Running on empty. Meter reliability in the cold.

My doctor: “Ditch the meter when you run.”

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My Contour USB meter has shown below 2 mmol/L (36 mg/dl) over a half dozen times mid-run these past few months. Once it said below 1 mmol/L (18 mg/dl), blog on that here.

I’m fully aware that meters are not 100 per cent accurate. 

The question: Am I really that low or is my meter being extra wonky in the cold?

  • I’ve tried pretty much everything to warm up my meter while running. Still reading bad lows.
  • Seems like no matter how many carbs I eat, I still can go really low when running. I don’t take any insulin with my meals before running (I’m on humalog-short acting insulin ONLY with meals, hello honeymoon!).
  • Often don’t feel my lows during runs (hard to tell with being numb/sweaty already). This equals danger.

Nurse says those dangerously low numbers could POSSIBLY be right and not the meter being off in the cold.

Times I’ve seen numbers below the 2’s (around 36 mg/dl) I usually pop 4-8 Dex 4 tabs. After 15 minutes my blood sugar is typically 4-5 mmol/L (72-90 mg/dl).

Tests afterwards/done running altogether don’t run high (over 10 mmol/L or 180 mg/dl).

My nurse said that means I just MIGHT be burning all those carbs and really that low. She said she’s seen people who have high functionality with such low numbers. At the end of the day, we don’t really know.

Narrowing down the problem

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My doctor and I tried testing my bg’s when I wasn’t running, at a time I knew my numbers would be stable. Test indoors, then put the meter outside, wait, and test again. It produced error messages.

New plan: Create a loop so every half hour I’m passing my house. Run inside. Test. Continue on.

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I’ve learned through this process that just ditching the blood prick accessories really messes with my head.

The plan was to run a slow, steady pace which I usually do, but I just couldn’t. Not feeling the weight of my diabetes stuff made me nervous. I ran faster, which meant higher bg’s. Pain crept up on my left side, which it usually does, and I ignored the pain and just kept trying to push. My foot was exploding with agony. I ended up limping and then walking parts of it. I was scared and just wanted to get home! I had glucose tabs on me but I hated that feeling of not having my stuff on me. I’ll have to get an extra meter to carry around with me when running even if I won’t use it.

Just changing the route and testing inside? Not as easy as it seems.

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Test 1: Run one loop. 

Pre-run 5.7 mmol/L (102 mg/dl). Lower than I’d like pre-run. I usually take carbs if I’m at this level but now I can’t remember if I did this instance. Pretty sure I did.

Post-run 7.2 mmol/L (129 mg/dl)

Test 2: Run two loops instead of one.

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Pre-run 10.2 mmol/L (183 mg/dl)

First loop: 5.4 mmol/L (97 mg/dl)

Second loop/run end: 6.4 mmol/L (115 mg/dl)

So does that prove the meter is wrong? Don’t know if there’s a concrete answer to that.

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There’s lots to learn, adjustments to be made and miles to run. Running is one of my huge passions and I refuse to give it up. It’s still early in the game.

So I come to you, more experienced #t1d athletes, what has been your experiences with winter running? I’d love to know your story and any tips. 

Every day I’m learning more about being active with type 1 diabetes. This journey has taught me to become more dedicated to my athletic goals and at the same time, to let go. No matter what I do, sometimes my bg’s are just not going to co-operate.  I’ve got to be okay with that. I’m pushing harder to reach certain achievements, but also learning to enjoy the process.

I have the ability to lace up my runners and go out on the road whenever I want. There are people who don’t have that luxury. That’s a perspective I’ve gained more and more after being diagnosed.

Yes working out can be difficult, but I can so I will.

See you out on the road,

J

Tips on winter running: 

  • Put your meter inside your glove. Keeps it much warmer.
  • Use the empty case of Listerine Pocketpaks to carry your test strips
  • ALWAYS carry some kind of fast-acting carbs with you
  • Wear some kind of medical identification
  • If you are running solo, leave your estimated time of arrival and route for a loved one. Also write down what you are wearing in case of emergency (saw this on Instagram, what a great idea!)
  • Let the people you train with know you have type 1 diabetes and the signs and symptoms of low/high bg’s

Scully gave me the first two great tips in a previous post. Thank you Scully! Check out her blog here.

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2 Comments

  1. I keep my meter and strips in a neoprene running belt over my base layer, and under my outer layers – I find a good soft shell helps. Body heat keeps it functional a lot of the time, but really cold weather, and long runs in the cold causes error messages, and crazy results.

    Reply

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