Friday, March 21, 2014

Recovery Perfected

OK, let me get a quick disclaimer out of the way. I don't claim perfection but it's how I feel over several years now of beating the heck out of my body then recovering stupid fast and not missing a beat...or getting injured. To me, that's perfect to me. Could I get even better? Sure, but I can't complain a bit about how I'm doing it today. Today, I want to talk about what I do to perhaps help even one other person recover well from their race(s).

6 days ago, I covered 62.4 miles over ice and through mud and rocks at the Buzzard Day 100K Trail Race. In my opinion, the key to recovery starts at the Starting Line of the race itself. Let me explain: Many have opinions about how to fuel during a race, what to eat, what not to eat, what upsets the stomach, what is best utilized by the body (and even at what rate), and the list (and opinions) go on and on. During a race, the goal is clear: FINISH. However, I truly believe that how you fuel during a race directly impacts recovery the moment you finish and for days thereafter. Pictured at right is a product by Hammer Nutrition that I used for the first time at the Buzzard to compliment Hammer Gels. Gels provide a ready source of carbohydrate energy and gets into the bloodstream quick. I tend to take one every 4-6 miles during an ultra marathon along with Endurolyte salt tabs at every aid station. Hammer's Perpetuem is a totally different product. For years, Perpetuem was only offered in a powder so it had to be mixed and drank with another liquid like Hammer's Heed or water.  It required another bottle and could be a real mess. To answer those issues, the Solids were created. Imagine a tablet almost an inch wide by about 3/4" tall. Six fit inside this container shown, are lightweight, and fit easily into a waist pack or even in a shorts pocket as I did this past Saturday. As you run, your body burns fat, stored glycogen and eventually turns to cannibalizing your own muscle. Perpetuem basically interrupts this by providing needed protein, carbohydrates, and even some fat to make it all work. It even helps recovery by giving your muscles what they need to rebuild...before the job is even done. I took five out of the six tabs during the race and if I could do it over again, I'd take more. My big worry with these was how they'd taste, chew, and swallow. The powder is very "pasty" and can be tough to drink. These were light, crumbled easy in my mouth (I thought they'd be hard), and had a mild "cafe latte" taste. They did clump slightly but if I kept chewing, they were easy to swallow. I chased it with a few drinks of Hammer's Heed and that was it! I was very happy with my first use of the Solids and they'll certainly be a top choice for my upcoming races this year.

Post race, I immediately took a serving of Hammer's Recoverite. I had a canister of it in my trunk and mixed up a half-bottle batch in my Purist bottle I had been using all day. My favorite is the chocolate flavor. Recoverite is the one product that is the cornerstone of my recovery. I have been using it since I was in the midst of my back-to-back training runs for my three 100-milers back in mid-2009. It IS the reason I can get up the next day and run. It provides the proper 3:1 ration of complex carbohydrates and the highest quality whey protein isolate, along with generous amounts of glutamine (3g per serving), the potent antioxidant l-carnosine, and a full-spectrum electrolyte profile. In fact, I take it any time I run 10 miles or longer. That's just my own personal rule and not based on anything. However, I continue to run injury-free...and that's how I recover. Connection? I think so.

So the race was on Saturday. I got home, showered (could not believe I hadn't chafed to the point of blood and pain), and slept about 5 hours. I rested a lot on Sunday, took an afternoon nap where I woke up drenched in sweat, and continued to hydrate. On Monday, I expected to be crazy hungry. Two days post-race always seem to be tough for me, but I decided to not let the day beat me. I headed out on a run and I think I ran on my toes for the first mile. My quads were super tight and sore. After a mile, though, they loosened up and I headed for the country hills. By the time I was at mile 3, I was feeling amazing. What I intended to be 3 turned into 6 miles and I felt great. I took another serving of Recoverite post-run. In my head, I imagined the run pumping lots of blood through repairing muscles and the Recoverite partnering with it to expedite a quality recovery. On Wednesday, we had a beautiful, sunny 50F day. I hadn't run with my dog since last fall so I thought it would be a great opportunity to get some sun and fire up the muscles again...keeping in mind that REST must also happen to complete the repair. Well, the run was sore again for the first mile but then turned fantastic. We covered 7 miles and I had ZERO issues. For the next two days, I rested...forced myself to. It was time to practice what I preach to so many others. Today (Friday), I woke up to stars and the moon in the sky and hit the road for six miles..and I felt nothing. No running on my toes, no discomfort...just "normal." I ran it at a normal pace and threw some pickups in there, too. Near the end, I did feel a bit of tightness in my quads but no pain. I'll continue to stretch and hydrate and that'll be gone soon. My quads definitely took the brunt of punishment at that race.

So there you have it. 6 days post-100K and feel like I can say that I'm recovered. I get the comments often about my "overnight" recovery from 50Ks, marathons, and the like and I really think...I know...that I can attribute it to how I fuel and how I recover, including rest. I've been doing it too long to just be by accident and after last Saturday's ice and mud beating, I feel like I've proven that it really does work. If you ever want to try out Hammer for yourself, don't pay full price. Click on my link at the top right and save 15% off your first order from them. It's good for new customers.

Before I close, I want to share a little about how I rewarded myself for the 100K finish. Before I ran it, I asked my wife it she was OK with me ordering a new pair of Brooks Cascadia 9's if I finished. My old Cascadia 7s (below) were shot but I knew I could get one more race out of them. The race did prove how bad they were and on Tuesday, they went out with the trash..still with the Hinckley mud on them. On Monday, a pair of new Cascadia's left the Brooks Running warehouse in Washington state and by Wednesday at dinnertime, they were sitting on my porch. Nothing like the smell of a new pair of Brooks! smell yours too, right?!

The markings on the bib signify each arrival at each aid station during the Buzzard Day 100K

The Cascadia 9's. My chariot for many more trail miles in 2014 and beyond.
 Happy Trails and Hammer On, friends!

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