It’s no secret that as we age it takes longer to recover from races and intense workouts. While the science clearly tells us that, the proof is in the pudding — we feel it!
There is a fine line, sometimes a very fine line, between pushing it and giving ourselves a breather, to take the foot off the pedal for a few days or longer. Doesn’t mean we’re comatose. In fact, it’s good to do something aerobic everyday. It’s a good habit to have. And something to look forward to and plan the day around.
Two weeks ago I ran a half marathon. I was somewhat undertrained – averaging only 25 miles a week with just one 12-mile run and a couple of 10s in the prior three months. But I thought I could maintain a pretty steady pace and maybe pick it up at the end. I made some dumb mistakes: overdressed, didn’t take nutrition on the course, and wore new shoes. Anyhow, at 11 miles I bonked – a strange feeling I hadn’t had in years. Simply no energy or drive. Flat out dead in my tracks! I might have stopped, but the only way back was to the finish area. So, I walked, then jogged, walked some more, etc., only picking it up a bit the last quarter mile. Had my worst time ever by far. I kept saying to myself – “I don’t care, I just want to finish.” Which I did! After finishing, I refueled, helped out with the race, and was already looking forward to getting back to some solid training for 5Ks a few weeks down the road.
The standard rule is one day of recovery for each mile raced. I figured I had “raced” just 11 miles, so 11 days. Well, I should know this rule may not apply to a 70+ year old runner. But 11 days after the race I headed to the UVM indoor track and started doing intervals: five 800’s at a pretty snappy clip and then two 400s pretty much flat out. Midway through the last 400, I felt a twinge in my right hamstring. I slowed, then walked, stretched, and finished the workout with a light jog. The hamstring didn’t seem too bad. I was thinking perhaps I had dodged a bullet.
After a day of water running, I did five easy miles. The hamstring was a little stiff but seemed to be holding. The next day, I headed out for what was to be a pretty solid 10 miles. Two miles in, I felt a stabbing in the hamstring, walked, stretched, started up again – more stabbing. I wasn’t going to run through this and cause more of a problem. So, I retraced my steps and walked back to the car.
As competitive runners, we tend to push the envelope. That is our nature and it often helps us keep our eye on the prize – not necessarily winning but turning in strong performances, feeling we have brought our “A” game to the races. Yet, we know from experience it doesn’t always go like that. As it’s said “life happens”! We can bemoan that, but our only truly constructive choice is to go from where we find ourselves.
Clearly, I had sought to fast-track the recovery process. It reminds me of Peter Reaburn’s caveat in The Masters Athlete: “Listen to your body.” Us seniors are supposed to be wiser than the younger set. But sometimes we turn a deaf ear. So, after some PT and very easy running, I will be toeing the line next Sunday at the USATF-New England Grand Prix 5K knowing my best that day will be much less than I had been looking to do. In short, I’ll be giving things a bit of a rest. And that’s OK!
As noted, this is my 100th post on Run Strategies. When I started the blog in 2015, I had planned to post every couple weeks. Had I done that, there would now be about 200 posts. My writing has ebbed and flowed, for various reasons. But when I take time to go back and read a few posts, I realize how much I have enjoyed writing them. Maybe I can settle into a regular bi-weekly rhythm. I know, I’d enjoy that and hopefully what I’m writing is relevant to at least some fellow senior runners.