As I entered my taper period last month I opined that it was the first time I had ever been in that position, having suffered training-ending injuries in my previous two marathon cycles. This winter marked the first time I had made it unscathed through an entire cycle. Likewise, this is the first time I have ever returned to running immediately after a marathon, or even had the opportunity to do so. Those injuries in the first two cycles left me on the bench for months after each race.
After last week’s marathon I was a little sore but otherwise caught a bit off guard by how quickly I bounced back. Despite finishing a tough race I had no injuries, and even the post-race stiffness faded in a couple days. I set out for my first run three days later, expecting to shuffle through one or two very easy miles, but ended up running 3.4 miles at a 7:09 pace. It felt amazing from the very first step, like my body was apologizing to me for the trouble I experienced on race day.
Then, this past weekend, I got in an easy run of 5 miles on Saturday and a quicker 4-mile jaunt on Sunday that included two consecutive miles at a sub-7 pace.
After these three runs, it’s obvious to me that even though I can get through 5 miles, I’m not quite ready to go much farther. While I’m not sore or in any pain, my legs are still very tired from the effort of the marathon. I can still see it taking another couple weeks before I’m feeling closer to full fitness.
I’m using my freedom from a training plan to come back from this race at my own pace. I don’t have any major goals to hit in the next few weeks (any success I find at the Carytown 10k I mentioned in my last post will be due largely to residual marathon fitness and not any intense training I do between now and then.) My goal now is to run how I want, when I want. If I feel like some slow miles, slow it will be. If I feel like hammering it, well, I’ll give it a go. And if I don’t feel like running at all, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. After almost a year of very regimented workouts, it’s time to run outside the box for a little while. (I don’t want to say that I’m going to start running for fun, because the training I’ve done has been a blast and I’ve been having fun all along. I’m just entering a new phase.)
As for the mileage, I am generally following what’s known as a reverse taper (imagine a descending line graph charting your mileage in the four weeks leading up to the marathon, and then picture the reverse after the race – a gradual rebuilding for four weeks post-race). Another rule of thumb is that the body needs one day of recovery for each mile covered in the race, which would be about a month for a marathon.
While one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in this training cycle is that you need to find the program that works for you, this seems like a sensible approach to the kind of low-key comeback I’m attempting. I’m not going to be ramping back up to 50-mile weeks, but I do hope to level off between 20 and 30 for this interim period.
Last weekend my wife and I enjoyed a four-day trip to the Bahamas. The trip was a gift to my wife for putting up with my ridiculous training schedules for the past 16 months. (The catch was that she had to let me come along.) It was also one last chance for the two of us to get away before our baby arrives in June. We traveled frequently before our daughter was born four years ago and it was nice for the two of us to have the chance to do it again.
The main point of the trip was to relax, of course, and we accomplished that. The gorgeous weather, however, compelled me to get in two of the runs I mentioned above. It’s always a fascinating experience to run while on vacation – it gives me a new sense of connection to the community we’re visiting. There’s so much more to see than what’s visible from the window of the taxi as we’re shuttled from the airport to the resort. I ran on a dirt path that carried me past decrepit storefronts and vibrantly colored homes and schools. Lizards darted out of my path and colorful birds flitted in the dense, bushy trees that lined the road. I was even caught in a brief tropical downpour that vanished almost as quickly as it had arrived.
I also got the chance to swim again – my first time in a pool since October. I’m happy to report that my stroke is still intact despite months of neglect, perhaps proving that the hundreds of hours I spent in the pool last year have left at least a little imprint on my muscle memory.Bike: 0/334.5 miles Run: 9/459.2 miles