My alarm woke me up at 3am. This was my first one of the morning. Test my blood – 8.4mmol/L (150mg/dL). Bolus 5.5 units of insulin for very early breakfast. I need to have no active insulin on board when I start the marathon at 7am, hence the early carb load.
I drag my body out of bed, walk to the kitchen and make my cinnamon oatmeal.
I lie in bed, as my oatmeal begins to get cold and I wait for my blood sugar levels to drop before I eat. I doze on and off for the next hour, finally eating my food at around 4am.
I have an hour to get some more sleep before my next alarm.
5am comes way sooner than I want.
I call my boyfriend in LA and speak with him for 10mins as I procrastinate getting out from under my sheets.
He wishes me luck and I am ready to rise. My room is warmer than outside. I don’t want my muscles to get too cold so I keep my heater on. My BGL is around 7.5mmol/L (135 mg/dL) – exactly where I want them to be. I know that adrenaline and pre-race excitement will rise them over the next two hours.
I set a temp basal rate on my insulin pump for 4 hours of 50%. This means that I am cutting my usual insulin rate to half of what it usually is with the amount of energy and calories I will be burning during the marathon. This will hopefully help prevent me from having a low blood sugar level during the run.
I get dressed – (Mens) Nike Shorts and my Diabetes Sports Project bra.
Weather permitting, I always race in a sports bra and shorts/tights. I like the feeling of the wind against my skin and not carrying a sweat drenched t-shirt on my skin for half the race.
I book my Uber, leave my phone at home and head out the door at 5.45am. I chat to the Uber driver about nothing in particular and 15 mins later I arrive at Bradfield Park, Milson’s Point, Sydney.
The half marathon has just started and I walk past the runners as they turn to run over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The energy is good, the weather is perfectly cool. I head down to the runners waiting area, first stop is the toilets. The lines are always ridiculously long with nervous runners, so this is always the place I head to first.
I try to keep my muscles warm by doing a few short sprints and running up and down some stairs. I also want to test my waist belt which is bouncing around a little more than I’d like it too. It’s heavy and slipping a little further down my bum than is comfortable.
With 15 mins until the start I walk to the corral for my group – group A. I politely squeeze my way through people until I am just behind the 3:15 pacers. Gobble down a mini Clif bar for a last boost and to keep my BGLs where they are.
In my race plan I have no intention of sticking with the pacers. I like to focus on myself and my race. But starting with them gives me a good feeling.
I scan my arm with my flash glucose monitor one more time before the horn blows. Sitting around 12mmol/L (216 mg/dL). Super happy with that. I know I will be pushing hard the whole 42.2kms and burning a lot of energy which will most likely make my sugar level drop back within range shortly after I start running.
7.05am – and we are off. Being at the front of the pack is great as I am not stuck behind anyone. I go out reasonably fast but feeling comfortable. Trying not to let my HR get too high.
My first 1K clocks at 3:46. A little too fast for my liking, so I try to slow my pace with little luck. I am feeling good, legs are fresh and the atmosphere and adrenaline is pushing me forward.
The first 5K I am feeling good – 22:02. I am focusing on my breath and heart rate, keeping both of these in check. I don’t check my blood sugar levels at all. I am aware and conscious of how I am feeling and know that I am not low.
Around 6K, I check and I am sitting around 15mmol/L (270 mg/dL) – now the adrenaline has kicked in. I know I will drop, so I give 0.2 units of insulin through my insulin pump connected to my hip via an intravenous cannula tube. I have my first gel around 8K.
As I run up Oxford Street, I am sticking with the 3:15 pacers, but they drop me as I turn past Fox Studios heading into Centennial Park.
I hear a “Go Cheese” from my left. I see a flash of my Dad unexpectedly, he had arrived to cheer me on earlier than I thought. It gave me that extra boost as I kept pushing the pace. Currently running about a 3:13 marathon. 10K, 44:41.
As I enter Centennial Park I know it’s going to be a lot of looping in and out, but I am looking forward to the shade and flat road. 58 mins in, I pass by the lead men’s pack on the opposite side of the road. They are nearing the 21K mark, looking like they are out for a slow Sunday run. Incredible.
I’m feeling like I need more energy gels. I have another one. BGL = 8.6 mmol/L (155 mg/dL). No insulin needed.
People pass me, I pass some people.
I am running next to a woman dresses as sponge bob square pants for about 5K. She is holding a good pace in that horrible hot costume. But people cheering for her motivates me as I push past.
18Ks and I hear my name again as my Dad appears, taking shots which I already know are going to show a face of pain.
As I exit Centennial Park and cross the half way mark my splits are the fastest half marathon I have ever run – 1:36:01. At this point my legs were getting a bit heavy. I knew it would be extremely hard for me to hold this pace for another 21kms.
I thankfully didn’t have to worry about my diabetes or my sugar levels. They were comfortably staying around 8-9mmol/L (155-160mg/dL) and I was having gels without needing insulin – my fourth one just before hitting 25K, where I also hit a wall.
I was running and moving, there were spaces that felt like miles where no one was cheering. I’d run past cafes where people were having an early Sunday breakfast and they would give you a strange look of confusion that did not provide any motivation that I needed. I had dropped my pace considerably and struggled to pick it up.
I was in the negative mindset I experience at least once or twice every race; why do I do this, it hurts so much, why do I train for something where I am in pain for 3+ hours, this will be my last marathon, what is wrong with me, I am definitely retiring after this…and with more than a few expletive words thrown in between each thought.
I knew my Dad was going to be at the 30K mark, so that was my focus as I crossed the 2nd bridge on the course and came up the final hill.
This was my third aid station where I took the time to walk so I could drink 2 cups of water and splash another over my body.
I don’t drink the electrolyte drinks they offer at marathons – they are generally too sweet and sugary. Water & gels. Stick with what I know.
I knew this was the last aid station I would take the time to walk. I was hoping I would be able to make back some time as my legs started to gain back their strength and speed.
Maybe I could run a 3:20? I would be so happy with that result.
My mindset was returning to a positive one. I had another gel as I reached the 32K mark.
Now my sole focus was on getting to that damn finish line. I started overtaking people again. That felt good. Especially overtaking men. Actually there were hardly any woman at all around me. I had no idea what my position I was in but based on my time from last year I presumed I was near the front for my age group.
As I crossed the 35K mark my split was 2:47:09. 7K in 30 mins, that would be a miracle on my legs at that point in the race.
As I started to push and pick up my pace I told myself: Amy you can sit as soon as you cross that finish line, you can not move for 20 mins, you can vomit, you can do whatever the f*@k you want once you cross that finish line.
I passed a man who chatted to me for 1 minute giving me the motivation I needed to mentally tell myself I was almost there.
All I had to do was run through Darling Harbour, around Barangaroo into Circular Quay and I would see the Opera House and the finish line.
I checked my BGL one final time – 9.6mmol/L (172 mg/dL), gave myself 0.2 units of insulin and started to really push.
Knowing that each step I am taking is bringing me closer to finishing means the pain will stop, means I can breathe normally, I can eat a massive bowl of oatmeal and a Clif bar and I can sleep all afternoon (I did all but the latter).
As I came around the corner into Circular Quay, my eye was on the Opera House, the finish was just over 1K away. I pushed. My pace was 4:00 per/k. My legs were giving it all.
I needed to beat my time from last year. That was my focus.
I crossed that finish line of the Sydney marathon for the second time in 3:23:31. My fifth marathon and my fastest to date.
It was a good feeling. A feeling of relief. Of knowing I can run faster. Knowing that I will do another one.
Knowing all the hard work I had put in was worth it.
I got my finisher’s medal. Got my t-shirt, an apple and banana and walked to find my Dad.
The last time I saw him was in the final 200m. He yelled my name as I sprinted to that finish line.
I hugged him and cried. Cried because I didn’t reach my goal time, but also tears of joy and my way of saying thank you to him for his undulated support.
Thank you Sydney for a great day. Thank you diabetes for letting me win today. Thank you body for giving me fast legs. Thank you mind for giving me the resilience to push through the pain.
Now where is that bowl of oatmeal?