Dear Iceland: I Love You

I’m back!

Well, truth be told, I’ve been back for a few weeks, but things have been so busy around here that I’m only now getting the time to sit down and tell you all about my trip to Iceland with the Canadian Diabetes Association and Team Diabetes.  Warning, this post is very long and has lots of pictures!!!

I signed up for this fundraising excursion last September for two main reasons.

1.  I had just been diagnosed 4 months prior and was very much in a fuck-you-diabetes-I-can-do-whatever-I-want-you-don’t-control-me phase.  It was very much on a whim, as I could do this amazing adventure, despite having diabetes, while raising money for diabetes research.

2.  One of the options was a 10km race in Reykjavik.  ICELAND.  It’s been on my list of places to go, so when I saw it, plus the fact that I didn’t have to do a full or half marathon (did I mention I don’t really like running?).

I was sold.  Over the past year I’ve been working hard to raise the money required for the trip ($6100) and managed to reach my goal!  So on August 21, I left a warm sunny Halifax for Reykjavik, and another stamp in my passport!

The trip to Reykjavik was long.  I first flew to Boston, where I had a 5 hour layover before continuing on with IcelandAir.  It wasn’t all bad though, as I managed to snag a couple of bags of my favourite US treats!

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Why we don’t have these in Canada is beyond me…so delicious!

We flew overnight to Reykjavik and arrived at 6am.  It was a bit of a shock.  I left Halifax with it’s  warm and sunny weather, and arrived in Reykjavik with cold, wind and rain.  It was I’d been transported to a late Halifax fall, instead of summer.  To be fair, it wasn’t that cold, I just wasn’t acclimatized to it. But I was sure happy I packed my warm clothes!

We met up with a lot of other Team D people in the airport, with most of us coming in from the Boston flight.  We were transported to our hotel, where we weren’t able to check in for another couple of hours.  So I set off with some of the people I met to go out and explore the city!   Reykjavik is a small city, but it’s got a great feel to it and some pretty cool sights!

View of Church from main street

Street signs!
Street signs!

View of Church from main street

Graffiti

Graffiti

Statue of Leif Eriksson in front of the Church

Statue of Leif Eriksson in front of the Church

Engraved doors on the Church

Engraved doors on the Church

Inside, very plain, not as elaborately decorated as most churches I've seen

Inside, very plain, not as elaborately decorated as most churches I’ve seen

View from the Church tower

View from the Church tower

View from the Church tower

View from the Church tower

Inside view of the clock face in the tower

Inside view of the clock face in the tower

Street view!

Street view!

When I was finally able to check into my room, I passed out for a good solid nap!  But not before I booked my tour for the next day…horseback riding!!  I’d heard lots about the Icelandic horse, and hadn’t ridden in about 6 years so I decided to give it a go!  Since my race was going to be the day after, I wisely chose a short ride so my legs didn’t seize up.  It ended up being the perfect amount, as there was no pain or stiffness the next day!  My horse was…how can I put this?  Spunky.  He was not happy to just plod happily along, he had attitude and wanted to be near the front!  Which was ok, he was still well behaved and wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle.  As the guide said before handing him over to me, “Not too lazy, not too crazy!”

Look how little they are!!

Look how little they are!!

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My horse!  Skottoplassis (at least I think that's what he said...)

My horse! Skottoplassis (at least I think that’s what he said…)

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Taking a quick break

Taking a quick break

What happens when you try to take a selfie - with your phone- on top of a moving animal...I did it for you Alanna!

What happens when you try to take a selfie – with your phone- on top of a moving animal…I did it for you Alanna!

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With a landscape like this, I can see how trolls and elves play a big part in their folklore

With a landscape like this, I can see how trolls and elves play a big part in their folklore

Loving it and rocking the stylish orange pants

Loving it and rocking the stylish orange pants

The next day was race day.  Since I was running the 10K, I had a 9:30 start time.  So I got up and went for breakfast at 8:30 (on a side note, I had pain au chocolat – basically a chocolate filled croissant – every morning.  And no I’m not sorry).  This is where I made my first mistake.  I gave a normal breakfast bolus, not realizing at the time that my insulin would be peaking right at the time I started the race.  Damnit!  Luckily for me, I started the race at 11.5 so I had a lot of room to work with.  I ran the first half with another lady from Halifax and carried on by myself when she stopped at the 4km water stop.  I stopped to check my blood sugar at 5km (yay bra with pockets!!)  and I had dropped to about 4.4.  So I shoved some Dex in my mouth and carried on.  I made sure to grab some Powerade at the next rest stop, as well as after I crossed the finish line.  I was a little worried going into this race because I still hadn’t run a full 10k before I left and my last training run in Halifax I was dead by 7.5.  However,  in Iceland, it felt fantastic!  I don’t know if it was the race atmosphere, cool weather conditions (only 12 degrees Celcius – perfect) or the fact that I was just having fun with it.  The awesome part was wearing my Team Diabetes shirts and getting cheers from spectators for both being Canadian and for diabetes!  I finished the race with a time of 1:09, which I was really happy with!  I would have done it sooner, but I stopped to change my music so I finished the race with my two favourite songs.  “Feel so Close” by Calvin Harris for all the people I wish I could have had there with me.  My family, my boyfriend, and every single person who donated and helped me to get there.  The second was “Beautiful” by Social Code.  That one was for me.  I had it cranked as I crossed the finish line.  I’m not going to lie, I was bawling.  Between the race atmosphere, having just finished my first race since being diagnosed, and the giant hug I got from another Team D member as I crossed, I was a mess.  But I felt amazing.  I worked hard to get there, I killed it, and I did all while raising money for diabetes.  It was a good day!

Pre-race!  So full of colour (minus my bright purple Nikes I left at home...Sadness!)

Pre-race! So full of colour (minus my bright purple Nikes I left at home…Sadness!)

At the start line.  So many people!

At the start line. So many people!

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Post race and just after I managed to pull myself together

Post race and just after I managed to pull myself together

Oh and did I mention I had to pee for the entire 10K?  Like almost pee-my-pants bad?  I almost stopped and searched for something to hide behind.  Luckily I managed to finish the race and make it back to the hotel without any accidents.  Lesson learned: always go before you go to the start line!!

The next day, I went to one of Iceland’s most famous attractions, the Blue Lagoon hot springs.  I booked my ticket way in advance because this was the number one thing on my list and I was not missing it!  Good thing I did too because when I got there, the line up was HUGE!!  It was incredible though, and so beautiful.  I have never seen water that colour before.  It’s apparently caused by all of the silica in the water and it’s supposed to be amazing for your skin.  There’s even stations around the pools where you can put lagoon’s signature silica mud on you.  Really cool!  It was a fantastic, luxurious way to spend the day after the race.  I could have spent hours there but I had to head back for the Team D celebration dinner!

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Volcanic rocks on the path to the lagoon.  So many colours!

Volcanic rocks on the path to the lagoon. So many colours!

Such a beautiful blue colour!

Such a beautiful blue colour!

You can see the silica build up on the rocks

You can see the silica build up on the rocks

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Sadly, the very next day I was on my way back to Canada.  I didn’t get nearly as much time as I wanted, but I didn’t have the time off or the money to stay longer.  Iceland was amazing and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who’s thinking of going.  I had a fantastic experience, and I’d love to go back.  If you ever do go, bring more money that you think you need (it’s expensive – $10 for a beer!!) warmer clothes than you think you’ll need, and make sure to stop in at the Sea Baron on the water front for a bowl of their lobster soup.  Trust me on that last one.

Adventures Ahoy!

So I’ve made mention in the past on this blog that I’ve been involved in a fundraising initiative with the Canadian Diabetes Associan, called Team Diabetes.  What it involves is an individual fundraising on behalf of the organization, and if you reach the goals they set out, you  are sent to an exotic locale to compete in a race of varying distances.  It’s an awesome idea, and one that’s used by a few different charities as well.

Well guess what…

I DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Between September 2012 and July 2013 (approximately 10 months), I met my goal and raised just over $6100 for the Canadian Diabetes Association.

Holy shit!

Me!  I did that!  With the help and support of my amazing friends and family, both here in Nova Scotia and back in Alberta.   The really amazing part? of that $6100, only about $1500 came from organized fundraising events.  Meaning that the rest, around $4600, was entirely personal donations.  I’m literally blown away.  To everyone who helped me out, I can’t thank you enough, and I love you all.  I couldn’t have done it without your support and I am so grateful.

And now for the big question…where am I going?

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Reykjavik, Iceland!!

I’m so excited it’s not even funny.  Iceland has been on my list of places to go for a few years now, and I’m stoked!  Especially to do it now, with diabetes, while raising money for diabetes.  I’ll probably be one of those people who cry crossing the finish line.  Not even kidding.

While I’m not doing the full marathon (my body was NOT built for 42km thankyouverymuch), I’ll be doing the 10k distance of the Reykjavik marathon.  The only running I’ve been doing lately is for rugby so I have to start putting on some miles.  I did 7k on Saturday, even though I only meant to do 5…apparently my route planning skills are a big fail.  Things to work on.  I have to do it soon though, I leave in 6 weeks! 

Holy shit…I’m going to Iceland in 6 weeks.  EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Montreal, Yoga, and Diabetics in the Wild!

So this past weekend I was in Montreal for work.  What was I doing?  Taking a yoga instructor course!  That’s right, my job is pretty sweet sometimes!

We’ve had clients at work asking for yoga classes for a long time now, but we’ve never had anyone certified to teach it.  I’ve been looking into it for a while, but every course I found was a year long, and super expensive ($3000…no thanks!).  But I finally found this course which was considerably cheaper, and one weekend.  It’s tailored mainly towards yoga in a fitness setting (ie a gym) as opposed to a full on yoga studio. For where I work though, it’s perfect!

It’s something I’ve wanted to do for myself for a while too.  I’ve always liked yoga, I just never got out to do it much because it’s relatively expensive, so this way I can practice on my own with confidence.  Also, as a diabetic, I read somewhere that your flexibility can decrease over the years because of the disease.  No thanks, I like to move!  Also, it will come in really handy for balancing out all the weight training I’ve been doing, so that I’m not walking around like a meat head.  That’s just not cool!

So it was two full days of yoga, practicing poses and teaching them to the other participants.  It was awesome, and I took so much away from it!  I’m really looking forward to teaching it.

It was also amazing, because I got to go to Montreal for it.  If you’ve never been there, you should go.  It’s a fabulous city!  It feels like you’ve gone to another country, it has a completely distinct culture and feel to it.  And there’s so much to see and do!  And eat!  I may have indulged in pizza, poutine, and crepes!  And not just any crepes…a crepe with nutella, Bailey’s and walnuts in it.  Oh yes.  It was incredible and definitely bolus worthy.  I was doing enough activity that it was keeping my blood sugar nice and stable.  Another bonus!!

At one point in the class we were talking about diabetes, and one of the other participants spoke up about it, saying she was a Tyoe 1.  I’m not gonna lie, I may have had a “be my friend be my friend be my friend!!!!!!!!!!!!” moment.  Kind of like this:

friends

 

I’d like to think I was slightly less creepy, but there’s no guarantee about that.  She was pretty cool about it though, we had a chat about pumps and pump programs (she’s from Ontario, where they have a really good one) and about being active with diabetes.  She was super sneaky though, until she brought it up, I had no idea.  I hadn’t seen her test or bolus or anything, but then she didn’t know I had it either.  Apparently diabetes comes with ninja skills?  That would be a good way to make it more bad ass.  Seems to work for George over at Ninjabetic – I’ve been reading his blog for a while, and I’m pretty sure I want to be on his level.

 

Bolus so sneaky you didn't even see it!

Bolus so sneaky you didn’t even see it!

 

All in all it was a fabulous weekend, diabetes behaved itself, and I learned A LOT.  Suffice it to say I’m exhausted.  But it was well worth it!

Tis the Season!

I love Christmas.  I love getting and giving gifts, seeing my family and celebrating with my friends, and the food.  I really really like the food!  I’ll even sing a Christmas carol or two, but only when there’s wine readily available. 

However, the days leading up to Christmas aren’t that fun for me, especially this year.  I’m leaving to see my family across the country on Sunday and it’s taking FOREVER to get here.  Work is super busy this year, when in the past at this time it’s been really easy leading up to the holidays.  I guess that’s what happens when you’ve been short staffed since October.  I’ve been checked out since last week, just doing what I need to to get by.  I just want to get home!  As a result I’m stressed, tired, and haven’t been working out. 

Once I get there though…it’s going to be awesome!  Just what I need to recharge my batteries and get on track.  Seeing my family (especially my sister and my nieces (aka – her cats)), and all of my friends that I haven’t seen since the last time I was home.  Being this far away from all of them is hard sometimes, so I’m so happy for every chance I get to see them.  And maybe have a drink or two…or 6 🙂

I’m hoping diabetes behaves so I can indulge a little bit more…I love me some Christmas goodies!  But we’ll have to see.  My fasting numbers have slowly been  creeping up and  I’m getting higher post meal numbers as well…so it might be catching up with me.  But here’s hoping it’s not until January!

I probably won’t be writing much until after my vaction, so to anybody who’s reading:

Have a Merry Christmas and a fantastic New Year!  And if you’re travelling, safe journey to your destination and enjoy your time with your loved ones.  Assuming of course, that the apocalypse passes us by 😉

D Goes to Dubai Part 2

So now for the part I’m sure most of you are more interested in…the actual stories to come from the trip!

I’m going to start off by saying that Dubai is absolutely incredible, and if anybody has the chance to go, take it!  It was a very westernized city, and as a woman I never felt unsafe walking alone there.  It’s like the Vegas of the middle East!

My coworker and I got in at 1230 am on Sunday morning.  After a few minor hiccups with customs and security clearances, we were in!  Our ride picked us up and we walked outside…into +35 degrees.  A 1am.  No jokes.  The heat was completely overwhelming, and it was even hotter during the day!  At one point, it was up to around 55 degrees with the humidity.  We tried to go for a walk, but ended up turning around after 15 minutes because we couldn’t handle it.  Dubai in the summer isn’t comfortable for Canadians!  So we took taxis and public transit wherever we went.  The nice thing is, these options were cheap.  We never paid more than $10 Canadian to get anywhere.

So as this was a work trip, our tourist time was restricted to when we weren’t working.  Even so, we still had time to see a lot of things!  Like Vegas, Dubai seems to have built things with all the bells, whistles, glitz and glamour.  I mean, they were the first country to build a 7 star hotel!  And no, that’s not where we stayed!

One of our first stops was to the Dubai mall.  Think of West Edmonton Mall, only bigger.  And with a waterfall.  And an aquarium.  And the world’s tallest building outside.  No big deal or anything.

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Indoor aquarium!

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Water fall!

Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest structure!

But it doesn’t end there!  After a morning of work, we went to Wild Wadi’s water park.  It had some pretty cool rides (including a tube ride that shoots you uphill!) and the weather was fantastic for being outside in a bathing suit!  No pictures from there, no way to carry a camera!

We also made a trip to the Mall of the Emirates.  This one was cool too, for a couple of different reasons.  It has an indoor ski hill.  Seriously.

You can see the slope and the chair lift in this picture…not the greatest but the best photo I could get!

It’s not exactly the Rockies, but considering it’s completely man made and in the middle of the desert, it’s pretty damn impressive.  But that’s not the best part.  Oh no no.  One of the guys we were with had been before and he took us to his favourite spot in the mall…the valet parking by the Starbucks.  And oh my God…

Lamborghinis…

Ferraris…

And Mercedes…

Oh my.  Definite highlight of the night!

The next day I was off to tour a mosque, more of a cultural excursion and definitely an educational one.  This tour included a talk about Islam, and I walked away with a better understanding of the religion.  It’s something I’d recommend to anyone!  The outside of the building was quite striking, with amazing architecture.

Jumeirah Mosque

But the inside was completely unadorned, basically a just a giant room with carpeted floors.  This is in stark contrast to many of the churches and cathedrals I toured in Europe, and after the tour I had a greater appreciation for it.  I can definitely see where Islam can be misinterpreted by Western society.  Don’t worry Dad, I’m not converting!

Small part of the mosque interior

The last part of the trip was to the Gold Souk (or Gold Market).  Dubai is famous for it’s gold, and it’s one of the cheapest places you can buy it.  Especially if you’re good at haggling (which I’m not).  But it was incredible.  The amount of gold and precious stones was unbelievable.  Every thing you could think of: jewelry, watches, sculptures…

Sculptures. Of pure gold. Seriously

My coworker managed to score a pair of pearl earrings, but I came out empty handed.  World’s worst haggler.  Or maybe just the cheapest?  Either way, no gold for Ali.

So there’s all the main highlights!  All in all it was an amazing trip and I would recommend Dubai to anyone.  I’d love to go back some day.  And the best part of the trip?  Stable blood sugars the entire time (except for one under-calculated sandwich) even with the time change, temperature, and lack of regular eating schedule due to Ramadan.  Ali: 1.  Diabetes: 0.  Go me!