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Sick in South Africa

Joe Eldridge

March 11, 2011

Hey, I hope everyone is enjoying the blog so far.

When I left you last, I was preparing for the Tour of South Africa — a seven-day stage race. A stage race is a multiple-day race in which each rider’s time from all the days is added up at the end of the final day to determine the winner. Some riders will race for the overall title, while others will focus on winning a single stage of the race. Both types of wins are prestigious, but they are usually won by two different types of riders.

During our time between the race in India and the start of the Tour we were training in Johannesburg (a beautiful city, by the way). The second day we were there, I began to feel a slight tickle in my throat. Well, what started out as a tickle turned into a full-blown sore throat, complete with congestion and stomach bug — you name the symptom, I had it. I tried to rest for a few days so that I’d hopefully be feeling well enough to race by the time the Tour started. In addition to resting, I was trying to figure out my new diabetes regimen, since I was becoming less sensitive to my insulin as a result of whatever bug I had.

The first day of the race was 156 kilometers (roughly 97 miles) around Johannesburg and passed through the Cradle of Mankind Natural Area (for those of you who know Jo’burg). I started the day feeling 80% of normal, so I decided to give it a go and try to race.

The race was fast and intense from the gun. The route had over 5300 feet of elevation gain in the 156 kilometers. This alone makes for a difficult day on the bike, and it’s even more so when you’re not feeling 100%. The race played out and a lone rider broke away from the field, gaining a big advantage and maintaining it to the end to win the stage.

On a positive note, I nailed my diabetes management during the race. I had numbers between 154 and 221, but the majority were in the 160 to180 range. (These are higher numbers than I run when I’m not exercising, but I elevate them a bit to make sure not to have a hypo.)

Unfortunately, though, my body was not happy with me for trying to race: Although I started the day feeling 80% health-wise, I finished it feeling close to 0%. So what did I do? Tried again the next day!

However, starting out feeling so poorly caused me not to last long in the race. After 30 kilometers of fast-paced racing, my body shut down and made me stop. Chills and leg cramps consumed me. I usually don’t listen to my body when it’s telling me to stop racing, but this time I decided things weren’t normal. So, my Tour of South Africa ended on the second day of the race, and I headed back home to find out what was wrong with me.

I went straight to the doctor when I got home after my 16-hour flight. OUCH! Blood tests, chest X-rays &mdash I got the works. Then I went home, started some antibiotics, and waited to hear the results.

What was going on with my diabetes management during this time? I first knew something was wrong when my continuous monitor woke me up at 3 AM with a high glucose alarm. I had gone to sleep with a normal blood sugar, taken my long-acting insulin, and not eaten anything before I went to sleep. I also hadn’t had anything that wouldn’t “kick in” until the wee hours of the night, like pizza. This happened two nights in a row, so I knew something was up. I increased my basal insulin almost 25% and had to increase my bolus insulin by 50% just to keep my blood sugar levels under 200. This is the most frustrating aspect of being sick and having diabetes, but I also think it makes you get back on track with the management if you have been slacking.

Eight days later I’m almost finished with the antibiotics, and I think I’m feeling normal again. My insulin levels are a little increased, but almost back to normal. I plan to try my regular routine tonight to see if I am actually back on track.

Our next competition is in Singapore, and it should be an exciting race and travel experience.

Thanks for reading.

Joe



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