All Better, Briefly

10.7.2015 | 10:33 am

I have so many stories I have in my backlog. Stories about people who have won prizes. Stories about races I’ve done really well in, as well as stories about races I’ve done not-so-well in. Stories about riding at Levi’s Gran Fondo last weekend, including silly photos in a photo booth…with Jan Ullrich. For realsies. And even stories about a nasty infection I’ve been living with since August…including some pretty darned disturbing photos.

But I’m not going to talk about any of those today. Because right now, I just want to talk about what it’s like to be a cyclist when you have a cold.

As I noted on Monday, I’ve been pretty sick, with a pretty bad cold. And by “pretty bad cold,” I of course mean, “completely normal and common cold.” Which is to say, there’s nothing special or unusual about the cold I have. It’s just a cold. 

And all colds are pretty bad.

The Beginning

I know exactly when I started experiencing symptoms of the cold: Sunday morning, 3:28am. I woke up with a sore throat.

At the moment, I rationalized the sore throat away. I had been at a Gran Fondo after-party ’til late; the music had been loud. I had to nearly shout in order to be heard. A sore throat could easily be the result of straining my voice.

But by Sunday morning, I could tell it was a cold. It wasn’t bad, not yet. But I knew what was coming.

By the time The Hammer and I got home from California, I felt really bad. And by Monday morning, I knew that there was no way any creative writing was going to happen. Maybe by Tuesday, I’d be able.

Then Tuesday came. Writing a fun story? Nope, not going to happen. 

By Tuesday afternoon, I was feeling truly cranky. And groggy. And miserable.I was not fun to be with. Even more not-fun to be with than usual, I mean. 

I called The Hammer at work, so I could complain to someone besides the dog and cat — neither of which were giving me the sympathy I deserved.

“I feel sick,” I revealed.

“I know you do,” The Hammer replied. “Have you taken some cold medicine?”

“Not in a while,” I replied. Somehow — and this is as strange a fact to me as it will be to you — I am capable of simultaneously being acutely aware of my cold symptoms, yet forgetting to take the medication that will alleviate aforementioned symptoms.

“Well, take your medicine, knucklehead,” The Hammer admonished.

Here’s a shocking fact: calling a nurse while she’s at work in order to get sympathy is not a productive exercise. 

“I’m coming home,” she continued. “I’m finished rounding for the day, and I want to get a ride in before it gets dark.”

We got off the phone and I went back to feeling sorry for myself.


Then I had a flash of insight. I’d join The Hammer on her ride. Sure I’m sick, but I’ve ridden with a cold before, and I knew what it would be like: As soon as I started riding, I’d feel better.

All better, in fact.

I knew that the return of wellness would be an illusion; I wouldn’t be truly all better. I wouldn’t have my normal power or endurance on tap; I’d be slower than usual and would tire quickly. And I knew that after the ride, the fuzzy head, achy feeling, sore throat and runny nose would all return. Sometimes with a vengeance and with interest.

But I was willing to pay that cost right now. Just to feel good for an hour or so. 

By the time The Hammer got home, there were two Cannondales on the bike rack and ready to ride: the Scalpel for her (she’s fallen in love with that bike and never rides anything else anymore), the F-Si for me (I’ve fallen in love with this bike, though I often ride other bikes too).

“I’m coming along,” I told The Hammer. 

I expected an argument, but didn’t get one. 

The Cure

We drove to Potato Hill trailhead at Corner Canyon — my main concession to my cold being that I didn’t want to ride up Hog Hollow; I’d keep the ride easy. Down Red Potato we went, then up Ann’s at an easy pace.

I felt fantastic. Head clear, breathing easy, aches a thing of the past. Bikes are such an amazing way to take a vacation from your cold.

We finished the loop in under an hour; we were back at the car. According to the original plan, we were done now. 

But I wasn’t ready to be done. For the first time in three days, I was happy. Feeling good. “Let’s do Ghost,” I suggested. 

“You’re up for it?” The Hammer asked.

“I feel wonderful,” I replied.

As we were speaking, another two riders pulled up. One of them had a Scalpel exactly like The Hammer’s, the other had a Scalpel from the previous year.

“Looks like we’re having a Cannondale convention,” I remarked.

We all started riding Ann’s Trail toward Peak View at a leisurely pace, the other two riders ahead of The Hammer and me.

Then we heard a low roar of voices and bike chains behind us.

I looked back: NICA kids. About fifteen of them. Coming up fast.

I do not want those kids to pass me, I thought to myself. I had two reasons for thinking this. The first was that I didn’t want to pull over and wait for fifteen people to pass me, then ride in a cloud of their dust for the rest of the ride.

And the real reason had to do with…well, frankly, it had to do with pride. Conceit. Whatever.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who had this thought, either, because the two guys ahead of me (The Hammer was riding behind me) had stepped up their pace. In a big way.

I jumped, sprinting to catch the wheel of the rider ahead of me. Cold or no cold, a mental switch had flipped. I was now in race mode.

I hung with him, staying close on his wheel, while his friend pulled away.

“You want by?” he asked.

“I’m fine here,” I replied.

Then, a minute later, I reconsidered. I think I can catch that guy up ahead. “Go ahead and look for a place to let me by,” I said. And a moment later he had yielded. I was free to chase his friend.

I managed it. I buried myself, absolutely ruined myself chasing this guy down, but I caught him.

“You want by?” he asked.

“No way,” I replied. “Catching up to you took everything I have.”

He kept up a race pace, and I held on to his rear wheel by the skin of my teeth. Hurting and happy.  

And that’s the way we pulled up to the Peak View parking lot. I rode slowly around the lot a couple of times ’til I could talk again, then stopped by the guy I had been desperately riding behind.

“That hurt,” he said.

“That was awesome,” I agreed. 

Later, after the ride, the malaise and stuffiness and soreness and grouchiness would return. But no worse than before. 

I had had a vacation from my cold, capped off with an intense impromptu race experience.

I love bikes.


  1. Comment by Brian in VA | 10.7.2015 | 10:58 am

    I love stories like this, Fatty! I hope the ride also got your cold moving out.

    Feel better soon!

  2. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 10.7.2015 | 10:59 am

    Good of you to give us a morsel today, and congrats on getting out.

    When the local mtb hs team comes up behind me on my mountain I find it a good time to stop and take some pictures and check the air pressure in the tires.

    By the time I’m finished with that there’s no more dust cloud to worry about.

  3. Comment by Tom in Albany | 10.7.2015 | 11:12 am

    It is this type of post that keeps me coming back. I really enjoy your race reports and your fund-raising. But, it’s the real life, I-love-bikes moments that you capably relate back to us that I love.

  4. Comment by Bart the Clydesdale | 10.7.2015 | 12:06 pm

    Totally agree with the bike temporary cure to the common cold. Two weeks ago I too had a cold and went for a ride, to which my wife (non rider) gave me a raised eyebrow. When I returned home I said “should have done that two days ago, I now feel great.”

  5. Comment by Bike Chick | 10.7.2015 | 12:30 pm

    Hmmm… I expected at least Ebola but I got fooled again by a common MAN cold. Glad you’re feeling better and that you temp is done that half degree. ;)

  6. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 10.7.2015 | 12:49 pm

    That’s WAY better than chicken noodle vodka.

    And we get to benefit, too!

    Hope the cold vacation lasts until you’re over it completely.

  7. Comment by Arizona Guy | 10.7.2015 | 1:24 pm

    I was waiting for the humble-brag at the end where it turned out the guy you caught was some pro …

  8. Comment by NZ Ev | 10.7.2015 | 2:40 pm

    I always say Bikes cure everything!!!

  9. Comment by Dave T | 10.7.2015 | 2:45 pm

    get better fatty. Bike Chick MAN colds can be very serious

  10. Comment by Bike Chick | 10.7.2015 | 2:57 pm

    LOL @Dave T. Glad to see you bros stick together. ;)But from what I’ve heard, MAN colds are only as serious as the woman taking care of you takes it…

  11. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 10.7.2015 | 4:02 pm

    @DaveT you are so going to get it at home!

    Let’s all just hope Fatty doesn’t follow through on showing us his saddle sore.

  12. Comment by ScottyCycles | 10.7.2015 | 4:17 pm

    Cycling is my vacation from chronic neck and back pain so I understand perfectly well why you would ride with a cold!

  13. Comment by leroy | 10.7.2015 | 4:48 pm

    You complain to your dog?

    Me too!

    My dog sits on a chair next to the couch, taking notes, nodding, and pretending to be interested in my childhood and recurring dreams.

    It doesn’t do much good. But at least I get to lay on the couch for an hour.

  14. Comment by SteveS-Santa Cruz | 10.7.2015 | 4:53 pm

    It was great to briefly meet you at the Fort Ross Road lunch stop. I think the same cold hit me too.

  15. Comment by Shugg McGraw | 10.8.2015 | 3:11 am

    Normal service has resumed.


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