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 Active.com 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.