I hate being ill. I just mope around annoying myself and other people. I was rarely ill when I was fat, but now I’m no longer classed as obese I seem to be constantly suffering from something or another, particularly upper respiratory infections. I know having a germ ridden three year old bringing back all sort of diseases from play school doesn’t help, but I’ve been informed by my doctor that it probably all stems from a bout of whooping cough I picked up during a long weekend in the UK just under two years ago. I didn’t even know adults could catch it, but catch it I did. A miserable 3 months of coughing myself inside out every half hour or so. I even got to know how quickly I was cycling to work on a particular day depending at which point on my route I started hacking up a lung.
As an asthmatic, I nearly always ended up with a chest infection each winter anyway, but since my whooping cough episode every head cold I’ve picked up has ended up going onto my chest. This is now my fourth one this year (still a way to go to match the seven I had in 2013). My doctor now just writes me spare prescriptions for antibiotics and steroids to keep at home so I don’t have to bother coming in to see her, although given the eight visits to three different doctors before I finally got diagnosed with whooping cough (and belatedly reported to the States of Guernsey as carrying a notifiable infectious disease) she probably feels a little bit guilty about the amount my health insurer paid out in GP fees!
Whilst I don’t like to keep taking antibiotics all the time as it is, if the Guernsey Velo Club ever introduced random drug testing I would be in serious trouble given the amount of corticosteroids and salbutamol floating around in my blood stream at any one time. Although I take two lots of steroids daily to control my asthma, the effects of the additional course is very noticeable. Whilst it doesn’t make me cycle any faster I’ve certainly noticed that towards the end of the courses I’ve taken, having got over the worst of any infection, my stamina is through the roof and I feel like I could keep riding all day at race pace. Whilst I have no intention of doing my LEJOG ride on anything other than paniagua, it’s a real eye opener to experience first hand the difference even a low dose of ‘roids can make, let alone a bit of Pot Belge or EPO.
What is also interesting is how I now notice I’m getting ill has changed over the years too. It used to be that I had to cough up blood before I noticed I was ill (actually, perhaps I wasn’t actually that healthy when I was fat!), but as I’ve got fitter it’s now my legs that tell me long before I start to feel unwell. So it was last Monday. I felt absolutely empty on the way into work – no energy in my legs at all and, although I don’t use any gadget to measure it, I’m sure I was well off my average power output. Sure enough, I woke up feeling rotten on the Tuesday morning. As ever, I tried to continue riding for a few days before giving in. I even did a road crit too, but couldn’t manage to stay on the same lap as the division winner. So I finally gave in and have taken a few days off, including my first ever DNS in today’s 25 mile TT.
Worse than inwardly admitting defeat though is the inevitable email. I always get one every time I’m ill. The one from Strava telling you that you’ve lost your King of the Mountains. That you’re no longer the fastest on a particular segment. It exists solely to remind you that your body is weak and useless. It just sneers at you then rubs you into the dirt. It’s like watching the guy you’ve just bust a gut closing the gap on ride away from you again on the next climb without even breaking sweat.
I got two of those emails today. Talk about kicking a man whilst he’s down.