Friday, October 31, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 86
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 116/71, 52

If a man writes a book, let him set down only what he knows. I have guesses enough of my own.   
        Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Rain was forecast, but we went for a run at lunchtime anyway, and hoped for the best. Half-way through it, as we turned south, we could see clouds that were clearly dropping sheets of rain, and were clearly heading in our direction. We put on some speed, hoping to get back to the locker room before the rain started falling. We pretty much made it -- that is, it started raining before we finished the run, but it was still only a light rain at that point, so we didn't get especially wet.

I can run in the rain if necessary (and, since I'm going to be marathon-training this winter, it surely will be necessary), but it's not an experience I seek out.

Tomorrow, which is forecast to be stormy, I believe I'll do a gym workout. Sunday I'm planning to do a long run, and by that time the wet weather will probably be over. Or anyway it might be, so that's when I'm doing the run.

I wasn't able to reach my dentist today, to take care of the temporary crown that popped off my tooth last night. His office isn't open on Friday. I left an "emergency" message for him which supposedly would reach him on his cell phone, but I didn't get a call back. Oh well, I'll have to cope with it until Monday. The tooth is extremely temperature-sensitive, but otherwise I'm okay, provided I chew food on the other side of my mouth. I'll deal with it.

According to Reuters, the rate of diabetes in America increased by about 90% in the past decade.

No, that wasn't a typo. 90%.

How is it possible for the incidence of a non-infectious disease to grow so much over 10 years? Apparently it's possible because people have grown so much over 10 years. Type 2 diabetes, famously linked with obesity and sedentary habits, has shown the greatest growth in those states where the obesity rate is highest and the exercise rate is lowest.

The south is now Diabetes Central. Of the ten states with the highest rates of new diabetes cases, nine (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia) are in the south. The only one of the top ten that isn't located in the south is Arizona.

The lowest rate is in Minnesota, by the way. My theory is that it's harder to gain weight there, because it's so cold that the body has to burn fat just to maintain body temperature.

The American Diabetes Association  wants to focus its prevention efforts in the south. Well, good luck to them. Preventing diabetes requires, as a first step, acknowledgement that one is at risk of becoming diabetic. Not many people anywhere are ready to make that mental leap.

I think the only people who pay any attention to news about diabetes are people who already have diabetes. People who don't have it yet, or don't know that they have it yet, think it's the sort of thing that happens to other people.

Thursday, October 30, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 92
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 126/73, 55

If there were in the world today any large number of people who desired their own happiness more than they desired the unhappiness of others, we could have paradise in a few years.   
        Bertrand Russell

Finally, the weather turned autumn-like today. Heavy cloud-cover, and temperatures in the 50s. It threatened to rain all during our lunchtime run, but apart from a few stray raindrops it never happened. I was a bit lightly-dressed for the run, actually. I didn't get chilled, but I made a mental note to get my winter running clothes out from wherever they've been hiding. Heavier tops with long sleeves, and maybe full-length pants before long. But no need to carried away -- we're a long way from needing multiple layers, gloves, or jackets.

The route was 4.5 miles today -- that is, two of us did 4.5 miles. The other two took off at one point on a side-trip to add another mile. We're flexible about these things. On a given day, some of us will have more time in our schedules than others, or will be in the mood for a longer run than others. So, we start out together, but we often split up at some point.

The running buddy who is following a whole-foods vegan diet gave me a couple of recipes, and tonight I tried one of them for dinner (a simple kale salad).

Rather to my surprise, I found this to be a tasty and satisfying dish. I had been skeptical, because I thought of kale as a rather bitter vegetable, and I figured raw kale would be worse. Apparently it is cooking (or over-cooking) that makes kale taste bitter. This was excellent. Also, I had been afraid that a dressing which consisted of vinegar without oil would be harsh, but maybe a lot depends on the type of vinegar you're using.

However, I had some whole-grain bread with the salad, and while I was chewing it that temporary crown popped right off my tooth. At least I didn't swallow the damned thing. It's in a plastic sandwich bag in my pocket; I'll have to go into the dentist and get it re-attached tomorrow. Which means I've got to endure three dental visits this month, instead of the two visits to which I had resigned myself. Well, life is not always what we want it to be.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 86
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 126/74, 61

We spent as much money as we could, and got as little for it as people could make up their minds to give us...
There was a gay fiction among us that we were constantly enjoying ourselves, and a skeleton truth that we never did. To the best of my belief, our case was in the last aspect a rather common one. 
        Charles Dickens

A nice sunny cool day, or anyway cool enough for comfortable running (in the 60s). I did a 4.3 mile run at lunchtime, with my vegan-whole-foods running buddy. He slowed down enough for me that we could stay together and converse. I had a stressful morning at work, and the run was very helpful to me -- the afternoon went much better than the morning had.

When Joseph Campbell's phrase "follow your bliss" became well-known several years ago, a lot of people were quick to ridicule it as the emptiest of slogans. Why make a big point of saying, in effect, "do whatever makes you happy" when that's what everyone is already doing? Does selfish hedonism really nead any further encouragement?

However, if you stop and think about it, how much of the human behavior you see around you, no matter how hedonistically intended it may be, is likely to lead to peace and contentment for the people who practice it? People are following something, obviously, but are they following something that has any chance of leading them to bliss?

There's a difference, after all, between following our first impulse and following a path which is likely to lead us to a happier day-to-day existence.

If there's an "in-crowd" at your workplace, school, or other social setting -- a group of people that you hope will some day accept you as one of their exclusive set -- and you expend a lot of energy and ingenuity trying ot worm your way into that group, is it likely that in the end you will be glad that you made the effort? Can that kind of thing be called "following your bliss"? Not in my view. I had the experience of taking up such a project once, and following it through to the end. And the end was that I wound up, one evening after work, sitting in a bar with the in-crowd, thinking to myself that these people, once you got to know them, were not half as much fun as I had imagined them to be, and that in fact they were a bunch of bores. Their exclusivity was the only thing that had ever made them seem glamorous; viewed more familiarly, they were as thrilling as watching paint dry. Even so, I pursued this empty dream for a little while longer, trying to convince myself that these were indeed the people I wanted to hang around with. Eventually I was forced to admit to myself that I was deriving no pleasure from their company, and I called it quits.

Life is full of these situations, in which we pursue elusive things (such as possessions, status, and career goals) which we assume will make us happy if we should ever attain them, while we undervalue every familiar thing which actually makes us happy now. In fact, we often pay so little attention to what makes us happy that we can be amazingly bad at choosing our goals. Think of all those people who suddenly discover, after they pass the bar exam and begin practicing law, that they don't like being a lawyer and want to be something else. Were there really no opportunities in law school for them to figure out that the subject didn't appeal to them? At some level they had to know they were heading in the wrong direction, but maybe by then they felt committed, so they tried to convince themselves that everything was going great.

Healthy habits (exercising and eating your vegetables, in particular) make us feel good when we actually practice them, but we tend to forget that fact. Our first impulse is always to think that, if we're feeling stressed out, the solution is to rest and eat "comfort" foods; those things don't actually make us feel better, but we're so convinced that they ought to make us feel better, we fail to notice that they don't.

My day was so much more bearable after my lunchtime run than it had been in the morning! And yet it is so easy to want to wimp out when you're feeling stressed, and avoid doing the things that are likeliest to make you feel better. "Follow your bliss" begins to seem less superficial once you realize that curling up on the couch is not an example of it -- and jogging is.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 85
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 117/71, 56

'Bertie, I have something to say to you.'
'I have something to say to you.'
'I know. I said "What?"'
'Oh, I thought you didn't hear what I said.'
'Yes, I heard what you said, all right, but not what you were going to say.'
'Oh, I see.'
So that was straightened out.
        P. G. Wodehouse

Still sunny, but in the 60s rather than the 80s, so to that extent I guess you could say that the autumn chill is descending on us. If any of the local wineries harvested their grapes prematurely, for fear of that frost which was forecast but never occurred, they must be regretting it now. Certain kinds of grapes like to be left on the vine a long time, if the weather allows it. 2008 ought to be a good year for Sonoma County Cabernet. Remember that you heard it here first.

The cooler temperatures make it easier to run at lunchtime. I don't feel the need to carry water when it's this cool, unless it's a very long run. We did a 5.2 mile route today. A few years ago that would have seemed like a long run to me; it no longer does. We seldom do a route shorter than 4 miles these days.

It seems that November is Diabetes Awareness Month. I feel sorry for whoever is in charge of that effort. Attempting to raise awareness of diabetes cannot be an easy job. People who have already been diagnosed with diabetes do not need to be made aware of it, and people who have not already been diagnosed with diabetes probably could not be made aware of it even if you held them at gunpoint while you explained the matter.

According to surveys conducted by the American Diabetes Association, more people are afraid of being killed in a plane crash (16%), bitten by a snake (13%), being struck by lightning (5%) or being eaten by a shark (4%) than are than are afraid of developing diabetes (3%). However, diabetes is by far the likeliest of those threats. Fewer than 500 deaths a year are attributed to plane crashes; more than 200,000 are attributed to diabetes. Even cancer is less common than diabetes, although people are 16 times likelier to fear cancer.

To be sure, cancer and sharkbite tend to conjure up a more vivid picture of suffering in our minds, so it's only natural for those things to figure more prominently in our nightmares than diabetes tends to do. Most people see diabetes as a rather abstract disease, in which the symptoms consist largely of numbers. They tend to assume that having diabetes is an inconvenience rather than a struggle for survival.

But I think the real reason people tend to be unaware of diabetes as a potential threat is that they would prefer not to be aware of it. After all, diabetes is generally regarded as a lifestyle disease, so if you want to avoid getting it, you might have to change your lifestyle. Who wants to be more aware of diabetes, if being aware of it might oblige you to give up habits you have become comfortable with?

Well, good luck to those who are going to be try to raise public awareness of diabetes next month, but I hope they're not counting on making a huge amount of headway.

Monday, October 27, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 78
Weight 187
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 130/79, 47

We all have strength enough to endure the misfortunes of others.   
        Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Why is my blood pressure up today? Probably from a combination of causes, but one of them is that I didn't exercise today. I've decided to make Monday my rest day for the foreseeable future. The marathon training program that I'm going to be following this winter uses Monday as a rest day. Also, my yoga class is on Monday night. I don't think of yoga as exercise,  but it's better than no physical activity at all, so I might as well do it on the day when I'm not working out in any other way.

The weather was at least nodding in the direction of autumn today -- it was foggy and cool most of the morning, and even after the fog cleared the temperature only rose to the high 60s. It's a start, anyway. There are even predictions that it might rain on Friday (a 40% chance). Now that I'm in the mood for autumn, I'm in the mood for eating autumn foods. Persimmons and baked squash and whatnot. It's easier to appreciate autumn foods when you've actually got autumn weather outside.

If I'm going to start my marathon training in five weeks, then I ought to use the time between now and then to give myself a much-needed training advantage. That would be losing weight.

This is the time of year when my weight always starts going up, and I'm already struggling with that, but if I want to be a better runner I need to get my weight moving in the other direction.

I lost 50 pounds fairly quickly after I was diagnosed, and then I slowly lost about 15 more pounds, but I never really completed the job. I seem to have settled in at a weight which fluctuates between 185 and 190, when normal weight for someone of my height would be 170. Why haven't I been able to go the distance?

My original, rapid weight loss occurred when I adopted a low-fat vegetarian diet. Once my weight had dropped enough for my blood sugar to stabilize within the normal range, there was less urgency about losing weight, and I drifted into my present diet, which is mostly vegetarian and but cannot be called low-fat. I allow myself a lot of stir-frying in vegetable oils, not to mention high-fat vegetable flavorings such as tahini. The literature I was reading on Syndrome X (a.k.a. Metabolic Syndrome) made this seem like my best bet (Dr. Gerald Reaven, discoverer of Syndrome X, recommends a  diet which is surprisingly high in fat, so long as you limit your carbs). However, I'm not sure that a diet can be my best bet if it prevents me from losing weight when I'm trying pretty hard to do so.

It sounds as if I need to get back to the diet which enabled me to lose weight when I was originally diagnosed: lots of vegetables, not too much starch, and very little fat.

My vegan running-buddy swears that, if you stick to such a diet long enough, your taste buds go through a transformation, and you no longer crave the fats and refined carbohydrates that once seemed to you like indispensible ingredients of a satisfying meal. Right now I can't remember whether that ever happened to me when I was eating like that to lose weight in a hurry -- what I mainly remember is being hungry (but not minding that I was hungry, because it meant I was moving toward my goal). I don't know whether or not I can ever feel the way he does about kale, but it would certainly be nice to have his effortless ability to maintain a lean physique.

After I reminisced yesterday about my experience (from several years back) of listening to Bruno Walter's 1959 recording of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony when I had the flu, and was in a heightened state of emotional suggestibility, what should come on the radio tonight as I was writing this blog but that very same recording! And did I shed a tear this time? No, I stayed dry-eyed from the first note to the last.

Which proves nothing except that most of us aren't fully tuned in to the experiences we have, most of the time. Not that I didn't appreciate the performance, but I was distracted by the task of writing. Maybe the real magic of going to a live concert is simply that it's hard to distract yourself, because there is nothing else to do. There's nothing else to do when you're running outdoors, either, but even then it's easy to detach yourself from the experience, and miss what's best in it.

Sunday, October 26, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 87
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 115/67, 55

An epitaph is a belated advertisement for a line of goods that have been permanently discontinued.   
        Irvin S. Cobb

I've already done a 10K race this month (on the 5th), but I was in the mood to do another. Having grown a little weary of our unbroken streak of warm sunny days here in Sonoma County, I decided to head down to Contra Costa County (it's east of Berkeley, on the other side of the Oakland hills), and run in today's 10K race in Lafayette. I thought conditions might be different there. If I had gone to San Francisco, I apparently would have encountered a real weather change (it was foggy and cold there today), but in Lafayette it was just as sunny as it was back home. However, it was rather cool at 8:45, when the race started. That was the extent of the weather drama. And it wasn't that cool -- I was dressed for a summer run, and all it took to make me feel comfortably warm was to jog the quarter-mile or so from where I parked my car to the race start.

Most 10K races exist in a region somewhere between the world of competitive athletics and the world of local civic events. Lafayette's 10K, which is mostly a fund-raiser for local schools, is a lot closer to the world of local civic events. The people all seem to know each other, and the spirit of the thing is more about doing something fun outdoors together than about competing. That social element is present in almost any race, but it dominates in Lafayette's race. In some races, there are a lot of grimly serious competitors involved. In Lafayette, things are a little less solemn. A large share of the runners are pushing strollers, or holding onto a dog leash.

That is not to say that the Lafayette race is an easy run. It's pretty hilly. Most of the climbs are short (the part of the route that circles the reservoir consists of small rolling hills), but there is one long steep climb from the town's main street up to the reservoir. So far I haven't been able to run that race in under an hour, and I didn't manage it today, either. My time was 1:01:05.

Oddly enough, the race seemed shorter to me than the one I did early in the month, even though it was harder and took me longer to finish. I don't know why that was. I just felt better today -- that is, I felt better about running, about the process of completing that race. Sometimes I think the perceived difficulty of an athletic event is as much subject to extraneous emotional influences as the perceived taste of a glass of wine.

The latter phenomenon is one I have had a lot of time to study. I live in a major wine-producing region, and I like to go wine-tasting at the local vineyards, but the experience is variable because my mood is variable. If the people behind the counter in the tasting room are not likable, the wine doesn't taste good. Not that this happens a lot, but it does happen. If you go to a winery, and the person representing the place to you is putting on a superior attitude, correcting your pronunciation of obscure varietals, and making catty remarks about the winery across the road, then the wine they pour for you is inevitably going to taste to you like overpriced grape juice, whatever its actual merits might be. On the other hand, if the person representing the place is being charming, and the setting is pleasant, you might perceive more richness in a Zinfandel than you would otherwise detect.

Something similar goes on with music. I suspect that there is always more going on in a good piece of music than we can usually pick up, but sometimes circumstances make us more able to perceive what's there. A little vulnerability helps -- when you're very tired, or you're running a fever, or you're at a funeral, a melody may pack an emotional wallop that it never would at other times, because suddenly you are open to perception of what was there all along. I once listened to Bruno Walter's recording of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony when I had the flu, and I cried through the whole thing. Although that recording hasn't affected me in the same way since, I don't conclude that having the flu distorted my hearing. I think having the flu somehow made me able to hear what had always been there in the music, and always will be.

The experience of exercise is, I think, as complicated as the experience of tasting wine or litening to music. A lot of things can (and usually do) get in the way of appreciating the experience fully, and taking pleasure in it. But sometimes those things don't get in the way. Sometimes you just feel good about it. Perhaps what really happens is that you forget to feel bad about it. If so -- here's to forgetting to feel bad!

Friday, October 24, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 86
Weight 187
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 120/70, 60

The years betwen 50 and 70 are the hardest. You are always asked to do things, and yet you are not decrepit enough to turn them down.   
        T S Eliot

Once again, sunny and in the 80s. The record's stuck, apparently. (I realized that a lot of people are too young to grasp that metaphor, but I don't think many people that young are going to read a blog about life with Type 2 diabetes.)

One of the odd things that happens when you sign up to run a marathon (however far in the future it may be) is that you immediately start feeling a pain somewhere, and you wonder if you have a physical problem that will make it impossible to run the race. In my case, it was a sore knee, which I woke up with this morning. Whenever I walked, my right knee felt stiff, with just a twinge of pain. I wondered if I should skip running at lunchtime today.

However, I went ahead with the run (it was a comparatively easy 4-miler), and after the first quarter-mile my knee felt perfectly fine. After the run, it felt a little stiff again -- but that faded over the course of the afternoon. By dinnertime it was okay. I think I'll do a lighter, non-running workout tomorrow to give my knee a break. And some yoga, to loosen it up.

I guess over time I have shifted a lot of my focus from managing my diabetes (in any direct sense) to keeping my limbs functioning, so that I can continue to exercise regularly. Exercise is my main diabetes therapy, after all. As long as I can keep that going, I won't have to worry much about diabetes -- but if I reach a point where I can't exercise anymore, I'll be screwed. So I need to stay in shape, and I need to keep my muscles and bones and joints functioning properly. It's a lot of work, staying on top of all that, but I'd rather put my attention on yoga and running than on a menagerie of diabetes drugs with vile side-effects.  

Thursday, October 23, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 86
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 120/75, 54

Be the first to say what is self-evident, and you are immortal.   
        M. Ebner-Eschenbach

The unchanging weather continues: blue skies, 80 degrees. This is beginning to be like a Twilight Zone episode, in which nature has somehow forgotten that the seasons change.

I had some e-mail exchanges with Michele and Dan about the Napa Marathon. She sent us both the web address for race registration. Before I had time to catch my breath, Dan sent us a message saying he'd registered already. Wait a minute, I thought -- this is happening too fast for me! Usually we spend weeks or even months discussing something like this before we sign up for it. But I could see the way things were going, and I figured I might as well bow to the inevitable, and accept the fact that I am going to do this thing. So I'm in. I've now registered for the race.

At lunchtime I went running with Dan and Michele, without Mike this time, and we compared notes about yesterday. It became clear to us that Mike had talked to each of us separately, trying to get us charged up about doing the marathon -- and that he did it by telling each of the three of us that the other two were going to run it if we did.

The result of all this crafty maneuvering is that Mike is probably the only one of the four of us who hasn't registered for the race yet. Why was he so determined to get us to sign up for it first? Our theory is that it's his way of getting himself motivated. Maybe, like me, he's relying on peer pressure to keep him active. The difference is that I merely yield to peer pressure; he likes to manufacture it. Well, whatever works.

The thing is, the Napa Marathon is definitely a beautiful race. Here are a couple of pictures from the 2008 event, taken by Ken Lee. This one is early in race, when everyone is still smiling:

For the first 16 miles it's all scenery and vineyards and camaraderie, but after that it begins to seem a little bit more like hard work.

And the last five miles are pretty much martyrdom -- or at least they were last time. If I drink a lot more water this time, maybe I'll feel better at the finish.

I'll have to be really serious about the hydration issue, though. Last time I was very much afraid that I was going to pass out before I got to the finish line. I didn't, but I think I came very close to it. I had moments of dizziness during the last mile. I'll have to look at my watch during the race, and take a sizeable swallow from my water bottle every 5 minutes or so. There must be some way for me to beat this thing. I don't like to accept defeat in any battle with my own physiology. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 79
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 126/69, 62

The covers of this book are too far apart.   
        Ambrose Bierce

The usual boring weather report here in Sonoma County: sunny, calm, warm. A little warmer than yesterday (in the 80s), but not warm enough to discourage me from doing a long run.

I had three running buddies with me (at least at first), and we did a very hilly run of about five and a half miles. Michele, Mike, and Dan are all much better at hill-climbing than I am, so they pulled way ahead of me getting to the top, and then did a little side-route to give me a chance to catch up with them. While we were separated, they got into a conspiratorial conversation, which I heard about after we came together at the bottom of the hill.

Dan has never run a marathon before. So, while they had him off on that side street, they went to work on him, trying to talk him into running the Napa Marathon on March 1. Eventually he caved in, at least conditionally. So, once we're reunited, Mike says "Hey Tom! We've talked it over. Michele and I want to run Napa this year. And Dan says he'll do it if you do it."

Oh, my goodness. I ran the Napa marathon last time (see my blog entry for March 2nd this year), but I suffered a lot during the last 5 miles of it, and I spent those miles vowing never to put myself through such an ordeal again. The problem was dehydration, which sounds as if it would be easy to avoid, but isn't easy for me to avoid. I certainly drank more water during the run than most of the other runners did, but I sweat so much more than a normal runner that it's hard to take in water as fast as I'm shedding it.

Ever since I crossed that finish line, I've been oscillating between thinking "never again!" and thinking "never say never!", without ever making a choice between them. I knew I'd have to make that choice eventually, and now the time has come.

Of course, it all comes back to peer pressure. It used to be that I didn't have to cope with that, not because I didn't have peers but because the peers I had were not at all likely to suggest that I run a marathon with them. These days, the situation is very different. As I've said before, my exercise programs consists largely of hanging around with active people and letting them talk me into stuff. Peer pressure has become something I rely on to push me toward healthy activities. Which means, of course, that I can't be casual about rejecting suggestions of that sort. When somebody wants to talk me into joining them on a run, a bike ride, or a hike, my default answer has to be "yes". If I'm going to answer "no", I need a good reason, and "I think I would hate it" no longer qualifies as a good reason.

I mentioned the problem I had with dehydration last time, and Mike had his counter-argument ready: "Last time it was sunny -- this time it will probably be raining and cold and miserable!". Who could resist such wily salesmanship?

I'm pretty sure I will go ahead and do it, largely because I like the whole process of training for a marathon, at least when you're training with people who are going to run with you in the same race. Having trained together before, we have the routine pretty well established. I draw up a three-month training calendar for us, which specifies the distances to run each day (with very long runs on the weekends). The first time I went through this, the training schedule seemed a terrible burden, and seemed to dominate my life far too completely. Now, having been through the training process four times, I no longer feel overwhelmed by it, and I actually enjoy it. To be focused intensely on a challenging goal, especially when you're sharing it with others, is a healthy thing, and we all need to have something like that going on in our lives once in a while. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 90
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 119/68, 60

Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.   
        Hector Berlioz

Well, that's not a bad fasting result, especially after yesterday's result of 101. Let's see if I can make tomorrow's result better still. My dinner tonight was fairly low-carb. The main dish was a vegetable stew (but I did have some crackers and hummus with it, so I hope I didn't overdo that). Blood pressure is better today also.

Yet another sunny day. Not too warm, though -- in the 70s.

I wore the heart rate monitor for my run at lunchtime today, mainly to confirm that I've made some progress in reducing my heart rate during exercise. The route was 4.3 miles, and it included several hill-climbs, three of them steep. Even on the toughest climbs, my heart rate remained in the 150s. When I first started running on those hills, I often got into the high 170s. Over time, I worked it down to the 160s, and now the 150s. On flat terrain, I was in the 130s, and on the downhills I was in the 120s.

Why is my heart rate lower during exercise now? Because exercising regularly over the past several years has brought about some changes in my cardiovascular system. Changes like that don't happen overnight, because they involve rearrangement of the body's internal achitecture. New blood vessels are added, and existing ones grow larger. This increases the heart's blood-pumping capacity, so that more blood is moved per heartbeat (and consequently, it takes fewer heartbeats to move the volume of blood that is required in a particular situation).

During the run, my running buddy was telling me about his adventures in diet. Some years ago, when he was having trouble controlling his blood pressure and cholesterol, he and his wife adopted a whole-foods, all-plant diet. He doesn't eat processed foods (so, no soy-milk or fake meat for him). He has a food-mill and grinds his own grains to make cereal and breads. He says that, unless you grind your own grains yourself, there is simply no way to get genuine whole grains. (The "whole wheat" flour you buy is apparently refined flour with bran put in as an additive; the missing wheat germ is not restored.) In the mornings he makes a hot cereal consisting of a combination of six whole grains, cooked fast in a pressure-cooker. He eats a lot of vegetables (steamed, not fried in oil). He says that, if you adopt a plant-based diet and refrain from using oils to cook and flavor them, after a few months your taste buds wake up and you begin to perceive and enjoy the flavors of vegetables which seemed dull to you before.

Making a transition like that might not sound easy, but he says he started feeling much better after he did it -- and his health improved. He lost weight, his blood pressure came down, his cholesterol came down. He says he feels full when he eats, and isn't tempted to snack. Certainly he has a leaner physique than most people I know, and he's strong -- he has no trouble running.

The main thing that has prevented me, at least so far, from adopting a diet like that is my impatience. I am not inclined by nature to spend a lot of time on food -- buying it, preparing it, or even eating it. My impatience in culinary matters has never been a good thing for me. I've long been aware of that, but I've had a lot of trouble fighting the tendency.

I'm working on it, anyway.

Monday, October 20, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 101
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 128/79, 47

I always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been more specific.   
        Lilly Tomlin

I'm afraid there's no mystery about why my fasting test this morning was up a bit, rather than down, after I did such a long trail-run yesterday. The truth is that I thought the run entitled me to splurge on a high-carb dinner last night, and it now looks as if I abused the privilege. I had bought an acron squash at the farmer's market, and I baked in the traditional way -- sliced in half, with a mixture of brown sugar and maple syrup in the hollow. That was pushing things a bit, especially as I also had bread with dinner. (On the other hand, it was really, really good.)

Today was a rest day. I had a long dental appointment in the morning (I was having a filling and a crown done), and it screwed up my schedule for the day, so that I couldn't go running. I did go to my yoga class in the evening. I don't count that as exercise. Some people do, though.

Today I took part in a discussion forum on dLife, on the subject of yoga, and some argued that yoga is, too, exercise -- some of the poses push your heart rate up. My position was that a yoga session may include some episodes of elevated heart rate, but those episodes are too brief (and too widely separated by intervals of much lower intensity) for yoga to be called a workout.

Tonight I wore a heart monitor to my yoga class to capture some specifics on this. My resting heart rate these days is low (the low 50's, usually), but will bump up to the 70s merely from standing up and walking across the room. Many of the yoga poses I did tonight didn't push me any higher than the mid 70s, and the hardest pose I did only pushed me up (very briefly) to 89. Running, on the other hand, typically pushes me to 130 on level ground, 150 on a hill, and 160 or more on a very steep hill.

That doesn't mean yoga provides no benefits. It does provide benefits (flexibility, strength, stress reduction). I just don't think it provided the particular benefits that a real workout provides (elevated insulin sensitivity in the short term, and expanded cardiovascular capacity in the long term).

Sunday, October 19, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 90
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 118/68, 48

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.   
        Bertrand Russell

It's still sunny here in the wine country, but there was some fog in the morning, and even after the fog cleared the day was cooler than forecast -- in the low 60s. The grape harvest is mostly done, and the vineyards are starting to turn yellow.

Normally Sunday would be a rest day for me, but I know I'm not going to have time to work out tomorrow, and I don't allow myself to take two rest days in a row, so I knew I had better get some exercise today. It felt like a nice day for trail-running. At least, in terms of the weather it did; whether it was a good day for me to do a trail run was harder to predict. When I got to the state park, I had no idea of how ready I was for a long run.

At first I didn't make up my mind about which route I was going to take. The trail I started on had a lot of options to make it longer or shorter, so I thought I'd just get started, see how I felt, and make a decision when I had to. When I started the run, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I felt good from the outset -- usually the first five minutes are awful, but this time I felt fine. Then I got to the first big climb, and I still felt good. Then I got to the second big climb, which is a lot steeper than the first, and even then I felt good. So, I decided it was my day, and I chose a comparatively long route (8.3 miles). It was great. When I finished I didn't feel all that tired, and I wasn't hurting anywhere. No hip problems, no knee problems, no cramping, no nothing.

Some days, it seems like everything works. I wish I knew why it's like that on some days and not others -- so that I could figure out how to make it happen more often.

Friday, October 17, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 86
Weight 187
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 117/71, 57

It is often merely for an excuse that we say things are impossible.   
        Francois de La Rochefoucauld

I had three running buddies at lunchtime today. Once again, a sunny day, but not quite as warm as forecast, at least when we were running. About 80 degrees. It was 4.3 miles, and pretty hilly, but not the hardest route we do by any means. The other three are all much faster than me on the hill-climbs, so they pulled way ahead of me getting to the top. Then, to get re-united with me, they took a little out-and-back diversion onto a side street. They overestimated the amount of help I needed, and they got back on the main route way behind me instead of even with me. At that point it was downhill, so I sped up to widen my lead and make them work to catch up to me. They did, of course, but it took a while. When you're slower than everyone else on the uphills, you have to do your best to make up for it on the downhills.

It's a good thing my workplace accommodates that kind of activity, with locker rooms and showers and flexible schedules. A lot of people take advantage of it. I'm sure we have a healthier than average workforce. The managers tend to set an example. I've noticed that not too many couch potatoes seem to get promoted in our organization -- the top jobs tend to go to fit-looking people. Not that that's their main qualification, but all other things being equal, people who look strong and energetic are greatly preferred.

More inept research (or ineptly-presented research), this time from London. A Reuters item today has this headline:

Aspirin no heart protection for diabetics - study

And the lead: "Doctors should not routinely give aspirin to people with diabetes to help guard against a heart attack or stroke, a British study found on Friday."

Why not? Because it isn't effective, according to the study, unless you already have heart disease. If you are merely at risk for heart disease, because you have diabetes, your odds of having a heart attack or stroke are about the same whether you take the aspirin or not.

The article quotes an editorial from the British Medical Journal, which published the study, as follows: "Although aspirin is cheap and universally available, practitioners and authors of guidelines need to heed the evidence that aspirin should be prescribed only in patients with established symptomatic cardiovascular disease".

The study was led by one Jill Belch, who noted that aspirin "remains effective for reducing risk among men and women who have already had a heart attack or stroke". However, "We found no evidence to support the use of either aspirin or antioxidants in the primary prevention of cardiovascular events and mortality in people with diabetes. Aspirin should, however, still be given for secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease in people with diabetes."

Okay, let's summarize. In the course of one brief article, we are told that (1) aspirin should be prescribed only for patients who already have heart disease, (2) aspirin doesn't affect the rate of heart disease in diabetes patients one way or the other, and (3) aspirin should still be prescribed for "secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease in people with diabetes".

There you are, ladies and gentlemen: take your choice! In terms of prevention of heart disease in people with diabetes, the same issue of the British Medical Journal says that aspirin should not be prescribed, doesn't matter, and should be prescribed.

Is that clear, now? Good!

Thursday, October 16, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 88
Weight 187
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 114/66, 58

You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backward.   
        James Thurber

Goethe claimed that nothing was harder to bear than a long, unbroken series of lovely days. I used to think that was all the proof anyone needed that Goethe was not as bright as we've been asked to believe, but now I'm starting to share the feeling. It's been sunny for 10 days now. And here's the current weather forecast:

So, here in Sonoma County, California, the greatest weather drama we'll be enduring for the next five days consists of some partial cloudiness on Sunday and a general decline in temperature from the 80s to the 70s. This is getting seriously boring. (Also, it's getting alarming, as it doesn't suggest that we will soon see the end of our current drought, or even the end of the summer wildfire season.) What we need now is a wave of bad weather. Hey, I already found out last winter that I can get through a prolonged power failure if I have to -- so, bring on the storms!

Yesterday I had 3 running buddies at lunchtime; today I had none. This meant that I could set my own pace, and not have to worry about keeping up with anyone else. This is not entirely a good thing; the pace I find comfortable and natural is rather slow, and I get more benefit from a run when I am obliged to push beyond my comfort zone in order to keep up with faster runners.

When I'm working out alone, I play a lot more mind-games with myself, simply because there's no conversation to distract me. I played a particularly odd one today. At a certain point in the run, I had an option of running on the left or the right side of the route, and running on the right side (as I normally do when I'm running with others) is a little harder, because it involves an extra hill-climb. I wanted to take the left side and give myself a break. After all, I was alone, and no one would know that I had made things just a little easier for myself.

Then I thought, "Don't be such a baby! Go the right side and do the usual thing!". After all, if I was going to choose an easier route just because my running buddies weren't there to see me do it, why not skip the run entirely and deny it later? Nobody would know. But I would know, and my body would know. I was running for my health, not to impress anyone with my diligence.

Having made this decision, I chose the usual route, the hillier alternative, and stopped thinking about the issue. I started thinking about something else. Specifically, I was thinking about buying a pressure cooker, and wondering where I could find one, and how much they cost, and how they worked, and a lot of other details of no great importance. During all that, I went absolutely into automatic-pilot mode -- not noticing what I was doing at all.

Then I suddenly emerged from my reverie, looked around, and wondered where that hill was -- the hill that I had been thinking of skipping, but had persuaded myself that I must endure. Where was it? Shouldn't I have got to it by now? In an embarassing flash of awareness, I realized that I had already climbed it, without noticing in the slightest that I had been doing so. Thinking about pressure cookers had pretty much hypnotized me, to the point that I didn't even notice that I was climbing the hill. I didn't even have the experience, much less suffer from it.

The amount of psychology (and weird, dopey psychology at that) which goes into maintaining an exercise program almost scares me sometimes, at least when it isn't making me laugh. When people say running (or cycling, or whatever) is mostly psychological, they're closer to the truth than you would think. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 90
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 120/67, 61

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.   
        Oscar Wilde

Temperatures in the 80s again. I did a 4.6 mile run at lunchtime, but it got started under difficult circumstances. Because of some schedule problems which I had to improvise around, I ended up eating lunch first, and then running -- less than an hour later. That's really hard for me, and I try not to do it. Anyway, I got through the run, and I didn't get sick to my stomach, but I didn't turn in an impressive performance either.

There were four of us running, and after a while it became two pairs, with the two fastest runners pulling out ahead. Oh well, someone has to be in the back.

The fellow who was running with me in the back was talking to me about the good results he'd been getting with the whole-foods, strict-vegetarian regimen he's been following for some years now. I had been wondering how he had managed to keep his weight down during the last few years, when he wasn't running (because of a problem with his foot which he has now recovered from). He's lean, his blood pressure is low, he has very low cholesterol, he feels good, he has no lack of energy.

I told him that I am eating a mostly-vegetarian diet, but what has kept me from going the whole way with that is my impatience, my tendency to reach for food that is conveniently available. If everyone was a strict vegetarian (no milk, no eggs, no cheese) and a strict whole-foods eater (no processed foods), we would be surrounded by convenience foods that are entirely plant-based. It ain't that way. If you don't bring a lunch to work, you must try to put together a healthy lunch based on what is available in the cafeteria, and that's going to work out better on some days than others.

People are always ready to start a holy-war over vegetarianism, for reasons which have little to do with nutrition, and even the nutritionists seem unable to agree on the subject. One thing is clear to me: the only people I know who can maintain a lean physique without effort are the strict vegetarians.

Of course, he isn't just avoiding meat and dairy products. He doesn't eat processed foods. He has some kind of food mill, and he prepares a cereal in the morning by grinding up several different whole grains in it, and cooking them briefly in a pressure-cooker. He doesn't put milk on the cereal, or soy-milk either -- he says you can quickly get used to eating hot cereal without adding anything to it, or only adding a little fruit. Obviously this isn't an easy plan to implement, for someone like me who has trouble getting up early, but he says a breakfast like this keeps him going all day -- he doesn't really get hungry until 4 PM or so, but he will have a light lunch just to keep things on an even keel. Fortunately, his wife is in agreement with him about all this, and their son is so young that it hasn't occurred to him to rebel yet. Some people find, when they try to change their eating habits, that the resistance they get from their nearest and dearest is too strong to be resisted. (Even your most casual acquaintances will be happy to tell you that whatever diet you've chosen to adopt is freakish and wrong.)

I should try to benefit by his example. This is the time of year when the change of seaons (which is stubbornly refusing to occur in California, but leave that aside for the moment) tends to make me overeat and gain weight. Maybe the way for me to oppose that trend is to make myself get up early, and prepare some kind of whole-food breakfast. We'll see if it's humanly possible in my case...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 86
Weight 185
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 123/70, 61

Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.   
        T. S. Eliot

A maddening day at work. This morning, just as I was nearing completion of a project to locate and revise 180 separate documents, someone sent me an e-mail asking for a change which would require me to go back and edit them all again. I didn't break down and cry, although that might have been healthier; I just got very upset and resentful and tense.

However, that was just before I was due to go for my lunchtime run, so I decided to make that run a tough one, and see if I could work the tension out of my body. I chose one of the tougher routes we do, 5.5 miles long and with a huge hill to climb. We gained at least 500 feet of altitude. It was very hard, but that was what I needed. I definitely felt better for doing it. And my blood pressure is lower today than yesterday, so presumably it helped.

The weather was not as warm as yesterday, maybe 75 degrees. Still, it was a clear, sunny day, and apparently that's the way it's going to be all week. Did someone forget to press the switch that changes the seasons?

Monday, October 13, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 93
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 129/78, 57

Only mediocrity can be trusted to be always at its best.   
        Max Beerbohm

More awful weather here in Sonoma County:

As usual, Sunday was a day of indulgence for me -- no exercise, but a very substantial picnic. I didn't come out of it too badly, considering.

Things were not quite so nice on Angel Island (the island in San Francisco Bay where I did a trail run in August); at 9 PM a fire broke out at a camground on the east side of the island, and spread fast:

I'm not sure how much of the island was burned, but I'm afraid that it's going to be a long time before the island is beautiful place to go running again. I guess I should be glad I took the opportunity when I had it.

Today an old running buddy of ours, who hasn't been running with us in a few years, decided to join us for a lunch-hour run. When he was running before, he was good at it, but he had some kind of painful problem with his foot which led him to give up running entirely. What made him change his mind was that he consulted a podiatrist who said that an imbalance in the shape of his feet was throwing off his posture and affecting him in the spine and elsewhere. She made for him a custom set of corrective shoe inserts, and he says that they have made a huge difference, even though the correction is seemingly subtle (a few millimeters here and there). Anyway, he feels able to run now.

The odd thing was that it was only by coincidence that he talked to the podiatrist at all. He originally went to see her about a problem with his young son's feet (which was fairly severe and obvious, and was actually limiting the kid's activities). The corrective inserts she made helped his son so much that he ended up asking her if she could help him, too. It turned out that she could. He's amazed at how much difference it's making in his life.

He certainly didn't seem to have any trouble running today, except that (because he's out of practice) his stamina isn't what it used to be, so he had to take a couple of walk-breaks toward the end of our 4-mile route. I'm sure he'll soon get over that. (Which is too bad, in a way, because stamina is the one advantage I have over him, and I'll soon lose it!)

The weather was in the 80s today, and is apparently going to stay clear and warm all week. Someone needs to tell Mother Nature that it's okay to let go of the summer now, and get on with fall.

Saturday, October 11, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 79
Weight 184
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 130/76, pp

On two occasions I have been asked by members of Parliament, 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.   
        Charles Babbage

And yet another beautiful, clear, sunny, cool, breezy fall day. I went for a 4-mile run at Spring Lake -- wearing a long-sleeved running shirt, which is another little milestone on the transition out of summer. 

I had forgotten how refreshing it is to run on a day like this, when you're running into a fresh cold breeze, and it suddenly feels as if there is more oxygen in the air than before. I'm not sure if that is literally true (it might be; cool air is denser, so maybe you get more oxygen per lungful), but it feels as if it's true, and it feels great. On the hill-climbs, that blast of extra oxygen (real or imagined) seemed to propel me to the top.

There were large numbers of people at the lake enjoying these conditions. People wearing sweaters and jackets, as a matter of fact. It was an idyllic scene. Lots of families with little kids. One family, though, which I passed twice while making a circuit of the lake, gave me a little dose of reality. They had a young boy in a wheelchair who was in a state of screaming rage. I couldn't understand anything he was yelling at his parents, but the tone suggested that he was threatening their lives, and meant it. And he was still screaming at them, in exactly the same way, when I came around the lake and saw them again (and it's a two-mile loop), so apparently he has a lot of stamina. Then it occurred to me that he wasn't having an unusually prolonged tantrum -- that maybe he is like this all the time. The intensity of his anger felt so unnatural that I figured it had to be the result of some kind of medical condition, though not necessarily the condition that was obliging him to use a wheelchair. I tried to imagine how one would cope with having a family member like that, and I came up with no ideas at all.

Sometimes it's good to be reminded that other people have problems that are harder to solve than our own.

I went to a string quartet concert in the evening, by the St. Lawrence Quartet...

A live acoustic concert that really is acoustic (that is, no microphones, just musicians willing to project and an audience willing to shut up and listen) is a little bit like exercising outdoors: they're both opportunities to connect with something real, in the middle of a life that is largely spent connecting with all things artificial.

We're so unused to an experience that isn't mediated for us, by some industry or technology, that we almost don't know what to make of it, or how to appreciate it. Maybe eating a strawberry (as opposed to eating a strawberry-flavored processed food product) will soon be just as unusual an experience for most people as listening to unamplified music, played on old wooden instruments by musicians sitting right in front of us, already is.

The St. Lawrence Quartet has a reputation for fearless, intense performances, and they lived up to it. The three works they played tonight were composed by Haydn in 1770, by Dvorak in 1869, and by Jonathan Berger a couple of months ago. Berger was actually present for the performance of his new quartet, which he said was inspired by scenes from a historical novel about a rabbi traveling through Ukraine seeking a groom for his daughter. Not having read the novel in question ("The Bridal Canopy", by S. Y. Agnon), I have to take Berger's word for it (or music for it) that the plot is horrific enough to justify the ugly outbursts which punctuate his score. Not all of the piece is like that, but it's the sort of harsh modern composition that can only work in a really brilliant and commited performance -- which, fortunately, it received. Even if the audience couldn't relate to everything that Berger had to say muscially, they were stunned by the way the musicians rose to the challenge he set them. You couldn't help being impressed, particularly by the way they flipped back and forth, instantly, between passages requiring extreme delicacy and passages requiring something close to savagery. I can't imagine how they did it. But then, I'm a fiddler, and fiddle tunes are never quite that bipolar.

Certain passages in the older works on the program served to remind us that fierceness and grief have existed in string quartet music for a very long time. Of course, certain other passages in those older works reminded us that composers used to be allowed to express a lot of things besides fierceness and grief.

Still, I liked being reminded that people have been composing string quartets for about 240 years, and playing them on essentially the same instruments, made of the same materials, for most of that time, and that there's a living continuity to this. A connection to something real, in short.

Seek out the real, I say. It's therapeutic. Particularly for anyone with Type 2 diabetes, a condition which seems to arise from not being connected with the real.

Friday, October 10, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 76
Weight 184
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 113/73, 55

The great tragedy of Science - the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.   
        Thomas H. Huxley

Well, that's a little startling. 76? After my fasting test was 97 the day before? With essentially the same amount of exercise, and a comparable diet?  I started wondering if the high fasting-test results I saw on Tuesday and Thursday were bogus in some way. Did I make some dopey error, such as testing without washing my hands first?

Coincidentally, in today's mail I received a letter from Lifescan, announcing a product recall on test strips. I thought, aha! I've got a bad batch of test strips! However, they're only recalling one batch, and the batch number doesn't match the ones I have been using. Also, I've been using this batch of strips for a good while now, and they've been giving pretty stable results until this week.

But there was another factor which changed: I got more sleep last night. Maybe that was all I needed. It doesn't sound like a plausible explanation, I realize, but I have learned the hard way that lack of sleep can push blood sugar through the roof. My diabtes diagnosis came very soon after my diagnosis with sleep apnea.

I've since got the apnea problem under control (mainly by losing weight), but there are other ways to become short of sleep, such as my strong tendency to lie awake reading, or at least thinking, when I ought to be sleeping. Last night I tried hard not to think, and I was able to sleep. In normal circumstances, a policy of not thinking wouldn't appeal to me, but in times like these, when the main thing we're thinking about is how it happened that the world came to be run by idiots, not thinking can be therapeutic. (It seems to be have helped my blood pressure, too.)

It was a beautiful fall day here in Sonoma County, sunny but cool:

I didn't feel very well earlier in the day -- I thought I was coming down with a virus -- so I didn't get outdoors to exercise when it would have been really nice to do so. I felt better as the day wore on, however, so I went to the gym to work out in the evening.

I'm beginning to think that I often catch a viral infection, and my immune system fights it off before it gets really serious. Several times a year I will feel that I'm coming down with a bug, and then the feeling goes away after 8 to 12 hours. If that's what's going on, long may my immune system continue victorious!

Another thing that was troubling me today: my left shoulder (the one in which I suffered a miserable bout of adhesive capsulitis a year and a half ago) was aching a bit when I woke up, and it continued to ache most of the day. I figured I'd better nip that one in the bud. I did some exercises (a combination of yoga and physical-therapy routines) to get the shoulder loosened up. It helped; it feels better now. I'll continue to do the exercises for a while to be sure.

If you've never had "frozen shoulder" before, and you're not sure whether or not you want to find out what it's like, take it from me: you don't.

Thursday, October 9, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 97
Weight 184
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 112/71, 53

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges.   
        Anatole France

Now, wait a minute! I did a good workout yesterday, and I certainly didn't overdose on carbs, so why is my fasting glucose up again?

Well, there's one more issue to consider: sleep. I haven't slept well this week, and I especially didn't get much sleep last night. Sleep deprivation is known to promote insulin resistance, and it certainly has been known to drive my fasting tests upward. Very likely my fasting results will improve if I can get a bit more sleep. Easier said than done, of course. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one sleeping poorly these days.

The constant warnings of economic doom coming from Wall Street, from Washington, and now from Europe make it a bit hard to relax. People's retirement funds (mine included) are losing value. My company's CEO announced today that the corporation is bracing itself for the worst and is starting to implement cost-control measures; he said no one will be getting raises this year, and the profit-sharing formula will be altered so that we get less. Of course, that's just his first move; everyone assumes that layoffs are on the horizon. We're not even doing badly yet as a company; it's just that our customers' customers are doing badly, which means that our customers will soon be doing badly, which means that we will soon be doing badly.

My company has endured repeated crises since 2001, and during these ugly phases, when we were all waiting to find out who was getting the axe, I have found exercise to be the only thing that gave me much relief. It doesn't work miracles, but it helps when nothing else does. Other people seem to grasp this instinctively. I have noticed, in the days leading up to a Big Announcement that is scheduled in advance, that a lot more of my fellow-workers are to be seen out walking or running at lunchtime. They know they'd have a stroke if they didn't.

Well, despite all the anxiety in the air, it was a beautiful day. Sunny and in the low 70's. We did a 4.5 mile run at lunchtime. The fastest of my running buddies was involved, and I did a pretty good job of keeping up with him. For a little while I thought I must be running faster than usual, but then I found out he was getting over a virus and didn't feel strong yet. I should have known better than to think I could give him a run for his money!

We were running a particular route which we used to do all the time, and hadn't done in the last few years. It made me feel a bit nostalgic. But the reason we used to run it in the first place was that it was the favorite route of a former coworker, who lost his job in the last big wave of layoffs. So, the run brought all of that to mind.

I guess that's the way it is in hard times; there isn't anything you can do that doesn't remind you of previous hard times. Suddenly there is a tragic dimension to absolutely everything. 

Oh well. I'd better keep running. If I end up having to deal with diabetes while I'm unemployed and uninsured, at least I'll be dealing with it on a do-it-yourself basis, with no pharmaceuticals involved. And running is pretty cheap. 

What with all these anxieties coming to a head today, I expected my blood pressure to be up today. Instead it's down, but I don't know why. For me, at least, blood pressure seems to be more volatile and harder to predict than blood sugar.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 87
Weight 185
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 125/75, 52

You have been warned against letting the golden hours slip by. Yes, but some of them are golden only because we let them slip by.   
        James Barrie

More 80-degree weather. I thought I was sorry to see the summer warmth go, when it seemingly was going. Now that I've made the mental transition to autumn, the warm weather has come back. I was embarrassingly sweaty when I returned to the office after my lunchtime run. Of course, I'd be running in much more comfortable temperatures if I got up early and ran before work. That's not likely to happen, though. Getting up that early does not exactly come naturally to me.

It's hard to be a nocturnal person living in a diurnal society. Somewhere around midnight I reach my peak of mental activity and alertness; my low point usually occurs in the early afternoon. If I were granted three magic wishes, one of them would be that the custom of the siesta would be be uniformly adopted in every country. Then, at least, I would fit in.

After I took part in the Harvest Run on Sunday, I was thinking about the great number of community athletic events which take place in this region every weekend. Depending on how far you're willing to drive, you can take your pick of a huge number of these things. Most of them are not so heavily publicized that you would know about them if you didn't seek them out, but once you start to seek them out you may be amazed at how many of them you find.

A lot of these events are fund-raisers for charitible causes, and those tend to have a comparatively high registration fee. However, more informal events put on by local cycling clubs and running clubs are often free, at least for club members.

To capture a partial picture of what is out there, I looked through some on-line schedules for local clubs and event-organizers. Here is a sampling of other events which I could have particpated in last weekend, if I had not chosen to do the Harvest Run:

All of that happend last weekend. This isn't by any means a complete list; these were just the events that were easy to look up. There's a whole world of these activities going on all around us. It's good to get tuned in to them.

By the way, that 100-mile bike ride around Clear Lake is an annual event, and I've participated in it 3 or 4 times. Here's a snapshot I took during the ride in 2004, looking down on the lake from a hill to the south.

It's a beautiful ride, but a very challenging one, not so much because of the distance as because of a long steep climb getting over the mountains. I guess it's more of a challenge than I really feel like doing every year, but I'm glad to have done it.

At last: they've discovered a condition that isn't more likely to kill you if you have diabetes! One can get a little weary of reading, in every article about every dangerous health problem, that the problem is more common or more severe in people with diabetes. Well, they found a disease of which this isn't true! Sorry, ladies, but it's prostate cancer.

It used to be thought that diabetes would make you more vulnerable to prostate cancer, but apparently the real culprit is obesity. Because obesity and diabetes tend to go hand in hand, it can be hard to separate out the effects of those two issues. However, we're now told that it's obesity that increases the prostate cancer death risk; when you eliminate the impact of obesity, diabetes by itself does not make you any more likely to die from prostate cancer. So there.

If you don't happen to have a prostate, or if you do have one but you're obese, this news may not go very far toward brightening your day. Well, you have to take your good news where you can find it. And if one of the diseases that was thought to be made more likely by diabetes turns out not to be, maybe the story will shift on a few other disease as well.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 79
Weight 185
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 125/78, 55

An archaeologist is the best husband any woman can have: the older she gets, the more interested he is in her.   
        Agatha Christie

Wow -- my fasting glucose went from 106 to 79, after only one day's effort at trying to bring it down. So what does that mean? That I made a very dramatic correction to my behavior yesterday? That my endocrine system is exceptionally responsive to any improvement I make? That the vagaries of my glucose meter caused an overstated high reading yesterday?

Maybe it was a bit of all those things. Anyway, it's good to know that I can still get back on track when things start moving in the wrong direction.

Because I've been controlling my glucose without medication so far, and because the conventional wisdom on this approach is that it only works for a little while and then inevitably fails, I'm still a bit hypersenstive to bad news. Whenever my glucose meter gives me a surprisingly high result, I wonder if maybe this is it, this is the beginning of the end, this is the point at which I lose control of the situation and never get it back. It happens all the time, and has been doing so for over seven years now, so it doesn't panic me quite as much as it once did. But I guess it will always be an issue for me.

I lived up to my intention of doing a harder run at lunchtime today. We chose the hardest of the various routes we do -- 6.4 miles, with extremely steep climbs. I'm glad we didn't tackle it yesterday, when I wasn't feeling very energetic. For whatever reason, I had more energy today, and I figured I might as well put it to use.

Our brief California autumn has receded; it was 80 degrees during the run today, and 85 degrees later in the day. It's expected to stay warm the rest of the week. I'd better not put away my warm-weather running clothes just yet.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Fasting Glucose 106
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 122/79, 54

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.   
        G. K. Chesterton

106! Where did that come from? My fasting average for the past month has been 86. And I was such a good boy yesterday!

Not really, of course. This illustrates why I will never be able to give up glucose testing. I always think I'm being a good boy, right up until the time my test results start to tell me otherwise.

Yes, I did participate in a 6-mile footrace yesterday, but there's nothing so extraordinary in that (I usually do a long run on a weekend). Running that race didn't make me invulnerable to the effect of carbohydrates, and now that I look back on it, I consumed a lot of carbs yesterday -- beginning with a smoothie that I had for breakfast before the race, thinking that it would be easy on my stomach while I was running. Well, it was easy on my stomach, but maybe it gave my pancreas a run for its money. And I had too much starch during the rest of the day.

Whenever my fasting tests are low, I stop worrying about how much carbohydrate I'm consuming, and so I stop paying attention to it. It takes an uptick in my glucose readings to make me become more careful about it again. Well, I'll just have to get back on track. It might take a few days to accomplish it, but I fully intend to get my fasting results back down where they belong.

I was able to do a 4-mile run today; that was what I had time for. I will probably be able to fit in a slightly longer one tomorrow. It looks like I need it.

My yoga class was tonight, and we had a substitute yoga instructor, because my teacher is in Boston visiting her parents. Always a scary thing, dealing with a substitute yoga teacher. Sometimes they get an inspiration to have you do something unfamiliar that is much more difficult than any pose you're used to doing. Not in this case, though; it was an easy and relaxing class. The last few poses we did were "restorative", resting poses, and I must have fallen asleep during the last one, if having a dream about getting lost while sailing a small craft across the Mediterranean is an indication that you've fallen asleep.

From time to time I come across an obscure word or foreign expression when I'm reading, try to figure out from the context what it means, fail to do so, and tell myself that I really must look that one up some day. And then I don't. But today I came across this phrase in the New Yorker: "His soi-disant 'new form' of theater...", and I thought, dammit, this time I really am going to find out what soi-disant means. Now, the trouble with looking up something like this in a dictionary, especially after long procrastination, is that you're pretty sure to be angry when you find out what it means, because it usually means something which could easily be expressed in plain English. So it proved in this case; soi-disant means "self-proclaimed", or sometimes "so-called".  All right, then, John Lahr of the New Yorker, would it kill you to write "His self-proclaimed 'new form' of theater", if that was what you meant? English not good enough for you, eh?

Here are a few more, while I'm in the mood to look things up:

That will have to do for today.

Sunday, October 5, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 95
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 120/67, 58

Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.   
        E. M. Forster

I showed up at the Sonoma County fairgrounds this morning for the Harvest Fair footrace. There were really two races, a 10K course (there were 372 participants in that one) and a 3K course (397 participants). I choose the 10K race, which is 6.2 miles. That's my favorite distance for a race -- it's long enough that it's more or less an endurance event, but it's short enough that I know I won't have any trouble finishing it even if I'm not feeling up to snuff on race day.

Even for a local community event, there were a lot of familiar faces. My next-door neighbor was running in the 10K (in fact, she was the one who suggested I participate). Two of my regular running buddies from work talked about doing the race, and one of them actually showed up and did it. A lot of other employees of my company were running too, but these were mostly people I recognized but wasn't really acquainted with.

The temperature this morning was 52 degrees, which isn't especially cold -- unless, that is, you happen to be dressed in running shorts and a thin athletic top. Well, I did a little warmup running around the fairgrounds (partly in an effort to find a bathroom that wasn't locked), and that took the chill off.

The race looped through residential neighborhoods in the immediate vicinity of the fairgrounds, and near the beginning, as we turned to head north, the rising sun on our right lit up some misty air on our left, and we had the privilege of witnessing a rainbow without having to endure any rain. It seemed like a good omen, and I guess the omen was right, because it was a pleasant race. It was sunny, calm, and comfortably cool, and the other runners were a cheerful, sociable goup.

I chatted with my neighbor Sue and my running buddy Michele early in the race, but after the first mile we diverged, with Michele pulling ahead of me and Sue dropping back. I found myself chatting, or at least exchanging a few joking remarks, with strangers that I happened to find myself running near.

I noticed a lot of older runners today, many of them doing very well. Looking through the race results, I see that several guys in their 60s beat the pants off me (as did one 71-year-old man, and one 68-year-old woman). Well, more power to them. I'm trying to see them as my future.

I finished 210th out of 371 runners. My finish time was 58:00, which is nothing to brag about, but it's more than 3 minutes better than I did in my last two 10K races, so it's not a disgrace. Sue finished in 60:38, and Michele in 55:17. The guy who won the race finished in 33:59, which sort of puts into fresh perspective my recent struggle to cut 3 mintues of my finish time. Oh well, I never said I was a real athlete. There doesn't seem to be a word in English for a middle-aged guy who isn't an athlete but exercises all the time -- if there were a word like that, it would apply to me.

There were other diversions today after the race was over -- wine-tasting at the Harvest Fair, and an Irish music session in the evening. But it appears that I have to go to work tomorrow morning. Careless planning on my part, I must say... 

Saturday, Octoober 4, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 90
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 122/76, 50

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.   
        George Orwell

My typical weekend routine is a long trail-run on Saturday and a rest-day on Sunday. However, since tomorrow is the 10K race, I didn't want to run today, and possibly strain something before the race. On the other hand, I didn't feel like making this a day of rest, either. I ended up going for a hike, for a distance of about 5 miles. I was pretty sure I could do that without hurting myself. I took my time about it, with many pauses to take pictures.

Last night's rain had stopped early in the morning, but the sky looked a bit dramatic:

I was resigned to the possibility of being caught in a downpour during the hike. It didn't happen. Nothing more than a few sprinkles. The roiling sky just gave a little exra contrast to the hills:

Nearly all of my attempts at photographing wildlife during the hike produced laughably blurry results, but this one worked out:

I need this kind of regular exposure to the natural world. It is too easy to get disconnected from it. The great indoors is always beckoning to us -- we are too ready to heed the Call of the Unwild, and hang around in buildings, where the temperature is controllable and rain cannot fall. I guess that's part of the reason why I don't like to exercise in the gym unless I have no practical alternative. Exercising outdoors satisfies both my need for a workout and my need to stay in contact with nature.

On the other hand, when it's dark outside or pouring rain, it's nice to know that the gym is there for me.

Friday, October 3, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 90
Weight 186
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 131/77, 53

Many people claim coffee inspires them, but, as everybody knows, coffee only makes boring people even more boring.   
        Honore de Balzac

We had a little celebration at work today, to mark the completion of a large solar energy installation at the site. A three-acre parking lot has been roofed over with a frame holding hundreds of solar panels (which rotate over the course of the day to keep them facing the sun).

The installation is remarkably difficult to photograph; the only good pictures of it I've seen were taken from a helicopter. I did my best by climbing a hill to the south of it.

On a sunny day, the installation will generate 1 Megawatt, but on a cloudy day its output drops to 20% of that. Today it was very cloudy, threatening rain, so the thing was only generating 200 kilowatts at its coming-out party.

I heard that figure, and immediately I started thinking: does that mean on a cloudy day your need for sunblock is 20% of what it would be on a sunny day?

Then I thought, not necessarily, because sunblock is for UV rather than visible light, and more UV gets through clouds than visible light does.

Then I thought, it all depends on whether solar cells respond to visible light, or UV, or both equally...

This is what happens when you work with engineers. You take in one little piece of data, and then you drive yourself crazy trying to figure out all the implications of it. That's why you probably don't want to get me started on the subject of the "glycemic index", unless you have time to kill.

At lunchtime I went for a run, and this time I did get rained on, but only a little bit -- a light sprinkling. It's likely to turn into serious rain tonight. My hope is that it will start raining hard soon, and get the raining over with before the 10K race on Sunday.

I felt good during today's run, so I hope I will continue to feel that way on Sunday. I would like to make a good finish time in the race, as I disappointed myself in the last few races I've done. Several people I know (including my neighbor, who originally persuaded me to sign up for the race) will be participating, and I don't want to turn in a shoddy performance. Not that I'm ever fast, but I'd like to be fast for me, anyway.

Thursday, October 2, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 85
Weight 187
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 138/78, 58

To say that a man is vain means merely that he is pleased with the effect he produces on other people. A conceited man is satisfied with the effect he produces on himself.   
        Max Beerbohm

The oral surgeon called this afternoon; he said the pathology report showed that the spot on my lip was not cancerous. Nothing to worry about. Back to life!

You would think my blood pressure would be down instead of up today, under the circumstances, but blood pressure is a very mysterious thing.

I felt vaguely bad this morning, and I wasn't sure that I was feeling up to running at lunchtime. I started out the run feeling very weak. As usual when I'm in that situation, I found myself feeling better and better the more I ran. It was a 4-miler, with a very long hill-climb in the middle of it, but I didn't find the climb difficult by the time I got to it. I finished the run feeling much better than I had when I started it.

The weather was very cloudy, threatening rain, but the rain never came. So, it was a pleasant, cool run. It really seemed like autumn, after all the sunshine we've been having. The breeze was rattling the dead leaves on the trees and breaking them loose. Nothing very dramatic in that, I guess, but in California the change of seasons can be a subtle thing. 

Scientists have discovered a new hormone called palmitoleate. Not that palmitoleate wasn't known about before, but until recently it wasn't recognized to be a hormone.

A hormone is a chemical signal, which triggers the body's various tissues and organs to react in some way. The body uses hormone to regulate processes such as growth (and, more relevant to diabetes, absorption of glucose form the bloodstream).

Most hormones are made either from amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) or steroids (compounds based on four fused carbon-rings). Palmitoleate, on the other hand, is made of fat, and is released by fat cells. In recent years it has become clear that body fat acts like an endocrine gland, sending out signals that influence other body tissues, and it has been known to play some kind of role in causing insulin resistance. But how?

It now appears that palmitoleate acts very much like insulin -- it triggers cells to absorb glucose. However, that doesn't sound like a solution to the diabetes mystery: if body fat secretes palmitoleate, and if pamitoleate acts like insulin, seemingly gaining weight would cure diabetes rather than causing it. But wait! Apparently what happens is that, when you accumulate too much body fat, your fat cells stop secreting palmitoleate. In other words, when you aren't overweight, whatever body fat you have acts to drive your blood sugar downward, but once you are overweight enough, your body fat stops doing that.

It's obviously too soon to  be drawing any firm conclusions about palmitoleate, body fat, and diabetes, but at least we have the beginnings of an explanation of how excess body fat can have an impact on blood sugar.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008  

Fasting Glucose 99
Weight 187
Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse 122/72, 50

Go jogging? What, and get hit by a meteor?   
        Robert Benchley

I thought my fasting glucose would be down from yesterday's reading, but it's not (even though I was more careful about carbs yesterday than I was the day before). Well, let's see what tomorrow brings. Today my carb-count was lower still, and I went for a longer run (5.5 miles) at lunchtime. Maybe that will turn it around.

I think the surgery on my lip, minor though it was, has had some kind of impact on me emotionally. I'm still waiting to hear the pathologist's report, and this has made me feel anxious and a bit depressed. It's been hard to exercise this week. I hope I hear some kind of report back by Friday, saying that it's not melanoma, so that I can relax about that, and maybe do better in the 10K race on Sunday than I feel capable of doing now.

There's a possibility of rain tomorrow, and a greater possibility on Friday. We'll see if I have what it takes to go for a run in the rain.

Running in the rain is actually not that bad, provided that it starts raining after you're already committed to the run and you have no choice but to tough it out. It's hard on you as you start to get wet, but once you're soaked it doesn't matter anymore how much rain falls on you, and the cooling effect starts to have a certain value. What's hard is to start a run when it's already pouring rain but you're not soaked yet. Sometimes I can do that, but it takes peer pressure to make it happen.

One of the ways in which northern California differs from most other parts of the country is that rain in the summertime is almost entirely unknown. Other than some very light rain on September 19th, I don't believe it has rained here since April. So, when the rain returns in the fall or winter, you've become so used to dry weather that you have more or less forgotten about the whole phenomenon of water falling out of the sky. It seems like a new and disturbing phenomenon. You think -- "What am I supposed to do about this? I'm sure there's something you're supposed to do about this, but I can't remember what!" Gradually, dim memories of items such as jackets and umbrellas begin to take shape.

Meanwhile, my state is on the cutting edge again. Our governor (you may have heard of him -- a guy from Austria named Schwarzenegger) just signed into law a piece of legislation which will require chain restaurants to disclose the calorie count of the items on their menus. However, the restaurants have until July to start doing this.

It seems fair to me. When you cook a meal yourself, you know what you put in it, and if you pay prepared foods at the grocery store you usually can find out what's in them. Restaurants offer no such transparency, and they often add a lot more sugar and fat to their offerings than restaurant patrons imagine. Why shouldn't they be required to come clean?

Of course, the new legislation is full of loopholes. For a particular dish to be covered by the law, it has to be offered for at least half the year. All the restaurant has to do is change the menu every six months, and they're off the hook. (The other obvious loophole is that the law only applies to chain restaurants -- individual restaurants aren't covered.)

Well, it's a start.

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