They looked happy and content; I felt ragged and empty. They sprawled out comfortably in the sunlight; I was unnaturally tense and my muscles ached all over. My body was consuming noticeable portions of itself that I was convinced included a fair percentage of muscle (there are conflicting studies out there on the science of starvation, but I have read about research which concluded that a depleted body in motion turns to muscle proteins, which are more easily converted to energy than fat, even if there's plenty of body fat available.) Of course I don't know exactly what was happening biologically, only that I was losing weight and weakening by the hour.
One of our tent-mates, Patty, overheard Beat and I analyzing our dinners and offered us one of her bland meals, a benign-sounding, low-fat entree called Chicken Noodles. When we tried to trade one of our meals, she refused. Patty and her husband fell ill with the bug during the second stage. Her husband dropped out, but Patty, miserable but determined, continued. I felt guilty because I was the first one in our tent to catch the bug, but I had been as careful as possible with removing shoes, using wet wipes, and dousing myself in hand sanitizer. Anyway, how could any of us really have known?
Beat and I shared the chicken noodles. They went down well, but not long afterward my stomach revolted. After two dashes to the open-pit toilets, which were perched precariously on a rocky ledge above camp, I was fed up. "I'm not really digesting any of it anyway; what's the point?" I skipped the camp social scene and planned second dinner, and went to bed early again. I was still nauseated, but more than that, I was frustrated.
It was also terribly tempting. Outside each of the tea houses were friendly-looking cafes stocked with soda, Mars Bars, and other valuable sources of kindling. We had already heard rumors that the night's accommodations would be in village tea houses. We also had a sense that the race organizers might be more lax than they let on about their "no outside food" rule. But I wasn't quite willing to go there yet, not unless I knew that everyone had been given the okay to buy food. I may have been close to desperate, but my own race ethics aren't willing to defiantly break rules.