You Can Only Wear Yourself Down So Much…

Although I constantly test my luck and think I can outsmart my body, you can only wear yourself down so much before you end up getting sick.

The Decline

I developed a little upper respiratory weirdness when I was traveling to the Tinker Bell Half.  My symptoms were mostly a runny nose and it luckily resolved before the race.  This trip, however, did not include very much sleep.  We got about 3 hours sleep the night before our flight, tried to adjust to the time change, had a 3:30 am – park close-sort-of day the day of the race, and have very disrupted sleep on the red-eye headed home.

Of course, if I had had time to catch back up after this crazy week, I might have been ok.  Charles came home and slept almost 24 hours straight since he took the day we got back off from work.  Lucky!  I headed into an exceptionally busy week at work with some late nights.  I also tried not to create a lull in my training after the race.  Although I took some of my runs easy, I still got in 20+ miles.

Fast Forward to This Week

This week has been off to a rough start.  I felt a little sub-par when I woke up for my 11 Sunday long run but hoped a good night’s sleep would leave me feeling better.  I woke up with a weird tickle in my throat Monday morning.  Uh oh.

I had a 24 hour business trip to New Jersey on Monday/Tuesday which has its inherent stresses, exposure to germs in the airport, sub-par sleeping conditions etc.  The tickle turned into a cough by the end of the day Tuesday.  Today, it has matured into an even more severe cough.  Gross!

I had planned to get in one last good tempo run plus a relaxed Thursday group run before the Lady Track Shack 5k this weekend.  It has become clear that taking on both, or possibly even either, of these runs would not be the best decision.

I got to finish reading The Art of Running Faster by Julian Goater while I was on the plane this week and picked up an important tidbit.  He advocates that during race week, you should train “for feelings not for fitness.”  In essence, he suggests that putting in a hard work out early during a race week is fruitless.  It is physically impossible to make meaningful fitness gains during that time and the potential of wearing yourself out is a much more likely outcome.  The only running you should focus on during this window is running that makes you feel better and more excited to race.  So much of racing is psychological and thus focusing on mental preparation during the week of a race far outweighs the efficacy of strenuous physical training.

Coming To Terms With “My Best”

So I have to set my expectations properly in anticipation of this race.  While I should certainly reach for the stars and dream that a PR is possible, I also must realize that my lungs and throat my prevent me from reaching my normal potential.  Not every race is a great race.

If I feel physically healthy enough, I really want to join the group run tomorrow night to “shake the cobwebs” off my legs (as Julian Goater might say).  If I do, I need to remember to take this run easy and prepare my mind rather than my body.  I am also coming to terms with the distinct possibility that my body may just not be well enough for a run before the race.  In that case, I need to have faith in my training and the power of the mind to make this race the best it can be.  I am hoping to avoid a day home from work sick tomorrow (I hate taking sick days – although you sometimes need the rest, I would rather be productive!) but one of the greatest lessons running has taught me about life in general is the importance of listening to your body.  Being the best runner you can be is not always about training the hardest.  Sometimes it’s about having the wisdom and maturity to know when not to train.  Whether it’s illness or injury, ignoring the “mayday” calls your body is sending your brain is foolish and has the potential to set you back far further than you would have been by taking a few days off.

With all of this in mind, I will begin preparing to “forgive myself” in advance of this race, anticipating that Saturday may not be a PR.  No matter what, it will be another piece of experience to add to my “running arsenal” and I will no doubt learn something from the experience. Rather than beating myself up over missed miles this week, I will focus on getting rest and preparing my body for the hardest effort I can muster on Saturday morning.  If all my hardest effort can yield is a mediocre time this once, there will always be another race.

In Other News…

I would like to wish a very happy birthday to my beautiful mother Cindy!  As I posted on my Facebook in her honor this morning,

“I cannot imagine what my life would be like without you and I love you! You are the best mother in the world and you inspire me to be the same selfless sort of mother for my children someday.”


I dragged my sick self out to dinner to celebrate and it was definitely worth it.  I treasure all of the time we spend together and I never take for granted how nice it is having her just a 20 minute drive away.  I would not trade the close bond we have for anything and no matter what hardships or loss I stand to face throughout my life, this will aways be constant and true.

When you come down with a bug during the midst of training, do you train through it or take some time to recover?  

Have you ever gotten sick right before a race?  How did it impact your performance?

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