Sure, it may not hurt. But it’s still one of the worst feelings in the world. That first moment when you feel that first tickle in the back of your throat; the pathetically faint yet undeniable tickle that tells you to batten down the hatches and grab the orange juice and echinacea (I’m hoping it isn’t banned by WADA?) because you’re riding regime is about to get a whole lot more complicated. Yes, you’re about to get sick. Bugger.
Now should you have not Googled this topic for yourself, let me just say there are websites, forums and opinions aplenty on whether or not we should continue riding when we’re sick. One of the most commonly-espoused principles – which may have total or indeed zero medical substantiation – involves identifying where it hurts.
Above the neck, aka head, and the theory says you should ride. Below the neck, aka lungs, and the advice appears to be stay in bed and watch The Ellen Show.
Personally, when I noticed the telltale throat tickle about 10 days ago I found this all quite confusing. I mean, is your throat above or below the neck? I’m no GP admittedly, but your throat is your neck, isn’t it (well the inside of it, anyway)?
What to do? Well, not being one who likes to be accused of ‘man flu’, apart from loading up with a lot of vitamins I didn’t do much at all. I even raced in the pissing rain which, in hindsight, was a rather stupid idea. 48 hours later pretty much the last thing I wanted to do was ride, and despite pining for my hard-earned racing condition as it slowly evaporated into the sofa beneath me and my used tissue collection, I stayed off the bike for a week. True I dabbled a bit last Friday with an easy 25km in something of a pre-weekend lung test but weighed down by what felt like 10kg of phlegm and snot that felt bloody terrible. Back to the sofa for me.
I finally turned the corner yesterday and headed out this morning for my first proper ride in well over a week. Can’t say it was spectacular. In fact, I couldn’t even hang on to slowest group with my training bunch so it was actually quite tragic. But you have to start somewhere, I guess. And hey, it was dark so few people would have recognised me.
But there is some good news in all of this. Having been sick I’ve had more time to read – and I’ve just finished a highly scientific book about cycling physiology from an ex-British pro. He suggests the first two rides back after an illness are usually pretty abominable, but by the third you’ll be almost back to your pre-illness condition. Here’s hoping he’s right. Or I’m pretty much rooted for the winter racing season…