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Battling Fatigue Off the Bike

I’ve been battling fatigue for about 6 weeks now. Generally I can work seated with good mental focus much of the day.

But on the bike, some days a 1/3 ride has been all I can handle. My baseline ride has been a struggle, a force of will, followed by intense fatigue. And some days skipped to rest too, and nothing hard. I’ve gained a lot of weight, so no problem with appetite.

Related symptoms have been the worst asthma in 20 years—unable to get small airways to open up fully for 6 weeks or so even using inhaler (QVAR) twice the normal. CBD helps a lot though—better than the prescription inhaler.

I did manage to climb Mt Whitney with my daughter and felt good, but that was a slow pace and I rested several days prior, and the cardiovascular demands were quite low compared to a double century.

Today for the first time in 6 weeks I was ecstatic in riding at strong power levels for 50 miles / 2.5 hours / 2000 calories. Low heart rate, low breathing rate, strong power—all the signs say things are perfect. About two hours later, fatigue about as strong as after a double century.

I can’t figure out what’s wrong.

First, I thought: some kind of post concussion syndrome? It has felt like that on the bike within an hour most days. But mental focus most of the day has been fine. Maybe.

Second, I thought: exposure to air pollution? The air has ranged from tolerable to bad most days, and on the bad days I’ve worn a face mask. But today I did not wear one and there was visible haze of ultra-fine something (no smell of smoke).

Then there is the nagging idea that maybe it is hormonal: thyroid or insulin (diabetes) or testosterone, etc. I’ll have to get some blood work going and see what things look like. Concussions can screw up all sorts of hormonal systems so this is a very real possibility.

I’ve considered classic “overtraining” and that just does not make sense given all the rest and how I’ve greatly backed off the riding.

As far as I can tell my immune system is very strong: I’ve had little more than a sniffle in 3 or 4 years, and recently two of my kids had a bad virus of some kind—didn’t affect me at all.

Frustrating as hell.

Isaac writes:

For myself I found that I was having an allergic reaction. Fatigue is the primary symptom for me. Fine particulate from forest fires?

Very mild itch infrequently and in unexpected places and Low blood pressure when transitioning from sit to stand.

I wore a 3M P100 respirator for a week, annoying, but my symptoms were greatly reduced. Wearing the respirator while cycling was a pain in the neck. It takes a good 3 days of breathing clean air for symptoms to clear.

Anti-histamines help but dont solve the problem.

My wife gets similar symptoms, but for different reasons. For her it is in the food. She found she had problems with a variety of food dyes and also aged meats (naturally high in histamine).

Another factor I’ve observed is poor sleep, often because of the allergies. But when traveling i always use earplugs and an eye-mask.

I have no reason to think you have this, but it took 14 years and probably 100’s of visits to doctors before my wife was able to get properly diagnosed, it was such an unexpected thing.

I hope you can get to the root of your fatigue issue. I appreciate the site and all the hard work you put in.

DIGLLOYD: I have similar suspicions, and actually did ride with N100/P100 face mask for quite a few rides when we had fine particulate in the air.

It is suspicious that my issues starter just after the Death Ride, when I spent 3 days in the mountains with no smell of smoke, but fine particulate matter, then returned home to the same. I use a HEPA filter, but it can do only so much (too loud to run all the time).

I've observed (2 years now) that this problem is annual: I seem to be strong Jan - June, then July/August are the worst. It seems to be seasonal.

Another clue that may point to allergies: my lungs were working spectacularly well through May or so, but in July after the Death Ride, it has now taken me 8 weeks to get them to clear up after a week in clean mountain air (high Sierra Nevada)—that's the worst period of small airway impairment I’ve had for 20 years.

It stands to reason that if my lungs are the “canary in the coal mine” that the rest of my body would suffer also.

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