On a hard interval session last week I had such a scare and I am truly happy that I wasn’t alone when it happened.
It was snowing heavily up in the national ski arena of Holmenkollen, but the weather can’t stop us outdoors athletes so Eirik and I went up for me get the session in. To be honest it was a bit chaotic even though there weren’t a lot of people there, but some of the people who did ski there did not know the oh-so-obvious rule of keeping right (there is even a sign), keeping your dog on a leash and so on (the Holmenkollen arena is really not the place to walk your dog or ski with your dog, if you ask me, but let’s not go there. For the record: I love dogs!).
Skiing fast into the so-called Hellner-hill, I cut down into the turn to gain speed and just around the corner a woman was skiing with her dog. The dog was on a leash, but the leash almost crossed the track. I now had two choices: fall or crash with said woman. I chose falling, but in hindsight I should have crashed just a little bit with her to teach her a lesson and also to tell her that this is like driving your car in the wrong lane. NOBODY skis in that direction! Ah, that felt good! We can now move on…
Falling makes you stiffen a little ut out of the shear stress of falling, but I quickly got up and continued my interval in the heavy conditions. So fas so good, and despite the conditions it felt surprisingly easy and my coach let me know that the skiing was “not bad” and “quite good”. Things went according to plan until the last intervall, where I caught on my pole own ski in the loose snow, and fell again! Such a stupid mistake, but it happens sometimes. Once again i jumped up and sped along as fast as I could. It was after all the last intervall. Then the first weird thing happened: In the last hill my legs stiffened completely! It was not the normal acidic feeling you get from training hard, but just no response. Like the neural signals just didn’t get through at all. Eirik was standing in the middle of the hill and yelled that I had to pick up the movement frequency, and usually I manage to do this, but this time there was no answer form my body. I fought to get to the top of the hill to finish off the interval.
I can’t breathe!
When I stopped the second, and this time scary, thing happened: I was breathing hard like you are supposed to do, and usually you breathe hard for the next 30-60 seconds after ending a tough session. Now, my breathing frequency increased and increased! What was happening?! Then I couldn’t inhale properly and the back wall of my throat felt like it was pushing forward and constricting my airways. There was a whining sound to my inhaling and my racing suit felt so tight around my neck. “I can’t breathe!”, I managed to get out when Eirik got to me, where I was hanging over my poles on top of the hill. “Just open your mouth and breathe slow”, he said, but I couldn’t, because then it felt like I couldn’t get enough air in. For all that I was worth I tried to relax my the muscles of my throat, while I was desperate for air.
It felt like it lasted for ages, although I’m sure it didn’t, and when the seizure-like felling finally ceased, I felt weird, like in a bubble. My throat and lungs felt weird. “Aren’t you happy that you don’t have asthma?”, Eirik said with a small smile. I was, and still am, so so so happy that this is not something I experience on a regular basis. It could happen again of course, but until then I have no fear. The combination of the cold, extra humid Holmenkollen-air, heavy conditions and the stress of falling probably triggered a broncho constriction. To be clear, this doesn’t mean that I have asthma, but the symptoms were not unlike the ones you get from asthmatic seizures.
My scary experience gave me a wake-up call on how incredibly lucky I am to be free of health problems! Many athletes, and also XC-skiers, struggle with airway problems induced by years of training in humid and cold, or dry and extremely cold weather. The recent debacle about asthma-medications in the XC-ski world has led to fear in several athletes. Fear of using the perscribed medication that they need for normal function. If I was getting such airway problems on a regular basis, like the experience I just described, I would for sure need some type of medications in order to lead the active life that I want.
It took hours before my airways felt normal again and with this vivid memory, I will never stigmatize anyone who uses perscribed asthma medications or a nebulizer with or without medication in it. Last year I wrote an article about training in the cold and the possible risks of it, so if you want to know more on the topic of broncho constriction and so on: Holler at me!
In other news: This blog didn’t die either! I am currently working full-speed on AFPT study material updates, while training clients and my self and moving apartment. I currently feel like some kind of superwoman!
Have a great week!