So, you have just taken your body way past its normal comfort zone. This article has been written at Comrades time yet it is applicable to those who have completed events such as half and full Ironman, Two Oceans, Transbaviaans etc. For runners world wide a marathon is about as far as they will ever run. However, in South Africa, the marathon distance does not even indicate the halfway mark of the Comrades marathon.
The big question now, is how do you recover from an event as gruelling as this?
It is normal to feel totally exhausted and to have some seriously sore leg muscles. However, if you are going through anything worse, you might need to get medical attention. Don’t let the stubbornness that got you through Comrades now get you into medical trouble. The rule is this, “If in doubt, check it out”.
So, here are some strategies for the road forward:
- Try and get a recovery drink in as soon as possible after the event.
Hammer, GU and 32Gi make an excellent drink. You can also buy a Steri Stumpi drink. It has a good mix of carbs, protein and fat.
2. You need sleep, and lots of it.
There is no way that you got a good night’s sleep the night before the race, and to make matters worse, you had to wake up really early on Comrades day. Ironically, it also might be difficult to sleep after your mammoth run. You might find that your brain is racing through the events of the day and you might even have visions of passing lane markings as you close your eyes. Grab a cup of heated milk and your medal. Sip slowly on the milk and stare at your medal. You earned it so smile, and wait for the sandman to arrive.
3. You need to replenish your body with good food and hydration.
A number of runners will attempt to recover lost hydration with copious amounts of beer after the event. One or two beers are more than enough. Remember that alcohol has a diuretic effect and will further dehydrate you. What you need is some really good ‘clean’ food in. Try and rebuild your protein stores with 0.4 gram of protein per kg of body weight and also get some carbs back in. You need about 0.8 grams of carbs per kg. I have found that fruit and vegetables have always helped in recovery. Vegetables in particular will help restore your mineral levels.
Drink until your urine starts to clear in colour. There is nothing that beats traditional H20. Keep your water intake higher than normal for at least 3 days.
4. Get a massage in the new week.
Do not go to an over eager massage therapist. The object of the massage is not to see how deeply they can sink their elbow into a very tender hamstring. The object is to release some of the muscle tension and promote fluid drainage from the muscles. The muscles are trying to recover- to do that they initially stiffen and swell, hence the need for a massage.
5. Spend a bit of time stretching.
Stretch all the main muscle groups. Your stretch should not be painful. Take it to between 3-4 out of 10 on a pain scale. You should be aware of the muscle just gently pulling. Hold it for not more than 30 seconds.
6. You might feel a bit down after Comrades.
During an event as epic as Comrades you will deplete your body of some essential nutrients. It will take time to replenish these. Take a Vitamin B supplement and also some Glutamine.
For over six months you have rescheduled your life and priorities in order to pull off this major accomplishment. You now have to get used to living again without the sense of purpose that Comrades brought. Get some new goals going. These might include a few fun outings and maybe even an athletic event sometime in the future. It might be a bit early to suggest another Comrades.
Do not beat yourself up if you missed your goal time. Just crossing the finish line at the Comrades marathon should be enough to put a permanent smile on your face. In fact, don’t get down if you didn’t complete the race. The marathon was first run in 1921, you will get a chance to run it next year again. There is a wonderful article detailing its history at http://www.comrades.com/History/The-First-Race.aspx
Regards and congratulations.