Monthly Archives: February 2010

don’t tell me what i can’t do: i heart john locke and other stories.

one weekend, my friend abby (aka fred) and i went to her family’s house in vermont. usually, these weekends are full of my two favorite things: food and media.  on this particular weekend in early 2006, abby suggested something amazing: why not bring the first season of the much ballyhooed LOST program and see how many episodes we could watch?

“um, sure,” i said dubiously.  at the time, i think i must have prided myself on not being a sci fi/ fantasy geek.  in the years since then (and not just because of LOST– helloooooooo golden compass!), i have realized that i am in fact a HUGE sci fi/ fantasy geek.

what transpired that weekend was one of my greatest accomplishments, possibly ever. beginning on saturday morning, and ending on sunday morning, we watched 14 episodes of LOST, moving only to sleep, drink, and eat brownies.

now, i know that many people DON’T watch LOST.  and i know many of these same people thinks it’s very very very stupid to follow a television show that takes outrageously long hiatuses (hiatii?), and that when it does resurface, is the most gigantically confusing cluster-eff on the airwaves.  BUT maybe these people have not met my diabetes and marathon inspiration.  his name is john locke.

as the above clip excellently illustrates, john locke’s mantra is simple: don’t tell me what i can’t do. i started thinking about this recently because of an excellent email that i got from my cousin yulie’s dear friend meggie.  the lovely meggie is, in addition to being lovely, a personal trainer and nutritionist.  in other words, total health GURU.  so, meggie was wondering if i could recommend any good diabetes resources for a client of hers whose granddaughter was recently diagnosed with diabetes.  (please note that this is like asking johnny weir his thoughts on crazy feathered costuming.  translation for those of you who don’t follow figure skating: I WAS ALL OVER THIS QUESTION LIKE ZAC EFRON IS ALL OVER HAIR GEL.)  what especially struck me about meggie’s email was this:

“I told her all about you and how you were training for the be all, end all of marathons, and she was so excited about that… she was like, “so, Ava is still going to be able to anything she wants to do?”  And I was like, look, if trudging through slushy snow up giant hills for 26 miles is what she wants to do…. (okay that part was in my head).  But I think it encouraged her greatly to hear that your life hadn’t been put on hold, that it just takes some extra work and planning.”

obvi, what meggie said struck a major chord.  i mean, i think that most people know that running a marathon is really really really hard.  and i think that some people know that managing diabetes is pretty hard, too.  and i also think that i have tried to explain exactly why being a diabetic training for an endurance event is really really really hard times seven.

but it’s not impossible.  just like it’s not impossible for these famous folks to handle this disease: my man jay cutler is the quarterback of the chi-town bears, the amazing moustachioed adam morrison plays basketball for the lakers, and halle berry well, oh i don’t know, poses for cameras looking gorgeous all the time.  not to mention my new obsession (have i mentioned how much i love the olympics?), kris freeman, olympic and national champion cross country skier!  please, take a look at this man’s website.  he might not even be human, he’s so fit!  and of course there’s nick jonas.  (sorry, no diabetes post is really complete without mentioning him, let’s just be honest.)

so why am i mentioning all of this heartwarming, feel-great stuff?  because this whole marathon situation is getting more difficult by the day, and i think i need to remind myself that it’s still possible.  in an attempt to exorcise my demons, i will now try my best to vocalize what’s been weighing on my mind over the past weeks… it’s the dreaded diabetes rollercoaster.

one of my favorite quotes from another diabetic in this amazing article that i am sure i’ve mentioned before is, “… i calculate constantly, measuring my food’s potential effect on my blood against my desire to eat it, trying to walk a goldilocks tightrope where my sugar is not too low, but also not too high.”  too little insulin = too high… too much insulin = too low. being just right is like finding a needle in a haystack– my insulin requirements have always changed with the day of the week, the weather, how stressed i am, whether or not there’s a full moon. it’s crazy-making, and my aggressive running schedule has taken my tightrope and literally turned it into a gigantic (and sometimes really scary) rollercoaster.

i could tell a lot of stories of surprising blood sugar lows right now, and then the high blood sugars that chase them.  i could talk about the nefarious nighttime low that sneaks up on me while i am sleeping, burying me under a blanket of cinder blocks until i struggle to wake, knowing that something is desperately wrong.  but i won’t.  instead, i am going to tell a story that i haven’t told anyone but the baby panda because i am too ashamed and embarrassed.  (being the ever-practical bear that he is, the bp suggested that i talk about it in this blog, theorizing that it would make me feel better once i really got it off my insulin pump-laden chest.) (yes, for those of you who don’t know, that’s where i hide my pump… down my shirt!)

so here i go.

one week ago, my marathon team had the chance to do our saturday long run on the boston marathon course with a giant group of friendly folks from the children’s hospital marathon team, and another group of outrageously garbed folks from the liver foundation.  (yes, they were running in costume.  for the life of me, i could not figure out why they were dressed like giant hearts and not giant livers.  i assumed maybe it was because hearts are prettier than livers, and that heart costuming is easier to find than liver costuming.  and then i realized, much later, that it was the day before valentine’s.  dur.)  we met at the riverside t stop and then took several giant buses out to natick.  then we ran 17 miles to the finish line.

in many ways, it was a great run.  my peerless running buddy kelly and i kept up a brisk pace that ended up being a full minute per mile faster than the pace that we usually keep!  my legs and body felt mostly good!  i survived my first attempt of the newton hills and, although i was perilously close to tears, i did not cry on heartbreak hill!  to be succinct, my legs somehow kept moving for seventeen miles, and that was a big win!

but honestly, i have NEVER felt so terrible during a run.  ever. evereverever!  EVER!  i thought it might be due to the aforementioned brisk pace– as we were running, i wondered if maybe kelly and i were pushing it too much.  i also thought that it might be due to a plummeting blood sugar.  on the bus to natick, i ate my patented pre long run breakfast of a bagel with peanut butter and reduced sugar jam, and gave myself a very little bit of insulin to cover the carbs, counting on the exercise of a 17-mile run to need to rest of the sugars in my breakfast for fuel.  however, during the run, my head started feeling a little spacey, like i was getting a low.  so i checked my blood sugar sensor. (in a previous post, i explained how the blood sugar readings that i get from my sensor are not 100% accurate, because there is a 20-minute delay in the sensor readings and what my blood sugar actually is.)  it read in the low 200s, which is about where i like my blood sugar to be if i am in the middle of an intense workout.  (intense workouts make my blood sugar crash, because exercise makes my body much more sensitive to the insulin that my pump is delivering.)

so, just to be safe, i had some dried cranberries.  (i had packed about 33 carbs worth in my trusty fannypack, and probably ate about half of them, while running, which was very messy and strange.)  then at the first waterstop, i had a cup of gatorade and a cup of water.  then a few miles later, i had some clif shot blocks.  and then some more gatorade.  and then some more shot blocks.  my blood sugar sensor kept telling me that my blood sugar was on the brink of a crash, hovering just above my exercise danger zone of the mid-100s.  (if it gets that low in the middle of a long run, i know that i’m at risk of a low… my blood sugar can crash by 50 or more points in a matter of five minutes.)  so in coolidge corner, i did something that i’m not proud of.  and yes, i have done it on other long runs.  i unplugged my pump.  maybe i wasn’t thinking clearly.  maybe i just REALLY didn’t want to go low at that point.  i just don’t know.

by now, you probably know the road that this story is going down.

by the end of the run, i felt like my body weighed 690 pounds.  my head alone must have weighed 490.  i was close to tears and anxious and thoroughly exhausted.  strangely, i managed to keep up with kelly, and we finished with a pretty good time.  but like i said, i was a wreck!  i actually don’t remember a lot from the minutes right after we finished– i know that i plugged my pump back in, and i think that i gave myself a small amount of insulin to cover for the amount of time that i had been unplugged for.  i think kelly and i staggered to 7-11 and got some water (and a coke zero– o sweet nectar!), but nothing was making me feel better.  i just sat on the sidewalk, sort of dumfounded.

worst. run. ever.

when i was able to meet up with my good pal nandi, we went to the boston public library to use the restrooms.  while i was there, i decided to check my blood sugar for real, not just rely on my sensor’s readings, which were coming in every five minutes in the high 100s and low 200s… not ideal, but not earth-shatteringly bad, either.

5. 4. 3. 2. 1.  my blood sugar meter takes five seconds to get a result, and those five seconds can sometimes take a very long time.


yes.  it’s true.  519.  if you are diabetic and see this number, your eyes are popping out of your head.  if you don’t know what this means, then i will paint you a picture.  normal blood sugar is between 80 and 100.  when i was diagnosed, my blood sugar was 429.  i have never had higher blood sugar than that.  until last week.  (and if you’re questioning why my sensor readings were SO different from my real blood sugar, it’s once again due to that time lag, and the fact that my sensor measures interstitial fluid, not real blood.  wouldn’t it be amazing if this weren’t the case someday?)

suffice to say, i survived.  i took a gigantic amount of insulin and within a few hours, my blood sugar was back into the normal realm.  but that experience has left me very shaky and nervous.

and mad.  i am SO FLIPPING MAD about this STILL, more than a week afterward.  why?  it’s pretty simple: i started running to improve my health, not compromise it!  the thousands of decisions that i’ve made over the past four and a half years, the thousand of mouthfuls of food that i’ve taken over the past four and a half years, the thousands of steps that i’ve run over the past four and a half years have all taken my health into account.  and after killing myself (because it was HARD HARD HARD) for seventeen miles, and then seeing something like THAT pop up on my blood sugar meter– well, that robs me of any sense of accomplishment, that’s for sure.  what’s left is empty guilt and embarrassment.

and questioning– CAN i really do this?

but i am pretty sure i can. even if i have to stop and check my blood sugar every five miles.  even if i have to become more comfortable with the idea running with blood sugars in the low 100s.  even if i have to FINALLY learn to like bananas, which apparently are the perfect running food.

even if i have to watch that john locke clip every day for the next two months.

p.s. don’t worry, tante amy and other concerned health professionals: i PROMISE that i will do everything in my power never to let my blood sugar get that high again.

book recommendation:

voices in the park, written and illustrated by anthony browne

yes, today i am recommending a picture book.  A PICTURE BOOK THAT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND, that is.  whether you’re looking for a book to read with a tyke, or for a book that takes you into a surrealist world inhabited by magritte-influenced illustrations and anthropomorphic chimps, then this is the book for you.


poetry in motion.

before i went on my fifteen-mile run last saturday, the baby panda dropped me off at ye olde simmons college library for a few hours. this semester, i am taking a course in children’s literature and media. for those of you who aren’t aware, this is my dream come true, and the reason why i signed up for library skool in the first place. but i had to spend the last several semesters soldiering through those danged COURSE REQUIREMENTS before i could learn about the magical, mystical, and sometimes disturbing world of children’s books. (wow. even after just a few weeks, i am realizing that some kids books are seriously unsettling. has anyone else read arlene sardine? soooo weird!)

anyways, there i was, happily devouring a big stack of picture books, and trying not to think about the fact that i was supposed to run 15 miles in just a few short hours and that my breakfast was sitting like a boulder in my tum. and then i came upon a non-descript, 1950’s-looking book of poetry by gwendolyn brooks called bronzeville boys and girls. HELLOOOO SNOOOOOZEFEST, i thought. i am not a big fan of poetry, for the most part. in order to understand it, i usually have to stretch my not-so-elastic mind beyond its capabilities, and then confusedly chew on stanzas for hours and hours. i know that some people adore it, and that’s great– i’ve just never had one of those really life-changing experiences with the genre.

until (as i am sure many of you have predicted by now) i started reading this book. it was a delight! immediately, i was sucked into an amazing world voiced by children who would say things like:

when grown ups at parties are laughing
i do not like the sound
it doesn’t have any frosting
it doesn’t come up from the ground

ahhh, i think that my head exploded with joy as i read those words. it just was so visual and expressive in a lovely, whimsical, and delicate way.

so. what does this have to do with running? well, as usual, i am going to make a bizarre and stretched comparison here in my blog. this one will be dedicated to poetry. why? well, not only did gwendolyn brooks serve as great food for thought on my arduous 15-mile trek, but, as the title of this post suggests, i think that long-distance running demands a certain poetic grace and efficiency of movement. whoa. that made me sound sort of intelligent or pompous, i am not sure which. but don’t worry– just as much as i was inspired by this idea, i was equally inspired by this amazing website: please, if you haven’t already visited this, GO THERE NOW! the haikus are just fabulous.

so, in honor of gwendolyn and bacon, i present my fifteen-mile run, in poetic haiku form.

haiku one:

standing on the bridge
biting wind devours my face
rendez vous my @$$

on weeks that i don’t run with my huge running team, i still try to run with a small group of folks from my smaller boston partners in education team. last week, i offered a meeting spot (my place of work, and place of skooling, aka the slim, aka simmons) and planned a running route, and we all agreed to meet there at 12:15 on saturday afternoon. as i have mentioned, i had been in the simmons library for a few hours that morning, so i was easily able to meet my buddies at the assigned time in my freakazoid running suit. (which had one new addition! a garmin gps watch! wheeeee!) nandi, jess, and kelly were already there, anxious to begin. but our other running buddy todd was nowhere to be found. luckily, he phoned nandi to tell her that he was running late, and so we decided to meet him at the mass ave bridge, which was about one mile into our wacky running route, and one mile from his home. easy as microwaving bacon, we thought!

we were wrong. we arrived at the bridge at 12:45 and waited for todd for 15 minutes, but never saw him. waiting, waiting, waiting in the cold and biting wind, we became angry and disillusioned. we started yelling about poor absent todd, chastising him for his lateness and utter lack of regard for our freezing faces. finally, we decided to continue on our journey without him. strangely, we later found out that todd HAD in fact been waiting for us at the mass ave bridge at the same exact time! we just somehow all missed each other. how you can miss people in brightly colored freakazoid running suits, i am not sure. therefore, we have since decided that the only plausible explanation is that either he or we fell into a wormhole. (i have recently been reading a wrinkle in time and some other fascinating children’s books on time travel, plus i watch LOST. therefore, i am a bit of an authority on this topic, so please don’t be a doubter.)

but at the time, we weren’t aware of the mass ave bridge’s bizarre scientific and wormhole-like properties. therefore, by the time we got running again, we were not only frozen popsicle faces, but we were also pretty surly.

haiku two:

violence is not
the answer except when men
yell about my fat

we continued on our run, desperately trying to warm our icicle limbs and faces. as we glided along at a gazelle-like pace over the dreadfully long and windy mass ave bridge (the bridge of my nightmares), we came upon a man. he might have been crazy, because even from a distance, we could see that he was yelling something and strangely shuffling along the sidewalk. as we got closer, we were able to parse out the garbled words:


oh. no. OH NO HE DIDN’T. HE DID NOT JUST COMMENT ON OUR FAT. i’m sorry– i don’t care HOW CRAZYFACE you may be or how obese i may be, you DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, comment on my fat, or tell me to run it off. omg, i am getting heated just typing this story again. but at that point, after waiting for poor wormhole todd for so long, and with so many miles ahead of us, it was all i could do not to throw that man off the side of the bridge into the murky and icy charles river. i am sure that my running companions would have helped me lauch him right into that dirty dirty water.

haiku three:

puppies everywhere!
reservoir covered in dogs
hunting for chicken

i had planned our run to go all the way up the charles river, and then to scoot up to the fresh ponds reservoir. as we approached the entrance, the super-practical nandi asked, “is anyone here afraid of dogs?” although none of us were afraid exactly, we all agreed that we were wary of canines that were not on leashes. that whole jumping-all-over-your-body situation = totally nervous-making. but we soldiered on, into the land of puppies. they were everywhere! running on the path, swinging from the trees, and swimming in the reservoir. it was a reservoir made of DOGS! mostly golden retrievers, actually. but also one that looked like belle from the incredibly boring belle and sebastian cartoon of my youth. and also some poodles and labradoodles.

about halfway around the reservoir, we reached the midpoint of our run. my blood sugar was crashing, so i asked if we could stop for a little fuel break. as i was trying not to vomit while eating the chocolate-flavored gu that i had brought with me, a dog came bounding through the woods. from a distance, we heard her owner uselessly calling, “CLEO! CLEO BABY! COME HOME TO MOMMY!”

of course, cleo wanted no part of this. she was bounding through the reservoir, an unleashed blur of joy and madness! as we were preparing to push off again, cleo’s mom came rushing up to us, still very concerned about cleo’s whereabouts. she had another dog with her– let’s call him allan. allan wasted no time getting all up in our business, jumping on nandi immediately, and then trying to steal my fannypack of sustinence. however, the dog lady took no notice, still futiley calling out, “CLEO BABY! CLEOOOOOO!”

then just as we were running away, we heard her scream out, “I HAVE CHICKEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

one second later, we saw cleo barreling toward us, crazy in pursuit of the promised chicken. god love a carnivorous dog.

haiku four:

almost done but for
cruel stairs and satellites
making pain linger

this was an exciting run for me– it was officially my LONGEST RUN EVER. so when my fabulous garmin watch informed me that we reached 13.1 miles (my previous longest run ever), i did a tiny leap for joy and let out a wheezing hoot. my route had us running underneath the b.u. bridge on this charming tiny wooden dock that i just love. then we would backtrack a bit to reach a bridge that would take us over storrow drive and through the boston university campus and then back toward the landmark center and simmons… huzzah!

unfortunately, when i was planning my route, i didn’t really take into account how incredibly painful it would be to scale the bridge’s stairs after running 14 miles. i am pretty sure that as we struggled up the steps and then wobbled down the steps, my teammates were considering throwing me off the bridge, just like that stupid man in haiku two. luckily, they did not hoist me off, although i wonder if they reconsidered their decision when we reached what was supposed to be the end of our 15-mile run, only to find out that it was only 14.6 miles, according to my garmin watch. whoopsadaisy! honestly, it’s not that weird to “lose” mileage on a run– after all, the route planning that i do is not super scientific, and 14.6 is uber close to 15. it would have been totally reasonable for us to stop there.

but we couldn’t. we had been running for hours at this point, and lacked the ability to reason. plus, we had planned to run 15 miles, and we were going to accept nothing less than that. (i hope that it is this same stubbornness that is going to propel us through 26.2 miles in just about two months from now.) so we kept running. finally, my garmin watch informed me that we had completed our run. and to paraphrase my poetry idol gwendolyn brooks, when we finally finished that journey, there was indeed a lot of laughter. covered in frosting, and coming up from the ground.

book recommendation:

the realm of possibility, by david levithan

a rare find– true and poignant. as i mentioned, i am usually not a fan of poetry, but this is astounding.


yesterday, i received a letter from my friend the baby (not to be confused with the baby panda) who lives in france.  that’s right, a letter! with air mail stamps!   back in the olden times (pre-2002), i used to be a prolific letter writer and recipient.  and now, the baby’s letter is the first that i have received in maybe a year.

many folks bemoan that letter-writing is becoming a lost art.  it’s true.  it is.  but maybe that’s not so bad– email, despite everyone’s complaints about its lack of formality and tone, is a more user-friendly letter-writing option in these economic times. (ha!  sorry– “in these economic times,” although not really at all relevant to my point here, is my favorite cliche these days.) i would like to argue that MORE writing output is being generated now, mainly because the turnaround time is so speedy.  and because of that speedy turnaround time, you can capture those quirky details of the everyday.  and we all know that i love quirky.

sometimes, when i am bored or down in the dumps, i like to look at old email conversations between my sister and me. i like to think that we are both hilarious, especially in the written word. we have really deep thoughts, as is evidenced by this amazingness, circa 2005:

email from laura to little helen, upon hearing that helen was unsatisfied with her bagel luncheon:

dearest helen,

i am so sorry that the bagel only stimulated your hunger and did not sate you. perhaps if you had poured some cheddar and broccoli soup in between the two slices of bagel, you would have felt differently. also, the baby panda says “baaaag-l.” i do not understand his suburban ways sometimes. also i was at finagle a bagel yesterday and guess what! they will, for a small charge, scoop out the inside bread part of the bagel in order to make it healthy! is that not the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard? i think it is the stupidest thing i’ve ever heard, and, loooooord, i have heard some stupid things.

wow, i was just on today! they should have some pretty slammin shirts for your party tomorrow. it would basically be my dream come true if you got to the door of ryan’s house and then a good-hearted girl named chenille came out of the bushes and tied a shirt around your head and made you look slammin a la save the last dance. not that you don’t already look slammin, because you always do, but it would still be my dream if someone named chenille met you at the doorway and tied a shirt around your head.

love, your sister

and the email response:

dear laura,

hmm let’s see – first of all, that bagel thing is the DUMBEST thing i’ve ever heard! dumber than having a christmas tree room or a rumpus room with brown carpet and wood paneling or sugar-free coke (no offense)! what a silly silly thing. the only way that you could really take a bite of a hollowed out bagel would be if you filled the hollow parts with crem chez, and that just defeats the whole purpose! come on finagle a bagel. additionally, have you ever tried to prove to bp that it’s bagel and not bagggl by discussing the name of the place finagle a bagel?

love, your sister

hilarious!  and quirky!  take that, luddite letter lovers!  score one for the root ladies!  (and thanks for the letter, baby!  you made my week!)

book recommendation:

everything is illuminated, by jonathan safran foer

some people call this book too cutesy.  i’m not one of them.  it’s fantastic. and maybe someday i will name my dog sammy davis junior junior.