Failed Lately? Maybe it’s not what you think…another recap

My last two posts title “Failed Lately…” can be found here Failed Lately? Maybe you just needed the right stuff and here Failed Lately? Maybe something is wrong.

For the past two weeks I’ve been thinking about the diagnoses of pneumonia that I received after having a breathing-while-swimming problem on August 25th. The diagnoses didn’t make sense to me because it would mean that I’ve been sick all summer and my successful marathon training contradicts this.

I appreciated the doctor saying, “sometimes shit happens” and we don’t always know what it is. This particular pile of crap has helped to up my own personal fear level for this Sunday’s marathon. That was, until this morning, when I ran across an article that mentioned a sometimes deadly condition for triathletes that is described as fluid in the lungs. Technically it is Swimming Induced Pulmonary Edema.

Of course I then did a search of this term and found someone’s personal account that described my symptoms exactly.

I know that diagnosing oneself off the internet isn’t the wisest thing, but this makes so much more sense than pneumonia. I will send the articles to my doctor to get her opinion.

Meanwhile the good news is that I can approach Sunday’s Ventura Marathon without fear that the lingering effects of pneumonia will harm me.

The not so good news is that the thought of swimming again is a bit scary. But I now know the symptoms in my own body and can be better prepared.

I would love to hear from others who’ve experienced this.






Failed Lately? Maybe something is wrong.

I’ve had a busy summer and haven’t been doing a good job with this blog. Having some free time this morning I decided to finish up a post about the San Francisco Half Marathon which was July 31. Then I noted that my last post was about a scare that I had while swimming on July 5th.

It was then that I developed a problem breathing while out swimming in the cold waters of Ventura Harbor without a wetsuit. After subsequently buy a wetsuit I’ve had great swims all summer and swam a nice 1.2 miles on August 18th.

Before going out for a swim with a small group last Thursday someone asked, “how far?” I quickly responded, “1 mile!”

cautionIn my swimming I’ve developed a nice even every three stroke breathing pattern. This is what I did on Thursday. But about 10 minutes into the swim I had to switch to breathing every stroke. This was the first warning sign…one that I dismissed because I thought that maybe I had just gone out too fast.

Once that first lap was completed, I experienced the occasional cough while I was waiting for the other swimmers to complete their first lap. This was the second warning sign…one that I stupidly chose to ignore.

caution plusJust a little way into the next lap it was clear that I couldn’t swim, but I still was ignoring the truth. Once I made it to the turn around point I could no longer ignore that my lungs were just not working and I decided to swim to shore. A big mistake at this point was not letting anyone know the extent of my distress because as I swam to shore I found it more and more difficult to breathe.

At one point I was some paddle boarders and I contemplated calling for them to come and rescue me but I didn’t because that would have taken too much precious air. The only good thing is that I am a good swimmer and so I didn’t panic (much!) and finally turned on to my back and kicked my way to shore. Once on the beach I hit the sand and commenced coughing profusely. This was awful. A kind beachgoer gave me a bottle of water to drink.

While waiting for the others to finish (another swimmer had my car keys) I worked my way up to the parking lot, rinsed off my wetsuit and decided to go to urgent care.

Here’s another dumb thing…if you can’t breathe you probably shouldn’t be driving…thankfully I made it to the urgent care without hurting me or anyone else.

The office is on the second floor…I walked up the stairs and you would think that I’d just run a really fast 400 for how out of breath I was. Yikes! Once I made it in to the exam room, the nurse took my vitals and my blood pressure was an alarming (for me) 140/70. The doctor listened to me breathe and decided on a breathing treatment as well as a blood test to check for blood clots.

After the 20 minute breathing treatment (which was interrupted by my having to pee really bad…that bottle of water seemed to have gone right through me) I was still coughing a bit and my chest hurt. The doctor listened to me breath again and decided a chest x-ray was in order. So back downstairs for an x-ray. The walk back up the stairs was easier than the first time so that was a good sign (and yes they have an elevator but I’m a bit stubborn).

Back in the exam room I had to wait for a while and I was finally breathing well enough to relax. When the doctor came back in she said that I look better, I replied that I felt better…finally! Then she hit me with a big surprise, “you have pneumonia.”

That was a surprise! I asked, “How can I have pneumonia when I easily ran 20 miles on Monday?” To which she replied, “you ran 20 miles? All at once?”

Once they were assured that I don’t live alone (I guess in case I got worse), I was set up with some medicine and an appointment to return the next day for follow-up. That night I slept horribly and my husband reminded me the next morning of how the same breathing treatment (many years ago) amped up our (then) infant son for hours…so of course I didn’t sleep well.

On Friday I was breathing fine, but had a horrible headache. When I returned to the doctor’s office the nurse asked about the purpose of my visit and I replied, “apparently I have pneumonia.” To which she replied, “x-rays don’t lie.”

When I saw the doctor and told her that I have a marathon in 2 weeks she crossed her fingers and looked a bit dubious. Then she listened to me breathe and was surprised because my lungs were totally clear… and all my vital signs were good…heart rate of 48, oxygenation of 100%, and blood pressure was still a little high at 130/70 but she was fine with that.

Her advice was to take a couple days off training, run the marathon if I feel ok, and come back in a month for a follow-up x-ray. I asked if this was maybe exercised induced asthma but she said “no” because there is something on my lung x-ray. I asked about the other, more minor episode on July 5th and she said that we just don’t know…but that I am very fit… and finally concluded with, “sometimes shit happens.” I really like this doctor!

If you’ve managed to read this far on the very long post, I’ve had a major league headache for three days and so I decided yesterday morning to drop out of the race. However, my coach wisely suggested that I wait a few more days to decide.

Today, Monday (day 4) I finally woke up headache free…except for the lingering soreness that is the result of the headache!

It’s very possible that I’ve been fighting this infection all summer! Which means that I’m pretty bad-ass in the fitness department! Seriously though, this was a very scary thing to go through.

The moral of the story: stay fit and above all listen to your body because it really does try to tell you very important things.

Failed Lately? Maybe you just needed the right stuff

Mother’s Beach on a pretty and calm day

A few weeks ago I decided to join some members of my running club at their Tuesday afternoon swim. The location was a little beach very close to the entrance to Ventura Harbor. Here, you are protected from the ocean waves, but still have a bit of small swell and the occasional boat wake. Also, the water is cold. I don’t know the temperature, just that it is cold, and I didn’t have a wetsuit.

It being the middle of summer I thought, “I can try to swim without a wetsuit. Surely once I get warmed up I’ll be just fine.” So I went, and much to my surprise took no time at all getting into the water. It was cold!

The swim consists of laps around the line of buoys that designate the beach as a boat free swim area. Most of the group swam 3-4 laps around these buoys. I got halfway through the first lap and then experienced something new… I couldn’t get any air. I was breathing but feeling like nothing was coming in. Being the stubborn person that I am, I chose to finish the lap before heading to shore. It was difficult and consisted mostly of breast stroke and back stroke as I just didn’t have enough air for freestyle.

When I made it to shore I started to cough and cough and cough. “Maybe I inhaled some water?” I thought. After everyone else came to shore some of us had planned to follow the swim with a run. For me, 5 miles was the assigned distance for the day. So while continuing to cough I changed into my running clothes, while also thinking that if I had inhaled some water at least the heavy breathing of running would help me to get it out of my lungs.

Once I started running I again felt like I couldn’t get any air… and this was at an incredibly slow pace! So my 5 miles turned into 2 miles of run-cough-walk, run-cough-walk. In retrospect I don’t believe I inhaled any water. Instead my lungs were reacting to being cold. What a completely horrible experience that turned out to be! I think that many people would have vowed to never do that again.

The next day my chest was still sore (but better as the day progressed) and I had a 5k to run. I ran and at about the halfway point felt like I wasn’t getting air again. But I finished the race through force of will only.

So what is a logical next step after such a bad physical experience with open (and cold) water swimming? To try again of course! Two days later. This time I borrowed a wetsuit. It was kind of small and it was quite the workout to get it on and zipped, but I did it. My running coach told me to start by just floating and relaxing in the water for 5 minutes. I did this and then swam two laps around the buoys. It felt great.

I’m on the left in my new wetsuit. My daughter joined me and is wearing the wetsuit that I borrowed. A very nice club member gave it to me and I gave it to her as it was a little small for me.

It felt so great that the following Monday I splurged and bought my very own wetsuit. The first swim in this suit was 3 laps. Five days later I went 4 laps. Then the following Thursday was 5 laps. Then yesterday I pushed to 7. I’m hooked! Now if I can learn ride a bike (other than my beach cruiser) I’d be ready for a triathlon…HaHa one goal at a time and trying to qualify for Boston is it for now.

But I learned an important lesson. Sometimes when we fail or struggle with things it is not because we are not capable but rather that we don’t have the right equipment.So the next time you struggle, before giving up, think about whether you really have everything you need to succeed.