Last year, I woke up one Saturday morning at 5am and got ready for my second half marathon. I ate my typical pre-run breakfast and mentally prepared for the 13.1 miles that I’d be running that morning. While I wasn’t 100% confident on how this race would go, I laced up my shoes to join a few friends at the starting line.
When my friends and I were getting ready to leave my apartment, my blood sugar was in the 160s. I typically like to start my runs in the 180s, and my Dexcom was showing that I was slightly rising so I wasn’t too terribly worried. It wasn’t until I got to the venue and noticed I had started dropped to about 155 mg/dL that I started to worry. In a slight panic, I ate a granola bar, which usually makes me steadily rise, and hoped for the best. After one last bathroom break I checked my Dexcom and saw that my blood sugar levels were rising.I entered the race feeling relieved and confident.
By the time the first mile marker came around, I heard my pace through my headphones: “9:20.” We we’re running faster than we expected. We hit up every water station, and when the chance for Poweraid became available, I opted for that in hopes that it would help keep my blood sugar up and stable. Each mile passed, and each mile was under a 9:30min/mile pace! We were keeping up with the pacer whose balloon read 02:05. If we kept up with that her, it would be a personal record (PR) by SIX minutes. But then I heard it. The loud, blaring low blood sugar alarm of my Dexcom. I dropped a few choice words, and pulled one of my gels out of my running belt, and began continuously checking my Dexcom. 15 minutes passed and my Dexcom read 66 mg/dL with the down arrow.
I knew I was running fast and that I was on my way to a PR. I wanted nothing more but to keep myself going. I thought to myself: “If my gel kicks in, and I can get to the next aid station, drink a bunch of power aid, and then wait a little bit, I’ll be good to keep going. To my frustration, the next aid station was a bit farther away that I thought. My gel wasn’t kicking in fast enough, and by the time I got to the aid station, there was only water. There was, however, more gels so I hoped that if I ate another gel, I could get my blood sugar out of the 60s. By this time, I knew had added another half hour to my half marathon time. I was past any hope of PR-ing during that half.
I kept checking my Dexcom, but the arrows kept going down. My sugar kept dropping. There was no way I could have ran five more miles with my blood sugar under 90 mg/dL. That’s when I decided that I had to throw in the towel. I made the heartbreaking, but safe decision to pull myself out of the race. It was frustrating. I was running so well, but my blood sugar levels were being so stubborn. No amount of carbohydrates could keep my blood sugar at a level where I could safely finish running five miles.
I’ve had plenty of runs and workouts cut short due to low blood sugar. It happens, and when I decided to start running half marathons, I knew that there might be a race or two that I couldn’t complete because of low blood sugar. That doesn’t mean it makes it easier when it happens, though. I was feeling great. I was running fast. I was on track to PR. I did not want to turn to my friend and tell her that I couldn’t finish the race, but the reality of the situation was that it was in my best interest to pull out of the race.
The moral of this story is that diabetes can be infuriating, especially when working out. I didn’t do anything different from my typical pre-run routine. I ate the same breakfast and suspended my insulin much like I would before any other run. My blood sugar SHOULD have been elevated before my race and stayed stable, but for whatever reason that day, my blood sugar did not want to play along. I don’t think I could have prevented my low blood sugar that day. It’s just how the cards played out.
Was this upsetting? Yes. Will I stop running races? Absolutely not. If I stop running because I had one race that I couldn’t complete because of low blood sugar, that would mean I let diabetes win. Part of me wanted to wake up the next morning and run 13.1 miles just to prove to myself that I had it in me, but I knew there would be another chance for me run a half marathon. Diabetes may have stopped me from completing that half, but I haven’t let it stop me from running. To date, I have ran multiple 5 and 10K’s, three 15Ks, three half marathons, and one marathon. Running with Type One Diabetes isn’t always easy, but I’ll never let T1D keep me from running.