Planning a Recovery and Another Race

It’s half past ten in the morning and I’ve only just now combed my hair. My bed is still unmade, chores are still undone, and I haven’t done a lick of work. I’ve been in recovery mode and it is making me complacent and lazy. Those who have been following my blog know that I run with anxiety and depression, and nothing triggers depression faster than a week off of running.

I’m a planner. I need to know ahead of time all the small details. It’s an issue with control and one of my mental health triggers. But, after running a few marathons I’ve learned that it doesn’t just end at the finish line &  I need to prepare myself for the recovery. Knowing ahead of time how I’d handle the post-marathon days, I wrote up a mini plan to accommodate the two recovery weeks that were necessary, plus two more build back weeks. I had already wanted to run a half marathon 6 weeks after Boston (legs permitting) and built that into my recovery plan.

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I know that racing again so soon isn’t recommended, but I don’t think my family can handle too much more of my moodiness. (I’ve been unpleasant to say the least.) I was on an incredible high the week after Boston – but once the soreness in my legs passed, depression took over. I went manic. I decided to forgo the May half marathon and instead seek out another full marathon. I wanted a summer marathon, and then another late fall race. I wanted to squeeze in at least three. I was confident I could do it. I needed to do it.

But I took a deep breath & had to get honest with myself. I hadn’t even run a step yet and was looking to jump into another training cycle! Not a good idea. I’ve decided that I do need a serious break from long training cycles, and instead am going to go for A Summer of 10ks. I want to do a couple of half marathons, since I’ve never specifically trained for one, and really want to work on getting my 10k time down to under 40 minutes. I am looking at a lot less weekly mileage over the summer, which I think will be good for me, and (hopefully) will make up for my short recovery period.

I am feeling very good as I close up the second week of recovery. I have no aches or pains, and the few runs I went on this week were very enjoyable. But I am looking forward to getting back to work, back to routine. How has your post-marathon recovery gone? What is next for your racing shoes?

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Reformed Runner

We are having another (near) 50 degree day here in New England and I’m not running. I feel like I’m wasting it, like I’m passing up this random gift from Mother Nature by not hitting the road and getting in a few miles with less layers on. But, as much as it pains me to sit this weekend out, I must resist the urge.

My hamstring and Achilles tendon started bothering me a few weeks ago.  I tried to ignore it, but we all know how that ends up. A wee niggle morphed into a full on pain, and in no time I was barely able to hobble out a 3 mile recovery run. With the distractions of moving, holidays, sick kids, etc, etc, I had neglected to take care of myself properly & it has affected my training. Because I slacked with proper warm ups, drills, and the like, my hamstring issues from last summer have returned full force and I was forced to take the week – the WHOLE WEEK – off. As someone who is in the throws of training for Boston with a serious goal in mind, this was a hard pill to swallow. What about fitness, what about strength, what about my pacing?! I’ve worked so hard, I can’t bear to lose any of it!

But a step back from running is what I needed.

So, this week has been spent on strength training (hello weight room, I’ve missed you!), gentle walking with the dog, and back to physical therapy. While I’m itching to run, I do know that this short amount of time off really won’t hurt my over all training. After all, what’s the point in limping through a few junky miles & causing real damage instead of sitting still for a few weeks and healing properly. I’d rather go into the race a little under trained than wind up injured and not race at all. And these past few days off have given me the time to reassess my running goals and restructure my training plan. I’ve taken a long hard look at my progress so far & I’ve made a few determinations:

  1. I’m running too fast. It feels good to fly, and it feels like progress to grab those little Strava crowns on every training run, but it’s been hurting me. I looked over my data & found that on most runs I’ve been at or near race pace when I should be going easy. This is extra strain that is tearing down my body. I need to run slower, a lot slower, and a lot more often. Easy does not mean a new course record on a segment.Screenshot (4)_LI
  2. I go up, but don’t train for hills. I really like hills. I am solidly in the #TeamHillYes camp. It’s not that I like the hills, it’s that I like that others don’t like them. Other people’s weaknesses are my strength, so I’ve convinced myself that hills are my friend. And, because of that, I tackle every one full on. We’ve moved to a significantly hillier area than what I’m used to; every run is a hill workout – even my driveway! I’ve slacked on doing hill specific workouts, thinking my regular ups & downs would suffice (they don’t). But after reviewing the GAP (grade adjusted pace) data on Strava, I’ve found that I hit the hills hard, much harder than I should, and much more often than I should. This has been shredding my Achilles. I need to go back to training for hills the proper way & cooling my jets every time I see an incline in front of me on an easy run.Screenshot (11)Screenshot (21)_LI
  3. I need to warm up properly. I know I’m supposed to do a warm up and a cool down. I know I need to do the dynamic drills, the strides, the stretches. I know, I know, I know. Those are the boring details about running that I’ve been neglecting, and those are the details that are coming back to bite me in the butt. After my Fall race I went into recovery mode, which meant slow, easy runs, if I ran at all. I didn’t bother with all the little extras and fell into the bad habit of just running. And then I didn’t change my habits when my training picked up again. And now my butt hurts. With colder weather, proper warm ups are even more of a must, so it’s no wonder my body is revolting. Yes it’s time consuming. Yes it’s boring. But it is oh-so necessary and I will be doing them from now on.

I’ve caught my injury before it was a “real” injury, before any true damage was done, so I will be able to return to training very quickly. Heck, the rest may have even done me some good. But it did wake me up. I need to do things the right way, the smart way, or I could be out. A week off was punishment enough and I have certainly learned my lesson & have changed my ways. I am a reformed runner!

Take it easy my friends, and stay safe out there!

26 Days of Easy

I am now in my final week of Marathon Recovery and I am so glad for it.  I’ve been bored, despondent, and really itching to get going again, but I know that rest & recovery are just as important to my running success as mile repeats.  I decided that a full month of (fairly) easy running, lower mileage, and no racing would be the most beneficial.  I came off of a very hard training cycle with the intent to tackle the next one with just as much vigor.  I need the down time to keep myself from getting hurt.

I’ve read a lot of different “expert” opinions on how to deal with recovery periods and have opted to go on my own this time around.  Some advice offered claimed that a day for every mile of a race was needed for recovery, but I don’t think I could stand 26 days off! 26 days of going easy was hard enough!  Some advised all cross training and no running, but for me, one bout on the bike and I was sore for days!  I also ended up with a bruised behind. It’s also recommended that the body be given a full 6-10 weeks to heal before beginning another training cycle.

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Since the race, I’ve taken a two on, one off approach.  This has kept me sane, kept me moving so I won’t lose fitness, while still offering a lot of rest days.  Most of my runs have been an easy to moderate pace (between 8:00 and 8:45 mile pace) and 5-8 miles.  My “long runs” have been 11 milers at conversation pace.  But, I do confess that I’ve been riding the marathon high all month and have struggled to keep the pace slow and easy.  Every time I look down at my watch I see the pace creeping toward marathon race pace and have to force myself to take it down a few notches.  I even went so far as to bust out 3Xmile repeats in the hopes of getting it out of my system.  Ah well, as long as the effort feels easy, I’m not getting tired, and I’m not feeling sore after, I think I’m okay with a slightly ramped up pace.

 

I will have three more runs this week (still haven’t planed out how we’ll deal with Thanksgiving…) before my recovery is officially over and I begin my Base Training for the next cycle.  Since my base will be some more of the same in terms of easy miles and slowly building up the long run, it will give me 4 additional weeks for my body to get ready before the real work begins for the next marathon.  So that’s 4 weeks of Recovery (low mileage, slow pace, lots of rest days) and 4 weeks of Base (increasing mileage, slow pace, two rest days a week), or 8 weeks of easy miles.  December, I am getting excited for you!  I’m also hoping & praying that all the moving, holidays, and illness go easy on me this year.  I have some pretty big things I am looking to accomplish in 2018 and hard work & dedication is the only way  to get them.

I Rode a Bike

With the anticipation of moving and coming off a hard training cycle, I have opted not to commit to any races for the rest of the calendar year.  I was really looking forward to some easy miles while enjoying the fall weather, and maybe even going on a few social runs.  But of course, then came falling down the stairs, which put me out a few days, followed by a treacherous storm that has left our town a mess & school has been out for two and a half days, forcing me to take more time off.  Yesterday I finally got to run again, and in my excitement I went a bit fast.  I felt great and I have no regrets, though I was mildly stiff this morning (though trick-or-treating may have played a role there!)  Since I’ve spent so much time off already, an every other day schedule didn’t sound fun at all, so I decided to pull out my bike & try out some cross training.

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My trusty, rusty Huffy.

 

My husband picked up this (semi) rusty bike from a yard sale several months ago so we could all ride the trail together as a family, but I hadn’t gotten around to taking it out yet.  It’s a decent bike in perfectly fine shape and it was a very affordable $25!  Now, I haven’t been on a bike since I was in high school, but I figured this would be an excellent tool for some nice, relaxed cross training.  An hour or so on the bike should be similar to 35-40 minutes running, right?

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I don’t know what I’m doing!

Oh boy was I wrong!  I was only able to pull off 40 minutes of (what felt like) incredibly intense pedaling.  I averaged 10 mph, which I think is decent, but because I kept my phone in my pocket, I’m not sure how consistent my pace was throughout (it wasn’t).  My quads were burning from the initial push-off, so really, I don’t see how folks do this as their sport on a regular basis.  It.was.just.so.hard!

Things I learned on my bike ride:
-It is just like riding a bike – you really don’t forget how to do it!
-My quads are not nearly as strong as I thought they were.
-Running is a lot easier.
-Cycling is a lot colder than running and your toes never warm up on chilly days.
-Sticks are your enemies.
-People who ride are hardcore.

I am excited to get back on it in a day or so & try again, mess around with some gears, and learn a bit more about the sport.  I’m looking forward to going farther, faster, doing better.  And I like that it’s hard, because that means it will make me stronger.

Do you cross train?  What’s your favorite non-running activity? Leave your answer in the comments below!

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Riding the Space Unicorns!

Post Marathon Blues

I think I dislike marathon recovery more than I dislike marathon tapering. I’m bored, I’m restless, and I just want to GO! But I know that to keep myself healthy I need to stay put. It’s very frustrating. Tapering is hard because you have a big race looming over you and you’ve just spent the better part of 3 months working your butt off to get ready for it, and now all of a sudden you are slowing down, cutting mileage and resting! Agggggh!

Recovery time sucks for a different reason. I am still on a race high. I had a great training cycle (some bumps, but not too bad), a great race, and an awesome finish time. And nothing hurts. And I’m hyper and giddy and ready to go again! But I did just deal with an over-training scare. And I do know what happens to athletes who push too hard. So I am forcing a rest.

But I’m not tired!

I admit it; I’ve got the post-marathon blues. I’m just floating along with no real direction. I miss training. I miss racing. It was only a week and a half ago, but feels like forever. I reminisce. I sorta-kinda feel like I don’t have a purpose. Which of course is ridiculous considering the fact that I have work to do, three kids to schlep all over town, and a growing chicken farm to balance. Oh yeah…and a lot of laundry and dirty dishes.

I am making a point of at least trying to enjoy my down time. I am actually LOOKING at the trees when I go for walks. I LISTEN to the birds. I FEEL the sun and wind. Connecticut is beautiful in the Spring and I’m trying to enjoy it. I know that if I give in to my desires and start training again I’ll just get hurt. And then instead of simply slowing down, I’ll be forced to stop altogether, and that won’t do me any good in future races.

I’ve found little info on what to do AFTER a marathon. The advice is vague if offered at all. So, I’m going to offer my own experiences. I hope they help!

  1. If you’re not injured, then set a time frame.  I haven’t been injured from a marathon yet, but I have walked away very unhappy. The recovery time from a marathon can feel like hell when all you want is redemption from a bad race. It can also feel like a mean taunt when you’ve done well and are excited to go again. But rest is key to fast times, so go ahead and do just that. But mark it on your calendar so you don’t drive yourself crazy wondering when it’s over.
  2. Create a Recovery Plan. You planned your workouts. You planned your meals. You may have even planned your pit stops, and now you are suddenly drifting just because you are post race. There are a few post-marathon recovery plans out there, but you don’t need anything formal. But I have found that simply writing it down helps me feel focused. I’m a planner. I like to know what’s happening next. I like things to be in order. I hate free for alls. Even though my Recovery Schedule isn’t anything fancy, I still like to plan it out, write it down.
  3. Go EASY! I know several people who run marathons back to back. And guess what – they are always in pain! Go easy. Go so much easier than you think is necessary. The day after a marathon, do nothing. Take the day off from work. Skip chores. Watch a lot of TV. The first week post-marathon shouldn’t include any running at all. I do go for walks every other day. And I do what I can to avoid stairs. Weeks 2 & 3 after a marathon I run super easy pace (I’m talking at least 3 minutes per mile slower than your race pace) for 30-40 mins every other day. I won’t add any weight training or faster runs back until Week 4.
  4. Do something else. Now is a great time to jump in the swimming pool for a few laps or hop on a bike for a ride. Make plans for your next training cycle. Scope out new races. Look into new recipes. Plan a non-running related activity.
  5. Enjoy the down time. It’s tough to work so hard and then suddenly not. But rest assured, you are not being a slacker and you are not losing fitness. Enjoy yourself and those around you. I know my family is pleased that I’ve finally stopped talking about running. And, in a way, I kind of am too.

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    I never get to take pictures while running!

A Rest Day

I’ve always been one to follow the rules, do what I’m told, and generally be a “good girl”. When I was in high school and my cross country coach told us to run for 45 mins, I didn’t quit at 43. I ran the full 45. Yes, I was sure that those two minutes *really* mattered. Cutting corners has always been a major no-no in my book.  I was one of the best because I never slacked.

I’ve been able to push through all sorts of pain and anguish to complete a run or a race. I’ve advanced my place and my standing through sweat, tears, and perseverance. However, I also fell. Crashing down from a proverbial pedestal is actually quite painful! And, in the years picking myself back up I’ve had to reassess what it means to fail, to slack off, and what real strength is.

I am half way through week 3 of weaning off Paxil. In a few more days I should be done with it. It was a rocky start, but withdrawal symptoms have leveled out. Despite some of the crazy dizziness, cramping, crying, and overall crummy feeling I was able to push on with my training. In fact, I feel like I may not have survived the weaning if I hadn’t been running through it! We’ve also had snow storm after snow storm just dumping feet of icy, cold yuck and frigid temps making breathing a special chore. Nonetheless, I got through the training. No excuses! No slacking! That marathon isn’t going to run itself!

I’m proud of the work I’ve put in so far. I’ve done well and I am getting stronger. To be honest though — I’m exhausted! I’ve overslept twice this week (completely missing the bus to school yesterday!)  and my muscles have not be recovering like they usually do. I woke up this morning absolutely dreading the workout that lay ahead of me. I got the kids packed up for school, out the door, and onto the bus. As I ate some breakfast I went over the details of my workout. Warm up…10 mins at threshold pace…5x3mins at threshold pace…another 10 mins at pace….I just didn’t wanna! I tried to talk myself into it…just do it Mazy! My legs still ached from the two mile repeats from a few days ago. Yesterday’s recovery run didn’t recover my body. And I’m just.so.damned.tired.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized I really needed a rest day.

I’ve given myself the day off! I will do the workout tomorrow (my scheduled day off) and bask in the gloriousness of NOT RUNNING TODAY. Am I slacking? My high school self would say yes, but guess what —  she was stupid! Recovering my body will do more good for me than pushing through a run while fighting to hit (and probably miss) the pace. Being a fighter and pushing the limits is admirable, but so is being smart. My muscles need a chance to repair themselves. My mind needs a chance to recoup. I know I could hit the road, bust out some semi-descent repeats and be done with it, but I also know I’d be setting myself up for more exhaustion tomorrow, more soreness, and possibly degrading my immune system even further. So, I raise my mug of Yogi Muscle Recovery Tea and give a hearty three cheers for Rest Day!

Quitting Paxil

In July of last year I started anti-depression medication.  My doctor felt that my anxiety attacks were a form of postpartum depression manifesting itself. After all, it had been a traumatic birthing and postpartum experience and my mind was still reeling from it. That, coupled with the ridiculous hormonal upheaval, it was perfectly understandable for me to ‘not be myself’. She put me on 10 mg of Paxil, the lowest prescribed dose, because it was compatible with breastfeeding. The parents and I intended to pump and ship milk for a full year, so it was important that I still be able to do that. But, my doctor did feel that it was hormonal and did not like the idea of me being on the drug for an extended amount of time.
“After you are done pumping and your hormones level out, we can discuss weaning.”

I pumped for the full year and took the Paxil for the six months. Life was fine. Exactly three weeks after weaning from the pump I got my first period. I continued to take the drug for the next month, but decided that it is now time to stop it. My dosage has been cut in half, and since I had been on such a low dose for a short time, she suggested three weeks at the 5mg, then stopping entirely.  Sounded good to me.

It sounded good until the withdrawal symptoms kicked in. I naively assumed that I could quit a low dose pain-free. Boy was I wrong! It has been one week at 5mg and I am suffering from some of the worst side effects. Brain zaps and diarrhea seem to be the worst, but there’s also the extreme dizziness, nausea, lack of focus, stomach pain, joint pain, and general tiredness.  Running is almost impossible because movement in general brings on such a strong force of dizziness that I’m afraid I’ll fall. (I’ve only fallen once, but that was from standing up too fast!) I feel like I’m trying to walk under water or I’m drunk nearly all the time. I tried running some hill repeats on Saturday, but was so afraid of falling and being hit by a car, I gave up and just went home. I plugged away at a long run on Sunday, but at a snail’s pace, and I took a friend along with me just in case.

The way the drug has been messing with me these past 7 days has made me want to get off it even more. I crave it now. And some little voice in the back of my head keeps trying to tell me that quitting will be too hard, too painful.
“Just stay on it for now, Mazy.”
“It’s only 10 mg. That’s not a lot. It’s okay to keep taking it because it’s not a lot.”
“You can’t quit. It will mess up your running. You’ll lose all your training! Just take it through this next marathon.”
“You can’t handle the pressure of training without it. You can’t ever BQ without it. You won’t be able to handle the crowds without it. You can’t run without Paxil.”

I know all of these things are false, and I am shutting them out. In fact, this coming marathon now has a whole new purpose for me. I will run just fine without Paxil. In fact, I will PR without it. I’m strong enough to run well. I will also overcome both the anxiety and the addiction, because that’s how badass I am. Last year’s marathon was about battling my body’s shortcomings, this year’s marathon will be about battling my mind’s. If I can put my body back together and run some of the best races of my life, then I know I have the strength and power to do the same with my mind.

So, aside from trying to keep as positive as I can, I have found a few other tricks that seem to help cut down on the withdrawal symptoms:

1. NO alcohol. I don’t drink a lot, maybe one or two a week, but I’ve found that even the smallest amount of alcohol exacerbates the symptoms.
2. Stay hydrated. I’m drinking extra water which calms the headaches and dizziness.
3. Tea. I have found that lavender and ginger teas are especially soothing.
4. Keep a schedule. I can easily get wrapped up in my own discomfort and end up wasting the whole day because I don’t feel well and it just seems too hard to do anything. Planning out the day ahead helps keep me distracted from the discomfort and focused on what needs to get done. This morning I wrote out how my day needed to go (1. Kids on bus/Go for easy run 2. Feed animals/clean kitchen 3. Load of laundry 4. Write until 2:30pm 5. Kids home/prepare dinner).
5. Tell people. I’ve told my family and close friends that I’m coming off of Paxil and I am okay with asking them for help when I need it.

One week down, two more to go!