This week I signed up to participate in diabetes blog week.  Diabetes blog week was started by a diabetes blogger – www.bittersweetdiabetes.com.  Each day bloggers write about a certain topic.  I didn’t really realize when I signed up that we were given topics to write about so yesterday’s post had nothing to do with the topic of the day. Yesterday was about changing the world and diabetes advocacy.  So I’m making up for that topic today. Today’s topic is poetry. I’m not sure if I can write a poem but I’ll give it a shot.

The on-line diabetes community provides a great source of information and ideas.  When you have diabetes you have to learn to manage it yourself.  There is no pre-prescribed treatment, every day is a different story so unless you live with a diabetes educator and a nutritionist then for the most part you are on your own.  Your doctor can only see a snip it of your day/days and as most diabetics know one day can be completely different than the next.  Having the support and the experiences of others in the community plays a huge part in successfully managing the disease.

I have been blogging for a few years now albeit very sporadically. I wish I could write more and be more consistent unfortunately work and life (and training!) get in the way.  I enjoy writing but it is not easy for me and it is very time consuming.  No matter how many times I re-read what I write I’m always changing something and I worry that I am going to sound stupid.  Most of my writing is centered around my races and my training.  I started my blog not because I’m an expert in diabetes or exercise or exercising with diabetes but because I really want to make a difference somehow.  I don’t feel like I’m changing the world and whether or not I do make a difference is yet to be determined but if just one person who has diabetes reads about what I do while managing this disease and decides to try a triathlon or a running race or even just hops on their bike to go for a ride because of my blog then I have changed something.

Much like my fitness challenges, I am taking on the challenge to write something meaningful every day for 7 days while diabetes blog week is happening.

Here is my Haiku poem.

I will take a run

I will feel euphoria


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130 Mile Race Practice Ride

I did it!  I rode to Wisconsin and back which also happened to be my practice ride for Dirty Kanza http://www.dirtykanza200.com/ .   My race is fast approaching (less than 3 weeks!) and I wanted to test out a few things with my nutrition and set-up to see how I would feel over 100 plus miles of riding. Plus, I’ve always wanted to cycle the route I chose.  It was win win.

I didn’t really do anything special the night before and I ate my usual pre-race breakfast of low carb whole wheat toast with almond butter and banana.  I still felt a bit peckish so I had a second banana with almond butter.  I ate about 90 minutes before heading out so bolused for about half of the carbs.

I rolled out of my house at 7:30 am. I packed up my Osprey Synchro 10 hydration pack for the day and had mapped out stops to refill the bladder.  I wished I had weighed it.  I also added a seat bag with one spare tube and tools and I added a bento box on the top tube for things I’d need to access often and easily on the ride such as my nutrition and my dexcom.  I also had a waterproof map holder attached to my handlebars.  Although Kanza will be marked they say not to count on the markings. So I was as close to race day set up as I could be minus new tires. I should have taken a picture.

Here is a pic of my food that was packed in my bag.  In addition I had a bottle with Hammer sustained energy and espresso gel.  I call it my Latte.

Thats a lot of food!

Thats a lot of food!

I was trying 3 new things with my set up: new shorts; new chamois crème and my road bike seat on the MTB.  Well I’m happy to report it worked!  I’m not sure which made it better, I suspect the shorts but the pain level in my girly parts was reduced by 90%.  If I had only known that I didn’t need to suffer so much!  I would have done this long ago.  I am so pleased!!

Unlike most of my rides this year the temperature was warm enough to wear a bike jersey and shorts with no warmers or toe covers.  This will be good practice for Kanza since I am expecting a lot of heat and wind.

The ride was 128 miles and just under 10 hours.  Here is my Strava link Strava File. I was also pretty pleased with my blood sugar levels.  Here are my dexcom readings:

dexcom readings

dexcom readings

Miles 1-10 Home to North Branch Trail

Miles 1-10 are through the city to the North Branch Trail head.  I hadn’t planned on stopping until I got to Highland Park.  Approximately 30 miles or so; however by the time I got to the trail I had to use the restroom. Not off to a good start.  It takes time to take off my pack and my jersey hit the bathroom then put everything back on again! As I’m riding I’m taking an inventory of what hurts and doesn’t hurt.  Nothing yet.

Miles 10-22 North Branch Trail to Botanical Gardens

Miles 10-22 took me through the North Branch Trail of which about 70% was gravel or dirt on the horse trail.  I was feeling good and was enjoying the ride and the weather.  I munched on a few blocks, sipped on the sustained energy mixture and sipped on my skratch.  Mile 22 brings me to the Botanical Gardens in Highland Park on previous rides I usually stop here to use the bathrooms.  Turns out today was no different, again my bladder was full.  I wasn’t sure if I was drinking too much or not sweating enough but it was annoying. I took the opportunity to test my sugar.  I was over 200 probably from the extra banana at breakfast.  I mini-bolused 0.3 units and cancelled my temporary basil.  I started to panic a bit because I realized I forgot to pack a syringe and insulin for emergencies! Of all things to forget!  I thought maybe I bumped my insertion site before leaving and it somehow got dislodged.  Still nothing hurts.

Miles 23-50 Botanical Gardens to Independence Grove (Checkpoint 1)

Miles 23-50 as I passed where I had originally planned on stopping at VQ Highland Park I felt like I had to use the bathroom again however I opted not to stop this time since I had already stopped twice and at Kanza the first check point is at 50.  I decided I’d stop at one of the parks on the route (independence grove) that I knew had a nice comfort station and water.   The path takes you through some nice wooded areas on gravel.  I was enjoying the ride immensely and noticed how extremely comfortable my new shorts were. I was amazed that I had gone so long wearing what I call torture chambers (or Mediums) on my rides when I could have been riding with so much less pain.  As I kept riding my full bladder was getting very uncomfortable.  I had taken a side route off the main dpr trail for a change of scenery and I as I was approaching the 50 mile mark I started to get worried that the side route took me past my comfort station but just as I was losing hope I turned a corner and there it was.   I got off and did my business and ate my first MOJO bar.  It tasted so good; I had felt a bit hungry earlier.  I refilled my hydration bladder which was almost empty and added another serving of Skratch.  I didn’t change out my sustained energy bottle because it was still half full and I really just use it to supplement my other nutrition.  I also tested again 103!  The mini bolus worked. WHEW!   I put the temp basil back on at 70% this time.  I am still feeling good at this point.

Miles 50-64     Independence Grove to Northern end of Des Plaines River Trail

Miles 50 – 64 I rolled out and was determined to ride the next 50 miles without stopping.  From here it was about 15 miles to the end of the DPR at the border of WI and IL.  Sure enough I arrived at the end of the path and felt that familiar pang of a full bladder.  I was really starting to think that I was drinking too much but I guess better too much than too little?  Rather than face the next 30+ miles in discomfort I just stopped and went, trying to be speedy about it.  My BG had been dipping slightly so I tried to up the # of blocks I was eating.  I’m starting to feel slight tension in my upper neck and back.


Miles 64-100 Des Plaines River Trail to Vision Quest Highland Park (checkpoint 2)

Miles 64-100 I calculated that if I rode all the way back to VQ Highland Park it would be fairly close to 100 which would be checkpoint 2 of the race.  I really wanted to get a feel for riding that far then having to get back on my bike for another 50.  Would it hurt?  I was still amazed at my comfort level.  As I approached mile 80 ish I started to get hungry again.  The blocks were not cutting it so I dug out my 2nd Mojo bar and ate half.  I noticed that my legs were started to feel a bit stressed.  My neck and upper back were really screaming at me.   I ate the Tandra bar.  The Tandra bar was good and it was nice to not eat something sweet for a change but it was hard to wash it down with Skratch, a nice cold coke would have it the spot!   Upper neck and back pretty sore but no low back pain which was great.  I kept trying to shift my hands in order to change my position.  My hands were starting to feel a bit sore from the constant bumping.

At mile 100 I pulled into  VQ, I was happy that I did the last leg without stopping.  I refilled the bladder again, this time with 2 servings of Skratch, I was worried that my 1-serving blend didn’t have enough electrolytes.  I lubed up my chain as it was pretty dry and squeaky.  I ate the last half of my MOJO bar and felt like I could really have used something else.  I also refilled my nutrition bottle this time I mixed the sustained energy with heed tangerine (I call it my creamsicle ) . My stop was probably a bit too long but figured during the race I’d have the bottles pre-made and a spare hydration bladder that I would have Tom pre-fill for me at each checkpoint.

Miles 100 – 128 Vision Quest Highland Park to home

Miles 100 – 128 as I headed out again my legs were pretty sore, in hopes that the protein would help I ate my last Tandra bar, which was still pretty appealing at that time.    I also noticed that although my new shorts were great on my nether regions I started to get a pain in my leg where the band is at the bottom.  I can only describe it as the feeling you get when you have elastic around your wrist that is too tight.  I’m not sure if my legs were just swelling or what but it was pretty uncomfortable.  I hope that in the next few weeks I can stretch the band out a bit.  Even now, 24 hours later that section of the leg feels a bit bruised where the band sat.  As I was approaching the 120 mile mark I really went down I could hear my dexom beeping from within my bento box I assumed I was going low again so I drank some more of my creamsicle sustained energy mix which pick me up a bit, as it turns out I was beeping because I was over 200. I always forget that I have my basil set to drop from 0.75 units /hr to 0.5 units per hour at 3 pm every day for my usual commute home from work.  So even on weekends when I’m not commuting it drops.  I need to set up a different basil pattern for weekends.   I pulled into my garage in just under 10 hours from the time I left.

Overall, considering the length of the ride, I felt pretty good just stiffness in my upper back and neck.  I immediately made a recovery shake to replenish my glycogen stores. I made it with Hammer Recoverite, protein powder, a banana, water and ice, almond butter and some spinach.  I bolused 5 units for my 246 bg and 40 g of carbs which in hindsight was probably on the light side.  After I showered my body went downhill I was having trouble moving and staying still I couldn’t get comfortable everything seemed to be throbbing.  I don’t usually take medication but I took two Advil because I really felt inflamed.  My post exercise blood sugar was not going down even after my meal bolus so I changed my reservoir knowing that the insulin that was currently in the reservoir was probably cooked from being out all day. I’ve starting to make a habit of doing this after any long training/race day.

All in all, I felt I had the other 20 miles left in me to get to the third checkpoint of the “race”.  I figured if I can make it to the 3rd and last checkpoint I can certainly pull the last 50 miles off even if it’s hell.

I do need to consider that Kanza will likely be more windy than yesterday and will be pretty much all on gravel so not completely apples to apples.

Here are the #’s of what I consumed which seems reasonable but I may want to add in a bit more protein.  I also drank about 9 litres or 300 oz of water with the skratch below.

Totals per Hour

Totals per Hour


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Bike Camp and Kanza practice run


Last week/weekend I did a 4 day cycling camp.    This was my second year doing the local Vision Quest camp and  I enjoyed it every bit as much as the first year.    Thursday to Sunday all I did was ride, eat and sleep with some socializing in between.  Vision Quest  provides support for the rides so there is never any worry about running into problems such as flats or running out of food, which is huge for me.  If you need a good way to improve your fitness this is a great way to do it.  Here are some highlights:

DAY 1 – 4.5 hour sufferfest – 70 miles

Day 1 probably goes down as one of the hardest rides in history.  It was windy, cold (like low 40’s cold) and it poured rain.  My feet and hands froze.  I was miserable.  My blood sugar went low because I had forgotten to lower my basil which eventually caused me to get dropped from my group.   I think my rainproof shoe covers were holding in all the cold water in my feet because they never warmed up and I could feel the water sloshing around. I also suffered from some low back pain which I think was a result of the high resistance against the wind. Not sure what else to say other than that I suffered through it and I finished.

Day 1 Strava



Day 2  – fun hilly loops – 94 miles

Another cold (low 40’s) and windy day but not rainy and I got moved to a different group. The new group was a few fun women who I enjoy cycling with, still a bit hard to take to get moved.  We rode 20 odd miles  then did a cool little 6 mile loop that had a bunch of little hills.  I did 4 but wanted to do more.  When I got back to the hotel I ventured out on my own and did a 22 mile loop of Lake Geneva.  I do like riding in groups but sometimes it’s just nice to get out on your own.  My BG’s were running a little high to start but a quick 0.3 units of insulin fixed that.

Day 2 Strava



Day 3 – Out and back and another loop of the lake – 82 miles

This was another windy day but at least a bit warmer (low 50’s).  We rode out with the wind at our backs then got pulled all the way home by one of the coaches.  Needless to say I had plenty left in the tank to do another loop of the lake. My BG’s  were great today!  I pushed it on the loop and sprinted a little on the hills as I was nearing the end of the loop I met up with Dan again. He “forced” me to do sprints at the end.  I seriously thought I was going to die trying to keep up with him.  My watts were definitely being maxed out and matches were being burned.  I got back to the hotel and it took at least 5 minutes to catch my heaving breath.  It’s always fun to push yourself more than you think you can go.

Day 3 Strava



Day 4 – Ride home to Highland Park 70 miles

Today was a bit cooler again (mid 40’s) with a bit less wind.  I started off with my legs feeling lead.  I was definitely feeling the 3 days and the sprinting from yesterday.   The start of this ride is very hilly and as the girls cycled ahead I took it very easy up the hills and was definitely the slowest off the mark.  I even fell off the back for a while and they had to wait for me.  Once I warmed up I felt much better and even pulled a lot of the way.  I find it just takes me a good while to warm up and I just need to go my own pace even if I risk being dropped. Before we knew it we were at the same aid station where I’d shed a few tears on the first day.  How amazing it was that to be there and feel so good.  I was really happy and my BG’s were great all day.

Day 4 Strava



Although Day 1 and 2 started a little rough with my blood sugars Day’s 3 and 4 were great.  I was really happy with my nutrition management for the most part. I definitely didn’t track all my carbs because I ate the PBJ or Nutella  half sandwiches at the aid stations and the bags of chips.  Essentially I carried my hydration pack with 3L of skratch, knowing that I’d be carrying this load and more for Kanza.  I carried a bottle with liquid nutrition – sustained energy and espresso gel and another bottle with water.  I also ate shot blocks as needed.

This week I took it pretty easy to let my legs recover.  Sunday I have a big day planned.  I’m packing up my pack with spare tubes, tools, gels, bars and water to simulate Kanza and I’m going to try to attach my map holder I got from REI. Kanza is marked but you are told not to rely on the markings, most of the blogs I have read, describe people getting lost and I can’t afford to get lost, they are providing gps files this year but who knows if my garmin will last 20 hours. I am also trying out 3 new things on this ride for comfort:

  1. I put my road bike saddle on my MTB.  I had been experiencing some chafing in the nether regions so thought for these gravel rides my road saddle might work better.  My road bike felt pretty comfy at camp.
  2. I’m trying a new brand of chamois crème made by Mad Alchemy. (Thanks to Scully and Becky)
  3. I bought a size small in my bib shorts.  I had been wearing a medium mens which I bought by mistake so want to try the small.
New Chamois Creme

New Chamois Creme

This seems like a lot and I won’t need to carry this much with me on the race because I’ll have support every 50 miles to refill but I’m carrying the following:

food for long ride

food for long ride

5 packs of blocks

1 Sustained Energy packet and 1 in a bottle premixed with espresso gel.

2 extra servings of espresso gel (for the second bottle of sustained energy mix).

2 MOJO bars

2 Tanka bars which I’m trying out because I read that beef jerky makes a good protein and salty snack.  I want to see if I actually ever would feel like eating this on a long ride.  The Tanka bars are nitrite, antibiotic and hormone free so I don’t feel like I’m eating a pure crap. I’ve never had them and just want to try them. (I’m not normally a jerky fan).

Tanka Bars!

Tanka Bars!

8 glucose tablet just in case my sugar tanks (hopefully won’t need)

3 Skratch refills for the bladder (will probably only need 2)

That is a shitload of carbs and I won’t need it all tomorrow but you never know.

I plan on filling up my camel back at VQ in Highland Park going out and back which is about 30 miles into the ride.

If nothing else it should give me good mental training riding  on my own and we may get T-Storm as well just a little added bonus.



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Kanza training and Dirty Mudd’r [Race]

Last weekend I completed two really great long (sloooooooooooow) rides.

Journey to the Burbs

Journey to the Burbs

Saturday I left the house at 7:30 am to start my trek to Aurora, IL a suburb of Chicago.  Why ride to Aurora, you ask?  Well the American Diabetes Assoc. and Tour de Cure were meeting at the Two Brothers Roundhouse in Aurora and they were doing a TDC course preview ride which was also being filmed so they needed some extra people and I needed the miles so why not!  I secured a ride home of course!

I made my way through the city and caught the Des Plaines River Trail off of Irving Park near Schiller Woods.  It was very strange.  I was used to riding the DPR from Highland Park North to Wisconsin.  Anyway, this southern end was not quite as “glamorous” as the lovely gravel and groomed trails of the DPR north.  The trail grew very sketchy at parts and was not nearly as well marked.  As I approached the southernmost end near North Avenue I got lost in some “homemade” single track.  Per my Strava upload I am Queen of the “Secret single track” section of the trail.  I had to laugh at that considering I had no idea where I was.

I then jumped off the trail and headed towards River Forest where I was going to catch the Illinois Prairie Path and stay on that until, well, pretty much Aurora.  I headed along Thatcher Ave. where I was hoping to see my pal Chris from work and his two boys since I was riding right by his house but alas we mistimed each other and missed the opportunity.

From there I got a bit turned around as I was finding the IPP trailhead I finally found it and noted the cement and industrial surroundings, not exactly a picture perfect ride.  I also noticed the blue police boxes (no not the tardis) boxes with a direct dial to the police.  Hmmm, that can’t be a good sign.  The area Maywood is a bit notorious for being pretty ghetto.   I was definitely getting some looks, as I was all kitted out and on my Trek Superfly MTB complete with hydration pack.  Not really quite city material.

I followed the path and was getting super annoyed at all the road crossings which I had to stop and start at.  I also had to go the bathroom pretty bad, since I had planned on using Chris’ as a pit stop.  However, I didn’t think it would be very appropriate to stop in Maywood.  The further West I went the more little towns I passed, I even passed a couple of festivals.  Poor folks out there on such a chilly day!

I finally reached Elmhurst, the town where one of our VP’s at Navigant lives.  I stopped and emailed him a photo of the Elmhurst sign to say that I was passing through.  It was here that I found a very nice clean porta potty to use.  It was a close call.  I also noticed that as I continued west there were many people our picking up garbage.  I realized afterwards that it was a Volunteer clean-up day for the entire IPP!  As I kept going through all the little towns every section had people picking up garbage.  I felt somewhat guilty as I rode through and passed the garbage pickers.  I made sure I said thanks as I went.

Part of the route took me on the “Crazy Daves” half marathon.  The race is great.  Just a small group of friends getting together to run then drink and eat.  We also use it to share new or used gear that you may not use personally but someone else may use it.  I have picked up a few sweet pieces over the years.  This was actually the site of Tom’s first half marathon!

I quickly stopped and emailed Rosalyn Popham a picture say I was passing through.  It was sort of cool seeing all these places from a biking point of view.  It is also cool to tell your co-workers that you rode to their suburb… the look on their faces is priceless.  The mileage clicked on and finally I was on the home stretch to the roundhouse when I heard a car honk at me.  I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong but as it passed I got a cheery hello from Chris Navin who was driving out to do the ride also.  How funny that we both arrived at nearly the same time.

Saturday Ride Part 1

We got to Two Brothers just as the TDC committees were wrapping up.  We were lucky enough to snag some leftover brunch as well.  It tasted so good.

After eating and hanging out for a bit the group got organized and we took off.  There were about 5 of us in a smaller group up front then we picked up a few more as we went on.  We were with Tess and her mother who own Spin Doctor Cyclewerks bike shop.  Tess is a type 1 and races cyclocross, not bad for a kid!  At one point she stopped to test and was 90 with double arrows down.  I figured I’d test while I was there; well I was 80 with one arrow down.  We both decided to eat some glucose tablets and wait while we evened out.

We ended up completing a lovely 35 mile loop following the Fox River trail and the IPP.  It took us longer than we anticipated as we made sure that we kept the group together and that we all knew where we were going.  It was still an epic day of riding, albeit slow.

Saturday ride Part II

Tour de Cure Preview

Tour de Cure Preview

I arrived home at 6:30 unable to move and had to cancel going to a house warming party that night.

The next day arrived quickly, the Dirty Mudd’r was in Streator, IL and didn’t start until 10am so I left the house around 7am and drove 2 hours to the start.  I pulled in the lot and saw Mike my coach and then Eric another type 1 diabetic and who are both doing Kanza with me.  Eric had only been diagnosed about 2 years ago in his mid-50’s.  Last year he struggled a lot.  He was in a sense, rebelling against the disease and not treating it with the respect that he should.  He finally got some help this year and even got on a Dexcom.  He still is struggling with highs and lows but as I told him, we all do.  I offered whatever advice I could.  He had committed to sticking with me the entire race.  This guy is a cycling machine.  In order to “facilitate” me keeping up with him he rode his fatty bike.  Ha!

As we were all standing around waiting for the race to start it seemed like more and more layers were needed.  WE were freezing and it was windy!  Windier than hell!  Because my legs were fatigued from the 90 miles the day before I struggled, my back hurt and my too big bib shorts were biting my ass. At the first turn into the wind I thought I was going to cry, my legs were burning and I was barely moving, it was relentless.  There were certain stretches that went on for miles like that.  Even when we turned sideways to the wind it was treturous I’ve never been blown off the side of the road like I was that day.  The only thing that saved me was Eric keeping his promise to stick with me although it still felt horrendously hard it was somewhat alleviated by being able to draft off of him.  I don’t think I could have survived otherwise.  We stopped at the first aid station where we were treated to wonderful home baked cookies (the field for this race was small).  I told Eric I was testing, at first he refused to because he didn’t want to know.  My CGM showed 80 but I tested at 160 thank goodness.  I ate a cookie and mini-bolused.  I forced him to test because it was the only way he was going to learn, he was about 180 which he was pleased with. He is not on a pump so there wasn’t much he could have done anyway.

We also picked up another rider Bob; the three of us rode together the entire way while Eric pulled us into the wind.  We spent the time telling our race stories, talking about bikes and stories about giant lobster fishing in St. Marten (thanks Eric).  It was such a great day, I hardly thought about the gale force winds, except when we rounded corners and nearly got blasted into the fields!  The wind was a steady 30MPG with gusts of up to 45MPH, those gusts were killers.  There was literally no shelter, we were riding on gravel farm roads with absolutely no trees.   At some points the gravel turned deep and rocky.  I finally felt that I was actually going to finish as we stopped at the  2nd checkpoint had another cookie (I mini-bolused again due to bg of 200) and chatted with the volunteers as we watched lightening coming from the dark clouds over yonder. They all were pretty positive that it was moving “away” from us.

Well sure enough as we got within 10 miles from home and the roads became big giant mud puddles, it seemed to have poured just prior to us getting there.  We felt a few sprinkles off and on, then with about 5 miles to go they skies opened up and it poured, big giant hurting raindrops.  Luckily it had warmed up quite a bit.

We arrived back at the park where some of the remaining finishers were huddled below the one shelter.    Much to my delight there was an entire buffet of homemade food, made by the wives of the volunteers and race director.  I have never tasted anything so delightful.  I ate a huge baked potato with all the toppings – cheese, sour cream, chives, AND bacon!  I also had pulled pork, baked beans and chips.  It was soooooooooooo good.  I ended with the best piece of carrot cake  (which I later paid for) I have ever had in my life, it was made by the mother of the race director a sweet white haired lady.  It was amazeballs!  I may have gone overboard with my thank you’s to all of them.  So kudos to you Dirty Mudd’r  http://www.bikeiv.org/dirty_mudder.html for an awesome race and amazing post-race nom noms… all for $30!  What a steal.  The homebrew was also great the Belgium IPA was amazing. The final good news was that the HAWKS beat the BLUES and were moving on to the next round. YIPPEE!

Nuttin' for miles

Nuttin’ for miles

Still pouring, I headed back to the car to change and drive home.  I didn’t get home until after 7, another very long very tiring but very fulfilling day.  Oh and in case you were curious, in keeping with my slow riding this weekend out of the finishers I came in last!  Woo hoo!  But at least I finished!  Out of the 70 or so racing the 62 miler 41 finished.   Mike, my coach came in first! He also came in 2 hours ahead of me!  Unbelievable in those conditions.  But as he always reminds me Kanza is going to be a long slow race.

Dirty Mudd’r


For both rides I fueled with SKRATCH in my hydration bladder and Hammer Sustained Energy with Espresso gel mixed in for my liquid nutrition.  I also ate blocks here and there and of course the cookies at the race! I felt like my blood sugars were in good control during my rides.  I slowly digested the carb’s mini-bolused when necessary and cut my basils to about 75% overall I stuck in the 70-200 range which is good for me. I do however need to work on that post exercise bolus (i.e. remember to do it!).  For instance as I mentioned earlier paying for the carrot cake, the sugary goodness cream cheese frosting had me posting a 390 on the way home!

The other problem was the following day I could not get my blood sugar below 200!  I kept giving myself more and more insulin.  I finally refilled my pump with fresh insulin which did the job.  I guess I never thought about it before but my pump is buried in layers of shirts for the race and is being jostled about.  Between the heat and the jiggling I’m sure the insulin probably had lost some of its potency! Good thing to keep in mind.

Tonight I get packed and ready for VQ Base Camp 2014!!  Can’t wait, although of course the weather for our first day is expected to be rainy and 45… ugh.  Day 1 we ride to Lake Geneva from Highland Park, Days 2-3 we ride out there then on Day 4 we ride back to Highland Park.  Packing for this thing is going to be tough with the flux in temps and conditions.  Also, last year I brought only 1 kit and used the Robbie snail/reverse snail method of washing it every day.  I am reposting this video because it always cracks me up.  Snail/Reverse Snail I think this time I will treat myself to two kits.

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Power of positivity

Power of positivity.

Following up from my last post, here is a picture of my blood sugar levels on the third day.  If you ever wonder what I mean when I say each day is a different, this should be case in point.

Same insulin, same food different day. The only thing I did differently was I worked from home.  The blip at the end of the day was me forgetting to take my insulin on time for dinner.  But at least I have a reason for that one.


Day 3!

Day 3!

On another note I haven’t seen one of these for a while.  I felt really low but didn’t expect to be THIS low! This was this morning’s little treat. Not sure where that came from!



Since last week I vowed to get out of my slump training has been going great.  I’ve stopped getting upset for not getting the full workout in and I’ve stopped putting pressure on myself.  It’s so freeing when you make these two simple changes. I got some great training rides in last weekend and in 4 days (Friday through Monday) I rode 12 hours!  I also fit in some volunteer work for the Tour de Cure and got to see some of my favorite Type 1 (and 3) peeps and had Easter lunch with the family. I even squeezed in a short two mile run on my rest day.  I am going to try and sprinkle in some runs so that I don’t completely forget how to! Also, if I am expected to coach this summer I better be able to do it!

Volunteering for Tour de Cure course ride at FFC

Volunteering for Tour de Cure course ride at FFC

I’ve got some exciting plans for this coming weekend.  Whenever I can ride my bike to get somewhere for a reason I get excited, rather than just going out to train and doing a big old loop to nowhere.  Saturday I’m going to ride my bike to Aurora to the Two Brothers Roundhouse brewery http://www.twobrothersbrewing.com/roundhouse/where I’m meeting with some of the Tour de Cure organizers then from there we are going to do a Tour de Cure course preview.  All in all I’m expecting to do about 80 miles on my mountain bike.  I’m hoping to get a ride back or take a train.  It makes my ride seem more like an adventure when I have to get somewhere i’ve never been.  I think this might make me a good candidate to ride across America someday.  It’s the same reason why I never like to preview a race course before I do it.  The element of the unknown drives me to the next mile.

Then on Sunday I drive to a place called Streator where I am participating in something called the Dirty Mudd’r a 62 mile gravel race.  http://www.bikeiv.org/dirty_mudder.html After Saturday I just expect to finish it.  But that is ok, my goal is to get as many miles as I can.

Finally I am beyond excited about next week’s VQ base camp. I did this camp last year.  We are riding to Lake Geneva on Thursday staying out there and riding Friday and Saturday then riding home on Sunday.  I can not wait to just ride, eat and sleep for 4 days. Sounds like we will be covering nearly 350 miles in 4 days. Although I am not riding my mountain bike I will definitely aim to practice my Dirty Kanza race nutrition and nail my blood sugars!

Here’s to happy training!!!!


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A tale of two days.

A Tale of Two Days.

I know I’m preaching to the choir for other diabetics and we all have crazy diabetes days.  I had such a rough Monday, Tuesday was better but not great.

I am guilty of not prioritizing my diabetes management sometimes.  That is the problem with diabetes the complications occur from long term lack of control and not so much the short term because I can get up exercise, go to work and basically have a “normal” life with this disease sometimes the management of it gets put second to every day issues that seem more pressing. However, sometimes you just have days that have no rhyme or reason…. like Monday and those days are frustrating.

The following paints a picture of my Monday and Tuesday.



Monday 4am- I woke up with my dexcom alarm telling me that my blood sugar was above 200 or 240 to be exact.  Using my bolus wizard on my Medtronic pump I gave myself 2.4 units.

Monday 5am – My alarm went off, I snoozed and got up around 5:20 and did my morning physical therapy and some core/strength work. (I am really trying Ray!)

Monday 6am – I ate breakfast and gave myself a 25% bolus for my meal (vs full meal bolus) because I was going to be riding within the hour.  That was 1.1 units. My BG was

Monday 6:50am – I finally got out of the house (I had to pack my pannier’s with my laptop, work, lunch, change of clothes, shoes etc. Figure out what to wear with the temperature).  It was supposed to be nice so didn’t have too much to worry about finally. Needless to say my BG was rising during this time from breakfast.  I didn’t give my bolus enough time to start acting before eating.

I rode 1 ½ hours as an extended ride to work. I had a glorious ride along the lake using the gravel and grass wherever I could.

Monday 8:50am – I arrived at work after showering at the gym. Shocker yes I made time to shower which believe it or not is sometimes a perk for me.

When I got to work I noticed my dexcom was showing that it was out of range.  It wasn’t out of range, it was a new sensor so I’m not sure what the deal was.

Monday 10:45am – I finally took the time to test.  I was at 320 WTF?.  I bolused 4 units.  I also noticed that my low reservoir warning was showing no bar’s time for new insulin.  I refilled the pump without putting a new site in because for some reason at work I only had the tubing portion of my insertion site (note to self: restock work diabetes supplies)  so I hoped that the reason for my high BG was not because the cannula that goes inside my body was not blocked and that I was running high because I was almost out of insulin.  I had two bottles of insulin in my bag and I wasn’t entirely sure when I had opened them because of course I forgot to mark the bottle.

Monday 1:00pm – I ate a big salad 3 units. My dexcom was still over 200.  I had an apple -another 2 units. I was getting very frustrated.

Monday 5:00 pm BG = 236 WTF!   I gave myself a unit

Monday 5:15 pm I had a snack of a small banana – 2 units

Monday 7:30 I arrived home and changed my insertion site to a new area (the old site looked fine) that I don’t normally use – my upper thigh.  I gave myself 4 units for dinner. I was still running above 200.  For dinner I had some veggies half a sweet potato and some chicken.

Monday at 10:17 I tested as I was getting ready for bed BG 400!  At this point I changed the site again remembering that if felt a little weird going in. I didn’t change the insulin.  I just kept thinking this is going to work this time.  I seem to not ever want to waste a drop of insulin even for my own health.  I took the cannula out of my upper thigh and it started to gush blood.  Ok, I figured this is it this time.  I inserted a new one into my upper abdomen again a fairly fresh unused insertion site real estate.  I set my alarm for 1 hour.



Tuesday 12:00 am I woke up with the alarm and re-tested 396! ARgggggggggg at this point I was dead tired and just didn’t want to deal with changing my insulin.  I bolused again at 2.6 units.

Tuesday 5:00 am I woke up above 200 with my alarm beeping, I’m pretty sure it beeped during the night and I turned it off a couple of times.  I know, why do I have an alarm if I’m just going to turn it off. It was one of those days!

Tuesday 5:20 am I started my exercises again. I watched the dexcom and it actually dropped to 185 , interesting does this mean the insulin is working after all?

Tuesday 6:30 am I ate breakfast and gave myself a full 4.0 units THEN tossed the old bottles of insulin, guessing its age just isn’t worth it.   I grabbed a new bottle of insulin from the fridge and threw it in my bag to change at work.

I rode to work

Tuesday 7:30 am I arrive at work with worst low I was at 66 and dropping .  Ugh, of course NOW i’m low.  I ate a few glucose tablets and a block and my blood sugar settled in at an even 150.  I stayed that way for most of the morning, I snacked, I bolused and it was fine…. But it seems the tossed insulin was good after all or maybe it was just less potent.

I didn’t change the insulin in my pump.

Tuesday 12:15 pm bolused for lunch.

Tuesday 2:30 BG 234 2.0 units

Tuesday 3:00 pm I had a presentation to our audit committee and the adrenaline was making me high.  I couldn’t dose myself during the meeting because I was dressed up and had the pump tucked in my bra, I didn’t think it would be a good idea to reach in there during a meeting with our CEO/CFO and board members so waited.

Tuesday 5:00 BG 228 0.8 units

Tuesday 6:00 pm rode to vision quest and plummeted.

Ate a bar and computrained for 45 minutes.

The rest of the night looked good until…

Tuesday 8:50 pm Dinner BG 100 bolused 2 units barely any carbs in dinner

Tuesday 10:30 pm low – BG 59 ate 2 glucose tabs before passing out (sleep).

I still have not changed the insulin in my pump to the new bottle as it seems to be working now and will wait until I need to change it.

OK Rant, over.

Just for shits and giggles here is the pretty picture of all my downloads from the last few weeks.



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The Dirt on Dirty Kanza


If you’ve looked at my race schedule for this year you may have noticed the “Dirty Kanza” aka The Dirty.  A couple of things to note –  there is no “tri” in the name and there is “dirt” in the name.  You know that can mean only one thing  “off road bike”.

This is a 200 mile gravel race in Kansas.  Yes, you read that correct 200 miles.  Am I crazy? Yeah, a lil’ bit.  It is self-supported which means that you supply all your own food and drink.  I have 20 hours to finish the race.  So I’ll likely be on the bike for a little less than a day.  Another fact is that the race is at the end of May.  That is less than 6 weeks.

This video from the website helps to put into perspective what it is that I’m doing.  I like the part when the guys says all he could see was green, blue and a strip of gravel.

Racing the Sun

My training has been less than stellar.  I am working with the same coach I used for Leadville, Mike. He’s definitely one in a million.  I haven’t known him long but this guy knows what to say and when to say it, he gets it and he has great philosophy on life, riding and training.

I say that my training has been less than stellar because I haven’t been able to stick to my training plan.  I usually am very regimented about completing my training plan.  If there is a way to get it done I will find it.  Where did that mental strength and tenacity go?  Here’s my laundry list of why my motivations fizzled.

  1. The weather.  It is impossible (or extremely hard) to do large training blocks on a trainer.  I just don’t have 5 hours in me.
  2. The weather.  It is depressing me.  I have been commuting most of the winter and the cold weather just hurts, it’s the only way I can describe it.  It has sunk so deep into my bones that I can’t get it out.  It has made me weary and stiff. The couple of days that have been warm were glorious I felt like a rocket on my bike.
  3. The weather.  It is making me not want to get up in the morning.  Somehow I managed in Jan and Feb but lately I am just a suck.  I set my alarm for 5 and I get up at 6 or later. I don’t remember ever needing so much sleep or not having the mental will power to get up and get it done.
  4. Work.  As the miles ramped up so did work.  I have a very seasonal job.  The only month that I had a bit of a break so far this year was March, even then it was unusually busy this time around and of course (once again) the weather was shite.
  5. Work. Is also depressing me.  I’m not a huge fan of what I do and having to work long hours has been hard.  My races and workouts are my escape and without that I had fallen into a vicious cycle and am/was sinking in to a pit. I wasn’t able to get away somewhere warm to get some rides in because of work.
  6. Sadness.  My sadness from Katie’s passing runs very deep, I miss her more than anything. In fact, this list are things that I would normally talk about with her and she would know exactly what to say.  What I didn’t realize was what a physical and emotional toll it has taken on me.  This is something my coach had to point out.  I really didn’t put it together but my lack of spring in my step (pedal) is directly related to this.
  7. Lonely. Partly due to the cold and the sadness, I think the extra long rides by myself were tough because I was just lonely.  I usually ride on my own but somehow I think planning to ride with some buddies wouldn’t be a bad idea.
  8. Diabetes.  At my last doctor’s appointment my A1C ( measure of how controlled my blood sugar is) increased to 8.0 not a huge # but I had been in the 7’s for so long.  Ideally you want this # to be lower than 7.  In the past few weeks I have not been good at monitoring my blood sugars because of work which has been tough on my body and on my mental health.
  9. Weight.  I’m not over weight by any means but I’ve packed on a few pounds and I can feel it.  I am probably 5 pounds or so above what I like to be.  I can’t seem to shake it.  I am an emotional eater (and drinker) I am having trouble finding that will power to stick to a good diet.  The long hours at work and Katie have made me seek comfort in food (and wine).


I turned over a new leaf this week. Just like I do with my diabetes all the time I will do it with this training. I can’t get myself down because of what happened in the past I can just look to the future and make it better than yesterday. So this week,  I just rode when I could even if it was just a commute.  And I didn’t push myself particularly hard when I did ride. Today, Friday, I got up early(ish) with a plan to hit the path before work at 6.  I left the house at 6:30, returned at 6:35 because it was so cold that I needed to change into my winter jacket.  I didn’t worry about speed or time.  I just rode my bike for the sake of riding my bike.  I rode 30 miles on my heavy commuter and took in the sun and the water and just had a nice ride. I even stopped to snap a glorious picture.

The view from my morning ride!

The view from my morning ride!

So with only 6 weeks to go I have a lot of work to do but I’m not going to sweat it.  I admit I thought about not doing it but I really want to, I think it’s going to be a blast (ok some of it might feel like hell). I will finish this ride not because I have or have not done the training, I will finish because mentally I am tough and I am not a quitter.  As my coach says this should not feel like a second job I should be doing it because I like it and I want to do it.  So, with 2 hours in today, the plan is to ride tomorrow  7:30-11 have some lunch then I’m volunteering at another Tour de Cure event for a couple of hours.  Sunday I have plans with a couple of VQ’ers to ride from about 6 to 11 or so, then hit the in-laws for Easter dinner.

Stay tuned for my progress!

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First Race

neuroLast Saturday I participated in the Barry-Roubaix Gravel Road Race. http://barry-roubaix.com/ A 62 mile race in the middle of Michigan near Grand Rapids.

The week(s) leading up the race I was both nervous and excited about it. Nervous because we’ve had such a bad winter that I wasn’t sure what the conditions would be like – cold, icy and snowy came to mind. In cold temps it’s always hard to figure out how to dress. As an all winter commuter I’ve experienced the pain of freezing feet and it is not pleasant. I also had never done a gravel race before. I was excited because I was finally going to ride outside after months on the trainer.

Then on the Thursday prior to the race I received word that Katie, one of my best friends passed away. For those who don’t know, my friend Katie was diagnosed in May 2013 with Neuroendocrine Carcinoma and was given a 3% survival rate. It would be like starting a race knowing that you only had a 3% chance to survive and you didn’t know how long the race would take. It was a frustrating and painful time for all who knew her.  Katie battled this cancer like a warrior. She endured months of strong chemo which gave her multiple side effects for which she took too many medications to name in order to keep her somewhat comfortable. Then she found out it spread to her brain and had to have brain surgery. After the brain surgery she dealt with pain from her growing tumor on her liver, inability to walk or use her arm from neuropathy and nausea to name a few. Every time she turned around the news was bad. The times she did get out she always looked as stylish as ever.  Before the brain cancer, she even made one last trip to see her beloved Chris and the trimonsters participate at Ironman Arizona. She made the trip and still planned outings for the group. She loved celebrations and birthdays.  Just a few weeks prior she was at my house giving me a birthday gift.  Among other things she had booked me a massage in Vail where I was headed the week of my birthday.  This is how thoughtful she always was.  She knew that unless she booked it and paid for it that I wouldn’t go.  I’m even terrible at using gift cards!

I waited until the day before the race to pull my bike out to get tuned up. When I took it off the rack I saw that I still had her picture on the top tube. It was hard to see. I had taped it there when I did my Leadville race last year to give me strength to get through the race.

Picture of Katie (we were at a costume party having fun) for inspiration.

Picture of Katie (we were at a costume party having fun) for inspiration.

I was initially not sure if I could actually do the race and look at her picture but then I thought what would Katie say in this situation.  Not only that what would she do, she would totally suck it up and kick ass! I also thought it would be good just to get away and be on my own for a bit.   I packed up my bike and drove 3.5 hours to Hastings, MI on Friday night before the race. I arrived around 9:30 ET checked in and bought a grilled chicken wrap for dinner from Micky D’s had a glass of wine to calm my nerves (Katie would understand that!). The race didn’t start until 11 am the next day so there was plenty of time to chill and reflect. The previous two days were extremely emotional and my anxiety was high.  I couldn’t rid myself of thoughts of how beautiful a person she was with a beautiful smile and a great laugh. We had such good times together. She was wise beyond her years and was a great at listening and giving advice when needed, how unfair it was that her life was taken so early. She had so much more to give.

I woke up early and for a brief moment forgot about the previous two days. Unfortunately reality set in again. I looked over at my bike and thought to myself Katie would want me to do this race.  She would say go honeybadger!!

I went to breakfast and ate the hotel eggs and sausage and had some toast with some almond butter and a banana brought from home giving a full bolus since the starting time was still a couple of hours away. I chatted with my teammates asking what everyone was planning wearing given the cold temps (below freezing) mostly – shorts and knee warmers or full winter cycling tights… winter gloves or fall gloves , the list goes on and I had brought several variations. I also had bought new winter cycling boots which I planned to wear for the first time; this was my third try at buying winter boots which is why I was just using them for the first time. I wanted them big enough for heavy socks and room to move my toes and since I ordered them online it was not easy to guess the size especially when you have Italian makers.

new winter boots!

new winter boots!

It was not raining/snowing at the start although it ended up snowing a bit during the ride. Here is what I ended up with for a 62 mile below freezing race from toe to head;

  • Ski socks and gore windproof socks
  • Gore-Tex winter riding boots
  • Fleece lined winter cycling tights
  • Thick base layer
  • Cycling jersey
  • Craft wind/water proof cycling jacket
  • Balaclava
  • Lobster winter cycling gloves

I felt fairly comfortable throughout the ride and was glad for the larger cycling boots so that I could wiggle my toes when they felt a little cold. I tested my blood sugar and was at about 200 at the start I left my basil rates the same anticipated some adrenaline from the varying conditions.  Which at that time of day is about 0.8 units / hour.

We all lined up in our waves and waited for our start. I started to get a little chilled while waiting.   I wasn’t sure what to expect (at all). All I know is that the whole wave went off like a bat out of hell and I was left in their dust. I tried to keep up/catch up for the first 4-5 miles but knew that I couldn’t sustain that pace for 62 miles. Most people were riding nice cross bikes which gave me a bit of a disadvantage on the road starting out. I ended up with a small group of people. I think we were pretty much at the back of the pack. I won’t lie I felt a little discouraged, ok very discouraged. I looked down and saw Katie’s picture which was all I needed to keep going and just enjoy myself.

The route itself was pretty challenging, not large hills but frequent hills just enough to get annoying. As I got to the first “mud pit” (it had rained the night before so there were several) I negotiated through it without skidding out. Then “Tony” a guy from Iowa who I had been chatting with reminded me to look where I was going not where my wheel is. Oh yeah! How could I forget, this was such a valuable lesson I had learned in Leadville. After 20 miles I noticed I started catching up with a few people I’m not sure if I was picking up speed or if they were slowing down. I did make it up hills that others were walking up but with the mountain bike I definitely had better gearing for this. I found  Priscilla one of our female VQ’ers and we rode together for a bit. The company was nice. We stopped at the aid station where I ate a half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I’d munched on a few blocks and had a hydration pack with Skratch in it. The sandwich tasted great. Off we went. Between miles 30 and 40 I didn’t see one person except for the people directing the course. It was kind of nice. I pushed on looking at my time and realized I’d actually make the 42 mile cut-off which was a relief. I didn’t come all that way for just 42 miles! I reached the final aid station where I ran into some other VQ’ers I ate a peanut butter gel at that aid station. At this time I was feeling great. My Garmin beeped at every 5 mile split and I noticed that they were all pretty consistent which meant I wasn’t getting slower. I didn’t test by blood sugar because it was too damn cold but I sensed that I my blood sugars were good from how good I felt. As each hill came I pushed myself. I wasn’t going really hard but hard enough, sort of on the edge of uncomfortable which is pretty unusual for me because normally I’m overly cautious. After passing a number of people, in the last 5 miles I caught up to another woman rider she pushed the pace and I kept on her (cx) wheel. In the last few hundred feet I sprinted to the finish line beating her by a hair. Ok I may be a little competitive after all! I ended up 22nd overall at 4hours and 33 minutes and 1 second ahead of her :).

I walked back to the beer garden to see if there were any team mates around and I checked out my Dexcom. I was really happy I had a wavy line which dipped below 100 and spiked to just below 200. Katie and her sister were always aware of my blood sugar and asking how it was.  In fact Katie’s sister Caroline saved me during IM Arizona.  She actually walked a couple of miles to meet me with my tester and made me test during the run when I felt my worst (I found out that I wasn’t actually low I was high).  Aside from the gel and the sandwich I had also eaten about 9 blocks (3 servings) probably a bit too much for the length of race but at least I didn’t go extremely low (or high). I saw Robbie get the VQ team award and spoke with Eric S whom I met during Leadville training and is also a diabetic. I LOVE that guy, he and I get the shit with the ‘betes.  He hasn’t had it for long (like 2 years) and I feel bad for him but he is a huge biker guy and rode the 36 mile course in a fatty!  Unfortunately, I started to freeze shiver so had to leave before getting a beer from the sponsor (Founders Brewery).

I showered and hoped in the car to drive back to deal with the reality of Katie’s passing. When something so terrible happens to someone so young and full of life you definitely take things into perspective. I had a 3 hour drive and plenty of time to think about life and all it has to offer and how lucky I am that although I’m stuck with a life-long disease I can still pretty much do all the things I love doing. Riding my bike and being outdoors definitely tops the list, which gave me something in all the sadness to smile about. So Katie, thank you for all the valuable lessons you taught me in life and in death.

I will not take my life for granted. I will not take my loved ones for granted. I will live life to its fullest.

I’m keeping that picture on my bike but have changed the words to “forever” Katie because she will be in my heart and mind and be forever cheering for me albeit from a different viewpoint.katieforever

I love you Katie and I miss you more than I can express.  I have a huge hole in my life where you once were. I need you and your wisdom.

I end the post with this picture because this makes me happy.  Me riding along with a wonky number.  When I asked if  I should raise money for NET I was told that Katie would rather I raise money for diabetes so that is what i’m going to do.  Watch for future posts!


Riding my bike being outdoors=happy

Riding my bike being outdoors=happy


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An Evening with Andy Potts

Mental Toughness:

“the ability to consistently perform towards the upper range of your talent and skill regardless of competitive circumstances.”

Andy, Mike his coach and Robbie

Andy, Mike his coach and Robbie

I recently had the chance to see Andy Potts speak.  Andy, started with a recount of his journey to winning Ironmen and his decision to not race in Kona this year despite being in the best shape of his life and having the expectation of winning;   a hard decision for anyone to make but even harder for someone in his position.  His presentation was extremely inspiring but it wasn’t his advice on training that really resonated with me.  For those of you who don’t know Andy has the reputation of leading his races, during his presentation he made the following points which have been key to his successes and contribute to his mental toughness:

  • He could not have gotten where he was today without the support of a loved one (in his case it was his wife).  He said that she backed him 100% and it seemed like they both were able to follow their athletic endeavors with the support of each other.  Apparently she was a gymnast and then performed in Cirque de Soleil for a few years in Vegas (all the men in the room were green with envy at that point).  I definitely am appreciative of Tom supporting my crazy endeavors. For the most part he stays out of my way as I run from here to there, taking trips and time off work to train.  I do sometimes wonder if he is proud, thinks I’m crazy or is just glad to have me out of his way.  It was during a recount of an IM Arizona story to my parents where he was telling my parents that I realized he was certainly proud.  He was delivering the TriMonster tent to tribike transport after a day of spectating (another example of his support to my team).  This was towards the end of my race and the last he saw was I was running pretty slowly.  Well as it turns out I managed to pick up some speed in the last 6 miles, Katie called him or texted him.  With slight tear in his eye he told my parents that Katie sent him a message  “Gillian is hauling ass”  you better get back here.  Watching him tell that story confirmed, he was proud.
  • He spoke about anxiety in the swim.  Even he has suffered from this, I was pretty shocked.  His advice here was to remember that “you are in control of what happens.”   I definitely have a problem feeling like I am in control in the water.  I just don’t have the swim confidence to push my way through.  To my credit I did have one incident in Lake Michigan a few summers ago where I truly thought I was drowning.  I’m not afraid to get into open water but the memory of how choking and the inability to catch a breath felt is still etched in my brain.  Something to work on.
  • He starts each race thinking that he is going to win and that it will be his best race.  He was oozing with confidence, not in a bad way, he was definitely humble but still confident.  This is something I really need to work on.  I don’t have a lot of confidence, never have.  I go into the race full of self-doubt, not yeah- i’m gonna rock this thing!  Also, I’m afraid to put my best effort out there for fear that I’ll not have the mental strength to battle through when it gets really rough.  A lot of my energy is spent managing my blood sugar, my first thoughts are not who am I beating or catch that person in front of me. My thoughts are filled with –  Am I going low? Are my blood sugars high? Did I eat enough?  Too much?  Am I nauseous because I’m 9 hours into a 13 hour race or because my blood sugar is high? Why is my mouth dry? High blood sugar or just thirsty? Is my pump insertion still stuck to me?   Is my CGM correct? It’s never ending and exhausting.  I have plenty of examples where I have displayed mental toughness, whether it be battling cold Chicago winters commuting to work or climbing power line at the Leadville 100 race. I have proven that I can endure and suffer pain as much as the next person if not more yet I still doubt myself.  I really want to have that competitive dominating presence but all my life I have fear that I will fail.  I never liked team sports for that reason; for fear of letting the team down.  Oh and I always sucked at team sports, I don’t do well with balls or bats.   The more experience I get with triathlon the more confident I will become.

I had the chance to speak to Andy after the presentation.   You would never know that he was a world dominator in triathlon. Just having met him for a few minutes I felt like I could spill my guts and tell him my life story!  What an amazing person and athlete.  I left Vision Quest on a mission – I was on top of the world, I piled on my winter clothing, got on my trusty steed and rode like the wind on my way home (or so it felt).  I was thinking about 2014 with  renewed energy, spirit and I was going to dominate triathlon or any other race for that matter, I was thinking about my next ironman.  I thought about signing up for the next one as soon as I got home but good sense got the better of me as reality set in and my 5 minutes of being a pro triathlete was over as soon as I got home.  Although I came back to reality, I still have a little glimmer in my eye about what is yet to come.  Thanks to Vision Quest for making providing the opportunity to hear him speak. Thanks to Andy for the positive talk.

Rotate my hips you say....

Rotate my hips you say….

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Getting through the Leadville 100 MTB Race

The hardware.

The hardware.

Early in 2013 a group of 30+ Vision Quest (http://www.visionquestcoaching.com/) athletes had signed up to do the Leadville 100 MTB race many were roadies, some were triathletes (me) some were avid mountain bikers.  I did have a little background in mountain biking but it was a long time ago and pre-diabetes.  At the info meeting I found out that there was another t1 diabetic amongst us, what were the chances.  Eric, was dx’d just a couple of years back just before this very race.  As I would find out, mountain biking certainly brought whole new level of effort to controlling blood sugars during riding.  The last time I mountain biked I didn’t have diabetes.  At the time I asked Robbie Ventura (vision quest owner) if I was crazy to do this, he admitted he had his doubts and told me I’d need to execute training perfectly. I appreciated his honesty.  It just meant I’d need to work extra hard.

Anyway, we/I followed a rigorous training schedule, some of us went to the 4 day camp where we rode the course and got tips from the likes of Dave Wiens and Todd Murray.  I didn’t get in by lottery and didn’t get in by qualifying so my only option was to go to camp (basically paid to get in).  Camp proved to be well worth it from a confidence stand point for me.  You can find my rides on http://www.strava.com/activities/75414630#.  Based on my times at camp I knew that i had a chance of finishing. For camp, I had spent some time in Boulder and Vail prior to getting to Leadville which I think aided me with the acclimating to the altitude for camp.  See my post here for https://endurancediabetic.com/2013/07/04/leadville-training-weeks/ for more on that trip.

The following is my long winded recount of race day.

My main concerns prior to the start of the race were as follows in no particular order:

  • Making the first twin lakes cut-off (4hours)
  • The small chain ring that had been replaced just prior to the race
  • How I was going to react to altitude.
  • Getting a flat.
  • How my blood sugar would be.
  • The expected weather for race day was not looking good. Very cold and rainy.
  • My camelback was too heavy (VQ’er Dave Noda always joked that i was carrying around a tent in there) early on i had gone with the Osprey Synchro which allow me 300 litres of water, tools, extra jacket and gloves and had a mesh back keep allowing air to pass through the back . http://www.ospreypacks.com/en/product/hydration_packs__osprey_hydraulics_1/syncro_10
  • I was too heavy and should have lost more lb’s prior to the race. I really tried but couldn’t lose those extra pounds. Thankfully my Trek superfly was superlight.
  • The downhill’s, I hadn’t practiced once since the camp. The one piece of advice Dave Wiens told us to do after camp was to practice the downhills.

I had tracked my blood sugars during camp using my constant glucose monitor the dexcom.  As you can see in the links below the main days of camp Friday and Saturday look like the ride itself with highs above 300’s. My inexperience with mountain biking and controlling blood sugars showed. Unfortunately there was no way to replicate the conditions in Leadville in Chicago so practicing was out of the question.  I had planned to wear the monitor on race day but I had forgotten it.

friday camp of champions

saturday camp of champions

We arrived in Leadville on Friday morning, the day before the race.  I had Eric – bike guy extraordinaire swap out my small chain ring again to a new one I had brought with me.  Going against all race day rules of not changing things before a race.    I got out for a short 30 minute ride doing some short 20 foot downhills on the mineral belt trail. As I was riding I heard the thunder roll in, so I raced back to the hotel and started to get ready for race day.

Getting ready involved preparing my drop bags for the aid stations, mixing my nutrition bottles and getting my clothing planned out. I had brought several pairs of bike gloves for all weather from 20 degrees to 60 degrees I also brought several throw away jackets for warm and rain, throw away pants, rain jackets, and wind jackets.  You name the weather I had the jacket.  I had my bags and my nutrition plan well thought out.  Meal Plan

At the course talk we heard the notorioius speech of race founder Ken Chlober :


We were also introduced to a double arm amputee who was participating in the race. If that wasn’t motivation I don’t know what was.

How true are those words?  I am a notorious self-doubter and don’t give myself credit for my hard work and determination.  My coach caught on to this early in my training and encouraged me to work on positive self-talk and confidence.

At one point in my training, it was during my stay in Colorado for training I emailed my coach to say that I was thinking of backing out of the race.  Basically I was scared shitless and I convinced myself that I had no business doing this race.  My confidence had dropped to zero.  I had been out on a couple of technical courses with a friend’s husband and crashed a couple of times, I felt like my downhill skills were terrible and I was afraid of every rock.  I arrived at the course training camp (camp of champions) with some serious doubts and I’m sure I was white as a sheet with fear.  The nerves were bad but the fear was paralyzing.

Camp gave me a renewed belief in myself and my abilities.  Aside from my blood sugar issues I felt great and strong.  I left camp feeling good and learned great downhill skills from Dave Wiens- six time Leadville champion, Lance Armstrong and ass kicker and nicest most down to earth super athlete you will ever meet.

I took a break from packing to go to the group dinner and talk.  At the talk Robbie gave us some good advice.  Focus on these things:

  1. First and foremost be safe.
  2. Then smile.
  3. Have Fun.
  4. Ride strong.

After dinner I felt a bit restless so I hopped on my bike and rode into town to see  Melissa, who came all the way from Chicago to see the race and Clare who lives in Vail.

Out on the town the day before the race (not really)

Out on the town the day before the race (not really)

I shared a beer (aka I drank a beer) with Tom then head back to the hotel to finish packing.  After a long day I was tired and with a 3:30 wake up I turned in at 9:30.    The bed was small and soft when one of us moved the other did too. I was wide awake.  I didn’t feel like it was nerves but the longer I was awake the more nervous I got and the more my mind raced.

I think I might have fallen asleep for about an hour at 2:30.

The alarm went off at 3:30, exhausted I laid in bed for another 15 minutes.  I got up and started to feel nauseous. This was not a good combo- tired and nauseous.  I felt so terrible that I couldn’t even drink coffee, which is rare for me. I had stopped drinking it for the week prior to get that extra boost for the race.  I made my usual race breakfast – a bagel thin with Jason’s chocolate hazelnut butter and a banana.  I tested at an ok BG of 210 and fully bolused for the meal. During training I had not increased my Basal for the ride so wasn’t planning on it for Leadville; typically for ironman races I will raise my basal on the bike to 120%. But those rides it is easier to control effort and heart rate.

I got dressed and grabbed my bags getting ready for freezing cold temps outside.  I stepped outside and determined that it wasn’t as bad as I thought.  It was still pitch black out.  I walked across the street to camp central and dropped off my aid station bags.  The first had a dry jersey and long sleeved top, some blocks and a mojo bar. The second bag for the twin lakes aid station had plenty of warm dry clothing just in case the weather turned on Columbine, there was a high chance that we would get rain up there.  It had rained every day for the past month and combining that with a fast descent there is a chance that you could end up with hypothermia if you were not too careful.   Knowing I needed to eat more I tried to choke down the oatmeal provided.  I sat at a table just feeling sick to my stomach.  I knew something was up as I was having some serious bathroom issues on top of the nausea.  Was it something I ate or altitude sickness?  I found out that Eric the other diabetic had gone to the hospital with altitude sickness and wasn’t going to race.

I ran back to the hotel to gather the rest of my things.  I decided to go with the knee warmers, booties and thicker cold-weather gloves.  I was better off being too warm than to cold.  Then I put an old fleece over everything for the wait at the start line.  It was still dark and we all rode into town together.

I knew based on my times at camp on each section of the course that I would be cutting it close with the cut-offs but even so, putting the pieces together, it wasn’t impossible for me to finish under 12 hours and claim a buckle.

I taped the following times to my top tube.

























The biggest challenge would be the Twin Lakes cut-off at 4 hours.  Following that the 2nd twin lakes would be easier to make and as long as I has some cushion there it only made sense that I would make the final cut-off.  So in my head if I made the first twin lakes cut-off I would finish the race.

I stood in the corral on that cold morning trying my best not to throw up my breakfast, feeling every part of nauseous and sleep deprived.  It was a brisk 34 degrees.  I glanced down at my top tube and took a deep breath remembering who I was riding for that day.  I had taped a picture to my top tube for a reminder of how lucky I am that I could even be here and although there is no cure I can still live a somewhat normal life with insulin albeit difficult.

Several months ago one of my dearest friends Katie was diagnosed with neuroendocrine carcinoma a very rare form of cancer. She walked in to get some tests for her gallbladder and walked out not knowing whether she would survive the year.    They found several tumors, specifically an 8 inch one on her liver.  Katie is a tiny girl an 8 inch tumor?  It was inconceivable.  She has now gone through 8 rounds of very strong chemo and has several more ahead of her.  Katie has been very brave; despite everything she still manages to keep up appearances and still manages to attend some of Chris’ (her boyfriend) races.  A lot of times she is in pain and suffers greatly but you would never know it.  She has been so strong.

At one point during the race someone asked me who the picture was of.  I told him and he said he would remember Katie as he rode.  I was so touched. Throughout the entire race, especially at times of suffering and feeling sick I looked down at the picture and smiled and told Katie I would keep pushing for her.

Picture of Katie (we were at a costume party having fun) for inspiration.

Picture of Katie (we were at a costume party having fun) for inspiration.

The gun fired and we were off.  I ditched my fleece. I saw my friend Joanne who was there supporting her husband Ian. Back when I was living in Toronto Ian and I did several long distance MTB races together on a team and several 24 hour mountain bike relay races.  I was always the weakest link but gave them the co-ed status! I didn’t see Tom but saw my friend Clare as I made my way across the start line with 100’s of riders in front of me.

At the start. Pretty pleased with myself.

At the start. Pretty pleased with myself.

A look at the sheer # of bikers at the start.

A look at the sheer # of bikers at the start.

The first few miles are on road and downhill.  The coldness cut like a knife. My hands became numb despite the hand warmers which didn’t seem to be working very well. I was also thanking god that I had shoe covers and Wind Stopper knee warmers on.  As soon as we made the turn onto the dirt the crowd thickened and it was all about not crashing into someone or having someone crash into you.  Then the climb up St. Kevins, a killer first climb with some tough grades of over 10%. It was a shorter climb but burning the watts now would get me later.   As soon as it got too slow to ride I got off and joined the walkers up to the sharp left turn where the pitch mellowed out somewhat.  I realized after about an hour I had not followed my meal plan at all.  I tried to eat some blocks.  I couldn’t stomach anything else.  I drank some of the skratch powder mix from my camel back and tried to defrost my hands which hurt from the cold.  I arrived at Carter Summit, mile 10ish in an hour and 10 minutes mile I was already behind.

The backside of Carter Summit was some road already a welcome break from the grueling rocky trails.  Here I reached speeds of nearly 40 mph.  It was during this section that I first saw the bride and groom.  Unfortunately what goes down must come up.  I reached the turn on to Hagerman’s pass a 4 mile rocky uphill with 1,100 or so feet of climbing.  The prize here is the most stunning views I have ever seen.  Turquoise lake glistening in the sun below.  I wish I could have stopped to take a picture.   I slipped into granny gear and slowly made my way up to the top knowing that I had the powerline descent after that.  I had felt fairly confident on power line during camp, both going down and up.  In fact was able to ride a good portion going up we’ll see if this is the case doing the course all in 1 day versus two days at camp.  I crested the summit of sugarloaf pass and started the downhill of powerline, remembering Robbie’s advice to stay safe.  I took the downhill fairly slow but confident.  I weaved back and forth teetering on the edges of the massively deep ruts that had formed from all the rain.

descending powerline

descending powerline

All in all I made it down in 20 minutes.  Happy to be on flat land again and a nice stretch of pavement to the first aid station at pipeline.  I tried to draft off of a group of several riders and just missed a crash at the turn off to pipeline as a rider realized he had gone past the turn off and stopped suddenly causing the rider behind him to crash into him.



I arrived at the pipeline aid station a hair under 3 hours.  I was close to 15 minutes behind schedule and I knew based on camp that my time to Twin Lakes from here would be at least an hour.  Not much time to waste. I felt honored and privileged to have Allen Lim from Skratch Labs there to support our team.  Previous to developing Skratch, Allen worked with top American cyclists including Team Garmin and Radio Shack and the Tour de France.  How cool is that, here he is helping little old me!  Allen develops recipes and clean foods to fuel riders during races.  I just love his cook books The Feed Zone and The Feed Zone Portables. http://www.skratchlabs.com/products/feed-zone-portables Unfortunately today I wasn’t able to enjoy his awesome and famous rice cakes because of my nausea, totally unlike me as I’m used to eating anything and everything during a race.  Just as important was the friendly face of Dick the mechanic from Trek Highland Park, who got my bag and helped me with what I needed.  I tested my blood sugar. Wham!  A whopping 400.   During my ride I had thought I felt the unmistakable feeling of the cannula (small tube inserted into abdomen administering insulin from pump) from my insertion site rubbing on something.  It feels like a burn, I picture it as  rubbing against one of my organs (this is not the case but this is what I picture) and as such the insulin stream somehow being blocked although I wasn’t getting any error signals.  In my panic I whipped out my syringe and insulin vial and gave myself 5 units of insulin.  That is right FIVE!!! For those diabetic endurance athletes out there you will know that this is WAY too much.  I just knew that if I didn’t take any insulin I wouldn’t be able to eat and without eating now I definitely wouldn’t finish the race.  It didn’t even click in about what I did until much later. Not having much time I quickly ran to the porta potty stripped down peed then re-dressed and hopped on my bike.

I headed off trying not to think negatively but also trying to come to terms with the possibility of not making the cut-off.   I didn’t want to let myself or my team down.  I know that I was an underdog going into this and even had Robbie express his doubts to him when I signed up.  I wanted to prove to myself and to him that I could do this.  I wasn’t giving up quite yet.  It was during the ride to Twin Lakes that I met my on line Facebook pal Jacque Felt.  We both were coming from the Midwest and had similar capabilities although I think she definitely had better mountain biking experience!  She recognized me and called me out.  We chatted for a while then continued on our way.  It was close to here that I saw the lead riders making their way back to Leadville.  Holy Cow!  They had already been up Columbine and back… how depressing.  The route to twin lakes was no piece of cake either especially coming from the mid west. There were some decently long climbs albeit with less of a pitch than other parts of the race. As I approached Twin Lakes I had my eye on my watch it was going to be close.  I pushed as hard as I could to get there in time, not something you really want to do 40 miles into a 100 mile race but I needed to push it to get to the cut off.  As I approached the aid station with rows of tents and cow bells out of the corner of my eye I saw a lone man standing in a crop of grass near the turn off on to the dam.  It was Eric, I yelled to him he yelled back “go get em girl you are going to make it!!”  Really?  Was I going to make the cut off?  Seeing him made me sad that he wasn’t out there but it gave me that extra motivation to make him proud.  I hammered past the crowd not knowing how close I was and not knowing how strict they were about the time cut off.  I did not want to be that person in the movie that was the first to not make the cut off.  I sped past the large inflatable arch and grinned ear to ear… I had made it. I made the cut off!! Ok milestone 1 – check!!  From here I settled down a bit and got my heart rate back to normal.  Knowing I only had a few miles to go before the next skratch aid station where Tom, Clare and Melissa would be.   Nothing was more comforting that knowing that Tom was going to be there.

As I rolled across the farm land, I heard the unmistakable bark of a dog.  It was Clare’s dog Beacon.



We had become close friends during my stay in Vail earlier in July.  This time he did not have his cone on.  I yelled at Clare as she cheered and cheered. Happy times.  A few hundred yards down a dirt road I could see the skratch tent.  I pulled up and gave Tom a huge hug.  I was still reeling in the glory of making the first cut off.  I got off my bike and tested my blood sugar it was 115 but my worry was that it was still dropping and I still wasn’t able to eat much.  I had been choking down the blocks and drinking the skratch.  I tried to eat a rice cake also.  As I was sitting in the chair Robbie came whizzing by, wow, he is amazing. I saw my coach’s family and asked how he was doing, the said he was expected soon and he was doing fine.  Yay Mike!  As I stood there Jacque went whizzing by, she made the cut off, we ended up playing cat and mouse quite a bit.  Seeing another familiar face from a previous VQ camp – Kelly Oliver also filled me with motivation.  I hoped on my bike and started on the route to the top of Columbine a 7 mile 2000 foot climb at an average grade of over 7%.   It didn’t scare me because I had done it before but I still felt sick and the last time I had done it my blood sugar went terribly low.

approaching columbine aid station

approaching columbine aid station

Remembering the effort at camp I slowly made my way up the switch backs (10!!) and passed several folks on the way up as more and more people were walking.  The best part of the climb was seeing my team mates speeding downhill towards home.  I saw Mike, my coach, Carlos, Kris (the other girl on the team who is a rockstar), Noda and a few others.  As I climbed I could feel the unmistakable tremors in my hands and heart from low blood sugar.  I was a couple of miles still from the top, just passed the tree line I stopped and tested, yep I was 50, damn 5 units of insulin.  I quickly inhaled a MOJO bar and some blocks and started walking and sipping my skratch…. I walked and walked then tried to ride for a bit but it wasn’t happening I got off and walked again. It is here where the trail gets really rocky and rutty, they call it the goat trail.  It was a long 2 miles.  It is during this 2 miles that digging deep was necessary… I could hear people talk about the time and cut off issues, I saw riders crying as they tried to keep going it was the worst 2 miles of my life and it took me an hour of the two hours it took me to get to the top.  I got to the top and sat, I told the volunteer I was diabetic and he got me medical attention.  They were so, so kind.  They got me coke and watermelon and m&m’s  I just inhaled it all.  He asked what my BG was and if I had done something similar to this race, obviously trying to gage what my experience was and if I should continue.  By the time I left his chair I was up at 90 BG.  Safe enough to keep going.

The top of columbine from camp a month earlier.

The top of columbine from camp a month earlier.

I had later emailed the medical staff to thank them for their help.  The head medic was excited that people with type 1 diabetes were now able to compete in such events with the help of all the new technology.  It is so true, without my tester and insulin pump doing these races would be that much difficult.  I am thankful every day for the research and money that gets donated to the cause so that I can live a normal life and compete in these races.  One of the medics even remembered me and gave me kudos for being there, I really feel lucky.  I also got to see the bride and groom again, who were actually getting married at the top of columbine! The picture is me during camp at the top of Columbine.

Unfortunately once again I was going to have a cut off issue.  I had 1 hour to get down Columbine, past the aid station and to twin lakes.  This nervous tension about the cut off was getting old!  Although I had made it down powerline, I still needed to make it down Columbine.   I clipped in and summoned my inner Dave Wiens remembering his tips, keep my head over my handle bars, keep my head straight and move the bike, keep my legs engaged and my arms loose, look down the road then immediately in front keep looking ahead then look down, lay off the brakes for as long as you can then feather the brakes to slow down, keep doing this on and off.  The biggest lesson of all “trust the 29ers”.  This was so true, if you let those brakes go those baby’s will roll over just about anything! The downhill is, well, 7 miles; you don’t want to be holding the brakes for 7 miles.  I felt a little discouraged knowing that the 15 minutes sitting recovering was going to cost me. There are some tough rocky sections and some not so tough sections, luckily my inner Dave Wiens ruled and I felt good and confident the whole way down picking up to speeds of 27 mph, the nice thing about being so slow is that there is little or no uphill traffic so you can take nice wide turns. I made it down in 30 minutes.

Back at the aid station I didn’t waste much time a quick hug and kiss and hello and I was off to twin lakes.  I tried to eat a rice cake and put one in my jersey for later.  I still wasn’t keen on eating and was trying to drink as much skratch as possible, I think in the end it saved me.  I also tested at 150.  Good and normal. I remember saying I didn’t think I was going to make the cut-off but they all said I could.  I pulled back into twin lakes at 2 pm 15 minutes shy of the cut-off.  And about 15 minutes behind schedule.  But I had cushion! I had an hour and 15 minutes to get to the next cut-off. This time it was climbing up the single track and up lil’stinker a small nubbin of a hill with a steep grade.  I remember pulling into pipeline aid station during camp feeling great and strong, I hope this was the case this time.

I was watching the clock again, I’m not sure where I “lost” the 15 minutes during my trip from twin lakes but I did.  A few hundred yards (not exactly sure) from the inflatable arch marking the cutoff  people started yelling go go go! I had only a few minutes left for the cut-off.  I literally sprinted for what seemed an eternity.  I truly thought I it was 4th and inches. Mile 74 and I was sprinting.  The results show that I came across the cut-off with 1 minute to spare at 15:14 with a cut off of 15:15.  I felt bad for the folks behind me thinking that they were not going to make it.

I pulled up to the side after the timing mat heaving to catch my breath.  I definitely burnt a match or two sprinting to make the cut off, hell I may even have burned an entire match book.  I just remember Allen Lim  running after me and telling me that he’d be right back.  He then ran back to the tent and came back with a bag full of goodies.  As I was standing there i ate some delicious orange wedges, one after the other and the volunteer taking all my peels.  I also remember drinking from a tiny coke bottle that Allen gave me, it was so good.  I tested again and was at 80, I had not been eating enough.  Allen told me that I was going to finish, I squeaked out am I?  He said yes!  I finally caught my breath, although it cost me another 15 minutes.  As I was standing there I noticed that other riders will still riding by, I guess they were not so strict on the cut-off after all, oh well.  I left Pipeline knowing that there was no more cut-offs just the 13 hour cut-off , surely I could ride the last 26 miles in 4 hours and 15 minutes right?  However, I was not home free, there were still some daunting uphills ahead, remember when I said I was flying down one hill at 40 mph well now it was time to pay the piper, meet my maker and ride up said hill.  Also remember the technical powerline I so proudly rode down without falling?  Well now, I had to go up that also.  Oh no folks, there was not get out of jail free card here, there was some tough road ahead.

The 6 mile ride to the base of powerline was windy and unforgivable, this was supposed to be an easy section but my mph did not translate.  I tried to drink, I hadn’t even gone through a 5th of what calories I had planned and still felt ill.  I just kept thinking of the finish line and thinking, I will throw up then.  What?!

The turn off to powerline arrived before long and I headed down the dusty road and started up the treacherous climb, a 3 mile 1600 foot climb with an average grade of 7% or so.   I probably lasted about 10 minutes before I had to get off and walk.  The bottom of the climb is steep getting up past 10% grade.  This is where it all starts. I looked at my watch still plenty of time, I think I even considered at that time that I might make the 12 hour cut off! I had 2 ½ hours to go 20 miles… surely that was doable! Surely!

As I made my way up I couldn’t help but be amazed that I actually was able to ride down this puppy.  It looked way more treacherous on the way up than it did coming down. Edges were narrow and the ruts seemed to be 2 feet deep, no joke.  In most cased there were two huge ruts, an outside edge, a huge rut, a middle piece of land, and then another huge rut followed by another edge.  Picture a big W shape.  I followed the trail trying to keep myself up right and moving forward. Yes, simple things that you might take for granted were difficult.  I was by myself for most of it, passing a couple of people but other than that I was a long ranger on a death march.  Literally, it felt like a death march.  Oh, we were told about the false flats (9 of them) and the fake down hills and although I had ridden it before it was like a whole different trail, last time I was able to ride up parts of it and felt pretty good about it.  Here I tried to ride up as much as I could but inevitably my wheel would catch a large rock or rut and I didn’t have the power in my legs to push through.  So off the bike I got.  It truly never seemed to end.  It took me 1 hour to go 3 miles.  So much for the 12 hour buckle but surely I had enough time to get in under the 13 hour cut off!  Nothing was for sure any more.

the death march

the death march

You might think, great now it’s a downhill section.  Well, this brought new challenges; Hagerman’s pass is extremely long and extremely rocky. There never seemed to be an easy line it was not stop pummeling.  My arms, neck shoulders and body could barely take the beating.  It was never ending.  I don’t know what was worse the walk up powerline or the bump and grind of going down.   At the bottom of the pass was the gravel road to the 5 mile stretch of road before St. Kevins.   At mile 88 I began the uphill climb on the road this stretch was 1000 foot climb at close to a 5% grade for 4 or so miles with some parts getting up to nearly 7%.  I remember passing an older man who was walking his bike, it turned out he was the oldest rider that day. I don’t remember exactly how old but I want to say 70’s.  Woo hoo I beat a 70 year old… ha!   Although it was on road and not to steep it also felt never ending as the road snaked around,  again always thinking, ok just around this bend and it’ll be over but the road just kept coming and coming.  Up and up. As I waivered I looked down to see Katie’s smiling face and kept going.

Finally I reached the turnoff towards the aid station at Carters Summit, I had no idea what to eat nothing seemed good, the only thing I asked for was coke.  They had run out.  I ate watermelon which tasted pretty good and grabbed a handful of M&M’s and shoved them in my mouth half chewing half spitting them out. It couldn’t have been a pretty sight!

10 miles to go and I had an hour and 15 minutes to do it in with a big downhill coming up and relatively flat until a mile or two out. I was shocked that it had taken me this long to get to this point.  Well, I certainly wasn’t going to “buckle” but I certainly could finish in an hour and 15 to make the 13 hour cut off right?  I wasn’t making any presumptions at this point.

I made my way towards the top of the first St. Kevins climb, where I had been 12 hours ago. Wow, I had been doing this for 12 hours.  There were some steep short climbs at the top then a nice steep descent.  I made it down nice and quick, it felt good. Then made my way on the dirt path to the trail, which seemed to take forever, I crossed over the cow grates and thought that I was home free. Seriously, this was not home free, the dirt road was sandy making it hard to ride on, a few miles later I got to the road then off the road on to another dirt road the route followed the tracks for a few miles, I remember Todd at camp a 20X Leadville finisher warning me about this section and saying, it isn’t over yet.  Well as you turn off this road onto another dirt trail known as the Boulevard you hit a steep pitched hill requiring further dismounting then its uphill for about 3.5 miles.   As I watched the clock tick I truly questioned if I was even going to finish in 13 hours.  The finish line never seemed to come, this partly because the race isn’t really 100 miles it’s more like 103 and believe me those 3 miles  are hard! 3 miles at 3% grade at the end of this race took me 30 minutes.  As I made the turn on to 6th Ave I looked at my watch I had 15 minutes and I could see the finish line.  I climbed up the hill with all the energy I could muster and rode over the red carpet at 12:47.  Good enough for a finish and good enough for a medal.  No buckle but a finish is a finish.  Funnily the bride and groom just came in just before me so I held back in order to not get in their pictures!!



My wonderful support.

My wonderful support.

Eric, fellow T1 and super mountain biker.

Eric, fellow T1 and super mountain biker.

Tom, Clare, Melissa and Eric were there to greet me.  I just looked at Eric and burst into tears.  I had seriously given all I could give and was done.  I think maybe even that tough guy shed a tear or two.   Since, they announced me as Gillian Forsyth from California none of the others recognized that I had crossed.   I saw the group, already showered and looking fresh and flagged them down; they had been waiting for me.  Robbie, Mike, Kris, Carlos – they waited.  In my disgusting sweaty dirty mess Robbie gave me the biggest hug and told me how proud he was.  He said you will remember this day for the rest of your life. It is so true.  You couldn’t put a price on how I felt at that moment. The weather turned out great and I wouldn’t have traded that day for the world.

Would I do this again?  In a heartbeat.  I love Colorado, I loved Leadville and I loved the race.

Loved Leadville!

Loved Leadville!

Not only will I remember the day, I will remember the months of training. It was me and the guys.  Me trying always to hang on to the end of the chain of mountain bikes for dear life.  There were training rides where I pushed myself farther than I ever thought possible, there were also times when I just said.  I can’t keep up but did anyway.  I don’t remember a ride where I got back thinking, that I didn’t give it my all.  To all the guys in the group, you know who you are, thank you.  I will never forget you.  To Kris Sudiak the other girl from VQ  who did Leadville,  thank you for the hug the morning of the race, you are such an inspiration and one hell of a cyclist.  This amazing woman actually stopped during the race for ½ hour with a fellow teammate who was injured, she sacrificed her time in order to ensure the safety of another.  She still finished in 10:44 by the way.  This is how this team worked together.  Chris Joyce, Dan Johns and Steve Harrop you all helped me in so many ways.  Greg Duckworth who approached me at camp because he saw the fear in my eyes, we both supported each other and took some time to stop for photo ops!  Thanks to Dave Wiens for your incredible patience at camp and telling me to trust my 29ers.  Mike Peters my coach for helping me keep my head on straight and sending emails with his guidance, support and motivation.  I asked that Mike coach me because in May at the end of base camp after 4 days of solid riding and a 20 mile balls to the walls effort on the last day when I sat and wept he understood that it had been a hard 4 days for me and comforted me.  I knew it was a special guy who although is a hard core cyclist could still understand what it takes to finish 4 days of cycling for someone like me.  Thanks to Robbie and the VQ team for putting this once in a life time event together and once I won him over , provided me with the support and motivation I needed.

Several weeks after we got back from the race I went up to VQ Highland Park to ride with the group.  Afterwards, Robbie, Mike and Noda took me into the office and presented me with an awesome gift.  Robbie was so genuinely proud of me that I finished and spoke some very kind words which I will take with me to future races.

Thanks again to everyone for your support through the entire ordeal, for all the kind words I received via text and Facebook, they meant so much to me. Thanks to Melissa and Clare for making the trip to cheer me on. Thanks to Tony Apuzzo for your patience and taking the time to ride with me in Boulder/Breck. Thanks to Tom for putting up with my crazy antics and my crazy training schedule.

If you have made it this far, I ask that you send your prayers out to Katie whose strength during her chemotherapy treatments as she battles this terrible disease is undeniably a million times tougher than doing any race. Do not take your life or your health for granted.

Katie and I at a costume party.

Katie and I at a costume party.

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