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Choppy Water and Asthmatic Wheezing

Posted Aug 26 2008 4:23pm
It didn't feel like a good day for me.

The ocean swim was really choppy and the field of swimmers was crowded. Normally, I get into my groove about a third of the way through and I get comfortable swimming the course. Not this time. I was short of breath the whole time. Wheezing, no less.

It's a little known secret, and something that I like to deny to myself, but I have exercise-induced asthma. I like to think I've outgrown it. In fact, I haven't touched an albuterol inhaler in four years; I haven't needed it. Every so often during a race, particularly if pushing myself at the end, I'll feel it.

Back to the swim -- the waves of the ocean landed salt water in my mouth far too many times. I couldn't keep my head in the water long enough to swim freestyle for much of the swim. And I was panicking. Panicking and wheezing. It'll get better. Let's get past this buoy. Or I'll pass this group of people. And I'd try to pass the slow people in front of me, but then I'd get winded and panic more.

I was so relieved when the swim was over! Still wheezing, I walked fast to my bike and hopped on. Even on the bike, my breathing wasn't great. But I felt strong. I got to do something I'd never done before -- pass people on the bike course. Granted, some of those ridiculously souped-up bikes passed me, but in the past, the bike has been the slowest part for me. Thanks to 2-3 spinning classes per week throughout the winter and spring, I've gotten faster. I biked the course at 18.3 miles per hour -- last summer, I was lucky to pull 15 mph!!!

Then there was the run. And the wheezing came back in full force. I was breathing loudly... really loudly. I passed no one on the run. Everyone passed me. And several people who passed me tried to encourage me, like I was some kind of invalid -- come on, you've got it, keep going, and so forth. I felt so slow running -- maybe it's that I'm coming off an injury, or maybe because I finished the bike in a faster time, I ended up with faster runners. I'll be surprised if I was anything faster than a 10 minute mile.

So, lessons from this tri:

-- Keep doing spinning classes

-- Swim in open water so I don't freak out when it's race time

-- Do more brick workouts -- running after biking, as in an actual race.

-- Do more running speedwork.

-- Stash an albuterol inhaler with my stuff, just in case.

The results aren't out yet, but my guess is you'll find my name about 60% down the list of women in my age group.
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