Sunday, 26 February 2012

Blood, Sweat and Fears!

My circumnavigation of the City

Training has reached a point where, rather than aiming for several relatively short runs each week, I am having to combine longer runs closer to race distance with plenty of rest and recovery days in between. Hence the reduction in blog entries of late! I did go for a mid-week run of around 4 miles, but was still feeling some twinges from last Sunday’s long run in my right Achilles, so wanted to make sure I recovered fully before attempting today’s epic tour of the city!

I had it in my head that I wanted to run ten miles this morning, so I spent much of yesterday going through possible routes in my head that would be both interesting and feasible in terms of the inevitable hills I would encounter and at what points on the route. In the end I decided on some variations on last weeks long run, with the additional diversions hopefully making up the distance to ten miles – as it turned out, I actually ran 10.38 miles, so a pretty good estimate of distance there!

I chose to start off up a long, steep climb that was nevertheless not as monstrous a challenge as the steep hill of last week, which practically required pietons, crampons and safety ropes. This new hill took me to the top of that monster, but less precipitously and also adding some of the necessary distance to the morning’s run. There was still a small, sharp ascent right at the top, but then it was a gradual downhill stretch until I reached the eastern end of the broad bridge spanning the river.

It was a lovely, crisp morning and I opted for leggings to keep my muscles warm and t-shirt to keep my torso cool. I set off at sunrise, so the sky was already brightening and as I ran up and over the bridge I had the wide river ranging  far off into the distance on either side, its still blue water unruffled by any hint of a breeze and merging with the blue sky as the view extended out to the south and the Solent.

My aim throughout was that this should be a gentle, steady ten-miler, so I endeavoured to keep my pace nice and even and not overtax my lungs on the occasional climbs. Important too, that I should not run too quickly down slopes, in order to avoid the excessive impact on my fragile muscles, tendons and bones. Passing through the town centre I was heartened to realise that over four miles had now been completed in total comfort, with the prospects for the remaining six looking promising!

As I approached the Common I was passed by a runner, a much younger man (I had at least 30 years on him), who quickly disappeared into the distance. It’s good to see younger people run like that, and it reminds my of how glad I am that I was inspired by a friend back in 1983 who ran the Sheffield Marathon that year, and I was determined to equal his feat the following year, which I duly achieved. I was never a sporty person at school – most of the sport concentrated on rugby and cricket, neither of which particularly attracted me. But from the first few weeks into training for that first marathon I was hooked. Since then I have run many more marathons, but running has also been a big part of my everyday life. It gets you out of the house for very little outlay, takes you to places you may never go and offers immense flexibility in where you go and quickly or slowly you choose to get there.

Running undoubtedly has contributed to very good management of my blood sugar levels since diagnosis. The contrast in my sensitivity to insulin during running periods and lazy period is quite astonishing. During my last really lazy period where I probably didn’t run for a month or more, my insulin requirements doubled, and more. Currently I have one unit of lantus per day, back then it was eleven units, with similar hikes in bolus insulin. It’s something a non-diabetic simply isn’t aware of because they don’t need to consider it. I certainly had to consider it today though, as I finally reached the last stretch of my run through the park. As I was now at 8.5 miles I thought it prudent to eat something, so paused a moment to consume a jelly baby. I didn’t test as it didn’t seem worthwhile. The short pause and the sweet appeared to give me greater energy and I felt that the final couple of miles were easier – easier indeed that the first couple had felt!

So, I was very encouraged by the fact that I had achieved my goal of ten miles, and not only that, but ran the distance faster than I have done for many months or even years. It augers well for the race which is now two weeks away. The main concerns I have after the morning’s experiences are that I was very hot, and will be even hotter on race day in my costume. Another concern was that, just as I reached my door I wiped my nose against the back of my hand  - and noticed that it was covered in blood! For some unknown reason I had had a nosebleed – hope that doesn’t happen on the day, it might ruin my fairy dress!

Time               1:46:09
Distance        10.38 miles
Pace               10:14 per mile
BG before      8.7
BG after         6.5
Calories         1341

Sunday, 19 February 2012

A Circuit of the City

Once again, apologies for the dearth of blog entries lately, but I hope you have been amused by the candid shots of The Fairy! I have been continuing with my training, completing runs of 4.6, 5.4 and 3.6 miles this week, although since they were largely unremarkable and uneventful, I didn’t wish to bore you with the details.

I’m very aware that the race will be three weeks today, so I was determined this morning to have a longer run that would give me confidence that I would be able to attain the full distance on the day. My target was to run at least eight miles, but the difficulty lay with where I should run in order to complete the necessary distance without terminal boredom setting in. Where I live there is a lovely park, which you have already heard much about, but it is only 1.75 miles to its farthest extent, and I had little enthusiasm for running four to five loops of the same old scenery. For this reason, I decided to run a route I haven’t done for quite some time, and which I estimated to fulfil the eight mile criterion, perhaps with a little to spare.

The temperature had taken a severe dip overnight, and all was frost as I set out, sensibly (I thought) clad in my leggings and thermal top, t-shirt and gloves. My route took me in the opposite direction to the park, down the road and across the main junction (thankfully free of traffic this early on a Sunday morning), where I was then presented with the vision of a monstrous hill that climbed ever-skyward before me and lay down the challenge to my legs and lungs. I don’t dislike hills, and they are often good to start a run with because they get everything awake and working very quickly, but I knew from previous experience that this one was perhaps a little too steep for comfort. The initial, longer section is merely steep, but the final short section is (honestly!) virtually perpendicular, and your nose practically touches the pavement as you run up (especially if it is generously-proportioned, like mine!).

The junction at the top of the hill inches closer and my lungs are close to bursting point as I broach the summit and can finally suck in great lungfulls of air as I turn to my right and have a gentle downward slope to negotiate for the next mile or so. I observe that my fitness must be good, as I recover quickly and am soon again breathing normally. I’m aware that my pace is more of a jog than a run, but I have a long way to go and need to conserve my energy. Another reason for checking my pace is to reduce the impact of each footfall as I descend the long road, heading to the base of the great bridge that spans the river.

In the past, I used to run a slightly different route, but one that involved running beneath the structure, then ascending about a hundred steps to reach the eastern limit of the bridge, but I have since discovered a route that means I can avoid those steps, which sap the energy and would jeopardise my ambitions for a long run. Thus follows a long, steady climb across the span, with superb, broad views of the wide river below and the surrounding city. Some twenty five years ago, I would not have been able to run this route, since there was no bridge, and the only route across the river was by a ‘floating bridge’ – a chain ferry – hardly suitable for a distance run!

It feels good to reach the apex and descend again, down and towards the city centre. The city is blessed with a series of parks that form a green lung from one end to the other, so I can enjoy the greenery all the way through. As I pass the City Hall off to my left and behind the trees I can hear the bells chime the tune of ‘O God, our help in ages past’, which they do here on the hour, every hour. I estimate that I have run around three and a half miles at this point and am pleased to realise that I am feeling strong and fit, albeit a little on the hot side, and this gives my confidence that I should manage the eight miles envisaged.

From here, there’s a section of road to run along, until I reach the Common, where I decide that I have the strength and energy to do the wide circuit and return home via a reverse of the route I ran a couple of weeks ago. Although this means ascending another steep hill, from the top the remainder of my run will be largely downhill or flat. There are a few other runners here, some of whom I pass, and some who pass me. I’m aware I’m not moving particularly fast, but I have already attained my longest run of the year so far by now, and at 6.65 miles am also at half the half-marathon distance. I really ought to stop and check my blood sugar levels at this point, since I know that my levels generally start to fall after five miles, but I feel fine and don’t want to go to the bother of interrupting the flow.

As I leave the Common I find I have a problem to contend with. Although it is nice to see blue skies and have the nascent warmth of the early morning Sun, that big glowing ball in the sky is starting to make me feel ill as its light flickers and strobes through the denuded branches and confusing my pupils who cannot adjust quickly enough to the constant light/dark/light/dark. At least I am now descending, and well on my way home, and I try to seek out larger areas of shade to avoid the Sun’s rays.

Back in the local park and I see that I have now passed the eight mile mark – success! On race day I will ‘only’ have another five miles remaining! This morning, however, I am now virtually home, and arrive back with a great sense of satisfaction that I have succeeded! It would appear that most of the moisture formerly enclosed in my skin has now relocated to my clothes and I am literally steaming as I come to a halt!

Time               1:28:03
Distance        8.63 miles
Pace               10:12 per mile
BG before      8.1 mmol/l
BG after         4.6 mmol/l
Calories         1108

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

A Bit of R and R

After a long day’s mischief-making there’s nothing the Diabetes Fairy likes more than to kick back with a bottle of voddy and a selection of her favourite chocolate bars. People may not realise it, but it’s hard work thinking up ways to completely cock up the blood sugar levels of thousand upon thousand of diabetics on a daily basis, and then put all the plans into practice. But it does give her that deep sense of satisfaction at the end of the day when she thinks of all the confusion and mayhem she has caused! What about that person’s face when they got two completely different readings from the same finger! Or sending someone’s levels sky high when all they had to eat was one chocolate button! How she laughed!

She was a bit split though, because for every hundred disasters she inflicted, she felt the overwhelming urge to reward one person with perfect levels all day, or a two-minute wait at the pharmacy instead of the usual hour and six return trips for missing items. Still, it was another day well spent, up bright and early tomorrow to go skipping through the streets, hopefully unobserved by the local populace who might take fright at seeing a fairy at any time, let alone as dawn was breaking!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Clothes Maketh the Man!

I’ve never felt more like a man than when I’m wearing a dress, it’s a strange, but true, fact. I’m no He-Man, Master of the Universe, nor am I a pre-Bullworker Charles Atlas, constantly getting sand kicked in my face by the Beach Bully, I’m a pretty average ectomorph, straight up and down, with my chest circumference hardly exceeding that of my waist and hips, not particularly tall or small – about five feet nine – and weighing in at a smidgen over 11 stones (or about seventy kilos for those of you that have finally succumbed to metric after a forty year rebellion!).

So what, exactly, am I on about? Well, it’s my size you see. Given all of the above I would have expected that I would be of similar proportions to a woman who might, in these times in which we live, think that she was OK, maybe ought to perhaps try and drop a dress size or two, and consider herself fairly average. I’ve lived long enough and observed enough women to be aware that size 6 or 8 might be thought of as ‘petite’, 10 or 12 as ‘slim’ and 14 as ‘real’. Anything above these numbers and it seems it’s time to get out the Atkin’s or the cabbage soup, or the tomato peel, or whatever is the diet du jour.

But I have discovered that I’m a 16-18! Now don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, it just came as a big surprise to me as I am quite a skinny bloke, and I sort of expected that I would be a comfortable size 14. What is an even bigger shock though is that, having seen myself in a dress, I couldn’t help but wish that I was just a little bit skinnier, that my waist was a little trimmer and yes, that my boobs were bigger,,,

Now, the main reason for me running in this fairy outfit is for the comedy value it provides, so really the more ridiculous I look in the outfit, the better, but it really did make me think about how many women must be driven by this picture of perfection presented by society – that you must look just so, that you should do whatever it takes to conform to the glossy magazine image of the perfect shape and size. Which is one of the reasons why there are eating disorders, and why we need to support such a valuable charity as DWED.

I still haven’t plucked up the courage to go for a run round the block in the fairy outfit! The problem is that, if I don’t do it soon then I will have to do it in broad daylight as the days are getting lighter noticeably earlier in the morning now! I was half tempted to give it a go this morning, as the temperature had risen by about ten degrees since my run on Saturday, but instead I opted for the more conventional t-shirt and shorts as I felt up for a longish run.

The air was cool, but because it has become so much warmer than of late I didn’t really feel the cold, and I felt like I had quite a spring in my step as I set off. I’ve found over the years that it’s important to try and preserve this ‘bounce’ that helps drive you forward – once it has gone then running becomes a chore and a drudge, trying to drag one foot in front of the other. For this reason I have developed a mental bounce that takes over when the physical one is all but gone. Mind over matter, if you will – you know that once the mental bounce has gone then life becomes hard however near or far you are from the finish.

I felt like I was maintaining a decent pace all through the park, but declined to check my Garmin, hoping instead for a nice surprise when I returned home. And surprised I was, for I discovered that I had actually run the course at my fastest pace this year, just a touch under 9:30 per mile. Not a patch on my seven-minute mile days, but good for the amount of training I am doing at the moment, so I’m not complaining. I will expect to be much slower in the actual race, of course, not least because I will be wearing a highly-charged nylon fairy dress!

Apart from the unexpected pace and freshness in my legs after Saturday’s run, and after a long layoff, the run itself was uneventful. No playful puppies or stray llamas, or herds of zebra were to be seen anywhere. In fact, when I think about it, there weren’t a lot of people either and not a lot of traffic – perhaps I should have done my trial full-costume run this morning after all!

Time               44 mins
Distance        4.64 miles
Pace               9:29 per mile
BG before      ??? I forgot to test!
BG after         8.3

Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Perils of a Prominent Proboscis

Many apologies, dear readers, if you have been avid followers of my blog, for my protracted absence from the blogosphere! Unfortunately I have suffered injury and illness in equal measure, and this has resulted in a dearth of anecdotes and stirring stories of great bravery these past two weeks. Firstly, I was the victim of a terrible injury which left me in pain at every step and quite unable to run, whether as a winged fairy or mere mortal. OK, possibly not such a terrible injury, but it felt like I had cracked a rib or something, possibly due to an over zealous response to the urgings of the Gasper during my fifteen minutes at her mercy one day. Probably just a pulled muscle, but very painful nonetheless.

As if to compound my problems, I was just about recovered from this when I fell victim to a lurgy of the head, nose and throat which has persisted these five days past. As I am in possession of a nose of generous proportions, I need elucidate no further, and I am sure you can imagine the enormity of my distress. The nose will feature again in today’s report, but more of that anon.

Given the sub-zero temperatures of recent days I considered it wise not to venture out and potentially exacerbate and prolong the awful fever, but instead to remain in the relative warmth and safety of my draughty abode until the sickness was passed, and would have wished to remain indolent beyond that time. However, the day of reckoning will soon be upon me, when I will have little choice but to don the silvery gown, waggle my wings and wand, and step forth on the fine streets of Bath for what I expect will be well beyond the two-hour mark! So, with this in mind, and much recovered this morning, I rose in the darkness before dawn determined to exercise my limbs and lungs along the frost-bejewelled paths of the local park.

Surprisingly, despite the minus 8-degree temperature, there was very little actual frost due (I surmised) to a dearth of vapours in the early morning air. Bonus! This means I had little fear of holding my footing and could concentrate instead on keeping a good tempo and pace. Frost, maybe not, but the cold was extreme for my unaccustomed body and brain! As I sucked in the icy air I almost cried it was so cold! Here was Mother Earth using the heat of my core to warm her atmosphere thirty times every minute, and it felt I was receiving little in exchange. Well, maybe some precious oxygen, so I suppose I mustn’t complain!

There were few fellow residents out at this hour, when the Sun was yet to cast her golden gaze upon the river, save a couple of young women in loose charge of a border collie who was delighting in rolling on his back on the frost-covered grass and running furiously in  long zigzags in front of them.

As I passed the two women I heard heavy steps behind me and wondered if it was the echo of my own bouncing back from the opposite bank in the surrounding stillness. But no – I was presently passed by a madman, around thirty years my junior, clad only in singlet and shorts! Here was I in thermal top, gloves and space pants, and there he went with his red calves driving him off into the distance in front of me! I estimated he was running around ninety seconds a mile faster than me, but as I rounded a corner he was suddenly nowhere to be seen! Had his raw flesh succumbed entirely to the cold and shattered into a billion pieces, leaving nothing but fragile frosty dust to mark his passing? No – glancing to the side I noticed dark footprints in the frozen grass, separated by long strides and leading inexorably to an ever-diminishing figure in the distance. He was taking shortcuts! Tut! I felt a sense of smugness that I had no intention of curtailing my excursion – I would fulfil my remit and not shirk by shrinking my planned course!

I was surprised that, given the conditions and my not inconsiderable layoff, I was running quite strongly. My breathing was good, my eyes were not bulging out of their sockets, and my legs, toasty and warm in my space pants, felt comfortable and fresh. As I passed the weir the waters of the river became seemingly motionless, as if waiting anxiously to cast themselves over the precipice and join the broader stream below and meet the incoming tide. A wispy mist hung over the river here, and there emerged black forms squeaking and flapping their stubby wings – moorhens, I think, if moorhens squeak.

There were little islands of ice on the path as I ran along, marking the small depressions where moisture had accumulated and frozen, an no doubt completely invisible on a warm, dry day. Up to this point I had been aware of frozen fingers and a face taut as a plaster mask, but as I made my turn I began to feel the bloodflow returning to my hands and a warmth pervading my body. All but my tongue, it seemed, which with every inhalation was frozen to the core, then reheated and revitalised with every hot exhalation – how wonderful is the human body to cope so admirably with these two extremes in such rapid succession?

As I embarked on the final half-mile home I could hear a low groan each time I expelled breath, which I must assume was coming from my throat – perhaps protesting at this exertion after a period of comfort and convalescence? No matter, I was soon home and back in my relatively warm house. It was only after a short thaw that I began to notice the pain commencing – my nose, having been subjected to an unprotected thirty-five minutes of subzero temperatures was now beginning to heat up again and as the hot blood returned my thoughts became entirely concentrated on the pain of its revival! Ouch!

Very surprised to have recorded my fastest time for this morning’s course during my current period of training, despite my layoff, so that at least is encouraging and I may actually make it to the end of the Bath Half Marathon in four weeks time!

Time               34 mins 52 secs
Distance         3.63 miles
Pace               9:36 per mile
BG before      8.8 mmol/l
BG after         10.0 mmol/l