September 2017

A Marathon really is a 10k sprint to the line, with a 32k warm-up.

Yet again I was dissecting Strava splits from some of my running friends who had ran Berlin and it became apparent that most had fallen into the ‘marathon trap’ that is the norm these days. They had trained long and hard and were prepared for the first 32k of the race but had fallen away for the last 10k. This is why I believe a marathon really is a 10k race with a 32k warm-up.  These two separate races are as important as each other, if you do badly in either the end the result is normally the same.

So why does the marathon lend itself so well to these two separate distances ? The first part, the 32k warm-up, is where all your training and hard work pays dividends. If you have put in the hard yards you will be able to maintain your goal pace for the first 32k most of the time. Add in proper nutrition and a good taper and the first 32k can actually be an enjoyable experience.  Its at 32k you will first encounter every marathon runners worst nightmare, ‘the wall’.  Susan Paul from http://www.runnersworld.com    sums up the wall in an article below :-

A runners worst nightmare….

 

In general, hitting the wall refers to depleting your stored glycogen and the feelings of fatigue and negativity that typically accompany it. Glycogen is carbohydrate that is stored in our muscles and liver for energy. It is the easiest and most readily available fuel source to burn when exercising, so the body prefers it. When you run low on glycogen, even your brain wants to shut down activity as a preservation method, which leads to the negative thinking that comes along with hitting the wall.

It’s important to note that you burn a blend of stored carbohydrate and fat for fuel all of the time. However, the ratio of these two fuels changes with the intensity of the activity. For example, during a speed workout you will use a higher percentage of glycogen in your fuel blend. On a long slow run, you would burn a higher percentage of fat and a lower percentage of carbohydrate.

If you do the math, it’s easy to see why many runners hit the wall around the 18- or 20-mile mark. Our bodies store about 1,800 to 2,000 calories worth of glycogen in our muscles and liver. On average, we use about 100 calories per mile when running, depending upon run pace and body mass.

However, proper training for marathon mileage gives your body and mind time to adapt to these rigors. Since you don’t use purely carbohydrate as fuel, you have the ability to continue running by accessing fat stores.

The energy issue then, is really about reaching for those fuel sources. In order to utilize your fat stores, you must have some carbohydrate present to facilitate this metabolic pathway. When you deplete your glycogen stores, it becomes difficult to access fat as a fuel source because burning fat for energy is a more complex process. Long runs help train your body to utilize the fat metabolic pathway more efficiently.

During training you should also experiment with taking nutrition on longer runs for a quick carbohydrate source. By the time you build up to 20 mile runs, you should have a pretty good idea about how much fuel you need to sustain yourself for this distance. (Here are more tips to help you avoid hitting the wall.)

Hitting the wall is not something that needs to be feared, dreaded, or avoided (unless it’s race day, of course). The old adage of “if you don’t use it, you lose it” can be applied here.

Training is more than just logging the miles. It is a total body process, and by the end of it you will be transformed into a runner that is prepared and ready to meet all the demands of the marathon. Between stored glycogen and stored fat, you actually have the ability to run many, many miles.

This is why on Strava ( http://www.strava.com If it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen!) you see the splits from 32k slowly, to start with, get longer and continue to increase until most marathon runners ‘stagger’ over the line, albeit elated to finish. This brings me to the second mini-race in any marathon, the 10k sprint to the line.

Pace the marathon right and you can switch over to ‘finish mode’ with 10k to go, if, and this is a big if, you have the experience and confidence you are not going to be visiting our friend ‘Mr.Wall’ anytime soon.  Personally , with the experience of 60 marathons and ultras on my CV, I know at 32k how the last 10k will pan-out. Mentally now I can switch over to the ‘finish mode’ and this allows me to call on my last resources available and start to think about the finish. I now look forward to the 32k mark of any marathon because I know I’ve put in the training (and you should always ‘trust in your training’.) and I am not going to hit the wall. To me the last 10k is about shaving a few minutes of my estimated finish time, a time I would have worked out way before the 32k mark. These mental arithmetic exercises also help you concentrate on something other than the constant kilometer pacing targets and when you run a marathon you’ll understand you have a lot of time on your hands; bare minimum well over 2 hours and upwards of course.

I’ve said this many times but it is always worth repeating , to quote Jon ‘the marathon runner who slows down the least wins’. So true and this is where the 10k sprint to the line comes into play. If you can hold your pace while all around you start to drop off you’ll be amazed how you will move through the field, ‘like a hot knife through butter’. (Pretty cool how I could get the old ‘hot knife through butter’ synonym to relate to running, happy with that.) Why is this possible ? This is where the part of training that is rarely touched on comes into play, the mental toughness.

Mental toughness is not something you find on trainingpeaks  ( http://www.trainingpeaks.com ) or strava ( http://www.strava.com ) ,there’s no app to help you train it. Mental toughness is a state of mind and a ‘how bad do you want it’ though process that you will need to draw down on from 32k onwards. No one, not even the top Kenyans, can run their best marathon and not need to put themselves in the ‘pain box’ for the last 10k of any marathon.  Sure they can probably convince the central governor, explained briefly below, that all is good and push harder than us normal runners but trust me those Kenyans are experiencing the same pain we do, probably even more.

In short, the central governor theory is based around the premise that the brain will override your physical ability to run and “shut the body down” before you’re able to do serious or permanent damage to yourself.

Dr. Tim Noakes believes that the point in the race when you think you’ve given everything you’ve got is actually a signal or response from the brain to slow down to preserve health, rather than a physiological reality. In actuality, Noakes believes you have more to give physically when this happens.

Runners experience this during almost every race they run. At mile 8 of a half marathon, goal race pace is extremely difficult and the thought of running faster, even for just a minute, seems impossible. Yet, when you get within 400 meters of the finish, you’re somehow able to summon a kick that finds you running minutes per mile faster than goal pace.

Once your brain realizes it won’t die if you pick up the pace (because the finish line is close) it opens the biological pathways to run faster.

That’s not to say that the physiological demands of a race aren’t real. Rather, the central governor theory posits that racing is a balance between: (1) physical preparation and biological systems; (2) emotional components, such as motivation and pain tolerance; (3) and self-preservation. The exact combination of these factors is what leads to how hard you’re able to push during a race.

Another one of my favourite mentally tough runners is David Goggins ( http://davidgoggins.com/ ),  it is well worth spending some time on his site. He is one tough runner (and that’s putting it mildly, the Chuck Norris of running ?) and his running CV is impressive to say the least, as are his quotes which are recited on most of our long runs.

When you’ve as tough as DG even your shirt tears….

I seemed to have digressed for a change so to get back to the main point of this post. Training will get you to the 32k mark of the marathon, from there it becomes a games of mental toughness, you versus yourself really. It is up to you to persuade your central governor to release what limited running resources you have left to enable yourself to push on and finish the race strongly, maybe even a negative split ? I can tell you it gets easier with experience as I believe each time to run a marathon , and don’t die!, your mind learns and  is encouraged to release the governor a little bit more. This in turn enables you to attack the last 10k of your next marathon with more confidence and more energy, resulting in a better performance , which in turn persuades the mind that next time you can go even better.

So if you are preparing for your first marathon or working towards your next you really need to also work on your mental toughness because at 32k, as sure as night follows day, you are going to need to draw down on this to continue to travel at your target pace, your mind will start to play his favourite card, Mr. Fatigue, to try and protect you and this is when you need to say ‘no thanks, I’m fine, it’s time to ‘toughen up and take a ‘suck it up pill’ (Thanks DG)…..

 

Proper pacing prevents poor performance.

At the weekend I entered the City Beach Cup 7.5k at , surprising enough, City beach, Perth. I have never ran a 7.5k race before and it obviously sits between a 5k and a 10k so pace is a difficult thing to dial in . Do you run it fast your 5k pace and then hang on for the last 2.5k , which doesn’t sound a lot but trust me when your legs are gone running another 2.5k is not fun! Alternatively do you run at 10k pace and then finish strong ? Add into the mix this was my first “fast” race since my calf injury in March this year and I was entering a world of unknown. In these situations setting a game plan pace is important because you need to make sure you give yourself the best chance of getting a goal time. I have talked about this before but even us ‘older’ runners can get carried away with youthful enthusiasm at the start of a race, which always ends badly.

Truth be told I was entering this race as part of the West Australian Marathon Club age group category competition, where the best 8 clubs runs are taken into account and the fastest winner of each age group is presented a trophy at the end of the year. I had ran 4 races before my injury so needed 4 more to have a chance. This was number 5 with my next 3 planned for later in the year. The criteria is your average pace over the 8 races, then race distances and finally head-to-head if two runners cannot be separated. Because this was one of the smaller distances it stands to reason I could get a good average pace. This race was thus more about a fast finish rather than any thoughts of a top 3 finish. All this changed of course on the start line….

As with all clubs runs we tend to know our main ‘rivals’ who we complete against over the year, as well as the ‘top gun’ runners who disappear into the distance as soon as the race starts. For some reason when scanning the front of the line-up on Sunday there was only two other runners who I would consider quicker than me. My running buddy Zac who has progressed so quickly this year , and continues to (oh to be in my twenties again when ever race is a PB and training seems so effortless.) , would run unchallenged to victory by well over a minute, and another runner I have had many good battles with over the years , Rob, who would prove too strong in this race. Bar these two it looked like there was a chance of a medal, which as I’m now 50 is an opportunity  I always think will be my last.  With this in my mind when the gun went off I went off  like a scolded cat chasing Zac and all thoughts of pacing discarded instantly. I’m not even sure I had a game plan, just run fast for as long as possible and see what happens. This was to prove my undoing as the first kilometre sailed past in 3mins 13seconds, way , way to quick. It was a Scotty to Kirk moment with the famous ‘She’s going to blow’ quote ringing in my ears as the second kilometre came up in 3mins 40seconds. In my defence there was a slight hill but not enough to justify a 30 second delta compared to the first kilometre. This was me blowing up in spectacular fashion.

So onto kilometre 3 which was luckily a downhill section because I was hanging on for dear life. Zac and Rob started to move away and I prayed there was no one close behind me or my podium goal would have evaporated. I managed to ‘steady the boat’ so to speak and dig in for a few kilometres before finding a second wind, in the broadest sense of the word, and finishing in a semi-respectable sub 27 minutes (26:51). Funnily enough this was the goal before the races but the manner I achieved it could have been better executed. I had turned what was to be a pacing race, to get a run on the board, into a suicidal start and a very painful last 15 minutes with ‘engine close to blowing a head gasket’, not ideal.

 

3rd place with WA local legend John Gilmour presenting the medal.

What did I learn ? 7.5k is a long way when you are finished after 1k. What should have been an enjoyable pacing run turned into a  ‘near death‘ experience by ignoring all I preach on this blog, not for the first time of course. I have mentioned this on many occasions about ‘old dogs and new tricks’ and it seems it still rings true. On the bright side the calf survived the beating and I managed to grab another podium, which I know will be harder and harder to achieve , so all-in-all a great day.

What should have been the right approach? If I had ran the first kilometre at 3min 30-40seconds I would have been better placed to attach the hill rather than crumble into a mess , I could then have used the down hill third kilometre to prepare for the second half of the race and finish strong, compared to finishing like a weak kitten with a cold ! What could have been ? Will I learn from this experience, probably not. I have plans of a park run 5k this weekend and already I’m thinking start slow, finish strong, make the last 2k your fastest, accelerate into the finish etc. All great ideas but when that starter pistol goes off its all forgotten like a Donald Trump tweet and it’s ‘on for young and old.’  I know I’ll get to the first kilometre in sub 3 mins 20 seconds red-lining all the way with legs and lungs about to explode , faced with 4 more kilometres that will testing and a finish that will be as painful as always. Would I have it any other way ? Probably not, I understand Proper Pacing prevents poor performance but sometimes a Steve Prefontaine approach is best.

A Steve Prefontaine classic quote.

 

 

 

Lost your mojo, no problem, buy an Elliptigo.

 

Is the Elliptigo the answer to my Mojo issues?

After the Perth City to Surf I faced the normal marathon ‘come-down’ where you struggle coming back to earth after the high of a good marathon finish. The early part of the following week is particularly hard as you are forced to lay off the normal running routine to give your legs, and body, some time to recover from the beating you gave it on the previous weekend. More time off you feet which is always compounded by the previous few weeks pre-marathon,  which were tapering. Thus with any marathon you are always faced with a very minimal month of training, two weeks pre-marathon and two weeks post-marathon.

This is when the self-doubt starts to set in as when you do eventually start to return to the normal training schedule you are normally way off your normal cardio fitness levels. I always find I can normally return to the same weekly distance pretty quickly but pace is always more challenging.

For some reason though this time I am having trouble retuning to my weekly routine. I have been promising myself I’ll ramp up for the Rottnest Marathon end of October  ( https://www.wamc.org.au/major-events/rottnest-marathon-fun-run/  ) but find every morning I just find a reason to justify not running. There have been many excuses, it’s far too cold, too dark, I’ll run longer lunch time, dogs need feeding, possible ISIS attacks (ok that one is clutching at straws but you never know, we live in a dangerous time apparently ?)  I’m just finding it hard to return to my normal twice a day, 7 days a week training routine that use to be the norm.

In my defense I have moved house recently and I still haven’t found an ‘old faithful’ , a 10k run that I enjoy enough to run 4-5 times a week and one that can be run on auto-pilot. Every runner needs an ‘old-faithful’ to help them rack up the time-on-legs while not requiring any thought or too much effort. Without one of these routes you need to think about each and every run and ‘thinking’ can be mentally challenging, well it is for me. I have tried a few routes but just haven’t nailed one that I’m totally happy with. This makes the morning runs difficult to justify and at the moment this is all the excuse I need. (bar the ISIS threat of course?)

I put down my ‘stella’ year last year down to the extra training distance and double-up days and if I was to return to my pre-2016 training levels am I going to suffer, performance wise ? Add in the mix my age ‘challenges’ (This is being the wrong side of 50. ) and I seem to be in a corner.  What’s the answer ? Maybe a funny looking bike with no seat.?  On the weekend I dusted down the Elliptigo  ( http://www.elliptigo.com/ ) and rode 40k before a 10k easy run on grass and it felt great. I got the cardio workout I required but also didn’t feel like I had exercised for over 2 hours because I have the bike and run combination. Trust me after the workout I was goosed for the rest of the day, in a good way. Maybe my days of 14 runs a week are behind me, for the moment,  but with the Elliptigo I have the opportunity to keep up the hourly weekly exercising total.

So tomorrow morning I am going to run a pre-work 10k, return home, pat the dogs and then get on the Elliptigo and charge to work before treating myself to a Coffee and Banana and Walnut bread, toasted of course.  I will then repeat this for the next four weeks giving me the chance to aim for a top 5 finish at Rottnest and an age group win, this is important because the competition on Rotto’ is heating up and my days in the top 5 may be numbered. The Elliptigo may be the weapon I need to drag me to the Rottnest podium one more time, that or the Banana and Walnut bread ? Also on my Elliptigo I’ll be a lot to harder to hit if ISIS do  decide to target balding, bearded runners on bikes with no saddles, you never know people we live in dangerous times ?

So to sum up this post , because sometimes I lose track myself, if you lose your running mojo you need to look at other ways to maintain your cardio fitness and cycling, swimming, the gym or even funny looking bikes where you stand  up may be what you need to scratch that itch. Anything is better than nothing and eventually your mojo will return and when it does you need to be ready.

 

Choo-Choo run 2017, man against train.

The Choo-Choo run was an idea of Simon Coates a few years back. Basically we all drive to North Dandelup Station (and I use the word ‘station’ in the broadest sense of the word, it is actually a small raised platform and a car park.) and run to Serpentine train station to catch the only train back to the start. Miss the train and you are faced with either a 10k walk back via the road (and in the country running on the road is suicide due to the drivers all believing they are Michael Schumacher,  before the skiing accident !) or worse, repeating the 35k trail run in reverse. (Now there’s a thought ? )

It’s not a race as such, more of a man versus train type run with friends. Everyone leaves at different times with the idea being you’ll all arrive together at the finish, a handicap run I suppose. There was talk of a prize for the last person to leave North Dandelup and make the train but this, for this year at least, was shelved. As it was I have attached a photo of the runners who left last @ 7am, this was 30 minutes after last years leaving time so we’d given ourselves little margin  for error . Its a 35k testing trail run which should take around 3hours and the return train leaves Serpentine @ 10:20am.

 

All aboard the Choo-Choo run 2017, the last to leave @ 7am.

So off we went full of the joys of spring bounding up the first 6k which is all uphill and on road. As I mentioned earlier this is testing for two reasons, one, the hill is large , unforgiving and long (as all good hills should be) but there is also the threat of getting cleaned up by the ‘country drivers’. In the country life may be slower but the driving is anything but. There’s a reason that even Kangaroos get wiped out on  a regular basis. Faced with slowing down country drivers decided to speed up and fit ‘bull bars’ to their cars,  so rather than avoid Kangaroos(or runners!) they accelerate into them .  Bless ’em.

We managed to get to the top of the road section intact after one close call when three cars cut a corner and we happen to be on it, you certainly feel alive when that happens trust me. Once we regrouped a quick headcount indicated we were one short (literally!) . Bart’s , who had driven me down to the start, was missing so I volunteered to run down the ‘hill of death’ and find him. After a longer run that I had wanted to take on at such an early stage of the adventure I found Bart’s ‘huffing and puffing’ up the road in a world of pain. This after 6km’s into 35k challenging trail run , racing a train. Not a good start and I indicated the best thing he could do was return to the car and wait for us or at least give me his car keys (as my bag was in his car, it wasn’t about the bag though , honest ?) Bart’s insisted on carrying on and asked me to come back and check on him during the run. Due to the time constraint we had set ourselves I told him in no uncertain terms this was not going to happen and once I left him he was on his own. Surprisingly he was ok with this and, with no prior knowledge of the route and less than 3 hours to run the remaining 29k, was happy to take on this adventure , alone.   So Barts was dropped quicker than Hilary Clinton endorsements after the American Election, never to be seen again, or so we thought ?

 

Drinks stop @ 21k.. notice no sign of Barts ?

After dropping Barts like a bad habit I caught up with the back markers and eventually the main group. We continued on our merry way commenting how enjoyable trail running was and how we should do it more often. Please note this is the same conversation we have at the beginning of every trail run, unfortunately our views on trails can sometimes be a tad different by the time we finish; and that’s be nice about it !  Anyhow we made it to the 21k mark where our ‘race director’ Simon Coakes had dropped water and gu’s, it was the least he could do after DNS’s the previous evening due to umpiring his son’s footy game and pulling a hammy. (He’s getting old Si, bless him.)

 

What goes up must come down.

The last 14k after the drinks stop is the best part of the Choo-Choo run as you run off the scarp which means some wicked descents into Serpentine. Last year I was able to take advantage of the terrain and put in some seriously fast splits but this year, due to it being 2 weeks after the Perth City-to-Surf marathon, my hammy’s had tightened up so every step was painful as I hobbled (and that’s being nice) down the hill.  No worries. reached the Deli and tucked into my first Brownes Mocha for probably 6 months, man did that taste good !!

 

 

Choc milk time at the Deli, job done.

We had 20 minutes until the train arrived so just enjoyed telling tales of the day when all of a sudden who comes into sight, walking the wrong way to the Deli,  but Barts. ! Unbelievably he had somehow managed to get to the finish in time for the train, albeit running 3k less , somehow ? At the time of writing this post it has to be noted we have not seen any Strava evidence  ( http://www.strava.com) of Barts and whatever trail he did run but assuming he said he did what he did I am in awe of the man.

 

A Lazarus comeback from Barts, almost made me believe in religion

 

Funnily enough the train was graffitied at the main depot so was cleaned before it set out on its journey, resulting in a 45 minute delay. We could have started at 8am, not 7am, and still made it easily. When the train did arrive at the station there was no sign of any graffiti and maybe next year this could be a cunning plan for a lie-in, just got to persuade someone with a spray can to get the train before it leaves ? That’s wrong,  right?

Graffiti, a likely story, more like the train driver fancied a sleep in !

The photo below is all the crew who made the finish including a few runners who left before the 7am sweepers. There has already been lots of talk of leaving even later next year but we’ll see; no one has actually missed the train yet so there will be a first. One thing for sure it won’t be Barts, if he can recover from near exhaustion at 6k and then still finish less than 3 hours later after running 32k I reckon the man could fly if he wanted to.  Running gives you so much and on that Sunday it allowed me to witness a miracle, how does one go about nominating someone for a sainthood ?  Saint Barts of lost causes, it has a nice ring to it, if only he was taller…..

 

Waiting for the train…patiently.!

It’s that time of year again, me and the boys against a train!

This Sunday it’s the annual Simon Coates inspired ‘Choo-Choo‘ run where a bunch of runner leave North Dandelup train station and race to North Serpentine train station, with a ticket for the return journey. Of course miss the train (and there is only one a day) and it’s a long walk of shame back to North Dandelup. (because after 36k of trails you ain’t going to be running,  trust me!) As you can read from my report last year we left at 6:40am (give our take or a few minutes) and all ran well and finished at Serpentine in good time for the train to return to the start. It must be noted this was the last long run before the City to Surf Marathon so most of us were in peak condition. This time we’re leaving 15 minutes later and its’ two weeks after the City to Surf, so we are in ‘ we’ve just been run over by a freight train‘ mode; got to love the 2 weeks after a marathon eh?

To add to the mix I picked up a head cold from no3 Daughter earlier in the week so am nowhere near 100%. No one said it was going to be easy?

You can read last years report here :-

http://www.runbkrun.com/2016/11/15/the-choo-choo-run-an-exercise-in-living-on-the-edge/ 

I hope I get to see this Sunday morning..

 

The run itself is a 36k trail run,  though by road it’s only 10k. It’s always funny to see the look on the other passengers faces when we get on the train for the 10minute training journey back to the start after taking nearly 3 hours to get from A to B.  I’m sure they’re happy to see the back of us as after 3 hours of running I can imagine we’re not the sweetest smelling bunch, an acquired taste probably? Must admit to being a tad disappointed the first time we did this ‘race’ as I had settled down for a nice long rest on the return train journey only to be kicked off the train after a few minutes. on the bright side Mark L. is driving so we can all have a power nap on the journey back to sunny Perth.

This will be a big end to a good week, bar this head cold, and then next week we need to start to think about the next marathon, there’s always a ‘next marathon’. ! This one of course is special as it’s my favourite, the Rottnest Marathon, you really need to click on this link… http://www.rottnestisland.com . One of my favourite places on this planet with a 4 lap hilly marathon to really test you. If I make the train this weekend I’ll tell you all about it…..

 

Paradise, with a marathon to die for!

 

 

 

Sometimes a cup of coffee and a muffin is the answer.

Sometimes this really is the best thing for your running.

 

After the ‘runners high‘ of completing a marathon comes the ‘runners low’ of realising the enormity of what you have done and realising it will be some time before you get to the next marathon finish line. I have a favourite corner in the Perth City to Surf and funnily enough it is the last one before the finish straight at the bottom of a good sized down hill. I’ve ran that corner 7 times and every time I know all there is left is to ‘ham it up’ for the crowd and the ‘marathon photos’ photographers. All I need to worry about is getting that finishing shot that will one day join hundred of other finishing shots on a yet to be purchased study wall, where I will surround myself with pictures of me running marathons. (Actually typing that it sounds a little bit sad but not sad enough to stop me investing ( wasting) money of more photographs of myself covered in sweat and carboshotz  with a smile that would make a Cheshire Cat look gloomy.!) It is a wonderful corner and when I’m training I sometimes run past it and it always puts a smile on my face. Of course, being a busy intersection, if I ever tried to recreate that ‘finishing feeling’ I’d probably get run over by a truck! Once a year though that corner is mine and it makes me the happiest marathon runner on the planet,  for that moment in time. That’s where the runners high starts and it last all the way to the finish line a few hundred metres down the road. Those few hundred metres are magical and even typing this now I can’t wait to get there again at the end of August 2018 and explode to the finish, milking the crowd for everything I can.

Each marathon I have ever ran has had that magical finish and on a few occasions I’ve been brought to tears due to an over whelming out pouring of joy. Crying tears of joy is something that does happen and it just adds to the mystic of running marathons. This has not happened that often, probably a handful of times but when it does it makes everything that has gone before it seem worth while. From memory when I ran my first Comrades, and my last, I was certainly moved to tears and my fastest Perth marathon in 2013 was also an emotional finish That may be it, three finishes from 60 starts (if you include ultra-marathons). This may have something to do with the last few years mimicking Usain Bolt when I finish followed by press-ups (which are getting harder , trust me!)  No worries, all marathon finishes are special , just some are really special. Those three are enough to make me come back again and again, just one more tearful finish, like a marathon junkie looking for that one last big hit?

This bring me to the point of this post, finally. (I have mentioned I digress sometimes haven’t I?) With all things there is a Yin and Yang, a positive and a negative, an up and a down. (There are probably a few more of these but you get the idea.) After the high of the marathon finish comes the low of the recovery week. This is probably compounded by the taper pre-marathon which results in a 3-4 week period of little running. Thus when you start again, after the marathon, it is normally a very painful experience where your legs feel like wooden blocks and your heart rate is 10-20bpm higher than normal. If you have a Garmin 235 I guarantee your VO2 max score is also lower. I always give myself 3 days of completely when I will also indulge in some of the forbidden fruit us runners try to avoid when training. More visits to Yelo than normal and maybe the odd packet of dark chocolate digestives (or two). This week you don’t have to worry about weight gain or diets just enjoy your time as you have certainly earned it. Release that ‘sweet tooth tiger’ that you spend the rest of the year caged up. If you run in the week after a marathon you do so out of some sort of need to keep active. I personally don’t feel you need to as I reckon it’s the same as the week before a marathon, you can only do too much , never too little. This translates to no running can sometimes be the better option.  

So do I take the whole week off ? Hell no ! Do as I say not as I do. I normally take Monday to Wednesday off but then get back into it Thursday albeit slowly, very slowly. This week for instance I even gave myself until Thursday and made the first run a 17k easy run. The second run on Friday was a lot harder. I personally find the second run after a marathon the hardest, maybe a DOMS thing? (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness) On Saturday I planned a 20k easy run but turned at 7k and only made 14k. No problem, when you are recovering you really need to adjust any workouts to how your are feeling. If you aren’t feeling it, no problem, stop. Doing nothing really is the best option in this week. This was highlighted today when I put on my running gear for an afternoon 20k but decided against it. Got changed, had some toast, felt guilty and then put on my running gear again before again taking it off and deciding walking the dogs was the better option. Do I feel this was the wrong thing to do now as I type this post? . No, I think I may actually be learning my lesson listening to my body for a change, actually quite proud of myself for making the right decision two days in a row, Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks ? Right Yelo anybody……

Perth 2013, just before a good cry.

I’ve attached a post from the McMillan Running website as a guide ( https://www.mcmillanrunning.com/payback-time-a-two-week-scientific-plan-to-optimize-recovery-after-your-marathon/) Some very useful points that are worth taking onboard.

It’s at this time of the year that marathon recovery, not marathon training, starts to take center stage. The best recovery is one that optimizes your musculoskeletal recovery yet also maintains your conditioning. You’ve built superior fitness before the marathon and you don’t want to lose all of it and then have to start from scratch.

Research indicates that the muscle damage from running a marathon can last up to two weeks. The research also indicates that soreness (or the lack thereof) is not a good indicator of muscular healing. In other words, just because you aren’t sore anymore doesn’t mean that you are fully healed. This is the danger for marathon runners: post-marathon muscular soreness fades after a few days but submicroscopic damage within the muscle cells remains. If you return to full training too soon–running more and faster than the tissues are ready for–you risk delaying full recovery and the chance to get ready for your next goal.

The solution, it appears, is to recognize (and accept) that the muscles will take a while to heal and to be prepared to take it easy for the first couple of weeks (even longer if you’re particularly sore after your marathon). While the research isn’t very promising when it comes to things to do to relieve soreness and aid healing, a couple of concepts appear to help. First, providing gentle blood flow to the area helps bring healing nutrients into the muscles and also helps to remove waste products and damaged tissue. Walking and gentle massage can help, particularly in the first few days after a marathon. Once muscle soreness has significantly reduced (usually two to four days after the race), light jogging can commence. The recovery program above forces a runner to let muscles fully heal but also provides some light jogging to aid blood flow and “feed the need” that we all have for our daily runs. Just be mindful to run very slowly.

No runner wants to get super fit and then lose that during the recovery process. But since you must reduce your training load following your marathon, it can be tricky as to how much and how soon to insert running into your post-marathon training.

The bad news is that no matter what you do, you will lose race sharpness. But that’s OK because your next big race is probably several months away. The good news is that most research indicates that as long as there is an aerobic stimulus once every two to three days, aerobic fitness will be maintained. In this recovery plan, you run at least once every other day (except for the first two days after the marathon) to minimize any loss of base fitness.

Many runners liken recovery training to a “reverse taper” without the fast workouts. Easy running is gradually increased over the weeks post-race. By the fourth week, your normal level of training is approached.

Recovery time is also the best chance to pay back your support system for the help provided during your build-up to and participation in the marathon. Use this time to help others with goals, whether running-related or not, and spend more time with family and friends.

Also use this opportunity to celebrate your success and recharge your systems. Determine what went right in training and in the race and what you would fix. If done correctly, you can come out of this period fully healed and ready to take your marathon fitness into the next training phase.

Now it’s time to use your marathon fitness before you lose it – read Turning Marathon Fitness into 5K/10K PRs.

Optimal Marathon Recovery Program

Day: 0
Run: MARATHON
Notes: Congratulations!

Day: 1
Run: OFF
Notes: Can include gentle walking for 15 to 20 minutes. Eat well and stay hydrated to facilitate recovery. Ice baths are favored by many runners (read more about ice baths).

Day: 2
Run: OFF
Notes: Can include gentle walking for 15 to 20 minutes.

Day: 3
Run: 20 Mins Very Slow + Easy
Notes: The first run back is often very awkward so go slow and run on flat terrain.

Day: 4
Run: OFF
Notes: Don’t forget to enjoy the accomplishment of your marathon.

Day: 5
Run: 20 Mins Very Slow + Easy
Notes: Muscle soreness should be subsiding.

Day: 6
Run: OFF

Day: 7
Run: 30 Mins Very Slow + Easy
Notes: You may not feel like a runner but you are laying the groundwork for your next training cycle.

Day: 8
Run: 20 Mins Very Slow and Easy
Notes: The first back to back running day provides insight into how the recovery is going.

Day: 9
Run: OFF

Day: 10
Run: 30 Mins Easy
Notes: The muscle soreness should be gone and you are finding your stride again.

Day: 11
Run: 30 to 45 Mins Easy
Notes: Depending on how your body feels, you should notice the pace increasing and your body returning to its running rhythm.

Day: 12
Run: OFF

Day: 13
Run: 45 to 60 Mins Easy

Day: 14
Run: 30 to 45 Mins Easy
Notes: You should now start to feel like a runner again, just not a runner ready to race. Over the next two weeks, gradually increase your volume toward your normal training level.