Recovery & Return to Running Post-Shamrock (week 1)


Because I had already planned to run two back-to-back races in April (“for fun”), a few weeks ago I asked the coaches at the Endurance Planet podcast (a fave) for a recovery/training plan to fill the four weeks post-Shamrock. Lucho at EP said the first week post race was to be 4-5 days of NO running, then easy 3-4 miles on Saturday and Sunday to test my recovery. So that’s what I did, though it was awfully tempting to run a couple of those days, psychologically if not physically. I also used one of Sage Rountree’s books – The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery – for tips.

Workouts the week of 3/17:

Mon 3/17 – light core workout, bike 40 min.
Tues 3/18 – bike 70 min.
Wed 3/19 – light core workout, bike 40 min.
Th 3/20 – bike 60 min.
Fri 3/21 – core workout, bike 60 min.
Sat 3/22 – run 4.35mi at recovery pace on treadmill
Sun 3/23 – run 6 mi at recovery pace on treadmill
Other: some use of Roll Recovery in the evenings, chiropractor appt, 3 massages. I’m fortunate to be able to have those appointments, and they really help.
Overall, noticeably better each day with no new complaints from my BQ body!

If you want more detail, read on….


I was incredibly lucky to start the race healthy and with no more than niggles than the ones that I seem to have to live with. I was also incredibly lucky to finish the race feeling only the same niggles: no new ones and no injuries! (I don’t count the joint pain that’s just what happens after 26.2 miles of pavement impact — it’s expected and it fades.)

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Day of race/trip home — nutrition, gear & routine

When we left our intrepid runner (me), I’d finished the race, swigged my post-race cappuccino flavor Ultragen recovery drink within 10 minutes, gotten sweats on and gotten back to the hotel. I ate a sweet potato with some nut butter for the carbs and some protein/fat (though I wasn’t hungry pre or post Ultragen) and made hot decaf tea for the road. I also wasn’t thirsty, though I had to be dehydrated.

I cleaned up a little, stretched a little, and put some magnesium lotion on my shins/calves and Biofreeze on my quads, hammies & glutes. I layered my favorite recovery socks (SL3S) and 110% knee sleeves and shorts under sweatpants, and put on a wicking turtleneck under my race shirt (since I finished, I could wear it – I don’t wear a race shirt unless I’ve completed the race). I also did a quick pass over my legs with my Roll Recovery, which came with me in the car, easily accessible (and used) each time we stopped.

Knowing we’d be driving for a while, particularly if the weather hit before we got home, I packed a bunch of snacks in one of my many “front seat” bags, including bacon jerky (protein, fat, salt), another sweet potato w/nut butter (carbs, fat, protein and well tolerated by my tummy), some Terra chips for salt/crunch cravings, a Larabar and an applesauce packet for quick blood sugar hits if that became an issue. Along with tea I had Zico coconut water for electrolytes and hydration. As it turned out, I drank the Zico (11 ounces over maybe 3 hours) plus a few swigs of tea and ate the sweet potato. I was only briefly hungry, an hour or so into the drive (probably caused by eating the first sweet potato, how it works for me) and still wasn’t thirsty. I have a bad habit of dehydrating myself on car and plane trips though, so I was making myself drink.

We stopped three times on the way home — twice at gas station/convenience stores with restrooms, where I could walk for a couple of minutes to stretch my legs, which were pretty well locked in one position due to the amount of stuff packed in/around my legs in the front seat. After I walked, I’d take a moment in the cold outside the car to use my Roll Recovery on my legs, and it helped. I also sat on a trigger point ball for a while, trying to soothe an aggravated glute min that tends to act up sometimes and doesn’t like car rides. I was already sitting elevated on two blankets (our swag from a Valentine’s 5k) to keep my hips at a decent angle. My legs were sore and stiff, certainly, but some of that was probably from the cold they’d endured as much as the effort. The worst thing probably was that my knees seemed to stiffen up into a slight angle, and they didn’t like bending/straightening for things like stairs once we got home. But I was walking pretty well, considering the circumstances, and far far better than after the marathons I did years ago.

When we got home, my DH (angel!) told me to go in and start eating the food we’d picked up while he unloaded the car in the falling snow. I didn’t have much of an appetite though and wound up putting all that food away until the next day. What did I eat that night? A frozen dessert I’m fairly addicted to called Arctic Zero (it’s like a whey protein shake w/fiber, but tastes sort of ice cream like once you get used to it), plantain chips with extra salt and Terra sweet potato and apple chips. Hey, it was what appealed to me!

I got to bed not too late, but had a really hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. I woke up multiple times during the night with snippets of my playlist songs in my head. (I must have heard the music after all!) I knew to expect this for one or two nights (turned out to be two) from reading Sage Rountree’s book Racing Wisely, which suggests mental/emotional excitement and the physical effects of hard racing may cause sleep disruptions. I was able to get to the bathroom and back during the night with no problem (and no pain-induced moans, hisses or profanity).

Monday 3/17 (the day after)

DH and I had both taken the day off work, since we’d originally planned to stay in Virginia Beach Sunday night. I slept in until about 7am. I did a shorter, easier version of my M/W/F core workout and got on my trusty bike up on the trainer.

trusty bike on trainer

trusty bike on trainer

I rode with about as little resistance as you can imagine for an hour. For the first 20 minutes or so, my knees (still probably the unhappiest part of me) weren’t thrilled. Then everything seemed to loosen just a bit and the next 20-30 minutes felt pretty good. After that I started to tighten up again, but wanted to make it to a full hour (I’m like that) so kept going. The inside hamstring behind both knees particularly didn’t like stair activity — so it wasn’t helpful that the downstairs toilet broke that day (still broken), causing a rehydrating runner a lot of trips up and down stairs. Thinking positively, maybe all the stair climbing/descending helped work out the kinks.

The rest of the day was spent online and hanging out with DH. We ate the yummy dinner we’d picked up Sunday and watched some TV. I didn’t want the day or the post-race glow to end!

Tuesday 3/1

I telework on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I didn’t have to get myself to the office just yet (yay). I did 70 minutes on the bike, after another night of broken sleep. Some old familiar crankiness (L tendon behind the ankle, L glute min) made its presence known. I was still surprised at how good I felt and how mobile I was without real pain or significant problems. Tuesday I saw my chiropractor who did a “runner’s tuneup” (general focus) and some e-stim. Tuesday night, I saw one of my massage therapists for a light massage and stretch session.

Wednesday 3/19

Up and at ‘em — well, up anyway. Back to work after a light core workout and 40 minutes on the bike, less time than I’d wanted because I was a little poky. Had some GI trouble overnight that woke me for a while (this happens to me sometimes) so I was a little tired after 3 nights of broken sleep but otherwise physically better than the day before. My L hamstring (a known crank) was a bit sore at the point where it attaches to the glute, possibly from Tuesday’s massage. Other than that, the only thing I noted different was that despite a little less soreness and stiffness in general, my hips were tighter than they had been. I have a standing desk at work, but made sure to sit more than I normally would to help me legs out. I got a light sports massage Wednesday night, which felt pretty good.

Thursday 3/20

I started to feel even better. I was impressed with the other full and half marathoners from last weekend’s races who were tweeting about their quick return to running. I was tempted. Heck, it was day 4 and the coach said 4-5, and I was teleworking…but I told myself it wasn’t worth the risk to run yet. So, another hour on the bike for me, telework, and a light trigger point massage in the evening. Started having those “a week ago we were…” thoughts. Hard to believe I was packing for the race a week ago.

Friday 3/21

Back to the office after a core workout closer to my usual length & difficulty, and an hour on the bike. Wanted to run today mentally, legs probably would have managed it fine. But I decided to stick with instructions — they’d said 4-5 and since I wanted 4, I should go for 5 (it’s easy for me to overdo sometimes and restraint had gotten me to the race healthy, so I decided to stick with it). A relaxing evening of TV watching and carryout Chinese (if you consider steamed chicken and vegetables with no rice in that category – I do) part of our regular routine. I was getting a little nervous about my first run post-race the next day (how would it feel, would it hurt, was I sorer or more damaged than I’d thought). A week ago we’d been at the expo and I’d been getting ready to run with Bart Yasso!

Saturday 3/22

I slept in until 6:30 or so, then got up and puttered through my slow pre-long-run routine, though this run was to be only 3-4 miles. Got my podcast iPod set up and got on the treadmill. I do a 15 minute walking warmup before all my runs (5-10 minimum, 15 usual/preferred) as I read once that Amby Burfoot said the thing he did most to prevent injury was add that type of walk and warmup to his runs. (or as Lucho said, “Recovery starts with the warmup”) Then I ran 4.35 miles at a recovery pace (my usual recovery pace, per my feel and McMillan’s calculator, at the low end of the pace range). It felt okay, a bit sore, stiff and tight as I’d expected, but no surprises, which had been my biggest concern — something that wouldn’t show itself until I started running. I started feeling better toward the end of the run (typical, usually after 6 miles I start to feel good) but I restrained myself and stopped. Got on the bike for 30 minutes (still with laughably low resistance, just enough to spin the wheel) which is what I normally do after long runs to stretch my legs out.

Relaxed the rest of the day, read running-related stuff. (all I’m reading these days it seems!) Had  a scare when I was wearing socks in the kitchen and slipped and fell on my tailbones, tweaking tweaked my right knee a bit. I thought, “oh no, seriously?!” It was just a careless move on my part, lucky I didn’t get really hurt by cracking my head on something. My knee responded to some ice, Traumeel and my 110% compression knee sleeve. I probably just yanked something in it, but DH had to spend some time calming me down, asking me when it hurt, telling me it would be okay. What would I do without him?

Sunday 3/23

Another “sleep-in” day. I could have (maybe should have) run outside, but it was another rough GI night and I thought perhaps I should be close to facilities…though I turned out to be fine. Warmed up, then did 6 miles at recovery pace. I know, it was only supposed to be 4, but I really wanted more. As on Saturday, felt better toward the end of the run. My right knee was still unhappy about my fall (but less so, and not during the run at all) and my hamstrings at the attachment points made their presence known (but evenly on both sides, that’s good) but nothing that would make me stop running or inhibit other activity.

Overall, I was in pretty good shape to start with and every day got better and better. I never needed to take any painkillers (I can only take acetaminophen anyway) though I took some arnica and extra Wobenzym after I tweaked my knee on Saturday. I didn’t even need to ice anything from the race! I probably haven’t stretched enough as I was afraid of over stretching something that was still mending from the race. I haven’t gotten back into my Wharton flexibility routine (note there are free videos of him on youtube and info online) or yoga stretches yet, and certainly didn’t do any of my chiropractor-instructed leg strength exercises. I’ve used the Roll Recovery briefly most evenings, which has probably helped. I wear compression knee socks every day since I stand a lot for work, but hadn’t noticed any swelling even immediately post-race. During this week, I kept eating my regular diet (I eat the same things over and over on a daily/weekly basis) just less quantity since I figured I basically wasn’t burning any calories biking.

Excited for week two, when I will get to run more!