At Least It's Not Emphysema (aka, my Asthma Update)

Today, I had the follow up visit with my asthma and allergy doctor.  I was afraid this time around because the asthma has been bad in the last five weeks or so and because I found my previous spirometry test and it said I had an obstruction that could possibly be caused by early stages of emphysema.  Talk about having a bad day!

Since my last doctor visit, I've been doing my allergy shots religiously and training like a horse.  Then, around five weeks ago, I had my first asthma attack during a speedwork session; then another attack; then an attack during one of my races.  Come on!  I'm trying to get faster, asthma, you're making it pretty hard.

So, my times have slipped from what they were, they have even slipped from what I ran in January.  I did a 5K two weeks ago and came in at 27:33 (RR posted).  I ran one in January and finished 25:59, which is in itself slow compared to what I was able to do last July.  Ugh, asthma, you are crimping my style.

Anyway, I called the doctor around three weeks ago and she recommended I added one more medication (now I am like an 80 year old with Symbicort, Singulair, Zyrtec, Albuterol, and Nasonex, ugh).  She said not to use albuterol until I got an attack, but after consulting with my husband (he is a doctor) and doing some more research, and comparing my runs with and without albuterol, I decided to follow her original instructions and use albuterol before every run.  After that, it took almost two weeks but things seem to improve.  I did an awesome speedwork session last week and ran some 200m intervals at sub-7mm.  Wow, talk about fast (I had never run that fast before the asthma).  Then I did an 18 miler yesterday in 3:09, which is my second fastest long run OF ALL TIME.

With all of that background, I approached today's visit with both trepidation and optimism.  However, since I woke up, I knew it was not a good asthma day.  My allergies were at an all time high (probably from the 3 hours running and exposed to allergens the day before).  I used my Symbicort and headed to her office.

The spirometry showed what I had suspected.  No improvement.  She actually said: "You are not surprised, right?  You told me you've been struggling."  Well, yes, but I was hoping for an improvement, pfffftttt.

Anyway, the good news is that they found no obstruction in my lungs, which means there is no emphysema, yay.  The bad news is that the breathing capacity has lowered.  The important bronchi is at 67%.  She also said that when I run, my lungs are probably at 30-50% breathing capacity.  If I am able to run at the paces I'm running (which are slow for a lot of people but for others it's fast), can you imagine what I can do with at least 85% capacity (which is what I have on the larger bronchi when I am not running)?

We discussed my medication timing, strategy, and I got her approval to use albuterol before and during runs as I have been.

I thought my allergy induced asthma was under control but that my exercise induced asthma was not.  Well, it appears as if my allergy induced asthma is the cause of my recent issues.  I am only allergic to dustmites and not to pollen.  But she said the weather will affect me the same, as the wind carries particles of pollen and dustmites, so for the past two months and with the wind as high as it has been, I've been inhaling a lot of particles of something I am VERY and I mean VERY allergic to.  Figures; nature hates me.

So, if you read this thesis, be advised that all is not lost.  It might take me up to 1.5 years to create enough antibodies from the shots to get better.  I've been fighting and training like crazy.  I wonder what will happen one year from now when the lungs match the legs.  If Sunday was any indication of how good I can run when the stars aligned, I cannot wait to see what I can do in 2013.  Can you?

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