Showing posts from July, 2016

More on being allergic to summer

The asthma doctor had great reviews and seemed very nice, but I could tell that he wasn't necessarily going to be sympathetic to my cause. He worked through the usual questions, but a slight frown appeared on his face as I explained my "problem."

"I just get winded so easily. Sometimes while walking up my stairs at home, I have to slow because my breathing feels so constricted that I become dizzy. I do twenty-mile runs, feeling like I can barely breathe for most of the time, holding back so I don't have an attack. Yet I don't feel tired or sore after I stop moving, so there's no indication that I'm overdoing it. I use my emergency inhaler at least once for most of my workouts. I think it does help. It was never like this a year and a half ago. Not before I had pneumonia last summer."

"You do twenty-mile runs?" he asked.

"Well, yes," I said. "I just have a lot of trouble with more intense exercise. Even moderate intensi…

Adventures in hypoxemia

I'll be honest. I thought getting back on my bike was going to be a more joyful experience than it's been. On Monday I set out for a four-hour ride that felt wonderful, at first. But as the miles wore on, I slipped into indifference, which deteriorated further into a dark mood not unlike despondency. I was pretty bummed out. Why? I had no idea. The ride had gone reasonably well. I wasn't particularly strong, but I didn't struggle, either. My hand didn't hurt at all. My breathing was steady and the faucet in my face turned down a few notches even though I've been off antihistamines since last Wednesday. It was a beautiful if slightly warm day, and my route was full of new and beautiful scenery. So what was wrong?

Shortly after returning home, I checked the measurements on our pulse oximeter. My blood oxygen saturation was at 88 percent, with a recovery heart rate of 115. After just a few more minutes that number rose to 90 percent, and within a half hour it wa…

Not-so-triumphant return

On Monday morning, I pumped up two completely flat tires, added lube to the dusty chain, tightened the stem, installed pedals, and sat on a bike saddle for the first time in four months. Although tentative as I rolled out from my driveway, a smile spread across my face as I coasted down the first hill. I was riding my bicycle. It's a simple but fathomless joy that I think only cyclists and 6-year-olds understand.

The smile admittedly faded some as I ground the pedals up a three-mile climb, with dust swirling in the hot wind and my underdeveloped quads straining under the workload. My right hand only recently became useful again, so my whole arm all the way to the shoulder is significantly weaker than the other. I've improved my grip with hand exercises, but that doesn't do much for biceps and triceps, which were burning by the time I reached the next descent.

My hand surgeon said I should be able to start riding again six weeks after surgery, and so July 18 was the date I…

Hard as rock

This past weekend, Beat and I traveled to Silverton for his third running of the Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run. This hundred-mile loop through the San Juan Mountains is particularly revered in ultrarunning culture for its "wild and tough" reputation, and also the family-like community that has formed around the annual event. Thanks to its desirability, Hardrock has a small army of volunteers to put together a race where runners enjoy extensive support and five-star service at aid stations that are only accessible on foot. But even more than that, Hardrock and its mountains have an ethereal quality that draws people back year after year, and makes it so appealing that the odds of getting through the lottery as a first-time applicant now border on hitting it big in Vegas.

 It was difficult to gauge how excited Beat was for Hardrock this year. He's had a somewhat rough few months of training, adapting to a new climate and altitude along with the demands of a new house an…

Fire season

Beat and I decided to walk the two miles to our neighbor's house on Sunday evening, but about halfway through, I wondered if even this brief venture outdoors was a mistake. The acrid sting of smoke filled my nostrils, and my airways began to constrict. The Cold Springs Fire was flaring up ten miles away, and a refreshing but unwelcome breeze drove the smoke directly toward us. Presumably the flames were moving this direction as well.

More than a dozen neighbors attended the gathering that was held for our benefit as new residents on the drive. Thanks to recent events, discussion was filled with tips about fire mitigation and evacuation procedures. Most of the neighbors where around three years ago when South Boulder Mountain burned, and a few remembered farther back to the Walker Ranch blaze. It's scary, they agreed, but what can you do? Fire is a risk you take when you choose to live in the mountains.

We sipped cold drinks on the porch as a black plume of smoke billowed fro…

High Lonesome

The day before I flew to Portland, I joined Eszter and Elaine for a morning run on the High Lonesome Loop. This popular sixteen-mile loop climbs along the south fork of Boulder Creek, swings around King Lake, makes a quick jump over the Continental Divide and returns via the drainage of Devils Thumb lake. Beat and I have a few friends visiting from California this week while they acclimate for the Hardrock 100, which Beat is also running. I thought I'd be able to coax them out on this loop, but they seem to think work and tapering is more important. So, I'm posting photos in hopes of changing their minds!

 I was intimidated by the prospect of running with these ladies, who are both very fit for this sort of thing. Meanwhile, I'm still battling these breathing issues that don't lend much in the way of predictability. Sometimes I feel great throughout long runs, and sometimes I become overly winded walking up my stairs. For this reason I won't push my own pace — ou…


Lately I've been feeling like 2016 will be the summer that I become old. I've actually had several summers that sparked this emotion; the first one hit at age 19, so I know it's not necessarily an emotion I can trust. But between the reemergence of asthma symptoms — which I can no longer convince myself were a one-time illness; the carpal tunnel thing — which my surgeon speculated might be the culmination of an old wrist injury I don't even remember, possibly while snowboarding as an indestructible teenager; and an upcoming birthday that will place me squarely in my late 30s .... maybe I'm not "old," but definitely living in a deteriorating body. We all do, every day, but sometimes the realization hits us more directly.

This weekend my friend Leah was married in Portland, Oregon. I was excited to come out as she enters a new chapter of her life, and witness the swirl of emotions connected to this — as she put it, "all the feels." I also was loo…