Melbourne Marathon Report

Race Summary

  • 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
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Not sure how I look strong and happy at this point, just past 40km!

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!

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Winner are grinners; finishing with a lap of the MCG.

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.

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Evening Training Highs & Hypos

I have always had a lot of trouble maintaining my BGLs when I am training in the afternoon. No matter how much I lower my basal insulin or how many carbs I consume, I always seem to end up having a sharp BGL drop during the session and if not that, then I end up with stomach issues from eating too much before/during the session. The combination of consuming carbs before/during a 1-1.5hr session and also reducing basal insulin, ultimately leads to a spike in BGLs after the session. Adding all of this up it’s 4hrs of worrying about BGLs every afternoon as I prepare, train and then recover.

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Getting levels stable can be very challenging, trying to balance; insulin, carbs and session duration is all important. Sometimes I do manage to get it close enough right though!

Especially with triathlon training where you need to squeeze in swim, ride and run sessions along with strength and recovery, you need to utilise all available sessions which including afternoons/evenings. With my challenges training in the afternoon I try to plan my sessions to get the most important ones in the morning (run and bike) and do other sessions in the evening (strength, swim plus lighter runs/rides). It takes some effort to get my planning right needing to consider; diabetes (am/pm), session requirements (hard/easy/length), pool availability, recovery time between sessions, weather and other personal commitments. Even so, but with a little stress, I manage to get 15 hours of training in most weeks.

So even though it’s a real challenge, I prepare myself most afternoons to head out and complete a training session know full well that there’s a high chance I’ll have a hypo. Recently I have had some success, my BGLs have been fairly stable and I’ve been able to complete some really good afternoon running sessions. The things which I am doing at the moment to give myself the best chance to complete these sessions include:

  • Reduce basal insulin 2 hours before training session and maintain reduced basal for first half of session. I need to reduce my basal rate by 70% for swimming and running session, and 50% for bike sessions in the afternoon. I do not require a reduction for strength sessions.
  • I do not start my session until after 2 hours post reducing my basal insulin rate to ensure that insulin levels in my system are reduced.
  • I try to start my sessions with BGLs around 10.0 mmol/l knowing that they will drop within the first 15 minutes
  • Consume between 20 and 40 grams of carbs about 30 minutes before the start of the session. This will usually be a supplement like Endura Optimizer or Hammer Recoverite mixed with water. I find that I respond well to these carb sources and they do no upset my stomach.
  • During a 1 hour session I will consume 25 grams of carbs at around the 30 minutes and this is usually a sports gel. It is important that whatever I consume does not upset my stomach and I also need to be able to carry it when running. When swimming or riding liquid carb sources are also an option.
  • I check my levels every 15 minutes during the session to make sure my levels are tracking OK and I can adjust things if needed. This does seem like a lot of testing but my levels are drop very quickly and when  you are covering a kilometre in around 4 minutes it can be a long walk home if you’ve missed a hypo!
  • I plan my sessions so that if something does go wrong, most likely a hypo and needing to walk back to the start, I am not too far away. A 20 minute loop is a good option and also provide for keeping provisions in your car for easy access.

I really work hard to get the most out of all of my training sessions and I do get upset when things don’t go to plan. I try to not let these incidents get to me but when you are trying your best and things still go wrong it is challenging to remain positive. Nevertheless, after many many incidents I continue to train and continue to work to get my diabetes management as close to perfect as possible. I know from experience that this will never be possible but the most important thing is to continue to strive to be better and in the end be healthy. Two afternoon run sessions week, one successful and one included a 20 minute walk back to the car in the rain, luckily I’m running first thing in the morning tomorrow!

Diabetes Sports Project

When I started this blog it was my first real look into the type 1 diabetes community. Although I had been a T1D for over 20 years, like many T1Ds I’d just gone about managing my diabetes on my own and was not interested in reaching out or promoting my diabetes. In 2014 when I got serious about my athletic performance and started researching how to get the best out of myself I found that there was a real lack of resources available for T1Ds on this topic. I started Type1Athletic as a means to note down everything that I was learning through my research and subsequent trials (and errors), and I found many fantastic people, groups and organisations who were trying to do the same thing. This was a really positive experience and helped me in a number of ways.

I came across the Diabetes Sports Project (DSP) when searching the web one day and I instantly felt like I was looking at what I wanted Type1Athletic to be in the future. Through similar experiences to my own and in achieving some amazing race results with T1D the co-founders of DSP, Casey Bowen and Eric Trozer, were showing that having T1D was no hurdle to achieving sporting success. I was not only impressed by the quality of the athletes who were part of the DSP team but also the fantastic public awareness and education that they were doing in America. Working with children and the broader community, and also getting support from some significant companies they were really making a difference for the diabetes community. I felt an instant affinity with the group and contacted them immediately.

DiabetesSportsProject

DSP is led by a group of world class athletes who thrive with diabetes, their stories, athletic accomplishments and community outreach empower other to live healthy, responsible and active lives.

It is truly fantastic when you meet people who have shared very similar experiences and are working towards similar goals as you are. My contact with everyone at DSP has been really positive and I have been introduced to other inspiring T1D athletes from around the world. With technology making it easy to communicate with others across the globe and getting instant updates through social media, being involved in a global network of like minded individuals is nothing but positive.

In July 2016 DSP launched their “Champions” who are everyday T1Ds doing amazing things in their chosen sports and whose stories will provide further inspiration to all T1Ds to not let T1D stop them from achieving their best. I am proud to have been chosen as a DSP Champion and I hope that my experiences can educate and inspire people. Being involved with DSP does not change my attitude to my sport or how I live my life, but I get great motivation from knowing that I might be inspiring someone to achieve their own goals and that others can learn from my experiences. Through the challenges that I have faced I know that it would have been a lot easier if there had been a resources like DSP available to me when I was struggling.

Champions

Diabetes Champions – Stories to educate and inspire

Although DSP is based in America they provide a fantastic resource for all T1Ds worldwide and I highly recommend visiting their website, facebook page and following them through social media on instagram and twitter. I guarantee that having a network of T1Ds will provide you with the information, support and motivation you need to achieve your best.

Diabetes Sports Project: www.diabetessportsproject.com

Light & Dark: Exercise Addiction

I’ve become increasingly interested in mental health and well-being, and its influence and importance to athletic performance. This interest has developed from personal experience and varying performance over the last 12 months.

Alex

I read this piece (Light & Dark) on CyclingTips provided further insight into one aspect of amateur training and racing which is particularly prominent to Ironman triathlon where the quantity and quality of training required is very high.

You can access the piece on the CyclingTips website – Light and dark: Exercise addiction, and the different forces of cycling

T&D June 5

After such a good week this was not such a good week. Recovery from my previous big training week didn’t go to plan and to get to the end of the week still feeling a bit fatigued and working on some BGL stability is a little disheartening. The catalyst for my not so successful week has been the instability of my BGLs particularly overnight where high’s and lows haven’t allowed me to get restful nights. Subsequently I haven’t fully recovered from my large run volume last week and with my legs feeling heavy all week I wasn’t able to complete my planned sessions fully. On top of this the mental demons and negativity started to creep in again over the week and by the weekend I was in a bad mood, training poorly and my BGLs were all over the place. It’s a vicious cycle for me and one that occurs more often than I would like.

I wish that I didn’t let things spiral out of control like this but trying to balance training, nutrition, diabetes and personal life can be difficult and one poor decision seems to lead to another and another. I do realise that this is happening but it still takes a couple of days for me to draw  line in the sand and really pull things back into line. To do this I go back to absolute basics, make a plan and follow it 100%. My plan for Sunday to get back on track included:

  • Wake up as naturally as possible around 7am
  • Set insulin for morning exercise (2hrs prior) and complete exercise within set time
  • Do about 2hrs moderate exercise (ride) including time with my girl friend in the morning
  • Enjoy one coffee in the morning begin aware that caffine is an insulin inhibitor and cosumption should be minised through the rest of the day
  • Eat a basic breakfast with known carb content and BGL response; for me this is oats with berries and yoghurt
  • Ensure plenty of incidental activity throughout th day like walking to the market, walking the dog, cleaning the house; I find that this assist with my BGL stability as oppose to speanding the day on the couch
  • Follow a strict meal plan throughout the day including lunch, dinner and snacks, all food to have known carb content and BGL response; it is critically important to count cards and bolus dose correctly, NO cheating today!
  • Don’t react too quickly to rising or dropping BGL’s, allow them to settle before treating correctly (bolus correction or sugars and BGL testing)
  • Check BGLs regularly during the day
  • Stay positive knowing that a lot of hard work has already been done, not further improvements can be made training so close to a race and by getting this right my performance will be the best that it can be

All of this is pretty simple and in hindsight I feel a little silly that I can’t stick to what I know works all of the time and make my life a little easier, but that is just one of the challenges of type 1 diabetes.

So it’s certainly not the end of the world and after a good day today I am feeling both refreshed and positive for the coming week and the race. Getting through work, training, packing up my race kit and my bike for trip up to Cairns will make this shortened week fly by. Winter has finally struck Melbourne and I am looking forward to some tropical weather in Cairns.

trisuit

New race suit from Scody with Type1Athletic, DSP and JDRF logo’s. Colour worked out perfectly with the prominent blue circle for diabetes!

On a really positive note this week I received my new race suit from Scody which I will be racing in at Ironman Cairns 70.3. As my first suit with logo’s I decided to support the diabetes organisations which I am associated and my local bike shop (The Freedom Machine) which is like my second home. The purpose of these logo’s is to promote type 1 diabetes within the community, get people asking questions and talking about type 1 diabetes. The organisations that I am support are:

I am looking forward to working with both organisations in the future promoting, educating and inspiring people with type 1 diabetes and I am proud to race with these logo’s on my chest.

Also a quick update on the Abbott Libre Flash Glucose monitor which I have now been using for two weeks. I have so far been really impressed with the unit, the accuracy has been spot on for me and the easy of use during every day life and also training is fantastic. I am really looking forward to racing with this device and I believe that it will provide one less thing to worry about come race day. The Flash Libre is now available in Australia and I can highly recommend it.

If you happen to be racing at Ironman Cairns please come and say hello, I will certainly be looking out for other type 1’s when I am up there!

Diabetes Tips #2

A critical part of managing exercise and blood glucose levels (BGLs) is understand how your body and more specifically your BGLs react to exercise. This is a very complicated interaction as there are many physiological variables which impact our response and BGLs to exercise. Type of exercise, duration, intensity, time of day, insulin on-board, meals, previous activities and more all contribute. There is no magic formula and every persons BGLs will respond differently, however if you are going to exercise you need to understand how you BGLs are going to react so that you can maintain stable BGLs and exercise safely.

In my case I have learnt through trial and error what my BGLs need to be prior to exercise, what insulin I should have on board (basal and bolus) and who much carbohydrate (CHO) I need to consume before and/or during the session. My CGM unit has been a fantastic resource in this regard to monitor my levels during sessions and also review them later one. Keeping track of insulin and also CHO intake then always me to determine my insulin and CHO requirements for said session.

Unfortunately it is not that simple in reality and I have ended up with several different insulin and CHO requirements for different sessions which include:

  • Different basal insulin rates for AM and PM training sessions
  • Different basal insulin rates for different types sessions; swimming, running, cycling and gym sessions
  • Different basal insulin rates for different intensities; recovery (Zone 1), moderate (Zone 2 & 3) and high intensity (Zone 4 & 5)
  • CHO requirements also vary dependent on starting BGLs and the intensity of the session
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Diabetes running essentials – Pump & CGM, Food and Garmin

This may seem like a lot of effort but over time as you continue to exercise you will learn how your BGLs react and what you need to to do to maintain stable BGLs during and after your training sessions. My key messages are:

  • Learn from every session that you do and build your understanding of how your BGLs react to exercising
  • Always train in a safe environment where you can get home, get back to your car or get assistance if you need it
  • Always carry a blood glucose monitor with you and know where your sugars are at; testing every 15-30 minutes
  • Always carry food with you as you need CHO to maintain your BGLs and in case you experience low BGLs/Hypo

I like to train like an athlete but I’ve got to think like a diabetic. My diabetes control is the most import element to my training and if I have any issues then I will stop, get control and then continue. Safety first always!

** This post is from the author own personal experience and should not be taken as medical advice. It is important to seek advice from your doctor about exercising with diabetes.