Monday, January 28, 2008

Kenny Mac ski race and Training Jan 2008

January in Gunnison started off with deep snows and COLD weather. So much snow fell that the DOW decided to begin feeding deer in the valley as they felt that over 70% of does and fauns would die..... The downhill skiing was great however.

Then the snow let up and the cold set in the second and third weeks. Scott (traverse partner) and I spent the next weeks skiing with most days never getting above -5F and lows between -25 and -38F somehow avoiding nipping the nose. It finally warmed and skiing became more comfortable. It is amazing how nice 3F feels!

There is a local Nordic ski race in Gunnison, weather/snow permitting, at a local mt bike, hiking, and ski area about 6 mi from town. This year it was in honor of Kenny Mac who had been a force in the ski scene for the past 50 yrs. It consisted of a 1/4 and 1 k kids race, and 15 and 30 k adult races including a ski tour and race to the top of the rocks and straight back down. I decided to try the 30 K skate ski race.

Everyone lined up that was doing the 15 k one lap and 30 k two lap race at 11:00 (temp 1-2F). Many of the fast local guys didn't show up for one reason or another so I had a fighting chance at placing. I did however start behind the fast girls. Two of them are past Olympic skiers and another is the mother of one. We started up "kill hill" at a moderate pace. Rebeca who was in the 2006 Olympics lead the way. At the top of the hill we headed left up a long climb. We all stayed pretty close together. At the top of the long hill I tried to get my camel back nipple unfrozen and it popped off and fell in the snow. I had to stop and got passed by Rebecca's mom Carol. Now I'm in third place overall as the two fastest girls were just doing one lap. One guy was ahead of me. We continued on and the first lap went by pretty fast in about an hour. My water froze again so I took off my pack and got passed again! It takes a second as the polls have to come off as well. Now I was in third place. Thankfully we didn't have to go back down kill hill on the second lap! So up the long hill again and back around. The final bit of skiing was down kill hill on the skinny skis which is always interesting. But I got to the finish with no mishaps. My legs were pretty tired and I was a bit dehydrated at the end. I was third in the men's race in just under 2 hours and fourth overall as Grandma Carol came in about in minute faster.
Next week the Alley loop in Crested Butte. Should I do the 42 K or the 21K??? I felt pretty tired after the 30 K but I think there is definitely more climbing at Hartman Rocks. For pictures of Hartman Rocks go to:

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Elk Mountain Grand Traverse

Here we are getting wax on in 2003...
The Elk Mountain Grand Traverse is a ski race from Crested Butte, CO to Aspen, CO. It is about 40 mi and starts at midnight to get past areas of avalanche danger before it warms and becomes dangerous. You must travel with your partner at all times through several checkpoints. Teams must also travel with all required gear. This includes avalanche beacon and probe poles, equipment to spend the night in the mountains and boil water, equipment to fix broken skis and bindings, and many other things. For a complete list and race description see

It can have some extreme aspects. The trail goes over two passes that are above 12,000 ft. It is also 40 mi long . The final bit of the race is a descent on narrow Nordic skis straight down Aspen ski area. Weather is iffy. I did it once in 2003 and the temperature dropped to -15F and many teams had to drop due to frostbite. In 2007 there was strong winds and white out conditions on Taylor pass causing difficult navigation.

What times are expected. The fastest racers may do the 40 mi in 7.5 to 8 hrs. My first year we finished in 15 hrs. Part of this was due to the cold weather. Our goal this year is to finish in under 11 hrs.
Here we are at the finish in 2003!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

How is diabetes treated?

So, to live, you need insulin. You need a background or small amount all the time. You also need larger amounts when food is digested and sugar produced. There are two main ways to do this.

The first is to have a pump that slowly pumps insulin all the time through a tube into a small needle that is left inserted under the skin for several days and can be increased when a meal is eaten.

The second is to take a long acting insulin that gives a slow basal or background level. Then a fast acting insulin can be taken during meals. These are given by short needles in the stomach, thighs, back hip or back of the arm. The injection is below the skin, not into the muscle, and in areas with few nerves so the pain is (usually) not too bad. This is what I do even though the pump works very well for many people.

Before insulin is given the blood glucose level should be tested. Glucose monitors have come a long way. Now, in a few seconds with a drop of blood the level of glucose can be monitored so that the insulin dose can be adjusted. There are some continuous glucose monitors on the market but still are not completely reliable and are expensive as they are not covered by most insurance.

The Trick (where people get confused about diabetes)
Before (or soon after) you eat something you need to take a shot or have the insulin pump give you some insulin. There are several scenarios:

  1. You take a dose of insulin but don't eat anything. Result: the insulin takes affect and strips your blood of sugar and you lose the ability to think clearly. You get shaky and sweaty from the body releasing adrenaline. You may also act drunk. This is called hypoglycemia. "Normal" people feel this when the sugar drops slightly below normal. After a few years with diabetes you may not feel this until it's too late. If you still don't eat the sugar level keeps dropping and you can go into convulsions, pass out and go into a diabetic coma. If you are unconscious, someone can give you a shot of a hormone called glucagon, which causes your liver to deliver stored sugar from glycogen (a glucose polymer like starch). If you just ran a marathon, there may not be stored glycogen! Or the emergency crew will give you glucose intravenously. This is why it might be nice to carry sugar with you or tattoo "diabetic" on your forehead....
  2. You take a dose of insulin and eat but it isn't digested as fast as normal and the above conditions apply. This happens with me if the food is richer and digested more slowly.
  3. You take a dose of insulin but the insulin was injected into an area that for some reason absorbs faster than you think and the above conditions apply.
  4. You don't eat or take a shot. The long acting insulin keeps working no matter what and the above conditions apply.
  5. You take a dose of insulin and eat but eat more than the insulin will "cover" and your blood sugar will climb higher than is healthy.

Now factor in exercise.... Actually I think exercise makes control (keeping glucose levels as close to normal as possible) much easier.

What levels of glucose do you strive for?

Normal blood glucose, bg, is 80 mg/dL. If it drops below 6o you may get loopy as above. The worst thing to do is think that you can operate at low levels safely, but I have no problems with levels of 40.... Not funny says Anne.

If it drops below 30 you are probably going to pass out very soon.

High glucose is above 180. If it is high, like 180-400, for long periods you can develop a host a problems. The most common ones are neuropathy (nerve damage-hence you lose feeling in places like your toes), blindness, and impotence. Poor circulation and the neuropathy lead to the loss of toes and maybe a leg or two.

Before I go to exercises I like the bg to be 150-180. It can drop very quickly when exercising.

At bed I like my bg to be about 16o. This avoids lows when you sleep--most of the time.

Before meals the bg should be 80-120 if you're lucky.

Next post? So what is the Grand Traverse and how do I train?

Friday, January 11, 2008

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes, recently called juvenile diabetes, is caused by the pancreas islet cells being knocked off for one reason or another. The current thought is that the body kills these cells through an autoimmune problem. For example your body mistakes the cells as an invading virus and kapow.....

The Islet cells produced insulin. So now unfortunately no insulin is produced. A slight problem... Without insulin you die a slow death of wasting away--basically starving to death.

Insulin is usually defined as the key that lets glucose or "sugar" to enter the cells and be used for energy. The sugar enters the blood from the digestive system from the foods you eat. Either straight sugar or when starches are broken down. Your body also and use other foods as sources of energy-like fat.

I like to think of insulin as more of a glucose posse. It actually rounds up the sugar and takes it off into the cells and causes the level of sugar in the blood to drop. Normally you eat something, your body digests it, the level of sugar in the blood begins to rise, the body releases extra insulin into the gut and this causes the sugar to be taken rather forcefully into the cells. So now I'm missing a crucial part. Without the insulin the cells can't use sugar and the sugar level in the blood begins to rise. Your body begins to think it is starving (which it is) and begins to break fat down into sugar. If you have an excess of fat you may build up ketones from the breakdown of the fats and develop ketoacidosis.

Meanwhile, your sugar levels are getting higher and higher. Your kidneys try to lower the high levels of glucose (which is, in itself a toxic substance to your body at high levels) by producing more urine. This causes one to urinate constantly and therefore become quite dehydrated--classic diabetes symptoms.

So the person with diabetes must take insulin injections often and try as well as possible to simulate the action of a functioning pancreas.

Next post.... What it feels like to wake up and not know where you're at (And not from drinking heavily) and how treatment works in with an athletic lifestyle.