Recovery (the restlessness of a caged tiger)

So, the North Face 50km is over.  Saturday, 18 May, the day I ran my first ultramarathon.  We stayed up in the Blue Mountains for two more nights, with the idea that I’d have mental energy to enjoy the holiday after the race.

Sunday morning was comical.  We went to the buffet breakfast in our hotel, which had been fully booked out by runners the night before.  You could pick the runners out very easily from the “normal” folk.  They were the ones who grimaced when they stood up, and moved very, very slowly towards the buffet, if they moved at all.  Some lucky few, like me, were waited upon by their spouses, who delivered wonderful coffee, as well as the best bacon, eggs and toast I have ever tasted.  Watching all of us, I had to laugh.  We were hungry, stiff, sore, but elated.  There was an air of celebration at that breakfast buffet.  And not much food left at the end. I even ran into an old running friend from Hong Kong, Jeremy, with whom I had attended an Adventure Race training weekend in 2003.  He was looking fit, lean, and content; he had completed the North Face 100.  I felt slightly weak admitting I’d only done the 50.

That day, we drove back to Echo Point, and I was mesmerised by the remaining blue arrows and pink ribbons that had not yet been removed.  Did I really run there? I thought to myself.  With stiff legs, I explored with my family, showing them some of the trails. This couldn’t last long though, as my daughter quickly remembered the “run at cliffs to scare Mom” game; I hadn’t really noticed the potential drop-offs the day before.  We fled the scene quickly, kids intact.

Monday was quieter in Katoomba, less stiff runners, less exuberance.  The time had come to begin the long journey home.  I enjoyed the sitting still in the car very much – the drive from the Blue Mountains to our home in Melbourne takes about ten hours in total, and I was happy as a lark not moving for most of that time.

So, I managed three days with minimal exercise after the race.  I was recovering well, listening to my body, being smart.  Of course, when we arrived back in Melbourne, and the kids went to school on Wednesday, things were going to change.  I went straight to the gym, and found to my wonderment and delight that my 5k run on the treadmill was still possible – I could still run!  I did light weights as well, stretched, and was mightily relieved that I’d not broken myself.  Thursday was a slow, meandering bike ride with my husband for a couple of hours.  Friday I planned a great big trail run up in the Dandenongs, 20k would be easy.  Surely I’d be recovered enough by then, was my reasoning.  It would be six whole days after the race.

Well, as Thursday evening drew to a close, I reassessed myself.  I was exhausted.  So tired that even filling my CamelBak seemed too hard.  I reluctantly accepted that I’d have to miss the trail run, that it was stupid to push so hard so soon.  Perhaps I’d run an easy 10k down at the beach instead?  Except my hips were aching, my calf hurt, and my neck felt like fire when I turned my head.  Just about then a Facebook Ad popped up from Muscle Fix, the massage place that does “serious massage”.  Quicker than lightning, I traded the run for a muscle fix, which did, indeed fix all my muscles.

I was fixed, so I planned to run in the Dandenongs on Sunday morning.  Except – guess what? – I was still too exhausted to get up at 5 am, and slept in instead.  Seeing a pattern here?  I was.

My poor family.  I spent the weekend pacing the house like an angry, captive tiger, my claws on show for everyone to see.  Growl, roar, growl.  Or maybe like a dragon, with wisps of smoke curling all around me.

I know running hard requires recovery time.  I know.  I googled it several times to see what smart people recommended after running 50km of trails.  I just hate that it applies to me too.

I did manage to get the gym today, did my 5km on the treadmill and heavier weights.  The hip pain has gone, the neck now turns, but my left calf is still twingy.  So it will still be a slow recovery week this week.

Heaven help my family.


Oh, and the obsessive exploration of what the next big thing is going to be is not helping.  100k?  45k?  The Six-Foot Track?  New Zealand? No goal at all?

My husband said to enjoy this phase, that it is part of racing.  He is very wise.  I will try.

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