This was the week that the traditional DC area heat finally hit. While the first half of the week was reasonably moderate, the heat and humidity kicked in for the second half. The conditions are nothing unusual for DC in late May - dew point in the upper 60s and temps in the 70s and 80s for the morning. What is unusual is how long it's taken to get to this point this year. And thus, how unacclimated most of us are.
Though I was sad to see the cool temps vanish, I was also oddly glad for the humidity and heat. As I mentioned two weeks ago, I've started using an asthma preventative drug (Dulera) twice daily as a preventative. Hot and humid mornings, especially ones with significant pollen or poor air quality, have been difficult for me in the past. So my runs on Friday and the weekend were good tests of how my new asthma regimen is going.
So far, it's going phenomenally well.
First of all, it's probably helpful to explain what it feels like when I'm having breathing trouble. Sometimes as runners, when we're struggling (at least when I am) we clench our hands into tight fists, adding tension and stress. Whenever I find myself doing that, I take a second to relax, shake out my shoulders, and open my hands.
My lungs like to do something similar: grab up into what feels like tight fists in my chest. When that happens, I can feel the air going in and out, but I don't feel like I'm getting much sustenance from that air. And unlike my hands, I can't force myself to open my lungs. They're just clenched.
[In case it's helpful to others, when my breathing does act up, I work though it by trying to keep my breathing measured, deep, and rhythmic - breathing shallowly and fast just makes it worse. I also slow down slightly, so that I'm not digging a deeper hole. I try to run as efficiently as I can, and also try not to think at all about how far I still have to go - just focus on my effort in that moment. If I start thinking about how many laps or miles I have left, my breathing will quicken involuntarily, and then stuff just gets worse.]
Unless I'm in real trouble, I don't like to drop out of a workout. I prefer to slow down and work through it if I can, though I'll use a rescue inhaler if there's a rest interval. Working though it during workouts is good practice for races, where slowing down but finishing is often preferable to a DNF. And I also find that dropping out of workouts when my breathing gets bad can create a mental issue - I get worried about potential breathing issues, get more tense, and start a bad cycle. Tension, worry, and asthma like to work together in a swirling feedback loop, and it's really important to keep that storm from forming]
So, I started Friday's tempo run with trepidation. It was warm and humid, and we were under a code orange air quality warning. Usually I struggle in these conditions and have to nurse my way through. But not on Friday. It was a wonderful feeling to be five laps into the 3200 and realize that my lungs were still open. It wasn't that I didn't notice the humidity - I definitely did. But my lungs felt great.
I haven't been that happy after a track workout in a long time.
Ditto for Saturday's easy run - in fairly hot and humid weather we ran a route that has a significant uphill climb for the first half. Usually when I'm having a bad breathing day, any significant uphill is a real challenge, even at a slow pace. But not on Saturday. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I was able to chat while running uphill, and how easy the run felt. (And also a bit disappointed by how much LESS easy the downhill return felt in comparison.)
One interesting thing - towards the end of Saturday's run I felt draggy and sluggish. I couldn't figure out why at first, since my breathing still felt fine. And then I realized it was from the heat and sunshine - by that point, it was nearly 80 degrees and I had no shade. I'm so used to any overheating issues being preceded by chest tightness that I couldn't recognize the first if it wasn't accompanied by the second.
So, I'm pretty excited. There's a been a few other benefits also. Tight sports bras are not as uncomfortable as they used to be. In the past, I've had to segregate my bra collection between easy day bras and workout bras - the latter have to be loose around the rib cage. No more. And in yoga class I can now hold the "om" at the end as long as my classmates, rather than always cutting out early. And yes, I know that the fact that I even think about this is amusing. But there you go....
So woo. Very happy.
The other news of the week (and next week), is that I'm racing a road mile on Monday. This is my first mile race in nearly 3 years, and given that I'm coming into it off of half-marathon training, I don't have especially high expectations. But it will be fun (in that strange runner way), and that's why we do this, right?
I'm not tapering very much for this race. While I did keep the overall mileage a bit lower this week, much of that was because I was pretty tired after last week's long run, and backed off to recover from that. The only tapering I've done specific for this race is to take Sunday pretty easy.
Why so little taper? Well, for one thing, this isn't a goal race, and I'd rather not cut the mileage too low, since I have a half-marathon next month. Also, I don't feel like I'm in fast mile shape, so I'm not sure I'd have any more leg speed if my legs were fresher. Plus, it seems that I'm recovering much faster now that I'm on the full time asthma meds (probably in part because I'm getting more oxygen each day), and so I'd like to see how I feel with less taper.