Running on Empty


This weekend I ran my first 10k race with my insulin pump. It was more of a fun-run than a race.  It took place in the Jerusalem hills, on the historical Burma Road.  The weather was much cooler and less humid than I am used to since normally I run on very flat terrain near the Mediterranean Sea.

The race was scheduled for 8:00 a.m., but since my running plan calls for more than 10k (6 and a quarter miles) on the weekend, I met two other guys from my running group at 6:15 a.m. and we ran an extra 10 miles before the race.

showing off my insulin pump
showing off my insulin pump

I did everything I had planned: I reduced my basal insulin an hour before to 35%, checked BS every few miles and took my gels. It all went well, for the most part.  But, while we were running the pre-race run, I kept hearing a beeping sound. It wasn’t my Garmin and it wasn’t my friends’ Garmins either. I glanced at my pump and didn’t see anything wrong.

We got a little lost and almost missed the beginning of the race. I barely had time to check my blood sugar.   I drank some water, had a gel and a salt capsule. I attached my number to my shirt and started to run.

It was hard and I was tired and dehydrated from my first 10 miles. I finished the race in an hour, my slowest ever, feeling wiped out, but happy. I went to the refreshment area and checked my blood sugar before helping myself to some watermelon (I felt I’d earned it).  I took my pump in my hand to plug in my BS and cancel the reduced basal rate. When I pressed the ACT button the pump showed a big battery low and shut off.

I didn’t have an extra battery with me.  Why hadn’t my pump (a Medtronic Minimed Paradigm Veo) have the decency to let me know ahead of time that this was going to happen. The battery icon had been on “one bar left” for a while and I figured it would let me know ahead of time that the time has come to get a new battery (like the gas light in a car). It’s true the beeping I heard must have been a warning, but it came a little late and when I did look at the pump it didn’t show any sign of emergency (I was moving too fast to notice the tiny bars on the battery icon).

Lucky for me the store where the race ended had AAA batteries for sale. But what would I have done if they hadn’t?  Do I also need to carry an extra battery everywhere I go?

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Catherine Price
11 years ago

Thanks for all the support.

I guess I just have to carry a few more things now. At this point it really doesn’t make a difference.

11 years ago

I am always so amazed that you can run so far!  Congratulations.

Stefanie Tsabar
11 years ago

I don’t have any advice for your Medtronic troubles, but I would certainly like to congratulate you on your 10M + 10K!!  Finishing a distance like you did is no small task and I’m sure your “what is that beeping?” worries didn’t help you go any faster.  I suppose these little blips will continue to come up as we move further and further forward with our treatment options; trust that you are doing the best you can with what you have.  And you have all these experts here to help you!

Angela Harris
Angela Harris
11 years ago

I only use energizer MAX in my Medtronic pump.  It’s the only kind that is reliable in the pump for me….   And although I don’t carry batteries with me I always have enough time to get to a replacement, as the “low battery” alert first alerts hours, and hours prior to it being so low it’s about to die… In fact even when the low battery alert has passed, and my screen shows an empty battery— Some times it’ll last hours after!

Jane Kokernak
11 years ago

I would also add that not all AAA batteries are created equal. When I bought my pump, the Medtronic guy pointed out that Energizer batteries are more preferable, for the pump, than other brands. He was indeed right. I get several weeks out of the Energizers, and only 3 weeks, max, with Duracells (for example). So, it might be good to ask your sales rep: what is the best brand battery for this pump and this model?
And like Karmel I keep two AAAs in my meter case and hoard them furiously.

Dr. Margaret A. Morris
11 years ago

I carry two triple-As in my meter case :) It is useful to note, though, that the “Battery Low” alert is a warning– i’ve never run it till death, but I have gone at least several hours safely after the initial warning before replacing the battery. The pump will eventually alarm again, too. If I have batteries with me, though, I just swap as soon as possible, since there is some variation in the amount of time that it can be expected to last (based on the battery and my usage patterns), and I wouldn’t want to end up with… Read more »

Jeff Nobles
Jeff N.
11 years ago

It is aggravating that the Medtronic pumps don’t provide any warning before the “battery low” alarm sounds. But it can run for quite a while after the alarm, with reduced functionality (no battery light or radio services for CGM or meter readings). I haven’t yet experienced a pump quitting on me with a dead battery, and am sure I’ve gone several hours (maybe even a full day) without replacing the battery. At home, we’re more likely to have alkaline AAA cells on hand, so that’s what I usually use. But I’ll buy lithium batteries when a battery alarm causes me… Read more »

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