Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Guest Post: Oh, The Weather Outside Is Frightful.

The fabulous Caroline Sheehan, who apparently is an aspiring novelist (judging by the length of the following post... wink!), is taking the blogging reigns over for me today. Her posts always make me giggle, and this one is no exception. Thanks so much for sharing this story with us, Caroline!

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We love our Diet Coke.
Kim and I have both been training for half marathons this season-- mine in one week, hers in two months. We've both been thwarted recently by a sinus infection (her) and a sprained ankle (me), so who knows how much of those 13.1 miles we're actually going to RUN...but we've been running, training, and otherwise working out, that's for sure.

I've been frolicking around my hometown of Brooklyn with Team in Training, the running and fundraising arm of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. We go on group long runs every Saturday morning. I've loved the experience-- the chance to bond with the others, the way the group gets me through pain and boredom, the sense of rhythm and accomplishment it gives to my weekend-- but others question my sanity. “Caroline, you're getting up at 7:30 on a Saturday?” they ask, bug-eyed. “To run eight miles?!” Usually, I grin and nod my head. Except for one Saturday in January, when I woke up at 7:30 AM to run eight miles...and saw that it was eleven degrees outside.
You have to question any runner's sanity when their mileage is almost the same as the temperature outside.
But what could I do? If people can live through chemo and radiation for leukemia, I can live through a sub-freezing long run. So I ate my Clif Bar, set my temp basal to 50%, gritted my teeth, and proceeded to dress in two layers of everything. EVERYTHING. Two shirts, two sets of pants, two pairs of socks, plus gaiter, plus hat, plus sweatshirt....
I don't have two pairs of gloves, though. So in a moment of desperation (damn neuropathy-induced numbness!), I put on my only gloves and then pulled a pair of pink socks over my hands.
I waved hello to everyone with my sock-puppet hands, which got me a lot of strange looks and snickers, and we began to run. Our route began in Prospect Park, then traveled north over the Brooklyn Bridge and into Manhattan. We were to run over to the West Side Highway, and then keep going as experience and previous mileage dictated. I planned on ending at 52nd Street, or somewhere around 8 miles.
I got caught up in chatting with everyone, getting up to speed on people's weekend plans, and complaining about the bitter cold. Before I knew it, my clump of teammates and I had run about four miles and we were crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. We thinned out along the bridge, and I savored the sharp sunshine and the total lack of tourists. My eyes watered in the cold as I crested the bridge and descended over to Manhattan. I felt great. I felt alive.
Upon setting foot on Manhattan, I found a bench and declared, “Gel break!” My buddy Kenny started to munch on some Shot Blok gummies as I pulled out my meter from my chest pocket. I yanked off a sock and a glove, tested, and blinked at the number that popped up on the screen: ….41.
“What the HELL?” I squawked. Kenny paused, Shot Blok halfway to his mouth, and looked at me. “Is it a good number or bad number?” he asked.
Well, duh Kenny.
“It's really low,” I said. “And I feel totally fine.” More of our friends were trotting up to us. I started to panic a little. What was going on? I usually can feel my lows-- even if it's nothing more than a hunch that something is wrong-- and a reading under 50 with zero symptoms freaked me out. 
At that moment, our friend Larry arrived at the bench. “Oh my gosh,” he declared. “It’s so cold my icicles are experiencing nipple chafing.”
DING! went the lightbulb over my head. Is my meter inaccurate because it's so cold outside? I shoved it in between my thighs, then reconsidered and stuck it in my armpit. Larry gave me a look.
Everyone was chatting, while I carefully swallowed my Gu gel and tried to send rays of warm sunshine to my OneTouch by mind power alone. After a few minutes, I pulled it out and tested again. 36. So much for armpits and sunshine.
“You ready to go?” Kenny asked. Everyone else had finished and was gazing expectantly at me.
“Um....you guys go ahead,” I told him. “I'm gonna walk for a bit.”
“By yourself?” Larry asked.
“I mean, I feel fine,” I replied. “But it says that I'm low. So....I'll walk?” I met his look of concern with a smile and said, “It's okay. You guys go ahead, I don't want to spoil your run.”
Apparently, I was not convincing. “YOU guys go ahead,” Larry announced to the small group assembled around my bench. “Caroline and I are going to hang back.”
They ran off. Larry and I began to walk. “Erm. Thanks for staying behind with me,” I said. “I'm sorry to be imposing on you or anything.”
“Well,” he said, “here’s what I thought when I saw you. There's sitting on a bench....and there's sitting on a bench looking like you're waiting for the vultures to come down and eat your flesh.”
“That's kind of you.”
“Thanks, I try.”
Larry is twice my age, totally bald, frequently cantankerous, and one of the funniest people I know. He managed to distract me from the deep uneasiness I felt about my meter’s questionable accuracy, and my total hypo unawareness if it was indeed correct. His head was swathed in a TNT hat, with another neon scarf tied to cover his face. As we walked by a community college with a banner perkily proclaiming “BE A CHANGEMAKER!,” Larry muttered, “Yeah, be a changemaker....look at me.  With this thing wrapped around my face, I look like a terrorist changemaker.”
“If you're a terrorist,” I said, waving my bubblegum sock-ed hands, “then I look like a homeless changemaker. Hey, you think they have public restrooms? I need to wash my hands and test again.”
He squinted towards the entrance. “I see security guards.” We looked at each other. Larry understood what to do. He grabbed my elbow. I arranged my face in my best expression of bordering-on-death. We burst in and he immediately shouted, “Hello, my friend is diabetic and absolutely needs to test her blood, can we use your bathroom? We promise we're not criminals.” The security guards blinked and pointed.
“I'm glad I've got you as an excuse,” Larry whispered as we headed to the restrooms. “I really have to pee.”
Larry did relieve his bladder, as I removed my layers once more and checked my BG. 165. Huh. I took a deep breath and accepted that I would never know what it had been in the first place. “Let's run,” I announced to Larry when we met up again outside.
So we did. We made our way along the West Side Highway, admiring the view of the Hudson and enjoying the temperature, a now balmy eighteen degrees. Larry and I chattered about bum knees, dental work, and the NYC Pride Parade. As he was trying to convince me to walk in the parade as part of Team Flaming 4 Christ, I heard a familiar beep. Not just any beep...the dreaded Fur Elise.
Animas Ping users, like me, now forever have terrible associations with Beethoven because of this stupid pump alarm. I unearthed my pump from underneath four layers of fleece and squinted at it in the sunlight. NO DELIVERY. (Beedle beedle beep!) REPLACE BATTERY.
The expletive I yelled immediately froze into an icicle and hung in the air.
“What now?” Larry asked, in mock exasperation.
I cringed. “My pump battery died.”
“Didn't your last battery die when you were working out with us?” Larry said, with a little more true exasperation.
“Well....yes,” I responded. It wasn't the last battery, but he was right: this was not the first battery failure Larry had witnessed. When my pump's juice ran out during a TNT group workout last time, both Larry and the coach had suggested bringing a back-up, just in case.
“In my defense,” I squeaked, “I just changed it! It only warned me of low battery once! YESTERDAY!”
Larry pulled down his terrorist face mask to glare extra hard at me.
“So, um,” I said lamely, “that's why I don't have an extra with me.”
“Right,” Larry said, yanking his scarf back up and turning to survey the landscape. “Here's what we're gonna do. We are going to find a convenience store. Maybe along 8th Avenue. We are going to buy you TWO batteries. And you are going to keep the other one with you ALL THE FREAKING TIME so that this doesn't happen again. And then we'll keep running. Okay? Great. Let's go.” He didn't wait for my response before taking off.
“I just can't believe that BOTH my meter and pump have caused problems for me today,” I called after him.
Surprisingly, we didn't have to cross over to a more populated block to find a convenience store. We spotted a Qwikmart gas station. In the middle of Manhattan. The doorbell tinkled as we stepped inside to find a stocky man with an enormous mustache behind the counter, yammering away in what sounded like Farsi on his cell phone.
Larry pulled down his scarf. “Take the socks off your hands,” he instructed. “We don’t want him to think we’re homeless terrorists, remember?”
The guy threw his phone on the counter, looked at Larry, looked at me, and then smiled underneath his mustache. “Hi,” I said, “do you have double A batteries?”
“Of course,” he said, reaching underneath the counter and sliding over a 2-pack of Energizers with Japanese labels and a demonic Energizer bunny. “Two dollar.”
I extracted a ten dollar bill from between my second and third layers of sweatshirts. “Sorry…it’s a little sweaty.”
“We’ve been running,” Larry explained. 
“In this cold?” the gas station guy asked, aghast, while handing me my change.
“We’re crazy,” Larry offered. “And now her insulin pump broke.”
“Can I borrow a quarter?” I asked. “I just need to unscrew this cap.”
He gave me a penny. I think he was worried that I would steal his quarter.
“It’s warmed up a little since this morning, though,” said Larry as I fumbled to unscrew the cap with my numb fingers.
Mr. Mustache asked, “How long you run?”
“We’ve probably done…oh, six miles so far?” I said. “We have another two miles to go.”
“Ah, long time,” he said. “Would you like a massage?”
….
……..A massage?!?!
“No,” I finally choked out. “But I would like you to throw away this old battery for me.”
He did. I didn’t even bother to pull the socks back on my hands as I grabbed Larry by the coat sleeve, called over my shoulder, “Thanks! BYE,” and hightailed it out of there, bell still tinkling.
“He wasn’t speaking Farsi to me, was he?” I hissed as soon as the door closed. “Did he really ask to give me a massage?”
Larry just looked at me, the gears clearly churning in his head. “I have no idea why he did that,” he said. “Let’s run.”
“Do batteries get wonky in extreme cold?” I asked, as we made our way to the West Side Highway once more.
“Sometimes.”
“Maybe…maybe people do too?”
“So THAT explains why you’re so weird!” Larry shouted.
Perhaps that also explains why we got lost under the highway, ran eighteen blocks farther than intended, and when, stiff and exhausted, we hailed a crosstown taxi, the cabbie started driving before Larry was fully in the car and nearly ran over his left foot.
Lesson learned: keep your diabetes technology under wraps or inside during the chilliest days of winter. Or better yet, train for half marathons in Tahiti.


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Caroline, the thought of you running around New York City with pink socks on your hands has me chuckling. I love your determination. Thanks again for the post!


You can find more of Caroline's writing at ACT1 Diabetes, and she can be found on Twitter at @carobanano.

2 comments:

  1. I think that might have been the weekend when a couple hundred miles to the north my energy gel started to freeze in my (inside) pocket during my long run, and I couldn't get an accurate reading out of my meter.

    Definitely Tahiti.

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  2. Hey! Stop your whining. Tomorrow's Spring. GO TEAM!!! (So, you can write. Nice. You want a massage?)

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