At 9pm on Wednesday 19th June - 3 weeks and 2 days from now - I will be setting off on one of my toughest challenges yet. Something like 250km in 4 days, nearly half of it unsupported, more than half of it (and likely 3/4 of it) across mountainous cross country trails, from Monaco to Limone to Cap D'Ail. As is normal under the circumstances, nothing really runs smoothly, and there is too much snow for the Cro Magnon to remain safe, so the organisers are looking for an alternative route. Plan C is obviously to cancel it and perhaps just have the half from Breil to Cap D'Ail. Whatever happens, the Col de Tende is open (my highest point on the pre Cro run), and my intention is to run from Monaco to Limone via whatever route I can, and then back again. If the Cro is cancelled in favour of just the 80km from Breil, then I will run back from Limone to the start of that race and do that instead.
Why am I doing this? Diabetes UK remain focal in our ability to deal with Alice's diagnosis. At first it was painful and raw, and we still had to deal with the practicalities of the diagnosis. Diabetes UK personally helped us with education and support. We are now much calmer about the whole thing - it is still there to be managed, and the various mood swings can be pretty tiring when her sugars are low or high, for whatever reason. It would be easy to become either tied up in just the diabetes management - putting our social life on hold and not pursuing a normal family life. It would be similarly easy to become blase about the treatment of her condition. Alice is currently looking forward to her Diabetes UK summer camp in August - a sort of Outward Bound for diabetic kids in a completely safe and controlled environment. A lot of the volunteers are themselves Type 1 diabetics and have benefitted from the camps in the past. As a parent I can see how important these types of "normalizing" events can be for children, but also the safety and experience aspect makes it a lot easier for those parents that would be in the former camp - wrapped up in just the diabetes to the detriment of the rest of their life.
I knew Diabetes UK funded research - I have recently found out that the development of the injection pens was a direct result of their research funding, moving away from glass or disposable syringes.
I have blogged before about the feelings that we had when Alice was diagnosed, likening it to bereavement. I am pretty sure that as a family we are more in the fifth stage than any other, now - acceptance. The last few months have not been easy, but it is now a part of life and we have to get on with it.Of course we still worry, and dealing with an almost teenager with this condition is most definitely not easy, but from advice we picked up at the Diabetes UK family weekend from parents that had blazed a trail before us, it is most definitely easier than it would be otherwise. I would obviously love to put Alice on the Paleo diet, gluten free, no processed sugar or wheat, as her sugars would be a lot easier to manage, but try reasoning all that with a 12 year old girl? We do what we can with gentle words of encouragement, and of course try and treat her as we would the other two with the appropriate boundaries. At the end of the day, how she eats in the future will be her choice, and she knows the pros and cons of every ice cream, bagel or packet of crisps.
In the meantime, training is proceeding according to plan. It is not always easy to fit it in, and it would be very easy to get a few more hours sleep a week and try to persuade myself that is ok. But it is not. Yesterday I got up early and ran just under a marathon, uphill and down dale, on the roads and tracks around Vence. It took a while to get into it as I left Jack at home (the roads around Vence are too unforgiving), and the pack was heavy, but it was nonetheless fun. Although I was a little bemused at the cyclist waggling his finger at me as he came round the corner north of 60kmh with me gripping the side of the cliff that formed the hard shoulder. Clearly he had no sense of irony, and if he had seen me move the boulders and tree limbs that had come free in the night and littered the road just after the corner, he may have thought slightly differently. Having been on the receiving end of a few waggled fingers - and worse - on my bike from cars, there is definitely a road hierarchy out there with runners seemingly on the bottom of the pile!
If you could visit and share my justgiving site
I am not really an early adopter. I just bought my first iPhone after running a Blackberry in various iterations for years and years - I can see what the fuss is about now! For my sporting endeavours, though, that is not strictly true: I bought myself a Garmin wrist mounted GPS back in 2009, and never looked back. For Christmas 2013 I treated myself to a new Garmin Fenix - mainly because I was fed up of the 18 hour or so battery life in the Garmin 305xt. After the WS100 and UTMB I realised it was not enough. The Fenix boasts an Ultra Trak option which marks the location every minute or so, rather than continuously in order to preserve battery life for up to 52 hours. Which I think should be just about enough, even for my upcoming challenge this summer. I am only now using it on a daily basis, and I am finding it excellent - the altitude function is mesmerising, particularly during the recent mountain run, although I am finding it pretty complicated and haven't yet got to grips with all the different functions. Seemingly every day I find a new and different use or function, and am gradually becoming familiar with it. I would definitely recommend it for ultra marathons - the xt is perhaps better suited to marathons and triathlons though.
Just over 3 weeks in, and we are having similar issues with #2's pump. The technology is fantastic - she loves not having to inject 4 or 5 times day and also the new found freedom that it is giving her - yesterday she went to McDonald's for lunch with her friends (a rare treat in the Rolfe household, McDonalds is generally to be avoided), unchaperoned. Bolus doses were administered directly onto the pump and her BGL was pretty well controlled as a result. The misconception I had made was that the pump would make things easier. I was wrong - the pump enables far tighter control of #2's BGL, and there are all sorts of terrific things it does (we recently received a blood glucose monitor that syncs direct to the pump via bluetooth - blood still needs to be drawn, but this is definitely a clever piece of kit), but there are downsides.
Last weekend, #2's BGL was through the roof - at one point over 20. We replaced the cannula, removing one which had become bent and therefore insulin was not being administered. A day later and the same thing happened again. It was only on the 3rd attempt that we got a successful insertion and her BGL came back to normal within a few hours. Next time we'll know what to do and resolve things a lot more quickly. The other issue is that of monitoring levels - the pump is a computer, and computers can go wrong. BGLs need to be monitored in case it has broken. This is also true in the night, although we are becoming a little more relaxed with the way her BGL trends overnight, and are no longer getting up at 3am every day, just some days depending on her BGL at around 10.30/11 - the last check of the day.
We have been making use of contacts made with Diabetes specialists that we met on the Diabetes UK Care Weekend, for advice and just to bounce ideas off. They have also provided us very kindly with lots of educational literature on the pump. For that we are extremely grateful.
In this respect, both Garmin Fenix and pump are amazingly powerful pieces of kit. I would not be surprised if someone told me there was more processing power than in the 1969 moon landings in both! There is definitely a bedding in process required, and that I guess is a "time" thing.
Ben Rolfe, married, father of 3 gorgeous girls, English, living in the South of France, working in Finance
Ramblings of a running nature
I will be posting on an ad hoc basis my thoughts, adventures and challenges on here. I welcome anybody's thoughts and constructive criticisms, but generally I am not interested in contacts requiring me to give over my passport and bank account details in order to transfer €10 million to my account.