170-mile Bike Ride Report - Part 1

I signed up to ride the RAPSODY (Ride Around Puget Sound) bike ride on Saturday, August 22. This is a 2-day ride of 170 miles with the option to do it in 1 day, so of course I chose to start at 6 AM, skip the overnight camping part, and do the whole 170 miles on Saturday. Why not? I had returned from Diabetes Training Camp in Oregon the week before, and I had missed one of my favorite annual century rides. Here was my chance to see a new part of Washington, put in some long miles, and find out if I learned anything about managing diabetes and exercise.
I woke up Saturday at 4 AM with a bg of 137 mg/dl, so I scaled back the basal rate on my pump by 50% for 2 hours, and didn’t bolus or eat anything. I picked up my friend Eric on Beacon Hill at 5 AM, put his bike on the car rack and we sped off to Tacoma for the start of the ride. The start/finish was a parking lot at Tacoma Community College, and we picked up our bib numbers and souvenir socks from some sleepy volunteers huddled under a streetlight in the parking lot, and we took off at 6 AM. We saw about 20 other cars in the lot and a few people preparing to ride. While there was no formal start time, we began with a group of 10 or so other riders at 6 AM. It was not quite 60 degrees out but neither Eric nor I wore vests or arm or leg warmers because we expected it to warm up eventually. (Plus, I needed all the jersey pocket space for my pump, blood test kit, continuous glucose monitor (CGM), 10 or 12 glucose gel packets and other food items.)
The route began by traveling over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to the Kitsap peninsula as the sun rose. It was cold and windy, which made me think of the famous movie of the original suspension bridge, nicknamed “Galloping Gertie,” that swayed and collapsed in a windstorm in the early 1940s. Modern engineering held up and we crossed to the other side. Eric and I took turns pulling, and I checked my CGM and saw that my bg was up to 170 after the first ½ hour of riding. It must have been the pre-ride excitement and/or the basal reduction. I restarted the temporary basal rate and kept it at 50% of my normal rate, and planned to eat at the first rest stop 20+ miles away.
My legs felt so-so. Lots of goosebumps, but I felt ok. I had not been on my bike for my usual bike commute since Tuesday that week. The Diabetes Training Camp forced me to do a lot of riding and running, so I was very sore when I returned. I needed the break. In fact, I had not been running at all before going out and putting in 5 miles on the first day. I didn’t enjoy taking the bus to and from work – where I could look out the window and watch others cycling by – but it also helped me to keep my bg in tight control with no hypoglycemia for the past 48 hours. Along with the demanding exercise schedule, the Diabetes Training Camp featured some medical lectures about how important it was to avoid hypoglycemia before an event, and to continue eating throughout an endurance event. In past events I had gone without eating for 2 or more hours, figuring that if my bg level was good I didn’t need to complicate things by eating and taking insulin. The results were predictable so I was prepared to eat after 1 hour and cut my bolus by 50%.
The volunteers were setting up the first rest stop when we arrived with 6 other cyclists, and they were surprised to see riders out so soon. My bg was 130 and dropping. I ate a banana and a granola bar and estimated that I had eaten about 50g of carbs, which would usually be covered by about 3 units of insulin. Like everyone I am extremely insulin-sensitive when exercising, so I decided to err on the side of too little insulin, figuring that I could take a mini-bolus later to correct a high if I needed. So I bolused ½ unit of insulin rather than 3, refilled my water bottles, and took off again.
Soon Eric and I were the first riders out on the course, but it was not to last long. Two other riders passed us, but we kept up with them until the next rest stop 30 miles away. These 2 guys were seriously fit, and rather than try to play cat & mouse with them at 20 mph for the next 100+ miles, we let them ride away after the second rest stop. It was a long day and we planned to keep our pace at about 16 mph rather than blow up early. They maintained a 5-minute gap on us for the remainder of the ride, according to the volunteers at each of the rest stops. Eric and I would roll in and chat with these two other riders, then they would saddle up and ride away while I ate and fiddled around with my CGM and insulin pump for a few more minutes before leaving. Eric has Type 2 diabetes and didn’t have all the diabetes gear, but he had his own food and drink regimen to follow closely. He did have his Garmin GPS to toy around with, so he kept me updated on our elevation gain, averages, and how far ahead of our 16 mph pace we were riding.
My bg level was still very level after 3 hours on the course, but hovering at 90 mg/dl, which was a little lower than I wanted it to be. My Novolog insulin typically peaks 3 hours after a bolus, so I figured that ½ unit would still him me hard. Fearing that I would drop low, I squeezed out a packet of Gu gel and ate a granola bar. About an hour later my bg was at only 155, so I ate a lot more at a rest stop and took another tiny bolus of insulin. In retrospect I could have cut that .8 unit of insulin even more. The course had endless rolling hills but I didn’t feel that I was working too hard, so I was surprised at how many carbs I was burning through with so little insulin.
A comment about the route itself – the first 90 miles were beautiful. We rolled along forested country roads through small coastal communities I had never seen or heard of, like Olalla and Mud Bay. Every so often Eric or I would glimpse a spectacular water view through the tall firs. The sun broke through the clouds at about 10:30 AM, but we were in the shadows of the forest and didn’t benefit from it. The rolling terrain and the climbs up the hills kept us warm, though.
The midway point of the ride was a town named Shelton on the Olympic Peninsula. Most of the 400 riders who rode RAPSODY in 2 days would stay overnight at the high school (home of the Highclimbers) gym. It was now 11:30 AM, and time for me to eat more and stretch before finishing up the last 80+ miles. This rest stop had a little more variety in food, so I drank a 20 oz raspberry smoothie, ate some cookies, a banana, some fig newtons, and some pretzels, then filled up my bottles with glucose-loaded sports drink. Geez – the smoothie was something I would never consider having normally, and I was unsure how many carbs I had put back. After stretching and chatting with the course volunteers a bit my CGM showed that my bg was 144 and rising, so I guesstimated that I needed at least 2 units of insulin, maybe more. My basal rate was still reduced to just a trickle, and I was sure I was going to have a high bg level within the next hour. I was wrong about that, but something else distracted me from my bg level soon after leaving Shelton.

Hi Greg! Where is Part 2!!! I did Baker training yesterday, felt like ■■■■! Some days are with, some days are without! Go figure…But I think one of the reason why I might have felt like crap is because my BG prior to that was a little lower than normal, hovering in the 80-90s. Don’t know for sure, but my legs felt like jelow. I then rose at the end of the ride to 137, ate like a nut case, had a coffee later in the afternoon and for some reason guestimated a .4U of insulin which two hours later I paid for. BG at 50 I am today (Monday) still struggling to keep my BG up. Went home for lunch at 68 and ate left overs (brown rice) no insulin and rode back to work hard big ring drinking sport drink. I am now flying like a kite coming back from 168 to 138…slowly…).