I was forcibly reminded last night that despite how fit I may get, despite being able to ignore it most of the time, despite having the lung function of a 19 year old, I am still an asthmatic, and probably always will be.
Lung function is no good if your airways are constricted. More than two hours after the frisbee game ended, I was still wheezing and coughing, speaking in a low quiet voice and having to pause for breath at the top of the stairs (while good for my calves, living in a three story house at times has its disadvantages).
I'm not sure if there is anyone out there who doesn't at least have a schoolyard understanding of asthma and its symptoms (wiki wrap up here. So useful wiki). Contrary to most people's impressions it is not a lung condition. Asthma restricts the windpipe and airways through spasmodic contraction of the surrounding muscle tissue; the analogy of breathing through a straw is a good one.
I was symptomatic since birth, with a remission between the ages of five and ten. A lot of my early memories feature driving through darkened streets to the hospital, coughing uncontrollably, and often with the familiar wheeze accompaniment. I remember the oxygen masks and the hospital stays as well, contributing to my lifelong loathing of such places.
That said, I am only very mildly afflicted. It plays up when I have colds, or run too hard or too fast, or get exposed to the wrong kind of smoke, dust or vapour. 90 percent of the time I don't even notice it. I don't use a preventer inhaler, all I need to carry around is a ventolin puffer to use as and when required. For some it is a debilitating condition, and for others life threatening (remember Scarlet from 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'? The actress who played her died from an asthma attack).
I am just symptomatic enough to be aware of it, be occasionally frustrated by it, and for it to deny me my lifelong career ambition. I hate having it.
I'm not sure what the trigger was yesterday. I think my utter lack of nous when it comes to Ultimate Frisbee may have something to do with it. I'm not unfit. I'm not super fit either. Having a cold last week didn't help either, as I couldn't exercise as much with the cold, and my colds tend to linger no matter how mild.
The problem I have with Ultimate is I haven't yet figured out my timing, or where and when I need to be, which means I have to run too hard too often, usually meaning I wind up stranded at one end of the field with no energy while the guy I am supposed to be marking scores at the other end.
I haven't yet had the 'click' when it comes to Ultimate, the moment where everything clicks together and starts making sense. Others like Kate, Jon and Dave seem to have picked it up naturally, whereas I have never met a sport I didn't struggle with at first. I am not a natural athlete. I can catch the thing okay, throw it properly sometimes, but so far have only the vaguest notion about the subtleties of the gameplay.
I am in it for the running around with friends bit more than enjoyment of the sport itself. Not quite enjoying it yet as a game yet. I need to reach a certain level of competency before the fun starts. I'm trying really hard to enjoy it, but a lot of factors get in the way. Not being able to get to many games is a big one, that limits my skill and knowledge development.
I find it an odd game. I can see the point about not having umpires, but it would be nice not to have seemingly endless faffing around when a play is disputed, or players following some rules and not others if no-one calls them on it. Also nice would be players who can dispense the rules without being really condescending about it.
The organisation for this league at least is laughably amateurish. Telling teams on game day they have three games instead of one is simply incompetent. And noble aspirations aside, there is no way it is the all-weather sport the organisers would like to imagine it is. Highly skilled players might be able to compete in high winds and rain, but for the rest it is farcical, and running around on soaking wet grass in anything without sprigs can get injury incurring very quickly (speaking from experience as a former Touch player). To put it another way, Ultimate gets played in conditions that would cancel Touch, a game that has much less sensitive equipment.
The players are a slightly different mix from most social sports as well. To put it one way, in indoor netball you encounter players from virtually every other social code. For a lot of the Ultimate players I have personally interacted with I get the feeling that this is the only social sport they would ever consider playing, almost like "I wouldn't normally play sports, but I can play this one because it isn't really a sport" sort of vibe, like ultimate has some sort of plausible deniability attached and its too cool for school when it comes to other codes. Where this feeling comes from I am uncertain.
It is a hard perception to define, but there is definitely an explicit undertone of exclusive snobbery and disdain for other codes vibe with some players, which is present in all codes, but feels more obvious in this one. I might be wildly off base with this and no-one will agree with me, but that's my perception. You don't have to agree.
And while every sport has its uber serious players who leave their sense of humour on the side of the pitch (I know, I appreciate the irony of me writing about this), the "Look at me, are you intimidated yet?" factor somehow comes across much more ridiculously with a disc in your hand.
My long held opinion, and I'm sticking by it, is that any player who wears skins (linky) for a social sport is taking the game way too seriously. Like last nights opposition captain, who was not only witheringly patronising and anal about exactly precisely indisputably locating where an infringement took place and what particular rule section or clause had been broken, ordered his team about like a bunch of servants, was the first player I have seen invoke a time out (not once but twice) and generally seemed to be having no fun at all. And was wearing skins. There is another guy like him I play fairly regularly at netball, and like netball, I am glad I am not in his team.
This wasn't meant to be a rant about Ultimate. I can see how it could be fun and rewarding, and I want it to be fun and rewarding, but I am finding it really hard work at the moment.
Still, I get to run around and be silly with my friends, which I like.