My late onset exercise induced asthma reared it’s ugly head this time again at the Zion 100.

Exercise-induced asthma symptoms can include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Fatigue during exercise
  • Poor athletic performance

 For many, EIB (exercise-induced bronchospasm) occurs in the first few minutes or hour of exercise. I have what is called “late onset” which means I don’t get any symptoms until 6 or 8 hours into running.

I decided to review the asthma triggers to see if I was missing something, some simple fix I could do to help improve my breathing.

I had four factors, not just the cold weather working against me.

1) The usual: cold air and running: Rapid breathing during exercise does not allow inspired air to be warmed and humidified by the nose. This cold, dry air cools the bronchial tubes, causing the muscles around the bronchial tubes to constrict (producing bronchospasm). 

2) Humidity Changes:  The second theory involves the loss of humidity surrounding the cells lining the bronchial tubes during rapid breathing . This drying induces the mast cells (cells that contain chemicals that can trigger asthma and other allergic reactions) to release their chemicals, causing bronchospasm and inflammation.  Check. The conditions went from almost feeling “humid” to me, along the river, to very dry on top of the mesas.

3) Dust. I was running in the desert, in Utah. It’s rather dusty there. When I was on the road, there were vehicles going by, causing more dust.  An unavoidable situation.

4) Emotions-emotional stress, both happy and unhappy can play havoc. When I was trudging up the road, toward the Guacamole Trail, with many runners running by me, I started to cry.  That immediately made my wheezing worse-so I quit it.  A few more times in the last 14 or so miles of the race I got a bit emotional, which just made it harder to breathe, so I got a handle on that before it shut down my race altogether.

 What I could have done different: I should have started out the race with a mask.  It was cool, with a breeze, until around the 50K mark.  I even thought to myself I hope I will do okay with my breathing. But I didn’t have a mask available, I had my single mask that I brought in a drop bag to pick up around 5pm.

Back to the drawing board:  Time to make a doctor appointment. Review the drugs that I use. Review the supplements that I use.  Now that summertime is approaching,  I don’t any any breathing issues. But I want to have a good fall running season, so might as well get cracking.

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