The weekend just gone gave me one of my biggest challenges since going on the pump. Last year a friend of ours told of her tale of doing a 40 mile walk in the nearby Lake District - one of Great Britain's National Parks and although I'm biased I reckon it's the best. The walk starts in Keswick at the north of The Lakes (as the Lake District tends to be abbreviated to) and finishes at the south in Barrow-in-Furness which is so far south it used to be in a different county! As the discussion was over a few beers my mind was in full 'well why not?' mode and the thought process decided that I should give it a go the next year.
Well winter came and at the time May seemed a loooooooong way away so what's the harm in signing up, joining my sister's team and giving it a go. And newly attached Adam the pump would be a help. Surely. That's what he's made for. Training schedules were occasionally glanced at and after a few half-decent distances I decided to up the challenge a little by running some of the route on the day. My thinking here again was selfish. If I'm going to be doing 40 miles on my feet my body would appreciate it if I'm not stuck out there too long and at the very least it's a way to 'ensure' I get in before dark. Well that's the plan. Obviously in the build up to such events much discussion is made with team members, family and beer buddies about predicted finishing times and targets. This length was entirely new to me so I was predicting myself somewhere between 9 and 10 hours with a dream target of 8.
Positive Mental Attitude was also remembering that I was starting at an altitude of 160m and finishing at 60m. A net decent of 160m - how hard can that be? It's downhill! I chose to ignore the altitude profile below. Ignorance is the best form of defence!
Whilst Adam was going to help I also knew borrowing a CGM from the local clinic would give me an extra advantage against my body's campaign to trip me up constantly. I made my appointment and got hooked up on Friday morning. This gave me the rest of the day to make sure it was working before the early start.
As the start was nice and early at 6:00, I was up at 3:50 getting my kit on before shoving some breakfast down as quickly as possible to give me some basal carbs to get me through the morning. I chose to bolus at near to full value as I've been fighting highs after breakfast recently so didn't want DKA to add to the stress of the day. I'd already programmed a basal reduction to 60% of normal from 4:30 to give me an appropriate reduction in insulin whilst my body came to terms with the sudden influx of exercise.
On the journey up to start kindly taken care of by my brother-in-law I occasionally glanced at the CGM graph to see the upward trend expected and the walk starting value of 12.8mmol/L was a little higher than perfect but within range of where I'd hoped to be.
The start was just like the rest of the race in that it was organised perfectly. After blipping my timing chip I was off with a mixture of running and walking and a smile on my face. As I knew I wanted to go at my pace the iPod was loaded with an appropriate soundtrack for the day - to start with we had Radio Lancashire's commentary of the home and away legs against Birmingham City and for the middle section I had the full 4 hours of the commentary from the Play-Off final two years ago against Cardiff. What more motivation can a man need?!!!
I was conscious to not start too fast and just enjoy the dawn breaking views such as the one over Thirlmere below.
My plan of attack for the day was a few jelly beans and muesli bars regularly. I knew the checkpoints would also have fruit occasionally so this would be useful for a change flavour. I expected this would be enough carbs to counteract the exercise when pair with the basal reduction. As I like to be self-sufficient I knew I had enough food and socks to get me through the day in my rucksack so anything extra I picked up would be a bonus.
As I climbed up Dunmail Raise the summit greeted me with the smell of bacon butties! Considering it was around 7am the roadside was packed with cars and minibuses serving up cooked breakfasts to their team-members. At the time I couldn't imagine anything I wanted less, so my respect goes to any of my fellow walkers who took this on board. The first official checkpoint was Grasmere and this gave me a chance for a slowdown and another quick BG check that backed up the data I was getting from the CGM. A fill of the water bottle from the (still excellent) support and I was off again before hitting the steepest section of the route - that's metaphorically not physically hitting although I felt the need, if not the energy to punch the road ahead.
The views on the course were outstanding and here's another I took on the rise out of Elterwater:
As you'll imagine the 30 or so miles involved ups and downs of varying nature. I was taking carbs on board in the form of a steady slow chew of jelly beans and a Tracker bar (other grain bars are available) every 45 minutes or so. The occasional half a banana was chucked in for good measure and the BGs were winning a gold medal even if my plodding efforts weren't.
At 24.6 miles I was met by my wife and family who gave me a huge psychological boost ahead of the 4 mile gentle uphill section ahead. And just to mess with my head I arrived at that point about ten minutes quicker than I 'ran' the London Marathon three years ago. There are two possible reasons for this: 1. The improvement in my diabetes control and joining Team Pump in the last year has boosted my physiological ability, or 2. My strategy three years ago should have been to think, sod the running malarky and splits; just jog a bit, walk a bit and you'll be fine. This is one to ponder for my next marathon attempt - nothing booked so I can ponder forever on that one.
Another slight head-mess at around the same point came at the next checkpoint. No-one really knew me on the event apart from family attending. I beeped in to which the marshall said "Well done Dave, keep going!" It took me few seconds to realise he was looking at a laptop with my chip time on it so of course he knew my name, probably also knew my birthday and next of kin too, but as fatigue is setting in a little it was slightly unnerving.
After about 30 miles the check points were becoming more frequent and my head was constantly trying to work out a finish time to aim for over the last few miles. I knew I was close to achieving 8 hours but was desperate to get under that barrier so that my time could start with a 7.
For those of you hoping for a massive physical failure or hypo in the last mile for dramatic impact I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. It was steady away and I came up the finishing straight quite comfortably and even managed a sprint to cheer the crowds watching at the side – although despite baiting from some teenage lads I refused to dive past the man in front on the finishing line. Again here organisation was fantastic with my chip being taken of my lanyard and swapped for the medal seen below. I was also given a small but perfectly formed certificate with my finishing time and splits on it. I did swear a little when I was given it and saw the time of 7 hrs and 53 mins. 7:53! Well done me! Although I know this was a bit self-congratulatory I thought I’d done well. In the spirit of the event I was also given two refreshment vouchers to be used anywhere in the finishing area. Now obviously being the ‘athlete’ that I was I took the option that most of my fellow walkers were doing and used one of my tokens for a meat and potato pie with peas and gravy and the second for a pint of beer. I was tempted to go for the liquid only option as I knew I needed rehydration but I wasn’t entirely sure which way my BGs were going to go so some carbs were the safer option.
And now for the bit that may lose the interest of any non-diabetics out there. My range during the run was between 4.5 mmol/L and 7.9 mmol/L (81 mg/dl to 142 mg/dl) and my basal reduction seemed to do the job perfectly. I started a little high but nothing a good bit of exercise couldn’t fix. As you’ll see from the graph below I rose a little after I’d finished at 2pm as my body wasn’t needing the carbs but still had the insulin shortage from the previous temporary basal. I switched back to my normal profile pretty much soon after I finished but didn’t take anything extra to account for the shortage over the next couple of hours. I might have also guessed my pie carbs a little wrong but I was happier to keep it a little high until the following day.
For me Team Pump won this easily as doing the same event with Levemir would have been a lot trickier – and I also wouldn’t have had the reassuring glances at the CGM to see that I was doing OK.
All in all it was a great day with one of the world’s greatest athletic stadiums as my backdrop. Will I do it again? Maybe. But the problem there for me is that I’d really hate it if I was slower than this time so that would mean some ‘proper’ training next time!
As always, thanks for reading.