Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Springbank Crit and the tale of diabetes failure

Ryan would say: This is a "Stephen King" post because it's so long.

As a diabetic and an athlete there are so many things that can go wrong. More things can go wrong than right and that's especially true in a race. We strive to prove to the world that “we can do this”. Despite diabetes, we can do anything you can. Being on Team Type 1 taught me the importance of fighting the stereotypes surrounding type 1 diabetes. Although it takes extra work, quantum mechanics and sharp stabby things, with knowledge and understanding we can do whatever someone without diabetes can do. Or so that's the goal.

Most of the time.

Sometimes that’s not always the case. I've never had diabetes directly sabotage a race for me (except my marathon of course) until this past Sunday. It’s taken me a few days just to accept that yes, I can blame diabetes.

Let me take you through the motions…. Everything was normal...... diabetes is a fucking prick.

There, those are the motions!

Okay, okay I’ll explain. The days leading up to the race I ate and trained exactly as I always have. Boring. I ate no more, no less, no different from the usual. Boring. Our race started at 11:30 and I picked up my teammate and friend, Shelly, and we were there by 10am. Breakfast was the same as every other day of my life (boring) and was consumed with a bit less insulin than usual at 8:00am. Lantus was injected as normal at 8:30am. No adjustments made because the race was only an hour long and it was a crit. That means it would be all out power for an hour which typically drives my beeg up a little since it’s somewhat anaerobic.

It was the most beautiful day! 20mins warm-up on the trainer and 20mins before the start of the race I was down to 4.3mmol/l (77mg/dl). For fucksakes it was like a repeat of the race two weeks ago. Well, at Calabogie I drank a juice box and had stable BG’s the whole race. Why should this time be any different? Because it’s fucking diabetes and fucking diabetes is un-fucking-predictable. FUCK. I ate 2 packages of rockets (smarties for you American folks) at a combined 17g of carbs. Then ¾ of a banana (because the last ¼ was brown and mushy gross). I was expecting this to drive my blood sugar to a higher-than-comfortable range. I was also expecting this would make my stomach upset. I'll never learn that nothing with diabetes can be "expected".

It was a 2.2km circuit at 14 laps. A crazy fast downhill at the start and back stretch where we easily reached 40+km/h. Followed by an ass busting short hill and a gradual riser back to the flat start/finish straight away. The whole thing was quite narrow given it's a recreational trail and I found that terrifying. After the first lap I knew it was probably going to be a bust for me. My legs felt like concrete. I wasn't comfortable being in a tight field and had trouble owning my confidence. I stayed in the back where I felt I had space. Something wasn't right though and I could feel my reflexes were delayed. My brain wasn't firing and I felt somewhat alien. My stomach was upset also. I kept losing the field at the hills and then hammering back on essentially gassing myself on every lap because there was no recovery. By the 6th lap I was still pedalling with blocks for legs and intentionally fell off the back and let go of the field.

Looking back, every lap after that was increasingly dragging and difficult. Finally on my second last lap my world collapsed. Sights were over-exposed. Sunlight was piercing and at the same time I was getting tunnel vision. Holy fuck was I ever low. How I didn't notice it early in the race is beyond me. It’s so easy to mistake a hypo for race nerves and adrenaline. I assumed it was just a bad day on the bike. I shoved a date in my mouth but I was already too low to chew. I rode past where my car was before heading through the start/finish but chose to fall over where there were people. I was panicked and scared. I worried that I couldn't fix myself. I unclipped at the first sign of grass I could find which happened to be the wheel pit. I dragged my bike onto the grass and collapsed while still trying to make my mouth chew. I worked my way through the 3 dates I had with me. I couldn't open my eyes because all I saw was blackness. A team mate I had met a couple weeks ago sat beside me and kept me company. He didn't even have to say anything (I couldn't talk any way). It was reassuring even if he didn't really know what to do. This was one of those times where there were only 2 or 3 people there that knew I was diabetic and one was in the middle of a race.

Time passed as I came to. I didn't remember getting where I was. I felt like I woke up in a dream (or from a nightmare to find out it was real). By the time I got back to my car I was only up to 2.4mmol/l (43mg/dl). My blood sugar continued to tank OVER AND OVER for the next 2 hours. I can only imagine how low I was during that race. I wonder what would have happened if I tried to finish that last lap? I rode the whole race low. I assumed I took a DNF but either they took pity on me or it was a glitch in the system, they didn't give me a DNF.

It shook me for the rest of the day. I was hypo-hungover until Monday night. I cried and cursed and let the emotional trauma get the better of me. I didn't do anything wrong but why did I tank? Just a bad diabetes day? Did my pancreas suddenly start making insulin? Had I injected magical insulin? It’s over and there’s no way to know. I just HATE saying, “diabetes fucked my race”. A race I was looking so forward to and one I knew I could do better at.

We had 5 of our girls in this race. Whenever I looked up I saw the 4 NovoFIT kits up in front working together as a team. In the end, they dominated the podium and I couldn't be more proud to be wearing the same colours! Even though I did nothing to get them there.

Danielle, Sandra and Shelly taking the show!

As for me? I guess I’ll live to race another day with this diabetes prick in tow.

One last quote. Words of wisdom from an old team mate, (Thank you Becky)

being waaaaaay low is a whole 'nother animal. It's not about how strong you are. It's biology. If you don't have sugar to use for fuel, and your body is devoting it's efforts to just dropping hormones so you don't die from an ugly low, you can't race. It would be like saying your car is a piece of crap because it won't start when there is no gas in the tank. Your car could be a freaking (insert cool car here, I don't know, I drive a Cobalt), but it wouldn't matter. You're not copping out. You're being honest about the reality of what your body CAN do.”

Sometimes it really helps ease the frustration when you look at the bigger picture. Thanks Becky and for the record, I drive a Honda Fit. Not a very “cool” car either.


  1. Really sorry to hear your race was screwed up by diabetes :( Hope your next one is perfection itself to make up for it! :)

  2. I'm so sorry this happened. Do you have a road ID? Mike recently got one.

  3. This made me to angry and upset for you. Fucking diabetes indeed. I am glad to hear that you are okay, but that is terrifying to think how low you went. You earned the right to cry and scream and stomp your feet. The next race will be different and you will own it. For now take care!

  4. Becky sure is a smart one! I had one of those "I'm-really-low-and-know-I-should-stop-but-I-don't-wanna' low last September at, ironically, the JDRF walk! I was trudging up the start of the Brooklyn Bridge and raiding my emergency-stash of sugar in just the first few minutes of the walk! By the time I reached the top of the bridge I was starting to feel better, but insisted on finishing...which I did.

  5. Oh man. I'm so sorry Scullmeister. What a shitty situation. Not that there's ever a good time to have a low, but why did it have to happen during a race.

    I think you're onto something about the bad combination of diabetes and expected. As long as I've played basketball, even when I follow the same recipe of food, rest, insulin, timing, whatever -- there are still days when it all goes to hell.

    I hate that.

    Here's to kicking ass in the next race.

  6. Not cool, Diabetes. Not cool. The next one will hopefully be better.


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