Recovering from a 100 Mile Race

It is over two months since I completed my first 100 mile race in which time I have learned a few things about my body and recovery. Firstly I have found there is a dearth of information on the recovery process and how long it could potentially take to feel the fire in the engine burning brightly again.  So I am re-counting my experience so anyone in future suffering similar symptoms and stumbles across this blog might feel re-assured it does seem quite ‘normal’ that a prolonged period of recovery might be required after your first 100 miler.

After a marathon you can feel the aches in the legs for a few days, once the aches have subsided resting another few days, it feels ok to start running again. This is in no way scientific and based purely on my findings over the past couple of years. If there have been any serious blisters involved, it might have been necessary to tape the feet for a week or two, but generally a week to recover from a marathon has felt right.

After the NDW100, I waited two weeks before thinking about a run, swelling to my left foot virtually ruled out any movement quicker than a hobble. Before the swelling had completely gone down, I tried a gentle jog of a few miles and everything felt good. What happened next was probably the daftest path I could have taken, but we live and learn.

My next target race is the Valencia marathon, a race I have enjoyed for the past two years as the route is pancake flat and takes in the exhilarating beauty of the magnificent city. This year I was desperate to shake  the four hour monkey off my back. Once I thought my recovery from the NDW100 was complete, I dived headlong into killer track sessions. This was hard work as I have not been used to running faster than 10 minute miles for almost a year. The first weeks of September my daily mileage was unusually low and the weekly total at it’s lowest since 2013, this was mostly by design, but something felt not quite right. Once I started to up the miles on the road runs and up the effort level I quickly realised the recovery from 100 miles was far from complete. A feeling of leaden legs made each run not only unenjoyable, but completely miserable. I continued to run, replaced the track sessions with some speedy intervals and felt progressively worse. We have surely all experienced the mind demons telling us our body is a crock? The mind demons started telling me my short running career was over and I started to believe them, my running spirit for the moment had been broken.

A running friend Sarah, who has a hatful of good ultras and a GFA marathon time advised me to take time out from training. This advice was not easy to carry out and very unusual for me to take time out when there are no visible injuries. She advised a week out, I took three days, and possibly the best three days off I have ever taken. I came back last week feeling strong and ready to take on the world again, broke a training FKT on a local trail and am enjoying road runs again. The weekend long runs were probably overdone effort wise as I again felt tired legs this week but nothing like before.

What did I do wrong in my recovery? Probably started back one week early and lost double that week in the poor quality training that followed. Diving straight into track sessions was probably a really stupid idea. Not taking time out sooner when it was clear my body was simply not ready for the output being asked for.

In summary one piece of advice based on my own experience after a first 100 mile race would be REST UP. When considering a  first run back, have another week off. If you are not 110% committed to your daily runs once you start back, have some more time out.

This advice is purely based on my own experience, we are all different, but as I approach 50, I want my running to carry on for another score years and more, a week off now might give me another year of good running ten years from now.

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