Monday, 30 January 2012

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Oxford Forum Meet, January 28th 2012

The venue, Far From the Madding Crowd

Yesterday was a rest day from training, chiefly for the reason that I was out all day (and most of the night, as it turned out!) meeting with lots of lovely people from the Forum. There was a terrific turnout, with all but one of the people who had said they would attend turning up (apologies were sent by Chris, hope you feel much better soon, and sorry we missed you).

The venue, Far From the Madding Crowd, was a good one on the whole, with lots of space available and relatively quiet throughout the day, largely due to the absence of music, a big TV or a dartboard - the latter omission causing dismay for some attendees who had hopes of staging the first Forum Darts Grand Challenge - we'll pick a better-equipped pub next time around Steff and Nicky! No TV either, sorry Duane! Another major gripe was that we were left standing outside the pub for at least a minute after the official opening time of 11:30!

Great to see so many people, some I had met before and others who were totally new to the 'meeting potential axe-murderers from the interweb' situation - we kept our axes well-hidden so as not to scare them off! Really good to be able to chat freely about diabetes, or any other subject that cropped up. Diabetes, I believe, is so much easier to handle when you no longer feel alone with it, when you can 'witter on' to your heart's content, swap stories and experiences, test and inject without censure in full public view, and generally have a good day out amongst friends previously only known by their forum monikers. Putting faces to names helps strengthen the bond, I believe and the continued and increasing success of these informal gatherings is a great illustration of how support can make such a difference to people's lives. 

Unfortunately, The Diabetes Fairy saw fit to tamper with DizzyDi's chicken, and she became very ill. Thank you to all the members who did whatever they could to ensure that she did not have to worry about being stranded or having to make a long journey home alone, in particular to The Ypaulies who eventually drove her home - you guys are amazing! 

As usual at these Meets, my blood sugar levels rocketed and I recorded one of my highest ever numbers since diagnosis, at 15.8 mmol/l! I am convinced it is due to Diabetic Osmosis and will be applying for generous funding in order to investigate the phenomenon! By the time I was back on my own on the train home, my levels had dropped to 5.0 mmol/l, adding weight to my hypothesis!

Several of us had problems on the train journeys home, myself included, due to the overwhelmingly terrible situation around Reading - I eventually arrived home around 90 minutes late on what should have been a two hour journey. So, here are the pictures!

Steff and ukjohn

Willsmum, Tina63 and DizzyDi


Jane and Natalie123

brightontez and Northerner


DizzyDi and Sazzaroo


Ian and wife SimplesL

ypauly, with nurse and daughter

Apologies that I did not get photos of Scootdevon, Robert@fm and William - I really must start trying to take a leaf out of Shelley's book and start taking lots more pictures! Normal training reports will resume shortly!

Friday, 27 January 2012

Dainty and the Wall

A few of the more observant amongst my readers may have noticed that I have taken a few days away from the training and, consequently, the blog. Four days, in fact. Monday was always going to be a rest day after Sunday’s Long Slow Run, and as it turned out, Tuesday was also a rest day since my head was unable to rise from my pillow for an undisclosed number of hours beyond my normal pre-dawn rising time.

So what of Wednesday and Thursday, I hear you ask? Well, on Tuesday night it seems I fell victim to what we shall euphemistically refer to as a ‘head cold’, brought on by the ingestion of copius quantities of Real Ale and a couple of double vodkas…The ‘cold’ persisted throughout Wednesday, and though much recovered by Thursday I was overwhelmed by extreme laziness and did not venture out that day.

So, this made me very determined to go out this morning, come hell or high water! I almost didn’t make it, waking for a second time after first being shocked awake by my alarm, but managed this time to throw my legs out of the bed and head to the bathroom for my ablutions. My house is quite old and isn’t the best insulated, so I can usually tell with a high degree of accuracy what the weather outside will be like. It would be cold! And so I was proved right, although I opted for ordinary running leggings and t-shirt, and left the space pants in the wardrobe, estimating that there was insufficient chill factor to warrant their warmth.

I was all set to go out when a memory drifted back to me from many years ago: a time when I had first sported such leggings and presented myself for inspection before my then-girlfriend. Hospitals and ambulances were put on alert and the local neighbourhood was subjected to such loud hilarity that it was feared that a tanker of nitrous oxide must have met with some disaster and released its mirth-inducing cargo for miles around! Yes, she thought I looked ridiculous, with my bony little legs encased in skin-hugging lycra in barely believable imitation of Linford’s Lunchbox!

Clearly, that was many years ago, and since then my legs have become quite magnificent, admired country-wide for their strength and line. But, I must confess, the view from the mirror reflects the Max Wall/Billy Dainty physique of those many years past. You probably need to be of a certain vintage to appreciate the comparison, but the picture above should give you some idea.

So then it occurred to me, why am I stressing about running this half marathon dressed as The Diabetes Fairy? Is it likely that the vision of me in fairy frock and tights is likely to shock or amuse more than my ‘Dainty’ tights? So Alan, be brave! Venture out in that dress and feel no fear!

The run went well, feeling strong all the way and confident of going for 7 miles on Sunday!

Time               35 mins 12 secs
Distance        3.64 miles
Pace               9:40 per mile
BG before      6.2 mmol/l
BG after         10.0 mmol/l

Monday, 23 January 2012

Who's that Girl?

An actual photo of me in the costume!

It’s a rest day today after yesterday’s longer run. Legs are a little sore, but not bad considering I’m now up to nearly half race distance already. I may not be running today, but that does not mean my mind is not occupied with the prospect of the terrifying ordeal fun day out in Bath in just under seven weeks time! I have to give serious consideration to how the costume will perform, and how I will perform beneath its diaphanous and ethereal folds…

One thing that did worry me as I was running yesterday was how hot I got, even though it was quite a cool morning and I was wearing a cotton t-shirt. How much hotter am I going to be enclosed in gossamer and silk (polyester and nylon!)? I’m not really very happy running in the heat, and there’s also the possibility that it will be a warm Spring day and therefore exacerbating the situation. I also need to consider the fact that, unlike my normal running gear that is specially designed for the purpose, this costume is likely to rub and chafe in unexpected regions, so ideally I need to know where to position protective sticking plasters and copious quantities of petroleum jelly!

So, I have a big decision looming: do I ‘test-drive’ the full regalia before the event? It’s something that I imagine every person who has made the decision to run in costume has considered. Yet how many of them actually go through with it? How many giraffes, bananas and seventeen-stone men in  hula girl outfits have you ever seen trotting around your local neighbourhood? Well, I’ve been running for many years now, and have never seen such a vision!

I really think I should do it though. The whole thing might fall apart and if I wait until the race then I might be running as ‘The Diabetic in Underwear’ instead of The Diabetes Fairy! I think that my best option is to get up very early in the morning and just run around the block when hopefully it will be extremely quiet, very dark, and totally devoid of neighbours out for their morning constitutional!

Oh dear! Why-oh-why-oh-why did I get myself into this?!!!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Up, Up and Away!

I decided to vary my route this morning, as variety is the spice of life and it can become very boring just panting past the same old scenes all the time. I also decided that, since it is Sunday and therefore nice and quiet and relatively traffic-free, I would run a route that involves running alongside some major roads – not something I would enjoy during the week with all the nose-to-tail commuters in their smelly, choking fumes alongside as companions on the journey.

The weather is cool, but not cold, and there is a light breeze, thankfully much lighter than yesterday’s strong, fence-flattening winds! I don’t mind much weather, but strong, gusting winds can knock you this way and that and sap your energy, making a run into a battle with the elements. Some people find that invigorating, but not I! The first mile or so is my usual run through the park. This is the section when I start to get warmed up, my heart and lungs up to speed and my muscles working. Even after nearly 30 years and countless runs I still find the very start of a run difficult. There’s a short, moderately uphill stretch right at the start, and this where I have to get everything woken up and working – a downhill section just wouldn’t do it, so my house is well-positioned in that respect!

Hills are at the forefront of my mind this morning, as I know what lies ahead. This is a route I have run many times in the past, but not for some time now – possibly since early last summer. I spend the first mile through the deserted park mentally preparing for what lies ahead – the relentless climb from the park to the Common, a large area of woodland and parkland just outside the centre of the city. As I leave the park I note the details on my GPS: 1.03 miles covered. I will note them again when I reach the summit. I don’t mind running up hills at all, as much of my early running was in a very hilly city that bordered on even hillier countryside – hills were unavoidable so I learned to love them. There’s no point in hating hills if you can’t avoid them, and I always think to myself that they involve different muscles, so the ‘flat’ muscles get a bit of a rest on the way up. You can probably tell that I’m not medically-trained!

Up then, then up again, a slightly flatter stretch then up and up until I can see the crossroads right at the top and they draw closer until I am upon them. I glance down at my Garmin – 2.79 miles, so a climb of 1.76 miles accomplished in just short of 16 minutes. Not bad at all! And now I’m at the Common, away from the roads and through the woods, lovely and peaceful and surprisingly free of spaniels. Well, it is still relatively early for a Sunday, although later than I would run during the week. Actually, to be able to see clearly where I am heading is still a bit of a novelty, as I’m used to the half-light of pre-dawn in recent runs.

It’s pretty much all downhill from here, or flat. There are quite a few runners around, of varying abilities. One young man streaks past me and shrinks into the distance, and I think to myself that he is probably thirty years my junior, has never broken his femur in a race, and probably doesn’t have diabetes to contend with – this helps me justify the disparity in our relative speeds. Oh, and he probably hasn’t just run uphill for nearly two miles. I try hard, but can’t think of any more excuses why he has become an ever-decreasing dot in the distance!

Being familiar with the route, I know that it is going to take me much further than my recent training runs, and I am starting to tire as I glance down and see that I am now 4.5 miles into the run. I’m still quite a way from home, but I’m leaving the Common now and on my way back – a different route, more direct, and either flat or downhill all the way. Happily, my legs are not too jarred by the impact of running downhill, so I manage to get back in one piece and fit to run another day (probably a Tuesday, and probably this week!). In all I have covered 6.24 miles in around 63 minutes, which in metric equates to 10 kilometres! Not bad, given that I was finding 3.5 miles so challenging around ten days ago! I’m also interested to see that, for the first time since starting this blog, my blood glucose levels are actually lower than when I set off. This confirms previous findings that I can run for around 5 miles before needing any extra carbohydrate. This is something I will need to bear in mind and monitor as my training runs get longer.

On the fundraising front, things are a little slower, although I have many pledges of donations before the month is out, so it will be nice when they come in – I may even approach my revised target of £500!

Time               1hr 3 mins 24 secs
Distance        6.24 miles
Pace               10:10 per mile
BG before      8.4 mmol/l
BG after         6.3 mmol/l

Friday, 20 January 2012

Good morning Mrs Mallard!

I was feeling up for another run this morning so it was no trouble getting out of bed at 05:30. At one time, before diabetes, I would have had a mug of tea, donned my gear and been out of the door, but diabetes has changed this. For me, it’s one of the most inconvenient things about this disease – the lack of spontaneity. I discovered early on that I now need two things to have happened before I can set off for my early morning run: I need to have injected insulin around ninety minutes to two hours before setting off, and I need to have some food in my stomach. If I don’t inject and eat then my blood sugar levels will climb and climb, and I would place myself in danger of developing ketoacidosis. Having experienced that just the once, I never want to experience it again!

Diabetes is complicated at times, and it’s something that most non-diabetics would be totally unaware of – it’s not simply a case of injecting a fixed amount of insulin each day, you have to take into account how your body behaves at different parts of the day and alter things accordingly. Like many people with diabetes, mornings are the times when I am particularly resistant to insulin, and this, when coupled with an enthusiastic liver, eager to pump forth vast amounts of additional glucose into my bloodstream, means that my breakfast doses of insulin are much higher than at any other time of the day or night.

I discovered some time ago that the only way to keep my levels reasonable is to inject, wait for around half and hour, then eat a small amount of food – usually a slice of toast – then wait a further hour or so for that to begin to digest before I can get out of the door. This, unfortunately for me and my running, means that I have food digesting as I run which often causes sensations of nausea which in turn can make steady breathing difficult.

More of that later though, I am off out of the door in a shorts-and-tshirt darkened day before the dawn has broken. It’s cool, not cold, with a bit of a breeze which scarcely ripples the surface of the river alongside. My breathing is good and my legs feel strong, so I am striding out into the depths of the park, when suddenly I have to skip to the side upon encountering a man flanked by German Shepherds. Not two teutonic wolf-worriers out to defend their flock, you understand, but two large hairy creatures of canine descent. I was brought up to think of German Shepherds, also known as Alsations, as police or guard dogs, aggressive and to be given a wide berth at all costs. It’s probably a very unfair image, and these two hardly bat an eyelid (do dogs have eyelids?) as I pass, and my heart can slow again to a less agitated rhythm!

Passing alongside the far reaches of the river and approaching the bridge, a loud quack breaks the tranquillity, and I see a small group of mallards paddling past. I don’t speak mallard, but I imagine she is wishing me a cheery ‘good morning’, so I give her and her party a little wave. Of course, for all I know she may be saying ‘hey! You forgot your shorts!’, although I am not entirely sure what levels of humour might operate in the brain of a duck.

Up and over the bridge and I’m still feeling quite good. If it was light enough to see my Garmin, then I might be able to check my pace and progress, but it’s still quite dark and about twenty minutes from sunrise. I wonder to myself what time those ducks wake up and what prompts them? Down the main road and I find I am moving much faster than the adjacent stream of traffic, as it is stalled in the queue for the busy roundabout. Makes me feel smug! The smugness dissipates though as I turn the corner to encounter my last challenging hill of the route, and I realise that I still have a significant degree of fitness to acquire before the race!

Back in the park again, and that toast is starting to protest in my stomach – so annoying! Having not had to deal with this for most of my running career it’s taking some getting used to. It’s at this point that I realise what the wise Mrs Mallard was trying to tell me – ‘cut short your run by a quarter of a mile, that’s enough for today!’ So I do, and arrive home slightly earlier than planned!

Quick update – the postman has just delivered my fairy outfit! Eek!

Time               41 mins 33 secs.
Distance        4.24 miles
Pace               9:52 per mile
BG before      8.9 mmol/l
BG after         9.7 mmol/l

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Get thee behind me, Laa-Laa!

One advantage of regular training is that I am sleeping better. From about Christmas to a week into the New Year I had had great difficulty getting to sleep, and most nights I was able to listen to the full output of the night time selection of the BBC World Service, unabridged by any impromptu interludes of deep sleep or even dozing. Why, I don’t know. I always make it a rule though to be up and about at my normal time and not go to bed too early, in the hope that the build up of fatigue will ensure some restorative slumber.

Last night my efforts seem to be finally paying off, as I actually slept through the shipping forecasts at either end of the night (00:45 and 05:30), even extending my bedbound oblivion well into the Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme! Before bed I had had a slight notion that I might run again this morning, but it really wouldn’t have been sensible. I arose to slightly sore and fatigued legs, particularly calves, and know that to venture out would have been folly in the extreme. This is sensible, as muscles and bones need time to recuperate and this is often when they gain their strength, stimulated to react to the stresses and strains they have recently experienced. Exactly what I didn’t do that time when my leg broke!

The endorphin rush is missed, and will have to wait until tomorrow, but hopefully I will be better prepared to repeat my run of yesterday, but more comfortably and possibly even in a faster time. It occurred to me that yesterday’s run of just over 4.5 miles is actually just a touch over one-third of the half marathon distance. Could I have managed a further nine miles at the end of yesterday’s run? Well, it would have been very difficult, but hopefully I will be in much better shape in seven weeks’ time. No doubt on the ‘big day’ I will have additional impetus due to the fact I will be dressed as The Diabetes Fairy, and must at all costs not be beaten by Laa-Laa the teletubbie or the group of Royal Marines running in full kit and carrying a small frigate!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


Dreich is a Scottish word to describe cold, grey, drizzly weather, where you are engulfed in the clinging wetness of ground-level cloud and dampness dominates all around you. Such was the weather as I stepped out this morning, with pavements shining from the watery sheen reflecting the orange glow of the feeble street lights. Sounds miserable? Well, yes, under normal circumstances, but actually it is ideal weather for a run! Not raining as such, so you don’t get soaked to the core, yet enveloped in damp mist that keeps your skin cool and your temperature at a nice gentle warmth as you run.

After yesterday’s rest and recuperation day, I’m feeling up for running a little further today, so plan to go an extra mile. My pace is cautious which means that I can breathe easily – no desperate panting and sucking in of precious air, but a relatively relaxed rhythm, ideally suited to distance running. It’s dark still, so it feels a little precarious running through the park, with the occasional black silhouette appearing in the distance and gradually resolving into a recognisable dog shape as I draw closer. I always feel a bit more vulnerable in the dark, as I imagine the dogs might be a little more startled as you suddenly come upon them and may react with surprise and aggression. However, it seems that the only dog to show any such instinctive reactions is a tiny lhasa-apso that stupidly tries to manoeuvre itself under my feet, squeaking furiously and no doubt imagining itself to be of Pyrenean proportions as it attempts to strike fear into my heart!

The tide is coming in fast, and you can almost see it rushing in as a stiff breeze whips across the surface. Off in the distance I can see two small lights and as I approach I see that they are in the prows of two boats from the local rowing club. I feel like waving to these fellow athletes, so I do. They don’t wave back. I have to stop briefly as I cross the road to the latter half of the park – most annoying! Thankfully, I don’t have too many roads to cross on this route, so minimal frustration is endured. Because I am running further this morning I turn left at the bridge and continue out behind some houses to run alongside the main road to the local airport. The road is very busy and it occurs to me that it really ought to be getting light by now, since the build up of traffic usually only gets to this stage after sunrise. Not on a grey day like today, it seems!

Round a corner, up a hill and past the railway station and I'm back in the park. My legs are starting to tire now, and even though my breathing is not laboured I feel the urge to stop and walk for a while. I don’t however, I keep going, because I know that it is when I feel like this that I mustn't stop – in a marathon or half-marathon it can mean the start of the slippery slope to ever longer stints of walking interspersed with ever shorter stints of actual running. Mind over matter. At any rate, I want to get back home and have a nice mug of tea – I feel I have earned it!

It’s interesting that my current levels of training have produced a significant fall in my insulin requirements. For the past couple of nights I have been injecting only two units of lantus – when I was diagnosed I was on twenty units! Where will it all end? Might I only need one unit soon, or even no lantus at all? Two units seems such a tiny amount and is the lowest basal insulin requirement I have had since diagnosis.

The fundraising is still going very well, I am now up to £360, plus gift aid, with lots of pledges of donations come pay day! I’d love to make £1,000 – who knows?

Time               45 mins 54 secs
Distance        4.55 miles
Pace               10:05 per mile
BG before      7.6 mmol/l
BG after         8.9 mmol/l

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Does my bum look big in this?

Most definitely a rest and recuperation day today. My legs don’t feel too bad, but just a little bit heavy, so hopefully giving them a day to recover will mean I can tackle some extra distance tomorrow – I’d like to get a couple of 5-milers in before the week is over. Still having my 15 minute sessions with the lovely Gay Gasper though (what a name for a fitness instructor!). There’s one point in the routine where she asks you to do an exercise and then says ‘I surprised you!’ Gay, nothing you say surprises me after we’ve been together all this time – for those 15 minutes I know your every thought and movement! I could probably do the whole thing without actually putting the DVD on, but it is encouraging to be paced through the routine by Gay’s commentary. I did buy another DVD that I thought might be good, featuring Flavia from ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and teaching you how to do an Argentine Tango with a chair, but it’s about ten minutes of complicated instructions followed by the actual routine, which I promptly get lost in about thirty seconds after it starts!

So, what’s all this about today’s title then? Well, I now have my costume for the race! Managed to pick up a cheap outfit on the interweb – just hope it fits! I still need to complete the ensemble with a wig and a wand, and have my eye on some stripey stockings, but hopefully these will be easy enough to pick up. And no – I’m not going to tell you what the outfit looks like, you’ll have to wait! My biggest worry is that I will look far too pretty and people will just imagine that I am Nell McAndrew rather than a bloke in a frock!

Hope to have a good run to relate tomorrow!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Hurdling Spaniels!

Or, to be more precise, King Charles spaniel puppies, but more of that later! Today really should have been a rest day, but despite some soreness in the old leg muscles, after I had been up and about for a while I felt that I might be able to manage a short run. I had contemplated just doing a few ‘songs’ on the exercise bike, but really, the prospect of such a tedious activity filled me with such an overwhelming sense of all-consuming boredom that I could barely manage to remain upright in my chair. So, instead I plumped for the invigorating, endorphin-fuelled, life-affirming pleasure of a self-propelled tour of the local vicinity!

Endorphins are a powerful drug, and I knew that it was possibly a mistake to venture out this morning, but here we are, sucking in the cold air and heading out to goodness knows where. I say that because I haven’t fixed my route yet in my head. My initial thoughts are to just do a short loop of the park just to satiate my desire to run, but not too far to risk injury on tired muscles. Once I’m into it though, I feel fine, and decide that there is no reason I shouldn’t repeat my run of Saturday, just taking care not to overstride or slap the path too hard on downhill stretches.

Although it is cold, and there is a frost on the ground as I set off, it is not as cold as two days ago. In fact, it is space pants and t-shirt weather, so my legs are toasty and my torso cool. I have taken the wise precaution of wearing gloves though, since I will need to be able to manipulate the key into the door lock on my return, and it’s hard to do that when you have no feeling in your hands!

There are a few people around, mostly dog walkers, but I am also starting to recognise some of the ‘brisk walkers’ that are out each morning around this time. It’s quite comforting to know that, however much I have slowed down since my heyday, I am still running at a pace that exceeds a brisk walk, since I fly past them with ease. Of course, when you are passing someone you always have to make sure your breathing is carefully regulated for those few brief seconds so that they don’t realise what an eyeballs-out, lung-bursting effort it is for you! This particularly applies when passing a young lady, and even more particularly if she is a runner, which I guess is all down to evolution or something.

Out of one side of the park and across the road of a million queuing cars, headlamps ablaze, into the calm quiet stretch leading out to the bridge where I will turn. It’s particularly peaceful along here, being a more confined space next to the gently flowing river than the previous wide-open parkland. A few rooks are squawking and arguing about the early worms, but that’s about it. I can just about see in the distance another human accompanied by a couple of small dots, and as I approach I realise that they are tiny puppies, King Charles spaniel variety, with little comprehension of the world or how to walk in a straight line. Instead they wander and weave their way across the path, untethered and boiling with energy, as puppies tend to do.

Will they make way for me? Who knows? Well, I soon know the answer as I am upon them, and almost literally were it not for the fact that I still have enough spring in my legs to leap above their bobbing heads in a single bound, highly reminiscent (I think to myself) of Colin Jackson in his prime – a worthy successor to his crown, I am sure he would admit! The thought briefly crosses my mind that this was probably how the hurdling event was performed back in the early days of the Olympic Games, when standing jumps and Tug ‘o’ War were still premier events on the sporting calendar.

So, you will be pleased to learn, the puppies survive to sniff another day, as do I as I make it home all in one piece! I’m rather pleased to have managed three days in a row without hurting myself – quite an achievement for me these days, and the time was comparable to the previous couple of days so the consecutive runs haven’t tired me out. Will I rest tomorrow? I really should!

Fantastic news on the fundraising front – I have now passed the £300 mark! If you are enjoying reading this blog, and you haven’t sponsored me yet, please do – any sum, no matter how small, is hugely appreciated!

Time               35 mins 13 secs
Distance        3.61 miles
Pace               9:45 per mile
BG before      6.7
BG after         8.4

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Core, blimey!

I’ve definitely got the bug back. Although nowadays I normally take a rest day every other day, I felt compelled to get up early this morning and go for another run. My legs felt in reasonable shape, just a little stiff from yesterday with no particularly worrying twinges, so I thought it was worth the risk – I could always curtail the run if I felt anything might be likely to snap!

As it is Sunday, I thought I may as well wait until it got light before venturing out. The main reason I go out earlier during the week is to avoid the traffic and pollution that builds up on a workday morning, but Sunday morning is relatively traffic free. Not that I run alongside roads particularly, most of my runs are through the park, it’s just more peaceful generally and also wakes me up and sets me up for the day.

It’s much, much warmer this morning – t-shirt weather, in fact! I’m almost tempted to say ‘fairy outfit’ weather, but I’m not that brave yet! I should really take a leaf out of Eddie Izzard’s book and not worry about it. There is a bloke that couldn’t look more like a bloke in a dress in his transvestite years (not that I’m planning on following that orientation!), yet he ran 43 marathons in six weeks. Mind you, he wasn’t running dressed as The Diabetes Fairy, I reckon that is much harder!

The tide is out again, so there is just the narrow channel of fresh water that constitutes the river proper, when not swelled to five times its width by the inrushing seawater. Because of the close relationship with the sea we get lots of seabirds here, and this morning there seem to be more than ever. As I run along great flocks of them sweep across my path and you do wonder if they will all manage to avoid you, or will one myopic creature thwack you on the side of the head and pitch you over into the silt and mud below!

At one point along the path I am paced by a golden retriever in a flash red jacket, gambolling amiably and effortlessly alongside me, whilst I wheeze and grunt alongside her. As if to rub it in, she slows to a lethargic trot, yet still keeping pace with me. Thanks dog! Why is she wearing a jacket anyway? It’s probably about 5C and she already has a fur coat on, she must be boiling!

I feel quite good as I reach my turning point, and it occurs to me that one of the reasons for this is the fact that my one-time distended belly is now much tighter and controlled as I run. This is in no small part due to the tough 15-minute sessions with my good friend Gay Gasper and her aptly-named Workouts for Dummies. I have been trying to do the abdominal training exercises at least once a day fr the past few weeks and, although there as yet no sign of the promised six-pack, I can definitely detect an improvement in the strength of my core (hence the title of today’s entry!). Runners take note – do not neglect your core! I’ve lost a bit of weight recently too, only a couple of pounds, but it should make that outft a bit easier to squeeze into come race day, which – it has just occurred to me – is now only 8 weeks away!

I’m so pleased by the way people have supported me, helping me reach my initial target of £250 in less than three days. I’ve now increased my target to £500, which I would certainly hope to achieve by the time of the event. Setting targets for sponsorship is a very difficult business: set it too high initially and it becomes disappointing if you come nowhere near, but if you do reach your initial target then they say it is a good idea to increase it, since some people will be less inclined to sponsor you if they see you have already achieved your target. I have quite a few pledges for the end of the month, and hopefully some of my old friends will support me too, so I think £500 is not an unreasonable ambition.

All these thoughts of why I am doing this and the support I am receiving spurs me on. I’m running a slightly shorter route this morning, and am happy to post an improved pace and a few more miles under my belt. From long experience I’ve found that, once I can happily run 5 miles, then the increases to 7, 10 and more come fairly easily as long as I can remain injury-free. Injured or otherwise though, I intend to finish this event, so there’s no wimping out!

Time               32 mins 8 secs
Distance        3.29 miles
Pace               9:46 per mile
BG before      7.8
BG after         9.6

Saturday, 14 January 2012

A Cold and Frosty Morning

Much colder and frostier than this!

So this is what winter feels like? Definitely the coldest day of the winter so far, probably ‘since records began’, as they always seem to say! Well, not quite, but it was -6C when I stepped outside this morning, but I was well-prepared. Neck to toe in thermals, including my insulated leggings which rarely see the light of day, and make me look like an extra from Star Trek (more specifically, the ‘Enterprise/Scott Bakula’ incarnation). The good thing is that all this keeps me toasty warm, although the weather seems determined to freeze me from the inside out as I suck in the sub-zero air and it, in turn, sucks the internal warmth from my mouth and lungs!

This breathing business is what makes this morning’s run difficult. My legs are still a bit tired from my exertions of the other day, but I reason to myself that they have felt far worse in the past when I have had much further to run, so I can deal with this for now – don’t be such a wimp! Possibly the dodgiest part of my run is as I enter the park, as there is a steep little path down to the riverside which is caked in frost and I have an innate fear of slipping ever since I slipped and broke my humerus one day when I was doing nothing more daring than walking a long the pavement on my way to work. Why people deliberately clamp things to their feet and sally forth on ice and snow is, and always has been, beyond me. Why? I always find it particularly unfair that, although I have never done anything more dangerous than walking and running, this has resulted in me breaking two of the biggest bones in my body. I always have a wry smile when I hear that the femur is ‘the biggest and strongest bone in the human body’. Not this human body, unfortunately, although at least my right one is now supported by a considerable amount of steel and titanium scaffolding…

There are a few dog walkers out along the path, although it’s hard to make out their gender or age as they appear entirely clad in wool, with just their eyes peering out to check on the whereabouts of Buster or Towser. Towser the terrier, I can reliably inform them, nearly got crushed underfoot, as the yapping Yorkie threw itself at me in a blood-crazed frenzy of ankle-savaging, little git! I don’t know what is worse – the ones that are free to roam unencumbered, or the ones tethered to an all-but-invisible trip wire of a leash that stretches across the path and threatens to pitch me nose first into the mist-laden iciness of the river below.

As I run downstream towards the bridge and my turning point I encounter a number of anglers already setting out their pitches for the day, complete with seats, little tents, gas stoves, hampers, bars, optics, overnight accommodation for a large family, etc. etc. When I used to go fishing it was with a line and a bag of maggots – these guys must be hoping for marlin or something, and my mind conjures up the image of Hemingway’s Old Man and the sea, his marlin strapped to the side of his small boat and slowly getting picked at by the mallards as he rows for home. Well, I think it was sharks in the Hemingway version, but here it would be mallards as there are hundreds of them.

As I reach my turning point I encounter two lady runners clad in tracksuits and I wonder what event they have signed up for, or if they are simply out for enjoyment and exercise. Actually, I think that, to get out and about in freezing weather like this there must be some kind of incentive or spur that strengthens the resolve. For me, and especially this morning, it is the backing of all my wonderful sponsors that have already brought me to my first fundtraising target a mere three days after launch. Unfortunately, this also means that I am now compelled to reveal my ‘special secret’ and announce that I will be running the Bath Half in the guise of The Diabetes Fairy!

Oh dear! I don’t mind saying that this is just a wee bit scary! In nearly thirty years of running events I have never run in costume, and now I’m going to be running 13.1 miles in early March in a dress with a wand, wig and wings! If only I could find some functional wings!  Hopefully, it will bring a smile to people’s faces though. My biggest worry is the fact that I have no idea how people go about training for a run in costume. I certainly never see any giraffes or rhinos or athletic bananas in my neck of the woods! Perhaps I should take advantage of the dark early mornings so I would be seen by fewer people? But I’d still have a couple of busy roads to cross! And would it be worse to be seen appearing from the gloom clad in all my frock and fancies or seen from afar in all my full glory? I have no idea!

I am sure these thoughts will continue to trouble me until the race is actually over, but for now I just have to concentrate in finishing my run, which I achieve without further canine encounter and managing to keep my legs moving reasonably well to the end. Hope it’s a bit warmer that next time! A better time than the other morning, slightly further, and not bad considering how cold it was. Flipping blood sugars seem to do the opposite of what they do for most people though – I’ve just run 3.5 miles and my blood sugar has gone UP over 3 mmol/l. This is despite being around the peak of my breakfast insulin at 1.5-2 hours. I’ll probably go low later, but some people would have omitted the insulin or be shovelling sugar down their throats by now! Must be the Diabetes Fairy at work!

Time               35 mins 59 secs
Distance        3.64 miles
Pace               9:53 per mile
BG before      8.2
BG after         11.4

Friday, 13 January 2012

Getting old and decrepit

Yesterday was a rest day as I had to make a trip into the Big Smoke for a meeting with Diabetes UK. Actually, it would have been a rest day anyway, because my legs were still sore from the previous day’s run – that’s what you get for not keeping up with things for several days! I’m already starting to feel as though I’m running out of time, as the race is now just over eight weeks away, and at the end of Wednesday’s run I would still have had another ten miles to go!

I had considered going for a run this morning, as I’m all fired up for it, but I still have some niggling twinges at the back of my right calf, which is the area most prone to injury. It’s so frustrating because prior to breaking my leg I could happily run for 6 days a week with no problems. Now, the biomechanics of my leg have altered slightly so that my foot placement and angle is just that little bit different from what it had got used to over the 45 years prior to the break. I don’t call it an accident, because there was no accident. I didn’t fall or hit anything, and nothing ran into me, I just put my foot down for the umpteenth time in the race to take me one step closer to finishing the marathon and my leg snapped! I dare say age enters into the equation too, although I don’t feel I’ve succumbed yet to the loss of muscle mass that you are supposed to experience after 50.

Anyway, enough rambling about that and making excuses for why I didn’t venture outside this freezing January morning! I was determined to do something, so I blew the dust off my exercise bike and determined to put in a few non-impact kilometres on that to burn off some calories and keep up the aerobic fitness. It’s quite a good quality bike – a Kettler Golf E – that I bought as part of my rehabilitation after my leg broke. Since 2004 I have done just under 1500 kilometres, which isn’t a great deal considering the timeframe! The main reason I don’t use it much nowadays is that I much prefer to go outside for a run, with all the sights, sounds and smells (apart from the sewage plant!) it brings. I find cycling on a static bike incredibly boring – the only thing worse is a treadmill in a gym – so I thought I would dig out my Steps Gold DVD and  move my legs along to the beat of four of their finest!

This morning I chose ‘Chain Reaction’, which has the lovely Faye Tozer dressed as a nurse, followed by ‘Here and Now’, which isn’t one of my favourites, so couldn’t wait for that one to end! Next up was ‘You’ll be Sorry’, which is quite an obscure ‘hit’, and finally ‘It’s the way you make me feel’, which wasn’t bad, but couldn’t wait for it to end as my legs were starting to tire and I was perspiring profusely! Should have turned off the heating before getting on the bike! Glancing down at the display (I try not to look at it whilst I’m pedalling!), I see that I did 9.3k in 15’ 04”, burning a total of 324 calories – thought it would be more! Fifteen minutes is laughable really, but it is slightly different to running and I haven’t used the bike for ages. Perhaps if Claire and co. had entertained me with some of their more popular hits then I would have done better – I blame Steps!

I can’t believe how well the fundraising is going! After launching my appeal on Tuesday evening, by last night I was up to 92% of my target, with several pledges of donations to come when people get paid at the end of the month! Oh dear! I wonder how much of the rush of donations is due to my tantalising ‘special secret’ that I have promised to reveal?  Well, it seems to have added a good element of fun, although whether I will appreciate the humour when I have to divulge the dreadful truth remains to be seen! Hope to get back out for a proper run tomorrow!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Dark in the Park

Wow! Having launched my fundraising campaign only yesterday I have already achieved 48% of my target! Oh dear! I suspect that is is partly (maybe mostly!) due to the ‘special surprise’ I have promised to reveal if I surpass the total! No clues yet, I am afraid, except to say that I had an almost sleepless night last night, so there was clearly a lot on my mind. I only know that I got some sleep because I was awoken by a nightmare. Might it be related to the terror of having to go through what I have promised? Of course if might!

Anyway, after going to bed at 11:30 pm and getting up at 5:00 am after listening to most of the BBC World Service overnight, here I am determined to go out for a run this morning. I haven’t been able to run for a few days due to illness – not serious, but a very queasy tummy followed by a further three days of a head cold that has messed with my blood sugar levels and having to raise my insulin doses by 50%. It looks like the worst is over though and am now having to reduce the insulin as I woke (from the nightmare!) to my first night hypo for absolutely ages. Such is the life of a Type 1 diabetic!

Right then, it’s nearly two hours after my breakfast injection, so after a bit of stretching amd a few sips of water, I’m off! It’s still dark, maybe just starting with a dim glimmer of light, but I still have to guide my way by the street lamps. This makes it difficult to spot all the little bumps and troughs in the pavement, causing occasional overstretching as the ground is not where you expect it to be, and juddering when it appears too soon – a bit like when you are walking down a flight of steps and miscalculate in your mind’s eye where the last step is. The first little section of the run involves negotiating a couple of busy roads – busy even at this time of the morning. Thankfully, as I approach the main road the lights are still at red so I quickly weave across and head down the steep path into the park.

Here. I am almost immediately impeded by a couple of spaniels who stupidly refuse to step aside as I run directly towards them. ‘Sorry’, says their owner, as though that makes things right, rather than hanging his head in guilt at the lack of control he has over his charges. Well, they do say dogs are like their owners (or vice versa!). Now on the level  with the river on my left I run into the semi-darkness of the large park. Well, I say ‘river’, but this is a tidal estuary and the tide is currently out, so mostly I can see black seaweed atop even blacker mud, speckled on the far bank by a scattering of white, sleeping swans. Needless to say, I do not see the solitary black swan that I know frequents this area!

The tarmac path that runs through here was laid about eight years ago, and by now what was once smooth and unblemished has developed little ridges and tears where the roots of the adjacent trees have begun to expand and push up from below as they reach out to the water of the river, no doubt. Still, it’s a very nice and well-kept place. The many dog walkers are assiduous in clearing up after their yapping companions, so I fear no danger of encountering abandoned, perhaps still moist, dog’s eggs beneath my feet in the half-gloom.

As I turn to move away from the river I can see the sky above the far side of the park, now streaked blue, red and orange as the slumbering Sun begins to breach the broad horizon. I’ve started to perspire now, although curiously the fingers of my left hand are still cold. My breathing is good, despite my recent cold, although my legs are already beginning to tire only a mile in, and I begin to run through the various routes that might curtail my planned excursion. In the end I decide to attempt the full distance and suffer the consequences. After being a runner for 30 years I no longer fear distance, but I do fear injury that may preclude the possibility of running. Ever since my femur broke at mile 23 of the 2004 Stockholm Marathon I have been prone to small soft tissue injuries in the right leg, and as I run now I feel the little twinges that often presage such an injury.

So, I slow my pace and favour the leg. I don’t want to end my training on the day it resumes and this morning is not about times but getting out here and doing whatever I can to get back on track. After all, I only have less than nine weeks to go and need to build time on my feet before I can even contemplate a decent pace. On the return stretch now, I am aware intuitively of my drop in pace and it’s really just a case of getting back in one piece. I won’t be running tomorrow, so that will give my legs an opportunity to repair the little micro-fractures and micro-tears that inevitably occur with every run, especially on unseasoned legs!

Out of the park I have to wait at the lights as the largely unmoving stream of commuter traffic slides glacially down the road. Poor souls, it will take them twice as long to cover the distance I have just covered on foot! The final half mile is spent negotiating crowds of schoolchildren  - how slow they walk these days! – and finally home. I glance at my Garmin and of course I’m disappointed at the time, I usually am. Even after all these years I still like to beat my previous recent record for the route! But at least I did it and, although tired, I am invigorated and pleased after so long sedentary to have a run to record!

Time:             33 mins 46 secs
Distance        3.21 miles
Pace              10:31 per mile
BG before      8.2
BG after         10.8

Monday, 9 January 2012

Doing it for DWED, what’s it all about?

Forgive the wordy introduction, I hope this will explain the background to this blog, and the organisation I hope to support by running in the Bath Half Marathon on March 11th 2012.

I’ve been lucky with my diabetes diagnosis, if one can be thought of as ‘lucky’ learning you have a lifelong disease that will require my attention each and every day for the rest of my life, with the lurking threat of frightening complications shadowing countless daily decisions. I’m lucky because it is something that came to me when I had already passed my childhood years, turbulent teen and University times, and on through my twenties, thirties – almost entirely through my forties. So it was something I didn’t have to deal with for nearly five decades when so many other things were happening. As I have come to understand more about diabetes, particularly Type 1 as that is my particular flavour, I have learned that there is an enormous number of ways that people can be affected, some of which I would never have dreamed of. One such carries the name of diabulimia. No doubt many people are aware that it is often the case in our image-conscious, peer-pressured society that young people can succumb to eating disorders in an attempt to achieve an appearance that matches some mythical ideal. We know these as anorexia and bulimia.

Diabulimia is bulimia with a twist, it uses the medical certainty that a body denied insulin will lose fat in order to provide energy. A hundred years ago, insulin was unknown, and people with Type 1 diabetes would rapidly waste away to shadows. I myself experienced a sharp confirmation of this in the days before I was diagnosed – I lost 17 pounds in three days. Imagine then if, in a weight-conscious society and for whatever psychological reason, you wished to control your weight and you had a tool at your disposal – insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes need insulin to live, either by injecting it or delivering it via an insulin pump. If you have no insulin circulating then your body has to get its energy by converting fat cells – and it needs energy whether you eat anything or not, as your heart, lungs, brain and digestive system all need energy all the time you are alive. Unfortunately, using fat as an energy source results in by-products called ketones being produced. In a non-diabetic person the ketones will be processed from the system naturally – this is called ketosis and is what happens when people diet to lose weight. However, in order to process those ketones you need…insulin. Without insulin the ketones build up in the blood, raising the acidity and affecting all major organs. Should the levels of ketones rise too high they will result in the potentially life-threatening condition known as DKA – diabetic ketoacidosis. DKA can quickly lead to coma and death if not treated urgently – this is what I was suffering when I was diagnosed and believe me, it is something I NEVER wish to experience again!

You can see, therefore, that withholding insulin will cause weight loss, not only through the consumption of fat for energy, but also in dehydration as blood sugar and ketone levels rise and the body tries to rid itself of the excesses through urine – or even the breath: the breath of a person in ketosis will often smell of acetone, or pear drops and breathing may become rapid and laboured as the body struggles. To even approach this state is taking a huge risk. Not only fat will be consumed in the search for energy, but also protein, including muscle tissue - and that includes the heart. Yet it is thought that as many as 40% of 15 to 30 year olds regularly omit insulin.

Despite the horrendous complications and staggering prevalence, diabulimia or ED-DMT1 (Eating Disorder in Diabetes Mellitus Type 1) is not diagnosable and there are no current guidelines for the NHS on how to deal with the issue. Thankfully, there is an organisation that can help: DWED, or Diabetics With Eating Disorders. Please visit their site to read about what they can offer. They are only a small charity, but I think it is essential that they can continue their work to help people who may have access to no other support and understanding of the particular problems and dangers involved. Please visit my justgiving page and sponsor me for whatever you can - I can assure you every penny will be appreciated and will directly help transform lives for the better.

I'll be updating this blog with reports of my progress and hopefully lots of other stuff!