Breathing, it’s kind of required

Breathing.  Most people do it every single day without thinking about it.  It is a reflex.  For some of us, however, breathing is not so easy.  It comes with coughing, wheezing, pain, and what I like to call “gurgling”.  Ever since my asthma attack during the biathlon something has been off.  I’ve been struggling.

Most people who run may struggle with their legs giving out.  Me?  I struggle getting air into my lungs. For many people that’s the least of their problems.  The best way I have found to describe asthma is; stick a straw in your mouth and try to run.  Not so easy is it?  Now, stick a straw in your mouth and then chuck a few peas into your straw.  That’s what it’s like when you run with an asthma attack.

When I was active duty I had an E-6 by the last name of Thor who thought that asthma was “all in my head”.  He would bark at me telling me I was “faking it.”  Then one day I was doing a mock PT swim test, as I flipped over to do my laps (something which comes much easier to me than running) my chest tightened up.  I went from doing a fast freestyle to barely doing a doggie paddle. The life guard had to pull me out of the pool.  While I was trying to hold my medicine in and keep the lifeguard from calling the EMTs, Petty Officer Thor was, in a word, freaking out.  From that point forward he realized that I was not “faking it.”

Runner with inhalerI’m a very good asthmatic.  I take my meds.  I control what I can in my environment.  That being said, I’m also not going to live in a bubble.  My asthma doc knows this.  We come up with mitigation plans to enable me to do what I want to do to live life.  So when I go from running long periods and walking short periods to running short periods and walking long periods because I can’t breathe there is a problem. Combine this with having asthma attacks when you are sleeping, and let me tell you there is nothing more unnerving than dreaming that you can breathe only to wake up and not be able to breathe, it is time to call in the big guns.

I went and saw her today.  She’s not happy.  I’m not happy.  So we are looking at changing my drugs out.  While I know the change won’t come overnight, I’m truly hopeful that I can get back to running longer periods and walking shorter periods again.  I know I’m covering the mileage either way, but breathing it’s kind of a requirement and I’d like to be able to do the miles while doing that comfortably.



I have a dear, sweet, amazing friend who I love tremendously.  Miss M carries her burden through life with grace and style in ways that I am in awe of.  She is currently struggling with darkness.  It may be the change of seasons, it may be for other reasons, all I know is that I wanted to try to provide her even with a momentary spark of light.  I convinced (cajoled, bribed, take your pick) her to dinner and the trampoline park.  If there is one thing that is always good for a giggle it’s adults on a trampoline.

We got our jump time stickers and proceeded into the trampoline area.  If you’ve never been to a trampoline park imagine a giant warehouse filled wall to wall with trampolines of various shapes and sizes.  It’s quite the sight to behold, and quite the experience. Oh and even better; it’s an awesome work out. It takes core and almost every single muscle in your body.

IMG_5031As we bounced our way through the next hour, I heard something I don’t think I had heard emanate from the lovely Miss M in a very long time; laughter.  Something about jumping on a trampoline, bouncing kids out of our area, doing funny poses, and attempting front flips just brings laughter.  For that briefest moments in time there was light in the darkness.  Who knew that trampolines were magical?

We started bouncing our way around the park trying out various different areas.  We settled into a corner of the park near several other adults who were also bouncing and giggling.  Miss M and I watched as they were all trying front flips.  Neither of us were convinced that we could actually do one.  I worked up enough courage to try a somersault.  I know, that shouldn’t take courage, but when you get to a certain age to realize you don’t bounce nor recover as quickly as you use to.  Success!  Then I got brave and tried a front flip!  I did it!

After seeing that I didn’t break myself, Miss M tried it!  Of course she lands on her feet!

Throughout the hour we had channeled our inner cheerleader, jumped, flipped, giggled, and sweat.  Most importantly, we had had a grand time. I’m looking forward to going back and I think she is too.



Team River Runner: First Biathlon

Occasionally good things come in your email.  Earlier this past week, I received an email from Boating in DC that mentioned a fundraising biathlon for Team River Runner; a non-profit decided to providing healthy paddling adventures for healing severely wounded active duty service personnel and veterans. This particular biathlon is a 1 mile paddle and a 3 mile run.  I paddle.  I run.  I’m a disabled veteran.  This is a combination of all of those.  Not for one single second did I hesitate in signing up.  Not even the fact that I had my first trail run on Saturday.

When I woke up this morning and it was 37 degrees I was beginning to wonder what the heck I was thinking.  I turned on the heated seat in the car and made my way through DC towards the start line.  However, when I got out of the car and it was still only 42 degrees I began to really regret my clothing choice.  Lucky for me, D had left her jacket in the back of my car yesterday so I added her jacket to my already extensive layering! Shivering I walked quickly towards the boathouse.

If you have never lived on or near the water Potomac kayak one of the coolest phenomena (in my opinion) is the mist that forms over the water when the water temperature is warmer than the air temperature.  As I played lizard darting from sun patch to sun patch trying to get warm I watched the rowers scull up the Potomac.  It certainly was beautiful, even if it was only 42 degrees.

The first heat was the “elite” heat.  Definitely not my heat.  The second heat was made up of mainly SUPers.  The third heat was my heat.  By the time my heat came around it had warmed up enough for me to strip out of D’s jacket.  However, it still wasn’t kayak potomacwhat I would consider balmy.  I climbed into my kayak for the day, adjusted my footpegs, and attempted to get comfortable.   Every muscle in my body was screaming at me that they were stiff, regardless of the amount of stretching I had done. The dock volunteers dropped us into the water and we made our way towards the start buoy.  That’s when I saw the current.  CRAP! I probably should have checked the tide schedule before I signed up for my heat.  Dang blasted all.

They announced our start and we were off!  I started paddling like a mad woman.  Wind, check.  Current, check.  Lungs shutting down from the cold air, check.  Oh man, this was going to be rough.  I couldn’t stop paddling because it was a race.  I also couldn’t stop paddling because the current would make me go backwards.  I was just going to have to try to calm my breathing down enough to make it through until I hit the dock.  Hey, hope is a plan when you’ve got nothing else to go on. Hitting the dock, I was #4 of the ladies.  Now came the hard part; getting my lungs to stop aching while I got my legs to start moving.  I fished in my pocket for my inhaler.  XopenX don’t fail me now.

Heading down the course towards the turn around point every single muscle in my legs were screaming at me, my lungs were screaming at me, and the sloth side of my brain was throwing a raging temper tantrum.  As I ran out of the corner of my eye I could see the paddle turn around buoy.  Crap, I’ve only gone half a mile.  Oh this is not good.

As I went along the course I would pick different spots as goal posts.  Ok, I will walk when I hit the shadow.  Ok, I will run when I hit the skinny tree.  That sort of thing.  Other runners blew past me.  Even the lady who was really struggling with the paddle passed me.  Oh this is not good, not good at all I felt like I was running with concrete boots on my feet.  Meanwhile, my lungs were lodging their complaints and my legs were in agony.  One of the wounded vets blew past me on his recumbent hand bike.  My only thought? “Doodie head”.  I know, I know, it’s not the proper thing to think given everything he has given, but when your lungs are screaming at you that is the only thought you can have.

After the turn around and heading back to the finish line I was struggling.  No amount of XopenX was going to help me or my lungs.  I was just going to have to find my big girl pants and push through.  I maintained my same shadow to light walk/run combo.  As I picked up a run looking for my next walk point I came around a tiny bend and I saw it…the finish line!!  Oh sweet biscuits.  I just focused on the finish.  As I crossed under the archway I was elated and relieved.  FinisherI did it.  By far, it was the hardest three miles I have ever done.

The after party that TRR had was rather spectacular.  What was the most awesome part?  They had GLUTEN FREE muffins!!  No really.  I was beyond excited.  My lungs still burned, but the fact that I could actually take part in the festivities was, in a word, heartwarming.

I picked up D’s jacket and my t-shirt and headed the half mile back towards the car.  My lungs were still burning.  Not cool.  I climbed into the sun warmed car and headed for home.  Breathing in the warm air I took another hit from my inhaler and suddenly my lungs released.  The burning stopped.  I was finally able to take in a full breath.  Oh happy day!

I truly am grateful for being able to $415 for thIMG_4908e program.  My friends and family were extremely generous even given the short notification.  While it was only a drop in the bucket of their goal, I still feel proud that I was able to help.   The folks who ran this event were appreciative of every single one of their racers, and ran a truly amazing race today.  Everything ran like clockwork.  I can honestly say, I’m looking forward to doing this again next year.  Definitely going to have to invest in a breath warmer of some sort if I am going to keep this up.

Sloppy, muddy, and fun: First Trail 5k

IMG_4874.JPGAs I lay in bed last night listening to the sound of the rain come down I knew what that was going to mean for my first trail race; wet and sloppy conditions!  I had signed up for the Dirty Damsel as a way to keep my mind engaged in running.

See, I know myself.  Left to my own devices my inner sloth will win.  I will sit on the couch and do absolutely nothing.  However, if I sign up (read pay for) a race than I guilt myself into continuing to train and continuing to run.  It’s not an ideal solution, but until I can figure out how to banish my inner sloth it is what I have found works to keep me engaged.

We got to Rosaryville State Park and it was quite lovely.  The race wasn’t a huge one, and I know the park fairly well given the number of times I’ve been there for the horse trials, and the occasional hunter pace.  I knew the trails were going to be sloppy, but I had laced up the pair of running shoes I was going to ditch anyway.  Bring on the mud! Running friends

I was super lucky that this time I had multiple friends that were running the race with me.  G, C, D, and A were all running it!  The other bonus?  Perry!  Yes, Perry was running the 5k too!  My day couldn’t have gotten any better.

As we were stretching out and just chatting this woman came up to us and in the most judgmental voice said, “what is up with the tutus!?”  So I explained to her all about Glam Runner and their mission.  I even joked with her that I keep my secret rocket boosters in there.  She wasn’t amused.  What was worse was no more than 10 minutes later she said (again in her judgmental voice), “Are you really running with the dog?”  Why yes, judgey-wudgey eyebrows yes I am.  And I am going to look DAMN fine and sparkley while doing it too!  You need to run this race for the endorphins, cranky pants.

My only complaint about the Dirty Damsel was that they started the 5k and the 10k folks together.  That could have worked, but they also didn’t have approximate time per mile corrals for everyone.  So the start was painful because for some reason the walkers decided to go up IMG_4887.JPGfront.  It wasn’t until we hit our first big mud puddle that D, Perry and I managed to catch a break.  Many of the runners slammed on their breaks trying to figure out how to avoid the puddle (seriously ladies, it’s a trail run, go through it).  We just plowed right through it, and that is how we tackled the rest of the course.  We just plowed through it.

There were parts of the course where the sandy loam had drained beautifully.  Then there were parts of the course that were sloppy and soggy.  During the last downhill of the course it was so slick I just water skied down it.

There had been a lady playing hop scotch with me.  She’d be in front then I’d be in front.  The sloppier it got the more she let me lead.  I think she was watching were I was putting my feet.  Probably not wise on her part since I was like a bull in a china shop, just plowing my way through.  I warned her as we got closer to the finish line.  “If this comes out where I think it does we have one more major hill to climb.”  She thought I was kidding.  Then she saw the hill.  I wanted to say “told you so”, but I held back.

I had managed to stay on my feet the entire race.  As we came down the final hill heading for the finish shoot I got a wee bit cocky in front of the camera.  The universe scolded me by making me land firmly on my ass.  The photographer was horrified.  I laughed.  Perry was terrified that he was the cause of it. dog and runner I laughed as I got up, “that will teach me for being too big for my britches.”

It was nice as I headed for the finish shoot to hear D&G cheering me on!  Made us want to go just a little faster to finish out.  Perry had a huge grin on his face.  He thought that running through the woods through the mud with his mama was the best way to spend a Saturday morning EVER! I have to agree with him, it was an excellent time.

runnerWe changed into our flip flops and then waited to cheer C in!  She told us later that when she heard us calling her name she said, “Oh crap, I guess that means I need to run now.”  Hehe.  She did an amazing job and finished strong, I’m very proud of her.

The finish area had a nice spread and I even managed to score a wee bit as they had SmartPop there.  While, yes, I will admit I probably smelled C’s pizza a bit longer than I should have, it was still nice to have something I could eat at the finish line. That’s a nice change.

As I stood in the shower scrubbing the dirt off of my legs I just smiled.  First, because I had an amazing Saturday morning with some great friends.  Second, because I know many women who pay hundreds of dollars to get covered in mud and I got mine for next to nothing.  Suckers!  While I won’t be signing up to do 13.1 miles of that slop, I think that adding trail runs to my repertoire is a good thing. Bring on the mud!