Climbing up the walls

This is another post about the fact that I’m still unwell. If you’re sick of reading such posts, I don’t blame you, but before you go, why not check out something else on the site, like this awesome story?

I’ve ridden my bike once in the past month. That one ride was about as easy as I could imagine — I averaged less than 21km/h on a flat 25km ride, keeping my heartrate as low as I could. That was nearly two weeks ago and I still haven’t fully recovered.

It’s been roughly 2.5 months since I got back from the Tour de France and I really haven’t felt 100% since. Sure, there have been times when I’ve felt ok, but a ride in the following days would always set me back to the point where a 15 minute walk to the train station felt challenging.

I certainly don’t feel gravely ill. It’s more of a constant feeling of just not feeling right, coupled with nausea, headaches and general fatigue. I don’t feel as mentally sharp as I normally do and I’m finding it hard to concentrate at times. Then there are the occasional head spins, light-headedness and the hot flushes.

Since I got back from Le Tour I’ve seen three doctors and had two sets of blood tests. The first set of tests came back completely fine — not so much as one reading out of the ordinary. I got the second lot of tests done last Wednesday to test for things like dengue fever, glandular fever, vitamin D deficiency, hepatitis, HIV … anything that could possibly give us a clue as to what’s going on.

I also got a chest X-ray done last week — all clear — and I’ve got a stress echocardiogram to do next Wednesday to see if heart problems could be to blame. I get my results back from the blood test then too.

In the meantime, not knowing what’s going on is probably the hardest thing to deal with. If I knew what was to blame for making me feel so average, I could at least make sense of that in my head and have some idea of how to get through it. At the moment there’s no explanation, just a feeling of malaise and building frustration.

The fact that I’m surrounded by cycling all day every day makes not being able to ride particularly tough. I’m writing and reading about cycling during the week through my work at CyclingTips, I’m thinking and working on cycling-related stuff for this site in my spare time, and then there are the amazing photos and stories that all of you folks are sharing on various social media platforms. It’s hard to watch people having such a great time out riding when I’m not feeling up to riding.

It’s not that I’ve been told not to ride, just that even easy rides feel difficult (even that 25km ride was harder than it should have been) and I pay for it later on with days of feeling worse than I do at the moment.

But it’s not all doom and gloom — I’ve been able to find some positives in spending an extended period of time off the bike. It’s given me more time to focus on planning out the Domestique 7 Peaks Series for this summer. It’s been a lot of work, and there’s plenty more to to be done, but having a bit of extra time to focus on that has been helpful.

Being off the bike last weekend meant I had time to follow a bunch of mates on an amazing ride they did in the Yarra Ranges. I was keen to practise my cycling photography and given they were riding on roads as gorgeous as the Reefton Spur and the Acheron Way, this seemed like a perfect opportunity. You can see some of the photos I took at the bottom of this post.

So what’s next? Well, I’m hoping to have some answers when I get my blood and echocardiogram results back next week. In the meantime I might try and get out for a cruisy spin this weekend to see how the body reacts.

The best case scenario is that I can be back on the bike in the next couple weeks and starting to get fitter, stronger and lighter (my riding volume has decreased dramatically but my appetite hasn’t).

There are a number of rides I’m really keen to be ready for in the coming weeks and months. The first of those is the Domestique Dirty Dandys ride on October 27. Sadly we’ve filled all allocated spots for that but if you are keen to come along, it could still be worth whacking your name on the waiting list in case someone pulls out. It’s going to be a great day!

Then there’s Cycling Victoria’s Mt. Macedon Challenge on November 10 which, at 110km in length and with only one major climb wouldn’t normally be terribly difficult for me but I’ve got a lot of work to do to get back to the level of fitness I was at pre-illness.

And then the following weekend the Domestique 7 Peaks Series starts. I’d really like to be well for that first ride up Lake Mountain as the 7 Peaks rides were some of my favourite of last year. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime it’s all about recovery and trying not to go insane due to a lack of riding. Be sure to check out some of the photos I took last weekend. Just click on a thumbnail to bring up the lightbox with the full-sized image. You can see the whole album here. Thanks for reading.

Feature image appears courtesy of Flickr user ashley rose.

23 Replies to “Climbing up the walls”

  1. I had very similar symptoms last summer (2 months, not myself, tired, long time to recover after rides, etc.) and we discovered I had a sinus infection. I would never have thought that simply because I couldn’t feel it. I guess I was so socked in it wasn’t draining so I didn’t have any idea.

  2. All the best mate. We all love your work both here and on CT. Hope it all goes well and recovery comes quickly. Please keep us all posted. Cheers.

  3. wow your still crook!
    I remember your last article and commented I wasnt feeling 100% either. I am coming good and can now push without paying a price. Its a shame you cant get out on the bike and I wondered how you were going when I saw you a few weeks back taking photos on the 1 in 20 and not on the bike.
    I hope you get well soon, especially as the weather warms up.

  4. Good luck with test results mate, I’m sure your health will turn the corner very soon. I know it’s difficult but keep up the positive energy.

  5. Sounds like you’re having a super-tough time right now, but maybe the fact that your body is forcing you not to push it is a sign to take a mini-break and convalesce for a while. It’s incredibly hard, especially when you’re used to big volume and intensity. I had appendicitis six months ago so had 10 weeks of forced rest, and now last week they thought I had a heart attack or heart virus which ended up with 6 days in hospital and another bout of forced recovery. But I sincerely think it’s my body sending me a message. I’m lending my bike to a friend for the next fortnight so that I won’t be tempted. Good luck. And keep up with the writing in spite of not riding, it’s great to follow your journey. And never doubt that you will come back stronger after hiatus – it’s the rules…

  6. Sadly I can’t offer any help with diagnosis, but good luck with your recovery – you’ve done such good work with this site inspiring myself and others to get out into the hills around Victoria on the bike over the last year or two!

  7. Two tips:
    1. Look at vestibular disorders (vestibular disorders give the exact symptoms you are talking about – nausea, headaches, spinning – but for some reason typically take doctors months to diagnose). Your GP can perform simple tests for some of the disorders in their room if you ask them to.
    2. Look at doing all your training on a wind trainer. This gives you the advantages of:
    a) Being able to exactly meaure each training session using your heart rate monitor without all the stopping, starting and hills that normally training throws at you.
    b) Keeps you out of the wind and rain and cold and heat.
    c) Helps keep vestibular disorders under control, as there is no sensation of the world flashing past (movement, such as with cycling, brings on a lot of symptoms of vestibular disorders).

    Email me if you want to know more.

    1. Nothing like posting personal info on public forums to generate a whole lot of pseudo-medicine garble. Gavin- primary vestibular disorders do NOT give you headaches. And while they can cause “head spinning”, it’s important to differentiate lightheadedness/ feeling like fainting from the true vertigo of vestibular dysfunction as any medical student will tell you. Vestibular disorders, as you would know from your wealth of knowledge, can present in many different ways, which is the reason it takes time to diagnose. It’s important to nail down exactly what Matt’s symptoms are. The issue here is that there are simply so many conditions that can present similarly to Matt’s, from depression to chronic infections, ruling out the differential diagnoses takes time.

      1. Its relatively harmless to make suggestions for a person to raise with their doctor but of more concern is the person claiming to be an expert who says “don’t bother taking a look at such and such because I know you don’t have it”. Alex – a type of vestibular disorder known as Vestibular Migrane (also known as “Migraine-associated vertigo”) certainly can cause headaches and head-spinning which are the two key symptoms that Matt mentioned. Anyone can make a suggestion but the only person who should ever rule out options is the patient’s doctor.

        1. Michael,
          Maybe you’re right. Why don’t we crowdsource all medical diagnoses and do away with doctors entirely? Everyone with fatigue has chronic fatigue syndrome, everyone with chest pain has had a heart attack, all because someone’s Aunt Martha on an internet forum had the same symptoms. I disagree that it is harmless. It is at best obfuscating, and at worst dangerous. You entirely disregard that Matt is obviously anxious about his symptoms, and dropping labels like Lyme disease only adds to the frustration and bewilderment patients like him suffer.
          Where in my comment have I said that he doesn’t have a vestibular disorder and he shouldn’t be examined for it? It could explain some of his symptoms, but as I said, primary vestibular disorders don’t cause headaches, and thus a single diagnosis of a vestibular disorder doesn’t explain all his symptoms.
          Re your comments on MAV. Congratulations – you’ve read wikipedia. Although if you’d read anything beyond the first paragraph, you’d realise that;
          a) it doesn’t exist (” is neither clinically nor biologically plausible as a migraine variant”
          b) if it does exist, it’s not a vestibular disorder. It’s a type of migraine and is treated as such. It’s certainly not a PRIMARY vestibular disorder which are due to dysfunction in the vestibular apparatus itself.

  8. I also have returned from Le Tour and can totally relate. I feel blah with absolutely no reason. It has been 2 months since i have been on the bike and it frustrates me no end. Take it one day at a time and i hope that we both get better soon 🙂

    1. Joye – we spent a couple months riding the alps this year and came back smashed. Best advice I was given, when you come home – rest for a month. Have a mental break.

  9. Its not boring reading these stories Matt, it shows us all another side of cycling. Keep writing. Something will kick-in and you’ll be better soon. Enjoy the time off and take it easy.

  10. This sounds like a disease they call “Lyme” (not sure if it is spelled right), but since you have been in Europe, it is something to look into. It happens when you get bitten by a small animal and you got about 2 to 3 weeks I believe to treat it before the symptoms you have kick in. It is usually only a small spot on your legs orso .. Problem is that a lot of doctors here mistreat or misdiagnose it because it is very rare in Australia. Usually you can treat it with antibiotics, but I don’t know if it shows up in bloodtests !! My nephew in Belgium had it, but was just in time to treat it before the symptoms kicked in, he was bitten on his back, hardly visible. I just heard another case in australia where it took over 2 years before they found this … . Hope this helps.

  11. I had 3 months of feeling the way you do. Loads of blood tests could give no reason for how I was feeling. The conclusion was that I either had suppressed stress coming out in a physical form or chronic fatigue. The good thing is that I got better by resting. I’m now back on the bike!

  12. Sorry to hear mate. Hope everything comes up clear and you have a speedy recovery. Wish we could help you like you’ve helped us so many times!

  13. Lovely photos Matt – lovely part of the world. Must have been hard not to be part of the ride.

    Good luck, and I hope you’re back in the saddle soon.

  14. Good luck with your medical tests. I hope they diagnose something, prescribe some treatment and that you get better.

  15. That sucks.

    Chronic fatigue??? (I am not a doctor – so have no expertise in its symptoms, much less its management)

    Good on you for persevering with the Domestique series preparations.

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