Breathe with Me

warmed up with a puffer

Warned up with a puffer for a couple laps and then didn’t race

For 20 plus years never had a bad season. Fitness came and went, into it at more times than others, but the past year has been like a series of mechanicals with my body. A nagging injury, illness, and then unusual fall asthma. I blame the wind storm on Saturday for throwing all kind of contaminates into the air, whatever it was, I was lit up like an allergy Christmas tree. On Sunday, after a few warmup laps, I wheezed and coughed. Then made the call to not start. To get back into race shape, building towards next season, I’m perfectly good with sucking at the back of the masters elite field, riding steady, solid, and finishing. Not good with wheezing out of a race or falling apart, unable to breathe. It sets me back for at least a week. I imagine if doctors ran a scope into my lungs, it’d look red, raw, and inflamed in there, after doing so much damage.

Exercise-induced, allergy-triggered asthma is so little talked about, I didn’t even know others that race with me had it until recently. Because asthma doesn’t manifest any outward symptoms excerpt during an acute attack, it isn’t generally recognized by the community and the promoter of the Sunday’s race mocked me for not starting. For years, before I knew what I was, I just thought I wasn’t fit. Asthma took such a toll on Rominger, he stopped racing, and Katie Compton was nearly medevaced out of a race in Cincinnati for it last week. Locally, the Northwest Allergy Center has doctors dedicated to studying the causes and it’s thought Co2 particulates embedded in our lungs from years of urban life are a factor.

Once I was diagnosed and knowing the symptoms, if they’re present, I don’t start. There’s always another race and the one I’m in isn’t worth the risk of turning ashen white and blowing a week of training or worse.

I doubt anyone wants to hear this much detail about what I’m dealing with in a season. To me though, it seems like our health and breathing is something we may want to talk about as much as wheels, power meters, and recovery drinks. The handful of us afflicted by asthma locally will continue to just deal with it and talk about it amongst ourselves.

As I wrote earlier about this season, starting the race is as important as finishing it. Anticipating I was symptomatic, I didn’t register on Sunday until after the warm up test. I know of only two reasons not to start an already registered-for race: medical reasons and then those other medical reasons, where dopers don’t start because they don’t want to pee in the cup, like at nationals.

If there’s no doping control, no promoter should ever call you out for not starting or try to embarrass you for a decision based on your health.

And today I’m breathing just fine.

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