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mother_sheep


Jun 8, 2004, 3:04 PM
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The Asthmatic Alpinist
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How can I overcome the obstacle of being asthmatic and being an alpinist? I train and train and train and I STILL feel like I get smoked on approaches by my male counterparts. The climbing is not the problem. My alpine partners have been at this for a lot longer than I have and they are men but still, I don't think that's excuse enough for me to fall behind on the approaches so much. Moving fast in an alpine environment is key. I have to be able to keep up. I've been told that part of my problem is that during the initial part of the approach, I take off like a bat out of hell. I need to pace myself. So I'll do that this weekend. Second, I always try to equal out the weight that my partner and I carry. Maybe this is putting me at a disadvantage because I have less muscle mass and am having to exert more energy and effort to carry the same or similar amounts of weight due to that fact. The first mile for me is always the toughest with my breathing. My cardio vascular endurance seems to increase once I'm above treeline and gaining vertical ground on snow. But the first couple of miles are killer and put me behind and having to run to catch up. Ive been hiking/slogging up high peaks regularly, spending as much time as possible above treeline. I am acclimated. Id really appreciate some advise on some training to help build up my cardio vascular endurance. Steroids are not an option. They do work but sometimes the side affects can be brutal. I may look into taking some Albuterol up with me but I try to avoid the meds since the pain and breathlessness is only temporary. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Within the next 4 weeks I have 4 alpine routes planned, one of which is pretty "Grand". If anything, I'd like to be on a program where I can see results as early as 3 weeks. Thanks!


bandycoot


Jun 8, 2004, 3:49 PM
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It sounds like you've already identified two of your problems already, the equal weight and the fast early start. Here are some things that I've learned:

Some partners are willing to take weight relative to fitness and body weight. When I'm climbing with people (usually females) who weight less than me, I feel we should each carry the same % of our body weight rather than an equal amount of weight. Even if I'm with a partner that is the same size but isn't doing as well on the hike I'll take more weight. They are a partner in your endeavour and their success and speed depends on your success and speed so always figure out what will raise the odds of success, even if that means carrying less weight. Hopefully your partners recognize when they should carry more weight and hopefully you let them!!!

The initial push is very important if you ask me. Alpine is definitely the hare and the turtle. Slow and steady win the race and get you to the top!

My hardest altitude push to date was Charlotte Dome car to car from the east side. It is about a 25 mile day with over 5000' of elevation gain. You start the day with a 4 mile uphill gaining over 3000' of elevation to a pass at 11,800'. I'm not an alpine hardman, and the altitude KILLS me. Before that trip I'd never been over 10,000' without experiencing severe altitude sickness - vomiting (once), migraines, severe exhaustion, etc. I did a lot of climbing and hiking up to 8,000-9,000' and really wanted to be successful on this attempt. On the hike up to the pass I REFUSED to hike quickly. My partner kept egging me on and saying we were losing time but I told him we would lose more time if I went fast and became sick. Well, I wasn't going uber slow and I was going steady so we made it through the pass in descent time. The slowness is what I feel attributed to my success. My body was able to acclimate to the altitude while not at its limit, and after that I was able to push to the limit during the rest of the hiking/climbing. As soon as we summited the pass we ran a few miles down the other side and made up for lost time.

My partner wanted to go quickly in the beginning, and I couldn't, but once my body acclimated I was actually able to out hike him on the way out. It is an 8 mile uphill back to the pass from the climb and it killed him. I slowly kept taking more weight until I had about 75% of our gear. I tried to help him move faster since he was my partner and his success was my success. We eventually made it back to the car, but it was ugly in a look back and smile sort of way.

I know that I wouldn't have made the trip if I hadn't started slowly. I also know that I helped my partner a lot by taking the weight when he needed it.

I've had other partners take weight from me, and I've taken weight from partners. Just look at it as improving your success, and a % of body weight (you look thin in your pics) as opposed to 50% of all weight and it will make you feel better about others carrying more weight if the situation calls for it.

Try these out and see what happens. Start there then move on to other things.

Is one of them by any chance the Grand Teton? I saw the "Grand" in your post...


cryder


Jun 8, 2004, 3:54 PM
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After reading your post, I think I may be able to offer some general insights (but not specific medical advice) that I have had over the years in dealing with my asthma.

Background:
I started racing bicycles at age 12 (I am 26 now), and was immediately aware that during particularly demanding periods (when the hammer would come down) my airways would constrict and I would lose significant lung capacity.

Because I raced a lot over the next eight years, I learned a few things about how not to trigger a full on attack, and manage my breathing to stay within and improve my oxygen capacity. I was successfull enough to go on to race successfully in Europe for a few years on the world cup (the Grand-Traverse-of-the-Tetons-in-winter of cycling)... so there are ways to get beyond it successfully.

Evaluating the problem:
The first step in my process of overcoming asthma was to get an accurate picture of where I was at. I did this with VO2 Max (your bodies ability to oxygenate and ciculate blood) and lactate threshold testing, and was able to establish a good picture of what my oxygen exchange rate was and determine what my instigating factors were in producing an asthma attack. Buyer beware: These tests are brutal, but many universities offer them at a nonminal charge to athletes.

What I learned from VO2 max testing was that managing my redline during peak performance, while important, was secondary to a very slow warm up. Basically, the better the warm up, the more control I had over my cardio redline. Also, setting realistic conditioning periods for developing my cardio system in the early season, and then gradually using to checks and balances to push my capacity further. Then and now, I use interval training to accomplish increased oxygen capacity and lactate threshold. If during a race, or now during a climb, I fail to manage my airflow and induce an attack, the only option I have found is to back way off, and then sloooowwly increase intensity again as my airways open. I am now able to regularly complete weekend training runs of 30 plus miles in a day with 8,000 feet of elevation gain. Not bad for a kid with mank lungs.

Moving Foward:
With three weeks left before a major objective, there may not be a lot you can do in that time to ramp up your capactiy, but you can start the process that will help you fully understand what induces asthma attacks.

You mentioned being acclimated, but I would suggest that this is essentially a fundamental starting point in your ability, and that there are different levels of fitness parameters involved above and beyond. There is a saying that "you can't manage what you can't track", and I have found this to be very consistent with athletic performance. I have found the use a of log book helpful to track my progression. I track everything from heart rate, chaloric intake, interval times, to simple things like how my appetite is or wether or not I am motivated. Eventually, trends start to emerge and I can adjust my program accordingly.

Of course, all of that work really blows with out the magnetic pull of a tough objective to motivate.


Hope this helps...

Nicholas


powderseeker


Jun 8, 2004, 4:00 PM
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Che Guevara himself was astmatic and was a very sucessfull rugby player and had an interest in mountains that led him to summit few high peaks in mexico in his early days.


cryder


Jun 8, 2004, 4:04 PM
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Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I think it is commendable that you strive to be an equal contributor to the success and ability of your climbing partners, male or female. Summits just never seem to care what sex you are.

- n -


mother_sheep


Jun 8, 2004, 4:07 PM
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Excellent advice from both of you. Thank you. I'm going to make an appointment to meet with a respritory therapist. I've been putting it off but I think it would be most helpful. Sometimes I forget the importance of being in tune with my body. I do need to start tracking what is going on with my body, especially my lungs. And my partners are awesome. They offer to carry more but being stubborn, I always insist on carrying just as much. Starting this weekend I won't be so hard headed.

I'm doing a Couloir on Mt. Democrat on Saturday, Sunday is Lone Eagle Peak North Ridge, next weekend is the Petit and the following weekend is the North FACE of the Grand. I see you caught my little hint there. I'm going to bivy up in RMNP tonight just to breath in some of that mountain air (or lack thereof). :-)


mother_sheep


Jun 8, 2004, 4:09 PM
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In reply to:
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I think it is commendable that you strive to be an equal contributor to the success and ability of your climbing partners, male or female. Summits just never seem to care what sex you are.

- n -

Thanks Cryder. You're right. . .they don't care.


bandycoot


Jun 8, 2004, 4:16 PM
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Absolutely the best of luck! I still remember the first time my partner had to carry more than me. It was the approach of Half Dome (RNWFHD). My partner was a solid 210 of pure cardio goodness. I was smaller and more out of shape when it came to cardio, but I could free climb harder. Luckily he was a champ! Not only did he carry most of the weight in the haul bag, but he kept reiterating that he was just protecting his ropgun from being too tired to lead the hard pitches. I knew he was suffering under that much weight (we brought way too much stuff) but understood that I really did need to conserve energy on the approach for that very reason. His constant reminder of why he was suffering eased my guilt at least a little. I still owe that guy something awesome, not sure what yet but damn do I owe him!


mother_sheep


Jun 8, 2004, 4:21 PM
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In reply to:
Absolutely the best of luck! I still remember the first time my partner had to carry more than me. It was the approach of Half Dome (RNWFHD). My partner was a solid 210 of pure cardio goodness. I was smaller and more out of shape when it came to cardio, but I could free climb harder. Luckily he was a champ! Not only did he carry most of the weight in the haul bag, but he kept reiterating that he was just protecting his ropgun from being too tired to lead the hard pitches. I knew he was suffering under that much weight (we brought way too much stuff) but understood that I really did need to conserve energy on the approach for that very reason. His constant reminder of why he was suffering eased my guilt at least a little. I still owe that guy something awesome, not sure what yet but damn do I owe him!

That's awesome. Gotta love the mutual respect amongst good partners.


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Jun 8, 2004, 4:21 PM
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tracy --

a couple of suggestions for ya:

first, why not just bat those baby blues at yer partner and have the poor sap carry half your gear? before you call that sexist, bear in mind the underlying "by hook or by crook" ethic by which we alpinist live. whatever it takes, bay-bee.

second, i might suggest you consult with your internist rather than a respiratory therapist. i've suffered from a mild case of sports induced asthma all my life. so mild, in fact, that it was just diagnosed 3 0r so years ago. i do well on a long-acting inhaler twice daily.

finally, i still crack up when i think about one of the 11-mile gatherings when, while sitting around the fire, you took a hit from my inhaler and prompted reno to say, "hey ... don't bogart that albuterol." :lol:

see you this weekend for galena. with my still dodgy knee i guarantee you won't be eating any of [i:7432057bef]my[/i:7432057bef] dust. :wink:


climbingnurse


Jun 8, 2004, 4:47 PM
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Yeah, ditto about seeing the RT (or a pulmonologist). Definitely a good idea to get a full workup just so you have a better understanding of what's going on. Check and make sure all or most of it is covered by your insurance first though.

And if you have had asthma attacks I'd HIGHLY recommend that you carry a rescue inhaler that your partners know how to use (and where it's kept). Asthma attacks in the wilderness are SUPER scary if you don't have an inhaler.

One more thing: There's a rule that goes all the way back to Rome: An infantry soldier can carry up to 1/3 of his body weight and march all day every day. Anything more than 1/3 and he/she will eventually break. So, body weight percentage is important.

(Note: I'm not a medical professional, despite my admittedly misleading moniker. I won't graduate nursing school for another 11 months and 13 days. About all I'm licensed to do at this point is take your pulse. :wink:)


lossinsantafe


Jun 8, 2004, 5:31 PM
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I've lived with chronic asthma my whole life, and was forced to resort to using Albuterol every couple of hours when I was outdoors. Two years ago, I started taking Advair http://www.drugs.com/advair.html. One of the components is a steroid, but I've never had any side effects from it, and I'm particularly sensitive to most steroid inhalants.

Of course, this is just my experience, but I would recommend giving it a try.

-Max


climb14er


Jun 8, 2004, 5:33 PM
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Being a long time asthmatic who doesn't use inhalers or 'harmful' chemicals, I've found a few ways that help me to continue to climb alpine 14K peaks here in Colorado and elsewhere.

First of all, go to National Jewish Hospital and get tested. This is the FINEST hospital for asthmatics and breathing disorders in the entire world. And it's located right here in Denver.

For me, and we're all different, I drink lots of water, drink caffeinated tea and coffee in the morning of the climb as these are bronchial dilators. I also drink Traditional Medicinal's 'Breathe Easy', as this is Ephedra Tea, another bronchial dilator (and stimulant). I also take advil before, during and after a climb and this helps my lungs to open easy and keeps the swelling down in my limbs, and also takes care of any altitude sickness.

The mail thing is that we're all different re: asthmatic symptoms so you need to get checked out and the best as mentioned is at National Jewish on Colfax and Colorado Blvd.

Good luck!


atg200


Jun 8, 2004, 5:39 PM
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how are you training tracy? i've never been able to get very fit just by climbing mountains - even doing that regularly when you have a job basically means once or twice a week. you really have to get lots of cardio in during the week as well - i like to bike for weekday training to save my knees.

pure speed in the mountains is not nearly as important as being able to keep going steadily all day. it is better to get up half an hour earlier then to kill yourself keeping up with someone stronger than you on the approach. trying to keep up with someone more fit than you is a really good way to exhaust yourself and slow yourself down. listen to your body, and don't worry so much about comparing yourself to others.

finally, you really can gain a lot of speed by becoming more efficient. i get ready much faster than all of my partners(putting on boots, clothes, etc) so i usually can get at least a 10 minute head start out of the gate. eliminate food breaks by carrying things in your pockets that you can munch on during the day. use a camleback. rack gear methodically while cleaning and work on faster belay transitions. all this stuff adds up.


mother_sheep


Jun 8, 2004, 7:43 PM
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In reply to:
how are you training tracy? i've never been able to get very fit just by climbing mountains - even doing that regularly when you have a job basically means once or twice a week. you really have to get lots of cardio in during the week as well - i like to bike for weekday training to save my knees.

pure speed in the mountains is not nearly as important as being able to keep going steadily all day. it is better to get up half an hour earlier then to kill yourself keeping up with someone stronger than you on the approach. trying to keep up with someone more fit than you is a really good way to exhaust yourself and slow yourself down. listen to your body, and don't worry so much about comparing yourself to others.

finally, you really can gain a lot of speed by becoming more efficient. i get ready much faster than all of my partners(putting on boots, clothes, etc) so i usually can get at least a 10 minute head start out of the gate. eliminate food breaks by carrying things in your pockets that you can munch on during the day. use a camleback. rack gear methodically while cleaning and work on faster belay transitions. all this stuff adds up.

My training right now consists of climbing 3-4 days per week (mostly all on lead and mostly trad so this is mental training), hiking//jogging an average of 20 miles per week (excluding approaches) and I've also developed my own endurance workout that I do at home 2 times per week that consists of 120 pushups, 120 tricep dips, 80 forward leg lunges, 80 backward leg lunges, 120 bicep curls with 7 lbs dumbells, 120 leg extensions each leg, 120 calf raises, 40 shoulder presses with 7lbs weights and 300 abdominal crunches. It may sound a bit excessive but it's about all I can do when the kids are around. And it's a pretty good endurance workout. So I'm strong as hell but just not fast enough. Any chance I get, I get myself up at altitude.

Geo. . .you bring the albuterol and I'll bring the Cliff bars and Goo.

Advair is not an option. I've taken it before and the side effects were horrible. But thanks for the suggestion.


sandbag


Jun 8, 2004, 8:00 PM
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Sweet! Sounds like the woman's version(no disrespect intended) of the Navy Seal Category 2 work outs. great for strength endurance.


adamtd


Jun 8, 2004, 8:03 PM
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An alpine rope team is just that a rope team. You should be movingh at the same speed. If your partner is moving faster than you he should take more weight to slow him down, thus lightening your pack and speeding you up. In the end, you should be moving the same speed. It's o.k. to push yourself to keep up, but it's counterproductive to have to kill yourself to keep up. It increases your chances of injury, or an epic occuring.
I just got back from Nepal where we climbed Ama Dablam. I'm usually the strongest climber on a team and move the fastest. Prior to this trip though, I wasn't able to train the way I usually do, and was dogging it. I had to give up some weight to my expedition mates and this killed me. I pride myself in being the one that usually takes the weight from others. Especially as a former guide, it ws killing me to give up weight. I did it though and it equalled out the team. That's what climbing as a team means. You have to sacrifice your desires, egos, and wishes to attain teh team's goals.
In terms of athsma... I'm an asthmatic. I found the best thing for my asthma and alpinism in general is aerobic exercise. Contrary to what trainers suggest, I don't work out at 80% of my max heart rate. I take it right up to my max heart rate and keep my HR up for at least a half hour. I then spend the rest of my workout at 80%. This really pushes me, but my heart is strong and at the level, my lungs are being worked hard also. Aerobic activity in my experience is the most important, and an area that you can improve really quickly if you're willing to bust your butt.
Good luck.


csoles


Jun 8, 2004, 8:24 PM
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And it's a pretty good endurance workout. So I'm strong as hell but just not fast enough.

This sounds like one of those "toning and shaping" workouts from the damnable women's magazines. Muscular endurance is not strength; alpinists need both. My guess is your hiking/jogging is also at a low intensity level; more junk. You're putting in plenty of time, now you should look at better effectiveness (hint: there's a pretty good book on the subject).

It also sounds like your pack is too big. But Geo needs the rehab so you should load him down with more ;-) Seriously, compare lean muscle mass and most guys should be carrying more than you. And yes, we are stupid for baby blue eyes, so use 'em.


mother_sheep


Jun 8, 2004, 9:00 PM
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wink wink. . .bat bat

OH YUCK!!!

What's the name of the book Clyde?


sandbag


Jun 8, 2004, 9:05 PM
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In reply to:
In reply to:
And it's a pretty good endurance workout. So I'm strong as hell but just not fast enough.

This sounds like one of those "toning and shaping" workouts from the damnable women's magazines. Muscular endurance is not strength; alpinists need both. My guess is your hiking/jogging is also at a low intensity level; more junk. You're putting in plenty of time, now you should look at better effectiveness (hint: there's a pretty good book on the subject).

It also sounds like your pack is too big. But Geo needs the rehab so you should load him down with more ;-) Seriously, compare lean muscle mass and most guys should be carrying more than you. And yes, we are stupid for baby blue eyes, so use 'em.

Hey, thats the work out they suggest before BUDS training:
20X20 PUSHUPS
20X25 SITUPS
5X12 PULL UPS
20X15 DIPS

and (6/6/6/6/6) miles 30 miles/week 7:00-7:30 pace.

Whoda though Redbook was on the leading edge of tactical warefare edurance training???

And i agree Clyde, low intensity jogging is why there are millions of obese joggers. The body gets efficient at waht it does, so if you dont push it, itll get comfy and not burn as much energy.


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[quote:5aa2f179e2="mother_sheep"]What's the name of the book Clyde?[/quote:5aa2f179e2]

i dunno, tracy ... but it's by some guy named [i:5aa2f179e2]soles[/i:5aa2f179e2]-somethingoranother. check out amazon.com. :wink:

by the way, what clyde posted goes all the way back to that day at eldo last month when we talked about nutrition (candy is [i:5aa2f179e2]not[/i:5aa2f179e2] fuel :wink: ), strength versus endurance, cardio, how to achieve each one and the importance of being well-balanced.

about this weekend, clyde ... yes, i do need the rehab, but it could just turn out that blondie has to drag my fat ass back out to the trailhead. there [i:5aa2f179e2]are[/i:5aa2f179e2] worse indignities i suppose. :lol:


luigi


Jun 8, 2004, 10:09 PM
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In reply to:
My training right now consists of climbing 3-4 days per week (mostly all on lead and mostly trad so this is mental training), hiking//jogging an average of 20 miles per week (excluding approaches) and I've also developed my own endurance workout that I do at home 2 times per week that consists of 120 pushups, 120 tricep dips, 80 forward leg lunges, 80 backward leg lunges, 120 bicep curls with 7 lbs dumbells, 120 leg extensions each leg, 120 calf raises, 40 shoulder presses with 7lbs weights and 300 abdominal crunches. It may sound a bit excessive but it's about all I can do when the kids are around. And it's a pretty good endurance workout. So I'm strong as hell but just not fast enough. Any chance I get, I get myself up at altitude.

Geo. . .you bring the albuterol and I'll bring the Cliff bars and Goo.

Advair is not an option. I've taken it before and the side effects were horrible. But thanks for the suggestion.

Tracy,
I think you forgot to add Duct Taped Kegstand Dips to your regimen, that might be what you need to get you over the top. ;-)

Good luck with your training.

Cheers!!!


Luis


Partner tim


Jun 8, 2004, 11:01 PM
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I just realized something... one of the reasons I tend to crush my partners on approaches is that I bike ~10 miles to work every day. Easy way to sneak in some training disguised as a commute :-)

Other than that, Andy already said everything I was going to say.


gumbobob


Jun 8, 2004, 11:16 PM
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Re: The Asthmatic Alpinist [In reply to]
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weel, i've been an asthmatic since first blinking at the harsh light of the world and have on and off learned to deal with the symptoms...
first off, use albuterol and vanceril...you're being stupid in not using them--there is no reason why you should have to live with choked airways...they are not "cheating" (and for anybody who thinks they are, ask them if they have ever had to concentrate really hard just to breathe)
second, start training aerobically--swimming i think helps me the most...though for you it could be running or skiing or lo que sea...i do triathalon training--it really helps...
third, dont overcompensate at the beginning of the climb to show that asthmatics can hike too...just hike at a regular, comfortable pace and you'll do fine!
i hope this helps--asthma sucks.


pinktricam


Jun 8, 2004, 11:51 PM
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Re: The Asthmatic Alpinist [In reply to]
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Mother, even with asthma, there's no reason that you cannot pursue your alpine goals. There are a few points I'd like to make:

#1 Asthma is treatable
#2 Asthma symptoms don't have to be a crisis
#3 You can live as normal and active life as you'd like

Can you describe to me what you mean when you say, "The first mile for me is always the toughest for my breathing."

A few questions if you don't mind:

What are the warning signs that you're about to experience symptoms?

Once you notice these signs, what steps are you taking to keep your asthma from getting worse?

Do you use a peak flow meter?

There have been several suggestions here that are excellent. Chief among them, is getting an assessment from a medical professional; preferrably a pulmonologist (especially, when it comes to knowing and monitering your peak flows). The tip on the vaso-dilating properties of coffee was also good.

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