The Highland Fling – By Roddy Riddle


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Roddy Riddle Saturday the 26th of April was certainly a very interesting day as far as sport and my type 1 diabetes goes. It was the day I was having a reunion with the Tartan Army who I shared bivouac number 127 in last years Marathon Des Sables. This wasn’t just meeting up for a meal and a couple of drinks, before the meal and drinks we were all running the Highland Fling 53 mile Ultra Marathon from Milngavie to Tyndrum up the West Highland Way.

I travelled down to Glasgow to stay at Derek’s house along with another two members of bivouac 127. We went and signed on on the Friday night and then headed to Derek’s house for a three course meal. I don’t normally do desserts but I did on this occasion which left me going to bed with my blood glucose (BG) higher than I normally like. We had porridge for breakfast at 3.30am which raised BG again. On travel to start of race I was constantly doing BG tests to make sure I had my BG at a safe level before the start. I lined up at 6am with 799 other competitors happy I finally had my levels under control.

Throughout the race there was 4 food drop off stations which doubled up as timing chip check points. I had pre made my drop of bags with energy drinks, bars and gels which would be waiting for me at each check point with my number on them for quick identification. I choose to run with a Continuous Glucose Monitor which via Bluetooth tells my insulin pump my BG levels and also trend arrows, this is really beneficial during events as I wasn’t having to stop so often to get blood from my finger for BG readings. All was going very well early on until the 18 mile mark, I had started descending down to Loch Lomond when I felt something detach from my belly. It turned out to be my worst fear, it wasn’t the CGM sensor it was my cannula for my insulin pump.

I had to make some serious decisions on the move before arriving at food pick up point one. Do I risk carrying on with no insulin or do I retire. I decided the latter. I got to the check point and got handed my food bag, I new I couldn’t take carbohydrates onboard without insulin so I took an energy bar and a gel and put them in my bumbag just incase my BG dipped too low causing a hypo. I filled my camelbak with water and set off into the unknown. This was where I really started juggling the books.

I used the effort I was putting in to help control my BG levels, if I saw the trend arrows on CGM dipping I put in more effort knowing adrenaline along with intense effort helps raise BG levels, then if I saw them going up too much I took the foot off the gas to let it lower. At each food pick up I continued to take solely water knowing I couldn’t risk the high BG of taking carbohydrates. I ran the last 35 miles on water alone and finished surprisingly strong in the final 12 mile section catching around 30 runners and didn’t get passed myself which finished me in 173rd position in a time of 10 hours 47 mins. Having downloaded my CGM readings they show that from 6am to 4.47pm my BG was almost within a person without diabetes level which is very pleasing considering I was going into the total unknown. I did eventually get a beer with the Tartan Army, it’s been suggested for next reunion to miss out the run and just have beer.

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