High school cross country

Hi there, I am the mom of a 14 year old diabetic on his schools cross country team. He ran for the first time this last fall in his freshman year and had many blood sugar issues. Unfortunatly for him, his coaches knew nothing about diabetic athletes so we spent most of the season trying to find out what worked for him. We're trying to get a jump on things before competitions start back up in the fall so he can have a better year. He currently runs the 5k in 16-18 minutes but his fluctuations frustrate his coaches. We realize its due to his numbers but they don't seem to get it.  The whole team and their families get together for dinner the night before each meet and so the athletes can "carb load". That first meet was a disaster for Jake, his body couldn't deal with all that spaghetti! We are looking for advice on what to eat the night before, and mornings before a meet. Are there any high school athletes out there?

Hi Debi! I ran cross country and track when I was in high school, and I now run XC/track in college.  Is your son using a pump? I have been on the pump for close to 9 years now, and it is really helpful when I run.  I too have experienced these blood sugar fluctuations during cross country, and I know how frustrating they can be-- especially when there is a team/ coach counting on you!

In my experience, the food I eat the night before a meet doesn't really have an affect on my blood sugar the day of/ during the race.  The day of the race however, I try not to eat my meal too close to when I am going to be running.  I'll usually have some oatmeal or a peanut butter and banana sandwich as my meal before the race.  It's not especially interesting food, but it is easily digested and has a nice blend of carbs and protein to prevent a blood sugar spike.  I have found that it is best if I eat 2-3 hours before the race so that the insulin will have had a chance to peak before i run.  If I run too soon after a meal bolus it tends to make me go low while I'm running. In some cases, like when I have races in the morning, and therefore cant eat 2-3 hours before I run, i reduce my meal bolus so that I don't get low while I am running.

With races though, it is important to make sure the body has enough insulin to deal with the adrenaline and stress associated with racing (both stress and adrenaline make my blood sugar go high).  For long runs, my blood sugar target is about 170 before I start, but for races, I can start with a much lower blood sugar (130-140).  In order to get my blood sugar to this pre-run/race target I lower my basal rate 2 hours before I plan on running.  I have 3 different basal rates programmed into my pump that I use depending on what time of day I run (the "Standard rate" is for days when i dont run, "A" basal is for morning runs, and the "B" basal rate is for when I run in the afternoon).  This way, it is really easy to prepare for a run.  When I wake up in the morning I can select the basal pattern most appropriate for the day's workout, and that way I dont have to remember to lower my basal rate later in the day in anticipation of a run because my pump is already programmed to do so. If your son is using a pump you might find it would be helpful to have 2 different basal rates to deal with the two different types of cross country running (long runs v. races).  One basal rate could be used for days where he does longer distance runs (and would therefore give less insulin), and the other could be used for races or days where he does shorter faster workouts (and would therefore be slightly higher to prevent the high blood sugars resulting from the adrenaline). 

I have also found that it is extremely important to consider "insulin on board" before going for a run.  If i start my run at my target of 170, but have even a very small amount of I.O.B. like 0.5 units left over from an earlier meal bolus or correction, running tends to "magnify" the effect the insulin has on my blood sugar, and I am bound to go low. If your son uses a pump, I'm sure you already look at this.

Also, you may already do this, but I use a food scale to figure out how many carbs are in foods like pasta, bread, rice, cereal, etc.  That way, it's really easy to know exactly how much I am eating and how much insulin I need to take.  As long as I take enough insulin, I haven't really had any issues with food like pasta. 

I hope this is at least a little helpful, and not too confusing.  Let me know if you have any questions!  I hope your son is doing well, and I good luck with the next season!