Saturday was the 2nd XC race for the 2013 season in the Nebraska Psycowpath series. The Tranquility Tire Tantrum that was rescheduled and canceled again is on hold for now. I was looking forward to this race for two reasons. One, it came at the end of a rest week within a build phase so I was feeling fresh and strong. Two - it was a new place to ride for me as I have never been to the Platte River State Park before. The weather was perfect for a race, sunny and temperatures in the high 50's to low 60's, the trail was said to be in tip top condition.
Tara had asked to ride along with me to this race and she was going to "hang out, ride her bike, hike" while I was out racing. Thus was the plan for our 3 hour drive over to Nebraska on Saturday morning...
Medical Malady woes created by a change in routine...
This explanation is to set up "what happened".
I recently had a lung function test performed at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines as I switched doctors after 10 years due to our family physician moving from Indianola to practice in Des Moines. My new doctor orderd the lung function test since I haven't had one in about 14 years (last time was in Vienna). I have asthma along with my allergies and my new doctor wanted the test so she could carry on with my prescriptions from my prior doctor. The test was fine and showed what I already knew and had been confirmed in prior tests: the inhaler improves my lung function. No big news there, but the new doctor wanted the tests performed so she could continue with my care. She wrote the new prescriptions for Singulair and the inhaler.
I was using 2 inhalers in Austria, but when I moved to Iowa was able to switch to Singulair as my main management medicine for asthma/allergy. There are fewer trees here than in the Vienna Woods and the doctor suggested I give it a try. It is a daily pill and I was prescribed back in 2003 an inhaler for emergency only and it is aptly called a "rescue inhaler". I rarely use it (like maybe 1-2 times a year if even). Usually, it is after something has stirred up tightness in my breathing. Maybe a cold. Maybe exercise in freezing weather that kicks in my asthma. Maybe after raking fall leaves. That sort of thing.
My routine has not been to use the inhaler for exercise, but rely on the 24 hour dose of Singulair to manage for me. I do, on occasion, feel constricted with my breathing after a race, but usually by the time I go to bed or get home from the drive after a race I am back to normal. Or normal enough that I don't feel the need to use the rescue inhaler. So, pretty much no need for the rescue inhaler in my routine. This has been my routine for ten years and it has worked.
I mention all of that to set up what happened on Friday evening.
Tara and I were headed up to Des Moines for dinner and to see the opening of The Great Gatsby movie showing at the Fleur Theater. Tara was getting her hair cut and it took a bit longer than we thought, so while I was waiting for her to come home the phone rang. Normally, I wouldn't pick it up because the caller ID said "toll free number". What the heck, I picked it up expecting to get some sales pitch or survey or who knows what - maybe a dial tone once the robocall computer heard my voice. Instead, it was a consultation call from my health care provider. It seems my lung function test kicked in a mandatory call to set me up on the network to receive a quarterly newsletter about asthma and 2-4 annual calls to check on me as well as my management of the asthma with my medicine. Long story short, I was on the phone about 30 minutes with the nurse going over my history and the end result was, she highly recommended that I take 2 puffs of my rescue inhaler before I race (30 minutes prior). If Tara had come home 5 minutes earlier, I would have missed the call and been fine...
It sounded crazy to me to change the routine that has been working. I am intelligent enough to know to stick with what works and not try something new on race day - but I did what I was told. Big mistake.
I arrived at Platte River State Park about an hour before my race, got my number plate, suited up and began my warm-up which is key for one with asthma to do a slow, long warm-up. I had parked right next to the horse stable (I'm very allergic to those critters) and low and behold, about 30 of them were standing around stirring up dust. With the wind gusting - all the dust and smell of horses had my allergies going into panic mode. I quickly got on the bike to get away from that. When it got to be 30 mintues prior to race start, I pulled out the inhaler and did my 2 instructed puffs with a minute between each. I have to admit, I felt the lungs open right up and things seemed fine from that standpoint. So I completed my warm-up and headed over to the starting line area.
This was to be a running start (Le Mans style). It's never anyone's favorite, but c'est la vie. Off we ran to the bikes...
I had placed my bike nearer the front of the "pile" and those who had bikes in the rear of the "pile" nearly ran me over as I tried to get to my bike and mount it. Two racers got tangled up and fell over and the thought runs through your mind "Is a Le Mans style start really worth it?" Off we went and although I had not ridden any of the course, everyone told me it opened with a doubletrack climb that sort of went on and on. I settled in line and hit the climb. Not knowing how long it was, I was cautious not to crank too hard and blow up on the climb, but once we crested it I realized I could have hit it a lot harder than I did. That's what you get for not doing a pre-ride.
I was somewhere mid-pack and the lead group of CAT 2 racers was gone. I was keeping it in the big ring (38T) of my 2 x 9 and feeling fine. I did a lot of out of saddle on the climbs to work that group of muscles first as I knew I would be seated for the latter half of the race grinding out the climbs. I eventually started passing, but felt something wasn't right. I felt a wave of nausea that just about knocked me off the bike. I looked down at my heart rate on the wrist watch and saw it was about 15 beats higher than I had ever seen it. WTF???!!! From then on in the race, I was fighting nausea like I never have before on the bike. If I pushed it like my legs were capable of doing for Zone 4 and 5 - I would get such a wave of nausea, that I felt like pulling over and ducking behind a tree to heave ho.
This is not how I felt in my warm-up at all before I sucked on the inhaler. It had to be the inhaler - or a side effect from it. Dang! I knew I should have ignored the advice to use it.
So for me, my racing had to switch over to survival mode. Rats!! And this was a fun course!!! Perfect trail conditions, excellent blend of technical climbs, fun factor turns and twists - everything you want in a race course. But I had shot myself in the foot with the inhaler. At the end of lap one, I waved to Tom (the photographer) and managed a smile more or less to say this one was painful thanks to my nausea.
As I rounded the finish line for lap 2, I bumped it up a notch to see if I could just ride through the nausea. I was able to catch and pass two riders on the opening climb as I stayed seated in the 27T ring and spun out a high cadence. I crested the climb, shifted to the big ring and shot off pushing a good race pace. I felt the nausea wave again, but didn't give in.....at least at first. This lasted for only about 400 yards or so and a 1/2 dozen short little climbs. The nausea won and the heart rate was sky high. Not good. I had to back off and use the little ring to wimp my away around the course. At this point, I just wanted to finish for the sake of finishing and use it as a learning experience. But I also wanted to hop off the bike and puke. I couldn't decide which to do!
Bottom line: The nausea certainly made it "feel like" one of the worst days on the bike for me. Thanks to the silly inhaler that was supposed to prevent any problems from an asthma flare up, I believe it limited my performance and at times, I was barely able to turn the cranks over in my granny gears on climbs that didn't warrant it thanks to an off the charts heart rate and the nausea it created.
Just before crossing the line after enduring something that could have easily been prevented had I just stuck to my usual routine and medication.
I rolled across the line in 4th place for the old guys and rode immediately over to my jacket to put it on and shiver out my nausea. I went to the car, changed into my driving clothes then took the chip back to the registration tent. My heart rate dropped down enough that the nausea subsided and I was actually able to eat some post race food. Kudos to the race crew as in spite of my nausea - I certainly enjoyed the venue and the trail. That's some fun singletrack and a really pretty ride to boot.
Dumbfounded by the medical experiment, but not surprised - I went home and sure enough, used Google to uncover many reports of the side effects my particular inhaler can cause. Nausea and high heart rate are at the top of the list along with headache. I also had the shakes and jitters last night before going to bed which is not good. I will inform my doctor and do what I have done the past 10 years - leave it at home in the medicine cabinet.
Lesson learned. I'm happy to have survived the "experiment". I'm hoping to be back to normal come the next race (3 weeks away after the next build phase).