Wednesday, December 31, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 90
Weight 187
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 131/73, 55

When the politicians complain that TV turns the proceedings into a circus, it should be made clear that the circus was already there, and that TV has merely demonstrated that not all the performers are well trained.   
        Edward R. Murrow

I doubt that December weather ever gets any better than this. It was sunny and clear all afternoon -- the fog didn't move in until shortly before sunset. Temperatures in the mid 50s. The park was full of people exercising in the fresh air (perhaps getting an early start on their New Year's resolutions). 

The marathon training schedule called for a seven-miler today. I did a trail-run in the state park which ended up being 7.4 miles. I was almost sorry it wasn't longer, it was such a beautiful day for running.  

It was a great run -- just beautiful from start to finish. I realize that it can be hard to believe, if you haven't done much distance-running, that running 7+ miles on steep muddy trails (in the hills seen in the distance in the photo above) could be a beautiful experience. I guess you'll just have to take my word for it.

Okay, good -- I've got my fasting result down to 90, at least for today; let's hope my result tomorrow is good too. In a way it's surprising that I got a good fasting result this morning, because I went to yet another holiday party yesterday. However, in this case I solved the party problem in a very simple way: I didn't eat a thing while I was there. I ate dinner (a big salad) before I arrived at the party, and I kept myself away from the snack table all night. (The wine table was another story, but I was comparatively restrained there too.)

The party was of an unusual kind. It was a "New Year's Eve Eve" celebration, and it was put on by some musician friends who make it an annual event. Some years ago they held a party which was interrupted by a lengthy power failure, and they found that the party guests (most of whom were musicians, and had their acoustic instruments with them) had a better time making music by candle-light than they would have if the power had stayed on. So, every year at this time they invite a bunch of musicians (mostly members of the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers) to a party, light the candles, pour some wine, turn off the power, and play traditional music (mostly Scottish, but with some other musical traditions included in the mix).

We were, of course, playing music from a time when evening events were always candle-lit, when music-making was always acoustic, and when entertainment was almost always an improvised, do-it-yourself operation. In other words, everything fit together wonderfully, and created a memorable atmosphere. At midnight we sang "Auld Lang Syne", but we used the old Scottish melody that Burns originally set his poem to, not the modern version which everyone knows and dislikes today. The original tune has some important advantages, including the crucial advantage of being easier to sing. Of course, if you want to hold any kind of sing-along event in your home, it helps a lot if the guests are all musicians; they tend to sing louder (and more in tune) than other people. Please keep that in mind...

The only problem with the party was that it was in Berkeley, so I had to face a 60-mile drive in the fog afterwards, and got home very late. Oh well, it doesn't seem to have done me any harm.

Monday, December 29, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 103
Weight 185
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 125/76, 50

General principles should not be based on exceptional cases.   
        Robert J. Sawyer

Damn, 103, when I was hoping my fasting result would be below 95 today. I'm not quite recovered from my holiday indulgences, apparently. Probably the dinner I allowed myself after yesterday's marathon-training run was too much. You run 13 miles, your GPS wrist-device estimates that you burned 1500 calories, and you feel as if no meal is going to be excessive under the circumstances, but apparently it doesn't work that way. I had too much bread, that's all. I'll try for a better fasting result tomorrow.

Although it looks as if I lost three pounds since yesterday, that's probably just water loss from yesterday's run.

Although Monday is my usual rest day from exercise, and I ran 13 miles yesterday, I didn't want to be entirely sedentary today. I wasn't feeling stiff or sore after the run, and I'm currently trying to get my fasting average back down where it belongs; both of those circumstances made me feel like moving around a bit.

I thought this might be a good day for my annual mushroom walk -- there had been some rain, and there were mushrooms all around my house, so I figured I'd find a lot more of them (and more exotic varieties) in the woods at the local state park. I don't gather them, because I don't trust my ability to recognize which ones are safe to eat, and it's probably illegal to gather them in the park anyway. I do like to photograph them, however.

So, I hit the trail. The weather was beautiful this afternoon, so in that regard I wasn't disappointed.

In terms of finding mushrooms, however, I picked the wrong day. There hadn't been enough rain yet, apparently, and there were very few mushrooms growing even in those dark corners of the forest which have been most productive in years past. I did find a few, however; here's a cluster of them that were growing at the base of a tree.

I'll have to try the mushroom walk again in January, after we've had some more rain. I certainly have no regrets about doing the walk. It was too beautiful a day to be spent indoors. The late-afternoon sunlight was gorgeous.

Sunday, December 28, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 96
Weight 188
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 128/71, 66

I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones.   
        John Cage

A cool and misty morning, but not raining. Not bad weather for a long run. We did a repeat of last weekend's 13-miler in Dry Creek Valley (which was slighly less dry this time, but also slightly less cold). The marathon training schedule only called for a 10-miler this weekend, but my two running buddies had both missed an earlier long run, so we expanded this one to compensate. Next weekend is the 15-miler, and it's hard to do that if you have skipped any stages in building up to it. 

Although I hadn't skipped an earlier long training run myself, I had my own reasons for wanting to do some extra miles. I'm coming off a three-day holiday party binge, and I wanted to burn some sugar and fat out of my system. I felt pretty good afterwards.

My blood sugar reading of 96 today was a big improvement over 110 yesterday, and I'm hoping that I'll see a further reduction tomorrow. Although managing Type 2 diabetes is in some ways a complicated operation, the most important parts of it can be captured in four words ("more exercise, less food"). I'm applying that principle now so that I can make a quick recovery from my reckless overindulgence during the Christmas holiday period.

Saturday, December 27, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 110
Weight 188
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 126/77, 54

Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.   
        E. B. White

Well, I never said I was perfect. Or did I? I should check, but if I did, it wasn't true...

My climb up to a fasting result of 110 (from a nice safe 88 on Tuesday) has a simple explanation: three days in a row of holiday feasting. Much more starch and sugar than normal for me. The thing is, I didn't make an effort to restrain myself -- I just went with the flow, which pretty much meant eating whatever was around me. I have been exercising over the past three days, but not enough to make up for my eat-drink-and-be-merry program. So, it was pretty much inevitable that my weight and blood sugar would both increase.

It was a fun three days, so I'm not sure I regret it entirely, but I could probably have had about as much fun without sampling every dish that anyone walked in the door with.

Anyway, it's obviously time for me to get back on track. I have a marathon-training run to do in the morning, and that ought to help be start moving things back in the right direction. The marathon schedule only calls for 10 miles tomorrow, but I'm planning to make it 13 because my two training partners both missed longer runs earlier in the schedule, and they need to make up for lost mileage. I don't need to make up lost mileage, but I do need to make up for lost self-control at the dinner table, and a good long run ought to help with that.

The Christmas weather was lovely (sunny, and downright warm), but I expect it to be cold and possibly raining for our run tomorrow. Oh well, that only makes the hot shower afterwards feel better.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 88
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 116/73, 54

The man who says he is willing to meet you halfway is usually a poor judge of distance.   
        Laurence J. Peter

My marathon training schedule calls for 3 miles today and 7 tomorrow, but I decided to make a swap, and do the longer run today. The reason was the weather forecast, which shows a 90% chance of rain tomorrow. This afternoon it wasn't raining, and the sky looked non-threatening to me, so I hit the trail and did the 7-miler.

Of course, once I was a mile into the run the sky started to look a lot worse, but it didn't rain on me, so I think I made the right choice. I was wearing two layers of clothes and probably should have gone with three, but it wasn't bad. There were a fair number of hikers, runners, and cyclists on the trails, which always makes me feel good about being there, part of the club. If I had been alone on that trail it would have seemed 10 degrees colder.

Tomorrow I might just do my 3-mile run at the gym, on the treadmill. I'm not fond of treadmill running, but I can stand 3 miles of it -- especially if it's pouring rain outside, which I think it will be, as the rain has already started tonight.

I realize that tomorrow is Christmas Eve and all, and I do have some other things to be doing over the next couple of days, but I try not to let the holidays interfere with my exercise program. It's this time of year when I need exercise the most -- to partially make up for the dietary sins which I expect to be committing shortly.

Monday, December 22, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 86
Weight 185
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 118/76, 53

Minds, like bodies, will often fall into a pimpled, ill-conditioned state from mere excess of comfort.   
        Charles Dickens

I have an anecdote which is going to seem pointless for a long time, but bear with me.

Yesterday I came out of the grocery store and made my way to the section of the parking lot where I remembered parking. My car, which happens to be new, also happens to be a popular model, and its silver-gray color is apparently very popular as well. Whenever I return to where I have parked, I usually find that my car is surrounded by a lot of other cars which greatly resemble it, and sometimes I accidentally approach the wrong one. I haven't yet memorized the license plate number (I'm having enough trouble remembering computer logins, of which I have far too many), so that doesn't help me. Anyway, yesterday I was eager to put my groceries in the trunk and get in the car quickly, because it was raining. I hurried over to my car, and as I was putting the key into the trunk lock, the thought occurred to me that maybe this wasn't my car -- and sure enough, the key wouldn't turn in the lock.

Embarrassing! I hoped the car's owner wasn't around to catch me at this, and that no one else would notice my mistake either. I looked around at the other silver-gray sedans parked in the vicinity, and just as I was about to go take a closer look at the likeliest one, I noticed something visible inside the car I had been trying to unlock. My gym bag was sitting on the back seat. Definitely my gym bag, not a similar one. At least, I figured the odds were heavily against there being two customers in that store at the same time who had left a blue "Napa Marathon 2007" gym bag on the back seat of a silver-gray car. Okay, so this was my car after all. Once again I put the key into the trunk lock, and this time the key turned without the slightest hesitation, as if the lock had just been greased, and the trunk lid popped open instantly.

Now, turning a key in a lock is not the sort of thing which we normally think of as a complex operation, requiring ingenuity, skill, and patient practice. Put the key in the little hole and rotate it clockwise -- that's about all there is to it. And yet, I had just learned that this simple task can be very easy or very difficult, depending on just one small change of circumstances. When I first tried to open the trunk, I was starting to worry that it wouldn't work, that this might be the wrong car and my key might therefore be useless. Result: the trunk wouldn't open. But by the time I tried again, I had come to realize that this was the right car and my key would work. The result: the trunk opened.

I'm not trying to suggest that magic was involved here; I don't believe for a minute that the trunk resisted me the first time because it knew I didn't believe in what I was doing, or anything like that. I'm sure the reason the trunk didn't open was because my uncertainty translated itself into an uncertain action. I was tentative, not just mentally but physically; probably I didn't insert the key quite far enough into the lock before turning it, or something like that.

My point is that, whenever you doubt that you can do something, you are in effect right, because doubting that you can do something makes it enormously more difficult to do. An actor who walks onstage thinking "I hope I don't forget my lines!" is an actor who is going to forget his lines. (Admittedly, self-confident actors can forget their lines too, but they do it far less often.)

Anyone who has even a little bit of experience in the performing arts knows how hard it is to do in front of an audience what you did easily when you were practicing alone. The difference is that, when you practice playing a piece of music in the privacy of your own home, you're not thinking "Oh no, what if I screw this up?". It doesn't matter if you screw it up -- no one's listening -- so you just relax and play it, and it goes just fine. It doesn't seem hard at all. Later, however, when you're in front of an audience, you're struggling with every note, because now you're worried about screwing up. All it takes to turn an easy task into a difficult one is doubting that you can do it.

Perhaps you were wondering when I was going to make some diabetes-related point, and the time is now. I think a lot of people managing Type 2 diabetes are dealing, over the long term, with the same kind of confidence problem which performing artists (and confused guys trying to put their groceries in the trunk) have to deal with on a short-term basis. Whatever you're trying to do about your diabetes, the chances of its working are far higher if you expect it to work (or if you feel sure that there's some way to make it work, and you'll find it). Most Type 2 patients, unfortunately, do not feel confident that they are going to succeed, and I suspect that this lack of confidence produces a lot of needless failures.

In early 2001, when I first took on the challenge of getting my blood sugar back into the normal range without medication, I was constantly being upset by the articles I was reading on the subject, all of which seemed to say that this approach only worked temporarily, and only in a few mild cases. Most authors never said how long I could expect it to work in a best-case scenario, though a few said it could work for "up to 10 years". (When I mentioned that to my doctor, he said "I don't think we've seen that -- what they mean is that nobody's studied patients over a longer period than 10 years, so they don't know".) Anyway, the message I kept getting from articles on the subject was "this probably won't work for you, and if it does, it won't work for long". For this reason I was always terribly anxious whenever I got a blood sugar reading that I didn't like. I would think "This is it! This is the beginning of the end! This is the point at which I start to lose control, and never get it back!". But then I would get it back, and as the years went by I gradually became less easily spooked.

I think a lot of people who have been recently diagnosed are so discouraged by what they've read that they don't approach the problem with the determination that's needed to solve it. They're set up for failure by the low expectations that the medical establishment has of them, and when the going gets tough, they collapse.

And why not? Why souldn't I give up, when the experts say that I'm going to fail?

Why bother trying to unlock this car, when it isn't even mine and my key isn't going to work?

Not a bad blood pressure reading for a non-exercise day. I did go to my yoga class tonight, and that probably helped. The yoga class always ends with a relaxation pose, and the one we did tonight was an exceptionally comfortable and lengthy one, which I think was my yoga teacher's Christmas gift to us. She said she figured we might be a little stressed this week. She figured right, I think! 

Sunday, December 21, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 89
Weight 184
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 121/73, 56

Scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.   
        Oscar Wilde

89 is a pretty good fasting result after my high-carb dinner last night; the 13-mile training run yesterday made it possible for me to get away with that. However, my apparent loss of 3 pounds is bogus; just water loss from the long run. Exercise doesn't burn as much fat as people like to imagine it does, alas. My run yesterday burned an estimated 1566 calories, which is not even equivalent to half a pound of fat -- and a large share of it would have come from burning sugar rather than fat in any case. Still, I think the run benefited me greatly. For example, my blood pressure was still good today despite a lighter workout.

Further good news for me: my left foot, which hurt after the 12-miler the previous weekend, is not hurting after the 13-miler. During marathon training you're always afraid that you'll get a bad injury, that you won't be able to do the race, and that all your training will be wasted. Not that the training would actually be wasted (getting ready for one event on one day is not my main reason for exercising, after all), but it feels wasted if you are making a major effort to train for an event and then can't participate on the big day. That actually happened to me once, so I know how hard it is to take. Anyway, it's a nagging concern throughout the marathon training period, and it gets you worried every time you feel sore after a training workout. I'm glad that in this case it seems to have been a false alarm.

Most of us think of a sports injury as something that happens to professional athletes, but they certainly happen to us amateurs, too. We might not be training as hard as the pros, but we're not training as well, either, because most of us have to get along without any expert coaching. If there's something wrong with our technique, it's not likely that anyone is going to take us aside and say, look, you've got to stop bending your ankle inward that way, or boy are you going to be sorry!  So, we do the best we can. We try not to hurt ourselves, and if it happens anyway we try to do something about it, so that we'll be able to take part in whatever event we're training for.

You might well ask: if training for a marathon is so difficult (physically challenging, time-consuming, hard to integrate into your daily life, and by no means sure to end in success) -- why put yourself through it? I guess my answer is that those drawbacks are also advantages in a way. I think there are psychological benefits to be gained by taking on a challenge from time to time -- in setting an unreasonably ambitious goal, and finding out if you can accomplish it despite all the difficulties. The risk of failure is an essential part of the picture. If there's nothing at stake, there's nothing to get excited about. Hollywood knows this; that's why every movie plot hands the hero a problem which looks more and more unsolvable until he finally solves it. Even outside of a movie theater, there needs to be something at stake. If playing a musical instrument in front of witnesses weren't such a scary thing to do, it wouldn't be such a rewarding thing to do. Successfully facing down difficulties is good for us, I think. Heaven knows it's a good idea for anyone managing Type 2 diabetes to get into the habit of taking on challenging personal goals, because it's not as if there is going to be a shortage of them.

Running a marathon is a rewarding thing to do precisely because you know going into it that most people would never dare to attempt it. On the other hand, the fact that almost half a million people do it every year gives you some reason to hope that it's merely difficult, not impossible.

The view from my porch was a little less sunny today...

It rained all day. It was mostly light rain, but it never entirely stopped. I was glad I got the 13-mile training run out of the way yesterday.

Today I exercised indoors, a fairly easy workout in the gym. Afterwards I soaked in the hot tub for a while -- which was interesting because the hot tub is outdoors and there's no roof over it. So, I was sitting in hot water with cool water falling on my head. It might have been a bit much, if it had been raining hard at the time, but it was just a delicate sprinkling. Because the air was cold, the hot tob was steaming as if I were being stewed in a cauldron. I liked the strangeness of the mixed sensations involved. Sort of like melon and prosciutto -- things that don't belong together sometimes make a great combination.

Saturday, December 20, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 86
Weight 187
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 119/69, 54

He was a tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say "when".   
        P. G. Wodehouse

When we started our training run in Dry Creek Valley, at 9 AM, it was 34 degrees. I realize that's nothing compared to the winter weather that most of the rest of the country is experiencing, but still it's a bit cold for running. Anyway, in Sonoma County it is enough of an event just to see patches of frost on the grass.

We wore enough layers to be comfortable. At least, we were comfortable after the first two miles. It takes a while for running to raise your core temperature, but once it does, the heat spreads to your extremeties, and you stop thinking that the gloves you put on aren't thick enough.

It was a beautiful day, very bright and clear, and Dry Creek Valley is always a beautiful place to be, even if you're not stopping at any of the wineries along the route.

We were running before most of the winery tasting rooms are open, so there weren't many drivers on the road, and those that were there weren't in an over-relaxed state. They were driving stupidly, to be sure, but only at the normal level of stupidity for these parts, so we were able to cope; we didn't have to leap into any drainage ditches to avoid being hit. Our only close call was with a winery truck; the driver perhaps resented having to share a narrow bridge with us, and he swung to our side of the road as if to teach us a lesson. I'm not sure what the lesson was, though.

The marathon training schedule called for a 13-mile run today, so we just went northwest along the creek road until our GPS gizmos said we'd gone 6.5 miles, and turned around. That's about half the marathon distance, and it took us 2 hours and 15 minutes. Not a very respectable pace, but we weren't trying for speed, we were just training.

Even though the weather wasn't warm, I managed to sweat enough to lose 6 pounds during the run. I did carry water (in a Camelback bag), and I did drink a fair amount of it, but obviously I didn't drink as much as I should have. It doesn't matter so much today, but in the marathon I'll have to be very careful, because I won't have another 6 pounds of water in my system that I can afford to lose during the second half. During the marathon last year I got pretty dehydrated, and suffered for it, so I'll really have to guzzle water during the race.

After the run today, I tried to smile and this was what I came up with, but I actually felt better than the picture suggests. In fact I felt better than I had after the 12-miler last weekend.

My blood pressure was a lot better today than yesterday, and I'm sure the run did that.

Later in the day I started feeling chilled and sleepy, and had to take a nap under a thick blanket to get over it. I tried to restore some inner warmth by making a winter-oriented dish for dinner. I baked some small Yukon potatoes and butternut squash (with unsweetened marmelade). It definitely wasn't low-carb, but if you're ever going to have a high-carb dinner there's no better time than after you've gone for a 13-mile run in mid-December.

Friday, December 19, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 81
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 132/80, 47

A musicologist is a man who can read music but can't hear it.   
        Sir Thomas Beecham

Winter in the wine country: not nearly as bad as the real thing.

This was the view overhead at my place this afternoon. It was about 50 degrees, with clear blue skies most of the day, and no wind. It seems almost shameful that I didn't get any exercise outdoors today, but I figured I shouldn't run: the marathon training run tomorrow will be 13 miles, and I don't want to be doing a hard workout the day before that. I went to the gym instead, and did some weight-training and used a stair-climber for the aerobic part.

I had only a half-day at work. We're having a two-week holiday shutdown, and it starts today. On the last day before the Christmas break, a group of us at work always act as strolling players, going from building to building on the site (and from floor to floor within the buildings), playing a few Christmas carols at each location and then moving on. Today we played at 11 different locations, if I remember right, and the tunes we played varied each time. That sort of thing is a real test of concentration, and I always screw up something somewhere, but it doesn't matter much and probably doesn't get noticed anyway. Besides my fiddle we had a flute, a mandolin, two guitars, and a French horn. At our last stop, one of the employees there ran to has cubicle, came back with a clarinet, and joined us. (Fortunately, it turned out that he could play.)

In the afternoon I went to the gym; after that I went to my monthly workshop on "restorative" yoga poses. This time I didn't quite succeed in quieting the inner chatter, except during an interval in the middle of the session when I was pretty close to being asleep, or hypnotized. I guess my tension level is just too high to be conquered right now (my blood pressure has been climbing, too). Oh well, we do what we can. Maybe the long run tomorrow will help. 

According to the training schedule this is supposed to be a rest day, but unfortunately diabetes doesn't know about training schedules. Normally I only allow myself one day off exercise a week, even during marathon training (my feeling is that it's important to work out frequently, even at a time when the individual workouts you're doing are much longer than usual). Occasionally I'll take extra rest days -- either because I have a bad virus, or because travel makes it impossible. I'm not much of a travler though, and for that matter I don't get a bad virus very often, so most of the time I'm pretty reliably getting 6 days of exercise a week.

I'm sure it sounds like a terrible burden to be exercising this much, but it's no longer difficult for me to do it. It used to be. For the first five years or so after diagnosis, I worked out 5 days a week rather than 6, and most of the time I was fixated on my next rest day, longing for it, practically celebrating it when it came. Eventually, exercise as a daily activity began to feel normal to me. I stopped thinking about it how I felt about it, stopped asking myself whether I was in the mood for it. On Tuesday at noon, I don't ask myself whether or not I'm feeling up to the lunchtime run this time, any more than I ask myself on Tuesday morning whether or not I'm feeling up to taking a shower before I go to the office. One of the long term goals of any exercise program is to get to the point where exercising becomes a routine part of your day, a task automatically performed, a given. As in the Nike ads, you just do it.

Getting there takes time (years, in my case). Maybe I would never have got there if I hadn't made exercise a social activity, if I hadn't started making appointments to go running or cycling with friends. Once you're in the habit of saying "I'll meet you at this place and time and do such-and-such activity", you're no longer in a position to talk yourself out of your workouts for trivial reasons. You pretty much have to show up and do what you said you'd do. And because you have to, it becomes a lot easier to do it. Sometimes it's hard to work up the motivation to go work out; if you've already agreed to do it, you no longer need a motivation -- it's taken care of. 

Thursday, December 18, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 91
Weight 187
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 126/74, 62

If you can't say anything good about someone, sit right here by me.   
        Alice Roosevelt Longworth

From time to team we hear that people with diabetes have a high incidence of depression, and that the reason for this is regarded as an unsolved mystery.  I am not sure it's quite so mysterious as all that, when journalists covering health issues keep coming up with headlines like this one:

For heaven's sake! Are reporters afraid they won't get their Christmas bonus if they don't compete with each other to see who can come up with the most gruesomely depressing stories? They're certainly leaving no stone unturned, you have to give them that. Get this, folks -- even cancer is worse if you're diabetic!

Because diabetes is seen as a "lifestyle" disease, like AIDS, society feels a need (usually unconscious) to punish, or at least scold, those who have it. Also, I suppose that writing scary headlines about these diseases is intended to scare people into making an effort at prevention. The trouble with this approach to prevention is that people who don't yet have a disease usually pay no attention to reportage on the subject. The only people who read about diabetes are people who already have it, and on those people the diabetes-prevention message is wasted. Plus, they don't really need another reason to be upset about having diabetes.

Of course, compared to journalism on the subject of the economy, journalism on the subject of diabetes is comparatively cheery. (However, I'm sure I'll soon see a headline that says Cancer Even Deadlier for People without Money .)

The weather was looking grim when we started our lunchtime run today; it was very cloudy and in the low 40s, and rain was expected. It was expected by me that the rain would start during our run, but we lucked out. The first drops didn't start to fall until we finished. Once again I forgot gloves, and wished I had them, but otherwise I was comfortable enough and the hot shower afterwards was great. We did 4.3 miles, if I remember right.

Tomorrow is a half-day at work, and it won't really be work for me. A small group of us at work serve as strolling musicians on the last half-day before the Christmas shutdown. We start out by playing at a little breakfast in my division (including a Christmas carol singalong), and the we go to about ten other ocations at the work site, playing a few tunes and then moving on.

During the free afternoon I'll run if it isn't raining, but I may go to the gym instead, especially if the weather's bad. The 13-mile run on Saturday I will do outside, though, rain or no rain. If I tried to run that long on a treadmill I would go mad. That kind of running bores me so much that four miles of it is about my limit. Some people can handle it, but I don't think I'll ever be one of them.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 87
Weight 187
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 126/74, 66

You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.   
        Eric Hoffer

It was sunny and about 50 degrees today. We managed to fit in the 6-mile run at mid-day. Actually it was 6.5 miles, and really tough, because of the extremely steep hills. It's a route we seldom run because it's so difficult, and as far as I can remember we haven't done it since August. Well, it turns out that it's a little easier to run that route when it's 50 degrees outside than when it's 100 degrees outside, but it's still mighty difficult.

The foot I'd been having trouble with on Monday felt okay, so here's hoping that was a temporary problem and won't come back. I always worry when I get any kind of sports injury, however minor, because I've become so dependent on exercise to keep my blood sugar under control. Whenever I hurt anywhere, I wonder if this is the beginning of the end -- that I'll have to give up running, and maybe give up other activities too. If that happens, I'll have to become a great deal more cautious about everything I eat. And I might have to go on medication no matter how carefully I eat. So, an injury that doesn't heal is not the sort of problem I can afford to have.

My company announced some further reorganizations today, and actual layoffs in some divisions, not just pay cuts. So far my division (and the new one I'm moving to) are not on targeted for layoffs. The situation is not helping me relax, though, no matter how much running I do. I need to do some extra things to relax. Tonight I'm going to an Irish music session at a local pub -- music-making is always helpful. Friday morning I'm playing Christmas music at work (strolling around from building to building, playing a few familiar carols at each stop). Friday evening I'm going to another yoga "restorative" workshop (in which all the poses are resting poses, and you're on the edge of sleep all through it). And next week I'll be off work, which is also helpful. 

I don't think anything I do is going to help me achieve a new low so far as blood pressure is concerned, but my goal is just to prevent things from getting too far out of control.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 92
Weight 188
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 114/73, 53

Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.   
        Matt Groening

Mixed results today: fasting glucose and blood pressure are down from yesterday, but weight is up. The weight gain is pretty inevitable, considering that yesterday was a rest day and the day before was a party. Oh well... work on it.

Today was cold by local standards, but local standards are laughably mild. We thought it was cold because the temperature was 32 degrees today. In other parts of the country it was -32, and +32 would have seemed balmy, but perception is governed by experience, and we seldom experience temperatures below freezing around here.

I did get out for a run at lunchtime, but due to schedule pressure it was shorter than usual (3.3 miles). My sore foot, which I was afraid would prevent me from doing the run today, actually felt better during and after the run than it had this morning. I hope that trend continues, because tomorrow will be the 6-miler.

I found this picture showing the health problems that can be caused by diabetes, and it made me wonder whether medical illustration is a less difficult and competitive field than I had imagined...

I particularly like the way impotence is illustrated. If they hadn't labeled it, I would have thought that the problem being illustrated was a little more drastic than impotence!

Apparently diabetes isn't good for your hair, either...

Monday, December 15, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 97
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 122/75, 50

The secret of being boring is to tell everything.   

My Sunday down in San Francisco was devoted to marathon training in the morning, and music later. It was raining pretty solidly during the first half of the 12-mile training run, but stopped later (so I guess we started too early). It was an out-and-back course. We started here, near the Golden Gate Bridge, and ran east (past Aquatic Park, Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, and the Ferry Building). We reached the 6-mile turnaround point a little after passing under the Bay Bridge. Here I am afterwards, looking as if the run didn't affect me at all (not true, but it wasn't bad).

After running 12 miles on a rainy day, a hot shower seems like the most luxurious experience imaginable, so I felt pretty good afterwards. (Not to mention the effect of good wine and good food.) I had enough energy to play fast Irish fiddle tunes at the music party afterwards. It went a bit late, at least for someone who was going to have to drive 60 miles north to get home, and go to work in the morning -- but an opportunity to play music with good musicians is not the sort of opportunity I'm willing to throw away just because I'm a little tired. If I ever do get to the point of complaining that I'm too tired to play music, that will be a sign that it's time to euthanize me.

So why was my fasting test up instead of down this morning, after all that running yesterday? That I can answer in two words: party food. When you go to a party after running 12 miles, you feel as if you can indulge yourself pretty freely. And I'm afraid I did: not only in the homemade bread, but in the Christmas cookies, too. I don't feel all that guilty about it, either. I'm guessing that my fasting test will be lower tomorrow even though this was a rest day. And if it isn't, I'm sure I will be able to bring it down pretty quickly.

My left foot is sore from the run -- I'm hoping to recover from that quickly. It felt a little better after yoga class tonight. May the healing continue!

My blood pressure's pretty low considering that across-the-board pay cuts were announced at work today. I think maybe I've reached saturation point in terms of worry about the economic situation, and just can't worry any more than I already am.

But it also helps to be doing marathon training. In times of stress, endurance exercise helps me more than anything else does.

Saturday, December 13, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 87
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 129/79, 50

If Beethoven had been killed in a plane crash at the age of 22, it would have changed the history of music... and of aviation.   
        Tom Stoppard

I don't think this can be the big storm that was forecast...

It was windy last night (my car was covered with a pretty thick layer of pine needles this morning), and today it was cold by local standards. But there was no rain, and it was more sunny than cloudy. In other words, it probably would have been better to schedule the 12-mile training run for today rather than tomorrow. But that's not what I did, so I'll have to take my chances with whatever tomorrow's weather brings.

Because I'm doing a long run tomorrow, I figured my exercise today should be something other than running. I went to the gym and did a weight-training workout, then got on an elliptical trainer and did 30 minutes of aerobics on that. It's kind of a minimal workout, really, but there's no sense in taking a chance at straining anything the day before a big run.

It worries me that so much of health research depends on financing from the pharmaceutical industry, and that so much journalism on the subject is really just an extension of the drug companies' marketing efforts. However, what bothers me about this is that it's usually hidden. When they make it obvious, it can be pretty funny. I especially like this headline:

A question to which the obvious rejoinder is: "at what?".

Friday, December 12, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 87
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 117/79, 47

A child of five would understand this.  Send someone to fetch a child of five.   
        Groucho Marx

It's not true that one picture is worth a thousand words -- you need two pictures. The two pictures below certainly have a story to tell. The first is a map of local obesity rates in the United States. The second is a map of local adult-diabetes rates in the United States.

Hmmmmm.... both obesity and diabetes are highest in the southeast, lowest in the southwest and much of the northeast. The fattest state (Mississippi) has the highest diabetes rate. The thinnest state (Colorado) has the lowest. The states in between are pretty much where you would expect them to be. 

Yeah, Type 2 diabetes isn't just about obesity, and you can get it without being fat. But the correlation is getting to be pretty hard to ignore!

I only mention this because, from time to time, someone writes an article claiming that there's no evidence obesity causes health problems. By "no evidence" they mean no evidence that they are willing to look at. There will always be a market for that kind of journalism; people like to be given an excuse to ignore the obvious, and they aren't so fussy as to require a good excuse.

There's a storm rolling down the coast from Washington, apparently, and it began to get cloudy today (although it was still pretty sunny at lunchtime, when we did our daily run). We'll probably have some rain tomorrow, and more of it on Sunday, when I'll be doing the 12-mile marathon-training run in San Francisco. Well, so what, I've got a raincoat. And when you go for a long run in the rain, the hot shower and hot meal afterwards are spectacular. After the run, I'll be playing Irish music, and that warms me up pretty well, too. It should be quite a day. 

Thursday, December 11, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 76
Weight 185
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 128/80, 54

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.   
        Carl Jung

I'm not sure why my fasting blood sugar is low again today, but if it's because of the hot peppers I've been eating lately I will gladly keep eating them.

I know why my blood pressure has been a little bit higher lately, though -- the surprise reorganization and job change at work, and the relentlessly ugly economic news, are stressing me out. Well, the marathon training program will soon have me doing longer and longer runs; maybe the heavy exercise schedule will help me cope with the stress of hard times.

One of the nice things about using exercise as medicine is that you can still afford it if you lose your health insurance. Supposedly most people who have diabetes at my age are spending more on health care than other people by about $5400 a year; how they manage that when they're out of work, I don't know, but I'd rather not have to find out.

The weather continues sunny and cool, and if anything it was less cool than it has been. It was cold this morning, but by the time we finished our run today it was almost 60 degrees. Once again I was running with two people who, I now realize, I will be working with in a few months, when I transfer to their division. So today we had something new to talk about.

So far, the weather-guesses say there's a 60% chance of rain on Sunday morning, which is when I'm planning to do the 12-mile training run this weekend. They can't scare me. I'll run whether it's raining or not. But I have to admit that I'm hoping it won't be! 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 76
Weight 185
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 129/75, 57

To be able to fill leisure intelligently is the last product of civilization.   
        Arnold Toynbee

When I went out to run, it was in the low 50s. I was comfortable enough in shorts and a long-sleeved top, no gloves. It was sunny and clear. We did a longer-than-usual run, and a steep one, along a ridge road that climbs from an altitude of about 500 feet at our starting point to about 1000 feet at the top. There's a great view from up there of Santa Rosa to the west and Rincon Valley to the east. We don't usually go all the way to the top of that ridge road, because it's a hard climb and it takes a while to get up there, but my marathon training schedule called for a longer run today, and anyway I needed it for stress relief.

The job change I mentioned yesterday is still unsettling me a bit. Today the news of my department's reorganization, and the departure of four of us to other divisions, was gradually disclosed throughout the company as various people who need to be aware of it were let in on the change of plans. Even though I had been told about it yesterday, I found it a very tense experience to sit through a meeting this morning in which the news was (very slowly and suspensefully) announced to other people who were at first not able to tell what sort of news was being announced and how it would affect them. If I'm ever in a management position and need to announce dramatic changes to people, I promise to leave the theatricalism out of it, and just start with a plain-English summary of what's chaging. Then I might go into the reasons for the decision. But first: end the suspense. I hate suspense. I hate movies in which the heroine is poking around in the basement and we know the ax-murder is going to leap out at her sooner or later, but we don't know when. Just tell us what's happening! Don't make us wait for it!

Later in the day, the organization I'm joining had to be told about it -- and there it was a delicate business, because I'm replacing one or more temporary workers whose contracts are not being renewed there. I'm still not sure exactly who is leaving to make room for me, but I hope it's not the guy I'm thinking of -- I like him and would much rather be working with him than taking his job. But I'm still in suspense about that.

Through all of the scary crises that my company has been through in the last 8 years (and twice it involved me being slated to lose my job), the one thing that always saw me through was my lunchtime exercise routine. My running buddies at work were usually under threat at the same time I was, and even on rainy days it was enormously helpful to get outdoors at lunchtime and run up and down the local hills. I trained for my first marathon at a time when I was officially on the layoff list, and I well remember how much I valued the distraction (and stress-relief) of having to go out and do a lot of hard running every day. In a strange and very irrational way I came to believe that, if I just stuck to the training and actually ran the marathon, somehow that would mean that I wouldn't lose my job. Well, I'm no admirer of magical thinking, but I did stick to the training, I did run the marathon, and I didn't lose my job.

I don't actually think that exercise is a magic amulet which protects me from all harm -- sooner or later I'm sure I'll be due to have something terrible happen to me whether I work out or not -- but there is something about the lifestyle of taking on tough physical challenges routinely which makes me more able to cope with these stressful developments than I otherwise would be. When times are tough, I'm glad I work out. And if I do lose my job eventually, I know I will start working out more, not less.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 81
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 126/77, 56

The time not to become a father is eighteen years before a war.   
        E. B. White

To say the least, a dramatic afternoon at work. My boss's boss made a hurried visit to my cubicle and asked me to meet with him at 3:30. "Just me?" I asked. No, my boss and the other members of my work group were also hastily summoned to be there (including two who work at home and had to drive to the office for the purpose). We don't have sudden unplanned meetings like this, so obviously some kind of big news was going to be broken to us.

To make the story briefer and less suspenseful than it was in the actual unfolding, we still have jobs -- just not the same ones. Our current jobs are all being outsourced to India, but we're being given jobs elsewhere in the company.

The job I'm getting is in a division I've applied to twice before -- my two main running buddies work there already, and it has always seemed to be an organization which would suit me better than the one I'm working in now. So, after trying and failing to get transfered there a couple of times, I'm being sent there in a surprise move. On the whole, I'm happy with the outcome.

However, it's unsettling to have the change come about in this sudden, theatrical way. I came home this evening and found that I couldn't relax. I went to the gym and did a weight-training workout, figuring that would help. It did, to some extent anyway. My blood pressure measurement of 126/77 was made after my visit to the gym; I'm sure it was higher before.

A little earlier in the day, before all the drama that followed, I got out for a run. It was sunny, and a little warmer than I expected (mid 50s), so I decided it would be okay to run in shorts (although I had also brought some longer running pants with me as a precaution). I happened to be running with the two people I will soon be working with, though I didn't know it yet. My, life is full of strange twists and turns.

Tomorrow the marathon training schedule calls for a 6-miler; I'll probably be able to fit it in during the daytime, but if not I'll put on some warm clothes and blinking lights and do it after dark. Yes, I'm that dedicated!

Monday, December 8, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 92
Weight 185
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 122/76, 53

An education isn't how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It's being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don't.   
        Anatole France

Monday, my day off exercise. I did a fairly challenging yoga class in the evening, but apart from that, the closest thing to exercise I did today was moving the fiddle bow back and forth, when I rehearsed Christmas tunes with my musician coworkers. We have until the 19th to get ready for our strolling performance around the work site, and I'm ashamed to admit that I had completely forgot to practice any of the music since our first rehearsal last week. Sometimes it's hard to give a task like that a fair share of your attention. As a musician, I have a hard time convincing myself to study tunes that I'm not going to have much opportunity to play. Outside December, I'm not going to be playing these particular tunes at all -- hence my reluctance to practice them. (I played at an Irish session at Murphy's Pub in Sonoma last night, and that was more fun -- we played tunes I'll be able to play again next month.) But it was a little embarassing not to be playing the Christmas tunes more fluently today. Well, I've been doing this Christmas-music thing at work for 12 years now, and I know I'll get on top of the situation in time.

The hot chiles last night seemingly didn't have a big influence on my fasting test this morning, seeing as it was exactly the same result as I'd got the day before. However, I need to be patient with this sort of thing. Also, it may be that hot chiles, cinnamon, and other things which supposedly reduce blood sugar have an effect mainly on people who actually need help in that department. Perhaps, if your blood sugar is already in the normal range, these things don't push it down any further.

Whether or not hot chiles actually benefit my health, they do have the advantage of adding excitement to a dish which might otherwise be too bland. I like to make vegetable stews and stir-fries, and I prefer to make them spicy. If I were a real vegetarian, I would not think that such things as green beens and eggplant need any spicing up to be interesting, but I am what I am, and I seem to be the sort of person who needs his vegetables to be flavored with something powerful.  

Sunday, December 7, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 92
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 121/81, 51

The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.   
        Flannery O'Connor

The marathon training schedule called for a 7-mile run on Saturday, but on that day my schedule was tight, so I did a 4-miler and postponed the longer run to today. At first I thought I was probably going to regret it, as the weather forecast was for colder and cloudier weather today. However, I ended up liking the way things worked out. It was certainly cool (in the low 40s), and there was a lot of fog. But the fog was at low altitudes only, and as I ran up the hills in the state park I soon climbed above the fog layer, and was running in the sun most of the way. I could have used an extra layer on the upper body, and I could have used gloves as well, but I wasn't really suffering. And it's nice that my water bottle doesn't get drained as fast when the temperature is low.

Anyway, the park trails were beautiful today, with ragged fog giving way to brilliant sunshine as I went along. It inspired me to do more than the minimum; on an impulse I chose a route that was 8.5 miles rather than 7, because I knew the views would be prettier that way.

As the only apparent effect of my hot-chile experiment on Tuesday was a reduction in fasting results for a few days afterward, I had another spicy dinner tonight; we'll see what happens tomorrow. The meal included an entire Serrano chile, and was plenty hot enough for the purpose. 

Friday, December 5, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 83
Weight 187
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 119/75, 62

If at first you don't succeed, failure may be your style.   
        Quentin Crisp

The fasting test result this morning was about the same as (and in fact slightly lower than) my fasting test result on the morning after Tuesday's experiment with hot peppers. If hot peppers do anything to reduce blood sugar, they don't seem to be doing it for me, or at least they aren't doing it this week.

However, it's possible that hot peppers have a more long-range effect on blood sugar than I was assuming. My fasting tests since Tuesday have all been lower than anything I measured during the previous week. Could the hot peppers have done that for me -- over a three-day period?

If my fasting tests start going up, I'll have another hot chile and see what that does.

A complicating factor here is that I like spicy dishes a lot, and eat them often. To really test out the theory, I'd have to eat bland food for an extended period, and give the pepper effect a long time to wear off, so that I could make a real comparison. I'm not sure I'm in a hurry to do that.

Having been suckered by early-morning sunshine a few days ago, I ignored it today, and brought with me to work both a pair of running shorts and a pair of long running pants. At first it looked as if I needed the long pants -- a fog-bank descended on the neighborhood for most of the morning, and it got really cold. However, by the time we went running, the sun came out and it was in the mid-50s, so I figured I'd save the long pants for a day when I'd really need them. The sun warmed things up fast -- the temperature went up about 10 degrees during the run.

Owing to schedule pressure, it was a shorter run than usual -- 3.4 miles. It doesn't matter; I'll be doing 7 miles tomorrow morning, and the marathon training schedule actually called for today to be a rest day anyway.

Thursday, December 4, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 82
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 117/72, 54

Eight months seems to be a particularly good age to take a baby on a plane. Or maybe Baz is just a particularly good baby. Either way, by his second vodka tonic he was a complete angel, though a little overly sentimental.
        Adam Felber

Tonight: the rematch! I repeated Tuesday's experiment, making exactly the same dinner, but leaving the hot peppers out of it.

On Tuesday, when my dinner included a chopped Serrano chile and some other peppery ingredients, I measured 80 before eating, 142 after one hour, and 100 after 2 hours.
Tonight, when I ate the pepper-free version, I measured 79 before eating, 156 after one hour, and 89 after two hours.

So:  with  peppers, I was a bit lower at the 1-hour point. Without  peppers, I was a bit lower at the 2-hour point. These differences weren't very large (in fact, they were small enough that they could have been caused simply by the variability of the meter). So it pretty much seems like a wash.

I tried my best to make this a fair test (following exactly the same exercise plan on both days, and making my other meals of the day very similar), but you can never control for all of the factors that might impact your glucose readings. Sill, the lack of any striking difference between the two outcomes makes me doubt that repeating this experiment several times is going to show that peppers have any notable immediate impact on my blood sugar.

However, here are some issues I should bear in mind:

(1) I probably should have done the non-peppery version first. If peppers have an effect that lingers for a long time, I might still be getting a benefit from what I ate on Tuesday.

(2) Hot peppers are supposed to have other beneficial effects (having to do with inflammation and how the body deals with fat), and those effects are not the kind of effects I can measure. The fact that peppers don't seem to bring my blood sugar down doesn't they're not good for me in other ways.

(3) My blood sugar is obviously under pretty good control these days, so it may be that peppers don't help me in that area because I don't need a lot of help in that area. Maybe, for someone who really needed help, peppers would provide it.

Once again it was cool weather for running today -- foggy and in the 40s. However, this time I managed to bring running clothes that were a little more weather-appropriate. I had some long running pants, and a warm long-sleeved top. Wouldn't you know it, just as we were finishing our run (a 5-miler), the fog started breaking up, and the sun came out. It didn't warm up much, though, so I guess it doesn't matter that we missed the sun.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 86
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 122/70, 53

At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely.   
        W. Somerset Maugham

The sun was shining when I left the house, so why shouldn't I have believed the forecast that today's weather would be like yesterday's -- sunny and in the low 60s?

However, as I drove down the big hill on to the office, I plunged into a lake of fog. "This'll burn off in a few hours", I thought. Oh no it didn't! When it was time for me to go running at lunchtime, the fog was still thick, and the temperature was 42 degrees. The running clothes I had brought with me were a little flimsy for the conditions.

I remembered that I had hidden an emergency supply of running clothes in my office. It turned out that I had a fairly thick, long-sleeved top which I could substitute for the light, short-sleeved thing I had brought with me. What I didn't have was a pair of long running pants. I had to do the run in a mighty short pair of shorts. It felt pretty extreme when I walked outside wearing them, but once I got started on the run it didn't bother me too much. It helped that it was a 4-miler, and not longer. However, I'm definitely going to bring something heavier with me to work tomorrow.

The nice part of the run was when I ran past a wooded section of the hill near the Paradise Ridge winery. I love the look of gnarled oak trees receding and vanishing into the fog.

My fasting test was lower this morning than it had been in a week; could that be a sign that my experiment with hot peppers last night yielded some positive results? It's hard to tell. It will be interesting to repeat the recipe without the peppers tomorrow, and see what happens.

I was less stressed at work today than yesterday, so it's no surprise that my blood pressure is a bit lower.

Here's some health news: Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston decided to give all their adult patients a Hemoglobin A1c test, to get an idea of how common undiagnosed diabetes is. It turned out that nearly one out of five hospital patients were diabetic without knowing it. Interestingly, they weren't any likelier than non-diabetic people to show diabetic levels on a blood-glucose test (the usual way that people find out they're diabetic). Because glucose test results are so volatile, a lot of people "get lucky" and slip through the net. In fact, when the hospital followed up with these patients a year later, only 15% of them had been diagnosed by their doctors as being diabetic, simply because they hadn't failed a glucose test yet.

The moral of the story seems to be that, if you want to screen for diabetes, you need to give people an A1c test (which reflects average blood sugar over time) rather than a glucose test (which takes a snapshot of a moving target and hopes, apparently unrealistically, to catch it at the right moment).

So why don't we use the A1c test for screening? Because it costs more (perhaps as much as $40 more) than a glucose test. Hmmmmm. If you wanted to find someone who couldn't understand why failing to detect diabetes in its early stages might end up costing you a hell of a lot more than $40, wouldn't you have to search the insane asylums? No, wait -- I guess you could just visit the nearest insurance company.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 92
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 129/79, 57

Of all noises, I think music is the least disagreeable.   
        Samuel Johnson

More beautiful weather: sunny, clear, and cold this morning (if you will accept the California definition of "cold", which means that you feel obliged to slip on a light jacket before leaving the house in the morning, but zipping it closed doesn't occur to you). By the time I went running at lunchtime it was in the high 50s.

It was a stressful day at work, because a bunch of tasks are piling up which need to be done simultaneously (and can't be). I got the most urgent task done before I went home, but tomorrow I'll pay some kind of price for not having been able to do four other tasks which were competing with it. I guess that's why my blood pressure is creeping up a bit.

Following up on a discussion on the dLife forum, I have decided to find out if hot peppers have any effect on my blood sugar. Capsaicin, the compound which gives hot peppers their heat, seems to have effects which can be beneficial for patients with Type 2 diabetes. Some people say that a spicy dinner has a smaller impact on their blood sugar than a non-spicy version of the same dinner.

I decided try to verify this experimentally. Tonight I made a big bowl of peppery vegetable soup, with the intention of repeating this recipe later without the peppers. Tonight's peppery version included 1 Serrano chile, half of a large Poblano chile, and a spoonful of Achiote paste (a spice blend from the Yucatan). The vegetables included onion, tomato, asparagus, mushrooms, corn, and butter beans. Some of those are high-carb ingredients, and the serving size was large; still, just to make sure there was enough carbohydrate in the meal to qualify it as a fair test of glycemic impact, I also ate two slices of whole-wheat bread along with it.

Well, the soup certainly was spicy enough. The Poblano is not an especially warm pepper, but the Serrano is pretty fiery -- supposedly 3 or 4 times hotter than a Jalapeno. A lesser man would have downed a pint of cold beer while consuming a meal like that, but I was doing this in the interest of science, and I didn't want to let alcohol distort the results. (To be honest, the real reason I added bread to the meal was that I needed something to moderate the heat, and if it wasn't going to be beer, it would have to be bread.)

So here are the results: my blood sugar before dinner was 80. An hour after dinner, 142. Two hours after dinner, 100.

I should mention that, between the first and second hour, I went to the gym and did a short weight-training workout (about 25 minutes). Earlier in the day, I had done a 5-mile run.

The second experiment, in which I will make the same dinner and leave out the peppers, should duplicate my experience today as far as possible. So, I should plan on doing a 5-mile run at mid-day, and a weight-training workout in the evening, just as I did it today. I will try to do this on Thursday. I won't have time to deal with this tomorrow, and anyway I want to give the peppers a day to wear off.

Now, I realize that comparing just two instances of a similar meal on separate days proves nothing -- there are too many hidden factors that can affect blood sugar. (I was stressed out most of the day, and maybe I wouldn't have gone as high as 142 if I had eaten that bowl of soup on another occasion.) It takes a lot of experiments to verify blood-sugar trends with any confidence. But, if I do experiments like this from time to time, a clear pattern will probably emerge over time -- and that will be information worth having.

Monday, December 1, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 94
Weight 185
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 117/72, 50

The man who lets himself be bored is even more contemptible than the bore.   
        Samuel Butler

Today the holiday season got started, for me: we had our first lunchtime rehearsal at work for this year's Christmas music.

For as long as I've worked there (since 1996), I've participated in an annual Christmas music ritual in which (on the last working day before the Christmas break) a small group of us become strolling players. We go from building to building (and, in the larger buildings, from floor to floor), playing three or four Christmas tunes and then moving on to the next location. Because we're all corporate employees first and musicians second, it's difficult to get people together to rehearse. Things come up, on rehearsal days at least -- on the performance day, everyone usually shows up and participates.

Today we had only part of the group for the first rehearsal: myself on fiddle, and two others playing guitar and flute. Later we will be joined by at least two more players (a mandolinist and a second guitarist). A French horn player and a bass player are in the "maybe" category.

The trouble with Christmas music, at least from a musician's point of view, is that you're always rusty on it (because it's always been a year since you played it last), and yet it seems so over-familiar that you seemingly ought to be able to play it in your sleep. Well, that's what rehearsals are for, I guess. Today's rehearsal wasn't too bad, and it told me which tunes I need to work on.

No exercise today, but I did go to my yoga class, where a low-key miracle occurred. Yoga students in America are more often female than male, and in most yoga classes men are overwhelmingly outnumbered by women. Guys can get very uncomfortable with this. When I joined this class some years ago I was often the only male student, or one of only two. But today I looked around the room and made a mental count; there were 8 women and 9 men! Male students had never even achieved parity before in that class, much less a majority.

When I remarked on this to my teacher, she pointed out that in India, yoga was originally for men only, until B. K. S. Iyengar (the great popularizer of yoga in the West), decided to make the practice available to both sexes. Oddly enough, the result was that yoga eventualy came to be seen, at least in America, as something mainly for women. I wonder if that's the inevitable result of putting American men in a situation where they're doing something physical alongside women, only to discover that simply being male doesn't give them an advantage at it, and a lot of the women are better at it than they are.

Male insecurity is not a particularly useful trait in dealing with health issues; it tends to get in your way. For example, although men are faster runners on average than women, and the fastest finisher in a marathon is almost always going to be a man, most men who sign up for a marathon had better resign themselves to the possibility that some of the women runners are going to pass them like they're standing still. That's the way it is, guys. If you're afraid to participate in anything that a woman might do better than you, you're not going to be participating in much.

Anyway, I like to think that I've set an example (by continuing to go to yoga class even if I was the only guy there sometimes), and now the male culture is finally coming around and joining me there.

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