Am I A Runner?

I overheard my husband describe me to someone as an “avid runner” last week. My first reaction was – I was flattered. But that reaction was immediately followed by self doubt… “Am I really a runner?”

What a stupid question, right? I describe myself here and on twitter as a “runner.” Why am I questioning it? I don’t know. But I do. I have always thought of running as something I DID, not who I am. A distinction that probably makes no sense to people reading this.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I have ALWAYS wanted to be a runner. I just never thought I would ever be one. I’m not fast enough. I’m not skinny enough. I don’t run far enough. This isn’t all in my head either. I remember when my husband used to make fun of me: you can’t call that running, that’s more like jogging! (Whatever that means)

I got so used to the slow comments that I even came with the phrase, “oh, I don’t run, I just walk in a running motion.” That usually gets an obligatory chuckle from the receiving end.

But now my hubby thinks I’m an “avid runner”?! What changed?

What changed is precisely the distinction I made earlier. Running isn’t just something I do, it defines a part of me. Being a runner isn’t about how fast you run, how far you run, how you look doing it. Runners run with heart. Runners are mentally tough. Runners constantly challenge themselves to be better. And runners are supportive and encourage other runners. These traits belong to all the runners I know.

Today I proudly allow myself to wear that label.

I am a runner.

(This post is a shout out to one of my fav runner and blogger Kimberly Westrich #believeinyourself @KimberWestrich, kimruns.blogspot.com)

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Running and Blood Sugar Control – Lessons Learned

“Prediabetes means you have blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes…  If you have prediabetes, you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.” (Source: NIH)

The week before Boston Marathon 2014, I was diagnosed as “prediabetic.”  I had failed the 2 hour glucose test and my A1C test results came back elevated.

My doctor: Eat less carbs, lose some weight.  Oh and start an exercise program

Me: Um…Does marathon training count?

I wasn’t surprised at the diagnosis.  With both of my pregnancies, I had gestational diabetes and was informed that it raised my risk for type 2 diabetes.  Knowing the risks, I started running as soon as I was medically cleared after having my second baby.  In the year after my second son was born, I ran a 5K, 10-miler, two half marathons, and a marathon — and even with losing all the baby weight within 4 months of giving birth, I could not escape prediabetes. (I know, I’m whining).

So I did what every normal, rational person would do – I Googled “prediabetes.”  There is a lot of information on the Internet for managing blood sugar, preventing type 2 diabetes.  However.  I was not able to find much information on prediabetes and endurance sports (perhaps I have not found the right key words to search).

I’m not going to lie. Part of the reason I run is so that I can eat cupcakes, ice cream, all the fun, sugary stuff.  And I love carb-loading before a big race.  I love pasta, rice. Now with my new diagnosis, I had to find a new balance with the amount of carbs I *think* I need for running.  The following is a list of lessons I have learned SO FAR from my research and experiences.  I hope to share future lessons with all the prediabetic and diabetic endurance athletes and invite your input!

[DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical or nutritional professional.  Just a fellow prediabetic runner trying to figure out what to eat and when to eat in order to best manage my blood sugar levels.]

1.  Everyone is Different. 

One message I found to be consistent in most of the literature is that different foods’ effect on blood sugar levels can vary drastically in each person.  For example, when I eat pineapples, it spikes my blood sugar but when a diabetic friend eats pineapples, the rise in her blood sugar level is not as drastic.  Also, the time of day matters as well.  I find that my blood sugar is the most sensitive in the morning.  Some of articles online recommend people to eat the carbs early on during the day so you can burn off the sugar all day – well, it doesn’t work for me. I can only eat small amount of carbs (less than 25 grams) in the morning, unless I’m going out for a run.

2.  Not JUST About Cutting Carbs.

One mistake that I made initially was just cutting carbs.  I didn’t go fully Atkin’s diet, but I significantly reduced the amount of carbs I consumed.  This did manage to help me lose weight… initially.  After two weeks of carb-cutting, I went out for a 10-mile run.  About 8 miles in, I started to feel dizzy, my muscles tightened and cramped.  My blood sugar had dropped to such a low-level that it was not only hurting my performance but extremely dangerous!  I quickly took 2 Gu’s and sat down.  Diabetes is not just about lowering blood sugar, it is about controlling and managing it.

3.  Get a Blood Glucose Meter

photo (6)

The previous lesson leads me to this: bottom line, I need to carefully monitor blood sugar levels with a meter.  But this is tricky.  Prediabetes is not a “covered” condition under some health insurances (mine).  So the test strips for these devices can be very expensive.  Luckily I have some left over from my gestational diabetes days and plan to use that until I run out.  This is worth it to me to make sure I stay healthy, I consider it an investment.

4.  Keep a Log

I have decided to meet with a nutritionist and having data helps tremendously.  I JUST started to keep track of my blood glucose level for the following times in a spreadsheet for my weekend long runs (runs that take more than 1 hour).  I try to write down the amount of carbs consumed before, during and after a run and WHAT food was eaten.  Hopefully this will eventually help me determine what works best for me to optimize my performance.

Time/When Carbs (grams) Blood Glucose (mg/dL) Comments
Fasting (wake up) 0 Eat breakfast after taking blood glucose and at least 1 hour before run
Before Run (breakfast carbs amount) Taken just before the long run
1 Hr Into Run (Gu or Sport Bean taken) I have started to try different foods to test how my blood sugar is affected
2 Hr Into Run (Gu or Sport Bean taken)
1 Hr After Run (Food eaten immediately after run) I try to eat within 30 mins of completing a run

5. Plan Ahead

Running and taking blood glucose levels can be challenging.  Planning ahead helps.  Trial and error helps too.  If you’re like me, especially in the summer, I am a sweaty mess when I’m running.  If you use a blood glucose meter, you know that sweat on your finger tips will mess with your reading.  I try to keep a towel at a convenient point on the trail and I make sure that roughly every hour I run by that point to take my readings.

It is a pain in the butt to have to do this during a run but it is temporary.  Hopefully after I have taken quite a few of these readings, I will get to a point where I know exactly what to eat and when to eat it on my run that I don’t need to continue to take my blood glucose levels.

These are just some of the lessons I have learned so far.  I’m sure there will be many, many more.  I hope whom ever reads this post will benefit from this and please do leave me any suggestions if you’re an experienced diabetic, endurance athlete, I would love to learn from you as well.

Stay Healthy.  Stay Strong.  Run.

 

 

Run To Me (Not A Post About Running)

I saw this post on Instagram today (Text with the photo by @yoga_girl: My mothers hand. My grandmothers hands. The foundation of us all. The reason that I am. Mormor. Mom of moms. Today is her birthday and today she took her last breath. I am so sad. So sad. The last thing I told her was I love you. Don’t worry. Everything is ok. We are all so happy and so safe. The last thing she told me was I love you. We are going to Aruba. Where is your mother. I love Dennis. I am wearing an orange dress to your wedding but I can’t find it. Promise you will come back. And I did. I came back. But all the times I saw her after that she didn’t speak. I sat there listening to the space between her breaths. Now there is just space. Jag älskar dig Morris.)

yogagirl

It made me cry.  I don’t know yoga girl (Rachel Brathen).  I started following her on Instagram because I loved her photos; I think she is vibrant and beautiful.  I admire her for her spirit – I see a girl who is not afraid to live, knows what she wants and goes after it. But mostly I saw a girl who knows how to love.  I felt her pain through her post.  It made me cry.  It made me think.

I used to be that girl.  Full of love and life.  Fearless.  But somehow after 7 years of marriage and 2 kids, I lost that girl…  I lost me.

I had always been fearless.  Even as a little girl, I was the leader of my group of friends – much to the dismay of my friends’ parents.  Growing up in Taiwan, I went to an elementary school in the mountains.  We didn’t have school buses.  To get to school, we had to either walk up a long, paved road or (literally) climb the side of the mountain. I rarely took the paved road.  Everyday I made my friends take a different way to and from school… even got lost a few times.  But I always managed to find the way home.

There’s not a time that I can remember where I took the easy way.  I liked adventures. Moving to a new country and not speaking a word of English. No problem.  After graduating college, I wanted to move to Washington, DC.  I did it.  Got a job, packed up my car, and moved into an apartment by myself. I wanted to audition for American Idol.  I drove up and slept in the streets of New York City.  I sang my heart out (even made it to the second round – story for another time).  I wanted to buy a condo by myself, for my birthday.  I did it.  I worked hard, saved money for a year and signed the contract on my 24th birthday.  I did these things even when I was told constantly, “you can’t do it.”

Not anymore.  Now I live in fear and constant self-doubt.

I don’t know when exactly it happened.  Maybe after hearing “you can’t do it” so many times from people who are supposed to believe in me… it sticks with you.  Or maybe I forgot how to be brave.  Now I just follow other women on Instagram and live vicariously.  There are no risks when you live vicariously… except the biggest risk of all – not taking any risks.

My grandmother is getting older.  My grandma raised me since I was a baby. She is still living in Taiwan, by herself, in the apartment that I grew up in.  We talk on the phone occasionally, mostly small talk about the weather and what’s on TV.  When we have the chance to video chat, she doesn’t say much, just stares lovingly at me through the screen of my computer.

I haven’t visited her in almost 10 years.  Every year, I so want to see her.  I think about going back to Taiwan to see her.  And every year I talk myself out of it because i’m afraid. Traveling with a baby, for THAT far, it’s just too much… I don’t know if I can do it.  It’s such a long flight.  And now, five years later, with two kids…traveling with a preschooler and a baby… the broken record of fear plays over and over in my head.  I have dug myself a little hole where I am comfortable and buried my head in it.  I’m a coward.

This post by @yoga_girl made me cry.  It made me think.  The spirited, fearless girl that I admire from Instagram lost her grandmother.  Yet I am too afraid to travel the distance to see mine.  Is there irony in that?  I don’t know.

People always ask me “why do you run?”  My go-to answer: I run for my health and quality alone time.  Truth is, I love running because it is the only time that I catch glimpses of my old fearless self.  If that voice in my head says to me “you can’t run another mile,” I prove it wrong by running another mile, faster.

If life is a marathon, I have hit the mental wall at mile 20.  It is time for me to refuel and push through.  Today, I run to the fearless me.  Today, I started planning my trip to Taiwan.   I am going to say “I love you” to my grandmother in person, because I can.