How Do You Take Insulin For THAT?!

June 20th, 2011 by Amy Gonsalves Leave a reply »

I ran one of the oldest and most famous trail run routes on Saturday.  It didn’t feel like a lot of running—it felt like a lot of huffing and puffing and “omg how am I supposed to get THERE from HERE?!

I’m doing it again on Saturday.

It’s the Dipsea Course in Marin, north of San Francisco.  I ran the “Double Dipsea.”  It’s beautiful and varied and generally amazing.

And then you realize you have only gone 0.8 miles and there are 13.2 more miles to go…and you start to wonder.

When I do this next weekend for the official event, I’ll start at the ocean and run inland—the biggest dip at the center of this elevation map is where we begin on Saturday, so my map after that one will be a wacky cut-in-half mirror image.

It will be GIANT hill, huge hill, huge hill, GIANT hill.  Not the other way around. 

So let me begin by saying, in case you aren’t familiar with the way trail runs go for the mere mortals like me who just go out and try and have zero hope or expectation of coming close to being the fastest out there, that over the course of the 14 miles I probably only ran maybe about 7 miles, in the traditional sense of the word “run.”  The 14 miles that should take me less than 2½ hours to complete on a road will take me closer to 5 hours on Saturday’s terrain. 


It’s a lot of hiking, a lot of climbing, a lot of little strides and a lot of cautious steps and fingers crossed that you won’t miss a step or turn an ankle on a root or stone.

I’m telling you, it’s fun.  (In its own special way.)  But it isn’t easy.

If you go into this without experience, you might think “run” and know “less insulin” and go from there.  But you can probably see from this elevation map that my insulin needs vary along with the course.  I need less insulin/more fuel for the inclines and less for the declines.  The slower I go, generally the more insulin I need… but not when I’m climbing. The faster I go, generally the less insulin I want… but not when I’m barrelling down a hill.

It’s a lot of trial and error, and a lot of learning, and a lot of being prepared for whatever happens.

I mean, I got stung in the shoulder blade by a bee through my shirt on a trail run half marathon once.  Wacky random stuff happens out there, and the best we can do is prepare for what we do—and do not—expect.

So because I know I will face the giant hill first (with names like “steep ravine” and “insult hill” and with my favorite section just like the Ewok village of Return of the Jedi) I will make sure I have enough fuel and an inadequate amount of insulin (I’m thinking 20-30% of my normal, as 40% was too much the first time) to help me reach the crest.  I’ll need to fuel up again midway down the giant hill in order to prepare for the huge hill.  Since I won’t have much time between reaching the bottom of the steps at the bottom of the huge hill and literally turning around and heading back up all 671 of them, I’ll need to be checking and continuously aware what my blood glucose is doing so that if I need to eat I’ll be able to do that when I won’t endanger other runners who aren’t thinking I’ll stop on a step. 

It gets complicated, of course.

But it’s an amazing adventure.

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