Friday, November 18, 2011

80 mg/dL & 0 psi

Just like any time I ride uphill, there is that moment when it's done, and then after a bit, my body gets back to normal operations on the bike and then the fight starts. There is always a little war between my mind and my body and it is a war of words. The mind thinks the body could have - should have - pushed things a little bit harder and given a little bit more. The body fights back knowing that there is only so much oxygen the pulmonary and circulatory system can process and that there is only so much lactic acid the muscles can deal with at any given time. The mind is curious however, and there's always that little bit of doubt and disbelief. The mind wonders if the body was holding something back by not giving an all-out effort. The body reminds the mind that the mind is the bodies commander and the body can only give what the mind allows.

The body always wins but the mind always wonders if we could have dug a little bit deeper and done a little bit more, and my mind is wondering that right now as I'm pedaling in the cold wind less than a mile from my deep dish chocolate chip cookie waiting for me at Veyo Pies which is checkpoint number two. At the top of the hill after the slow sign at the end of climb number two, Old Highway 91 has one last right turn and then it's a straight shot to the intersection of State Highway 18 in the center of town were The Original Veyo Pies & Bakery has stood in the shadow of the Veyo Volcano for the last 26 years. I can see my stop and I'm ready to be there.

I hear what sounds like a rattlesnake, but metallic. I glance over to my left and see a little piece of metal flashing nailed to a utility pole by the road that is getting whipped by the cold wind. It's making so much noise that it seems like it was designed to be that way, but it's just an incidental testament to the ferocity of this cold wind that has been battling my effort for most of this ride. Right now it feels more like a tailwind and I'm grateful for that as it pushes me into town.

I arrive at checkpoint two and am surprised that few cyclists are there. There's a table set up with the deep dish chocolate chip cookies, or deep dish peanut butter cookies if you like, some water jugs, Hammer products and other edible odds and ends. It's easy to spot the volunteers. They're the ones shivering in the huge winter coats that keep moving the table around trying to keep it in the sunlight in an effort to try and be just a little bit warmer. I spot the little pickup with the checkpoint supplies in the back and ask the volunteers if they mind if I lean my bike there. I find a plastic patio chair by the cable spool table, but it's covered with dried up seagull poop so I talk to the volunteer again and make sure it's OK to use the tailgate of the supply pickup during my time off the bike.

They don't mind, so I wedge my rear tire into the wheel well between the metal and the tire, trying not to have a repeat of the lack of respectacle that occurred at checkpoint one. I get my coffee shop covers out of my left jersey pocket and cover my Speedplay cleats. I've pedaled almost halfway through this Tri-States Gran Fondo with the cold and the wind and the elevation gain. I've spent a lot of time in the wind off the front of my peloton of one and my body is telling me that it has processed some carbs and it might be a good idea to check things out.  It's time to check my blood glucose and I need a little space to go through this little ritual.

On a bike, it's very difficult to tell when you're just worn out from the climbing and the wind and the cold and when your blood glucose is dangerously low so I pull off my windproof full fingered gloves and put them on the tailgate. The wind is whipping and I really start to feel the cold. I grab the Ziploc bag out from my middle jersey pocket, open it and work my case out from where it's wedged in there with my Windows phone. I unzip the case and pull out my glucose meter and the lancet. I slide out the vial of test strips, open it and try to shake just one out without spilling the others everywhere. I slip the test strip into the meter, grab the lancet, pull back the spring mechanism, place the business end on my middle fingertip and press the button. Click.

I've poked my fingers probably 15,000 times or more, and it doesn't hurt much except when it does, but it always causes that little flinch, both in your finger and in your mind. I always pick the middle finger on a ride, because it's the one that stops bleeding the easiest and I don't like blood on my bar tape. When your fingers are a little cold, it hurts more and my fingers are starting to get cold in the wind. I grab the meter and hold the strip up to the drop of blood that was reluctantly squeezed from my finger tip and listen for the tone from my meter that indicates the strip has soaked up enough blood to get a measurement, but I can't hear it because it's way too windy.

It's working though, and I wait a few seconds for the tone that indicates mission accomplished, but I can't hear that either so I just watch the screen waiting for the reading. After a moment, there it is: 80 mg/dL. That tells me that I'm OK, but it's 20 mg/dL lower than I ever want it to be when I'm riding any kind of real distance on my bike. Anything lower than 80 mg/dL on any normal day, doing any normal activity is what the medical community thinks is the start of a "low" and a "low" is one of the most dangerous things a person with diabetes can face, and one of the main reasons people with diabetes, like myself, have to get a Doctor to tell the State every year that they think I'm OK to have a driver's license and enjoy my driving privileges.

On a 112 mile Gran Fondo with 7500 feet of elevation gain in the wind and the cold, I'm thinking that 80 mg/dL is much lower than I care to be. I pack all my stuff back in the packet, zip it up and put it back in my Ziploc bag with my Windows phone and my Novolog Flexpen. I need to check out this deep dish chocolate chip cookie and try to estimate how many carbs it contains. Normally I would need to inject a unit of insulin for every 14 carbohydrates I ingest, but with a blood glucose reading of 80 mg/dL, I'm hoping to not need a shot here in the windy cold at checkpoint number two and I'm relieved when the deep dish chocolate chip cookie is smaller than I imagined.

I figure about 45, maybe 50 carbs for the cookie, so I grab one and start eating it. YUM. While it may be smaller than expected, it packs a huge punch of flavor and really turns out to be the treat I was expecting. When I'm done, I visit the heated restroom, which really provides the contrast needed to fully realize how windy and cold it really is, while I finalize my plan on how to get my body fueled up for the rest of the ride. I figure a chocolate chip granola bar, at 19 carbs, a bidon full of some kind of Hammer carbohydrate electrolyte mix that tastes horribly like extremely watered down cough syrup and a teriyaki beef stick should be plenty to keep me on the rivet until checkpoint number three where I figure I'll need another chocolate chip granola bar to get me back up the backside of Utah Hill.

So checkpoint two equals almost 70 carbs and normally that would mean injecting 5 units of insulin, but I forgo the insulin figuring the wind and the miles and the cold will work even better as the volunteers are busy moving the table again. I know there's a bit of a climb leaving Veyo circling up and around the Veyo Volcano, so I leave the windstopper beanie in the jersey pocket, make sure everything is packed back up and ready to roll. I get out a granola bar and open the package most of the way and stuff it up under my bib shorts on the top of my right thigh. I want to grab it at the top of the hill and eat it quick as I start my way down to Snow Canyon on State Road 18.

By this time, the checkpoint is full of riders and bikes are laying everwhere and leaning on any vertical surface. I get one of the teriyaki beef sticks and pinch and pull the wrapper open and peel it down to where it's flapping around in the wind with about three inches of the stick covered. I put that between my teeth as I pull on the windproof full fingered gloves, grab my bike and wheel it out of the Veyo Pies parking lot to the road where I stow away my coffee shop covers, clip in and push off.

I grab the teriyaki beef stick and take a bite as I work up to speed, heading out of town toward the climb around the Veyo Volcano after the big dip that is the city limit. I take another bite as I'm shifting down the cassette and I'm almost at the dip before the climb when I notice something doesn't feel right. The road is much rougher than it seems it should be. I look down and study the road. Seems pretty normal. I look down and check my rear tire. Abnormal.

It's losing air. It's going flat so I brake quickly and get off the bike. With my teriyaki beef stick in one hand, I take a bite and pinch my rear tire with my other hand. Crap. Flat. I look around the road for someplace to sit and safely change my tube as cars, trucks and cyclist go zooming by at high rates of speed. I look back up the road to Veyo Pies about a half mile distant and decide to walk my bike back up there and use the plastic patio chair with the dried up seagull poop all over it by the cable spool table to change my tube.

I get the coffee shop covers out of my left jersey pocket, cover the Speedplays, turn the bike around and start walking back up the hill pushing the bike as I continue to eat the teriyaki beef stick. I am frustrated because this is going to cost me time that I had not planned to spend. But, what can you do? Just like my body needed carbs so it could continue on and get me back to my family at the finish, my tire needs some air to get me back their too, so it's back up the hill in my coffee shop covers, one hand on the saddle and one hand on the teriyaki beef stick, as I walk the bike back to Veyo Pies which is checkpoint number two. Again.

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