Managing Diabetes During a Race: How the Mind and Body Work Together

Ann Bartlett Health Guide
  • Last fall, my body started to tell me that "all work and no workout" was not working. I had so much physical pain from frozen shoulder that I needed prescription strength Motrin during the day, and at night I took another muscle relaxer to sleep.  In December, I bought a treadmill and made a commitment to balance exercise and work and so I stepped away from non-essential tasks.


    As part of my chance to reclaim my fitness, I signed up for a 10 mile race in January to give myself a goal, but good intentions aren’t always successful. About two weeks before the race, I realized I was way short of my training goals, having only pressed for a couple slow 5 mile runs. I simply didn’t know what my body could do. The week before the race, I tested my distance by running a 6.5. While I was sore from the distance, I was quite functional the following day. 

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    During race week, I waffled about whether to run. On Saturday, the weather was not nearly as bad as had been predicted, and in the back of my mind, I started to think I was allowing myself off the hook for not having met my training goals. So, I started noodling a different race-day strategy.  What if I ran a slower pace and walked if I needed?  I could hike 10, why shouldn’t I struggle a little and test myself?

    The day was wet and cold and I started at the back of the pack of 5,000 runners. My CGM and meter had agreed on 97 and I had a Luna bar and 2 units of rapid acting insulin to gently cover my bar. Obviously, I would rather run high during a race, then run low.


    With my CGM in hand, I gauged my readings at every mile marker:  170, 182, 173, 173, 169, 170, 163, 131, 148, ???, ??? (sensor was too soggy to read from sweat and rain). My blood sugar was holding so steady that at mile 5, I started trying to run negative splits (running faster/min miles).  I had to work to decrease the mile time and that sense of struggle felt like real accomplishment.  I knew from my CGM and from my energy that I was running a smart race.


    In the end, I learned that if you have the information, you can do so much more than you thought you could, and this lesson applies to daily diabetes management. The CGM allowed me to confidently push beyond what I might have done.



    My CGM acted as the eyes to the inside of my body and my race went so well!  I ran well within myself, without over-reaching soreness, and no blood sugar highs and lows all day. 


    My lesson learned: Where there is a will, there’s a way!

Published On: April 10, 2013