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Pulmonary Function Test and HAPE

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Part 1: Indian Summer and Buffalo Creek Ride

On Monday, Oct 22nd, the weather was gorgeous! I grabbed Little Cam and headed to Buffalo Creek. Buffalo Creek is listed as "Epic" by the International Mountain Bike Association. Here is a link to the IMBA site describing Buffalo Creek.


Buffalo Creek is hilly to say the least with a 2,000 feet elevation change. I started riding at the lowest point and started climbing. Here is the sign near the parking lot:

This great trail system is only a 15 minute drive from my house. I started at 5:30 PM and only had about an hour of daylight left. I figured I could easily get in 10 miles. I keep fiddling with the Little Cam's cockpit and tires.

I put the original stem and handlebars back in place. I also replaced the 2.1" wide WTB Velociraptors tires with 2.35" Kenda Tomac Nevegals Dual Compound tires.

The Kenda Nevegals have ramped center lugs and very tall side lugs. The side lugs are made of a soft "sticky" compound. The tires can also be run at 20 psi for improved traction. The mountain bike rags rave about the Nevegals.

My opinion is that the Velociraptors are more responsive and better looking. The Kendas roll better/faster and hold better in loose conditions. I am pleased with the Kendas.

Part 2: High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)

Little Cam and I started climbing. The grade was between 20% and 25%. My Garmin indicated we were cruising along at about 8 mph with a few bursts on flatter sections of 16 mph. The Kenda tires were just great! Going back to the shorter stem and riser handlebars made hopping over obstacles easier. But I really had to lead forward because the front tire would get too light on a steep ascent.

After a 5 mile climb it was time to bomb the descent! I stopped at the top of the trail to take a drink from my water bottle. Then it hit me! I started coughing up white frothy stuff! I have had this condition before but never at 9,000 feet. Last time I got High Altitude Pulmonary Edema I was running at 12,500 feet a few years ago.

This coughing hurts. Without enough oxygen, part of the lungs shut down. This is called a pulmonary shunt. Due to lack of blood circulation, the alveoli starts to fill with fluid. This is a bad thing.

I got off my bike and rested for a while. I took a photo of Little Cam waiting patiently for me to get back on.

It was starting to get a little dark when I snapped this photo. A rapid climb and heavy physical exertion can trigger HAPE. But this is a new one at such a low elevation.. I am thinking that asthma has something to do with this.

After I caught my breath, Little Cam and I started back down. The descent was exhilarating! There were a few technical sections that Little Cam just crushed! At a little over 30 mph on a pretty sharp curve the back tire broke traction and skidded out. I cranked Little Cam into a steeper lean. The rear tire bit into the gravel and we flew around the curve. Little Cam is a real confidence builder!

By the time I got to the car I felt fine. The upgrades I made on Little Cam have paid off handsomely. The bike is amazing.

Part 3: Pulmonary Function Test

At 8:00 AM on Wednesday I had to be at National Jewish Pulmonary Center for a Pulmonary Function Test. I couldn't have any inhaled medicine for 24 hours. prior to my test. They stuck me in a big plastic box.

This torture chamber is called a pulmonary plethysmograph. There is a speaker in the box so the technician can talk to me.

First they did some normal breathing tests. I had to put this thing in my month that look like a snorkel mouthpiece. I also had to put this thing on my nose to pinch my nostrils shut. The technician guy would say something like, "breathe normally...inhale...blow out as fast as you can! Keep going .. keep going ..5 more seconds, keep going........done! By this time I am blue! This is not too bad and is called a spirometry test. After I did this test about eight times it got a little old.

The fun started.

The jolly technician say, "Now we are going to see how strong your lungs are. Just breath normally into the tube." I start to breath and I sound like Darth Vader. "Ok, breath all the way out. Keep going...keep going.... 5 more minutes....keep going..." I now have no air in my lungs. Then the tech says. "Keep you mouth on the tube......INHALE AS HARD AS YOU CAN! I suck on the tube and there is no air. The tech had closed some valve, "Keep sucking...keep sucking!" The stupid rubber tube is starting to collapse. My eyeballs are being sucked into my brain! This really hurts! About the time I nearly pass out, some valve pops open and air rushes into my abused lungs! "Ahhhhhh". The evil tech says, "Ok, let's do that again!" I am sarcastic, "Ok, its your turn now!"

I have to go through the oxygen deprivation drill three times. Each time I do this "no air" inhalation test I am sure my lungs are going implode! I feel like I have been kicked in the chest by a mule.

Then I have to do just the opposite drill. The tech tells me to breath normally into the tube. Then he says, "Inhale ..... hold it ... now blow!" The stupid valve is shut and I cannot exhale! My eyeballs bulge out and veins pop out on my head. My abused lugs are ready to explode. Finally the stupid valve opens and my lungs empty. I do this same test over and over.

Then I get out of the chamber for the next test. I have to breathe out of a gas bottle and hold my breath. This test is to test how well my lungs absorb oxygen. The tech tells me, "Breathe in and hold your breath ... hold ...hold....." I guess holding my breath would be fine if this bottle contained oxygen! FInally after an eternity, the tech says, "empty your lungs".

Then they put me on a nebulizer. After I was done with the nebulizer, they started the whole testing process again.

Part 4: Results, Sort-of

Oh goody, I have two more rounds of testing to go through before I meet with the doctor again. But I asked the tech, "How did I do?" He said, "Your lung capacity is 160% of normal for a man of your height." He continued, "Your oxygen absorption is 120% of normal. Your lung strength index is 251." I ask, "What is normal?" He says, "mumble, mumble 59". I didn't hear him very well. So I ask "So I am 8 points below normal?" He says, "No, you are 400% of normal. This is one of the highest I have ever seen."

I am skeptical, "Ok, great! Do you see anything that is wrong." He says, "I am not a doctor. But you have a low initial rate of emptying and filling your lungs. You have obstructed breathing." He grabs a printout. He points to the spirometry results, "This line should be steeper. This profile is typical of asthma."


I got two more terrible tests to go. I suppose I can ride my bike slower and do run/walk instead of run/run.


Thanks for reading my blog.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • MPLANE37
    I would have freaked out if I were you at the top of the hill.

    Taking a curve at 30mph? I would say it is a bit too fast.

    If it is only asthma, you are still OK in my opinion, because it is manageable.
    2361 days ago
  • no profile photo DOUGLYE
    Wow. Glad you endured the rigours of that test. Sounds worse than the bike ride. We have plenty of little hills around here, but if I climb 2000 feet from our home, I'll still only be at . . . 2000 feet ;-) Sounds like an awesome ride.
    2365 days ago
    Congratulations on a great ride. I had some pulmonary function tests done about 10 years ago and they are hard to do, like you described! Hope they can help you find out what will improve the issues so that you don't have to change your riding and running plans.
    2366 days ago
    That's some spooky stuff, Bruce. Sounds like something you need to keep a handle on. Little Cam looks sweet, but then, so can Stewie.... emoticon
    2367 days ago
    Soooo......(remember I have asthma and work in a pulmonary doctor's office) did you take an inhaler before your ride??????? Bummer about the asthma but great news about the lung function. :) Unless it's hyperinflation and that's not really that good....anyway - hope the breathing gets better!
    2367 days ago
    Given your description of your ride, you do a great job of getting oxygen out of air and moving it to your legs! That's a practical sort of lung function test.

    Maybe the reason you have such good numbers is that your body has compensated for the restriction caused by asthma.

    I really hope you continue to enjoy over the top bicycling, and that the treatment for your lung condition is fully successful.

    And the lung tests sounded like they really suck, or do they blow? Whatever, not fun...
    2367 days ago
    Hopefully your next tests go a bit better and you will soon be back on the trails with Little Cam. emoticon emoticon
    2367 days ago
    Be kind to yourself! We want to hear more about these tests and that you pass them all!
    2367 days ago
    Thank you for taking the time to post such interesting and well-written blogs. So sorry that the subject matter isn't about a more comfortable experience for you. I was practically gasping myself by the end of the blog. We'll be watching for updates !
    Little Cam sounds like a faithful bike companion. My bike, on the other hand, is named K.B. (Killer Bike.)
    2367 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/25/2012 4:52:06 PM
  • KA_JUN
    Enjoyed reading your blog very much, Bruce. Glad to hear about your joy with Little Cam...the pulmonary edema & lung function test, that sounds, less than entertaining, though the results of your capacity are great and better to know if there are elements you need to work around. Careful getting caught out after dark if you don't have lights. One guy with us the other night had his discharge and he had to ride inbetween those of us who still had charge! Ride on!
    2367 days ago
  • LORI-K
    I enjoyed reading about your ride!
    And, oh my. That torture chamber box just looks scary. So sorry you are having to go through this. I have terrible respiratory issues and just went through my latest rounds of lung function testing, but I did not see a box like that one! Just a bunch of fancy breathing tests with a computer and some gases and breathing tube and a nose pinchy. Report said obstructive. Dr said restrictive exercise induced asthma.
    I can empathize, but it sounds like you're still doing well in those altitudes!! I wonder if high altitude affects the same way as humidity?
    Best wishes at Dr appt. Take care.
    2367 days ago
    Wow!!! Those are quite the tires!
    I do run/walk...no shame in that.
    2367 days ago
    What a fun day. Not. Bummer on the asthma. But awesome on being way above the norm! Having a baseline established will help to find a maintenance routine for you and you will be back to your old self.
    2367 days ago
    How crazy that you're off the charts in so many positive ways and yet that asthma is still interfering.
    Carry on, well and safely!
    2367 days ago
    First nice ride , interesting how those altitudes effect your rides , coming from a flat plain , it never crossed my mind. Happy to hear that your investment paid off ! Second - I have been in the box - I can identify with you on this test - its hard. I do hope your results have a happy ending - Good Luck Bruce - K emoticon
    2367 days ago
    Sounds like some grueling tests - sorry they weren't what you wanted, but glad to see that you are taking an active approach to getting help and taking care of yourself. Stay positive! Keep the faith!
    2367 days ago
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