Featured

Lows & Half Marathons

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.

Featured

From Chronically Injured to Chronically Ill

I had no plans to swim in college. That was never something I had initially planned on when I began applying to schools. My initial plan was to move as far away from my hometown as my parents would let me go. In fact, I think it was pretty much fate that lead me to my college and collegiate swimming career. If it wasn’t for that school, I may not have earned the degrees in my subject fields, the current career path I’m on, and possibly even the mental strength I posses to deal with my chronic illness.

I had received a pamphlet in the mail about my university, and my parents encouraged me to look it up. When they realized it was twelve hours away, they were hesitant, but the affordability of university eased their minds. For whatever reason, they agreed to drive me TWELVE HOURS out to South Dakota, and we looked at a few schools on the way. The funniest part about all of this was that after touring a few other schools, I had no interest in attending the college I ended up graduating from. It wasn’t until I ran into a professor who then introduced me to the head swim coach that I had any interest in my university. Like I said, complete fate is how this all came together. Two months later, my future coach called to inform me that there was a spot on the team if I wanted it. While I had not originally planned to swim in college, much less at the Division II level, I found myself committing.

My college swim career did not go as I planned. I never thought that I’d break records or earn a national cut, but I sure as hell did not think I’d miss almost a year and a half collectively. My first injury came my sophomore year of college. I began experiencing pain my right groin, but ignored it. I was running and swimming four hours a day, and was honestly still getting used to the demands of college athletics. It wasn’t until I found myself in extreme pain during a kick set that I made my way to the trainers. And it wasn’t until I was crying while walking across my small campus to get to class that I asked for things to be escalated. An x-ray and three MRI’s later, it was determined that I had torn the labrum in my right hip, and I needed surgery. I ended up missing the entirety of my sophomore season, but gained that year back with a medical red-shirt.

It was frustrating to have to sit on the sidelines and watch my teammates compete. It was frustrating to sit through four months of physical therapy post-surgery until I was cleared to swim. All I wanted to do was be back in the pool with my teammates, and I was SO relieved when that day finally came. I had been out of the water almost six months, and I was not in the same shape as when I left the pool. I worked my butt off to get back to where I was after before I had surgery. Then during the middle of a practice where I was finally feeling like I was back at pre-injury speed, my coach pulled me out of the pool again. Except this time, it was very obvious something was wrong. My right arm was swollen, and my hand was a blueish-purple color. Within the next two days it would be determined that I had Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, and had then developed Paget-Schroetter Syndrome. I had a blood clot in my shoulder, and underwent surgery within the next week. I missed ANOTHER immediate six weeks of swimming, required more physical therapy, and was not cleared to compete until about two months later. It was another frustrating recovery period, but I was yet again optimistic that I could come back just as strong.

My third full year of swimming was one of my best. I had be voted captain of my team, I was back to times that I had been seeing before either surgery, and I made finals in every event I swam at my conference meet. Then my last year, I slipped on the ice before morning practice and fractured my radius. I was out for about a month, but it made made me question taking my fifth year. I was frustrated, I wanted to quit, and I was devastated with the luck I seemed to have. Somehow though, I came back. My arm healed, and I finished out my year with the same optimism and positivity that I had shown during my other two injuries. It was tough, but I loved swimming and I wanted to finish out my career.

After I graduated college, I thought I was done with being injured. I was ready to live a normal life, workout when I wanted, and start my career. That following August, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I was furious, terrified, and any of the strength I had shown during my previous health battles was gone. The moment that I realized that there was no cure or quick fix, it destroyed me. I had been so lucky before with my previous problems. They could all be fixed, but no doctor in the world at this time can make my pancreas produce insulin again. It was a hard pill to swallow, and it was even harder to accept that there was no way to prevent this.

After going through what felt like the five stages of grief, I accepted my diagnosis. It certainly wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t a fast process, but I found the same strength I had had during my doomed collegiate swim career. I think that strength I experienced so many times before helped me carry the weight of my Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis. If I had not gone to my university and swam, and experienced that kind of set back, I think my acceptance of my diagnosis would have been very different. The way I carry myself as a Type 1 Diabetic could be very different. I am certainly not happy that I live with this awful disease, but I thankful for the experiences that I have had so far, no matter how difficult they were at the time, that proved to me that I can get through some of the hardest days with Diabetes.

How I Get Through Outdoor Runs During the North Dakota Winter

I’m sure many of you know by now that I live in the warm and sunny state of North Dakota. Just kidding. It’s the beginning of October and there was a blizzard a few days ago. It’s the opposite of warm and sunny here. Despite the fact that I complain about the weather a lot, I love it here. I love the size of Fargo, the friends I’ve met here, the running community I’ve found, and most importantly, I love my job which is the main reason I moved here. One of the biggest events in Fargo is the Fargo Marathon which takes place in early May. For those of you who have trained for a marathon, or any race, you know that it takes a few months of preparation before hand. This means that each year I choose to run the Fargo Marathon I get to train in the DEAD of winter. While some days the arctic wind chills keep me inside on the treadmill, other days I run outside in the wind, snow, and cold. Am I crazy? Probably, but these conditions won’t ever change so I might as well adapt.

Winter running also means running over snow piles

Last winter was rough for a lot of us in the Midwest. Here in Fargo, we are not strangers to sub-zero temperatures, wind chill values almost 40 below zero, and blizzards. That means running in the winter can be unpredictable. When I started training for my first full marathon in December of 2018, I knew that some of my long runs would be able to be ran outside, and some would have to be done on the treadmill. I spend A LOT of time on the treadmill last winter and while I do need to be careful about running in cold temperatures because of my insulin pump and my continuous glucose monitor, I really tried my best to get outside when I could. Of course, that meant that I needed to make sure that I was prepared for running in extreme conditions. Here’s how I run during the winter in the Midwest.

Clothing

The first and most obvious thing to cover is what you would even wear when you go for a run in arctic temperatures. This may go without saying, but it’s important to keep as much skin covered, even if you think you’ll be too warm. I like to dress in layers because if I do end up getting too hot, I can take something off.

Base Layers

My legs stay the warmest during winter runs so I don’t usually double layer my pants. Instead, I opt for cold wear gear from Under Armour or Nike, or pants that are lined with fleece. (A lot of my workout gear is from Target and the brand Champion really works for me!) If there’s one thing I’ve learned from running in the cold it’s that there is nothing worse than having any part of my ankle exposed to the bitter cold. I wear crew length socks during the winter to make sure that my whole leg is covered and that I can avoid any unwelcomed breezes. My arms are a little bit of a different story though. Unless the temperatures are hoovering near freezing, I need to wear a long sleeve or short sleeve shirt as my first layer. On top of my shirt, I wear a fleece lined zip up as my arms aren’t doing nearly as much work as my legs, and they get colder easier.

Outer Layers

While I keep myself warm and cozy with my base layers, I still need to prepare for the bitterly cold wind and keep my hands and head warm. If it’s a particularly windy day on the plains, which is more often the case than not, I wear a wind breaker jacket over my zip up. It also happens to be neon yellow which helps keep me visible and safe during the darker morning hours and blowing snow. The sidewalks are usually snow covered during the winter months here which prompts me to run in the road. If I’m wearing dark colors or white, I try to wear some kind of bright color to keep drivers alerted to my presence. If it’s not terribly windy outside, I usually opt for a vest as an outer layer. It gives me an extra layer of warmth while running, but doesn’t make me feel overheated. I also never run without gloves! This may seem like a no brainer, but I’ve definitely walked out the door for a run without them. Having something for your head, and the rest of your face some days, is also a must. I have a larger headband that doubles as an earmuff, but I also have a hat that I wear if it’s windy or below zero. If the wind is really bitter, I’ll wear a scarf around my face to help keep me a little extra warm.

Fuel

I think the hardest part about running in the winter is fueling yourself. I normally use gels to help fuel myself during long runs, but I found out the hard way that they don’t stay in gel form in the cold weather, even under all of your layers. I had to adapt and break my runs into parts. Whether I stop halfway at my apartment or at Fargo Running Company, I usually refuel inside to ensure that my gels or wafers aren’t frozen. This is also how I go about re-hydrating. Water freezes at 32 degrees F. Add in 60 minute plus runs and you have a giant ice cube in your water bottle. Much like my gels, I try to make pit stops inside so I can drink some water.

Things to Try in 2019-2020

This past winter was the first time I tried my best to get my long runs in outside because the good majority of them were over 10 miles. Since winter has ended, I’ve brain stormed some things I’d like to try this coming winter.

  1. Hand warmers. Out of everything, my hands just never wanted to stay warm. For the first mile they would be frozen, by the second or third mile they’d start sweating, but then they’d just freeze all over again. I tried wearing multiple pairs of gloves and even mitten over them, but nothing kept them warm enough. This year I’m going to try putting hand warmers inside my gloves and see if that helps. There is probably nothing worse than running with frozen hands!
  2. Traction cleats. With snow comes ice, and there’s nothing worse than seeing your life flash before your eyes when you slip on it. Last year I got through running outside without falling on any ice, but I had some close calls. My worst nightmare is putting in all the training and then have everything fall apart because I slipped on the ice and broke something. Been there, done that. For my birthday this year my sister bought me a pair of traction cleats and I’m excited to be able to run outside with them in the snow and ice. (Did I really just say that?)

Cold Weather & Medical Devices

For those of you who are unaware, I am a Type 1 Diabetic. I wear an insulin pump which is a device that continuously delivers insulin to my body, and I wear a continuous glucose monitor which relays my blood sugar levels to my phone every five minutes. Some of you may be wondering how I run in such cold temperatures with these devices on me. First of all, I use my best judgement. There are certain temperatures that are just TOO cold for anyone to be running in, let alone someone who has expensive medical devices on them. If I feel it’s too cold, I will go to the gym and run instead. Secondly, I don’t usually run with my Omnipod PDM, the part of my insulin pump that I physically use to tell it to give me insulin. This is the part of my pump that costs the most amount of money. I can call and replace my pod, the part of my pump that is attached to my body, but my PDM is a little trickier so I chose to leave it behind on winter runs. (Don’t worry, I still get insulin!) I’ve also been asked a lot about how my insulin itself fairs in such cool temperatures because frozen insulin is not good insulin. My pod is usually covered under a few layers of clothing and I’ve never had insulin freeze in my pump during a run, nor have I had any issues after my run that would make me think that my insulin was frozen at some point. I’ve never had any issues with my phone, Dexcom, or watch while running in arctic conditions. I have, however, have had my headphones stop working because it was too cold.

8 miles in a winter storm

Running in extreme cold weather certainly isn’t for everyone. I run in the cold weather because I can only mentally last on a treadmill for so many miles. Winters in North Dakota aren’t going to get any warmer so if I want to avoid running on the treadmill, I had to learn how to love running in sub-zero temperatures. Hopefully after reading this post you’ll feel a little more prepared on how to run in bone chilling temperatures.

Demons

*I just wanna warn everyone that this post talks about a sensitive issue & my own battles with mental illness.*

Diabetes is a full time job. You think about it 24/7. Did I bolus for that meal? Did I bolus enough? How many carbs are is this meal? Will I go low over night and not wake up? The list goes on. We balance it on top of school and work and relationships. And to add more to the pile, there’s the financial stress that surrounds this disease. Diabetes is overwhelming. It’s even more overwhelming when you feel like you’re alone.

After hearing about Kate Spade, I reflected on my own dark time battling this disease and the mental health issues it brings to light. It was a year post diagnosis. My A1C was high despite being put on a pump. I had just had a relationship end and I was living in a new city. Financially diabetes was taking a toll on me, and it seemed like I couldn’t get control over my blood sugar numbers. At one point, I got in such a dark place that there were a few times when I got low, and I thought about not treating it. (For those of you who don’t know, not treating a hypoglycemic episode can lead to a loss of consciousness, seizures, and death.)

I would remember feeling low, and checking my sugar. The number would always pop about the same: 44, 56, 39. I remember sitting on my couch and thinking: I could just not eat a piece of candy. Or I could just not get up and drink juice. I remember thinking that if I didn’t treat my low, I wouldn’t have to deal with all the stress of diabetes anymore. While I never chose to not treat my lows, the thoughts were there and eventually, I talked to someone. I didn’t talk to my mom, or my best friend. I didn’t choose to lean on one of my sister’s shoulders or my group of close friends. Instead, it was a friend who I don’t see or talk to on a day to day basis anymore. His name popped on my phone one day, and he asked if I was okay. Almost like a sixth sense that he knew that I wasn’t. So I told him. For me, once I told someone, it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. For me, admitting to someone else that I wasn’t okay made me realize that is okay to not be okay. That doesn’t mean I was magically out of my dark place though. It took time, and some days, it still feels like there’s that dark shadow trying to creep up behind me. I can’t explain how I got out of my dark hole. It’s different for everyone and there’s no one quick fix. One day I woke up and that dark shadow wasn’t quite as big.

Life is a lot. Life is a lot for anyone sometimes, working pancreas or not. It’s okay to not be okay. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s just a small issue or if it’s making it seem impossible to get through the day, you are not alone. Someone has gone through what you’re going through and is there to listen. 💜

  • People with Type 1 Diabetes are more likely to have mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
  • 1 in 5 adults–43.8 million people–experiences mental health illness in a given year.
  • 1 in 25 adults experiences a severe mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. **

Mental illness is more prominent than you think. It can effect anyone. It does not discriminate. Be kind to the people around you. Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 ** These statistics were taken from the National Alliance on Mental Health https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers

Race Transfers

Why I’ve decided to drop down from the half marathon distance to the 10K distance for my upcoming race, and why it’s been the best decision I’ve made for myself this summer race season.

I had a great start to the year running wise. I ran my first official 10K which was an awesome way to kickoff my first marathon training regimen. I worked hard from December to May, and I watched myself hold faster paces each time I went for a training run. Then I ran my first 15K in Minneapolis, and my sister ran her first 5K. It was a month out from my first marathon, and my placement at that race was a great confidence booster heading into the marathon. Then the day finally came where I ran 26.2 miles! While I didn’t run it in the goal time I had set for myself, I was able to battle the wind, rain, and cold, and still finish under 5 hours. While the first half of 2019 has been great running wise, sometimes life doesn’t always go the way we plan it to.

Fargo Marathon

Marathon training was HARD, and it’s supposed to be. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would be running marathons. While I enjoyed marathon training more than I expected to, it’s hard on you both mentally and physically. I had worked my tail off December through May. I rarely missed a run or cross training workout. I put in the hard work, and it paid off. After my marathon I took a week off. I didn’t run and I didn’t work out. For me, it was a break that was welcomed both physically and mentally, but getting back into things after that week off was hard. It took about a month to get back to paces I was hitting during marathon training, and my endurance took a hit. Fast forward to now, about 10 weeks post-marathon, and I’m back to running my usual paces and my endurance has definitely improved. I ran a 5K on the 4th of July and PR’ed, and I ran a 10K with one of my best friends which while it wasn’t PR by any means, it was fun and it felt easy. I expected my training to continue to feel easy and be free of any complications, but that wasn’t the case.

Summers in North Dakota can be very hot and humid, and that’s exactly what most of July was like. My 6, 7, and 8 mile training runs were all met with frustration. While it is difficult for anyone to run in the heat and humidity, it was even more difficult for me because of how those factors impacted my blood sugar levels while running. As a Type 1 Diabetic, running can be a difficult task on its own. Running, aerobic exercise, makes my blood sugar levels drop, and has the ability to drop them to dangerous levels. This means I need to pay attention to what I eat before, during, and after my runs to help keep my levels in range, and I need to pay attention to my insulin needs during my runs as well. Too much insulin during my run will also drop my blood sugar levels quickly, but too little insulin can elevate my blood sugar levels which can not only make your runs feel awful, but can also be dangerous. It took me a long time and lots of trial and error to figure out what works best for me as a diabetic runner, but it’s not always a fool-proof plan. During my last few training runs, I experienced the heat and humidity effect my blood sugar levels differently. I’ve had my levels drop quickly despite consuming multiple gels, these gels are full of fast-acting carbohydrates which help me keep my levels up during my runs, and I’ve had my levels raise to dangerous levels while running despite correcting with insulin during my runs. These incidents lead to a lot of runs cut short, and a lot of frustration.

Wonder Woman 10K

Yesterday’s long run was no different. Although there was no heat and humidity in the equation, my ten mile training run was cut down to just under six miles because of a quick dip in my blood sugar levels. While it was a mistake on my part, as I forgot to decrease my basal insulin, it wasn’t the run I was hoping for two weeks out from my first half marathon of 2019. This race already comes with some hesitation as last year I was not able to finish this half marathon. It was a hot and humid morning, even at a 7am race start, and my blood sugar levels crashed around mile eight. I was unable to bring them back up to a level that was safe for me to run at, and I was forced to drop out. I wanted to run this race this year, mostly for redemption, but my training runs just haven’t been where I want them to be. After talking things through with my running buddy, I made a decision about how to move forward with my upcoming half marathon.

Yesterday afternoon, I made my first race transfer of my running career. I’ve decided to transfer down from the half marathon distance to the 10k distance. While I love the half marathon distance, I don’t want to go into a race feeling uneasy or unprepared. I think I could successfully complete 13.1 miles right now, but I don’t think it would be a fun or enjoyable race. For me, running is supposed to be fun. That’s why I do it. I sign up for races because I enjoy them, and I think the mindset you that you have for those races going into them is important. My mindset isn’t where I want it to be before a half marathon. Not being able to run a distance over eight miles has been frustrating, and I feel more confident in my abilities to run and do well in a 10K than I do competing in a half marathon right now. That being said, I have been working hard, it’s just been difficult to compete with external factors and battling unpredictable blood sugar levels. That’s why I decided to do the ‘TWO CHALLENGE” at the Go Far Women’s Run in two weeks. This means, I will not only be running the 10K on August 10, but I will also be running the 5K race on August 9. I feel that this will be a great challenge before heading into the fall race season, and something that I’ll find enjoyable. Exactly the kind of change in mindset I’m in need of right now.

Minneapolis All State Hot Chocolate 15K

This summer has been frustrating running-wise. It hasn’t gone the way I expected or planned it to, but I feel that running my upcoming race this way will be a great compromise for myself. Running with Type 1 Diabetes is never easy, but this summer it’s proved to be much more difficult than normal. While I have a few shorter distance races on the horizon for the fall, I’m aiming to run two half marathon before the end of October. My summer running has been full of frustration and runs cut short, but I’m hoping this race change will give me the confidence boost that I feel is very much needed heading into the fall race season. I never wanted to be that person who drops down to a shorter distance race after signing up, but sometimes despite your best efforts your training just isn’t where it needs to be.

How I Didn’t Let My Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis Get the Best of Me

Once upon a time, I was just your average 22 year old. I had just finished my collegiate swimming career, graduated college, and I thought I was healthiest I’d ever be in my life. Little did I know that in three months, my life would change completely. In the weeks leading up to my yearly physical, I knew something wrong. I, very stupidly, googled my symptoms, and after self-diagnosing myself with a few conditions I concluded that something WAS actually wrong. As I sat in the doctor’s office that next week, I spent more than half my appointment debating on whether or not I should tell my doctor all of my symptoms. Finally, at the very end of my appointment, I decided I might as well tell her what I was experiencing. She ordered a blood and urine test and assured me that there was nothing to be alarmed about, that it was probably just my thyroid. Feeling silly, I returned to work and pretty much forgot all about my appointment.

But then I got that phone call. I remember the lab technician speaking in what seemed like a foreign language and after I grasped that something was REALLY wrong with me, my mind started racing. I remember asking her if she could ‘dumb it down for me’ because I didn’t have a clear diagnosis. That’s when she said: “Your test results show that you’re diabetic.”  I thanked her for my results and then scheduled another doctor’s appointment for the following afternoon. Then I lost it. I called my mom, my dad, and my sister. I sat in my boss’s office and bawled, and I tried to figure out how the heck I was a diabetic. Spoiler alert: there’s no way to figure it out, and sometimes after 22 years together, your pancreas just stops producing insulin.

Now there’s lot of things they tell you when you’re first diagnosed. That it’s okay to be angry. That even though most people would consider you to be too old to be diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic, it’s more common than you think.  They tell you that you are now insulin dependent and that will never change. That if you don’t give yourself your shots, you’re going to have serious complications that could kill you. They show you all the new medicines you get. They show you how to test your blood sugar and give yourself your insulin shots. They set you up with a dietician who shows you how to count carbohydrates. You learn that now you will have to see a doctor every three months, and that they scheduled your appointment with your new endocrinologist. Then after what seems like the LONGEST doctor’s appointment of your life, they send you on your way with your new prescriptions and your new life.

Then it sits in. All the things they don’t tell you in your first appointment after being diagnosed. How sad and depressed you feel, and then how guilty you feel because even though your new disease can be life threatening, others have it far worse. That you’ll spend the next two weeks crying on the phone to your mom every night. That you’ll go through all of the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Which honestly seems weird because no one died, and then you feel even worse because you feel like no one understands what you’re going despite the best family, friends, and co-workers around. They don’t tell you the financial burden you now have and that insulin will sometimes cost more than your rent. They don’t tell you that six months from now you’re still going to have breakdowns because this just doesn’t seem fair. They don’t tell you that some days you’re going to want to quit. That some days it becomes all too much and giving yourself that next shot becomes almost impossible. Looking back on it, this list just seems to scratch the surface.

For me, the first couple months after finding out that I was Type 1 were some of my darkest. I felt like I was in such a low place in my life, and it seemed like nothing was ever going to go right. I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone how I was feeling so sad and lost. I felt like people thought I was overreacting and that made me feel even more closed off. I can’t really explain how I got over it. I don’t think you really ever do. I think you just somehow find the strength to carry those feelings with you, and continue on with your life. You start doing things that make you happy again and you try your best to forget that you’re living with an incurable disease.

One day, it’ll all become routine. You’ll get in the habit and the only difference between you and everyone else is that you have to take a couple shots throughout the day. Everything will turn around and life will become ~normal~ again. You’ll get a job that you love and that you’re good at. Your family and friends will still love you and support you. You’re still going to be the same sassy, sarcastic person you were before because you didn’t let Type 1 Diabetes get the best of you. And that’s all that matters when it comes to fighting this disease.

Why I’ve Learned to Love 4:30am Wake Up Calls

It’s hard to remember a time in my life when I didn’t have an early morning wake up call. For many athletes, it’s pretty typical to wake up during the very early morning hours to get a workout in. Early morning workouts are associated with chasing dreams, determination, and motivation. (Some may say a little bit of insanity, too.) Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, I thought I’d share why I find the early bird status my favorite.

It started for me when I was in high school. I was one of the few freshman on my swim team, and I was determined to make a name for myself during my time there. When the time came in our season to start two-a-days, our coach explained to us that the only required swimmers were the returning varsity letter men. For everyone else, it was optional. I remember telling that to my parents at dinner and being excited that I didn’t have to jump in a pool at 5:30am that year. That’s when my dad replied with: “So I’ll drop you off around 5:15?” This was when I learned that while you might not always be a huge fan of morning workouts, they benefit you in more ways than one. My swim coach was impressed that I not only showed up for the first morning practice, but that I KEPT showing up. I showed him that I was dedicated and wanted to be the best I could be. My extra practices paid off when I swam every race my freshman year at the varsity level which then led me to swimming varsity all four years of high school.

That discipline came in handy when I went off to college and continued swimming at the collegiate level. Being a student-athlete at the college level was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Balancing classes, practices, and still finding time to study and socialize meant learning how to prioritize. The season was longer, the workouts were harder, but thankfully I did not have to adjust to morning workouts and two-a-days on top of all of that. By my final year of college, I had been swimming competitively for 10 years. For 9 of those 10, I had been waking up at the crack of dawn for practice. It was safe to say that I was exhausted. That I was over morning workouts. On the bus ride home from my final meet as a college athlete, I made a promise to myself that I would never wake up early to workout again.

Let’s all laugh together at that statement.

I am now three years post-grad. I am certainly not as active as I was in high school and college, no two-a-days on my calendar anytime soon, but I still have goals I’m working towards each and every day. While I’m trying to better myself at running, I’m also advancing in my career. Since my responsibilities have changed in the lab so has the time I spend at work. I used work a pretty typical 7:30am-4pm shift. It was uncommon for me to be at work past 4pm on any given day. I was able to get whatever workout I wanted in before 6pm, and could still eat dinner at a reasonable time. Now my work days are a little less predictable, and I rarely get off of work at the same time every day. Working out in the afternoons became increasingly difficult, and lead to long nights after work.

This proved to become the biggest issue for me when I was training for my first marathon. I didn’t just want to finish the marathon, I wanted to do well. As you can probably imagine, skipping training runs for a marathon is generally frowned upon, and does not help you reach any of the goals you’ve set for yourself. I found that after working long hours, my motivation to go to the gym plummeted. And if by the grace of God I did get my butt to the gym, I didn’t usually eat dinner until close to 9pm. Afternoon workouts just weren’t cutting it for me anymore so one morning I set my alarm clock for 4:30am and hoped for the best.

While it was surprisingly easy to get back into the swing of morning workouts, I found myself to be dragging around 2pm. Thankfully, my body figured out its new routine within a few days, and I found myself having no issues falling asleep by 8:30pm. I also found that my body seemed to appreciated my morning workouts more in terms of my blood sugar levels. Working out in the morning kept my blood sugar levels more stable throughout the day, allowed me to use less insulin throughout the day, and I found myself having less frequent low blood sugar episodes during my workouts.

Sometimes it feels like all I do is workout, go to work, and come home to sleep. Some mornings it’s very difficult to get myself out of bed in the morning that early to get a workout in. I know that will prove to be even more difficult in the winter months. This might not be something I keep up for the rest of my life, but for now it’s certainly the best thing for me. The best part about morning workouts is that I got it done with right away in the morning. While everyone else is just waking up for the day, I’ve pounded out six miles or a heavy lifting workout. I accomplish more things before 6am than some people do all morning. (Plus, the gym and parking lot are never crowded at 5am.) I never thought I’d be an early bird again, but early morning workouts have helped me reach my running goals.

Want to start working out in the morning? Here are some things that helped me:

  1. Get everything you need for the next day ready before you go to bed. I lay my workout clothes and my work clothes out the night before. I make sure my lunch is packed the night before too. I save so much more time in the mornings by doing this, and it can mean more time to get just one more mile in.
  2. Start out small. When I got back into working out in the mornings, I did not start out with a 10 mile run. I did three easy miles, and then slept in the following morning. As they say, slow and steady wins the race.
  3. Getting an appropriate amount of sleep. The reason I go to bed every night at 8:30pm is so that I get AT LEAST 6- 8 hours of sleep. I know waking up that early in the morning is already hard enough, but waking up exhausted makes it even harder to near impossible. If I wake up exhausted, I don’t go to the gym. Plain and simple.
  4. Don’t press snooze! I know it’s really easy to say to yourself, “just a few more minutes”, but then those minutes turn into another hour, and you don’t get up to workout. Try your best to get up right away when your alarm goes off.
  5. Don’t sit down. While I don’t eat a huge breakfast before I workout in the morning, I make sure that I don’t sit down to eat. Why? Have you ever noticed how comfortable your couch is right before you’re going to workout? Before you know it you’re sucked into your couch, napping.
  6. And finally, plan your workout ahead of time. Whether it’s just pin pointing out how many miles you’re going to run, or just that it’ll be a cross training day, know what you’re doing before you get there. You’ll spend less time trying to figure out what your workout will be when you get there, and more time actually working out.


No More Training Left

This week has been one that I have looked forward to for many months: the week of my first marathon. I have A LOT of feelings right now, mostly excitement, but part of me also can’t believe that it’s almost May 18. I started training for this race on December 3. It’s been 23 weeks and 3 day, or 164 days. For five months straight, I have been in training mode. Growing up as an athlete, and spending five years as a college swimmer, spending five months training for one race doesn’t seem crazy to me. I’ve put so much hard work and time into my marathon training, and the day is almost here where I get to see it all pay off.

Like any athlete who has ever trained for anything, I had days where I had doubts that I could do this. I had mornings where I pressed the snooze button too many times. I had afternoons where I picked drinks with friends over a run. Bad workouts and dips in motivation happen, but I can honestly say that I’ve spent more time at the gym and outside training for this race than I ever thought I would. I started training for this race in winter, in Fargo, ND. If you’ve been following my journey at all, you’ll know that this was a harsh winter. Bitterly cold conditions, I’m talking wind chill values normally in the -40°s, but getting as cold as -50°s, and multiple blizzards made getting outside for runs difficult. The treadmill became my best friend, but as many runners know, running anything above about 6 miles on the treadmill feels like torture. I’m pretty impressed with myself for getting through those long miles on the treadmill, but also thankful for Fargo Running Company’s group runs for getting me outside during the winter when weather permitted. Most of my runs from April up until now have been done outside, and I am so happy that I got to finish out my marathon training plan in shorts and the sun.

During my marathon training, I was promoted to a new job at my company. While I was excited for the new opportunity, it made training difficult some days. Long hours at work forced me to switch up my workout schedule for most of April. I found myself waking up at 4:30am most days so that I could get my runs in. I always said that I would never wake up early to work out again after college, but that kind of goes out the window once you have a goal set. I honestly didn’t mind waking up early to work out, it’s just kind of hard to have a social life when you need to be in bed by 8:30pm. 😜

The biggest thing I was worried about while training for my marathon was my blood sugar levels, especially on my 12+ mile runs. As a Type 1 Diabetic, I can no longer produce insulin and rely on myself, as well as my insulin pump, to deliver insulin. Running can be tricky as a diabetic. My blood sugar crashes during runs so I had to learn how to fuel myself while on longer runs AND I had to learn how to keep my levels in range while running. A huge shout out goes to my Dexcom for this. Without this little device attached to me and relaying blood sugar reading to my phone every five minutes, running would be much more difficult than it already us. My blood sugar doesn’t always play nice during runs, in fact, I’ve usually been spiking during my longer runs. Whenever I do find myself with blood sugars on the lower end, I either drink some lower sugar Gatorade or snack on Honey Stinger Energy Gels every few miles.

As Saturday gets closer and closer, I’m definitely still nervous. The weather forecast is cool, rainy, and windy which doesn’t help ease any of those nerves. More than anything though, I’m still excited. I’m excited to see my parents and older sister. I’m excited to see all my hard work pay off, and I’m overall just excited to trust in my training and see how I’ll finish. While I’m hoping to finish my first marathon in about 4 hours and 30 minutes, I’m honestly just excited to finish. Is it a Saturday yet?

Dear Jess (An Ode to My Running Buddy)

This is my running buddy, Jess.

Left: Jess

We are co-workers turned good friends who a little more than a year ago decided that we could totally run 3 miles for coffee and donuts. I don’t think either of us expected that race to turn us into avid runners, let alone lead to training for our first marathon, but here we are one week out. Almost every single race that I’ve ran since within the last year and a half has been done with her by my side.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve always struggled with how to tell new friends that I’m a Type 1 Diabetic. This is because diabetes is viewed as a self-inflicted disease, and I’m often questioned by strangers on if I can eat something or the ‘I can totally relate, my cat had diabetes.” Insert eye roll here. I honestly don’t remember how I told Jess that I was a Type 1, but I do know that she didn’t care.

Our first race 🍩

Now let me clarify what I mean when I say that Jess didn’t care. Jess 210% understands that Type 1 Diabetes is so much more complicated than it appears. In fact, she’s been one of the few people who have never asked judgmental questions about my diet nor has she said anything negative about my diabetes. Jess understands that there are some morning I can’t run because my blood sugar is either too high or too low, through no fault of my own. She’s seen my swings in blood sugar levels and understands that it affects my mood and energy levels. She’s even driven me home before because I was too low to drive, and I needed to keep treating my low every so often until my blood sugar levels stabilized. She’s also connected to my Dexcom (continuous glucose monitor) and can see my blood sugar 24/7.

I think when it comes to running and diabetes, you need someone in your corner. I am very lucky that I have so many people in my corner. But I’m also very lucky to have a friend like Jess who is not only in my corner, but running along side with me. We’ve had a lot of triumphs together while running, but we’ve also had our fair share of frustration. Some of our frustrations have been similar: crappy runs, injuries, and dips in motivation. Some of our frustrations have been very different from each other’s.

Marathon training run

Obviously, one of my biggest frustrations is when my blood sugar doesn’t cooperate on a run. Running and diabetes is tricky and frustrating, and figuring out how to be your own pancreas while running double digit miles is not a challenge I wish on anyone. (Diabetes in general is not something I wish on anybody.) I think one of the reasons Jess is the most incredible running buddy is that no matter the distance we choose to train for, she’s never once looked and me said, “maybe you shouldn’t run this distance.” She has never once looked at my disease as something that should hold me back. Instead, she says, “we can totally do this.” She even really goes above and beyond and sometimes packs extra snacks for me. 😋

Today, Jess shared a heartfelt statement on us running our first full marathon together and said: “She (Sam) is such an incredibly strong person for taking on a marathon as a type 1 diabetic and proves time and time again that T1D will not stop her from pursuing new goals. I’m just really proud of my friend and can pretty confidently say I wouldn’t be running a marathon if it wasn’t for her.” Jess helped me get over my fear of exercising with diabetes. She helped instill a confidence in me that if I can run a 5K for donuts with a crappy pancreas, why not a marathon? If it wasn’t for Jess, I wouldn’t be running and I certainly wouldn’t be running a marathon. I am very lucky to not only have Jess in my corner as a friend, but also next to me on the course motivating me through the miles. 🖤

Fargo Half Marathon 2018

Why I Run With Pepper Spray

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware of the staggering amount of women who’ve gone for runs, but never returned home. For many us, running is a time where we can clear our minds. It’s our happy place. A place where we are at peace. Imagine going out for your run only to be terrorized mid run, and never make it home. It’s a terrifying and grave thought, but it’s now a worry that many women runners think about when they lace up their shoes and head out the door.

Today would have been Mollie Tibbets 21st birthday. I can’t translate what her life meant to her loved ones or tell her story in a way that deserves to be told, so I encourage you to check out This link. I made my decision to run with pepper spray from that moment on after hearing her story because I realized that my happy place was no longer a safe and sacred space.

Awhile back, I was out on the town with a large group of my co-workers and friends. When running was brought up in conversation, I mentioned how I was excited to get more of my runs done outside, but how that means an additional item to carry on me. Besides my insulin pump, energy gels, phone, and apartment keys, I also try my best to carry pepper spray with me on outdoor runs. When I mentioned how I ran with pepper spray, one of my co-workers replied with: “Why do you run with pepper spray? You live in Fargo, North Dakota. Nothing happens here.”

Isn’t that how it always goes? It’s always a small, tight-knit community, much like Fargo, and the residents are always surprised that this could have possibly happened in such a quite town. It’s always someone who’s loved. Someone with a bright future ahead of them. Someone who everyone has nothing, but nice things to say about. It’s always someone just like you and me.

I know we all have the mindset that ‘it won’t happen to us,’ but what if it does? When I run, I try my best to run on busy roads and with my running buddy, but that doesn’t always happen. Often times when I get my runs in early in the morning, I’m the only one on the bike path. Sometimes it doesn’t work out for my running buddy and I to run together. Sometimes I’d rather run down by the river than down the busy street near my apartment. I never thought much about running alone, but now I worry about it.

If there’s one thing I think you should take from this, its that it is never the victims fault. If I’m attacked on a run, it will never matter if I had my pepper spray on me. The ugly truth is that if someone wants to cause me harm, they will try their best to do it. They will look for a situation where I’m vulnerable, like when I’m running alone. There will always be awful people in this world, but I can be prepared. I can carry my pepper spray, run with one ear bud in, and do my best to be aware of my surroundings. No matter what reason you clicked on my post, I hope you took something from it, whether that may be the courage to be more open about running with something like pepper spray, or maybe it made you considered running with something on you.

These are some* of the women who have gone for a run and never came back.

They are:

Laura Smither

Chaundra Levy

Ally Brueger

Karina Vetrano

Vanessa Marcotte 

Mollie Tibbetts

Wendy Karina Martinez

*I say some because I’m sure there are many more women out there for have not come home from their runs. If you know of someone I missed, feel free to leave their name in the comments. Their story deserves to be told.