In Our Own Words Rob Covid Journey
Training Tips

"Yesterday, I became a new kind of cyclist. I am now a cyclist with COVID-19."

By: Rob Lydic  March 31, 2020

Rob is a cyclist, and now he is a cyclist with COVID-19. Here he shares his experience of being diagnosed with COVID-19 and why it is so important for cyclists world-wide to take personal responsibility to protect themselves and others so that on the other side of this pandemic, we can have the biggest group ride the world has ever seen.

I am a cyclist. In 2019, I rode 6,200 miles, climbed over 313,000 ft, and raced in 29 road and cyclocross USAC sanctioned races. I live in bike-happy (obsessed?) Boulder, Colorado and am surrounded by globally recognized cyclists, world renowned cycling manufacturers, men and women in Team USA kits, and recreational riders of every shape and size. I love cycling. I embrace everything about it, the matchy-matchy kits, the bike tech, the daily grind, the nutrition, and the thrill of the lactic acid buildup as I gleefully suffer climbing Flagstaff road, Sunshine Canyon, and Lefthand Canyon chasing my latest Strava PR. Over the last couple of weeks however, all of this has changed. It has changed for all of us that love the two-wheeled freedom pursuit. Our teams meet-ups, our community group rides, our charity rides, and our races are all gone and we have changed to a community of solo riders and Zwift junkies. I am extremely pleased that our community has reacted so swiftly (Zwiftly?), to changing how we ride and how we interact with one another. As a whole, we have responsibly adapted. Thank you to all of our community that has changed, and to those of you that have not…..GET WITH THE PROGRAM. We all must have social distance and stop the spread of this awful disease.

Yesterday, I became a new kind of cyclist. I am now a cyclist with COVID-19. I received the dreaded call from my local hospital in the afternoon who confirmed that my test that was administered on March 16th showed that I am one of the latest positive tests in the county, state, and US. It was surreal, but in truth I expected it since I had been administered my test. Ever since the outbreak was announced in January, I had been an intense student of this virus, studying every symptom, reading every scientific output, following it’s spread and connecting with scientist and medical friends on every aspect of it. As a degreed biologist, it was like being back in college trying to understand all of the variables and constants that affected the probabilities of outcomes. I knew that my travels to San Francisco and Los Angeles for work the last week of February may have subjected me to the virus and as my symptoms began to appear one after another, it had become a higher probability day by day.

My symptoms started the first week of March with a sore throat. I felt great but had a tickle in my throat. This is not widely thought of as a symptom but in my opinion, it was a sign for me. On the 10th, I developed a cough and told my family that we would begin to isolate. This cough was dry and began to really hurt my lungs. This really concerned me as I am very dialed in to listening to my body and the strength of my lungs. I began to take vitamin C (Emergen-C), a 12 hour Mucinex, and 1000 mg of Tylenol that day. As I woke up on the morning of the 12th, I realized that it was time to call my doctor. It felt like the intersection of my trachea and my bronchial tubes were inflamed and under attack. I also began to have body aches that penetrated my back muscles and kidney areas making them sore. At the same time, my legs and glutes began to become sore through a lack of exercise.

My doctor’s office scheduled a time to see me on the 12th and I followed their every protocol. Upon arriving, I remained outside of the office and motioned to the front desk personnel that I needed a mask before entering. I maintained my distance, touched nothing and stood by a wall waiting to be seen. The nurse practitioner that saw me took my vitals and did not believe that I was subject to COVID. My pulse was normal, my temperature was normal, and my blood pressure was normal. She administered a flu test and asked that I wait for the result. The test was conducted by presenting a swab up my nostrils to what felt like my brain cavity to get a sample. This test came back shortly as negative and I was told that if I felt worse over the next couple of days, that I should call back. I asked specifically if I was a candidate for a COVID test and she said that I was not. I also knew that the status of tests in the state and US was extremely limited as it was being widely addressed in all of the media and medical outlets.

Over the weekend, I took a turn for the worse. The infection moved deeper and deeper into my lungs and my cough, while dry, hurt worse. I felt like my lung capacity was decreasing hour by hour, but I was not in need of going to the ER. I could breathe, could take full and deep breaths, however it was labored and would often cause me to cough. On Saturday the 14th I developed a fever and woke up at 4 am with a sweat that had me believing that I had broken the fever. This was the first and only time that I felt that I had a fever. My wife had also began to show symptoms, albeit different than mine. She developed a cough, nasal congestion, an ear infection and some muscle soreness. My kids, who are 16 and 18, showed no symptoms at all.

As a side note, like many parents, having to tell your teens that they cannot go hangout with their best friends and girlfriend was not taken well. They wanted to negotiate like Matlock with facts, their opinion, and legal precedence to get out of residential jail. I must say that I was quite impressed with their tenacity. We did not cave on this however. Yes, they had seen many of these people at school just days before the schools closed, but we had to start someplace and yes I was aware that not all parents were doing it. After hours of rebuttals, they were convinced that they would need to be at home. My son who had just returned from competing at the Tour of Southern Highlands did negotiate to go and ride outside but had promised to only ride with 3 specific people and to maintain social distancing at all times.

On Monday the 16th we called the doctors office to ask what to do next and were directed to the Boulder County response line for COVID-19. After a 45 minute wait, I left a message and they called back 2 hours later. I shared my new symptoms and they asked my wife and I to come to an urgent care clinic in the town next to ours and to not get out of the car. We were to arrive and call a different number where a nurse would come out to our car and meet us.

The nurse arrived in full coverage of a face shield, gown, and mask and began to ask us questions and take our vitals. Upon taking mine, the nurse placed the blood-oxygen meter on my finger and asked me to breathe deeply. She took this measurement twice and then left. Five minutes later a different nurse in full protection arrived and shared that there was significant concern that my blood oxygen levels were very low (85) and that they needed to take it again to see if it was fluke. If my measurement was that low again, they would have to send me to the ER. It is then that I began to be really concerned. I did not want to go to the ER, I did not want to take a bed from others that would need it, and I did not want to be in an environment to subject others or be subjected to anything else in an immunocompromised position. This test came back much better in the mid 90’s and I breathed a sigh of relief. There would be no hospital. She then said that she would be administering the COVID-19 test due to my travel, my symptoms, and that I had tested negative for the flu test. This test was exactly the same process as the flu test 3 days prior and I am nearly positive that it went up my nostril, to my sinus cavity, and into my frontal cortex. Not a fun experience, but I took the perspective that these men and women were going through something much worse as medical professionals and their stress of dealing with patients like me and then having to go home to their families was far worse than any nostril swab. These men and women truly are heroes in today’s world.

My wife and I were told that our test results would be available in 5-7 days and to call back to get the results then. The State of Colorado was still ramping up efforts to administer and read tests and the current capacity was 250 tests to be analyzed per day. So began the wait.

That day was one of my worst. The aches, the kidney pain, and the chest pain was made bearable only through Tylenol and the Mucinex.

The following day however, things began to change. I woke up on Tuesday feeling a lot better with my only symptom being my sore lungs. My cough had become very intermittent, around once an hour, and my body didn’t ache. I was able to take my dog for a walk in the country and while I was cautiously slow, it was ok and provided some needed relief from the thoughts running through my head and the needed fresh cool Colorado air.

The next days were interesting though. The aches returned and they ebbed and flowed. The cough stayed at bay with Mucinex but I had to go on and off with the Tylenol. It was truly the craziest feeling that I could feel better and then go back into not feeling great.

Today, I am feeling a bit better with little to no symptoms. My cough is becoming increasingly intermittent and I believe I am going to wean off of any medications to see how I am really feeling. My chest however is sore, my throat is scratchy, and I am concerned deeply about if my lungs will recover from this damage. I have also discovered that I have an interesting side effect where my sense of smell is significantly diminished. It’s bizarre as heck. I cannot smell the strong smells. Emotionally, I am spent on the realities for my family, our community, and the world as a whole. Like millions in the world, I am saddened for the less fortunate, the elderly, the people who will die, our kids, the millions of workers displaced, our economy, and all of the medical professionals who are fighting this disease without a full set of protections and tools.

What does this all mean for us cyclist? In my opinion, it means that we need to understand that we need to distance. Truly distance from each other and use this time to help society at large. We need to be vigilant on keeping our at-risks populations safe and our fit bodies and our families safe. We need to ride indoors and embrace Zwift on our trainers. For those that continue to ride outside, please ride by yourselves and note that you need to be ultra-careful while riding because if you get hurt, you may be taking a medical spot from someone who really needs it. That does mean obeying all traffic laws and going slow on downhills or avoiding obstacles and jumps. Is it inconvenient? Does it suck? It might, but it sucks a whole lot less than taking a medical spot away from a man or woman at the hospital, and it sure as hell is better than sharing this evil virus. Cycling gives us so much personally, has such great societal benefits and makes us better people. We will all get back on the roads and trails again soon together and share the joy that is cycling. For now, however, it may just need to be a little less than we are used to so that we call can recover as a society, and when this is over I hope we have the biggest group ride the world has ever seen.

About the Contributor

Rob is an executive, an entrepreneur, and an avid cyclocross and road racer in Boulder Colorado. He is a husband of 21 years, a father of an 18 yr old aspiring pro cyclist and a 16 yr old aspiring vocalist who dreams of being on Broadway.

Photo By: Brent Murphy