I never missed a day of school growing up. At some point I got enough of a streak going that it became impossible for me to accept breaking it. If I got sick I would still go. Once a commitment like that is made it is difficult for me to back down from it.
Tuesday before the Vermont 100 I felt like I was starting to get sick. This turned into a mix of the flu and a cold that would eventually become strep throat. By Friday morning I was starting to accept that I might not even start the race as I had not improved all week. I drove to Vermont to set up my tent and attended the pre-race meeting. Everyone there looked ready to race right then and the only thing I could think about was how much I had focused on this race and how poorly I felt. I skipped the BBQ they had that evening to organize my race pack and potentially get some extra sleep before the 4AM start, still not knowing if I was going to race.
After tossing and turning throughout the night I awoke at 3AM to get dressed, double check gear, and get some calories in. Runners streamed into the start corral from the parking lots and campsites. I decided to approach everything as if I were not sick and start with a positive mindset and try to at least get a good training run in and enjoy the landscape.
Miles ticked away as the sun slowly rose over green pastures shrouded in patchy morning fog. The course was fast and rolling and the first 20 miles seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. I still felt like crap from being sick but was trying to trick myself into thinking otherwise by staying positive. This was also around when the first few horses passed me on the trail. The Vermont 100 is also a horse race and the same course is shared with these large animals. The horses passed politely and would often try to slow to match pace until the rider instructed them otherwise.
Things I learned from racing with horses:
- They are surprisingly quiet and have the ability to sneak up on you
- Horses posses the amazing ability to defecate without breaking pace
- A horse would make for a great addition to a drop bag for later on in a race
- Horses smell worse than runners. Fact.
Slowly I began to accept that my being sick was going to prevent me from finishing. After mile 50 my legs felt fine but I had zero energy. Caloric intake was slowing and it was getting hard to keep up with fluids with the sore throat and congestion. I know for most it would seem stupid to even try to attempt to race under these conditions but when you focus so much energy into an event like this it is hard to just let it pass without making an attempt. My parents surprised me at the mile 62 aid station and it was difficult to let them know I was dropping. They understood and drove me back to the start to gather my things and my car and we went to dinner in Woodstock.
The next day I went on antibiotics to treat my strep throat and spent the next two days sick in bed. I had a lot of time to think about how Vermont worked out and I came to the conclusion I was subject to circumstances outside of my control and did the best I could with what I had. I got in a 62 mile run in 12 hours with around 7,000ft of climbing. Not bad for a sick day. The upside is my legs feel good and I have no injuries from the race, allowing me to jump back into running this week where I left off. I have no racing on my schedule other than the rest of the Bond Brook Summer Series that I will pick up again with next week. My focus this fall will be helping the Thomas College Cross Country team get faster any way I can.