Sunday, March 22, 2015

So This Is Marathon Recovery.

I was thinking about it the other day & it turns out that, although Napa was the fourth marathon I've completed, this is actually my first experience with trying to balance recovery with starting up a new training cycle(ish). After my first marathon, I was so overwhelmed and burned out by the training (not to mention still a little sick) that I decided I wouldn't put any pressure on myself to run until I really, truly missed it, which ended up being about a month. I came out of my second marathon with tendinitis in my right foot & an order not to run for 3-4 weeks (though I totally cheated & did a few short, easy runs after a couple of weeks). As for my third, well, it's kind of hard to run on crutches.

Given how easy Napa felt and the fact that I wasn't really sore, my initial thoughts had been along the lines of "Sweet! I'll take it easy this week & be back to running 10 miles by next Sunday. NBD." My crushed-feeling toes, however, had other plans, and I ended up not running at all that first week, and to be honest, there was a part of me thinking quietly, "Eh, that's probably for the best, actually." But another part of me was like, "OK, week two post-race, I'll warm-up with some easy weekday six milers, then back to ten miles by Sunday!"

Hahahaha. On Monday I thought I might run a quick four miles before karate since I hadn't run at all in the previous week, but by 1.5 my body had other ideas. "Far enough, plzthnx," said my feet, Achilles tendons, and right quad (the bitchy one). So I turned around & jogged back home. I was not targeting any particular pace, just trying to keep it super easy and comfortable, but I wore my watch out of curiosity and noted that all of this happened at a stately 11:00 pace. "Tomorrow, though!" I resolved. "Six miles!"

Except no. Two miles in I was feeling the fatigue I normally associate with maybe 18, so I turned around and definitely took a few walk breaks on the way home.

I took the next day off except for karate, which was quite enough thank you.

At this point, I felt I had collected enough information to make some decisions, one of which was to stop making plans for the time being about how far I was going to run on which days, and toss out the idea that just because I would be running lower mileage for a time that I needed to get at least a few miles in every day. It was also around this time that I was emailing with the RunCoach people, who were really encouraging me not fall into the trap of trying to get my mileage back up ASAP, since pushing my recovering body too hard too soon could actually end up delaying my recovery in the long term. Instead, my new approach has been to continue taking all my usual rest days (Monday, Wednesday, Saturday) and on my running days to just run until I felt that first hint of fatigue, then turn around, and not to stress if that means it takes me a little longer than I'd originally thought it would to get back to my previous mileage.

In practice, that's meant a gradual progression from three miles, to four, to five, to six on long run Sunday, then back down to four, back to six, etc. It's been a good reminder for me how quickly perceptions of what counts as a "short" or "long" run can change. In the weeks before Napa, easy weekday 10 milers had gotten to feel positively pedestrian, whereas my most recent six (on a warm day, to be fair) felt so long that at every mile marker I could not believe I wasn't done yet (not because of difficulty; just my perception of time).

In theory I was planning to start doing a few hill repeats next week, but I think I'm actually okay with putting that off until April. We're heading to Colorado to ski with friends for that first weekend, so the week of the 6th may end up being a good week to give that stuff a try and see how it feels (assuming I'm not too busted from skiing).


  1. I read somewhere that there's still signs of damage at the cellular level up till 8 weeks post-marathon. It just takes time to recover from one and it's something that can't be rushed. What you're doing is so sensible. Your body will thank you for it.

  2. This might be a little late, and I haven't caught up with your more recent posts, but *definitely* take recovery seriously. I jumped back into training too quickly after Big Sur last year to get ready for Big Basin. I foolishly did a bunch of hill running and ended up with a hip injury. Good call on putting off any kind of workout until April.