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My Cross to Bear

Posted May 03 2008 12:00am
We all have our crosses to bear, the proverbial thorn in the side. Growing up, my thorn was asthma. At age 5, I was diagnosed with the disease and there was more than once that I ended up in the E.R. attempting to dilate the bronchial tubes and raise O2 levels. At one point, I was actually admitted to the hospital for extended stay due to the severity of an asthma attack. The doctor told my parents that sports was out of the question. Fortunately, they didn't listen...so I grew up playing soccer, basketball, baseball and football. In the the 7th grade I came to the grave realization that God did not bless me with a great deal of natural athletic ability. Couple that truth with asthma, I new that I was playing for the love of the game.

As I grew older the symptoms of asthma waned. That is until about 3 years ago. At one point my coughing, hacking and shortness of breath became such an issue that I succumbed to seeing an asthma specialist. Dr. William Nguyen reviewed the situation and confirmed that a common thought in the medical field today is that asthmatics do not outgrow asthma but that the symptoms go dormant only to return later. My lung capacity was at 57% and my O2 levels in the tank. Dr. Nguyen put me on some medication. A year later my lung capacity was 82%. This past March (08), my lung capacity was 92% and my O2 was 100%. Both Dr. Nguyen and myself attribute this increase to getting back to running. (important note: Dr. Nguyen is an endurance cyclist and advocate of aerobic exercise)

So why my frustration? Endurance guys pay attention to their VO2 max. VO2 max is the measurement of the body's effect/efficiency in obtaining and utilization of oxygen during aerobic activity. It relates to Cardio/Pulmonary systems, Red blood cell/hemoglobin count, Cellular Mitochondria efficiencies, etc. (It's actually more complex than that, but unless your a nerd as I am that will suffice for explanation.) Lance Armstrong's VO2 Max is 84; elite marathoner, Frank Shorter's is 75. A 38 year old male in above average running condition (ie 1:40 half marathon) is about 46. Mine is 35. In short, I can't run as fast as I want to...isn't that always the case?

Is this because of scar tissue on the lungs caused by asthma? I don't know. I do know that the more I run, the more speed work I put in on the track; the better I run, the easier it is to keep a good pace the and faster I become. Will I ever qualify for the Boston Marathon? If I don't it won't be because I had a lack of effort.

That's why I like the idea of running Ultramarathons. Most people quite before they get to 50 miles in a race.
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