Monday, March 21, 2011

1/2 Ironman Race vs. The Chicago Marathon Round 4

As many of my loyal readers know, I am all about running the Chicago Marathon. To me, it is “MY race”, ironically though, I’ve never done very well… or atleast met my full potential running that race. It’s been a huge struggle for me, to accept giving the race my all and then ending without meeting my time goals, or even coming close to them because of this constant knee pain. I know, I know, I should be happy that I have completed 3 marathons, and don’t get me wrong, I am! My problem lies within me, knowing that I am capable of an under 4 hr marathon and being denied that every time due to my knee problems.
This year, I’ve been really focusing on making my knee really strong so that I can run without this nagging pain. It’s a pain that I can only ignore for so long and eventually it leads me to have to walk and depending on the length of the race end in tears or the very least an ice bag wrapped around my knee. So I’ve been feeling really confident about my abilities this year and have been excited about the Chicago Marathon.

As I think I’ve said in a few posts though, I was kind of on the fence with whether or not I wanted to register this year. The only reason for contemplating this is because I do have other fitness goals, such as completing an Ironman race and even qualifying for Boston! Does that make me crazy? Probably, but I am always up for a challenge… obviously! The trick here is that I am being smart about triathlons and promised myself that I would only do an Ironman once I had worked my way through the different levels of triathlons. Last summer I tackled the Sprint and Olympic distances. I think I am ready for the next level, which would bring me to a ½ Ironman race this summer.

So the question arose, which race do I focus on, my ½ Ironman or a Boston Qualifying time at the Chicago Marathon? While technically I could train for both of them through the summer, I want to really focus on one so that I am happy with the results and if it doesn’t go as planned I can’t blame it on my training or lack thereof. My family, for the first year ever, was in 100% agreement that I should take a break from Chicago this year, while most of my runner and triathlon friends were encouraging me to do both! Ahhh… such a decision!

Well, I ended up procrastinating long enough that open registration closed for the Chicago Marathon! NOOO… So I contemplated running it for a charity and looking into it, when the beginning of March hit. I had decided that I was DEFINITELY going to do my ½ Ironman this summer – Racine or Muncie. So my more “intense” training I decided would start March 1st. Two weeks in to it, and feeling exhausted but loving every minute of it, I had my asthma attack! Woah… talk about a set back! I was so physically wiped out by that attack that it has taken me a week to get back to being able to give my workout 100%. That’s so not me, but shortness of breath and chest pain, kind of took that decision away from me… unless of course I wanted to end up in the hospital again. Thanks, I’ll pass!

I’m not a big person to believe in signs and all that stuff… but maybe this asthma attack was my body’s way of telling me to focus on my triathlon this year. Especially since swimming is a great exercise/sport for an asthmatic athlete, which I now am apparently…

So I’ve decided to be a great Cheerleader this year for all those marathon runners out there! Some of the spectators helped me get through all my marathons, but especially my first one! I only hope that I can return the favor to some struggling marathon runner! And one day, one day hopefully soon, I will get my BQ, be injury free and have strong lungs!

Just remember, the struggles that we face in every aspect of our lives make us who we are, so see them as a challenge to overcome with a positive mindset! Don’t let an obstacle hold you back! I’m not going to and you shouldn’t either!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What is Exercise Induced Asthma?

Now that I’ve been diagnosed with Exercise Induced Asthma, I’ve been doing a lot of research on it to really figure out what it is and how to not be held back by it.

So what is it? Exercise Induced Asthma or EIA is a condition where your airway swells and becomes narrow. It is thought to occur when your airway cools and dries up due to breathing fast during exercise. Because your airway narrows, you are unable to get as much oxygen as you normally do and your breathing becomes labored. The most common signs and symptoms of this are coughing, chest pain or tightness, trouble breathing and or wheezing. I definitely had all of these symptoms, and even today days later I still have some of them! CRAZY!

Your Dr. may give you a prescription for various types of medicines, they typically fall into one of these categories:

1. Allergy Meds – Allergy medicine obviously treats allergies, which are commonly thought be triggers of asthma

2. Bronchodilators – These open up the air passages in your lungs and they stop your symptoms from getting worse. They can either be swallowed or inhaled

3. Inhaled Steroids – These open up your airways and reduce swelling

4. Leukotriene Antagonists – These decrease swelling and may stop the wheezing or shortness of breath. They also may stop your attacks from lasting for long periods of time

5. Mast Cell Stabilizers – These prevent your lungs from having more swelling
Typically someone who has been diagnosed with asthma or exercise induced asthma can be seen using an inhaler. The inhaler gives you the medicine in mist form which allows you to breathe it directly into your lungs. It gives out a specifically measured dose so that you get the correct amount.

For athletes and everyone for that matter, it is especially important to be aware of the signs and symptoms. There are actually activities and sports that can be triggers, typically sports that are constant and long in duration such as soccer, basketball, field hockey and long distance running. My life has consisted of 3 out of those 4, never really got in to field hockey… But some better activities for EIA include swimming, baseball, football and short-term track. Swimming is especially beneficial because the air is humid around a pool and not as dry. Dry air tends to dry out your airways which can be a trigger for an asthma attack. Thankfully with proper treatment anyone can participate and excel in any sport or activity, but it is imperative to get the proper treatment.

As I said before, allergies are thought to be major triggers, days with high pollen counts, low humidity and dry air can all affect your asthma. In order to be able to effectively control your asthma, it is crucial that you determine your specific triggers, so that you can prevent an asthma attack as much as possible! See an allergist or immunologist to be able to pinpoint your triggers, so that you can be as healthy as possible!

Here is where I got my information and these websites are helpful for more information:
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
National Asthma Education and Prevention Program

Monday, March 14, 2011

Exercise Induced Asthma Attack!!! What? Really!?

Thursday started out like any normal day for me, but ended unlike any other! In fact, looking back on the situation and circumstances, I’m mad, very mad about it!

I went to work, like always and was probably a little more excited about this day than normal, because I was going out to dinner with a co-worker and then we were going to a Revit class (it’s a branch of AutoCAD, but does so much more and create 3d models with a click of the mouse). Typically I would go to work out and meet up with Jose right after work, but because of the class I was taking, my plans had to altered a little bit. I really enjoyed the class and learned a lot and met some great people! After the class, I decided that I should go work out. In my training for my 1/2ironman this summer (which I have yet to actually register for), Tuesday and Thursdays are my run and strength/weights days. I decided I’d start with the run and then do the weights, just to mix it up a little. It was only supposed to be a 3.5 mile run, which, lets be honest… I could practically do that in my sleep. But apparently not on Thursday…

A few weeks ago, I finally bought myself a heart rate monitor, I figured if I was going to be training rigorously I needed to know my zones and be aware when I am pushing too hard. I also figured it would be a good idea to have since I am trying to get my knee in tip top shape and again it would help me to know if I’m pushing too hard. So I was running or I guess for some jogging a 10 minute mile, no big deal, Right? WRONG! About 3.25 miles in I suddenly started to feel wheezy, like my breathing was out of control. I felt like I needed to cough and clear my airways… ok weird! But I was almost done, so whatever… I finished my run and started my cool down, backwards walking on the treadmill. I get a lot of looks when I do this but it’s actually really good for you, so whatever I just deal with it. But I was getting a ton more looks, probably because I suddenly sounded like I was hacking up a lung! So I finished my cardio and was having such difficulty breathing that I decided not to even bother doing weights, I grabbed my stuff and drove home. Before I left the gym, I texted a friend and told her that something was wrong, that I was dieing… I know over-dramatic, but to be honest that’s how I felt! A few times I was bent over double coughing so hard just trying to catch my breath. My friend called on the ride home and we talked for a little while. She finally decided that since I sounded horrible maybe I shouldn’t be talking on the phone. So I decided to call my Mom and see what she thought. At first I thought I’d just take some benadryl and go to bed but it was just getting worse and worse as time was going on! So I called my Mom who goes, “Emily, it’s 9:30 at night, you better not be calling to chit chat, I’m trying to put Colt to sleep.” Sidenote: Colt is my 2 month old nephew who my mom was watching for my sister who is a nurse and was working the night shift at our local hospital. My response was, “Mom, Something’s wrong, really really wrong.” And then I lost it, I started crying, my breathing was even worse than before. I didn’t even have enough energy to pick myself up off of my bedroom floor so that I could sit on my bed. My mom wanted me to call 911… Ha Ha, not happening! Next thing I know my brother is coming to pick me up so I can go to the hospital with my Mom… Great…

He comes and picks me up, grabs my stuff and says, “Lets Go, Em!” My mom was waiting by our front door, comes running out and we switch cars and go to the hospital. If anyone ever wants to be seen quickly at the hospital all you have to say is that you are having a hard time breathing and having severe chest pain! But I’m sure my completely purple hands helped them to determine something was wrong, not to mention me looking like death! Within 5 minutes of my arrival at the hospital, I was seated in a wheelchair being taken down to my ER room, where a nurse was already waiting and setting up an EKG. I quickly changed into a hospital gown and was hooked up to the EKG machine and every other possible machine. I had to answer a bunch of questions about what happened, etc. I got a chest xray and got my blood drawn, to rule out a collapsed lung, blood clots in my lungs and various other possibilities. The hospital staff was very nice to me, but I think the Dr. thought I was making it up, because by the time she came in my breathing had finally become more regular and the wheezing wasn’t nearly as bad. I had a ton of chest congestion and it felt like I had been suddenly hit with a severe cold in a matter of seconds, where I had almost no voice and sounded extremely stuffed up.

My mom and I hung out in the ER till 2:30 in the morning, luckily my sister was having a pretty slow night so she was able to come down and visit with us for a little while. Based on all the tests, etc. they decided that it was an Exercise Induced Asthma (EIA) attack! WHAT?!?! How is this possible since I’ve never had asthma before??? They gave me a prescription for an inhaler and told me to follow up with my Dr. in 1 to 2 days. Since I was beyond exhausted and worn out, I ended up calling in sick to work, I NEVER do that! So I called my Dr. later that morning and get in to see him that day. I told him what had happened and he said that he agreed with the hospital… great… So he then sent the nurse in to do a Peak Flow Test (PFT). She came in and I did what I was supposed to and then she left the room… I could hear them talking out in the hall. My Dr. “Her numbers were what? Are you sure? Hmm… Ok…” A few seconds later my Dr. came in and told me that with EIA there are two trains of thought… that 1. it is just that exercise induced. But that the second train of thought is that it is the beginning stages of full blown asthma. He looked at me and goes, “Unfortunately for you, I think you’re at the beginning stages of having full blown asthma because your PFT values were 100 points lower than they should be.”

Awesome… That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. Luckily or unluckily, he told me that I don’t need to cut back in my exercise at all, that I just need to pay attention to my body and my breathing to know if I need to stop. I left the Dr.’s office feeling more depressed than when I got there!

So sorry for the rant but I’m pretty upset that this has happened to me. I know it’s not like I was diagnosed with Cancer or something SUPER serious, but it definitely changes things for me… I even had someone ask me how it feels to be super healthy, health-concious, all of that stuff and be against smoking and get asthma and they smoke and live a more “un-healthy” lifestyle than I do!

Anyone out there in a similar situation? I feel like I’ve taken a step back in everything I have accomplished this year, definitely feel down in the dumps about this! 