Over the last 2 years, there has been one word all performance athletes dread and that is covid. The virus so easy to pick up, can damage your lungs and affect performance with no prediction of how each individual will recover. After escaping covid for the past two years it finally got me, and what surprised me the most was the immediate effect it had on my lungs.
The symptoms were not particularly strong, I was not on my death bed. But when exercising it feels like your lungs hit a limit and would go no further, as if the body was limiting things. Having taken a week of easy riding and 1 training session it was time to head to the Tour of L’ Ardeche , a 7-day stage race in France with a few ‘hills’ in it.
The first day was a complete shock to the system, with how the body recovered after efforts. Imagine a water bottle full of water and each time you make a serious effort , normally a few drops of water comes out and you recover okay. However, this was not the case this time. The race was particularly hard so regular efforts were needed to stay in the peloton but instead of a few drops of water coming out of the bottle, it was more like spouts of water coming out, and with the body not recovering, it was being depleted fast. With a lot of encouragement and wheel-sucking from teammates, I made it to 102km out of the 108km in the peloton where the last hill was simply to much. The body went to 0, like a red on the traffic lights and the rest of the stage was completed at 120w where the body could push no harder.
As the days progressed the lungs started to recover more and get used to the air (30 degrees), however, the fast flat 50 KMPH riding was still an issue for the body. By now uphill was seemed okay. As the days progressed the sensations were getting better and recovery was returning. A surprise was a 4th on stage 5 of the tour and a 3rd on stage 7 where ‘go till you blow’ was implemented on the last hill before descending in the breakaway on 5.
Coming out of L’ardeche I know I had done all I could given the circumstances. After 2 days of recovery, it was time for Vreese – Sur a women’s UCI race in the south of Belgium. The first day was a number of steep hills where the lungs were again only going to a limit and signs of not recovering from L’ardeche were present and the anaerobic efforts were harsh on the lungs.
The race was challenging with a teammate nearly making the winning break but after her triple race schedule ( Simac ladies tour, 1-day rest, L’ardeche, 2 days rest, and Vresse-sur) her legs and body were more than heavy and tired. We both finished in the 1st peloton in 16th and 24th positions. The second day was very cold, wet, and winter weather! It was the end of the run for my body, it simply said no, at the beginning stages of hyperthermia a DNF was issued. For my teammate, another good ride, finishing 24th and surviving and battling the cold conditions.
So what have I learned from covid? The symptoms are not so harsh, you feel bad for a couple of days but the ongoing issues are there. Headaches and lung ‘limits’ and with the research still being done as everyone is individual in their recovery process, it is wise not to rush.