I write this because I know that others are suffering too, including the gentleman I spoke with yesterday, who like me was a powerhouse prior. Lives seriously degraded after COVID. There is hope. Do not give up! But it might take a few years.
This background is important to understanding what follows...
Regular readers know that I’ve struggled with devastating energy/sleep issues for 2.5 years since COVID hit me, I recovered just fine in ~2 weeks, resumed hard training after 4 weeks, then got hit with a massive reactivated EBV attack which induced auto-immune issues including Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (all time high on antibodies just last month at 1180 vs cutoff of 60).
I’m keeping my cognitive commitment to full recovery. I intend to regain full function, and I don’t care what anyone says about having no solution to thyroid disease.
I’ve had 4 or 5 major up/down cycles since that fateful June 2020 EBV onset: full strength for up to 6 weeks (sudden “remissions” as I call them) followed by up to 3-5 months of severe degradation, as recently as June 2022 through September 2022, July being horrible.
Current status, findings, suppositions
I introduced several things into my health quest in the past few months.
First, in mid October I began making my own yogurt with carefully selected bacterial strains and that continues to this day (I’ll never buy store yogurt again, home-made is so much better).
Second, I took a 2-week course of acyclovir on the recommendation of my doctor (internist) with the idea that it might discourage the EBV within my body (all time high antibodies to EBV also in Dec 2022!). I finished that course around Dec 22.
Third, I took 20000 IU of Vitamin D3 cholecalciferol starting mid-October, with blood test showing value of 80 (a bit over the "high" range). I since dropped that to 5000 IU.
So... several significant dietary changes there, on top of a low-carb diet grain-free diet for 7 months now.
The upshot is that not long after the acyclovir, my strength began to increase. So that even with all-time-high TPO (antibodies to my own thyroid) I keep getting stronger every day on average. So maybe the acyclovir beat back EBV or whatever. And maybe it is coincidence.
Weird fitness preservation
For a while, I thought that maybe I had been permanently damaged. But each time a remission comes, I see normal heart rate and power levels relative to my fitness, based on 15 years of lab-grade data on my HR vs power output. This gave me hope that I could resolve whatever was dragging me down. But always I would cycle back into a downcycle (“relapse”).
This remission here in Dec 2022 is a different. The strength gains were gradual, not sudden (literally within 48 hours), as in the past 4 instances.
Not long ago and for most of 2022/2021/2020, a single baseline ride once a week was a mental and physical struggle if possible at all. An effort that brought no feel-good pleasure during or after the ride, a sheer effort of will, a chore and a burden. A psychologically depressing why bother.
Here on Jan 24 having done a full baseline 1000 KCal ride 7 days out of 8, I feel great. I’m getting stronger every day and almost recovering overnight even after the harder rides (albeit equivalent to easy rides when in peak condition eg 170-180 watts @ 116 bpm).
What does this mean? Is it a remission that will relapse? I don’t yet know, and I am exercising some care in not doing any truly hard rides. But years of training tell me that my body is “happy” with the effort. The objective and subjective are in total agreement. So I do what feels right, feels good, feels balanced. And no really hard efforts yet, just some 90% HR stuff for a few minutes up a hill, a few times over the 90 minute ride.
So—if you have been struck by COVID or its after effects, give yourself time and commit yourself to patience, as recovery might just be a matter of time.
UPDATE, Jan 31 2023
Who cares? I do of course, this is sort of a journal. But anyone else battling this kind of issue might want some objective perspective with specifics on breakthroughs, remissions, relapses and associated challenges. And it’s no easy psychological effort to push for 2.5 years trying to feel normal. Giving up is not an option.
Yesterday’s ride was my strongest effort* in two years excepting two rides in 2022*. This effort level used to be my standard daily baseline effort, but I’ll take it.
* 192W average = 207W normalized power for 92 minutes @ 128bpm, 1026 KCal. Next closest efforts were 2022-05-30 194W @ 128bpm and 2022-06-30 196W @ 122bpm. In 2021, . Not bad for being 20 pounds overweight and 3 years battling this long covid or auto-immune or whatever it is. There were 24 stronger rides in year 2021, so 2022 was pretty poor.
Still, it’s a frustrating dichotomy of apparently neurological pain (arms and hands mostly). Along with demanding sleep needs (12 hours), which should be slightly higher for training recovery, but not nearly that high. It feels like an auto-immune thing is still having its way with me hence the hand/arm pain. For example, today I slept till 11 AM (22:30 to 11:00) waking up with feeling of heaviness and could have slept till noon, easily. It’s a whole body heaviness that I would liken to having done a double century or carried a 70 pound pack for hours—but without the feel good part. Clearly, something is still siphoning off a lot of energy. And who knows what effect blood lead level is having on it all.