One Drop Caicos: How Do You Swim with a Backpack?

OneDropCaicos-SwimmingWithABackpack

We are a few weeks out from the One Drop Caicos adventure, and preparations are well under way. These diabadasses have been training since January! As part of our One Drop Caicos series, team captain Erin Spineto shows us all the prep involved for their mega-trek across the Caicos Islands. 

June is fast approaching and training is really starting to amp up. My long rides and paddles have been ambushed by a stretch of bad weather, but a little shifting of my schedule has kept me on course. That, and a good indoor bike trainer.

I have added land paddling, where you ride a skateboard and use a paddle with a blunt end to propel yourself along the ground, to my schedule to get in some paddle training after school since there is not enough time in the day right now to get in a good workout after work without paddling alone in the dark. It has infused my workouts with a fun new challenge.

One Drop Caicos - Kati Hike ErikaGym-Caicos

I am totally encouraged, also, by seeing the posts from my teammates about their long swims and rides. It is nice to have their success motivate me. And because I don’t want to let them down, I am way more motivated to stick to my workout schedule.

Erin-OneDropAppI love looking at my One Drop App and seeing a full week with huge orange spots nearly every day. Orange is the color used in the app for activity. The bigger the spot, the longer you were active. It is a great way to reward myself at the end of a long week.

SWIMMING PLANS

I have been looking into how to design the rig we will use during our swims. We will be traversing several cays on foot and then swimming the distance between the cays. Which means we will have to tow our backpacks behind us in the water.

We will have Blood Red Clothing dry backpacks, which are phenomenal. They are completely watertight. But I will have to design a rig to ensure they float and find a way to attach them to a waist band so that we can pull them behind us with minimal drag.

That process will be a lot of trial and error. And once I have the system in place, each of the girls will need to assemble their own rig and try it out in the water to get used to it. It will for sure change their swimming dynamics. I think I am most excited about this aspect of the trip, because I love to design and build things and I have never taken on something like this rig before.

I have also been doing a good deal of research in January about the tides and currents in the area. The channels we will be swimming will be the most dangerous parts of Day 3.

The Caicos chain is situated on an underwater plateau, so the water is pretty shallow for a good distance out from land. But when the tides drop, a good chunk of water will drop off the plateau in all directions.

Erin-DryPack

Towards the south where it is open to the ocean this is not as big of an issue. But to the North and West where we will be swimming that same amount of water will have to pass between the islands in small channels. The current here can be swift and pull us off the plateau into the deep ocean.

We will be timing our swims accordingly to avoid the fastest of the currents and swimming where we have plenty of room to drift without getting into trouble.

The last of the channels is the busiest with boaters since it leads to the biggest marina and also is a place for water skiing. I will be working on our swim rig to increase visibility in this area so we don’t get run over by a speedboat.

Ready for an adventure? Meet the One Drop Caicos team!

One Drop Caicos Team

Erin and the Sea Peptide Salties to Trek 120 miles

Who doesn’t love a good trip to the Caribbean? Sparkling blue seawater, white sand beaches . . . And when you’ve got a T1D crew island hopping by way of hiking, swimming, cycling and paddleboarding, it sounds like the most picture-perfect adventure there could ever be! Enter Erin Spineto and her Sea Peptide Salties.  Each year, Erin leads a team of T1Ds on an adventure that would whip anyone into shape! Erin sums up her philosophy in 3 sentences:

  • Every person with diabetes can be happy.
  • Every person with diabetes needs others to commiserate with, to plan with, and to adventure with.

  • Your big adventure may not be the same as my big adventure — but whatever your BIG is, you can find a way to make it safe even with diabetes.

This Year’s Challenge

For their 2017 adventure, this gang of four is headed to the Caicos islands for straight-up sea, sun and swim, with a little diabetes sprinkled on top.

“The goal is just to get a group of type 1’s together to push what we think we are capable of,” explains Erin, captain of the 2017 adventure. She’s rounding up the troops in the Caicos islands, both north and south, for major island hopping (not to be confused with bar hopping, although sandbars will definitely be involved). Erin’s been adventuring like this for the past 5 years, making this her sixth Great Adventure. This year, she’s joined with Kati and Erika. They’ll be covering 50 miles on paddle boards, 20 miles hiking and swimming, and another 50 miles on bikes — for a total of 120 miles from South Caicos to North Caicos.

The team has already started hardcore training (January 1st, to be exact), and we’re hopping on board with them to get a feel for how all four of these kick-ass T1D’s are able to train and execute such an amazing feat – all while maintaining their BGs in the middle of uninhabited islands and waters. Before getting down and dirty with training routines, though, we wanted to introduce our One Drop fam to the crew!

What does it take to make the One Drop Caicos Team?

Erin emphasizes that having a good attitude and being flexible are key:

Each August, I open up the application period for the next year’s adventure. I am looking for people who have a good attitude and are flexible. It is so important when you travel with people that they are the type of people who can have everything go wrong and still look at it like a fun part of the adventure.

 

So, I look for people who want to be a part of a team not those who will force their ideas and demand that others follow. People who are encouraging and hold others peoples needs in high regard. We will all be pushing ourselves to the limit. We’ll all get moody and snap at some point in the trip. So knowing that that is a natural part of the journey is helpful.

And you don’t need to be a star athlete to join:

A good background in sport is important but it doesn’t necessarily have to be the sport we will be doing. This time, Kati has a background in synchronized swimming.

Meet the team!

So, now that Erin’s given us a rundown of everything these ladies are doing to prepare for this epic adventure, let’s meet the team! From now through the summer, we’ll be following their progress and keeping you updated on how they are training hard, having fun, and keeping it #diabadass.

How do you train for a challenge like this?

Although this crew has been training since last summer, the real training began on January 1st. The team spent August through December building a base of fitness, gathering their gear, and learning good form so that their bodies could handle all of the intense training they’ve been doing since the new year.

We all have such different backgrounds, lives, and bodies that we don’t all follow the same training plan. I tend to go into overtraining rather quickly so I max out at about three quality workouts a week with plenty of rest, stretching, compression clothing and pumping in between. I don’t know if this is a result of having to deal with thyroid issues on top of diabetes, my day job, my side job and my family, or the fact that I am just getting older.

 

Some of the younger girls can handle six or more workouts a week and feel better that way, so they do that. But we all do the same long workout each weekend to stay on track.

As for the workouts themselves, they are varied and intense! But, of course, plenty of rest is also built into the plan:

The workouts rotate through all of our disciplines — hiking, stand up paddleboarding, swimming, and cycling on Electra Cruisers — with a focus on paddling, since such a large part of our trip, 50 miles, will be on Stand Up Paddleboards (a.k.a. “SUPs”). And it is also one of the more dangerous of the activities. With cycling, if we need to pull over or stop, we can. With SUP we will be covering 50 miles of uninhabited islands and waters. So, pulling over isn’t really an option.

 

Our workouts will increase in intensity at a set interval so that we don’t stress out our bodies too much, usually never more than a 10% increase each week. We also have built into the plan a rest week every five weeks.

 

And they’re off!

What a great source of inspiration to keep us all moving this 2017! We can’t wait to see the progress as Erin, Erika, and Kati push themselves to the limit. Go team! #OneDropCaicos

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Amy’s T1D Adventure: Marathoning From Sydney to Boston

Amy's T1D Adventure: Sydney Marathon Prep

My Sydney marathon training kicked off when I landed back home in May, after running up and down mountains in Latin America for 8 months. I was hoping the “altitude training” would pay off, with only 4 months until Sydney – the one marathon where I had the chance to qualify for the Boston Marathon in April 2017. To qualify for Boston, I had to run at least 3:35 in Sydney. Even with that time, there was no guarantee it would be fast enough to get me into Boston. The faster you run above the qualifying time, the higher your chance of getting accepted. And getting into the Boston Marathon is like getting the golden ticket in a Willy Wonka chocolate – a runner’s dream.

Sydney Prep

Amy's T1D Adventure: Sydney Marathon

My training tactics for Sydney weren’t nearly as disciplined as they were for the NY Marathon. I didn’t follow a specific marathon training plan. Instead, I decided to do a self-made routine of long runs, sporadic sprint training, strength training, high-intensity interval training and some much-needed yoga. I determined to run a lot, get a little bit stronger and a little bit faster. I had a few races in before Sydney: the Nike Women’s Half Marathon, the Sydney Harbour 10K, the Sydney City2Surf 14K, and a final 35K trail race 2 weeks out from the marathon. I PR’d in all of these, but the races push you to your limits and can tire you out. That was plenty of training for me.

Getting Those BGs In Check

My BGs were relatively well behaved until I started my new job just a month after returning home. My new hours flip-flopped my routine from morning runs to post-work evening runs. That switch in my routine began spiking my morning BGs so that I was running high after breakfast, and continuing on the same path throughout the day. While trying to get my BGs in check, I was also trying to refuel from my intense training. Let’s just say, my fuelling strategy was not up to scratch. I was restricting my usual carbohydrate intake. Only after returning to my morning run routine did my BGs improve dramatically and increase my insulin sensitivity.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Prepping for Sydney Marathon

Leading up to race day I was feeling good. I wasn’t quite as strong as I wanted to be, and I was a bit mentally tired. But I had my eye on the goal and felt my training had me positioned for a good result. Race day started at 3am when I woke up after a very restless sleep. With a BG of 160, I ate a bowl of buckwheat groats, almond milk and some strawberries. I went back to bed for 2 hours, then woke up at 5am with a BG of 95. Dressed with a banana in hand, I headed out the door.

Getting Started

I was lucky enough to be in the front group of runners just behind the elites, so crossed the start line just after 7am with a BG of 250. I always want to start a race with a BG of approx. 200. I didn’t need a pre-race snack, but I had plenty of backup in my waste belt, just in case. I started out fast and feeling good. Weaving in and out of fellow runners and setting a good pace of approx. 7:25 per mile.  

I managed to keep this pace until mile 20, even after stepping on a stone and bruising the bottom of my foot at the half way mark. At mile 5, I gave 0.3 units of insulin to get my BGs down a bit so I could refuel with a Clif bar and some apricot bites 30 minutes later. I kept my BG between 160-180 most of the race, not wanting to risk letting it go too low.

Halfway There

Coming up a small hill just before hitting mile 20, I saw my Dad cheering me on. “GO AMES, you can run a 3:20!” This gave me just the energy boost I needed as my legs started to tire and my mind struggled to filter out the pain. It was great having the support of my Dad, who got up early just to get to the sideline in enough time to cheer me on.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

The last 7 miles were tough. My BGs were okay, so I didn’t plan on eating any more food unless they started to drop. I only consumed 70g of carbs the whole marathon, while the recommended fuelling is 20g of carbs every 20 minutes. I was getting thirstier at each water station, and drinking more to try and stay hydrated enough to take me to the finish line. I hadn’t hit the wall, but my legs definitely didn’t want to move any faster and the ball of my foot was hurting from that damn stone. I knew if I could keep my pace I would be closer to a 3:20 finish.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Running the Sydney Marathon

For the last 5 miles, all my focus was on getting to the next mile. Repeating the “Boston” lyrics over and over in my head proved to be the best form of inspiration. I tried to stay in a positive mindset and push through the pain. The last mile I used all the adrenaline in my body to speed up and cross the finish line in 3:25:56 – 14 minutes faster than NY and 9 minutes faster than the official Boston qualifying time. Most importantly, my BG was nicely sitting at 190.

The Result?

Two weeks later, I was accepted to participate in the Boston Marathon! An achievement I believe I only reached because of my type 1 diabetes. It was my diabetes that gave me the resilience, determination and belief that I could finish the race. 

Here’s What I Learned

To finish, here are my top 3 tips for a marathon:

  1. Trial (and error) everything in training – this is essential so you are prepared for any situation on race day. Not only do you need to trial your pace and refueling strategy like any other marathoner. As diabetics, we also must trial food or gels that will sustain us but won’t spike our BGs; we need to trial running and testing our BGs multiple times – having good BGs is key for good performance. We also need to trial our approach if we have a low – do we stop and walk for 5 minutes, or can we continue running and treating at the same time? How much insulin do we need to give if our BGs are running high? For me, 0.2 units through my insulin pump is more than enough to bring me back in range from a 200 mg/dL reading.
  2. Have a plan for race day. Know what you are going to carry on you and how you are going to carry it. I always wear a waistband and take a backup insulin pen (in case my pump fails), my BG meter (even though I wear my CGM), hypo supplies and refueling supplies (a mix of Clif energy bars and apricot slices).
  3. Make sure you have something to identify you as a type 1 diabetic – whether it be a MedicAlert bracelet, card or  tattoo (if you like permanent identification like me). This is really important in case you have a hypo or another marathon related incident, like heat exhaustion or dehydration. You want the medical team to know you have type 1 diabetes. That way, they can be aware and treat you correctly.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Amy + Dad Post-Marathon

My final tip: Don’t let diabetes stop you from doing anything you want. Now, let the Boston training begin. See you in April, 2017.

Amy’s T1D Adventure: The Finale at Salar de Uyuni

Arriving at the Salt Flats

As I boarded the overnight bus from La Paz to Uyuni with 9 hours of restless, bumpy sleep ahead, I thought to myself, “Three days and two nights in the Bolivian desert…what am I thinking…”

But, the minute our 4-wheel drive hit the crystal white salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, any doubts I had in my mind disappeared. There were 10 of us in total split between 2 cars, 1 guide and 2 drivers. We set out for a journey into the unknown in the most Southern part of Bolivia.

Amy's T1D Adventure: cars on salt flats

 

To prepare for the trip I bought plenty of snacks – muesli, bananas, apples, and energy bars. I packed a glucagon emergency kit in case of an emergency as we were 12-hours from any reliable medical care, but didn’t end up showing anyone how to use it. I also brought some spare insulin vials for my pump and some back up insulin pens. None of these were used during the trip, but I always feel relaxed and reassured when I have more than enough back up options. A fear of being without insulin or hypoglycemia supplies still plays on my mind even after 15 years with diabetes.

We start our adventures at the infamous train cemetery where old trains are rusting away next to the still active cargo train tracks between Bolivia and Chile. This was a good start.

Joining me in the 4WD were 3 Danish girls and a Swedish boy – all 20 years of age, and our English speaking tour guide. It took me back to my late teens and made me laugh at their sweet, naive innocence and bravery. I wouldn’t have travelled Latin America when I was 20.

Our guide was incredibly enthusiastic and helpful in explaining everything we did and passed. Although, he wasn’t too keen to talk about Bolivian politics or their current president when I asked. I love learning about Latin governments and hearing the opinions of locals!

We hit the salt flats around noon and stayed there exploring until sunset. The minute we stepped out of the car, I didn’t know what to expect. The ground was rock hard and if you touched the ground and licked your fingers, they were very salty.
We had some fun taking group photos and even making an illusion video walking into a box of Pringles.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Group Shot

The drivers were great and enjoyed telling us to do silly poses to take some fun photos, of course I had to squeeze in some yoga on the flats.

We had a surprisingly healthy lunch after we had a short, bumpy bike ride over the flats. Lunch consisted of quinoa and salad. I slightly under-bolused, unaware of the level of activity ahead of us for the rest of the afternoon. There was a little physical activity involved, climbing up a cactus island to what was the start of a magical afternoon.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Cacti

As the sun set, it started to really cool down but we braved it out to capture the magic of the evening and highlight of the day. The sunset was like none I’ve seen before. A pink and purple hue arose while the sun set behind us.

The universe creates some things that are unexplainable and the salt flats is one of them. The evening was chilly, so we ate a quick dinner at our hostel just outside of the salt flats and headed to bed.

Volcanoes and Wild Animals

Amy's T1D Adventure: Fox Day 2 was going to be a long one and filled with many many lagunas. We rose at 6:30am for breakfast – this is were I was grateful for my snacks and ate bananas and muesli while the table was full of bread, cheese and sliced meat.
We hit the road by 7:30am and it was a lot of jumping in and out to see some beautiful sites while listening to 80s and 90s music being blasted in the car. My BGs were on the higher side post-breakfast. I definitely underestimated the carbs I had eaten and had to give a correction dose to make up for my error. Because we were in a very remote area I felt more comfortable being on the conservative side with my insulin doses.

We stopped to see an active volcano in the distance and also used this opportunity to use nature as our semi-private bathroom (there were very limited real toilets along the way).

Next stop was to see a rare sight in the desert – flamingoes! They weren’t as bright or pink as I’d seen in Mexico but they were still beautiful to see. We had lunch and I started with a good pre-meal BG and finished with a low – that’s what can happen when you have zero fat in your meal. I had some sugary candy and muesli bars to set me straight.

On our drive we saw a few wild animals that were way more friendly than I expected. Of course we enticed them with a little food.

We bumped into a very hungry fox – I wanted to touch him because he was so cute, but the thought of scabies turned me off to it. We saw wild llamas that looked similar to deer and a rabbit-like animal with a curly tail.

We stopped at the blue and red lagoons. I had to wear a wooly jacket because it was so cold.

As we headed closer to the Bolivia/Chile border we drove straight through the driest desert in the world – Desert Atacama. The red, dry earth enclosed by huge red mountains was breathtaking.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Red mountain

Our last stop for the day as we drove into the National Park was the Rock Tree. Cold and windy outside, I jumped out of the car for a photo and straight back in.

Tonight was our second and last night sleeping in the desert. We were roughing it slightly in a hostel with no heating, no hot showers and no toilet paper! Luckily we had bought our own. As the evening set in we sipped on lots and lots of tea to keep warm before our dinner of soup, mashed potatoes and vegetables. My BGs had being pretty stable all day and then decided to go a little haywire post-dinner. I didn’t carb count accurately for the mashed potato and was way off! Hello BG of 350!

To prepare for the drop in temperature overnight to -10 degrees Celsius, I slept in 2 pairs of pants, 3 layers on top, in a sleeping bag under 3 blankets! I wasn’t going to wake up cold in the middle of the night. I fell asleep listening to a meditation and reflecting on what I’d seen over the past two days and how grateful I was to be able to experience this natural beauty.

Final Day in the Desert

I was excited to return to La Paz and have a long, hot shower, but I wanted to savor the last moments in the Bolivian desert and capture some more memories. We were up at 5am to hit the road and beat the sunrise to an active volcano by 6am.

Amy's T1D Adventure Mud boiling

It was still -5 degrees outside and my body was not happy! My BGs were a little high again after breakfast – when you bolus as you’re eating, doesn’t leave much time for the insulin to start working before the 2 bananas and a sugary hot chocolate hit your system.

Next stop was a view of the highest volcano in Bolivia, standing at a very tall 5650m above sea level. It was a sight I couldn’t take my eyes off. Many people hiked the volcano from the Chilean side, which would be an incredible feat and experience. Half the volcano was in Bolivia and half in Chile.

There was a lot of driving to get back to Uyuni around 5pm but we managed to sneak in a quick dip in a natural hot spring. When it’s just above freezing outside and 30 degrees Celsius in the hot springs, it’s like relaxing in a warm bath but with an incredible view surrounded by nature.

For most of the day, even though we were pretty inactive, my BGs stayed in range, apart from the expected post-lunch high were I consumed what seemed like 10 pounds of white rice. Once I have one mouthful I’ll eat whatever is in front of me — it’s so delicious. Luckily with a correction dose and temp basal I got my BG back into range within 2 hours.

Our final stop on our magnificent journey was a secluded lagoon squeezed in between volcanic rocks. I was a little tired and not that motivated but the view was worth the 20-minute walk.

Amy's T1D Adventure Rocks

Nearing the End of My T1D Adventure

The long 4-hour drive back across the Bolivian desert was reasonably quiet as half the car was asleep. I did my best to stay awake and absorb in the last moments of our trip. We had a quick pit stop with a flat tire, which was changed in a matter of minutes!

As we got back into Uyuni, I thought about the night bus I was catching at 8pm back to La Paz. This adventure was the perfect way to end my time in Bolivia and essentially Latin America. I had so many life-changing experiences in the past 8 months and this was at the top.

My journey back to Australia awaits me and is a long one. I stop via Ecuador for 24-hours to see my boyfriend, stop over in Miami for a quick peek at the beach and then arrive in my 2nd home NYC for a week to see some dear friends who I will miss being so far away.

There aren’t a lot of words I can put together that can easily explain my experiences in short. They’ve been incredible, challenging, beautiful, magical and things I will never forget. My diabetes management during these months has been a bit of a rollercoaster. But, it has taught me the importance of patience, positivity, and resilience!


This is a guest post series from Amy McKinnon, a One Drop user and 28-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.

Amy’s T1D Adventure: Biking on “Death Road” in La Paz

La Paz, a City in the Mountains

I landed in La Paz, Bolivia at El Alto airport which sits above 13,500 ft. As the taxi took me down to La Paz, I had the most incredible view of the mountains surrounding the city. I was in for a treat for the next two weeks.

I dropped my bags at the Airbnb I was staying at and went out to explore. It was very cool and I ended up wearing my warm winter jacket throughout my stay. Latin America is not all blue skies and beaches!

Even though I was in  the highest city in the world, I wanted to see if there were any places I could run. I found a city park which was practically all uphill. If my lungs were screaming for air while walking, running was out of the question. As I headed to find a grocery store and local gym, I had a blood sugar crash. Luckily there were street vendors on every corner selling fruit. An apple and banana later I was feeling a little less light headed –  I couldn’t tell whether it was due to low blood sugar or the high altitude. My runs for the next 10 days were going to have to be on a treadmill. The pollution, traffic and steep hills of La Paz were not ideal for outdoor exercise.

No Guards in a Jail?

Day 2 started with a walking tour of the city. It was the perfect way to get a snapshot of the highlights and ideas for things I could do over the next week. We walked past the infamous San Pedro jail that sits right in the center of the city. There, children and wives of the criminals can live inside the jail with them while they await trial. There are only 15 police guards outside and none inside the jail. Not an ordinary way to run a jail, but nothing was ordinary in these countries!

 

Amy's T1D Adventure prison

We ventured through the streets of the witch’s markets, food markets and past some of beautiful churches. We also saw the Presidential palace.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Flags

We also learned about some of the ridiculous comments the current president had told his citizens like “If you eat chicken, you will become gay”. He later apologized for this.

After the tour, I was starving for lunch went on the hunt for a vegan cafe. With not much luck I ended up buying some groceries to take back to the apartment and cooked for myself!

Outdoor Markets and Incredible Views

On Sunday I went for a run before exploring one of the biggest outdoor markets in Latin America. El Alto is the indigenous city that sits above La Paz and in the markets you can find anything from used cars to second hand clothing to fresh fruit and  traditional Bolivian lunch dishes. The most exciting part was catching the Teleferico cable car up and seeing more incredible views of the city!

Amy's T1D Adventure: Cable car
At the markets I stocked up on some gifts to take home and some warm winter gloves and beanie for my trip to Salar De Uyuni where I would be sleeping in the desert at below freezing temperatures!

My sugar levels were on a little bit of a rollercoaster of lows and highs. Unfortunately, it wasn’t only for this day and seemed to happen for most of my time in Bolivia. A mix of high-carb and high-fat foods didn’t help.

Biking on “Death Road” with T1D

I had read online about doing a biking tour of the Death Road, which, as the name suggests, is labeled as the most dangerous road in the world. I thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I went ahead and booked.

On Thursday and we took a 1.5hour drive from La Paz to the start of the Death Road. We had on full motorcycle gear, helmets and gloves and once we were on the road I understood why— it was very narrow, rocky and bumpy.

The view at the start was incredible. We were amongst the clouds! I was a little nervous but after we started our 3-hour bike ride down the road, I warmed up to it a bit. By no means was I at the front of the pack, but I felt comfortable riding over the rocks and keeping my eyes on the road so I wouldn’t veer to the edge! Our  photographer even managed to make me look like a rebel.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Amy on Bike

The day ended with a vegan-friendly lunch at the bottom of the Death Road and we had a long 3-hour trip back to La Paz. It was a great experience and probably the most daring I’m going to get!

More Adventures Ahead

The rest of the week was a mix of indoor treadmill running, spin classes, gift shopping and cooking while I awaited the adventures that would end my Latin American trip. I was going to Salar de Uyuni–the biggest salt flats in the world: a 3 day, 2 night excursion into the Bolivian desert. I was very excited!


This is a guest post series from Amy McKinnon, a One Drop user and 28-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.

 

Amy’s T1D Adventure: A Parade for a Grocery Store?

Amy's T1D Adventure is Cusco!

Exploring Cusco

Amy's T1D Adventure: Photo with baby llamaMy adventures in Cusco happened both before and after Machu Picchu. Pre MP I was still a little sick from Lima and focused on recovering for a few days. I found homemade Kombucha (which is a great source of probiotics) at the local Saturday market. 2 liters for $1! NY, you have some big competition! I went to the largest markets in the town center, San Pedro, to stock up on fruit and veggies. Then, I was ready to explore.

Sunday welcomed me with open arms and good BGs almost all day. I explored the city center and tried to capture the unique heritage of Plaza de Armas. I snuck in an afternoon massage, a coca tea, and a photo with a baby llama. It was so adorable, I couldn’t say no!

Amy's T1D Adventure: Raw vegan mealEven though Cusco sits at 3,600m high, I wasn’t feeling the altitude. I signed up to the tiny local gym which had 1 broken treadmill, 4 bikes and some weights. But, there were dance classes!

I ventured to the hippy town of San Blas that sits on a steep hill above Cusco. While walking up the hills I could definitely feel the altitude. I found a cute, yet overpriced vegan cafe and had almuerzo (lunch). I was finally feeling better.

It was a good day for my BGs – walking really helps keep them in range! A great advantage of having the ability to explore a new city!

On Tuesday, I was brave and decided to venture for an outdoor run. My lungs were feeling it the whole 3.3miles. I spent the afternoon doing a walking tour of the city visiting a few, very small “museums”. I also made a sweaty, long hike to Cristo Blanco and the Saqsayhuaman ruins.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Amy with Ruins

A Parade for a Grocery Store?

In the city center there was a parade celebrating the anniversary of a grocery store – no lie! People from surrounding towns came dressed in traditional clothing. There was also a lot of traditional music and dancing – a beautiful festival for a strange cause.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Grocery Store Parade

It was a full on day to say the least. I snacked on many bananas, quinoa energy bars and some glucose tablets while walking for 6 continuous hours. It was already Wednesday before I knew it and I was heading to Macchu Picchu the next day. I snuck in a few more museums that were much more fascinating – the contemporary art museum and the regional history museum.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Art from Museum

Insert my Machu Picchu experience here which you may have already read about – one of the best experiences of my life!

I was back in Cusco on Saturday afternoon and spent the rest of my weekend relaxing, eating, and drinking Kombucha. I had organized 2 tours of the other famous attraction surrounding Cusco – Valle de Sacrado (The Sacred Valley). Monday was a tour of the Maras salt ponds and the archeological site Moray. The salt ponds were unlike anything I’ve seen. So fascinating – 300+ natural salt ponds that supplied salt as far as Lima and Bolivia.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Natural Salt Pond

For some reason I was having low BGs the entire day….I hadn’t exercised the whole weekend so couldn’t quite figure this one out. It’s a little frustrating to eat when you’re not hungry. Another pattern I notice is that after a whole day of low BGs I end with a high BG at night. This time it was a lovely 360 mg/dL by dinner time! Eeek.

Marvels at Moray

Back on the tour, our next stop was Moray – some incredible development of agricultural farming by the Incas. Between each ring there was a 5 degree (Celsius) difference in temperature, allowing the Incas to acclimatize their crops to grow in cooler or warmer temperatures.
Amy's T1D Adventure: Moray agriculture ring

After the tour I went to the gym for a dance class – I was definitely the girl with the least moves. I’m slightly jealous of how Latin girls can shake their hips! I had put my pump on suspend before class as I was starting with a BG of 75 mg/dL which I think contributed to the pre-dinner extreme high.

My Street Art Discovery

In the evening I wanted to try and walk out my BG and get it back into range. I walked the 30mins from my apartment into the center to buy some incredible paintings from a street seller. He believed in Shamanism and had painted some visions he had seen of Pachamama (Mother Earth). It’s unlike anything I’ve seen and I can’t wait to hang it on my wall when I get back home.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Street Art

 

On Tuesday I somehow managed to brave the steep streets and squeezed in a 6-mile morning run. My lungs were getting used to the altitude and I was hoping I’d be able to run in La Paz- the highest capital city in the world and my next stop!

Amy's T1D Adventure: Nike Running Map, Peru Wednesday was a long day as I had Part 2 of my Sacred Valley tour. We spent a lot of time in the bus driving to see different ruins. I have to admit I was a little unimpressed after being to Machu Picchu. Maybe I should’ve seen the smaller ones first!

We got back to Cusco at 7:30pm and all I could think about were some potatoes for dinner and bed! Thursday was my last day in Cusco before my 7am flight to La Paz on Friday morning! I was excited to spend the next day packing, doing laundry and buying dried fruit for the plane ride (which customs at Cusco airport make me throw out!).

In the evening I squeezed in my last dance class. I had a post workout high BG, and could feel the adrenaline rushing through my body. I’m not happy with the BG but the benefits of exercising outweigh the high, which comes down before I fall asleep!

Hasta manaña La Paz! Gracias, Cusco!


This is a guest post series from Amy McKinnon, a One Drop user and 28-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.

 

 

Amy’s T1D Adventure: Luminous Lima

Getting Settled in Lima

Amy's T1D Adventure: One Drop Daily Summary After two smooth flights and some pretty decent BGs, I arrived at Lima late Saturday night.

I met my Airbnb hosts at their apartment in Miraflores, dropped my bags, and headed out to find some late dinner.

Even though it wasn’t on the menu, I managed to order steamed rice and sautéed vegetables at a late night cafe. I was impressed with my negotiation skills — I was able to get a healthy meal! Not long after, I went to bed with the goal of waking up early for a morning run. I was very excited to be back running at sea level!

On Sunday mornings in Lima, one of the main streets in the city is blocked off for cyclists and runners. My morning started at 7am, and though I was a little sleep deprived I was ready to get some movement in my legs. 7.5 miles later and with the sun already shining strong at 8am, I was finished.

 

Amy's T1D Adventure: Lima Street
My hosts were friendly and took me to a local market where there was a vegan breakfast food stall selling vegan bread and vegan breakfast wraps. Not my first choice for food but sometimes I feel trapped to say yes when someone goes out of their way to take me to a vegan place. So I had one and was preparing for a post-breakfast high. We also snuck in a fresh juice, which was definitely more to my liking.

Thankfully, my post-breakfast high didn’t happen as I wandered the streets of Lima popping in and out of shops and sipping on water as the sun became stronger and stronger. I found the ocean, too! The suburb of Miraflores is set on a cliff above the ocean with beautiful parks surrounding the cliffs edge with perfect views and running paths.

Amy's T1D Adventure: View from suburban street

Lunch was another little disappointment at the only vegetarian restaurant open on a Sunday. I had their set menu which consisted of a vegetable soup, juice, rice, veggies and more fake meat. I guess the supermarket was my next stop!

Dazzling Local Sites

In the evening I decided to venture to a touristy water fountain park and wow, was it worth it!

Amy's T1D Adventure: Lima fountain

The water fountains were lit up with beautiful colorful lights, which looked magical even to the adult eye. Children were running through the fountains, shouting, laughing and getting lost in the simplicity of water flowing through pressure hoses.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Children playing in fountain

Monday started with some more tourist activities after I slightly over-bolused for breakfast and snuck in a hot chocolate as I boarded the Lima tourist sightseeing bus. It quickly became an extremely warm morning with the sun streaming directly onto my face. The tour bus ventured to downtown Lima and the historic center where we saw the Presidential Palace, the main plaza and of course some beautiful old churches.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Main plaza in Lima

I snacked on too many dried fruits on the bus tour and finished with a BG of 200. I tried to rehydrate for the rest of the afternoon — not only is dehydration bad for the body, it’s hard to keep your BGs in range when you’re dehydrated. I thought I’d done a reasonable job and headed to a RAW VEGAN CAFE for dinner!! The excitement buzzing inside of me — raw vegan in Latin America was unheard of!

Amy's T1D Adventure: Juice and healthy vegan meal

Tuesday morning, though I was a little sun kissed, I rose at 6am to beat the heat and fit in a 6-mile run along the beach. Wow, was it beautiful! After my run I headed out for a 8-km walk to a neighboring suburb called Barranco.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Street art in Lima

Do I Have Heat Stroke?

By 10am, the sun was out in full force and trying to stay hydrated was a challenge. It didn’t help that my BG was a little on the higher side, sitting at around 200.

By the early afternoon I was so exhausted and over heated that I was back at the apartment taking a cold shower and trying to rehydrate. As the night went on the heat exhaustion got worse and I prayed I didn’t have heat stroke. I wanted to continue to avoid Latin American hospitals at all costs.

I survived the night with my heat exhaustion and avoided the need for emergency care. By the time I woke from my restless sleep I had enough energy to head to a local restaurant for breakfast. I changed my infusion set before I headed out and my BGs seemed to be creeping higher from the moment I had changed it.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Açai Bowl

Mystery: Solved!

Post-breakfast I was at 300 which I didn’t expect. I decided to change my infusion set when I got back to the apartment. As soon as I took it out I noticed the cannula was bent. Damn! Now it made sense. I had a new infusion set in and more insulin into my body. High BGs were definitely not helping my dehydration situation. It only seemed to worsen as the day went on. By early evening I had a high fever and my BGs were not behaving. I struggled to keep them below 200 overnight and into the next day, though my fever broke in the early hours of Thursday morning.

This was not how I wanted to start my time in Peru. I knew my BGs would stay elevated until I got the virus out of my body so wasn’t looking forward to the next few days. I wanted to recover as quickly as possible.

I was set to fly to Cusco the next morning and I wasn’t going to miss my flight.


This is a guest post series from Amy McKinnon, a One Drop user and 28-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.

Amy’s T1D Adventure: My Birthday at Machu Picchu

Birthday Luck

Machu Picchu was the most incredible place I’ve seen. Words cannot do it justice but I will try.
Amy's T1D Adventure: Machu Picchu Ruins with Clouds

I woke at 4:30am to the sound of rain. Damn. I checked my BG – 120. Perfect. Breakfast was 2 bananas, 2 passion fruit, puffed quinoa and a lemongrass tea. 100gms of carbs, 3 units of insulin. As the rain let up I walked to catch the 35 minute bus to the entrance of Machu Picchu.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Amy with Machu Picchu Sign

So much excitement and adrenaline was running through my veins. I could already sense the magic that was about to shine on my 28th birthday. I stepped foot into the sacred grounds of Machu Picchu just after 6am. Not many people had arrived yet and it was perfect!

I walked around the ruins in the lower part of the mountain while the rain fell at a constant pace. I waited for the clouds to clear. As I slowly started to make my way up the mountain, I saw some llamas wandering the grassy areas. I took a moment to take in the incredible Incan ruins. They were built by hand for the purpose of farming and agriculture.

The thought that labor was Amy's T1D Adventure: Llama done on such a large mountain is mind-blowing. The views, even with the clouds, were out of this world. My heart rate was definitely higher than usual as I walked along stony, slippery paths. 2-hours in and its time to test my BG — 90! Yes! I snacked on some dehydrated bananas and figs with no additional insulin (about 40gms) and I continued to climb the mountain and follow the pathway leading to La Puente, which means “The Bridge.”

Along many of the paths I was totally alone. The silence was perfect and added to the magic of the mountains. I made it to the bridge which was on the sheer edge of the cliff! How the Inca’s crossed it, I have no idea! 

Another BG test before I walk to the “Gate of the Sun” up the other side of the mountain, and I’m sitting at 127!! Thank you diabetes gods for blessing me on my birthday. I set my pump on a 2-hour reduced temp basal of 50%, throw in some more dried figs and an apple, and set off again!

Breathtaking Views

The 40-minute cliff scaling walk was worth it. To look down upon the Machu Picchu ruins minutes before the clouds blocked my view – I had found heaven!

I take the steep, slippery walk back down and thankfully manage to keep my balance — else I’d be off the edge! The sky had cleared just before I was ready to finish my 4-hour adventure and I got some photos of me with the famous ruins in the background!

Amy's T1D Adventure: Amy with Ruins
As I get back to the entrance to empty my bladder and rehydrate, I’m sitting with a BG of 100 so I eat a banana and some more dried fruit. I decide to run the 5+ miles back down the road to Machu Picchu pueblo!
Amy's T1D Adventure: Running trail
It felt so good to run at Machu Picchu, with the sun finally shining and the local butterflies putting on a show just for me! Thank you universe!!!

A Meal Fit for a Queen….Or a Tourist

Okay, I made it! Sweaty, exhausted, sore legs and super hungry I’m back in my hotel!

A hot shower was in order followed by a breakfast/lunch combination of banana, quinoa cereal, dried figs, soy milk and a few sneaky vegan gluten-free cookies crumbled on top! With a lot of carbs in my tummy and some relaxation in bed my BGs crept up a little to 250ish….some extra insulin and they shot back down to 120 by the time I was ready to head out to dinner. The only restaurant in this tiny town with decent vegetarian options was a French/Peruvian fusion restaurant. So I headed there for a very tourist priced set menu!
Amy's T1D Adventure: Meal pt 1

But,  it was so so delicious. I skipped the avocado and the oil based dressings and carbed up with the delicious fresh pasta, veggies and fruit and dairy free ice cream for dessert! It was a nice treat meal!

Reflections on T1D & Exercise

Today was an incredible, magical, and quiet start to my 28th year. My diabetes control today reinforced good eating and exercise is the way to get best control and I’m excited to continue my journey of getting better results and continuous stable management, especially when my travel comes to an end. Tomorrow morning I’m back on the tourist train to Cusco! Another week in Cusco to explore the Sacred Valley!


This is 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.

Amy’s T1D Adventure: I Wear My Sunglasses at Night

Back in Quito

Amy's T1D adventure: One drop daily summary An hour-long flight later and I am back in Quito, in all honesty to see a boy that I’d grown fond of when I was first here.

I realized I lost my seeing glasses so it was time to pull out my prescription sunglasses, which I had to wear indoors, outdoors, and even at night! Damn, I needed to get a new pair in Quito.

My BGs weren’t having the best of days either. They stayed high, likely from the mix of stress and adrenaline I was feeling before seeing my friend again.

I was happy to be back in Quito for the next two weeks, as  I had city adventures, running 1bloodydrop half-marathons, and the Nike Run Club on my mind.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Photo at Nike Training Club Saturday was date day and the start of Easter. With most things closed we were limited in our choice for activities. My day didn’t start off well with my BGs running high. I don’t think my body liked that I cooked pasta for dinner last night.

We headed to the local mall for some pool in the afternoon. I won, of course, and then we went to see Danish Girl — what an incredible movie! Definitely deserved the Oscars. By the time we got back to the apartment we were exhausted and all we could whip up for dinner was chopped bananas and surprise, surprise I had perfect post-dinner BGs!!

An Uplifting Surprise

Amy's T1D Adventure: Photo in front of a Diabetes awareness sign Sunday was a better day with more stable BGs and adventures in Parque Gualapo.

To my surprise and excitement we found a campaign for type 2 diabetes spread throughout the park. The smile on my face was truly genuine! With the rise of type 2 diabetes as a growing epidemic in Latin America, any advocacy towards preventing, treating and managing it is progress. Now all they need is more education on nutrition.

The afternoon turned rainy and stormy, which would remain a constant weather pattern over the next two weeks. We dined in an organic restaurant for lunch in the fancy suburb of Cumbaya – I was a little disappointed by my Quinoa salad cooked in lots of oil. Organic doesn’t always mean a win.

Monday was run day along with errands. I ventured to a park which used to be the old Quito airport (very cool!) and ran a short 4 and a bit miles. After a fruity breakfast I was off to find a new pair of glasses so I could finally see again without being in constant darkness!

Tricky Half-Marathons

Tuesday was half marathon 4 for 1bloodydrop. I headed back to the old airport and pushed through zig-zagging up and down until I hit 13.1 miles. It was hard to get through it as I was running on a flat Tarmac path, alone. During my run I overcompensated a little with carbs when I was 96 and finished at 220. Sometimes it’s hard to judge how fast your BGs are going to drop during a run. I generally base it off my pace: the faster I run per mile, the faster my BGs will drop and I’ll need to refuel more frequently. My pace was slower than usual today so I should have known to refuel with 25gms instead of 50. Even an elevated BG didn’t stop me from having a fruity breakfast – and it tasted so damn good!

Amy's T1D Adventure: Fruits

The week flew by with not much to report on. I ventured to the Nike Run Club, with little people in attendance (it was Ecuador vs Panama in the soccer that day) and we only logged a short 5km. I wasn’t too happy as I’d eaten enough pre-run snacks for the usual 10km and ended around 220 again. The perils of an unpredictable change in exercise routine.

Saturday was a big day: another half marathon for 1bloodydrop, this time with my friend’s company and on a trail! In summary – fun, adventurous, and a few challenges along the way.

I woke up with an appalling BG of 291!!! Ughhhhhh. And I knew exactly what is was from. I ate roughly 50gms of fat the day before, well above my body’s limit. The delayed high was inevitable. I gave 0.7 units of insulin, no pre-run snacks and we headed out at 5am to beat the heat.

The Magic of the Morning

When you head out for a run while it’s still dark in the morning there is some magic in the air. It’s super, super quiet, everyone is still sleeping, the birds are just waking and the sun is yet to warm up and stretch its arms. It’s almost like the universe is meditating, becoming ready to start the day for the world.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Sunrise

Learning from my T1D Runs

When I run 13 miles or more, I test my BGs at miles 6, 10, and immediately when I’m done. At mile 6 I was at 200 so gave an additional 0.2 units of insulin. I was feeling good and strong on the run which was up, down, up, down and at 3000+ meters in altitude. Amy's T1D Adventure: Blood glucose readings during run
To makes things a little more adventurous I decided to fall over twice during the run, scraping one of my knees pretty badly. But, nothing was going to stop me from finishing those 13.1 miles, not even blood dripping down my leg. We managed to push and push until we made it to 16-miles.

Amy's T1D Adventure: One Drop BG recordIt was one of the best runs on my travels so far. Running with someone who cares for you makes it so much more incredible and motivating (highly recommend it!). Running in nature has this incredible feeling, as if every step you take connects you to the earth (even when the trees use their roots to trip you up). I’m definitely a road runner but I could get used to running the mountains that surround Quito!

It was a bit of a bumpy road with my BGs during my run, but they decided to behave for the rest of the day during my recovery (well maybe a few lows in there). And yes, my legs were hurting!

That afternoon after lots of fruit and veggies we discovered vegan cheese at an artisanal organic store! This got me very, very excited and we made a dinner topped with delicious melted vegan cheese!

Sunday was pretty low key, but my eating habits weren’t on point. I consumed about 30gms of fat in the first half of the day and it showed on my BG meter in the evening.

The week ahead was a very stormy one which meant a lot of times indoors. The sky cleared enough on Tuesday evening for a trip to the Nike Training Club, which was different from the usual Run Club workout and consisted of short, explosive cross-training exercises. Not my favorite, I’ll admit, but a good switch up for the body and boy, could I feel it the next day!

Amy's T1D Adventure: Photo at Nike Club

Back to Road Running & Workout Frustrations

On a roll with ticking off my 40 half marathons for Type One Diabetes Awareness, Thursday morning called for #6. Wanting to find a new route and brave enough to take on a trail on my own (it’s guaranteed I’d get lost), I woke up before the traffic and decided to do a road run. BGs were a little high before I started, but perfect during and after.Amy's T1D adventure: Bike Monument

The frustrations of changing your workout routine are low BGs, which I had the pleasure of experiencing all day leading up to the Nike Run Club in the evening. I consumed a lot of raisins, which taught me I am allergic to them…but I made it to Nike and joined the beginner’s group for an easier session.

Friday was my last day in Quito and it felt bittersweet. I was sad to leave a city I’d grown to love and my friend, but I was excited and ready for my adventures in Lima, Cusco and, of course, Machu Picchu.

It was also an interesting day for me in diabetes land because I was testing my insulin sensitivity after two days of intense exercise.
At lunch my insulin to carb ratio was 1:50, so I gave 2 units for 100 grams of carbohydrates. 2-hours later my BG was at 79 and heading for a low.

What to do on your last night in Quito when the rain is pouring down? Perhaps head to the top rated Mexican restaurant in the city. YUM. It was delicious. I tried to limit my guacamole, and ordered tostadas with mushrooms and caramelized onions topped with veggies.

I think I chose the best thing on the menu! Sipping juice and sharing stories over some delicious food as the rain fell hard on the roof was a nice way to say goodbye to Ecuador.

Hasta pronto, Peru.


This is a guest post series from Amy McKinnon, a One Drop user and 28-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.