Now Dylan is bulletproof and despite the obvious discomfort he's remained totally upbeat, so much so that I actually took him out to the park and to Lidl as he seemed like he was well on the mend. All was good until half way through the shopping when he announced he was going to be sick and promptly puked on the floor. This was straight after declaring 'I'm not boking in a box' after I'd rapidly shoved an empty cardboard container under his mouth.
|The boys not feeling sick!|
I can totally accept this, being contaminated by your offspring is part and parcel of being a parent and I often play the bug lottery, watching the latest strains work through my family, hoping fruitlessly that I'll somehow avoid the lurgy and be able to power on. I remember when my older boy was a baby, thinking that the cold he had probably wouldn't effect me because he was tiny and I was big! As a result I carried on as normal, letting him slobber and sneeze all over me, with the upshot that I got it worse than he ever had and spent the next three weeks coughing my lungs out. This startling lack of medical knowledge no doubt had Louis Pasteur turning in his grave and taught me a vital lesson the hard way.
Being sick is often little more than an inconvenience to most people. You feel a bit rotten, deal with the symptoms and largely carry on with life until it passes. Being sick as an athlete can be pretty devastating, particularly in the run-up to a big event. It can ruin months of careful preparation and effort in one fell swoop. At present I'm just coming to the end of a very tough four week training block and everything is going brilliantly. Times are getting faster despite no increase in effort and recovery is coming easy, the very definition of improving fitness. My first big race of the year is in a week and everything feels like it's falling into place. To get my body in this situation has taken a lot of hard work, overcoming injury, adjusting plans, dieting hard and getting out in some testing conditions. Training to peak for a big event is pretty formulaic and has always worked well for me unless the spectre of illness has appeared to f**k it all up.
I remember reading Brad Wiggins' book and empathising with his obsessive attempts to stay healthy during the Tour De France. Using hand-sanitiser literally every time he touched anything may seem a bit ridiculous but when you work so hard for a singular goal that can be ruined so easily then it's understandable (a lot more so than using TUE's to gain an unfair, drug-fuelled advantage anyway!). The human body is so fallible and weak, it takes so little to knock it out of kilter and athletes are even more susceptible than non-athletes. Systematically battering ourselves, breaking down muscle to allow it to rebuild also temporarily downs our immune systems, leaving us more open to attack.
As a teenager, my Mum could never understand why I was constantly sick. She thought I was a hypochondriac but I was actually just someone with an immature body and a poor understanding of recovery periods. I'd hammer myself in training and then smash myself in races on freezing Winter days, without ever really backing off until the inevitable cold came along to force some much-needed rest. These days, I'm a bit more savvy and have learned the necessity of allowing my body to rebuild but there's no controlling the spread of illness and if it's going to get you, there's little you can do.
Having said that, I do all I can. The week before a big race often sees me becoming a Vitamin C junkie as that familiar hyper-awareness of every single bodily feeling kicks in. I'd love to know if other people count down the days on race week, delighting on waking every day without the tell-tale tickly throat or heavy lungs? I certainly do! Another, more regrettable facet of race week is often putting up a metaphorical shield between me and the kids.
I'm normally really huggy with the boys, and on top of that they're constantly trying to attack me, squash me and beat me up as all small boys should with their Dad! This means that we're in close proximity a lot of the time which is usually a total joy. All of that changes at race time as I hold them at arms length, keeping the coughs and sneezes away, desperately struggling to retain a healthy distance. There is a ton of associated guilt, it's hard to explain to the lads that I don't want a bedtime kiss until after Saturday, but I guess that it's just another part of the selfishness that pervades the attitudes of competitors.
Now, on to my left knee. For some bizarre reason it has some kind of medical clairvoyance and every time I'm about to succumb to any stomach related problem it aches incessantly. It's not a knee problem and it dissipates as soon as the gut is fixed but it's come to serve as a handy early warning system. This morning, a few minutes into a steady 16 miler I felt a couple of twinges and immediately went into panic mode, extrapolating that Dylan's bug must be about to strike. Fortunately, it went as soon as it arrived and a few hours later I feel absolutely fine. I live to train another day without contracting this particular bug.
|My magic left knee and entirely ordinary right one.|
I'd also love to hear that my behaviour is sort-of normal, and that temporarily avoiding my kids is acceptable, if only to assuage my own guilt. The only massive upside to it all is that much like enjoying a rare post-race beer and sugar-fest, being able to go back and have a fear-free squish fight with the boys is an incredible joy and makes the temporary germ avoidance tactics feel almost worthwhile.
As a postscript I'm delighted to say that Dylan is now well on the mend. Stay healthy everyone!