My Disease-Ridden Winter

I rarely get sick. In fact, some years I get maybe a couple of minor colds and never miss a day of work. In high school I had perfect attendance. This winter was not like previous years.

I think that I have a naturally strong immune system, and I also think that my years of long endurance bike rides have helped me avoid many illnesses. Riding my bike seems to keep my respiratory system really healthy. In fact, there's scientific evidence to back that up. But since I focused exclusively on track sprinting, in 2014, my bike mileage has declined drastically, so any benefits have declined in turn. So far, in 2017, I've only ridden 228 miles on the road, plus a few indoor rides on my rollers.

In any case, I came down with a bad cold in November, after Nationals, which put me down for three weeks. That was supposed to be my relaxing off-season, but instead I was sneezing and coughing.

Then I woke up in the early morning of January 3rd with painful stomach cramps. I went to work that morning, but left early. That evening I came down with a 100.4° fever too. I missed two days of work but felt better and was back at work on the 6th.

Two weeks later, in the early morning of January 16th, I woke up with the same stomach cramps and left work early again. I had another fever, though it was a bit lower at 99.6°. This time I decided it might not just be a stomach virus, as the similar symptoms seemed too unlikely to be a coincidence. I visited my doctor on the afternoon of the 17th and he decided I had an attack of diverticulitis. He told me to go to the ER immediately, and have a CT scan to check if the diverticulitis had perforated.

OK, so what is diverticulitis? 

Diverticulitis is a potentially life threatening illness caused by the inflammation (infection) of a pocket in the lining of the bowel, usually the large colon. I had a colonoscopy a few years ago, and they had told me about this pocket (called diverticulosis) in my colon, so I knew there was a chance of complications in that area. But I hadn't thought about it at all since then, and I'm not sure I knew that it could become diverticulitis.

The hospital

When I got to the ER a doctor got to me fairly quickly, and he agreed with the diagnosis so I had the CT scan to verify. After waiting around a couple of hours a nurse eventually told me to follow her to a room in the ICU. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was told by a male nurse that I had diverticulitis, like I was supposed to know that. Finally, another doctor visited me and made it official; I had diverticulitis.

Next thing you know, I was getting dressed up in a gown and hooked up to an IV antibiotics drip bag. Then I got wheeled into a room in the hospital. My wife had arrived by then, so she helped get me settled in and drove home to pick up a few things for me like magazines, my Kindle, decent clothes, etc.

Two days and two nights of being treated like an invalid, eating next to nothing except some liquids, broth, and Jello, all while listening to the patient next door who should've been in a Psych Ward, made me appreciate my freedom when I was released, on the 19th!

About a week later I started to have stomach pain again, though not on my left side. I visited the doctor on the 26th and was told it was likely some residual inflammation. They put me on oral antibiotics for two weeks. This helped, but it left a perpetual weird taste in my mouth. Ugh.

Finally, I think 10 days later, I was done with diverticulitis! Although there is always some chance of a recurrence... crossing my fingers for now. I now need to decide whether to get the preventive surgery, or just keep a close watch on my abdomen for any further symptoms.

More colds and rain

I then came down with two more colds in March, fortunately neither was quite as bad as the one I had in December, but they further delayed the start of my season.  Not that the season was cooperating anyway... our heaviest rainfall on record made riding outside rather a mess, and less suited for all-out sprint workouts on the slick pavement.

My season has finally started!

Yes, in spite of all of that, I barely missed any weight-training sessions. I had rejoined Santa Cruz Strength in December, and followed Clay Edgin's 12-week "Power Building" program. Four days a week of hard workouts yielded some nice PRs:

 This video isn't from my PR above, but still shows the effort it takes me to lift these weights.

And I did manage to drive down to Los Angeles to race at the StubHub Center's velodrome, in Carson, on March 11th and 12th. The Saturday session was held by Lee Povey, who had moved from San Jose to Santa Monica. It was a match sprints clinic, similar to others he's held in San Jose. I managed a nice 12.19-second flying 200m, my best there yet. The sprints went OK, though I was 1-3 due to some poor tactics, plus tired legs. It seems that my very limited miles of riding lately haven't hurt my top speed, but have hurt my ability to sustain high speeds for very long. On Sunday I did the LAVRA timed events, with a mediocre 38.054-second 500m, plus a 2nd place in team sprint with Wayne Lewis (from Arizona) and Bob Pelegrin (I was man 3).

Then, on March 25th, Lee held another match sprint clinic in San Jose, at Hellyer Park's velodrome. Perhaps it was the windy conditions, but my flying-200m was slower than I have ridden in several years: 12.58 seconds. Still, I rode smart and was 2-2 in the match sprints.

And now, starting on April 1st, Jeff Solt is once again coaching me back to speed. I'm transitioning down to just twice-weekly weights sessions in the gym, and up to four rides a week. Hopefully my speed will be back to 100% (or even more?) by the time we have our State Championships, in September. I'm very lucky that they are so late this year, given my late start in training!