Monday, December 03, 2007

Speaking at Joslin Black Tie Gala, November 3, 2007

I was so honored to be invited to speak at the black tie gala dinner in Boston for the Joslin Diabetes Center, Nov. 3. It was the week before my last race in Miami on Nov. 11. Anna and I brought Janna on her first airplane ride (she did great) and even brought her down to the dinner for a few minutes.

I was thrilled to hopefully motivate the crowd a little with my Finish Line Vision message, and also thank them for supporting Joslin and research and treatment of diabetes. One of the photos is a banner that the boys at Camp Joslin made, quoting a line from my remarks to them at camp this summer: "Diabetes is Messing with the Wrong Guys!" I wanted this audience to know that while those kids are counting on them for research and treatment at Joslin, they are also not letting diabetes defeat them.

Joslin President Ranch Kimball is a great leader and I'm honored to call him a friend. I look forward to more events with Joslin next year!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

MiamiMan Half Ironman, November 11, 2007 - 3rd place M40-44

It’s starting to seem like my race reports are sounding the same. “I swam, . . . then I biked, . . . then I ran, got tired, felt like throwing up . . . then I finished. Pizza?” I bet it would be different if I wrestled an alligator at the 2nd turn buoy, then fought off a road rage motorist on the bike course . . . but that didn’t happen. But what did happen at the MiamiMan Half Ironman was pretty darn cool (hot?) in a great location, so here’s how it went.

I love racing long distance triathlon because of the lifestyle and the great race locations. I decided to race this one for several reasons. First, uh, it’s in Miami in November. Hard decision there . . .mid 80’s, sun, South Beach , etc. My wife, Anna, seemed to really be in support of this one too. Second, my agent, David Arluck, lives in Miami Beach so Anna and I had a nice place to stay with David and his wife, Jessica, and some quality time with them. Finally, (okay, this was the real reason) it was a qualifier for the 2008 U.S. National Team for the Long Course Triathlon Worlds in Holland, August, 2008. There was 1 slot (yes, just one!) in my age group offered at this race. The slot would roll down only 5 places, so I had to win my age group to be guaranteed the spot, or at a minimum finish in the top 5 to be eligible and hope anyone above me passed up the slot. With 85 guys competing in my age group, I was prepared to visit the “black cave of death” during the race to win. It’s hard to go to there unless you have something like that to race for.

I’ve never raced in south Florida and don’t know the best triathletes in the area, so I had no idea who was there or their ability. Times for the top 5 from 2006 seemed reasonable, although a bit faster (5 – 10 minutes) than some other Half Ironmans. I knew the bike and run courses would be dead flat and should be fast, but the wild cards to slow you down would be the wind (likely) and the heat (also likely).

Anna and I brought Janna on her second airline trip in her life, which happened to be her second that week. We had just flown in from Boston on Sunday and flew down to Miami on Friday. She did great. Funny how taking off and landing they won’t let you hold more than a pimento cheese sandwich in your lap, but want to hold your 19 pound, wiggling, gurgling, squirming 6 month old baby? . . . no problem, go ahead! At least she travels for free.

Miami Beach is a happnin’ place in November when the rest of the country is starting to feel like cold, dark winter. Lots of tan skin, surgical enhancement, jewelry and hair color. Anna and I had a great time people watching each night we had dinner in Miami Beach with David and Jessica. We had a fantastic place to stay at David and Jessica’s home in Miami Beach, beautiful place right on the intra-coastal waterway. They’d never had a 6 month old in the house, but Janna was a princess and I think we made them want one.

I’m sure that the US Airways baggage gorillas were frustrated that they were not able to smash my bike box, so it came sliding out of baggage claim upside down but unharmed. A safe bike is always the first challenge flying to a race. The race site was about 15 miles south of Miami, next to the Miami Metro Zoo. Registration Saturday was a breeze and I drove the bike course (by car) just before sundown. Yes, dead flat 56 miles, in the open citrus farmland almost to Homestead, FL, a 13 mile out section, then two 15 miles loops, then 13 miles back in. I figured the wind would be 5 to 10 mph from all different directions, in my face, side, then at my back at different points of the loop.

Race morning went well. No problems getting there around 6:00 a.m. for the 7:00 a.m. start. The swim was barely wetsuit legal in a crystal clear man-made lake in a county park. (Sorry, no alligators to wrestle.) My blood sugar was fine prior to the start. I’d been nursing a strained muscle or tendon on the front of my right thigh, almost where my hip flexor connects to my waist. My massage therapist had done a great job on me the week prior to the race and I felt good . . . right up until the horn blew and I ran and dove into the water. Ouch! Felt it right there. But no time to worry about that right now. I wanted to get to the first turn buoy about 150 meters out in front of the churning pack of 85 in my wave. I sprinted like I was in the 100 meter Olympic finals, and made it there in the first 3 swimmers, and then tried to settle into a rhythm (really just catch my breath before I passed out).

2 loop swim. I felt really comfortable and by the end of my first loop I caught a lot of swimmers in the wave starting 4 minutes ahead of me, and did not see many other purple swim caps from my wave. That’s one thing I like do in wave swim starts, glance at the color of the swim caps in front and that I’m passing. Gives me an idea of how I’m doing. After the 2nd loop I exited the water feeling like I’d swam pretty well so I was a little shocked that my time was a slooow 37 minutes, 12th fastest out of 85 in my age group. But no time to worry about that now. (I found out after the race that most swim times were about 3-4 minutes slow so the course must have been a bit long.)

The run to transition was ouch, ouch, ouch! About 500 meters on asphalt with little rocks and all sorts of debris. There were 3 races going on that morning (Half Ironman, Olympic distance, and a duathlon) so the bike transition area was huge with about 1600 bikes. I always seem to lose about 60 to 90 seconds in transition checking my blood sugar. Today was the same. The test strip must be completely dry when inserted into my super fast One Touch UltraMini Meter, so I have to quickly dry my fingers before pulling a strip out and inserting it. But this time it took me 3 strips until my hand was dry and I finally got one to work. UGH! I lost about 90 seconds with all that fiddling, inserting, drying my hand and re-inserting test strips! (BTW, when I finally got it, my blood sugar was 150 mg/dl. Exactly where I wanted it to start the bike.)

Onto the bike course. I settled in quickly and felt great. I carried 2 Clif Bars and 2 gel packs, and planned to drink 4 to 5 bottles of fluid on the bike. The first 13 miles heading out were pretty fast and easy, averaging 23.1 mph. I figured it must be a slight tailwind. After 13 miles I hit the aid station at the start of the 15 mile loop, slowed to toss my bottle and take on two more, and lost the 2 guys who I’d been pacing off up ahead. They did not get bottles at the aid station and I suspected they would pay for that later.

I was surprised (and pleased) that there was not much drafting going on. I spent a lot of time passing about 100 guys who had started in the 2 swim waves 4 and 8 minutes ahead of me. I like to pass swiftly and decisively, prevents anyone from grabbing my wheel and delivers a bit of blow to the morale. The morale bone is connected directly to the legs and the chest. (BTW, about mile 30 I blew by those 2 who had not taken water bottles at the first aid station. Looked like they were suffering now.) Dead flat was the course. Lots of open fields and farmland for the wind to blow. At times the wind was glorious at my back, then painful in my face. After 43 miles, I was back on the 13 mile leg to transition, dead into the wind now, but still feeling strong.

I was real happy with my nutrition on the bike. I drank 5 bottles - 3 sport drink and 2 water. I also ate 2 Clif Bars and 1 gel. As long as my blood sugar had not ballooned (I knew it was not low), I would be in good shape starting the run. My stomach was fine, which is a good sign of no dehydration or high blood sugar.

Finished the bike in 2:25, averaging 23.2 mph. I had the 7th fastest bike time out of 85 in my age group and the 33rd fastest out of 710 overall. It’s always nice to see very few bikes in transition when I finish the bike, especially when there were about 100 people who started 4 and 8 minutes ahead of me. My age group wave was all racked together and I was pleased to see only a few bikes on those racks. I was also glad to see one super fast guy I know (Sean Hendryx) in transition about to head out on the run. Sean is a great triathlete from Clermont, FL and has won our age group, finished top 5 overall in a lot of races and qualified for and raced IM Hawaii several times. I checked my blood sugar fast (it was good, around 120 I think), threw on my shoes and took off.

The run course was . . . weird. Narrow asphalt paths in the county park (see photo), then rough dirt trails to the back entrance to the Miami Metro Zoo, then running through the zoo amongst elephants and families pushing strollers and eating snow cones, then out of the zoo for more dirt and grass paths (see more photos) back to the finish line. We did this course twice. It was just late morning but starting to get really hot, 85 to 90 degrees. At each aid station I tried to gulp down fluids and dowse myself with water.

I was hoping to run the same run split I had last month at the South Carolina Half Ironman, 1:40, about a 7:40 pace. My first couple of miles were about 7:30 but it was hard to tell since there were few mile markers and I’m not sure how accurate they were with all of the twisting and turning on this route. The run course was also full of people finishing up the (shorter) Olympic distance triathlon that had started 1 hour after the Half Ironman race. I was passing a lot of people on the run, but it was difficult to tell who was in the Half Iron and who was in the Olympic race.

I felt good on the 1st loop, and knew it would get harder on the second lap. It sure was strange (and a bit difficult) to run though the zoo suffering and hammering, while families casually sipped refreshments and kids stared at me with as much fascination as they did the elephants and zebras. I felt like I was close to the top 5 in my age group, but I really had no idea. No choice there but just to keep running as hard as I could.

I was running so hard that when I completed the second lap I almost missed the turn for the finish chute. Ha! I was definitely in the “black cave” at that point! Ran a 1:43, 7:54 pace, 5th fastest in my age group. I ran 3 minutes slower than the SC Half Ironman last month. Must have been the heat.

I finished in 4:53:20, 29th overall out of 710 and 3rd out of 85 in my age group. I wanted 1st, but that was as fast as I could go that day. USA Triathlon will contact me soon and let me know if I got the slot on the 2008 Team USA of the World Championship. I’ll let you know!

That does it for me racing this year. A season of racing with mixed results, and speaking engagements around 2 wonderful big events in my life – getting married and the birth of my daughter Janna. It all started with the Boston Marathon back in April. Thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors. LifeScan One Touch blood sugar meters, Omnipod insulin pumps, Nutrisoda beverages, Hincapie Sportswear, Clif Bar, and Rudy Project sunglasses and helmets. I also want to thank the Joslin Diabetes Center for a wonderful 1st year of working together.

There are lots of exciting things to come in 2008. Lots of races, speaking engagements, events and much more! Stay tuned!

Monday, October 22, 2007

South Carolina Half Ironman, September 30, 2007

After my disastrous DNF at Ironman Louisville last month (race report). I really wanted a decent result in the South Carolina Half Ironman, Sept 30, 2007. A special race for me since this was where Anna and I had our second “date” in 2003 (she got up before dawn, drove 1 hour by herself to watch a guy she’d known 1 week punish himself for 5 hours in this painful looking sport she’d never seen before called triathlon . . . I knew she was the one that day!). That was the reason I proposed to her at this race last year after crashing on the bike and running 7 miles with her diamond ring in my bloody hand. (2006 SC Half Ironman race report).

In light of last year, a funny thing did happen this year before we even left the house at 4:45 am race morning. Our arms full with Janna, diaper bag, stroller, car seat, breakfast bagels, etc., and . . . oh, yeah, my race stuff already in the car. (Our pre-race packing is a little more involved now.) Suddenly Anna can’t find her diamond engagement ring - the very one I smuggled to this race under her nose last year and gave to her at mile 64! We spend 20 minutes (that we didn’t have btw) frantically searching Janna’s diaper and clothes, tossing sofa cushions, bed linens, and moving furniture . . . the house looked like it had been hit by an earthquake or vandals when . . . “got it!” . . . on the dark carpet underneath a piece of furniture. No way could we go to this race without it since I spilled a lot of blood to give it to her last year! Now 25 minutes late, it made for a little more “spirited” 70 mile drive to the race for the 7:30 a.m. start, but we made it. No worries mate. (Maybe she should have kept it in her shoe like I did last year. :-))

The swim was barely wetsuit legal (water temp 76 degrees). I had a good swim, about the same as last year. 1.2 miles. The water was calm and I felt very comfortable, having no trouble spotting the buoys heading due east on the way out into the blinding sunrise. Fortunately I wore dark goggles and had cleaned them with anti-fog solution. Swimming with fogged goggles into a blinding sun makes a long and difficult swim – been there! Swimming is my weakest event, and the hardest for me to train. I can do bike and run workouts at odd times and places, but the pool doesn’t travel with me or stay open on my schedule. I came out of the water about where I needed to be, top 10 or so in my division, always hoping for a few minutes faster, but many of the swim times appeared a few minutes long after the race. But no time to fret in T1. Time to attack the bike.

My race strategy is always the same: limit losses on the swim, attack the bike and make big time gains, then keep pushing and see if I can hold it or move up on the run.

A quick check of my blood sugar on my One Touch Ultra Meter in transition showed I was way too high, over 300! Ugh!! Not again! That’s very rare after the swim, but I knew it was my fault for hastily drinking some high carb drink and eating half of a Clif Bar right before the swim, concerned that it was dropping. I was a little afraid to bolus too much insulin right now, so I’d try to bring it down naturally on the bike.

I know the bike course well, my 4th time in this race. 56 miles, lots of rolling hills, and gradual climbs and descents. The air temperature was unusually cool, mid 50s Fahrenheit, so dehydration and sweat loss was not a concern like in hot weather and full Ironman distance races (i.e., IM Louisville). But because I was fighting a 300 high blood sugar, I could not consume as many carbs as I needed. (Hmmm. . . race a half Ironman on a starvation diet, yeh, . . . this will work out well.) I drank only two 25 ounce bottles of straight water and only one 18 ounce Gatorade (35 grams carbs), and ate just 1 Clif Bar (42 grams carbs). That’s enough hydration but less than half the calories and carbs I need for cycling 2 ½ hours at race pace. My testing at Gatorade Sports Science Institute earlier this month showed that I need about 70 – 80 grams of carbohydrate per hour, so about 180 grams for a half Ironman bike. I consumed only 77 grams.

Maybe that was a reason, because this year I had my worst bike time ever, 2:35, only 30th fastest out of about 450. I was even passed twice in 56 miles, which rarely happens to me, but I never know all of the fast cyclist in the field and where they may have come out of the water. This year was also more windy, so I expected to be slower, but I rode 9th fastest overall in 2005, and 16th overall last year (even peeling some of my back tumbling down the asphalt). Maybe this year I’ve been changing too many diapers! Ha!

A quick check of the blood sugar in T2 on my One Touch UltraMini meter showed it was still above 300. Ugh!! But too high is better than too low as long as the stomach is okay, and I still felt strong. But I knew I was going to hit the wall soon running 13.1 miles if I could not get some calories and carbs in me. You can’t do a half Ironman triathlon on 1 Clif Bar and 1 bottle of Gatorade. I also spent what seemed like forever emptying the bladder in T2. (okay, sorry for the details but that’s part of being a diabetic triathlete!) I knew the high blood sugar was causing that usual kidney flush of all my fluids trying to purge me of all that sugar. Dehydration and nausea would be a major problem if this were a hot day and longer than a half Ironman. I punched in a quick bolus of 3 units of insulin on my Omnipod PDM in transition, and let it inject as I took off running, 13.1 miles (half marathon) to go.

A funny thing happened as I started running . . . I felt great. Comfortable, in control. I can always tell in the first 500 meters when I do a quick “system check.” Stomach? Feels good. Quads? A little sore, but plenty left there. Hamstrings, calves, Achilles? Check, check, check. I had every reason to feel horrible, high blood sugar, no carbs in me, building dehydration, and a poor bike time . . . but it was cool weather and I felt great. I saw Anna holding Janna in the crowd about 500 meters out of transition and stopped for 2 quick kisses for both as I ran by. I’ll always have time for that.

I decided to hold a 7:30 pace pretty comfortably, waiting for my blood sugar to come down. Finally I sucked down a gel at about mile 3, and took in some Gatorade about every other mile. At about mile 4 I saw my friend Peter Kotland coming the other way from the turn-around, a few minutes ahead of me running strong in 3rd place overall. Since I still felt good I wanted to run fast the 1st lap to build a cushion in case I did hit the wall in lap 2.

I sucked down another gel at mile 7 and still felt strong. Maybe I can hold this pace to the end. It got harder (imagine that) but I kept the same 7:30 – 7:40 pace as the miles 8, 9, and 10 ticked off. I was passed a few times over the 13.1 miles, and passed a few others. Even on my best days, I expect to get passed by some of the elite runners in the field, so I felt good that was not happening much today. On the 2nd lap it got harder to tell who was on their 1st or 2nd lap as slower athletes were starting on their 1st lap.

I ran a 1:40:30 half marathon for a 7:40 pace so I was pleased that I stayed consistent the whole run. I made it to the line in 4:58, not my best by any means, and about 10 to 15 minutes off my target time, but good enough for 2nd out of 64 in my age group, 37th overall out of about 450. I was hoping to be top 20 but my slow bike (12 minutes slower than last year) and transitions killed that. But I was glad to be able to run well. My blood sugar at the finish was a stellar 128. Perfecto! That small bolus and 13.1 miles of running had really brought it down from over 300 at the start of the run. I felt good at the finish but was happy to have a seat and take the rest of the day off!

Next for me is the Half Ironman in Miami, FL November 11. See you then, and keep going for that Finish Line. You will get there.

[Note: A few hours after the race I developed a nasty sore throat and congestion, and spent the next 3 days fighting a miserable cold. I didn’t feel it race morning, but maybe that had something to do with my poor bike split…or all that time changing diapers.]

US Pro Cycling National Championship - Sept. 2, Greenville, S.C.

One of the great things about living in Greenville, S.C. is the fantastic cycling routes. Not too much traffic and the mountains are just few miles away. I guess USA Cycling figured that out when they placed the US Pro National Championship here for 2006-2008 over Labor Day Weekend.

My friend Rich Hincapie lives here and operates Hincapie Sportswear in Greenville. Hincapie Sportwear makes the best cycling and triathlon apparel and has been a great supporter of mine, and I enjoy supporting them. (You might recognize me "holding up" some of the cycling apparel on their website. Ha!) I've loved racing on the Hincapie Sports Triathlon Team in 2006 and 2007.

Rich's brother George lives here in Greenville and is also good friend. If you follow cycling at all you probably know George as a teammate of Lance Armstrong for all 7 of his Tour de France wins, and himself a 9 time finisher of the Tour. George also won the US National Championship in 2006 the first year we had it in our "hometown" of Greenville.

In 2007, George came in second to Levi Liephiemer. Anna and I had a super time at the post race party at Hincapie Sportswear headquarters. Thanks to my sponsor Nutrisoda for providing all the fantistic Nutrisoda flavors for the event!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Joslin Diabetes Center – Newport Under the Stars event

On September 17-19, 2007, for the second year in a row Anna and I had the honor to attend the great fundraising event for the Joslin Diabetes Center in Newport, R.I. called Newport Under the Stars. It’s several days of events with celebrity guests and Joslin supporters in beautiful Newport. Golf, a regatta on America’s Cup racing yachts and a spectacular gala dinner. I was honored to be the host of the gala dinner.
Some of the other guests included Willie Garson who played Stanford Blatch on HBO's Sex in the City. Willie is as much fun in person as he is on the show. Anna loves the show and we had a lot of fun with Willie. He’s a great supporter of Joslin, attended this event last year, and hosted the regatta this year.

Also attending was Jeffrey Donovan from the show Burn Notice on the USA Network . Jeffrey plays a spy who’s been “burned” and taken out of circulation. A cool show so check it out. Anna had a lot of fun one afternoon shopping with Jeffrey’s girlfriend, Kathryn Kovarik

Another great friend we met last year was comedian Jonathan Pessin from L.A. So much fun to be around and another real supporter of Joslin. Another celeb guest was Jason Sehorn, formerly of the NY Giants and now with Fox Sports, who hosted the golf tournament.

I was so honored to speak at the dinner gala, held in the beautiful Marble House Mansion in Newport. Joslin is the worlds best diabetes research and treatment facility! I will support them until we cure this disease, so please join me!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tugaloo Olympic Triathlon, September 15, 2007 – 25th overall, 3rd place AG

Tugaloo is a hard race for Olympic distance, but I really like it. 1.5k swim, 42k bike, 10k run in north Georgia, about 1 hour out of Atlanta. It was the George State Championship and always attracts a good field from the southeast. A really hilly bike and run that lights a fire in the quads. I was anxious to race after my disaster at Ironman Louisville 3 weeks ago. I was really glad to do well at Tugaloo, 3rd out of 56 in my age group, top 25 out of 550 overall. Olympic distance is a lot of fun – none of the nutrition and pacing issues of Ironman, just go all out all the time! (I'd just gotten back from sweat testing at Gatorade Sports Science Institute 5 days earlier. See below)

My swim was . . . decent. Good but not great. That story is getting kind of old, don’t you think? My swim split was 12th out of 56 in my age group, about where it usually is, top 20% or so. Tugaloo is a time trial swim start, which I like because I can immediately get “free water” and don’t have to battle the bodies so much. As usual, my Omnipod insulin pump did perfect on my left triceps (see cycling photo). Thanks Omnipod!

Did my usual quick finger prick check of the BS (that would be blood sugar) in T1 on my One Touch UltraMini meter. I hate to stop to finger prick blood in such a short race when every second really counts, but the One Touch gives me results in just 5 seconds and its always dependable! I need that peace of mind before I head out on the bike. There’s too much danger hammering 25 mph on the bike, 40 mph down hills, without knowing my blood sugar. It was good, 125 mg/dl.

I crushed the bike as hard as I could. I love this bike course. It is only 42k, a little over 26 miles, but real hilly. I bet my heart rate never got below my AT (anaerobic threshold) the whole time. That means I had lactic acid simmering in my quads for 26 miles. I think I was taking out some frustration from my pitiful performance and disastrous bike in Louisville. Last year I actually rode 50 seconds faster, but I think it was more windy this year. Averaged just over 23 mph, posting the 2nd fastest bike split in my age group - about where I usually am . . .good in the swim, really good on the bike. Now let’s see if I can be good on the run.

Starting the run I knew I was up among the leaders. There were about 550 in the race and I felt like I was in the top 20 – 30 overall. Hard to tell since it was a time trial swim start, so I did not know where some of the athletes started. This just makes you go all out the whole time (at least it does me) since you don’t really know exactly where you stand at any point. I felt really good on the run – “good” in a “this hurts like hell because I’m going as hard as I can” kinda way. I was holding about a 6:45 pace the first 4 miles, even though it was a murderously hilly and twisty course through a state park. Lots of turns and short ups and downs that really pummel your quads! One short descent was so steep a guy running just ahead of me almost wiped out. I’ve never scene that on the run.

I held my position almost the entire run. I was pleased to run just over a 43 minute 10k, a 7:00 minute pace, so I slowed a bit the last 2 miles but good enough for the 6th fastest run in my age group. So what does the 12th fastest swim, 2nd fastest bike, and 6th fastest run mean? 25th overall, 3rd in my age group, a little plaque and a little redemption from Louisville. Only 10 minutes separated the top 10 through 25, so it was really tight.

Next race for me is the South Carolina Half Ironman in 2 weeks. I’m hoping to get in the top 20 overall and win my age group. We’ll see. I’m going to go hard. See you then!

Testing at Gatorade Sports Science Institute

Some people say the Ironman is 10% fitness and 90% nutrition. Perhaps a bit exaggerated, but you get the point. But for me racing Ironman with type 1 diabetes, it’s true. It’s the difference between a dreaded DNF (Did not Finish) vomiting or suffering in the medical tent, and hammering to the Finish Line.

I’ve had several unpleasant Ironman races that probably were caused by nothing other than nutrition and hydration mistakes. The ITU Long Course World Championship in Canberra, Australia in November, 2006 (race report) was one of those dehydration bad days. After that race, the medical staff with Team USA contacted the best place in the world to figure out my nutrition and hydration needs: The Gatorade Sports Science Institute. It took several months, and I quickly learned that they don’t let just anybody in there. GSSI is where some of the world’s best (i.e. highest paid) athletes have gone for testing – Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and other NBA and NFL greats. Amazing that they even let me in the door, so I made sure we worked fast before they wised up. Ha!

They weighed me when I arrived, recorded body fat and took a pre-test urine sample for electrolyte analysis. Then it was one hour on the bike at my “Ironman race pace.” The equipment is in a little chamber that reminds me of high school chemistry lab with a treadmill and stationary bike. They can adjust the temperature and humidity to any conditions. Some winter athletes (skiers) etc need testing in cold temperatures, other athletes need arid, dry heat, and some need humidity. The scientists and I selected a “hot and humid” testing condition for me to simulate most of my races and training.

They put sweat patches on my quads, chest, forehead, forearm and back, even a plastic bag over my left forearm and hand to collect several ounces of sweat. Then it was 1 hour of cycling. After the cycling, they weighed me again, took another urine sample, and within 10 minutes I was on the treadmill for another hour of running at an Ironman marathon race pace. After 2 hours of working out, one more trip to the scale and I was done.

The GSSI scientists analyzed the results and now I have a true picture of my nutrition and hydration needs. If you’re interested, they determined that I am a heavy sweater (I figured that was coming), sweating an average of 2.2 liters per hour. I have an extremely high sodium concentration in my sweat, 2.2 grams per liter. The test also showed that I need 75 – 85 grams of carbohydrate per hour. Factor in my often unpredictable high or low blood sugar from diabetes and the result is . . . . “high risk for dehydration and heat illness.” Uh, . . . ya' think? See Ironman Louiville.

Fortunately they gave me several nutrition and hydration recommendations to meet my needs. I look forward to experimenting with them in training and my next Ironman race!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ironman Louisville, August 26, 2007

[Note: I find that I get a diverse mix of visitors to my site and blog, those that know a lot about triathlon and nothing about diabetes, and those that know a lot about diabetes and nothing about triathlon. I try to make my reports understandable for both!]

Disappointing and frustrating. That was my Ironman Louisville. I came to this race fit, having placed top 5 to 15 overall in recent shorter races this year, and feeling the fastest I’ve been since I broke my clavicle and had surgery in March 2006 that put me out most of last year. But I’ve learned from 13 Ironmans that anything can happen, . . .no, something will happen, on race day. You can’t take it for granted just because you’ve done it before. No Ironman goes exactly right, it’s too long and grueling. I guess that’s one of the reasons I love this sport - it teaches you to overcome and adapt, persevere, keep going, make it to the Finish Line.

But IM Louisville ended for me at mile 8 of the marathon, riding with medics back to the race medical tent. Severely dehydrated, hypoglycemic, and nauseous. For 8 hours I swam 2.4 miles, cycled 112 miles, and then suffered (staggered) through 8 miles of the marathon, until I physically could not go any more.

That’s okay. I’ll be back. Here’s how it went . . .

Louisville was my 14th Ironman. Racing Ironman with diabetes, especially in the 90+ degree August heat in Louisville, requires a precarious nutritional balance of monitoring blood sugar, insulin dosing, carbohydrate consumption and hydration. Monitoring carbs and hydration are important for every Ironman triathlete, diabetes just makes them really important. I also have to keep a few extra “diabetes” supplies to get me through the race:

Diabetes race day supplies:
4 One Touch Ultra blood sugar meters for
2 transition bags and 2 Special Needs bags
Omnipod insulin pump
attached to my arm
Omnipod PDM (carried in a pouch on my Fuel Belt) to administer a bolus
of insulin or change basal rate
extra Omnipod (in my swim-to-bike transition bag) if my pod gets ripped off my
arm during the swim
insulin (in the swim-bike transition) if I have to replace my pod after the swim
medi-cool pouch to keep insulin cool

Ironman triathletes are already obsessive compulsive type-A organizers (how else could we do this sport?). My diabetes stuff is just a few more things on the long list of “normal” things we all obsess about and keep up with before and during the race:

race apparel (skin suit or tri shorts and top)
swim goggles and cap
wetsuit (not today)
ankle strap with timing chip
bike (including carbon aero bars, race wheels, race tires, race cranks, race pedals, etc.)
cycling shoes
water bottles
spare tire
CO2 cartridge
heart rate chest strap
bike pacing
power output
avoiding drafting
nutrition bars and gels
run shoes and hat

Sometimes it feels more like I’m packing for an Everest mission.

I’d been training for months in the hot, humid South Carolina summer so I was prepared for the conditions. For me racing any Ironman is a high wire nutrition juggling act I’ve done all over the world in all kinds of conditions – Florida (humid heat), Lake Placid (cool rain), Idaho (dry heat), Virgin Islands (humid heat), Australia (extremely dry heat), Sweden (cold rain) and Denmark (cool dampness). Get it right and I’m loving it (e.g., 9:47 at IM FL 2004). Get it wrong and . . . ugh, IM Louisville 2007. Just try to keep it together until about the last 10 miles of the marathon, when everyone feels miserable. Fun! Ha! At that point I just gut it out to the Finish Line and collapse with satisfaction. Nothing hurts at the Finish Line.

But in Louisville it all started to fall apart much earlier, several hours earlier, at about mile 85 of the bike, 5 hours into the race. Ironically, that’s when an Ironman race really “starts” – mile 85 of the bike. Everything before that is just 5 hours of warm up.


The swim was in the Ohio River, a very large river usually filled with barge traffic, not swimmers. Even had signs along the bank that “Swimming is Prohibited.” Ha! Nice. (Not exactly the pristine mountain waters of Ironman Lake Placid, NY.) On top of that, heavy rains and flooding upriver in Ohio had increased the current so much that the swim course was changed 2 days earlier. We now started ¾ mile up river from the transition area in a narrow strip of protected water for a small marina, shielded from the main current by a long island. So narrow that it would not accommodate the usual 2000 athlete “ultimate fighting” mass swim start, so it was a “time trial” start, the first in Ironman history. We’d dive one-by-one into the river like parachutists jumping out of the back of a plane. For this reason I got to transition early at 5:15 am so I could walk ¾ mile to the start and be close to the front of the single file start line. At transition I quickly dropped off my run and bike Special Needs bags with blood sugar meters and nutrition, my bottles at my bike and a vial of insulin in a special medi-cool pouch just in case my awesome waterproof Omnipod insulin pump got ripped off my arm during the swim. Warm waters (80+ degrees) so no wetsuit to protect my Omnipod from flailing arms and hands. That would end my day real early (can’t race 9 - 10 hours without insulin), so I had placed a spare pod in my swim-to-bike transition bag for just that emergency. But Louisville’s hot temperatures meant I had to keep the insulin cool overnight and while I swam.

At 7:00 a.m., the cannon blew and the line moved quickly, athletes diving in every second. We swam up river but the current was not too bad for the first ½ mile in this protected channel. I chose to swim a little to the right of the main line of swimmers, sacrificing the drafting benefit, but I preferred and needed the safety of clear water to prevent anyone from accidentally ripping my Omnipod off my upper arm. The island ended and we veered left into the main channel, now fighting the real current for what seemed like forever. After 1.2 miles I rounded the turn buoy and headed back down river, loving the current now. I felt pretty good during the swim but expected the swim times to be a bit slow given the hard current we fought going up river. I exited the water in 1:09, a little slow for me, but I was okay with that. It’s a long day and I’d make it up on the bike.


As usual my waterproof Omnipod insulin pump performed
flawlessly during the swim and was still rock solid secure on my left triceps. (See picture of the swim exit.) A quick check of my blood sugar on my One Touch UltraMini meter said my blood sugar was 150. Perfect. I swigged a few swallows of carbohydrate drink to give me about 30-40 carbs as I ran to my bike and then the mount line among the roaring crowd. I’d stored my Omnipod PDM in a small pouch on my bike and just before mounting I paused to reprogram my Omnipod to reduce the basal delivery rate by 40%. I did not do that before I left transition at 5:30 a.m. because I wanted more insulin injected during the swim so it would be peaking in the first hour the bike (insulin starts working in 15 minutes and peaks in about 2 hours). I have had problems with high blood sugar in the first half of the bike (see below).

Just as I left transition, I saw my wife, Anna, and our baby girl Janna (4 months) in the crowd. I had left them in the dark at 5:30 a.m., 3/4 mile up river prior to the swim start, and often do not see Anna all day in the chaos of the race. I yelled to them as I raced out. Feeling great. All was good. I love the start of the Ironman bike. The intensity is indescribable, then we’re off for 112 miles on our own.


The first 12 miles were flat along the shore of the river. I felt really comfortable averaging about 22 mph. There were few athletes on the bike course at this point, so no worries about drafting or congestion. I immediately started my hydration and nutrition plan. Each hour I needed to drink at least 50 ounces of sport drink or water (i.e., 2 bottles), and at least 50 but no more than 80 grams of carbohydrate. Too few carbs = low blood sugar. Too many carbs = high blood sugar. I took a bottle of water and/or Gatorade Endurance (approx. 40 grams carbs) from each aid station every 10 miles. The first 3 hours of the bike before the Special Needs bags at mile 68, I planned to eat 2 Clif Bars (each 240 calories, 42 grams carbs) and 2 sport gels (each 100 calories, approximately 20 grams carb). With the calories and carbs from the sport drink, that would give me about 900 calories and 250 grams of carbohydrate in the first 3 hours.

The hills started around mile 12 and I still felt good, but did not have the fire power in my legs I usually do. Because cycling is my strength, I usually pass many athletes (the faster swimmers) in the first 20 – 30 miles of bike, but today the road was very open because many speedy swimmers started after me in the time trial swim start. A few athletes passed me early in the bike, but I know from experience that many (most) triathletes go way too hard in the first 50 miles of the Ironman and pay for it later. I was patient and would not let these guys tempt me, so I let them go. It’s a long race.

I have had trouble with really high blood sugar (250+ mg/dl, normal/ideal is 100) in the first half of the bike, and have worked really hard with my insulin and nutrition strategy to prevent that. But some of that is caused by adrenaline ending the swim and transitioning to the bike. Adrenaline causes a blood sugar spike (the body’s natural “fight or flight” reaction), but it’s too risky to bolus (inject) insulin anticipating it. If I’m wrong and don’t get the adrenaline spike, the insulin will cause my blood sugar to crash (hypoglycemia). In previous Ironmans I have not been able to detect the high blood sugar until I check my blood sugar at the 56 mile midpoint about 2.5 hours into the bike. By that point it is too late because my kidneys have been flushing my system of vital hydration attempting to flush the glucose out of my blood for the last 2 hours. But at Louisville I was happy to catch it going up early, 45 minutes into the bike my BG hit 200. I figured it was still rising so while riding I immediately gave myself a quick small bolus of insulin (2 units) from my Omnipod insulin pump, and kept motoring. But I still needed to eat a Clif Bar (still have to fuel the body to race) and could not afford to dump those carbs on top of a 200+ rising blood sugar, so I gave myself a little more insulin (3 units, only about 3/4 what I normally would for a Clif Bar when not racing). But 45 minutes later (about 30 miles and 1½ hours into the bike) my BG had still skyrocketed to 340!! 3½ times what is normal!

Yikes! “Patience!” I told myself. I knew I had bolused insulin 45 minutes ago and it would soon be coming down. Chasing high and low blood sugar is a dangerous and difficult experiment. You must be patient and give the insulin, or carbs, time to be absorbed and work. Overreact/overcompensate and you’re doomed. You can’t get the insulin or carbs out of your body once they’re in. Doing this chemistry calculation while cycling 112 miles at 21-22 mph in the Ironman triathlon is, uh . . . challenging.

The bike course was a mix of rolling Kentucky hills, a bit hillier than I had expected, but similar to the roads I train on in the foothills of South Carolina and North Carolina. The short little hills did make it difficult to settle into a rhythm, constantly shifting gears. At mile 38 we rolled through the little town of LaGrange, Ky and thousands of people lined the course screaming wildly as we raced by. Cheering crowds are always nice when the rest of the 112 miles is just you, your bike and talking to yourself . . .“this kind of hurts. . . should I drink now?. . . I hope I don’t get a flat . . . wonder if can I catch that guy?”

By the Special Needs bags at mile 66, about 3½ hours into the ride, my blood sugar was a perfect 125. That’s a good number, but in 2 hours it had dropped from 340 to 125, even though I’d consumed about 100 grams of carbohydrate in that time. I could only hope it would not keep dropping, so I immediately stuffed a Clif Bar and about 40 grams of carbohydrate sport drink in my mouth to stop the slide. I also felt like I was properly hydrated, having drank consistently (and stopped twice to urinate) in the first 70 miles. I was in the top 10% of the field and felt pretty good about my position.

But around mile 80, I began to notice a loss in my power and speed. My legs did not have the same zip and I was struggling a bit more on the rolling hills. It’s normal to feel a bit tired after 80 miles, but when I began to get passed by a few athletes, I knew that something was going wrong. Around mile 85, approximately 4 hours and 30 minutes into the bike, nausea began to creep in. I checked my blood sugar and . . . 65 mg/dl. OH NO! I tried to stuff more carbs into my mouth, but my queasy stomach could not take much more sweet Gatorade, sport gel or another Clif Bar. I tried to drink several swallows of Gatorade while riding, only to choke and vomit it right back up, all while pedaling at 21 mph.

At this point, I stopped again and suspended all delivery of insulin (i.e., stopped the constant “basal” flow of insulin) from my pump. I could not tolerate more insulin going into my body when I could not eat to correct the already low blood sugar. (In fact, the rest of the race I never turned the pump back on and got no more insulin after this point.)

Miles 85 to 112 became a 1½ hour death roll, my blood sugar never getting above 65, out of breath, no strength, and nauseous. My average speed for those 27 miles dropped to 19.3 mph, at least 2 -3 mph below the average for the first 85 miles, and I was passed by what felt like 100 athletes. I stopped one more time (my 5th time!) to check blood sugar, feeling like I was going to vomit. It took me about 1 hour 30 minutes to cover those mostly descending and flat 27 miles. My nausea was so intense I wondered if I would even be able to start, much less finish, the marathon. I coasted into transition with a bike time of just over 5 hour 58 minutes, well beyond my target of 5:15. (Stopping 5 times also did not help.)


As always, there are thousands of people cheering at us as the athletes enter the bike to run transition, but I could not run. I slowly walked into transition, grabbed my transition bag and sat (collapsed) in a chair in the change tent. It must have been 115 degrees in there, sweaty athletes rushing in from the bike and out for the run. Normally that is a frenetic 2 minute drill for me to check my blood sugar, throw on my running shoes and head out for the marathon. But not today. My One Touch Ultra Mini meter told me my blood sugar was 62 mg/dl. I was weak, hypoglycemic for the last 1½ hours, dehydrated and felt like I could throw up at any moment. I set a new record for slow transitions, sitting in that tent for 25 minutes, sipping my carbohydrate drink, trying to keep it down, trying to get my blood sugar up. No way would I be able to raise it after starting the marathon. 100 athletes must have entered and started the marathon while I could do nothing but watch them come and go.

I remember seeing the cool comfort of the medical tent outside through the opening, with several athletes being attended to, their race over. I did not want to stop.

After 25 agonizing minutes, my blood sugar had risen to about 120, and I began to feel slightly better. I was a bit surprised, but figured I would see how far I could run. You never know what happens. I started the marathon.


The run course was hot. HOT! 95 degrees and steaming humid at 2:30 pm. My first mile was a slow trot at about an 8 minute pace. For about 5 miles I kept dumping cups of ice under my hat, and cold wet sponges on my shoulders. But my strength and blood sugar kept dropping, until I slowed to a walk. I walked from about 3 miles, nauseous, dehydrated and somewhat delirious. Finally at mile 8 at the furthest point out on the 2 loop run course, I asked the medics for a blood sugar meter. My blood sugar was 70. I was sick and could not run. They recommended that I not continue. I wanted to try, but I could barely walk and definitely could not run. At about 4:30 pm, 8½ hours into the race, I had to withdraw. I climbed aboard the ambulance for the ride back to medical tent at the finish area, receiving 1 IV bag of fluid, until I was strong enough to stand.


As usual, after the IV I was remarkably recovered. I walked back to the transition with Anna and Janna in the stroller to get my bike and headed for our hotel. Yes, this race was a disappointment, a failure, but that happens sometimes. But I’ve had victories and defeats. Failures and successes. That’s why you must go for challenges that have “Failure Potential” (see my speaking video: You have to keep getting back in the race, back in “the arena.” As Teddy Roosevelt said speaking at The Sorbonne University in Paris in 1910:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming . . . who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never rest with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
Today was a defeat, but I’ll be back racing at the Half Ironman South Carolina September 30 and the Miami Half Ironman Nov. 11 hoping to qualify again (as I did in 2004-2006) for the 2008 US National Team for Long Course Triathlon.

In September I’ll be doing some testing at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute
hoping for information about my hydration and electrolyte needs.

See you next time!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Greenville Sprint Triathlon – Aug. 19, 2007

On Aug. 19, 2007 I raced the Greenville Sprint Triathlon (400 meter swim/15 mile bike/5k run) in my hometown of Greenville, S.C. Hard to believe that I’ve been racing triathlons almost 7 years and have never done this race. It’s always nice to sleep in my own house the night before a race, and I’ve done that for plenty of races in upstate SC and north GA over the years, but this one was only 10 minutes from my front door! Nice! Also makes it easier for the world’s best 2 fans and supporters to go with me, my wife, Anna, and my biggest fan, our 3 month old baby girl Janna!

Since I started racing triathlons in 2000, each year I’ve noticed them becoming more popular, now almost the “trendy” thing to do it seems. I now see the same people who used to look at me like I was an alien showing up at these local sprint races. Just 3 years ago this Greenville sprint had barely 150 people. In 2007 it had over 500! That’s a lot of bodies for a short sprint race, packed into the pool and bike and run course.

I can usually do these short sprint races in just over an hour so they are a lot of speedy fun, especially since I race primarily Ironman distance, finishing anywhere between 9 ½ hours (yippee!) but sometimes as long as 11 or more hours (ugh, oh boy).

I made my first mistake in this race months ago when I registered. I was honest and gave an accurate estimated 100 meter swim pace/time. I know my pace from training hours in the pool and racing. The race organizers use this time to establish the start times for this pool swim. Through about 50 triathlons, 13 Ironmans and 3 World Championships with Team USA, I’ve become a pretty fast swimmer (as far as triathletes go) so I figured I’d be starting pretty close to front of a local sprint race. On race morning I was surprised to find I started 115th! Unless some speedy out-of-towners had snuck into the field, more than a few people had . . . uh, overestimated . . .(lied about?) their swim ability to get started up front. Individual times would be recorded by computer chips on our ankles, but its better to start near the front and avoid having to pass people the whole race. More on that below.

Two athletes started every 10 seconds. That meant when I started, the 8 lanes of this 50 meter pool were filled with arms and legs of about 75 to 100 bodies. As I expected, before I reached the end of the first 50 meter lane, I caught the 2 swimmers starting 10 seconds in front of me and eventually had to navigate around, through, and under several floating pods of people in the lanes. Kind of reminded me of rushing through the airport when everyone else seems not to be in such a hurry. “Excuse me, pardon me, coming through.”

On to the bike I felt pretty good, immediately catching more of those 115 who started ahead. With about 3 miles to go around mile 12, I was climbing a fairly long hill, passing cyclists on my right strung out on the hill, when a race referee passed me on a motorcycle. I saw him making notes on his pad. An official writing on his pad is a good sign that someone in the area is getting a penalty (usually for drafting). But I knew it was not me since I was doing all the passing, and assumed (hoped) it was the guy who had been hanging behind me in and out of my draft zone for several miles.

I finished this hilly 15 mile course in just over 37 minutes, averaging just under 24 mph. I hit the run feeling pretty good, but definitely pushing the red line. It’s fun for me to race this hard in a short race since I have to concentrate on being patient and pacing in the long Ironman distance races. I felt okay on the run, but not great, holding around a 6:45 pace. I finished the 3.1 mile run in just over 20 minutes.

I finished in just over 1 hour, 5 minutes (1:05) and was happy to see preliminary (unofficial) results at the finish that put me 15th overall and 1st in my 40-44 age group. But I was soon shocked to find that I had received a 2:00 minute “position” penalty on the bike. Honestly, I’ve never known anyone to get a position penalty. Seems that official passing me on the hill thought I was spending too much time in the middle of the lane rather than on the right edge of the road. My protest that I had to be there to pass all the cyclists clogging up the right side of the road did not matter to him. I learned my lesson the next time they ask for a swim estimate at registration!

With my penalty, I dropped to 2nd in my age group and out of the top 15 overall. I still had fun though! It was great to see 500 people out there pushing themselves to be fit. Next week is Ironman Louisville for me. See you then!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Joslin Diabetes Camp Biathlon - July 7, 2007

I just got back from camp! Camp Joslin, in Charlton, MA, a boys camp run by the Joslin Diabetes Center. So much fun! I felt like I was 11 years old again. Camp Joslin is a fantastic place exclusively for boys age 7 to 15 with type 1 diabetes, with multiple two week sessions from May to August. The camp has been operating on this property since Dr. Elliot Joslin purchased the land in 1948. Campers can just be a kid for 2 weeks, having fun with other boys with diabetes, and learning how to control and live well with it from knowledgeable counselors, staff, nurses, dieticians and doctors from the world renowned Joslin Diabetes Center. It doesn't get any better than that!

I was there to inspire and educate the kids, but I think they inspired me more. I spent Thursday and Friday getting to know all 61 kids in the camp, challenging and encouraging them to "send the message to diabetes that it's messing with the wrong guy" by completing the first ever Camp Joslin Swim-Run Biathlon on Saturday, July 7. After 2 days of stories about my Ironman racing with diabetes I think they were ready! I was thrilled that a record number of campers attempted the 1/4 mile practice swim in Putnam Pond the day before the race, some as young as 7 years old who had never tried it before!

The big race was Saturday morning before lots of camp alumni, special invited guests and even some parents. We ran it just like a "real" biathlon. (We would have had a triathlon but not enough bikes :( No worries, this was a blast!) Race bib numbers, timing chips on their ankles, arms and legs body marked with their race numbers, and 2 age-appropriate courses laid out and run by a professional race management team. Short course was a 25 yard swim in shallow water and a 1/3 mile run around the camp. Long course was a 1/4 mile swim in Putnam Pond and a 3 lap run totaling approximately 1 mile.
Race morning the campers were a mix of excited, fired up and maybe a little nervous (but no one admitted that, right?). I had challenged them all to "reach the Finish Line and prove diabetes would not stop them." It did not matter how fast, just push themselves and race their best!

I have to say I've never had so much fun! 60 out of 61 camps signed up and they all finished! Some said they never thought they would ever be able to do something like that. Their expressions and pride at the finish was all I needed to see.