The weather was, for a British summer, unfamiliarly sunny and hot. I was out on the bike as much as I could, making the most of the glorious sunshine and as I did so I was getting fitter, faster and happier. Then out of nowhere I was hit with an ear infection that was painful enough to disrupt my sleep, drain any energy I had and give me headaches that lasted for hours and which ibuprofen didn’t touch. It’s safe to say I was not impressed as this kept me off the bike whilst the antibiotics took their time to kick in. So why, just as my training frequency and intensity was increasing and I was feeling better and more capable, did I get struck down?
In short, as the number of times you go out riding and the efforts go up your immune system’s ability to ward off any viruses and infections drops. It’s about finding a happy balance – too much or too little leaves you open to contracting these minor infections and things like colds and flu. Ignore the old wives tales of sweating it out, taking echinacea et al to combat it, peer pressure and the unwritten rule that you can still ride if the illness is above the neck. My view is that you should only ride if you feel up to it and can sustain that for the length of your ride, whatever that might be. If you are unwell your body needs the energy levels it has to help you recover, not struggle up a climb or push hard on the flat.
The antibiotics started to defeat the infection in about three to four days, and I was back out riding soon after, giving my body some time to get some strength back. The length and intensity of my next few rides were not how they were before. Shorter, easier was the name of the game. More coffee stops. Oh well.