- Time: 3hrs 1min (goal time was 3hrs)
- BGL Checks: 10 (from 6:30am started warming up to 10am end of race)
- BGL Range: 10.0 to 18.0mmol/L (much higher than I wanted)
- Bolus adjustment doses required: 2 x 0.25 units during the race (somewhat ineffective but taking a very cautious approach)
- Carbs Consumed: approx. 50gr during the race (much less than planned due to high BGLs)
On Sunday 16th October I completed my first road marathon at the Melbourne Marathon and crossed the line in a time of 3hrs and 1 minute. Although I have always been fit, I have never been a runner and many years ago the thought of doing a marathon was terrifying. I went into the race with the goal of running under 3hrs and I only missed this by a minute; I am really happy and proud of my performance. Marathons are really hard and I’d rate this as one of the hardest events which I have completed, as I write this several days later my legs are still screaming at me.
The lessons that I’ll take away from this event and implement for the coming triathlon season are important for me and for bettering my performance in the future:
- Try not to get sick before a race; nothing I could really do about this and in the end I think that I managed it pretty well
- Increase insulin doses pre-race to cover the BGL rise from my nerves and adrenaline, this will be more important for new events where it’s more difficult to relax
- Stay hydrated during the race and not get dehydrated; this will involve managing my own hydration and not relying on the ‘aid stations’
- Adjust insulin plan during the race if BGLs are running high, it is important to get fuel in during a race and get the carb/insulin balance better
My training leading in the event was really good and a month before the event I decided on a goal time of 3hrs. I believed that if everything went smoothly I would be able to achieve this (though I wrongly calculated the per kilometre pace which made for some funny conversations in my head during the first 5kms of the race at 4 minute pace).
Two days before the event I came down with cold/fly symptoms which put me in bed from Friday morning. Feeling terrible with body aches and a blocked up head the only thing which I could do was rest, drink lots of water and hope that I would be feeling OK on Sunday. After months of training this was terribly depressing but I was determined to complete the marathon. With illness come higher and more irregular BGLs and I had to work really hard to keeps these within good levels for these couple of days.
With a start time of 7am I was up at 5:30am on race day and arrived in the city at 6am to get ready. My BGLs had tracked OK overnight and they were stable around 6.5mmol/L at this stage and I ate a small low carb protein bar to get some calories in before the race. My plan was to consume carbs during the race from about the 30-minute mark where my basal rate and the exercise would keep my levels reasonable stable. At 6:30am I jogged to the start line which was about 2km away, I used this as my warm-up. Just before 7am my BGLs had risen to 9.5mmol/L, I was not overly concerned about this as I expected them to plateau once the race started.
BANG! We were underway. I had decided to run with the 3hr pacer and just try to hold on to the finish line. The pace started at 4min/km and I pretty quickly realised that this was going to be a tough race and the pace for a 3hr marathon was 4:15/km pace! In my head this was scary, so I just focused on the runners around me and started ticking off the kilometres. In training I generally check my levels every 30 minutes to being with and then every 15-20mins after the first hour. I checked my levels at the 7km mark and they had risen to 16.0mmol/L, not what I had planned! I decided to give myself a small bolus dose of 0.25 units which I expected would bring them down. It was nice a this point when another runner asked me about my diabetes and said that his son had just been diagnosed. My Type1Athletic top must have been easily spotted and it felt great that I was able to tell him that type 1 diabetes had not stopped me from doing anything, including running this marathon.
Kilometres 10 to 30 passed without too many issues. I focused on having a good cadence and light ground contact and the kilometres just ticked over. I checked my BGLs every 20 minutes and they continued to be around 15mmol/L. I was nervous about giving a bolus dose and having a hypo. As I was feeling pretty good I continued with only another small 0.25 unit dose. I ate a low card protein bar at around the 1 hour mark and then a gel at around the 2hr mark when my BGLs started to trend down (but then up again after the gel). I was conscious of keeping hydrated and was taking water at every aid station. In hindsight a small cup of water every couple of kilometres really wasn’t enough and as the race progressed so did my dehydration. Sticking with the 3hr group until 35km, ticking over at 4:10 pace, not fuelled or hydrated, I then hit the proverbial wall!
Although I had felt pretty comfortable up to this point the head cold, my high BGLs, lack of fuel and fluid during the race eventually caught up with me. Drained of energy and with my legs really hurting my pace dropped to 4:45 kilometres. Jogging, running, jogging, running, walking, jogging, the next 5 kilometres were a real battle. Never wanting to stop and with the MCG (the finish) visible, I just pushed as hard as I could. Walking through the two remaining aid stations I took down as much water as I could. As I got closer to and passed the 40km mark my pace quickened with a little boost of finish line adrenaline and I ran through the last kilometres feeling amazing that I was going to finish my first marathon and go oh so close that that magical 3hr mark. Crossing the line with barely the energy to raise my arms above my head, my whole body aching, my stomach churning and knowing that I was really going to suffer when I stopped, I could not have been happier. Best off all my family was in the stands of the MCG cheering me around that final lap and my best mate finished the half marathon only 10 minutes earlier, was also there to celebrate with me!
So a really challenging race both physically and mentally that I am super proud of. Starting with a head cold, running in 35km/hr winds, dealing with high BGLs due to being sick, not being able to fuel properly and then getting dehydrated all made this really really challenging. I always review my races and I will learn a lot from this event and hopefully not have to experience these challenges again (the ones which I can control).
From a diabetes point of view, the reasons for my higher BGLs during the race were (plenty to learn from here):
- Illness; I had been suffering from a cold/flu for a couple of days leading into the race
- Nerves/Adrenaline: Due to running my first road marathon with a challenging goal time
- Dehydration: Dehydration can cause BGLs to rise at a more rapid rate
- Carbs/Insulin: Trying to balance eating a small amount of carbs during the race but also dosing a small amount of insulin trying to avoid a sharp spike in BGLS
- Exercising in the anaerobic zone; higher effort and heart rate sucking all the glycogen into my system for fuel
After going so close to 3hrs I’ll have to do another marathon to get under this magical mark. I’m also super proud of the other type 1 diabetics I saw out on course and also the people who I spoke to during the race about diabetes. I hope that we’ve inspired a few people to give something like this ago and not let type 1 diabetes hold them back.