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She’s Got (Sore) Legs…

November 1, 2010

Me after 2009 marathon: next time I won't neglect the post-'thon recovery ice bath

Theories abound about how to recover from a marathon, from respected coach Hal Higdon’s Zero Week to a same-day massage. I gained a lot of insight and ideas from this article  . Alas, it came about 10 days too late for me. Despite having run seven marathons, I don’t have a set plan for recovery. But after reading that article and hobbling around for the last three weeks, I’ve decided I gotta get me one before TBD Marathon #8. I definitely didn’t do right by my body the first week after my 10/10/10 race, and my lower body–especially the region south of my knees–has been shouting at me since. Here’s a recap, along with some hindsight-is-20/20 realizations.

Week 1 post-marathon: No ice bath after the race, but walked about 2 miles to the car and then doing an errand in our ‘hood. Got an ahhhh-inducing 90-minute massage on Monday. (Massage therapist had worked on several other marathoners that day. She said I “won” for tightest quads, a distinction I gladly would have given up.) No running Monday or Tuesday, but eased into it with 30 minutes on Wednesday. Bike at gym on Thursday, then 30-minute run again on Friday. The next day I couldn’t resist: Dim and I were in San Francisco to promote the book, and I *had* to go for a run in the Presidio. I felt surprisingly good so I let myself go for an hour. A hilly hour. Definitely not a wise move. (But, hey, at least I passed up opportunity to run the Nike Women’s Half Marathon, right?! At least I was sane enough to realize that would have been pushing my body too far.)

Week 2 after-the-fact: I don’t remember specifics, but I probably ran at least four times with a rest day and two at the gym. My quads felt dandy, but now my lower legs were killing me. It was like someone had come knockin’ for calf-muscle donations, and I’d given up about two inches off of each of mine. They felt strained and too damn short. And my self-diagnosed Achilles tendonitis, which had been twang-free for most of my training cycle, was making a racket. I limped down stairs, when I got out of the car, and pretty much anytime I went from stationary to moving. To not completely decimate my sports ego, I didn’t wear my Garmin, but I figure I was running way slower than my long, slow run pace. By the end of the week, I knew in my bones (and ligaments, muscles, and tendon!) my recovery phase wasn’t going well. I’m running the Philadelphia Half Marathon on November 21, and I started fretting I wouldn’t have enough time to amp up my training for it. To paraphase the Brady Bunch: It was time to change, and I had to re-arrange.

Week 3 post-race: As eager as I was to run, Ivowed to hit the gym instead, riding a stationary bike or doing upper-body weights and core. My calves still felt like they belonged on a shorter person, but at least now they seemed adult-, not doll-, sized. On Thursday morning,  I went for a 4-mile run along the banks of the Willamette River. Despite the grey drizzle, my mood turned sunshine-y bright because my legs felt great. My pace was still far from fast, but I felt speed was once again in my wheelhouse. But for every up, there’s a down: On Saturday I set out to run 90 minutes. For 75 minutes I felt like I was trudging through wet cement. Ugh. Dejected, I cut my run short. My Achilles tendon and calves were killing me for the next few hours, and I fretted I’d set myself back to square one. Then, mid-afternoon, a feeling of well being infiltrated those same formerly sore spots. Not wanting to risk setback, I told myself on Sunday morning I’d only go for 30 minutes. But from my first step, my legs felt great. It was a gorgeous fall morning, the red and orange leaves set against the pinking-up morning sky. This week I still won’t run as often as I’d like, but now I’m not as worried about my upcoming 13.1-mile race.

Greatest lesson I’ve learned: Next time, after pounding out 26.2 miles, give my body a break from running–a full week–right away. I think a belated string of days off has averted me from injury, but I’m not running that risk again.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Paigie permalink
    November 1, 2010 7:52 am

    Sarah you have impeccable timing with these posts… my 10/2 marathon (my 7th too!) has resulted in me landing in the similar boat as you… I flew from Utah to Vermont right after the race to be with my family while my Mom is on hospice care and within days I decided I needed to go for a run because running is my vice… and after days of this… umm my body decided to revolt against me… almost 4 weeks later now and I’m in so much pain I can’t run and running is how I DEAL with the pain of losing my Mom. Patience is what my Mom taught me so I’m trying very hard to give the body a rest and find other ways to deal while I heal.
    thank you for such a timely post.

    • Laurie permalink
      November 1, 2010 8:38 am

      So sorry to hear about the loss of your mom. Good thoughts and prayers being sent your way.

    • bowenshea permalink*
      November 1, 2010 11:10 am

      Paigie–I echo Laurie’s condolences. I am so sorry for the loss of your mother…and for you not being able to run to ease your pain. I trust your body will let you return to it soon, and that you will feel the healing powers of running. The RLAM tribe is with you.

    • November 1, 2010 11:27 am

      Paigie – I can honestly say I know what you are going through. My beloved and amazing mother died almost three years ago after battling a rare form of uterine cancer. Two days later I felt I needed to go for a run. For me, it was a way of release and the only pain was emotional. That said, several weeks later my body “revolted” as well. We’re all unique creatures and we all grieve in unique ways. Do be patient with yourself and your body. You will know when to run again. And remember that grieving is not a linear process. It ebbs and flows, comes and goes. Many, many condolence hugs from afar to you.

  2. November 1, 2010 10:18 am

    I, too, have not landed that perfect routine after a long run or race, though I’m slowing lining up a few things that seem to work. Ice bath is a for sure thing for runs 15 and over, especially trails cuz I end up working harder than I think I do with those hills. After a race, I down 4 vitamin “I” and that seems to keep away the inflammation enough for the rest of the recovery. I also try and get my legs/feet up for 30 to 45 minutes in a recliner or elevated on the couch. This, of course, is nearly impossible to do since I’m usually on kid duty after long runs on Saturday, but hey, that’s what Wonder Pets is for, right? I either take 2 days off completely after a race or, do the opposite and go for a 2-3 mile recovery run/walk the day after. Surprisingly, this seems to work better than a complete slack, but mentally, it’s a hard one to do since you know you’re just gonna feel like crap. Scenic route and no Garmin on that one. It’s all part of the running ‘thang’ isn’t it… figure these things out. Love the tips and ideas.

    • bowenshea permalink*
      November 1, 2010 11:11 am

      Next time I invade your hotel room, pls. FORCE me to take an ice bath!! “;>)

  3. November 1, 2010 12:55 pm

    I don’t like the ice bath at all but my hubby sure enjoys filling my tub with it for me.
    We were just talking about the 2 wks post marathon and what & how we recover. Looking forward to some great tips here 🙂

  4. November 1, 2010 1:15 pm

    I am almost always good about recovery post-race, EXCEPT after a marathon, when it counts most. Something about my marathons always being at the end of my season, knowing I have nothing in particular to recover for, always makes me lazy about doing the right things. But you’ve given me a good reminder here, thanks!

  5. November 1, 2010 4:54 pm

    Thanks for the tip! Will keep that in mind after my first marathon this December =)

  6. Erica Richards permalink
    November 1, 2010 6:37 pm

    I thought I had my first marathon recovery in the bag…ice bath after the race, feet up (after my daughter’s soccer game) and take out dinner that night, massage 2 days later, so I felt AWESOME when I went for a slow 3 mile run 3 days post race. Felt even better when I went for a 4 mile run 2 days after that. ( hmm, that’s over 33 miles in a week) Then, WHAM! Not so fast!! Everything started complaining. I had been walking down stairs like a normal person for almost a week and then I went back to having to take one step at a time. Very frustrating. Ran a 5K this past weekend and decided I needed to go for a PR…cost, couldn’t do 3 miles today. 😦 So, lesson learned the hard way. Even when you feel great, don’t do it! Resist and rest.

  7. November 1, 2010 7:09 pm

    Yep, I read this too…10 days after Portland. AFTER I sat in a car for 3000 miles moving from WA to NC on Oct. 11. After i killed my legs.

    I literally drove for 13 hours on Monday the 11th. I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea. How could sitting for that long be BAD after a marathon? And then sitting for 10 hours the second day? And then sitting for another 10 hours the third day? How could all that be BAD? And then sitting for another 9 hours and then 16 hours on the final day. Holy cow that is a lot of sitting after a marathon. It killed my legs. I am still recovering from all the inactivity after the marathon. Ugh. Never again will i run a marathon the day before moving 3000 miles.

  8. November 2, 2010 9:33 am

    This post is GREAT! I just ran Marine Corps on 10.31.10 and I am legs-propped-up as I type! Thanks for the reminder…..I need the rest!

  9. November 2, 2010 12:13 pm

    I am hoping to run my first full in the spring and I am sending reminder vibes to my future self to take these lessons learned that you’ve experienced and add them to my RLAM toolbox.

    I am thinking now is the time to get to know a good massage therapist so that I am sure to get a booking post-race!

    Just as Dimity said in today’s post, the reasons for running….”wanting to fit in with the awesome RLAM tribe, fighting the blues, fitting into my jeans, defusing my energy so that my offspring don’t take the brunt of my frustrations…or lead by example”

    I think NOT running NOW and resting so that you CAN run for all the above reasons, is just as important. (My past-present-future self needs to hear this one too!)

  10. Stacey Gordon permalink
    November 2, 2010 3:13 pm

    Triathletes all know that a nice easy swim… even a few hundred yards using just the kickboard, is the best run recovery….

  11. November 3, 2010 9:44 am

    A great article. Thank you

  12. Myrta Fune permalink
    February 3, 2013 8:57 am

    ice bath are needed if you want to relieve muscular pain and swelling but for more sever pain, you need pain killers and anti-inflammatories.;

    Brand new article content on our very own web blog

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