Friday, 30 October 2009

Great South Run 2009 the final 200 metres!

Forgive the pained expression on my face, but all these were taken on the final straight and I was literally on my last legs!





Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Great South Run – the Aftermath...

Well, after nearly three days my muscles, joints and feet have more or less returned to normal and I can finally walk up and down stairs without emitting involuntary groans! After every run I always have an eagerness to get back into training so that I can do better next time. I think it’s partly due to the sense of achievement and the feel-good hormones produced by the day that restores some of the jaded feelings that can sometimes start to get a grip, especially at this time of year. My plan is to go out for a short run tomorrow just to give my legs a stretch.

I had been nervous on the day that I might pull a muscle early on. This year, much like last year, I have been feeling strong but fragile, and it’s hard to relate to the earlier years of my running career when I was quite happy to stride out across the steep and uneven terrain of the Peak District at what would now seem to be prodigious speeds. I’ve certainly slowed down a lot since I broke my leg in 2004 (I was particularly slow that year!), and the recent health upsets of the diabetes and myocarditis have also had an effect. I’m not convinced yet that age has much to do with it. Interestingly, I am now back to my original weight that I was at in 2006, before it steadily started to decline due to the suspected slow onset of diabetes – completely unnoticed by me. I had noticed the weight loss, 30 pounds over two years, but couldn’t attribute it to anything.

Last year when I ran the GSR I weighted about 40 pounds less than I did this year. I was very lean, now I am somewhat flabby around my middle, whixh is something I wish to rectify. It’s also a lot of extra weight to be carrying around, and has a greater imact with each footfall on all my joints – not a good thing long term. This year during the run I was troubled quite early on by increasingly sore feet, with painful soles and my toes gradually going numb. Whether this is due to anything sinister to do with the diabetes I’m not yet sure – I certainly hope not. It might just be that I need to replace my running shoes because their cushioning has gone – sometimes we suspect things might be diabetes-related when the more obvious answer is staring us in the face. I will try new shoes tomorrow. One thing I was pleased about was that I got no blisters from the run. Blisters are a little scary as a diabetic, because of the dangers of infection. Even though my control is pretty good, when your blood sugars are less controlled than a non-diabetic person infections can persist longer and can have more serious consequences.

Overall, I was very happy with the run. I wished that I had managed more preparation so that I could have achieved what I believe I am capable of, but I turned up, did the job, and survived a 10 mile run off the back of a longest training run of 5 miles! Still waiting for the ‘action shots’ of the day, which I will put up when they arrive.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Great South Run 2009

The day started off with a few last minute decisions – what to wear and whether I wanted to take anything with me that needed to be left at the baggage drop. The forecast had been for a wet and windy day just a few days earlier, but this had now been revised to sunny and breezy, so I decided that I wouldn’t need my thermal top or sweatshirt, or my raincoat, so if I could manage to carry all the other necessary things on my person that would be more convenient. I wasn’t happy last year leaving my blood monitor and insulin pen at the baggage drop as it seemed so chaotic and largely unsupervised – you just left your bag in a big room with everyone else’s and, although only runners were allowed access to the room and runners are generally honest and trustworthy, anyone could have just walked off with what is vital equipment to me but worthless to them.

So, I managed to cram my Aviva Nano meter, finger-pricker (why do they make them so big?), half a dozen test strips (to save carrying the bulky pot they come in!), my insulin pen and three needles, money, railway tickets, house keys, and a dozen jelly babies into my tiny back pocket and waist belt (a Spibelt). I have larger ‘bumbags’ but they tend to bounce around when running whereas the spibelt doesn’t.

One thing that was causing me stress was trying to decide what and when to eat. As I had to travel around an hour and a half to the race, and also be sure to arrive there in plenty of time, I decided to leave my breakfast as late as possible before setting off. The problem would be that the insulin I injected with the meal would be more or less exhausted long before I was, and I wondered if this would affect how I felt towards the end of the race. I still had my ‘background’ insulin, so hoped that would be sufficient. I took a banana with me, but didn’t really want to be injecting more insulin shortly before the race in case it made my levels drop too low. I’m sure things would be far more straightforward on a pump. I don’t normally have to worry about things like this as my training runs have been within a couple of hours of taking my insulin and – due to injury sustained at the beginning of September – all much shorter.

As I set off for the train station the weather was very pleasant – completely different to last year’s more typical autumn rain and cold. There was quite a strong breeze though, which did chill me a little and I did wonder if I should have worn my thermal top. Too late to worry! I nearly made an error at the station when I was waiting at the wrong platform, but a kind gent asked where I was going and told me the correct one. On the train I got into conversation with a woman who was running the race for the first time and raising money for the Alzheimer’s Society. I was able to reassure her and describe the course so she would know what to expect. The conversation made the journey pass very quickly.

Once we had arrived in Portsmouth there was a twenty minute walk to the start area on Southsea Common. There were thousands of cars parked on the grass – I didn’t envy them trying to get out later! As I approached the seafront the wind became stronger and blustery, plus there was quite a chill to it so I was starting to feel cold. I knew that, once the race got underway, I would quickly warm up so I wasn’t too worried. I joined a huge queue to use the portakabin toilets, taking about 25 minutes to reach the front. By this time it was practically time for the race to start so I found my way amongst the huge throngs to the start section for my wave of runners. There were three waves in total, and I was in the middle wave which meant that they thought a lot of people would run slower than me! I tested my blood before the start and was showing at 9.7 mmol/l, which I thought was a good level to be starting at – not too low or too high. If it had been too high, I don’t know what I would have done as you’re supposed to wait for it to come down before starting exercise.

At last we were underway! I knew the course pretty well, having run it twice before, so had a good idea how far the various landmarks were along the course. The first one to be reached was the Spinnaker Tower, about a mile along, followed by the Historic Dockyard where HMS Victory and the Mary Rose are situated. My pace was very gentle as I was nervous about causing a reoccurrence of the calf injury that had caused me to miss so much of my training the previous month. This year I felt under much greater pressure to finish. In previous years my sponsors had all been family and friends who had known me for years, but this year a lot of the sponsorship had come from new friends I had made on the forum. With this in mind I wanted to pace myself slower than in training as I had twice the distance to cover. The first three miles came in around 35 minutes ad felt fairly effortless. The Sun was very bright though, and in amongst the crowds of runners there was less of a breeze to cool me so I was happy to come to the first drnks station. I walked for a little while as I’ve found that trying to drink and run doesn’t really agree with me – I take in too much air ad it can affect my breathing if I’m feeling the need to belch!

There really were people of all shapes and sizes all around me – some petite young women and some huge men providing the widest contrast. As is my usual practice, I found an attractive young lady to run behind – it always makes the journey more pleasant! I got slightly annoyed by several runners who were clearly much faster than their start position had suggested, and they dodged and weaved around and in front of people which was very distracting. There’s an interesting section of the course where you run for half a mile down one side of a dual carriageway and then up the other side. This means that you can get a really good idea of how many people are in front of you and, as you come up the other side, the surprisingly large number of people behind you.

The good thing about the Great South Run, is its length. At ten miles in total you find yourself very quickly at the halfway point. From there it is just a case of picturing the ever declining distance to the end. By now I was thirsty again, but the drinks station at 5.5 miles was only providing sports drinks. I didn’t want to risk drinking half a litre of fast-acting carbs with all the consequences of that for my blood sugar levels, so had to pass by. It would have been better if they had provided more water for people in my situation. As we approached six miles I got a pat on the back from a young lady who congratulated me on running for such a good cause. She was off and away before I could ask her, but I’m guessing she was either a Type 1 diabetic herself or knew someone who was. I did spot a couple of other JDRF runners on the course, plus one or two Diabetes UK runners. The best supported charities in my ‘local’ group appeared to be Cancer Research, Leukemia Research, Alzheimer’s Society and Macmillan Nurses.
As seven miles approached I was desperate for a drink. I felt like walking but decided to keep going until I got to the water station, then I would sit down and take my blodd sugar levels. I couldn’t tell whether I was dropping low although it did feel like it. The problem, of course, is that most of the hypo symptoms are how you feel anyway when running – sweating, heart racing, light-headed etc.! I sat down at the side of the road with my water bottle and tested – 5.7! I was quite surprised, but pleased because with only three miles to go I felt sure I would be OK. To be on the safe side, I ate a couple of jelly babies to top up the levels.

The final couple of miles were tricky, with quite a strong breeze in my face as I ran along the seafront to the finish. It felt ever-so-slightly uphill, although I’m sure that was just my imagination. It’s a pretty flat course, although there are a few rises and falls as my GPS tells me that it +315/-340 overall. I struggled a bit over that last couple of miles. I wasn’t sure if it was lack of insulin playing a part or what – I just felt very queasy. I found I could run quite fast for short distances – my legs felt remarkably good – but then the nausea would force me to slow right down and walk for a while until my stomach settled. Thus, I continued in this manner to the end. As the 200 metre marker came up and with the finish line in sight, I performed a very impressive sprint, flying past many people. I guess I always have plenty in reserve but don’t like to expend it until I am sure of finishing! My final time, according to my stopwatch, was 1:57:17 which was about eight minutes faster than last year. I was very pleased to have broken two hours, and didn’t realise just how close it had been until I saw the official ‘chip’ time later in the evening. This put me a 1:59:48 – so I had only just managed to do it! Not sure why there was such a discrepancy in times as I can’t believe that my stopwatch would lose a minute a mile.

Measuring my blood sugar at the end came in at 4.8 mmol/l, still nicely within range so the jelly babies had done their job but I hadn’t under or over-treated myself. Hurrah! I will definitely be back next year, but hopefully with more training runs under my belt, and more experience of running with diabetes. Who knows? I may even be wearing a pump! I calculated later that, since I had to walk to and from the railway stations at either end I had actually done about 15 miles, which helps to explain why my legs are feeling so sore today!

GSR 2009

Friday, 23 October 2009

Another Diabotic!

Here's 'Diverpot' lovingly constructed by AlisonM!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Visceral Adiposity!

‘Does my bum look big in this?’ In terms of your health, the right answer might be, ‘Well it looks bigger than your belly!’ It’s thought that body shape is a very potent indicator of susceptibility to diseases like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, and it’s better to be pear-shaped than apple-shaped. Pear shaped people put on weight around their hips, bottoms and thighs, whereas apple shaped people have bigger waists than hips – beer bellies and muffin tops are the things to watch out for!

I don’t really fall into either category as I’m relatively slim, but I suspect if I wasn’t as active as I am or careful with my diet I would tend towards being apple shaped. You can find out your body shape by measuring your waist at it’s narrowest point, then your hips about three inches below your pelvic bone. Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement to get your waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). If the answer is higher than 0.80 for women, or 1.0 for men , then you are apple shaped. My WHR is about 0.94 which means I am a pear!

Oh! View with animosity
Visceral adiposity!
One of Nature’s great monstrosities
That must not be ignored!
For central flesh viscosity
With variable velocity
Is such a vile atrocity
You'll wish for it no more!

If your hips are fatter
Than your waist, it doesn’t matter,
But if in your case it’s the latter
Then you need to watch your weight!
If you’ve got a big behind,
Mother Nature has been kind,
And sometimes you will find
That it’s better to go pear-shaped!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Low Cholesterol Limbo!

Statins are the wonder drugs of the new millennium. Decades of studies have shown that high cholesterol levels can bring an increased risk of heart disease and atherosclerosis, and statins work effectively to lower these levels. People with diabetes are at increased risk of heart disease too, so common practice is to put all diabetics on statins to lower their cholesterol levels and mitigate the risks.

However, the figures can be somewhat misleading and delving deeper uncovers how statistics and studies can be manipulated so that it becomes a very far from clear-cut situation. Much of the analysis and study has been commissioned and paid for by the big pharmaceutical companies that make the drugs they want us all to take. The cynical amongst us might suspect a certain level of bias in their findings…

I’m not really too concerned by that, but what has bothered me is the fact that no-one has set a lower limit on cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is an essential substance for the body, being directly involved in every cell, so we need a certain amount of it to live. Over the years, the cholesterol theory has been constantly modified – first it was total cholesterol, then we had ‘bad’ and ‘good’ cholesterol, ‘safe’ limits were being constantly lowered, seemingly to vanishing point! As a diabetic, the recommendation is that I keep my total levels below 4.0. Using statins, my level last year fell to 2.4, but there was no indication that this was a sign I could achieve healthy levels without the drugs and when I questioned it I was encouraged to keep taking them.

After thinking long and hard about it I have decided to stop taking them and take my chances. I have a slightly increased statistical risk of heart disease – of 100 people taking them, three will possibly have diminished risks, the remainder will carry on as before. Set against my increased risk of heart disease are the decreases in risks of other problems. Very low cholesterol levels have been shown to carry an increased risk of stroke. Also, statins can have side-effects – some minor, but some very serious, including death. So for me, I find it better to let my body find its natural levels rather than directly interfere with its processes using crude and powerful drugs. This may not be right for everyone, as people and circumstances differ vastly, but for me the case and the advantages are not proven. My doctor is probably not going to like it!

A useful book on the topic is: The Great Cholesterol Con

And this website graphically illustrates the risks and benefits of statin treatment:
Another article which summarises the case against lowering cholesterol to extremes and exlpains the history of the 'cholesterol is harmful' hypothesis:

The Low Cholesterol Limbo, how low can you go?
Well, since no-one’s ever told me I’m afraid that I don’t know!
They say ‘four’ for diabetics is where to set the bar,
But my record low is 2.4, so I’ve beaten that by far!

And what’s the prize for winning when my shoulders scrape the floor?
It seems they’ll fill me up with drugs, then lower it some more!
For there might be an outside chance I’ll die of heart disease,
But what about the other risks? Could you explain them please?

For every hundred people who have been ‘statin-ated’
Then there’s a chance for three of them, the risks will have abated…
The statins help us limbo low – but too low is no joke,
For fall too low and it will bring an increased risk of stroke!

I’d rather let my body work the way it was intended,
The doctors might not like it, and they might be quite offended.
But if I learn to live my life in a healthy, balanced way,
There’s every chance I’ll be just fine and dance another day!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

More diabotics!


Just thought I would add in my latest creations - the Diabotwins Polly Urea and Gluco Jon!




Sunday, 11 October 2009

Yet more diabotics!

A couple more magnificent creations! Above is 'Lancepot' by AlisonM, mostly constructed from...erm...lancets and test strip pots! Below is the amazing 'Diadogbot' by am64!


Friday, 9 October 2009

Great South Run – 16 days to go!`

I haven’t been writing about my recent running as most of it has been quite short and uneventful. I’ve been trying to keep to a pace and distance that my muscles and tendons can handle without a repeat of my injury at the end of August, which really set me back. My fitness levels are good – much better than they have been for some time., and my legs are quite strong. The problem I have is the durability of my legs. I seem to be very prone to little tears and strains, so I have no choice but to curtail a run once I feel that something may be about to go wrong. If the worst comes to the worst, I’ll hop round the course! Thankfully, at 10 miles the race isn’t insurmountable for slightly dodgy limbs, a marathon would be an entirely different proposition. I’m not sure why I’m having this difficulty, it’s not something I’ve encountered in over 25 years of running regular and long distances, and at a considerably faster pace than I can currently manage. It may possibly be related to one of the medications I have been taking since diagnosis. I’ve been reading up lately about cholesterol and the tablets used to lower levels, known as statins. They are actually linked to potential muscle wastage! I will report back when I have read up on all the facts and the various schools of thought, as I am seriously considering stopping taking them. My cholesterol levels are very low anyway, maybe too low!

So…all that being said, I have just been for a run today of just over one third of the GSR distance. Weather was good for it – cloudy, cool and no significant wind to fight against! I deliberately kept to a modest pace, ever mindful that an injury now would effectively rule me out of, at the very least, an enjoyable day out in Portsmouth. I felt a little lethargic for the first mile or so, but rather than cutting things short I decided to run through the far section of the park and give myself a chance to warm up properly. There were the usual very annoying stops waiting for traffic at the few roads I have to cross. It’s a real pain having to stop and watch an endless stream of cars moving slowly past without a break. Although they could all see me very clearly, not one of them had the courtesy to just pause a moment and allow me to cross safely – sometimes I hate motorists! Having never been a driver myself I don’t really understand the obsession with cars that many people have. I think there are so many lazy people around these days. My own neighbour never walks further than her door to the car and back again, however short the journey. I used to run from work to home in half the time it took colleagues to drive who live on the same street! What a waste of time and money!

Thankfully, I made it back in one piece, and at a reasonable sort of pace. Due to my missed training I’m just hoping to complete the GSR in less than two hours – I’d had ambitions a few weeks ago of under ninety minutes!

Friday October 9th, 2009
3.4 miles
33’ 21”
Blood glucose before (1.5 hour)
Blood glucose after

Thursday, 8 October 2009

More Diabotics!

Some more great diabotics posted to the forum! Katie's (above and below) is called 'Gertrude':


...and this is Diadoode from Rossi_Mac:


Forums empower diabetics!

This article has been removed at the request of the author.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

We know best – no need to test!

Internet diabetes forums frequently raise the issue of blood glucose testing for people with Type 2 diabetes, especially those not on medication but following a diet and exercise regime to keep their levels under control. The issue, more often than not, boils down to one thing – money. Test strips cost the NHS around £13 for 50 strips. Multiply that by the millions of people with diabetes and it amounts to a not inconsiderable sum. If you are on an insulin regime, particularly multiple daily injections (MDI) or insulin pump delivery, then there is normally no question – you must test your levels before decding how much insulin to inject. However, for those not on insulin, and maybe not on any form of medication for their diabetes (i.e. diet and exercise), the issue is not as clear cut.

Many doctors do not support regular blood testing for such people, arguing that it will not improve control and is therefore an unnecessary expense. Accordingly, they will not prescribe strips, often as a general policy which excludes all Type 2 diabetics, regardless of circumstances. In many cases, this may be true. If a person is allowed to test but then makes no adjustments to diet and activity levels in response to the readings then the test was virtually worthless, possibly even causing increased stress and anxiety if the result was high. On the other hand, however, if a person tests in order to discover how certain foods or food combinations affect their levels and then acts on this to make dietary adjustments, then the test is extremely valuable!

The alternative often provided to testing is a three or six monthly HbA1c blood test, but this cannot show how a particular meal proved particularly good or bad to the person – that information is impossible to determine. So the person is left knowing something has gone wrong but never knowing what. Improved control will not be achieved in this way, and the person may eventually be placed on increasing amounts of medication to control their levels, finally progressing to diabetic complications costing the health service thousands of pounds to treat.

It is arrogant and insulting for a doctor or nurse to deny a person the means to improve their health by suggesting that their treatment is a financial burden where corners can be cut, when that person is willing and capable of working hard to maintain a full and healthy life.

You what, my dear? You test yourself four times every day?!!!
We’ll put a stop to that right now, that’s really not our way!
I think you’ll find those strips you use cost us too much money –
The doctor saw the price one day and came over all funny!

You must agree with me my dear, it’s really common sense,
You’re not on drugs, so it is an unnecessary expense!
What is the point of testing? Perhaps you like the pain?
I tried it once, believe you me, I won’t try that again!

You’re not a health professional dear, so take a tip from me,
Let us decide what’s best for you, I’m sure one day you’ll see,
Although you may succumb one day to losing sight or limb,
We’ll save the NHS some cash – our budget will be trim!

Before you go, please don’t forget to eat with every meal
A lot of rice, or spuds, or bread – don’t worry how you feel!
We’ll test your blood two times a year, so there’s no need to fuss,
Where would you diabetics be if it wasn’t for people like us?!!!

Saturday, 3 October 2009


There’s an enormous amount of detritus that accompanies diabetes care: needles, test strips, insulin cartridges etc., plus all those pills that the doctors assure us are necessary to stop our arteries clogging up and keep our blood pressure the right side of critical. As someone who used to possibly take 4 paracetamols a year prior to diagnosis, it’s still quite astonishing to me just how much stuff I now discard on a daily basis.

Someone on the forum brought my attention to Diabotics – it’s the art of sculpting objects using only the items left over from daily diabetes care. Sounded like a great idea to me, so I set about storing away all those odds and ends until I felt ready to attempt my master work, resulting in the stunning and awe-inspiring diabotic – Diababooshka! OK, maybe not up to Damien Hirst’s standards, but it was a lot of fun!


Thursday, 1 October 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I went for some blood tests yesterday as I have my six-monthly diabetes review next week. One of the things that has been slightly bothering me since all this started just over a year ago is that I’ve never been told the full details of my ‘lipid profile’. This shows the levels of HDL and LDL cholesterol, plus the triglyceride levels, whereas all I have received in the past is my ‘total’ cholesterol level. Ideally, a person with diabetes should try and maintain a total cholesterol level of 4 or less (for non-diabetics the level is below 5). Having high cholesterol is thought to put you at greater risk of arterial and heart disease. However, it is important to know how that total is made up as it comprises two components, one of which is beneficial to your health, one of which is not. It’s quite possible that you could have a low total, but too much of the ‘bad’ LDL.

The only reliable way to discover the split is to have blood taken after a 12 hour fast. Fasting will also allow accurate measurement of another potentially harmful substance called triglycerides. To this end, I marked my test report as ‘fasting’, and fasted accordingly, drinking only water from 9 pm until the blood was taken at 10 am the following day. Hopefully, I won’t get into trouble for this, but I felt it was important to know what the full details were so that I can determine if I need to do anything about my diet if the bad numbers are too high. I would also like to know if it is really necessary for me to be taking daily statins, drugs that help lower total cholesterol. If they’re having the effect of lowering my ‘good’ cholesterol, then they’re not actually helping me!

Cholesterol’s not as simple as at first you may believe,
‘Your total should be less than 4 – that’s what you should achieve!’
But what about the split of it, the so-called ‘good’ and ‘bad’?
If good’s too low and bad’s too high, then maybe you’ve been had!

There’s HDL that’s good for you, and helps to keep you well,
But LDL is bad for you as far as they can tell.
It helps fur up your arteries – that’s not to be desired,
For arteries in furry coats are not to be admired!

But how to find this magic split? A fasting test is needed…
No food nor drink must pass your lips, a rule which must be heeded.
Then LDL and HDL and bad triglyceride,
Will be exposed for all to see, with nowhere left to hide!