Below 7 / IMAZ

I ended my 2017 racing season with ironman Arizona. It was a busy season and I had set some pretty tough goals for myself.

They included:

Complete and beat the sun at dirty kanza in june.

Complete Leadville marathon with friends

Qualify for Boston at the Edmonton marathon

Complete Ironman Arizona in under 13 hours.

I only made 1 out of 4. The first of the three goals were really in preparation for my “A” race which was the ironman. I really wanted to PR and I really wanted to break 13 hours. Going into this race I was absolutely confident that I could do it. The #’s all spoke to a sub 13 hour ironman. But that didn’t happen and such is ironman.

Looking back at my Strava files for 2017.

I rode 5,200 miles

Ran 741 miles

And swam 61 miles or 108,000 yards

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in my result. After the race and for days following I went over and over the run in my head. Did I really feel that shitty or was I just too weak to push myself mentally? It was the run that I really struggled in. It took every ounce of mental will power to run between water stops.

Although I was disappointed with my ironman I feel like I won on the diabetes front this year. I had started my new pump in August, going on auto-mode in September. Auto mode means that the pump alters your basal insulin (non-mealtime) based upon the sensor readings. The sensor is a device that reads my blood sugar from the interstitial fluid below my skin. It is the first ever semi-closed loop system. The technology (some sort if AI?) responds to your blood sugar and gets in front of issues vs self-correcting after the fact. It was not an easy transition for me. I struggled a great deal. I had many sleepless nights (more than usual) of beeping and failed sensors and requests for “real” blood sugar readings (i.e. finger prick blood reading). I was ready to throw this pump out of the window. it was just not working for me. It seemed that no matter what I did I would get into an endless loop of blood sugar requests, calibrations and finally sensor failures. Each time the sensor failed it would take hours to re-set up a new sensor. So if this happened at work I wouldn’t do it or if it happened after 8pm I couldn’t do it. I felt like I was getting less sensor readings than before switching to this new pump and I love the sensor readings. I rely on the sensor to tell me if I am going low or going high. While training, I had plenty of runs where I plummeted and plenty of long training bike rides where I just couldn’t get my blood sugar down. Not only did I work at a job with a lot of hours, trained for Ironman 18 hours a week but I also had to spend time getting to know this pump and how it works. I was convinced that there is no way the pump could handle an ironman in “auto” mode. Until my coach put me in touch with another athlete who said it worked for her. Talking with Julie helped put my negativity at bay. I also spoke to my friend Lyndsay another type 1 who is also a Medtronic rep she suggested I put the sensor in my upper butt vs. my belly.. she even sent me a lovely little video of her putting hers in.

With 1 month out to the ironman everything seemed to fall into place. I would call it a miracle. My sensors were lasting the appropriate 7 days my readings were better and I was trusting the pump. I went on a couple of long rides on the trainer with fairly stable blood sugar readings. The one place that continued to stump me and what I feared most was the swim. You see swimming was the one place where I couldn’t test out the wonders of the new pump. The sensor and the pump do not read underwater which results in an error. However, with a wetsuit it will read because I guess with a layer of neoprene it is not enough water to stop the connection. How was I ever going to trust this pump enough to get into an ironman swim and let it do its thing. I envisioned climbing into the water and my blood sugar spiking, the pump giving me lots of insulin, followed by an inevitable crash in the water. Which is probably the worst place in the world you want to crash. I have crashed many times in the pool and it sucks. Throw in open water and 2500 of your closest friends swimming the same route it would be like your worst nightmare coming true, well at least mine anyway.   It was early November when I finally spoke with Julie the woman who successfully completed IMLP on “auto” mode and she said her swim went fine. Still skeptical how it would work for me I tested out a few things that I could. I borrowed a friends neoprene swim shorts and I started out with no insulin on board and I took a gel just like I would do in the race. I swam 4400 yards and to my surprise and delight I didn’t die or crash 😊. I tried it a couple more times with success. This last hurdle gave me all the confidence that this ironman was going to be great.

Loop 2?

Before I get to my race report I wanted to share a major accomplishment that was not race related.

I had my first A1C since i had gone on my new closed loop insulin pump the 670G. The A1c is more of an indicator of how you are managing your diabetes. The ideal # is around 5.5 but this is attainable if you really restrict your die,  eat very low carb or micro manage your blood sugars. Ever since I was diagnosed nearly 20 years ago my A1C has never been below 7. Getting below 7 is always my goal but I never seem to get there. My last A1C before this one was 8.2, usually I hover around 7.5. Well, I was so thrilled when I got my recent results. I was 6.9!!!! Below 7 for the first time in all my after-diabetes life thanks to my new pump! So you see I’m ok with only meeting 1 of my athletic goals this year because the 6.9 was a goal I have been working on for 20 years! 20 freaking years and never below 7 until now.

I missed some goals I managed to achieve a 20 year long goal to improve my A1C which in the long run (according to the CDC) will improve my life span and help me avoid long term complications and that is the most important goal I could ever achieve and is also the hardest goal to ever achieve. Diabetes and the control of diabetes is hard. It requires constant 24/7 monitoring every choice I make, every day always includes “what about my insulin/ what about my blood sugar”. Whether it be working long stressful hours/riding to work/ eating out/ eating in/ eating/ drinking/ not drinking/ working out / not working out/that time of the month/sick/ not sick… everything.

So with that here is my race report.

I trained really hard for this race and I felt good. I hired a great coach (Jon Fecik). I had no injuries aside from the usual low back issues. My training plan was hard but manageable with my work schedule. I made it work. I put in the time and effort and race morning it was time for all that work to be rewarded.

I had a great hotel location and the best Sherpas a girl could ask for … my niece and nephew. I LOVED HAVING THEM WITH ME SO MUCH AND I’M SO LUCKY TO HAVE THEM IN MY LIFE.

My Amazing Support Crew

I woke up at 4. I planned to not eat any carbs in the morning and not dose (this was the first time trying this as a pre-IM breakfast. … so I ate cheese and meat as my pre ironman meal with no bolus. I set my temporary target to 150 for the entire day vs the automatic 120. This means that if the machine detects that I will go lower than 150 it will stop giving me insulin. Thus giving me a bit of a buffer between 150 and crashing to 50!  I also had some coffee and a bottle of nuun water. I visited the bathroom and got that over with but discovered that I got my period that morning. Ugh bring on the cramps.


My niece and nephew (Cass and Eric) walked me to the start. I filled my water dropped off special needs bags. I put my wetsuit on and stuffed a gel and a zip bag of glucose tabs in my sleeves (fyi that does not work…the glucose tablets melted) and tucked my pump close to my sensor in the wetsuit. I was really nervous about going low in the water. My starting levels were great at 150. I ate a salted caramel gel just before getting into the water.


This year they were doing a staggered start vs a mass start. I was very happy about this because out of all the things I do the mass start scares me the most. As I was lined up in the 1:40 group I was standing right next to Debbie my global hero sister from the Medtronic Global Hero Program. We looked at each other and it took a few minutes before we even recognized each other. We gave each other the biggest hug and somehow all my worries melted away.

Diabetes love

What are the chances???

I had been told to go in the 1:30 group but knowing myself and my nerves in the swim I decided on the 1:40’s. It was great. I as so glad for a no mass swim start… I felt comfortable the whole way and had all the room I needed. The only thing that could have gone wrong was my blood sugars… I swam and swam and it was great. I felt good. I honestly though it was going to be quick and it was quick but similar to my prior IMAZ swim at 1:43. I was 92nd in my age group coming out of the water.

Favorite moment.. out of the water safe and sound

I got out the water and saw tons of people and hugged and kissed. I felt the chill of the air still as it was still early and ran into the tent. I found a spot at the back to dump my stuff and get ready for the bike. I asked if it was as cold as it felt… socks or no socks? I tried to test using my meter I had packed but I it did not work so I looked at my pump and it was still reading. I had a gel.   Put my jersey on over my tri top, put on my sun sleeves and sprayed lotion on my legs. Everything was great. My T1 was just under 14 minutes a record for me.


I ran past the bike racks and was shocked at how empty they were… sigh. Always a slow swimmer. I got my bike and saw my niece and nephew again. I started the bike just to see my coach, a pro, start his second loop and I yelled go FECIK!  I was pretty surprised at how windy it was. The first half of the loop of a 3 loop course was slightly up hill and the wind just put a bit of a grind on the ride. The way back and second half of loop was awesome the wind pushed and the down hill pulled.. it was twice as fast! Yet the uphill and the wind seemed really tough.. I started to feel the need to pee. I had not planned on stopping on the bike. I held the pee until the special needs station I passed the bags and decided to stop and pee. Continuing on shortly after I had to pee AGAIN.. I followed my nutrition plan to a tee. I ate 1 cliff block every 10 minutes and drank an aero bottle of water and nuun every aid station. I was on target. I had to decide do I stop again to pee or do I just go on my bike I used to do that no problem but then decided it wasn’t worth it. Well this time I guess I decided it was worth it. I peed. It is not as easy as you might think even if you try to pee while on the bike it gets trapped unless you sit up and let it out. After that I had to go again and again… it was constant.   Whether or not this led to my demise I don’t know. It just felt that I drank.. and I pee’d nothing was being absorbed. This happened to me once before in Boston for the marathon where I pee’d constantly.   Normally I would think it was a blood sugar thing but my readings never really went that high. My bike time of 6:21 was much slower than I expected and slower than my previous IMAZ time. I was shooting for 6 hours so very disappointed. The wind was a factor for sure. I still felt good finishing. I had moved up to 46th in my age group from 92.


I ran into T2 and sat down outside and saw Cass waiving at me across the way. I took off my jersey put on my visor and sunglasses, sox and shoes and tried to test my blood sugar but no success with the machine I was using so relied on the sensor which was reading just below 100. Still I felt my BG good. I ate a Lara bar in T2 I started on the run it was hot. Peeing still. I ran water stop to water stop. I still had my blocks but mostly drank red bull during the stops and tried a few pretzels and grapes. I pee’d non-stop. it was awful but I could do much about it. I stopped in a few porta potties but it was getting ridiculous. My Bg started to drop a bit so I tried to keep eating although more often than not I would put something in my mouth chew it up then spit it out. Cass and Eric were everywhere. I think they ran and walked more than me that day. It seemed everywhere I went they were there smiling and helping me. It was amazing to see them so often and it was a big part of what kept me going. Without the motivation of seeing there smiling faces I don’t know what I would have done. I kept drinking red bull and coke because I didn’t have much appetite and I knew I needed to keep my blood sugar up. In addition to my blood sugar my legs felt totally depleted and it took every ounce of mental strength to just run from water stop to water stop. I just told myself no matter how bad you feel just keep the legs moving to the next aid station Unfortunately my walk breaks during the water stop got longer and longer. I walked a bit with my global hero sister Debbie, the rest was welcome and it was comforting to talk to a fellow T1D we chatted about various blood sugar issues… mine low on the run and hers low off the bike. I also walked around mile 23 as I was weaving from side to side and trying to inhale the 10 chalky glucose tablets I had had in my back pocket since swim/bike transition. Another athlete and doctor spoke to me as he saw me do the weave and walked with me until I got back to being steady. We ended up running? / clodhopping? In together. I was running somewhat blindly only having my sensor reading which isn’t as accurate as a blood glucose reading and my history has always been to do a negative split at an ironman so this was completely miserable for me. I finished up over 5 hours and I moved up to 40th in my age group and had my slowest marathon for an ironman (as far as I remember).


Absolute LOVE


Total time 13 1/2 hours and change…


The doctor who I had run with got a medic and a wheelchair and they whisked me away to the medical tent I had since eaten and drink so started to feel better. They took my blood sugar and it was a normal 118.   My niece and nephew met me and we walked back to the room. My niece, a nurse stripped me down and helped me shower. The KIT? Ended up in the garbage… so much chaffing in all the wrong places. My nephew went and got my bike and my bags. Then we went and had some Mexican and margueritas.


The next day we had time for a quick breakfast then I had to say good bye to the best Sherpas in the world. I had a chance to talk briefly with Jon my coach and sorta let my emotions out. Having worked so hard I was highly disappointed. I met some friends for lunch then headed to the airport. I was on my way to San Diego to stay a few days with a friend that I hadn’t seen in years. It was a nice relaxing time, we worked, laughed and drank wine just like we had seen each other the week before.

I swore up and down that I was not going to do an ironman in 2018 yet here I am training for Ironman Chattanooga. Unfinished business I guess.

Here are my sensor readings for the day. All and all it was a fantastic blood sugar day aside from the low near the end.IMAZ Sensor readings

Somehow I have another full schedule this year. I hope to do a better job at documenting my nutrition and findings on the 670G.


My 5th dirty kanza – June – 200 mile gravel race

Goldrush gravel grinder – June – 200 mile gravel race

Leadville heavy half marathon – June – 15? Miles running

Ironman Chattanooga – September 30

Chicago marathon with my Team wild pancreass kicker besties!!!

Jon has his work cut out for him 🙂





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59 seconds – Edmonton marathon race report

I had been wanting to do the Edmonton marathon for a very long time.  Ever since my mom’s brother and family moved there and I started running marathons nearly 30 years ago years ago I have told them I would visit and run the marathon.  For one reason another it didn’t happen until this year.  I planned everything as I had thought about it for years.  We would fly to Edmonton visit family then drive across the rockies to Vancouver Island and stay in a place I had stayed at during a trip out west for my cousins wedding nearly 26 years ago.  Tigh na Mara ( , I never forgot how beautiful it was and vowed to get back there some day.  I would follow all that up with visiting my cousins in Vancouver.  As an added bonus we stayed in Revelstoke and went white water rafting!


lillian carol and i in scotland

My Aunt Sister and I in Scotland before we moved to Canada

tigh na mara view

View from our room on Vancouver Island


Whitewater Rafting


This year was a good year to do it for two reasons.  I really wanted to qualify for Boston this year.  You see the last time I ran Boston was in 2008 the year of my 40th birthday.  Logically (to me)  I should be able to qualify and run Boston in 2018 the year of my 50th birthday (oh that is so painful to type).  My thinking was that if I can qualify 10 years later then I must be in similar shape as I was when I was 40!  Makes total sense.  I also wanted to work on getting some speed back in my run which in turn would help me with my ironman in November.  You see, not training for a stand alone marathon i.e. a marathon without the swim and bike beforehand has made me a slow(er) runner than I once was.  Either way training to qualify would help me.

Qualifying for Boston was not going to be an easy task it never is but not only had my running got much slower in the past few years but my training window was short. I spent most of the spring to June training for Dirty Kanza a 200 mile gravel race in Kansas which was on June 4th DIRTY KANZA #4.  Two weeks later I was in Leadville, Colorado running (it was actually a hike not a run as it took me 8 hours)  the Leadville marathon on no training.  By far one of the hardest thing I have ever done.  After Leadville recovery time this left me with less than 7 weeks to train to run a Boston qualifier. At my ripe old age that means running it in just under 4 hour time.  It is all relative, for some that may seem like a lot of time and for others it may seem like an unreachable goal.

I made up my own training plan.  I incorporated speed workouts, long runs and some tempo runs as well as maintaining some cycling.    As time got closer I really wasn’t sure if I was even going to get close.  My long runs at best were 9:30’s but more often closer to 10 min miles.  Mind you there were some really hot and humid days.  My longest run was at waterfall glen which was hilly and humid and I managed to squeak out 10 min miles.  Edmonton condition would be very much in my favor both flat and cool.

A few weeks prior to the marathon I decided it was time to hire a coach, Jon Fecik to get me through to Ironman Arizona in November  I needed the direction from someone vs making it up as I went along.  He had the task of making my last 3 weeks before marathon day count.  Jon is a professional triathlete who I had met at Diabetes Training Camp in 2016.  He was one of the coaches there.  Although it was only a week I really felt like he understood the balance of training and working full time and on top of it he has experience with training diabetics.

So here I was finally in Edmonton.  I had my Aunt, Uncle, cousin, mom, dad, sister, brother=in-law and BF cheering for me.  Oh and I can’t forget Karyn Brown Pancreasskicker/Diabadass who had flown in from Colorado for the weekend.  They were expected to be around mile 16- which would be perfect!

On the diabetes front for the race I set a new basal pattern on my pump  5am – 9am at .425 units per hour 9am – 11:30 am at .3 units per hour.  I was going to eat 1 cliff block per 10 minutes.  Of course what I forgot was that I hadn’t adjusted the time for MT vs CT so 5am was really 4am which may have contributed to my demise.  I had been struggling with the right basal settings for my long runs.  It appears that my insulin requirements had gone up since my old marathon days.  I used to require hardly anything.  Of course once in that mindset it is hard to lose it.  I am running therefore I will go low!!! Not so much.


My brother -in-law and Tom woke up at the crack of dawn to drive me the half hour to the Shaw convention center in downtown Edmonton where the start was.  It was a cool morning but perfect for running a marathon.  The course was an out and back and an out and back so essentially 6.5 miles one way then 6.5 miles the other way with the start in the middle.  That broke it down nicely for me.  There were only 800 runners so would be a different experience from 40,000 runners in Chicago.


No need to line up too early so at 6:50 I went out and tracked down the 4 hour pacer.  I’ve never used a pacer because I tend to start out slow.  It was a very surreal start as I heard the Oh Canada being sung instead of the Star Spangled Banner.  I will admit a lump grew in my throat as I watched the Canadian maple leaf flapping in the wind and sang the anthem with pride.  It had been a while since I was able to do this.

karyn and i

Karyn and I at the start

At 7am we were off I had 3 packs of blocks with me some jelly beans and of course my insulin pump.  My plan was to start off around 9:40’s for the first 2 miles.  For a 4 hour marathon I needed to maintain a 9:10 min mile.  My blood sugar at the start was a nice 150 I felt good.  So much so that I didn’t start out as slow as I thought and pretty much kicked into marathon pace right away.  Nothing wrong with getting some time in the bank if you feel good but still being cautious.    For the first 6.5 miles I kept with my nutrition plan.  It was then that things turned for the worse I slowly watch my blood sugar rise, I kept telling myself to be patient and stick with my plan.  I thought soon it will turn around and start to drop.  Being patient and watching your blood sugar rise is very hard.  I wanted to turn up my basal or give myself a mini bolus (small amount of insulin).  Finally, at the half way point as my pump sensor graph maxed out at 350 or so I decided that this wasn’t going to fix itself.  I have my self a small amount of insulin.  By then it was too late.  I was feeling nauseated I wanted to throw up and nearly did several times.   I wanted to just quit but this trip was so many years in the making and I had trained really hard to just give up.  It was mind over matter.    I had stopped eating. I had my family to look forward.  I first saw Karyn and gave her “the look”  she knew that things were not going well with the old ‘betus.  As promised I saw my family a few miles later cheering and hollering and hugging.  It gave me a bit of a push to keep going.  I told Tom that my blood sugar was a mess.  After leaving them with 10 miles to go the high from seeing them wore off pretty quickly. I also had been experiencing pain and numbness in my right arm and so needed to keep stretching it out.  At miles 21,23,24 I let my body win the mental game and walked the water stops which led to 3 miles at 9:45ish pace. Finally my blood sugar started to drop I hadn’t even been tracking my time. I just looked at each mile pace and hoped for the best I knew I was doing the absolute best I could.  When I knew I was close I managed to squeak out a final mile of 8:45 but in the end it wasn’t enough.   My final finishing time was 4:00:58.  I missed my goal by only 59 seconds.  Although I didn’t meet my goal I was still happy with the progress I had made with my running overall.

sensor readings

Blood Sugar Reading 8-12 Yup that is a mountain.

My family, Karyn as well as Tina, my friend from Chicago who decided to run the ½ marathon at the spur of the moment and her cousin were there at the end.  It was neat to see my friends in Edmonton.

group after marathon

Edmonton Famiily


Vancouver Family

We all went to my cousins house and ate fried chicken it was so good!   I could barely move my right arm afterwards.  I thought for sure it was the start of frozen shoulder on my right side.  Eventually it went away and luckily enough my Aunt is a retired Physical Therapist so she worked on me when we got back to her house.  It really must have helped because I had very little “marathon” pain the next day.  A bit of soreness but nothing like I would have expected.  Which was nice because we were about to get in a car and drive to Revelstoke for the next leg of our trip!

I could take up pages and pages of all the amazing pictures we took of family, mountains, trees and sea… but suffice to say my heart was full for the love of my family and the scenery.  All of a sudden all the crap stuff that I deal with day to day at work did not matter.  I am also very excited to be raising money again for riding on insulin a not for profit which provides kids and teens with camps geared towards those with T1D just like me.  At the camp they meet other individuals with similar interests and with similar diagnosis. Its a frustrating disease to have as an adult and it never stops I honestly can’t imagine being a teen and dealing with it.  My goal this year is to raise $2,000. I am just over $300 away!  Please visit my page here:


lake louise

Beautiful Lake Louise on our drive.


Running in Stanley Park

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Leg 3 after the lightning/rain/hail. Struggling.

Warning, this is a long post.  I’m going to start with some training stories.  Because the training this year was tough.  Training in Chicago in the spring is never easy but this year I had some additional demons I was battling and questioned participation along the way.

DK training recap:

It was January.  It is the dead of winter in Chicago.  The winter this year wasn’t terrible but we paid for it in the spring.  The spring had seemed to be very rainy and cold.

I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do this year but I did know that I needed something to motivate me and if you are indecisive you go with what you know. What I know is Dirty Kanza. I had completed it 3 times and each time had its own uniqueness and each one brought different challenges.  The race sold out in just a few minutes but I got in because this year they saved 200 slots for women as they were trying to encourage more female participation.

In the following weeks after signing up I was having a terrible time motivating myself to train.  I questioned why I had signed up in the first place.  I had to ask myself over and over, do I really want to do all that training? After the amazing family vacation which entailed a lot of eating and drinking I got back and felt depressed.  I didn’t want to go out let alone ride my bike, I wanted to sleep constantly.  I was behind in my training which perpetuated my lack of enthusiasm.

Thankfully I have a lot of awesome gravel grinding buddies who talk me into doing crazy shit which in the end got my ass out of the house and at least riding!

My “official” training started at my first long ride of the season at the 100K at the Pastry brest Pastry ride which was road/gravel mix.  I was really slow.  Then I DNS’d RoughRoad 100K because of a malfunctioning insulin pump.  I was half way there when it happened and had to turn around and head home.  Where I immediately crawled back into bed.  I was really discouraged.  The depression continued and I had a hard time working out at all.  I would have some good days and some bad days. I tried to crank out some miles but never really got any more than 50 in.  Nowhere near what I had done in previous years at that point.

I decided my big test of moving forward with the race would be at a ride called Dairy Roubaix  on April 21.  It was a big leap in distance from what I had been doing.  It was 4.5 hours away and really hilly. The race started at  Wyalusing State Park on the very tip of Wisconsin near Iowa.  If I was able to pull off 107 miles on gravel and hills (harder than DK) then I was all in. Thanks to my awesome friends Chris and Steve and their patience I made it.  I had some terrible blood sugars that poor Steve had to deal with.  One particularly bad one was near the end where we rode up a fairly steep long hill.  I was swerving in and out and was going maybe 5 MPH if that.  Because it was getting late Steve and Chris stuck with me as I didn’t bring any lights.  Overall I was happy though.  It was a good day. Great weather and great camaraderie There were some really steep climbs that I got up and although I had options to cut the ride short I never really got to that “I just want it to be over” point.  I even “GOT” to spend in the night in a bunk house with 6 dudes.  Ask me how much sleep I got with all the snoring and farting.


My next big training block was what I called Gillian Camp.  I got a room in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for Thurs – Sunday.  I really wanted to get 3 big days in.  Due to weather I ended up doing 2 days and hung out with Tom the rest of the time.  Which was really fun but it wasn’t training!  I rode up on Thursday about 90 miles  while Tom drove.  It was a long and windy ride and by the time I got to the hotel the temperatures had plummeted and I was frozen.  I stood at the room and nearly cried I was so cold.  The next day I did 3 -25 mile loops around the lake before the rain started again.  I didn’t even bother going out on Saturday. It was just miserable.

The following weekend was a 100 mile plus ride from home on Saturday then a half marathon on Sunday.  In case you wondered, I would not recommend running a half marathon on no training.  Ouch!  That put me out for a few days and I pretty much took that week off.

Finally, this leads me to the Great Lakes Randonneur ride “Rando” a 300k road ride…  The event is self supported with stops at gas stations every 20-40 miles.  I had to do it for peace of mind.  So Friday after work I packed up and drove out to Wisconsin again.

It was a 7am start and the weather was spectacular.  I set my temp basal for 13 hours at 0.4 units and didn’t eat breakfast.  I could eat on the bike.  Eating breakfast would have just f’d with my blood sugars which I didn’t need.  I woke at about a BG of 200.

My plan was to try and keep to 12-14 mph pace. It was going great except for the fact that for some reason my blood sugar went through the roof.  I couldn’t believe it when it said 400 and higher!  I had just replaced my reservoir in the morning so I wondered if somehow it got inserted badly.  I decided to take a small amount of insulin to correct for the HIGH and I turned off my temporary basal which meant that it  increased it to about 0.7 units per hour.  I prayed that it would work!  Well not only did it work, my blood sugar plummeted.  At least I knew at that point I was actually getting insulin!  And from that point onwards I struggled to keep my blood sugar up.  I averaged about 13.5 MPH on the road so for DK it’ll probably drop another 2 MPH at least for the gravel. It was a long day by myself but beautiful and this reminded me why I love doing this:

The following weekend I had VQ base camp where we were to ride for 4 days 60-90 miles per day with hills.  Well, mother nature had different plans for us.  We all rode from Highland Park to Lake Geneva about 70 miles then I did a 20 mile ride around the lake.  The next two days mother nature put us to the test.  We didn’t get the miles in but we tested our mental toughness!  Both days we suffered through freezing cold temps and pouring/sleeting/hailing rain.  I don’t think I have ever been so cold in my life.  The trip home was good but again shorter than I would have liked.  At this point there was nothing else I could do but hope for the best at Kanza.


Getting there.

I flew to Kansas City.  Which meant I couldn’t just throw stuff in a car or pack a ton of stuff.  I was limited to my suitcase and my bike bag.  Another love is my SCICON bike bag.  As a person travelling with my own bike who knows nothing about mechanics this bag makes travelling a breeze.  Very easy to pack and no disassembly required just taking off the wheels.  I flew into KC and drove into Emporia on Thursday. My big faux pas was not springing for the suv, I tried to squeeze this puppy into a jetta.  It wasn’t pretty.   I couldn’t believe how hot it was!   I checked into a brand new Hampton hotel in Emporia.  Went to the Walmart to buy food for my room then went down to Commerce street where the race start would be on Saturday.  I walked around a bit and bought  6 CO2 cartridges.  I am always paranoid at running out of CO2 .  I met my VQ crew for BBQ dinner then headed back to the room to assemble my bike and unpack etc.  Friday I tested the bike out and the shifting and all seemed to work great.  After my ride I went to rider check-in then back to the room to shower and sort out my check point bags.

In my bags I had:

  1. – 2 extra packs of blocks, Skratch, a gel and a bar. It was a very small bag
  2. – 1 tube, 1 new spare tire, 2 co2 cartridges, red bull and the above
  3. – 1 tube. 1 c02 cartridge, lights, shoes, socks, jacked, redbull, extra blocks and an extra bar.


On a side note I saw Rebecca Rusch’s documentary Blood Road. Rebecca was there to introduce the movie and answer questions. There were definitely tears shed.  In the movie she rides the Ho Chi Minh Trail to find the site of where her fathers plane was shot down in the Vietnam war.  I would highly recommend it if you get a chance to see it.  Afterwards she was selling these really cool bracelets made of repurposed military grade aluminimum to fundraise money to clear unexploded bombs in Laos.  More info can be found here Article 22 information  The trailer is below and it still gives me goosebumps.

I wore my bracelet during the race as a reminder of harder times and as a reminder to Reba’s toughness.

My rig.

Once again I rode my Trek Cronus –  Peters Power which I purchased off of my former coach – Mike Peters.   I had thought of buying a new gravel specific bike but I figured the Cronus had got me through 2 previous DK200’s so why mess with it (I rode my mountain bike the first year).  I did add some new features this year:

  1. I had placed the winning bid on a SRAM etap gruppo set for World Bicycle Relief charity I was hesitant to have it installed on my cross bike because I didn’t know how it would hold up to the gravel and water crossing and I was pretty afraid of the “E” of the Etap failing (i.e. the electronicness of it.  After speaking to some experts I decided to go ahead and install it.  Thank you to Damien at Lakeshore Bicycles Lakeshorebike for the quick installation.  BEST DECISION EVER –  I loved the ease of the electronic shifting, especially after 150 miles.  I almost feel like a wuss because the shifting was so easy! In order to ease my mind I had bought a spare battery which I kept with me;
  2. I also had two new tires installed and I went with – Bontrager CXO 33’s (same as prior years).  I thought about going wider for comfort but again but why mess with what works. I have not one flat so far, including this year. Thanks to Trek HP for the installation.
  3. Finally, my other change was installing a 32-11 cassette.  Previously I had a 28-11 and not to say I couldn’t get up the hills with this but why not make it easier.  It was.  That cassette was the gift that kept on giving every time I went up a hill it was like magically I had all these extra gears.
  4. I finally was fitted properly.  Jim Cooper at FFC made some adjustments.  One of them was to raise my seat which I was very sceptical of but actually it make my back feel much better for longer.

For hydration pack I used my same Osprey Synchro 10 hydration pack, it has definitely seen better days.

In my pack I had a snickers, a cliff bar, glucose tablets, a kit of wipes, syringe, insulin, bug repellant wipes, a multi tool, 2 portable chargers and the cords, pump, spare tube, c02 (I also had this in my seat bag), a repair kit which included some duct tape, wire, zip ties, two packets of lube, Powerlink and tire boots. I carried much less than previous years.

Nutrition and blood sugar.

Overall I felt pretty good about my blood sugar management.  Lately I have been having a lot of issues with high blood sugars in the beginning of a ride.(See above!- training) So I was ultra cautious for the race.  I also tried to keep my blood sugar in check the week prior.  I set a new basal pattern which had me at .775 units for the first 3 hours of the race then switching to .4 units per hour for the remainder of the race.  I bolused 2 units for breakfast which I had at 4:15 am.  I had eggs and some ham as well as a small portion of oatmeal.  For the first few hours I was definitely high but not as high as I had been recently I hovered around 250 which was not ideal but not in the 400’s either.  For the remainder of the race I did fight a few lows but it was worth it to have a blood sugar in the 80-100 range.  I did get a bad low about 10 miles from the end and had to eat an entire pack of blocks – yuck.

Leg 1 I ate – 2 packs of blocks and a bottle of Skratch at the checkpoint I ate a half a PBJ sandwich and some pickles.

Leg 2 I age – 2 packs of blocks, bottle of Skratch, 1 chocolate cherry gu for the caffeine and a cliff chocolate hazelnut butter filled bar. At the checkpoint I ate a ham sandwich, pickle juice and pickles and I had a diet red bull.

Leg 3 I ate more blocks, 2 bottles of Skratch, 1 triple caffeine espresso gel another cliff bar, a snickers bar (my sugar got a bit low).  At the checkpoint I ate a hot dog and some chips and a coke

It seems like I ate a lot but I was so hungry at the checkpoints.  My blood sugar readings can be found here:    KANZA BG FILE

The ride.

Strava File

I started between the 16 and 18 hour pace group.  I was hoping to be closer to 16 hours this year and the conditions looked like they were going to be ideal.  No mud this year!  To bite off DK you need to break it down into checkpoint increments.  If you think about all 206 miles at once it will be overwhelming. I had brought with me all my good luck charms – because they workk right? – I was wearing my angel necklace (a gift from Chris, Katies BF), my “find my toughness” diabetes camp coin, my kitty water bottle (a gift from a very sweet fellow gravel rider) and I was wearing my purple butterfly bracelet my family had given me for my birthday this year.  When things got bad I would see the butterfly and think of Katie.





Leg 1: Miles 1- 48

I felt great, the pace was good and there was lots of people to look at and talk to.  The course was dusty and not wet and there was no river crossing this time.  The field was thick and busy for this leg.  I did notice that my back tire had lost a bit of air.  I was worried because at a previous training ride I had also lost a bit of air. By the time I got to the checkpoint I had a thick layer of dirt all over me as did everyone else.  My cassette and chain were thick with dust also so I wiped them down and applied some fresh lube (I was very proud of myself for doing this).  I had already stopped on the side of the road about 5 miles back to pee so had that taken care of.  I had a mechanic check my tire pressure and indeed it had dropped to 25 psi from 35 psi.  So he pumped it up.

Leg 2: Miles 48- 104

It was a longer one and the pace was still good and at this point the field had thinned and I found myself alone a lot of the time. My back tire seemed to be losing air again.  I decided to leave it as it wasn’t terrible and didn’t seem to get any worse.   It was getting really hot.  I actually ran out of water in my pack and had to ration what was left of my bottles of skratch.  Then, like an oasis in the desert with about 8 miles to go to Eureka a farmer was handing out ice cold bottles of water.  It was heaven.  I quickly gulped it down and put the rest in a bottle. A huge thank you to whoever that was!

At the second aid station, the restroom was in a school, it was so cool in there I didn’t want to leave.  I rinsed my dirty face with cold water and applied more sun screen.  Unfortunately the sunscreen left a bad taste in my mouth like perfume.  For the next 50 miles I couldn’t get that taste out of my mouth.

I  washed down my cassette and chain and re-lubed – yay me! I also had to pump up my back tire again (not sure what is going on there but it seems to be a VERY slow leak?) I also plugged my bike computer in to the portable battery back as I was down below 20%. I saw my teammate Sam and his wife.  He was cramping but he seemed in good spirits.  I looked for him to ride together but didn’t see him so figured he’d left.

As I set off I could see dark clouds looming in the distance, and I thought hmm, wouldn’t that be nice.. a little rain to cool us off and wash us off.

Leg 3 Miles 104-162

Without a doubt this is always the hardest leg. It is long and the body is starting be break down. The first 10 miles go by pretty fast because you are rested from the aid station (well at least my long rests!) but then the back, the shoulders , the neck and the feet start to scream again.  I kept trying to stretch my neck but it hurt so much and my feet had aching hot spots.  The pain at times was unbearable.  When you are riding on your own in the middle of nowhere it is hard to ignore the pain and thoughts of quitting and wanting your flip flops and a cold beer and why the fuck am I out here anyway?  This is nuts 206 miles in one day .. who was I kidding?  A LOT of negative talk.  I just kept thinking keep moving forward.


Also my teammate Nan Doyle who reminded me that no matter how bad I feel it will only be temporary. The miles seem to tick by so slowly.  At about mile 135 ish there had been not much rain.  But we had now reached those dark clouds that were in the distance 30 miles ago. The wind also howled.  I  was wondering when I would see a house float by or the wicked witch of the west !  It was that crazy.  Then the lightening.  Lightening must have struck the ground near us because a few of us felt a shock in our hands.  It was crazy, I actually saw a blue streak at my right hand and a slight buzzing sensation.  This poor guy beside me was scared shitless and for good reason, his uncle had died by a lightening strike.  I had never seen or heard such crazy loud thunder.  Soon after it absolutely poured on us , I think at one point it was actually hail.  I was soaked through and through but I had had plenty of practice riding in the rain this year and that was rain in the cold this was at least warm.  The route even got diverted because of flooding.  The crazy rain lasted about an hour then it died down to a light sprinkle.  Without the rain distraction I was back to thinking about the pain in my body.

My neck, shoulders and feet were so sore.  I practiced deep belly breathing and with every breath I imagined the oxygen circulating to the neck and shoulders. This actually worked for a while.  I also started to sing to myself but unfortunately I could hardly remember any words to any songs… it was terrible – Billy Idol – white wedding, Rolling Stones – shattered, Soundgarden – black hole sun and it was only the choruses that I could remember but it helped.  I spoke to everyone I could to try and pass the time.  It seemed like an eternity to the 3rd checkpoint.  Finally I passed the area where I got off my bike and puked last year so I knew the checkpoint was close.

I arrived at the checkpoint whimpering.  I was hurting big time. The volunteers were great but it wasn’t the same as seeing a familiar face.  Why did I ever think I could do this race any faster than I had in the past.    I got off my bike and was starving so I ate a hot dog without even a second thought and also inhaled an ice cold coke.  I went to the restroom then started to install my lights.  My hands were hardly working. They were numb from the constant bumping and thudding of the gravel, not to mention the rain.  I put my helmet light on and my handle bar light.  It was still very light out at this point.  I grabbed some more chips and restocked my hydration pack with another bar and blocks and filled my bottles with skratch. As I left the checkpoint the crowd was amazing – giving cheers and I got offered more coke ! which I took without hesitation.

Leg 4 Miles 162 – 206

Ok only 44 miles to go… crazy right?  I was sore and tired and I wanted to get home. Despite all this I seemed to get a second wind.  It could have been the singing or the cows who stood or sat at the fence watching the race like spectators.  I seemed to be able to ignore the pain and push myself.  I wouldn’t say I hammered it but I did feel strong.  Had I held back to much on the other legs?  I passed quite a few people on the last leg.  Darkness came and the lights went on.  The faces of the people I passed or rode with were not distinguishable and the fireflies (lightening bugs) twinkled like stars on the ground.  Finally I got to the bridge where last year we had stopped to help a guy who had fallen.  I was only 10 miles out.  I knew at this point I would successfully finish my 4th dirty kanza race.

I arrived at Commerce St. shortly before 11 am and rode down the finishers chute high-fiving little kids and  held up 4 fingers – representing my 4th dirty kanza finish at 16 hours and 53 minutes.  I was elated.   I saw the race organizer Kristi Mohn at the finish line and she gave me a great big hug.  I think I asked her why I keep doing this to myself.

I walked through the finish and didn’t see any of my VQ teamates  they were already showered and tucked away in bed.  I did see however my friend Scott Wittoff from San Francisco who had been waiting for his friend.  It was so nice to see at least 1 familiar face at the end and he was so helpful and proud!  He and his friend left and I sat on my own drinking a beer.  It was a little tough to swallow.  I had wished Tom could have been there to greet me and take care of me.  I needed to be taken care of at this point and I NEVER admit to that.  I started walking my bike back to my car with just my socks and this person – Brooklyn was her name came over and asked me If I wanted her to help with my bike back to my car.  Her husband was an EMT there so she was just waiting around anyway.  So she walked with me all the way back to my car with my bike.   I was so grateful.

I put my flip flops on and put the bike and my bags in the car.  I drove back to the hotel and went to the drive through McDonalds.  At this point it was after midnight.  I didn’t have the energy for anything else.  I got in the shower and washed the layer of dirt that was on me off and ate my McD’s in the room by myself while watching a cheesy horror movie – The Wax Museum.  I finally turned the tv off at about 2.

I woke early the next day and headed to the awards banquet where I saw my superfast teammates Clemens and Drew and Scott get their awards.  They are so amazing.  As I sat watching, someone leaned over and said are you Gillian?  I said yes.  He said he had talked to me a couple of years ago at the race where he told me I had inspired him through this blog to race in the DK. He was also a diabetic.  I will always remember that moment and the fact that he reached out again and thanked me meant a lot and inspired me to keep writing.

Looking at my strava file I feel like I did a pretty good job managing my pace and heartrate.  I don’t have power on this bike.  The first two legs are hillier while the second two are more rolling.  My average speeds were 13.8, 12.5, 12.7 and 13.8, respectively with an average heartrate between 125 and 133 for each.  My issue is that I don’t have the courage or the confidence to go faster or to keep a faster pace.  I think of myself as slow therefore I am.  I look at everyone and think oh they are fast!  So, I think I have resolved to the fact that I will be a 17 hour Kanza rider.

Back at work on Monday and through the week I definitely felt tired but with the Leadville marathon only two weeks away I can’t rest yet.

I am also happy to report that I was able to raise $1,000 for Riding on Insulin for this ride.  I will keep fundraising through the year as I complete each event that I have planned.  Please visit my page here:

Donation Page – Riding on Insulin











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Roughroad 100 – the ‘betes won this one

Roughroad 100 – the ‘betes won this one!

Earlier this year I switched insulin pump brand from a T-Slim/Dexcom combination back to my tried and true Medtronic brand.  This latest version of the Medtronic brand shuts off insulin delivery if it anticipates you are going below a certain pre-set blood sugar.  I was not very happy with the T-Slim but have always loved and got good results from the Dexcom – continuous blood glucose monitoring system whereas I didn’t have the same good results from the Medtronic equivalent.  On the T-Slim which I was only on for about 6 months  my A1C (3month BG average) was 8.3 well above the acceptable range and I had always floated in the 7’s.  Still not ideal but better.  After only a few months of being on Medtronic I was already back down to the 7’s.  It may have been a coincidence but I will take the good results.

With the sensor the pump requires 2 calibrations a day (finger pricks).  I will admit I have been known to ignore or snooze the calibration alarm if it happens during the night.   The night before roughroad this happened.  I looked at my blood sugar before the calibration requirement and it looked good so I didn’t feel the need to get up and test (instead I awoke every hour on the hour to snooze the alarm).  Makes perfect sense right?!

I look forward to the roughroad it is a great little 100K early season gravel race perfect for dirty kanza training and there is usually a bunch of VQ’ers out doing it.  With the weather finally getting better it meant a nice cold beer with the crew after!  Roughroad 100 .

My alarm went off at 5am the day of the race. It was an 8am start and it was roughly an hour and a half drive.  I had to leave at 6am at latest. I went about getting ready and I will admit I hadn’t tested until I was in the car on the way there despite not feeling well! Duh!

So I tested in the car and I was about 340’s and I tried to calibrate.  It didn’t work because I was too high.  Not wanting to have to much insulin on board at the time of race start I gave myself a small dose of insulin.  I tried to recalibrate again and it was rejected because I was 404, I didn’t know that being too high and doing two bad calibrations in a row rendered the sensor expired.  Great, so no CGM for the race.

I typically muddle my way through high blood sugars although technically I should not have even considered starting the race at such a high level.  I figured once I got there it would be down a little.  I kept driving. I am not sure how long it was after that the pump went crazy with a high pitch alarm.  I quickly pressed the sequence of buttons to clear the pump.  Then I got a no battery power error with no warning.  So I assumed that something went wrong with the pump and all I needed to do was replace the battery.  So I dug out the spares and tried several different batteries but none worked.  The no battery power error continued.  As I was driving West along 55 I decided I should stop and buy new batteries.. may the Kirkland brand batteries were no good.  So I finally got off at Cermak the Midway airport exit.  I figured it would be my best bet to find a Walgreens or something.  I drove for a bit not finding anything.  I pulled into a gas station but no double AA’s!  At this point I was cutting it close to timing on the race (still thinking of course that I was going  to race).  After driving about 10-15 minutes in an unfamiliar area I finally found a 7-11.  I stopped and bought new fancy lithium Energizer batteries.  It worked!  With some reset some of the settings and took another hit of insulin.  BG was still high with a non-functioning pump.  I looked at my WAZE app and it told me my arrival time was 8:05.  I was so ticked. I could have still gone and started late but I didn’t want to risk driving all that way and not race because of the pump/high blood sugars or being late.  I was bummed because it was the only cycling race I had every “placed” in and the last two years I had come in third!  My old coach Mike Peters and my gravel grinding crew were going.  It hurt to write the text of shame saying I couldn’t make it because my pump broke…like anyone would understand.

So with the car packed with all my bike stuff and a change of clothes on a beautiful day I let the ‘betes win.  I have a pretty good track record so I guess I can’t complain too much.  I drove home and got back into bed and slept for 2 hours.  Later I called Medtronic and they said they’d ship me a new pump and to use my back up plan i.e. long acting insulin and insulin shots.  Of course I was totally unprepared for that so used the broken pump which seemed to be working until the new one arrived.

I definitely don’t make the best decisions when it comes to managing my diabetes (i.e. not calibrating on time, not having a back plan) I need to get better and planning and devote more time to it.  Always lessons to learn!


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A recap of my 5th ironman- its a bit long, bear with me.

This ironman I refer to as the backwards ironman, where normally it is hard to get through the marathon my last 4 1/2 hours (the marathon) felt the best out of the 14 + hours it took to finish.  I had no dark moments, sure it was still hard work I mean it is a marathon but I had such a good time on my run.  I got to talk to so many friends and family on my way. However, the race sure as heck did not start out that way and it could have very easily gone completely in the other direction. The swim and the bike were very tough and I almost had to end it early.  I’ll get to the race but wanted to start with a bit of a back drop, after all ironman is more than just race day,  it is a journey that often lasts a year.


Looking back to September of last year I had just finished IMMOO 2015. I was hearing that a ton of people were signing up for 2016. I wanted nothing to do with it. NOTHING. Well clearly that didn’t hold. The last straw was working the lifetime fitness half marathon with Lynn Flentye and Dave Athans, those two knew how to put the pressure on! I caved and went home and signed up. I didn’t tell anyone… not even Tom. Poor guy.

Fast forward to November of 2015. I find myself with a condition called frozen shoulder. Apparently if is very common for female diabetics and to get this on the left arm. I checked all the boxes. I had hardly any mobility in my left arm. Sleeping, changing, opening doors and other normal functions were quite painful. In January 2016 I finally got around to visiting Dr. Dylan Drynan at Activebody Chiropractic. I have been a patient of Dylan for about 15 years (as long as I have been in Chicago basically). I always joke that my relationship with him is the longest I’ve had with a boy :).  I underwent weekly very painful Active Release Technique, Graston and dry needling sessions on my shoulder. I don’t remember a time that I didn’t have bruises from his treatments. As time marched on I was doubting whether or not I would be able to get to the start line. According to Dr. Drynan and what I had read there was no easy cure or set time frame.

Meantime, I had also signed up for my 3rd Dirty Kanza – a 206 mile gravel race in Kansas in June. I was able to do a lot of road and gravel cycling in preparation for this race. See my race report here. FINDING YOUR LIMIT – DK200 2016

Once Dirty Kanza was over it was time to focus on ironman. I still had not swam one stroke since 9/13/15 at ironman Wisconsin.

Following DK in June I attended Diabetes Training Camp with my favorite WILD ladies. I really cannot say enough about this camp. It is 5 star. They told me this camp would be life changing. I will admit I was skeptical but now I am a believer! I met so many special people at camp and I basically got to run, bike and swim every day while being guided by the best coaches and diabetes experts out there. A special thanks to Dr. Matt Corcoran for caring so much about his camp attendees to actually send me a text wishing me well and for having the vision to realize that there is such a huge need for people like myself to assist with the everyday challenges of having Type 1 diabetes as well as the additional challenges that participating in sports adds. I really feel the need here to thank in no particular order – Carrie Cheadle – sports psychologist and author of On Top of Your Game who made every effort to give me more confidence as I participate in these sports (not an easy task), Rick Crawford and Jon Fecik for your expert cycling and triathlon coaching, Grant Curry who opened himself up to the group with the most exquisite thought provoking lecture exposing vulnerabilities that many T1’s can relate to but never talk about and my partners in crime out on the rides Conor Smith and Roberta Morgan. I would highly recommend it! Check it out here:Diabetes Training Camp


pancreasskickers at DTC

It was at DTC that I jumped in the water for my first swim in over 8 months. I didn’t really hang with the group because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep up but I was able get to the other side of the 50 meter pool! After several lengths of the pool I started to become a little more optimistic that IM may still be on.

Continuing with therapy I started to jump in the water a little more I logged a grand total of 3 hours of swimming in June. As Dr. Drynan continued to work on my arm I finally was able to get a decent enough stroke in. With the ability to swim I was now all in.  This left me 2 1/2  months to train.

Once the decision was made I also signed up to be part of the Riding on Insulin team. The on course support and the other athletes just can’t get any better. If you are thinking of signing up DO IT! I can’t adequately describe the feeling as you go through the course and hear go ROI! I wear the ROI kit with pride. The endurance team was started by Michelle Page-Alswager and although it started out by something sad it has grown into something awesome through her vision. Find out about the team here: RIDING ON INSULIN

I am happy to report that I was able to raise over $3,000 for the charity and counting! This was my second year racing as part of this team. Again, if you plan on racing in 2017 please consider racing for this team.

GO ROI!!!!


I didn’t have one. Although I wanted to do well I didn’t want to work so hard that I gave up fun things in the summer. Most notably- concerts, cubs games and my niece and her boyfriend spending a few days with us. I planned my workouts around my schedule and didn’t give up my social life entirely. I think I struck a good balance. Let’s face it I am an age grouper and my chances of making KONA are tiny.

Don’t get me wrong I still did a lot of work. In general:

SWIM: I didn’t swim enough. I did several 2.4 mile swims but did not augment that much with other swims during the week. I swam on average 2 x per week.

BIKE: 4-5 hundred milers.. including Swedish days, Madison loops 3 different days and Race across Wisconsin (180 miles). Other 1-2 x a week.

Run: 2-3x per week – 1 long run ramping up to 18 miles, weekly track workout for about 5 weeks and 1 other run of varying distances.

I thought about getting a coach but given the short time frame I never really got around to it. If I do another I would definitely get coached or try to follow a plan.

As I was looking at my Strava account to write this, I had thought that I did a lot more than I really did!  Find me on Strava and you will see.


day-with-katieThe weekend prior I got to hang out with one of my favorite people.. Chris. We decided we would visit Katie’s grave site for her birthday so we brought flowers, shared some champagne and looked at pictures and memories with her. We went for lunch after, it was just a nice way to spend the day and I know it would have been Katie approved!


On labor day, the Monday prior to the race the Trimonsters were getting together for one last long lake swim. So for confidence I decided to do it with them. I swam 3 long miles in pretty tough conditions. It was grueling to say the least. It was all I could do to now jump out of the water and walk back. It was fun hanging out after at Café Olivia. I really enjoyed the chatter and it took my mind off of what loomed ahead. Even Dave Athans made an appearance!

The next day my parents arrived. I was excited that they were going to be able to spectate again this year. At 83 and 81 I wasn’t sure if they would want to spend the day out on the bike course again but god bless them they stuck it out to the end once again. I hope I have their stamina at that age.


I worked Tuesday and Wednesday and packed Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

We drove up on Thursday. Tom dropped me off at Monona Terrace while he checked into the hotel with my parents. I needed to take my wheel to the Trek repair shop because it had blown earlier that day IN the car! It turns out there was a large gash in it. I had just had new tires put on too! $80 later I left with a new tire and tube. Which I will admit made me a little nervous. Getting a flat is always a big concern for me because I just don’t have the practice. I can do it I’m just not fast! I picked up my race packet and was pleased to see the bag this year was pretty cool! I walked back to the hotel to meet Tom and my parents. That night we went to the ROI friends and family event. I chatted with athletes from last year and new athletes. It was great to finally meet people in person from our facebook page.



Friday I met the ROI group and we went for a short swim in the lake. The water felt warm and fresh. I couldn’t help but notice my arms felt very tired. I was worried that I still hadn’t recovered from my Monday 3 mile swim. I ended my swim early. We all went out for brunch and shared in our anxieties and questions. The big question was where to position yourself for the swim. Last year I thought I was in a good spot but was definitely not. It felt like I was being pummeled to death, I had trouble breathing and was panicking big time. This year I vowed this was not going to happen I was going to stay way back.


after swim brunch with the ROI crew

I got back to the room and went through my bags for probably the third time. Like last year I kept everything simple. Here is my list and notes. I packed some additional cold weather clothes in my t1 bag just in case the temperatures dropped. It called for mid 60’s coming out of the water but you never know. I did NOT want to be cold on the bike.

Later Friday my sister and her husband flew in to Madison from Toronto. On a whim I looked at flights thinking they’d be 100’s of dollars but surprisingly it was affordable! I really wanted her to see what ironman was all about. It is such a huge part of my life and you can’t really understand what it is all about unless you witness one in person. I knew without a doubt that she would be blown away by the whole thing. What I wasn’t expecting was the reaction of my brother-in-law Tom. His enthusiasm was so sweet.


After a couple of drinks I went to the athlete dinner. I always love hearing the inspiring stories. I ate a small plate of pasta, veggies and a baked potato. The ROI team took a group picture with Mike Reilly the famous IM announcer. Afterwards, I met my friends Hootie, Ryan, Dave, Lynn, Jacob etc… from lifetime fitness at the Great Dane a popular watering hole in Madison. My sister, Tom and bro-in law Tom (yes they are both Tom’s) met me there. It was so great to see everyone and let loose a little. If anyone knows how to take the edge off of ironman it is that crew! They can party with the best and still compete like rockstars.


Saturday I did a final bag check and took my bike for a spin to test out the gears and the new tire. I racked my bike and dropped off my transition bags. I also stopped to get a little ART on my back and my shoulder.

With everything dropped off we all met for a late lunch on the square. As I ate I received a call from Robbie Ventura who is always enthusiastic about everything. He reminded me how strong I was and to have fun and keep smiling. The VQ crew were all coming up on Sunday after their sub 5 race. Once back at the hotel, I added a second insertion site and covered all sites with my new Grif Grips for fun and to help keep them adhered to my body. I chose purple butterflies!



Previously I had set up a basal profile for race day which I activated as well. My rates were as follows:
Midnight – 5am 0.6 units ending 2 hours prior to swim – rate same for sleep

5am – 8:30am 0.2 units – for the swim – reduced for swim

8:30 am – 1:30 pm 1 unit – for bike – increased 25% for bike

1:30 pm -8:30 pm 0.3 units – for run – decreased 50% for run

8:30pm – midnight 0.8 units – post race


My alarm went off at 3:30 3 ½ hours before race start. I ate 2 peanut butter and banana sandwiches on whole wheat and took a full bolus of 5 units. I also made a bottle with ultra hydration from skratch and slowly sipped it.


I laid in bed for a while after that but couldn’t sleep so got up. I put my kit on and gathered my bags. Carol and the Tom’s got up and came with me. We were able to get a hotel shuttle to close to the start. I dropped off my special needs bags and walked back to transition. I filled my aerobottle with water and skratch and just water in a bottle on my frame. I put 2 cliff block packs in my bento box with my dex receiver. I decided to carry the dex so that I could hear any bad BG alarms I never really look at it unless I have a reason. I took the bike to the mechanics who pumped my tires to 110. On to transition I put a cold redbull and coke in my transition bags. I saw Lynn who’s bike was next to mine she said they were meeting at 6:30 for a picture. It was a cool temperature outside but with the wetsuit on I was warm enough. I stuck a gel in my sleeve. We walked down to the path to look for them but didn’t see them. As I approached the swim chute I felt I needed to use the bathroom again so crossed the river people and left Carol and the Tom’s on the other side in the mayhem. Luckily I was able to shimmy my way back to them. I almost cried thinking I was not going to say a proper good-bye to them. I tested my blood sugar at 210 and was pretty happy with that. Despite this I decided to eat some of my kind bar. I took a full bolus earlier so there was a chance there was still quite a bit of insulin on board. I had been caught a couple of times with low blood sugars during a swim and it is not pleasant. I handed everything back to Carol and Tom’s and hugged them good bye. We were all in tears.

I slowly made my death march into the water.


I got into the water. I do love the water, I am a Pisces after all. I don’t love being in the water with 2,499 people. I slipped back and hung out with some people for a while then slowly headed towards the ski ramp but still far back. I floated, I kicked and I swam a bit. I felt ok. I watched the stream of people still coming down the chute this is what I warned about the stream of people coming in towards the buoys from the side. I watched. The gun went off and everyone took off I stayed back and cautiously moved forward. I kept moving forward and as I moved I held back when someone was coming my way and I had plenty of room the entire way. I knew I started to relax when I was able to pee. I made it to the first turn buoy and although you are supposed to MOO I didn’t I just wanted to get this over with. I felt tiredness in my arms again I was regretting the 3 mile Monday swim that week. I made it to the next turn and faced the sun.  On Thursday at the expo I had bought new acquasphere goggles with dark lenses. They were large an awesome. I am so glad despite the rule of not wearing anything new on race day that I decided to wear these. And seriously there is nothing like the feeling of the new goggle suction. Nothing was coming in these puppies.




I still felt pretty good and new that I was on the home stretch. Or at least in my mind it was the home stretch. As I swam I was counting the buoys I thought I was getting close but then I saw the color switch from yellow to orange and I wondered what that meant but I could only think that meant half way. Oh my fucking god only half way. As I swam kayakers were following along. So much so I felt like the last swimmer being followed. I wondered how I could possibly be so lucky to have so many kayakers around me. That last stretch home felt like the longest swim ever. Longer than the 3 mile swim I had done on Monday.. I had no strength. My arms were rubber. The worst part is hearing the announcers from so far away.. feeling close but not being close. I FINALLY made it to the end of hell. Also known as the long leg. They had warned us of the coming home leg and how much longer it was than the going out leg. I turned in and again had the company of my own kayaker.. my own personal guide. How long was I? I could see the swim out getting closer and closer and I knew I was done and was happy. I have no idea what happened and my Garmin cut out at the far end of the swim and didn’t record anything on the gps on the long leg.




I crawled (honestly) up the swim out and could barely stand up. I looked at the clock holy shit 1:58. How could that have happened? 3min 100’s!!! in my training OWS I had been clocking 2:30 100’s and had felt surprisingly strong and felt my swim fitness was pretty close to the prior year. I am not sure what happened but I was out and it was done. I just had to keep going. The worst part of the day was over or so I thought. As I regained vertical stability I had enough of my wits about me to say hi to Molly from ROI and Kathy Ziegert a fellow team wild girl. I hadn’t seen in ages as well as Lyndsay in her bright pink shirt. I beamed at them.


The wetsuit peelers took off my wetsuit and I was on my way into T1. I saw Sally and said hi.


My volunteer helped me with my things. I figured it was in the low 60’s but knew it would get warmer I opted for my thicker socks (regret) and my arm coolers and warmers. I tested my blood sugar and was happy at 210 which meant although I was a bit high I had guessed right on my basal. I took some of the espresso cliff gel that I had in my wetsuit just to give me some flavor and taste in my mouth. My cycling shirt was prepacked with food, spare tube and co2 and all my diabetes stuff (tester, syringe and insulin and wipes). I put it on over my tri-top. I sprayed on suntan lotion and covered my face. Helmet on I ran to my bike in my socks. The bike racks were empty. I was 2,351st out of 2,881 athletes .. not sure how many actually started but lets just say I was pretty close to the last few on the bike.


T1 time 15:35 minutes a T1 PR!




I started off down the helix and saw my friend Jeff Terao at the mount line. Its always great to see him as he is always so enthusiastic and has such a big smile it was a great way to start my journey. I had not even the slightest bit of nerves heading out on the bike. I started off easy as I always do. It was truly a wonderful sunny day, life was good. I expected to finish the bike at least 15 minutes faster than prior years. I was much much stronger. I passed Sally a little ways in she asked if the swim was long, I honestly had no idea, I didn’t even look. As I arrived in Verona one of the houses was playing Prince and I hoped that they would still be playing it as she passed… knowing how much of a fan she was. As I passed fireman’s park I knew that the meat of the course was coming. Everything was truly great… then BAM!!!!  I don’t recall exactly where it happened but at some point I started to experience excruciating knee pain in my left knee with each pedal stroke. I tried to massage it with my hand. It was similar to IT band pain only it was on the inside of my knee. The pressure and pain were incredible I grimaced with every pedal turn. I had ridden thousands of miles this year with no such knee pain, EVER. I had experienced some pain in my right knee while running but not the left. The only thought I had was that I had new cleats put on a few weeks prior, possibly after several hundred miles in the wrong position the damage was now showing?  I thought just keep pedaling surely it will go away! I felt disappointed I kept losing momentum on the hills and only could put pressure on my right leg. I had half the power going up the hill. The left leg followed but it was painful. I also had difficulty getting into aero because the angle seemed to worsen the pain in my knee. With some momentum and continued pedaling it eased up slightly. I arrived at Mt. Horeb and enjoyed the crowds. Despite the pain, the hills did not feel particularly hard, it was frustrating to say the least.


I tried to keep to my nutrition plan which was similar to last year. I had a couple of cliff blocks with water and sipped skratch on 15 minute increments… sometimes my timing wasn’t great but it worked. I arrived at Barlow, the infamous new hill on the course. Yes it was steep but nothing I couldn’t handle in good circumstances, with every pedal stroke my face seethed with pain. I made it.


I had brought some good luck charms with me to deal with some tough times. The angel around my neck, which was a necklace that Chris gave me so I could have our angel Katie with me at all times. My bracelet which my niece Fiona had given me for being her sponsor. She looked up to me it was an honor to be chosen by her. The bracelet had a charm of St. Anthony who would guide my way. My coin given out at DTC reminding me to find my courage and lastly I had written down the words of Terri Fox which were displayed on the screen at the athletes’ dinner. “ITS NOT A BAD DAY IT’S A CHARACTER BUILDING DAY” which seemed very appropriate to the day I was having. I recalled seeing Terri Fox run through my home town in Canada with his prosthetic leg. He ran from coast to coast to raise money for cancer. It may seem silly but I believe, all these things gave me strength along the way. Before long I arrived at Midtown Rd where all the ROI crew were. I particularly remember Molly running after me, Shannon and Danni yelling for me, I am sure there were many others! Despite the pain and knowing I wasn’t at my full potential I still grinned from ear to ear. I was alive and outside riding my bike on a beautiful day with many of my closest friends. Once I got through midtown I was that much closer to the “red barn” aka the “trimonster” tent. I knew my mom, dad, tom, carol and her tom would be there as well as many others. I got excited. As I approached the turn to the red barn, I slowed right down and soaked it all in. I high fived my family and smiled. It was magical. I saw Chris and I secretly whispered to him that my knee was killing me. I was also excited to see my friend Steve who I had no idea was going to be there! Bless him, he surprised me! This is IRONMAN!

I also took my time through Verona and soaked in the crowd there. I decided not to stop at special needs and continued on to the second loop which was the easier one. As the day went on it got a bit windier on the bike. Around the half way mark I ate a chocolate chip Lara bar and I continued to eat my cliff blocks and sip on the skratch. My blood sugar was on the low side but on the bike I prefer that as long as it didn’t drop too low. It is a fine balance to keep. At each aid station I refilled my water and skratch and had a salt stick electrolyte replacement pill. As I continued on I noticed that there seemed to be a lot more spectators at various locations than previous years. It was energizing. I even heard some good old Canadian bands on the course! Rush and Loverboy! When I could I sang out loud! I apologize if you had to hear that.


As I finished the Mt. Horeb climb for the second time I saw Marcia and Lauren from the team, it was good to see familiar faces. I also stopped for a pee break. In races past I would just go on the bike but I am so much more civilized now. Getting through Witte and Garfoot roads was tough on the knee and I found myself near in tears with the pain at some points but before I knew it I was nearing Midtown again then back at the red barn I slowed down and high fived my parents and brother-in-law Tom ran with me to give me a chips 0’hoy cookie it was delish!


As I arrived at the stick I had to do some soul searching. What if the knee pain carried into the run? I felt like I was doing enough damage riding with it. Do I really have it in me to walk a marathon just to finish an ironman? I wasn’t really sure. This is not a knock on people who do walk, in fact it is a kudos to them to just keep going for so long. I also didn’t want to do any further damage but was I just using that as an excuse. On the other hand the thought of DNF’ing killed me. As I was thinking through this, of course I hear a loud yell “Gillian” and sure enough it was little Lynds with her pink shirt. Just what I needed!


Total bike time : 7 hours 7 minutes (sigh) Personal Worst


Total estimated calories 1,260 / carbs 330 or 180/hr/ 38/hr plus a couple of pieces of banana.




I made it up the helix, again the hlls/the helix were not hard just painful which made believe that I could have done really well. I saw Carol and April and at that point was feeling pretty down about my knee. I walked into transition and was helped by a volunteer named Katie … how awesome.


I sat in the chair and opened my diet red bull and sucked it down. I tested I was 125. I had really nailed my blood sugar to this point. I took off my bike jersey which felt like a ton weight had been lifted off of me! I slathered my feet with Vaseline and put on my sox and shoes (my old tried and true Hoka’s Stinson 3’s). I rubbed my knee with biofreeze and   I transferred my “to carry with me always baggie of diabetes stuff” from my bike jersey into my tri top pocket (the same tri-top from the swim) and put in a packet of marguerite cliff blocks. On with the visor and the race belt and I was on my way. As I was exiting I saw a lady by a massage table. I jokingly said can I have a massage. To my shock she said that is what I am here for. So I thought WTF lets do it! So I asked her to massage my knee. She said that I would likely be able to run. Woo hoo!.


As I left the confines of the cool Monona Terrace I saw Emilly who sprayed me with sun tan lotion. I also munched on a kind bar as I walked towards run out. Unfortunately I dropped most of it!


T2 time 13:37 minutes another PR!!!




It felt sooo good to be on the ground with my two feet in my cushy Hoka’s. It always does. I knew that a couple of miles in I would see the family, unfortunately they were not there yet due to traffic coming back from the bike. So I kept running. At the first aid station I pounded coke and had a few chips. I knew I was going to need sugar. Within a few miles I cut my original basal planned in half I could see it trending down. After a few miles I was happy that I had NO knee pain! I felt great. At each aid station I just ate chips drank coke or red bull, once in a while I had a bit of banana and some Gatorade I also drank the broth when it was available. I picked away at a small cliff bar since I started to feel that I had too many different liquids sloshing around in my stomach. Whatever I did it worked. I felt great the entire way. It was my strongest leg and I never once felt queasy and certainly didn’t have any dark moments. It was truly one of the best runs I have ever had. I suppose if I had been able to go harder on the bike that might not have been the case. As I finished the loop I though how much I love this run course. I love State street where there were so many friends to say hi to. I felt so grateful for all the familiar faces on the run course (Tina and Roger, Steve, Carol, the VQ crew, Jeff, Amanda.. I am sure I am missing many.  I loved seeing my family out there and giving them big hugs and kisses. I loved the loud music on the path out to the far turn around IT WAS SO AWESOME! As I got into the second loop I knew I was pushing the pace a bit but with short breaks at the aid stations to eat I felt ok with that. I felt that I couldn’t and wouldn’t stop.


As I approached the finish line I started to choke up and become breathless. I turned the corner and just soaked it all in. The tears came as I fist pumped and high fived the entire way down the chute. Only those who have been there know how exciting it is. THIS IS WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT!!! I also saw my family even although we had no set plans of what side they would be on. I jogged through the finish line and heard Mike Reilly say “Gillian Forsyth from Chicago you are an IRONMAN!!!” It never gets old. I looked at my time it was a personal worst but I was ok with that it was the best I could do on that day and I finished god dammit! Especially after thinking I might not even be able to run.

Calories/Carbs – no idea!

Run time 4hours 30 minutes 58 seconds.. An ironman marathon PR!!

Total time 14 hours 7 minutes 38 seconds I did move up over 1000 spots from my swim to the finish so I guess there is that!


Blood sugars – 5:24 am 9/11 to 5:24 am 9/12.  The first yellow peak is the start of the bike.  The red is last few hours of bike followed by an even run then yellow peak from post race pizza. Overall – great!

Once I was stopped, the fatigue of the run and the day caught up to me and I was a bit wobbly. I sat in a chair and could not move for a while. My blood sugar was dropping so I asked for a coke which must have turned me around because then I was able to eat some pizza which tasted amazing!

Once I was able to walk I met my family. My dad got teary eyed and was full of emotion and I gave him a huge hug. The pride in his old blue eyes was unmistakable. My eyes still tear up with I think of that moment. Once they saw me, Mom and dad were ready to go home. It is such a long day for them. The Tom’s went to get my bike and stuff then they head back to the room also. I changed and my sister and I hung out at the finish line until midnight. As predicted she got right into it and we both cried as we saw some of the challenged folks finish as well as an army officer and some of the final athletes. The finish line was alive and is probably one of my favorite places on earth. To share this with my sister made the day even more special I couldn’t have been happier.



Thank you to ALL my friends and family for all your support during this adventure.


Tom my loving partner in life who puts up with my craziness.

Mom and Dad

Carol and Tom

Dr. Dylan Drynan at active body whose hands are made of steel and without his care I wouldn’t have made it to the start line.

Chris Navin for always being there

VQ for providing great opportunities to cycle around the country and all the great people that I train with there.

TREK HP mechanics – for always being there and getting the job done

All those who cheered me from near and afar:

Tina and Roger




Mike Peters for his continued support and coaching

All the trimonsters – everywhere you are amazing!

Diabetes Training Camp Staff and attendees – peeps with the beeps!

My 2014 global hero brothers and sisters.

Pancreasskickers – wish you could have been there!

ROI team and spectators (esp Shannon, Molly, Danni and Linda!)

Hootie, Ryan, Lynn, Lynds, Dave & Bryant for our virtual training sessions!

Helen who I know would have been there if she could




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I needed to get this out before Ironman Wisconsin and it is so late because of trainig for Ironman Wisconsin.. so there.

The theme for this years Dirty Kanza race which was written on the race t-shirt was “find your limit”.   Dirty Kanza is where you go to find this… or not. (skip down to race day for the exciting part)



If you were to measure proximity to my limit in distance I can honestly say that at one point I was a millimeter away from my limit.  I was as close to quitting this race than I have ever been at any other race.  For this reason my nutrition and blood sugar tracking was not stellar.  I was purely in survival mode.

This was my third DK200.  I didn’t really say to myself when I was thinking about my races for 2016 “Hey, lets do DK again!”  However, VQ ( was doing a camp around it.  I couldn’t NOT do it.  Having my teammates there and seeing them experience what I know and love about Dirty Kanza would be too much to miss.  So there I was doing it again.  I had already signed up for Ironman Wisconsin later in the year before I knew it I was having a repeat of 2015. Seriously what is wrong with me. Nothing, I love long races apparently.



My two big training blocks for DK included a camp in California with XXX racing a team here in Chicago.  I knew a few members and heard great things about the group and the camp. So in March I took a week off work and flew to San Luis Obispo and rode 547 miles with 34K ft of climbing in 7 days. It was glorious.  I certainly wasn’t of the caliber of the other riders but I held my own (literally) as I rode a lot on my own… there is a theme here!

Then I did VQ base camp at the end of April.  We didn’t do as much riding as we normally would at base camp because of the weather.  Still, I rode with a strong group of guys and felt like I rode harder than I normally do on longer rides.  The camp takes place in Lake Geneva, WI which has some decent hills.

Aside from a few other long rides, computrainer during the week I did a 300K (186 mile) ride with a few VQ’ers also doing DK.  It was part of this event

I felt ready for DK and though just maybe I could PR.  2014 my first year were great conditions, last year was the death mud march (4 mile hike a bike in thick gooey cement like mud) year due to a bad rainy season in the area.

Pre-race and race prep:

We arrived in Emporia Kansas on Thursday and we all had lunch together before heading back to the university where we were staying.  Yeah we stayed in the dorms.  They were actually great everyone was together they were clean my only concern was not having my own bathroom but it really wasn’t a problem.  I think we only had 3 women on our floor sharing 2 showers.  Even the no tv didn’t bother me.  There really wasn’t time for any tv watching.  If we weren’t out eating/registering or checking our bikes we were probably sleeping.

Heading to course talk

Heading to course talk


On Friday morning against everything I believe in when it comes to “course recon” we did a pre-race ride of the start and the finish about 25 miles.  I typically don’t want to be anywhere near my bike the day before or see any part of the any course I plan on riding.  But I had just gotten a bike computer (Garmin 520) some might say it finally made me a real cyclist because I no longer had to use my triathlon watch as my bike computer J.  I needed to practice using the course feature and I just had bearings replaced in my headset so wanted to make sure everything was working a-ok.   Our group was spoiled with having our own mechanic at the camp.  He was awesome and checked over ALL our bikes pre-race and lubed up and checked our bikes at each aid station.

The night before the race Robbie (Ventura owner of VQ) gave his normal race speech which included some great advice that helped when times got tough and believe me they got tough.

  1. When you feel like you are bonking slow down and eat something
  2. Take time to stretch your back, neck, change your hand position
  3. Smile
  4. Don’t stop pedaling
  5. Have your mantra ready or your switch
  6. Encourage and support other riders
  7. Look around and enjoy the scenery
  8. Dial in your nutrition
  9. Do everything you have to do properly don’t take short cuts.

I admit I am not the best “race” planner around and when I saw some of the others in action planning everything to a T I started to jot down some notes and thoughts on my nutrition.  I planned on sticking with my goto which I have been mostly using – marguerita shot bloks, scratch in my two water bottles and water in my hydration bag.

I used my same hydration pack as I have for the last several years.  The osprey Synchro 10.  I did consider something smaller and lighter but didn’t’ get around to trying it out.

In my bag I carried:

  • Tube
  • 3 co2 cartridges
  • A small kit including – wipes/bug repellant/sun tan lotion/anti-chafing cream
  • A light wind jacket
  • Small pump
  • Blood glucose tester
  • Spare battery pack
  • A bar / and peanut butter GU packet
  • A small repair kit – including gearing wire/chain link/ small amt of duct tape / zip ties and a how too book
  • 5 litres of water
  • Syringe and insulin
  • Chain lube

In my bento box was:

  • Small battery pack attached to my bike computer
  • Packet of blocks
  • My iphone (mainly for photos but I don’t think I actually took any)

In my seat back I had:

  • Tube
  • 2 co2 cartridges
  • Tire levers
  • Multi-tool
  • Hand cleaner wipe
  • Chain cleaner wipe

That is a lot of weight!

Each checkpoint this year was approximately 50 miles apart.  This is similar to 2014, while 2015 there was only 2 checkpoints which were as much as 70 miles apart. That made a huge difference from a mental standpoint.  50 miles is much easier to take than 70 or 75 miles.

In my check point bags 1&2 I had:

  • Extra nutrition
  • Snickers
  • Bottles with scratch powder
  • Tube and co2

In my checkpoint 3 bag including the above

  • Extra shoes
  • Extra sox
  • Arm warmers
  • Spare shorts

The weather this year was to start in the 60’s and get up to about 80 which made planning that much easier.  No cold or rain to worry about.  Which made packing much easier.

After our course recon ride we grabbed lunch and headed to the course talk.  This year they had one of the ranch owners who allow the race to ride through their property spoke of the history of the land and how it was one of the few grasslands left in the country.  Apparently as settlers travelled across the country they passed right over this section due to the rocky terrain… who can blame them they didn’t have gravel bikes!

We then grabbed an early dinner.  The talk was light and airy and for not normally being a “social bug”:  I had a blast and don’t remember the last time I laughed so much.

With that we all turned into our dorm rooms early.  I sorted out my bags for the morning and finally turned in around 9:30.

Race Day:

I woke at 4:30 and finished up with my bags and dropped them off with the SAG support (the Dave’s and Travis the mechanic).  I walked to the university cafeteria where I grabbed some toast with my justins almond butter and a banana and some much needed coffee. I would guess I had about 50 g of carbs where normally I would have bolused about 5 units, I bolused half that at 2.5 units.  Looking back I probably could have done a little more since I had 1.5 hrs to start.  I reduced my basal to 30% of normal.

I headed back to the dorm and changed into my VQ kit.  No arm/leg warmers necessary.  I used arm coolers to protect my arms from the sun (I wear these on all long rides) and short-fingered gloves.  I still wore my wool socks which are tried and true in all conditions.  I love wool, especially when your feet get wet. I filled my hydration pack with water and headed to meet the group.  We all rolled out together at 5:30am.

race start

race start

Start to CP1 – 48 miles

The start came soon enough and we were off!  The race always starts with a neutral roll out for a couple of miles to the first gravel turn off.

We were not a few miles in when we encountered our first water / muddy section.   The first section was rideable because it was more rocks than mud.  Apparently it had poured rain during the night and had created a few new muddy/water hazards.  Again very soon we reached another muddy section.  By the time I got to it, it was pretty much all packed down. Nothing like 2015 where the mud went on for miles.  I rode through it, within a few minutes I saw some of my teammates on the side of the road.  I slowed and asked if they were ok.  They assured me yes and told me to keep going. Well, as it turns out because they were first through the mud had caused some issues and a few of them had their derreullers sheared off with the mud.  That was the last I saw of that group until checkpoint 3.


As I continued on I felt the all too familiar lower back pain and tightness in my right hip.  I had to sit up in my seat and twist and stretch every 10 minutes or so.  Eventually the pain subsided or I just got used to it.

Once the field thinned out I started to get into a groove and rode an easy pace to CP1 the water crossing at mile 39 was strong but non-eventful.

River Crossing #1

River Crossing #1

I arrived at CP1 in 3 hours 30 minutes.

CP1 – CP2 – 55 miles

At CP1 I was told I was the third rider of our group to arrive.  How could that be?  Out of all of us I was the slowest.  The others had been detained and were dealing with their mechanical issues. One of the riders, Kris’ bike was completely trashed and her race was over. It turns out the group made the CP1 cut-off by minutes only.

During the first leg I had consumed only a few hundred calories, not nearly enough for the 3.5 hours I was out there for.  I scarfed down a PBJ half and a small bar.  I made the mistake of doing this before testing my sugar.  It was a whopping 392.  I couldn’t believe it.  Where did I go wrong?  Probably my basal was too low for all the adrenalin and changing heart rate from the climbs.  So I promptly took a correction of 1.5 units – more than I probably should have but with all the carbs I just inhaled and with a BG of 392 I didn’t think I needed to worry.  I increased my basal to 70% of normal. I also took in 3 salt tab tablets.

As I started leg 2 I felt good considering the high blood sugars but was worried about my calorie intake.  I didn’t want to take in too much while I was still high.  Finally I heard the familiar descending alarm my phone makes when my blood sugars are dropping.  Phew!  I can eat!  I immediately popped several marguerita cliff blocks.  My insulin had kicked in and I was able to finally eat again although I think I was still running a deficit in calories overall.  I continued to drink water out of my hydration pack and sipped on the skratch labs hydration in my water bottles.  I also managed to eat about a packet of blocks in the next 3 + hours it took me to get to CP2.  At this point we had a tail wind and I was still in the enjoying the scenery and looking at baby cows mode.

Still smiling and enjoying the scenery!

Still smiling and enjoying the scenery!

Arrived at CP2 7 hours 53 minutes

CP2 – CP3 – 59 miles

I rolled in and was greeted by the crew, I felt like an Elite athlete, my bike was whisked away for mechanical check and I was able to sit down enjoy a coke and have another sandwich.  They had only seen 3 of our riders come though including me!

My blood sugar was on the high end still low 200’s.  I took a mini bolus for the food.  I still felt my spirits high and felt great.   One other rider Dan Johns was at the aid station also.  I left the aid station and stopped at the porta potty and didn’t see Dan again.

Me and Dan at CP2

About 20 miles later everything fell off the rails.  The course headed back into a 20 MPH headwind and it was getting very hot.  I had been very good at staying hydrated and felt that my nutrition was falling behind.  But the wind, the wind was absolutely relentless.  I pushed on wondering when Robbie and the crew would catch up.  I started feeling very nauseous and had trouble swallowing. It was hotter than hades.  I have never wanted to stop riding as much as I did then.  Knowing I had 70 more miles to ride –was difficult to fathom.  How could I possibly keep going while feeling this way.  My legs hurt, I wanted to throw up,  there was no break from the wind, it was hot and my feet were burning. I eventually ran out of water. The water crossing at mile 140 ish was a god send the cool water felt great on my painful feet and legs.  It was such a relief, I stopped there and tested my blood sugar. Again, not perfect but manageable, I was concerned about the impact of the heat combined with not eating much on my blood sugar levels. I wasn’t the only one who was suffering.  Scattered along the road were various individuals who sought shade under a tree and were hardly moving.  It was a sight for sore eyes, like carnage waiting to be picked up by a hungry vulture.  Through sheer grit and determination and remembering #4 and 5 from Robbie’s list … “just keep pedaling” and your mantra which for me is remember Katie my best friend who passed away from cancer.  All the other points had gone to hell in a hand basket.  I barely squeeked out another 20 miles before I had a complete melt down.  I really really tried.  Painfully, I got within just a few miles of CP3 and I just could not keep pedaling any longer.  My mind failed me it was weak.   I got off my bike I walked across the dirt road to try and find some shade and to pee.  I threw up partly due to being nauseous and partly due to the fact that I think the spot I stopped was a giant pile of manure.  I saw a few people ride by who asked if I was ok. I was out of water, my head felt like it was going to explode but I lied and said yes I was fine.  I still hadn’t see any other VQ riders.  The loneliness was getting to me.

Although every fiber of my being wanted to quit that day I somehow persevered and made it to CP3.

Arrived at CP3 13 hours and 21 minutes

I was now the first rider into CP3 of our group anyone else had either quit or were still behind me.  I sat a good long time at CP3.  I cried. One of the girls who’s race ended early due to a mechanical tried to encourage me.  I was very greatful to her.  I managed to drink part of a coke and eat some potato chips but I knew it wasn’t enough.  I was riding on less than fumes into the wind and in blistering heat.  As I was getting ready to leave Robbie’s team finally arrived.  Nan who is an amazing rider was in tears also.  We consoled each other.  For them it wasn’t their bodies that failed them it was their bikes and the mud.

Robbie's group and CP3

Robbie’s group and CP3

CP3 – finish – 45 miles

The only bright side was that it was less than 50 more miles to go it was a short leg.  I thought after a long rest I was ready to finish this thing.  Within 15-20 minutes I arrived at a giant hill or what seemed giant at the time.  I didn’t have the legs to push up it.  I had to get off of my bike and walk, this was seriously not a good sign. I kicked myself for not changing out my cassette to a 32 as my friend Steve had suggested. Although it might not have helped, I probably needed a motor at that point.  I got back on the bike and probably could walk faster than I was riding.  It was a death march.  Soon enough Robbie’s team caught up .

I will never forget what happened next and owe a debt of gratitude both to Robbie and his group.  As they were riding by Robbie looked at me and in his usual up beat way said “G, how are you doing girl?!”  I just looked at him and he must have seen it in my eyes.. I said not good.  And after dealing with everything he had that day he slowed down to ride with me.  He managed to pick me up from the gutter and give me the tiniest of spark to keep going.  I told him that I couldn’t eat or drink. I only had had a handful of chips and a coke in about 3 hours.  I had filled up a water bottle with Gatorade at CP3.  He just said just take small sips.  And he would remind me every so often.  As we rode together he chatted to me trying to get my mind out of the dark place.  The 5 other VQ riders he was riding with had stopped up ahead to wait for him and miraculously with conversation and camaraderie that will stay with me forever the 7 of us rode together I even felt like I got a second wind.  I was able to hang on to their tail and was energized by their company.  Had they not picked me up I seriously doubt that I would have made it that day.  We were one team and we were in it together.  After close to 15 hours on my own it was nice to have a team to ride with.

Finally, at about 10 miles to go, we could all feel the finish line close by.  We approached a wooden bridge and saw that someone had crashed and was lying in a heap on the bridge.  Luckily we had a doctor and an EMT on the team and within seconds they were off their bikes dealing with the situation.  We called 911 and waited for the emergency unit to arrive.  In that time the guy had come to and was able to talk to us and say his name which was a good sign.  Meanwhile I like to think I was able to pay the team back in a small way.  It was approximately 10pm we were being bitten alive by mosquitos.  I pulled out 3 mosquito wipes I had carried with me since DK #1 where I learned my lesson about stopping in the dark.  I was a hero for a few small moments as we shared the 3 wipes between the 7 of us.

The day was an emotional roller coaster and after 17 and a half hours of riding, 206 miles at 11:30 pm  we crossed the finish line finish line together and finished as a team.  I was never more proud to be a member of this team than I was at that moment.  With all the trials and tribulations of the day behind us we were able to smile and celebrate with each other.

Finish line. Nan with me right behind her and Carlos in the front Robbie and the rest are behind.

Finish line. Nan with me right behind her and Carlos in the front Robbie and the rest are behind.

I literally sat in a chair and could not move.  I was toast.  Who would have thought that anything could have been worse than last year with the mudathon… but it was.  You can be as prepared as the best riders but you can never predict what Dirty Kanza will throw your way.  With a 52% finishers rate I was proud to be part of the finisher group.

I poked around the interwebs and found some cool links.  The first is a video of the highlights of the course and the second is a great blog on the women of DK.

Women Racing Gravel


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Twin Cities Marathon and Global Hero Alumni weekend



When I got the email about the 10 year global hero alumni event in twin cities for the marathon.  I didn’t hesitate to sign up.   I had such a great time the prior year.  Although this year would be without the black car service at the airport and I was responsible for hotel and flight this year.  It was a chance to see my fellow global heroes from 2014 who I had stayed connected with throughout the year following our epic weekend.  We had a choice of doing the marathon or the 10 miler.  Of course I chose the marathon.

The twin cities marathon is beautiful.  I may go as far as to say that it is one of my favorites.  The route is lined with people the entire way and winds through some beautiful lakeview neighborhoods.

The weekend was not the best, from a schedule stand point.  My work schedule was crazy during that time but I decided just to bring my laptop and work from the hotel.  That way I could still attend the great events that Medtronic had planned for us.  Additionally, I had just finished the Wisconsin Ironman 3 weeks prior and had not exercised once during that time. I felt heavy and sluggish.  Everyone says but you just did an ironman a marathon should be easy.  What they don’t get is that training for an ironman marathon is not at all the same as training for a stand alone marathon.  Prior to ironman I had probably ran approximately 40-45 miles in the 4 weeks prior with 1 16 mile run and 1 13 mile run.  When you train for a marathon people will run 40 miles in 1 week with 5 or 6 days or running.

But it wasn’t really about the time or the marathon.  It was about being together with global hero’s from around the world spreading the message that a diagnosis did not end the run.  Despite various medical conditions we were still able to do what we love.

What I loved about this weekend was getting to know better the handful of returning 2014 global heroes  in a way that I never thought possible.  We ate and drank and shared our diagnosis stories.  We got to know each other on a whole different level and it felt like I had known them for years.  And FUN!  I haven’t laughed so much in a long long time. It was an amazing weekend.  Medtronic of course did it up in style with an alumni mixer gathering and a wonderful dinner.  I even got to see one of my riding on insulin teammates from the IM – Robb who was a global hero in 2009.  Also seeing familiar faces from the prior year of Medtronic’s Ranita and Cory as well as Warren and Debbie was icing on the cake.





Saturday night before the race we finished up at the dinner at the Science museum and headed back to the hotel of course to have a night cap.  I realized that I had spilled some water on my dexcom and my tester and both went on the fritz.  Normally I would have an extra tester but this time of course I didn’t bring one.  I have never needed a spare in the past.  Lynn offered to drive me to get a new one but I always hate to burden people.  We ran into a 2015 global hero Tomas from Ireland and he offered to give me his extra tester so I was set….he had to show me how to use it because it had some neat features that I had never seen before and I had to multiply by 18 to get to the “American” standard number.  More evidence of how European “FDA” approve things more quickly than here.  He even had a 640g Medtronic pump which was totally cool.  I have been holding off on replacing my pump in anticipation of the new updated insulin pump being approved here.

After we said goodnight to Tomas we all decided we would go for a drive anyway.  I’m not really sure why as I think back but it seemed to be a good idea at a time.  Five of us squeezed into Lynn’s tiny rental car which we nicknamed sparkle… I think the actual name was a Spark?  We drove about 20 minutes and found a Walgreens.  The others bought cheap throw away sweatshirts for the morning and I picked up an “American” tester that I was used to.  Regardless, we had a ton of laughs at the ‘roos expense.  I got back to my room a little late but I really didn’t feel any pressure or worry about the marathon.  We also bought some duct tape at walgreens 🙂



The next morning, I got on the shuttle to the start in Minneapolis at 6:30 am with my layers of clothing to keep me warm.  It was a beautiful fall day, with beautiful blue skies and fluffy clouds.  I arrived at the start and felt a bit alone the others were doing the 10 miler.



I decided not to carry much with me.  I had my spybelt with my tester and a sleeve of marguerita cliff blocks.  I reduced my basal to 40% about half an hour prior.  I had eaten a peanut butter and banana sandwich for breakfast.

The gun went off and I shed by big hoodie that I had bought for 7.99 at Walgreens the day before.  Hills are relative to what you are used to.  For instance the gals from near Calgary Alberta Emily and Debbie scoffed at the hills as Debbie clarified that they live in the “foothills”  of the “mountains” .  For me Twin Cities is hilly.  Not huge hills but just rollers and coming from Chicago it’s enough to feel it in the legs early.

A few miles in an older man started to chat with me.  His name was Rick. Rick is 75 years old.  He had coached track in the area for 49 years.  He chatted about the course having done it every year up to 2010 when he took a break.  This was his “return”  although he said probably his last.  He told me about the wind direction, the uneven roads and the x-NFL football player ahead who was going to be playing the tuba.  Rick seemed to know everyone.  Rick was running a 4 mile run/ 1 minute walk pattern.  So at some point I ran ahead not one for liking to stop.  However at one point I did stop do use the porta potty where I had to wait to get in.  Sure enough when I got out there was Rick.  This happened once again.  I had stopped to wait for a port-a-potty again and getting impatient I took off.  Then finally I really just had to wait.  I was a little bummed and losing the minutes.  I ran with Rick until about half way.  He was figuring he would come in around 4:15 or so. We passed the half way mark at 2:06. I tested at 126 – perfect.  I had eaten 2 blocks and had mixed Gatorade and water at the aid station.  I didn’t see Rick after the halfway mark but he ended up finishing in 4:25.  Amazing at 75!

In the meantime I was hurting quite a bit.  My legs felt tight and sore and I could feel them burning with lactic acid.  This started around mile 7 or 8.  I felt like I had run the first half fairly cautiously but  I did not feel good going into the last half.  Knowing there would still be more hills.

Instead of focusing on the negative and letting the pain get into my head I did several things to get me through:

  • I focused on the crowds and enjoyed the cheers and the partying.
  • I focused on my cadence and the sound of my steps hitting the pavement.
  • I adopted Rick’s 4 mile / 1 minute walk program.
  • I thought of things to look forward to – Medtronic cheer station, seeing Mari on the course.
  • I thought of Lynn who had just finished a 106 mile ultra.  After hearing what she went through and how she battled through some dire circumstances as well as finishing despite an over 50% DNF rate for the race (see her story that inspired me here  On Not Quitting )  .  She was a huge inspiration and motivator for me.
  • I tried to remember my ironman mantra – with every step of this day i will get stronger in every way.

Using these methods I managed to gain some traction.  I passed the Medtronic cheering station and heard my name being called.  Which gave me a nice little boost.  I still had 7 miles to go and I was hurtin’.    I tested my blood sugar again during one of my walks at 134 – awesome!  In total I had eaten 4 blocks then at mile 19 ish I ate a GU with caffeine to get me home.  I was very happy with my blood sugars that day!

Finally I reached the point where I could see the capital building in St. Paul I knew I was home.  I didn’t do a sub-four which is usually my “benchmark” marathon time but I was pretty close at 4:06.  I approached the finisher chute and drank in the cheers and the crowd, passing the Medtronic VIP area I waved to the crowd so excited to be done.


After crossing the finish line I limped through the long finishers area to get my medal, my shirt and my clothing bag.  I had to stop several times to gather some strength.  I was so spent, I had truly given it my all.  I got my bag and went to the changing area and changed into warm dry clothes.  It felt so good.  It was nice that they had this option.  I finally made it to the Medtronic tent where I was greeted by Jonathan who had also ran it last year and who is the Team 2 End Aids endurance even manager and Lynn my global hero sister.  She was so amazing.  She got me whatever I needed including a much needed chair and food.  I sat for quite a long time as runners still filtered in.  We wanted to wait for Debbie and Emily to finish.  This was Debbie’s first marathon in a while and also has diabetes.  I was very excited for her and excited that she will be training for her first ironman next year!

The first words out of her mouth when I saw her… was “that was so far”. I gave her a big understanding hug.  I know the feeling of being overwhelmed by what you just “did”.  It can be very emotional.    But she finished and after you let it sink in it feels pretty damn good!!!






Back at the hotel we all sat around … drank more, ate and laughed a ton.  I was so happy.  Finally we had to say good bye.  I had had a 3:30 am wake up to get a 4:30 am  shuttle reality of getting back to work hit hard.

As I was packing I finally said good-bye to my beloved Hoka’s that has seen me through over 600 miles of running.  I had tried a new pair on at the expo and was amazed at how good they felt.  I had not realized how dead the old pair were.  You can see here how worn they were on the bottom too.



FullSizeRender (1)

I headed straight into work with some great memories of a wonderful weekend.  Thanks again Medtronic for what you do.

To my hero brothers and sisters who attended this weekend – Carrie, Brad, Kimi, Kristen, Lynn, and Rachel and to all of those who virtually ran with us.  Thank you so much for being a constant inspiration to me and to many others. Until next time.



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Ironman Wisconsin 2015 Race Report

11988495_10153019571861906_5625107479653669097_nIronman #4 is done.  I previously mentioned that I wasn’t really sure how it would go due to my lack of training.  At the end of the day, for how I trained, it went really really well.  My measure of really really well was not really the time.  When I initially set out to do this race I had different goals, but shit happens.

I say it went well because for the first time in my history of all four ironman my head never got into that deep dark place of hell when all you want to do is quit.  I almost feel like I didn’t get a true ironman experience because I didn’t have that mental breakdown.  I felt great the entire time.

I finished the race 12 minutes faster than the first time I did IM Wisconsin which was also my first ironman in 2011.  I probably trained about half as many hours.  I averaged about 8-9 hours the last few weeks vs in the 20’s in 2011.

A few ramblings about the day:

  • The weather – what can I say it was perfect.
  • My Riding on Insulin team mates and all the support crew on the course. There was hardly a moment where I didn’t see a red ROI supporter t-shirt.
  • awesome ROI supporter shirts that were EVERYWHERE!!!
  • Over 70 ROI athletes 36 with T1 Diabetes raised over $120,000 for riding on insulin to help T1D kids go to active camps – mountain biking and snowboarding etc. Enough said!
  • Having no expectations and not being nervous. I just enjoyed the day on my bike then went for a long run .
  • My parents, at 80 and 83 – I truly didn’t expect to see them as much as I did. God bless them they were out all day cheering for me. Love them to pieces.
  • Tom, who took great care of my parents.
  • Other friends on the course who provided great support – Amy Flores  and Dave Athans who ran with me for a spot.  Thank you!!!!
  • Carol, Helen and Tina – always love you guys.
  • Coaches and friends who got me to the start and believed that despite my accident that I was strong enough to do it… Mike Peters, Chris Navin and Bill Bishop thank you all!! Katy Sandberg who PT’d the hell out of my broken body to get it ready for the race. Melissa Bowman who helped me get my nutrition plan ready.
  • My sweet little Ruby necklace from Chris.
  • Trimonster tailgate such a perfect location and thanks for taking care of my parents.
  • The woman ironing on Witt road… hilarious.
Mom on bike course high fiving me :)

Mom on bike course high fiving me 🙂

My parents with Steve on the bike course.

My parents with Steve on the bike course.


I arrived with my parents and Tom on Thursday.  Despite my best efforts to not be nervous I could feel the nerves creeping in.. seeing Monona Terrace just scared the crap out of me.  Remembering back to 2011 when I did my first Ironman.  It was terrible and I was so deathly afraid of feeling that way again. As the days passed my nerves subsided and I had fun seeing a lot of the athletes I had trained with over the months.

Thursday night I finally met in person the Riding on Insulin team as we gathered for some food and drinks at Grays Tied House which is actually on the course.  I will reiterate above – we raised $120,000!!!   Friday night I went to the athlete dinner and split my time with the Trimonsters and my ROI teammates.

At dinner with ROI team

At dinner with ROI team

At the athlete dinner Chris, who never ceases to amaze me for his thoughtfulness gave me a beautiful lucky charm for my race.  He gave me a gold necklace with a ruby cat on it.  For those of you who don’t know my cat Ruby passed away with cancer just prior to the race.  I got to carry her with me the entire time around my neck.  What a thoughtful gift.




Saturday I racked my bike and got my bags all ready.

One thing I did this year was keep my bags simple.  I think in 2011 and other IM’s I packed everything but the kitchen sink.  My run and bike special needs I had a spare tube and c02 some extra blocks, cheese crackers, red bull and  a small first aid kit in each with Vaseline and Band-Aids etc. My transition bags only had the bare necessities.

I made a few changes to my nutrition as well.  After sharing my nutrition plan with Melissa Bowman (VQ nutritionist) and having her laugh at me I figured I’d better listen to her. So we spoke on the phone and she talked me through what I should do.  Note I didn’t take anything different than I was used to in training I just did things a lot different than in previous ironmen.  I made things much more simpler.  See below for more details.

I taped up my dexcom sensor and added 2 spare insertion sites on my abdomen.  Should I lose a site due to heat or accidently tearing it off in a porta potty I would have plenty of back up.  I also carried my tester, my dexcom and a syringe and a vial of Humalog with me the entire time.  My friend Lyndsay had brought a spare pump which she had left at the “glasses table” just in case my aquapac which I use in the water failed.  I just got a new one after my old one failed during a training but apparently not enough to kill the pump (thank god).

Real estate was hard to come by at this point! Extra pump sites and tape over the dexcom sensor...

Real estate was hard to come by at this point! Extra pump sites and tape over the dexcom sensor…

I ate breakfast at about 4:00 am.  I would normally do a bagel with almond butter and a banana but instead I went with oatmeal which I had taken from the breakfast the morning before at the hotel.  It was pretty hard to swallow and I wasn’t able to finish it.  I did finish my banana.  I fully bolused for this meal.  I had preset my basal rates as a new pattern – I did 0.3 units until about ½ hour before I was due to start the bike so that was about 60% of my normal during the swim.   My friend Helen dropped Tom and I off at 5:30 am.  I quickly set up my bike where I found a sweet little note from Nic Ruley. Which made my morning.

Awesome little note on my bike in the morning

Awesome little note on my bike in the morning

I walked with Tom and headed to the start. I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful sunrise.  I took a deep breath and thought of Katie and thanked her for watching over me.  I checked my blood sugar one last time it was 112.  Although near perfect for a normal person, a little low for pre-swim for my liking.  I had brought a honeystinger waffle with me.  I figured it was fairly light and if I need it I could eat it.  My initial plan was to drink an ensure about an hour before start but I just didn’t feel like it. So I ate about ½ the honey stinger.  I had my gel tucked in my wetsuit just in case. I was 126 coming out of the water – woot!  I put my wetsuit on and headed to the water.  I dropped my bag with dexcom and tester  at the eye glass table.  It would be at the swim-out waiting for me.

i'm in there somewhere drowning

i’m in there somewhere drowning


I entered the water and found a position that seemed good.  Fairly far back and just to the right of the ski ramp.  I had been in the water the day before and new that the water was going to be nice.  Within a few minutes the gun went off and mayhem ensued.  This was the worst part of the race by far and I think always will be for me.  For at least the first 500 yards or so I thought I was going to drown.  I was panicky and I was being swam over.  But one of my goals this year was to fight through it.  I tried with all my might just to keep swimming despite having no room around me and feeling extremely Closter phobic.  I felt my wetsuit tight around my chest I couldn’t see any break to get over to a kayak.  I am sure if I had remotely seen one I would have used it.  Eventually it thinned out.  I had a few mantra’s which were shared with me for the swim – my wetsuit floats –  it’s the most relaxing part of my day, I am on a paddle board paddling forward I cannot sink, Left arm right arm left arm right arm.  I had not been able to turn my watch on. It had gone back into lock mode and I didn’t realize it until after the race started.  Stopping to turn it on in the mayhem would have been a recipe for disaster.  So I just didn’t worry about it.  I would have liked to see how I actually swam.  I know I kept off to the right and probably didn’t swim so straight on the back long edge.  Other than the first 500 yards I felt pretty good.  I came out of the water and had no idea what time it was.

One of my other goals was to make my transitions fast.  I did a light jog to the wetsuit peelers then jogged away.  As I was passing some ROI folks I realized that I hadn’t seen the glasses table.  I had run right past it.  So I had to go back, I went back past the wetsuit peelers and headed to the table.  Mollie asked if my pump was ok and held up the spare that Lyndsay has left.  I looked at my aquapac there was no errors and no buzzing.  It was all good. I jogged back again and headed up the helix.  It seemed to take forever.

just prior to turning back to get my dex and tester.

just prior to turning back to get my dex and tester.

I decided to quicken my transitions I would not change.  I got into T1 dried myself off. I put on my bike jersey which had all my pockets prefilled.  Spare blocks, a tube and co2, insulin, syringe, Lara bar and I put my tester and dexcom back there.  It was pretty full.  I used my arm coolers then put on some thicker arm warmers on top because it had been quite cool in the morning.  I thought I was pretty fast in T1 but apparently I was not.  I honestly don’t know how it took 18 minutes.  I tested, drank some  Skratch and had someone put lotion on me and I carried my shoes to the bike.  I didn’t even eat in T1.    The hi-lights included getting to see fellow VQ’er Cecelia who had just done Latoja the day before, a 200 mile gravel race.  She flew in after the race just to spectate at IM.  So awesome. And seeing Sharon and Michelle my other VQ teammates.  As I was running to my bike I realized that I still had my spare googles around my neck. I squeezed them off over my helmet and handed them to a volunteer.

Melissa and I agreed to the following nutrition on the bike:

On 0 and 30 I would take Skratch. On 15 and 45 I would take 1-2 blocks Marguerita shot blocks  with the goal of doing 4 per hour with water.  I told her I may need to eat something a little more solid at some point. She was not buying into that. I also had endurolytes and took about 8-12 during the bike.

A huge change from prior years where I mixed all kinds of nutrition – gu/sustained energy/ blocks/ you name it.  I had no idea!

My basal rates were set for 1 unit per hour which is about 115% for me.  In hindsight was a bit much for my reduced intake.

I had decided that I was not going to use the Gatorade endurance orange flavor on the bike – because gross.  The Gatorade spiked my blood sugar too much and I hated the flavor.  I stuck with my Skratch despite being extra work.  I filled a small flask with 6 scoops of Skratch and water – essentially making a concentrated Skratch mixture.  Every time I refilled my aero bottle I squeezed a 5th of the bottle into it.  I kept just water on my down tube.  It worked like a charm.

I glided down the helix and pedaled lightly down the path towards the stick.  I had received a phone message from Robbie Ventura earlier that day and I could hear his advice to take it easy and calmly leave T1 and settle in to the bike.  It was exactly what I did.

As I said I didn’t break any records on the bike but I certainly felt a million times better than I did in 2011.  I enjoyed every second of the bike.  I thanked all the volunteers and high fived people it was great.  My back didn’t hurt (much).  The hills came and went. I watched my watts and basically smiled and enjoyed it.  As I said the course was lined with ROI spectators and having my parents and Trimonsters out there made me feel great.

The first loop was over before I knew it.  On to loop two I actually looked forward to it.  At mile 56 I decided I would not stop at special needs.  I did eat a small cherry Lara bar that I had with me.  I didn’t really need anything else.  In fact, I did not get off my bike once in the 112 miles.  Yes I peed my pants.  I passed by the Trimonsters and my parents for the last time and finally saw Tom out of the corner of my eye. I almost ran into another racer as I swerved to catch a glimpse oops….

When I said my basal rate was a bit high it was because I was beeping low the entire bike.  See picture below.  I actually suspended the pump as I hit the stick part of the bike course. I knew that I wouldn’t be needing much insulin on the run.  I had set my basal rate to be 0.25 units per hour on the run.  Knowing that I probably wouldn’t even need that.

Blood Sugar Readings during race

Blood Sugar Readings during race

I rolled up the path to the helix, spun up the helix and dropped off the bike.  Now for the run.  And trying desperately to make this a fast transition.  I had practically nothing in my T2 bag.  I drank some Skratch and tried to deal with my low blood sugar.  I ate some glucose tablets.  I took off my bike jersey and my arm coolers.  Put on my visor took two packs of cliff blocks tested my sugar (it was low) and off I went.  I had forgotten to Vaseline up my feet.  T2 was better but still not great.  Again, not sure what takes me so long.  This time I was out in 11 minutes better than the 19 minutes in 2011.  You will see in the above that my sensor actually expired – note to self make sure sensor has enough hours in it to last the entire race! luckily i only went a small time without it.

Heading out on the run

Heading out on the run

Total transition times 2011 –  15:45 and 19:32

Total transition times 2015 – 18:35 and 11:32


I eased onto the run course pretty much on schedule.  Now, I knew I had plenty of bike strength to glide through the bike course but my running had been less than stellar. I had run one 16 miler 4 weeks earlier.  I had planned on doing a long brick the weekend of the Michigan Titanium race which was to be my last big workout but that turned into a long swim and only a 56 mile bike and no run.  A lightning storm cancelled the race and the swim and the bike had been so bad that I was glad it was over.

First I had to deal with the blood sugar.  I was still low.  I shoved about 4 blocks in my mouth.  My plan had been to eat 3-4 at the top of every hour then sip the lemon/lime Gatorade endurance and water for for the first half or so. Lemon/lime was much more palatable to me than the orange on the bike course.  Within the first 2 miles I saw my support crew… my parents, Tom, Helen, Carol, Tina and Dave .  It was great.  I stopped to give my mom a big kiss as I did every time I passed them.

I ran the first 3 miles without stopping.  I just put one foot in front of the other.  My back ached a lot but I knew from experience that this would disappear after a while.  After the first few miles of not stopping I walked through each aid station.  By mile 6 I was drinking coke.  I couldn’t stomach any food at this point.  I was feeling a bit of nausea.  I knew I needed to eat something so I tried a bit of banana but it was gross.  It seem thick and mealy and not very much like a banana so I spat it out.  I managed to eat the two remaining blocks in my packet.  I recited my mantra which Lorraine a VQ athlete had given me.  I had run into her a week prior to the race and she was so insightful.  I told her about what I’d been going through with work, the injury and Ruby.  Her belief in what she practices is that the injury happened for a reason.    Anyway, my mantra was “with every step I take this day I will get stronger in every way”.  I used it a lot throughout the race especially at this time during the run.  As I felt a bit rundown and my feet and back were sore.  I had never really used a mantra before and it worked!  I was happy that I got to see Lorraine a couple of times on the run course.  I recited my mantra to her.

As I finished the first loop I started to feel more nauseous. I ran into Amy Flores, fellow diabetic and ironman athlete.  She ran with me a bit and tried to raise my spirits.  As I ran by special needs I grabbed my bag.  The only thing that I took were 2 tums that I had packed in my little first aid kit.  I prayed that it would work.  As I kept running I threw up a bit and finally around my 15 or so the nausea went away, the back pain was gone and I was chugging along slowly, walking through aid stations drinking coke and broth and trying to eat a bit.  I managed to eat a few potato chips here and there and some orange slices.  My main concern was getting my blood sugar up.

As I ran I got to see my ROI teammates and plenty of Trimonster athletes it was great.  As I approached the capital for the last time I was in complete disbelief that I had done this again.  I had kept my pace intact and I felt good. Not once during the entire event did I worry about my time.  I didn’t even look at my pace on the run at all. I savored the finisher chute and saw Tom and my parents.  I passed over the finish line and unlike ANY other ironman I did not need any help I walked through handed back my timing chip grabbed some water and walked out.  I went into the food tent and even inhaled a piece of pizza.  I sat with teammates Gary and Alex who had finished close to me.  I saw Maryann a Trimonster who told me where my parents and Tom were.  Standing up was definitely not easy.  I could feel the blisters on my feet. Two big ones.

Matching blisters on each foot.

Matching blisters on each foot.

I walked over to where my parents, Tom and Helen were and gave them huge hugs.  In 2011 I had finished sat on the curb and did not move for some time.  I couldn’t eat or drink.  This time was much much different.  I even stayed out until midnight to watch the final athletes come in and got to see some of my riding on insulin teammate’s finish.   What an amazing day.

Hanging out at midnight

Hanging out at midnight

The problem is that because it went so well I sort of want to sign up for next year although I swore I off triathlon for 2016.  I have some great friends who are doing it and I would love to do it with them….

Final results:

Swim 1:41:38

Bike 6:54:00

Run 4:45:21

Total 13:51:06

A special shout out to my coach Mike Peters who was hit by a car recently.  He has always been such an inspiration to me.  He works so incredibly hard in training, at work and at home with his family.  Even now his recovery is much faster than anyone would have imagined.

And of course thanks to Tom for putting up with my race antics.

Next up, next week I get to see my fellow global heros as I return to the twin cities for the global hero alumni event.  Can’t wait… oh yeah and I have to run the marathon while I’m there… oops.




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When I posted my last post I realized that I had never posted this!!!! It was sitting in draft mode (no wonder no-one commented!) so I re-read it and tweaked it and am posting now.. if you want to get to the meaty part skip to the “last 25 miles”.



First of all I want to say that I am so happy that I decided to do this race and yes I am saying this after it is over and knowing that it took me 18.5 hours to finish!  I was on again off again with the decision because I am actually training for ironman Wisconsin.  Throwing a 200 gravel race into the training mix certainly isn’t ideal and I knew I couldn’t convince Tom to support me again this year.  I wanted to do it for two reasons 1. I knew it would take the better part of 14-16 hours a good mental prep for ironman.  Also, the race has a draw to it that makes you want to do it.  It’s the scenery, the route, the people and the town.  Walking around Emporia the day before the race and attending the course talk it feels like a familiar place.

Peters Power

Peters Power

This year I was racing on a CX bike vs last year when I used my mountain bike.  I got the Cronus all ready for the race and had Bontrager 33 XO tires installed tubeless.  Kanza is notorious for flats due to pinched tires or puncture from flint.  It is really quite rough in sections and if you don’t choose the right line you could get yourself into some serious mechanical issues.  Knock on wood I have been lucky so far.  The tires were a huge decision up until this point I have been riding 38’s on the CX bike.  I felt very vulnerable using 33’s.  I tried them out at the gravel grovel which has a various types of terrain – single track mud, grass, gravel rocky.  They seemed fine here. As Kanza approached I kept looking at the forecasts, they were predicting thunderstorms and flash flooding.  I would be lying if I didn’t say I was nervous. Not nervous about a little rain but nervous about the course conditions.  There were several river crossings and spending 16 hours in wet and possible cold conditions was not appealing to say the least.  The whole week I spent worrying about gear and tires.  It seemed like everyone I asked were going with a 35 or even 40’s for the race and here I was with my 33’s.  After speaking with my coach he set me straight and said to not question my decision and just go with it.  He was right.

The Cronus  – dubbed Peters Power after my coach who  sold it to me  was set up with a bento box for my blocks and blood glucose monitor and a bar. I had a rear seat bag with 2 tubes 3 co2’s and two connectors.  I also had two water bottle holders.  I put some purple and black zebra duct tape on the top tube to remind me of Katie when times got tough.

I’m trying to work on simplifying my nutrition.  For this ride I planned on using Skratch as my electrolyte drink and cliff blocks as my main source of carbs.  I also packed a couple of gels and bars for variety.  The aid stations were to have chips, subway sandwiches and a ton of other stuff so I was quite sure I would get what I craved at each of the 2 aid stations which were located at approximately 75 and 150.  This year I paid for support vs. last year where Tom supported me and I had the luxury of having everything I could possible want in the car.  We did have aid station bags. I had extra blocks, skratch and tubes in the first one in the second I also had my helmet light and believe it or not my old bike shoes and socks.  I had gotten new racing shoes with a hard sole and I was deathly afraid that I would suffer from hot feet or some other pain in my feet. I had worn them before but for 60 miles not 200 miles.   For me comfort is so important on a race like this.  If you are not comfortable for any reason it will make it all that much harder to mentally pull through.  I also stuck with my Osprey hydration pack that I used the year prior.  I had extra tubes, extra nutrition and a thin wind jacket packed in the pack.

Reliable synchro

Reliable synchro

in synchro

in synchro

Early Thursday morning I packed up the bug and started the 10 hour journey to Emporia, Kansas.  I had plenty of car snacks, pre-made lunch and lots of energy drinks!  My friend Steve (VQ) was also leaving downtown Chicago around the same time, although he was ahead of me because I didn’t actually leave until 7:30 am a bit later than planned (of course).  We kept in contact though which was nice.  I didn’t feel so alone. I arrived at the hotel and checked in.  I unpacked and sorted all my stuff.  This hotel was new and about a million times better than the gross one from last year!
The next day we had talked about doing a pre-ride however it was pouring rain.  Also I am not crazy about riding at all the day before.  Both Steve and Clemmens (3rd place last year – other VQ’er) decided to do a viewing by car.  They got about 5 miles in before they couldn’t even drive in their suburu or SUV!  Clemmens showed us pictures of his mucked up SUV it was crazy.  If this was what it was doing to cars what would it do to us.  There was lots of talk about re-routing etc.  They shared pictures and we talked more about tire choice although we couldn’t really do much at that point. My other big worry was getting the course loaded onto my garmin 920xt which seemed an impossible task.  I was trying to follow some threads I’d googled and apparently it was a mystery to a lot of people.  Finally after many hours and many tries I finally got it to work.  (Note I have since figured out a good method to do this albeit hard still!)  This course was marked to a point but was not to be relied upon.We went to the early course talk which is held at the movie theatre in town.  We heard Rebecca Rusch the Queen of Pain talk about what keeps her going in tough times.  She was looking for her third win the next day.  The organizers who you can tell are very passionate about this race gave a very  emotional tribute to a loved one that passed away which madae me think of Katie.  They make every racer feel like they matter. I wandered around the town afterwards and checked out the art galleries which had some great framed photos from prior year’s races. Then had pasta dinner at the church. Back at the hotel the alarm was set for 4am with a 6am race start.

The start line was about 3.5 miles away and I was driving there because I knew that I would NOT want to ride from the race back to the hotel. The hotel had breakfast so I had some oatmeal with peanut butter and a banana as well as some eggs. I loaded up the car and head towards the race start.  I felt good and had actually been able to use the bathroom :).  I reduced my basal insulin to 65%.  I parked the car and rode to the main street where the race started.  I wore my VQ kit with arm warmers and toe covers on my shoes  full finger gloves and a headband which covered my ears.  Nothing is more painful to me than being cold on a ride.  It was damp out, not raining but misty.  I saw Steve at the 16 hour pace mark and although I aimed for better than that I lined up there.

I really would like to break the race up into the first 175 miles and then the last 25 miles.

For some context here is a great article written about the race.

The first 175:

The race started with a neutral roll out of town.  We stopped a couple of times for an ambulance I hoped it wasn’t a racer.  Once we got going the mist in the air caused a lot of fogging so I took  off my glasses and stuffed them in my shirt.  It was a really damp day. On the third 5 miles we hit the mud.  The mud was thick and sticky like peanut butter it stuck to everything it stuck to our shoes our tires everything.  We had no choice but to carry our bikes from about mile 10 to about mile 14.  That took an hour and ten minutes. That section I averaged 3.4 miles per hour.  What was worse is that you didn’t know how long the walking would last, there was a long line of bikers carrying bikes for as far as the eye could see.  We would turn corners and people were still walking.  Some tried to ride only to clog up there gears and components with thick clay mud which was impossible to remove.  I carried the bike to my side, I hooked in on my arms in front, I tried to carry it like a purse over my shoulder and I carried it on my back. There was no comfortable position.  My toe covers had peeled off of the bottom of my shoes and found their way on top of my shoes and I looked like I had a tongue coming out of each shoe.

Here are some pictures:

half way through the mud with Steve

half way through the mud with Steve

mud slippers

mud slippers

Small example of what we dealt with

Small example of what we dealt with

The following 50 miles were uneventful, although I couldn’t help but notice the number of people who were dropping out at this point, either done in by the walking or broken bike parts from the mud.  I reached the one river crossing from last year I prayed that it was not cold.  With the cloud cover and the cooler temp I wasn’t exactly warm.  As I plunged my feet into the water I found it surprisingly warm but now I was completely soaked.  I had worn my favorite wool giro socks which had never failed me before no matter what weather.  Please don’t fail me now.  There were several river crossings throughout the day and several detours from the original route.  One in particular had a small 2 foot water fall attached to it.  I remember it was quite a strong flow and the edge was close to where we walked.  You couldn’t see the bottom of the river needless to say I walked very gingerly.

River crossings

River crossings

Back on the bike I settled in again and headed towards aid station #1.  I had planned on making my stops nice and short and efficient.  As I arrived through the timing arch the cheers were loud.  I can only describe it as tour de france like.  People lining the street just yelling and cheering.  It felt so good.  I got to the paid support area which was at the other end of the aid stop due to the re-route.  I ate a half a peanut butter sandwich and a few chips and a couple of pickles.  I  refilled my water and hydration pack and restocked my food supply.  Since my dex was beeping low all the time I lowered my basal again to 20% had I also had to use the bathroom and instead of going back to the port-a-potty I went to the gas station where I waited in line.  All in I think I took about 15 minutes.  Not terrible.

I rolled out feeling good despite the slower time.  I was pretty excited.  Somehow at about mile 80 while carrying my bike again a button was pressed on my watch.  I am not sure what happened but I thought it had turned off.  At this point I started my watch again but somehow lost some miles and didn’t exactly know where I was for a while.  Finally at some point I figured it out and was able to add up where I was.  Still it was a royal pain.

The course wound its way through some private lands  where we passed groups of cows hanging out by the edge of the road we were riding on.  I slowed down and started yelling as we were told to do.  One particular big black cow made a quick move but luckily bolted the other way.  It’s all part of the Kanza fun. People sometimes ask me how I can ride so long by myself.  Although the ride is beautiful sometimes I do get bored, at those times when I’m out there just me, the gravel, the grass and the sky I talk to Katie.  I have full on conversations with her.  I think out there she can hear me better because there are no distraction. I know I usually hear her loud and clear.

As I rode I saw the same people over and over again.  I passed them they passed me.  There were two particular guys that I came upon over and over again.  I recognized a thick Canadian accent and asked them where they were from.  They were from Kitchener, Waterloo the one guy had started the race the prior year but had not finished so then dragged his friend with him this year.  I told them that I was grew up in Richmond Hill, Ontario (a few hours from Kitchener) so from that point onwards I was dubbed “Richmond Hill”.  We were laughing about how I would keep sneaking up on them.    I had already ridden most of the race by myself (non-drafting) and this next section on the way to aid station 2 was particularly difficult because you were riding into the wind a good part of it.  I struggled a great deal.  They had caught up to me and told me to hop on… so I managed to get a few free miles out of them which was nice.  There was also a guy on a fat bike.  Now that was nuts!  He would fall back then catch up many times over during the race.  I am pretty sure he ended up finishing ahead of me.

To this point everything was humming along pretty nicely. I kept my heartrate down as much as possible and   I was staying well hydrated eating my blocks.  I dealt with the mud/water crossing hazards, dodging dead armadillo shells and stopping multiple times trying to figure out which direction to go in.  At this point following the people in front of you was not a good answer.  The cue sheets were not updated for the last minute detours and my Garmin 920XT certainly was not updated.. more often than not it was telling me that I was off course.  I still didn’t think my time was going to be way off at this point.  I would have expected it to be slightly longer than last year.  Little did I know!

Somewhere on the way to aid station 2 one of my lenses popped out of my rudy sunglasses.  I wasn’t worried from a sun standpoint since they were polarized and it was overcast.  I thought I had caught it in my arm but when I stopped to look it wasn’t there.  From then on I was the one lensed bandit.  I figured if anything flew up and hit my eye at least one would be protected.

Finally at about 7:30  pm I rolled into the 2nd aid station at about mile 155.  I WAS starving and I was so hoping that this aid station would have the subway sandwiches I was promised… I needed something non-sweet asap. I rode through the aid station looking for the purple chamois butt’r tents and soaked in the cheers.  At this point people had been out there for a very long time and they knew a lot of people had dropped out so the few riders they got they really cheered for!  It was freaking awesome.  I asked about the paid support and I had actually passed it so had to roll back to the start of the aid station. I found it and quickly dug into an Italian sub and some chips.  I got my special needs bag and stood by the fire pit.  It was starting to get chilly.  I took my red bull and refilled my nutrition and hydration.  I dug into another sandwich and ate more trail mix that I had packed (peanuts, raisins and m&m’s = super sweet).  If you are a diabetic you may figure out what happened later (think lots of food and only 20% of insulin) I looked at my clean dry shoes I had packed and made a decision to change out of my wet ones.  I was told that the rest of the course would be flatter and dryer.  Note to self, do not believe everything you hear! I figured I had the dry shoes and socks why not use them, it was worth it to take the time.  Also because I felt chilled I put on my light wind jacket over top my hydration pack.  I also put my serta light on my helmet.  Just to throw something else on to your already tired body the light is super heavy.  I thought to myself I only (yes I thought only) had 45 miles to go.  The math in my head thought even if it took me four more hours that is a total of 17.5 hours only an hour more than last year.  I was ok with that given the conditions this year.

I rolled out again.  The last leg out of aid station 2 starts with a fairly steep hill (at least it felt steep to me).  After muscles stiffening at the aid station and low energy it was a struggle.  Once I got past the hill and warmed up again I felt pretty good ( as good as can be expected).  I took the light jacket off.  I fiddled around with the light to try and get the setting to medium or low vs. the bright.  The brighter the setting the quicker the battery drains.  I couldn’t get it but I thought sure it would last until the end.  I was under this false sense of having “only” 45 miles left.  In this case my math was not good.

Within ten miles of aid station 2 my feet got soaked again, so much for the dry shoes.  I should have known better.  At 25 miles to it felt like 5.  I was happy.  At least until things just started to go very wrong.

The last 25 miles – what could go wrong?

I was riding on my own again.  I had been feeling good having past a few people and still had energy.  It was of course pitch black and I was trying to follow the cue sheets although I didn’t have the exact mileage and I had trouble seeing the small print due to my old eyes and my recent need for readers.  Well, I didn’t have my readers so I had to stop and pull my one lensed glasses off to try and read where I was to go.

I overshot a turn and slowed to do a U turn.  As I was doing the U turn my brake cables got caught on my head tube which caused my brake to engage involuntarily which then caused me to crash.  So after 16 hours or so on the bike negotiating river crossings, rocks and mud I crash and land on my elbow and hip.  With the body being so tired I may as well have been run over by a mac truck.  That is how I felt. In addition my rear wheel seemed to come out of true or something and my brake was continuously rubbing so I had to disengage the back brake.  I also noticed that my rear red blinker had fallen off somewhere.

Then because I had eaten so much at the aid station #2 I felt bloated, also because I had reduced my insulin so much my blood sugar sky rocketed with all the food.  Doh!  Bloated and high bg = sluggish.

Sluggish and bruised I carried on.

To add fuel to the fire my headlamp went out.  It was pitch black out.  I stopped took off my pack to get to the battery.  I fiddled with the connection thinking it came loose due to my fall.  Sure enough it came back on. I put everything back on only for it to go out with in seconds of starting again… arg!  Why hadn’t I taken the time to put the light on the correct setting!!!! Lesson learned – take the time!!!  Luckily the day before I had bought a “spare” at Walgreens.  So I pulled out the cheap headlamp I had bought the day before.  I pulled the elastic on top of my helmet and off I went.  Unfortunately the lamp kept slipping off so I pulled it off and wrapped it around my handlebars.  At this point all the people I had passed were now passing me.  When I say all it was really only about 20 or so over all the stops… there were not a lot of people out there at this point.  Unfortunately the lamp then fell off its elastic band so I was left holding the lamp in my hand.  At this point.., high blood sugar, bruised body, no rear brake and no real light and time ticking I felt discouraged and I just wanted to be done. As I crawled along barely able to see my hands were so sore that I actually used the clip part of the light and held it in my mouth.  With each movement of my head a shadow would cross me causing my heart to palpitate and jump into my throat thinking something was coming at me.

The final “straw” was that my garmin shut down within the last 13 miles.  I had truly no gauge as to where I was.  The last person that passed me was off in the distance and all I could see was a brief glimmer of his red flashing light.  I tried to keep up enough just too at least follow it so I didn’t need to stop as much to read the instructions.  At some points however I lost him and would need to try and figure out where I was by reading the cue sheets in the dark.

That 25 miles felt like an eternity and it did take an eternity.  Finally I hit town and I knew I was done.  Finally there was human interaction. People cheering and actual lights!  I rolled down the main street and saw the finish line and broke down.  I was sort of sad because I didn’t have anyone waiting for me at the finish line.  Last year I had Mike and a few other VQ riders and of course Tom.  This year there would be no-one. A weird feeling.

I came across the finish line not expecting anything where I was greeted with a bit hug from Kristi Mohn one of the race organizers who I had met the previous year and at Rebecca’s Private Idaho.  This is why I love this race I was alone but I wasn’t alone.   She greeted me not as a stranger but as family, I whimpered in her arms.  Then as I walked away I saw Clemmens.  The guy had gone home showered and came back to help me.  I felt so incredibly grateful for  his help, he took my bike and walked me to my car and stood there while I pulled everything out of every bag I had while I looked for my car key.  He already had a long day and he had come in 15th overall and 2nd in his age group. He will forever hold a special place in my heart because of this. Not to mention that his son has T1 and has been to riding on insulin camps (my fundraiser for IM)

2nd place Clemmens

2nd place Clemmens

My results – 9th out of 18 in my AG and 23rd out of 37 women finishers.  I don’t feel bad about this. The overall finisher rate was just over 40% so just finishing this race was an accomplishment in and of itself.

Nutrition Summary and BG Summary





3 sleeves of cliff shot blocks at 180 g per
2 gels at 90g per
1 small cliff bar
2 water bottles with a scoop of skratch in each

2.5 liters of skratch
1 big cliff bar (for emergency) – didn’t take
3 packets of skratch
1 extra cliff shot block pack
2 shot block packets -1 left
1 gel -Didn’t take
1 kind bar -Didn’t take
4 skratch packets- Left 1
2 bottles with 1 scoop each of skratch powder
½ cup of mixed nuts with m&m’s and raisins -Didn’t take
½ cup of cheez its
3 skratch packets
2 gels -Didn’t take
2 cliff blocks -Didn’t take
1 kind bar – Didn’t take


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This year and IMOO training.

Ironman-logoSo here I go again.  In two weeks I’ll be hopefully finishing my fourth ironman.  When I signed up I had every intention of beating my previous course record which was also my first ironman in 2011.  I started off the year building a huge cycling base with a 6 day cycling camp in Spain, several gravel races, another 3 day camp in Wisconsin and finally Dirty Kanza a 200 mile gravel race.  I really felt myself getting strong on the bike and it showed as I finally took a power test putting me 10% over my previous test.

After Kanza I went into serious ironman training mode.  My swim still sucked but I was working on it.  I hired a swim coach.  I was doing decent paces on my tempo runs and it felt great.

Trimonsters at IMOO 2011

Trimonsters 2011

Leaving for swim

Leaving for swim

At the beginning of July I ran into a roadblock well actually it was a giant recumbent tandem bike parked on the road (sans owners).   It was a charity ride in the suburbs with not a car in site and I was having a great day. I was in aero on the tri-bike going 25 mph.  The result of the crash was a large deep gash down to the knee cap and bruised ribs.  I got 6 stiches in the knee which were conveniently located right on top of my knee cap so bending my knee was not an option.  Although my injuries were not earth shattering.  I was unable to swim, bike or run for about 4  weeks during peak ironman training.  I remember the first time I tried to pedal after the accident.  I had rented a divvy bike to get from work to a friend’s party.  With each pedal stroke I cringed with pain and I ended up pedaling with one leg while keeping the other straight.  I tried swimming that day and got in a few hundred yards before my ribs started to hurt.

Waiting in Emergency

Waiting in Emergency

Since then I have recovered for the most part.   My ribs still hurt a bit and my knee still aches but I am able to train without much discomfort.

Unfortunately although my body recovered my mind didn’t I was unable to get the momentum back.  I no longer had the drive or the focus.  In addition around the same time my beloved 15 year old cat Ruby was stricken with cancer.  I felt compelled to stay at home and spend her last days with her rather than train.  I was also suddenly overwhelmed by many memories of the past 15 years.  I had gone through a pretty rough patch in my life back then and am not particularly proud of some of the things I did.  Things came back in my head that I thought had been gone forever.  I struggled with making the decision of whether to start the race and the struggle caused me some anxiety.  I don’t operate very well when I am not focused.  If I am not set on my goals or my plan my mind gets mixed up and I can’t function very well and I second guess everything.  I’m not good at making up a workout or a plan as I go along.  In the meantime while recovering, I was given a promotion at work.  I have gone from having 1 direct report to nearly 50.  This has fatigued me mentally when I needed to be strong mental focus the most for my IM training, it just wasn’t there.  I found myself exhausted from the day at work  without the willpower to do a workout and just wanted to drink wine.  When my weekly hours should have been 15+ I was lucky to get in 8 or 9.  As my teammates racked up the hours mine dwindled and I was spending more time at home and making excuses than I was training.

With July over Ruby was put to rest and I decided to get to the start line at IMOO.  I know that in a few years this will just be a “blip” in my racing career.  There will be plenty more!   I feel that my biking base will hopefully carry me through.  The swim will be like always – slow and the run – who the heck knows.  I haven’t even done one triathlon since November 2013 when I did IMAZ.  I have no race plan I have no nutrition plan I haven’t been practicing my nutrition or with proper insulin levels.  I am a hot mess of an Ironman Athlete.

Trimonsters 2015

Trimonsters 2015

I signed up for the Michigan Titanium Aqua bike which was a full 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile bike.  I planned on doing a short run afterwards it was going to be my last big test.  I headed out on the swim feeling pretty good but as I swam I started to get nauseous.  I had never felt this on the swim.  I could only assume it was my blood sugar.  My goal of swimming long and strong was shattered… instead I paddled about and float on my back every so often to try and avoid throwing up.  I got out of the swim feeling awful. I tested my blood sugar and it was all good at 155.  I got on the bike course.  I felt strong on the bike but as the miles clicked by I couldn’t help but think that I wasn’t really enjoying it and how much I prefer my gravel bike races over the post-swim tri-bike pain in the neck and back.  I really just wanted to quit but I would never do that.  Unfortunately for my training plan the race ended up being cancelled half way through the bike due to a lightning storm.   Although I knew I need to get the training in I was happy that it was done however again I had once again doubt about the big dance on September 13.  I failed the test miserably but I had fun with the girls!

Girls with the 'betes in Michigan.

Girls with the ‘betes in Michigan.

I made myself a little list of things to draw strength from.  I will somehow try to write these on my arms and legs so that i can read them as I go.

  • I’ve got my 80+ year old parents flying in to see me race again – must appear strong and brave.
  • I’ve got the riding on insulin team standing with me at the start line.  I did fundraising for the charity on the premise that I would complete the race! Donation page:  Riding on Insulin
  • I’ve also got my niece who tells me I can power through it because I am her Aunty G.  I definitely don’t want to disappoint my favorite girl.
  • I have my coach Mike who despite having had numerous injuries and setbacks he comes back stronger than ever. Mike recently was hit by a car and has some serious injuries, I will be thinking of him and his strength.
  • I will think about how lucky I am to have functioning arms, legs, eyes etc. that allow me to even participate in these races and the fact that I don’t have any other conditions such as  Missy Foy who has had to give up her running career due to illnesses and autoimmune conditions including diabetes and fights just to get out of bed in the morning.
  • And of Katie and Ruby who were taken from me too early because of cancer. Life is too short to quit.
Me and Katie

Me and Katie



I know full well that I’ll be kicking myself during the race for not training more and for being weak.  Hopefully I won’t let these voices of negativity get to me.   I know that mental strength is as important if not more important than physical strength in an ironman and negativity will just eat away at you.  The “i wanna stop” voice gets pretty darn strong.

I am hoping that if I ride easy I can power through the marathon and try to give and receive encouragement.  I will try my best to smile.  I am looking forward to cheering my ROI, Trimonster and VQ teammates on the run course.  I have many many friends out there so that will be fun.  And as usual my #1 supporter Tom will be there.  I will look forward to spending the week with my parents afterwards.

Over the next week or so I will try to figure out a nutrition plan and think about my transitions and special needs which will hopefully get me thinking about what I should do on race day! At the end of the day I will just have to do my best!

Nickname at 2011 race

Nickname at 2011 race

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