Sunny’s Pedal Day 2: What the Hill???

I rarely sleep when I’m not at home.  It usually takes me until day three before I finally get a decent night’s sleep.  I had hoped that the 86 mile ride on day 1 in nearly 100 degree temperatures would have remedied that, but sleep escaped me that night even though I was tired.  No matter.  Any day that we get to ride bikes all day is a great day! The menu for day 2 would include a 105-108 mile ride from Pullman to Grangeville (depending on whose Garmin or online app you followed), over 5000 feet of vertical climbing including a 22 mile climb out of Lewiston, and a side of 100+ degree temperatures. My kind of day! 

Wait, what?  Did I say 22 mile climb?  Yes, I did.  Here’s a preview from one of our tracking devices.

WHAT THE HILL???
WHAT THE HILL???

And this wasn’t the only climb.  It was just the most impressive one.

We started the day with a quick breakfast in Pullman at Daily Grind Espresso before heading out.  We decided to stick together until we reached the top of the glorious decent into Lewiston.  Several of us settled into a nice pace line to warm up the legs on a smooth road with wide shoulders.  I knew we’d likely split up once we hit the big climbs, so I took advantage of the team effort and got in some more drafting practice while it lasted. 

With Haley at stateline

With Haley at stateline

 

I learned a roadie tradition on this trip. Apparently it is customary to sprint to welcome signs.  The trick is to catch your compadres by surprise, but not start sprinting too soon so that you bonk before the finish line. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull it off with this group of cycling rockstars but it was in the back of my mind.

We gathered at the “Welcome to Idaho” sign.  I’m not sure who won that sprint but it wasn’t me!  

 

 

Spiral Hiqhway; I have no words!!!  It is a definite hill repeat destination next summer. 

Ray at the top of Spiral Highway

Ray at the top of Spiral Highway

Seriously, Lewiston friends, I’ll be on your doorstep. Climb a killer switchback hill and then fly down in spiral fashion over and over again?  I’m in!! 

 

spiral hwy

At the bottom of the hill, Sunny Lane.  A little hard to see the sign here, but it’s there.  She was smiling over us.

sunny lane

Thank you Meg and Natalie!

Thank you Meg and Natalie!

 I cannot say enough about our road support along the way.  They did a great job of traversing the course, chasing us down and making sure we had what we needed, when we needed it.  This is no easy task when eight riders are split up throughout the day.  This was the welcome sign they drew on the bike path, leading us to our rest stop in Lewiston.

 

 

 
 Fueled up and ready for that 22 mile beast, we continued on.  Moises and I stuck together for a while but I was no match for his carbon fiber roadie with race wheels (it’s a beauty!), with my 22 pound steel frame of a road companion. 
Really Fast Carbon Beauty

Really Fast Carbon Beauty

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stunning Steel Turtle

Stunning Steel Turtle

I love my bike!  I just have to work harder to keep up with others.  She’s solid, full-figured, and she’s no wimp!  She carries a spirit of determination, so we always finish.

 

 

 

 

1170950_10151577651913456_1629050036_n[1]The long climb starts with false flats.  I hate false flats. They’re so deceptive.  If you’re gonna be a hill, just be a blasted hill already!  The high temperatures started to kick in and we heated up fast.  Alongside us was a creek and we were both thinking the same thing.  We parked the bikes in such a way that we hoped our fellow riders will see and join us. We had to scale down some slippery rocks to get there, and we were only able to get ankle deep but that was the best “dip” in a creek I’d ever experienced! (Until day 3, that is!)  Afterward, we split up. I didn’t want to slow him down and I was ready to focus on the slow grind ahead. 

 

There is nothing quite like making it to the top of an enormous hill. You push and pull, slowly grinding your way up at “mock” speeds of 5-9 miles per hour, taking in the scenery as a distraction from the lactic acid that is building up in your legs, listening to whatever playlist on your iPod helps you dig-dig-dig deep and keep climbing.  And then you see it it.  The top! 

Your Rocky moment has arrived and you claim VICTORY at the top of your mountain!

rocky-08[1]

Or you rest in the shade and wait for others to climb to victory…

moises shade

Tom and Moises rested under small tree at the top of the hill and welcomed the rest of us as we summitted the beast.  Patrick and Cris were both long gone and we had no idea how far ahead they were.  Patrick would go on to be the first to reach Grangeville where his family was waiting to pick him up to head to the Oregon coast for a family vacation.  Thanks for cheering me on as I was oh-so-close to the finish line!  Nice to meet you, Patrick.  See you down the road!!  (Actually, I’ll be documenting my Coeur d’Alene Fondo ride in the near future — WHAT and adventure! — and wouldn’t you know it?  Patrick was the announcer at the finish line!)

There is something about people cheering you on that enables you to get the job done.  It’s how Rocky reached the top of those steps, afterall.  That fist pump and cheer out the window from Patrick gave me the boost I needed as I hit a strong headwind heading into Grangeville.  The dark clouds above looked ominous and I wanted to make it before the impending downpour.  (Oh man, stay tuned for my Fondo experience!)  As I reached Grangeville, my Garmin said 106 miles, others said 107 and still others, 108.  Whatever, it was a long way and I burned about 4800 calories.  FOOD!!  Best thing about training and being active!!  In fact, EVERY meal after a long day of exercise is the best meal you’ve ever had.  I highly recommend it if you are not already in the habit. 

We had initially planned to camp out but there was clearly a crazy storm heading in and Sandi Lebsack was so worried about how exhausted we were and about the storm that she got us some rooms at a motel.  Hot showers!  Thank you so much, Sandi.  You saved the day.  Again!

While we took turns getting cleaned up, I took in some recovery beverages. :-)recovery drinks

sandy and me

Thank you, Sandy!!

After de-salting and washing the stink off, we dined in style at the Pizza Factory.  Another donated meal thanks to friend Sandy Kantner and my sister, Wendy Kaschmitter.  Wish my sister could have been there for the event!

 

 

 

 

 

What. An. Awesome. Day!

The Gang With Happy Bellies

The Gang with Happy Bellies

The best moments of a day like this are sitting around a table with the group, exhausted, refueling, silly and loopy, recapping the day’s events and knowing that tomorrow, you get to do it all over again.  Did I mention the cause?  I believe I did, but if you missed it, refer to Day 1 and this website for the incredible full story.  And if you’re not currently an organ donor, please consider it.  It’s such a beautiful and easy way to make an amazing impact on so many lives as you end your own journey. 

Day 3 (and my last for this ride) recap coming soon.  Plus Coeur d’ Alene Fondo 108 mile crazy adventure bike ride, and marathon relay fun.  Until then, keep moving, keep believing, and never give up. 

My Asthma Dream? Thank You for Asking!!

The last couple of days have been fascinating. I sit here in my New Jersey hotel recapping the experience in my mind as I try to capture it through my keyboard. I am both grateful and hopeful. Grateful for the opportunity to have shared my experiences with severe asthma and how a holistic approach has changed my life, and hopeful about the work that is going on with research and new medications to further the progress. Let’s jump right in with the good stuff.

I arrived at Newark Airport and was greeted at baggage claim by this smiling face.

Hey, C. Stephens. That's me!

Hey, C. Stephens. That’s me!

That’s right. Mmmm hmmm. Who’s a rockstar?! Okay, I know. EVERYONE on this side of the country gets a car to pick them up so they don’t have to drive in the city, but this Pacific Northwest girl felt like a rockstar.  Let’s go with it!  Walter, thanks so much for the hospitality and showing me the surrounding area.  You were a gem! (I hope you’re reading this. I told you your picture would show up here!)

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a short run this morning to clear my head, take in some beautiful east coast fall weather, do some praying, and think about what I might say to this group.  I really had no idea what to expect but I was okay to just take a leap of faith, put it all out there, and see what happens. Here is the view I took in while I meditated and thought about how clear my lungs were as I was running; an impossibility just a few years ago.

image

If you have followed this blog, you know that for most of my life, my asthma ruled it. I hate that they call it a disease, but that’s what it is. I grew up in and out of hospitals, on constant mass doses of “heavy-hitter” medications which ultimately did not control it, much less get to the bottom of the problem, and it only got worse as I got older and my lung started collapsing. You also know that I am stubborn and determined and I would imagehave done anything to be able to live and breathe freely and be able to participate in the adventurous and athletic life to which I am predisposed. Finally, you know that what changed my life was learning about how nutrition is a major contributing factor to truly controlling it. (If you’re just coming across this blog, I encourage you to pop a hearty bowl of popcorn or brew a big pot of awesome coffee, sit back, and start from the beginning). I’ve learned that what we take into our bodies can and does actually FEED our diseases if it’s the wrongimage stuff.  It really isn’t rocket science. Asthma is all about inflammation.  So if we KNOW that certain foods cause inflammation and certain supplements reduce it naturally, it seems like a pretty clear picture, doesn’t it? If we can find a way to marry proper nutrition with effective medications, I truly believe we can change the lives of severe asthmatics all over the world. But my progress towards health and knowing what it’s like to live like a normal person without asthma for most of my days was gradual. I still take medications as needed and I still have triggers that render me immobile for days at a time. But that is becoming more and more rare and the need for meds has reduced signficantly and most days, I FORGET I have this. And given that for most of my life, I was prednisone and inhaler dependent, that is no small miracle. It’s huge.  That’s what was on my mind as I went into this panel meeting.

I’m not sure I can put the experience into words that will do it justice but here’s my best attempt. We were sourrounded by physicians and scientists from all over the world, all focused on how to improve the quality of life for asthmatics. I was bursting and my emotions were hard to contain. I was so grateful to be in that room with so many focused on the very thing that robbed me of basic breath for so many years. Wow! What impressed me most about this group was that they were genuinely interested in the experiences of the patient panelists. They asked many questions of each of us but the two questions posed to all were, “What is it like to have an asthma attack?” and “If you could have a dream for asthma treatment, what would it be?”  Of course, we all agreed that finding a cure is the ultimate dream.  Until then, we each had our own response.

Mine will not surprise you.  I would love it if treating asthma from a holistic approach was commonplace; that when a person was diagnosed, they would receive not only education on the disease and what to expect and how to know the triggers; not just a bottle of pills, an inhaler and a schedule for taking allergy shots or bi-monthly injections. Let’s automatically add into the equation an education on how certain foods cause inflammation and how nutrients like vitamin D, omega 3s, antioxidants, vitamin C and a good solid probiotic will give the body what it needs at the cellular level so that the need for being rescued is diminished or even eliminated (all researched). It is NOT about having a severely restricted diet.  This truly is pretty stinking easy.  And it makes so much sense! The only regret I have is that I didn’t discover it earlier.

Still, if all of my years of suffering – all of the hospital visits, the lung collapses, the embarrassing notes to excuse me from PE class, the days of coughing non-stop and disrupting those around me, standing on the sidelines while others played, the sheer panic of not being able to breathe – if all of that was for the purpose of helping just one person out there change their quality of life, I would do it again.  I really would.

I would be remiss if I did not mention my fellow panelists. It was surreal listening to other people describe MY experiences. We nodded in agreement at the commonalities in our journeys of struggling for breath and how it has impacted our lives. We also marveled at the diversity of our disease, and how some medication cocktails work for some and not others, among other diversities. Another reason why a holistic approach to treatment makes so much sense.  At least in my mind it does. I so enjoyed meeting all of them.

I don’t know if what I had to share was helpful or not. I was the only one on the patient panel who would no longer be categorized as “severe.” I’m so happy that I have reached this place and I hope that what I had to share was helpful in some way.

I’m currently reading a book called “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson. It’s all about praying circles around your biggest God-given dreams. I have a huge dream here and plenty of praying to do to see it through. I am more hopeful than ever before.

For now, my rockstar chariot awaits.

Thank you, Julio from Uruguay for getting me safely to the airport. You were a delight to chat with!

Thank you, Julio from Uruguay for getting me safely to the airport. You were a delight to chat with!

It’s time to chase the dawn back to the Pacific Northwest, from the Freedom Tower to the Space Needle, and back home to Spokane Valley.

Here’s to breathing well and a life without limits. Go get it!

Coming up: Days 2 and 3 of my Sunny’s Pedal, 300 mile bike ride through Idaho to raise awareness and money for organ donation. No inhaler necessary.  It was quite an adventure!

Taking Flight for Asthma – Now is Your Chance to Be Heard!

Tomorrow morning before dawn, I will board a flight to New Jersey. The opportunity before me is still feeling a bit surreal and I’m still wondering what God is up to as I let it sink in. I’d like to extend the opportunity to YOU as well!

On Wednesday, October 23, 2013 in Bridgewater, New Jersey, Sanofi Pharmaceuticals is holding a meeting which will involve an afternoon severe asthma patient panel on the research and development process. I have been asked to be a part of this panel and I would love to give my readers an opportunity to chime in as well. I’ve been asked to provide the following from the perspective of a life-long asthma sufferer:

■ Share my story. I have to limit this to 15 minutes. I’ll talk fast!
■ Pose research questions that I think are important
■ Offer insight on the best ways to communicate research results to patients
■ Offer advice as to what are important motivations and disincentives for patients to participate in clinical trials
■ Discuss the role and importance of quality of life in human subject research

Given that I am now nearly 100% pharmaceutical free and more active than ever, and that this transformation is due to changes in nutrition and giving my body what it needs at the cellular level, it will be interesting to see how this goes. I still use medications when necessary but they are so much more effective now that my body gets what it needs on a daily basis, which means I don’t have the need to be rescued as much as I used to. The final step in this process for living well with asthma is knowing my triggers. Sometimes they are unavoidable (cold/flu/sinus infections/weather/stress) and I occasionally succumb to my illness. It is in those days that I am most thankful for the healthy ones which are more abundant than ever before. Talk about quality of life! The added bonus is that I can actually exercise and truly LIVE and BREATHE like a normal person most of the time, even during intense and/or long workouts. I still pinch myself at the difference it has made in my life.

My absolute passion is to help other asthmatics to see that there is a better and natural way to approach asthma care and maintenance. I believe I have a unique opportunity here to broaden the discussion to the nutritional aspects of asthma care or even elimination. Still, there is a need for pharmaceuticals at some level and I hope to make a difference there as well.

Are you an asthma patient? Do you have kids or other family members with asthma? If this was you presenting to this panel, what would you want to say? I’m all ears. Please send me your questions/suggestions via this blog and I’ll make sure I pass them along.

Mount Spokane Summit

Mount Spokane Summit

In the meantime, keep living and breathing strong, and never give up!

 

Sunny’s Pedal Day 1, Part 2: “Don’t Falafel Your Bike!”

The ride to Pullman was quite simply, a beautiful blast.  We had to resist the urge to go all out in the downwind, knowing that we had more 100 miles days and tough climbs ahead of us.  As an enthusiastic cyclist, this was the most personally encouraging ride I’ve ever been on.  I stuck with the guys in the front, some of whom are members of a local racing team.  I wanted to increase my skills in preparation for an upcoming big cycling event and knew this would be a great opportunity.  For most of my cycling years before the giant shift in my severe asthma, I rode alone.  Mostly because I would inevitably have some asthma trouble and I don’t like to slow others down OR scare them with my breathing issues so I learned to ride solo.  It was a pleasant shift to be able to start riding with others a few years ago and enjoy the camaraderie and occasional competition that comes along with that!  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep up with these guys but I was determined to for as long as I could.  They gracious enough to have me along and I walked away from that ride feeling more confident than ever before in my cycling skills and conditioning.  I had never learned proper technique as a roadie versus as a triathlete. Heck, I don’t have proper technique even as a triathlete.  I just ride – ha!  I jumped right in, drafting, pulling, and playing right along.  A long, beautiful paved road is really just a giant playground and we had a blast!  Thanks so much, guys.  I learned so much from you!

with the guysthe guys

 

 

 

 

 

 

The scenery of the Pacific Northwest is beyond words.  I wanted to stop constantly to take pictures but we had a destination to reach and we were on a roll.  The chatter helped pass the time and I was amazed at the skill of the guys around me. They have been racing for years and made it look so easy.  I had to focus all of my energy on the tires ahead of me, keeping close enough to feel the pull, yet far enough away to not cause an accident. That meant I didn’t notice some of the details of things around me along the way like they did. I did my part a couple of times and pulled the group along but I have no gauge for how fast I should go. I was so relieved when my buddy came alongside at one point and said, “That was one helluva pull, girl! We’re gonna make it to Pullman in record time if you pull like that!”  My heartfelt response: “Oh thank you for saying that because I’m DYING!”  Being new to true roadie technique, I’m learning how to set the speed for a pull.  In my attempt to do my part, I obviously I overdid it but I was ecstatic to know I could handle it!

Town Greeter at an old gas station. We assumed he worked here back in the day and is wearing the uniform he wore then. What a sweet soul!

Town Greeter at an old gas station. We assumed he worked here back in the day and is wearing the uniform he wore then. What a sweet soul!

We stopped for lunch in Rosalia and we just can’t resist getting a photo with this guy who happily greeted us, allowed us to take the photo and then warmly wished us well and insisted we be careful. What a sweet soul.

Lunch!  We find our support crew just beyond the chalk signs they left us on the road, and they greeted us with cow bells and cheers as we rolled in. We ate at the small park and rested for a bit.  Great conversation and laughter as we got to know each other better.  I had no idea that entertainment would be provided but the combination of personalities in this group made for quite the comical dynamic.  Nothing like a day of riding bikes and belly laughing!

Shortly after we depart, Cris has a surge of…..well something, and rockets past us and into the distance. Patrick and Moises can’t resist trying to catch him and I know I can’t hold that kind of pace and make it through the next two days as well, so I settle in and take in the scenery.  We meet up again as they stop in LaCrosse and we join forces once again to the finish.

We practically fly through the 96 miles into Pullman in 4 hours and 39 minutes of seat time.  Wow!  Actually it ended up being 98 for us because we took an unexpected detour which ended with a ½ climb at about 18% grade!!!  Geez! We make it to our destination for the night, a home which was generously donated to us while the owners were out of town.  Thank you Morse family!

Speaks for itself!  :-)

Speaks for itself! :-)

We enjoy a donated meal for the riders at South Fork Public House. So much support and generosity on this trip! Guinness never tastes better than after a day of riding like that.  We’re tired and hungry and around the dinner table, it becomes downright giddy. Everything becomes a play on words and having the predisposition of being easily entertained anyway, I’m practically on the floor with every goofy joke.  Even my meal isn’t safe from jabs; I ordered falafel and was taunted with,  “Don’t falafel your bike!” for the rest of the evening.  I know.  It’s not that funny in black and white and when you weren’t there, but it was hilarious at the time and still makes me laugh as I think about it!

In case you are wondering….YES.  I am the “go-to” person for testing out silly jokes!

A fantastic first day and a prelude to what would be an epic day two.  What an amazing day of riding that would turn out to be.  Stay tuned!

By the way, to my fellow asthmatics:  No rescue inhaler needed.  Not once.  What I want more than ever is for you to know that there IS a better way, that you CAN be as active as you want to be, and you should NEVER give up.  EVER!

biz cards

Sunny’s Pedal, A Sunny Ride for Organ Donation

Sunny’s Pedal, Day 1: Something Special is Before Us

Have you ever jumped into something spontaneously because you were drawn to it based on what is known at the time, but somehow you know that there will be something so much more than you can see initially?  Or perhaps the actual experience that you expected morphs into something so much bigger in the end and you can’t do anything but smile and know that God brought it across your path for good reason, beyond anything that you could have come up with yourself?

Enter Sunny’s Pedal

On July 24th, a friend of mine announced that he would be participating in this epic journey to raise awareness for tissue, eye and organ donation.  Two things caught my eye:  The cause itself, and that the means for accomplishing it was a 580 mile bike ride in 7 days…through Idaho! Be still my heart!  1094466_405932132861235_1539202229_o[1]My friend was seeking support and I had planned to offer it, but I knew immediately that I wanted to do so by participating as one of Sunny’s Pedalers.  I didn’t even think about it; the pull was so strong and I knew I was supposed to do this for some reason beyond my comprehension at the moment. There were immediate obstacles. The time for signing on had since passed, I would have less than two weeks to raise enough for the cause in order to participate, I had to take more time off from work (oh, how sad!), I’d have to find transportation back home once I reached my final destination, and I was literally about to move to a new (and fabulous!) place that very weekend so fundraising wouldn’t start for several days.  I had zero angst about any of it; I knew it would work itself out.  Sure enough, within 24 hours the details were covered and over the next 10 days after my move, my supporters jumped on board, providing enough donations to the cause in order for me to participate.  A heartfelt thank you to all of them, whether they contributed monetarily, or with love, encouragement and prayers, or the ride to the starting line! And to my sister who helped arrange for a meal at one of our destinations; more to come on that.

Game on!

My schedule only allowed me to take on the first three days of the journey but what a journey it would turn out to be!  My friend was in the same boat on that so we agreed to make it to McCall (can’t miss White Bird Pass!) and carpool back.

Sunny’s Pedal Eve, Friday, August 9th (also my cousin’s wedding at the same time and I was able to swing by for a short while – so happy for them both!).  We gathered at Hogan’s Diner on the Spokane South Hill for a launch party for the group.  It was PACKED!!  A big shout out to Hogan’s for hosting this event and making so many arrangements for SP!  Add this little gem of a restaurant to your list of places to go.  I only knew my original friend Cris so far, so this was my opportunity to meet the other riders and supporters as well as get the necessary information we’d need for the journey before us.  We met, we ate, drank carbs, took photos and readied ourselves for what was to come.  Sunny’s Pedal would begin at her alma mater, Lewis and Clark High school the next morning, and finish up in Sun Valley 7 days later, where Sunny was living at the time of her death 20 years ago, subsequently impacting 100 lives by being a donor. Staggering to think of and a thought that would keep me going as I put on the miles in the saddle.

969392_407569659364149_1207472792_n[1]

What a crowd!

at hogans 2

The first riders! A motley crew :)

Day one!  We gather at the High School and prepare to depart._MG_0137

Mayor Condon gives us a send-off but before he does, he reads and presents a
declaration to Sunny’s mom, Sandi that this day was officially Sunny’s day in
Spokane.  A special moment for the family and a fitting way to begin the journey._MG_0180

Sunny was a cheerleader, so it was a special touch that the LC cheerleaders showed up to see us off as well.

And then we were off!

Today’s destination, Pullman, Washington. Shortly into a beautiful warm-up along the trail, we stopped at the cemetery where Sunny rests.  I didn’t know her, but I could not help but feel the emotion among family and friends who were there to gather and greet us, and that emotion spilled over in my own spirit.  This was something special.  Fresh flowers were carefully placed at Sunny’s gravestone, stories shared, tears shed, light laughter at the good memories._MG_0191

As we prepared to depart again, Sandi presented us with cooling neck hankies – I can’t think of another name for them.  She put some kind of binding agent in them that absorbs and holds water like a diaper and keeps our necks cool.  They were fantastic and a life saver in the heat that we would be riding in over the next several days. Thank you, Sandi! _MG_0203 _MG_0199 _MG_0204

I’ll continue with our fun-filled, amazing ride to Pullman for day one soon enough.  For now, I think it’s more appropriate to pause and direct you to the specifics of Sunny’s story, in her mother’s words.  It will give you an idea of not only the emotion and how special this event was, but it also shines the light on the gift of life as a result of tissue, eye and organ donation.  I’ll let the story speak for itself.  If you’re interested, and I hope you are, please visit this blog for that part of the story. It’s extremely impactful.

Stay tuned…

Rom 8:28

Asthma Q and A

On my blog stats, I can see questions that people have googled which eventually led them to this website. I find myself excitedly answering the question out loud to my computer screen (sometimes shouting!) but have no way of getting back to that person. Thank goodness SOME things are hard to trace. It saves me from feeling like a stalker trying to track someone down to answer their question. But it gave me an idea. I’m going to start listing those questions here and offering my best answer as they come up. Chances are, someone else has the same question and in fact, many of the ones I see are repeats. I’ll keep adding to the list here so that all questions are on the same post. If these trigger other questions and you want to ask, feel free to add yours as a comment on this post. Let the discussion begin!

Q: “my peak flow is 190 should I go to hospital”

YES!  Although the “magic number” for each person is slightly different, this is a very low peak flow and I would recommend you go in.  It really is based on what your “personal best” peak flow measurement is.  Click here for a link to a great website all about peak flow and if you scroll down, there is a chart.  Now this chart does include “personal best” measurements that are themselves below 200 but I cannot even fathom that that would be considered a normal for anyone.  At any rate, I’d say whoever asked that question is really struggling.  Go in and get checked.  I hope you feel better soon.

Q: “Triathlon asthma crazy”

I’m not sure who googled this of course, but this is my favorite entry which led someone to my blog.  I love that the word “crazy” is used here.  I can’t be certain of the intent but I assume this person is wondering if it’s crazy to think about doing a triathlon if you have asthma. While I don’t really hold up a measuring stick between people’s experiences and how to label them, my own personal philosophy on adventure is, “the crazier the better!”  But that’s just me.  The real question here I believe is, should you consider doing a triathlon if you have asthma?  I hope that by reading my blog this person’s question was answered with an explosive “absolutely!”  While I still have more to post about what I’m doing to control this, I hope that what I’ve laid out thus far is helpful.  I still rarely take my inhaler and I’m looking forward to a nice trail run this evening with friends.  I still work out almost every day.  There’s no reason to think you can’t.  Just be mindful of your symptoms and if it’s time to make changes nutritionally, take stock of your goals and decide if that’s what you want.  And then GO FOR IT!

Q: Will running clear my asthma with colds?

A: In my experience, if I’m already having symptoms, I opt out of running until I get it under control.  If it’s just a slight wheezing, then a hit on my inhaler will do the trick and I carry on.  But if I have a cold, which is MY biggest trigger for serious episodes, I go see my naturopathic doctor imediately.  You have to know your own symptoms and know them well.  Losing a day or two of training isn’t terrible, but losing days/weeks as a result from a more serious episode if a cold gets out of hand IS terrible, and difficult to recover from.

Q: Asthma and milk + Vitamin D.

A: To me, this is two different issues. Asthma and milk: I haven’t found clinical studies that prove that dairy in general causes asthma and in fact, I wouldn’t say it has ever been the primary cause of my symptoms. But I CAN say, whether there are clinical studies to conclusively state it or not, every time I have ingested any dairy when I am symptomatic, it immediately makes my symptoms worse. I stopped most of my dairy intake not because of any clinical study, but because of personal results and those of other friends who have taken the same route. We have all had the same outcome. I decided that, if dairy is the first thing I have to avoid when I’m sick, why take it in when I’m healthy?

On the other hand, there are plenty of clinical studies which support the assertion that Vitamin D has a positive impact on asthma, and it is part of my “magic formula” for controlling my symptoms. Click here for a recent study from researchers at Harvard.

Q: If you are on an inhaler for asthma how do you run a half marathon?

I love this question because it makes me think of how many times I had to slow down or use my inhaler during my first half marathon, and now I don’t remember the last time I used it during a race at all; half marathon or much longer even.

A: The short answer is take your inhaler 15 minutes before you start. Once the race begins, take it slow at first until your lungs warm up, and then run according to how you feel. If you start feeling wheezy or short of breath, slow down or even walk a little. Some do a consistent walk/run combination but every person is different. This really depends on your training up to the race. If you are training properly, you should have a very good idea of how much your body can handle before it becomes symptomatic. The more you train properly and pay attention to your symptoms, the more prepared you will be on race day and you’ll know how to respond, whether it’s to use your inhaler, slow down, or go for it if you are feeling good.

The longer answer is, if you make sure your body is getting the proper nutrients consistently, it will naturally fight off inflammation, which is what asthma is all about; chronic inflammation. If you control that on a day-to-day basis by giving your body what it needs, you will find that you don’t have the need to be rescued as often, or at all. I was inhaler dependent 7 years ago. Three months ago, I raced in an event for 17 hours straight and didn’t need the inhaler once. That is remarkable! It works. It really does work. Check out these posts for more information. They provide plenty of links to some great research! Controlling Asthma: My Magic Formula, Vitamin D and Asthma, Omega 3s and Asthma

Q: Is taking prednisone before an Ironman a good idea?

A: If you are under a doctor’s orders to take it already, then it wouldn’t be a good idea to stop until you have properly tapered off of it. If it’s the first time you’ve taken prednisone, just be aware that there are a LOT of side effects, they are different for everyone, and some take longer to kick in than others (hours or days). Click here for a decent, although not all-inclusive list. Hopefully you have some time before race day so that you know how your body is reacting to it. I wouldn’t avoid the race if you feel up to it. But I certainly wouldn’t take prednisone if it’s not being prescribed. Every time prednisone is prescribed, the GOAL is to get off of it as soon as possible. I always find that ironic. “Here, you need this medication but then you need to get off of it ASAP because it does horrible things to your body.”

Q: Do Omega 3s help asthma?

A: YES! Check out my blog entry on that very topic here.

Q: Can I still be an athlete if I have asthma?

A: I jumped up off of my exercise ball chair at this one, yelling “Yes, of course you can!” I hope the person who asked that question and read through this blog felt that way too after reading it.

Q: I have asthma. Could I still work in musical theatre?

A: Absolutely! You might encounter the same issues that every asthmatic does but that’s no reason to throw in the towel on something you love. Go for it!

Q: Can your lung collapse with asthma?

A: With an acute attack, yes.  Mine has collapsed three times; once completely, twice partially.  Each time, the doctors were redisent to actually state that the asthma episode was the primary cause of the collapse, so this is still unclear to me.  But I will say that each time it has collapsed, it has been in the midst of an asthma episode, so despite what doctors told me at the time, I lean towards what I believe to be the obvious.

If you have a question, post it on the comments and I’ll add it to the list and give you my best answer.

LIFE WITHOUT LIMITS!

Rafting! My New Love

I have backed off a bit from training for a few weeks in order to nurse an injury and because life is happening, distractions and responsibilities everywhere. But I’m managing to stay active in spite of all of that and September 25th marks my official “jump back into serious training” day. I’m happy to report I am STILL asthma symptom free. The only exception to that is the recent air quality due to the many forest fires in our state right now.  My bronchial tubes have been slightly scratchy but not like they used to be during times like this.  I’m making it through just fine and staying indoors on particularly bad days with few symptoms.  YES!  I have more to report on what I’m learning about controlling these symptoms before they have a chance to surface but for now, it’s adventure time!

Though I’ve backed off a little, I’ve been having fun with leisurely training, if there is such a term.  Riverside State Park is essentially my backyard so trail running and road biking are always on my regular agenda. Every time I’m out there, I have to stop at least once just to marvel at the scenery. I find myself taking pictures and realizing they are the same pictures I’ve captured before. So be it. I have an incredibly beautiful view of the Spokane River any time I want.  Pictures just don’t even begin to really capture it, but here is an idea.

Aerial view of “Bowl and Pitcher,” Spokane River. Part of my regular ride. I know. It’s not fair. :-)

I call this “The Enchanted Forest” part of the river. You practically expect fairies to appear from behind the trees.

The river has calmed lately, rapids not so rapid. A few weeks ago, I consulted my list, eager to try something new. Some refer to this as their “bucket list.”  Somehow in my mind, assigning “before I DIE” as the impetus for tackling my “I really want to do these things!” list, sort of deflates my tires. (Pun intended).  I rarely cross anything OFF of it, unless I’m not completely thrilled after I’ve tried it.  More often than not, my original instinct in putting it on the list in the first place is correct and I quickly become addicted. So I simply call it “my list.” On this day, I knew exactly what I wanted to charge into next. Whitewater rafting is something I’ve wanted to do for years and until now, just hadn’t made it happen yet.  I wouldn’t say that asthma kept me from it, although it wasn’t very long ago that on a day trip like this, I would have had to use my inhaler a few times even if it didn’t involve high aerobic activity. I made a reservation with a local water adventure company for a friend and myself to go on a full one-day rafting trip. We were heading to Superior, Montana to play on the Clark Fork River!  The day would consist of a two-hour road trip to reach the initial meeting place, a quick rundown of the day from two of our very charismatic guides (who really set the tone for a great day right from the get-go), an entertaining bus ride to the let in area, a thorough safety lesson, meeting our guide and raft mateys for the day, and finally…to the 13’ paddle rafts!  We had five rafts in our group.

Our guide was known as “The Wizard.”  Very laid-back and personable; a bit Zen-like. He wore a great hat which he acquired in his travels to Asia. He essentially moves from one rafting gig to another.  He had just put in a visa application to go to Australia and was hoping to hear back about that soon.  When I listen to stories like that, I find myself wishing I was starting over, now that I know what I know about controlling severe asthma so that I can do what I want to do. But I’m not the kind of person to lament for very long; I like moving forward.  And this just means that I have a lot of catching up to do! I can handle that.

Most of the trip was rather calm, extremely beautiful.  We watched an osprey dive into the water and catch a fish.  That always amazes me. We saw a bald eagle, marveled at the purple/rose-colored cliffs, and basked in the serene and secluded environment that is the river. This is how I meditate. Rafting, Stand Up Paddle Boarding, running, swimming, camping, hiking….it doesn’t matter.  I’m not so great with sitting in one place and focusing my energy on nothing; I’m working on that.  But THIS.  This I can do.  And it doesn’t take long for the stresses of life to literally evaporate from my mind and body.

The front is the best spot!

Soon we hit the easy class II and III rapids!! Perfect for my first time. We bounced and laughed through Fang, Boat Eater, Cliffside, and several more with much scarier names.  We stopped at some diving cliffs for more thrills and then the gang in our boat decided to show off by attempting a “peelout.”  That is, crossing the eddy line back into the current, facing upstream about 45 degrees, with the intention of turning downstream.  (I love learning new languages). We gave it three tries but failed.  But it was sure fun trying!

Here you get a glimpse of our guide with the fun hat in the back. What a ride!!

We stopped for lunch and I have to say I was quite impressed by the fancy schmancy spread that our guides put together for us, including appetizers.  I felt like I was at the Country Club.  Nice work, gentlemen! While eating lunch, I recognized an old friend who was in one of the other boats and we spent some time getting caught up.  How cool is that?!

Check out our guide in the back and how far into the water he is! Maybe the BACK is the best spot….?!

Needless to say, we had a blast.  I can’t wait to raft my own river, or better yet, I’ll add to the adventure by going in a kayak or “daring ducky” which is like a kayak with a short squared up front.  But really, I’m ready for other rivers with bigger rapids.  It’s official; I’m addicted!  Is it spring 2013 yet?

I highly recommend this trip. It’s great for families, small groups or individuals, and there are several companies who offer them.  Well organized and the guides really enhance the day with their antics.  One of them had us believing he was Cuban the entire day and it wasn’t until the bus trip back that he announced that his “accent” was fake and that he is a native.  Hilarious!!

See you on the river!