Saturday, 28 February 2015

It’s not all plain sailing but spring is springing

Last time I think I was talking about the final race of the year, which went pretty well.  Since then, there’ve been a few little speedbumps along the way. Nothing serious, but enough to remind me to pay attention in more ways than one. 

Firstly, my own damn fault but I left a fair chunk of skin lying on the road when I came off a bike recently.  I was testing a few different kinds of recumbents to see how I liked them and whether I can ride them or not. I’ve been getting increasingly unhappy with significant time spent on a standard diamond frame bicycle these days feeling discomfort in neck, wrists, back and arse mainly, and as I’ve always though recumbent look cool and as there’s a recumbent dealer in the village down the road why not give it a go.  He’s very helpful in that he lets you ride a good few as an introductory session to see how you get on, explaining the handling quirks, different starting process etc before you go and the village is a dead-end road so low traffic, just blat up and down and practice low speed handling and turning at either end. 

The bikes were getting increasingly quick as I progressed from one to the other, with the last being a twin 650c wheeled, skinny-tyred beast with a more aggressively laid back seat. At this point I thought I was getting on fairly well until either I got over confident and lost concentration, or got caught out by the drizzle that was falling by now and went down hard on my right hand side.  All the knobbly bits took a pounding with skin taken off of my right ankle bone, hip and elbow and the helmet doing its job.  The ankle in particular is irritating the hell out of me now ten days later and the elbow itching like hell as the scab is starting to come off.  But still, it was a great experience, and you’ll be hearing more of that going forward.  I could post pictures, but they’re not too pretty.

BG control was also good during that session, which brings me to the other down rather than up experience.  Whilst cycling BG control has always been good, and yoga/weights has also been good, from Christmas onwards I’ve really been struggling with the BG control on running.  It didn’t seem to matter how much I cut the basal rate back by and even cutting it 2 hours before running made no difference, it seemed that I was always suffering a massive drop early in the run, in some cases down to hypo levels of 2.5 or so.   The problem with that is that running symptoms tend to mask hypo symptoms until you stop, then you feel them and then test and find yes, way too low.  That then leads to a quick mid-run snack, bounce back higher and potential yo-yo if you try and correct (I never correct post exercise). 

The other thing it leads to is excess carb consumption completely negating one reason for the run in the first place, and then potentially leads to weight gain if the pattern is repeated enough.
Frankly I was stumped. 

According to the books I was doing the right thing in the way I was reducing the basal, but I was too deep into it to recognise other factors that could be at work.  As usual the forums were the place to go for an independent view.  

“check your basal rates” they all said.  Of course, if in doubt check the basals.  Looking back that was probably obvious as my snacking needs had started creeping up over a period of a few weeks.  I hadn’t thought that they’d change that rapidly having established a baseline just before Christmas, but was assured it could be the case, so I worked out a nice quiet day where I was not going to be too active to do the test. 


Dropping like a stone with me just sat in the cinema watching Shaun the Sheep (a must view for anyone with kids, or anyone without kids).  Abandon that one to eat, and then try again a couple of days later having reduced all basals by 10%.  That’s much better – not perfect but better, perhaps tending to slightly higher than I’d like, but based on this week’s performance, not far off.  As long as I get the basal reduction implemented early enough I can run with little additional carbs needed for up to 45 mins so far. 

And spring is nearly here, hooray, and big plans afoot for the veggie plot.  I’ve been measuring up for some raised beds as a couple of areas have a tendency to heavy soil and waterlogging as the veggie plot is at the bottom of the slope with a water table only a few inches below surface at times.  Should give me warmer beds, easier to get going in the spring and with better quality root veg in particular.  I’ll get the wood ordered and put them in during March while I’m at home. Pictures will be following. I've also started taking the bonsai out of their winter hibernation, photos of the transition from bare twig through bud and blossom will follow.

And finally, I do love hearing new music. Tonight was Walter Trout, an amazing guitarist and singer, the Allman Brothers Band and Wilko Johnson, one of the few benefits of spending long amounts of time sat in planes and cars, which has also let me finish reading Murakami’s “What I talk About When I talk About Running”.  A great and easy read for any distance runner or cyclist.  I’ve also finished The Chimp Paradox, but that needs more study.  Next, Gandhi’s autobiography, picked up on a market stall for £3, 30 rupees in India (about 30pence).   

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The end of 2014, 3 PBs, 2 pumps and £1100 for charity

As usual, I’m nowhere near where my plan of writing something every week or two, but given this time of year my working life becomes all consuming and it’s such a struggle just to fit in any exercise that writing about becomes less important.  That’s exactly what I said in the last update, so that’s enough of that.
Last time I’d just gotten the Insight pump, and that was what I was wearing/using for my last race of the year, the new year’s eve 10k at Little Downham, right through my village, with the start line less than half a mile from my house.  This was my 7th time at this race and I still love it, in that dead time between Christmas and starting work again, it’s great to get out there and do something positive rather than sitting around the house all day finishing off the leftover roast and mince pies.

This year the weather gods were kinder to us than they have been previously and although it had been raining and icy in the lead up to the race, race day itself was cool and dry, but still with that characteristic Fenland wind, as usual up the final straight, but the bit that concerned me the most was the finish.  Going back about three years it was in a field, muddy and slippy, but a straight line.  These days they’ve moved it to the lane next to the field which is a much harder run in being twisty as well and muddy, and on my last run two days before the race very icy.
That was the same for anyone, so no use making any kind of a fuss about it.  Much as I love this race, it’s actually probably not the best for a PB, but I still come back every year.  Maybe 2015 will be my year for a summer 10k or two as well.  As usual, the village hall was buzzing when I got there and it was a struggle to find some space to put your vest out and pin your number on, stuff your spare clothes in a bag and sling them under a table somewhere while you go and warm up.  This race has 700 entries and they are all sold out within 3 days, it’s that popular; this year 590 of those who’d paid actually turned up.

Back to the race, warm up done, nerves as always starting to kick in and I was early to the start line.  I think too early as I ended up getting shuffled back a bit further than I wanted, which became quite important later on as it knocked a useful chunk off my gun time when compared with my watch. Quick brief from the race director warning us of some possibly icy corners, the bagpiper playing us away, a pregnant pause and then the hooter.
Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, trot, jog, run, elbows to elbows for the first 500m, then a bit of space starts opening up as we head out of the village and the rabbits bolt away from the line.  Time to slow down or I’ll blow early. Pace plan is in the watch, beeping away at me telling me I’m going too fast, which I already know in my brain, but the adrenaline in the blood is pumping and pushing me on.   My target average pace for this race was 4:17.5/km, which should have brought me home in 43 minutes; that’s not to say I was planning on that pace for 10km as I don’t run 10ks like that.  For me an increasing pace works best, or negative splitting, taking advantage of a strong finishing burst.  With that in mind I was supposed to be running the first 3km in 13min 15sec, not the 12:48 I did it in, but the next 3km was bang on target in 13 mins. 

So first 6km, about 27 secs ahead of plan and my heart rate was by now at maximum sustainable with 40% of the race still to go, and just about to turn into that upwind section.  I was running alongside three other people all holding on for grim death and muttering to each other under our breath.  The next two km destroyed my average pace to that point, and then came the “hill” only 15m up in about 250m, but at that point in the race with just over a mile to go it’s nasty.  That said it’s always my opportunity to reel in some of those early rabbits who went off at the beginning and I had just such a fluffy little bunny in my sights.  A rather scrawny little bloke who looked like a tidy runner, and I’m sure I’ve seen him at other races as well, but this time he’d got his pacing wrong as I slowly pulled back about 15m on him down the back straight and then passed him up the hill as if he was standing still.  He tried to go with me, but another burst and he was off my heels and going backwards.  Three or four more scalps were claimed leading up to the final km and the twisty section through the houses and the finishing lane.  I was pushing as hard as I could on tired legs by now with the HR at 175 and the pace down to 4min per km.  Steady into the final few turns, some straw on the slippery bits, good, try and pick the quickest line up the verge on the lane and lunge for the line. 
Through the finishers funnel for my t-shirt and bottle of beer and a chat with the rest of the finishers.  See who did well and who wished they’d laid off a few mince pies.  

My time, by my watch 43:39, a PB by a massive 43 secs.  The official time was not so generous though at 43:54 having had to shuffle my way across the start line.  That’s the benefit of chip timing, but not at such a small race.  Either way it’s a PB, and that meant another £50 donation to my charities for the year.  In terms of placing, I came in 104th overall and 23rd in my age group, not bad considering.
All in all, with a late flurry from workmates and other well-wishers I met my target of £1000, getting to £1140 with gift aid, being split equally between Highfield Special School ( and JDRF ( ).

And how did the blood sugar control work out?
Well, I took advantage of the flexibility of the pump to try and manage the race BG and the race adrenaline but without needing to run high beforehand.  Breakfast was light on the carbs in any case to avoid the need for a large bolus, and then that was adjusted downwards for a low starting blood glucose and the later race.  That got me up to 5.6 2 hours after breakfast, and 6.4 90 mins before the race.  That’s where the features of the pump com into their own, allowing me to turn down the basal rate to 30% of normal, set for the next two and a half hours to allow for the lead up to the race and the race itself.  Pre warm up , OK at 6.6, dropping to 6.1 20 mins later so top up the carbs,  a quick 9-bar for slow release and then an energy gel 15 mins pre-race with the final test at 5.3, a bit on the low side but expecting the adrenaline to bring that up.  No chance to test in the race itself unlike longer distances so the carbs were essential to prevent any drops.
One hour later, after regaining my ability to see straight and breathe again, BG was at 8.4.  That was entirely due to the adrenaline causing the liver to dump its load of stored glucose.  That’s normally higher than I’d want to be, but it should get reabsorbed over the next couple of hours so a correction bolus here would not be such a good idea.  Pre-lunch that had gone up to 10.0, with the bolus adviser on the pump advocating a strong correction, which I resisted.  One hour later down to 7.0, two hours late 6.4, perfect.

That really is the beauty of the pump. Previously I’ve have had to cut both my morning background insulin injection and the breakfast bolus which would have had my BG elevated all morning.  The ability to fine tune and drop the basal rate an hour or two before the event allows a much more gentle rise for a shorter period of time.

It doesn’t always work quite right though, which is the subject of the next blog.