Wednesday, June 18, 2008

So Many Numbers

Many years ago, I read a brilliant memoir of a type 1 diabetic called Needles, by Andie Dominick. Her opening line: "I know about needles."

These days, though, it's all about numbers. I know about numbers.

I test my blood sugar all the time. And with this triathlon training, I'm working with a heart rate monitor to train within a certain percentage of my heart rate. In short, once you know your maximum heart rate, training within certain numbers can help you build endurance, get faster, and keep you from overtraining and burning out before the event itself. They break the numbers into zones. So tonight, for example, I jogged for 30 minutes and kept my heart rate in zone three. For this workout, I was exactly where it was supposed to be.

It wasn't easy--I had to distract myself from the total unpleasantness of running: the calf and shin pain, the huffing, the puffing--by talking to two women I was running with. It was kind of like what I did during my HSG two years ago. I wonder if I can figure out how to talk underwater while swimming across a lake?

So I am juggling blood sugars, trying to reduce basals sometimes so I don't go low during a workout (which hasn't happened yet, in three weeks of training! Woo hoo!), but then bolusing to counteract going high after a workout. I've woken up with some major lows in the middle of the night, for several night in a row.

Changing my correction factor has helped. Oh look, another number to think about and tweak. And then there are the insulin ratios.

And yet, I just keep calculating everything. Using technology like a blood meter or a brand new heart rate monitor that's accurate. (I'd been using a subpar heart rate monitor until today and it made a HUGE difference in my workout.) Training for this triathlon may just push me into upgrading my insulin pump. Mine is four years out of warranty and still works fine. But it doesn't have the insulin on board feature. Figuring that out on my own has always been a point of pride for me. But with this new heart rate monitor tonight, I see the benefit of great technology.

For this English major, book-loving writer and alphabet enthusiast, it's sort of ironic that I deal with so many numbers. But for some odd reason, I seem to be pretty good at it. I don't really resent the constant calculations. They're just what I do. For a good chunk of the time, the numbers work out OK. Not perfectly--I'm diabetic, after all. But I'm able to live with those imperfections, and I think that's what living well with diabetes is.

Sometimes, I can do something thrilling in spite of the diabetes. Something like running for 30 minutes straight wihtout having to slow to a walk. And keeping my heart rate right where it should be.

(And my sugars were just fine, too.)

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