No better, no worse

Tuesday morning we took a dolphin cruise, then I spent most of the afternoon reading on my Kindle by the pool. You know, resting the knee.

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Later in the evening, I decided to try a short run to see if there’s been any improvement. But I didn’t want to retrace my steps from Monday’s walk, so instead I went the other direction along the seawall.

After about half a mile, I ran out of seawall. Literally, there was a barricade, and past it, the wall just stopped. The beach widened and without a protective barrier, the buildings sat further back from the water. But there’s a path that winds down to the sand, so I followed it and ran along the beach for another mile or so.

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I ran most of the way back to the hotel, except when I had to pick my way across the seaweed and the encroaching tide. Once, my shoes sank into the sand a little deeper than I expected, but I jumped back in time to avoid a gloopy shoe disaster.

In the end, I ran 3.1 miles. The knee isn’t really any better, but it’s not worse. However, I’m no longer sure it’s the IT Band. I mean, I think that’s what bothered me at first, but the pain alongside the outside of my knee has dissipated. Now it’s sort of behind the kneecap? That worries me because I had surgery on this knee about 14 years ago to clean up some cracked cartilage. I hope THAT problem isn’t rearing its ugly head again. It doesn’t feel like the same injury, but at this point I really have no idea.

I hope if I stick to short distances (and walk if I need to) over the next few days, I’ll be ok. Then when I get home I’ll see my sports doctor for real treatment.

Walkabout: Galveston Island

I’m not good at taking it easy.

My knee has been bothering me, so Sunday night I took it easy by running only two miles.

Monday we went to Moody Gardens.

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We started in the aquarium pyramid and learned that many of the animals who live here were rescued–one of the seals is blind, and another is missing an eye. A sea turtle’s back legs were paralyzed. Then in the rainforest pyramid, we saw a sloth climbing a tree veeeeerrrrryyyyy slllloooowwwwwlllllyyyyy.

After lunch, we took a ride on Colonel, a paddle wheel boat. It paddled around the bayou for an hour–very relaxing.

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We were at Moody Gardens for about four hours–Dad thinks we walked a couple of miles through exhibits and around the property itself. So when we got back to the hotel, I decided I’d spend the afternoon at the pool.

After dinner, I decided I needed to move. My knee had not really bothered me all day, but still I thought maybe I should take it easy on the running. Especially after we ran across the street and the pain came back! But I felt guilty because I really intended to run every day this week. So what did taking it easy look like?

I walked 7.2 miles.

I started at our hotel and headed north along the seawall. The breeze kept me cool, and at times the tide was low enough that I could walk on the sand. But much of the beach is rocky here–big chunks of granite fill the space between the water and the seawall, presumably as added protection from future storm surges.

The island has bounced back from Hurricane Ike, but occasionally I noticed empty lots or abandoned structures. The Reef apparently used to be a resort of some kind, but except for the sign, it’s just gone.

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The further I walked, the more crowded the beach became. I reached a statue that memorializes those who died in the hurricane, and past that, Fort Crockett, a former military garrison.

On my way back, I stopped at Rita’s for ice custard happiness. Half key lime and half lemonade hit the spot.

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By the time I returned to our hotel, it was completely dark. Dad was thisclose to sending out a search party–walking 7.2 miles took me more than two hours. Not a pace I wish to run, but comfortable under the circumstances. For the last few days I have been doing stretching and strengthening exercises to rehab my leg, and I hope I can return to running in time to explore more of this beautiful island. If not, well, walking will do for now.

Hardheaded

Earlier in the week, B bashed his forehead on the corner of a filing cabinet. It wasn’t a gash that required stitches–it looked like more of a puncture surrounded by a quarter-sized goose egg. But foreheads bleed a lot, so it looked worse than it was. He was kind of freaked out, particularly because he goes to camp in a few days, but I told him that if I were worried, I’d have already taken him to the doctor. Like I did when he sliced open his thumb (which required seven stitches and a tetanus shot) or when he fell and got a concussion (which earned him a CT scan and a limitation on activity). He didn’t have a headache or any other complaints, so I told him he’s lucky he has a hard head.

Like his mom.

This morning I got up to run with Rogue, and since it was “bring a friend” day, I dragged B out of bed and got him to run with me. We’re doing an informal half-marathon in a few weeks and I thought perhaps he should run a few miles between now and then. So we met up with my running buddies and took off for our 90-minute run. It was a beautiful morning–70 degrees! In July!–so I  had high hopes for an enjoyable six or seven miles. Alas, right from the start I had my doubts. See, about two weeks ago, my IT band started bothering me, right where it meets the knee.

But I iced it, taped it, foam rolled the hell out of it, and rested it. I thought I’d rehabbed it successfully, since it didn’t bother me at all during last weekend’s 10K or any of my runs this week. This morning, though, right off the bat my left knee felt tight and painful. I kept going, crossing my fingers that it would loosen up and I could get through my 90-minute run. But it didn’t. B and I ran the first 45 minutes–he regaled me with tales of Minecraft and I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. But after we turned around, I had to take some walk breaks. I ran the last mile back, then took some Vitamin I(buprofen) and sat down with the foam roller. My knee felt better after that, but now I’m at home with an ice pack on it.

I feel kind of cheated. We don’t get 70-degree mornings in July very often, and everyone around me exclaimed how much they enjoyed their runs. Me? Even when I was running it was hardly faster than some people’s walking pace. I had to grit my teeth to get through it. I’m grateful for B and my running buddies who helped me along the way, but wow it hurt. And it puts my run-every-day-in-Galveston goal in jeopardy, too.

So that brings me to the question: Is this a way to be tough and power through the pain! situation, or a you’re a hardheaded, stubborn dumbass for continuing the run when something is clearly wrong one? B says it’s both. ;)

 

Have you continued to run through pain? Was it a wise choice?

Any suggestions for alleviating IT band pain?

 

On the road again

This has been a whirlwind summer.

After school got out, we had a week to relax, then all three of us took off for Florida. Following about two weeks of recovery time (although we spent a few days at the lake) B and I traveled to Virginia for a long weekend We’ve been back a couple of days, but guess what? On Sunday we head out yet again. This time, our destination is Galveston. Much like last summer, B is attending camp so my dad and I are going to drive him down there, then hang out for the week.

Despite my ambitious summer Rogue training (hellooooo Hill of Doom), I have been feeling clunky and slow the last few weeks. I know that the Texas heat is taking its toll, but let’s be honest: despite the fact that I’ve gone running during all of my travels, I’ve offset those runs with restaurant food, decadence, and a lot of ass-sitting. This past Monday alone, I spent 5.5 hours trapped at National Airport while Southwest Airlines tried to figure out how to get us home. Dinner was Diet Coke and popcorn.

Left: our original plane, on which they discovered wing damage after everyone boarded. Right: the new plane brought in from BWI four hours and one thunderstorm later.

So I’ve decided that while I’m in Galveston, I’m going to run every day. I’m missing my Rogue training, so I’ll focus on re-creating the workouts as best I can on my own. Fortunately, our hotel sits across the street from Galveston’s well-maintained concrete seawall that stretches about ten miles from one end of the island to the other. So I’m packing my running gear.

Beach running is iffy but the seawall is nice, albeit concrete.

Beach running is iffy but the seawall is nice.

The last two summers, we’ve driven the 3+ hours to Galveston for the Sand Crab 5K, a great beach race. This year, the race is scheduled for a weekend in which we have other obligations, so we won’t be able to make it. I’m disappointed because I really like this race. But instead of a race weekend in September, I get a whole week here now, and I’m going to take advantage of it by running every day.

Then I can sit by the hotel pool or on the beach with my Kindle guilt-free.

Achilles Heel 10K

Thursday morning, after mechanical and presidential delays, B and I flew to Washington, D.C., reuniting with J and K. We spent Friday at the Air and Space museum–it’s a space shuttle summer–and on Saturday our little caravan drove down to Colonial Beach for J’s triathlon.

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We spent most of the afternoon at the beach, exhausting the kids and working up an appetite for soft serve ice cream. Mandatory at the beach, yes?

After dinner, K presented J with the first of several surprises we’d concocted over the last few weeks: a lime green technical shirt for what we’d dubbed the Achilles Heel 10K, since we’d be running the 10K portion of the triathlon together. On the back, we’d put a nickname she’d been given after an earlier race had typo’d her name on her race bib. She immediately declared she would wear it for the next day’s race.

Race morning, I woke up early–the east coast sunrise dawns earlier than it does at home–and took my kindle out on the porch to read and watch the swim portion of the race.

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From the front porch

The plan was for us to wait outside J’s house–the run course passed by about a half-mile into the race–and jump in as she approached. Which led to surprise #2: we wore lime green Achilles Heel 10K shirts too (including our friend P, who had joined us from New Jersey), but instead of our names on the back, ours announced us as J’s Goon Squad.

While we waited, we stood with J’s husband in front of the house. He started out watering the plants, but switched to directing the garden hose toward the runners instead. Most accepted gratefully, saying, “Hit me, man!” and “You’re awesome!” Even the ones who declined thanked him for being out there. But a few runners answered the offer of water with funny alternative requests:

  • coffee
  • vodka
  • golf cart

One runner asked that he not spray his shoes, just “where there’s blood.” He said he’d just tripped and fallen and was grateful for the chance to rinse off.

And then J’s lime green shirt appeared down the street, and it was go time.

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Go time

The route followed the road, the Potomac on the left, cute beach houses on the right. Cloud cover kept the temperature down as we made our way south down the peninsula.

Our shirts attracted a lot of attention as we ran. Runners and spectators alike cheered things like “Go team green!” and “Love the shirts!” One guy commented that we were the nicest looking goon squad ever.

Periodically we spotted osprey nests on platforms high up above the beach. It’s osprey baby time, so every hundred feet or so, we observed mom and dad osprey supervising their babies. They weren’t terribly thrilled with us, squawking and fussing as we passed.

As we turned north again, shade trees and a breeze helped us out. J’s Achilles’ tendon wasn’t super happy, so we weren’t setting any land speed records, but that didn’t matter to K and me. This wasn’t our race–our whole purpose was to get J across the finish line. A bigger problem was that she hadn’t eaten anything on the bike, so after we made the turnaround and passed through the shade, she started flagging a bit.

The route was scenic and flat, and even though the roads weren’t closed off, race support was really good. Water stops every mile, ice-cold towels at least twice each way, and a couple of residents with water hoses, cowbells, and cheers. But they couldn’t control the weather, and thus things got tougher when the clouds burned off and we started baking in the sun as we rounded the end of the peninsula and headed north toward to finish. But I wasn’t going to let her down–my job was moral support, and as long as she was running, I would be running. I was determined to see her to that finish line if it killed me.

Somewhere around 4.5 miles (for K and me, since we started from J’s house), J slowed, saying her stomach didn’t feel well. We walked most of the rest of the way, but as we turned toward the finish, she decided to run it in. Finish strong, indeed.

Which led to surprise #3: medals.

Last winter, when I visited D.C. with my honor society students, J and I went for an early-morning run we called the Asscrack of Dawn 5K. J secretly had medals made, which prompted K and me to do the same for the Achilles Heel 10K. Especially since some sleuthing revealed that this race apparently lacked finishers’ medals. The guy at the medal shop had looked at me like I came from Planet Zoltar, but he did what I asked. The morning of the race, I entrusted them to P, and after we took off for the run, she headed out the other direction. After J crossed the finish line successfully, the four of us met up for a special medal presentation.

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I know we mixed our mythology, with Hermes’ winged shoes to represent the Achilles Heel, but whatever.

J was feeling pretty horrid, but she laughed at this last touch. Then she went to sit down. K got her another water bottle and I found her a granola bar. As we sat on a wall, a guy asked us, perhaps a tad hopefully, where we got the medals. I explained that we’d had them made, and he was disappointed. Or perplexed by us. Not sure which.

J started to feel better, and we retrieved her stuff from transition, walking her bike the half-mile home.

In the end, all of our plans came together perfectly. The only snag was J’s suffering at the end of the race, but I’m proud of her for powering through. I’m so lucky to have these friends and these experiences. Fortunately, the three of us get to do it again for the Army Ten-Miler in October!

Here’s to us

We’ve only run one race together, the three of us–and even then, we weren’t really together–but the 2013 Cleveland Half Marathon weekend was so much fun, J, K, and I have been plotting to meet up for another race ever since. Officially, that will be this fall’s Army Ten-Miler, but the stars aligned this coming weekend as well, and the three of us are getting together for an unofficial race.

It started when J put her name in the lottery for the Chesapeake Bay Swim. She’d completed that race in college but had mostly stuck to running since then. After her Achilles injury last year, though, she got back into swimming and decided to give it a shot. I promised to be waiting at the finish. Well, as luck would have it, she wasn’t picked for the lottery, so she turned her focus to completing the one-mile swim with a time that guaranteed entry to next year’s race. Thus her newfound love of swimming, combined with her wonky Achilles that squelched her distance running plans, led her to sign up for a summer triathlon in the little town where her family has a weekend house. Since I didn’t visit for the Bay Swim, I decided to come for the triathlon. Our kids are best of friends, and it seemed like as good of an excuse as any.

Fast forward to June, when K kicked around the idea of driving down from Ohio to cheer her on with me. Schedules worked out and things fell into place, reuniting the three of us from Cleveland. Once those plans were solidified, J had a request: since she’s still not running at her regular pace, would K and I run the 10K portion of the triathlon alongside her for moral support? The answer was a resounding Hell Yeah!

So later this week I’m packing my running shoes and B and I will head east. Another friend is joining us as well, so the head count stands at four adults and seven kids ranging in age from 3-11 years old. We’re coming by plane, train, and automobile. And it’s going to be EPIC.

Here’s to us–let’s give them hell.

(NSFW–language warning!)

Firecracker

My family traditionally spends July 4 at our small lake cabin in Middle-of-Nowhere, Texas. This year another family joined us for the weekend. B and his friend stayed busy fishing, rowing the little fishing boat, and tubing behind the bigger bass boat.

The lake community doesn’t put on a formal Independence Day fireworks show, but many residents spend what must be thousands of dollars to create amateur displays that rival many cities’ professional productions. Friday night, at least six different groups set off fireworks from the ends of their docks. We don’t have (literally) money to burn, so we just sat on our dock, enjoying the fireworks that came from all directions. We call it the redneck fireworks, and they were pretty impressive.

Saturday morning, we went out for a run around the lake. I needed to run for about 90 minutes and figured two laps should do it. It was only 66 degrees with a cool breeze when we started down the caliche road–absolutely unbelievable for July in Texas.

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The first half-mile, my muscles and my brain struggled to wake up. But we found a comfortable pace as we passed the cows. Over the bridge, up the hill, then the dirt road flattened as it followed the lake on the opposite side from our house. We followed the road to the dam, then turned down a short hill and into the shade for a half-mile or so. Along this road, we saw our first sign of civilization–a guy in a truck. He was kind enough to slow down so that the truck didn’t kick up caliche dust in our faces.

The last half-mile back to the house is the toughest stretch–there’s no shade, and the road curves in a way that makes you think you’re miles from anywhere. We saw a couple of bunnies and then a dead snake. But just past the curve, we ran up a short hill and the house appeared. We stopped for a water break, and man I wanted to be done! But I told my friend not to let me quit because I needed to run another lap.

Earlier she has said she hasn’t been running lately and thought the three-mile loop might be too much, but after the first one, she was determined to do it a second time. That helped me get moving again.

We ran the second loop at a slightly slower pace–it was no longer 66 degrees, we had cold water sloshing around in our stomachs, and we were a little tired. But we plodded along. A few more people were awake, fishing or tinkering with boats. At one point three different vehicles passed us–one of them was either oblivious or just rude, flying past us and blowing dust everywhere.

As we approached the house, my watch beeped: six miles. I suggested we make it a true 10K. So we (wistfully) passed the house and kept going down the residential road for another tenth of a mile, then turned back. Our 10K–her longest run ever–ended at the ice chest in front of our house. Ah, cold water!

After that run, I felt completely justified in spending the rest of my day like this:

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How was your weekend?

“The hard is what makes it great.” –Jimmy Dugan

Have  you noticed a recurring theme here?

For the last month, our training group has met twice a week for speed and strength workouts. Hill repeats, fartleks, tempo runs, you name it. We also have core class on Mondays and long runs on Saturdays. And I’ve never been so sore in all my life. I don’t know how many times I’ve repeated, “It hurts now, but it will pay off in the fall” to convince myself to keep going.

Last Saturday, we ran six miles in thick humidity. Even before we started, my legs felt sore from Tuesday’s hill workout and Thursday’s whatever-the-hell-that-was. Six miles on top of that, and I had the jelly legs.

Then came core class.

I’ve gone to core class pretty regularly since last summer. Some days are more challenging than others, but I’m pretty sure this week’s was the hardest. one. ever. Coach R had a deck of cards and a corresponding chart. Each number was assigned an exercise–burpees, squat jumps, mountain climbers, sit ups, tricep pushups, and an evil thing she called “get-ups” which was basically a reverse burpee, on your back instead of your stomach. So she’d draw a card to determine what we did, and looked at the suit to tell us how many.

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I hate you, Queen of Spades

If there’s something to be thankful for, it’s that we didn’t get through the whole deck of cards. But 20 burpees, get-ups, squat jumps… dear god I could barely push my car’s clutch to drive home. I usually don’t feel core-class-soreness until about Wednesday, but this week I hurt before I left the building.

Which brings us to last night’s workout. We were originally supposed to run 20 minutes of field fartleks at the high school (sigh of relief that it wasn’t the Hill of Doom again) but I think the field was locked or something, so we ran them on neighborhood streets instead. Which was fine with me–it’s a nice neighborhood with lots of shade.

We ran the mile-ish out to the starting point–my first few steps told me this was gonna be a tough one. My quads ached from the day before, and the route was not shady. Finally, mercifully, we ran out of road and slowed to walk the rocky, wooded path to the adjacent neighborhood. After a water break, I programmed my Garmin for one minute hard, one minute rest for the two-mile loop, and we set off.

It felt like we started off too fast. The minute of running seemed more and more difficult each time, and the rest interval couldn’t possibly be a full minute. Every time that damn Garmin beeped, we groaned, cursed, and wailed, “This is making me stronger, right??” After 20 minutes, we weren’t done with the loop yet, and we were tempted to take it easy the rest of the way back. But I just kept saying, “This will pay off in the fall” and visualized the finish line when I beat my goal time. Cheesy? Yes. But it got me through it. Besides, there were several training groups out here today, and I didn’t want to finish at a walk. We pushed ourselves to the end.

When I looked at my Garmin stats later, it showed that despite our pain (and the feeling that each “fast” interval got slower) we were remarkably consistent all the way through. And our last interval, when I kept yelling “finish strong!” was faster than the previous eight. But wow, it hurt. Pushing the clutch was no easier than it had been on Monday.

Today I have a date with my foam roller, but because I am a masochist dedicated, I will be back for more on Thursday. I’m going to miss a few workouts over the next two weeks due to some travel plans (although I will try to do them on my own), and I’m oddly disappointed by that. Yes, they’re hard, and it sucks so bad while I’m doing them. But if there’s one thing I learned from Jimmy Duganthere’s no crying in baseball the hard is what makes it great.

Life is pain. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.

This morning, we started out early–6:15–to beat the summer heat. What we got instead? Humidity. It was like a fireswamp out there. My breathing was better, but I felt slow and sluggish.

At least I saw no R.O.U.S.

As we slogged along for six slow miles and complained about  how uncomfortable we were, I thought about the races I’ve scheduled for the fall: two ten-milers and a half-marathon. I wondered what the hell I was thinking. I was miserable and slow. Then it rained–woohoo, 100% humidity!–and I felt temporarily cooler. But my quads hurt from the speed and hill workouts earlier this week. And my pace came nowhere near a respectable race pace. Distance too, for that matter! Fall races sounded completely impossible.

Every hill felt like the Cliffs of Insanity

I’ve been telling myself that this work in the heat will pay off when the weather cools down again. And I know it’s true from training through the two previous summers. But in the moment, when I can barely shuffle along, I have doubts. But then one of my friends commented, “We’re going to get slower before we get faster.” It was kind of a lightbulb moment. Yes, the whole summer we will plod out slow, hot, unpleasant, painful training runs. We will complain and sweat and probably become delirious.

Mostly dead, not all dead.

 

But you rush a miracle man and you get rotten miracles. So we will work hard, and eventually we will get faster.

Anything else would be inconceivable.

Wheezy

I’ve had minor respiratory problems my whole life–I was born five or six weeks early and as a baby I fought more than the typical episodes of bronchitis. The doctors said I was borderline asthmatic. Cold weather seemed to exacerbate it, so when I was three, my family moved to a warmer climate. I had few problems until I was in my late 20s, when I was officially diagnosed with asthma and given a raft of medications to get my breathing and wheezing under control.

Since then, I’ve had a few flare-ups, mostly in wintertime, but it’s been manageable with just an albuterol inhaler. It generally doesn’t get in the way of running, although I tend to have that wheezy cough the first few cold-weather runs (and those in temps below freezing) although there was that one March 5K in which I started coughing a quarter-mile in, and I struggled to breathe the rest of the way.

But I’ve been running for 3.5 years, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve had to use my inhaler in warm weather. Until this week.

Tuesday’s hill workout was tough, and several times I had trouble catching my breath. But it never progressed to the wheezy cough, and I just figured it was a combination of intense exercise and vacation re-entry. On Wednesday afternoon, though, I recognized that telltale tightness in my chest.

I don’t know how to describe it to someone who’s not asthmatic, but it’s kind of a … constricted feeling. My breath is shallower, and filling up my lungs is no longer involuntary. Imagine the focused effort it takes to blow up a balloon. I can feel each breath deep in my chest, but it’s like trying to breathe through a straw. Or one of those tiny coffee stirrers. I feel like I need to cough as if to dislodge whatever is blocking my airway. But I don’t want to give in to that feeling, because once I cough, there’s no going back. It becomes a wheezy, barking struggle to catch my breath.

But using my inhaler has its own perils. Well, not perils exactly, but it’s not a magical solution. Albuterol makes me jumpy at first, and once my breathing settles down, the headache kicks in. Albuterol hangover is definitely a thing. I try to put off using it as long as I can, to see if I can get it under control without using the medication. The prescribed dose is two puffs, but I’ll try just one first, hoping that’s sufficient. The second one is a last resort.

Unfortunately, Wednesday evening the cough won. I had to go last-resort, and the subsequent headache (on which Advil has no effect) rendered me useless. Needless to say, I missed my run and went to bed early.

Thursday I knew I’d have a speed workout so I took it easy during the day, trying to give my lungs a chance to recover a bit. But in the car on the way to training, that cough hit again. It wasn’t as bad as the day before, but it still required the inhaler. So I arrived kind of jittery and definitely not 100%.

The workout was a progression run. After a 1.5ish mile warmup around the park, we ran 15 minutes in which every five minutes we increased our pace by about a minute per mile. My data was based on the Chuy’s race from early May (when I ran my second-fastest 5K) so perhaps it was a bit ambitious under the circumstances.

On the first leg, the path was shady and my pace felt pretty comfortable. The only problem I encountered came when the path crossed a driveway and a motorcycle blew past me, ignoring the crosswalk. The second interval got more difficult. I found myself looking at my watch more frequently, which wasn’t much consolation because it’s not like I would get to rest at the end of that interval! The third segment I didn’t quite hit my target pace, but I did run faster than the previous one.

But my lungs hurt. I must have sounded like a wild animal, thundering along the path and gasping for breath.

Finally, mercifully, I finished. I walked a bit, let my breathing settle down, and jogged back to the starting point. Fortunately, I didn’t need the inhaler again, and somehow I managed to avoid the headache too.

I suppose it’s a good thing that my legs are sore after my Tuesday and Thursday workouts. I’ll take that over an albuterol hangover any day.

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