Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ironman Race Report

Some days Diabetes sucks but November 22, 2009 was not one of those days. That day was proof and celebration of what is possible for those with diabetes. On race morning I was surprisingly calm. I got up at 3 am to eat so that when the race started I would not have insulin on board remaining from breakfast. I went back to bed and got up for good at 4:00am. I gathered up my things and was out the door by 4:30am. I was really excited but also started to get a little nervous as we approached Tempe.
I got into transition at 5am. I had to get body marked with my race number, air up my tires and check in my remaining race bags for pick-up during at mid point of the bike and run. At 6:30 it was time to start heading to the water. I put my wetsuit on and took one last pre-race blood sugar check - 164, pretty good for a race start. My teammates, Casey and Kevin, and I started walking towards the swim start. On the way we ran into 3 more teammates, Sean, Denise and Heather. It was neat taking the final few steps with some of my teammates. We shared final thoughts, compared blood sugars, and gave the last well wishes before we jumped into the chilly waters of Tempe Town Lake. It was 62 degrees and definitely took my breath away but I quickly acclimated to the cold temperature. It was still dark at this time and was really surreal. 2800 other triathletes all in the water ready to begin a long tough day. The crowds gathered around the banks of the lake and on the Mill Avenue Bridge above us. I stopped for just a second to take it all in. It was hard to believe that I was about to start my first Ironman. I'd thought about it more times than I could count over the last year and now it was hear. The MC pumped up the crowd and got one last roar out of them after the national anthem, and then without a count down or any warning...BAM!!! The cannon went off. I expected it to be rougher than it was swimming in such a large group but I was able to settle in and not get punched or kicked too much. It was definitely full contact but nothing I hadn't experienced before and to be honest I have gotten beat up much more in other races. It was pretty congested until we hit the turnaround and then it was smooth sailing back to the swim finish. I was shocked when I looked at my watch after climbing up the stairs out of the water...1 hour 13 minutes!!! Holy *$%# that is the fastest I have ever swam that distance in open water by 6 minutes. It was a great way to start the race.

I grabbed my transition bag and entered the tent. Two things I did not expect were that it was dark inside the transition tent and the ground was wet and muddy with dry grass clippings all over it. I tried to change without getting my socks wet or debris filled. Then it was out of the tent and onto the bike. I have ridden many many miles and many many hours on the Ironman Arizona course and right away I knew the wind was going to be a factor. It was dead in my face and fairly strong when going up hill. The course is an out and back. The majority of the way out is a slow gradual climb up the Beeline Highway. I told myself, "No problem, you knew it would be windy, if it wasn't, THAT would be a surprise." The first two loops of the three loop course went pretty much as scheduled. As I turned around to start my 3rd lap a sharp pain shot up my low back. Oh crap! I have been battling a tailbone/glute/lowback issue for the last 3-4 weeks and I had hoped it would not become a problem during the race. I struggled for a couple miles with my back spasming every time I got into the aero position, causing me to have to stand up and stretch. At one point I actually stopped, got off my bike, stretched and rested a little hoping the spasms would go away. This is the point where negative thoughts started to enter into my head. "What if it gets so bad I can't finish the bike?" I had two hours to go. "How am I going to be able to run once I get of the bike?” I needed to get trough this so I continued to move forward, stretched when I needed, and tried to keep the positive self talk up. "You can make it. It might be slow but you can make it.", "You've ridden this course so many times, its just around this corner, just get to the top of this hill, just coast to the bottom, your almost there, all flat from here on out, just keep moving, it's gonna be so nice to get off this bike, etc. etc. etc." About a mile or two before transition my teammate Kevin passed me on the bike. He slowed down a little bit and talked to me. "How you feelin'?" he said. Trying to look cool and put on a front I said "Not bad, how 'bout you?" He was honest and said "I'm hurtin’" I replied "yeah I'm hurtin' pretty bad too..." Finally, after over 2 hours and 45 minutes for the last loop I made it back. I was so happy to be off that bike. Just being on my feet made things seem manageable. I couldn't help but smile when I handed the bike off to the volunteer.
I walked slowly through transition and grabbed my gear bag. I sat down in a chair outside the doorway to the tent. I didn't want to change in that dark muddy mess again. I was in absolutely no rush. Survival mode had begun. Any best case scenario time goal was out of reach at this point. My only goal now was to manage the pain, my nutrition, and my energy.

As I sat there changing my shoes, hat, and sunglasses I started going through my game plan in my head. At first I thought “Maybe I should walk the first mile just to get my legs underneath me and make sure my back wasn’t going to spasm.” But then I had a second thought…"There are a couple hundred or maybe even a thousand people waiting on the other side of this tent. You don't want to walk out of transition; I'll just run/jog until I'm out of site." The fans strung out much longer along the sidewalk than I had expected, but that was ok. My next thought was "ok, your already running, just keep going to the first aid station and you can walk there." My plan going in the race was to walk the aid stations and run the rest. My new plan was to walk the aid stations and the two bigger hills on the first lap to stay conservative. I made it to the first aid station, fueled up and headed back off on the run. I was so happy to be running, I couldn't help but have a good time. I was surprised at what a good time I was having. I continued that strategy throughout the first lap and things were going well. Then came one last challenge...the dreaded blood sugar was going too low. Off the bike my blood sugar was 83 (Normal 80-120). At that time I thought perfect, right where I need to be. I followed my normal strategy of 1 gel every 30 minutes and thought I'd be fine. But about an hour into my run I checked again - 74. I turned my insulin pump down to 50% and started amping up the nutrition. I took a gel and Gatorade and sometimes a half piece of banana every mile at the aid stations. The second lap was going well and right around the 10 mile mark I checked my blood sugar again - 65. Oh well, no more insulin today. I unplugged my pump and amped up the nutrition even more. At every aid station from then on out it went Gatorade, water, coke, water, gel, water and then a piece of banana or pretzels. I was getting so tired of eating and my stomach was so full. I didn't think I could take anything else in but I knew I needed to keep my blood sugar up. In my special needs bag at mile 13, the halfway point, I had stashed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Boy did that come in handy. Finally at mile 18 I tested -104. I was over 100 for the first time since getting off the bike. At this point I was feeling great. Blood sugar was where it needed to be. My legs were tired but my spirits were high and my energy felt good too. As I approached the turn towards the finishing shoot I got choked up a little bit thinking about the long journey of the day and the challenges I had been able to overcome. In some ways it was a microcosm of the whole year leading up to today and all of the obstacles that come with training for something like this. I was quickly filled with joy as I turned the corner and ran into the finishers shoot. The energy and enthusiasm by the spectators was something I had never experienced before. At last, at 8:05pm, 13:05 race time I crossed the finish line and became an IRONMAN!

Highlights of Team Triabetes at Ironman AZ

Saturday, November 7, 2009

30 Things About My Diabetes You May Not Know

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

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2005

3. But I had symptoms since: 6 months prior to diagnoses

4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: thinking about every single thing I put in my mouth.

5. Most people assume: that I can’t eat dessert or drink beer.

6. The hardest part about morning is: waking up. (has nothing to do to with my diabetes)

7. My favorite medical TV show is: Scrubs

8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: my glucose meter. I also learned a few months ago when my pump broke that although I can live without it, it’s a pain in the ass.

9. The hardest part about nights is: getting to bed on time. It seems to make that morning thing a little better. (see #6)

10. Each day I take: insulin and vitamins.

11. Regarding alternative treatments I: don’t think there are any alternative treatments for Type 1 Diabetes.

12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: invisible, but not because I want to hide it, because I don’t want to be defined by it.

13. Regarding working and career: working in the health care industry I hear a lot of scary misconceptions about diabetes. Examples – Nurse: “make sure you manage your type 1 diabetes or it will turn into type 2.”
When discussing Ironman – Cardiologist: “I wish I could test my blood sugar during the Ironman. It’s almost like you have an advantage.”

14. People would be surprised to know: that I can eat anything they can; I just have to proactively manage my blood sugar.

15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: I can’t be quite a spontaneous as I would like to be when it comes to food and exercise.

16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: train for an Ironman (and hopefully complete one in 15 days!)

17. The commercials about my illness: usually target type 2 diabetes, not type1.

18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: eating at will.

19. It was really hard to have to give up: I haven’t completely given anything up. BUT it has been hard to cut back on the sweets.

20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: Testing my blood sugar.

21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: Fortunately, diabetes has become pretty normal for me at this point. I guess I would go have a bit blowout meal and not think about it.

22. My illness has taught me: anything is possible.

23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: Only one? Here’s a couple: #1: “Should you be eating that?” #2: “My uncle had diabetes and lost his leg!” #3: In response to telling someone I have diabetes “Oh really, sometimes I get hypoglycemic.”

24. But I love it when people: ask because they are interested, instead of assuming.

25. My favorite motto, scripture, or quote that gets me through tough times is: I can get through this!

26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: Don’t let diabetes stop you from doing anything.

27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: just when you think you have it all figured out there is something new to learn. I have also been surprised about the opportunities it has given me and the great people I have met.

28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: got me some sugar at 2am when I was having a low.

29. The reason I am filling out this questionnaire is: I saw it on my teammate Jerry’s blog and though it was cool. (Modified from invisible illness week)

30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: somewhat surprised but grateful. Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The 3 Day Ironman

The height of Ironman training comes at about five weeks before the big day. This past weekend was just that… the pinnacle of my Ironman training. I am currently 5 week out from the race and I have been worried and dreading this weekend since April. I completed, what my wife likes call, the 3-day Ironman.

It all started Saturday morning with a 2.4 mile open water swim (OWS). My swim training has been very minimal over the past month but I was able to match the same time I completed my last 2.4 OWS one month before. For that I give myself an A-. And to top off my A- swim I won a new Xterra wetsuit in the post race raffle. Because of this I am going to bump my grade up to an A+!


I rose bright an early Sunday morning for a 112 mile bike ride follow by a five mile run.
The ride felt good and no flats. It was on the actual Ironman course. I was pleased with my time, which I’ll keep to myself for now. And my new bike fit felt great, a few more tweaks to perfection. Then it was off the bike and directly to the 5-mile run. This was where things got a bit tough. I was hot, I was tired, and I kind of just wanted to be done! But it was only one loop around Tempe Town Lake with and aid station half way, which seemed like hours to reach. I managed to finish this workout which I think earns a B. Can’t think of a way to bump this score up, shucks.


Now it is Monday night and it is time for the 20-mile run. And let me tell you I did not think this was going to be pretty. BUT, after the first three miles my body and legs seemed to loosen up and just got into the grove. A “quick” 3 hours and 15 minutes later I was back at my driveway feeling like a million bucks. OK, maybe not a million bucks but at least ten bucks! I’m giving myself a grade of B for the run. It was a good, steady long run.

For my 3-day Ironman I am giving myself the final grade of B. I passed, I felt pretty good (most of the time), it was a solid performance, and I now have the confidence I had been looking for to complete the real deal in 5 weeks.

Extra Credit: Brilliant Idea! Let’s get up and swim Tuesday morning and then….DO BIKRAM YOGA on Tuesday night. I really wanted that A . After 90 minutes of lying flat on my back in a pool of sweat and managing only 30% of the poses, my yoga grade can not be much better than a D. But I am going to bump my grade up to a C because it took all the strength I had to stop myself from screaming at the instructor to “TURN THIS #$^)(@$ HEAT DOWN, I’M DYING OVER HERE!!!” In some ways this workout was a failure but as far as mental toughness training it was a success!

31 DAYS to go…

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Oh Mr. Water Machine, why, oh why have you forsaken me!!! You have been there for me time and time again. When I was gave me drink. When I needed a rinse or cooling off, you gave me H2O. I have told so many about you. I've sung your praises and recommended you to every triathlete/biker I know. I've told them that you are located all over the valley at most gas stations and convenient stores and even freestanding at times. I've raved about how for just 1 quarter you graciously give my fresh, cold water on the hottest of days...OK it is not always cold, but I've forgiven you for that. But today you have gone to far. You turned your back on me when I needed you most! You showed up 2 hours into my 4 hour ride like a gift from above only to taunt and laugh at me. You knew it was hot. It was well over 100 degrees already at 8am and yet you decided to charge me 30 cents instead of 25. At first I think no problem because I brought 2 quarters. Yet when I put the second quarter in you kept spitting it out. OK, I know, I know, it was a quarter from my trip to Bermuda last year but COME ON! It has to be worth 5 cents! Not only would you not accept my quarter, but you would not give back my first one so I could take it elsewhere, what's up with that?! I could see the grin on your face as I dug around hoping, just hoping that I had some change on me somewhere else hidden in my spandex. You just sat there smugly with your water spout saying dispense water here...Oh, there would be no dispensing today. And you left me penniless for my 2 hour ride home. I could hear you chuckle as I rode away. Well, you got me today Mr. Water Dispenser Machine, but I won't be so quick to whup you up to all my friends anymore. In fact I might just tell them how your friend Mr. Sprinkler helped me out down the road (granted it was an hour and 45 minutes later) and gave me water for free! Out of the kindness of his own heart. Your a good man Mr. Sprinkler, I shall repay you someday.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

One Hot Workout!

I started taking Bikram Yoga classes about 6 years ago when I lived in Boulder, Colorado. Since moving to Arizona my participation has dwindled. Seriously, who wants to take 90 minutes of yoga in a room heated to 105°F or higher with a humidity of at least 40% when it's 115°F outside? And once my training for Ironman really got rolling I just could not find a way to fit it into the already busy training schedule full of swims, bikes, and runs. Then this past week I came across an article in the East Valley Tribune about how athletes are using Bikram Yoga to help avoid injuries. Bikram expands lung capacity, increases flexibility, and improves your core and stabilizer muscle strength, leading to a less likelihood of overuse injuries in the long run. In addition to your body, Bikram is great for endurance athletes because it teaches you to remain calm in challenging, stressful situations by improving focus, determination, and endurance. In the article they spoke with professional triathlete David Glove. He spoke about how last year when he was training for Ironman he factored Bikram into his training schedule. He believed it was every bit as important as his long runs and 100-mile bike rides. This got me thinking about the nagging back and hip pain I have been suffering from (I have already tried medication, physical therapy, and chiropractic care). Maybe it is time for me to roll my yoga mat back out and start factoring Bikram back into my training schedule.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009

MountainMan Half-Ironman Race Report

It felt like the race started immediately. The alarm had been going off for 15 minutes but I didn’t hear it. I got up at 4:30 and my swim wave was starting at 6:17. I’m usually a little anxious on race day with normal pre-race jitters and I always feel rushed to make sure I have everything I need, get to the race site, and get set up in the transition area before the race starts. This just set it into high gear. After parking, I was topping off the air in my tires and pssssssssst….flat tire, right out of the car. A quick change and I’m off to the transition area for set-up. I hoped that I was getting my flat for the day out of the way early.

Swim - The swim went well with no issues. 1.2 mile swim = 44:57

Bike - On the Bike I really wanted to take it easy because I knew the altitude would be a factor since I live at sea level. We started at 6400 feet and topped out at 7500 ft. Six weeks ago at DueceMan I really felt like I went too hard on the bike and suffered on the run because of it, so I wanted to avoid that as well. My strategy Sunday was to keep my cadence (pedal strokes per minute) at around 90, keep my heart rate below 145, and not to hammer the downhills in order to recover for the climbing. The bike went well. I was able to test out a new blood sugar meter mount on my bike which I’ll describe in a later post. Not my best half-iron bike at 3:14 but I felt pretty good. I did have a slight “blunder” coming into the second transition. At DeuceMan my transitions were slooooow so I was determined to quicken them up and gain some time. I was trying a new dismount where you kind of jump off your bike on the fly by swinging your leg over and hopping off. Having only practiced this a couple times I probably should not have attempted it in the race but hindsight is 20/20 right? So as I came into the transition I’m all pumped up and probably already going a little to fast and the entrance to transition is on a down hill. I swing my right leg over and I’m riding on the left pedal and start to loose control. I’m veering off to the left and not slowing down fast enough. The volunteer in front of me starts to panic…TO FAST! TO FAST! My left foot slips off the pedal and since the bottom of bike shoes are plastic my feet slip on the pavement. I avoided a major crash and stay on my feet, but I was unable to stop fast enough to avoid running into the transition entrance. The whole entrance falls down, a large metal pipe falls to the pavement…CLANK, CLANK, CLANK! drawing more attention to myself....oops. Luckily nothing was hurt except my ego, just a little embarrassing. I don’t even think I lost any time.

Run - As I headed out on the run the sun was coming out from the clouds where it had been hiding behind all morning. The first 3 miles of the run would be the toughest and I knew that going in. The 2 and 3rd miles were an uphill switchback that insured my legs were nice and spent before going into the rest of the run. The temperature rose to between 90-95 and I was also really feeling the elevation. I hadn’t really noticed it much before this point. What I did notice was what I thought was a pebble in my shoe of the arch of my left foot. I figured I could ignore it but it just became too much of a nuisance. I stopped around mile 7 and took my shoe off, look inside, shook it out…huh?, nothin’. Oh well, I put my shoe back on and continued, except I could still feel it. Another mile or two passes and I decided to check it out again only this time when I took my shoe off I actually look at my foot. OUCH! It wasn’t a pebble it was a blister. Nothing I could do at that point. I put my shoe back on and shuffled my way to the finish. My run split was 2:23:47, it was my slowest Half-Ironman to date at 6:26:46. The heat and altitude made it a tough day. In my mind, everything this season is practice/training for my overall goal of completing Ironman Arizona in November. This weekend I gained valuable race experience and mental toughness that I will need.