HOW can you recover and go again quickly? Those doing the Centurion Grand Slam this year are facing an even bigger challenge than usual in that due to COVID their 4 x 100 mile events are now roughly a month apart!
We wanted to do a whole episode on recovery in the future, but for our episode this week after some great chats with grand slammers we wanted to quickly talk about how you can help yourself recover quicker after an ultra..top hacks we might call it!
Well the short answer is you can't….proper recovery from an ultra can take weeks, sometimes months! But I do think there are ways we can help try to speed up recovery…
SLEEP- This is the NUMBER 1 tool for recovery! It's free, it's wonderful, it's most of us runners' favourite hobby apart from running! Whilst we sleep growth hormone is released which simulates muscle and tissue growth and repair. It also allows the brain to rest….don't neglect how hard your brain has just worked by convincing you to get to that finish line! But how can I get more sleep in an already really busy day? Go to bed earlier! When Im training hard, or a race is approaching I'll be in bed by 9pm. It's not exactly rock and roll, but I see it as important as the training sessions we do during the day.
EAT (and drink) like a horse! Fuelling and thanking your body for its huge efforts is key for recovery. Yes totally splurge on all your favourite foods and enjoy eating EXACTLY what you feel like for the first few days post ultra….but then look to ways to support your body's recovery- heres a great article on some anti inflammatory foods https://www.sweat.com/blogs/nutrition/foods-for-muscle-recovery. Top hacks are just keep it simple- think whole grains, loads of fruit and veg, plenty of protein flushed down with as much water as you can drink! I find smoothies a great way to get loads of vitamins, minerals and fluids in as I often don't feel like eating huge meals for the first few days post an ultra sugarfest.
MOVE- The post 100 mile shuffle is a proud moment in all ultra runners careers...24hrs post race you go from being a supreme athlete to struggling to walk to the kettle...the key is to keep that struggle shuffle moving. If you can- get a massage, foam roll, legs up the wall, compression clothing all help...but natures way of keeping you just hobbling around is going to help keeping the blood flow, moving those tired muscles and help flush out those cankles. If it was me I would stay away from running for as long as possible...my rule of thumb is always until I can function in a ‘normal’ day without needing a 3hrs sleep mid morning or an extra 2,000kcal I shouldn't try running again. Instead I walk the dog, I hoover, I do the shop….then few days later try some light cross training...bit of yoga/light pilates….then some swimming/cycling. Light, little and often is a good mantra to use for the first week to 10 days.
EVALUATION - As there is so little time between each of the Centurion 100 milers this year...probably 10 days of quality training, but really this is very individual...especially as the races mount up...I would look at other ways of boosting your recovery and your performance at the next race….little things can add up to big things over time! What worked? What didn't work? How was your pacing, your nutrition? How was your kit? Did you sit in check points for 4hrs? Does anything need tweaking? Look at your splits...think about how you felt at those points...how did you get yourself moving (or didn't?). Are there ways you can work on your mental fortitude for next time?
Good luck to all those slammer out there…..it's a really unique challenge this year and takes a strong willed athlete to reface a 100 miler whilst the last finish is still fresh in the memory. I'm sure all their journeys, though individual, will come down to who can recover the best, who is brave enough to rest the hardest and at the end of the day who is willing to truly put their body on the line! We are cheering you all on from Run to the Hills!