Insights into my personal life.

This blog includes the personal details of my experiences as a recently diagnosed Type I diabetic and the impact of that diagnosis on my endurance athletic pursuits.

Please understand that I consider myself to be a work in progress. I am willing to share both my successes and failures, so please do not take my words to be professional dietary or medical advice. This is a blog, this is only a blog. I research my choices carefully, and take my health very seriously. The choices I make are my own, I am doing the best with the resources and support that I have. If you have questions or concerns feel free to comment, but please be constructive and understand that this is my life. I value it dearly.

My goal is to live a happy, healthy and active life where I can balance my internal drive to push my physical limits and the challenge of safely maintaining stability despite the challenges of Type I diabetes.

Friday, January 18, 2013


Stumbled across an old uncompleted blog that I wrote over 2 years ago and never finished or shared.  Interesting to me to look back.  This was before I knew I was moving back to Wisconsin and I was applying to work for an training center in Vancouver known at Innovative Fitness.  I never applied because I got promoted to a pretty sweet gig as a manager at Sports Junkies....

Had a funny idea while eating my breakfast burrito... I'd like to write a cover letter for a job application. And writing a cover letter is pretty much personal advertising. So bare with me as I brainstorm out a few ideas that I'd like to convey.  I want to write the honest version of my cover letter.

I am a passionate person who enjoys getting involved. I need to be active, it keeps me entertained, healthy physically and mentally. The time I spend alone in my thoughts while training helps to calm and relax my mind. But I also enjoy the thrill of the race. Competition is a powerful motivator. Competition provides a measurable outcome for the benefits of training. I believe that it is important to be strong. Being strong enables a person to do more. As an ultra-distance athlete, I may be biased, but I strongly believe being strong is better than being weak.  I'm sure most agree.  But I have to distinguish this from "More is better".

North America has a problem with "More is Better". In a culture of convenience an increasing proportion of society falls prey to the indulgence of 'more'. As waistlines bulge and automobiles, elevators, rolling officer chairs, computers and cell phones become the norm - the average person has become less mobile.

Without mobility it is very difficult to be strong. Everyday task become more difficult. The average person aims to avoid difficult tasks. I find this to be a shame - to have a body with a gift of physical potential and then to abuse that gift when those with true physical limitations are incapable. Simple and crude, but when I need to dig deep through what could be described as pain, I turn to my standby mantra... 'Some people don't have legs'. I don't mean to be crude - mantras need to be brief. I have seen lower-leg amputees race for 140.6 miles, been passed by wheelchair marathoners, and followed along online as Dick Hoyt propelled his son Rick to an ecstatic finish line crowd at the Ironman world championship. I race in a sport where 77 year olds begin a race at 7am and finish with seconds to spare before midnight to the sound of Iron Maiden and a roaring crowd.

The human body is magnificent and it is capable of so much. When I see a person confined to an electric scooter or have difficulties just getting out of their vehicle due to being overweight, I have to admit that I feel ashamed. Now I understand that it is not my job to judge people - I believe that they are as wonderful as any other person. However, the outcome of their lifestyle choices are impossible for me not to dwell upon.

As a bit of background on myself. Approximately 10 years ago, I joined a gym and stepped on a scale that read 274 lbs. I am 6'5 and had a large frame and a tendency to wear loose fitting jeans and T-shirts. None of my family or friends had ever said anything about my body, but I measured in near 30% body fat (technically obese). This came at a time in my life 6 months out of college, having just found a job in an unfamiliar field. My mother had recently been diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes and my father had already suffered through 10 years of heart disease and survived two heart attacks and an open-heart surgery in which they bypassed 8 coronal arteries.

I grew up an active youth. I swam, ran, biked for fun. Competitive soccer defined my existence. But in college, both my studying habits and social habits left me without a physical outlet. In an unhealthy relationship, I buried my nerves for the future in ice-cream and chocolate syrup, and probably had a few too many beers and pizzas for dessert. I continued to be a hungry growing boy well into my 20's.

Within a year of walking into my gym I'd lost 55 pounds. But eventually I grew bored with the dumbbells and mirrors, treadmills and elliptical. My gym attendance waned as stresses at work increased. I gained back some of the weight, but before long my motivation returned and I reassessed my priorities. I decided to increase my involvement in active sports and hobbies. I missed the mental clarity that followed my suffering sessions on the treadmill. With the goal of dropping a little bit of jiggle before I began running - I bought a $5 garage sale bicycle and started taking it for hour long rides in the mornings before work. The Capitol City trail in Madison, WI provides 18 miles of smooth asphalt trail though woods and meadows and lakes. The fresh air and scenery were intoxicating. The more I rode the fitter I became. As my fitness and bravery increased, the further into the back roads of Wisconsin I would explore. Southwestern Wisconsin is a beautiful place.

I applied my cycling fitness to the soccer field, to quickly learn that cycling does not build up enough lateral strength in the legs and ankles. But I continued to slim down and gain comfort running - getting stronger along the way. Eventually I raced 5k's, 10k's and marathons. Competed in triathlons of every distance and recently completing a mountainous 80km trail ultra-marathon. This year I am returning to racing another Ironman triathlon with the optimistic goal of shaving a full hour off of my previous time.

....and that's as far as I got at the time.  The breakfast burrito was delicious.

Just another day.

Today was a good day.  It had it's challenges.  Maintenance finally entering my apartment (they even knocked this time!), my sweet Moab had to finally run to the vet to address a persistent case of the run, and I had plenty of work to get done before the weekend.  No, I didn't get it all done.  But it was still a good day.

Between the guy cleaning out the mold in the bathroom and trying to get a 'sample' from Moab I ended up late for work by oh lets say an hour... eeek.  Luckily I work for a pretty sweet lady.  We even rocked out some lunch time yoga together.  Yoga feels good.  And I think I'm already stronger than I was last week.  I've gone 5 times in 5 days.  A few restorative classes, but I've been able to challenge myself during each of them.  I'm never felt so loose and free before.

The great thing about today is that despite a frantic start and an a rushed early half, I managed to have enough stuff ready at hand to stay on top of each situation.  I had food in tuperwares all prepped to go.  Enough clothes stashed here and there to be able to get in my workout.  I made the mistake of not bringing my meter to yoga, but Jess bailed me out on there.  Started and finished yoga with great numbers.

After work I got a quick meal (same burrito as last night, but the spices melded more!) and then headed out for some soccer.  Numbers good at the start, good at halftime, but then as things got tense in the second half I could feel adrenalin coursing though me.  It was a fun game.  Some call it 'flow' or being 'in the zone'.  I call it standing on my head like Luongo.   At one point I dislocated my pinky and popped it back in place without evening realizing.  Maybe a few other endorphins work working as well.  And relax, it's fine - I've jammed my finger way worse in the past.  I've just never had it point backwards before.

No more lockout!

Sure enough that second half spiked me into the 170's.  What's suddenly great is that I have an improved way to treat that.  Just today I was able to pick up a juvenile diabetes syringe which will do 0.5U doses.  Seeing as the adult 1U drops me 100 points, it's great to have a better ability to fine tune.  I started writing this post at the time of injection, I'm predicting I get down below 100 by the end (50 points due to the insulin and the rest from my bodies response to the effort).  We'll see...

Other than my Friday night with the dogs, I'll probably get in some reading and rest up for more fun this weekend.  If anyone cares to join me Sunday for a 60-90 minute run at an easy pace, let me know!

.... and my number is 81.


Now I get a midnight snack!!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cravings and Influence

They're not nearly as bad as you would expect them to be.  Walking through any convenience store is a gauntlet!  Kwik Trip.  Walgreens.  Even the grocery store.  Locating my favorite almond milk requires walking past the bakery.  Stores intentionally pump the scent of the sweets straight at your face.  It won't be long before the 'cereal' isle has a playland built in.  It's almost evil.

Don't get me wrong.  It's clear and good business.  It sells stuff.  Part of our capitalist society demands that they sell and we consume.  Quantity is king and quality is secondary.  The labeling on food can be intentionally misleading.  The label of "Sugar Free" legally only refers to the presence of sucrose.  Ever drink sugar free milk?  I bet you have.  By definition wouldn't this mean that honey could be labeled sugar free?  Sure could.  Doing so would reveal the problem however.

Sour cream, yogurt, dressings, and stuff I would never eat.  They all have sugar free versions.  Sure, no sucrose.  But then all this other chemicals appear on the label.  If it ends in -ol, it's a sugar alcohol and will still react like sugar in your body.  Xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol.  Seriously.

We are all so afraid of fat.  Fat is bad.  Fat is bad.  Fat makes you fat.  B.S.  Calories in - Calories out.  Optimum nutrition requires a certain balance of carbohydrate, protein and fat.  We need to understand that there are many different types of fat.  Some fats are bad.  Saturated fats are bad.  But wait, is it?  I don't believe coconut oil to be bad.  I believe it is very healthy.  I recommend to do some research and give this delicious fat a try. 

I am consuming a lot of fat in my diet.  Avocados, all type of raw nuts, chia seeds, fish oil, cold water fish, full fat plain or greek yogurt.  I cook my eggs and sautee my vegetables in a blend of e.v.o.o. and coconut oil.  MMmm.  Mmmm.

Exhibit A:
My own god-daughter Mira eating a gingerbread
house and blatantly rubbing it in my face.

On a side note:

Boom!  I nailed my numbers this evening.  I dropped a bit low today despite lowering my basal insulin from 7U to 6U.  As I'm lowing my basal levels, the bolus has to be timed even better than before if I take in even moderately GI ranking carbs.  

I didn't bolus for this morning's breakfast of 8oz yogurt, 1/4 granola, 1/4 dry oats with hemp seeds.  Prior to my 9am workout I started out higher than I had targeted.  I was hoping to be 160mg/dL pre-workout but overshot slightly to 200 (which is the highest I've been in over a week).  The spike didn't last long as 60 minutes later post workout, during which I consumed 15g CHO as maltodextrin.  Shout out to Mike's Mix.  Anyways, immediately post workout I was 125.

I drank my vegetable juice which consisted of a little of everything.  Collards, spinach, kale, parsley, celery, beets, ginger, cucumber, and apple.  With carbs in the beets and apple the juice is sweet and tastier than you'd expect.  20oz of that fills me up.  But even then I still gradually drifted down to 76 - which is low, but still in my target zone of 75-100.

Lunch didn't have much for carbs.  Cauliflower & Kale soup (with stock I make myself), and a salad half the size of a dumptruck.  The other half was consumed yesterday.  To this point I still haven't taken any bolus insulin.  My numbers by the evening dropped as I got hungry.

I ate one small macadamia nut cookie as corrective carbs at 6:45pm and and hour later I was back up to 85 mg/dL!

Dinner:  Burrito!  Energy was getting low so I could tell I needed more carbs.  1 tortilla is 30g of carbs.  Add to that a blend of 1/4cup refried beans with 1/4cup of squash mash (makes for sweeter tasting beans).  Red onion, bed of spinach, salsa.  Ate one.  Packed one for tomorrow.  Also one glass of Original flavor almond milk and dessert!

This might sound weird but it worked for my chocolate cravings.  1 Tbsp of cocoa powder stirred into melted coconut oil then mixed with equal parts of natural, nothing else added peanut butter.  I let it set in the fridge and scraped it off the bottom of a plate with a spoon.  Different, but filled that void where a chocolate bar used to be lodged.

If you read all this food stuff thanks.  It helps me to consolidate the days events to write about them.  I learned a few things today:

1) The cookies that I keep at work work as a nice gradual corrective carb and each will raise me 20 points gradually.    

2) Exercise with my numbers a bit higher at the start felt pretty good the whole time.  I don't have much to compare it to yet, but I didn't suffer from what has felt like an inability for my muscles to fuel themselves after 10 minutes with my output over 280 watts on my bike.  I'm still only 70% of my previous output, but I count this as progress.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A whole lot of Surprise!

So I want to announce some rather crazy news.  Two months ago - November 14th precisely, I was diagnosed with type I diabetes.  Crazy right.  Well type 1 isn't exactly what I have, but functionally it the same.  What I have is called LADA.  That's latent autoimmune diabetes of adults.  Sometimes it's called type 1.5.

So what does that mean?  Well, a lot.  I am 'insulin dependent'.  But I'm not a huge fan of that term - I'm dependent on a lot of things.  And while focusing on the insulin is obviously a huge part of my 'treatment', I would rather think of myself as 'food dependent' or 'lifestyle dependent'.  But it doesn't really matter what it's called anyways.

What matters is what I have already learned.  I've learned a lot.  A lot about diabetes, but also a lot about myself - and not just physically.  As a result I feel that I have also changed a lot.  I am very lucky to have already developed a very useful knowledge base and skill set.  In all honesty I don't think diabetes could have picked on a worse target.

I have an extensive scientific background.  I've passed classes in Anatomy Physiology courses in High School, twice in college and even post-college when I was considering my future career change.  My first job out of college (which lasted 8 years) was in working as a Researcher in Biochemistry at the UW.  I worked in the same building as one of the best diabetes and metabolic disease research labs you could find in the country.  And I paid attention.

And that's just the science side of things.  My other skills have also helped greatly.  Prior to diagnosis I would have already considered myself a 'Foodie'.   I have cooking skills.  I think I convinced my wife to first date me because of our joint interest in breakfast food, although maybe I was more interested than she was.  I also have a very diverse palate.  I love food.  I love real food.

Again, on top of the science and the food, I also understand the importance of physical activity.  Matter of fact, my exercise habits likely protected me all summer prior to diagnosis.  Training has saved my life.  I've held onto a quote from an old friend of mine - Nick Rhoads.  When friends would ask what he was training for, his answer would be "The Apocalypse".  Without his knowledge I've adopted this response as well.  Never has it been more true.

My skill set continues... I am an independent thinker, highly intelligent and confident enough to stand up for myself.  I am a good listener and through my 'other' major in Psychology and the good fortune to have grown up with a mother who is a retired counselor, I've also learned to ask for help. I've found lots already.

While I don't feel incredibly comfortable boasting of these qualities - they are life saving abilities.  I highly recommend that everyone develop these skills.

I'm not entirely surprised by my diagnosis.  I have a solid grasp on the genetics that I was born into.  I have many closely related family members who also have diabetes.  And the links are very strong.  My nephew has developed the same disorder, LADA (I'm not a fan of the word 'disease' either).  In addition to the diabetes in the family, I also have heart disease - of which was a greater influence in me becoming as health conscious as I currently am.

So there's lots for me to talk about.  But in the interest of not writing a novel, I will begin to summarize.  (I haven't ruled out writing a book - some of my experiences make for good storytelling).  I'll end this with where I am right now.

I am doing great.  Seriously.  It's funny that I didn't ever really notice that I felt that bad.  Hell, I still made it through Ironman Wisconsin with this.   I had inclinations that something was wrong.  (I have extensive training notes that support this).

I have very tight control over my blood sugar.  Over the past 2 months my tests (over 500) average out to 105.

I am on extremely low doses of insulin.  This is not because I am only 'a little' diabetic.  I am able to do this partly due to my physical conditioning, but also due to my food choices.  I initially started out on about 20 total units of insulin per day.  Now I'm already down to 12-15U.

After laying off the training for 2 months, I am now back at it and still obtaining tight control.

I have already been fast tracked for an insulin pump which should provide me with even greater control.  That journey will begin within the next month.

My diet has been pulling the best of both vegan and paleo principles.  I am now a 'juicer'.  I love juices with Kale, beets, ginger, cucumber and apple.  Really, I love them.  Juicing has been a great tool for obtaining a huge amount of nutrition without the need to eat a dump truck sized salad.

I plan to post to this blog much more frequently.  I'll put in pictures and try to actually turn this into something entertaining.  I plan to discuss and share all that I have already learned.  While I am successful right now, it does not come easy.  There is a high deal of complexity to this.  If it hadn't been for others who have paved the way and shared their stories, I could not have made the progress that I already have.  It is a challenge, but I'm up for it.

Crisis is opportunity.