I hardly ever get sick.
It is a trait that I am very proud of, and also a curse that makes me irrationally intolerant of people who fall ill frequently. And they have been dropping like flies all around me this winter flu season in Sydney, one of the worst in recent memory. Everywhere I turned, there were people coughing in my face, sniffling around my space or sneezing all over the place. And that’s just at home! Dealing with sick people at work and in the public? Forgetaboutit!!!
Unfortunately, in recent weeks, the invincible I too fell victim to this vicious bug sweeping through the city. It all began the day after the famous City-to-Surf 14km fun run in Sydney—one that I was proud to have completed in my second fastest time ever. I started getting light-headed, always an ominous sign for someone with a rather heavy head, according to my wife. At times, it felt like I was floating slightly above ground-level, periodically mumbling, for instance, about the lack of taste in the take-away pizza I am eating when, in fact, its salt-content was probably in the high-60% range.
I was light-headed at the start line. It probably had something to do with the fact that I had two large cups of coffee plus two packets of coffee-flavoured GU gels, all intermingled with the excitement of completing in my 7th consecutive City-to-Surf fun run. I was a tightly-wound ball of caffeinated energy, recoiled to the extreme and ready to explode out of the starting line on the sound of the gun.
That night, breathing started becoming a challenge through the blocked nose, and I had to re-educate myself on how to inhale and exhale via the mouth. It was an uncomfortable exercise which not only dried my lips to a wrinkly mess, but made me sound like the cross-dressing serial killer from The Silence of the Lambs.
The child-like exuberance caught up with me on the first hill, merely 2km into the race. I must have really bolted out of the gate because, as soon as my calves experienced a little ascent, they started tensing up. Worse still, the breathing became laboured, so much so that I started breathing through the mouth. Then, for some strange reason, the muscles behind my lungs began to hurt. The bigger the breath I took, the more they hurt. Consequently, for about a kilometre or two, I sounded like an emphysema patient, such was the rapidity of my short breaths. Still, despite the pain, the legs, as well as the adrenalin, kept on pumping.
The next day, the shivering commenced. No matter how many articles of clothing I put on, my teeth wouldn’t stop chattering and goose bumps frequently spread all over the body like a rash. It felt so cold at one stage, I was walking around the house looking for a balaclava to mask the one area of my body that was not completely covered—a sight that would have freaked out my wife even more than the serial killer from The Silence of the Lambs!
Luckily, the breathing difficulty eased and by the time I reached the infamous Heart Break Hill at the 7km mark, my second wind arrived. Such was the momentum that it easily overwhelmed the lactic acid that was burning my legs as I climbed the slope. In fact, for some sadistic reason, I was actually enjoying the physical pain. Perhaps the caffeine in my system was still exerting its effect, quite possible given that I didn’t pee after my two large cups of coffee before the start.
For the next few days, the illness degenerated into a sorry saga of sharp body ache and dull muscle pain. It felt as if all the enemies in my life were having a voodoo orgy-fest, sticking pins into a Jogging Dad doll, while recounting all the politically incorrect jokes that failed to blow up their skirts. The physical discomfort was so excruciating that even a cocktail of Neurofen, Panadol and paracetamol was just a piss in the ocean, up against the turmoil of suffering inside me.
With 2-3kms to go, I held nothing back. Contrary to popular beliefs, running down hill is actually extremely jarring on the joints of a 40 year-old body—one that was already under immense stress, having endured calf pain, breathing difficulty and pooling of lactic acid in the thighs up to that point. Nevertheless, the adrenalin fed off the pain, and I pumped my arms and legs like a deranged Energizer Bunny, surging towards the finish line.
By the fifth day, my body was so weak that I didn’t even have the energy to bitch and moan anymore. I simply wanted to shrivel into a foetal position and toss myself into a white-hot pool of lava. The pain was too much … and I detested every second of it.
I crossed the line in 61 minutes … On. The. Dot. The burning sensation in my legs and the cardiac-like feeling in my heart were indescribable in those last 300 metres. And when I eventually reached the finish line of the 14km run, the whole body sort of seized up, reducing me to a barely hobbling mess. The pain was too much … but I cherished every second of it.
Keep on pounding.