One week to Boston. More broadly, one week to any big race. The work has been done. “The hay’s in the barn,” as they say. A few short runs remain on the calendar with some strides for good measure to keep the legs sharp. But the most stressful part of race week, I find, is not the race itself...it’s not getting sick.
I fought to keep a straight face as one does when they see someone kick a puppy or have just taken a strong pull on some brown liquor. I tried not to let the alarm, the utter terror, come through in my eyes. “Oh? Umm. Oh. Ok, well, have a good morning.” Be cool. Be cool. I thought as I took a mental inventory of our medicine cabinet. Maintain…and go get some Cold-eeze at lunch.
Later that day I needed to borrow a pencil from one of my friends (I know, who uses pencils, anymore?). “I don’t have one,” my friend said. “But I bet she does,” nodding to my co-worker’s cubicle. I lowered my voice.
“She’s sick.” But I didn’t lower it enough.
“Hey! I heard that!” she called.
“Sorry!” I said. “It’s just, you know, Boston is so close and…”
“I’m sure I’ll be fine,” she said.
(nervous laughter) “Ok.”
I popped a Cold-eeze and lathered my hands in Purell.
Everything seemed to be going fine. Her plague cold came and went. Later in the week, I passed up a seat on the metro because of a stray Kleenex nearby. Then, this past Friday, Mrs. Onthebusrunning and I were meeting some people out at restaurant. It required meeting new people. No big deal. Except that that meant shaking a lot of new hands. Jesus, I sound like Felix Unger.
When I woke up Saturday morning, I felt it. A slight abnormality in my throat. I summoned up some spit and swallowed hard. Yep, no doubt about it: there’s a sore spot.
I didn’t say anything to my wife. Not right away. I went right for the hot beverage. No luck. I popped a Cold-eeze and the rationalizing began: Ok, it’s Saturday. I’m usually sick for, what, a week? I’m better by next Saturday and that’s two days to get ready for the race.
“Why are you taking that?” she asked.
“I have a tickle in my throat.”
“I bet you’re fine.”
Later that day while out running errands, she suggested we get some pho for lunch. Good, good, I thought. That’ll be good on my throat. And not only did it feel ok, but I also got my sodium content for the next week so no worries about hyponatremia while hydrating for the race.
Then it came back.
We went to bed that night and I knew that the morning would be the tell-tale sign. If I woke up and it was worse, I was definitely sick. If it stayed the same or got better, maybe it was just allergies or a miracle.
I slept through the night and woke up at 8:00 to do what I didn’t get to do before Cherry Blossom. That’s when I remembered. I took a hard swallow, the only true test. Nothing. No pain. Just a regular swallow. I was so excited, relieved, thankful that I woke myself up completely and couldn’t get back to sleep.
I took to the trails yesterday afternoon with renewed hope and got to thinking about it again. I remembered being at the restaurant Friday night and thinking how tasty the chicken sandwich I’d ordered was, how crunchy the grilled bread was, but how you paid the price for eating it as…the…Gatorade hit a cut…in…my…mouth. The bread! The stupid bread probably cut the back of my throat. I’ll be damned, I thought.
I rested easy last night. Seven days to race and…who sneezed?