MODESTO — The very moment I first felt the tickle in my throat, the denial began.
"I am not getting sick," I told myself over and over. "I am not getting sick."
Denial is one of the greatest traits of an athlete, at any level. You have to deny the discomfort you feel. You deny the messages your body sends your brain that you're too tired, or too sore, or too weak.
But there was no denying it this time. I was getting sick.
What started out as a head cold moved into my chest. But I kept trying my best to deny the messages my body was sending my brain: Sleep, rest, stop pushing yourself, skip a workout.
Eventually I was forced to succumb to the illness. My 16-mile run in Knights Ferry was a disaster. The chest congestion made it difficult to breathe, despite my attempts to push through it. At Mile 10 (remember, these are hills I'm running), I felt like I had run 20 miles. At Mile 12 I felt like I had run a marathon. I was pretty much done at that point. I felt sick to my stomach and out of energy.
I was forced to walk-jog well, mostly walk the last four miles. I was disappointed and discouraged. I began thinking that maybe I wouldn't be able to finish the marathon this time around.
Then I did what is so difficult for any runner or fitness enthusiast: I stopped.
I stopped running, I stopped training, and I just rested.
The cold knocked me out of work for a few days, and all I could do was sleep and rest.
I missed three or four workouts, including one with my Team in Training group. But I had no other choice.
I needed to get back to being healthy before I could get back to training for the marathon.
Five days of rest seemed to work. I had a shorter run Saturday 12 miles with no hills and felt OK at the finish.
Now that the chest congestion is almost gone, I am ready to ramp up my training again. I have my last big training run this weekend, then the three-week countdown to the marathon will begin.
The lesson I've learned from this experience and believe me, there are many lessons to be learned when you're training for any kind of event is that sometimes you simply can't deny what your body is telling you. The trick is to know when what it's telling you is real and needs to be listened to, and what is not and needs to be ignored.
That ability is what makes a good athlete, I suppose. There's no denying it.
Reach Jim Silva at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @mission26point2.