Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Out of shape and maybe okay with it

 Today I returned for allergy shots after a much-enjoyed two-week break while the clinic was closed. Before administering the shots, the nurses measure my peak expiratory flow rate (basically measuring how well I breathe out, a common way to monitor asthma.) Since I started the immunotherapy treatments, this number has been on a small but steady decline. The normal rate for a woman my age and height is about 430. The last time I went in for shots, my peak flow registered 290 — which is pretty much off-the-charts low. The nurse made me keep trying until I boosted it to 330, because if the number is too far below my norm, I can't get shots. I didn't tell her how light-headed I was feeling.

Today, however, I registered 410 on the first puff. This time, the nurse urged me to try a few more times to ensure it was a correct reading. Since my normal is in the low 300s, a 400 reading may lead to registering too low for shots the next time around. "If they ask, tell them you were having a good lung day," she said.

A good lung day. Why can't all the days be good lung days? Who knows whether this good lung day was a result of my allergy shot vacation, or something else entirely. (I've been having an interesting discussion with a blog reader about a chronic condition caused by c. pneumoniae.) Either way, my lung capacity is fairly low most of the time, and that may just be the way it is. It effectively means I'm out of shape, except for my muscles and joints are strong. So I can pedal or walk all day and not become tired, but ask me to pedal or run *relatively* fast, and I'll falter immediately.

In the afternoon, Beat and I set out for one last loaded bike test, including the task that is never fun — firing up the stove when it's snowing and windy and 5 degrees. Tomorrow I will drive out Idaho for the 200-mile Fat Pursuit, a snow bike race that I'm fairly certain I'm not fast enough to finish. For a winter race, its cutoffs are relatively stout. I've been on the course before, so I have a general idea of what conditions might be like, and an discouraging but more realistic understanding of my abilities. I'm not sure why I signed up for the Fat Pursuit or why I'm still clinging to this endurance racing thing ... but here I am.

The aspects of endurance racing I've always loved are the mastery of mind over matter, and the beautiful intensity one can experience when challenging the impossible. I suppose that hasn't changed. I remind myself that I can still do my best, still experience all the awe and wonder, and still have a great adventure — without fixating on the end result. I can muddle around in the snowy woods, listen to ice crystals chime in sub-zero air, take a nap under the stars, walk my bike for a while if I make it all the way to Sunday when 8-12 inches of snow is predicted — and if that's not enough to finish the race, well, I'll walk my bike to the highway and spin happily back to Island Park. I'm going to do the best I can, as slow as that may be. I'm not going to try to force it, like I did last year — with disastrous results.

So, I'm filled with dread, but excited as well. The Fat Pursuit starts Friday evening and will have live tracking here:

At times like these, I'm reminded of scenes from the TV show "Arrested Development."


  1. Hi Jill-- Best of luck to you and Beat! I'm so jealous you're going to be out there again this year. Wish I were there again, too! Have a safe drive there, hope you have fun, and enjoy the beautiful course! (And I hope your lungs stay happy, too-- you've got some great training at altitude under your belt!!)

  2. Enjoy the journey this weekend! I'm sure it will be a big adventure. I'll be following your and Beat's trackers.

  3. Good luck, Jill! Your feats continue to amaze, even despite all the breathing problems. I hope the race is magical.

  4. Good luck, Jill! Your feats continue to amaze, even despite all the breathing problems. I hope the race is magical.

  5. Your "out of shape" is most peoples' peak fitness. Rest on your laurels a little.....

  6. I live in Anchorage, and I just blew through all your books in a week. Wow. Now I have a blog to comb through! Thanks for the writing and the vicarious adventure!


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