People are attracted to running for various reasons: they want to lose weight, they want to live healthier lives, it’s cheaper than a gym membership, you don’t need a lot of gear, they enjoyed running when they were kids, or they want to run a marathon before they reach a certain age. People who continue running, past the 5K’s, 10K’s, and half marathons, those who run longer distances and think nothing of going out for a Saturday 20 miler, are a particular breed of crazy.
Those are my people.
We have no problem pushing ourselves to run longer and longer distances, and then test our training in a race. We’re goal oriented and enjoy making plans. It’s our days off, when we should be giving our legs a rest, that we struggle with.
Today is a rest day. I have two scheduled each week, Mondays and Fridays. After giving everything I’ve got on the five days I run each week, I always look forward to the rest days.
It’s the unscheduled rest days that I struggle with the most. I suspect that’s true for most runners.
I run with a group of very experienced, serious runners. They train hard and race to PR. Many of them win races and place in their age groups. Every single one of them could write a book about how to train for a marathon and what not to do to get to the start line uninjured and ready for your best performance.
That doesn’t mean we follow our own advice.
Last Saturday at breakfast after our long run, my friend Kurt made the statement that runners are bad about doing two things: not resting enough and racing too often.
I actually think I’m pretty good on both fronts — but that doesn’t mean I don’t worry about it. I’m one of those strange birds who likes training more than racing. There is nothing like having a great race, where everything comes together — weather, training, nutrition, energy, course, mind — and you feel great from start to finish and pull off a PR. But I’ve had some pretty lousy races, too, and I struggle with getting past all the uncontrollable variables and still enjoying the race.
I’m in awe of people who race every weekend. I just don’t feel that urge. I like having two or three goal races per year and building up to and looking forward to that day. I like longer distances, and they take longer to train for. And I’m certainly not winning any races these days, so I don’t have the incentive of being first across the line each weekend to spur me on. The older I get, the less I care about speed and more about endurance and strength.
I used to love getting medals, but now they just sit on the wall in the back bedroom, pretty much forgotten and not all that important anymore. It’s rare to get a race t-shirt that’s made for a woman, so that’s never been a big draw. Now I’m all about the experience itself being the reward.
As for rest, I think I’m pretty good about listening to my body and taking a day off when I need to — even though I hate missing a run on the training plan. And I rarely take a complete rest day. I usually do yoga, which seems to give my legs the rest they need but also works out some of the kinks from the week’s training and loosens them up for the weekend long runs.
However, I was surprised at how frustrated I felt when I ran my first 50K a few weeks ago and had to take more rest days than any of my other friends who ran it. This is where age comes to play. It just seems to take me longer to recover these days. When yoga doesn’t help, I know it’s time to back off and give myself a complete rest day.
Post-race, except for the quads, I felt great. I was still floating on my happy cloud of accomplishment a week afterwards, and I wanted to run, dammit! My quads had other ideas, though, and every time I ran more than a few miles they tightened up and let me know I needed to be smart. A week later they finally felt good enough for a trail run, only I never seemed to warm up and felt fatigued and grumpy the entire run. This was another signal I needed to listen to: recovery takes time, and the body knows better than the mind.
So I backed off and lowered my mileage, and within a week I was back to normal. Lesson: rest is good, and recovery takes time.
We’ve all known people who didn’t give themselves enough time to recover and wound up battling one injury after another. We’ve probably done it ourselves. When you truly love running, and have your next race planned before you cross the finish line, it’s hard to not keep pushing yourself.
Just don’t forget to sometimes give it a rest.
The first few days after a long distance race are nice. You can sit back and revel in your accomplishment, bask in the happy afterglow of a job well done, and reward yourself with rest, good food, and memories of the event. Then by the end of the week you may start to feel the urge to get outdoors and run again. At least, that’s how it usually goes for me.
I generally seem to be able to run a few miles by Wednesday or Thursday after a marathon, and by Saturday I’m good to go for a longer distance. This time, after running a 50K for the first time, the recovery time has definitely been longer. My quads took the brunt of the race and they have not been bouncing back as quickly as I expected. Patience is not always one of my strengths, so giving them the time they need to recover has been a challenging lesson.
MON: Rest Day – Quads are very sore from Saturday’s 50K race in Palo Duro Canyon, though they feel better than after any marathon I’ve run. Going to enjoy my day of sloth and do nothing athletic.
TUE: Walk – 2 mi, Yoga (20:00) – Legs felt much better today, though the quads are still sore. Did some yoga in the late afternoon (hip openers), then took Nevada for a 2 mile walk, hoping to run most of it. Ha! I couldn’t even run a block! The quads definitely need another day of rest. On another note, I can’t help but wonder why it’s so warm and humid when it’s the end of October??? Oh, right, we live in Texas.
WED: Yoga (20:00) – Quads felt even better this morning, so I started the day with some easy yoga but decided to put off running for another day.
THU: Rest Day – Decided to take a complete rest day and do nothing athletic. My quads are taking longer to recover than I expected. Even though my legs feel better than after a marathon, the soreness in my quads seems to go deeper than usual–if that makes sense.
FRI: Run – 3.1 mi, Yoga (20:00) – Met Todd at 6:00am for an easy 3 mile run at the lake. I’m amazed that my quads are still sore. I was able to run, and keep an easy pace, but I’m not where I expected to be six days after the race. This has definitely been the most recovery I’ve ever needed after a race, which I guess is only fitting since it’s also my longest distance. I think my age is also showing, because Hari has already been running for days, but it could also partly be due to the two weeks of no running just before the race. This is a good reminder that I need to do more squats, lunges, and strength training to get in shape for the 50 miler. On a brighter note, loving the cold front that blew in last night and the 49 degrees for our run this morning.
SAT: Run – 4 mi – Quads are slowly coming back. Susan and Hari met at my house at 6:30 and we ran to the top of the Katy Trail for the 13.1 Marathon WRRC water stop. It was cold! I ran with my down jacket tied around my waist and my water backpack (sans water) stuffed with extra gloves and track pants. Toes and fingers were freezing all morning. After the race, we de-layered and ran back down the Katy Trail and across Knox/Henderson to the house. We must have looked like we were coming back from an arctic expedition.
Susan and Me at Erwin Park, photo by Hari Garimella
SUN: Trail Run – 8.25 mi – Ran at Erwin Park in McKinney with Susan and Hari. Started at 7:30am with frost on the ground. The temperature and weather couldn’t have been more perfect. THIS is what we dreamed of all summer when it was in the upper 90’s with 80% humidity. Despite the great weather and nice trails, I felt sleepy and my quads were still stiff and sore. I looked forward to trail running all week, so it was disappointing to feel so sluggish. Overall, I just felt tired. Maybe it’s residual tiredness from the 50K a week ago, or three days straight of getting up early and not getting enough sleep, or the music from the party across the alley–or a combination of all of the above. Whatever the reason, I was happy to only run 8.25 miles. Sadly, my happy afterglow from the race seems to have finally worn off. Back to a new training plan and life in general.
STATS for WEEK 1: Run – 15.2 miles, Walk – 2 miles, Yoga – 1:00:00