Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cycling for Sanity

I have travelling a fair bit lately and have been lazy about working out while I am on the road. When I got home from my trip to Florida for the Rookie test, I was pretty tired and didn’t have a lot of energy. Also, I have been struggling with higher than normal blood sugar levels. So finally yesterday afternoon I went cycling and it reminded me how important exercising is for so many reasons. Firstly, it brought my blood sugar numbers right down into range and made my carb counting a lot easier at the next couple of meals. Secondly, while it was a 2 hour/40 mile ride, I came away from it with a lot more energy than I started with. And thirdly, it gave me a great chance to get out of the office (or hotel room or off the airplane) and spend some time outside. The sun was shining and while it got a little cool on some of the descents, it was all beautiful. Before the last couple of years, I have never had a proper road cycling bike and it makes such a difference! I have a good friend at Rocky Mountain Bicycles in Canada and he helped me get the perfect bike for my size and needs. I ride the Rocky Mountain Solo 50st (which they don't make anymore!) and it is just right for me. Now I have upgraded to good shoes, good pedals and finally a new jersey and bib-short set. I have been riding in just regular cycling shorts and the bib made it a lot more comfortable so that by then end of the ride, it was just my legs that were hurting. The jersey set was part birthday present from my parents and part Christmas present from my grandmother. Here’s the photo of me in my gear with my bike. I am definitely going to take this to heart and when I am feeling down, frustrated, or just overwhelmed, I will get outside and go exercise. It is the best sanity check I have found yet!

Also, for those of you that interested in what my heart rate monitor says about my cycle rides- here is the graph from my ride. The red line is my heart rate, the blue line is my speed and the dark red line with the grey beneath it is altitude so you can see my climbs and descents. Some of the time when the speed drops to zero, I am waiting for red lights to change. I had to stop and check directions on my iPhone once too!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Feeling Alone in a Crowded Airport- And then Not.

In my first post on this blog, I touched on the different communities that I feel I am a part of and how that has affected my life. I closed with the comment that in the last 18 months the diabetes community has been the biggest factor in my life. I had a very first hand reminder of that as I was in Miami International Airport. I had just come from two days at the racetrack, a morning of jet-skiing with the team and was headed back to home in California and my friends. So I was very definitely leaving one or two sets of communities and heading back to a whole different set. And while at times I am a bigger part of one community or another, I am always a part of the diabetes community. Diabetes is with me every step of the way, every time I eat, every time I exercise, every time I enjoy any success or challenge; my diabetes is with me and not in an insignificant way. So there I was wandering through the airport, hungry for some lunch when I grabbed some orange chicken, beef with broccoli, and noodles. I sat down at a table to eat, checked my blood sugar (150mg/dl- still higher than normal from the snacks I had eaten at the lake) and injected insulin for the meal and to compensate for the slightly higher number. At that moment, as I finished my injection and put my diabetes supplies back into my backpack, I felt very alone. I seemed to be the only person in that diabetes community in the airport at that moment. And then a funny thing happened, the man across the aisle, with his wife and two kids, got up to head for their flight I noticed that he had an insulin pump on his belt. I spoke up and asked him if he liked his pump as I am always on the lookout for feedback about different technologies and treatment methods. He then proceeded to tell me how much he liked it and how it really helped his control. He said that he had recently upgraded the unit to integrate his continuous sensor. We talked about my using the DexCom Seven sensor and still using multiple daily injections. He commented again on how much the pump helped him and then he and his family were off to catch their flight. It was a completely random encounter, but it really made me feel a lot less alone. I went from being one random person in a very busy airport to one person who a strong connection to a complete stranger- all in the span of about 2 minutes.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Jet Skiing in some time off in Florida

I am currently on a plane flying from Miami International Airport to LAX. My flight was at 3:30 this afternoon which allowed me a couple of hours off this morning in Florida near where I had been testing the last few days at Homestead. The team is staying to do another day of testing tomorrow on the oval and knowing that they would have a free day, one of the team put his stand up Jet Ski into the team transporter. A few of the team’s engineers and mechanics live near or on lakes and reservoirs in Indianapolis so they are mostly water proficient and have plenty of toys. They knew a place where they had been ‘skiing’ before and I got to spend a couple hours hanging out at the ‘lake’ before I left. I put ‘lake’ in quotation marks because I think it was a limestone quarry that has since filled with water. So it isn’t huge, but still plenty big enough to have a lot of fun on! I have never ridden a stand up 'Ski' before and typically I think of snow and hot chocolate when people say ‘ski’, so I was looking forward to the chance to try it out. Here’s the video of my last run before changing and rushing to the airport to catch my flight:

As a final note, the Australian voice that comments right at the end of the video. “You’re doing good, Chuck,” is that of Tim Neff, chief engineer at Sam Schmidt Motorsports, who is a very successful professional jet-ski racer in his own right. In fact he had won a professional money race the previous Sunday in Ft. Lauderdale and is also a Jet-Ski World Champion.

On another final note, riding that stand up, even for the 20 minutes or so that I did, made me sore! My palms are tired for holding onto it and my calves are tired from leaning into the turns and trying to get the ski to do what I wanted. It may not be as cold as skiing (or snowboarding) but it sure is as hard a work!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Driving at 185 Miles an Hour- In a Circle!

The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights Rookie and Open test are now in the books. I ran yesterday on the Rookie day in order to get my racing license and pass the IRL mandated Rookie test. I had a good day all in all, even if I didn’t end up quickest. It was a full test day with the green flag flying from 9 AM until 5PM with an hour for lunch. I completed a significant number of laps of the 1.5 mile Homestead-Miami Speedway. I started the day getting back into the groove of running full throttle for the whole lap with the car reaching speeds up to 190 miles per hour. In the morning, the team and I worked together well as we optimized the car set up for the track and weather conditions. The Sam Schmidt mechanics and engineers are some of the best I have worked with in racing.

Over the lunch break, we made a few changes to the car which didn’t help with the handling or grip. In fact on my first run, I had a very big ‘moment’ in the middle of turn 1 and 2. Luckily, I caught the car as it tried to spin and after I restarted my heart, I made my way back to pit lane to change the set up again! I had an in car camera on the car and when I can get the footage from the team, I plan on putting it up here. While it may not look particularly scary- when you consider I was going about 185mph and there is a very hard concrete wall (albeit with a SAFER barrier) on the outside of the corner, it becomes more impressive! After we had made the car better, we put on a new set of Firestone Firehawks and I did a time that was quickest enough to put me 6th. I always like to be quickest and the day didn’t go perfectly, but I learned a tremendous amount. Furthermore, I spent a lot of time running in traffic and learning how the car reacts when I am behind or side by side with another car. Now I really feel ready for my first oval race!

I am going to try and find a fun fact on all the different racetracks I go to over the course of the season. Did you know that Homestead-Miami Speedway not only has 18-20degree variable banking in the corners, but also boasts the southernmost tunnel in the continental U.S.?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pre- Firestone Indy Lights Rookie Test

Just a short note before the 2009 pre-season officially kicks off! I flew down to Miami, Florida very early this morning and had a nice drive in the rental car down to Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Speedway hosts the first official tests for both the Firestone Indy Lights and the Indy Racing League over the next three days. I will be driving in Sam Schmidt Motorsports’ number 20 car tomorrow to pass my rookie license test. The league mandates that any driver who hasn’t raced on ovals before and intends to compete in the Lights championship must come and drive tomorrow so that they can certify safety. I am really looking forward to the day for two main reasons. The first is that I love any chance to drive the racecar, anywhere in the world, on any track, in any weather. Period! The second is that there should be around 10-12 cars and I will get a chance to run in some traffic and learn how the car reacts when I am in the turbulent air caused by the aerodynamics at 190 miles per hour. I put my DexCom Seven continuous glucose monitor sensor in yesterday and it has started up and calibrated beautifully. I am getting glucose readings and already feel like I have better control of my diabetes. The information my DexCom gives me, especially when I am in the race car, is invaluable! I will give you an update after my day in the car!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

My Double Dozen Birthday

On Friday I celebrated my 24th birthday and since I happened to be home on my actual day, I wanted to celebrate with my friends. I have had some pretty awesome birthdays in the past. For my 21st, I spent a weekend in Euro Disney, just outside of Paris. For a couple of my birthdays during high school, my friends and I went snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain. I think it was my 14th birthday, I remember winning a go-kart race at the now non-existent El Cajon Speedway. However, this year I wanted something a little more low-key. So instead of a massive dinner party, a weekend ski trip, or Disneyland, my parents and a few of my friends went out to dinner at a local family owned restaurant and bar- JJ Brewsky’s in Camarillo. I like JJ’s for a few reasons. They have good food, I like to support local restaurants when I can and they have a very wide selection of beers on tap. I rarely drink, and very rarely during the racing season, but wanted to have a beer to celebrate my birthday. JJ’s is the only restaurant in the area where I have found Lost Coast Brewery’s Great White on tap. I had a great time and a lot of fun with my friends. I meant to take lots of pictures of the evening to share, but I was having such a good time I completely forgot! I also managed to have a great steak sandwich with curly fries and a chocolate toffee mousse (don’t tell my diabetes nutritionist!) and kept my blood glucose numbers very close to where they should be! And so after another birthday, I will leave you with a piece of advice one of my uncles gave me “You have to grow old, but you never have to grow up!”

Friday, February 20, 2009

Travelling to New Cities

At about 4:30 Wednesday afternoon, I made a call to a business contact trying to organize a meeting to talk about my racing for 2009. He said he would be in the office all day Thursday, but wouldn’t be in the office for two weeks after today. Therefore anytime I wanted to drop by today would fine. The only problem was that ‘dropping by’ meant flying from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh and to get there I flew via Chicago O’Hare on a red eye. After getting to Chicago, I grabbed a quick breakfast jumped on my next flight and promptly went back to sleep. As we came into land in Pittsburgh, I looked out the window to be greeted with the view of a white winter wonder land. With all the travel I do for the racing, I don’t often have the chance to say I have never been to a city before. This was one of those rare cities that I had yet to come across in my travels. And I was reminded why I love traveling. The view that greeted me as the cab came out of the Fort Pitt tunnel was astounding. It was snowing lightly and downtown Pittsburgh lie spread out before me. Heinz Field, home of the 2009 Super Bowl Champion Steelers, was just off to my left and the downtown high rises towered over me on my right. After my meeting, I had the cab take me up to the overlook on Mount Washington to take some pictures from my phone. The elevation only served to impress me more with the city, its beautiful steel bridges and surrounding countryside. When I have been to new places for racing in the past, I have taken the experience for granted. Not anymore! I will be taking time to ‘stop and smell the roses’ from now on- in familiar cities just as much as in new cities.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I was in Starbucks today reading a book, taking notes, listening to music and watching the world go by when it struck me how many different communities I am a part of. Every day I am part of my local town community, part of Rio Mesa High School Alumni, part of the racing world, part of the diabetes community worldwide. That last one has had the single biggest impact on my life in the last 18 months. Yes, racing is what I live for and it makes my world go around. Having said that, without the support of the diabetes community, I may not have gotten back into the race car after my diagnosis October 2007. I think that my endocrinologist (who walks on water as far as I’m concerned), Dr. Anne Peters, explained it best one day as we talked about diabetes, life, racing and everything in between. She said to me, “treating diabetes involves a lot of love and discipline. We don’t rush in last minute like cardiologists, crack chests, start hearts, save lives! We fight the good fight, day in, day out against a problem that is almost impossible to see and yet can lead to complications worse than a lot of diseases.” To me, that hit the nail on the head. And it has truly manifested itself in the outreach of the diabetes community when I was first diagnosed, then when I got back into the car, and now as I start to work as an advocate for people with diabetes all over the world. Without that, I am not sure I would have had the determination and belief to be able to get back in the car and continue to pursue my dream. And so as I sat there enjoying my skinny Caramel Macchiato (after carb counting it!), being an active and passive piece in a lot of communities, I wanted to thank everyone who is involved in the diabetes community- if you have reached out to me directly, inspired me, or even just been there to listen.