Zen On Dirt

Ode to Health


Bodies are really funny. It’s strange to me to think that just five months ago, I laid down what I consider to be a pretty fast time on the Arizona Trail, and felt stupid-good 98% of the time out there. Now, I’ve ridden only a handful of times in the past month and each ride has laid me flat on my back for 48 hours afterwards. Oh how things change…

Mid-August, we finally made the trip to Salt Lake City to see Scott’s family. We’d been putting of the trip for one reason or another since June and we were rapidly running out of summer months to go visit. With recovery going slower than expected and Vapor Trail 125 still nearly a month away, it seemed like the perfect time to go. I had high hopes of riding a bunch of the SLC trails while there and getting my head and my body back on track.


Between hanging out with family and visiting all the SLC restaurants featured in Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, we’d get out on rides. I felt absolutely terrible. Paid a visit to Utah Urgent Care to get some blood tests done, and then pretty much swore off the bike. I was miserable, and while I was doing my best to hold it together, I’m sure I wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around. At least I got to eat a bunch of good food…


When the blood tests came back with slightly elevated TSH levels, which would potentially point to a dying thyroid, I made an appointment in Boulder to investigate further. I thought about how wonderful it would be to have energy again, to lose the 15 pounds that has been sticking around since Iditarod, and to stop losing enough hair to make me feel like I was going bald.

We drove back, stopping in Vernal to check out some of the trails that people had been making noise about. If I had any energy, I’m guessing they would have been more fun, but I was too obsessed with trying to see where the parking lot was and how much more we had to ride to actually enjoy them. We spent the night in the open desert where I was fully convinced that the sound of oil rigs in the distance were actually Indian drumbeats.

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Then back to Boulder via Winter Park to pick up all of our stuff. During our brief 24-hour stop, we went for a ride in search of a trail I had a vague memory of and ended up completely lost, but for whatever reason, I had energy and was stoked to be out.

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Packing would be a lot easier if we owned an Airstream…

Back in Boulder-town, I went to see the doctor describing all my symptoms. I described the last year of my life and his eyes kept getting bigger and bigger. I rode Tour Divide, and then I got sick with a parasite and was dying for two months, then I went through a rough personal life patch and moved back to Boulder, raced the ITI, gained a bunch of weight, raced the AZT, hurt my knee, and then cratered at Leadville. And I’ve pretty much sucked at life since then. He ordered a bunch of blood work (seven stinkin’ vials of blood) and adrenal testing, put me on some gut-repairing supplements, and a diet that pretty much excluded all food that is worth eating for two weeks.

Armed  with the knowledge that I was soon to be on the path to better health, we embarked for Salida for Scott to race the Vapor and me to give a talk at the Salida Bike Fest. To summarize: Having to sit out Vapor while still being in town and seeing it for the second time in a row sucked. Real bad. To make myself feel better, I went out for a ride but had to turn around 30 minutes in because I couldn’t fathom climbing another hill. I watched a documentary on Prince William and his new wife instead.


With Scott recovering from Vapor, we had a few mellow days, one which included a ride with the Buena Vista High School mountain bike team. We made it 20 minutes in before the skies unleashed and we all went running back to the parking lot.


By this time, Boulder was in full 100-year flood mode, my parents’ basement was flooded, and most roads were closed, so we hightailed it back to Salida instead. Scott volunteers to marshall for the Banana Belt race and I met him to help sweep and take down course markings.

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In an act of serendipity, Rebecca Barfoot posted something on Facebook, looking for a ride from Durango to the start of the Colorado Trail for a thru ride. We arranged to have her pick my car up, then pick me up in Salida. I dropped her off at Kenosha Pass since most of the Front Range Trails were closed/destroyed. It was definitely a little sad to visit a place that is so wrapped up in my history, knowing that for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t fit enough to embark on a CT traverse if I so chose. But I was hopeful, the doctor was going to tell me that I was an easy fix, and then fix me and I’d be ready to go for ITI in February.


Unfortunately, it didn’t quite go like that. The first page of my blood work looked mostly fine, the good levels in green, the questionable ones in yellow, and the bad ones in red. He flipped the page and said my thyroid looked fine. A part of my heart sank, Is this all in my head and I’m actually not sick at all?

He continued on, going to a single red line in a sea of green, This is the value I’m concerned about. He explained that there’s an enzyme called homocycsteine that’s involved in the breakdown and conversion of B vitamins and I had way too much. He said that it was involved in mitochondrial processes, which would explain why I had no energy, and that if we could get my level lower, I’d probably bounce back.

Great! I exclaimed.

But he kept talking. It wasn’t my energy levels that he was worried about. He was worried that high levels of this enzyme are linked to all sorts of things that I’d never really worried about before, like heart attacks, strokes, and degenerative brain diseases.

Oh. Not so great…seriously?


And then all of a sudden, being able to race the ITI in February stopped seeming so important.

I headed home with a bag full of supplements and the assurance that the doctor had had success in treating this before, though he’d never seen a level as high as mine. It’s definitely put me into a little bit of a tailspin at the thought that my riding, let alone racing, might need a serious adjustment in expectations.

Sort of makes me want to get a big bike and forget the whole endurance riding part of my life and move to rocky places and learn how to actually ride tech.

In the end, I’m scared shitless, but as far as I can tell, the only thing I can do to get better is take my pills morning, noon, and night, and be as gentle on my body and mind as I can. What an end to the summer…


8 thoughts on “Ode to Health

  1. I would not worry as much about the homocysteine: I think that some more recent studies have shown that it is not really as dangerous as they thought. It could be a genetic thing that you have had all along. Having an overactive thyroid (even just a little bit) can cause some serious fatigue as well. Check free T3? Maybe its overtraining and nice easy fall rides with a rest in the winter could help (avoid anaerobic and long rides, follow anti-inflammatory diet). Also maybe Metronidazole resistant Giardia/Try some oil or Oregano (diluted). and some good probiotics in between.

  2. I hope Sarah is right and it’s not as serious as you might fear. But mysterious health problems are always unnerving. Hoping you get through this soon.

  3. Eszter you are a survivor and I am sure you will meet this challenge and win. So sorry you are going through it. Wishing you the best.

  4. Trying to figure out what is wrong with ones body (and knowing something is wrong!) is never easy. Done that been there. Time, patience (hardest part), and just plane old taking care and loving yourself is what you need. Keep on keeping and know there are many of us out there rooting for one of the strongest women we know. Need anything….a Salida rest….know you and Scott always have a place to relax. Take care my friend.

  5. The “sport” of ultraracing is not healthful. Just saying. Warren Miller once said there is a finite number of turns in the knees so it was silly to waste them skiing bumps. There’s an analogy in there somewhere.

    My family will be praying for you. Get well.

  6. Sounds so much like thyroid problems (that my sister in law had) that I was expecting that to be the punchline of your post. Are hair loss, fatigue , irritability and weight issues also linked to homoscysteine levels?

  7. You are such a champ. This situation will soon be a blip on your radar. 🙂 And you were plenty pleasant company, Frankie often says “Ez miss.” We would love to see you both again soon. Maybe in Tucson in January…

  8. Sometimes rest and “deep recovery” can work wonders……..

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