Recovery: Putting yourself back together post-race

I run the marathon to the very last mile. ~ Beastie Boys

First of all, I have to say how sad I am about the death of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch (MCA). His music has been in heavy rotation in my life since 1986’s License to Ill and he will be sorely missed. As I have said before, cancer can go fuck itself.

Now on to (hopefully) less depressing topics: Race recovery. I am no expert but have learned a few tricks in the past few years about what works for me once the racing is done and your bod is in need of some TLC.

Immediately following a longer event, I am usually fairly dehydrated and my electrolyte balance is all out of whack. I sweat like it’s going out of style so even though I try to stay on top of hydration during the race, I still am depleted by the finish. Once I stop running and my heartrate starts to drop, my blood pressure crashes. The fluid level in my system is depleted and when the pump slows down, the volume of blood being delivered to my brain diminishes. Bad things can happen after that if I don’t get some fluids going. And stat. So immediately post-race, I guzzle some Gatorade, grab a couple bottles of water (or re-usable cups, if available) and I find a place to sit down if I am feeling woozy. I have also found that chips are my bestest friend immediately after a race. I think the salt and calories treat me right so I’ll whack down a couple bags of those as well. Lunch-sized bags, not Party Size, tubby.

I try to get moving again fairly quickly post-race vs. sitting for too long. If I feel well enough to jog a little, I might try that but usually I am just up for a stroll back to the hotel or shuttle or wherever I need to be next. If you have friends or family attending the event, have a place picked out to meet up since there will be hundreds of runners milling around like zombies post-event and finding your loved-ones in this mess is not happening. I have found that a couple miles is a decent distance for a post-race walk but durations may vary depending upon what works for you. If you can walk back along the course and cheer for those racers finishing after you, that is a lot of fun.

Once I get back to my room, I jump in an ice bath then follow this with a warm bath to help flush my legs. Not the most pleasant of experiences but I do find that it helps reduce the inflammation in my legs and puts me on the road to recovery. I also try to get in some decent complex carbs at this juncture to try to rebuild my glycogen stores. Lunch is usually on the immediate agenda as well, so as soon as I have cleaned up, I’ll head back out to grab some grub. I find that it helps to spend at least a little time in the afternoon with my feet up. I’ll watch a movie or read a book before heading back out for a mid-to-late-afternoon walk or celebration.

The next day:
Usually, I travel for my big races so like to spend some time post-event exploring the town. I have found that this helps get my legs moving again and greatly reduces the down-time post-event. The past three marathons I have done, I have spent a good chunk of time the following day walking or hiking in the surrounding area. Post-Boston, I walked the Freedom Trail, which was fantastic and when I was in San Fran last summer, I walked all around the area checking out the sites of Chinatown, Telegraph Hill and the neighborhoods of the Bay Area. In Eugene last weekend, I hiked a small peak south of town. Going down stairs or downhill can be daunting but it is worth it to get out to soak in the sites as well as to keep things moving.

I keep pushing the fluids and tend to eat like there’s no tomorrow in the days following the race. I also like to wear compression tights on the flight home as this seems to make my legs recover more quickly.

The following week:
I tend to need a couple days for my legs to feel less like hunks of wood and like to throw in walking/hiking during the first week post-race. If I am feeling fantastic, I might try a short, easy run as early as Wednesday after a Sunday event but usually find this to be counter-productive. I keep the running super light and easy for at least a couple weeks after a big event, tend to move to easy trails vs. roads and definitely don’t push the pace or intensity much during this period. I have made the mistake of trying to jump back into faster workouts too quickly in the past and am learning that time spent being nice to myself now, pays off immensely later. I can either take it easy for a couple of weeks now, or be required to take at least another couple of weeks later. Think “big picture” at this juncture vs. short-term pleasure. I missed trail running last season due to my road racing schedule and am SO jonezing to run the amazing trails around my house. But I am forcing myself to hold back a bit, be patient with my recovery, and wait a bit to get out on a longer, more intense run. The trails will be there when my bod is ready to roll. (Hopefully by Sunday!)

One final note, the above recommendations are based upon racing marathons where the intensity level and surface contribute to more post-event suffering than I experience when running trail races. Even after the Leadville 100 in 2010, I was running normally again later that week. To be completely honest, I am WAY more wrecked after racing a marathon than an ultra. Though I haven’t fully “raced” an ultra yet… I’ll have to get back with you on that one. Let me know if I missed anything.

As always, have fun out there.


EDIT: Talked with my coach and World Marathon Champ, Mark Plaatjes, on a run today about recovery. He recommended running only 2-3 days – no more than 5 miles per run – the week after a marathon. If you feel like jumping on a bike and doing easy rides, that is fine. Week two, you can increase your runs to 4-5 and add some distance but no intensity. Just keep everything mellow. The third week you can start running your regular schedule with some fartleks but no sustained efforts. After that, you should be good to go back to your regularly scheduled training regimen.

We also talked about doubles and his take on them is that if you have time to run in the morning, come home, eat, take a nap, get up around noon and do another run, eat, take another nap, then doubles are sustainable. If not, they are just a recipe for injury. He does like adding easy bike riding as a supplement in the evening after hard morning runs.

Good stuff.


Thinking about running…

Okay, here we go. Focus. Speed. I am speed. One winner, forty-two losers. I eat losers for breakfast. Breakfast? Maybe I should have had breakfast? Brekkie could be good for me. No, no, no, focus. Speed. Faster than fast, quicker than quick. I am Lightning. ~ Lightning McQueen

When people find out I am a distance runner, the question I usually get first (after the look that says, “This guy is nuts.”) is, “What do you think about while you are running that long?”

I have pondered this question and realized recently that when I am having a good run/race, what I usually think about most when I am running is, well… running. Certainly my mind wanders a bit but ultimately when things are going well, I am pretty focused on what I am doing: Form checks, body assessment, relaxation, pacing, terrain, where the contours benefit/hinder my progress, if there is a moose waiting to pounce on me around that next corner, etc.

So there you have it. I think I’ll go for a run.


Quick update…

I ran. I ran until my muscles burned and my veins pumped battery acid. Then I ran some more. ~ The Narrator

Been a bit swamped of late but that hasn’t stopped the shenanigans. Raced in a 2K event last Thursday (Uni-Hill 2K in Boulder). Placed 8th with a time of 7:19 which is a little slow for 2K but not too bad on this hilly course. Training is going well and I have been logging solid 50+ mile weeks with some cross training thrown in the mix (yoga mostly, but I actually swam at the gym on Sunday for a bit). Did a really hard workout with the Gijima crew yesterday. Give this a whirl if you are in the mood for a killer run:

  1. Warm up for a couple of miles
  2. Find a long, steady hill
  3. Run up at a sustainable, but soul-crushing pace for 3 minutes
  4. Jog down for 3 minutes
  5. Run up for 4 minutes. Try not to cry.
  6. Jog down for 3 minutes
  7. Up 5 minutes. Don’t worry about what others think of you openly sobbing.
  8. Down 3.
  9. Up 5 again. Start to question your own sanity.
  10. Down 3.
  11. Up 4. Same pain, less duration.
  12. Down 3.
  13. Up 3 but then really stretch it to about 4:30 to finish on top of some heinously steep hill. Puke on your teammate’s new Hokas.
  14. Cool down for a couple miles.

Yeah. Marathon training is fun.


[edit]: No Hokas were harmed in the production of this post.

2011 Boston Marathon recap…

Here’s a little story I’ve got to tell… ~ The Beastie Boys

2011 Boston Marathon: 3:06:16 PR

Boston has long been considered a marquee marathon event and I feel incredibly privileged to be a part of this year’s event. Though I did qualify at the 2010 Denver marathon, I missed out on the very quick registration window and had to call in a favor from my coach, Mark Plaatjes, to secure a special invite to the race. So glad he was able to pull some strings to get me into the event as it was certainly an experience I will never forget.

Getting there
From the moment I stepped off the plane, Boston proved to be a welcoming and friendly town. I jumped on a water taxi with several locals who were gearing up for the night’s play-off hockey game between the Bruins and Canadiens and had a duffel bag full of beer with their names on it to properly lubricate the evening. They introduced themselves and their friend who was the taxi boat pilot then inquired about my visit. Once I informed them I was running the marathon on Patriots’ Day, they promptly handed me a beer and congratulated me on my upcoming run. They then joined in cheering me once we reached my destination and I departed the taxi with a big grin on my face. Great way to kick off the weekend and big event.

After checking into my hotel, I headed out to find some food and was able to navigate the mass transit system, the T, with ease. I found a Whole Foods, grabbed some provisions and a salad for dinner, then jammed back to my room to eat and relax after the long flight.

Prep and expo
Sunday morning, brought better weather than  when I landed and I met up with the Gijima team to get in a quick, warm-up run and visit the expo to pick up our numbers and race gear. To put it mildly, the expo was a total cluster with thousands of people milling around and generally going apeshit for race paraphernalia and swag. Not really my scene but I made a donation to the retail juju and bought a couple of hats to commemorate my participation in the event and then headed back to the hotel to rest a bit prior to dinner.

Mike, one of my teammates and a former Bostonian, wanted to head to dinner a bit early to do some shopping and I took this as a perfect opportunity to get a guided tour of part of the city. We headed to the North End via the T and about a mile walk and made our way to Quincy Market which I dubbed “Ye Olde Historic Food Court”. This was a market in the 1700s which has been tuned into a mall complete with a gigantic Food Court and is a big enough draw from both an historic and retail perspective that it is among the top-four most-visited tourist sites in the nation. At least that is their claim…

From Quincy, we headed a few blocks away for a quick detour to see Paul Revere’s house then jammed around the corner for dinner at Artu. Decent food but our party was way too big to provide any opportunity for efficient service. We grabbed a van back to the hotel and I hit the sack.

Ready to rock
I was up before my alarm and quickly put on my gear and got everything ready to roll. Loraine hired a van to take us to the start in Hopkinton and everyone seemed excited for the race though some of us slept better than others. The start is southwest of Boston and requires about an hour drive but traffic is unpredictable so we left the hotel at 7:00 to ensure that we would have plenty of time for our commute. We arrived shourtly before 8:00, checked out the Athlete’s Village, and found a spot to lie down in what proved to be chilly, windy weather conditions prior to the start. I was very glad I brought a couple of trash bags to keep the wind at bay and donned all my layers to hunker down and wait for the call to head to the start.

I hit the john one last time before walking/jogging the half mile or so to the start. I found a good spot to do a few surges then found my corral in Wave One and got ready to start the event. For those interested in running the race in years to come, I would recommend keeping your layers on as long as you feel necessary as they collect discarded clothing right at the start. There are also decent opportunities to warm up near the start line so my insider’s recommendation for Wave One runners would be to head down that way early if possible (and allowed). Other suggestions include bringing trash bags and cardboard to lie upon before the event so that you can stay warm. The lines for the Porta Potties also tend to be shorter in the Athletes’ Village early on vs. jumping in line at those located immediately adjacent to where the busses drop you off. There are also a number of johns at the start for last-minute needs.

The race
It was finally time to get my run on and after cramming into the proper corral, we were off! Since I queued up in corral 6 it took a while to reach the actual start line and traffic was a lot heavier and spastic than expected. One of the drawbacks to running a big race, I suppose. I had anticipated really needing to hold myself bak at the start but found it all I could do to spin a 7:20 first mile. This put me about 30 seconds off pace from the onset and was a little frustrating to say the least. I took things in stride, however and worked over the next few miles to try to gradually make up time.

The first mile of the course is very downhill and then the course trends downhill for the majority of the first half of the race. I was coached by pretty much everyone to not go out too fast and did my best to just stay mellow and even. I rolled a couple of semi-quick splits during this time as I was trying to make back the time lost in the first few miles (and during a quick pit stop) but really tried to just be very chill. We spun by some  wooded areas in the outskirts of Hopkinton and other Boston suburbs, ran by a biker bar with a bunch of leather-clad Harley riders who cheered enthusiastically and generally were treated with a steady stream of cheering race fans all along the course. As with any race, there were places more populated than others but this was definitely the best race I have done where crowd numbers and volume are concerned and it was greatly appreciated.

Miles basically ticked off and though I didn’t feel spectacular, I was doing well and was cruising along at my target pace. By the half, I had made up most of my deficit and was now within a few seconds of my target time. I knew I would need to run a solid second half but everything was going to plan. By mile 17, however, I was starting to feel the effort and knew I would be well-challenged to meet my target goals for the day. I met Mike at mile 18, ditched my glasses and picked up some more gels, then headed up the Newton Hills.

The Hills
The hills at Boston are a bit deceptive. The first of the four Newton Hills is the most daunting and each has a bit of a flat/downhill section immediately following which allows one to coast and reset for the next effort. These three miles were difficult and I struggled to maintain my pace. I think that my electrolytes were all out of whack by this point (more on that later) so that certainly didn’t help. My plan was to feel pretty strong at the top of Heartbreak Hill then punch the last 10K. Unfortunately, this was not my day and by the top of HBH, I was feeling anything but “punchy”. I crested HBH amid drunken shouts of encouragement from spectators (they do get more and more raucous as the day progresses) and then tried to put in a good effort in that final 6.2 miles.

Last 10K
Honestly, the final 10K is a bit of a blur. I wasn’t feeling sharp at all and struggled as I lost time in almost every mile. I did calculations throughout to see if there was any opportunity to meet my sub-3-hour goal for the race and could have pulled it off as late as mile 21 or 22 but just had no more go. I lost time in all but 1 of the final 6 miles and put in as big of an effort as possible to ensure that I scored a PR at the finish. Definitely an area on which I need to work and I predict a lot of long runs with the last hour at race pace in my immediate future. The crowds were supportive through the finish and I came through the tape at 3:06:16. A new personal best.

Immediately after crossing the line, I knew I was in for a rough ride. I had a similar experience (though less pronounced) at last year’s Denver Marathon and shortly after stopping, I felt really woozy and my vision began to degrade. I stopped to rest my head on the barriers after grabbing some water and shortly thereafter decided that standing was not a good idea. I wanted my head a bit closer to the ground in the event that I was unable to maintain a standing position and sat down on the curb. Volunteers came over to see how I was doing, and though I felt pretty terrible, I knew I needed to get back up else my legs would seize. The volunteers helped me up, I walked a bit farther down the finish corral then my vision continued to degrade and I decided sitting was again in order. I plopped down in a wheelchair and the volunteer asked if I thought a trip to the medical tent would be prudent. “Let’s do that,” I responded and he whisked me off to the tent to ensure that nothing terrible was going on.

Once in the shade of the tent and lying on a cot, I started to feel better. My blood pressure was taken (a very low 80/50), my feet were raised, Gatorade and chips were administered and I continued to improve. Within minutes my vision returned to normal and after some light PT-aided stretching, my leg cramps subsided as well and I was ready to get back up. I thanked the staff for their assistance and made my way back out into the throng to collect my gear bag, some additional food and make my way to the T for the return trip to the hotel.

The T was jammed but very easy to navigate and the public transport gods were on my side. I didn’t have to wait at a single stop to make my connections and i was quickly back to the hotel where I had a massage scheduled. The massage felt great. Not sure how therapeutic it actually was but it was nice to get some attention to my aching legs and shoulders. I then headed back to my room, soaked, ate and watched a movie before heading down to the bar to meet up with the team. I triple fisted drinks (beer, coke, water) and generally felt good. The legs were a bit sore and I was fatigued for sure but my recovery seemed to be happening quickly, which was nice. We grabbed dinner close to the hotel and I was in bed by 11.

Tourist time
Tuesday morning featured heavy skies (and legs) but I was determined to get out and see some of Boston’s famous sites. I considered doing a Duck Tour (amphibious bus tour of the major landmarks) but really felt that a walking tour would be good for me and would allow me to take in the city at my own pace. I traveled to the start of the Freedom Trail, purchased a $3 umbrella to stave off the dripping skies, and got my tourist on. Walked the vast majority of the trail (skipped one short leg to Monument Hill as lunch beckoned) and even toured Old Ironsides, which was entertaining. I then jammed up to Harvard on the T to check out Harvard Square and then made my way back to the hotel in time to pick up my bags and make my flight back to Denver.

Just a fantastic experience overall. Not sure if I will be back next year or not (it is a bit of a logistical nightmare even when incredibly well-prepared and supported) but I would highly encourage anyone who qualifies to get to Boston to run this thing at least once. The conditions were pretty perfect for this year’s event and World and U.S. records were set by the elites. All in all, a fantastic race and great town.

Next up… San Francisco in July.


2010 Rearview…

Just keep swimming… ~ Dory

What can I say? It’s been a helluva year.

I started 2010 with one major goal: Finish the LT100. Through Rach’s unwavering support and encouragement, I was able to prepare adequately for the big event and adjust my goals accordingly. Suffice it to say, I logged a shit-ton of miles, had many learning experiences and grew exponentially as both a runner, and more importantly, a person.

Here are the digits:

  • Mileage: 2516
  • Days completely off: 77
  • PRs: 4 (100 miles, Marathon, 10K, 5K)
  • Goals achieved: 4/4
  • Best finish: 1st in Age Group – Golden Gate 1/2 Marathon
  • Most satisfying finish: 89th overall, 22nd in Age Group – Leadville Trail 100

I can say, in all honesty, that 2010 was an amazing year of running. I progressed throughout the season, learned a ton, logged 4 PRs at four different disciplines (100-miles: 24:42:40, marathon: 3:10:04, 10K: 39:16 and 5K: 18:54) and really grew as a runner as well as a person. Setting tough goals and beating those marks can really make a person feel good and well… I feel good. I couldn’t have done any of this without the consistent and ongoing love and support from my sweetie, Rach and definitely encourage anyone seeking to invest the amount of time it takes to focus on a full year of training and racing to try to find someone as amazing and patient (good luck with that). She cooked for me non-stop (quite literally), dealt with my gross gear, put up with my bullshit and kept me on the path to success at every turn. Thanks also to Patagonia for clothing support and nuun for helping with hydration this season. Two great companies you should definitely check out.

Leadville was definitely the highlight of the year. That long, difficult day teed me up for the success that followed in the Fall and early Winter races I completed on a whim and gave me the confidence to set difficult goals and hit those marks. I ran races of a wide variety of distances competitively in 2010 (5K to 100 miles – another, unwritten goal of mine) and intend to continue to run a variety of distances in 2011.

I learned a ton during my big year. One of the biggest lessons learned was to be patient and to roll with the punches. I suppose that is technically two lessons but they do go hand in hand. Allowing both training and racing to unfold and not getting too caught up in the little set-backs and hurdles along the way is imperative. During the last 12 months, I certainly had my fair share of marginal runs and races. Choosing to look at each as a learning experience and a stepping stone on the path to larger goals allowed me to move forward, build on my successes (and failures) and ultimately achieve my goals. Patience during every run and knowing when to relax during racing made for a successful, (mostly) injury-free season.

Another big lesson I learned is to never give up. This manifested itself both at the LT100 in a positive way and during the final miles of the Denver Marathon in a less positive manner. During Leadville, I was suffering badly on the climb back up Powerline at about mile 80. In fact, I convinced myself at one point that I could just drop out at the top of Sugarloaf. Fortunately, that opportunity did not arise and, though I spent a considerable amount of time walking both the up and downhill portions of this leg of the race, I soon gained new strength and was running solidly throughout the final 15 miles of the race. At the Denver Marathon, I allowed the clock to dictate my effort and, when in the final miles of the race with time statistically running out on the opportunity to run a sub 3:10 for the day, eased my effort because I couldn’t reach that mark. It turned out the course had been set up incorrectly and was long. The race organizers subtracted time from every finisher’s results leaving me 5 seconds shy of a sub-3:10 effort. Had I not relaxed in those final miles, I would have certainly finished under that mark. In short, keep going and don’t let up.

I was fortunate enough this year to have a plethora of amazing non-race experiences: Summiting Hope Pass in early June; stumbling across bears foraging for food; running with elk on multiple occasions; watching marmots frolic among high-alpine wildflowers; braving thunderstorms both above treeline and during a particularly violent storm on Boulder’s eastern plains; catching what would be Crested Butte’s biggest storm of the season for some amazing skiing in late February; seeing both my dad and friend, John get married; watching the Met Opera series in HD; the list goes on and on.

In short, 2010 will be fondly remembered. And here’s to an even better 2011.


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