#Type1Runs—Race Report

An oxymoron I know—the words ‘race’ and ‘me’ aren’t a natural fit. If what I did on Sunday 30 September could be described as racing, I challenge you to find that tortoise and it isn’t the one that beats the hare.

Anyway, here’s how the Great Scottish Run panned out for me. The annual race is the largest running event in Scotland and this year it attracted 30,000 participants in both the 10k and half-marathon.

I started in the pink wave (i.e. the slow coaches) and the start was snail-like thanks to the sheer numbers. No complaints from me there as a slow start is what every expert recommends.

Kingston Bridge

Running over the Kingston Bridge is something else—it presents the views of Glasgow that turn up in black backdrops on TV programmes, in films and books set in the city. You see the armadillo, the Finnieston Crane, the towering Hilton Hotel and the odd church spire or two, silent monuments to the man-made standing either side of the mighty Clyde.

The run always attracts the elites and the fastest man, Chris Thompson, finished in 1.02.07 with the fastest woman at 1.09.15. There was also a proposal at the finish line and the woman said ‘yes’.

 

As the fastest woman crossed the finishing line, yours truly was still at mile seven chanting the mantra “you can, and you will do this” over and over in a mind versus body competition. Thanks to clever tech, my husband was able to track my progress through the Great Scottish Run app and managed to cheer me on those last 50 metres over the finishing line, two hours and thirteen minutes after I started.

[Instead of missing my triumphant sprint to the end as happened at the last race.]

Diabetes care and exercise

And the diabetes care? Ahem! Everything I did points to how not to train for a half marathon and what not to do on the day. Dear reader, the furthest I ran in training was seven miles, although I had the odd day where I ran twice as per what ultra-marathon runners do in training. I managed to run the whole thing without even a toilet stop.

On the day, I woke up with super-high blood sugars thanks to a roll I’d eaten the night before. Yes, just one lousy bread roll rocketed my blood sugar levels through the night and my first test of the day was 18.6. I took one and a half units of fast-acting insulin and my basal dose, minus two units.

Super-high sugar levels made me wary of eating before the race, but I did have a Trek protein flapjack one hour before. Ping! As the race was about to start, my blood sugar levels went up again to 16.6. I knew I couldn’t start running on that, so I took one unit of fast-acting insulin and crossed my fingers.

Body feedback

I took my insulin pen with me, jelly babies and the FreeStyle Libre sensor—and, er, didn’t use it at all on the way round. I couldn’t be bothered routing around in my little pack to find it, and there is something to be said for relying on the feedback your body gives you. At the seven-mile mark, I decided I’d better eat a jelly baby or two, and at the nine-mile point, I accepted a gel from the SIS stall. From then on, I ate eight jelly babies spaced out for the rest of the run.

Blood test at the end said 8.3, rising to 11.1 an hour later and then plunging to 5.4 half an hour after that, at which point I ate a meal roughly 50/50 protein and carbs.

Lessons for another time? Do more blood tests during the race. Ignore the carb loading advice for the night before (or don’t do it with bread or flapjacks) and watch out for adrenaline. The nerves kicked in an hour before the run and that might have contributed to those high sugar levels, so the next time I might not lower the basal insulin rate as much…

Next time

But wait! There’s not going to be a next time, is there Emma?! Confession—having sworn I wouldn’t do it again, I’ve changed my mind. The Glasgow half-marathon is so atmospheric you can’t help but be swept up in running fever. Crowds cheer you almost all the way round armed with witty signs—my favourite was the one telling us we were getting in good practice for the zombie apocalypse—and the sense of achievement you experience at the end is… Indescribable.

And seeing as I proved I can do a half-marathon without ever running more than seven miles in training, the idea of doing it again next year appeals.

 

#Type1Runs—Race Report

Paisley 10k medal at The Diabetes DietAh, Instagram abounds with diabetics who perform superhuman feats of athleticism while battling their blood sugar levels at the same time.

Not me. I’m here as your bog-standard ordinary gel whose only prize ever will be persistence. Did you note I got a massive disclaimer in there before going on to write about my latest race?! I like to make sure I’ve lowered the audience’s expectations before I start.

Anyhoos, for those of you still reading, here it is. On Sunday, I ran another 10k in preparation for the BIG ONE (the half-marathon) next month. Conditions were much more promising than the last time. Back in June, Scotland experienced an unprecedented spell of warm weather. Plus, that course was hilly. And I woke up that morning with a blood glucose reading of 13.1.

Scottish summer

In theory, the Paisley 10k should have heralded a vast improvement. I’ve been running for longer, the back-to-usual Scottish summer conditions (dreich, grey and cool) were present, and the course is flatter.

Still sensing that disclaimer?

Bah, humbug dear readers. I added three minutes to my previous time. Not only that, the online system was cruel enough to remember I took part in the Paisley 10k ten years ago when I achieved my personal best. There it was, my 2008 time taunting me with its nine minutes faster brilliance.

Sprint finish

For those who want the numbers, I awoke on Sunday morning with a blood sugar of 8.5 (I’d knocked one unit off my basal rate the night before). Half an hour before the race, I was 8.1. I ate half a Hike bar before starting (10-15g carbs) and I finished the race at 11.1, possibly because I put on a sprint finish. Nothing like pretending your race pace is much faster than it really is.

I didn’t take insulin afterwards, ate the second half of the Hike bar and went off for a session in the sauna. An hour later, my blood sugar level was 4.9. A massive portion of battered fish and mushy peas later (I know, NOT low-carb), further low blood sugars and indigestion kicked in*… 3.3 one hour after the meal, 5.8 two and half hours later.

Lessons to take—eat more. Try something other than a Hike bar. Drop the daytime basal injection rate. Keep practising. Keep experimenting. Expect fluctuations and weirdness.

All shapes and sizes

Mass running events are special though. I’d recommend everyone takes part in at least one if they are able to—and these days there are loads of 5ks and even 3ks you can do. You see all shapes, sizes and abilities (and the two former don’t predict the latter), the crowds cheer you like a champ and even a slowcoach like me will overtake enough people to feel gratified**. The runners’ high exists.

Now, time to take off my medal. It is two days later after all.

Low carb diets ‘could shorten your life’

diabetes diet by Emma Baird
Avocado, mushrooms, bacon and salad – plant-based.

And now for something completely different… Last week, headline news suggested low-carb diets were dangerous—more likely to lead to an earlier death.

As it’s a rare week, some nutritional or lifestyle study doesn’t hit the news, I sighed. “Oh, whatever.”

I don’t have the skills or knowledge to interpret the data, but two websites I trust have commented on the studies (and more importantly, the way they were reported). You can read them here:

https://www.dietdoctor.com/all-over-media-low-carb-diets-could-shorten-life

https://www.diabetes.co.uk/news/2018/aug/new-low-carb-link-to-life-expectancy-should-be-interpreted-with-caution-99971624.html

 

*Was worth it.

**One of whom wore a tee shirt saying Vegan Runners. Just sayin’.

Running and Diabetes Part 2

Shoes and mini eggs. The Diabetes Diet
Yes, yes, I’ve been RUNNING, therefore I need carbs.

Runners don’t smile at you when you pass them—a sign, I always thought, of why you shouldn’t add running to your life.

Aye, that painful grimace tells you all you need to know… Running is a fool’s game; its rewards are not worth the pain. If you’re not built for distance slogging—i.e. Kenyan skinny—give anything other than a dash for the bus a miss.

Some foolish notion, however, made me take running up once more at the end of last year. And it was okay. I didn’t grin madly at people, but I got the runner’s high. Albeit, the buzz doesn’t last long enough to justify the effort you put in.

And I got to listen to a lot of podcasts. “This is learning by osmosis, EB!” I said to myself. I picked worthy ones, such as those designed to help me improve my writing career. If I just listened to what the gurus told me why bother putting any of it in place? The lessons would all filter through subconsciously. Sales would result! [Spoiler alert—not so far.]

Then I thought entering the Glasgow half-marathon would be fun. Which it was, in January—y’know, when it was months away. And now the end of April hurtles ever nearer and I’m no further forward than eight and a half kilometres (five miles), less than half the distance. Woe!

I’ve upped my game. The five miles feels like an achievement, seeing as I haven’t pushed beyond three in years. My training plan, thus, is add one kilometre every week to the big run and run another two 5ks a week. Do Pilates once a week to stop self seizing up.

As for tempo training, HIIT stuff and dragging myself up and down hills and all that other serious runner stuff, forget it.

Goal? Half-marathon completion, even if it means walking some of the distance.

Running with type 1 diabetes is challenging. Any endurance exercise is. As well as dealing with breathing, effort, aching legs and all that, we battle see-sawing blood sugars not only during the run but afterwards too.

Blood sugar levels that are too high make you tired and exercise will often send them soaring higher. When your sugar levels dip too low, tiredness happens too, you’re at risk of collapsing and you need to eat.

Picture of a Hike bar. The Diabetes Diet
Hike bars–great running fuel.

Here’s what I’ve learned…

  • The best runs are when I’ve had level blood sugars all day.
  • Hike bars—the Aldi cheap version of a protein bar—are brilliant running fuel. I have half of one before, half afterwards. The raspberry one is nicer than the cocoa one.
  • I’ve a talent for finding routes that are treadmill flat. And sticking to them.
  • A runner’s backpack is worth buying. I ran my last half-marathon, clutching a bag of jelly babies and my blood sugar equipment in my sweaty hand. If you’ve ever run holding something in your hand, you’ll know how irritating it is. By the end of the race, the jelly babies had morphed into a gelatinous mass.
  • Your Fitbit shows you getting fitter as the time I’m spending in peak heart rate zone has come down since I’ve started tracking the runs. It’s gratifying.
  • The Type 1 Run Podcast (mentioned here) is incredibly useful. It amuses me that I’ve had diabetes and exercised with it longer than most of the guests have been alive, but you’re on a lifelong learning curve when you have diabetes. I learn something from every guest.
  • I seem to run well the day after drinking. My body welcomes the chance of sweating it all out. As it leaves my body, the alcohol acts like petrol… Don’t do this at home though kids!

This time round, I’m planning a support crew. When I did the half-marathon ten years ago, I did the race with another runner, but had no-one waiting for me at the end or around the course. (Cue violins.) In September, I’ll have my husband and friends dotted at four-mile intervals, armed with food and water. And umbrellas for themselves. It’ll be late September, and this is Glasgow. Rain’s 95 percent guaranteed.

And is it too early to plan my post-race meal? Readers, I’m low-carb most of the time, but the minute I cross that finish line, I plan to fall face down on a ginormous plate of fish and chips, doused in salt and malt vinegar.

Only places that do light, crispy batter, crisp chips that are fluffy on the inside, home-made onion rings and mushy peas need apply.

Massive disclaimer here—my experiences are personal. They are not recommendations, especially the last one. On a serious note, endurance events can be dangerous, not just for people with diabetes, as this year’s London Marathon proved again.