I may not know how to pace myself or how to apply sunscreen (I ended up with a funny race tan on my back), but I sure as heck know how to recover from a big race like a professional. That’s not totally true – I have no idea what real professionals do – but when it comes to amateur professionals, I am both the most amateur and the most professional. Or something. What you need to know is that recovery is totally my bag, baby. One week post-marathon, and I am good as new. I don’t know if I’d say that I feel up to running another 26.2 right now, but I’m no longer walking like Frankenstein or grunting when I try to stand up. I consider that recovered! And I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t spread the knowledge. Here’s how I went from the finish line (feeling like dog turd) to a week later (feeling like a shiny new penny):
I bought a 10 pound page on the drive home from the race. Before I ate my delicious food, before I washed off my stank, I filled the tub up with cold water and dumped the entire bag in. Then I got in.
I used to think people who took ice baths were coo-coo bananas, but a few years back, I became a believer. My only complaint was that the dang thing wasn’t cold enough! Afterwards I had the light bulb moment that I should skip the water and just dump the ice onto my legs, but I’ve heard you can get burns doing it that way. (See above where I state that I’m an amateur? It’s becoming apparent now, isn’t it?)
Food – mostly healthy – eat it + water
I will say that I’ve been on track in terms of eating clean. While I love to stuff my face after a hard race, I don’t like to immediately fill my tank with junk. In the last few days my junk food craving has turned up a notched (Arby’s French fries, I want you!), but I’ve been resisting, mostly. There was that one night of Taco Bell + Dairy Queen. So Worth it. I guess the key is to find the balance (oh, the elusive balance) between replenishing your body and treating yourself.
I’ve been mighty hydrated, though. No issues on that front. I have four different water bottles in my fridge, and I keep them full at all times. I simply pull one out, carry it around with me, drink it all up, then refill and swap out for another.
Move, even when you don’t want to
Austin, one of my most difficult half marathons (look at the elevation map if you want to have nightmares), was also one that resulted in the least post-race soreness. How did I manage that? I spent almost an hour after I finished walking around. I found my mom who was walking the half and joined her, I walked around the post-race area and felt giddy, and I walked for wayyyy too long to find my car. The beauty of movement!
For this race, I didn’t walk quite so much (I was tired), but I did take Geronimo to the park that evening. Monday morning, I put my running shoes on and jogged my way to 1.25 miles. Nothing fast or record breaking, but I got the juices flowing. Also juicy were my two yoga classes. (One of the yoga instructors calls deep stretches “juicy” so that was a little inside joke with myself there.)
Massage (this one is worth bonus points)
Stephen gifted me with a massage (he bought it online and worked on scheduling it without me even knowing it!) all the way from Afghanistan. He couldn’t be here for the race, so this was the next best thing. Even though having a stranger rub my muscles for an hour doesn’t compare to having him home, it was an hour of pure heaven. I honestly thought it lasted 90 minutes. I was so out of it, but in the best way possible. I showed up for my massage still a little sore, and left feeling 100% better. If a full on massage isn’t in the budget, you can still get just as good of an experience with a foam roller or the stick. (My stick got lost in our move – wah!)
There you have it. The not-so-scientific science behind getting yourself back to your old self post-race!