Training for the Roman Rumble

The Pentland Hills - providing muddy bogs for the unwary mountain biker since 1983
The Pentland Hills – providing muddy bogs for the unwary mountain biker since 1983

In amongst the tremendous announcement of your soaraway Shoot Up’s first baby, life has been moving along in an orderly fashion. I’ve been busy training for the Roman Rumble – the long-distance bike ride I’m doing in June. So how’s it been going?

My first two training runs didn’t go too well I’m afraid to report. The first consisted of a longish off-road route around the Pentland Hills on my mountain bike (a Specialized Hard Rock for the bike geeks). However, it was brought to an abrupt end about 11 miles in after I went too enthusiastically down a very steep hill, hit a drainage cover at 25 miles an hour and punctured my back tyre. Thankfully Katie came out in the car to rescue me.

One inner tube later and I was out again the next day, again picking my way through the Pentland Hills. It still isn’t very dry out there and as part of my contribution to footpath erosion, I chose an extremely muddy route. Needless to say I fell off in spectacular style at least half a dozen times; a process which climaxed with me landing in possibly the Pentlands’ largest and smelliest muddy bog. They say mud is good for the complexion, but I can assure you this is not the case. Especially when said mud is 90% sheep poo.

The mountain bike then had to go into bike-hospital for a few days (don’t worry, bike geeks, it’s fine now), so training continued on the road bike (a Genesis for the bike geeks). This was considerably less muddy and much, much faster – my road bike seeming to weight about a tenth of the mountain bike.

It’s not all about the bike

So how’s the diabetes been coping with all this unaccustomed training? Thankfully, the pump – in its SPI Belt – has been helping considerably. I drop down to about a 20% temp basal before, during and after a ride and put in about a quarter of my usual bolus for breakfast. En route I tend to consume one of those energy pouch things. I’ve been working my way round different brands and most of them are fairly vile – but research continues. If I find any that are at least vaguely palatable I’ll let you know.

I’ve found that if I do two days training in a row I have to change my basal to my alternate pattern. This is exactly the same as my usual pattern but puts in 0.2u less an hour all through the day. This equates to about a daily total of 20u basal instead of 25u. I seem to need that for about three days post-training, then my basal needs revert to normal.

As always with pesky diabetes, my sensitivity post-exercise seems to vary, so I’m continuing to adjust and experiment. But as usually I do feel better and less “diabeticy” after a good bike ride. So it can’t be all bad, eh?

Spare us a tenner?

Avid readers will recall that I’m doing this ride for the Pendsey Trust. They’re a small charity with virtually no overheads who help type ones in developing countries. A measly £2 buys a double-walled clay pot which keeps insulin cool – without a fridge or electricity – even in the Indian summer; so any donation goes a really long way. If you have a spare tenner then please do fling it to Pendsey at our donation page – thanks very much!

Don’t change that!

Change is a funny thing. It frightens some people, excites others. I quite like it. I like trying new things, taking on new projects, working in different ways. In my blinkered, biased self image of myself, I am very much a fan of change.

One of the hardest things about diabetes is its inability to play by the rules which means that things are always changing. Just because you needed 1 unit of insulin to deal with an apple today, doesn’t necessarily mean that will be the case tomorrow. It’s like one of those computer games where you have to delicately build a tower out of virtual match sticks and then halfway through a bomb shakes the whole foundation of your elaborate construction. You think you’re just getting your head around the dodgy pancreas business and then everything get thrown into the air and you are left picking up the pieces.

I’ve got used to this over the years and in my mind, diabetes is a constantly morphing beast. I tweak my basal rates from week to week, depending on hormones, activity levels and everything else involved in life. I know how I react to some carbs seems to vary with the wind. And I know that just because something worked today, doesn’t mean it will necessarily work tomorrow. Constant change. And I’m ok with that, I just get on with it.

Sometimes I pro-actively change stuff about my diabetes. I’ve changed the type of insulin I use over the years to battle overnight hypos or post meal spikes. I decided that a pump and CGM were the way to go if I wanted tighter control, so I took the leap into the unknown. I don’t mind the big changes, they’re generally quite interesting. If I have an issue and changing treatment will probably sort that issue, it’s worth the effort.

So I accept the diabetes uncertainty and constant change, and I’m ok with big changes when I can see the benefit (and normally when they’re initiated by me!). Please stop reading here, up until this point I am perfect, from now on my flaws start to appear, I’d prefer it if you went and watched some rubbish on YouTube now.

I can’t really be bothered with little changes. Despite being at the forefront of diabetes tech when it comes to pumps and the like, I’m a bit of a luddite when it comes to meters. I started using my current Optium Xceed meter about 6 or 7 years ago, because it took 5 seconds to do a test and was less vampire-ific than my old one. It does the job and doesn’t offend me in any way so I stick with it. To motivate me to get a new meter, unwrap all the boxes and packaging they come with and then go through the hoops to get my GP to remember to prescribe the right test strips for it is going to need something special. I’m just not excited enough about it to be bothered.

And then there are the worst changes of all. The ones that weren’t my idea and don’t deliver any benefit to me. The really silly, insignificant things that in isolation are not even worth raising an eyebrow over. These are the things that invoke my seemingly overdramatic wrath and fury. For some reason, I’ve never chosen to rebel against my diabetes by not injecting or blood testing, I’ve always just got on with it. But I do seem to like to express my frustration through the medium of getting disproportionately irritated by the little stuff. Like when someone changes the HbA1c measurement that I was happy with, or someone stops making the beautiful Novopen I loved. Or someone makes the packaging for their fancy new CGM sensors bigger than the old ones so I need a new bathroom bag to stuff my overnight diabetes junk into. Or when they stopped making the little packs of Fruit Pastilles which were easier to fit into your pockets than the big tubes.

It seems I’m ok with this diabetes thing if I can convince myself I’m in control of it. Control freak? Me? I don’t mind the ongoing changes I have to make to my treatment or even choosing to disrupt my life for a while by changing that treatment completely. But don’t meddle with the small stuff for no good reason. That makes me really mad. Rrraahhh!

Jingle bells, Batman smells

Balls to restraint at Christmas!
Balls to restraint at Christmas!

Like buying noisy, irritating toys for nephews and nieces who don’t live near you, Christmas is traditionally the time of year for your favourite diabetes websites to discuss the misery of the festive season and the difficulty of dealing with food and booze as we celebrate a chilly  winter solstice.

However, here at your soaraway Shoot Up we don’t subscribe to that point of view. This Xmas I have every intention of consuming my own bodyweight in duck, roast spuds, sprouts, trifle, stilton, port, stilton, more port and – oh, go on then – just another little glass of port.

The reason for this is that I don’t really see any difference between Christmas and any other time of the year. As always, it’s all about balance isn’t it? Balancing your carb intake against your insulin and adjusting for any weird stuff – I find the single-handed consumption of the European stilton mountain requires a dual wave bolus that last for hours. But it’s all do-able with plenty of testing and correcting.

In my overly simplistic view, life is for living regardless of whether you have a chronic condition or not. I like stuffing as much stollen and Glühwein down my gaping maw as the next man and I’m not going to let diabetes get in my way, dagnabit!

So as the year draws to a close, I’m stocking up on three zillion spare units of insulin, 5 gazillion test strips and we’ll worry about the kidney and heart failure in the New Year! Woo hoo!

Exploiting diabetes to stay warm

Edinburgh - bloody drafty
Edinburgh – bloody drafty

In between slaving away writing posts for your beloved soaraway Shoot Up I have a day job. That I’m actually employable may come a surprise to some of you – but there we are. Anyway, I won’t bore you with the details of my job as it usually requires a plethora of pencil-drawn diagrams to explain what the hell I actually do, but I will – instead – tell you about our office.

I work in the west end of Edinburgh, within a World Heritage Site and in a Grade One listed building that was built in around 1825. As the whole street is heavily protected it’s a wonderful example of classical Georgian architecture with the massive, imposing and somewhat gothic St Mary’s cathedral dominating the far end of the street. Which is nice.

However, every silver lining inevitably has a cloud. The Grade One listing means that we can’t really do anything major to the building – like have wonderful modern things, such as central heating, or double-glazing, or windows that actually fit into their frames. As the rooms in our office are all double-height and we have floor to ceiling sash windows this is somewhat problematic come winter. The bitter Scottish wind simply blows through the massive gaps in the frames, around my feet and chills me to the very marrow. Unfortunately, the massive marble fireplaces have been blocked up and so we can’t even warm ourselves in front of a roaring fire.

Anyway, now that November’s here we saw the first heavy frosts and really cold weather coming in this week. It was cold enough to see my breath in front of me – while in the office. This was undoubtedly a Bad Thing.

As usual I had lunch at my desk and was so fed up with the cold by the early afternoon that I paused and thought whether to put in a few less units of humalog, therefore letting my BG go really high and thereafter enjoy the inevitable hot flush that I have whenever my BG is off the clock.

It was sorely tempting and it came down to a choice of having my toes amputated through frostbite or amputated through neuropathy brought on by high BGs. It was a tough choice but in the end I opted for the amputation through frostbite option; it’s much more manly – I must be the Captain Oates of the diabetes world!

Comatose and rotting toes – the lighter side of insulin dependency