Why You Shouldn’t Race When You’re Sick
Aside from the obvious health implications, such as getting sicker from trying to push yourself when your body is battling fever, chest congestion and coughing, racing when you are sick can take a long time to recover from.
What am I talking about? Bruised egos are very slow to heal.
Point in case: After a good race week at World Masters in Asiago, I got back with the standard souvenir: a nasty cold. Unlike many on the US team, I escaped catching it before the racing was over. However, traveling back with a cold through airline disaster that involved being stuck at the Venice airport for 12 hours and then booked into an airport hotel for a new attempt to fly out the next day was not a great prep for racing the following weekend.
Still, although I had a fever and chest congestion, I signed up for the local 30K classic race thinking I could at least “tour it:” move my sorry self on skis from A to B. The maneuver was mostly a gesture to the local race organizers. The last five years I’ve been unable to participate because the event generally conflicts with World Masters. So finally, I’m in town and figured if I didn’t show up, I would be kicked out of the village.
Once I get to the race office, I get talked into entering the race rather than the tour. Racers go at 11am, as a mass start. Tourers can mosey along at their leisure, but need to be gone from the start area by 10:30.
I go to the start line, and figure I will go to the back of the field, given that I don’t plan to “race” it. But when the gun goes off, my brain goes into race mode, and now I also had to climb over a pretty big group of people that I generally ski circles around. That, by the way, takes a lot of energy.
Then I started the race, although I never managed to get very far ahead in the field. 12K uphill from the start, usually a good setup for me. After about 8K I felt drained. Coughing and congested, my body felt cold despite climbing uphill as fast as I could handle. After the first aid station, the course flattens and the head wind picks up, gusting at gale force. I’m stiff as a board, cold to the bone, clumsy and uncoordinated, and my body feels depleted of energy and stamina. I was caught by all kinds of racers left and right, and there was nothing I could do about it.
Toward the end of the race, when the course dives down to the finish for the last 7-8K, the humiliation was complete: Even fat guys who never exercise except for this event, young children and people in warmups passed me and finished ahead of me. I was a back-of-the-packer. The cold has cleared up and the fever has since left, but my ego has not recovered. Will I ever ski fast again? Do I have any business wearing a bib? Am I a disgrace to the family name and the village?