Running high for 26.2 miles.
On Sunday May 27, I ran my sixth marathon, Mountains 2 Beach in Ojai, California.
I was excited for a few reasons to walk to the start line – it was my first marathon in California, I felt my training went well and I was feeling strong, fit and injury free and the course was mostly downhill.
I changed my race morning routine on the day of the marathon. Instead of waking up 3 hours prior to the start of the race, I woke up when we had to get ready, cooked some oatmeal and took some Afrezza (inhalable insulin) instead of through my insulin pump.
Afrezza drops you within 2-3 minutes of taking it, but is out of your system within 60-90 mins. So I wasn’t concerned about having any insulin on board at the start of the marathon.
I didn’t practice this in any training runs, which would have been smart.
My sugar levels dropped, as expected and ate a clif bar after my oatmeal to try and bring me back up. I hovered in the 3s and 4s (70s) so I took an energy gel before we left the house for the hour long drive to Ojai.
I was nervous about starting the race with low sugar levels. I didn’t particularly want to be shoving food in my face at the start line and running on a heavy stomach. So without much thought I had another glucose gel in the car with about 30 mins to get to the start.
I think this is where the main error was in my diabetes management pre-race.
I started to spike and my BGL was heading upwards of 10 (200) with an up arrow on my freestyle libre monitor.
We jogged about 1-mile from where we parked the car to the start line.
By the time we were lined up and they were about to shoot the start gun, I was around 15 (300).
I didn’t give any bolus insulin but turned my reduced basal rate back onto full.
The first few miles I felt okay. I was pushing a 7:10-7:15 pace and it was slightly uphill. I was hoping by mile 3-4 my BGLs would stabilize and start to drop allowing me to start fueling for the race with the energy gels I carried in my short pockets.
Mile 5, my sugar levels were sitting at around 22 (400). I could feel it. The dry metallic taste in my mouth. It wasn’t pleasant.
I dosed about 0.3 units of insulin through my pump and kept moving forward.
I knew around mile 6-8 I would see my husband’s brother Paul followed by his wife Ivonee and their kids a mile later cheering us on.
I gave the thumbs up to Paul as he snapped some photos. Even though I wasn’t feeling great I didn’t have time to say anything to him and I was focusing on staying positive.
By mile 8, just as I was coming around the corner to see Ivonee and the family, my bgls had started to drop (with a little extra insulin – 0.2 units to be exact), I took one energy gel (22g of glucose) with a bgl of 13 (234). I wouldn’t normally eat any food during a run with a bgl that high, but it was trending down and I could already feel I was hitting a wall and needed an energy boost.
I was holding a good pace and was hoping my sugar levels would continue to drop even with the gel, as I had a small amount of insulin in my system.
I don’t know if it was adrenaline, starting the race with high sugar levels or my body just not wanting to let the insulin bring my sugar levels in range but when they got down to 12 (220), they didn’t want to go any lower.
The next gel I took was around mile 12, again I needed an energy boost even though my bgls were still hovering above 12 (220). I gave another tiny bolus of 0.3 units of insulin and kept running.
I saw Paul again at mile 13 which gave me a mental boost to keep pushing. My pace was good. I would run a few miles at 7:15 then slow down when I hit the flats. I wanted to keep a 7:30 pace and felt confident I was on track.
I was trying to stay positive in my head, as I have a habit of turning extremely negative during races when it starts to get hard and hurts.
As I inched closer to the 17-18 mile mark I could feel that the race was getting tougher and it was harder to sustain my pace, while my sugar levels were starting to creep up again.
I needed another gel desperately. I had only consumed 180 calories and I had been running for 2 hours.
I took another 0.5 units of insulin through my pump and ate my last gel.
I had 8 miles to go and I knew they were going to be hard.
Once I hit mile 20, mentally that made such a big difference. I focused on counting down each mile, walking for 10-20 seconds at the water stations to pour water on my head and drink a cup of water properly.
Alex was doing really well in the race, at mile 18 he was running a 3:03 predicted finish time. That made me smile and I knew he would finish well.
I had a couple of friends running behind me and as I slowed down significantly in the last 6 miles I was waiting for them to come running past.
At this stage I knew my sugar levels were not going to come down and I probably wasn’t going to be about to take in any more gels for the rest of the race.
Running a marathon with 270 calories was not ideal. I felt sorry for my body. It was pushing and I wasn’t fueling it.
I knew my muscles were empty and perhaps my body was using them as fuel.
With about 2 miles to go, a friend who was running her 2ndmarathon passed me. She looked strong and I was elated she could finish with a Boston qualifying time.
With 1 mile to go, my BGLs were at 10 (180) and finally heading in the right direction.
I gave it all I got. As I came along the beach path I could see the finish line. I saw some friends taking photos and cheering from the sideline and I needed that extra push.
As I crossed the finish line I let out a huge sigh of relief. I was glad that marathon was over.
I saw Alex and he leaned across the railings to hug me as I told him I had high sugar levels the whole marathon with tears in my eyes.
He had a great race, finishing in 3:10:07.
I finished in 3:27:07.
I wasn’t happy with my result because I knew my goal was to run significantly faster. But I was happy with my performance based on the challenges I had with my diabetes from the start line.
The best thing about situations and races like these is you learn so much.
I learnt to test my morning routine prior to the race at least 2-3 times. I learnt that races don’t always go to plan and that is okay.
I learnt my body can endure a lot more than I think it can and I am glad I pushed through until the end.
And I learnt I can run a pretty fast marathon with high sugar levels and no fuel – not really a lesson.
I had a few moments during the race where I was angry at my diabetes and for a second I had a flashing thought that I wish I didn’t have diabetes.
Sometimes I like to think I am invincible.
But I am so grateful for the times I am humbled and taught otherwise.
Mountains 2 Beach marathon was one of those moments.
Looking forward to my next race whether it be a marathon or something a little longer or shorter.