Part of the fun of running in a marathon, especially one as large at Long Beach with some 20,000 entrants, is the variety of people and characters you run with along the way. The course in Long Beach is very flat, with only three or four uphills, each very moderate. For that reason it's inviting to a lot of newcomers. For that reason it’s also quite humbling for someone like me who runs a lot. Being passed by a woman who is half your height and twice your width has a way of leveling your ego, and I don’t think you’d have to experience it yourself to admit it.
Another humbling event occurs if you run the half-marathon in a ‘middle of the pack’ kind of way, as I do. The marathoner’s and half-marathoners run the same course until about Mile 10, where the course splits off to send us half-marathoners to the finish line and the marathoners on a 13.1 mile detour. The routes rejoin about a hundred yard further on and as I ran by I was passed, (not met, but passed) by the leaders of the Marathon who had just run twice as far as me in the same amount of time and were still kicking my ass.
But I didn’t notice any of them wearing an insulin pump. Not that they couldn’t have been! I didn’t notice any other pumpers out there either, but I know there were some. The thing about running these distances that you and I have to pay special attention to is, as always, our bg levels. Nobody wants to bonk at mile 10.
“bonking” is a term of art with a special meaning to diabetic athletes. It’s a little like ‘hitting the wall’ except that you can run through the wall. If you’re bonking and try to run through it you’re likely to get a concussion, metaphorically speaking. Let’s not mention how testing your blood also affects your time, since I haven’t perfected the art of testing while on the run. While on the walk, yes. But I still have to stand still for that magic moment when the strip gently touches the blossom of blood . . . just . . . so . . . and gets a good sample to give a reading. (Unpaid advertising aside - I carry my meter on my Spibelt™ which had a booth at the pre-race expo and was highly visible on the course - along with a few clearly inferior imitators. I highly recommend this accessory for any active person who has to carry a lot of shit around with them no matter what - i.e. us.)
Usually I’m restless the night before a race, but I slept like a baby and was awakened at 2:30 a.m. with hypoglycemia. 57! Crap! I chomped down five glucose tabs and went back to sleep, getting up at 4:45. BG 179. Better. Actually good for a pre-race number. I want to start high in order to avoid the dreaded ‘bonk’. A breakfast of coffee and oatmeal, reducing my bolus by one unit in anticipation of the run.
In the car, one hour before starting time, I reduced by basal rate to .20/hour, half my usual rate, for a duration of 3:30, figuring one hour before the race to 2:30 to run it. (My strategy was to start out slow and then - back off.) It took about an hour for us to drive to the event, given traffic, and after finding the porta-potties, a pre-race essential, I tested at 267. Hmm. Well, okay.
The first testing spot is three miles in and I had dropped to 136! Over 100 points. That’s too fast. So I ate an energy bar (10g carbs) and moved on. I worried over whether that would be enough, so a mile later, I had another 10g and it was probably a good thing, because when I tested again at round mile 5 I was down to 103.
Yikes!! At the rate I was dropping bonking was inevitable, so I pulled out the heavy guns - a tasteless packet of messy ‘flavored’ gooey food substance which goes by the name ‘Gu’ - 23 grams of carbs. A mile and a half later, my BG is rising. It’s up to 116. Yeah, not much but it went up while I was running, so that’s a good thing.
I was feeling good and confident and didn’t test the rest of the way, which was probably a mistake. I did eat another Gu at mile nine for good measure, but nothing else until the race was over. Then I had a banana. Half of one. Volunteers pass them out to the runners at the finish line. It goes like this - cross the finish line, volunteer A hands you your medal, volunteer B hands you a mylar blanket, volunteer C hands you a bottle of water, volunteer D hands you half a banana and volunteer E shuttles you out of the crowd.
Generally, you would meet up with your support group, in this case my wife, as you leave the finish area, but due to the absolutely abysmal cell phone coverage for AT&T in Long Beach, that didn’t happen. Grrr. Even T-Mobile had coverage. T-MObile! So I met her at the car. I tested as we left. 172.
Not bad. Lower than when I started, which, by the way, was 2:49:31 earlier. Also not so bad. Not so good, either, if you remember the hopeful number I used when I reduced my basal rate, but what the heck? It's not like I do this for glory. Well, yes, for some modest glory. But it's not like I do it for a living. I just do it to live.
To tell the truth, I'm not exactly sure why I do it . . . I say that every time.