swim class.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Diabetic Poetry

Over on Tu Diabetes they had a poetry contest/collaboration, the No Sugar Added Poetry Contest. Members of the Tu Diabetes community contributed poems. For four weeks, each week, two winners were chosen from the poems contributed that week. The winning poems are to be published in a book to support the Diabetes Hands Foundation.
I contributed a poem on the last week that was chosen as a runner-up.

I Couldn't Do That

I couldn't do that.

It's the silliest thing people say
to a diabetic.

We're not doing this for fun.

When you see the diabetic girl in the park,
poking and squeezing her finger for a drop of blood,
see also the threatening figure leaning on her,
holding a needle to her eye.
"Do it or I'll blind you!"

When you see the diabetic man in the restaurant,
jabbing the syringe through his pants into his leg,
see also the demon behind him
with an ice-pick against his kidney.
"Do it or I'll gut you!"

You could do it
with a gun to your head.

Then a few of us couldn't stop once they got us started, and we continued to add poetry to the page after the contest was over. Maybe my definition of poetry is loose. Anyway, I wrote two more of what I call poems:


I'm a fish out of water
inside my own skin,
wrestling with my rebellious metabolism.

I know some of you who are always
effortlessly perfect
in the blood sugar realm
want to think you understand,
but you can't
any more than I can understand you.

After the cure sometimes
will I wonder about my blood sugar,
and wish I had a meter?

Or will I feel perfect always?

Insulin Is Not a Cure

It's like Evel Knievel's helmet.
It might have saved his life, but it never kept him safe.

Insulin is not a cure.
It only creates an illusion of health.

I'd like to go without for a while.
No pricking my fingers, no infusion sets.
No "managing the disease."

Then everyone could see that I'm still sick.
But there'd be a penalty to pay.

False health is better than real death.

So I'll rise and fall, soar and crash.
And keep getting up.

But insulin is not a cure.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Back Fill Blogging

If you take a look at the bottom left side of my blog, you'll see that there are suddenly a lot more posts in the Blog Archive, dating all the way back to 2002. I've just added a bunch of race reports which were originally written for and posted in a Yahoo! group, The Roads Scholars Running Group.
If you have a lot of time on your hands, you can browse back through some of my running history.
If you decide to check out the Roads Scholars, you'll find a very friendly group founded by runner and writer, Michael Selman.
I have also added the saga of my Boston Marathon experience, in three posts.
Deciding to Run Boston and Qualifying
Training for Boston
Boston and the Boston Marathon
This story was originally on my blog at

As a postscript to the Boston story, I did finally break 3:30 at the St. George Marathon in October of 2007 with a finishing time of 3:29:47.
I'm now 50 years old, so I only need a 3:35 to qualify again. That's not easy for me, but I've done it in four previous marathons.

Monday, March 30, 2009

What's in a name?

I am considering moving this blog to WordPress and getting a domain name for it. There's a poll on the left side of the blog to see if anyone reading this has any preferences. Suggestions can be made as comments on this blog post. I appreciate your input.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Diabetes Training Camp

Diabetes Training Camp was awesome... incredible.

I want to name a few of the personnel, to give an idea of the level of training at the camp, but it's not really fair. There are many others involved, and they were all fantastic at their jobs.

Missy Foy, type 1 diabetic and world class marathoner and ultra marathoner, and for a long time a personal hero of mine, was our running coach at the camp.

Rick Crawford, a former pro bike rider and triathlete, now a coach, who has coached many pro triathletes and cyclists, including a kid named Lance Armstrong, lectured us on training the central nervous system and was available for private consultations. We had a beer together and talked for about an hour about my Ironman training program.
He wrote this article the day after our camp ended:

Carrie Cheadle was there to help us with the mental part of the event.

Nicole Freedman, former pro rider and Olympic competitor, and Bike Czar of Boston, was our bike coach.

I rode to the top of Gates Pass from the "easy" side.
I had an opportunity to do a supported ride up Mt. Lemmon, but it seemed like a bad idea for the day before Old Pueblo.
If I hadn't been running Old Pueblo, I could have done a run with Dave Scott that morning, as part of TriFest, instead.

It was just an incredible week.
So why do I have mixed feelings about it? I'll have to cover that in another post.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Relay Haiku

I may not be much of a poet, but I enjoy writing, so this blog will occasionally contain verse, as well as prose.
Here are a couple of Haiku inspired by the Relay Del Sol.

desert run at night
point headlamp upward to see
a sky full of stars

running beside you
I hear your feet, your breathing
and your damn ipod

Hope you enjoyed it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Old Pueblo 50

I'm finally posting my account, such as it is, of the Old Pueblo 50.
I got sore, especially in the quads, but I had no injuries and nothing much to complain about. I finished in 13 hours and 23 minutes, so my goal of 10 hours was out of the question.
I didn't have much of a break after the Ragnar Relay. I had one night at home, then was off to Diabetes Training Camp for four and a half full days of workouts and lectures. Seriously, they had us at the first workout at 6:30 AM every day, and then workouts and lectures, consultations, medical testing, fittings for bikes and gear, etc. all day, every day, usually until past 10 at night.
So the day after DTC, all I had to do was sit around at the Triabetes booth at Tri-Fest for half a day, then rest up for the Old Pueblo 50 mile trail run on Saturday.
I knew just driving out to the start that I was too tired to really race it. I didn't have enough time to recover from all of the previous marathons and 50Ks going into the Ragnar relay, and after the relay, I had no real chance to recover from that experience.
So I was walking the uphills from the start, and always trying to conserve energy while maintaining some momentum. Later in the day, it helped to use some of the techniques Carrie Cheadle had taught us at Diabetes Training Camp to keep my shoulders relaxed and not expend any extra energy on useless tension.
The course was a lot tougher than I expected. Even on fresh legs I don't think I would have been ready to do it in 10 hours. But now that I know what it's like, I think I could train for it and make it.
I did best against the competition in a couple of sections that were steep, rocky downhills for miles. Others were walking them, but I let gravity carry me and tried to stay light on my feet. I didn't trip anywhere, but the few places that I came close were where it was mostly level and there were only a few rocks sticking up.
This was 50 miles of mountainous trails and dirt roads. 51 miles by my Garmin. Don't get me started. Well, I am started.
The other place I did well was nearing the finish late in the day. I thought I was going to finish before the sun set if I just kept running, so I was running even uphill, for a while, after the 40 mile aid station. Since I had been taking it easy all day, most of the people around me were really spent, and weren't running at all.
I passed about six people between the 40 mile aid station and where my Garmin said it was 45 miles. Then, when the Garmin said I was 46.75 into the race, I came upon a sign that said I was 1/4 mile from the 46 mile aid station.
That totally knocked the wind out of me. I thought I was a little over 3 miles from the finish, and I suddenly found I was still more than 4 miles out. I'm sure it doesn't sound like much, but for some reason, at the time it mentally crushed me.
But I kept running to the aid station, ate a little more, (I ate like a pig through the whole race.) and ran on.
At this point, I was running with a small group leaving the aid station more or less together. I think we were all looking forward to finishing.
Then with three miles to go we came to the base of a set of wicked steep switchbacks, maybe the steepest hill on the course, rising hundreds of feet in a few hundred yards. I probably wouldn't run this hill if it was in a 10K, let alone at the end of a 50 miler. It was just a sick joke.
I made it to the top, though, and kept on chugging toward the finish.
However, the sun had set, and it was rapidly getting darker and colder. My little headlight that clips onto my cap, which was fine for running on the road in the relay, was totally inadequate on the narrow, twisty, rocky trail of the last mile. My shirt was also inadequate, as the temperature was dropping rapidly.
It took me half an hour to go the last mile, and by the time I crossed the finish line, I think I had borderline hypothermia. It felt good to get some hot coffee, hot chili, and a warm burger.
My blood sugars were manageable. I checked at every aid station, and once between aid stations. The first few miles I was a little high, and bolused conservatively to correct and cover what I was eating. As the day wore on, I didn't need to bolus at all in spite of eating almost everything available, gels, V8, bananas, pretzels, potato chips, salt potatoes, chicken noodle soup, etc.
My basal was at a reduced rate all day until I finished. I stayed up late (with a couple of naps thrown in) and ate heavily, checking my blood sugar frequently, and had no post-race problems.

There's actually a whole other story about post-race activities, but it will have to wait for another day, like if we ever meet and you ask me about it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

strips everywhere

Like some of you out there, I spend a fair amount of time checking my blood sugar in my car. I get in and decide to test before driving somewhere, or I drive somewhere and decide I'd like to test before I go in.
So I was sitting in my car preparing to test my blood sugar when I dropped a test strip. I looked, and I could see the strip between the base of the seat and the side of the saddle over the transmission. Each strip is worth about $1, and we're in some kind of a global economic downturn, so I decided I had to recover it.
But as I reached to grab it, the strip slid away. I couldn't get my thumb down there, so I tried to squeeze it between my first and second finger. It slid further down. I reached again, I strained, I got it, I pulled it up, and saw the test strip I recovered was from a meter I hadn't used in years.
OK, I couldn't give up now, so I opened my door, got out and got down near the floor of the car and reached from the other side. And I pulled back two strips. I thought this was weird, because while I use a lot of strips, I generally keep all of the used ones in the change tray in front of the gear shift lever. I don't throw them all over.
When all cars had ash trays, mine used to always fill up with test strips. I'm sure some of you reading this know how that is.
Anyway, unsure that I had recovered the strip I had just dropped, I kept reaching under that part of the seat. Understand that I wasn't reaching all over, combing the carpeting for strips. I was just finding the one strip I had just dropped. And soon I had eight strips.
I never considered it a design flaw before, but these Freestyle test strips don't look any different after they've been used. You can't see if they have old dried blood in them. You have to put them in the meter to see if they're going to work.
It turned out that none of the strips I found under the seat was functional, and in the end I had to pull out a new strip to get my blood sugar.
Five or ten minutes in the life of a diabetic.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Scattered Pictures

I took a few pictures, very few, over the past few weeks, but I think they're at least a little interesting.
First is this picture of Greg Florian's SpiBelt with a OneTouch Mini and lancet device mounted on it. It reminded me of the TV Batman's utility belt, and I mean that in a good way. I love it. I may work out something like this for my long runs.

This illustrates a couple of things. One of them is how when you get a group of diabetics together, they can learn a lot from each other. Greg was one of the teammates in the Glucomotive all diabetic team in the Relay Del Sol.
The other thing it shows is the functionality of a SpiBelt, which is a product of a great sponsor of Triabetes and Insulindependence.

Speaking of sponsors, below is a picture of a pile of swag I recieved from sponsors at Diabetes Training Camp. Featured prominently is a huge stack of PureFit bars, which I am getting plenty of use out of.

The picture below is very simple. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I don't think this picture is better than a thousand word description of the Old Pueblo Run.
However, it does kind of tell a story succinctly.

Friday, March 20, 2009

2009 So Far

I haven't posted here since February 26, when I had done only four marathons and one ultra-marathon this year.
What's happened since?

The Ragnar Relay Del Sol, 204 miles with 12 diabetic runners, 2/27-28.

Diabetes Training Camp in Tucson, 3/1-5.

TriFest 2009, 3/6-8.

The Old Pueblo 50 Mile Endurance Run, 3/7.

Half century birthday, 3/13.

Tour de Cure Phoenix 100K Ride, 3/14.

Those are just the highlights, and each one of them is worth at least a page here, but if I take the time to do that, I'll never get caught up to today. Once again, my life is outrunning my blogging.

As time permits, I'll try to post something about each of these events over the next few weeks. My plans don't call for anything big, just Ironman training, until a marathon in May. After that, I will be totally focused on Ironman Arizona in November.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sharp Stuff

Thinking about what to blog about, I've decided a few of these things should be about being diabetic, and not just an active, athletic diabetic. I mean I write about running and sometimes you wouldn't even know you were reading the blog of a diabetic.
Well, sometimes I'm going to write something that will make it obvious this blog belongs to a diabetic, but there may not be any running/biking/swimming/triathlon content.

I hate needles.

I've been a diabetic for 35 years, and I'm lousy at giving myself shots.
When I was first diagnosed, in the hospital I practiced that quick jab insertion of the syringe into an orange, over and over. I've done injections into my own skin that way maybe five times. The rest of the time I've pressed the point of the needles against the skin and pushed it in. Maybe it's more painful, but it seems somehow less violent.
And I look away when a needle is put into one of my veins to draw blood.
I hate it all.

I love/hate the sensors for my CGMS. While they are in and reporting what's going on inside of me, taking some of that burden off me, saving my life, I love them. I hate looking at them. I hate putting them in.
I mean seriously. LOOK at those things! Are you kidding me? Just stick that thing into my own skin? It's like a nail!

I love/hate Silhouette infusion sets. They stay in much better than any others I've tried. I've seen a QuickSet fall out two miles into a 5 mile run. I've run dozens of marathons using Silhouettes with no problem.
But don't you think they could put it in with just a little shorter needle? Does it really have to be that long? LOOK at that thing!
It goes in at an angle, but if I were to stab it straight in, I could hit any vital organ.

Glad I could get that off my chest... if not out from under my skin.

If you like this post, or even if you don't, you may want to visit the Diabetic Running Mama, who blogged on almost the same topic today, and inspired me to post this.