As humans, we get ill from time to time. It's not uncommon to play up a cold to justify the corresponding sick day from work. Cyclists are a bit different. We'll play it down so that we can get out on our bikes quicker, say we feel better when we know that we're not ready to go out and hammer the pedals. We'll kid ourselves and others about our condition... Christ, this sounds like I'm talking about an addiction.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
Fact is, we'll tell loved ones, our work colleagues, and ourselves that we're ok to ride. Such is the desire to get back on two wheels after taking time off. For me, cycling every day is the norm, having more than two consecutive days off the bike gets me feeling antsy, my stress levels go up... I crave endorphins. I hate taking the car to work. Hate it.
I got a cold the morning of the last road race I did so I took a solid week off the bike. I felt virtuous. I was doing myself good, I was recovering. Come the following Saturday, I didn't feel bad at all, the runny nose was still there, but everything else felt alright – my legs felt good, my lungs felt good – time to fire on all cylinders!
First big climb and I was up the top first; second big climb, I gave two digs trying to drop my mate, then my breathing went wheezy so I sat up; third climb and I startied to feel the efforts; last climb of the day.... I didn't bother chasing when my mates attacked.
After that ride, I felt tired and (of course) put it down to recovering from the cold. Monday's ride to work was ok, come the Tuesday I did a criterium race in Edinburgh. I thought it'd be easier than it was because I was going well. I was wrong.
Heart rate was 180bpm plus on the first lap and stayed high for the following forty minutes. My heart rate never stays that high. I suffered. I hated it. I stayed in though and clung onto the lead group. My legs weren't there though... I know what the Pro's mean when a usually strong rider is quoted as saying “I didn't have the legs today”. Mine didn't turn up at all. I finished 22nd out of 46 but I've never worked so hard for it.
I take the following few days off the bike. I develop a nice cough. (By nice, I mean wheezy and sore). I do a solo ride on the Saturday; it's a horrible ride, I go home and kid myself that I “always have a ride like that after I've been ill".
Next Tuesday and I'm feeling ok, my throat still doesn't feel right, but I've been taking it easy so the plan is to try and stick it out like the previous week. Me and my clubmate Owen even have a pre-race plan! My throat has other ideas. 2 laps in and I'm coughing... it's a bloody metallic taste... not something I'm used to. I pull in and stop.
A doctor's appointment the next day confirms that I probably damaged a blood vessel in my throat by over-exerting, it's fairly common to agitate blood vessels that are close to the surface of the throat. The remedy? More rest.
Rest, rest, rest
So, if you want to get better, make sure you get better. It sounds simple, but it's hard advice to follow sometimes when your legs feel great and you're focussed on your next race. I'm back to recovering, taking it easy and not trying to go all out until I'm better. I'm back on the bike though... I reckon I'm well enough for that.... probably.
PS. I apologise to a pregnant clubmate who's had enough of hearing a number of us complaining about our illnesses!