Too Sick to Race?

Q:   Has being sick ever kept you from competing in an event?  

Amy Marsh answers:

A:   I remember a few years ago my husband and I drove to Memphis, Tenn., from Austin, Texas, which is about a 10-hour drive, to compete in an Olympic-distance triathlon. We left for Memphis on a Thursday and the race was on Sunday. Before we headed on the road I was feeling good and ready to race.

As we were driving and getting closer to Memphis, I could feel a little tickle in my throat.   I tried to convince myself that it was nothing, but Friday morning I woke up with sinus pressure and a stuffy nose to add to my sore throat.   I still had all day Friday and Saturday to get some rest and hoped to feel better by race day. I did some light training to keep my body moving and slept a lot.   Saturday night, the night before the race, I was in bed by 7 p.m.and didn’t sleep a wink””and unfortunately Brandon didn’t sleep well either.

I couldn’t breathe and developed a deep cough throughout the night.   I felt miserable.   Sunday morning my husband and I drove to the race site, and I was in tears debating whether I should even race.

It should have been an easy decision but it wasn’t.   After going back and forth until about 10 minutes before the start of the race, I withdrew. My body was suffering and I knew that if I pushed my limits, I would be out for more than a couple of days.

It was hard, but it was the right decision. Fortunately, my husband had a great race, so that made the trip home a bit more enjoyable!

As soon as I returned home to Austin I headed straight to the doctor’s office.   I ended up having a sinus infection and bronchitis. The doctor told me that if I would have raced I could have ended up with pneumonia.   I am glad I listened to my body!

You know your body better than anyone else.   A good rule of thumb is that if your symptoms are above the neck (for example, a head cold, sore throat, etc.) then it may be OK to do some light training””but only if you are up for it.   If you’re sick in your chest, have a fever and are achy, then I would advise not to train or race, as you could eventually make yourself worse.

Most type-A triathlete personalities (including myself) don’t like to miss workouts for consecutive days.   We think we are going to lose all the fitness that we have been working on day after day in just one week!   In actuality, this fear is pretty groundless.

That being said, I have to remind myself all the time that it’s better to miss one or two days of workouts than to make things worse and be out for weeks.

Amy Marsh is a four-time Ironman champion, two-time IronDistance champion, and was named the 2010 USAT Long Distance Triathlete of the Year. Brandon Marsh has been competing in triathlons since 1988, and can be counted on to be a top-10 contender in every event he enters. Got a question about swim-bike-run or sports nutrition for Team Marsh? Email them at ask.the.triathletes@gmail.com. On Twitter, follow Brandon @BrandonMarshTX and follow Amy @AmyCMarsh.

Team Marsh

Amy Marsh is a four-time Ironman champion, two-time IronDistance champion, and was named the 2010 USAT Long Distance Triathlete of the Year. Brandon Marsh has been competing in triathlons since 1988, and can be counted on to be a top-10 contender in every event he enters. Got a question about swim-bike-run or sports nutrition for Team Marsh? Email them at ask.the.triathletes@gmail.com.

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About Team Marsh

Amy Marsh is a four-time Ironman champion, two-time IronDistance champion, and was named the 2010 USAT Long Distance Triathlete of the Year. Brandon Marsh has been competing in triathlons since 1988, and can be counted on to be a top-10 contender in every event he enters. Got a question about swim-bike-run or sports nutrition for Team Marsh? Email them at ask.the.triathletes@gmail.com.

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5 comments on «Too Sick to Race?»

  1. Liz Lotts says:

    Last December I was all set to finish my season at the Key West Tri (Sprint distance, so nothing crazy). Unfortunately, the week before the race I came down with strep throat. I haven’t had a fever since I was a small child, but that week everything came to a head. My entire body ached, my throat was sore and raw, I was shaky and feverish. I got on antibiotics, which I’m always reluctant to do. I hoped the meds would kick in in time for race day. Not so much. In the end, it all worked out. I got to watch my fellow “team” members finish their season strong. Plus, it was my boyfriend’s first triathlon ever, and he got 3rd in his division! Cheering and taking photos to capture the day for my friends made everything feel better. Some days, you just gotta take a break – and you can’t beat Key West for a little R & R!

    1. M says:

      Enjoyed reading your artlice the headline captured me as being an Ironman wife I had an idea about what you might be writing about. Juggling work, family, friends and training is tricky and the compulsive obsessiveness of long distance triathletes means they often find it hard to take a break or pull back when the body needs it. Like you mention, your family and friends around you can remind you of this and you should listen!! I know that I need to not only help by cooking good healthy meals and making sure all the extra vitamins, minerals and recovery stuff is taken but I also need to say sometimes it’s OK to have a day off or have a lighter training day and when the body feels run down LISTEN! Most importantly, (and harder to achieve when you have a baby in the house) enough sleep is so important

  2. -Brandon says:

    Liz, thanks for the comment. Tell your friends to check out the site and get us some questions! I am sure your boyfriend and other ‘team’ members appreciated the cheering, and your body appreciated the break. Keep reading. Keep tri-ing, and good luck.

  3. Liz Lotts says:

    You go it! Professional triathletes (like yourselves) don’t get enough credit, so I’m happy to spread the word!

    1. A says:

      Great article. The blog is perefct timing for me right now. I relate to everything you mentioned. I am a father of two girls, under the age of three, another baby on the way. A wonderful wife who supports my triathlon/fitness obsession. But someone who can over do it to achieve. Listening to your body and fatigue signals are vital! In 2009, I was training my backside off, working long hours, being a dad and husband, then BANG In hospital on a drip with viral meningitis. Not sure if the over doing it and not listening to my fatigue signs played a part in my illness, but it was a wake up call for someone in their mid 30′s! you are spot on with just taking time out to change routine. Love the blog!

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