Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Recovery from a 100 Miler

Proper training for an ultra, especially a 100 miler, is absolutely critical.  If you don't get your body accustomed to the hours of continuous forward progress (note I did not say running) then it will be very difficult or impossible to finish any race 50 miles or over.  As I have stated previously, and this is purely my opinion, anyone that can run a marathon can run and finish a 50K so here I am talking about runs longer than a 50K.

I have used a pretty simple plan ever since I started ultrarunning.  I run a long run on the weekend and two short runs during the week, ideally, Tuesday and Thursday.  The weekend runs range from 3 hours to 8 hours depending on the number of weeks or months until the next race and the length of that race.  On those major training runs I build up to 8 hours about two months before I plan to run a 100 mile race.   I will run three 8 hour runs and do back-to-back runs on one weekend before starting to taper.  For shorter races I run shorter weekend training runs and instead of tapering for 3 weeks, I will taper for two weeks or for a 50K one week.  I have two 50Ks and a 50 miler planned in the next 39 days and I have been running 5 hour training runs the last 4 weeks.  Sunday (September 4th) was my final hard run and I plan to run about 3 to 3.5 hours next Saturday as a tapering run.

The 50Ks are Autumn Equinox 50K, at Oak Mountain here in Birmingham in two weeks (on 9/18) and the Stump Jump in Chattanooga, Tennessee on October 1st.  I will use these races to boost my training for the 50 miler, The North Face Endurance Challenge in Pine Mountain, Georgia on October 15th.  I have never run three races like this so close together (each race is two weeks after the previous) and I am anxious to see how I hold up.  After each race I plan to run about 3 hours on the next weekend as a recovery run plus the two midweek runs.  I have never run a 50 mile race, either.  I felt like I came out of Tahoe in pretty good condition and I would like to hold that conditioning until I start serious training for Hardrock on January 1st.  (I am always training for Hardrock.  That is the carrot!)

After finishing Tahoe, I really wanted to run another 100 mile race during 2011 but there wasn't one close to home I could fit in.   I cannot run the Pinhoti 100 here in Alabama because I volunteered to help Todd Henderson, the Pinhoti 100 RD.  The only other 100 this year that is close by is the Georgia Jewel, which is also run on the Pinhoti Trail in Georgia.  The Georgia Jewel is the same weekend as my daughters engagement party in New York.  I decided to run the 50 miler instead and may also run the Lookout Mountain 50 Mile race in December.

We arrive in NY on 9/22.  The 9/11 Memorial opens to the public on 9/11.  If I do nothing else while in New York, I will go the the Memorial.  We went to New York last year for my daughters surprise 30th birthday party and went to Ground Zero.  That is a very difficult place to visit.  National Geographic Channel has been doing a series of shows on 9/11 and the "Rebuilding of the New World Trade Center."  I have recorded every show.  It is almost as hard to watch as visiting the site.

Back to the subject!
On of the keys to successful ultrarunning is proper recovery.  Running 100 miles, in my case, 33 straight hours pretty well zaps you.  (Is that not profound!)  Here is how I recovered, jumped back into training and now I feel stronger than I ever have.

I judge my training proficiency and conditioning based on my hill repeat times on one specific trail.  Right now, I am running 8 hill repeats faster than I was before Tahoe, finishing each "HR" under 13:45.  Before Tahoe, I could only run 6 repeats under 14 minutes.  The last 2  took 14.5 to 15 minutes to complete.  The last couple of weeks I ran at least one HR under 12 minutes.  I never did that before Tahoe.

Here is exactly what I did to recover from Tahoe, immediately after the run and over the next few weeks.
After I finished the Tahoe Rim Trail 100, I walked around a few minutes and stretched a little.   Then I sat around and ate and drank for a while then walked around more and ate a little more and drank a lot more.  It is a good idea to walk a while after finishing a really grueling race before sitting down or laying down.  After the awards, we drove back to the B&B near Kings Beach and I took a shower.  It is amazing what a shower can do.  Then, we went to eat dinner even though I had eaten quite a bit between only about 4 hours before.  I was still hungry and ate a full dinner.

When we got back to the room I took two Advil PMs and passed out.  Although I had not slept in about 42 hours if I don't take an Advil PM or Tylenol PM I will not sleep very well.  I also take one Advil or Tylenol PM before I go to bed after my hard weekend runs.  If you run ultras, sleep is critical.  Adequate sleep is as important to recovery as anything else you can do.

The next morning we woke up early (as always) and make coffee while waiting for breakfast.  I decided to drive over to a little bakery in Kings Beach and purchased a pastry until the Shore House breakfast was ready.  I sat outside and ate and drank my coffee.  The air was crisp and cold and the sky was crystal clear and that deep blue you only see in the western mountain.  After breakfast I took a huge pile of filthy clothes and shoes to a laundromat a couple of blocks down the road.  (I hadn't been to a laundromat since the 70s.)  Next, we went back to the little bakery and picked up sandwiches, drinks and cookies and headed out for a picnic.  We found a little park several hundred feet above the lake on the East shore and hiked down to the water.  We climbed out on some huge granite boulders and sat in the sun having a great time.  Then people started showing up and we realized this particular rock was a popular spot to jump in the freezing water of Lake Tahoe.  Here are a couple of pictures from the park.  The hike back to the park was no more than 1/2 mile but it had me huffing and puffing.

That afternoon we drove over to Heavenly Ski Resort and looked around and see if we might want to ski there some time.  We drove back to the Shore House B&B and read for an hour or so sitting in the garden of by the lake.  I kept shifting back and forth from the shade to the sun and back to shade.  It was too cool to sit in the shade in a short sleeve shirt and to hot in the sun.  I got a jacket and moved back to the shade. Then it was time for afternoon wine a cheese at the B&B then we were off to dinner.  Obviously food was high on the agenda.

By Tuesday I was feeling considerably better and we decided to hike up to Marlette Lake from the Tahoe side.  We drove up to a trail head and hiked up about 2000 feet in 4 miles to a beautiful overlook.  My legs complained a little on some of the steeper sections but did fine and we actually ran most of the way down.  Wednesday we decided to drive around to the west side of the lake.  We stopped a an amazing lava outcropping near Tahoe City.  The outcropping shoots straight up from the side of the road 250 ft and we hiked to the top and took pictures.  A nice couple took our picture.
Next we drove on around the lake to Emerald Bay.  Tahoe had received so much late season snow that the falls coming down into the west end of Emerald Bay were huge.  We took pictures and hiked around the top before deciding to hike down to the lake.  The trail is just under a mile in length from the Hwy 89, (the Emerald Bay Highway) to the park on the lake's edge 400 ft below.  We wandered around looking at a huge redwoods and beautiful house that is in the park, then I decided to try to run back up the hill.  I ran about 100 yards and had to stop a few seconds and I started again.  I made it all the way up then turned around and came back down to meed Marye Jo who was walking up.  I got to her, turned around and ran back up again, this time continuing on to get our car on the other side of the falls.  From where I met Marye Jo I had to run another 0.68 miles to the car.  Under normal conditions this wouldn't even be worth the effort.  Two days after running 100 miles, it was tough and I was actually surprised I could do it and ran fairly fast.  Here is a video I took above the falls.

We arrived home in Birmingham over the weekend and I did not run at all.  Tuesday I ran two laps, about 50 minutes at Veteran's Park.  Saturday I ran 2.5 hours at Oak mountain exactly two weeks after the start if the 100 mile run.  I ran twice, 2 laps each at Veteran's the third week after the Tahoe race and that Saturday I ran 3 hours.  (I think I ran 4 hill repeats and felt pretty good.)  That was August 6th.

The 4th week after the race I ran 3 laps at Veteran's on Tuesday and swam 40 minutes and ran 30 minutes at Oak Mountain State Park on Thursday.  Saturday of the 4th week I decided to try more hill repeats  so I  ran six repeats which took about 3 hours including the run to the start of the hill and back to get more water, and I felt great.  Then I ran an additional 2 hours and died.  It was 99 deg. when I got back in my car.  The 5th week after the race I did exactly the same three runs only the 6 hill repeats were a little faster.  Again, by the time I started the 2 hour loop the temperatures and humidity were almost unbearable and the loop was slow and a real struggle to finish.

That brings up to the 6th week after Tahoe. (August 27th.)  I ran Tuesday at Veteran's for 3 laps but did not have time to run Thursday.  On Saturday I headed out to Oak Mountain.  Hurricane Irene was heading up the East Coast of the US and pulling the humidity out of Alabama.  The air temperature was slightly cooler but still hot but the low humidity make it feel great.  I ran 9 hill repeats,  all under 14 minutes (two under 13 and one under 12 minutes.)  I finished the run with a loop and a total time of 5:05.  This may have been the best run I have had in years and by far the fastest hill repeats ever.

I will know more after the upcoming 50Ks but I think the way I eased back into hard training really worked great.  I was in good condition for Tahoe and I think I have been able to stay at that fitness level and actually improve.  I was a little discouraged until the 6th week when it was cooler.  The cooler temperatures and low humidity made all the difference in the world in my run and my attitude.

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