After my last Ironman race in June I took a couple of weeks completely away from any training and enjoyed what many would call a “normal” life. I am always active so there was plenty of time spent outdoors with my girlfriend and also plenty of social rides with a focus on coffee and donuts! Being active is such an important part of my life so I’ll always be doing something, but more importantly it forms a really important part of my diabetes management. During this time where I was less active it did have an impact on my diabetes and I did have to increase my insulin doses to account for this and monitor things a lot more closely to ensure my levels stayed stable.
There are only so many coffee shops you can ride to until you realise that you need a new goal and new challenge. For me, the triathlon season was a long way off and I needed a local event to train for between now and then (later in the year). The Melbourne Marathon is in October so the timing was good and I knew when I started thinking about racing the marathon and it made me a little nervous that it was a great challenge and goal. With running being the weakest of my triathlon disciplines, and understanding the physical toll which long run training takes on my body, this was going to be serious!
So back to some more structure training sessions and back to the same old diabetes issues; getting BGLs right for training, being able to get enough fuel and recovery food in and managing stress levels trying to get all of this right. A real positive from my break was that I have learnt to stress a little less about my BGLs when I am exercising and allow things to stabilise more steadily while continuing with my activity. Although erratic levels do hamper performance, you can work through them calmly and sensibly.
So to some of those challenges which I am looking forward to overcoming:
Physical challenges of running
- Running is hard; no question about this
- Extra stresses on the lower body from the high impact resulting is many combinations of muscle, tendon and joint soreness
- Managing inflammation which can be one of the complications of diabetes; I usually require double the recovery time from any soft tissue injury than a non-T1D
- There are no free kilometres like when cycling, you have “run” every kilometre and there a plenty of those
Diabetes challenges of running
- For me, running has the biggest pull-down effect on my BGLs and this can occur very quickly
- The need to keep BGL stable for 1.5 to 3hr sessions
- Eating while running which is especially important for runs over 1hr and during afternoon/evening sessions
- Carrying everything that I “may” need; BGL tester (Freestyle Libre at the moment), insulin pump, food (usually 2 x gels – approx.. 50gr carbs), phone and credit card/money (for emergencies)
I have had many annoying experiences when running due to my diabetes all of which have involved a hypo and then trying to get home; walking in the rain, taxi/uber, public transport without a ticket and even getting a dink from a cyclist. All of these are even more enjoyable at 5:30am in the morning or when I’ve heading into some remote location! Never-the-less I continue to head-off and challenge myself, and then have plenty of time to reassess when I am walking home (take 4-5 minutes to run a kilometre and 10-12 minutes to walk).
My expressionless running face: not thinking about the pain, just ticking off the kilometres
Through social media and the great promotion which T1Ds are doing I have been able to meet some great people and new running buddies. From a performance perspective training with people at a similar level is great and being able to train with people at a higher level provide some fantastic benefits and improvements. Not only that, but training with people who also have and understand T1D is a new and enlightening experience. I recently had my first stop mid-session to allow my training partner to check their BGL and then have something to eat because they were trending low. Something that I do all the time but have never seen it form the other person point of view.
As my running has progressed I am enjoying it and feeling good when running. As expected my legs are feeling the sting after my longer runs and I’m having to put a lot of work in to strengthen and maintain good feeling in my legs. This is definitely a work in progress and I’ve got to watch that I don’t push things to hard and cause an injury. I’m lucky to have some great people to help me and bounce ideas off including Shaun Forrest (Elite marathoner and T1D). Unfortunately, there are some realities of running; it’s hard and there’s not cheating the kilometres! Fun times to come.