Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Stress And Recovery

As I'm sure you are aware, training is a never-ending story of stress, adaptation and recovery. You stress your body (in fact, you stress your mind as well), it adapts and recovers and the game starts again. This goes on at various levels and on various time scales, and on and on and on.

I obviously knew I was in dire need of recovery after the Spartathlon. However, I expected it to be somewhat similar to my previous 24-hour races. After all, I had covered 140 and 134 miles in my last 2 of those, so a 153 mile race seemed to be in the same league.

Except that it wasn't!

The varied terrain, the fact that we crossed two mountains, the much longer time on our feet and probably the changing weather conditions as well all added up to a much bigger stress factor. In the last few weeks I kept comparing my figures from now to the ones after Belfast and Turin and was left in no doubt, they were way worse this time round.

So, it was a matter of patience, which, as mentioned before, isn't always my greatest asset, though I'm still doing better than some. At the end of last week I could finally see some real improvement in the numbers as well as how I felt, so that was highly encouraging. Probably a bit too much so because on Saturday, after 5 days of nothing but slow running, I went out with the intention of giving the legs a decent workout once more. I'm still following MC's old guidelines (though I'm not 100% sure if he would agree) so I knew the thresholds of HR/effort that I was not to cross - except that, of course, I did cross them.

The problem is that my HR keeps drifting upwards when I do a tempo run. That is perfectly normal and expected, especially when I'm still in the very early days of a training cycle. So when I was right at the upper parameters right from the start the script was basically written. I just could not get myself to slow down and so the HR kept drifting up and up and up until I finally had to concede that I had f*cked this up. Ah well. Too late now.

I paid an immediate price the next day as the legs were exceptionally stiff and tired and I kept the effort on my mountain run as easy as it is possible while climbing a (minor) mountain. That run took me several minutes more than the week before, when the effort has already been rather easy (for similar reasons).

Then, on Monday, I compared the numbers to the previous Monday and they did not make happy reading. Stressing your body is fine and good but it needs to be at the appropriate level. There is no point in running so hard that you set yourself back, you want to build yourself up, gradually and slowly. With that in mind, I'm back at running slowly again this week. I'll make changes to my training because I don't want to fall into the same trap every weekend. I have a couple of ideas but I'll have to think them through first.

On the plus side, Tuesday's run was much better and the expected DOMS from Sunday's mountain run never materialised - almost certainly because I had taken it so easy. I'll still take it easy for a few more days.

My eldest daughter has a cold at the moment and I can feel it a bit as well - all the more reason to take it easy, of course.

31 Oct
10 miles, 1:14:35, 7:28 pace, HR 155
   incl. 8 miles @ 7:12 pace
1 Nov
10.7 miles, 1:37:02, 9:04 pace, HR 15o
   Windy Gap
2 Nov
10 miles, 1:24:08, 8:25 pace, HR 144
3 Nov
10 miles, 1:21:43, 8:10 pace, HR 145

1 comment:

  1. Recovery from big ultra's is a curious thing. DOMS immediately after the race is all predictable, the muscles have to repair, but once the immediate DOMS go why does it take so much longer to be back to normal?

    Having injury niggles due to in-balances in repair seems a natural thing that could follow the initial DOMS period where the body is rushing repair.

    The high heart rate and especially high heart rate drift are two conundrums though. High heart rate suggest lower running economy, lower blood volume or is it simply that the Sympathetic nervous system has been left stuck in over-drive?

    High heart rate drift suggests either loss of heat adaptations or loss in ability to burn fat efficiently. The later could well be down to loss of fat enzymes or mitochondria.

    If loss of heat adaptations due to a rest period is a factor then it could be fixed by adding a bit of heat stress training back into your routine. Heat stress would be a different stimulus to the other more structural stresses so could be useful if the muscles still need a less strenuous workout.

    Rebuilding fat enzymes and mitochondria population alas will just take time though - you just gotta get out there and put the training in and be patient.

    Settling/rebalance an over active nervous system is a curious one. Not much is written about this in the context of running training. However, ultra-marathoning is more art than science, of all sports it's such an out-liner than scientific studies into the topic are few and far between. I suspect there area might be a big factor.

    I wonder if we might be able to beg/borrow ideas from study and treatment of those with disorders of the nervous system? Would activities that develop mindfulness be useful? I.e. meditation, yoga etc. Would herbs/spices/teas with known effects on the nervous system be useful? Green tea, Rooibos tea, Rhodiola Rosea? What about mineral or vitamin deficiencies?

    More questions than answers I'm afraid, but sometimes just asking the right questions can be lead to one to find the answers. I love to understand this who issue of recovery from ultra's better as it's sucks having to be patient for week after week of easy runs,