Thursday, June 6, 2013

2 Steps Forward 1 Step Back - Race Report TriAthy Sprint

I was a bit nervous about this one. Although it was only a Sprint distance it was my first open water swim. In fact it was my first time swimming in a wetsuit (well except for a quick 20 minute dip in freezing water in Wicklow Harbour a week earlier). It was a river swim, 250m upstream then 500m downstream. Everyone said it would be fine - "sure you'll float down". I wasn't so sure.

Because they were holding Double Olympic and Olympic distance races in the morning, registration for the Sprint race wasn't until lunchtime and the race wasn't starting until 5 which meant a lot of hanging around. On the way in towards transition I met a few of the Wicklow Tri crew who had finished their races already. Heard the good news that we'd managed a couple of overall podiums in the earlier races which was some nice motivation. Not that I'm in the running for podiums or anything (in fact very far away from anything like that), but its always great to hear of good results. Once transition opened I managed to find a nice spot close to the Bike & Run exits. Everyone else seemed to have the same idea and soon transition was full of triathletes setting up their gear. Seem to learn something new at every race,  the logistics are endless!

At 4:45 we had the race briefing and after a last check of my blood sugar (9.2 - slightly high but OK) it was over the bridge to the swim start upstream. My age group was wave 9, the very last wave of the day. The thought struck me that if things went badly there was a possibility of finishing last. Like LAST last. I put that thought out of my mind, wasn't gonna happen. Wave by wave off they went, I saw plenty of people who were worse swimmers than me which made me feel a little bit less worried. But not much. Paul who was going in wave 7 wasn't feeling much better, neither of us were exactly inspiring each other with confidence. Wave 9 was up finally so down into the water and a few minutes to acclimatize. It wasn't anywhere near as cold as expected once you were in for a minute or 2. The hooter went and off we went, I started towards the back with the plan to swim up the left side of the river close to the bank and away from the current. There were plenty of bodies around me in the water, most of them not making too much forward progress so I had to pick my way through them a bit which required a bit of head up swimming initially. After a bit it opened up a bit and I managed to get into a reasonably steady rhythm. In fact I was on focussed on my stroke and breathing that I somehow managed to miss the turnaround buoy - adding a few extra meters to the swim. Once we turned downstream the pack had thinned out a bit and got some clear water - until I swam into someone elbow, my own fault for not sighting often enough. I didn't have a clue how many people were still behind me but I knew there were a few at least. Head down and on and under the bridge and up onto the exit pontoon. Done in 14 and half minutes! Had a quick look over my shoulder and saw plenty still behind me. In the end I finished in the 55th percentile of my wave - REALLY happy with that for a first ever OW swim after only 6 months swimming.

T1 was a bit of a fiasco. Running in I couldn't get the zip open at the top of the wetsuit while moving so in the end I had to wait until I stopped at my bike and finally managed to get it open. Ended up taking 2 mins 30 secs - an eternity. The bike started off with a short drag out of the town before getting into some gently rolling terrain out t o a 10k turnaround. I was making good progress passing quite a few especially on any slight uphills. Cycling around the hills of Wicklow is great practice and you definitely see the difference compared to others once the road kicks up a bit. On the way back in we had a bit of a headwind and I got into a little bit of a battle with another guy. We must have passed each other a couple of times before eventually I passed him for a third time and heard 'ah for f@*k's sake' from him. Got him. That was the last I saw of him. Passed few others on the way back into the town and I finished the bike in 36 mins - holding an average speed of approx. 34kph which I was happy with considering how little biking I'd done so far this year. This put me in the top third of my AG for the Bike.

So I was going well at this stage - however things went a bit downhill from here. T2 took a long time - over 2 mins, mainly because there were bikes thrown everywhere and I had to look around a bit for my spot. Transition looks a lot different in T2 after everyone has thrown their stuff around the place. Once I got out on the run the legs felt ok, in fact the 1st Km straight off the bike was my quickest even with a slight up hill in it - which is odd. The course flattened out as we ran down the river bank. The grass path wasn't a great surface and it was narrow so you had runners coming against you and it was difficult to get any sort of rhythm going. The race organizers could probably do with looking at alternative run routes as parts of it are quite frustrating. I couldn't seem to pickup the pace at all from here on in, not sure whether it was because of pushing a bit to hard on the bike, the dodgy surface on the run route, or most likely a high blood sugar - which I tested at 14.4 after I finished. This is the same as my previous race where I ended up with a much higher reading at the finish. This time I only took one gel, at the bike start. Probably the 1/2 bottle of Lucozade Sport before the swim start was unnecessary and set me up for being on the high side for the rest of the race especially since the race was in the evening when my background insulin is pretty much gone. Figuring out the effect of 3 different sports on the body is not proving easy. Some nice cheers from some of the Wicklow gang at the end - was amazed at how many people hung around to see the last wave of competitors finish the run, especially as some had been there since early morning. Anyway, finished the run in 24 and a half mins - SLOW! Was hoping for sub-23 mins at minimum. Fairly disappointed with this as I would have expected to do a decent run.

All in all I finished in 1hr 20 mins - good enough for about 50% in my AG and a decent improvement from the last race. Really pleased with the swim, a very decent bike, but must do much better on the run. And transition needs a bit of practice before the next race as I definitely lost a couple of minutes there. It's becoming clear that the bike is actually my strongest leg as opposed to the run which I had expected.

Hung around in transition for a bit and got chatting to a few more experienced triathletes and checked out some of the nice TT bikes - very jealous. Always seems to be a good friendly buzz at these races. Eventually made it back to the car, loaded up and headed for home. Overall a really enjoyable day, albeit a long one. Many thanks to organizers TriAthy and Triathlon Ireland for a well organized event. Next up is probably one or 2 or the club Aquathons and another Sprint Tri in July.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Time to Tri - Europcar 3DTri Sprint Triathlon Race Report

Last weekend was the Europcar 3DTri Sprint Triathlon held in the National Aquatic Centre. I had entered registered for this a few months back thinking that since because I had only started learning to swim around christmas the pool swim would be a good way to do my first triathlon.

Some last minute changes to the event meant an 8am start so we needed to be at the NAC before 7 to get setup in transition. So it was a 5:30 wake up and a strong coffee then out the door. Once I got there I ran into a good few others from Wicklow Tri Club who were also racing (Brian, Andy, Miriam, Des, Eilish, Wendy & few others) and got some good tips for transition and the race. One of the great benefits of being in a club is that everyone is so willing to pass on their experience which is great because theres a lot to figure out with the logistics of triathlon! I was in Wave 2 so had a 45 minute wait before we got in the pool. I did a quick check of my blood sugar before starting - 9.2 was a little bit higher than I'd have liked but ok as I expected it to come down during the swim. Anyway, I didn't want to have to take any insulin before starting as it would increase the chances of going low during the race.

750m Pool Swim at the NAC

There were 8 in the lane and we self seeded so I went towards the back knowing that I'd probably be one of the slowest. My estimated 18 minutes was definitely a bit on the optimistic side. Sure enough I found it tough to keep on the toes of the swimmer in front and by the 2nd or 3rd length I'd dropped back a bit. At this stage I could either have pushed hard and tried to keep up and risk being totally wrecked after the swim, or just go at my own pace and make sure I was in good shape for the bike & run. I remembered Coach Caoimhe telling me to pace myself and not worry about times - so thats what I did. After 15 lengths I was done and as I ran out of the pool towards transition I saw 20 mins on the clock. I was one of the last few out of the pool in the wave but happy enough with it considering 6 months ago I couldn't even swim a single length.

I was quickly through T1 and onto the bike and got motoring nicely passing plenty who were ahead of me out of the pool. Its great motivation to be passing so many people - being a slow swimmer has its advantages! I was wondering what my blood sugar was doing, but with no way to check while on the move I took a gel as planned near the start of the bike and just kept on pedaling hard. At this stage I was regretting the fact that the bike leg had been cut short to 15k, another 5k would have allowed me to make up even more places. I ended up with a 29 minute 15k bike split.

T2 was fairly good, just a few seconds delay trying to get a still damp foot into a runner (must remember to bring talc next time) but I was quickly out onto the run. At this stage the sun was out and not a cloud in the sky - looked like summer had finally arrived in Ireland! The run was on closed roads in the grounds of the National Sports Campus and I passed a good few more people in the first few Kms before settling into a good steady pace. Saw some of the rest of the Wicklow Tri crew on the run -Come on Wicklow! Great encouragement from everyone. I took another gel while on the run as I was a little worried my blood sugar would be dropping - as it turned out this was totally unnecessary. Since I'd started the bike nobody had passed me but in the last 200 metres I looked over my shoulder and saw a guy from Cavan Tri club that I'd been just behind coming off the bike and had passed halfway through the run. He passed me as we ran in towards the finish and I tried to kick to respond but couldn't up the pace enough to catch him - damn it! Anyway, finished the 5k run just over 23 mins giving a total of 1hr 18. While waiting for the rest of the wave to finish I checked my blood sugar ... 15.6 - way too high, and explains why I couldn't kick on when needed at the end of the run. The extra gel taken on the run was the problem. Will know better for next time, racing with Type 1Diabetes is a constant learning process unfortunately!

After getting changed (a bonus of being in the NAC is the great facilities - beats getting changed in the middle of a field any day!) we headed over to support some of the Wicklow Tri Youths racing in the Aquathon. Some great performances and loads of tired but happy kids with their medals!

So overall a successful first triathlon, good to get one under the belt and pick up a few tips along the way. As expected a slow swim dragged me down on my overall placing but pleased with being well inside the top half of my age group for the bike & run. Will have to really work on the swimming - or else just cycle and run a bit faster :) Looking forward to next event TriAthy next weekend and first wetsuit swim.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Carb Loading and the Law of Small Numbers

I normally don’t eat a lot of carbs. On a typical day I’ll probably have less than 80g, occasionally maybe on a hard training day I’ll have up to 100-150g. The carb based food that I do eat are mostly fruits, veg, and some dairy but most of the foods I eat are fat, protein, and fibre based. Theres are a number of reasons why I eat low carb, and one of the major reasons is that since I’m Type1 Diabetic it helps control my blood sugars (Carb counting 101 : small amounts of carbs = small amounts of insulin. The bigger the dose of insulin needed, more chance of getting it wrong. Getting it wrong results in frequent low/high blood sugars. Both of which are VERY BAD). There are other reasons but I’ll save those for another day. Anyway, thats how I generally eat. However last weekend I had entered the National Duathlon Championships being held down the road in Ashford. It was a 10k Run / 40k Bike / 5K run and was going to be very competitive. Although the event was going to be reasonably long (I reckoned about 2.5 hours) none of the parts were all that long in themselves - meaning I’d be going fairly flat out most of the time. This is different from other endurance events like a full/half marathons, long bike spins etc. where you’ll be going at a lower intensity. Racing at sustained high intensity up around your anerobic threshold mean you’ll burn through stored muscle glycogen much faster than lower intensity sub-threshold racing. So I figured I should probably engage in some sort of pre-race carb loading in preparation.

I don’t subscribe to the traditional carb loading theory - eating 10g of carbs for each Kg of bodyweight the day before an event seems a bit ridiculous to me. Based on those figures that would mean I would need to be eating 700g of carbs the day before the event. Now since your muscles and liver combined can only store a total of somewhere between 400-500g of glycogen (which is what carbohydrates gets converted to in the body), and even if we assume that muscle and liver glycogen stores were completely empty (which they aren’t) then you definately don’t need anywhere near 700g of carbs ... and whatever doesn’t get converted and stored as glycogen gets turned to fat - not good. I was thinking more along the lines of 200-300g of carbs would be just fine. Even at that it was at least 3 times more than I’d normally eat in a day.

So I started off with a bowl of porridge pimped up with extra fruits and honey and took my usual ration of fast acting insulin. Post meal blood sugars were perfect, all good so far. But it went downhill from there. A snack of oatcakes mid morning resulted in a bad low around lunchtime - full on shakes and sweats needing a Lucozade to bring them back up. That was my planned lunchtime 3k leg stretcher run out the window. Potatoes for lunch and I reduced my ratio a little, and post meal blood sugars were perfect again. Quinoa for dinner and reduced my ratio even further, but 2 hours later another low - this time I needed a tonne of jellybeans to fix it. All these lows were making me tired too, not good prep for a race. I spent the rest of the evening worrying about why this was happening and before heading to bed set an alarm to wake me to check my blood sugars. 3am wake ups are not ideal before a race. 

Next morning things didn't get much better. The race wasn’t until 12:00 so I could have a breakfast around 8 - meaning any active insulin bolus would be done by 12. A banana smoothie seemed like a good option - some carbs but not too much to need a big insulin bolus so should be safe ... wrong again. 2 hours after breakfast just as I was getting in the car to leave - another low. Had to correct again with Lucozade but its definitely not what you need a couple of hours before a race.

All in all it was a hugely frustrating experience, and its actually the second time that carb loading has been problematic for me.  It brings me back to one of the reasons I eat low carb in the first place. In his book ‘The Diabetes Solution’, Dr. Richard Bernstein talks about ‘The Law of Small Numbers - Big inputs make big mistakes; small inputs make small mistakes’. How is this compatible with carb loading ... even low level carb loading. I makes me wonder if there is some better approach ...

Heres what the blood sugar rollercoaster looked like:

BG = Blood Glucose

08:00 BG 4.2 / 100g Carbs (Porridge, Banana, Raisins, Honey) / 7.5 Units Novorapid
10:30 BG 5.8 / 20g Carbs CP (Oat Biscuits) / 1.5 Units Novorapid
12:00 BG 3.2 / 15g Carbs (Lucozade)
13:15  45g Carbs (Potatoes) / 3 Units Novorapid
16:15 BG 5.1
19:30 BG 5.4 /  60g Carbs (Quinoa) / 3 Units Novorapid
20:30 BG 6.9
21:30 BG 3.2 20g Carbs (Jellybeans)
08:00 CP 4.5 (Smoothie - Banana, Berry, Coconut Milk, Honey) / 2 Units Novorapid
10:00 BG 3.8 / 15g Carbs (Lucozade)
12:00 BG 7.9

I'll try and get around to writing a race report from the duathlon soon ...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A SMARTer 2013

I recently read a good article by Gerry Duffy on the importance of setting goals and targets for things you want to achieve. Writing down goals serves a number of purposes - we don't forget them come the end of the year, and it holds us accountable as they're there in black and white for all to see.  

At work we're constantly asked to make goals S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable  Achievable  Relevant, Timely), so I've taken a similar approach with my goals for the year. Last year was my first real year of proper running & cycling - dipping the toe in the water so to speak. This year will be all about improvement. 

2013 Goals

'A' Goals

1. Complete a minimum of 3 sprint distance triathlons. Time to pop the triathlon cherry! After last summers injury fiasco this year will be my first proper attempt at triathlon. I'd like to finish in top 33% of my AG in at least 1 of these. 

2. Run a sub 3:40 marathon. That will be an improvement of over 13 minutes from my current PB from last years Dublin marathon. It probably only going to be possible to do 1 marathon this year and it will likely be one of either Chicago (if I can convince my bro to run it) or Dublin - both towards the end of the year in October.

'B' Goals

3. Swim a 16 minute 750m TT. That's approx. 2:08 per 100m pace. Considering that at the moment I'm just about at 'not quite drowning' level this is going to be a BIG ask, but its a key component towards hitting goal 1 above. Its probably unlikely that I'll be quite at that level by triathlon time in the summer, but hopefully by the end of the year. The plan will be to continue with weekly coached club sessions and try to get in another 1-2 swims each week.

4. Run a sub 44 min 10k. Current PB is 47:27 so a three and a half minute improvement needed. This will be a focus for the first few months of the year and will be a big help for the triathlons in the summer. Plus it will help when the marathon build starts later in the year. Tuesday night club speedwork run sessions will be the key session to achieving this target.

5. Run a sub 1:40 half marathon. Again this is a goal in its own right but will help towards the target marathon time in goal 2. Will probably go for 2 half marathons during spring/summer. Will be aiming to get minimum of 40k running (combination of easy & tempo runs) in each week during the first 3-4 months of the year. Since time is always the enemy, squeezing in some high quality lunchtime tempo runs will key, and might also consider running some of the commute to work if feasible.

6. Complete 2 x 120km+ cycle sportives. Really need to start putting some miles in on the bike again and getting back out on the WTC Saturday club spins ... need to be making 3 club spins each month ideally. Probably looking at the Wicklow 200 & Sean Kelly Tour of Waterford during the summer as potential events.

In addition theres a few additional things I need to do to support hitting these goals.

- Keep on track with nutrition - this means continuing with the paleo & fat adaptation approach that I started on last year. Aim will be to keep daily carb intake to <100g of (countable) carbs - with the exception of hard training days. Also need to continue to read an learn more about nutrition and commit to enrolling in a nutrition/dietetics course. 

- Keep blood sugars under control & minimize risk of hypos during races. Goals will be to maintain my HBA1C under 6.3 and have NO hypo in any race or event (its unavoidable that there will be some low blood sugars during training - all part of the learning process to ensure it doesn't happen on race day!)

- Maintain a training log to keep track of what I'm doing (or not doing as the case may be). I'll try and put some progress up here every couple of weeks too to keep me honest.

Now that I've written it all down it seems like a lot! And I have to fit it all in alongside family life (oh and  starting a new job too!). Looks like a busy year ahead .... 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Animas Type1 Sport & Excercise Weekend

In May last year (yep I know this post is a little late!) a group of 12 people with Type1 Diabetes traveled from Ireland to the UK to attend a 3 day Workshop hosted by Animas at Loughbourough University. In total there were 50 delegates from all around the UK & Ireland along with a number of Animas Ambassadors - some fantastic people with Type1 who have excelled in various sports and were on hand to share their experience and achievements. Also on hand were members of the Runsweet team led by Dr. Ian Gallen, members of diabetes healthcare teams, and the Animas team who put an huge amount of effort into making sure everyone was well looked after.

Animas Sport & Excercise Weekend at Loughbourough University

After arriving early at Loughbourough after our (very!) early flight from Dublin, we got a chance to look around the campus and check out the world class sports facilities. We were interested to hear that Team GB Athletics have chosen Loughbourough as their pre-Olympic base. A few of us decided to head off for a run and made our way across campus to the Paula Radcliffe Athletics Track where we managed to blag our way in - even though a number of the British Olympic team were training there. It's quite a humbling experience to plod your way around the track after watching Olympic standard sprinters running bends at full throttle!

The weekend kicked off properly around 3pm with a meet and greet followed by a fantastic introductory talk from Dr. Gallen - one of the world leading specialists in diabetes and sport who has worked with a number of elite athletes, most notably Olympic Rower Steve Redgrave. Dr. Gallen provided some great insights into how the body works during exercise, how this is affected by diabetes, and the types of common problems associated with managing blood glucose levels before, during and after sport. He also outlined a number of strategies to help deal with these problems - some of which were certainly eye opening. Dr. Gallen has made his presentation available for download here on the Runsweet site - well worth checking out.

Following Dr. Gallen's talk we had some time to relax before dinner. Was a bit unusual to hear so many meters & insulin pumps beeping away in the restaurant - not everyday you get 50+ diabetics having dinner together :) A few post dinner drinks were had while getting to know everyone - not too many though since there was a busy day of activities ahead on Saturday.

The main focus of Saturday was on practical workshops where we got to spend 2 hours participating in 2 of  either cycling, swimming, football, or fitness sessions - led by the Animas Ambassadors and Runsweet team. During each session everyone was asked to check blood glucose levels before, during, and afterwards and to use the advice provided from the group leaders. Some of the sessions were tough going - the cycling (spinning) session certainly woke everyone up in the morning session. Team Ireland were well represented in the football - taking on the Animas Ambassadors and winning! We also had a number of talks on Saturday between practical sessions (to give people a breather!). Claire Pesterfield talked about her experience of exercising at high altitude while climbing Kilimanjaro - Claire has even invented the new sport of Extreme Blood Glucose Monitoring - check out the facebook page ! Claire Duncan told us about how she managed her diabetes while training and competing for an Ironman Triathlon and a Channel Swim. Really inspiring stuff! We finished the day off with some group discussions to share what we thought about the days exercise sessions. It was interesting to see how people had adjusted their insulin and carb intakes during the day,  sometimes with good results, sometimes not so good! After re-fueling at dinner, we managed a (good) few well deserved beers after a hard day.

Sunday started with a great talk from dietitian Carin Hume on nutrition for sports. Carin emphasized the different requirements we have during exercise (fueling) and at other times (nutrition). Nutrition is key to getting the most from your exercise - particularly for those of us with Type1. The weekends activities finished with a short 'awards' ceremony. Dave managed to pickup the Rebecca Adlington award for best swimmer, which presumably is already framed and hanging on the wall!

Since we had a late flight home we got to stay on and watch Dave's beloved Man City claim their first league title in 44 years with 2 late goals sparking off the celebrations (sorry Liam couldn't not mention it)! By the time we got back to Dublin there were a few tired bodies - a sign of a great weekend.

Many thanks to everyone from Animas & Dr.Gallens team and for organizing a great weekend - particularly to Aileen who looked after the Irish crew wonderfully from start to finish. Hopefully we'll have an even bigger group travel next year as this event is a fantastic opportunity to meet other people with Type1  and learn from some of the the best specialists in the world. Personally speaking I've definitely increased my own expectations of what I can aim to achieve over the next year as I've seen that with the right skills to manage it, diabetes doesn't limit you in sporting terms - people with Type1 have run marathons, completed Ironman races, climb the worlds highest mountains, and represent their country in various sports.

The bar has been raised. Onwards and upwards!  

UPDATE: The video from the weekend is now on you tube

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Race Report: Dublin Marathon 2012

So the first marathon is in the bag - 26.2 miles in 3:53:31. A great experience, and one of  the hardest things I've ever done. Overall I'm very happy with my time. Although my 'A' target time was 3:50 I'm not going to lose any sleep over a few minutes considering it was my first marathon attempt, and i did hit my 'B target of 3:55. Thankfully all the hard work over the last 3 months paid off on the day - it was worth all the hours pounding the roads, the hard lunchtime tempo runs, and the early starts on weekend mornings to get the long runs in.

... and we're off

A 9:00 start meant up at 6:30 to take the Luas into the city centre. No breakfast -  running on 'empty(ish)' these days - just a quick espresso and a big hug from my little girl and out the door. Merrion Square was buzzing by 8:00 when I arrived and dropped of my bag and headed for the start area. I had a quick banana and a few swigs of sports drink 20 mins before the start as I waited with 14,000 others for the gun to go. Got a few funny looks as I checked my blood sugar - which was 7.6 - perfect, just where I wanted it. Based on my long runs in training I had figured out how many gels I needed to take on and when. I was using Honeystingers as they are about the most natural gels I've found currently and don't have too much added crap in them. I also know they have a predictable affect my blood sugars (yes yes I know that a certain Lance Armstrong owns the company and I hate to thing he's making money from me - but I'd been using them in training and wasn't about to switch to something new at this stage). The plan was to take 1 gel at kilometers 7,16,24 and 34. Although I was carrying my meter, I wasn't planning on checking my blood sugars until the 2nd half of the race - if at all. I was confident that I could 'feel' where my sugars were at.

The race seemed to go by in 3 distinct parts. The first 6 miles were through the city center and out through the Phoenix Park. This part was fantastic, the buzz from the thousands of still fresh runners and the huge crowds was great, and I was motoring along nicely. Halfway through the park at around mile 5 I checked my watch and realized I was running about 10 seconds/km ahead of target pace. For a minute I thought 'I feel great - maybe I can hold this pace the whole way round'. But then I stopped being stupid and decided that I better slow the hell down or I would blow up later. So I eased back a but and let others pass me down the hill out of the park. One of the real highlights of the day was seeing the herd of deer through the mist under the papal cross - not many city marathons where you get scenery like that!

The next 10 miles or so were fairly uneventful as we passed through Inchicore and Crumlin towards halfway. I was trying to keep a steady pace and enjoying the banter from the HUGE crowds all along the route. Great to see so many out to support the runners. Gaby, one of my regular Tuesday night running partners from Wicklow Tri caught me around mile 12 or so and we ran together for a bit before she pressed on, telling me I'd catch her again later - I wasn't so sure! I took my gels at the planned times and felt generally fine. I distracted myself by taking my gloves off and putting them on again every mile or so, the weather was perfect for running but 8 degrees with a cold wind meant it was definitely a good call to bring gloves. At one stage I thought my Garmin was acting up, my average pace hadn't moved from 5:25/Km for over and hour which meant either I was running very consistent kilometer splits, or the watch was broken. I suspected the later, so I wasn't fully confident if I was on target pace or not. As it turned out from checking the data afterwards the splits were actually very consistent!

At mile 18 my some of my supporters were there to give me a big wave - always great to see a few friendly faces! My little girl just about managed to catch a glimpse and give me a wave before I ran out of sight!
From here onwards things got HARD. There was a drag up Roebuck Rd. ending in 'Heartbreak Hill' so I decided I better do a quick blood sugar check. After a bit of fiddling with the meter I managed to get a reading - 7.2 - again perfect,  just what I wanted it to be. The gel strategy was working as planned. Of course I managed to drop my meter trying to put it back in the armband, luckily no one stood on it and I picked it up and continued. Some of the WTC crew were marshaling on Roebuck hill and was great to get some shouts of support on a tough section. Over the top of the hill and onto Fosters Avenue, the N11 and Nutley - what was supposed to be a nice downhill section, but the legs didn't like going downhill so much and started to cramp a bit. I decided the best strategy was to try run through it and not stop. This seemed to work as the cramps eased after a bit. The last 3 miles from Ballsbridge in were a bit of a blur - people were struggling badly at this point , many walking or stopped altogether. My pace slowed a little bit as I was struggling with pain in my lower back, but I knew the end was in sight and the huge crowds were urging everyone on. I was happy to hear people shouting that we were well under 4 hour pace, so I knew that if I could just keep it going I'd finish close to my target time.

Coming around college green I spotted the Air Corp guys (30 of them) all running in formation up ahead and made it my target to overtake them. By the time I got round them we were on Nassau street and the final 500m. I kept looking for my support crew who I knew were around there somewhere but I couldn't see them with the crowds, so I put the head down and focused on the finish line up ahead. As I crossed I could see 3:53 on the clock - happy days! 

50 meters from the finish line. I wasn't smiling quite so much at mile 23.

It took me 20 minutes to hobble around Merrion square to the meeting zone. The legs had totally cramped up once I stopped. Emma, Kate and my parents were coming down the road to meet meet me and I got a bit emotional at this stage, I was so happy to see them all. I think this is when it hit me how far I'd come in the last couple of years since being diagnosed Type1. That 18 months ago I couldn't have walked around a supermarket without having a hypo and needing to rush for a bottle of Lucozade, and now I'd finished 26.2 miles without any issues. Kate got my finishers medal - a thank you for all the mornings she waved me off from the door shouting 'Ready, Steady, Go!' as I headed out for a training run, and for doing 'stretches' with me in the kitchen when I got home (stretches are hard for a 2 year old!). Who knows maybe one day she'll run a marathon of her own. Once I recomposed myself I realized I'd totally forgotten to check my blood sugar after finishing, I guess it just shows the confidence I have these days in controlling my diabetes that it just wasn't much of a factor. A quick check showed 10.9 - a little high but nothing to worry about and kind of expected from the adrenaline rush of the finish anyway. Then into recovery mode - protein bar, banana, water ... and a nice hot coffee to warm up!

Amazingly the next day was pretty much pain free. I'd heard from a few people to expect to be walking down the stairs backwards, but although there was some stiffness it wasn't bad - I even managed to do some furniture moving the next morning! I'm sure the changes to my nutrition have helped enormously with this.

So now that the first marathon is done I need to set some new goals. I'll definitely do another one next year - and I think I have 3:30 in me with the right training. But for now, its time to take it easy for a few weeks, get back on the bike, and maybe do a bit of swimming, and have a few lazy weekend mornings.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Towards 26.2

It's just over 2 weeks to go to the Dublin City Marathon on October 29th which will be my first marathon. For the last 2 months I've followed my training plan (mostly), and built up the distance ending up with a few 20 milers and a 22 mile last weekend, completed at sub-4 hr marathon pace. So far its gone well, most weeks I've done between 35 - 40 miles consisting of mostly shorter runs during the week with some faster tempo runs thrown in, and then long runs at the weekends. During the training I've found out a few important things ...

Firstly, I discovered I prefer longer more endurance type running to the shorter more high intensity anerobic stuff - the thoughts of going out for interval or fast tempo sessions just doesn't appeal to me as much as a long steady run. In fact the last 3 long runs of 3hrs+ have been really enjoyable - its been really nice being up and out and about early on a bright chilly autumn morning.  Also, I think I'm much more suited to endurance type events. I seem to be able to keep going fairly well for long periods once I settle into a nice steady pace. With this in mind I'm going to try and target some longer distance events in 2013, probably a few half marathons & marathons, some longer trail races, and who knows maybe even an ultra of some sort !

Secondly I've realized how vitally important nutrition is to not just training, but general health and well-being. I've done a lot of reading, questioned a lot of what conventional sports nutrition tells us, and made some fundamental changes to my diet to move towards a paleo based approach. The results have been interesting to say the least. By dramatically changing the amount and type of carbs in my diet, I've been able improve my fat adaptation and train my body to better utilize fat as a fuel source. This has allowed me to train regularly without feeling tired, maintain decent energy levels, and go for longer without having to worry too much about low blood sugars. Avoiding the carb/insulin blood sugar rollercoaster is especially important for us Type1 diabetics. Despite having constantly circulating background insulin when I run, I can now run for 3+ hours and require only around 80g of carbs (3 gels) to maintain blood sugars whereas a year ago I couldn't have walked to the shops without experiencing a low. Recovery from hard sessions has been really quick - the day after my last 22 miler I was amazed to have had hardly any soreness in the legs. I fully attribute this to my diet providing me with the right mix of fuels for training, recovery and general well-being (more on this is an upcoming post).

So its true that while the race itself is the goal, the journey in getting there can be enjoyable, interesting and rewarding. Now its time to taper back and get rested for 2 weeks time. The hard work is done and hopefully it will all pay off on the day.