Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tugaloo Olympic Triathlon, September 13, 2008

Tugaloo is one of the hardest Olympic distance triathlons in the circuit. Guess that’s why they make it the Georgia State Championship. Since I’m a SC resident, I was an interloper from across the northern border. I was not eligible for the GA state championship awards, but sometimes I feel like all those speedy whippersnappers from Atlanta and Georgia don’t like me crashing their party when I’m fighting for a top spot with them. I love this race since it’s close to my home in Greenville, SC.

This was not an A priority race for me, just a good speed workout race prep for the 2 half Ironmans I have coming up in the next month. I had a pretty good race. My time this year was actually over 2 minutes faster (2:24:10) than my 2007 time (2:26:43), so I guess I’m getting faster. Sometimes it’s misleading to compare times year to year since conditions change, wind, heat, current, etc. The real comparison is how you finish in the field each year since everyone faces the same conditions. This year I finished 24th out of 487, better than my 37th overall last year, so I guess I was faster. However, even though I went 2 minutes faster, and moved up 10 places overall, I finished off the podium 4th in my age group this year, when I was on the podium 3rd last year. Guess a couple of fast guys jumped in my age group this year.

Lake Hartwell looks like it is going dry like most of upstate SC and Georgia. It really was sad to see almost 200 yards of sand and dirt that used to be covered by water. The swim is in a narrow channel that was even more narrow with the drought. Next year there may be no water to swim in at all. Time trial start. I started 120th out of 487. I kind of like starting behind my competition in open water swims so I can sneak up on them and they never see me coming. I had a good swim, 11th out of 56 in my age group, almost 90 seconds faster than last year, so that was good. The air was extremely foggy over the water, so foggy I could not see past 20 feet in front of me. Good thing the guys in front were going the right way because I could not see any buoys until I was right on them.

The bike was the same course as last year. Hilly and hard for an Olympic distance. I started pretty aggressive, but not redlining it. As usual for the first 2 -3 miles a few guys starting the bike near me were going hard, passing me, then I’d pass them, but that happens in most races where guys go charging out of transition like someone set their ego on fire . . . and then suddenly hit the wall after about 5 minutes of lactic acid boiling in their legs. I left them at about mile 3 and started picking people off one by one. No one passed me for 26 miles so I knew I was keeping a good pace. I tried to stay on the fine line of pushing hard as I could, but not going over the edge and blowing up. Because of the hills, this year I decided to ride a rear spoked race wheel rather than my disk and I think it was faster. I finished this hilly beast in 1:09:16, averaging 22.6 mph, 2nd fastest out of 56 in my age group and 18th fastest overall.

I came into T2 knowing I’d passed around 100 people on the swim and bike and was probably somewhere near the top 20 now. My plan was to hit the run as hard as possible right from the start and hope I could hold it. I know this run course and it’s hilly and tight, with lots of turns and blind corners, so athletes in front would never see me coming, but I’d also not see those gaining on me. I kept a steady pace between 6:30 and 7:00 minute miles, feeling like my eyes were about to pop out of my skull, but that’s a good feeling when you keep passing people and no one passes you. The trick is to look like you’re not hurting at all when your whole body feels like its about to burst into flames. You don’t want anyone thinking they can surge and catch you.

At mile 2 a guy passes me and I see the age marked on his calf is in my age group. Not good. I was about at my max pace, so I tried to stay steady and hope he would fade a bit. I set out chasing him for 4 miles with him hovering about 50 meters in front of me the whole time. I tried surging several times to see if I could narrow the gap, but could not close it. I had a feeling he and I were fighting for a spot on the podium and I was right. He got the final spot on the podium (3rd) in our age group, 58 seconds in front of me. I had the 4th fastest run in the age group, he had the 2nd.

I finished feeling pretty happy about the speed workout, and pleased that I was over 2 minutes faster than last year. That hopefully is a good sign for the South Carolina Half Ironman in 2 weeks on September 28 and the USAT Long Course National Championship in Nevada, October 18. See you then!

Note: Since it was a short Olympic distance, I never tested my blood sugar during the race. At the end it was a little higher than I wanted, but that’s always due to the adrenaline of such a hard, short race. My Omnipod Insulin pump and One Touch Ultra blood sugar meter both worked perfect!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Column in Diabetes Health Magazine

Diabetes Health is a great magazine about exercise, health and fitness for diabetics. It also offers straight talk and opinion about things important to all with diabetes - what products work and don't work, research developments, and practical advice. The magazine recently asked me to write a regular column for their print magazine and website. My first column is on motivation. They posted my first column on the Diabetes Health website. Watch for me on the cover of the Oct/Nov 2008 issue and my column in future editions.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

South Carolina’s Largest Triathlon, Greenville Sprint – 10th overall, 1st age group

The Greenville Sprint Triathlon, August 17, 2008, was the largest triathlon in South Carolina according to the race organizer. 700 entrants. Hard to believe you can squeeze that many people onto a sprint triathlon course, but Set Up Events did a great job as always. I had a pretty good race, finishing 10th overall and 1st in my age group.

South Carolina has been in a severe drought for several years. I can’t remember the last time I trained or raced in the rain in South Carolina. But wouldn’t you know that at 5:00 a.m. race morning the rain was pouring down, with lightening and thunder. At 6:30 the race organizer announced that the race would switch to a duathlon if it did not stop lightening by 7:00 a.m. Fortunately, the sky cleared as the sun rose and the swim was on. 700 athletes, some experienced, but it looked like a lot of the usual nervous first-timers trying a sprint triathlon. The Westside Aquatic Center in Greenville, SC has a huge 50 meter pool with 8 lanes. We would start 2 athletes every 10 seconds for 4 laps, 400 meters. I had an okay swim, about usual for me. I much prefer open water swims. Unfortunately some athletes exaggerate (lie?) their projected swim times to start ahead of the field, so I encountered the usual groups of tired swimmers clogging the lanes as I made 8 swifts laps up and down the pool. The swim was over before I knew it, about 6 minutes, and I was out the door and onto my bike.

The bike course is a hilly 15 miles, about 3 miles longer than most sprint triathlons. I was a little nervous about the dangerously wet roads so I made sure to play it safe and cautious on the turns and descents, and push hard on the climbs and straight sections. I was pleased with my bike split, 37 minutes, 8th overall and 1st in my age group. Again, it felt like it was over in a flash and suddenly I’m back at the transition for the run.

Since I race mostly Ironman and Half Ironman races, I really like Sprint and Olympic distances races because I can go all out all the time, no worries about pacing, hydration, nutrition, or even my blood sugar. My legs felt great on the run and I worked hard to keep my pace at maximum. 5k, 2 laps on some road, and gravel and dirt trail. I was truly doing a “sprint” on this run. My run split was just over 19 minutes, about a 6:20 per mile pace, 2nd fastest in my age group. I finished 10th overall out of about 700, and 1st in my age group by over 1 minute, so I was happy with that. Even better was the award – a bottle of wine. Now that’s what I’m talking about. Definitely worth the 1 hour of effort. My good friend and Hincapie Finish Line Vision teammate Dan Moss won the overall and set a new course record.

Next is the Tugaloo Olympic triathlon September 13. It’s the Georgia State Championship so should be a lot of fast guys from Atlanta. Last year I got something like 17th overall, and 3rd in my age group so I’m hoping to better that this year. Should be a couple hours of good painful fun!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Children With Diabetes, National Conference, Orlando, July 23-27, 2008

A few days after I returned from Half Ironman Rhode Island, I gave the banquet keynote at the Children With Diabetes (CWD) national conference in Orlando. CWD is a fantastic organization for families who have children with diabetes (guess you figured that out by the name). Jeff Hitchcock and Laura Billetdeaux started this online community 13 years ago. Jeff and Laura and their spouses have kids with diabetes. CWD has grown tremendously since then. You MUST have a look at their website and attend one of their conferences. It is organization run by families for families with diabetes, where “kids can be kids.” The Orlando national meeting is full of education and activities, theme park visits, and social events. They even have a banquet where they sometimes get a decent speaker! :)

I had a fantastic time speaking at the teens breakout day on motivatation and determination, and that night at the Friends For Life banquet, sponsored by LifeScan, One Touch blood sugar meters. I loved spending time talking to families and signing autographs at the One Touch booth. I look forward to the next CWD event! Maybe I’ll see you there!

Ironman 70.3 Rhode Island, July 13, 2008

Sorry it has taken me so long to get this report up. Like everyone, I get a bit backed up sometimes - training, racing, traveling, working, speaking, creating a new design for my website (stay tuned!), writing a book on Finish Line Vision (it’s going to be great!) and most important . . . spending time with my wife and beautiful 16 month old daughter.

Ironman 70.3 Rhode Island was a race of firsts. (I still can’t get used to saying “Ironman 70.3” instead of Half Ironman, but it’s the race organization’s new thing so I guess I’m stuck with it. An Ironman is 140.6 miles so a half is 70.3 miles. Get it? But have you ever heard someone run a “marathon 13.1?” I haven’t either.) It was the first year for this race, my first flat tire in a race, the first time I had to wake up at 2:30 a.m. (ugh!) for a race, my first triathlon (after 8 years and almost 100 triathlons worldwide) with separate transitions for T1 and T2, 56 miles apart. Besides that, it was a normal race. Here’s how it went.

I’d spent the week before the race in Massachusetts at Camp Joslin, a summer camp for boys with Type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetes, just like me (see other post). I thought why not bring my bike and do the new half Ironman race in nearby Providence, R.I? By the way, this Southern boy is used to training on wide open spaces and lonely mountain roads, so it is amazing how “nearby” everything is in the Massachusetts, Rhode Island New England area. One bike ride and I cross 3 states!

The race started about 40 miles south of Providence on the beautiful Rhode Island beaches of Narragansett, and finished in downtown Providence. T1 was at the beach in Narragansett and T2 was 56 miles away at the finish. Unlike most races where everything starts and ends around one transition area, this one was strung out across the whole state of Rhode Island. That meant a long drive the day before the race in summer beach traffic to check my bike into T1, but it gave me a chance to drive the bike course on the way back to my hotel in downtown Providence. I’m glad I did because the bike course was a challenging maze of hills, turns, and once near Providence, busy intersections and pot-holed (landmined) city streets. At least I knew what to expect race day.

It was an eeaarly wake up call at 2:30 a.m. to catch the shuttle at 3:30 a.m. in downtown Providence for the ride down the coast for the 6:00 a.m. start. I’ve always said that the early wake up call is the 1st event in a triathlon, and this one was so early I might as well not have slept at all. I think they wanted to start the race so early to beat all the city traffic on the bike course, but that didn’t really work (more on that later). It was an amusing collision of time zones as some of the Saturday night Providence bar crowd heading home encountered hundreds of nervous triathletes gathered on the sidewalk at 3:15 a.m. Their day was ending when ours was beginning. Two worlds collided.

How does a type 1 diabetic eat and keep a stable blood sugar for a half Ironman getting up at 2:30 for a bus ride? Requires some planning. I carried my bagel with peanut butter on the shuttle and ate it right when I arrived at transition around 4:30 a.m. As always, I had to carefully plan when I ate and took my insulin to try to keep my blood sugar stable prior to the start. I was not particularly happy that I had to be in transition this early, and then wait over 2 hours until my wave started at 6:50 a.m. I was in the 12th of 13 waves, so I had to watch almost the entire field start and finish the swim before I even started. I had the longest warm up swim of my career, then paced the beach like a spectator in a wetsuit.

They like to start the slowest athletes first and the fastest athletes last (usually males age 30-44) so that everyone is off the bike course sooner. Makes sense, but it means I would spend the whole day passing the field in front of me. My blood sugar was pretty stable between 100 – 150 mg/dl in transition and prior to the start. I reduced my basal to 50% of my normal basal rate right before I left the transition. My first mistake. In the past I usually reduce my basal by 50% on long workouts and races over 3 hours, but lately I've been encountering high blood sugar in races. I was a little afraid it would drop during the swim after this long delay so I drank a little extra of my high carbohydrate drink in the last 30 minutes before my start. My 2nd mistake. I guess I drank too much because my blood sugar was way too high after the swim. That set me up for the blood sugar roller coaster that can destroy my day.

The ocean was pretty choppy and with rolling swells but nothing I had not seen before. The wind was very gusty and strong (and would be especially strong later in the day on the run). I had an okay swim, not pushing too hard, but trying to stay in visual contact with the best swimmers in my wave. That was hard after the first 500 meters with the windswept chop and swells, so I just settled into a somewhat solitary 1.2 mile journey, occasionally passing slower swimmers from waves ahead and others in my wave. I came out of the water in 32 minutes, top 20 in my wave of 150, feeling really good, a decent time considering the wind, current and chop, but it was hard to tell where I was in the main field given that most everyone had started and left long before me.

My Omnipod insulin pump stayed rock solid on my left triceps (see photo). T1 was deserted and eerily quiet since 90% of the field was already gone. I checked my blood sugar quickly on my One Touch UltraMini meter – 250 mg/dl! Ugh! Way too high! I clearly had drank too much carb drink right before the swim, trying to prevent a low. Now I had to make that awful split-second decision, “do I give myself insulin to bring it down, but risk a disastrous low blood sugar on the bike?” or “do I hit the bike and hope it comes down from the activity, but risk 2 hours of high blood sugar?” I knew I had to consume about 60-70 grams of carbs per hour on the bike, mostly from sport drink and a Clif Bar, so I would have to keep eating/drinking carbohydrates for fuel. But if I consumed carbs with my blood sugar already so high, it might never come down and I’d be nauseous, lethargic and probably dehydrated in 2 ½ hours when I would start the half marathon run. Ugh. Diabetes sucks sometimes.

In that split second in transition, I chose not to bolus insulin and hope my blood sugar would come down on its own from the exercise.

The first 20 miles of the bike were flat and fast, with mostly a tail wind coming off the ocean. I was riding my disk wheel on the back and felt great, averaging 25 to 30 mph for much of these stretches, passing hundreds of athletes from waves in front of me. After about 1 hour at around mile 25 the hills started, a gradual stair step of rolling hills and a few steep inclines. Because my blood sugar was too high, in the first 1 hour I drank mostly water and very little of my carbohydrate sport drink. The temperature started to reach the mid 80s and I knew hydration would be important for the run, so I kept drinking. My blood sugar was a big mystery at this point. I could bring my One Touch Ultra Mini meter with me, pull off the course, stop, and prick my finger to check, but I’m not sure I would do anything differently even if I knew what the blood sugar was. I had to get carbs in me to race. I started drinking more of my sport drink and even ate a Clif Bar around mile 35. I continued passing hundreds of athletes who started in front of me, and was passed only 5 or 10 times in the first 50 miles. My right quad started cramping a bit around mile 45 but I knew most of the hills were over and I only had about 10 miles to go. I now entered the congested section of the course outside of Providence, full of cars and turns and pot holes.

At mile 50 I started a long fast descent , doing about 30 mph, mentally preparing myself for the run in about 15 minutes when . . . psssssssss, thump, thump, thump. Oh no. My disk flatted. Ugh! I pulled over quickly, onto a sidewalk and parking lot next to what looked like an abandoned building of some sort. Nice area for a bike race. Athletes I’d passed miles before began to whiz by me as I started the tedious task of removing my disk wheel, ripping the tire off the rim, removing the spare taped under my seat and stretching it around the rim, lined up perfectly on the rim with glue, then filling it with air from my CO2 cartridge. Sounds a lot easier and quicker here than on the side of the road 50 miles into a bike race, when you’re hot, tired, and frustrated. The whole process probably took me at least 10 minutes or more in the hot sun, while at least 150 athletes zoomed by me. I finally remounted and had to take it slow and easy on all these turns because my spare tire would not be as secure on my disk rim since it had less glue. This was also the ugly section of the course with lots of traffic and turns and pot holes. It was a “bad” section of town and the car traffic was not happy about cyclists in the road and police blocking intersections for us. Some intersections had only about 4 feet for us to ride while cars zoomed passed us, scaring me at any moment one would abruptly turn, weave in front of me, or open a door.

I finished the bike in a disappointing 2 hours, 44 minutes. Very bad. I know I lost about 15 minutes changing my flat and taking it so slow the last 6 miles. I got even more bad news when I checked my blood sugar in T2 – 290 mg/dl. Ugh! Still way, way too high. My stomach was definitely feeling it now, and the temperature was in the humid low 90s, making it even worse. I gave myself a quick bolus of insulin from my Omnipod pump of only 1.5 units. Normally on a non-race day, I would take about 4 or 5 units of insulin for a blood sugar that high, but I knew the 13.1 miles of running should bring it down and I could not risk taking any more. I started the run feeling pretty nauseous.

T2 and the finish were right at the steps to the capitol building, with thousands of people packed around it and the streets. My legs felt good running. But my stomach did not. It was all due to the high blood sugar. At mile 1.5 we hit the massive hill, an 8% grade for about ½ mile straight up. I pushed hard to keep running even if slowly up this grade. Many athletes were walking. After about 3 miles the course flattened out until the descent of this same hill at mile 6 and I returned to the finish line area to do it all over again on the 2nd lap. The heat was stifling now, around 90 degrees, and the wind was fierce, gusting up to 30 mph around the finish area. My stomach was in shambles from 4 hours of racing with a high blood sugar. I really struggled on the 2nd lap, barely able to jog even an 8 or 9 minute pace, walking through each aid station to douse myself with water and any sport drink I could keep down. I lost even more time here, but I knew I was well out of contention long ago. Now I just wanted to finish as best I could.

I finally made it to the finish in a miserably slow time of 5 hours, 23 minutes, about 45 minutes slower than my usual time for a half Ironman. Very bad race for me but I know it was all from my flat tire and high blood sugar nausea. I think I will try the next long race at my normal 100% basal rate. Next for me is some shorter triathlons in August and September, leading up to my late season push with the South Carolina Half Ironman September 30 and US Long Course National Championship October 18 near Las Vegas. I’ll have better days to come! Stay tuned!

Camp Joslin for Boys, Biathlon - July 8-11, 2008

For the 2nd year in a row I spent several days at Camp Joslin for Boys in Charlton, MA with campers age 6 to 14 who have type 1 diabetes, counselors and staff. I also spent some time speaking to the girls at the neighboring Camp Clara Barton for girls with diabetes. At Camp Joslin I hung out in the cabins, participated in activities with the campers, swam in the lake, and ate in the dining hall. It was just like being at camp! This is a fantastic place for boys with diabetes to just be boys – get dirty, play sports, eat well and develop good habits to control their diabetes, but most of all have fun. The Joslin staff is fantastic with counselors, nurses and doctors who all know diabetes and help the boys learn to manage it themselves. On the final day I helped the camp stage the 2nd annual Camp Joslin “Finish Line Vision” Biathlon, sponsored by Insulet – Omnipod. It was even better than last year and so much fun! The kids really pushed themselves, some further and harder than they thought they could go. All to show that diabetes would not stop them! Check out the pictures!