The Allergic Asthmatic Runner

Here we go again
I was just in this place on March 13 after having pushed the envelope a few days before and here I am again, back at Kaiser with the same stuff except it feels a bit worse this time. For allergy and asthma suffers the Atlanta metro is not friendly during the springtime. This year with a mild winter, even for the south, we started seeing pollen in February. For runners with allergies and asthma this time of year is especially brutal, physically with symptoms and mentally.   Our local parks and tree lined streets are meant to be seen and smelled and experienced in person, not viewed from inside an air-conditioned car or through the windows of your home. There’s nothing like running amidst all that color and lushness, but for this runner it is a no-no.

The schedule
For over a decade I followed the same schedule. From May to September and only on weekends I would run outside. I’m one who suffers from year-round indoor and outdoor allergies  During the fall its ragweed, winter mold, spring trees and summer grasses and pollution. During the last two years I maintained the weekends only schedule but extended the outdoor time to May through February which sent me from two allergy/asthma/sinus episodes a year to four.  During the spring and fall I ramp up the meds and fall back during summer and winter. Allergy shots are year round and have been for about 10 years.  This schedule doesn’t help me to avoid the doctor but it does keep me out of the hospital and allows me to enjoy the outdoors a large part of the year. 

How my running is affected
Since the schedule is built around my upper respiratory system, I do most of my mileage on the treadmill and the weekly long runs outside.  Many runners would be loathe follow this regimen and I understand it, trust me, I want to be outside but doing so is only asking for trouble.  Symptom wise, if it’s just allergy symptoms, I treat those and continue my treadmill running.  When I’m feeling the familiar elephant on the chest of asthma about to go wrong I don’t run at all, I go to the doctor and do what they tell me to do until my breathing is no longer labored.

Allergies and asthma have not precluded me from enjoying what I love, running.  Certainly some precautions are necessary, but taking those has allowed me to enjoy and appreciate running even more.

I’d like to hear from you.  Do you suffer from allergies and asthma? How do you manage them in order to keep running? Let me know by leaving a comment.

See you on the trail… in May.
photo via my camera, Suwanee Greenway via Georgia Pierce Park, Suwanee GA

Pensacola Double Bridge Run 5K, February 5, 2011

previously posted on the soon to be discontinued

I didn’t sleep much last night because frankly I was excited. This is my first race of the year, The Pensacola Double Bridge Run. First race outside of GA. First race over water.  A lot of firsts. I woke up with no alarm and wasn’t a bit tired.

Went outside to check the weather. Cool and windy, really cold because of he wind.  However I’m pretty well prepped with my $5 windbreaker and high tech long sleeve shirt on top, thermals and yoga pants on the bottom, bandanna, baseball cap, hood and scarf on my head.  I skipped gloves, knowing that at some point my hands would be sweaty and I would have to stuff them in my pockets later.

The race organizers provided bus transportation from the finish line to the start, which is GENIUS.  As a bonus, the buses were a two minute walk from my hotel door so there were no parking hassles or trying to figure out how to get anywhere, which is a relief when you’re somewhere you haven’t been before and may already have the jitters because of the race.  I boarded one of the buses and sat in front of two geared up Steelers fans.  We talked football, running (all of us were in the 5K and would not DARE try the 15) and made it to the start at Gulf Breeze High School for the hour wait.

That was a COLD hour, however conversing with all my other frozen comrades made it fun.  I spoke with a Marine brother (whose picture I didn’t take because the conversation was too funny to interrupt with photos). I told him they were a hearty bunch, there were only two who had on hats the rest of the men had low hair or no hair at all and they didn’t look cold at all. There were several female Marines as well, sans hats. I asked the brother whether the Marines do the race every year and he indicated that they do but this was his first one (he was in good shape too I noticed him sprinting to take photos when we we were climbing the bridge).  I also asked him if race participation was voluntary he said they were ”voluntold” I cracked up.  They represented well.  About a half hour later the Navy showed up.  They marched in and pretty much stuck to themselves.  

Then there was the POD crew.  A bunch of us huddled together inside of one of those PODS storage containers in order to keep warm.  Younger, older but overwhelmingly female we had a good time.  I met a group of ladies who were from all over Florida and Georgia.  One of them explained to me that they all decided to come and run and walk with her niece and they were all in good spirits.

Now for the race.

The “Double Bridge” portion only applies to the 15K runners. They cross both the Pensacola Bay Bridge and the Bob Sikes Bridge to get to the finish.  Us more fortunate, more whimpy or those with better sense 🙂 in the 5K cross only the Bob Sikes Bridge.  

For the 5K we enjoyed a gun start and no mad dash, the runners and walkers were orderly and many of them were wearing EAR BUDS. We took a few turns, on the streets then headed for the Bob Sikes Bridge to cross Santa Rosa Sound.  What looked like a monster by car was absolutely frightful on foot.  What’s funny is that I don’t remember even breathing that hard climbing the hill, nor do I recall any pain.  The cadence of the Marines and subsequently the Navy (who all passed me on the bridge) made me forget what I was doing.  Next thing you know we’re all on the other side of the bridge heading to the finish line.

One big hill, otherwise this course was not difficult. Overcast, cool weather certainly was a blessing that made the trek across the bridge much more manageable.  

Once I crossed the finish line I checked my time, a PR for a turtle like me so I was well pleased.  I didn’t hang around for the post race party, which I hear is lively.  I’d already had my party, right there on the race course, watching and listening and of course running.  

See you on the road!

P.S. EAR BUDS is capitalized because I don’t understand how anyone could run or walk in a race with them on.  I mean there’s so much to see and hear.  Ear buds on a treadmill — sure, treadmills are a run to nowhere, but ear buds in a race, boggles my mind.

#12 is in the Books

previously posted on the soon to be discontinued

On July 4, 2010 50,043 folks and I ran and walked down Peachtree to Piedmont Park in the 40thPeachtree Road Race in Atlanta, GA.  Always held on the 4th of July rain or shine, folks have been lacing up since 1970.  This year I completed my 12th and it was just as special as all others.

Puttin’ in Work

This year I got a little more serious about the training. I figured lighter equals faster so I worked on my diet and got started building up base miles a bit earlier.  I also made sure to stick to the regimen regardless of any distractions, outside/inside, physical and mental and trust me there were plenty.  I don’t follow any specific program or anything, just one that works best for me. Knowing that I’ll not be able to repeat any of my times from the mid 90s when I first started doing it, the goal was to finish faster than last year – that goal was attained.

The Details

Being in a late time group (slow runners, walkers and folks who didn’t turn in times from previous 10ks) my schedule is always the same, get down to Lenox about one hour before my time group gets to the start line, chill out, talk to the folks around me and start running when they say go. This year the weather was perfect. Having suffered through most of June with 90 degree heat daily and high humidity, this morning felt more like May, trust me I was THANKFUL.  The only glitch was GETTING to Lenox. You must have a BREEZE card to get on Marta (our rail system) all of the machines weren’t working at Doraville, the line was a MILE long and it took nearly an hour from arrival in the lot to boarding the train.  Back in the day, prior to the electronic set up, you got a token or placed exact change in the bucket and went right through the turnstiles.  That was a BREEZE – the BREEZE card, not so much. This card has been in use the last three years that I participated in the Peachtree Road Race but this year, was a hassle.

Once getting to Lenox, for the first time I believe EVER I had to go to the bathroom – the long wait without any sweating took its toll and let me tell you the Port-a-John’s were as nasty as ever but you have to do what you have to do.  Did I say that the weather was perfect?

Outside of the long Marta lines, the course was fine, the runners were fine, no one fell out that I know of, there was no ambulance activity.  The music was great, the crowds were there to cheer all of us on and give us the energy we need to get up the dreaded Cardiac Hill.  For the first time since 1996 I think I was able to run the entire course, no stops, no walking and it felt GOOD!

Why I do it

Because I have to.  There were four years since my first in 1995 that I didn’t run or walk it for various reasons, all of which in hindsight were lame. I say I have to do it because it gives me a reason to stay on track with my fitness goals.  I have to do it because training for it keeps me sane. Many a problem, many a bout of depression as well as many good days have been spent on the road or in the park or on the treadmill running.   Besides, the years that I didn’t run Peachtree I felt like something was missing on the 4th of July.

This originally appeared in my soon to be phased out blog

Going forward

As long as I’m upright and above ground, healthy and living in the metro, I’ll be waking up and running down Peachtree Street with all the other nut jobs, talking about long Marta lines, nasty Port-a-Johns and laughing at some of the silly costumes seen in route and of course copping the coveted Peachtree Tee.  I love it, wouldn’t trade it for the world and if you’re in the area, I invite you to join me next year for Peachtree 41, my 13th. Registration is in March.

Happy Running!

Macon Labor Day Road Race 10K, September 6, 2010

This post originally appeared in my soon to be phased out blog

In the interest of stretching out, doing something different but in a place that’s somewhat familiar, right after the Peachtree Road Race I signed up for the Macon Labor Day Road Race 10k.  I happen to like Macon, it’s easy to get around, laid back and I knew that the experience would be a good one and it didn’t let me down. I couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend the “unofficial end” of summer than to get up, get out and run with other like minded folks.

The weather was fantastic! In fact I left the hotel with a fleece on, it was that cool out. Parking was a snap and the race start was just a few blocks away at Run Fit Sports a great shop with lots of running and walking shoes, fitness gear and a sale in progress. It was also warm inside the store.  The scene at the start was typical, mile long port-a-john line, folks stretching, folks running to the start line (have never understood why anyone would use that energy) and the bleary eyed who might have been having second thoughts.  The 10 k start time was 8:15. Everyone was kind of talking and standing and the gun went off, no loudspeaker, no nothing and everybody took OFF…

and blew right by me!

Which is fine, I’m a tortoise not a hare and we weren’t a mile in, maybe a half mile before we hit a huge hill that runs alongside the designated parking for the race.  After that first hill the course was really fantastic.  Flat for the most part, and fairly shaded, we ran down Forsyth past residential and business areas.  There were no cheering throngs along the route but there were a few folks scattered about to cheer us on and it was much appreciated.  The water stations were well stocked and for some DUMB reason I took some water, which I NEVER do but my mouth was dry.  I would have been better off swishin’ and spittin’ than drinking because it gave me a fit for the next mile. Then I was alright.

Right after the 4th mile was another hill, not as long or steep as the first and the buildings provided great shade so it wasn’t bad at all.  At that point the 5k and other 10k finishers were walking back each shouting the familiar refrain “you’re almost there”, I laughed every time I heard it because at the 2nd hill there was still two miles to go.  Yet it went by quickly, we took a couple of turns through downtown Macon, near the Sports and Music Halls of Fame and Tubman Museum and I crossed the finished line in Central City Park.

Would I do it again?

Absofreakinglutely!  The course is great, its scenic, the runners and walkers are friendly and the race size of 2000 is just right.  Park finishes are always good for me, as parks are my very favorite thing.  Though I’d like to see more to drink at the finish, the race in its entirety gets a big “thumbs up”. Macon Tracks Running Club, the race sponsors, Macon Police and EMA run a well oiled machine of a race and they send you back to the parking areas via the comfort of air conditioned motor coaches (buses) instead of being packed in light sardines rubbing up on everybody’s sweaty bodies. That is a classy touch and the race shirts are spectacular women’s or men’s fit shirts in technical fabric, the best shirt I’ve ever received from a race. I highly recommend the Macon Labor Day Road race to anyone who loves hitting the road, by foot of course.

See additional photos of my race experience here.

Lived to Tell about #13

This originally appeared on my soon to be phased out blog
On July 4, 2011 the 41st running of the Peachtree Road Race had the the largest field of runners/walkers/crazies collected in one place at 60,000 registered and 55,090 finishing.  This one was unlike any of the previous 12 I’d participated in, but they never are.

Pre-Race – it’s all mental

All the training was done.  I was set to take about 2 minutes off last year’s time.  Did the whole hydration thing on Sunday to the point of floating away, simple meals with vegetables, protein and carbs and adequate rest.  I was ready as far as my body was concerned.  My mental state not so much… Disgusted, disappointed, depressed and dismayed YEAH all the D words but what the hey, it wouldn’t be life if stuff didn’t go wrong, but I digress.  When I woke up race morning I was fairly skittish.  The temperature but more so the humidity this year was not going to be in our favor.  In some of the hot races past, I’ve seen people pass out on the course, toss their cookies and though I didn’t see it, I was on the course a few years back when an otherwise healthy man had a a heart attack and died.  So by the time I hit the car I was in full froth, lathered up with anxiety.  In fact I almost turned around at Jimmy Carter Blvd because my stomach was really acting in lieu of the turnaround I put on My Favorite Things (John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner et al) and proceeded to Doraville station.  I’m a wily veteran, I did some heat training.  No PRs (personal records) today, I would slow it down, complete the race and get my shirt.
The Sights
There’s plenty of visual stimulation at Peachtree.  At Doraville station, the end/beginning of the Northeast line, it was the usual mayhem.  Long lines queued up to get Breeze cards, police directing traffic, folks running late and using all their energy to run for the train or back to the car for forgotten items, families prepping, people telling war stories of Peachtrees past, and the train conductor who always sounds bored to tears to be working on the holiday.  Upon arrival at Lenox station and heading to the start waves it gets even better.
There are costumes, flags waving, plenty of silly head gear and something that I’ve never really paid much attention too but did this year, folks looking for race numbers.  I stopped and talked to one guy, who had a number but whose buddy, a member of the armed services wanted to run with him but didn’t have a number so he was hustling to get one for his friend, which was really cool.  I suspect that he got one as well because some of the other folks I saw hustling for numbers ended up on the course with one.
The Sounds
There’s a number of radio stations, live bands and people along the route who cheer all of us on.  It’s fantastic.  I’ve been in the very back before with an 8:50 start and they cheer and play just as hard for the whole 50-60k people.  This year’s musical selections included Temperature (Sean Paul), Power in the Blood (of Jesus), Jungle Boogie (Kool and the Gang) and all other manner of genres of music as well as bongos, congas and such.  I had a chance to talk to a lady while queued up for the start who also had been running Peachtree for some years and she shared that all though she’s done this numerous times, she still gets nervous this year she even felt sick at one point we laughed together and at each other for the silliness.
The Race

There’s no way to get around it, the race was an absolute BEAST this year. 75 degrees and 78% humidity dashed all hopes of making my time so I took it easy.  By mile 3 (where you climb to Justin’s restaurant and Piedmont Hospital) I was on pace to hit my time, I was feeling good.  By mile 4 I’d slowed considerably and considered walking because something just was not right.  Even though I had run through all the sprays (including the holy water) I just couldn’t get right.  Then that silly thing called EGO kicked in and said hello…. you can run 7 miles, what’s 6.2?  What’s your problem? Finish running this thing and get that shirt.  4 to 5 was a struggle. Miles 5 to 6 were a bit better but I just didn’t have the juices going to push me in the last .2 between the photographers and the finish line, I made it though.  

Post Race

I was supposed to meet up with some of the Shed fam to take pics after the race and had a little time to kill.  I proceeded to pick up the coveted shirt, took some pictures and then it hit me, my HEAD was SPINNING.  I said ok, I just need some Powerade, maybe the blood sugar is low or something.  So I headed all the way back to the street to get the Powerade and started to head back to get one of those finisher photos.  On my way, and after drinking some of the Powerade I felt worse.  Turned right back around and went straight to the medical tent, which was next to the Powerade.  I have NEVER been to the tent, EVER!!!!  They checked my blood sugar, normal, blood pressure fantastic.  It was a little bit of heat exhaustion,  which made sense because at a certain point before I headed back to the medical tent, I couldn’t hear anything anymore, and I was a bit disoriented.  The folks in the medical tent were the BOMB.COM.  They got me cooled down with multiple applications of icy towels and regular Powerade (not the 0 cal stuff I was drinking) and eased my nerves.  Once I was sufficiently cooled and advised to keep drinking I was released and headed home.  Unfortunatley I didn’t get to meet up with the gang, but they were real cool and tried to locate me at the tent (thanks, Alicia, Shauna, Jeff, Dominique).

Thoughts on #13

Well it HAD to happen, I mean 13 is supposed to be an unlucky number.  I did all I could to make it go wrong in the beginning but it didn’t happen, it never really did.  Heat exhaustion doesn’t qualify as a “go wrong” and 13 really didn’t prove really unlucky at all in fact I was fortunate and blessed.  First I ran the entire course, finished and got the shirt. Second, the Creator gave me the good sense to know that there was a problem and as such sent me to the tent to help me avoid ending up face first in the grass.  Third, they have a bang up group of volunteers in the medical tent who get you back on your feet to make the sojourn home and fourth I got some great friends who had my back and undoubtedly would have found me had I remained in the tent.

So #13 is a wrap, it wasn’t the best ever but it was an experience and at the end of the day, it is all about the experience, whether good, bad or in between.  You can believe that if I’m on this earth in 2012, I’ll be headed down Peachtree street again with 59,999 of my closest friends.

For more pics of the race, please go to

Camp Creek Greenway, Lilburn GA

I was out riding around looking for something compelling to take a picture of on that Sunday afternoon and ended up near a park that I’d been by before but had ruled out as there was no trail.  Making a u-turn to go back the other way, I came across a sign for a Greenway. My heart started beating fast, because this one, if it was real, was close to where I live.  I couldn’t figure out how to get to it and on the second access attempt, landed somewhere on this mysterious trail. Turns out I’d just located the Camp Creek Greenway.

Camp Creek Greenway runs along Camp Creek through the city of Lilburn Georgia.  A gentleman on the trail informed me that parking for the trail was at Lilburn City Park where I’ve been on numerous occasions, not knowing that a sizeable trail ran right through it.  Where I landed was basically on the short forked end of the trail, where Greenway and Spur Trails meet.  I decided that the next weekend I would come back and check it out.  Last Sunday I parked across from City Park and walked what I’ll call the main/long trail.  Regulars along the route indicated that from the start and back was about 2.6 miles and it was absolutely 2.6 miles of loveliness.  I still wasn’t satisfied because I had not seen all of the trail at once, plus I had yet to run it.
Now for the WHOLE trail (running).

I made it back on Saturday the 10th. The morning was cold, frosty even, but clear with little wind. I started in the City Park parking lot headed towards the fork and bore right on Spur Trail which has a nice boardwalk and a pretty decent incline to Killian Hill Road.  Running back to the fork and then onto Greenway Trail I crossed a short boardwalk that had a bit of ice (the folks on the trail are really friendly and a lady warned me of the ice before my approach). I ran through this trail which ends at Poplar street and turned back.  Running through the park, across Main St onto the main/long portion of the trail, I crossed several short wooden bridges and a longer boardwalk, with bits of ice.  The trail ended at Rockbridge Road.  Turning back and completing the run in the parking marked roughly 4.4 miles.
Lilburn’s Camp Creek Greenway is really a gift for the area.  Some folks may not like the out and back routes to get mileage in, but for me, it’s worth it for the scenery, which is absolutely beautiful and because it is relatively flat and fast.  The few caveats are: ice on bridges and boardwalks; mud on the main trail (about a 4 ft section of it) after major rain and; finally for allergy sufferers, this trail should probably be avoided during peak allergy season in late March and April.  There are signs that indicate that pollination is encouraged and no grass cutting or insecticides are allowed in certain areas.  Still I highly recommend it for those that beautiful scenery, friendly people and a fast route.
See you on the trail.

Photos by Michelle A. Thorns. View the full set here.