A bit of a ‘nuts and bolts’ post this one. Now I’ve had a bit of time to recover I thought I’d go through some of the kit I used, things that I thought worked well, things that went a bit wrong, and what I’ve learnt about the recovery process. This is mainly meant to be an aide memoire for next time, but hopefully some people might find it a useful resource too.
Obviously I’m not going to go through every single thing I took or wore, but here are the things that come to mind:
Trainers: I chose my trusty Merrell Bare Access Trail shoes for this race. They’re not amazingly grippy as trail shoes go, but they are amazingly comfortable… and I thought for my first 50 at least, that comfort had to be paramount. It was a decent decision; my feet were in perfect nick at the finish with no blisters or hotspots, but I do feel that they lacked support in the latter stages, and particularly on some of the more technical parts of the trail. These ones are due for retirement anyway, so I’ll be finding and breaking in a suitable replacement pair before SVP and Ladybower later this year.
Race Vest: I used my Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest (5l capacity). I left the bottles at home and used a 1l reservoir in the pack itself, which worked decently well, but the bladder was a pain to fill and if I’d had to take more mandatory kit (waterproof jackets were taken off the kit list on the morning in light of the great weather forecast), then I think it would have been too small. For SVP at least I think I’ll be using my Salomon vest with the easier-to-fill soft bottles at the front and the 1l bladder in the back. It’s got more easily accessible pockets and more room too, so probably a better choice, even if the 12l capacity is overkill.
Pants (yes, it’s important!): Minor bikini line chafing. That is all. Will be wearing undershorts next time.
Compression socks: I wore my well-trusted CEP ones. I’m still not convinced that these are necessary and I’m vain enough not to want knee-high tan lines… I just don’t want to find out that they really do work 40+miles into a race, when I have no chance of getting them on without losing half an hour and a major amount of swearing.
Shorts: I just wore some bog-standard running shorts, but given the battering my quads took, I’m contemplating a pair of compression shorts for future races.
GPS: Forerunner 220. The battery died at 47.3 miles. Given that I can’t afford a Fenix 3, and Garmin have now not been able to cope with 100% of the ultras I’ve run, it’s time for a change. I’ll be picking up a Suunto Ambit Peak 3 later on today – all I need now is to be recovered enough to play with it!
The last two weeks have been rather a steep learning curve, not only in terms of the race itself, but also how I’m recovering from it. One of the things I find slightly intimidating about the ultra community is just how many runners there are out there who run a 50 mile race and are back out on the trails again within a few days. I know I’m not able to do this – it’s not how my body works, but it can be easy to get sucked into that mindset and I find it takes a fair amount of pig-headedness to trust that I know what works for me in spite of what everyone else seems to be doing.
It took 3-4 days for the DOMS to wear off, and 5-6 days for the swelling round my knee to go down. I had a massage with Magic Megan on the third day after the race, and this was a good time to have it – I could just about stand to have someone touching my legs but it was still relatively soon after the race.
During this time I tried to eat well, take some magnesium baths, and walk it out as much as I could bear. I also iced my knee as often as possible. I expected to feel constantly hungry, but I found that I wasn’t. The onset of hunger was intense, though; 0- to-hangry in about 90 seconds flat.
It’s 11 days post-race now, and I still have a little bit of inflammation in the quadriceps tendon, but nothing that should be too bad going forward. I tried cycling on Monday – my legs felt ready but it left me feeling hugely fatigued, to the point where I was barely coherent on Monday evening. And that has been the most surprising thing; the biomechanical recovery seems to be the least part of it. Mentally and emotionally, this week has been really tough. I’ve felt foggy and tired, down, and have really, REALLY needed to sleep. So that’s what I’ve prioritised and it seems to be working. I’m still not ready to run – I have very little desire to – I just have to trust that that will come back, and when it does it’ll be the green light I need to know that I’m ready to go again.
Next time I would like to:
- Have a magnesium bath on the evening of the race (not possible this time)
- Wear some compression leggings post-race for a couple of days (even sleeping)
- Sleep A LOT more in the week after the race, and if possible have a couple of days off work (again, not possible this time)
- Be a little more in tune with my diet
- Stay patient
I have been reading some interesting articles on the effects of ultra running on the Endocrine system (and subsequent hormone imbalances), and have come to the conclusion that this aspect is really not to underestimated. The bottom line here is to listen to your body and ignore what everyone else is doing, but this can be so much easier said than done. All-in-all, I set aside two weeks for recovery, and I’m certainly going to be using all that time. I hope to go on some long walks at the weekend, and get back into running gently sometime next week along with a bit of cycling. I found this article about recovery useful and reassuring – it’s well worth a read.