A Storm’s Brewing

Asthma sucks. If you’ve been reading you’ll know that I have asthma. Getting my lungs to cooperate with me is an ongoing battle that results in some pretty bad runs. But, there are good days and ok days and lots of other days in between the bad ones.

Sometimes, usually in the summer, I can just feel the asthma attack coming. I wake in the morning with a little hitch in my breathing. “Tight” is what my doctor calls it. Things just aren’t working right and I know that sooner or later it’s going to result in an episode of some pretty bad breathing. It happened this week on race day. I regularly run in a local cross country race. It’s a great race with lots of friends and a fun course. Unfortunately, it’s also plagued by some pretty wicked weather. On this particular race day I woke up breathing slowly. My lungs just weren’t as motivated for the day as I was. I took my usual morning meds and things didn’t improve. All day, I knew an asthma attack was coming. Maybe not a proper, full-on attack, but I could feel something building.

I had a decision to make. In the past, I’ve had good luck triggering a mild first attack to get it out of my system and then running later. Usually, I can get a little wheezy, recover, and then run well. I’ve never had a two-attack day. It’s a strategy I used a lot to perform well in races when I was younger. I didn’t really care about the outcome of this race. I wasn’t planning to race race – just have a good time with friends. And there I was, ready to trigger an attack to run well in a casual, local race. The whole thing suddenly seemed silly. If I didn’t care about my time and was only running for fun, why would I need to run well – and why would I trigger an asthma attack to do it? I decided to take my chances in the race.

While I was running, feeling worse and worse, I had the sudden realization that I do the little trigger an attack routine mostly so other people don’t see it and worry. Sometimes I really care how I do and I want to run well. Mostly, I want to avoid the concern/pity I get when I am clearly struggling to breathe. Any time I have an episode of bad breathing, people engage in the concern/pity questions – even people who’ve seen me had multiple attacks and who know I have asthma. Did you bring your inhaler? (No – I never do. Ever. Never have.) Are you going to be ok? (Yes. Always am.) Did I remember to pre-treat? (Of course) And, the worst one – Bad day for you, huh? Sigh. I get it. Asthma is distressing. But it is what it is. Sure, sometimes I imagine what it might be like to just run, with no 30-minute nebulizer routine, but that isn’t going to happen. Mostly, I just want people to accept my poor breathing with minimum distress – the same as we all accept that one really sweaty guy in every group run. It’s just his way. I have a little trouble breathing sometimes. That’s my way. It always passes. I appreciate the concern, but I’m really ok. Really.