Even when ill, cycling and training becomes addictive, especially when you’re trying to build form for the start of the season, or a big race.
You might think that getting a small cold in this time is no big issue, but as I found out in 2015, continuing to train can do more harm than good.
In March of that year, an opportunity came up to spend a night in Ilkley, part of my old stomping ground when I was at uni in Leeds. A couple of days before this though, I got a cold. After being cooped up in the car for a while, on arriving at Ilkley I thought my cold was on the way out and I just needed some fresh air. So off I went for a couple of hours, nothing too arduous apart from a few climbs.
The following day, again not 100% but feeling a little better I met up with a rider in Huddersfield and we did another ride. A couple of short efforts, but mainly quite steady.
This being Wednesday, I thought I had plenty of time now for this all to clear and be ready for the first TT of the season, the Classics Series Round 1 at Rugeley. Still sniffing a little, I turned up to race thinking I’d just have a go and that I was well enough to do a reasonable ride.
I was wrong.
By all means the ride wasn’t too bad, but going round the power never really happened. I felt like I should have had so much more in the tank.
It was the following week that I got shingles.
You’ve probably heard horror stories of people taking months off to get rid of shingles, to be honest I had a fairly mild case but it still wasn’t nice. I had a small rash, but the biggest thing is it completely wiped me out more than any other cold or virus. I spent days in bed, just fatigued.
After a week off I thought I was ready to ride again, 1.5hrs at L2. Should be easy right? I didn’t feel too bad on the bike. It took about 3-4 days to recover though. I tried this a couple of times, every time I thought I was getting better, the next ride wiped me out.
All in all, it took me about three weeks to become ready to ride properly again, and even that had to be steady. It was a month before I raced again and even that was touch and go. In reality, I probably shouldn’t have done those rides in Yorkshire, or done that first race, but I hadn’t listened to my body.
Perhaps in the end it was a good thing as I had my best ever season winning the CTT Champion of Champions, but I missed out on placing in the Classis Series which had initially been my target of the year. I still believe though that it took me the good part of 6-9 months to get over it, with the underlying illness preventing me from training at very high intensity for hill climbs.
At the end of the day, if any of my clients say that they’re feeling unwell, I tell them to back it off. It’s not worth risking your health just to complete that extra session. It’s also a very good reason to have a coach in the first place, a voice of reason, someome to tell you it won’t hurt to skip that session. After all, what’s one session missed if the alternative could be missing a whole month of training?
The same applies to riding with an injury, or riding on ice. Missing that one session to have a break, it just wont hurt.
So next time you’re out, just think, is today’s session worth it?