Recovery from the “Not So Normal”!

Post disclosure. I’m an excitable writer. My brain dumps words onto a page and the result might be a wee bit ‘wordy’ sometimes. Some of you will lap it up, others are trying to sneak reading this blog when your boss thinks your working. So, for those people I’ve treated you to a summary at the end, you’re welcome 🙂

So, without further ado.

As I look out on a bluebird day longing to be out on the trails, running ridge-lines and skipping down gullies, I reflect on the process of recovery, the reality of the toll that running milers take on the body, and the responsibility I have to share the whole story…because the races are just a few days out of a life-long journey.

“This is not normal!” Samantha Gash says into the camera as she runs her 3200kms across India. Us ultra-marathoners sitting in the audience of the Gutsy Girls Film Tour laughed the hardest and exchanged glances. We live in this little bubble, we run together, we dream big, adventure together…It’s our normal…but we better make no mistake…it’s not normal!!

So, how about that recovery….

Wahooo, it’s two days post-race and I get up off the toilet without the assistance of my hands and arms to hoist me up like an episode of Ninja Warrior. We shall not speak of the struggle of using the public toilets on the road trip home, (yuk!) when my legs weren’t up to the job to lift my body and I had to find suitable handholds in grubby loos on the long trip home…all part of the fun, right!?

Naseby Finishers Belt Buckle

So, how you do recover from a miler….and no – eating alllll the food and laying around basking in the glory of a job well done doesn’t quite cut it, although it is without a doubt a serious highlight.

I am told that on a blood level, the body can take up to 3 months to recover from running 100 miles. Eeekkk…remember what I said earlier – this is not normal…and let’s be honest, it’s not the healthiest past-time.

That said, if you do recovery well (I’m hoping, this experiment of N=1 over the next 7 months should help shed some light on how to do that!) the damage will be minimal and perhaps the body can get stronger? We shall see…

Part One: Food, sleep and coming back to training.

Lets talk about food baby…post my first miler in Hanmer, I ate a lot of cake and lollies, Mcdonald’s (Oh the shame of driving through the drive-through and ordering heavily from the dessert menu only to feel horrible afterwards!!), and generally anything easy, sweet and high calorie that I could get my hands on. The result? an emaciated, sick body that was in a bad state. (yes, I should have listened to those around me…another lesson for another post).

To curtail this sugar feeding frenzy I planned this race right from the moment the race finished to get good food in. I instructed my crew to force-feed me if they had too, as soon as the race finished to get good nutrients in. They didn’t have to go to those lengths but I have to say I didn’t much enjoy the protein shake and nut and seed loaded porridge post-race.

I wanted chips and other assorted high cal, low nutrient food, but I was determined to recovery well, so while not my first choice in flavours, my first choice in recovery was good whole food within 20 minutes of the race finish. In full disclosure, this was then followed by cider, chips and a burger for dinner!! 🙂 but the good foundations were laid. * This good food plan continued the next day where, upon waking I made sure to down another big serving of my wholesome oats and another protein shake. I had cooked the post-race oats before heading off on the road trip so there were no excuses, the food was ready and just had to be heated – setting yourself up for winning is the game plan here!

When you are exhausted mentally and physically you make poor choices (McDonalds anyone!?), so if you know you are going to be in that state ensure your past self looks after your present self with a ‘here’s one I prepared earlier!’ situation.

I’m not gonna lie, on the road trip back home I consumed more chocolate croissants than I can count, but only after I had eaten a whole family-sized salad (you know those pre-boxed ones in the chiller) and a large tub of coconut yoghurt, and yup, more protein shakes. I wasn’t going to deny my body the sugar it was craving, but I was making damn sure to fill it with the good stuff first, and in doing so the desire for the nutritionally void food was decreased…I did still demolish a couple of pack of crisps…..mmmmm the salty goodness of burger rings!!

Did I mention my love of Proper Crisps?!

I took the Monday off work post-race and between Netflix with my feet up, and catching up on my social media, I bulk cooked my breakfasts for the week…you guessed it…more nutrient-packed oats, and lunches for the week, vege and potato packed frittata. * So the moral of the story around food post-race? Be prepared, eat the good body-building stuff before the bad stuff. Have a food plan to ensure you put the good stuff in and you’ll feel way before for it. I definitely do!

Side note, the good food (and a magnesium supplement) also helps promote good sleep which isn’t easy post miler I can tell you. The body is in serious “wtf have you done to me” kinda shock. * So my wiser food choices this time around meant it was better, but there were definitely a few nights of broken sleep, night sweats, restless legs, and general difficulty sleeping. Think of trying to roll over when your legs don’t work – I had two options, awkwardly flinging myself bodily from one side to the other (creating the feeling of earthquake for my partner!), or sitting up and using my upper body to change the lower body position (true story!!). I think with the sleepless nights all you can do is accept it, it is part and parcel of pushing the body to the extreme, the sleep gets back to normal and you appreciate it when it does.

I did have a moments thought this week, questioning why I put my body and mind through this? The question that came up was essentially “is it worth it?”, when I was tired,sore and just wishing for a good nights sleep. * The answer, of course right now is yes, moments of tiredness and pain are totally worth it for the experience. Know your ‘why’ right?

Finally, training post-race. I came away from Naseby with a minor overuse shin injury and knee pain caused by muscle tightness. My (amazing) Physio, was really excited with how my body came through the race and that we made it through largely injury-free, with just a couple of minor niggles. Right now the mind is willing and I can almost feel what it would be like to be out running today, the wind in my hair and the sun on my face, but the body has done some major work and needs to be respected and given the time it needs to repair. For now, I am content to gaze at the hills and imagine all the adventures to come as I ease my way back over the next three weeks back into a full running plan.

There are no 10km shakeouts happening here! No short recovery runs right now. The muscles are shredded and need time to repair. * I could go out and run on them, I have the mental toughness to push through the pain and fatigue I know I would feel, and it almost feels like it would be worth it to top up the souls’ joy. However, I want to be running for years to come, so I’ll settle for the plan to slowly get back to moving. Next week I’ll have some short flat runs (yippee), and they’ll progress to include some undulations the following week and all going well four weeks post-race, I’ll be blasting around my beloved hills again!

So I think that’s it, for those skim-reading cause you know I can be a bit wordy ;P here’s the summary I promised earlier on when your boss started walking closer to your desk…

Eating well post-race is THE most important and to do that preparing ahead is the key. Sleeping post miler sucks – but it gets better pretty quickly. No, I’m not skipping through the fields just yet or running speed sessions around the track! It’ll take me about four weeks to get back to a full running training program.

Stay tuned for Part Two: Reality and Responsibility, where I talk IV infusions, changes in body composition and loving your liver!

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