Monday, 31 August 2009

Crocked! Great South Run -55 days

Having rested for three days I was really looking forward to my run this morning. I rose early so I could eat breakfast and get my insulin circulating ready for an early start. The weather forecast predicted hot sunshine for today, but it’s approaching midday now and still no sign of the Sun whatsoever. So, actually the weather was pretty much perfect this morning for what I hoped would be a nice long run – cool, overcast and grey, with an almost imperceptible drizzling mist in the air.

I’d been debating where to run, having grown a little bored of my normal route. The park is lovely, but it helps motivation sometimes to vary the route and set new challenges, so this morning I decided I would run through the first half of the park and then continue out on the long climb up past the University to Southampton Common. The Common is a very large wooded area with many winding paths ideal for running along – some up, some down, in lovely, peaceful surroundings.

The first part through the park was uneventful. I did feel that my pace was good, breathing was fine, and my heart seemed happy with the demands I was placing on it. I didn’t want to overcook things in this first mile or so, as I knew I would have to save my energy for the big hill ahead. Leaving the park, the uphill climb starts straightaway, with a particularly sharp rise up over the road and railway bridge, followed by a more gentle stretch, and finally the monster hill up all the way to the Common. The hill is about 1.5 miles in total, and quite steep in places. Hills don’t really trouble me – I spent my formative running years climbing the hills of Sheffield and the Peak District, and this one is fairly tame in comparison. Thankfully, although this is a main road, there is little traffic today – no rush hour as today is a holiday for the majority of workers.

I feel surprisingly good up the hill, and reach the Common breathing hard, but coping well, and in the knowledge that the majority of the remainder of the route is flat or downhill. I’ve done my climb, and now I reap the benefits of gravity as I pass other runners going in the opposite direction, up the hill. Running downhill can sometimes be as tricky and difficult as running uphill. There’s less strain on heart and lungs, but the impact of each footfall is greater – equivalent to about three times bodyweight. I’m conscious of the shock on my muscles and bones, particularly in light of my broken femur experience!

I make it through the Common and start heading back home down a smart residential street. As I am about halfway down I feel a twinge in my right calf, then again a few steps later. Then…bang! I feel something tear! I have to instantly stop and try to determine the severity of the injury. It’s quite painful, and feels muscular, rather than a tendon. There’s a bus stop close by, so I hobble to that and sit down on one of the wet plastic seats to assess the situation. Looking at my GPS, I see that I have run 4.6 miles, which means I am approximately 1.5 miles from home. It reminds me that, in future, I must remember to carry some money with me for this type of eventuality, so I can at least catch a bus home. However, that thought is of no help to me now, and I have no choice but to hobble along, trying to be as gentle as possible and hoping that the pain will ease sufficiently to allow me to at least jog slowly home.

I walk for about ten minutes – better to keep moving, as I have to get home somehow, and after stopping, although I was very hot, I am now beginning to feel a little chillier. Still no sign of the promised sunshine! The pain seems to have eased, so I decide to try a little jog….but within two steps the pain is back and I know it is impossible. So, I hobbled and limped the remainder of the route, cursing the muscle and feeling enormously frustrated that it should happen when I was doing so well. Unfortunately, since I broke my leg 5 years ago, this sort of injury does happen more frequently. The injury and subsequent surgery and mending of the broken bone have altered the mechanics of my leg ever so slightly, so that walking and running is now subtly different from the preceding 45 years of my life. As a consequence, there are altered stresses on the muscles and sinews. I’m probably still also guilty of ‘favouring’ the leg due to the deeply ingrained memory of the time it collapsed so catastrophically.

Unfortunately that looks like no more training this week, which is a setback but not necessarily a total disaster – I still have several weeks to go, and know that my fitness levels are good. I measured my resting heart rate last night and it is now down to around 45 bpm. A couple of months ago it was more like 60 bpm, and around 80 bpm this time last year. So, I have that ‘in the bag’ and will have to hope that it doesn’t decline whilst I have my enforced rest from activity. I’m hoping that it will only be a few days. One other interesting observation about today’s run was that my blood glucose level declined from 8.9 to 3.6, which is technically hypoglycaemia. I felt OK, and had a biscuit and a couple of Jelly Babies to bring the level up. I don’t think it would have dropped so low had I been able to run all the way, as I would have got home much sooner.

Monday August 31st, 2009
4.6 miles + 1.5 miles
46’20” + 35’
Blood glucose before (1.5 hour)
Blood glucose after

Friday, 28 August 2009

An Ode to Anne-Marie

I’ve been an administrator on a diabetes support forum for a while now – it’s where I first started posting my poems and they do seem to be well received. At the end of June I happened to mention on the forum that I was going to start recording my training diary on the blog, and was asked by several members if I would be running for charity as they would be happy to sponsor me. Last year I ran on behalf of Diabetes UK, but haven’t been too impressed with them in recent months, so wanted to raise money for an alternative charity. I finally settled on JDRF – the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. This is an organisation dedicated to finding the causes, new treatments, and hopefully one day, the cure for Type 1 diabetes. Now, I developed diabetes well into adulthood, but on the forum I have heard many stories from parents, teenagers and young adults about how diabetes has come into their lives and how they are struggling to ensure a happy healthy future in spite of it.

Type 1 diabetes is a very distressing diagnosis for parents, who then have to subject their often uncomprehending young child to regular injections and finger prick tests daily, and without respite. The condition is also increasing by 4% a year, and it can, it seems, strike any family. Research into finding a cure or methods of prevention, therefore are of extreme importance and JDRF are at the forefront of this research.

I have been extremely moved by the support I have received from the forum members, who have never met me, yet have still given generously to my fundraising appeal! I am at the current moment 80% of the way to my target in less than two weeks since launching the appeal. I decided to try and encourage more donations by setting a competition. People have to guess what my finishing blood glucose level will be at the end of the race and, as a tie-breaker, estimate my finishing time. The prizes are a copy of The Discovery of Insulin, by Michael Bliss, and two runners-up prizes of a personalised poem written by me. One sponsor, Anne-Marie, decided that she wanted the poem without competing for it and sponsored me an extra £10 to provide it! Here is the result, which she is very happy with (thank goodness, one always doubts one’s creative works!). A few words of explanation: she is a Type 1 who follows a low carbohydrate diet, is an insomniac, and is also the forum’s most prolific poster! I do have to keep her and her friend Katie in line – but it is all light-hearted fun which I think other forum members appreciate!

She’s a carbophobiac, and here’s the reason why,
Just the mention of a twiglet will send her levels high!
Potatoes, bread and pasta are to her an evil vice,
No matter what the GI is for white basmati rice!

She’s also an insomniac and cannot sleep at night,
It’s often three or four a.m. when she turns out the light!
But Katie keeps her company, for the two of them are twins –
It’s hard to tell where one girl ends and the other one begins!

She’s perfectly prolific, posting quips the whole day long,
And finds the ideal video if you’re searching for a song…
She’s filled with prawns and omelettes, and eggs of every kind –
A girl whose lips eat fewer chips, I doubt you’ll ever find!

If the forum was without her it would be a duller place,
For though she thinks that Northerner is always on her case,
He thinks she’s kind and generous, and full of good support,
She’ll be right there for anyone without a second thought!

So, here’s my ode to Anne-Marie, who used to live down South,
Admirer of the rugby men, with the occasional ‘potty’ mouth!
And should they ever find the cure, let’s hope it’s not her fate
That it consists of one huge pill that’s high in carbohydrate!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Great South Run – 58 days to go!

After being a little disappointed at my last run, I was feeling nervous about today’s excursion. When I woke the sky was grey and overcast, which was promising. We runners like the sunny weather as much as anyone except when we are out running! Ideal distance running weather is grey, cloudy, with a light breeze and possibly even a sprinkle of drizzly rain. Unfortunately, that type of weather rarely actually happens, despite Britain’s reputation – generally there is some factor that will upset the balance somewhere, like a strong gusting wind or pouring rain, hailstones, snow, sleet, or perhaps hot, blinding sunshine. Today, despite early appearances, it seemed I was in for a bit of the latter as the Sun began to break through the cloudy veil within minutes of leaving the house. Thankfully, because of the hour and the direction of my run, I wasn’t running directly into the glare, which eased things a little. I quickly became very hot though and debated through the first mile just how far I should run. Should I try and increase my pace and run a shorter route? Or stick it out and run at a more leisurely pace and put more distance in the training bank?

The tide was out, unlike the other day when the water had virtually lapped across the path, and there were broad, ugly mudflats exposed with clumps of brown seaweed drying slowly in the brightening sunshine. A group of about twenty swans were gathered by the jetty, pruning and preening, and leaving fluffy white feathers scattered around that stood out against the murky mud. I always try to keep to the side of the path away from the riverbank, but sometimes, as now, people force you to move closer to the edge, oblivious it seems to your presence and letting their yappy little dogs dodge and weave around your ankles without even a glance. I like dogs, but dislike those lazy leads some dog owners use that allow the dog to remain on leash, yet wander far beyond their owners on telescopic tethers that form hazardous tripwires across the path of unwary runners.

Coming to a potential turning point, I decide to continue out, beyond the weir and into the part of the park where fishermen flank the path. A few more dog walkers amble slowly by – westies, pugs, jack russells – all small dogs it appears this morning. Looking at their owners I decide that this is because they are more manageable and cheaper to maintain as pets for their elderly companions. On the whole, I like small dogs. We had a lovely part-corgi called Tiny, who always looked like a puppy – even when she was 18 years old!

As I reach the bridge and make my turn, my legs are beginning to protest a little. I so want to get back to the state I was in when I felt strong and fast on a run. It will come, I’m sure. I already feel an improvement in pace this morning, and hope that I will be able to maintain it to the end. Here, scattered alongside the path, are the dry, fallen branches blown down by the strong, whipping winds of yesterday. No doubt these are the older branches, less able to withstand the storms than their erstwhile neighbours, strengthened by the sinew and sap of youth.

It’s hot now, and my breathing is more laboured, and I hope for a little rest at the road crossing – alas, not to be! I have to continue straight across and upward, until finally reaching the downhill stretch to home.
Overall, it was a good run. Of a similar length to my last run, but my pace improved by over 25 seconds a mile. This may not sound a lot, and I’m still running quite slowly, but it’s an improvement so I’m happy with that, and actually the whole run has taken me two minutes less than the same distance previously. I may not achieve the six or seven minute mile pace I used to enjoy, but if I can get to around 8 minute 30 pace, I will be more than happy!

Thursday August 25th, 2009
3.66 miles
35’ 10”
Blood glucose before (1.5 hour)
Blood glucose after

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Great South Run - 59 days to go!

I’ve been experimenting with Photobucket, so I hope that you will be seeing a slideshow of the route of yesterday’s run! It was a hot and sunny day, although there was a strong breeze whipping across the water that did knock me a little off balance. I’m always very cautious when running along the riverside path – don’t want to go falling in! That happened to me once when I was a teenager – I fell in the River Calder up to my neck whilst out on a fishing trip with my friend. At the time it was one of the most polluted rivers in the country, so my biggest concern was did I swallow any of that poisonous filth? Never caught any fish there, although in theory you could just catch the dead ones floating on the surface. My friend would throw in a handful of groundbait and the hit the fish over the head as they came to feed! Sorry, I digress! The River Itchen is much cleaner than the Calder was, especially as you move upstream. Beyond the weir the water becomes much calmer and clearer as it is not affected at this point by the tidal processes that stir up the mud and murk further down.

I started off feeling quite good, but quickly started to feel the effects of the heat. I wasn’t sure if I should continue and run the whole distance I had planned – a loop of 4.5 miles and a repeat of my previous run, but thought I would carry on and give it a go. I’m not great in hot weather, and it can be confusing now I have diabetes, because you’re never sure whether the heat is making you feel bad or if your blood sugar levels are dropping low. My level was 8.9 mmol/l at the start, which is pretty much perfect for the length of run I had planned, but I did have the sensation that perhaps it was falling rather faster than normal. Heat can affect levels, as can just about everything else as far as diabetes is concerned – you really don’t appreciate just how much you have to take into account, looking backwards and forwards, what you ate, when you ate, how active you were or will be. The list at times seems to factor in so many possibilities that it ends up like some impenetrable mathematical theorem - Bolus = ∑((∂x+∂y)*√( Ωz-(4xy2/3rs)≤ п(∞3)) – or some such!

I don’t like to stop and walk, even for a moment. Once you stop then it can be very difficult to get going again and even if you do, you are more likely to want to stop again soon! So, I hung on for as long as I could. I still had to get home of course, so the only really change would be that I would be going at a slightly slower (i.e. walking) pace. I decided that I should cut the run short and head back for home. The problem wasn’t so much with my legs being tired, but that the bright sunshine was making me feel rather queasy, which in turn affects my breathing. I was hoping that, when I left the park and had to cross the road, the lights would be against me and force me to wait a few moments before continuing. This was ‘allowed’ and didn’t really count as ‘stopping’ as you can’t just run out in front of traffic! Thankfully, there was a steady stream of traffic that had to pass by before I could cross, so I got my much hoped for respite before the short climb uphill and then down the road to home.

Overall, a little disappointing to have curtailed the run, and also to have run at such an unimpressive pace, but a run nonetheless. There will always be days when things aren’t quite as you planned – hopefully not on race day! As it turned out, my blood sugar levels had fallen much more than normal, with a drop of 3.5 mmol/l. Normally, I would expect a fluctuation up or down of no more than 1.5 mmol/l, so clearly the heat had had an effect!

Tuesday August 25th, 2009
3.69 miles
37’ 06”
Blood glucose before (1.5 hour)
Blood glucose after

Friday, 21 August 2009

Great South Run – 65 days to go!

I love my Garmin Forerunner ! It’s a wristwatch style GPS that uses satellite technology to measure the distance, elevation, timings, pace and speed of my training runs. It can also measure my heart rate, but I tend not to use that option. The great thing about it is that it provides a true and accurate record of my running. Previously, I would use a pedometer to measure distance, plus my ordinary wristwatch for timings. This was prone to error, as the pedometer depends on stride length which is difficult to measure accurately, and will vary anyway with the terrain. I found I had a tendency to overestimate the distances I was running, so when it came to measured distances, like in a marathon or half-marathon, it often came as a bit of a shock to realise how generous I had been in my estimations! Actually, as the years have gone by I have fine-tuned things fairly well, and the Forerunner measurements are really not far off – experience has taught me to be more honest, I guess!

I’ve had a couple of rest days. Wednesday was far too hot for running, and yesterday my legs were still feeling a little stiff. I reckoned that if I had run yesterday I would have been running on weary legs, so thought it better to give them an extra day to recover. It does seem to have worked out, as this morning I felt quite a spring in my step as I set off. My ambition was to run further this morning. I have a route that takes me further along the riverbank until I reach a good turning point at a beautiful little stone bridge, then back along the side of a road and round to the park again. I could just turn on my heels when I reach the bridge, but I prefer the variety of landscape by coming back alongside the road. It’s not too busy a road, and it’s nice to see the changing gardens of the houses that skirt its edge.

The air was quite cool as I set off, with a light breeze which felt very pleasant. A lot of the swans on the river were still asleep, their long necks curled over their backs and resting on their wings, reminding me of those ‘quenelles’ they teach you how to make in cookery programmes. All very calming, and thankfully my breathing is also calm – not the laboured gasping of a few days ago! It’s quite a remarkable change in such a few short days, but I’m also aware that I am going very slowly, a fact confirmed as a much younger man jogs lightly and effortlessly past me. Well, I’ll never break the land-speed record, so it doesn’t really worry me. I don’t really see my running as competitive – at the speed I run these days, that would be a delusional attitude. It’s much more about seeing the improvements in yourself, knowing what you are capable of and, for me, trying to get back to somewhere like how I used to be before diabetes raised its unwelcome spectre.

After a mile or so, the Sun broke through the light cloud cover and the heat began to build. I did wonder for a moment if it would be wise to do my planned route, knowing it was something like 40% further than my earlier runs this week, but decided that as long as I stuck to my steady pace, I’d make it round – I could always walk if need be. I carry some glucose tablets with me should I feel my blood sugar levels falling, although I generally stay within range on runs of 5 miles or less. I managed to find some shade as I ran along a back lane, then further shade was provided by a line of tall poplars as I rejoined the far end of the park on my way out to the bridge.

There’s a short steep climb up and over the arch of the little bridge, then a further climb running through a sheltered path behind some houses before I reach the main road. I still felt quite good, sticking to my steady pace and enjoying a slight downhill slope before turning near the local railway station. As I turn a bend towards the student residences, a large crowd of foreign students are waiting across the road at the bus stop – I put on a burst of speed to impress them (!), and then finally return to the park.

On the whole, I was very pleased with the run. Slow, yes, but 4.5 miles, which after all is 45% or the distance of the Great South Run with over nine weeks training still to go, so I am confident I can build my strength and speed before October comes around.

I have been so thrilled to see how my sponsorship efforts have been going. After only four days I am currently at 57% of my target, thanks to the generous support of the people on the UK forum – an amazing total, and a real motivation to do the training and really do well in the race!

Friday August 21st, 2009
4.5 miles
44’ 23”
Blood glucose before (1.5 hour)
Blood glucose after

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Poetry Sabbatical

For my regular readers, I apologise if you’ve been hoping to see new poems lately. I have plenty of ideas, but feel I would like to spend a little time working on them rather than rushing out things I consider poor quality. So, I have decided not to publish new poems this week which will give me a chance hopefully to come up with some better stuff. In the meantime, I hope that visitors will enjoy the many poems already archived here!

Great South Run – 67 days to go!

67 days sounds like no time at all the way I’m currently feeling on my runs! I thought I would follow up yesterday’s run with another today, and maybe take a rest day tomorrow. My legs felt a little stiff from yesterday’s efforts, but not at the point where I find it difficult to climb stairs, as is often the case when running after a relatively long abstention! My blood glucose was nicely in range before the start at 9.0 mmol/l at 1.5 hours after breakfast. I know that this should keep me high enough during the run to avoid hypos, and that takes a lot of the worry away. It’s sometimes difficult to discern on a run whether you are feeling bad from the effort or because of the blood glucose levels being too low or high, but I’ve built up a good record of experience to assure me that it’s just because I’m not fit enough if I feel bad!

It was pretty sunny this morning, so hotter and brighter than yesterday. There wasn’t even the whisper of a breeze, and as I ran alongside the river the water was flat calm, echoing the trees and boats in solid, unwavering reflections. An inquisitive spaniel rushed up to greet me, but quickly lost interest and turned to chase the ball tossed by its owner. I’m not really afraid of dogs, but you have to remain confident and ready because you can never tell if they might turn aggressive. It can be a little disconcerting to see a hulking great Rottweiler thundering towards you though, as occasionally happens, and then the adrenaline levels climb a little bit higher…!

No other runners in the park this morning, maybe a little too early for some of them, although it wasn’t that early. I used to start my runs at around 6 a.m. in the past, but have had to modify this because of having to eat and let food digest, and let the insulin I have injected to begin to ‘circulate’ – not a problem in my non-diabetic days, and something I am still getting used to.

I felt myself slowing as the run progressed, largely I think due to the hot Sun rather than my tired legs, and I was happy to turn back into my road and come to a heavy-breathing halt! The run was marginally slower than yesterday, but given the heat and the fact I ran yesterday, it wasn’t too bad. I’ll probably rest tomorrow as it’s supposed to be especially hot, and let my legs get used to their new routine…

Tuesday August 18th, 2009
2.82 miles
27’ 34”
Blood glucose before (1.5 hour)
Blood glucose after

Monday, 17 August 2009

Great South Run – training diary, day 4

Goodness, it’s a fortnight since my last training run! Not the best kind of schedule, I have to admit. Unfortunately, I suffered a problem with my right calf muscle – no idea what caused it – and have been forced to rest it until fully recovered.

So, this morning I was pretty much back at square one. A fairly dull day, and calm, so no howling gales or blazing sunshine to contend with, but quite warm nonetheless and it got hotter the longer I ran. Initially I was thinking that I’d do a very short run just to get myself out of the door and back into some kind of training mentality. However, as I ran (slowly!), I felt I could complete my normal ‘short’ route of just under three miles around the park. As I entered the park there was a big guy a few hundred feet in front of my, dressed in football shirt and shorts. He was walking at first, but as I approached he broke into a heavy jog. I expected to catch him fairly quickly, as he looked to be labouring, but was surprised to realise that he was actually running about the same pace as me! How could this be? Surely, with all the effort I was putting in I was a sleek thoroughbred to his carthorse? It was only when he slowed to a walk that I was able to catch and pass him. After a short while I could hear his heavy footfalls behind me and glanced round to see him just a few yards behind. It appears that he had decided to use me as some kind of pacemaker perhaps to spur him on. After a short while he dropped back again and his footsteps faded, which I was glad about – I like my running to be a largely solitary affair and don’t really appreciate someone breathing down my neck.

After about a mile and a half as I started to make my turn for home, my legs started to feel very heavy, unsurprisingly as they were unaccustomed to the efforts they were being asked to produce. I had a little problem with the nauseous sensations I seem to experience since diagnosis when out running, but thankfully it wasn’t too intense and subsided. I have been working with my doctor to try and determine whether it is due to the medications I take, but sadly to no avail. Even cutting out all the medication didn’t stop the morning nauseous feelings, so I guess it’s something that I’ll just have to get used to. Since I doubt that I’m pregnant I can’t explain it!

Finally reached home a bit of a gasping wreck, but nevertheless pleased to have completed the full short course. Perhaps if I think of it as five kilometres then it will sound better! I recovered fairly quickly – heart rate down to ‘normal’ within a few minutes. These days that’s somewhere around 50 bpm – when I was really fit it was often below 40, so it will be a good measure of fitness if that comes down to anywhere near those former levels. I find that I don’t really have any anxiety about my heart, despite all the doctors last year trying to convince me that I’d had a heart attack (it turned out to be something called myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle caused by the virus that no doubt scuppered my pancreas).

I’ve decided that this year I will run to raise money for JDRF – the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. who research primarily into finding better treatments and possible preventions or cures for Type 1 diabetes. Last year I ran for Diabetes UK, but have been a little disappointed with their organisation in recent months, so although I’m hardly a juvenile, I thought I’d direct my efforts to JDRF this year – that’s if I can persuade any of my generous friends to sponsor me yet again!

Monday August 17th, 2009
2.83 miles
27’ 17”
Blood glucose before (1.5 hour)
Blood glucose after

Friday, 14 August 2009

Swine flu!

At first I wasn’t too worried when all the fuss started about swine flu – I expected it would all die down just as bird flu did a few years ago. But now that it is pandemic, there seems to be a much higher risk of me contracting it, and I am now one of those people with ‘underlying health problems’ – my diabetes. With diabetes, when you are ill your body is less capable of using the insulin you inject efficiently, and as a consequence blood glucose levels in the blood may rise. This has to be countered by injecting extra insulin, and it is important to know what decrease you can expect for each extra unit of insulin taken. It’s also important to drink plenty of fluids, and also to check for ketones, either in the blood or the urine. High ketones and high glucose levels can lead to the life-threatening condition called Diabetic Ketoacidosis, which is best avoided. I know this, as this is what I was (unknowingly) suffering from when admitted to hospital just over a year ago – I do not EVER want to repeat that experience! All these precautions and procedures are known as ‘Sick Day Rules’ in Diabetesland.

So, it is rather worrying for me at the moment, as I haven’t really been ill since diagnosis and haven’t had to put my Sick Day Rules to the test. There’s a possibility that I will be one of those given the vaccine as soon as it is available, so hopefully I might escape unscathed!

Swine flu, what will we do?
How will the pig flu affect me and you?
I’m keeping my head down and trying my best
To prepare fro the day that I’m put to the test,
For we diabetics are really no fools,
And we have to adhere to out ‘Sick Day Rules’…

The flu can make levels increase rather fast,
So we must test our blood till the illness is passed,
And treat all the highs with insulin corrections,
And pee on a stick for the ketone detections!
It’s all rather worrying, so please, if you will,
Stay away Mr Piggy and stick to your swill!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

A Stressful Vista Ahead!

There was nearly no entry today. I have been battling against all the odds trying to set up a wireless home network so I can share my PC and laptop’s resources and internet connections. The laptop is pretty new, so comes with Windows Vista installed, and I’m not very familiar with it. True to form though, like all new manifestations of Windows systems that are supposed to make things easier, it just makes things harder than they ought to be. Stress is not good for the blood glucose levels of a person with diabetes. It causes the release of stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol which stimulate the liver to release some of its glycogen stores and give the body and ‘energy boost’ – it’s the old ‘fight or flight’ response, and can be useful if you have a fully-functioning pancreas. However, if you’re not producing your own insulin, then the extra glucose gets into the bloodstream but cannot be used, so levels can increase above normal non-diabetic range. For this reason, it is also possible when exercising for levels to increase rather than decrease as you might expect when energy is being used.

Well, I got things working, more or less, eventually. But I was struck by the huge number of settings that needed changing, and the deeper you got the more obscure and meaningless they became. Those increasingly obscure options were backed up by even more meaningless and inappropriate error messages and stupid diagnostics that assured me that nothing was wrong when clearly it was! Grrr!!!

Vista’s no good for my levels,
So thank you so much Mr Gates!
Spare a thought for us with diabetes,
And the havoc your system creates!

It seems that I need a password
For a thousand and one different things –
Heaven forfend I forget one,
And fall foul of the misery that brings!

You send me from option to option
Until I am stressed and confused,
Then you pop up some mystical error
That leaves me perplexed and bemused!

Perhaps I will leave you till morning,
And forget that you even exist,
Then I’ll probably find it was all in my mind,
Just a tickbox that I must have missed!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Second honeymoon!

It’s not unusual for people with Type 1 diabetes to experience a period of remission in the months following diagnosis. It is thought that, once treatment with insulin is started, the beta cells of the pancreas may recover some of their function and start producing insulin again. This may last for months or even years, and will vary from person to person. Some may not experience it at all, but for those who do it can be time when blood glucose control becomes easier and remains more stable. This is because, even though it may only be in small amounts, the pancreas is responding to higher than normal levels by putting out a little insulin which helps to regulate things. Without this ‘help’, the person is fully dependent on getting the levels of injected insulin just right to counteract rises in glucose levels.

It may be that I am currently in this ‘honeymoon’ period, as I do seem to have pretty stable levels, and rarely hit double figures on my blood glucose monitor. I have no idea how long this may last. It is possible to have a test called the ‘C-peptide’ test which can measure the amount of ‘natural’ insulin a person is producing. C-peptides are a by product of natural insulin and as such are released in equal quantities to insulin. They are not present in injected insulin, so therefore provide an accurate measure of any remaining pancreatic function. The test is too expensive, however, to perform on someone like me who has been diagnosed and is already receiving treatment. It is used primarily to distinguish between diabetes types – Type 1 will not normally have much, if any, c-peptides, whereas Type 2 may be producing lots of insulin but suffering insulin resistance.

We’re in our second honeymoon, my pancreas and I,
It seems that we’re a pair again for many months gone by…
We separated for a while, about a year ago,
Oh Pancreas, how could you forsake me, when I needed you so?

I don’t recall when first we met, for I was very young,
We grew and shared our childhood games – those days were filled with fun!
And as the decades came and went, and I took you for granted,
I never thought our relationship would ever be supplanted!

But then last year in summertime, we hit a rocky patch,
That virus and your beta cells were not an even match…
As you began to fade away, I realised too late
How much you meant to me that day, and what would be our fate.

Now months have passed and I began to treat you with respect,
Please stay with me forever – there’ll be no more neglect!
To all of you whose pancreas may not be with you soon,
Cherish that relationship – enjoy your honeymoon!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Old dog, new trick!

When I first got out of hospital (in fact, even before!), I craved food of all sorts. This was partly due to the great weight loss that had occurred, and also partly due to the hunger that being on an insulin regime can bring. I discovered that if I injected sufficient insulin with my normal meals, I would start to drop low (my blood sugar levels would fall) after a couple of hours, which gave me a perfect excuse for a sweet snack – usually a biscuit of some variety! This was fine generally as I was in desperate need of increasing my weight, so weight gain was desirable, not a problem. This is known as ‘feeding the insulin’ – you have circulating insulin that you must ‘mop up’ with carbohydrate in order to avoid serious lows.

However, I have noticed that I no longer do this. I have gained greater understanding and control of my insulin requirements, so feel less of an urge to eat between meals. I still have ‘treats’, but usually as a dessert after a meal. If I do want a nibble between meals, I’ll go for some thing low in carbohydrate and low GI, like nuts. So, now I can have packets of biscuits that last long after their ‘sell by’ dates, which is a radical change to my pre-diagnosis habit of constantly snacking on them – the habits of a lifetime have altered in the space of a few months. I’m hoping that my teeth will last a lot longer too!

Jaffa cakes, bourbons, custard creams,
Digestives both chocolate and plain,
These I would graze on from morning till night,
And nothing but crumbs would remain…

But since diagnosis it’s becoming quite clear
That these once longed-for snacks don’t appeal,
An adaption of sorts to my once-hungry thoughts –
I’ll occasionally eat one with a meal.

So, a packet that once maybe lasted a day
Will now maybe last me a week,
And if there’s none left, then I won’t feel bereft,
For it’s healthier snacks that I seek!

So it shows, given time, that your habits can change,
And an old dog can learn a new trick,
It’s probably for the best I give biscuits a rest,
And not eat them till I feel sick!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Treacle Pud!

When I was in hospital after being diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that very little in the way of food was actually forbidden. As soon as I began treatment with insulin my appetite returned with a vengeance! Over the previous two years as my diabetes had probably been developing, I had been losing weight at the rate of 1-2 pounds a month, finishing off with a further 17 pounds in the three days prior to my admission! So, I went from 11st 5lbs (159 pounds) to 8st 4lbs (116 pounds), a radical weight loss. Now that I was receiving adequate supplies of insulin, I wanted to eat, eat and eat! I had to fill out menu sheets for my three meals a day, and because it was a hospital each food choice was marked with a letter to say whether it was suitable for people with particular conditions – in my case ‘D’ for diabetes. There was virtually nothing that was excluded…except treacle pudding! Quite understandably, of course, since it contains sugar in one of its purest forms and likely to cause a big spike in blood glucose levels.

I don’t want to live out my life being denied this heavenly nectar, so I think I will set aside a Treacle Pud Day, maybe once a year, and treat myself…!

Diabetes can be so capricious,
In fact, I’d say even malicious!
So there’s no Treacle Pud,
Even though it’s so good,
And undoubtedly very nutritious!

Now my menus are poorer by far
Since omitting my syrupy star…
Diabetes is to blame,
Custard’s not quite the same
On onions plucked from a jar!

But perhaps once a year (at the least!)
I’ll indulge in a treacly feast!
It’ll be so delicious
And fulfil all my wishes –
So take that! You Blood Sugar Beast!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

The Bad Diabetic

To keep good control and in order to lower the possibility of developing diabetic complications, there is plenty of good advice about how you should live your life. Eat a healthy, balanced diet, low in fat and sugar, five types of fruit and vegetables a day, limited alcohol consumption, regular meals and exercise – the list seems endless, and sometimes devoid of pleasure! Just every now and then I feel the urge to rebel, sink a few beers, slob out in front of the TV instead of going out running, and eating all the ‘wrong’ things! In reality, I behave myself pretty much all the time, with just the odd ‘sin’, but I do wonder what it would be like to be a really Bad Diabetic!

Forgive me, for I have sinned,
And I’m being a bad diabetic!
All those low GI diets have gone in the bin,
And I’m not being very energetic!

I had breakfast of honey on toast,
Bacon butties that were dripping with fat,
And the bread was all white – yes, I know that’s not right,
But I don’t give a hoot about that!

For my lunch I had eggs that were fried,
And a panful of chips cooked in lard!
And I sprinkled on salt and I know it’s my fault
It will make all my arteries hard!

At my side I have biscuits and cake
Which I’ll eat in the course of the day,
And I fancy a beer (which I know I should fear!)
So tomorrow I’ll probably pay!

This suggestion of five veg and fruit
Is one I intend to ignore!
All that goodness should suit, that I wouldn’t dispute
But I fancy a chocolate bar more!

So, it’s pork pies this evening for me,
With a liberal dollop of sauce!
All that saturated fat – I won’t care about that,
I’m a bad diabetic – no remorse!

Friday, 7 August 2009

Thirty Words for Snow

Sometimes I suffer from low blood sugar, know in diabetes circles as a ‘hypo’, and is technically when the blood glucose level falls below 3.5 mmol/l. Hypo is short for hypoglycaemic attack’, and can often be confused with hyperglycaemia, which is the opposite – high blood glucose levels. However, a hypo can also manifest itself in many forms, so it seems rather simplistic to use just the one term to describe it. It can happen almost imperceptibly, so you hardly notice it is happening until you test your blood and discover it is reading low. Or, it can happen very quickly, accompanied by a real sensation of panic and fear of losing control imminently. You may treat a hypo and recover, but then a short while later you are falling again, leaving you feeling battle weary and exhausted. And you may treat a hypo and then rocket sky high completely out of proportion to the amount of carbohydrate you have consumed.

There are many ways of describing other things, so why not ‘hypos’ too?

The weather comes in many forms,
We have a name for each,
And Eskimos have words for ‘snow’ –
Too numerous to teach!

In Manchester, I’ve heard it said,
So many kinds of rain
Can fall upon a single day,
It permeates the brain!

But what about low sugar?
So many terms we lack…
There’s ‘hypo’ or its bigger friend,
The hypoglycaemic attack!

What about the ‘slowpo’
That takes an hour to fall?
We might not even know
That we are having one at all!

Then there is the ‘plummet’
That falls at such a rate
We panic and we fret and sweat
That we may be too late!

Let’s not forget ‘rebounder’
That strikes just like a viper,
But when you treat it, rockets up
And leaves you feeling hyper!

The ‘raging ocean’ is the worst
With peaks and troughs so wide
That plunge you down, then up, then down,
And floundering in the tide…

So, ‘hypo’ isn’t quite enough,
We need some other way
To let you know when we go low,
Just what we mean to say!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Don't smoke the sheep!

No-one is sure what causes diabetes. A number of factors and theories have been put forward, uppermost amongst them being genetic and environmental. Being pre-disposed genetically does not mean that you will get diabetes, indeed there is to my knowledge no-one in my family apart from myself who has developed it. Stress is considered a possible trigger, or a viral attack, and I did suffer both of these before being diagnosed.
Various scientific studies have observed a greater prevalence among certain populations, lending strength to the environmental theory. One particularly strange study I read about recently concerned the high proportion of Type 1 diabetic children in Iceland. The development of the disease often seemed to occur among children conceived during the late autumn and early winter months, and further investigation revealed that, at this time of year a popular traditional dish of smoked mutton was consumed by both men and women. Smoked mutton contains something called nitrose-amines, and it is thought that these may have an adverse effect on the beta-cells of a child – the insulin producing cells of the pancreas. Studies among populations of mice revealed that up to 16% of the progeny of mice fed foods containing the nitrose-amines developed diabetes. The proportion was higher among male progeny.
So, the study concluded, don’t eat smoked mutton before having sex if you are hoping to conceive a child!

In the far off land of fire and ice
Where warrior tales are told,
They love to eat the slow-cooked meat
Of a lamb that’s grown too old...

The sagas tell of valiant men
Who came across the seas,
They’d plunder and they’d pillage, then
Their womenfolk they’d please!

But legend brings a warning dire –
‘Tis dangerous to eat
A sheep cooked on a smoking fire
Before a carnal treat!

For should a child be then conceived
Especially if it’s male
For one in six, it is believed
Its pancreas might fail...

So let this be among your checks
If you are feeling amorous –
Don’t smoke sheep before having sex
Even if you find them glamorous!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Telegram from the Queen

Since I was diagnosed with diabetes I have been reading up on the history of the condition and its treatment, and how this has evolved over the years. Diabetes is not just an imbalance of blood sugar levels, it can have very serious consequences for many and varied parts of the body. Principally, the eyes, kidneys and nervous system can be affected, along with the possibility of limb amputation – particularly the feet. High blood sugar over an extended period of time can affect the microvascular system – the tiny blood vessels that bring oxygen and nourishment to every part of our bodies. Should these vessels become blocked then the flesh they feed can die. So, it’s important to keep the blood sugar levels as close to those of a non-diabetic person. I have some wonderful technology to help me in this daily task, but much if this is a relatively recent development. I was surprised therefore, and comforted, to read of the Joslin Medal, which is awarded to people who have survived with the condition for 50 years, and over half of those awarded so far have experienced few of the severe complications. Clearly genetics must play a part in this, and maybe luck too – some people have suffered complications even though they have worked hard at taking care of themselves. I am hoping that I will one day be eligible for the Joslin 50 year medal, and at the same time receiving my telegram from the Queen – or whoever is responsible for such things in 49 years time!
You can read about the Joslin Medalist programme here:
And the telegram from the Queen here:

That’s one year put behind me and forty nine ahead,
And I will keep one positive thought in my diabetic head –
I want the Joslin Medal and my telegram from the Queen,
And be the oldest diabetic the world has ever seen!

What wonders lie before me, that science will create?
Perhaps a cure will come in time? If so, that would be great!
For I’d forego the medal – I’d rather have my health,
And my telegram from the Queen, of course, for my centenarian self!

So if the fates are kind to me till twenty fifty eight,
Whatever monarch’s on the throne will celebrate the date,
And, come the day I breathe my last, I’ll say ‘I feel just fine!’,
And break the tape with both boots on as I cross the finish line!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Snake Oil

A bit of a rant today! As with many chronic conditions there are some astounding claims made for ‘cures’ for diabetes. There is no cure for diabetes. It may be possible to gain better control of blood sugar levels by following certain strict diets or by taking certain supplements, but this does not constitute a cure, yet you will see adverts for cures all over the internet (you may even see some on this page, as part of the ‘targeted’ adverts from Google). As I am an insulin-dependent diabetic there is no substitute for insulin – I must therefore inject it to live. Insulin can’t be taken in pill form as the digestive juices in the stomach will destroy it before it can be passed into the bloodstream. Scientists are trying to find a way around this by coating pills in a special protective film so that it can pass into the small intestine unmolested, but this is still some way from being a reality. It is also possible to inhale insulin from a special device, but this method is expensive, difficult to guage dosages, and with unknown potential side effects on the lungs.

One promising area of research is stem cell research, where stem cells transplanted into the pancreas can be transformed into insulin producing beta cells. So far, this has met with some limited success, particularly in newly-diagnosed subjects who may still have some ‘native’ insulin production. There have also been pancreas transplants but this is not a common operation. Because the pancreas is also responsible for producing powerful digestive enzymes, the surgeons have a particularly delicate task trying to ensure that none of these powerful acids leak and damage other organs. Also, with transplants, the subject would then be on a plethora of anti-rejection drugs for life.

Another promising area is in ‘closed-loop’ systems that work like an artificial pancreas. These comprise a continuous blood glucose monitoring system (CGMS) and an insulin delivery device (a pump). The idea is that the CGMS takes frequent readings of blood sugar levels and commands the pump to deliver tiny amounts of insulin to ‘correct’ any high values – thus mimicking the way a real pancreas works. These devices are very close to being a reality. Things have certainly come a long way over the past 100 years, but have some way to go yet before we can all be ‘cured’!

‘Buy our pills!’ I hear you say,
‘Make diabetes go away!
Just take these three times a day,
Believe us – it’s the only way!’

Oh my dear, my goodness gracious!
What you claim is quite audacious!
The cure you offer is fallacious,
And your words are all mendacious!

Making money from the sick
Is such a nasty, evil trick,
So take your pills, one at a time,
And shove them where the Sun don’t shine!

Monday, 3 August 2009


Technology is great, and really helps people with diabetes to control their blood sugar, improve their blood pressure and drastically reduce the possibility of developing diabetic complications in the years to come. Probably the best aid to good control recently developed is the blood glucose meter, which allows us to discover in a few seconds, from a tiny drop of blood taken from a finger prick, what our blood glucose level is at that particular moment.

The meters are accurate to within 10%, and the technology is so widely used and reliable these days that it can be trusted…most of the time, at least! There can be occasions when the reading taken does not seem to coincide with expectations – for example a high reading when the person expects to see a low one. There are often reasons for these ‘rogue’ readings, rather than the meter itself failing. The finger from which the reading was taken may have been contaminated with traces of sugar from an earlier meal, so it is important to ensure the fingers are clean before taking the blood sample.

In much of the world, blood glucose is measured in millimoles per litre (mmol/l). The US is out of step in this regard, using units of milligrams per decalitre (mg/dl). So, in the UK a normal ‘target’ range for a person to aim for pre-meal is between 4 and 7 mmol/l. For the US multiplying this by 18 gives the equivalent in mg/dl (between approx 70 and 125 mg/dl). Levels will be higher after a meal, so the aim is to keep that rise as slow and gradual as possible, avoiding ‘peaks’ which may be harmful.

Before these meters became widely available, results from other testing methods were less reliable and much more time-consuming, so I am fortunate to have been diagnosed at a time that technology is available to help me stay healthy with the minimum of fuss and inconvenience. In the UK, blood glucose meters are often supplied free of charge – this is because the meter companies make a considerable amount of money from the proprietary testing strips which can only be used with one company’s meters.

Welcome to the forecast,
Let’s predict the day ahead…
We hope it will be fine and bright
As you rise from your bed!

The meter said this morning
It’s a settled day in store,
With figures neither high nor low
Maximum 7, minimum 4.

No clouds on the horizon,
No stormy, restless skies,
But a day that’s calm and pleasant
To greet your waking eyes!

If we maintain these numbers
As we go throughout the week,
Your mood will lift with nature’s gift,
And your strength will reach its peak!

So why not don your running shoes,
Go out - enjoy the day!
Look to the future, that’s what counts,
And not to yesterday…

Great South Run – training diary, day 3

A good morning for a run today. The weather was sunny, but not too bright with a good amount of cloud, and there was a light breeze as I ran alongside the water’s edge through the park. I’m feeling stronger already, and feel my pace has increased since the last run, although it does slow significantly the further I go.

I’ve extended the run slightly this morning, but was pleased to see that, on my return, I had run at a faster pace overall as well as increasing the distance. Still nowhere near where I want to be, but I’ve learned through painful experience that you shouldn’t rush these things!

As the river narrowed at the far end of my run, I encountered the swans with seven cygnets that I remember seeing the previous year. They had grown, as you might expect, not yet as big as their parents, and with a distinct grey tint to their juvenile feathers.

I was just about ready to collapse, I think, when I got back home. Thankfully, my recovery was swift, another sign of increasing fitness. I have also run one third of the distance of the Great South Run this morning, so that augers well for the weeks and months to come!

Monday August 3rd, 2009
Distance 3.41 miles
Time 32’ 06”
Calories 391
Blood glucose before (1.5 hour) 7.8
Blood glucose after 8.0

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Oh! How I’d love an Easter egg!

There are times of the year when you are reminded more than usual about the need to take care with certain foods. Christmas, birthdays and Easter are all associated from childhood with sweet treats, and it’s a habit that’s hard to break when diabetes intervenes. I am allowed sugar, chocolate, cakes and sweets, but in moderation – no more ‘pigging out’ and over indulging as this can have far more serious consequences long-term than simply an upset tummy. So, treats are allowed on special occasions! It is easier for a diabetic on insulin to give in to temptation, because we can inject extra to ‘cover’ the carbohydrates consumed, but this is something that shouldn’t be abused. Like anyone else, and possibly even more so, we can put on weight, and this can have an adverse effect on blood sugar control. Some people follow extreme ‘low-carb’ diets in order to reduce the doses of insulin they need with their meals. I would describe myself as ‘moderate-carb’ – I eat a balance of carbs, protein and fat, but none to excess.

Oh! How I’d love an Easter egg!
I’m trying to be good,
It would help if I was living
In an egg-free neighbourhood!

I see them stacked up in the shops
Row on row on row –
So tempting and alluring,
I could eat them in one go!

Why don’t they think of folks like me
And make them out of meat?
An egg made out of beef or spam
Would not be such a treat…

Or if they got some garden dirt
And made them out of mud,
That wouldn’t be appealing
For it wouldn’t taste as good!

Why can’t they use a slab of lard
And carve one out of fat?
Then it would be disgusting
And I wouldn’t fancy that!

A friend suggested, maybe
If they made one out of wood –
It’s low G.I. and fibre-rich,
And might do me some good!

No, an egg made out of chocolate
Is the only way to go,
So I’ll eat my egg in secret
And no-one will ever know.

I think we need to treat ourselves,
Not live in constant fear –
Just have some fun like everyone,
It’s only once a year!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

The Ignoramus

There are a lot of misconceptions about diabetes, many of them based on outdated ideas about the causes and appropriate treatments for the condition. Sometimes it’s just ignorance or lack of consideration that can be annoying or upsetting to hear. I’ve related in previous entries how some attitudes to injecting insulin are particularly hurtful, saying we are ‘junkies’ taking our ‘fix’. Others may believe that we are limited in what we can achieve because of our diabetes, but you only need to look at our most famous Olympian Sir Steve Redgrave – winner of five Olympic gold medals for rowing – to see that there are few limitations. Sir Steve developed diabetes prior to winning his fifth gold in Sydney, at the age of 35. Other myths – it is self-inflicted due to eating too much sugar, or being fat and lazy. About the only things we are excluded from are the armed services or piloting a plane, and this is not necessarily the same in all countries. Well controlled diabetes is the cause of…absolutely nothing!

You mustn’t eat sugar,
You cannot eat cake,
And don’t touch that doughnut,
Please, for goodness sake!

Does it hurt when you do that?
Please can you explain?
I could never do that,
It would mess with my brain!

Please do that in private,
I don’t want to see,
When you puncture your fingers
Just think about me!

I guess if you’re Type 2,
That can only mean
That you’re big, fat and lazy,
And always have been.

What’s that that you’re saying?
It wasn’t your fault?
You ate too much sugar,
Now that’s come to a halt!

You can’t do what I can,
I think that’s a shame.
Just think what you’re missing!
Your condition’s to blame.

What’s that that you tell me?
You get along fine?
You like the odd whisky?
And occasionally, wine?

You can eat cakes and biscuits,
A normal amount?
It’s the fat you look out for,
The carbs that you count?

You won gold for Britain?
You’re fit and you’re lean?
Your total cholesterol’s
The best I have seen!

I say, since I met you,
I’ve found out so much,
So little you can’t do,
I’m so out of touch!

Please, forgive me my rudeness,
I just didn’t know
You’re perfectly normal!
Perhaps I should go…