Sunday, 24 June 2018

How To Not Feel Horrible After Your Long Run

I've been doing this ultra running thing for 5 years now as a full-time working mom and wife.  Over time, I have gotten nonchalant about my pre and post run personal management, especially when it comes to my long and back to back (to back) long runs.  This results in often feeling less than stellar the rest of the day or for a full weekend.  As ultra runners, we train ourselves to just power through.  To ignore the fatigue and pain and keep going. After a long run, I often come home exhausted, rarely eat enough or hydrate enough, and just power through - immediately starting to cook lunch or going for a bike ride with the family, or tackling the weeds in the yard.  Lately I have been feeling decidedly suboptimal, especially on Sunday afternoons, enough that this weekend I decided it was time to make some changes.

There are things I know about pre-run prep and post-run recovery, yet I can fully admit that I often skip steps because I simply do not have or make time for them.  I'm training for the Canadian Death Race, and this weekend I had a B2B2B planned for a total of 100k in 48 hours with at least 1500m of climbing in the last run - which in Manitoba is not convenient.  It has been extremely hot and humid here, and I started my first run on Friday afternoon after work at 2:00pm.  It was 33 degrees with stupid sauna-like humidity.  Within 2 hours I was severely dehydrated despite drinking copious amounts of water, and dragged myself home 3.5 hours later rather useless to my family.  It took 5 hours to properly rehydrate and as I sat there sipping on electrolyte solution feeling like s*$t I decided enough was enough.  If I was going to get through this weekend and come out on the other side a functional human being, I needed to get my act together.

Fast forward to today.  Less than forty-eight hours later I feel GREAT. Great enough that I had to reflect on WTH I did differently this weekend and how I turned it around so well.   Here is what I came up with.

10 Keys to Feeling Great After Your Long Run

1) Pretend you are an elite athlete.  I recently read 'Let Your Mind Run' by Michelle Hamilton and Deena Kastor.  It was Deena's memoir and is a great book.  She was the first female sub-2:20 marathoner in the US, and a multiple Olympian who won the bronze medal in the marathon in Athens in 2004.  She describes her daily routines and as I listened to her book (in audio) the stark contrast of her routine to mine stood out.  #motherrunners such as myself sometimes like to think we are superhero elite athletes, and we hold ourself to impossibly high standards.  Reality check: I am NOT an elite athlete (or I wouldn't take so long to get my miles in), but I can gain some wisdom from them at least for a weekend of high volume training.

2) Nap.  Elite athletes often run twice a day and napping in the middle of the day is essential.  So yesterday I had a 2 hour nap.  It was awesome.

3) Sit down and be still.  I rarely sit down. Ever.  This weekend I forced myself to sit down as much as possible.  When I wasn't running, I was sitting with my feet up - reading, watching the kids in the pool, laying in the pool, watching movies and playing games.  We cleared the schedule and we all just relaxed.  This sounds elementary, but it rarely happens in our family.  Relaxation is an art and I am not a great artist.

4) Go to bed early.  Getting as much sleep as possible when training heavily makes a HUGE difference.  Last night it meant going to bed at 8:30 for a 4am wake-up call, but recovery is part of training and sleep is the most saturated form of recovery you can get.

5) Compression.  It was hot. It wasn't fashionable (unless also wearing a trucker hat).  I embarrassed my kids...but I wore my compression socks all weekend.

6) Do Not Get Dehydrated or Depleted. Rather than just throwing some water and my bag of bars and gels into my car, I took extra time last night to prepare for my longest run today.  I was NOT going to be dehydrated, over-heated or bonk and spend the rest of the day catching up. I froze my bladder and water bottles 1/2 full of water to ensure a cold supply.  I packed a cooler filled with ice, extra water and my Icefil arm sleeves, took a huge bag of running fuel, and stuck to my fueling schedule. Even though it was cloudy, in addition to pre-hydrating I still drank 5 litres of water and electrolyte drink during/after my 6 hour run this morning and used another litre to wash off any potential poison ivy.  Even through I could barely carry my bags to my car this morning, I was prepared and so thankful I had brought enough!

7) Tailwind.  I have been experimenting with different liquid fueling options, and have not been using Tailwind for the past 6 weeks.  I've missed it.  Yesterday I found some left-over product and used it today.  Not sure if this was a key difference, but I felt AWESOME during my run and after.  Back to Tailwind it is for me!

8) Eat: 15-30 Min Window. You need to eat a ratio of 4:1 carbs:protein within 15-30 min of finishing your run when your insulin sensitivity is at it's highest.  I know that.  My dietitian has even given me specific suggestions.  Sadly, I often do not do it after my long run because I am far away from civilization and I neglect to pack a good post run meal.  Ya I know - not great. Today on my way home from Birch I stopped at Syl's and stuffed myself.  All that awesome food went straight into my muscles, and I could feel it almost immediately!

9) Eat: Enough.  When endurance training, it's super important to eat enough high quality nutrient dense food.  I never let myself get hungry all weekend and I know it paid off.

10) Handsome Awesome Husband.  Last but certainly not least, it helps to have an amazing partner around.  I'm fortunate it's BBQ season and my husband loves to BBQ, because he cooked a lot this weekend.  I am definitely a lucky girl and have loads of gratitude for my DH - even when he feeds me moose steaks.

I am not sure which of the above things made the most difference, but I can tell you that I felt amazing all day despite logging crazy mileage this week in the heat.  If I had to choose, I'd say it was the sleep and sitting down more that made the most difference.

Despite what we become accustomed to tolerating, endurance training should not leave us "normal people" feeling wrecked every weekend.  This is especially true mid-season when we already have a solid base.  I've recommitted to following some simple rules to ensure that my hobby enhances rather than limits the rest of my life.

If you don't want to be a compression sock wearing zombie on Sunday afternoons, change something.  There is a better way.