My COVID experience PART 2 – Darren Lee

A band showing brand colours of CicloZone, an indoor cycling app

As you may or may not know, I wrote a blog not too long ago about my post vaccination experience after taking the AstraZeneca double vaccination here in the UK. In my previous blog, I wrote about the reduced aerobic capacity that I experienced and the effect that had on my power production and my ability to complete training sessions and classes that previously hadn’t been a problem. 

My double vaccinations were early in the year of 2021 and from the first one I was left fighting this effect on my training for most of spring, summer and autumn. I did see improvements, but I never really got back to anywhere near my pre vaccinations level. In fact I reduced my my functional threshold power level in my CicloZone profile by 30 watts to allow me to complete sessions and to at least give me a base starting point from which to work, expecting me to see a quick return to my pre-vax status, but this never happened as I expected it to and I never really saw any great improvements even though I was spending substantial time on the bike. 

Now, lots of soul-searching took place and I thought to myself ‘Am I correct to place all this blame on the vaccinations or should I just accept the fact that now at 50 years old, my ability to recover from periods of illness will not be as good as it was when I was younger’ ….. but I’m a competitive soul and always will be, more so with myself than anyone else, so I persevered and kept pushing in my training sessions always hopeful that a corner would be turned. However, I still found myself unable to recover from the VO2 red zone intervals… in fact sometimes having to stop pedalling completely to give myself time to fill my lungs with air… and this certainly was not like me.

Autumn came and then winter appeared and of course Christmas was on the horizon and although we had remained relatively locked down for most of the year, the time had come to venture to the shops to buy our presents and to prepare for the festive season and this of course meant meeting friends for drinks and the inevitable socialising that comes with this period in the year. As nice as this was, the glimpse into normality that we had was very short lived as as both myself and my wife Stacy very quickly ended up with a positive COVID test result as unbeknown to us the Omicron variant had landed. Being double vaccinated, I had high hopes that the symptoms would be very mild. How wrong I could be, as both myself and Stacy were hit by the full range of cold symptoms from aches & pains, coughing, temperature fluctuations, all the way through to lack of taste and the dreaded brain fog, which generally left me sitting on the sofa on a permanent Netflix loop drinking buckets of water and popping paracetamol like Maltesers. 

Cursing the fact that I just spent the best part of the year trying to recover my fitness levels from the the spring time vaccination, I began to prepare myself for the fact that my hopes for taking part in the spring classic rides in 2022 were probably going to have to be reassessed. I finally shook off the worst of the symptoms around mid-December and tentatively jumped back on the bike to see what effect this infection had on my cycling and to my surprise something miraculous had happened, for some reason my lungs had returned. The same sessions that have been causing me so many problems throughout the summer and autumn just got easy, and the feeling that I was functioning on a single lung was gone. This translated to power in the legs and more rapid active recovery, which immediately saw my averages increase. It is as if my body, having to to deal with with a full dose of the COVID virus,  finally had the firepower to see off the residual longer term side effects of the vaccinations. It was a miracle…. I was back in business!

Two, then three, then four rides passed and not only power in the sessions, but energised post session too. 85% COL achieved, then 87% COL achieved, an increase in my FTP score and still felt good. Where dread had been at the thought of 60 minutes in the saddle, there was now energy and motivation. My 5 kg weight gain from a summer of failed sessions and endless exhausted Netflix hours on the sofa had already begun to disappear. The training plan was back on and 2022 looks a much better place to be on a bike than I had previously thought it would be.

My conclusion? Well, there isn’t one really, apart from the fact that I’m probably grateful to the person or persons who felt festive enough to give me my early Christmas present of Omicron. Who really knows what all this is about, and I have no idea what has been going on inside my own body, all I know is that I’m back, and back with a vengeance. I can’t wait until later today when I get to jump on my bike and smash out another great CicloZone session.

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