One of the biggest obstacles of training for an ironman and attempting to come up with a race plan is that there is no way to replicate race day conditions.  You train for 6+ months then you race and you learn your lessons.  The time involved to learn those lessons is huge.  So I have two ironmen under my belt now.  The biggest thing I learned was you can’t duplicate your diabetes plan from race to race.  No matter how much you plan you will always need to be ready to deviate from that plan diabetes related or not.  Although this doesn’t mean don’t practice, because practicing does help prepare you.  I also learned that trying to enjoy the race and smiling makes for a much more pleasant experience.  Finally, I need to work on my transitions 33 + minutes yet again.

Texas Ironman – May 19th, 2012.  It was unseasonably warm even for Texas.  Temperatures got up to 105 on the ground.  DNF rate was 12% vs. 7% the year before.


Because we were training in Chicago most of it was done indoors.  The training seemed to take less time than Wisconsin and because it was indoors was in a very controlled environment = easier to control the blood glucose.  We were the first group to do an indoor century at FFC.  What a test of willpower that was.   I spent some time in the days leading up to the race fine tuning my nutrition and insulin plan.  One thing that was the same as Wisconsin was that on May 15th exactly 4 days before the race I woke up with a raw sore throat.  Luckily the sore throat went away but the congestion and cough stayed.  WTF.  I had been taking Vitamin C religiously every day.  I guess the long hours at work and training in April took its toll.  We arrived in Texas on May 16th.  Cassaundra my niece arrived the following day.  As typical everything was rush rush rush, lunches, dinners, checking out the bike course, the practice swim, course talk, prepping bags. There was not a minute to breath.  I tried to simplify my race bags this year but no matter it is still complicated.  Especially when you need to worry about testers, insulin, needles etc.  Also, at the course talk they told us that our special needs bags were going to be tossed so no diabetes equipment would go in there which meant carrying it all.  In addition, unlike Wisconsin all transition and special needs bags were going to be out in the blistering heat all day.  Which meant melted gu’s, bars, Oreos, heated insulin.  Heated insulin loses its effectiveness.  This year I was going to try the Dexcom because my Medtronic sensor last year crapped out half way through the bike portion of the race.  This meant bringing along another piece of machinery everywhere I went but this brand of sensor seemed to stay on better. I had worn it for about a week while training fairly heavily and it stayed put with no swollen infected insertion site.  I didn’t borrow a spare pump from the Medtronic rep so my thought was to try my omnipod (a waterproof pump).  I filled it and attached it to me the night before and set the temp basil to zero to avoid doubling up from my regular pump.  And I added a  2nd “emergency” insertion sight for my medtronic pump, put the lid on it and covered it with tagaderm (which was my savior later in T1). Between the Medtronic pump, the omnipod, the 2nd insertion and the dexcom sensor I was a living/breathing pin cushion part human part machine.


I actually managed to get a solid 5 hours sleep which is great.  I woke up at 3:15 and ate my breakfast sandwich of whole-wheat bread, chocolate almond butter and a banana.  I also ate another half a bagel and a bit of oatmeal and drank some coffee courtesy of the best western.  I gave myself a full bolus of 6.5 units for 65 grams of carbs.  At about 6 am I drank a Boost (diabetic meal supplement with about 16g carbs) and ate a bar because I thought I was hungry. I also realized as I was dropping off my T1 stuff that I hadn’t set the temp basil for my back up pump long enough and within an hour of the swim the basil was due to come back on.  I couldn’t figure out how to cancel the temp basil and restart it so I carried the PDM (device to control the insulin for the pump) with me in hopes that Lorrie (my diabetic team mate) would know.  Luckily she did so she changed it for me and I raced back to T1 to put the device in my T1 bag.  This is what happens when you don’t think things through or write it down (the omnipod was a last minute decision). Pre swim my BG was at 75 so ate a gel. I reduced my basil to 40% at 6:30 for two hours.  We had to walk about 0.8 miles to the swim start so this could have brought my bg down.


I went into this ironman with great expectations.  I’d worked really hard on the swim this year.  Concentrating on picking up my pace.  At the end of the season I could maintain a 2 min 100yard pace pretty steadily.  I was expecting to better my Wisconsin time by about 10 minutes.  Instead I was 10 minutes slower.  The water temperatures were to be close to the wetsuit illegal temp however they allowed wetsuits in a separate wave to leave 10 minutes after the non-wetsuiters.  It was a tough choice but I chose to wear a speed suit which Lorrie and Susie leant me rather than the full wetsuit.  I didn’t have a sleeveless so was worried about overheating. Although this goes against the big race rule of not trying anything new on race day.  I knew I would get chaffing but didn’t know how much.  I felt that the speedsuit would hold in my waterproof aquapac’s with my diabetic equipment (pump and glucose monitor).  We arrived at swim start, got body marked and lined up for the porta potties – what a line.  I went to zip up the speedsuit and realized I had it on backwards so had to go in the bushes to turn it around.  I was wearing a sports bra underneath but no shorts.  My biggest fear going into the swim was leaking goggles, nothing else really worried me since Wisconsin had gone well and I was much stronger now.  Shaina, Chris and I went and we all treaded water in the same spot close to the front and close to the buoys.  The cannon went off; I turned on to my belly and started swimming. However within a few minutes I was being kicked, scratched punched and pushed.  Without the wetsuit I felt vulnerable and my heartrate was through the roof.  I couldn’t get a breath, my lungs were closing up from anxiety and I was sinking fast.  I yelled kayak and felt that I had to give up within just minutes of the start.  I somehow managed to breast stroke through the wall of people towards a kayak.  I grabbed on for dear life and felt the tears welling up.  I waited and waited some more.  Finally my heartrate leveled off and most of the swimmers had gone by.  I started off sticking close to the buoys and within eye sight of each kayak.  Once I got going I felt really good but new that a good swim time was not in the cards at that point.  As I’m looking at my Garmin results I can see that I actually had a fairly good swim once I got going. As suspected my right underarm was raw with chafing at the end of the swim.

FINAL SWIM TIME 1:47:49 (slower than Wisconsin)


As I ran to T1 I saw my fan club, Tom, Cass, and Katie and felt good I had to put the swim behind me now.  At the opening to the T1 tent my fellow Team Wild girls from Wisconsin IM were there cheering me on.  It put a smile on my face to see Lyndsay, Kathleen, Karyn, and Jen.  In T1 I took off my aquapac with the dexcom – dry as a bone.  The one with my pump.  – not so much.  At the bottom of the little bag there was a pool of water about 2 inches high.  This happened once before and my pump completely stopped working.  I pulled it out of the pac and looked at it… expecting it to be beeping and vibrating and yelling no water!!!!  I pressed a few of the keys and it seemed to be ok.  I had to make a decision right then and there whether or not I rely on it or switch to the onmnipod.  After a few minutes I decided I would go with it.  Worst case scenario I had a levemir pen (slow acting insulin in a vial)  I could use in the event the pump stopped working.  So I ripped off the omnipod. No going back now.  The hot humid tent really made it difficult to put bike clothing but eventually everything got on. Although between the no wetsuit swim, the heat and humidity my first insertion site just fell out of my body so I was down to the 2nd emergency insertion site.  I quickly changed it and put a new tagaderm on top, drying it as much as I could. I saw Susie as she was coming in from the swim and I was leaving a quick hello then sun screen, lubed up and ate a bar on my way to the bike. My BG was at 90 in T1.  Got to the bike which was easy to spot since it was one of few left.

TOTAL T1 TIME :18:17 – NOT GOOD! (slower than Wisconsin)


I had fairly high expectations for the bike too.  I had finally splurged and got a beautiful tri bike after racing in my old Trek Madone road bike for 5 years 1 ironman and 6 half ironmen.  I was ready to step it up.  The bike was super comfortable and my computrainer classes were strong. I had rented 404 race wheels which was to give me an extra mile an hour or so… I was supposed to set my temporary basil to 110% in T1 with the whole water leaking fiasco I forgot so didn’t actually set it until about 1 ½ hours in.  I ate an accelgel which was liquid at that point b/c it has been sitting in the hot sun and my electrolyte tablets were stuck together.  The fizz tablets were ok.  I had left them in my bento box (which was also new and untried) over night in a baggie but the bikes were so dewy that I guess they got a bit damp.  Coming out of T1 I thought I dropped something on the road and didn’t want to risk it if it had been important so I got off walked back but didn’t see anything (= few minutes wasted). For the bike I had an aerobottle between the aero bars and 1 nutrition bottle which had 4 scoops of sustained energy and 2 scoops of mandarin heed about 140 grams of carbs.  I refilled the aero bottle at each aid station and added grapefruit and flavor free fizz tablets.  I ate as many endurolytes as often as I could choke them down and unsticking them as I went. I also drank some perform at each aid station as much as I could get down between refilling my bottle and the end of the bottle toss area.   I felt nauseous so found it hard to eat.  I was due to eat 3 sleeves of cliff blocks I only managed to take in 2 throughout the bike.    Soon after I started the bike I realized that the aero bottle yet again failed me.  I really had like it and it was working however lesson learned… with the heat and because the bottle was left on all night  the glue had melted off the velcro and the bottle had shifted towards me about 2 inches.  I didn’t notice until I realized that my powertap joule (bike computer) which usually sits in front of it was being pushed up at a funny angle.  Through the course of the bike the joule fell off 4 times.  4 times I had to get off my bike and go back and get it.  As I look at my bike splits I can see what miles this occurred, the lost time adds up.  Finally I just took it off. At about 10:50 or about 1 ½ hours on the bike I tested 283.  TMI here- I was peeing on the bike non-stop.  Liquid in liquid out.  Nothing was staying in my body.  I was drinking a ton but it just came out the other end (literally).  This happened to me once before when I ran the Boston marathon in 2004 where it was one of the hottest in Boston history.  With the high BG I gave myself a mini-bolus of 0.2.    Still in the upper 200’s I gave myself another mini bolus an hour later of .25 then finally another hour later 0.8 units. Probably the result of not increasing my basil in T1 and being at 40% for 2 hours in the swim.  The BG finally came down but the peeing didn’t stop.  I don’t remember exactly what I ate when but I know I didn’t eat as much as planned because I felt like I would throw it up immediately.  Which I did a couple of times. Katie and the gang were camped out somewhere around mile 50 so I stopped for much needed hugs and cheers.  At mile 60 I refilled my nutrition bottle at special needs with about 3 scoops of the mixture so about 80 or so carbs.  I drank a small can of coke … everything else was a hot mess.  My riding felt fairly good and strong and I passed a number of people and I was enjoying the riding and the nice rolling hills.  The wind picked up during the second half but it was manageable.   At about 3 pm my basil went back to 100% approx 0.55 units per hour.  As I promised myself I would I rode into the Bike-in chute smiling. Despite having a few diabetic/aerobottle meltdowns I at least felt comfortable and had no back pain.  I saw Lyndsay who gave out a big honeybadger yell!

BIKE TIME 6:38:17 – again below expectations but I got to smile at the end and I felt comfortable and that was a WIN. (faster than Wisconsin)


Into T2 my body felt good but the nauseous was still there and the peeing had not stopped. I quickly changed into dry shorts which felt good.  I ate some Oreos.  I set my basil to 50% because in Wisconsin my blood sugar really dropped during the run.  Not the case here.

TOTAL T2 TIME :15:26 (faster than wisonsin)


Unlike the other two events I wasn’t expecting much on the run, although it is my strongest event I had developed plantar fasciitis early on during training so I kept my running to a minimum as I tried to alleviate the pain.  I got the main long runs in but that was about it. I started the run and felt ill.  I couldn’t stomach the Ironman Perform so drank coke and water.  I knew I needed the electrolytes which somehow I had forgotten the tablets in T2 so I forced down some Ironman Perform. My BG was hovering around 200 (not so bad) I baby bolused 0.3 units for the oreos.  Then about an hour or so in I tested at 270  so I upped my temp basil to 70%, unlike Wisconsin my BG was rising here although they were not terrible and the peeing finally stopped. I plugged along water station to water station trying to push away the negative thoughts.  During the run is when everything comes back to haunt you, the poor swim time the constant peeing and other equipment failures on the bike, the thought of why bother continue I’m not going to be anywhere near my goal time crept in.  That and the blazing sun was enough to slow anyone down. Then after the first loop I ran by the fan club. There was Tom and Cassaundra smiling at me. Cassaundra telling me I’m doing great and how she is so proud of me… well I can’t stop now!  Katie was there too. After I passed them I started to get worried about my pump insertion.  With the heat and sweat It was just holding on by a thread.  I couldn’t lose it now I had no spare insulin with me (not sure how that happened).  So I ran holding it in with my hand. I thought if I could just get to special needs I could put a new tagaderm on.   I stopped at special needs – no tagaderm… again WTF- planning failure.  I didn’t eat or drink anything, everything was hot and melted.  I did put Vaseline around my ankle which was now burning from the timing chip strap chafing.  A nice lady bent down and did it for me.  I also picked up my spare endurolytes.  It was easier to take the pills and water than to choke down the warm melon flavored perform. I set off with hand on insertion site. The course snaked around the lake down some nice covered paths and into an area with massive houses then around a construction site where they were building massive houses, it was pretty course. At one of the aid stations I stopped at the medical tent to see if they had something they could cover up the insertion site with.  They didn’t have exactly what I needed but we came up with an alternative – a layer of very light stretchy bandage material on the site (anything heavier would have tore it right off with the running motion) Then 3 layers of gauze type bandage wrapped around my entire waist fixed together with tape. I have a lovely red line chafing mark on my stomach from the bandage but it really held it in. So I carried on with two arms free to move now.   It was a great flat course.  You spent a few miles along the river which was also nice.  The crowds were awesome and I got to see Cassaundra and the gang again.  Just seeing the pride in her eyes kept me going.  One last loop.  Lyndsay joined me and chatted away trying to keep up my spirits regaling me with her funny stories as I moaned and groaned.  I was having terrible GI distress and barely made it to the portapotty at one point. I had good miles and bad miles between 10 minutes and 12 and averaged at 11 minutes per mile. About 20 miles in I tested at 116 – awesome!   I somehow knocked out mile 23 and 24 at a 9 minute pace, probably because I didn’t stop at the aid stations.  I missed the 25 mile marker somehow but could hear the crowd.  In addition to feeling good off the bike my other goal was to remember and soak in the finishers chute.  I did!  I slowed right down and smiled and pumped my fists and cheered and high fived it was the most awesome experience of my life (even better than the first IM).  I jumped for joy at the end. My emotions running high I was laughing and crying at the same time.  It was then that I saw who was standing right in front of me, none other than Chrissie Wellington.  I just let it all go.  She smiled at me put my medal on gave me a huge hug and told me I did a good job.  Wow, what a way to end that day…….

RUN TIME 4:47:14 – 11 MINUTES PER MILE (slower than Wisconsin)


In Wisconsin I denied medical help.  I walked to my family and felt fine.  Within 5-10 minutes of stopping I completely ceased up, could drink eat or walk.  Here, the volunteer suggested I take the medical help.  I guess I was a bit woozy and he saw that I was diabetic.  I was worried that with all the peeing that I had lost a lot of fluid.  2 hours, two IV’s and some other magnesium something other later I walked out.  I guess my sodium was pretty low.   The good news is that the medical attention helped me recovery really quickly!  Also, my blood sugar at the end was good.  The other good news is despite my disappointing time I can’t wait to retry this.  I know I can do better I just need to work out some of the kinks.  Sitting here today I cannot wait to do this again. Complete opposite of Wisconsin where I couldn’t even imagine doing it again for at least a few weeks ;-).

TOTAL TIME 13:47:00 (really 00 couldn’t have rounded that off better if I tried)  PR’d by over 16 minutes :).  As mentioned, I really need to work on my transitions, yet again they were over half an hour in total. I was happy with the Dexcom despite feeling the burden of another machine clipped to my shorts.  It was off during the bike but I think showed overall direction of BG’s going up or down. When I tested at 280 Dexom showed 220.  But overall I feel like it is fairly accurate.   At the advice of the doctor in the medical tent I am also going to seek a proper sports medicine doctor as I feel that my regular endocrinologist just cannot give me the support I need in planning for sports events and with regular training.


About Gillian

I am a type 1 diabetic diagnosed at the age of 30. I run marathons, participate in bike races , ironman triathlons and everything in between.
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  1. Paul Zirlin says:

    Epic Ironman!!

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