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 🙂






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.
This entry was posted in Race Reports and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s