A Decent Disappointment

November 30, 2008

Kris was 16th (tied) today in Kuusamo. It’s not the result he was looking for, but it’s quite respectable for a basically pedestrian day. He set the race up perfectly – was running right near 10th place, and definitely within striking distance, for the first 10 K. These 15K races tend to break open in the last 5, and Kris headed the wrong direction. Not badly – he could have dropped way back – in the past he’s lose close to a minute in the last 5. It wasn’t a bad day at all. But instead of moving up from 10th he moved back.

Skis were not a problem today – the team had good skis all day, with Kikkan putting up her best ever distance result in 23rd place, and both Koos and Cook posting sub-60 point results. It wasn’t the rock-hard rails that Kris seems to like best, but it was good and fair skiing.

Blood sugar was a bit of an issue in the lead-up to the start. Kris has developed a dosing plan where he ramps-up his basal insulin dose on the Omnipod in a couple of stages over the two hours prior to the start. An hour before the start his blood sugar was about 75 – low but not dangerously low. Kris finished his ski testing and hard warm-up, and then we met in the wax tent about 20 minutes before the start to go over the dosing. He explained that he had been low, but had taken a powerbar and should be coming back up. Wrong – he was at 70. So he ate some powerbar candy that he carries around for quick sugar. Five minutes later he was at 63. The plan was to crank the dose up to race level right at that time, which would mean doubling the dose that already had his sugar low and dropping. Tough call to make. We headed to the start carrying the glucometer and the Omnipod controller, along with plenty of sugar.

Luckily the course controller at the access point to ski marking was an American guy who works at the Vuokkati ski tunnel, and has a diabetic daughter. He had already been by the wax cabins to visit us, and he let me into the ski marking area to help Kris monitor his sugar and make a call on dosing. He was still low about seven minutes before the start. We were very confident that he would be fine once the race started, but it was a little scary to double his dose while his sugar was so low. He took another few swigs of Gatorade, dialed-up the dose, and started the race. I tried hard to be cool and confident through the whole thing, but I think we were both pretty nervous. I got on the radios and made sure that we had plenty of sugar distributed around the course, but he didn’t need anything, and his sugar was right on the money at the end of the race. In the end I don’t think it had any effect on the race.

We had to pack the van and hit the road within about an hour and a half of the race finish in order to catch a flight from Rovaniemi to Helsinki. We’re in Rovaniemi now – sitting through a two hour delay (a welcome chance for dinner). Toward the end of the van ride Kris asked Newell to dig in his pack for a powebar. “Feeling low?” I asked? “I think so,” he said. I looked at him and his face looked sweaty. “This’ll fix it though.” Sugar was at 65 and he ate the powerbar. Five minutes later he was in a full-sweat – his t-shirt was soaked and there was sweat running down his face and dripping off his nose. “Maybe you should check it again Kris…” “You think so?” “Um – yeah – you don’t look so good”. He was at 45.

We pulled into the airport about then. He had shut off the insulin and eaten another powerbar, but he was pretty out of sorts. We got into the airport to find a big line and delayed flights. Kris left his bags with the rest of us and went off to find dinner. When he came back we were just getting to the front of the line, and he couldn’t find his purse (yes – he carries a purse) with his Omnipod controller and other diabetes paraphernalia. Kikkan had picked it up to make sure it wasn’t left behind, but she was at the front of the line and didn’t hear the agitation until Kris was pretty worried. No big deal, unless you pause to think about needing a PDA controller to ensure that you don’t die. Hmm. Anyway, Kris was totally zoned out, and pretty anxious as well. He headed off to lie down for a while in a quiet spot. He came back looking much better a few minutes ago – the contrast really underscores how hard a blood sugar even can hit him. It’s not what he needed at the end of a long day of racing and travelling – and we’re still a flight away from the hotel.

Today’s blood sugar difficulties are the right kind – as they go. It’s much, much better for him to run low than high – both in terms of racing and in terms of his overall health. Today’s situation is a reflection of increasing insulin sensitivity – a good thing, indicative of overall stability. He was just basically overdosed on insulin most of the day.

Looking forward I think he’s in a very good place for the next two weekends. While today was a disappointment we have to acknowledge that last year’s fifth place in Kuusamo came after much higher-intensity Fall training. It also left him in a very unstable state, and he had a terrible season from that point on. The past two weeks have been the best start to the season that Kris has ever had, and it’s come with what looks like excellent stability.

Well  – they’re calling our flight…

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