Amy’s T1D Adventure: La Mitad del Mundo

Quito, Ecuador

Here’s a guest post series from Amy McKinnon, a One Drop user and 27-year-old ex-advertising executive who recently swapped her NYC apartment for an oversized backpack to explore the streets of Latin America for six months. Amy has lived with type 1 diabetes for 15 years and tries her best to balance blood glucose levels, marathon training and a high-carb raw vegan diet. Now she has thrown travel into the mix. EDITOR’S NOTE: Amy is a performance athlete and consumes a high-carb diet. At One Drop, we believe that a low-carb approach to food reduces the risk of high and low blood glucose incidents and can effectively reduce blood glucose levels overall. However, we want to share a variety of personal experiences so we can all learn how other people live their lives with diabetes. Always consult your doctor before making changes to a prescribed regimen.


 

Destination: Ecuador

Flying to EcuadorA long day of air travel involved not the healthiest of food choices: hot chocolate, a subway sandwich and even some French fries. Eeek! When I’m tired, I sometimes make bad food choices and go for what I know I’ll regret later. Generally having a negative impact on my BGs as well as making me feel heavy.

Flight-wise everything went smoothly from Guatemala City to Panama City to Bogota and to my final destination Quito, Ecuador. My BGs pleasantly surprised me all day with my highest being 185 mg/dL!

Gringolandia

As I settled in on my first day in Ecuador, I was unsure of how my body would react to the altitude, as Quito sitting at 9,350 ft — the highest I’d been. Feeling good I headed to an area infamously called “Gringolandia” (a.k.a. Mariscal) for a stroll and a very disappointing expensive vegan dinner consisting of hummus, falafel and salad drowned in oil. My struggle with trying to find healthy vegetable options at restaurants in Latin America continues…

Run this Town

Presidential PalaceThe one thing I immediately fell in love with about Quito was its abundance of large parks — a.k.a. running havens. Quito has the largest city park in the world, Parque Metropolitana, where it feels like you are running trails and definitely not in a city.

I was going to venture there on Sunday with a local Ecuadorean runner, so I started my Saturday with an early morning 7-mile run in Parque La Carolina. Breathing was a little difficult and my pace slower than usual but it felt good and I was surrounded by many other runners. My BGs stayed on the slightly higher side during my run, but came flying down to a perfect 90 after insulin, shower and a salad for breakfast.

Later that day, I took a 3-hour free walking tour of the Old Town of Quito where we were surrounded by the beautiful architecture of old churches, the Presidential Palace and some beautiful views of the city.

Me on top of a churchAfter the tour, I was starving for some lunch and headed to a Hare Krishna cafe for some what I thought would be healthy food… I ate the potatoes and half of a corn on the cob and, slightly disappointed but not unexpected, that the rest of the meal was drenched in oil. I didn’t let the food affect my afternoon and headed to the Basilica Del Voto Nacional to conquer my fear of heights and climb 3 very dodgy ladders to the top for a view of the city.

As I almost backed out standing at the bottom of the 2nd ladder. Luckily, I was convinced to climb, very very slowly up the last two ladders by a German who himself was too scared to climb to the top. I eventually made it and boy was it worth it! A 360-degree view of Quito…

Parque Carolina

Sunday morning I woke up super excited for the running adventure ahead. I met my new friend Doug at 630am and we walked the steep ascent to Parque Carolina where we would start a 6-mile trail run.

My BG was a perfect 120 mg/dL before my run so I snuck a banana in about 30 mins before we ran. The park was over 10,000 ft in elevation so my lungs were burning the whole time, especially talking, running and climbing hills. It was a tough run, but oh-so-worth-it. Breathtaking views!

IMG_2410
After our run it was time to refuel with a local dish of corn, beans, dehydrated plantains and tomato soup. It was delicious but I knew my BGs would spike a little because I (stupidly) didn’t have my insulin pen on me to give an injection for the carbs. When I got back to my apartment my BG was 290 mg/dL, so I loaded up on the insulin to compensate for the carbs I just ate.
I also made a note to myself to carry my pen on me for future runs.

One Drop BG log Feb 29Mitad del Mundo

Monday was another tourist adventure day — I was headed to Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the world). It was very cool, standing on both the North and South of the world at the same time.

Unfortunately my BGs were not behaving and I was running high all day. I attributed this to my increased consumption of fat and high fat foods over the past few days. I needed to do some more at-home meal preparations because eating out meant eating more fatty foods which meant high BGs!

Me in the middle of the world!

More Altitude Swings and a BG crash

View from cable carTuesday morning I woke early to a foggy view outside my window but still decided to head to the famous Teleferico (the 2nd highest cable car in the world) which took you up to the bottom of a Volcano at 13,500ft. I wasn’t adventurous enough to walk up the Volcano which would take you to about 16,500ft, so I stayed at the bottom and enjoyed the view. It was so peaceful and I got the opportunity to sit quietly in nature, mediate and reflect on my trip and incredible opportunities and the positivity feelings I was getting from Quito as it amazed me more and more each day.

As I headed back down in the cable car my BGs started to crash – a known side effect of when you rapidly drop in the level of altitude. I had to snack on a muesli bar and some dates to bring me back up!

Sprint Drills at the local Nike Run Club!

Nike Run Club in EcuadorBy 5pm I was ready to meet Doug and head to the Nike Run Club in the neighboring town of Cumbaya for some very intense sprint drills. Definitely not my favorite form of running but I enjoyed being part of the Ecuador Nike run team and I even got inducted with a Chaqui Runners Nike t-shirt from my friend.

Post sprints my BGs were in good form at 86, so we caught the bus back to Quito and had a quick dinner in a local mall before we took our exhausted bodies to our respective homes.

 

Another Lunch Fail…

Wednesday was another lunch fail with Asian oil-drenched rice and veggies. I kept failing on my part to be more prepared with meals – eating out is so convenient but not worth the struggle with the BGs.

My afternoon had a more positive turn as I was recording a podcast for the diabetes blog – Diabetes Daily Grind (www.diabetesdailygrind.com). We talked all things diabetes, vegan, travel and of course my favorite topic – running. Check out the website to listen to my podcast!

My first Half-Marathon

Thursday was another run with Doug and the Nike Run Club — this time a 6km run. Much to my delight, no drills.
It was a warm up for my first half-marathon tomorrow morning that I would be doing for the 1bloodydrop team to raise awareness for type 1 diabetes (www.1bloodydrop.com).

By the time I got home in the evening I had a Facebook message from one of the Nike pacers Martín asking if he could join me for my half marathon run tomorrow. I was more than delighted to have a running buddy but admittedly a little intimidated as he was a Top 5 finisher in multiple mountain marathons and ultra marathons.

Post Half-MarathonSaturday morning woke me up at 6am and Martín and I started our half marathon consisting of 7 loops of Parque La Carolina. I definitely would have walked half of it if I didn’t have someone beside me pushing me. My breathing was bad and a few times my body was screaming NO to me.

My BGs were slightly elevated sitting at around 180 for the whole run but I didn’t give insulin until mile 12 knowing they would continue to rise once I finished the run with the affects of adrenaline.

My first half-marathon distance since the NY marathon in November last year and my time was 2:14 — not too bad.

It was time to refuel with another traditional local dish of mashed plantains, mushrooms and passion fruit juice. Very delicious and not too heavy on the oil which was nice.

After breakfast my body was hating me, with a huge headache and lots of soreness. Dehydration at high altitude is not ideal and I was feeling the full affects of it. I managed to drag myself to the grocery store and stock up on coconut water to replenish my electrolytes.

Falling in Love with Quito

My last weekend in Quito before I ventured to the small town of Baños was bittersweet… I was definitely sad to leave. I’d fallen in love with this city which made me feel so welcome with new friends and a strong running community that embraced newcomers.

I managed to squeeze in some Ecuadorean traditions and headed to a Sunday soccer game to support the local team LIGA.
Going to a Latin American soccer game was definitely on my list — the atmosphere was incredible, lots of cheering, screaming and overall noise as the game finished with a 1-1 tie.

Soccer Stadium

As my time in Quito was coming to an end, I felt very grateful for the opportunities and experience I had with my new friends. I wouldn’t have run the trail in Parque Metroplitana on my own or even known about the Nike Run Club without connecting with my friend Doug through Instagram. And I wouldn’t have ventured to a soccer game on my own either with all the hooligans and enthusiasm being a little overwhelming.

These were definitely the highlights of my time in Quito.

Next stop — bathrooms (Baños)! Where I’ll need some detox from all the oil-fried foods consumed. Need to get my eating habits and diabetes management back on track ASAP.

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Amy McKinnon
Amy McKinnon

Amy McKinnon is a One Drop user, marathoner, ex-advertising executive, and has lived with type 1 diabetes for 15 years. Amy is currently exploring the streets of Latin America for six months.