Ups and downs (in cycling and in health)

The last few weeks have been pretty up and down for me cycling-wise. And I’m not just talking about the fact that I’ve managed to get back out to the hills to do some climbing.

After my last post about being sick, I’ve done a couple of really enjoyable rides, including a terrific 60km ride out in the Dandenongs with some of the Hells 500 and eQuipo tranQuilo guys, and a ride last weekend on which I managed five times up the Arthurs Seat climb.

But the enjoyment of these rides, and the other shorter rides I’ve managed in between, has been tempered by the lingering illness that’s affected me since I got back from the Tour de France.

Sky High
ET riders John Gogis (left), my brother Brendan (center) and Matt Fletcher (right).

After my last post a few of you suggested I should see a doctor to make sure nothing serious was going on. Having taken that (and other) advice on board, and having felt very average in the days after writing that post I went and got checked out. The diagnosis? Nothing.

The blood tests came back perfectly fine. Everything they tested for was normal, except for my iron levels which were too high because I’d had a big steak the night before.

It was good to learn that there’s nothing seriously wrong with me (or anything at all, apparently) but it doesn’t explain why I’ve felt so rubbish and why now, virtually a month and a half since I first fell ill, I still feel weak and like I’m teetering on the edge of feeling worse.

Sky High
Rohan and Nicole at Sky High Mt. Dandenong.

The doctor told me that I should keep up the riding but take it reasonably easy. So that’s what I’ve done. I’m doing roughly half the kilometres I normally do per week and the rides I have done have been at a reduced intensity.

When I did that Dandenongs ride a week or so ago I forced myself to keep my heartrate below 170bpm on the climbs; the point at which, according to Strava at least, my “threshold” heartrate range begins.

I managed to stick to that goal reasonably well, apart from on the steepest part of Inverness Road where even just moving up the 20% slope had my heartrate at 175bpm or above.

But overall the strategy seemed to work. I got through the ride fine and felt perfect the next day. I was on the improve.

About halfway up Inverness Road.
About halfway up Inverness Road.

In the following week I rode to work a number of times, keeping my heartrate down as much as I could, and only pushing above 170bpm a couple of times to see how my body would react. I felt slower on the rides that I normally would (a result of reduced riding and lost form I suspect) but I also felt perfectly fine afterwards.

And then on Sunday, as mentioned, a handful of us went down to Arthurs Seat to get some climbing in for the Vuelta Skelta Strava challenge. I was feeling pretty good that morning but told myself to take it nice and easy on the ride. I resisted the temptation to do one lap as hard as I could, to see how far off my best I am, and instead did five easy and enjoyable laps.

After those five laps I definitely felt as if I could have continued but I chose to call it a day, not wanting to push things too hard. The damage might already have been done.

The view from the second half of the Arthurs Seat climb.
The view from the second half of the Arthurs Seat climb.

On Sunday night I found myself feeling weak and feverish with a headache and nausea. I went to bed at around 8.30pm feeling really ordinary and more than a little frustrated that I’d gone backwards. Two days later and I’m still not feeling right.

I think it’s important to note that I certainly don’t want this blog to become a platform for me to whinge about how I’m feeling on a day-to-day basis. I’ve written this in the hope that others might learn from this whole episode and do a better job of looking after themselves than I have.

I’ve tried to take it easy on the rides I’ve done and tried to reduce the volume of riding I’ve done. But maybe I could have done more.

Wade Wallace (left) from CyclingTips with John van Seters from Hells 500.
Wade Wallace (left) from CyclingTips with John van Seters from Hells 500.

Amy’s Gran Fondo is coming up this weekend and at the moment my strategy is just to see if I can get through it. If I’m not feeling right come the weekend I might pull the pin; a hilly 110km ride mightn’t be the best idea for me right now. But I’ll see how I’m feeling.

In closing, I’d like to say thanks to everyone that read my last post and offered their words of concern and advice. It was greatly appreciated. And to those of you that have had to put up with me whinging about feeling ordinary and bailing on rides in the past month or more, I’m sorry.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy some of the photos I shot down at Arthurs Seat and Dromana over the weekend.

14 Replies to “Ups and downs (in cycling and in health)”

  1. Sometimes it takes more strength to go slow than go fast, more commitment to back down than to continue on, more perseverance to rest than push through. You will prevail, and its called sharing not whinging. P

  2. Ditto with the Haemochromatosis. I’ve got it and it can definitely attest to what Dan said. I give blood every 3 months to keep my iron levels in check and did one a few weeks back so I’d be right for Amy’s. To find out if you have one or both genes, you need to get a specific gene test for Haemochromatosis. If it turns out you have, don’t despair, giving blood a few times per year is all it takes to manage it and you help other people in the process ie. your blood can be used for transfusions etc.

    1. Thanks Pablo, that’s good to know. Although last time I gave blood it wasn’t pretty. Let’s just say I wasn’t conscious by the end of it. πŸ˜‰

  3. Have you thought about your diet? Perhaps some food intolerances causing fatigue? There are tests for those sorts of things – it has helped me enormously. Good luck getting on top of things Matt.

  4. Matt, I’m not a GP, but wise enough and boring enough to listen to my body (most of the time :)). Doing Arthur’s Seat 5 times and riding Amy’s GF isn’t taking it easy. I’d suggest complete rest for a month and see how you feel. Watch the diet and do a bit of walking for exercise, but otherwise rest. And for the record, sick as you are, you still beat me round Amy’s!

  5. Hi Matt,could try visiting a Nutritionist, as we age the foods required to fuel active bodies can also change, the difference between feeling ordinary and ok can sometimes be just a matter of something missing from a daily diet,keep fluid intake up to 2 litres a day and more when riding although may seem excessive and I never get close to this on a non exercise day but do always have a water bottle close by at all times,
    cheers and goodluck.

  6. Have you been tested for Haemochromatosis? It’s an iron overload disorder that has the same symptoms you describe.
    I was diagnosed in 2008 after years of not knowing what exactly was wrong with me.
    After initial treatment I now feel fine.
    It’s genetic, and usually symptoms show in late 20’s to early 30’s (not sure how old you are), but it’s worth a shot if you don’t start feeling better.

  7. It’s so frustrating! I’ve been training for 4 months for the Melbourne Marathon which is now just over a month away. Smashed out my best run on Saturday but in the process I think I have royally screwed up my knee.

    It’s so annoying when, just as the body is feeling in the best shape it probably ever has been, something comes along to strike it down and ruin all the hard work!

  8. I find that GPs aren’t particularly helpful when it comes to the health and fitness needs of cyclists. I get the impression that if a GP finds that you are well enough to go to school or work, you are deemed fighting-fit and sent on your way. I would recommend that you seek the advice of a medical practitioner who works exclusively with athletes.

  9. And yes, good luck with the ride if you make it but don’t stress if u decide to pull out, that will be the correct decision if u need to make it!

  10. Hey Matt, so good to read, I’m a completely different demographic to you but after a big May – most hours ever – 83, have had a rubbish winter feeling crook, general malaise and bugs and then the worst ‘flu culminating in a massive 4 hours riding in August. Such a downer and yes you get fed up listening to your own whinging! So thanks for sharing, (and other peeps comments), very validating knowing it can even hit someone as young and fit as yourself, feel better already!

  11. Oi Matt, sorry to know that you’ve not been feeling well. Since, we know that medically everything is correct, the only reason could be general fatigue. I believe that it’s good to give your body complete rest when not feeling up to the mark. I kind of skip a week of training after every month of intense running (100-120kms). As Scott said, I too am not a pro but do it to get the adrenaline rush which makes suffering enjoyable. I’m sure with proper rest and healthy food, your vigor will come back.

  12. Matt I know how you feel. I am training for a half marathon and around the bay a week later. My training was going well and I was feeling strong and I got the flu in June and it shot be down for 6 weeks. I went from doing 26 hours of exercise in may to 6 in June. I started coming good late July and in August I got back to 18 hours but I am struggling to push and I am not getting stronger. I have had to adjust my training and I was thinking of pulling out of the half. I am struggling to run 12km, let alone 21km.

    In the end I am not a pro and I am doing it for fun so I have decided to listen to my body and I have dialed the distances I ride & run back, almost starting from scratch. I will then treat each event as a one off and hope to get through them. Not quite as much fun as feeling strong but I see it as a mental challenge now. I then plan to rest and wait for the warm weather to finally rid me of my runny nose and heavy chest.

    Best of luck in the Gran Fondo and with your recovery, being sick is no fun πŸ™

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