I’ve noticed that cyclists seem to get sick a lot, and bike racers, crazy sick. One person gets a cold and then everyone gets it. You’d think that with all the fitness and healthy lifestyle, especially the deep-fried kettle chips, bike racers would never get sick. But they do.
And if they’re not sick, they’re hurt. You don’t hardly have to ask a bike racer how they are doing. They will never say, “Great!” or “My legs are off the hook!” or “Amazing!”
Instead they will tell you about their whooping cough, or their dysentery, or their inflamed urethra, or their separated shoulder, toothache, etc. I know that Tour de France riders are so fit they constantly hover between immaculate form and dropping out of the race due to a summer cold. Apparently the fitter you are, past a certain point, the weaker your immune system.
I never say never, but I’m never sick. Maybe once every couple of years I get a legit cold with sniffles and an annoying fever, but the last time I was in bed due to illness was a long time ago. There was the time in 2015 when I broke my nutsack and got laid up for a short while, but other than that, pretty much nothing. And although I always feel gutted after a hard ride or race, it only takes a day or so to bounce back and feel great again.
One reason I don’t get sick is that I’m never really all that fit, certainly not razor fit. The only way my belly muscles would ever get cut is if I shaved them with a rusty razor. So there’s no way I’m going to ever be hovering on the precipice of supreme fitness with a compromised immune system.
The other reason is that growing up I was a filthy little kid. I bathed once or twice a month until I was thirteen. The only way to get the dirt and grime off was to sweat, and in Texas we did that a lot. Our dog Fletcher was covered in fleas and the fleas always had a secondary feast on us. Plus there were ticks. Sometimes you wouldn’t find them for a week or so, until they had swelled up into giant green blobs that exploded like blood bombs when you popped their abdomens. Then the head would stay lodged under your skin and get infected, and you’d usually end up cutting open the infection with a filthy pocket knife to drain the pus. As a little kid bonus my brother and I would always sniff the other one’s festering sore. “Gross!” we would shriek happily.
We had lots of cats, and they’d scratch us and bite us pretty regularly. Nothing is nastier than a cat scratch. The giant red welts would last for days and sometimes get infected. Outside we’d get stung by everything, mosquitoes of course, but also honeybees because we loved to try to catch them and put them in jars, bumblebees, and yellow jackets. Nothing was more fun than pelting a giant yellow jacket nest with rocks and then running. No matter how many times we learned that you can’t outrun wasps, we’d do it all over again.
My point is that as a child I must have developed a very strong immune system as an alternative to being dead. I’m sure I got sick, but I sure don’t ever remember it. What I remember is playing sick to get out of school, but that only worked a few times a year.
As a cyclist I think a lot of my immune system strengthening comes from water bottles. There is nothing as nasty as a water bottle. You can try to clean them as much as you want, but the manufacturers make the nozzles so that they can’t really be cleaned. They’re like mini-toilets that can’t ever be flushed. Finally it just gets so disgusting that you throw it away and buy a new one, otherwise, who would ever replace a water bottle? I never do that. I will drink from a nasty water bottle until the rubber rots off. What’s a little gangrene or encephalitis?
Between my water bottles and my mediocre fitness, I hope to not encounter sickness for many years to come. But you can still tell me about yours.
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