The Diabetic Snail who ran back-to-back marathons in the Alps

(In the Spring, I was a diabetic tiger. In the Summer I was a diabetic snail – running slow and steady with my house on my back)

I had everything I needed for four nights in the mountains. The diabetic snail was ready to go running!

I had everything I needed for four nights in the mountains. The diabetic snail was ready to go running!

With the cliffs above me blocking the way higher, I eyed up the only way onwards: a waist high stream a few metres across. The water was flowing fast before tumbling down a series of waterfalls dropping into the village I’d left half an hour before. Having scrambled up three hundred metres of imposingly steep grass and rocks I could verify that contrary to what my map told me, there was definitely no path and definitely no bridge. There was also no-way I could risk crossing the torrent without the possibility of plunging to a premature death far below. I cursed at yet another misadventure and turned round to retrace my steps. I slipped, and desperately hung on to my walking poles, digging them into the ground with my life flashing before my eyes. I averted my slide and broke one of my poles in the process. Walking up the 1700m to the next col had just got even harder.

Running

Diabetes as Art

I’ve been going to the monthly quantified self meetup whenever I can. They are really interesting evenings. At each evening, three people present on any aspect of self quantifying they have been doing. Given that I have diabetes and track a lot of data these days, I feel like there’s stuff I can learn from the presentations. Even if they’re not relevant to me they are normally fascinating, and this techy geeky world is something I wouldn’t have discovered without my diagnosis (the gift of diabetes keeps on giving…!).

At the last meetup a photographer called Travis Hodges gave a presentation on his work. He is doing something called “follow me” which is where he took a photo of someone, got them to tweet one of their friends and then took a photo of them. The chain goes on. The collection was so successful that he was asked to do an exhibition in Brixton, and decided to do portraits of self trackers, their devices, their motivations and their data.

Data

Does doing A LOT of running help blood sugar control?

This is where it all started - running in Chamonix in September made me want to do an ultra marathon in Chamonix. I found out yesterday that I have a place in the CCC - a 100km race from Courmayeur in Italy to Chamonix. It includes 7500m of vertical height difference.

This is where it all started – running in Chamonix in September made me want to do an ultra marathon in Chamonix. I found out yesterday that I have a place in the CCC – a 100km race from Courmayeur in Italy to Chamonix. It includes 7500m of vertical height difference.

Waking glucose – it was perfect for a few weeks round the start of December

I’m still in the honeymoon phase. That means my body produces a small amount of its own insulin and is therefore capable of controlling my blood sugar to some extent. In theory, if I was sensitive enough to this insulin, could my body control its sugar levels like a healthy person? Who knows!

For a few weeks before Christmas, I was consistently waking up with blood glucose readings of between 5 and 6 mmol/litre. That is basically PERFECT. It’s what a healthy person would wake up with. I started noticing that, and I also noticed that it was often 5.7 regardless of what level it was when I went to bed.

Over the past month it’s been between 6 and 7 when I wake up. That’s still good, but not PERFECT. I’ve noticed the change in trend and want to know why.

(Click on charts to enlarge.)

Wake up glucose

The blue line in the chart above shows my average waking up glucose. You can see a golden period before Christmas, where average waking up glucose was about five despite average glucose when I went to bed (red line) being higher. For the rest of the time, glucose on waking is pretty well correlated to glucose when I went to sleep. This suggests that my long acting insulin (Lantus – I take it before bed and it acts like “background” insulin, staying in my system for 24 hours or more) dose is about right.

What explains the really good waking glucose levels, and what explains them not being quite as good now? Please forgive the very busy chart below – it shows average waking and bed time glucose, how many minutes of running I did a day on average and average grams of carbs I eat before bed.

Factors affecting wakeup glucose

It’s not lantus

My Lantus dose has been steadily dropping as I seem to become more sensitive to insulin over time. (You can see I took it down to just four units while I was skiing, but it’s back up to 5 now.) There’s no obvious correlation between Lantus dose and waking blood sugar.

It’s not what food I eat at bedtime

If my blood sugar is a bit low when I go to bed, I normally eat something so that I don’t get a hypo. Am I eating more before bed now than I was? You can see from the chart that the opposite is actually true – I was eating slightly more before bed at the same time as my waking blood sugar was best controlled.

Could it be the running?

The other line on the chart is the number of minutes I’ve run a day, on average. In the lead up to my ultra, I was doing a lot of running (between 50 and 70 miles a week, or over 40 minutes a day on average). I wonder if doing all this running makes my body sensitive enough to insulin to enable my own insulin production to control my blood glucose to the optimal level? I’m going to ask my doctor.

The chart below shows my waking blood glucose, with periods where I’ve done over 35 minutes a day of running on average. You can see that there’s a rough correlation between waking with blood sugar of between 5 and 6 and me doing lots of running.

Running vs waking BG

I’m ramping up my running training again ahead of the London Marathon. I managed ten miles yesterday, 14 today and hopefully will do eight tomorrow. I’ll continue to monitor my waking glucose (of course!) and will be interested to see whether it starts coming in between 5 and 6 again.

I feel great to be running a lot again, and if it helps control my blood sugar better then that’s a nice bonus!

Data

Should I run the London Marathon in a Onesie?

My aim for running the London Marathon for the JDRF is not only to raise cash for such a good cause, but also to show that people with type 1 diabetes can perform just as well as healthy people in athletic or sporting events. I signed up to the Marathon two weeks after my diagnosis when I had no idea how difficult it would be to run with type one. I’ve of course since found that with meticulous preparation, it’s possible to run long distances really fast – for instance with the ultra marathon I ran in December.

But whereas my aim for the ultra was to just finish it, my aim for the London Marathon is to finish it fast.

Running