When Rest and Recovery is Hard – Weekly Recap – 7.12.20

Another recovery week in the books.  But in full transparency, I didn’t do the best job of recovering.  I found it really hard to just rest and relax and enjoy the decrease in miles and difficulty.  Sometimes in training, I’m pushing so hard that the recovery weeks feel just as taxing as other weeks, and this sort of forces me to take it easy.  This past month, my mileage has been high, but it feels like my body has been adapting well.  I’m not going to make excuses for myself, because I know the recovery is important, and I know I need to make it a priority.  But honestly, sometimes rest and recovery is hard.

Sunday was a little bit of a transition marker for me, because it was the first time I ran back to back double digit runs over the weekend.  This is the hallmark of ultramarathon training plans.  The second day of running on fatigued legs helps your body learn how to keep pushing when it feels like it doesn’t have much left in the tank.  Unlike marathon training, where you can get close to your race distance in your long runs, most people just don’t have the ability to run long runs close to 50 or 100 mile distances.  And with a full time career and family, I certainly don’t have the time to carve out an 8 hour long run on a regular basis.  Plus, it might actually kill me.

So instead, we have the back to back long runs. I plan on going into more detail on this in another post, after I’ve had a few weeks of this kind of training. But suffice it to say that after 18 miles last Saturday, Sunday’s 10 miler was slow going. I thought I would be really looking forward to decreased mileage after Sunday, but endurance running is weird. And I was wrong.

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Most of the week was fairly uneventful.  Run, work, workout, work, repeat.  We’re currently exploring some homeschooling options for our 7 year old, since our district will be doing exclusive distance learning for several weeks (possibly more).  The distance learning thing just didn’t work well for us last year, and after reviewing the very involved schedule, I knew it was not going to work for our family.  I work from home, and am extremely fortunate to have a lot of flexibility, but I just can’t supervise a 7 year old in front of a computer all day.  Especially when he is not a fan.  And I am not a fan.  And we’re both *highly* vocal about things we don’t like when we’re cranky.

So, we’re going to give homeschooling a shot to see if it’s a better fit.  And if not, well, maybe he can get by on charm and good looks.  Because IDK what else we can do at this point without going insane.  He’s a cute kid, so he’s got that going for him.  But neither of us are particularly patient or reasonable when things seem illogical to us.  Keep us in your prayers, ya’ll.

I will say the one highlight for us lately is that our gym has a one hour “enrichment class” for kids where they do some organized activities and crafts.  He has been LOVING being able to interact with other kids for a short period of time, and they seem like they’re keeping the classes very small and taking a lot of good steps to keep the kids as safe as possible.  It also gives me a nice opportunity to workout for an hour without having to juggle my schedule along with my husbands.

Related Post: Kissing CrossFit Goodbye

Friday afternoon I started prepping for my weekly long run, and I made a loaf of chocolate peanut butter marbled banana bread that was amazing. It was the perfect breakfast before my run on Saturday. The recipe came from Mae’s Menu, and was not nearly as complicated as I imaged marbled bread would be. If you’re looking for something a little different for breakfast, I definitely recommend the recipe.

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Saturday’s long run was much shorter for me this week, so I decided to do a double powerline run.  I’ll talk more about it in my running recap, but the short version is that I got over 2,000 ft of elevation gain, which is a whole lot for me.  So it wasn’t exactly an easy run, which kind of defeats the purpose of a recovery week.  I know, bad Andrea.  I told you I was not good at recovery this week!  Maybe I’ll do a better job next month!

When Rest and Recovery Is Hard

When I first started running consistently, I have to be honest, I really looked forward to the recovery weeks.  Those were the weeks I felt like I could stay up late, hang out with friends, and be a regular college student.  I loved running, it kept me sane and balanced, but it also had a way of sucking up a whole lot of my time.  Over the years, though, an interesting phenomenon has occurred.  The rest and recovery weeks sometimes are harder for me to follow than the building weeks.

Sometimes we get really used to pushing hard, and it gets difficult to dial things back a bit.  We know all the benefits of recovery weeks, and what we should be doing.  But that doesn’t mean we follow the good adviceAnd I, for one, am a sucker for taking good advice, and throwing it right into the garbage can.  A real coaches dream over here!

Related Post: Lessons Learned From a Decade of Working Out

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But I want to address why it can sometimes be hard to do what we know we should, and how we can try to course correct. For me, I know that there are times that I creep into that dangerous space of feeling validated by my mileage, my efforts, my paces, or my numbers. I feel like I am in control because I am doing the hard work, and getting the results I want to see. Running is my outlet for stress, and when life gets chaotic, it’s too easy for me hold on to running as the thing that I can exercise control over. And honestly, it’s bullshit.

So I’m calling myself on it.

Because the moment I start to justify my worth or value based on anything other than the fact that I am an intrinsically valuable human being, I put myself at risk.  At risk for over-use injury, disappointment, overtraining syndrome and even more anxiety.  What happens when life happens and I have to miss a run?  Am I going to have a breakdown over the loss of control?  Over something that is supposed to be my stress reliever?  It’s just so easy for the things that are good for us to become a crutch.  As a mental health therapist, I know this all too well.  Despite this knowledge, I still have a tendency to keep dipping my toe into the validation pond.

Which is why I’m sharing this.  I want to hold myself accountable, and I want to encourage anyone else who might need to reflect on this.  If there’s something resonating here with you, you need to really pause and honestly consider if you are placing yourself in a precarious situation.  Because the moment we place any part of our confidence, value, or self-worth into extrinsic things, we make ourselves vulnerable.  Vulnerable to the reality that those things can be taken away, and we’ll have to figure out a way to be ok with ourselves as we are. One fellow mother who knows all about these dangers is Whitney Heins, and she does a great job sharing what she learned from her running injury here.

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So, here’s what I plan on doing. I’m going to keep training in a structured way, but I’m going to find other things that I can feel good about. Like being patient with my son as he talks my ear off for the 7th hour of the day. I’m going to hold myself accountable to take a true recovery week in August. I’ve found that cutting both mileage and intensity simultaneously just don’t work for me, so I’ll focus on cutting mileage and keeping intensity. And during that time, I’m going to schedule things I normally put off because of my training. Like art projects with my kid. Or maybe a date with my long-suffering and often neglected husband.

I’m not going to use this little slip as something to feel shitty about, because that’s not productive.  But I’m also not going to stick my head into the proverbial sand and pretend like what I’m doing isn’t unintelligent and precarious.  I’m going to acknowledge this for what it is, I’m going to commit to doing better next time, and I’m going to move on.  And maybe I’ll eat just one more slice of that marbled banana bread.

Weekly Workouts

ultramarathon training, 50 mile race training, rest and recovery, rest and recovery in running, overtraining syndrome

Total Miles: 57
Total Workouts: 4
50 Mile Training, Week 8
How the Runs Felt
The down week was not an easy one for me.  Physically, I felt really great after Tuesday, but as hesitant as I am to admit it, I missed the higher mileage and challenging workouts.  Sunday was my first “sandwich run,” I followed up my 18 mile long run with another double digit run.  My legs were stiff, my pace was slow, but I had a good morning on the trails.  Monday was pretty much more of the same.

After my rest day on Tuesday, I felt fresh and ready to go.  But then I wasn’t supposed to go far.  Not the easiest for someone who needs all the miles to run off all the crazy.  Wednesday and Thursday, I stuck to easy miles out on the trail.  Friday, I ran on the Greenway for some steady, flat miles.  I ran three warm up miles, followed by 6 at an 8:15ish pace.  It was a little challenging to maintain that pace, but I was able to hold it.

My long run this week was somewhat of a running fail. I completed it just fine, but I completely missed the point when it comes to recovery. I decided to do a double powerline run. The powerlines is a section of unofficial trail that follows about 3 miles of powerline access. It is very steep, has back to back hills, and is mostly loose gravel and rocks. It’s probably the toughest thing to run out here since we don’t have any mountains lying around in south Texas. I’ve done a few out and back runs on that trail, where I’ve done a couple miles on the road as a warm up and then 6 total miles of hill work. But this week, I did about a mile of road, and then two out and backs to get me 12 miles of hills.

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Honestly, it wasn’t a total fail.  I did keep my personal effort level fairly low.  I did a whole lot of walking the uphills, and the distance just good and short.  It would have been a better idea to just do the wilderness trails and get a little less elevation, but it was kind of a fun challenge.  I’ve never done more than one out and back on the powerlines, and just one has been tough.  I don’t think it earned me any gold stars in the rest and recovery department, but I have to be honest, it was a lot of fun.

What I’ve Been Listening To
The second season of Blood Ties finally released, and so far I am loving it just as much as the first season.  This is probably the only fiction podcast I’ve ever listened to, but like I’ve said Wondery really can’t screw up a podcast.  They also released a new investigative series called Guru, which features an investigation into James Arthur Ray, a self-help “guru” whose retreats ended with several deaths. I also really loved the last episode of Run Hard, Mom Hard where Stef and Nikki shared tips on training while traveling. Definitely a must listen for any runner who isn’t always home!

ultramarathon training, 50 mile race training, rest and recovery, rest and recovery in running, overtraining syndrome

How the WODs felt
I felt like I had a lot of energy for my workouts this week. I haven’t been lifting particularly heavy, since I’m doing everything unbelted and I don’t really want to bail out of a lift in the gym. I think I could have gone heavier in my workout on Friday, but I was also a little crunched for time and was worried I might have to take more breaks if I went heavier.

What Went Well
I definitely got some more rest and recovery this week.  I’m feeling very ready for another few weeks of high mileage pushing.  I also didn’t have quite as many falls as last week.  The double powerlines run was a little less restful than I probably should have allowed, but I had a whole lot of fun getting all the gain.

What Went Shitty
I started to feel sluggish towards the end of the week.  I tacked on a little extra mileage on Thursday and Friday, because I felt like the decreased miles was actually causing me to feel lethargic.  Running is a weird sport.

Plans to Improve Next Week  
Next week, I’m looking forward to some more endurance building and getting into the back to back long runs on the weekends.

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