Friday, June 16, 2017


I love racing, but I absolutely hate the recovery process from ultras. I never feel quite so weak, rickety and out of shape as I do in the days and weeks following a long race.

"No, really...I can run for hours...I just need a nap after this little walk right now.."

I try to do the right things to help myself get back to normal. I take some time off running to let my damaged legs (and whatever else) rest. I go for some walks to keep blood circulating and clear waste products from my muscles, and eat lots of calories (probably too many, really) to make sure my body has lots of fuel to repair itself. I wear compression socks for a few days, get a massage, or even get down on the floor and use the Devil's Pool Noodle.

Also known as a foam roller - a runner's best friend and worst enemy in one.

Despite my best efforts, though, it's just impossible to drop the accumulated fatigue from almost 16 hours of near-constant forward motion in a hurry. For a couple of days afterward I was exhausted just from existing - having brunch with friends, grocery shopping, or sitting at my desk at work would turn me into an over-tired toddler by the end of the day, incapable of handling the slightest bit of adversity and whining in a way I'm shocked poor Tanker could tolerate. I was also useless for any sort of physical tasks; even walking up a gentle slope would leave me utterly winded.

And my cankles were out of control.

The damage takes its sweet time fully declaring itself, too. While its generally my feet and legs that are terribly sore in the first 24hrs after finishing - particularly if there are any nasty blisters or fleshwounds - other things crop up over the next few days. The plantar fascia in my left foot became horribly painful on Sunday evening, leaving me with a nasty limp that lasted until Wednesday afternoon. My upper back and shoulders cried foul on Monday despite not having used poles in the race, and my lower back whined a bit as well. My left ankle piped up about its mistreatment on Tuesday, but my hamstrings waited until Wednesday to really start complaining about their working conditions. It took about 5 days before fresh aches stopped appearing - by Friday I finally decided to try walking the 3km from Tanker's warehouse back to my office, and even that felt like a bit too much a couple of hours after I'd done so.

Yep, from running 100km to being wiped out by a 3km walk. That's exactly what kills me: I put in so much time and effort to become strong and build my fitness and endurance, only to end up feeling so very feeble and fragile. It's like getting hit by a car all over again, and it seems to go on forever. My rule of thumb is that it takes about one week per hour of racing for me to feel 100% ready for another hard effort, but my brain tells me that it thinks Sulphur was so long ago (almost 3 whole weeks now) and I really should be over it. I just get tired of being tired.

When I finally return to running - in this case after 7 days off, the same as I took after Dirty Girls last year - it will be a painfully slow, sad affair now matter how ready I felt before I began. My legs are leaden, minute rises in elevation will feel like mountains, and I'll swear I have an invisible cinderblock sitting on my chest.

Not to mention one tied to my arse.

Afterward, that wheezing 5km plod will feel more like a 50k - I'll be totally wiped out once more. Even non-running workouts will wreck me; I cycled with Tanker and then down to the farmers' market in the week after Sulphur, and I've never got so much use out of the largest cogs on my mountain bike. I did a half-decent lower body strength workout on Tuesday of this week - a full 10 days after the 100k - and my legs were practically useless until Thursday evening. My first few runs left me as exhausted as my peak training weeks did before the race. It wasn't until last night that I finally started to feel like a halfway capable runner again, though I've now put in almost 90km over 11 workouts since Sulphur Springs.

Including some redemption at Shade's Mills after injuring myself there in April.

It's just frustrating to feel so limited by my recovery when I'm used to being strong enough to run any place or distance that I choose, especially when it's already been weeks since the race and I'm aching to return to multi-hour explorations of the trails and woods. For all of my whining, though, I feel grateful that I have the health and fitness to participate in these silly events at all. As time goes by, I know I'll get stronger - not just after this particular race, but as the years pass and I accumulate more experience at longer distances. I can already feel that I'm recovering faster this year than I did after the Dirty Girls 12-hour last year (despite having raced both more time and distance), so I have high hopes for the future! In the meantime, I'll just keep on trying to balance training and rest to be ready for the next adventure. Just 3 more weeks to Limberlost!


  1. I'm often reminded too of how I need to be thankful to be able to run, and to cover the kinds of distances that we nutjobs do in these races. Many people, even though they think us out of our cotton-pickin' minds, would love to be able to get out there and see and experience the things that we do.

    Looking forward to sharing the Limberlost trails with you!

    1. I look forward to seeing you there, Patrick! I was actually just reading your race report from 2015 today - you've certainly learned a lot about trail ultras since then! Will this be your first time back?


Go on, have at me!