He who fears he shall suffer, already suffers what he fears – unknown
Translation: we are going to jam this popsicle stick with a tiny cotton swab up to the back of your sinus and push against that thing that separates your sinus from your brain – not just twice..but three times…because now that you’re at home and not working like so many others, you’re drinking way too much coffee, and coffee’s a diuretic, and you’re slightly dehydrated, so we have to keep trying until we get a good sample….
I love how on the third violation the guy said “okay, to the count of five..”..and he proceeded to push for ten seconds. I didn’t question his need to torture me. No doubt, he’d already been verbally assaulted earlier that morning.
We are visited by countless viruses and bacteria throughout our lives – and are composed mainly OF those invisible creatures, to the tune of maybe 380 trillion. So, for the most part, we never notice, and without some viruses, we might not even approximate what it means to be human. Best-practices can spare us suffering and discomfort – like a clean kitchen sink or sponge – and handling raw chicken correctly; you know the drill. Occasionally the fortress is penetrated by a bad actor, when that infamous take-out of pasta also comes with a desert of Norovirus, and then it takes best-practices to keep one part of the family safe from the other. Sometimes – and in the case of one particular Christmas a decade or so ago, one can gift the entire extended family with Noro on Christmas Eve, two weeks after your own suffering and while fully recovered by an entire week, to head-snap you into the reality of how incredibly contagious some pathogens are – and how little slack relatives are sometimes willing to cut you in response. Increasingly, there is little in the way of acceptable complacency available to us anymore – certainly in the age of Covid, despite what some divide and conquer opinion makers would have you believe. Not if you don’t want to kill your parents by mistake, anyway.
Over the past month I have questioned what it means to be sick. What does it mean that you can cluelessly harbor a virus to bring it home and maybe put your family in the hospital or worse? I’ve had night sweats and random fever spikes lately, a 99.6 one day with a pause by the nurse at check-in who had to think about it before she let me in to work; the cut-off for fever as ordered by the CDC is 100 DegF. I don’t get to see our daughter much right now, who is sequestered away from the world, trying to do the right thing. This crappy situation is made only slightly palatable knowing that she has to stay safe for a terminally ill grandmother who requests to see her, who is dying of a cancer more slowly than Covid 19 would kill her. What is the definition of sick? How about heart sick? How about knowing that you are probably just fighting one or another run of the mill viruses that won’t kill you, that will be vanquished by your immune system, while some 69,000 other Americans over the last 8 weeks will never again see their families or the light of another day. How about sick to your stomach?
Rebekah and I have both pushed through low energy runs that have either forced us to turn around, or call for a ride during the past week, which has never happened before. The sum total of fevers, low-energy, low-grade headaches ( I don’t get headaches unless I’ve enjoyed one too many Plinys), and quietly brewing GI stuff that just never amounts to anything all water the seeds of doubt for mental hand wringing in the age of Covid 19 to erect a wall of worry: what is sick; am I sick; how sick is sick anymore? CDC guidelines now state that, if your employer gives a damn, a fever spike requires you be off work for 7 days despite a negative test result – which, in the U.S. comes with only a 90% guarantee of accuracy in the best case scenario. We really know nothing. Even as some of us scream to go back to business as usual while the bodies continue to pile up.
Our race years have become something else entirely..yours, mine, Rebekah’s. I know two good runners I have immense respect for, who were ramping training for WSER 100, nearly a dozen who were to run Miwok. And my go at UTLT 100 and Rebekah’s goal of Moab 240 are completely up in the air. Candice and Krystal say that all of the Destination Trails 200s are still go – pending of course word from the state(s). And Untamed California? What a year to launch an inaugural 330.
Rebekah and I will take the helm of an aid station at our favorite 200 miler this Fall – or, that has been the plan. This is an honor, and the project will be a work in progress for the foreseeable future; our own inaugural production. But although I can’t stand the thought of waiting another year to get this project started in event the race is canceled for 2020, at least I don’t have to pull possibly needless permits for access to multiple national forests and wilderness areas, or make the investment in gear for 30 plus aid stations over who knows how many races, and so that our tiny project leaves me on edge with uncertainty is silly compared to what the Ultra community at large – and the world, is dealing with.
One thing that keeps me centered is the importance of seeing the bigger picture. I am OK, despite the ill-defined almost-symptoms and the resultant handwringing. Rebekah is amazing to watch each day she runs out the door with purpose and determination, to later return from the hunt of training – with PRs and the occasional crown in the bag, and my intermittent good runs here along the coast have been satisfying enough to inspire and remind me that we are not sick, we are not hungry, and we are not housing-insecure. We have mostly worked until the past month. Everything could definitely be horribly worse.
Our running goals may be silly compared to the goal of making the mortgage or the rent, or putting food on the table. As we all work to keep our distance to avoid killing one another, I have to remember each time I am on the trail – on each decent run escaping environments that are humanly arranged and controlled, and that I can bag without falling apart or crawling home, that every moment I take a deep breath out in the natural world, revealing my own insignificance and challenging my arrogance, is truly a gift.