Palm Springs ½ Marathon Race Report 2/12/12
Two days post race, it’s starting to really sink in that I completed a major goal of finishing a ½ marathon. A year ago, I never would of thought this was something that I could accomplish. A year ago I would have told you that I hate running, that I’m not built to run further than a couple of miles, and that a 10k was probably the top distance that I could accomplish. The major shift in attitude came from training for triathlons. I love triathlons, and in order to race triathlons, you have to run! In the last year, I found I also love to push my personally perceived limitations. These two things together lead me to train for a ½ marathon in the off-season. My goal was to become a better runner, to learn how to enjoy running, and to break that impossible 6+ mile mental barrier.
Training: My training program was 16 weeks through active.com. I started out with a base of 6 miles being my longest run to date and running about 10 miles a week. The longest training run was 10 miles and occurred 3 weeks before the race. The next week the longest run was 8 miles (with a total of 18 miles for the week), and 1 week before the race 6 miles. I stuck to the training program for the most part. I got all of the long runs in, however I was not as diligent about getting cross training days in and I did not lift weights at all in the last 3 months. I felt great after my 10 mile run 3 weeks ago, and am starting to wonder if the program tapered too early.
The day before the race: Friday night I got about 8 hours of sleep and slept very well. My aunt and uncle have a condo in town and were gracious enough to let me stay there and kept me well fed and rested through the weekend. I went for a 15-minute run Saturday morning, and then had 2 eggs, toast and 2 pieces of bacon for breakfast. I then spent a few hours leisurely strolling through the outlets in Cabazon with my cousin. For lunch I had Panda Express orange chicken and steamed vegetables. For dinner I had ahi tuna w/ wasabe mashed potatoes (approximately 35g of carbs). I went to bed with a BG of 96.
Equipment: Animas One touch Ping Pump, Dexcom continuous glucose monitor, 3 cliff shot gels (approx 25g each), One Touch Ultra-mini meter with 3 test strips wrapped in saran wrap around the meter (to keep them dry and secure!), and lancet, all carried in a spibelt (http://store.spibelt.com/default.asp).
Race Day: I woke up 2 hours before race start with a BG of 125. I had slept for about 7 hours, and felt rested despite pre-race jitters waking me up a few times during the night. I had oatmeal for breakfast 35g of carbs and in retrospect way over bolused insulin for the time frame. I would have been fine if I had eaten 3 hours before the race, or if I’d bolused half the amount. My basal rates were set at -80% of normal from 45 minutes prior to race start and for the first hour of the race, -70% for the second hour, and -65% for the rest of the race.
It was a gorgeous day on Sunday. There had been a bad windstorm the night before, but in the morning everything was calm and clear and the temp was around 55 at 7 in the morning. My anticipated pace was 12:30min/mi, with a total time of 2hrs and 40 min. I started the race with a BG of 180, which I felt was great at the time. Again, in retrospect if I had checked insulin on board, I would’ve not been so content with this number. I started off slow, calm steady pace. My biggest fear was to get caught up in the moment and take off way too fast. The course was mostly flat, with a gradual incline from miles 2-4 and one big hill in the middle of mile 4. The remainder of the course was flat, twisting and turning through the neighborhoods just up against the mountains in Palm Springs.
My target BG is typically 120 – 150. Around 30 minutes in I checked my Dex, which showed 145 with a slanted down arrow. I took 1 gel and kept my steady turtle pace. 15 minutes later I checked again, 124 with a slanted arrow down. This was a little troublesome to me. I don’t like downward slanting arrows when I’m running! My game plan had been to take 1 gel every 45-60 minutes and I had no fast acting sugar with me. I took a second gel at 45 minutes into the run, and took a drink of gu electrolyte mix from the aid station (unknown carb count). At 1:10 into the race, the dex was reading 119 and the arrow had finally leveled out. I was content with that! At this point I was also behind schedule, just reaching mile marker 5. I tried to pick up the pace a tiny bit, but again was fearfully of overexerting myself too early.
At the halfway point I picked up a gu gel pack at the aid station to restock my spibelt bringing my total carbs in possession to 50g, which also eased some anxieties. I also managed to test my BG while running! That was a first and something I was overly proud of in the moment. So at the halfway point my official BG was 138, with the Dex still reading 120 with level arrow. From this point on my BG was stable and minimally concerning. I took one more gel in mile 9. BG ceased to be a concern in the last half of the race, for which I was thankful. I needed all of my focus on the run itself, which of course became a major struggle.
Despite the battle with the BGs in miles 2 - 5, the first 9 miles of the course were amazing. The view coming down from the hill in mile 5 of Palm Springs was spectacular. The moon was still out and the early morning light gave everything that beautiful pink and purple hue. My fellow runners were all very cheerful and friendly and everyone seemed to be enjoying the day. Around mile 9, the run stopped being fun and started being work. I had been meditating/praying all morning mostly with thoughts of gratitude, but in the last 3 miles I turned to asking for focus and resolve and the strength to get through it.
I started getting a side ache in mile 10 that I never really got rid off. In mile 11 I started following a young lady who had the same pace for me for about ½ a mile until she stopped to walk. As I passed her I offered words of encouragement, and when she complained of a side ache I called back “Me too! You can keep going! Don’t stop!” In mile 12, I felt like my body was failing me, I was so exhausted. I could no longer keep focus and was losing my resolve not to walk. I actually stood still for a few moments trying to muster up some more will to keep moving. Then the universe sent me motivation embodied by the girl I had passed in mile 11. She came up along side me and said, “You can’t stop! You’re the reason I’m still running. Run with me!” We ran the last mile together, and actually sprinted the last 0.1 into the finish line. I could not have kept running without her. She was truly a godsend.
I crossed the finish line and saw my cousin and uncle waiting and cheering for me. I promptly collapsed and checked my BG: 108! I call that a success! My finish time was 2:49:52, pace 12:58. 8 minutes over my goal. They had a bionic division for people with replacement hips and knees. I still think I should have counted for that division given I have an artificial pancreas!
Post Race: I had a bit of BG rollercoaster post race. I set my basal to -30% of normal and ate a large orange without bolusing. 1 hour later my BG was 326! I returned my basal rate to normal and made a corrective bolus. Ate toast, eggs, and bacon as a post race meal. 2 hrs post meal my BG was 69. After that my insulin sensitivity seemed to return to its normal pre-race level. Yesterday and today I’m a little sore, but doing pretty well. BGs are on target, however I’ve been a little indulgent in my eating habits. Cupcake 1 day post-race, yes please!
In this last year I’ve come to realize that I love participating in events. I will never be a top competitor in my age group, but I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I finish. It is such an amazing experience to work towards a goal, train for months, and then participate with a 1,000 other people in the same event. I love the sense of camaraderie that everyone has. I also feel triumphant when I achieve good BG control through an event. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to juggle all the equipment and supplies and mental strategies, and it can seem like such a hassle. Training has helped me want to have better control and understanding of my insulin needs, to wear med alert jewelry, to carry glucose with me where ever I go, and to try and be in harmony with my diabetes rather than always fighting it. In turn, diabetes has helped me appreciate just being out there participating and finishing. When I can cross the finish line with a BG of 108, I’ve definitely won the day!
Up next: Wildflower Olympic Distance May 6th!