As I write this, it’s been two weeks since my Chicago Marathon finish but it doesn’t feel like it was that recent. I feel like I’ve been resting forever, but obviously that’s a gross exaggeration. Since the weeks leading up to the marathon, I was already waiting for my “guilt free” rest and recovery period I had lined up.
To be fair, my training leading up the race wasn’t as strict as somebody who’s ran multiple marathons and going for a PR. For the most part, I ate and drank whatever I wanted — which is the opposite of what I do when I’m training for goal races with a time attached. It’s not the best recovery strategy for marathon training because I’m sure I was missing out on some key nutrients, but I was happy, satisfied, and as long as I was hydrated, my runs weren’t awful. So all that being said, me looking forward to a “guilt free” rest and recovery period wasn’t because I wanted to enjoy foods and drinks I limited to myself during this cycle, but moreso because I didn’t want to feel like I was neglecting family, friends, or all the chores I had been putting off as I went through the thick of marathon training.
I took off a solid two weeks before running again somewhat by choice, but mostly because my body truly needed it. My muscles felt good by Tuesday afternoon as far as the stiffness and soreness, but in chasing Dunkin one night at the dog park, I felt my hip twinge again. I wasn’t going to risk that. I kept using Dunkin as my gauge — I’d run after him for 20-30 meters and see how I felt. It was about 10 days before chasing him and abrupt stops/starts stopped the twinges.
It wasn’t even just the twinge that kept me from running, however, I was downright exhausted. I came home from work more than a couple times (even into week two of rest) and took Dunkin out to use the bathroom quick, before taking a nap on the couch. We took him to the dog park to run around a couple times because I was too tired to take him for an hour walk. J was a saint and didn’t question how tired I was or the fact that he was pretty much the sole reason Dunkin was getting his exercise. It was a full 8 days before I stopped feeling extreme exhaustion. To be honest, I actually considered the fact that I might be having a relapse of mono. I was that exhausted. I slept for 25 hours, naps included, the first weekend (Friday – Sunday evening) after Chicago. I love my sleep, but even I know that’s a little bit ludicrous! By last Tuesday I felt good enough to go to CrossFit and focus on front squats with a workout consisting of about 16 minutes of effort, including a mile of rowing. I was tired, I felt a little dizzy on and off, but I started to feel a little better after that.
This past weekend finally felt normal. I wasn’t just getting by without being exhausted, but I actually had energy again. After a busy Saturday, I spent the first 6 hours on Sunday walking Dunkin, doing 6 loads of laundry, cooking a hearty lunch, making dessert, and cleaning. Granted, I did nap (as per my usual “post Bills game” ritual) but I felt ready to go out for a run and actually craved it.
After the 1pm football games and a short nap, I laced up and got Dunkin ready for a short run/walk. I was going to be happy with any running we did but I didn’t know how I’d feel, or even Dunkin. We haven’t run together in about 3 weeks and even at that point, he was getting tired after about 2.5 miles and always reduced his pace to a brisk walk.
We ran 1.3 miles at a decent, comfortable pace for the both of us. He wanted to pull ahead a few times, but I made sure to slow him up to conserve both of our energy. The low 9 minute miles I was showing for a couple blocks was strenuous on me, that’s for sure! After that first mile beeped, his pace slowed from about 9:45-10:15 average to about 12:00/mile. We kept pushing for a couple more minutes, but his pace didn’t pick up so I knew it was time to walk it back. It was actually the perfect time for me, too, because my hip started to throb as I considered stopping our run. Just as Dunkin needs to be conditioned into running again, I do too.
While I didn’t run far enough to truly notice the effect of the marathon on my legs, it was pretty obvious what it did to my body as a whole. It felt great to run but it was a little hard on my lungs, as expected. I’m happy with my recovery thus far and totally content with the fact that I took basically two weeks to do absolutely nothing but blog and sit on my ass. I’m sure 9 out of 10 marathoners will tell you to absolutely not do what I did (I foam rolled once — oops) but sometimes mentally it’s all you can handle. It is what it is. If my goals were in a different place it’d be a different story, but for where I’m at right now, it’s fine by me!
My plan for right now are some morning runs with the pooch before work (15-20 minutes each) getting him used to longer runs, with 1-2 classes of CrossFit each week. I’m going to try to get out for a solo run when J is hanging out with Dunks (just one of many nicknames for him!) on the weekend, but mostly I want to get my consistency back in frequency — not volume. I hit a nice sweet spot when I was running 22-25 miles each week, which used to be my peak mileage before marathon training, and I’d like to get comfortably back to it but I’m in no rush.
For those of you who have run a marathon, how long did it take for you to recover (mentally, physically – muscles/exhaustion/etc.) after your first?