Only in endurance sports can a minor cold and sore throat make such an end all debut for an athlete. If you've checked the results for today's IBU cup sprint you'll find my name on the bottom next to a "DNS." I Did Not Start because I was clearly sick this morning. For about an hour I toyed with the decision to go for it anyways and playing the cautious card by staying in my room all day. I painfully opted out of racing and here is why.
When your sick your system has to prioritize fighting off the bad guys. When you're racing your system has to fight off oxygen dept on par with life or death situations. Thus, you only have so much real-estate to work with and you don't want to be allotting some of that to a stuffy nose and scratchy throat. I've raced well sick, it's rare, but some of my best races have been while undeniably sick. But those days are unlikely. More often than not, ski speed takes a dive in these situations. Back in January of this year I was forced to race sick (World Champs team naming) and went from having a ninth fastest ski time to a 50 something... It pretty much restricts that top end gear, similar to racing during a heavy training block.
That's not all, lets not forget about the aftermath of racing sick. Once you've run your system through a hard effort the endorphins ware off and the infection takes advantage of a tired athlete. I once did an eastern XC cup race when I was a junior. I had been on the edge of sick or not sick all week. I didn't need to race that weekend, but I was fed up with sitting in van for eight hours only to sit around and watch some ski academy school kids race their home course to victory. It was also cold that day and my lower back was seized up. Still, I ignored all the warning sings and went for it. This was one of those rare occasions of racing well. It was a great race, but my throat was so infected afterwords that I had trouble breathing that night and had to go on antibiotics the next day. Another example: to go back to the race in January of this year, after not racing well, it only got worse. I ran a fever the next day and wasn't able to fully recover for about tens day. The race of the following week was the worst on the season.
So with that in mind, it might seem pretty clear to not race today. On the other hand, my shooting was feeling the best it has all season and the course here in Kontiolahti favors me. With a price tag on this particular week of racing I really wasn't in the mood not to get out and fight. The real reason that made me feel better about my decision was considering the opportunity of next week. The Otepaa venue in Estonia is a nice one, though the course is not my favorite. Still, we have two relays and two sprints crammed into one week. Two sprints is a grand opportunity to work with. If I took my chances today I would be gambling with performance both today and next week. If I lay low and recover I open up a better chance of success next week. If you look at my shooting times, you'll see that I'm not much for taking chances.
While, no one has seen the sun in Kontilahti, it has been warm. While I didn't race today I did have a solid performance on Thursday's individual. Ski speed was up there on day when I didn't even feel great. Shooting was mostly there, aside from the last stage, even when the nerves kicked in. Overall, the move to train on my own for three weeks in Antholz seems to be panning out well. With a top 20 at an IBU cup under my belt I have something to hold onto in the worse case. With next week's races on the itinerary it's far from that worse case. For now, I'm going to hit the zing lozenges until this cold and sore throat are done with me.