The afternoon following the Black Hills 50k, I retreated to the floor spending several hours eating potato chips and nursing my wounded pride. While I’d thought “I’m never running again” during the long last few miles, I readily committed to getting recovered and back to running. Here’s my summary of the week.
Day 1: I woke to my alarm at 5:45 on Sunday with a unique realization. As far as I could tell, I’d slept through the night without waking up once. I can’t remember any other time when that’s happened in the last 20 years. Apparently I was tired. My legs throbbed with a dull ache. Everything felt like a chore. The kids and I made our way down to the park for the awards ceremony, and I was able to chase them around the playground pretty effectively. At a family picnic later in the day, no one asked why I was limping; apparently I was faking it effectively.
Day 2: Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I went back to work on Monday. My aching legs had kept me up at times during the night. So much for being transformed into a sound sleeper. I was a bit trepidatious about riding my bike, but one of the advantages of being a one-car-household is that necessity gets me out the door when I’m ambivalent. My energy system still felt down, probably owing to a substantial calorie deficit that I hadn’t been able to eat my way out of. My legs were a swollen mess. The general pain refined to the small muscles in my left calf/ankle and some previously undiscovered structure in my glutes. Cheers to discovering new muscles and tendons! This confirmed that I hadn’t done nearly enough downhill running in preparation for the 5000′ of descent. Lesson learned.
Day 3: First run! I debated whether or not to go, but headed out the door committing to turn around if I felt like I might be doing damage. My lower legs howled walking down the stairs. The electric soreness of my calves and glutes responded to a little movement, giving me the sensation that I was stretching tight muscles in a way only movement can.
Day 4-6: Thing were marked by the gradual return to normalcy of my legs. I was relieved to recognize that I probably hadn’t done any lasting damage to my body. I pulled off sub-7:00 pace for my gently downhill commute, though I felt more sluggish than my heart rate would have suggested. My mood was a bit agitated and touchy. I’d attribute that to a combination of finishing a goal in less than ideal fashion and the biology of recovery. Irrespective of the cause, acceptance is always the answer though I am an imperfect practitioner. My runs gradually started to feel essentially normal. More importantly, my desire to run started coming back. I actually logged onto Ultra Signup and took a look at races (I see you Badlands 50 Miler!). On the other hand, I’ve begun to appreciate the prospect of shorter runs on Saturday morning, spending more time hanging with the kids, and supporting Kate’s build-up to the Lean Horse 50k.
Day 7: It’s hard to believe that it’s been a week! Other than soreness in my left hip, things are feeling pretty good. My legs are still quite swollen and I’ve magically gained 5 pounds (please be swelling), but overall things are getting back to normal. The convention of taking 1 off/easy day for every mile you raced makes sense to me, so I’m not going to be pushing myself for at least another 22 days. But I can imagine wanting to run far or hard again. I’m finding it easier to accept that my training wasn’t sufficient to perform up to my expectations. Next time around I’ll need more time, more miles, and definitely more technical running. Again, lesson learned. All-in-all, I’m feeling grateful for the experience and optimistic about the next adventure.