Hi, my name is Amanda. I’m preparing to run my first 100 mile ultra. I also happen to have type 1 diabetes.
The Holiday Lake 50K was my 7th ultra.
Each experience has been vastly different.
Six of them were post t1d diagnosis. Two of them I DNF’d. All of them I learned something about myself.
One of the best things about the trail community and ultra events is the people.
In my day to day life I’m rarely surrounded by people who just get it. That’s not intended as anything negative against anyone I spend time with, it’s just a reality of our differing interests and priorities.
So, for me, being in a room full of people who understand the miles and who love the trail as much as I do is refreshing.
During the pre-race brief, Dr. Horton talked about the “problem” with doing anything major. The problem being you’ll want to keep doing it, and you’ll want more– which was exactly how I felt after finishing my Colorado Trail thru hike last summer.
Coming back to my routine just wasn’t satisfying. I needed to know what else I could do. I signed up for a 50-miler and crossed the finish line in under 10 hours. Then I signed up for a 50K a month later and DNF’d.
The difference? My mental state.
I’ve come to realize over the last few years, that despite having type 1 diabetes, my body is incredibly strong and resilient. My mind, on the other hand, is a constant battle field.
I struggle with perfection and fear of not being enough.
The miles are my tool for continued growth and becoming my best self.
The miles teach me grit and pure determination.
The miles push me to my perceived limits, and give me the confidence to see how much further I can go.
The miles enable me to find stillness.
Long term sustainable change comes from consistently showing up and choosing the next best action towards your goal. Habits are built through the baby steps you take each day.
The Holiday Lake 50K was a step towards my bigger goal of completing my first 100 mile ultra.
Maybe it’s a bit presumptuous, but I’m not overly concerned about the miles themselves. Yes, they will undoubtedly be difficult, but my bigger concern is the logistics of type 1 diabetes and ultra running and ensuring my attitude remains generally positive.
The Holiday Lake 50K was another opportunity to practice running long with type 1 diabetes.
Your body needs fuel before and during endurance activities. In order for your body to be able to use the fuel you consume through food, you need insulin to “unlock” your cells to let the energy in; otherwise, the glucose from your food builds up in your bloodstream and can cause a host of not so great things.
For a person with a working pancreas, the body produces the perfect amount of insulin for your food and activity at the perfect time and everyone goes on their merry way. For a person with type 1 diabetes, we must give our body insulin to make this process happen.
This is where things start to get complicated.
Once we inject insulin into our bodies, there’s no taking it back. Physical activity affects insulin sensitivity. The macronutrient composition of our food makes a difference. Hydration, sleep, stress, hormones all come into play. It’s tough to get things right.
Even when you’ve done your homework– planned out exactly what you’ll eat and when you’ll change your insulin delivery settings, when you think you’ve done everything correctly– you can be an hour into your 50K and watch your blood sugar steadily climbing into the 300+ mg/dL range (for comparison, a non-diabetic is typically 80-100 mg/dL).
That’s how my Holiday Lake 50K started out.
It was a cold start to the race. As I watched my blood sugar skyrocket, I became concerned that my insulin froze. I didn’t understand how that could be the case because I had my pump tucked securely (and warmly) into my waistband, but it would explain what was happening. By the time my CGM displayed 335 mg/dL, I decided to take a finger stick to confirm. As it turned out, it was my CGM that didn’t like the temperature, not my insulin pump. My finger stick read low 200s– a 100+ mg/dL difference in a direction that could become very serious as my blood sugar continued to drop.
I suspended my insulin pump, and stopped being afraid of eating/drinking. I attempted a CGM calibration, but I knew it wouldn’t be accepted because of how disparate the numbers were. Instead, my CGM temporarily stopped working.
Honestly, it was a welcome relief. I would rather the annoyance of doing finger sticks while moving– a very bloody process– then see such a wrong and scary number displayed on my pump.
Running is hard. Running on a trail is harder. Running a 50K is even harder.
Now add in how inefficiently the human body works with out of range blood sugar. Everything is harder still. It’s tough to explain if you haven’t experienced it. I felt pretty crappy for the first 2+ hours of my run. It took that long and a bunch of insulin followed by a bunch of sugar to get my blood sugar back in range and steady.
Despite all that, I finished the first lap in just over 3 hours. My husband Nick and our friend Gina ran with me. I was a mess internally, but they chatted away not far in front of me, and their conversation was a welcome distraction.
I ran a slightly faster than normal for me pace the first half. It was hard not too. The middle miles in the loop were so very runnable. Once I started feeling better I was able to refuel, which in turn made me feel even better.
I was so happy to be outside on the trail enjoying the cold, but gorgeous, day– that is, until we approached the turn around.
Once we reached the point that runners were now heading in the opposite direction as us on the trail my mood changed. I got grumpy. The trail was narrow and there was a lot of people dodging. I had this moment of “I hate races. I just want to be alone out here.” Most people were kind and courteous, but I still let it put me in a bad mood. I felt that I wasted a lot of energy on those last 2-ish miles into the turnaround.
I shed some clothes, grabbed a cookie, and took my sour mood back out onto the trail. My pace slowed even though there were less people to dodge. Once we got off the single track trail, I started feeling a little better. I had space to breathe again. After the mile 20-ish aid station, I got a second wind.
My pace was a little slower than the first half, but I stayed incredibly steady per mile. The miles ticked by. The aid stations ticked by. I was starting to compare the remaining miles to known distances that I typically run– “Oh, I’ve got less than a Chingville loop left.” and “This is less than my 3-mile morning run.”.
Once we got through the park, I knew there wasn’t much left to go. I kept expecting to see John’s “1 mile to go” sign at any moment. Finally, we reached the 1 mile mark and I got another burst of energy. I kept thinking maybe I could pass the folks in front of me once we hit the road. I didn’t, but I ran my heart out that last 0.5 miles into the finish.
I crossed the finish line with Nick and Gina by my side in 06:23:44 (according to my watch). I felt that I ran pretty well. I felt physically strong and mentally confident despite the diabetes annoyances throughout the race.
I had a conversation during the race about PRs, burnout, and mental toughness. The more I run, the more I realize how little I care about the time. I want to do well– whatever that means for me on that particular day. Type 1 diabetes is unpredictable. Some days I feel great, other days are a struggle. My goal in running is to show up, push myself, and be grateful that my body can do what it does with a chronic illness.
If you want to do something big, something difficult, something bold– you first need to believe you can do it. That’s half the battle. The road to get there may be full of twists and turns, highs and lows, and dead ends, but once you make that choice you’re well on your way to victory.
♥ amanda maureen