If the lungs don't cooperate, sometimes you have to give them a hand. But does that work? And is the performance still yours?

During my chemistry studies it was often the subject of conversation, the many cyclists who used epo to improve their performance and who fell completely from their throne when it came out. One of the professors of my studies thought we shouldn't worry about that. As Iron Man, he also used epo himself and claimed that it was still his own body that had to do everything, and that it also allowed you to eliminate a natural advantage of others. Epo should therefore legalize them, was the thought. That this extra turbo also made your body wear out faster (just like real turbo injection in car engines), made it a well-considered choice for the athlete. Those who know me, understand that I could never support that. Yes if legalized and well-considered, but can a young athlete make that choice? And would I make the choice myself?

Fast forward about 15 years and not epo – well on controlled – but salbutamol seems to have become the preferred doping. Among others, multiple tour winner Chris Froome is suspected of use. And both skaters and cyclists seem to have a lot of lung problems requiring this asthma remedy…

Anyone who remembers my previous complaints during the Hollands Duin Trailweekend, where the anxiety caused by hay fever and the aftermath of pneumonia limited me, will understand that I also belong to the target group. After the complaints got worse I was also prescribed salbutamol to calm the lungs. With the aim of continuing training, but also for everyday life (number of nights so cramped that sleeping became difficult).

And no, thinking objectively about it, like the pro said, wasn't really there. Not walking was just not an option for me.

Does it work?

Before using the puffer with housing, I felt like there was a giant on top of my chest all the time. Breathing in and out well was very heavy. That changes pretty fast. What you call a relief.

Intervals have become more and more difficult for me in recent times because the breath didn't really want to go with me. Using it a bit for the weekly training and it went a lot easier. It was just less tiring, I went a bit faster (also according to Strava less heavy, but that's not so reliable), but not noticeably different than during training in a less hay fever sensitive season.

The Saturday after the training there was a race on the program. The Stuwwaltrail in Oosterbeek. Two years ago I was supposed to do this run, but then it was cancelled because of the heat.

Not a panacea

Photo Epic Thief

‘Is that wise?’ someone asked me before the race after I told my story and pulled out the inhaler. A justified question. 21 km and 500 meters altitude over a sand hill and amidst flowering trees and grasses trying to strangle you doesn't sound like the best idea ever.

Here you can now follow a very long description of the beautiful trail with all the plants that irritated my lungs in detail, because it was certainly not a panacea. Ok, the first 7 km went great, but the tightness hindered me while walking anyway. And also the blood sugars didn't work at all: it wouldn't come back after a hypo. Three gels and a quarter of an hour further, there wasn't a peak via the Libre (this time stay put).

Photo Epic Thief

So it was a tough and slow trip. Completely your own fault, of course. But 2 hours and 45 minutes is really too long for this distance. And I was wrecked. Not that I'm really sorry, because it was a very nice course. Hopefully I can do a rematch next year under better conditions.

And what's next?

Salbutamol definitely helps me to keep training. Faster than in good health you really don't get it, which makes it better for my conscience to digest. Luckily because of the rain earlier this week I also need a little less help for my lungs. I prefer to walk free without having to think about medication beforehand.

To also take the hills better, more (strength) training is a much better option. To this end, I have now purchased a Me-Mover myself with the holiday allowance, so you will see it more often in the near future. Hopefully it will help me take up the challenge in La Roche at the end of July!