Recovery Update and Mini Race Report

It’s been two weeks now since I ran the Erie Marathon, and my recovery has been going well. Even better than I expected.

I ran a race yesterday – although I planned on taking it very easy, and I’d be hesitant to call it a race effort – so I thought it would be a good time to quickly recap how my recovery is going and reflect a bit on the run.

Recovery Progress – Two Weeks Post Marathon

First things first – how is my recovery going?

Week 1 Post Marathon

After Erie, I planned to follow my usual post-marathon recovery routine. In the first week post-marathon, I take things very easy and just try to get outside for at least 30 minutes per day. In the second week, I get back into a daily routine of running, and I prepare to slowly rebuild my mileage.

The first week went great. The day after the marathon, I felt surprisingly un-sore. I don’t know if it’s my increased mileage, the new shoes, or the fact that the heat kept from putting in 100%. For one reason or another, I just felt better than I had after any other marathon.

The Monday after the race, I went out expecting to run-walk three miles. I settled into a very slow jog, and before I knew it I was done. I didn’t need a walking break at all. The rest of the week, I continued to jog three miles. My pace was much slower than usual, but it was creeping back towards normal. Ultimately, my focus was on keeping my effort and heart rate very low – I was not looking to push things at all.

I was feeling good at the end of the week, so on Friday and Saturday I pushed things to four miles. On Sunday, I did six miles – as I had originally planned.

Week 2 Post Marathon

Emboldened by my progress in week 1, I revisited my recovery plan and slightly modified things to build up my mileage a bit quicker. But I want to emphasize these were modest adjustments – changing three miles to four, and four to six.

The weather wasn’t great, so I spent Monday and Tuesday on the treadmill. Four miles each day, great. Wednesday, I went out and did six miles on pavement. I mixed in a few strides at the end. They were very slow, relatively speaking, but it felt good to stretch things out.

The next day, I did four outside on the pavement. It had been a rainy week, so I was avoiding the trails. I kept things easy, and I wrapped up with about a minute or two at threshold. Friday, I did another six miles on the pavement with some strides at the end. They were much faster than Wednesday. Frankly, I was starting to feel almost normal again.

Saturday, I was back inside on the treadmill. I didn’t feel like running in the rain. Four miles, easy.

Running a 5k

That brings me to Sunday – the day of an annual, local 5k race. I always run the Stop for Nikhil 5k, if I can. This year, it happened to be two weeks after my goal marathon. I didn’t expect to run it very hard, and my plan was just to jog or tempo the race to see how I was feeling.

Sunday morning, the weather was crumby. But the rain was light, so I woke up, drank my coffee, and got dressed. I jogged over to the local high school for a warm up – about 3 miles. Felt great.

This isn’t a competitive race, but there are usually some high school cross country kids that win. And then there’s a group of more competitive older folks who run under 20 minutes. I figured I would start towards the back, ease into a modest tempo, and then move up the pack if I felt good. At the end of the day, I really didn’t want to push things too much.

Due to the rain, the field size was smaller than usual. But after the opening ceremonies inside, we walked out to the track. I did a couple strides to loosen up, and then it was time to start. I lined up towards the back of the pack, shuffled towards the starting line, and set off.

I felt great right out of the gate, and I settled into an easy tempo. We took a lap around the stadium before heading out onto the streets, and my breathing was under control. I didn’t bother to look at my watch, and I just started to slowly move up the pack. It didn’t even feel like work. Looking at my Garmin now, I was running about 6:45 to 7:00/mi.

In the second mile, we run out towards a turnaround point and come back. On the way out there, I look ahead and realize there’s only a handful of older guys in front of me. The other leaders are the cross country kids further ahead. So I pick up the pace a bit and try to catch up. I still didn’t look at my watch, but I split that second mile in 6:35.

At this point, I had caught up. I was pushing things a little harder than I intended to, but I wasn’t going 100%. We passed a side street, and a cop told us to turn. We all looked at each other a bit confused, because we thought the turn was further ahead. But someone confirmed this was where we were supposed to turn – so we did. And then when I got to the bottom of the hill, somebody called us back … Oops.

That wrong turn ended up adding about 0.2 miles to our overall distance. By the time I got back up the hill, I was in the back of the group again. I was starting to feel a bit of fatigue, so I backed off slightly. As we pulled into the stadium for the final straightaway, two other guys were in front of me and I let them go rather than push things too hard. My pace towards the very end was back up to around 6:45.

Reflections and Next Steps

Given the fact that I started off slow and had no real intentions of racing, I ran that 5k pretty fast. My time was 22:11 – but I added about 1:20 with the wrong turn. So effectively, it should have been about 20:45 to 21:00.

My goal for this fall is to do some shorter distance training, run a few 5ks, and set a new PR. My last few 5ks have all been in warm weather, so despite being in shape to run under 20 minutes I just haven’t. I’ve got a race on October 15, and yesterday’s run made it pretty clear that I’m already in shape to do that. I’ll use that first week as a baseline to see where I’m at.

Hopefully, with a few weeks of training, I can push that time down south of 19 minutes. I’ve got a lot of fitness built up from a year of high mileage marathon training, and since I had rebounded into the Erie Marathon so quickly I haven’t had a chance to hone my speed at all. My last 5k for the season will be on December 9, and then I’ll transition back to marathon training.

For now, I’m going to continue to take the next three weeks to focus on easy running and rebuilding my mileage. I’m going to put in 60 to 70 mpw this fall, keeping my mileage fairly high but not as high as it was last year. In the next three weeks, I’ll throw in some strides and some light fartleks, but otherwise I don’t plan on any real workouts.

Once I run that first 5k on October 15, I’ll spend the next two months training hard. We’ll see how far I can get by the last race on December 9. But I’m feeling good about it.

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