Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Badly Needed Recovery

The legs really did not feel like running on Sunday morning. That was no great surprise, the day after a tough 50k was always going to a bit of a struggle. I am used to this, but I know my usual recovery strategy works exceedingly well and I went out for a slow 5-mile run despite really not looking forward to it.

The legs were just as stiff and heavy as expected, but when the HR alarm started beeping at me despite crawling at snail's pace I thought that thing had to be kidding me. I eventually decided to cut the run short and was home after only 5k, which was almost certainly a good idea. I was so tired that I went straight back to bed and slept for most of the day. I also had no appetite at all, despite skipping/sleeping through lunch and declining ice cream later on I barely ate one portion at dinner. I was worried about not being able to sleep at night after spending almost the entire day in bed, but there was no need to. I slept like a log. I must have spent close to 20 hours asleep or at least dozing that day!

Physical recovery from the 50k was one factor but the cold clearly had a greater effect on me than I would have thought and I needed to get healthy first before I could even think of training again. I skipped running on Monday and Tuesday (Niamh did not even notice!). I felt a bit better on Monday, a fair bit better on Tuesday and almost recovered on Wednesday so I did head out that morning for a little 5 mile run, which went a lot better and I am definitely on the up again.

Every night I slept a lot more than usual, which undoubtedly helped. I knew I was in dire need of recovery - I said as much on Sunday - and I feel an awful lot better now. I sincerely hope I can put that all behind me now, I really need to get some training done or I will not be able to do myself justice in Turin.

I cannot help but notice that in previous years I have always had a great immune system. I have 4 children who constantly bring home all kinds of infections from school. It never used to affect me. I may have gotten slightly sick about once per winter, but that was it. This year was very different, I picked up every bug that got into the house and spent far too much time feeling sick and tired.

Maybe it's all very simple; I stopped taking Vitamin C supplements this year, partially because of all those articles saying that there is no scientific reasoning behind this but mainly because the IAAF state that athletes should not take any supplements because contamination with banned substances cannot be guaranteed. I do not expect to be tested in Turin, but I do not want to take any risks. Besides, even if I do not get tested, I still want to be a clean athlete, for long term health reasons as much as ethical ones.

However, I suspect there is more to it. Maybe it is related to me being older. I am 45 now, not exactly what people would call the prime of an athlete's years, and may well becoming more susceptible to things.

I don't think my immune system is affected by overtraining as such. My training is not that intense and I do not suffer from stress. In fact, my training this winter has probably been less stressful than in most other years because I did step back in December and did a lot of MAF running. There is, however, the possibility that my training and racing last summer brought on some longer lasting issues. I know I pushed myself to my absolute limits in Belfast and the training beforehand had been rather hard core, so who knows.

I know that right now I am feeling a lot better, though still not 100% recovered from the cold and the legs will need some tlc to bring them back. If I could avoid getting sick before Turin, that would undoubtedly help. There are still a few weeks left where I could get some good training done.
16 Feb
17 Feb
18 Feb
5 miles, 41:53, 8:22 pace, HR 142


  1. Having a family of children that bring in various colds into the household is tough for he immune system without occasionally falling ill. Vitamin C hasn't been shown to be effective for colds, so I doubt that no longer taking Vitamin C would have changed the specific susceptibility to colds.

    Perhaps another vector is at work. Vitamin C has been established to suppress the immune response to exercise, so you get lest DOMS after a bout of exercise but unfortunately also yet get less adaptation. If this is the case then it would follow same training volume/intensity would have a greater stress on the body, one that it will adapt to over time, but on would need to be more wary of pushing too much and risk over-training.

    Are there particular patterns in your bodies response training and racing over the last six months that have been different? Are you taking longer to bounce back for big runs/harder sessions?

    On the avoidance of getting ill between now and Turin perhaps the family might be able to help out by upping their own immunity. Perhaps they could take Vitimin C etc. on your behalf - a bit like the herd immunity that protects those who can't take vaccines. Watching hands regularly when in public spaces.

    Another possibility might be simple lack of sun light during the winter. Vitamin D is crucial part of the immune system, so perhaps getting the whole family out in the sunshine might help the little Bubendorfer herd immunity.

  2. If she didn't notice, you need to run more ;-) Buy some oranges - no contamination in those :)