Subject: General Recovery
Experience From - Jay Hodde#1 , Eric Robinson , Charles Payton , Chip Marz , Karl King#1 , Dana Roueche , Shawn McDonald , George Parrot , Dan Baglione , Matt Mahoney#1 , Dave Littlehales , Karl King#5 , Jay Hodde#4 , Matt Mahoney#2 , Bonnie Busch , David Lygre , Bob Slate , Dan Brannen , Thomas Perry , Ray Krolewicz , Al Zeller#1 , George Beinhorn#2 , George Beinhorn#3 , Aaron Goldman , Jay Hodde#5 , Nikki Robinson , Al Zeller#2 , Matt Mahoney#3 , Karl King#6 , Dave Hurd , George Beinhorn#4 , Jay Hodde#6 , Matt Mahoney#3 , Jay Hodde#7 , John Fowler , Jay Hodde#8 , Joel Zucker , Blake Wood Jay Hodde#9 , Karl King#7 , Jay Hodde#10 , Norm Yarger , George Beinhorn#4 , Kevin Ash , Rob Apple , Jan Ryerse , Brian Pickett , Rich Schick , George Beinhorn#5 , Karl King#8 , Ray Krolewicz#2 , Steve Pero , Scott Weber , Karl King#9 , Chip Marz , Andy Williams , George Parrott#2 , Karl King#10 ,

Subject: Nutrition/Supplements for Tendon Recovery
Experience From - Jay Hodde#2 , Karl King#2 , George Beinhorn#1 , Doug Clark , Karl King#3 , Jay Hodde#3 , Karl King#4 , Damon Lease

Subject: 50k Recovery
Experience From - Wes , Debbie Reno , Rick Lewis ,

Subject: Nutritional Recovery
Experience From - Karl King#11

Jay Hodde#1

We runners place so much emphasis on training that the recovery from an event is virtually ignored in the discussions. It is my opinion that you need to train your body, not *only* to withstand the event, but you need to train your body to *recover* from that event, too. Thus, you need to "train your recovery" just as you "train your effort".

Recovery is a key to running ultras over the long haul. Injuries and burnout often happen after pushing yourself in a race, or after doing a series of ultras over a short period of time. One has to be very careful to not try to get back too soon or to "punish" yourself if you had a race you were not happy with.

Your recovery plan depends on how long you want to have following the race, before your next race. I suggest a minimum time of 3 weeks recovery time for a 50 miler, and 6 weeks for a 100 miler. That does not mean running a hard race after that time, it just means getting back close to the normal amount and frequency of training. During the recovery period, run only 2-4 days per week, and do two other cross training days (at most). Take at least one (and preferably two) days per week completely off. Following a 50 or 100 miler, in the week after a good plan might be:

Days After the Event Activity Duration
1 walking 30 mins. morning
30 mins. evening
2 walking 30 mins. morning
biking 30 mins. evening
3 off
4 Biking 45 mins. evening
5 Walking 30 mins. morning
Biking 45 mins. evening
6 off
7 Walking 30 mins. morning
Running 30 mins. evening

This is a balanced week, with the focus being to stay active, flush out the muscles, and have some rest. Get lots of sleep, eat a balanced diet high in carbos, and drink lots of fluids. Note that the "harder" activity is done in the evening, after a morning walk, when you will be looser. This is important as your legs are tight after the race. Be sure to do some light stretching after your evening workout, and start out each session very easily.

The second week is a transition week, back to running a bit more regularly. It might go like:

Days After the Event Activity Duration
8 Biking 60 mins. evening
9 Running 30 mins. morning
Walking 30 mins. evening
10 off
11 Walking 30 mins. morning
Running 45 mins. evening
12 Biking 60 mins. evening
13 off
14 Running 60 mins. morning

At this point, just monitor your level of energy and back off if you feel really tired. It is best to do as much or less than you had planned during this two week period following your event. If you have run a 50 miler, then the third week can be a transition week back to more "normal" training, say do 4 short runs and 2 short bikes in that week (note that other aerobic activities such as swimming, roller blading, and other non-pounding sports can be put in place of the biking). Note how one gradually gets back to running for an hour, and that there are two off days per week.

One of the hardest parts about recovering is that in one way you may not feel like having a schedule, but you need some sort of guidelines so you don't do too much too soon. Many of my injuries when I started running ultras and marathons occurred in the two to three weeks after a tough event, when my body was not at full strength.

Now the question of recovering for multiple events spaced closely together (such as the Grand Slam of four 100 milers in the space of three months). This is a much tougher thing, but it is doable. We have a runner here in San Diego named Dixie Madsen who runs lots of 100s, and she does not do that much training between them if she is running hundreds three or four weeks apart. She says she has enough miles in before the first one, so she just has to recover, maintain, and then rest up the week before the second (or third, or fourth) 100. With the above program for the two weeks after the hundred, if it is only three weeks to the next 100, you just rest up the week before, and the event is then there. If you have 6 weeks, you can do the two week plan, then a transition week of 4 runs (at about half your normal peak mileage), two weeks of moderate training (75% of max mileage), and a taper week. If I were doing the Grand Slam (doubt I ever will) the keys would be:

  1. going in with a positive attitude to each event

  2. having the feet in good shape for each 100

  3. freshness in the legs, that will last almost as long into the 2nd/3rd/4th hundreds as the first

  4. good race plans and having trained on the courses or at least hiked and seen parts of them (for mental confidence)

Recovery is a matter of being patient and flexible. It should be a part of your overall plan of racing and health. Have fun doing different activities during the recovery period. Then you can get back to more running, feeling fresh and enthusiastic ! With a smart approach to training and recovery, you can be in the sport of ultra running for many happy years.

Eric Robinson

Jay Hodde wrote:

"We runners place so much emphasis on training that the recovery from an event is virtually ignored in the discussions. It is my opinion that you need to train your body, not *only* to withstand the event, but you need to train your body to *recover* from that event, too. Thus, you need to "train your recovery" just as you "train your effort".

What are the strategies that you use to speed your recovery from a long, hard event? How do you "train your recovery"?"

Great question. Does the ability to recover, as distinct from the ability to perform, respond to training? That's one of the things I have been trying to test with my little bursts of frequent ultras. It's a form of overload; so why not expect an increased ability to recover from similar overloads e.g. 100-milers?

My conclusions so far are that while apparent improvements in recovery are possible, they largely seem to be a byproduct of improvements in performance. Recovery from muscular damage "improves" because the muscles are conditioned better to avoid damage in the first place; thus there is less damage to repair. It seems unlikely that the healing rate itself is affected other than through the normal variables of diet, psychology, treatment, rest, etc.

Damage to other tissues (tendons, fascia) probably follow the same general rule, except that both recovery and conditioning are much slower. Assuming that these tissues do indeed have the ability to adapt to stresses in the same way that muscles do. The obvious danger is that the owner may decide to overload again before complete recovery (or hyper recovery) has occurred. That's what I blame my present tendinitis on, anyway.

The mental aspects of recovery may be "trainable". As an example, I now pay more attention to my post-race cravings, try to figure out what nutrients my body might be seeking, and consume those. My present diet probably involves five times as much protein, antioxidants, iron, and calcium as two years ago. Knowing what to do during recovery (and what not to do) would surely be valuable -- especially if the knowledge were accurate :-)

Charles Payton

During the magical summer of 1989 (a long time ago now) I was fortunate to participate in and complete the Grand Slam of ultras along with some other wonderful friends. For me the key was to take one race at a time. Never looking beyond the upcoming race. Thus rest and lots of protein foods. That's what I craved and that's what I ate. Scrambled eggs (4 with cheese in an omelet) every mid morning and a 4 mile walk was my mainstay. I had ice cream whenever I wanted it. I was good to myself. I praised myself (only to myself) and I only took one 10 mile training run during the Grand Slam. Sometime I wonder if it was just because I didn't know what I was doing or if I was extremely lucky or all of the above plus God smiling on my efforts but it just came together. I think about the G.S. of 1989 every day and smile a little. The experience was great. I hated for the summer to end. So many miracles happened especially at Wasatch. So many people helped me get through that race. I was thinking about Wasatch just this morning when I was training (if a 7 mile slow walk can be training and I think it can even if just for the mind). My answer and advice would be "be good to yourself".

Chip Marz

Jason wrote:

"Here's a question I'd like to pose, mainly for discussion purposes, but also to help some of us "strategically recover" from an ultra run. How do you recover from a long, hard effort? What are the strategies that you use to speed your recovery from a long, hard event? How do you "train your recovery"?"

Well, I've never done 4-100 milers back to back, but I have done a few multi-day events, and I think recovery is important for these, although certainly the effort is not as hard as for a single 100 mile run. But, these are the things I do:

First, I reward myself physically AND psychologically by taking a week off from running. During that time I "re"-carboload, take lots of ibuprofen, and usually drink a fair amount of cranberry juice and beer...not mixed, of course.

Karl King #1

In general, the first week is for recovery from delayed onset muscle soreness. Weeks 2 through 4 are for healing damaged muscle fibers. By the end of 4 weeks most of the muscle fibers are completely healed.

Here's the one that most sources do not cover: weeks 5 through 6 are required for the complete healing of the endocrine system. It is not unusual for a runner to go out at 4 weeks and feel fine for many miles, only to crash late in a run when the endocrine system cannot fully respond to the stress.

If you want to run a number of 100s in a row, your best strategy is to have a really, really deep base - such as months of 100 mile weeks. Then run each event as relaxed as you can - no heavy duty racing.

During the 10 days after a 100 keep your protein intake fairly generous at every meal.

One key point: you can't expect to train hard and recover at the same time. As others have noted here, the best strategy between frequent events is to do very little in between.

Dana Roueche

I have found the Heart Rate Monitor, HRM to have it's most value when used to recover. With the feedback from the monitor, you can determine a relationship of work and rest in your post race training that has been very effective for me.

Before racing, I regularly gather data from the HRM that gives me an expected heart rate in a given workout. For example, I have a 14.4 mile training run that I do 3 to 4 times per week. After the workout, my monitor calculates average HR for the workout which I record along with my time. I plot my average HR vs my average pace. There is a very strong straight line relationship between pace and HR. The faster the pace, the faster the HR. I have also done this for a hill workout I do on the treadmill. Again a straight line with a greater HR at a given pace.

After the race, I will do a typical training run, the 14.4 miler for example and note my average HR. If my HR is higher than what I plotted for a given pace before the 100 miler, I know I'm not recovered and will take the following day off. I will alternate one day of running with one day off until my HR is back down to the expected rate for a given pace. Then I will run a second day in a row, if the second day is high, I'll take the third day off and so on. Before starting with long runs, you should have a string of 4 or 5 shorter runs with your HR at the expected rate.

What I found after the Collegiate Peaks 50 miler, it only took me 10 days to recover 90% and 14 to recover 100%. After Hardrock, I am into my 4th week of recovery and the monitor is still holding me back. Knowing I have Leadville in a few weeks and the fact that I have felt great within a few days after Hardrock, without the monitor, I would have ramped up 2 or 3 weeks ago and probably never recovered fully for Leadville. This way, I am confident, I am getting the rest I need, whether I like it or not. Yes, I will be recovered for Leadville.

If you don't have a HRM, the next best solution to this method is one that has been suggested to prevent overtraining that I use in combination with the monitor. That is to know what your resting heart rate is first thing in the morning before you do the 100 miler. Each day after the 100 miler, check your resting HR, if it is 10 beats higher than what it should be, take the day off. Do this every day before determining if you should run. If it is 5 to 10 beats higher, I'd consider a lighter workout. For me, my resting HR is 38, it took until today, 25 days after Hardrock to get back to 38. It may have come sooner with no training but there is a trade off between rest and maintaining you fitness level.

If you run heavy when your HR is saying you should be resting, not only do you face risk of injury but the training you are doing is setting you further back and your body is unable to build from it.

In addition, to help with recovery, it is important to get enough sleep and the right nutrition. Maybe others can comment on the nutrition side of it. With respect to the Grand Slammers, they are most likely not completely recovered between runs which means their times will be slower than if they where fully recovered. I would also suspect that little running is done between some of the closer races.

Shawn McDonald

Pete Petri wrote:

"Hey guys, When I wrote my Pt Reyes report, it was Sat night and I was still feeling pretty good. Yesterday and today are a different calves are killing me. My quads were a little sore, but my calves are really beat up. Is this from all the uphill running? I'm actually a little disappointed, as I wanted to be able to go out for a run by now, but it feels like it will be a few days yet. I thought I had done more than enough hill training, but I guess not. No question on where my training needs to focus on.'

Pete, You are experiencing what each ultra runner goes thru whether the fastest or slowest. It is often the case that one is sorer two days after the event, I guess due to waste products produced from the race that are then being processed. Doing some light alternative exercise can keep the soreness to a minimum, by this I mean some walking on flat ground, non-impact sports such as swimming and cycling. Drinking lots of fluids (to flush things out) will help your recovery time. Just keep it easy in effort and duration (a half hour at an effort where you can easily talk). It may seem strange at first thought, but if you take some time off from running (the length of time will vary depending on the length/difficulty of the event, your training level going in, how many ultras you have done before, how well hydrated you were during and right after the event, etc.) you will actually improve your ability to run stronger in future training and racing, or to maintain your current abilities with regards to speed or distance, if that one of your goals in running. A lot of injuries happen right after a race (had anyone ever done studies on this ?) when one feels they "have" to get back to training. In addition, taking a "break", even for a week, will build back enthusiasm for your running and help you to avoid burnout.

Also, ones connective tissues and musculature adapts to the stress of training and racing ultras over the months and years we can do them. Thus, after your first couple of ultras you may experience more soreness than you would in a year or two from now. Be cautious in coming back, take off days, and give your body and mind a chance to recover. If you do, you'll be around this great sport of ours for many enjoyable years !

George Parrot

I have run my fastest Boston (3:07) within 12 days of a decent performance at the AR50 (e.g. 7:15 or so). This past year I ran the Helen Klein 100k with a big crash from 45-55 miles and then a recovery of sorts from 55-62 miles, then two weeks later the Napa Marathon in a frustrating 3:24, then the NEXT week the Maui Marathon in 3:38, then the AR50 in 8:01 (Damn!!!!), then two weeks later Boston in 3:24 ish...

My wife turned a very solid 50k (3:45 time) the week before the Helen Klein, went 45 miles of the Helen Klein running on about 8:30 pace and then "got discouraged" and dropped out (about 400m from our house, I might add), then she did all the other races I did....all faster than I did!

Recovery is MUCH faster off higher regular mileage, in my opinion. Off 100+ mpw and regular patterns of speed and distance, the body is always being stressed to heavy demands, and the demands of "a race" are more effectively met.

I might further mention....Jim Howard an early "star" in distance running in Northern California over a period from March to July one year...Took a 3rd at the Catalina Marathon..under the previous course record, though beaten by a couple of world class "mountain runners" at the March. Won the AR50 in April against a tough field... Won the Avenue of the Giants Marathon in 2:18 in early May, Intentionally Tied for the Win of the WS100 in June...In club workout TWO DAYS after the WS100 turned 3 x 1 mile in the 4:30 range! Ran 2:19 at the SF Marathon two weeks after the WS100. Note: I did my best to keep him from running the SF marathon, because I thought even he was courting this case I think I was right, as he NEVER ran well after that race....and he very badly struggled in for the last 6 miles...

But it does indicate what recovery and performance CAN be achieved...

Dan Baglione

George, First, how can you claim to be a wily, old runner when you are only 53? While I have not done so many runs as has Dick Collins, I am a few years older. I have done as many as 6 ultras in one year.

I do not suffer from the physical problems that seem to afflict you. I could not go two weeks without running after a 50 mile run. One week after finishing Leadville in 1989, I finished a 25K run here in Foresthill. It was a downhill run and I ran slowly and comfortably; but I was not the last finisher. I do not get sick in training runs. I can't tell you how to solve your physical problems.

People like Dick Collins, others, and myself do not burnout because of mental attitude and bodies that do not cause us pain or discomfort that we are unwilling to tolerate in our running. Dick and I have both had angioplasty and have slowed down a little in the last few years; but we are too addicted to stop.

I don't know if any of this is helpful to you. I'm sure others will respond to your post. Perhaps they will provide you with more useful information.

Matt Mahoney #1

George Beinhorn wrote:

"How the San Hill blazes do you recover from an ultra?"
It's not the ultra you have to recover from, but all the high mileage training you did to prepare for it. Residual damage accumulates and takes 2 months to heal, which means you should start tapering 2 months in advance. Last November I ran 94 miles in a 24 hour race, then one week later ran a 3:43 marathon. I recovered quickly because for the 6 weeks before the 24 hour I had cut back to 6 miles/week from my usual 15 (plus cross training). I didn't need the mileage because I already had the base from 3 100 mile trail runs since July.

Another factor is nutrition. Muscles need protein for recovery, and if they don't get enough, they compete with your immune system. This goes for DURING ultras too. My favorite ultra food is tuna and cheese sandwiches with skimmilk.

Dave Littlehales

Generally, I find it easier to recover from a 50 miler than from a hard road marathon. My system may be more tired but the legs bounce back alot quicker.

Karl King #5

Geroge Beinhorn asked for thoughts on two subjects - recovery from an ultra, and longevity of running career.

A few runners ( Rae Clark, Sue Ellen Trapp for example ) have delivered fine performances over many years, but most runners who pile up a lot of great runs in a short span of time are frequently gone in a few years. Combining information from a number of sources, a long running career should include: periodized training load with only 2 or 3 maximally hard runs per year, plenty of rest and sleep, and a very sound diet, with attention to anti-oxidants, quality fat intake and adequate protein. There's no question that one can run a lot without paying attention to those, but there's a cumulative price to be paid for not taking care of the body. As an analogy, you can drive your car for thousands of miles without changing the oil, but at some point, the engine will be severely damaged.

How well you recover from a single run depends on a number of things. As George Parrot posted, recovery will be easier if you have properly trained for the event you've done, including having a substantial base of miles. My experience is that it helps to take anti oxidants ( C, E, beta carotene ) before the run starts. During an ultra or long training run, it helps to consume some very digestible protein which includes branched chain amino acids. Your body will burn those for energy, and it helps to provide them on the run. You'll have less muscle soreness and a stronger immune system after the run if you do. Most people who run 100 milers will tell you that you have to include "real food" in such a run. If you analyze what they call "real food", you'll find that it always includes some protein.

After a run, your body is low on glycogen and probably has noticeable muscle fiber damage. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness ( like in the quads ) is typical for most runners in the days following an ultra. There are normally high levels of the catabolic stress hormone cortisol in the blood for a few days. You can help your body overcome those things by good nutrition following the run. Within 15 minutes of finishing, drink a source of carbohydrate, protein and chrome picolinate. One product that supplies all of those in reasonable amounts is Twinlab's Nitro Fuel ( I have no financial interest in that product ). Over the next couple days, the body will turn over a lot of protein as damaged muscle cells break down and are re-built. Don't short yourself on protein during that time. Essential fatty acids are needed for cell wall repair. A simple way to get those is to eat 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed per day, one in the morning and one at night. It will also reduce inflammation through attenuation of prostaglandins which promote inflammation.

As for the type of exercise after a hard event, I've tried a range of different types. Studies suggest that a week of complete rest is best, but what works best for me is to not exercise if there is any muscle soreness, then go for easy walks for a few days until the legs feel a little stronger. Then I run easily during the next week. As noted above, runners with a deeper base will recover faster than the low mileage runners, and women will regain leg strength faster than men.

Muscle fiber damage should be fully repaired in 4 weeks. The stress on the hormonal system may require 5 to 6 weeks for full recovery. When you add up the time to properly train for a major event, the time to taper and time to fully recover, it suggests not more than 3 major, hard events per year. Other events can be done in between but they should be done at a lower intensity.

Of course, you may decide that your plan is to run a lot of events hard over the span of 2-3 years and then go do something else with your life. Then it doesn't matter much how you recover, and your plan will likely become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Jay Hodde #4

While the science of recovery is not really in the realm of my expertise, (my interests are in connective tissue healing following acute injury, fluid homeostasis, and nutrition physiology), I would like to offer a few comments on my personal observations over the last three years.

First of all, when I run on concrete, it takes me a lot longer to recover than if I run on soft trails. Case in point: After the Arkansas Traveller 100 this year, I was sore for 48 hours and was back to running 72 hours after the event. The quick recovery was pure heaven -- a runner's dream come true!!

I felt so good after Arkansas that I decided to run the Vilas 50K in Madison, WI (mostly concrete) over Thanksgiving weekend. After that event, I could barely walk for three days, and running was out of the question for over a week.

I don't think the distance or the intensity had anything to do with it, mainly because trail 50K's have not caused me too much residual pain in the past. (The drive home, through Chicago traffic in an ice storm, was another story).

The points Karl brings up are interesting because his comments on protein ingestion match both what we know from research, and what I have experienced first hand.

Briefly, I am a pretty strict vegetarian -- especially when I eat alone (I do eat meat when I order pizza with others, or if I'm a house guest) -- and tend to stay away from all animal products except for milk (2 gallons of skim milk each week). When I began running ultras, I kept this diet before the race, during the race, and after the race. Since that time, however, I have discovered that my return to running is markedly improved -- and the delayed onset muscle soreness markedly diminished -- if I give up the non-meat diet during the event and for the 24 hours after the event. I take in meat during a race and following a race, and my recovery seems to go better than when I avoid meat.

Even though I have learned to incorporate plant protein in my diet, the bioavailability of these proteins is much less than that of animal protein. Thus, to refuel my tired muscles, I have chosen to be non-vegetarian on the weekends of my events. I think my body thanks me for that!

So how do I recover faster? First, I run on soft surfaces to minimize the damage to my legs. Second, I add protein to my diet. Third, I take an anti-inflammatory medication for 48 hours after an event (this is a trade-off, and I won't elaborate unless you all want me to). Fourth, I stretch -- a lot.

I think the speed which you recover has a lot to do with your current fitness level, and your experience with running a given distance. I'm convinced that there is a central component involved with recovery that is not really understood -- the brain is a powerful player in athletics, and should be respected. . . Any thoughts on this?

Matt Mahoney #2

I'm not sure if my advice is stearine bilge, but I agree with Karl King's excellent advice that nutrition (especially protein) is the most important factor in recovery from ultras. I don't know if high mileage helps, since I've gotten injured every time I tried to go over 35 miles/week. I know that low mileage hasn't hurt.

If it's speed you want, take a look in the Jan/Feb Ultrarunning p. 29 at how Valmir Nunes trained for his winning 6:18:09 in the world 100K (6:03/mile pace). He trains 200-400 km/week (125-250 miles), running 30-40 km in the morning and 20-40 km in the afternoon. He would do a 20 km tempo track run every 3 days at 3:33/km (12 miles at 5:40/mi), plus hills and 2-3 hours in loose sand every week. Once a week he would run for 3 hours, including one 50 km in 3:15. He also lifts weights (specific to running) and swims for relaxation. His training is specific for 100 Km. He does not race marathons because the training is different.

Nunes races at 100 km about twice a year, never more then 3-4 races. Last year I did 70 races including 8 ultras at a MUCH slower pace. If you had to choose between racing fast or often, which would you do?

Bonnie Busch

My experience has been similar to what has already been reported, yet I have a few more things to add.

  1. Sleep. I run in the very early morning, so after a ultra I might sleep that time away, or better yet half of that time and get in a little walk with stretching. May have to stretch just to get out of bed!

  2. Attitude. I recover much faster if I achieve my humble goals, than if I don't. Like others I set A-B-C goals.

David Lygre

I've been reading with interest the comments on longevity and recovery from ultras. Though they are two threads, they are related.

I've been running ultras since 1981, and my first 100-miler (WS) in 1983. Except for two years away, going through treatment for cancer, I've run pretty much continuously and still thoroughly enjoy it. One reason is that I point for only two or three ultras a year (100-milers are my favorite). Long-term goals keep me motivated enough to train for a run months in advance. For example, my main focus for 1996 is Hardrock, for which I'm now training. I like and the need the excitement of a few long-term goals that I'm working toward. I'll do a bunch of other runs before Hardrock, and do them as well as I can for the shape I'm in at the time, but they're mostly to have fun and to tell me how my training is coming along.

With so many interesting ultras out there, doing only a couple or so really major ones a year keeps me a nice list of other ones I want to focus on. That helps keep me running year after year. For me personally, I want to do all of the trail 100-milers in a way that I'm satisfied with. Hardrock and Massanutten are the ones left, but the addition of new ones (such as Kettle Moraine) will help keep me going.

The relationship with recovery is this: if you only focus on a few major efforts, you have plenty of time to recover. I plan no specific running the week after an ultra, but walk as much as I feel like. It probably takes me about a month to get much of my energy back after a hard 100-miler, but there's no rush. After one of those, I just enjoy having done it, taking it easy. I may get a case of the blahs for awhile. I don't fight the blahs; I enjoy them.

There's a whole world of great adventures out there, and a whole lifetime to enjoy them.

Bob Slate

I'm posting this communication from Dan Brannen (see below) at his suggestion. It follows up a private communication (which I also posted) regarding my experiences doing doubles and triples while laying base.

I started doing doubles and triples as a working man's way of trying to squeeze in several long runs in a week. I do doubles year round. In the early spring, I start the triples when I have sunlight to AND from work. I always run at lunch.

I always worried that 22-25 in a day via triples was short-changing myself versus 25 in one workout, which my work hours made impossible during the week. After arriving on foot at work by 8, I have 4 hours to recover before running at lunch. Then another four of recovery while at my desk before the run home. I have to eat like a pig at suppertime in order to sustain this.

While doing the triples, my truck doesn't get used much. I call my insurance company and get a rate reduction while I commute on foot.

I must say that while the triples seem to help the recovery tremendously, this only applies for me to flat runs. I found that my body COULD NOT RECOVER as well once muscle trauma occured from steep mountain trail running in a race.

Once the body is used to several workouts in a day, tapering to two or one makes you feel like a coiled spring. I still have struggled once I've reached the 70 mile mark in 24 hour races. I've crawled into a tent to sleep, and after 2-3 hours, I've popped up surprised at how my legs have been resurrected, permitting sub-8 pace.

I do believe that people who have contiguous blocks of time that are large enough for many long runs can avoid the breakdown I experience after 70-80 miles. However. I think that my body is being trained to recover quickly.

I would be interested in training tips to push through my breakdown point.

Dan Brannen

Thanks for your e-mail and for sharing your experiences. I'm especially interested in the new subject you've raised: effect of number of runs per day on recovery. I encourage you to post your note and my response to the ultra lists.

A couple of pertinent memories:

  1. reading an early interview with Frank Shorter (shortly after his Munich '72 Olympic Marathon victory) in which he commented that the breakthrough he made as a senior at Yale was due to running double workouts for the first time ever. Specifically, he said that doing doubles "cut his recovery time in half."

  2. Ron Clark (a great autobiography, almost impossible to find, titled, I belive "The Unforgiving Minute.") ran triple workouts through most of his competitive career. One thing for which he was universally recognized: his ability to run world-class performances frequently, sometimes even back-to-back

  3. In the 80's, reading comments of two national-class, well-known runners, who both made the same comment about triple workouts: "It seemed like all I was doing was taking showers all day." The point: they got sidetracked by a difficulty unrelated to the training (did you forget, guys: success is HARD), and didn't give it a real chance.

  4. I have done triples for a number of extended periods while in intense training. I always felt my healthiest, strongest, fastest, and most resilient when tripling (and my performances bear me out).

I have often commented to people that I find 15 miles per day (a triple of 6, 6, and 3 with about 6 hours between each) easier on my body than 10 per day in one run.

In my case, this was always balanced by a single EASY day per week (no more than 5M in no more than one run). In 29 years of running, I have never put more than 6 consecutive running days together without that easy day as a break.

Think of it this way: most serious (or semi-serious) runners do 6-7 workouts per week. Doubling with my proposed easy day gets you up to 13 per week. Tripling Mon-Fri gets you up to 18 per week. Don't think of training days. Think of # of workouts per week. 10 is better than 7. 15 is better than 13. It's probably worth exploring where the diminishing returns come beyond 18 per week.

Thomas Perry

Prior discussions of recovery and longevity have dealt with the short cycle of Train, Race, Recover. There's a longer cycle that we go through over years of running. Once trained to something near one's peak race fitness, it is a common experience that you will only stay at that level for a few months to perhaps two years maximum. Then you get injured or tired of spending all your free time running, or the balance in your life has to shift to give family or job a higher priority for a while.

Over 15 years of running ultras, I've had four periods of relatively high performance (peaks) and four corresponding valleys. The first time I went from the peak of racing well and eager to train and fell into the valley of burnout it was pretty discouraging. At the time I didn't know if I would ever get back to a high level of performance.

Having been through the cycle three more times, now it's easier to take a long view and be patient. Maybe this year or certainly next year the combination of external (family, job, etc.) and internal (motivation) factors will align and I'll be back racing competitively. And just as surely, I'll only stay at that level for a year or two.

If you are new to running ultras, take a long view of your participation in this sport. Enjoy the challenges of getting into condition and performing at your best. Then when, almost inevitably, something happens to make it impossible or impractical to continue at that level, let yourself take a break from the mental and physical strains of heavy training and racing. You can come back to the sport after a break and recapture most of the fun of the first time.

Ray Krolewicz

All of this talk about doubles, and triples reminds me of a conversation with Amby Burfot after Lake Waramaug a number of years ago. I had run 7:0 something and Andy asked about my training. I replied,"Well actually I only averaged 8.3 miles per run last month." Andy responeded that that was not a lot. I then added,"Of course I had 87 runs." There were days with as many as 5 runs, all between 4 and 8 miles. I never noticed a difference if my mileage was done all at once, or in little bites.

Recovery never seemed too much a problem, since I was always too great a wimp to ever really hurt myself. (Perhaps in my next career.) In any case total mileage still seems to be the greatest indicator of performance, based of course on an adequate program, (I still train too slow) but in a range from 100 to 150 miles per week 10 runs seems optimum.

Al Zeller #1

Recovery is a function of both how hard you run a marathon or ultra and your training base mileage. If you run a 50 miler at the same "hardness" as a marathon, it will take a while to recover. If you run marathons as training runs, then recovery will be swift. If, otoh, you run 50's as a comfortable jog, then that recovery will also be fast.

I have found over the years that my marathon time in not very dependent on how many miles I train a week (once I reach a certain level), but my recovery time is very dependent. My marathon time varied by a couple of minutes whether I ran 80 or 120 miles a week (This was a few years ago), but at 120 I could recover very quickly. I once ran a marathon PR on Sat and a 5K PR on Sun on a 120 mile per week diet.

Another factor which enters is the course. A flat road course, or a track, will beat up the same set of muscles for hour after hour. A couple of small climbs helps use a different set, so recovery seems better. It doesn't take very much to make a big difference. The old Wolfpack course had a climb over the bridge every loop, probably no more than 15 ft each way, but that was sufficient to relieve some of the strain on the legs. My recovery from Wolfpack was always fast, even though I set my 50 mile PR there.

George Beinhorn #2

My question about recovery drew some interesting responses:

  1. stories of people who drove their bodies into the realm of the super-plods.
  2. squatly opinionated virtuecratic non-advice, i.e.stearine bilge (thanks, guys, I know you meant well!);
  3. George Parrott, who said recovery improves as training mileage increases.
I suspect George is right. He's certainly got the race times to back up what he says. I know I recovered quicker when I ran 70 mpw. But if the price of recovery is endless slogging, I'll live with the choices I've made. I'm running less and enjoying it more these days: "exhilaration via acceleration." I plodded for five years; forgive me if I zip-zap down the trail...

I ran an 18-minute 5K 25 years ago, and I fantasize about beating that time before turning 54. Here's the 3-day-a-week program that appears to be steadily reducing my race times, from 5K to 50M:

I run a 20+-miler once a week with 2-3000' elevation gain at "assertive" pace, i.e. 8:30 average; a 10-miler with 1000' gain including 3 miles of tempo running at 7:00 pace; and a 10-miler with 1000' gain with 12 x 90 seconds at 5:30-6:00 pace. All on trails. I love hills!

I'll soon be getting a mountain bike and weights. Gosh, when you add in cycling and lifting, and two and a half times as much running as Matt. I oughta do my first 100M in under 24 hours... yuk, yuk,

George Beinhorn #3

Individuals vary enormously in their recovery times. Many have a big letdown lasting 3-5 days, starting approx. 10 days after an ultra--just when they starting to feel it's okay to begin training hard again! Result: illness, fatigue, blahs, frustration.

As Karl King explained it, this is due to an endocrine system plunge that routinely occurs about 10 days after a hard, long run.

Recovery depends greatly on one's training, diet, sleep patterns. Training, for example: high-mileage runners obviously recover quicker. People who do lots of ultras, frequently, also recover quick (e.g., Eric Robinson and Suzi Thibeault), even though they do not run high total mileage.

(At least, I hope that's true--I'm bloody well counting on it!)

Aaron Goldman

After an ultra do daily stretches (quads, hamstrings, etc,) if you feel pain - take it easy; otherwise do regular workout. Many thanks to Vandendriessche and Beinhorn for advice on trigger point therapy. I highly endorse it as a cure for pulled muscles, back problems, and muscle aches. now I need to practice what I preach.

Jay Hodde #5

Mike Scandrett says:

A new ultrarunner will probably need at least several weeks of easy recovery time after the first ultra before trying to do speed work or a long training run.

After my first ultra, the OPSF 50 Mile run (Spencer, IN), in 1993, I needed several weeks of very easy recovery work to return to normal. After my second 50 Miler (Ice Age, 1994), I was able to come back to normal activity within a few weeks and ran a 50k (Afton) the first week of July.

When I jumped to the 100-miler (Arkansas, 1995), I found that I needed a lot more recovery time than I ever needed after a 50 Miler.

When I decided to continue running the 100 mile distance and attempt the Grand Slam, I knew that my body's limitations would be recovery time, and that the goal of my finishing several events in a short time period was completely dependent on recovery.

So I trained to minimize the recovery time between my events, gradually forcing my body to run a 50 miler a couple of weeks after a tough marathon. Finally, last fall, I ran the AC100 on the last weekend of September, and was able to complete a sub-4:00 marathon six days later. It wouldn't have happened two years ago. This spring, I was able to run Rocky Racoon on February 1, and then come back and run under 8 hours at Mississippi 50 Miler on March 1. That wouldn't have happened as late as last fall.

This summer, I've been able to recover fairly well from all the events that I've done. Last year, I would not have been able to do what I am doing this year. It takes the body a lot of time to adapt. Going out on that long training run shortly after a 50 mile finish will hurt like hell, but it also teaches the body to adapt to the continued stress. It is a necessary rite of passage.

The key is realizing that you will feel awful during the run, and accepting the worn out feeling. Next time, it will feel better.

There are limits, however. The musculoskeletal system recovers much faster than the endocrine system, and can be trained. The hormones cannot. With individuals trained to run many consecutive 100-milers, the limiting factor in overcoming long distance fatigue is hormone balance -- a balance that takes the body approximately three weeks to restore.

Nikki Robinson

Jay makes several good points in his post, suggesting that his ability to quickly recover from ultras has been a function, in part, of training (forcing) his body to adapt over time (a couple of years)

"So I trained to minimize the recovery time between my events, gradually forcing my body to run a 50 miler a couple of weeks after a tough marathon..."
Furthermore, he suggests that limitations are due to the recovery of the musculoskeletal system (relatively fast) and the hormonal system (relatively slow).

As I said, good points, all. However, I suspect if you took 100 ultrarunners, all with the same relative experience such as Jay's and asked them to do the Grand Slam next summer, X% would breakdown and be unable to complete the task and Y% would be able to recover and do all the events. (I'm not even going to guess what X and Y might be!) Why can some runners recover, where others cannot? Jay did not really address this question.

My speculations (please add to these, or 'dis them if you choose):

  1. Nutrition -- before, during, and after events. I bet "fast recoverers" ("FR's") eat a larger percentage of protein in their daily diets. I also bet "FR's" make certain to eat proteins and fats, in addition to carbs, during their events. I would also think that "FR's" get plenty of antioxidants either through supplementation or diet.

  2. Rest. I bet "FR's" get more rest, or at least know how to "per iodize" their training (hard effort days, followed by easy effort days).

What else? Well, for me (and I know Jay does this too), I use cross-training to aid in recovery. I swim and cycle in addition to running. I have also started getting massages as often as possible (they can get sort of pricey, though). This greatly aids in my recovery.

And one final factor that I can think of would be the mental aspect to recovery. Some among us might just be "tougher" mentally, better able to withstand pain and fatigue.

Al Zeller #2

My recovery time has always been determined by my mileage level going into the race. If I have been doing lots of miles, then recovery is fast. Fifteen or so years ago I tried doing road 50 milers with two different approaches: Run lots of miles, 120 per week (Hey, that was 15 years ago, remember.) or run only 90, with a lot of quality and speed. The result: times essentially identical, but recovery differed significantly. On the high mileage diet I was able to run a couple of 50 milers three weeks apart, both in under 6 hrs. Three weeks after the one done on quality miles found me no way near ready for another sub 6 effort.

Another aspect is how you run the race: If you run within your limitations rather than your expectations, you will still have some core left to rebuild on. If you put so much into a race, IE., run way over your head, then you've got to rebuild from a deep hole. Don Ritchie said he left something of himself on the track when he set the 100 mile World Record; something he never recovered.

Matt Mahoney #3

I disagree that high mileage runners recover faster after an ultra. What I think matters more is that you NOT increase your mileage in the months before a big race. If you do, you will spend months recovering not from the race, but from the training. I know people who say they cannot run more than one marathon a year, but a lot of people on this list run one every couple of weeks in training.

At any rate, you may already know that my mileage is pretty low (15/week plus cross training), but it has remained fairly constant (when averaged over a 2 month window) since about 1990 when I was 35. Last year I ran the Pikes Peak ascent and marathon on consecutive days and recovered in time to finish Leadville the following week. This year after my DNF at Hardrock (covering about 50 miles) I had no soreness whatsoever, and if anything the training probably helped me at the Mosquito Marathon the following weekend. (The terrain was quite similar, including a roped snow cornice and glissade at 13,400 ft. in a thunderstorm). If I do have any soreness after an ultra, it is usually less than after a road marathon and in any case gone completely in about 4 days.

Karl King #6

A novice ultra runner should expect a very long recovery from a first ultra. For at least a couple weeks, the runner should run short, easy runs with NO RACING. Running a first ultra should be a positive thing to be enjoyed for a while. Racing shortly thereafter will be ugly, producing doubts and other negative feelings.

As ultra runners continue their buildup, the body's endocrine system is strengthened along with muscle, bone and connective tissue. One area in particular is the adrenal glands. They are taxed in an ultra and take a long time to recover. A runner with a high mileage, deep base has already built up their adrenal glands and can run sooner than a newbie. Novices should NOT seek to emulate veteran ultra runners when it comes to signing up right away for the next ultra.

Higher miles or longer experience also help build the connective tissues which support muscles. This was demonstrated to me personally this year as I increased my mileage by 50% in preparation for Leadville; my legs were just not as beat up by long runs.

An important factor in being ready to run again soon after an ultra is the amount of downhill training a runner does. Low downhill content will leave your quads vulnerable to damage in an ultra. More downhill training will strengthen the muscles, giving less quad damage during the long run. That will make it easier for recovery as there will be less muscle damage to repair. Matt Mahoney is a very good downhill runner. The preparation he's evidently put in is one reason he recovers quickly from a hard event.

A major factor in recovery is the amount of the stress hormone cortisol that remains in the blood after an ultra. It is nearly impossible to recover while cortisol is high; it promotes the breakdown of protein for energy and thus inhibits new protein formation ( repair ). Cortisol will remain high for a few days after a stressful run. If a runner does not learn to rest periodically, cortisol remains elevated and will eventually lead to burnout. A runner will either respect the body and treat it sensibly or it will break down and prohibit further hard work until it has a chance to repair. From my personal experience, and from following the training of other runners, it appears to me that ingesting some protein during a run, along with adequate carbohydrate will help reduce cortisol levels during a long run, enabling a faster reduction in the body after the run is over. For the last year I've been training exclusively with a carbo/fat/protein drink and found that my recovery from the long runs is much better than when I trained with carbo-only drinks/gels.

For a few days after an ultra, most runners are on a natural high. Then comes a depressed period while the body is rebuilding. One will need plenty of sleep and good nutrition during that time. Runs during that phase may not be very enjoyable. Finally, the body will have repaired it self, and there will be a desire to pick up the training. That renewed desire is a sign that the endocrine system is on the road to repair. When that shows up, the runner can start building up again. Until that feeling returns, the runner should take it easy and wait patiently.

Dave Hurd

At age 54 I ran a 50 mile race in 8:04, a very hard effort for me. (prior ultra experience had been a 50 mile four years earlier, and an easy 50k four weeks earlier). Two weeks later I ran a 10k all out. Within an hour after the 10k I began to get shooting pains in my back and arms. Turned out to be "shingles" herpes zoster, and until the doctor ran multiple injections under the skin (two days later) I spent 48 hours doing nothing but waiting for the next jolt of pain. I am convinced that I drove my body beyond its limits by racing within 2 weeks after a hard ultra, and it found a way to shut me down. Ever since I have erred on the side of over caution on recovery. Never before or since have the "shingles" occurred.

George Beinhorn #4

Karl mentioned preparing for the down hills. In my experience, you can do this by: (a) running endless hours on hills, or (b) doing 1 hour of lower-body weight work at the gym per week. I chose the latter to prepare for WS100. Tho I dropped at 56mi with incipient rhabdo, I after just 12 weeks of 3/weekly weight workouts. Moreover, I had no piriformis sciatica whatever--a problem that had brought me literally to a walk in the late stages of 50-milers previously.

ALSO, AND THIS IS BIG: When people talk about "rest," I believe it should be spelled out: you go to bed before 10 p.m., preferably before 9 p.m. In the last 2 weeks I've had a very interesting experience. I had previously been going to bed anywhere between 10 p.m. (rare) to midnight. I felt draggy, and I remembered something I'd read in John Douillard's book "Body, Mind & Sport." It seems Ayurveda, the ancient Indian healing practice, says that if you go to sleep between 6-10 p.m. you'll wake up early and feeling very rested, whereas if you go to sleep after 10 p.m. you'll feel much less rested, even if you sleep long hours.

I tried this, and danged if it didn't work. I have been going to sleep before 9:30 and waking up at 5 a.m. I get up, run or go to the gym, then write for a couple of hours before going to work. For the first time in years, I feel truly rested. AND, WHAT'S MORE, I've recovered MUCH faster from the three 50K runs I've done in the last 3 weeks (all slow).

Jay Hodde #6

Nikki said:

"Why can some runners recover, where others cannot? Jay did not really address this question."
The recovery equation is a very interesting area of research, and an area I want to do my post-doc in next year (anyone looking for such a person??).

Here are some of the things that contribute to one's recovery limitations:

  1. Age: All else being equal, as you get older, you need more time than when you were younger.

  2. Nutrition: In order to maximize recovery, you must give the body the types of fuels it needs to repair itself. Much of the damage due to running is to the muscle tissue -- so it is important to choose foods that contain significant amounts of proteins in addition to carbohydrates. Taking in protein and fat during the run is just as important as taking in carbohydrate.

    Personal anecdote: I was a very lenient vegetarian for about 3 years prior to getting involved in ultrarunning (meaning a bunch of milk products and meat when eating over at another person's home). My recovery was never as fast as it is now (though training has something to do with it, too, I'm sure).

  3. Degree of injury: If you don't cause as much damage, then there is not as much to fix, and you recover faster. Simple, right? You just have to figure out the best way for you to avoid injury -- and that usually depends of degree and type of training -- or for the ultrarunner, experience at long distances.

  4. Level of adaptation: As I've mentioned before, the runner who has been doing these events for years and years and has lots of experience at these distances will recover faster than a first timer.

  5. Rest: Recovery happens most rapidly when you are asleep. If you get 8 hours of sleep a night, you will rebound a lot faster than if you only get 3-4.

  6. Blood flow to the surrounding tissue: This isn't anything you can directly control, but it is important to remember that tissues with a good blood supply will recover faster than those with a poor blood supply. That explains why connective tissues (ligaments and tendons) generally take longer to heal than muscle or brain tissue.

What else? Well, for me (and I know Jay does this too), I use cross-training to aid in recovery. I swim and cycle in addition to running. I have also started getting massages as often as possible (they can get sort of pricey, though). This greatly aids in my recovery.
I cross-train quite a bit, but I also run, too. Here is a typical "recovery regimen" for me (and it's what I've done follow each of OD, WS, VT, and LT this summer):

Week 1:

Sat-Sun: RACE
Mon, Tues, Wed: No exercise.
Thurs: Stairmaster 25-30 minutes
Fri: Stairmaster 30 minutes, swim 20-30 minutes
Sat: Run 3 miles (run/walk usually, 12-15 min/mile)
Sun: Run 4 miles - a little faster, but not much

Week 2:

Swim every morning for 20-30 minutes
Stairmaster at noon for 30-45 minutes
MAYBE (depends) run in the evening 4-6 miles. Total mileage for the week ~ 20 miles

Week 3:

If I have another week before an event, then this is a running week, with about 40 miles of distance. If the event is at the end of this week, skip the 40 miles and follow the taper plan

Week 4 (taper plan):

Mon-Thurs swimming 30 minutes
Sun: 7-10 miles running
Mon: 7-10 miles running
Tues: 4-5 miles running
Wed: 4-5 miles running
Thurs: 4 miles running OR 30 minutes Stairmaster
Fri: Day off
Sat: Race

I also have a road bike that I use when I feel like it, but my IT bands have been acting up this summer and I'm trying to avoid the repetitive biking motion.

"And one final factor that I can think of would be the mental aspect to recovery. Some among us might just be tougher' mentally better able to withstand pain and fatigue."

This has been one of my biggest challenges this summer -- the mental aspects of recovery -- and getting mentally ready to try another one.

Matt Mahoney #3

"Karl mentioned preparing for the down hills. In my experience, you can do this by: (a) running endless hours on hills, or (b) doing 1 hour of lower-body weight work at the gym per week. I chose the latter"
And so do I. I cannot run endless hills because there are none where I live in Florida. Yet I can run 20,000 feet of descent in an ultra without quad soreness. But there are a couple of other things you must do first...

Jay Hodde #7

Matt said:

"Jay mentioned working on mental toughness. Be smart, not tough. Instead of learning to withstand pain, learn to avoid it. And I don't mean avoid ultras. Sure I choose Barkley over Umstead, forgo crews, drop bags, socks, etc. But I still choose to pace myself in a way that minimizes pain."
There is a difference between pain and fatigue. I suspect that you will experience some fatigue, no matter how fast you run. It is the mental toughness to stand up against fatigue that is important to work on.

And there are different types of "pain" too. Pain due to injury shouldn't be ignored, but the pain caused by being tired CAN be ignored. A lot of pain can be avoided, but not all.

In that way -- by learning to listen to your body's signals -- you can be both smart AND tough.

"Don't think of a fast start as putting time in the bank. Think of it as taking out an energy loan that must be repaid with interest."

I think of it as robbing a bank -- the robber eventually ends up getting caught.

And remember: ultras are not SUPPOSED to hurt. We spend a lot of time and money to do them. We are supposed to enjoy them.

I agree, in principle. You need to define "enjoy". Many of the faster runners would not "enjoy" a 29:59:59 finish at Western States, while Matt would not "enjoy" a 17:00:00 finish. Both runner's races will elicit varying degrees of pain from the participant. . . .but what if I define my enjoyment by the amount of discomfort I am able to endure? or if enjoyment is equated to running my fastest race, no matter what the cost?

I have found that there is a balance between speed and comfort and where these two items "balance" is where I feel the best about my run. Nobody can define that point for you.

I understand that Matt can "enjoy" running right at the aid station cutoffs. I'm a nervous wreck if I'm within an hour of them. I don't "enjoy" running my races that way (and I am fortunate to have enough speed to where I still have the ability to NOT do my races that way) I'd almost rather play bank robber and hope that I don't get caught before the end.

John Fowler

  1. I ran my first race and my first ultra when I was 50, so I don't have much to compare to, but it seems that it takes me much longer now that I'm 55 to recover from any type of muscle or ligament injury than when I was, say, 35. But in terms of normal recovery after a race, my experience doesn't seem much different from what the younger folks report.

  2. I've only completed two hundreds, and the recovery from each was quite different. After Umstead, I was "walking funny" for a week. After Leadville, by the second day I had no muscle pain whatever. I was still somewhat tired and not willing to go out for a run, however. My tentative explanation for this is that at Umstead, I was limited by skeletal muscle endurance -- i.e. I ran fast and long and trashed my legs; while at Leadville I was limited by my pulmonary system -- i.e. limited lung power -- and thus couldn't work hard enough to trash my legs. But who knows? Maybe more experience will tell.

  3. Speaking of experience: If you look at the finisher lists of the major hundred milers, you will see that there are lots of people in their 40's, not quite as many in their 50's, maybe 15 to 20 in the whole country who can finish them in their 60's, and somewhere around 1 in his/her 70's. I interpret this to mean that probably I have 10 to 15 more years at most that I can participate in this sport. It kind of makes each race precious.

Jay Hodde #8

Jeanie asked:

"Is his problem that he took too little time off after the race or was his lack of recovery due to his poor preparation before the race or his problems during the race?????? I would be interested in hearing how other people handle recovery. I was hoping to run VT next year as my first 100-miler but am concerned that I will look like him afterwards!!! I had no problems with 50."

I don't correlate recovery from a 50 at all with the recovery from a 100. They are two different creatures completely -- like the difference between a 10K and a marathon.

Recovery from a 100 takes a lot of time (my first took over 3 months, even though I tried to race before that -- DNF'd a couple of 50's), though as you run more and more 100's, that recovery time can be minimized to a great extent.

I have found that it is very beneficial to take no less than a complete week off from ALL weight bearing activity, and MOST non-weight bearing activity after a 100-miler. And that only goes for IF you have no injuries AND are not on any type of pain-relieving drugs (NSAIDS) after the event.

So, in the light of all that, I think your friend's lack of recovery is primarily due to the unfamiliarity of the distance. The injury suffered during the event might be part of it, and lack of preparation may also be a factor, but I think it all comes down to experience at the distance -- a distance that most people only experience DURING the event. All the preparation in the world doesn't prepare you for miles 95-100; the only way to prepare for those is to actually do mile 95-100 at the end of a tough race.

What does this mean for his recovery? He needs to give himself more time off to let the body rebuild. It is a normal thing to not be recovered at this time (its only been 6 weeks).

On a personal note, one of my main problems in attempting several events in a row is that I am not able to get back out there and train the next day. It screws with the mind. But part of the "mental toughness" of which I speak is *limiting* the training enough to allow the body to become stronger.

Rest plays a very important role in the training process.

Joel Zucker

You probably would do well not to follow any set formulas for recovery time from ultra-distance efforts. It takes an objective view of oneself to truly measure how recovered we are, and many of us are less than forthright with ourselves. One general guideline that probably nobody can avoid is that when you do something that you haven't trained to do, it will take longer to recover from it than from something your heart and lungs and muscles and connective tissues have a lot of practice doing. So, if you want to err on the side of too much rest rather than too little after an ultra, if you are doing a distance or a type of terrain or a pace that is beyond something you've done before, take more of a rest than you think you need. Things like resting heart rate, as quantify able as they are, aren't foolproof, and just because your pulse is back to its baseline and you can walk down stairs normally again doesn't mean you're ready for more stress. If you run a hundred miler, and you've been averaging fifty miles a week, you've just done two weeks of running in one day, and maybe you should plan on those two weeks as a MINIMUM rest period, just to be on the safe side, and then tack on more rest if you have some indication you aren't quite back yet. Maybe. Maybe not.

I have found that because my everyday running is so much like an ultra, nice and easy with lots of stops, on hills, when I'm half asleep in the early morning before work, my body has become quite adept at this particular type of running. I am running half as much as I did a few years ago, and recovering much quicker from ultras, just because what I do - the pace, the intensity, the eating real food during every run - is what I do when I enter a hundred. The reason I get beat to shit when I run a very fast marathon is that the ONLY time I ever run 26 miles at 7:05 a mile is when I do a marathon, and that's why I have to walk down stairs sideways for a week: my limbs are untrained in how to handle those stresses, even though I can make myself run that fast. On the other hand, I run at 12:00 a mile with lots of walking breaks every day here, so when I do a hundred my ever-faithful muscles and tendons and heart do what they know all-so-well, and I'm back to normal in a day or two. No kidding. Last year, four weeks after Hardrock, at age 42, I set a new pr for the 10k distance, and this year, three weeks after Hardrock, I ran a 5k very close to my all time best, set when I was 24. Because Hardrock, as intense as it is, is very much like what I do here all the time, except for the altitude, and I was trained for it. I was back to running three days after Hardrock this year, and I'm pretty sure I was totally recovered within five days, but that 5k had me sore and tired for a week, because my body had no practice running fast. So be cautious when it comes to resting after new and different ultra efforts, but don't assume that if you do something you always do you have to take off for a long time if you feel right and your body and mind want to go back out there.

Blake Wood

I usually give myself two weeks off after a hundred, although maybe I'll start a bit of light running toward the end of the second week. It's usually well into the third week before I try any hard workouts.

Once, I tried to push it - after winning PN100 in 2/96. I felt invincible, and started running a couple days after the race, even though it really hurt. The result? I ended up with a pulled ITB that kept me from running for three months that spring, and generally messed up my running for the whole summer. It's not worth it!

Jay Hodde #9

Jeanie wrote:

"My husband, however, is NOT as confident. He is very concerned that I am going to suffer some irreparable damage to my body because of the effect of 100 miles. He does not think a person should run that far. As he is going along as my handler, I am concerned that he will try to encourage me to stop at the first sign of break-down. I would appreciate any comments people could offer on the effect of running 100 miles on my body and what I could do during and after the race to speed up my recovery. Thank you for any suggestions offered."
Concern or fear from a SO that you are doing harm to yourself is a common occurrence. Realize that they care for you and want the best for you. Their concern is rooted love and in ignorance of the event.

I would caution (from personal experience) about letting your husband join you right away for your first 100. It will be tough on you physically and emotionally -- even with him not around. Having him present will add to the stress. It will be a challenge that you and he will have to handle in order for you to finish.

That being said, in order to help the recovery (which will take several days of little activity, then longer times of reduced activity), be sure to eat and drink during the run. Eat foods that contain protein. Staying hydrated (overhydrated?) will also help you to recover faster.

But recovery won't happen overnight. Last year, I routinely took 4 days off completely after a 100. The key is to not push things and take recovery as your body lets it come.

Things that helped me following a run: 48-hr of Aleve, increased amount of sleep, milk before bed, lysine, Vit-C, Vit-E supplementation, increased protein intake, looking at the belt buckle I earned and realizing I wanted to earn another one :-).

Karl King #7

Jeanie Gerstein asked about recovery from a 100 miler, and "encouragement" to stop at the first sign of break down.

Jeanie, you can expect to be very sore for a few days after a 100; it is a significant stress on the body. However, you will recover, and all during the time you are sore you can take satisfaction in doing something very few people ever do. Don't worry about irreparable damage; think about the positive effect the run will have on you.

To speed your recovery, consume plenty of calories during the run, and especially, include some protein food. As always, stay hydrated. In the 48 hours after the run, be sure to get plenty of food - the body has a lot of muscle fiber damage to repair.

The first 24 hours after the run may not be that bad, particularly if you are a high mileage runner. The 24-48 hours after that will likely be very sore, especially in the quads.

The last thing you want in your crew is someone to "encourage" you to stop. It is almost a certainty that somewhere in a 100 you feel very tired and near exhaustion. What you need at that point is someone who will either tell you sweet lies about how good you look and how well you're doing, or you need a Drill Instructor to tell you to get your backside in gear and finish the damn run.

Jay Hodde #10

SuperLisa asks some questions:

"I'd like to hear any advice or strategies you have for recovering from 50 and/or 100 mile races. Do you run the day after? Two days after? How far? "
My "normal" recovery after 100 is to take two days completely off from all aerobic activity. This usually means the Monday and Tuesday following the race. The third day, I will either run a slow 5-miler or stair master for 30 minutes (depends on if I have blisters or not. I can stairmaster with blisters, but running is usually painful).

The rest of the week is a repeat of Wednesday, though I gradually progress in the speed of the run until I feel back to "normal". This takes about a week.

When I was running the Slam, I took the whole week after a race and did no running -- stair master a couple of times, but my routine first-run back last year was a 1-mile run on the following Saturday followed by 2-3 miles on Sunday.

"How long does it take you to "recover" from a 100?"
Physically, I feel fine about a week later to run a "normal" workout for me. That *doesn't* mean that I'm recovered from the distance.

People will disagree on how long it will take to "fully" recover, but I feel comfortable in allowing a three week period between races. It took me a long time to feel that way though, and I'd hesitate to recommend a 100-miler every three weeks. After my first 100-milers, it took me three weeks to walk normally, then a month or so longer before I felt "refreshed. I know that I'm not completely recovered after three weeks now, but I know that I can "participate" again in that short period of time.

I would suggest that a time frame of 4-6 months would be adequate to yield "complete" recovery.

The physiological limit to restore the endocrine system to normal function (Karl's area, not mine) is about 3 weeks.

"How long before you can do a 20-30 mile training run again?"
Since I never go over 18 miles on a training run at home here, I guess I can't answer this very well. I *do* know that I am able to run 18 miles within a week after 100.

"Also, would running a 50 miler a month before running a 100 do more harm than good? Would it take too long to fully recover from the 50 to be of training benefit for the 100?"
I think it depends on experience. After my first few 50-milers, I needed 6 weeks recovery to feel good. So yes, in that case, it would hurt. Now, however, I wouldn't think twice about running a 50-miler the month before a 100, assuming that I had the requisite 3-week endocrine recovery time in between the races.

Norm Yarger

I see where many of you do races of 50 to 100 miles in length in fairly rapid succession. My problem is that after I am able to start training again, I have to start over with my longest run being between 6 and 9 miles. I can then add about 3 miles maximum to my long run each week. This means that I cannot do a 25 mile training run for at least 6-7 weeks after starting back. Is this typical or am I doing something wrong? How do some of you maintain your conditioning while I loose mine?

Yesterday was my longest run since AT100. I did 15 miles with the option of continuing to 18 miles. By the time I finished 15, it was clear that 18 was not an option.

George Beinhorn #4

This is old fart dharma. Pardoxically, we can learn much from the young 'uns, specifically Eric Robinson and Suzi Shearer.

I've felt much better, recovering faster and enjoying my long runs and races more, since I adopted the Robinson/Shearer training system. Here goes:

Run long once a week.
Run short once a week. (Maybe twice, but that's pushing it.)

It works. Check Eric's finish at Quad Dipsea last week. He ran around 6 hours, which is pretty splendid for that course. Eric does tons of ultras, but usually runs no more than once during the week, often including 400-meter repeats.

Kevin Ash

Norm Yarger wrote:

"I see where many of you do races of 50 to 100 miles in length in fairly rapid succession."
Most of these people:

Personally, I don't see how one can peak and recover for more than one or two ultras a year.

Rob Apple

I've completed over 200 ultras in the last 15 years. I've been averaging 20 ultra finishes per year for the last 4 years and at 37 just passed the 95,000 mile mark. I use the following recovery plan.

50K 6 beers X 3 days week following
50M,100K - 12 beers X 3 days week following
100MI - 12 beers X 5 days week following

Sleep should be no less than 10 hours per night until hunger returns.

Jan Ryerse

Norm Yarger asks about lingering tiredness and not being able to increase his long run distance for considerable weeks after an ultra.

I think this depends on at least four factors, how hard you run the ultra, your training base, your age and perhaps most importantly your parents ie your genetics.

I too ran the AT 100 and I was able to finish the St. Louis Marathon two weeks later in about 4 hours. I felt fine through about 23 miles and then slowed with some walking over the last three miles. Four weeks after the AT 100 and two weeks after the thon I was running 60+ mile weeks and last week did a 94 mile week although that is very extreme for me. I'm tired this week but not overly so. Now I'm tapering for Sunmart 50M. I plan on running the Rocky Raccoon 100 in Feb.

I ran the AT cautiously in the sense that it was not a race and I almost never pushed beyond what was a comfortable running or walking pace for me. If I had pushed harder it would have cost me both towards the end of the 100 and especially in the recovery period afterwards.

My training base is about 1800-2000 miles per year, about 45 miles a week or so on average. That base keeps me strong and allows me to recover quickly after a thon or an ultra. If I up my mileage beyond 50 or 60 miles or so a week on average I tend to get injured.

If you run hard, you recover more slowly as you get older. My training runs and races are at a relatively slower pace than when I was younger which allows me to recover faster. Norm is about 7 years older than I am and I probably will recover much more slowly 7 years from now.

I think the most important factor is genetics. Just as some of us are naturally faster with more leg speed than others and some of us have more endurance than others, some people tolerate high mileage better than others and some people recover much more quickly from races than others. I happen to recover very quickly, which I think is more due to my genetics than my running base or my age. But then perhaps I'm not running races and ultras as hard in terms of effort expended as Norm is.

The old adage about listening to your body is good advice. If your body is telling you that you need more rest you probably should take some time or slow down or increase mileage more slowly or whatever. Otherwise you're looking for trouble, probably will get injured and won't be able to run any ultras at all for awhile.

Brian Pickett

Norm wrote:

"I see where many of you do races of 50 to 100 miles in length in fairly rapid succession. My problem is that after I am able to start training again, I have to start over with my longest run being between 6 and 9 miles. I can then add about 3 miles maximum to my long run each week. This means that I cannot do a 25 mile training run for at least 6-7 weeks after starting back. Is this typical or am I doing something wrong? How do some of you maintain your conditioning while I loose mine?"
I am the same way. Once I taper for a race and start back to training, I ususally have to "start all over again." My long runs will have to be around 10 miles and my weekly mileage back around 65. It may just be you and I, but I'm definetely the same way.

Rich Schick

I find the best way for quick recovery is a combination of preparation and rest/nutrition. Preparation = high mileage. If I fall much below 80 mile/week my post race soreness and my recovery times dramatically increase. If my weekly long run is less than 25 miles, likewise I pay in recovery and post race soreness. If I'm sloppy with hydration during the race likewise it is costly on the recovery side of the scale. Getting rehydrated and well fed in the IMMEDIATE post race period is also crucial, the next morning is too late. I also don't run a step until 1) 90% of the soreness is gone and 2) I have a definite desire to run. I never force the issue, I wait till I want to run, and not out of guilt, but actual desire for the act of running. For me this is usually 2 -3 days.

In reference to comments in another post I am also a gourmond rather than a gourmet in my approach to the sport, I would rather run a lot of races a little slower than a few races a bit faster. If I had ever had world class speed I might have done things differently, but I actually enjoy the races and couldn't stand doing only a couple a year. It's different strokes for different folks.

George Beinhorn #5

Norm, you're an old guy like me, and we just take a long time to recover. What you may find is that from 10-14 days after an ultra you're particularly vulnerable to getting sick or feelings of bone-deep fatigue. I remarked on this to the list once, and Karl King gave the scientific reasons: the endocrine system does a dipsy-do around that time.

Nothing helps recovery better than good nutrition, sleep, and APPROPRIATE training. This latter ingredient means: NEVER going more than your body is really ready for. It will let you know: you'll feel just fine for 20 minutes, then your body will suddenly feel very tired ("Let's go home" syndrome).

Fortunately, you can reduce your training by two thirds for three weeks after a difficult run, without losing significant condition. But for old farts like us, that may still be way too much running. This is NOT a time to be doing the numbers game. The more you REST, the better you'll feel.

A coach I respect says that up to age 30, it takes about 36 hours to recover from a hard workout; from 30-40 it takes 48 hours; after 50, it takes 72 hours. So it probably takes us old guys twice as long to recover as it takes, say, Matt Mahoney. Obviously, that's a loose rule of thumb.

My personal decision for this stage of life is to run like a philosopher: slowly, enjoyably, appreciatively, and not wear myself out very often. I can do 20-milers every weekend slowly, but if I start throwing in 6-hour runs, I'll need the following weekend off.

Karl King #8

Lots of good comments on this important topic.

What works for me [ low-milage, non-elite runner ]:

Eat hearty after the run. In the days following, get plenty of protein. Take some supplemental Glycine and Lysine to help heal connective tissue.

Get *plenty* of sleep. For me, recovery is not so much a matter of days as it is the number of meals and sleep periods I get. Growth hormone in the blood peaks after falling asleep, so don't hesitate to take a nap during the day, if your circumstances permit it.

Stay hydrated. Get some light exercise such as walking.

Don't run until the soreness is gone and you really feel like running. If you don't feeling like running, it is a sign that your endocrine system is still fatigued. Remember that any hard training in that condition will be of negative value. Just keeping moving to assist blood flow.

Until I feel recovered, I seldom run longer than 10 miles. When the feeling to run long returns, I won't hesitate to do 18-20 miles as the first long run.

Ray Krolewicz #2

I really did not intend to reply to this, and know I will be shot down, but what the hell we are all friends. I have on occasion run races in close proximity to each other time wise. If sub 6 hour 50's, sub 8 100Ks, Hundreds in the teens, and occasional multidays at national performance levels are subpar efforts, then I guess I really should keep my mouth shut, but I'm tired, just finished a good run so here goes. I am not responding to any specific individuals, as I do not know who said what. So, if you have tender toes, ice them when I am through.

  1. If you wait till the soreness is gone you may never run again. I ran a (sub par) 50 K on Saturday (3:47) with the first 20 miles sub 7's. I made sure I ran 4 miles that evening. I did 10 more the next morning, and 6 that night. I did 6 on Monday morning, and an easy 8 x 400@1:30-1:40 monday night. To recover from running you must run. I discovered that in 1980, and have never forgotten it.

  2. Nothing you eat on a one time basis has much effect on training, race performance, or recovery. Eat well all of the time. Stay well hydrated. Replace carbohydrates as soon as possible after serious depletion. The 50K on Sat was done on water only, with drinks at 18, 23, 26, and 28 miles. I did ingest over 300 grams of liquid carbs in the 2 hours immediately after the race though. Supplements are just that, supplements, use them if they make you feel better, but nothing takes the place of a good consistent diet and adequate hydration at all times.

  3. Train more. If running helps you recover from racing then it is even better for preparing you to race in the first place. (Now there is a novel idea.) Contrary to popular, albeit shortcut seeking, belief, there is no such thing as junk miles.

  4. Never mind, y"all wouldn't believe me anyway.

Steve Pero

This year I had run an ultra on average of every six weeks. This being in general 50 mile trail runs with VT100 in the middle. What I usually do is try to maintain a 3 hour run base on the weekend year round. I may run just 2 hours the weekend following a race, but get right back into the 3 hours the week after. I will sacrifice weekly runs before I'll sacrifice this run, so if I'm feeling a little unusually tired I will run easy and slow every other day and be sure to get that longish run in on Sunday...then when I feel back to myself (usually a couple of weeks), I'll get back to running every day and also run 2-3 hours on Saturday on top of the 3-5 hours on Sundays.

I'm 47 yo and feeling it after having just run my 1st 50 mile road race. I have aches all over (mainly hips and knees) and I just don't feel like running during the week, so I have been going out every other day...if I feel like it....but DID run for 2 hours Sunday and am planning on doing this for the rest of the year, where I begin another buildup for the `99 TRAIL ultra season. ;-)

Scott Weber

Thank you Ray for stating the obvious (that seems not so obvious to many athletes/ultrarunners). So many posts seem to focus on "What is the absolute minimum I can do to finish an ultra" or worse "how can I avoid any sort of discomfort during an ultra or in training for an ultra". It is a tough sport that requires tough people who train tough to race tough. (note: tough does not mean stupid in the preceeding sentence!) Again, thanks for posting Recovery piece.

Karl King #9

More good posts from RayK, Dave and Scott. Speaking for myself, my toes feel fine, so lets continue....

Dave Cameron observes:

"The rule of thumb is good - but there are always individual exceptions."
This thread started with Norm Yarger telling us about how he has to ramp up slowly after an ultra. At the other end of the scale, Roy Pirrung trained for his Spartathlon efforts by running 20-30 miles 6 of 7 days/week for 8 weeks in a row. On the 7th day of each week he just ran an easy 10 for recovery.

What was normal training for Roy probably would have put Norm in the hospital. Clearly there are major individual differences, and we can't all train alike.

Scott's point implies that we should strive to find not the minimum we can do, but how much we can do if we want to reach our potential as athletes. I like that spirit ( how else are you going to find out how good you can be? ), but also acknowledge that some of us lead busy lives and would like to find a way to train that accomodates our responsibilities while still letting us enjoy the world of ultra running.

Because of the individual differences, we should experiment and see what works for each us. If you train too little, not much growth will take place. If you train too much, you'll break down. Somewhere in between is a region that works for you.

Ray makes a point about eating well all the time. I can sure agree with that. You can't feed yourself junk 99% of the time and then hope that some magic bullet will take care of you on race day.

On the other hand, the biochemistry is clear: the body responds to running stress by altering its chemical state after a run. To cite one example, glycogen synthetase increases to help re-store muscle glycogen. After a run it decreases over a few hours to normal levels. Thus, you should carbo re-load ASAP after your run while this chemical is still present in large amounts.

Similarly, while the body is healing you can benefit from providing the basic building blocks with food and some supplements so that the repair rate is not limited by a scarcity. This is especially true with protein because running an ultra draws down the body's normal pool of amino acids.

When repairs are well on the way to completion, then there is no need for amounts beyond the normal.

Ray suggests that training more before an ultra will help with recovery. That's pretty clear too. Runners with a good base normally recover faster. In the last year I added a routine in the weight room that works my quads with eccentric exercise ( muscle lengthens under load ). It has sure worked for me. I can see the strength gains week to week, my knees don't get sore during long runs and I have little or no quad ache after a long run with lots of downhill content. With less muscle damage to repair after the run, there's less downtime waiting to heal.

Chip Marz

Well, Ray the K, I am not gonna shoot ya down. I am a little familiar with your performances, and I believe that you are quite unique in either your physiology, mental attitude (ha!), training approach, racing strategy, OR...all of them! What you say certainly works for you. Your performances speak for themselves.

However...and there always is a however, your way probably wouldn't work, or at least be appealing to most of us. I, for one, run 2-4 marathons and 6-8 ultras every year. Certainly not quality runs...guess I must be a gormond, eh Rich? But I get by. I generally take a few more than after a tough race. This is a reward to me.

But I must admit, that running the next day MIGHT be more beneficial from a training standpoint, IF you are preparing for races of over 24 hrs, where running "the next day" is important to prepare for.

So I hope you are still flying, Ray. And please continue to share your wisdom with us.

Andy Williams

It was either in my first or second year running ultras (and therefore either the '87 or '88 Strolling Jim) when Ray (the K) enticed me to run a "fun run" the morning after an ultra.

My first thought was "you have got to be crazy!" ... Not So!

The first few yards were admittedly difficult, but with each stride thereafter the effort (and discomfort) was less and less. Something about milking the lactic acid from the muscles by "working them that caused it" seemed to work in my case.

Last month I did a marathon, a 50K (flat & slow), and Pine Mountain in a 12 day span. I was a bit tired & sore after, but not too extreme.

When I started back running I feel that I didn't listen to the feedback from my body, did 10 miles of speed work too soon, ...and therefore sustained an injury to force me to ease up in my running for a while.

In my case I feel that I had lost the training edge that I had 10 years before, and additionally I had ignored the signals my body was sending, telling me to alter my running for a while.

From reading the recent posts, and from my recent experience, it seems that we all must listen and heed. Some can go nonstop ...some not. One's body should tell if only one listens to the body and not the ego.

George Parrott #2 - Director of Training, Buffalo Chips Running Club, Sacramento

Recovery is first of all, IMHO of course, quite an individual difference quality. Runners MUST monitor and record their own training and keep a very analytical and thoughtful set of notes on...

In ANY major stress training element (a new LONG workout, especially hard workout, or longer race) there will and SHOULD be some REAL DAMAGE to the body. But "real damage" here is used in the same sense we might read about "controlled burns" for later fire control in the forest. We do "real damage" but we actually plan on that new stress and then we GIVE the body time and opportunity to recover FROM that stress to become and adapt to be STRONGER from the new stress.

IF one is very strong and used to constant hard workouts (e.g. Like RayK) then the body is more adapted to constant recovery processes and already is "titanium strong" anyway. Hence little damage is actually done by a long race and very fast recovery is available. Imagine having an incredible crew of "internal repair demons" just waiting to rebuild tissue anytime it suffers temporary fatigue. High workout loads over long periods and ....with younger athletes offers this kind of metaphor for recovery. At mileage levels of over 95 miles/week, the body gets used to fatigue recovery, and the system gets VERY strong, and with a pattern of regular INTENSE workouts, then recovery processes FOR such intensity are "more tuned up too."

In my 30's and after 6-8 years of 110-180 mile weeks, I was able to run hard marathons the same week (Monday to the following Sunday). I raced a PR 5k on a Saturday and followed that with a very hard effort marathon race on Sunday of that weekend (2:56 on a very hilly course). I recall doing a 2:03 for 20 miles on a Sunday and following that with 37 miles at 7:15 m/mile pace on MONDAY. I ran the WS100 and dropped out at about 67 miles (I was discouraged because I was "behind my goals for the day and on "only" 20 hour pace) and ran the SF Marathon the next weekend in 2:57. I ran a "crash and burn " marathon PR of 2:41 at S.F. a couple of years later and the NEXT weekend ran 58:10 for 10 miles on a VERY hot day.

Hence at high mileage and with a history of "hard" workouts recovery can be relatively fast....

I am also convinced that "active recovery" is better than total rest and inactivity. I urge and follow a pattern of getting out and slow jogging even the NEXT day after a marathon. Even if it is 14 minute/mile pace and even if it is only for 10 minutes. Walking and moving is good; biking is good, ANY activity that increases blood flow to the fatigued/damaged muscles SPEEDS their recovery as long as no NEW damage is done...hence gentle activity...

I urge careful attention to the level of activity following races/intense workouts for most "recreational runners," as most of us do NOT have the mileage base or structural durability to really be doing ... what we actually ARE doing. Hence MOST recreational runners do NEED more recovery than what is suggested above.

However active recovery is still strongly recommended. Get out and walk, Get on your bike and get those legs moving. Activity will help speed recovery, and it will also help stretch the muscles and prevent "scar tissue" from forming in the muscles and thus reduce your later range of motion and actually hold back your ultimate return to form.

Given in ultras, one is taking the body well beyond what might be "objectively assessed" as it's readiness levels, I would further speculate that some of the post-event recovery burdens might additionally be "bio-psychological."

I am offering this observation on the inference that during such a long event, when the mind is pushing the body to do work that "is excessive," there is also a very special set of stresses which are occuring in the biochemistry of the brain for those extended periods. The brain is just another energy burning and special needs organ in the body, and to demand it's attention and massive conscious functioning for extended periods will also deplete it's cellular tissue of "normal resources" and thus need special recovery time.

I suspect the emotional and motivational vacuum felt by some after a really demanding LONG event is also a cue of the need for "cortical tissue recovery" from the stresses of "excessive system management" during the event.

Eating well, sleeping adequately, and staying moderately active AFTER are also direct recovery forces for ALL body systems ....including the central nervous system.

The old "rule of thumb" was one day recovery for each mile raced..." But recovery in this "formula" did not mean full bedrest, just NOT re-exposure to full racing stress.

One of my vivid recollections of a "stupid move" on my part was doing a recovery run on a Wednesday following a real race effort marathon the previous Sunday. I went out with an early 20's tennis pro (he was playing on the 2nd level pro circuit) and he was a SUPER athlete who ran for "tennis fitness." I clearly told him we needed to run "easy" as I was in recovery mode and he aagreed, but our 6 miles easy plan quickly eased into faster and faster pace. By 3 miles I was really working, but my EGO was too big to say..."Whoa, let's go slower." I just dug down and kept up....and we finished the 6 miles in about 43 minutes. The next day I could hardly walk; it was like I had ran ANOTHER MARATHON. I basically hammered the already damaged and NOT recovered muscles BEFORE they were ready, and I took another 3-4 days to recover from that "easy run."

There is a reason for post-race recovery plans, and there should be PLANS to the recovery process. Do NOT just kick back and become a couch potato,but rather stay active and gradually transition back to full and intense workouts.

I would think that most recreational runners (50-75 mpw) could be fully training 10 days after a 50 miler and ALL runners should be back to easy running 3-4 days after ANY longer effort. But easy, repeat EASY running is the key. Those early "recovery runs" should be 10-35 minutes, on soft surfaces and flat terrain...

Karl King #10

Al Howie asks:

"Question:- Should the day a mile rest required after running the SCMT 1,300 mile (a little over 3.5 years) be counted from the race start or finish date?"
Gee, Al, since I've never run that far, I don't know. Let's get into my experience - According to the one day per mile, if I take one stride in earnest, I need 1.6 minutes to recover. Hmmm.

Remember the discussion about what value to use for the exponent when predicting a time for one distance based on the time for a different distance? Same deal here.

Trying to apply a simplistic formula in place of consideration of the physiology, and individual differences can lead to silly results.

Consider the differences between a 100 yard dash, a 5K race and 50 mile ultra.

In the 100 yard dash, a lot of the energy comes from creatine phosphate. In the 5K race, muscle glycogen is the big energy source. In the 50 mile ultra, a lot of the energy comes from fat. Recovery time for the different distances in likely to be tied to the main energy source used.

For a given runner, we need to consider that runner's training history. A well-trained runner is going to recover a lot faster than a runner who is new to the distance. Yet the runner new to the distance might recover more quickly than would an OVER-trained runner.

The degree of mechanical pounding will make a difference. 20 miles on concrete is a lot tougher than 20 miles on soft trails.

Then there can be the unexplicable. After running the Vermont 100, it took a week before I could walk comfortably. Yet a week after running the California 50 Mile Endurance Run ( about the same amount of downhill per mile ) I ran a PR by 4 minutes in a local 5.2 mile trail run. A simplistic formula is not going to accurately predict that kind of difference.

Maybe, predicting recovery rate is something one shouldn't worry about too much. If you worry too much, it raises the exponent by 1.4829% for every day of worry.

Nutrition Supplements for Tendon Recovery

Jay Hodde #2

Subject: Tendon response to stress

Eric Robinson writes:

"Damage to other tissues (tendons, fascia) probably follow the same general rule, except that both recovery and conditioning are much slower. Assuming that these tissues do indeed have the ability to adapt to stresses in the same way that muscles do. The obvious danger is that the owner may decide to overload again before complete recovery (or hyper recovery) has occurred. That's what I blame my present tendinitis on, anyway."

As one who has studied the Achilles tendon for a couple of years now, I can say that the Achilles *does* adapt to the stresses that it sees. This adaptation appears to take longer than it does with muscles fibers, though.

The main difference in the recovery rates is related to 1) the difference in the tissue type (mainly, I think, due to differences in regional blood flow -- tendons tend to have less blood supply than do muscles) and 2) the difference in the level of "basal stress". What I mean by this term is that it may be easier to rest a certain muscle group than it is to rest the Achilles tendon.

The tendon (I speak mainly about the Achilles) is a very strong structure -- much stronger than is needed to overcome the constant effects of running. However, it has its weak spots. Ever notice that Achilles tendinitis appears in 2-3 specific spots? These spots are:

  1. The tissue interface between the tendon and the calcaneus (heel) -- where the tendon attaches to the bone.

  2. The tissue interface between the tendon and the muscle bellies of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles (the calves).

  3. The spot in the middle of the tendon where your shoe rubs.

When the injury occurs in the first two spots, it is due to overuse and the inherent weakness of the tissue in the area. Tissue interfaces are notoriously weak in comparison to the mid-substance of the muscle or tendon. The third area mentioned above is a byproduct of society and isn't as much an overuse-type problem as it is a problem with constant friction.

I digress. Eric asked about the tendon response to stress. The tendon can be considered a viscoelastic material. It exhibits many of the mechanical properties associated with these types of materials. To an extent, the tendon is elastic (like a spring). It can stretch and return to its resting length. When stretched a little farther, it becomes more plastic-like (think of pulling apart a piece of chewed chewing gum); that is, it doesn't completely return to its resting length.

When the tendon is stressed beyond its region of elasticity, into the region of plasticity, injury occurs. The severity of the injury is governed by the seriousness of the over-stress. Ultimate plasticity -- or failure -- occurs when the stress is high enough. In the case of the Achilles, failure may mean mid-substance rupture, avulsion, or tearing away at the muscle-tendon interface.

During running, extreme forces are transmitted through the tendon complex. Think of Wolff's Law: Tissue responds to the stresses that it sees. The first parts to fail will be the weakest links in the chain, but they will also be the first parts to adapt to an increased level of stress. This is what "training" is all about: attempting to stress the tissues *enough* so that they adapt to the stress *without* stressing them *too much*, leading to failure.

During exercise, the Achilles tendon normally functions in the area of elasticity. With repeated motion, a few twists and turns and a lot of uneven terrain, it can easily enter the area of plastic behavior. That is, it lengthens but doesn't return to resting length. During recovery, it is imperative that you give the tendon enough time to return to its resting state (this occurs with time -- see how the stretched piece of gum starts to "shrink" once the stress is removed). Because tendon tissue is (generally considered) non-contractile, it doesn't return to its resting length nearly as quickly as muscle. It needs more time to recover. Allowing the tendon to completely recover will help to prevent injury and will also allow proper functioning of the tendon complex (proper generation and transmission of force).

Yes, the tendon adapts to stress. So does contractile tissue. But the tendons take longer to adapt, and are therefore the limiting factor in recovery.

Karl King #2

Subject: Tendon Nutrition

Nutrients involved in healing and maintaining tendons

Put very simply, tendons are mostly protein with some "glue" based on carbohydrate structures. An analysis of the tissue shows that the amino acids which are the main building blocks are:

Your body will make hydroxy-Proline from L-Proline if it has sufficient vitamin C.

The "glue" is based on glucosamine sulfate.

So, when I have tendon problems ( off and on over the years ) I take dairy products ( good source of L-Proline and lysine )

1 gram of Glycine
1 gram gluscosamine sulfate
1 gram buffered vitamin C ( calcium ascorbate )

I'll take this at breakfast and bedtime. My personal experience is that the inclusion of the Glycine makes a big difference. All of these are inexpensive except for the glucosamine. If a bottle of it gives you sticker shock, delete that from the list. The glycine seems to be a key element. If for some reason you avoid dairy products ( yogurt is my favorite ), you can get Proline from Knox Gelatin. The human body will make Glycine from other amino acids, so in theory one would not need a supplement. However, the rate at which it is made may not be fast enough to heal rapidly. A supplement gives the body more to work with.

Tendons have a paltry supply of blood, so to carry the nutrients into the tissues, you need to reduce inflammation and increase blood flow. The best way is the old standby - ICE.

If you have recurring tendon problems, try to figure out why. If you haven't upped your mileage a lot, maybe it is a mechanical problem that needs addressing. The nutrients will help one heal fast, but they won't remove a root cause ( unless your are severely nutritionally challenged ) so look for the root cause.

George Beinhorn #1

Had a MUCH faster and more pleasant recovery since my 50M last Saturday. I attribute this to:

  1. Message. Massaged this old person's legs about 45 minutes of work to tolerance the day after the race, and I believe this helped greatly. Interesting thing happened. I got up and walked around after she had only worked on the front of my legs, and it was a funny feeling the front felt loose and agile, and the back still felt very tight.

  2. Didn't take caffeine or significant white sugar during the race.

  3. Took branched chain amino acids for 3 days afterwards (Now brand 1000 mg).

  4. Took PhosFuel (2 per day for 2 days, then 1 in the morning for 2 days).

  5. Took colloidal minerals (Now brand, 1 tbsp twice daily for 2 days, then 1 tbsp in the morning for 2 days).

  6. Ate well--lots of fruits, salads (local gourmet deli at Whole Foods market), protein, etc.

Doug Clark

Subject: Glycine, Lysine, Vitamin C & Glucosamine

Thanks for the tip about using glycine, lysine and vitamin C for the promotion of healing.

For several months I've taken the following, daily:

2 grams of glycine powder ( 1 g. at dawn, 1 g. at night)
0.5 gram of lysine (and, daily, I eat 8oz of yogurt & 6oz of tuna)
2 grams of glucosamine sulfate ( 1 g. at dawn, 1 g. at night )
3 grams of vitamin C ( 1 g. at each meal )

My goal was to minimize the damage to joints (bone & tissue) from running. Additionally, I hoped glucosamine sulfate would benefit osteoarthritis. At 6 feet, 185 pounds, I started running 3 years ago at age 50. I run 6 to 8 miles three times during the week & 15 to 20 on Sunday, usually at 10 min. per mile.

I am happy to report dramatic results. For years, I would have major (arthritic?) pain in my big toe after my runs. The longer the run, the more the pain. Arch supports have helped some. I continue to get a lot of toe pain after about 8 to 10 miles, but the good news is - it goes away when I stop running. It does not continue hurting for days as it used to.

Karl King #3

Subject: Glucosamine Sulfate
(See Also: Glucosamine under the Supplements Section)

Chemically, as the name implies, glucosamine is a hybrid of carbohydrate and amino acid ( which tells you nothing about what it does ). Without delving too deeply into the biochemistry ( which Jay Hodde is more qualified to do than I am), it is a structural component of connective tissue.

I posted a note relating that connective tissue formed from glycine, proline, lysine (all amino acids ) and that glucosamine sulfate was needed as a "glue" to hold the structures together. Vitamin C is part of the associated chemical reactions necessary for healing of damaged tissues.

Why would these supplements help? The body will go through the chemical reactions as needed, but my be limited in the rate at which connective tissue will be repaired by lack of raw materials. Adding the supplements basically makes sure those components are in supply.

Does it help to take such things? Generally, yes. Do they provide miracle cures for all sorts of ailments? No. Some supplement suppliers have useful products, but they promote them beyond reasonable expectation, and that is a disservice.

As a sidelight, a few days before the Glacial Trail 100K, I turned my right ankle. Desperate for a quick fix, I used the listed supplements to the hilt and iced according to the suggestions given me by Jay Hodde. The ankle responded and held up through the run. It has given me little problem in the weeks following. At 1 mile into the run, I turned the LEFT ankle. After 25 miles the pain got substantial and I dropped at 50K. It is rare to have the chance for a comparative study of turned ankles ( hard to get volunteers ) so I decided to let nature take its course with the left ankle. It took much longer to heal, and was sore for a month after the run.

That is only a sample of one, but I believe that glycine, lysine, C and glucosamine can help speed the healing of damaged connective tissues. But I would not attribute any miracle cures to them beyond that use.

Jay Hodde #3

Subject: Glucosamine Sulfate
(Cross Posted in Glucosamine under the Supplements section)

Karl King says:

"Chemically, as the name implies, glucosamine is a hybrid of carbohydrate and amino acid (which tells you nothing about what it does ). Without delving too deeply into the biochemistry ( which Jay Hodde is more qualified to do than I am ), it is a structural component of connective tissue."

I guess I'll add my $0.02 and try to be relevant to the discussion at the same time :-). Let me clear something up, however. Glucosamine (technically speaking) isn't really a hybrid of a carbo and an amino acid, as Karl implies. It is actually a single molecule of glucose that has been substituted at the Carbon-1 position with an amine group. The amine group is an essential component of amino acids, however. . . .

Glucosamine and galactosamine (hexosamine is a general term for the two substances) are important constituents of the class of "molecules" known as glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). An example of a GAG is heparin. GAGs are important structural components of another class of substances, the proteoglycans.

Proteoglycans are proteins that contain a GAG chain. They serve many different functions in the body. They may act as signaling molecules, adhesion molecules, or "storage" molecules -- essentially, they may be important in regulating many different cell functions. In addition to that, the structure of one particular proteoglycan, aggrecan, is such that it can act as a shock absorber. It is a principle component of articular cartilage.

It has been suggested that the availability of glucosamine is the limiting factor in the biosynthesis of the GAG chain, and therefore, of the proteoglycan components of articular cartilage. If glucosamine were readily available, it is thought, repair of cartilage would progress faster.

While I don't know of controlled studies that have looked into this, patients with osteoarthritis that have taken glucosamine sulfate have reported less joint pain and stiffness. I'm not qualified to address clinical aspects, save one. It is my understanding that uptake studies performed comparing the body's utilization of glucosamine to glucosamine sulfate have indicated that glucosamine sulfate can be utilized by the body, but that the free form (glucosamine) is not absorbed. Something to watch if you decide supplementation is right for you.

Karl King #4

Subject: Glucosamine and Arthritis
(Cross Posted in Glcosamine under Supplements section)

After Jay's excellent note on the chemistry of glycosaminoglycans, here are a couple references on glucosamine and arthritis. Note that neither of these studies used athletes.

1. Vaz,A.L., Double blind evaluation of the relative efficacy of glucosamine sulfate in the management of osteoarthritis of the knee in out patients, Current Medical Research Opinion, 1982;8:145-149

68 patients were evaluated for pain reduction. Half got 1.5 gms glucosamine per day, half got 1.2 gms ibuprofen. The glucosamine group had significantly less pain at the end of the study.

2. D'Ambrosio, E., et al, Glucosamine Sulfate: a controlled clinical investigation of arthrosis, Pharmatherapeutica, 1981;2(80):504-508

30 patients in a double blind were given either 0.5 gm per day or a placebo for 14 days. There was no change in the placebo group, but a 71% reduction in symptom scores ( pain, swelling, tenderness, loss of function ) in the glucosamine group.

Glucosamine in the sulfate form was used in both studies.

Perhaps the only drawback of glucosamine sulfate is that is darned expensive.

Damon Lease

Subject: Glucosamine Sulfate

Based on some advice from some others on the list, and faced with running three ultras in 22 days in August while suffering Achilles problems, I tried Glucosamine Sulfate. I didn't do any ceteris parabus testing, as I also took amino acid supplements (including lysine), some PhosFuel, and my normal regimen of multi-vitamins, buffered C, and E.

I don't take most of these on a regular basis, but my Achilles problems that had plagued me for the last year or so have pretty much disappeared over the last few months. I have been taking the GS and Amino acid supplements a few times a week, and I use the PhosFuel just before and just after races, for a total of 5-7 days.

Be aware that Glucosamine Sulfate is rather expensive. I happened to get some at a 2-for-1 sale that brought the price down a lot.

50k Recovery


Subject: 50k Recovery

I ran my first 50k last weekend, and I'm curious as to others' opinions on a > timetable for recovery. I checked out the "UltRunR" web site for postings on the subject, but most seemed to be aimed more at 100's than 50k. I'm thinking that 50k recovery can be very similar to marathon recovery (basically two weeks at little training), but I'm curious to hear other opinions.

Debbie Reno

Subject: 50k Recovery

I can only state my own experience - after a 50k I am generally sore for a couple of days, then the legs have some lasting "tiredness" for another few days. Two weeks ago, I ran a 50K on Saturday, then did interval work on Tuesday, hill work on Thursday, and ran nearly 40 miles over the weekend. This week, my legs felt a bit dead, but not sore at all. I still did some interval work on Tuesday, but skipped the hill work, just took an easy day. I think it's much like recovering from a marathon, but everyone is different. You'll find what is normal for you. have fun!

Rick Lewis

Subject: 50k Recovery

I just finished up by 8th ultra in the past 11 months. I've found 50K to be "my distance" and although I plan to run longer, will stay at this training level and the 50K distance.

I got here by training up for a marathon, then not wanting to lose that fitness, searching for something and found ultrarunning.

My training changed from 2-3 short runs of 5-6 miles plus a long weekend run of 10 - 20 miles a week to 2-3 short runs of 10-12 miles a week. I also run a 50K every month. This averages out to about 40 miles a week.

I found that the 5-6 mile runs were not doing anything to help me maintain a given level of fitness so I lengthened them, and sped up.

On all runs I walk the last 1/2 mile or so and average 10 minute miles. In races I tend to lose time at aid stations, etc. and average 12 minute miles with a 50K PR of 6:45. Yeah, back of the pack is me, happily so!

My recovery time is 2 days. The day after a 50K I usually am stiff and have sore muscles. The second day after I usually hurt. Light walking and light stretching help. The third day after I normally do the 10 mile run, but slower than 10 minute miles. Training resumes normally thereafter.

Now, having said all that, I find myself today still recovering from a 50K I did last Sunday. That was the 3rd ultra in 4 weeks and without doubt I overdid it. The cumulative toll of nearly 90 miles of racing in 30 days has struck! But the only symptom is minor shin splints and walking is helping me. I'll probably run this weekend...

Welcome to the 50K distance I hope it is as good to you as it has been to me!

Nutritional Recovery

Karl King #11

Subject: Nutritional Recovery

Tyler wrote:

"What is your take on post-workout protein suppliments?
" There have been a number of studies on post-workout feeding. They generally report that athletes recover much faster is they have 200-400 calories of carbohydrate along with some quality protein.

Part of the endocrine system's response to stress ( for example, long run or ultra ) is to suppress appetite. It isn't unusual for runners to finish their run with a queasy stomach and no appetite at all. That can lead to an unfortunate habit of not eating right after finishing a run.

As you noted, it is better to eat almost anything after a run than go hungry or drink flavored water with no nutrients or electrolytes.

How much to eat/drink after a long run varies from person to person. It can depend a lot on nutrition and hydration during the run. When I trained for marathons on just water, I finished with cravings for salt, fat and calories. When I do a long run using a sports drink with carbo, fat and protein, and take electrolyte caps, my body does not get so depleted and the cravings are absent. Mostly what I want is water first and then a good meal. If the meal is delayed, then I want some carbo + protein.

If I ran with a drink that had no protein or amino acids, I'd want a good source of protein after the run. My first choice would be a cheeseburger ( hi tech, huh? ), but I also like Heavyweight Gainer 900 ( carbo + protein ).

As far amount of protein goes, there's no need to consume large amounts soon after a run. There's only so much that can be used for repair, and excess is just burned for caloric energy. Excess protein can also be hard on the kidneys. An ultra can strain the kidneys with dehydration, so it doesn't make sense to pile on extra work with protein excess. The first priority after an ultra is get your hydration and electrolyte status back to normal. That's a lot easier if you've addressed water and electrolyte needs during the run.

When the hydration status is good, then you can handle food better.