Tandem Teams and Long COVID

I had Covid this past January while we were tandeming in Tucson for the winter. The initial mild irritating COVID symptoms gave way rather quickly to a debilitating bout of pneumonia. One week I was intuitively balancing our tandem as I captained us on rides and the next, I was using a walker as I walked from the couch to the kitchen.

We were off the bike for a month and then faced with fitness rebuilding issues that any riders our age (over 70) and anyone taking a long “vacation” from exercise have to deal with. Thankfully, the rebuilding process went forward slowly but smoothly, the reward for a deep background of bike muscles and aerobics.

In the next few months, what appears to be long COVID, introduced odd neurologic effects for me. I had a day where I couldn’t name anyone I knew, including my stoker, or tell you where I lived. During the next couple of weeks, some memories refused to upload to the biological hard drive and the server wouldn’t allow me to access the cloud.

But the strangest disfunction was an inability to picture the intersections on our regular riding routes. I couldn’t tell you whether we normally turned right or left the previous dozens of times we came to the intersection. When we actually rode to an intersection, a clear picture resolved. Although I couldn’t tell you where turning either way would take us or what the next intersection looked like. Weirdly, I could describe roadside trivia that occurred between the intersections.

The responsibility for navigation fell on my stoker, whose strengths don’t include mental mapping or visualizing almost any physical item. What she is great at is following GPS cues. Suddenly, what always seemed redundant and silly to me was our primary route finder.

Tandem teams are complex and nuanced, autonomous and interdependent systems of primary and backup networks that are energized and maintained by care and respect. Give your partner a hug or fist bump today! You never know when the next intersection may be lost in the fog.