Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The virus effect

After several weeks of feeling weaker and less motivated than usual in my workouts, I was finally ready to admit that maybe I was experiencing my annual August slump that hit last year and 2008 and really dramatically in 2009 post-Tour-Divide. Yes, clearly I needed some kind of outside boost to lift me out of the gully, which appeared to happen Sunday when I pounded out one of my fastest Stevens Creek mountain bike loops. That evening, I felt the scratchy beginnings of a sore throat, congestion and a sinus headache. When I told Beat that I thought I was getting a cold, he suggested that my burst of energy could have been spurred by my immune system, putting up one last shock-and-awe bombardment of defense before the virus clamped down.

When I woke up, my throat was still sore and my nose was running, but the symptoms weren't really uncomfortable enough to justify putting off my planned long run, which I felt I needed to complete just to see if I stood any chance of finishing the 50K I entered this coming weekend. I haven't really experienced an even remotely good run since mid-July, so I wasn't expecting much. I took off toward Black Mountain in the heat of the afternoon, tapping a deep well of motivation to at least jog the 7-mile, 3,000-foot climb up a dusty trail lined in spider webs and thorny bushes. I broke near the top and walked a bit until the dizziness abated and the thorny bushes stopped spinning. But as I crested the peak and turned around, I realized that I felt kinda OK. Actually, I felt pretty good. I took off down the trail on an seeming set of wings, pumping fire that was only partly contained by my clumsy legs' fear of running downhill. A few more rollers and I wrapped up a sub-three-hour 15-miler, which for me and 3,500 feet of climbing is probably a PR.

Returned home with legs feeling fresh and new — but, sure enough, the sore throat and congestion is still there.

I wonder if I really have that awesome of an immune system, or maybe just the world's most ineffective cold.

Or maybe it's just the molten Haribo gummy snacks that Beat and I have been consuming during these hot August efforts. Just a few blobs of highly concentrated rocket fuel to feed a summer virus, and suddenly I'm up and running again — at least for now. But really, how else do you explain these sorts of things?


  1. Bof! I'm experiencing the same thing - two weeks after the Tour Divide, I ride up Mt. Evans from my doorstep in record time and the next 3 weeks, I'm in a never-ending cold, starting on the eve of my ride.

    My only salvation is telling myself this helps me somehow recover but I always feel like I'm losing all my hard-earned fitness!

  2. I have experienced the same effect. Sick pre run, fine on run, sick post run. From what I understand, your body actually suppresses your immune system when you run (a side effect of fight or flight - the body thinks it must be being chased if you are running).

  3. Either your illness is negligible or you should have rested or done a short easy run or hike rather than done a long hard run while sick. That's my expert medical opinion.

  4. Immune system does slump after an endurance effort. I still usually ride an edge:) Sometimes I can never put a finger on what fixes me. But very few (and very rarely) things break me. So, lets go for a ride (or run)!

  5. Do the Iditabike! Ride across Alaska! Do the first winter bike ride across the Colorado Trail! Ride across Antarctica! Circle the entire Arctic Circle by bike! Bike onto a calving glacier, let it drop into the ocean, melt, don a packraft, and paddle to Iceland!

  6. I see the gummy bears and just think "I feel so optimistic!"

    I have a co-worker with a kid in daycare. I find the more cardio I do, the less often the colds catch me. Either the symptoms are hidden, or I am more robust?

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  8. Maybe its allergies? Post nasal drip can cause the sore throat. Congestion can cause dizziness and even nausea. Often the congestion is just in the upper areas of the nose/ear "system" and not particularly noticeable.

    If you feel fine otherwise, take a couple of antihistamines you know you tolerate well--I like Sudafed--and if you feel normal in 20 minutes then a good chance it is allergies.

    Allergies often develop months or years after moving to an area.



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