Monday, November 14, 2011

The Ability to Recover

Running can be unpredictable sometimes, especially with an increase of fitness and strength. This has been an unbelievable recovery for me after the marathon which was just over 2 weeks ago now. I planned out my 2011 year really well, and I seemed to have every race lined up for the year, with Marine Corps being the last race.

Well, turns out Marine Corps isn't my last race of the year. Neither was Veterans Day. I have been so spontaneous with my running lately, jumping into extra races before the year ends and thinking each one is the last before I decide to do the next...

My next race will be the Bethesda Turkey Chase 10K on Thanksgiving morning.

I think the fact that my post marathon recovery has gone so remarkably has given me that extra adrenaline rush to add on a few more races to my year. I feel good, and I enjoy racing, so why not? Races can also be good workouts sometimes.

Veterans Day was a good effort for having run a marathon 2 weeks ago. The time was slow(32:15), but the effort is what counts. And I enjoyed competing. I was running with GRC's Ryan Hanson for much of the race(a 14:40's 5K guy)...before he pulled away to finish about 20 seconds ahead of me. At the 5K mark(15:55) I got a nasty cramp, and really felt like stopping...cursing why the hell was I racing so soon after a marathon. But the course was an out and back, so I had to get back anyway. I then concentrated on effort and threw the focus on "time" away, because I knew I was only at 50% and if anything this was just a solid workout. Towards the end, a much taller runner passed me with about 1/2 mile to go. I couldn't help but get annoyed. I drafted off of him before surging past him with about .1 to go and grabbed the 8th place spot. Won $80 cash-not a bad payday for a workout. Even though the time I ran is slow to me now, I still ran 43 seconds faster than last year's race. I think I will feel a lot better in the Turkey Chase 10K, since it will be furthur away from the marathon, and have better turnover to run a stronger 2nd half.

Recovery after a big race can vary among runner to runner, and also the way their body feels. For some, it means it is necessary to taking 2 weeks completely off. For others, it means taking 1 week off, or just running less, or taking more days off than the runner is used to. At the end of the day, the magic formula is what works best for each runner's bodies. For me, I can recover pretty damn quickly-which means I am able to run again quickly-even within a week of a marathon. I'm even able to jump in some races during this phase-as I'm learning now-I may not PR-but they can be solid workouts. What's different though is the amount of running I am doing relative to what I did before...

So how do you know how much time to take off? Well, a good rule of thumb after the end of a season or long year is to at a very minimum LESSEN the amount of running by taking more days off than you're used to and running less each day. For example, as I have trained over the summer and fall, I averaged 90-100 mpw(with a high of 130 mpw) and I took 1 day off every several weeks...which is a long time to not take a day off...So, the week after my marathon I ran 30 miles with 3 days off and this past week was 55 miles with 1 day off. So now I am running about 30-50% of what my mileage was, with as little as 25% the first week. And I will continue to keep the volume lower for a while. Adjust it according to how much you run. It is important to do this for a period of time before getting the motivation again to ramp up the miles again.

Intensity is the second aspect that goes along with mileage. There is a simple formula that I think many runners should look at: Too much Intensity + Mileage= Injury. I learned this a long time ago when I used to train incorrectly and made every mistake in the book. Now, some runners can handle more intensity than others...some can handle more mileage than others. The optimal formula is to balance mileage + intensity with appropriate recovery to get optimal results.

So, for example, lets say runner A, who is currently running at a high intensity, wants to increase their average training volume(miles per week) with their intensity. If they raise the mileage while continuing to run at a high intensity at the same time, they will most likely get injured. If runner A wants to raise the mileage to a new level, they must decrease intensity first while raising the mileage. Only then will the runner adapt to a higher volume, and able to eventually add the right amount of intensity to the right amount of volume after this has happened. So, if runner A wants to eventually increase their overall volume from 50 to 60 miles per week, they may run as much as 70 miles per week without any or very little intensity during their base phase of training. Then, when they decrease their mileage down to 60 mpw, they can increase the intensity gradually while maintaining 60mpw. This is where the runner adapts and becomes stronger and is able to handle more work. Now, let's look at runner B, who is already running the volume of 70mpw, but wants to increase/add intensity. They must first decrease the volume of running to lets say, 50mpw, add the intensity and can then gradually work the volume up to 60 mpw with the intensity. This takes time though, and patience. It does not happen overnight. I like to look at my training progression over a yearly basis.

Races are important because they give a runner something to work towards as a goal and help with periodization(when to run higher or lower miles and when to run higher or lower intensity). As I mature as a runner, I have learned that the benefits of marathon training help support a solid aerobic foundation for the "shorter distance"(5k-13.1) races, just as the shorter distance racing benefits running faster in the marathon. They go hand in hand and build off eachother.

So the Turkey Chase will be yet another race I will jump in. Maybe it will be my last this time. I don't see any other races I would like to do afterwards, and as I put together my 2012 schedule, I think at some point, I need to make sure I do not overrace before the real quality races start. I have high goals for next spring...



  1. You might consider "calling it" this season. Some bad things can come from racing too soon after a marathon and the negatives far out weigh the positives. This will seem brutally honest, but if your goal at Vets Day (a flat/fast course) was to break 31:00, you finished well short of that goal (and you weren't on pace even after 5k). You might THINK you're recovered from MCM, but in all honesty, you might not be. The Vets Day experiment failed (though if I were you I would have probably done it too just to see what i could have run after all that volume). The Turkey Chase isn't a fast course and you should ask yourself why you want to race it. Why keep grinding?

    You've had a hell of a season/year, Chris, (one of the best around) and part of training successfully is knowing when to rest. So, rest up, enjoy running leisurely for awhile and then, after the holidays, start gearing up for the spring.

  2. Thanks, Jake. While I do agree it is important to rest, I do think that sometimes it is good to do something if you want to do it. Simply put, I wanted to run Veterans Day...the mistake I made was expecting to run sub 31:00. I eventually realized it was going to be a workout and that became the goal. So it wasn't a "failure." Same thing with this next 10K-even though it isn't a fast course-it's just fun to jump in a 10K race right now. And I'm not expecting a certain time. I think the rest is running less miles right now, and my body IS resting. Now, if I were to jump in another marathon right now, that would be stupid. But these are a couple of post season 10Ks, and for me, if anything it will help my running into the next new year.