We Need to Figure This Diabetes Thing Out; It’s Holding Us Back

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I met my running coach for coffee this morning to go over my running plan for the upcoming Tel Aviv Marathon (this Friday).

I wasn’t planning on running another marathon six weeks after the Tiberias marathon, but the desire to erase the bad experience with a positive one (especially before I set out to train for the New York Marathon), and the fact the Tel Aviv marathon is right outside my door (I will actually pass by my window at the 21st mile) made me decide to register for the full marathon.

When I arrived at the café, my coach was there siting with his laptop and a summary of my training, including the ten or so 20+ milers from before Tiberias, the Tiberias marathon splits, and the two long runs I completed in the last few weeks. We both looked at the numbers, and agreed that it would be best to start relatively slow and hope for a strong finish.

Although my coach knows my first concern is not having a repeat of the Tiberias, or even Milan marathon, and that I really want or need a positive experience, he told me he believes that I should be able to improve my PR by at least half a minute or so. The funny thing is that originally, when I suggested running in the Tel Aviv marathon, he thought running another marathon so soon after Tiberias was a very bad idea.

After he typed the paces for each part of the marathon into the spreadsheet, he looked at his notes, turned to me and said: “you know we really need to figure this diabetes thing out. It’s holding you back.”

“You need to figure out what you can eat the day before the marathon, try it out during training (the day before you run long runs), so you can really perform in the marathon.”


That was all I could think to myself. I know he meant well and really wants me to be able to run as if I don’t have diabetes. But that’s the thing about diabetes: even when you have good control, it’s still there, and always unpredictable.

I tried to explain. “It changes all the time…. I don’t know why and I don’t know what affects it, besides the food, that is. Hormones, weather, sleep, stress, coffee, you name it, it all effects blood sugar.”

“I can try hard but I can’t figure it out, get over it and move on to the next challenge. There is no formula, and just when you think you’ve figured it out, you’ve finally learned to deal (or gotten over it), something – a cold, gaining 2 pounds, the weather changing – happens and you find you’re self starting from scratch again.”

My coach stared at me blankly.  I could tell that on some level he was blaming me.  He didn’t really believe I couldn’t do diabetes better.  This kind of thing used to piss me off, but I’m kind of used to it now and I try to let it go.

I don’t like people feeling bad for me because of my diabetes.  It’s true that in the case of a marathon, it’s a handicap.  But that’s my life and that’s my challenge.    Okay, my coach doesn’t get it.  No one outside of the D-world really does.  And that’s what I reminded myself as I kept myself from saying, “If I could figure this fucking diabetes thing out, don’t you think I would?”


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Comments (4)

  1. Catherine at

    Mike, I couldn’t have said it better myself! (And seriously, can someone please figure it out for me? Thanks.)

  2. My cycling coach doesn’t really get it either.  Its hard for people to really get it if they do not live with it.  But I know he just wants me to do better, and cares about my condition and how I am feeling.  
    I know bad control affects my performance, I also know that sometimes things are unpredictable and sometimes things are unavoidable. My last race despite a truck load of insulin before the start my sugar just kept rising throughout. The equivalent performance on a regular training day would have required several gels and energy drinks just to maintain a BG of 120, but no as the start approached I was up to 180 and about half way into the race I was over 300!  Its all adrenaline, I didn’t eat anything at all.
    To be honest the race went well despite that so I can’t really complain, just have to rolled with the Diabetic punches from time to time.
    Good luck on friday 

  3. TomType1 at

    Thanks for sharing your story.  Know that you are not alone in this type of running specific BG frustration.  Like you I also run marathons with a PR last october of 3:21.  I have had type 1 diabetes for 32 years.  I use an insulin pump (Tandem) and a Dexcom CGM daily.  A couple new things medically that have been very helpful to me that I wanted to share with you (note: though these products are officially indicated for use with type 2 diabetes they are increasingly being used “off-label” for type 1 by the more progressive physicians:
    1)  first, the use of a GLP-1 (i now use Bydureon, formerly used Victoza) if you experience big glucose rises during anaerobic efforts use of these products daily do alot to reduce the excess/inappropriate glycogen release that many of us with diabetes experience – I have been happy with this product

     2)  the use of an SGLT2 (i use Invokana) -I started this one about a week ago at a 100mg daily dose, its a pill. again this is indicated for use by those with type 2 diabetes.  I have been absolutely shocked at the effectiveness of this product – it is as if there is a new, and much lower, ceiling for the severity of glycemic excursions (and this is something that use of CGM allows me to closeley witness).  also – I am an objective party, dont work for the company or anything.  ive got to say i am beyond impressed.  check with your physician to see if you could be a test user for them.  fast forward a few years and i bet both products (GLP-1 and SGLT-2 will gain more widespread acceptance by providers, especially SGLT2)  until then (IMO) it is up to us to be progressive advocates.  Best Wishes to you in all your endeavors and thanks for the inspiration!

  4. Jef Malpass at

    Just found your blog and the whole sweetlife website.  I am also a T1 (2004) marathoner runner – I ran 3 last year.  I’m so close to qualifying for Boston.   Anyway, I appreciate the resource.  Keep on fighting the good fight! 

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