Saturday, July 2, 2011

Recovering From the Effort

This is a story of effort and recovery. It is one version of a story that is constantly repeated by endurance athletes. It is a story that we all want to have a happy ending.

I have not made a secret of the fact that I am an insomniac who sleeps less than three hours per night for five to ten nights before finally collapsing into a death sleep for a night. While this would seem likely to hinder my recovery from training and racing efforts, I don't seem to take longer than most people I talk to.

It has been two weeks and two hours since I finished the San Juan Solstice 50. That tough course, despite my efforts to stay within my personal limits, caused some serious damage to my legs. Well, the four 14ers I summited in the next five days might have contributed to that damage. A little.

My legs were certainly tired and tight and sore after the run. But those climbs seemed to loosen my legs and back a lot. With each day of climbing I felt stronger. In fact, the last climb of Redcloud and Sunshine came extremely easy to me. That was last Thursday.

Perhaps it was the overall fatigue from the daily efforts. Or, maybe, it was a result of my love of and comfort in those mountains. Regardless, I slept for seven to twelve hours for five nights in a row.

That all changed on Thursday night when the normal me reappeared. I barely slept at all for two nights before struggling through what should have been an easy desert run in White Rock, NM. The legs were tight and extremely lethargic. Not even the 6-7 foot rattler I nearly stepped on put any pep in my stride.

Back in Indiana this past Tuesday I set out on what I have deemed "the adjustment run." This is the run in which my legs have to relearn how to operate smoothly on relatively flat asphalt. Surprisingly, the pace was normalized within a mile. This encouraged me to test them with a little pace work. The relaxed effort allowed me to run a negative split 4800 meters in 16:30. Wow. That was unexpected. The ten-mile 25-minute bike ride which followed immediately after that 31-minute five mile run was an even bigger surprise. To say I was excited to have my legs back would be an understatement.

Two hours later I was certain that someone had locked a large vise on each leg. The pain! The suffering! The rigor mortise. That one hour of moderate effort had caused my legs to feel like they had the day after the SJS50. Note - Recovery not complete!

For two nights I stayed in bed for nine hours. The pain in my legs kept me from sleeping the first night, but I laid down and woke up nine hours later the second night. Sweet!

What followed in the early morning heat and humidity was a labored hilly ten mile run that I ran at a slower pace than normal. Then came an icing and a massage. The planned bike ride was postponed that evening due the visit of a relative. Thanks, Maurice!

The next morning I saddled up with hesitation and, honestly, a lot of fear. The SJS50 recovery was dragging on too long. And I had not been able to sleep on Thursday night. I fumbled around for almost an hour mulling over the planned ride. I feared possible outcomes like a big bonk, more of the intense pain, a prolonged recovery, or an injury.

With each passing mile my legs felt the same despite the suffocating heat and humidity and the hilly course. It wasn't like I was pushing hard on the pedals. I was, in fact, trying not to. Yet, Kristy and I kept turning in quick miles while I remained comfortable. Near the top of the Saints loop (catholic churches found on hilltops) I felt good enough to add five miles.

When I reached home I had completed my longest and hilliest ride of the year which was, sadly, only 34 miles. The average speed was over 22 mph. Best of all, the legs felt great all day. Boy, was I glad to have gone forward with that ride!

Today I awoke to another ozone alert and miserable conditions. Into the woods I ran for a very hilly 1:35 half marathon effort. That was followed by a shower to remove the mud and a 35 mile (21 mph) ride over a course almost identical to the one I rode yesterday. Longtime followers of this blog know I call this type of long brick training BS - Big Saturday. Sitting here now, my legs do not feel like I completed a BS today. That qualifies this BS as great BS.

The legs are back. This is especially exciting as I prepare to drive back to Silverton on Wednesday/Thursday to do some pacing in the Hardrock 100. That will be followed by a week of high altitude R&R before the SR50.

I recently came across a relevant quote. John Wayne once said, "Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway." That icon's words caused me to ride yesterday, despite my fear of dragging out my  SJS50 recovery. I recalled the same quote and posted it on FB moments before I saddled up with tired legs again this morning.

When I first read the quote I applied it to troops going into battle, but today I realized that it could easily be applied to less noble actions fittingly when those actions resulted in personal growth. Like when I threw caution to the wind at the ITU Duathlon World Champs two years ago when I rode as hard as I could in a driving rain storm to earn a silver medal. Or when I lined up for the SJS50 hoping that I would finish and do so without injury despite the fact that I had only run five hundred miles this year. Or any time I deny my fear of heights while climbing rock faces in the mountains.

When can you apply it to your life.

Saddle up!

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