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.

    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  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!


A Half and Recovery

Last weekend I ran the Air Line Trail Ghost Half Marathon and it was fantastic! I came off my marathon training last month still feeling incredibly strong & wanted to run this race because it is local to me and is a ton of fun. Despite a nagging hip issue, I figured four weeks was enough time to recollect myself and get some quick training in for one more big race. After the Hartford marathon I took one week of light running and rest, lots of foam rolling, stretching, and re-hydrating. Then I set up Garmin’s half marathon Level II plan in my calendar & went at it. I began the plan in the last three weeks of it, so basically a few good hard workouts and a quick taper, which was exactly what I needed to take me to race day feeling strong, but not over-worked.

I did approach the race with a PR in mind. I knew this might be a lofty goal having just come off a grueling marathon block & dealing with whatever was going on with my hip, but I was fairly confidant that if I adhered to a solid race day strategy I could achieve what I was looking for. Besides, I knew this course was conducive to fast times if you approached it the right way. My plan was to take the first mile or so very conservatively & not worry about the crowds, the hills, or the pace. From mile 2 on to the half way mark, I would aim for a 7:12 or under pace while riding the down hills and maintaining composure. I knew the second half of the race would be all up hill, so I wanted to have something in the tank. I planned on a surge at mile 8, where the serious hill climbing begins, and pushing out a strong last 5k. This should all have lead me to a sub 1:35 PR.

A rush of a crowd flew by me at the start, and I grudgingly let them go. The competitive side of me wanted to chase them down & assume the lead. But the intuitive side knew that most of them wouldn’t be able to hold the pace, especially once they started going up! I sat back to bide my time.

My pace was a bit faster than I had anticipated, but the miles ticked by with ease. I decided to skip the water stops and even my gel since it was a cool day (36 degrees) and I was feeling super. By mile 7 I was starving & really looking forward to the chili and coffee at the post race party. By mile 9 my arm began to cramp and it was extremely distracting. By mile 10 my hip completely gave up on me. However, I kept my sights on runners ahead of me and methodically picked them off, one by one. Though I certainly slowed (mile 12 was the hardest for me with a 7:20 pace), I was able to keep moving forward without compromising my goal. And, I am quite proud to say, that I was not passed along the way except my one young man right at the end. I came pounding through the finish with a 1:31:15! My best time by almost 4 minutes! Strategy really paid off and I walked away from that course incredibly happy.

I finished 19th overall and  the 2nd female, 1st in 30-39 age group.

Now, I am taking a breather. This week has been light. I’ve even WALKED. That’s right, I’ve been walking. And by the end of the month I just may stop running altogether. Recovery is important for getting stronger, and when I tackle my Spring marathon I plan on unleashing the whole Mazy monster! I have some really big plans for next year, which means that the rest of this year calls for rest, recovery, and rehabilitation.

Running Slow & Feelin’ Groovy

Got no deeds to do,
No promises to keep.

I’ve taken a three week slow-down between training cycles and man, it does feel good! The first week immediately followed the Vermont City Marathon, and that consisted of (gasp!) no running at all. I did a little bit of light walking, but nothing strenuous at all. The second week was very light and slow running every other day for about 30 minutes and lots of stretching. Just very chill, checking out the scenery, enjoying some awesomely cool New England weather. Next week will be my third week “off”. I’ll run a little bit longer with a little bit more overall mileage, but keep my slow, easy pace.

I am a bit itchy to get back to business & I’ve caught myself creeping up on the pace a bit (this is why I always run with my GPS watch!), but I know that taking this down-time is just as important to my marathon training as mile repeats or long runs. While I’m lucky I stayed healthy & injury free so far this year, I do need to let my body fully recover to effectively train for the next race, and hopefully bring my time down. Quality sleep, excellent nutrition, and body weight exercises have been my main focus to keep me healthy & strong and ready to go for another 16 weeks of training.

Sun 5/29 MARATHON DAY! 26.2 miles, 4:03.52
Mon 5/30 Light biking, stretching (travel home)
Tue 5/31 Rest
Wed 6/1 Walked 2 miles
Thur 6/2 Rest
Fri 6/3 Rest
Sat 6/4 Walked 2 miles

Sun 6/5 Ran 30 mins, 10:00 pace, 3 miles
Mon 6/6 Rest
Tue 6/7  Ran 30 mins, 10:00 pace, 3 miles
Wed 6/8 Rest
Thur 6/9 Rest
Fri 6/10  Ran 45 mins, 9:00 pace, 5 miles
Sat 6/11  Rest

Sun 6/12  Easy 5 miles
Mon 6/13 Easy 30 mins
Tue 6/14  Rest
Wed 6/15 Strides, stretches
Thurs 6/16 Rest
Fri 6/17  Easy 30 mins
Sat 6/18  Easy 6 miles