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Sick and tired of being sick and tired: when being ill stifles your cycling

VecchioJo has never tested positive, but just isn't feeling up to it...

I’m so tired.

I miss being tired.

We’ve all got tired by riding our bikes a bit too far, or a little too fast, or an idiot mixture of both and in an eskimos describing snow way cyclists can be a thousand types of tired.

There’s the general last few miles home tired.

The one eye closing slightly nearly there tired.

The knowing when your mate is starting to fade tired, as his head kinks faintly to the left and you know the last sprint is yours tired.

The sit down for a couple of minutes, fumble about in your rear pocket for a snack, glug the last vapours of water from your bottle, puff your cheeks and consider your life choices before heading off again tired.

The stop somewhere and buy all the food you can tired.

The falling asleep in a motorway services on the drive back from a ride tired.

The nodding off whilst pedalling and almost falling into a ditch tired.

The wobble off the turbo tired.

The fall asleep sat against a church wall in the sun tired.

The stare at your stem tired.

The stare at your feet on the kerb of a petrol station tired.

The one more hill home tired.

The two more hills home tired.

The what do you mean we’re only halfway tired.

The emergency chips tired.

The legs going round but nothing actually happening tired.

The hallucinating tired.

The headwind tired.

The pushing the lever to see if there’s one more gear left in there tired.

The immediately pushing the lever again to see if there’s maybe one more gear left in there tired.

The pins and needles face tired.

The that ditch looks comfy tired.

The is there a train station nearby tired.

The tired you can even see through the most heavily iridium shaded sunglasses tired.

The stare at the rear wheel right in front of you with the deepest understanding that if you let it slip more than a foot ahead then the elastic’s going to snap and you’ll never make it home tired.

The falling asleep on the sofa and waking up at 3 a.m. tired.

The falling asleep on the floor and waking up at 3 a.m. tired.

The tired from the day before tired, and the day before that tired.

The climbing tired.

The just one more alp and it will be over tired.

The false summit tired.

The heavy legs sinking deep into the mattress tired.

The head bent into sideways rain for the last nine miles tired.

The is falling asleep at the table only waking up when you’re halfway towards faceplanting a plate of curry tired.

The slow creeping tiredness that only seems to happen after races that sneaks up on you over the course of the evening to make stairs hard tired.

The "I don’t want to do this any more" tired.

I love being 'cycling tired', and actively embrace the feeling of a body being well used. I have a habit of deliberately seeking out rides that guarantee significant levels of tiredness, because sometimes pushing a body beyond the usual tired to a different place that might tickle the edges of exhaustion can be a worthwhile transformative moment, and greater belief in your own ability. But that doesn’t have to happen every day. I enjoy the gentle bit of thigh ache from a ride well done, and simply flopping into the hug of a pillow and falling asleep in an instant.

But all of these tireds have an over and done with; there is being able to sit down, there are naps, there is food, there is sleep, there are restored energy levels and reset. The tired I am within in now seems to show no real desire to come to an end.

I’m ill, I don’t like being ill. I especially don’t like being 'ill tired'.

I am enduring some low-level of something that’s lethargically circling insidiously around my system, plainly refusing to leave. It’s not a cold or a sniffle, although there are days when it’s a bit gluey in the top u-bend of the nose.

There’s no sneezing, coughing or sore throat, I can taste everything and am currently craving liquorice. It’s a debilitating nothing, mostly just a general seeping ache in the bones, an acidic simmer in the muscles and a tedious meandering undercurrent of fatigue.

Even in its languid circumnavigation of its host, it’s successfully managed to evade detection by all those that have had a comprehensive prod and poke, nothing has raised its head above any testing parapet and these tedious days and years that’s a definite positive. If there was something to be found I could plot and plan against it, I’m quite competitive like that, but it’s hard to fight a shadow so all I have to swipe blindly in the vagueness is a damp tea towel of belligerent hope. I’d happily swap whatever this is for three days of being laid flat out lifeless grey shivering under the covers with a plastic washing up bowl by the side just in case and for it to be all done. So still it rotates in a listless spiral that some days swivels down in loops, others it very much climbs in a series of tight hairpins that pin me to the sofa mid afternoon when lying there in a post ride post tea and buns recovery nap is far more preferential and much missed. Merely walking to the shops and back can be enough, riding a bike can make my body want to eat itself. All that I have to cling to is the flotsam that I’ve been stuck in this place of monotonous fatigue before and it took a long long while to sticky treacle wade out and feel the sheer joy of simply being not tired and so I know that just taking care and embracing fortitude will eventually ride it out, even if that way is a long, slow and gradual gradient. Each day is counted past with constantly monitoring the situation, I wake up every morning and do a systems check and wonder if maybe today…

On top of these doldrums there is the added malaise of tiredness that comes with inactivity. I am used to moving around a lot and being mainly static has folded a sticky mucoid swirl of sloth between the layers and the two tirednesses twirl and knit with each other to knead me into a doughy combination of ill tired and stodgy tired. I don’t do being ill very well, I am bored, I am bored of being tired, and my brain is missing the calming flow of air and without the thump through of hilltop blood is turning to a lukewarm runny but with lumps gruel.

I can’t wait to get back on a bike and be tired again.

Proper tired.

Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.

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