One of the most common questions I have been getting is, are you recovered yet? My answer is always the same. No. Not yet. Another few months.
This is usually met with a sense of surprise as physically I look good. I’m not injured, I have been doing a bit of exercise when I want to so surely I’m recovered?
The thing that has taken me a long time to adjust to is how long the mental as well as physical recovery actually takes. I have been relating this recovery from Uberman to my recovery from Epic 5 (as this Uberman was of a similar distance-ish) in which it took about 6 months. When I say 6 months, that is how long it took me to stop feeling any sort of deep fatigue in my body and I was able to bounce back from a training session a lot easier. For anyone who has done an ultra-endurance event, they will know the deep fatigue that I’m talking about. It’s a feeling in your muscles that they just feel a bit more sluggish than they should be.
On the other side of this is the mental recovery. I knew going into Uberman, this is going to be my last ultra-race for a while. I had already made this decision with my husband before Ultraman Hawaii mid last year when we were talking about doing Uberman. And this decision was reinforced with how mentally taxing I felt this build up has been compared to other races I have done previously. I felt it was more of a struggle to get out of the door at times. I got sick twice when I never usually get sick. And I was just tired. My brain felt stretched and I wasn’t able to concentrate as I usually can at work. Work was also really busy so that didn’t help the mental taxation that it took as well.
It was very interesting going back to work a couple of weeks after I had finished Uberman. My concentration levels were really bad. I mean, really bad. I could only concentrate for about 10-15mins at a time before I found myself getting distracted or my mind wandering. I am a day-dreamer but when I need to focus, I can. This took a couple of weeks to normalise again.
My sleep also took time to re-adjust. I went from having a very broken and non-existent sleeping pattern during Uberman to trying to sleep at night again. We stayed on in American for another week and a bit and my sleep was all over the place. I would feel really tired very quickly and sometimes nap during the day when I could, then at night I would be wide awake at 2-3am for a couple of hours. Again, not normal for me! Thankfully, jet lag wasn’t too bad when we got home and I was able to adjust back to a better sleeping pattern reasonably quickly after that.
So, how do I approach recovery?
Firstly, I stop. I take time off. After a race I let go of all attachments I have to my current level of fitness. I know there is some people who believe that they need to hold onto their fitness and get back into some form of physical activity straight away. Either for their mental or physical health. I am not one of those people. I need my down time. I need my rest. I need to lay around on the couch, watch Netflix and spend time with friends and family. Reconnect relationships that I have not had as much time to dedicate to as my training has taken over that space in my life. And I enjoy it!
I don’t go back and do any form of exercise until I want to. This time it was a month before I went for a swim. And I cut it short because I went from feeling good to horrible very quickly so I stopped!
I even refuse to call it training. I exercise. Training is something that I do with my coach setting me a program. Exercise is what I do in my off-season, if and when I want to.
If I have a plan to go for a swim after work, then by the time I finish for the day and I don’t actually want to swim anymore. I don’t.
If I want to meet friends for a slow-er/crusie ride, then I will.
But whatever I do, I still record it on my Garmin, sometimes without a heart rate monitor or really looking at it at all!! This data then still syncs with my coaches training program so she knows what I have done in my off season. Then I also don’t have to try and remember what I have done in that time! She can see how fast or slow I have been going and how far/long I have been doing things so she has a rough idea on how to manage when I do go back on a program too.
I also don’t compare. I really get annoyed when people downplay their achievements to mine and saying things like – “but it’s nothing like what you do”. I don’t want you to try to compare to me. I want you to celebrate what you have been able to do.
I am well aware that I make specific life choices to be able to do what I do. I know that if you had the opportunity and desire to do the same thing, you would. But not everyone can or even wants to. That’d fine. I also use this rule with myself. I am not allowed to compare my current level of fitness and times to what I was doing before a race. I often laugh about how unfit I feel because my heart rate has gone sky high and refuses to come back down again in a hurry when I’m riding up a hill or running across a road but that’s fine. I know my base fitness is still there when I start back training again.
When do I get back to training, I know it’s going to hurt. It will feel crap for a while. I’ve been there. I know after about 4-6 weeks, I will start to feel good again. And that’s fine. I need this time to mentally and physically recover. If I rush it, then I risk burning out or getting injured. Chronic fatigue is something that always sits in the back of my mind as a possibility if I’m not careful as well. Thankfully I have never suffered from it but there is a significant amount of athletes who do and it is not a place I want to be in. Ever. So I strongly believe that taking these breaks helps prevent developing something like that as well.
The other main thing I need to monitor is my eating! Usually after a big race like this, I don’t have much of an appetite for a couple of days then I can’t eat enough! This time round, I was able to still eat and had an appetite after I had finished which was strange, but it also wasn’t a full-on hunger that I have had before. It is very normal for me to put on a few kgs as I’m not training and still eating a bit and probably more things that I wouldn’t eat when training too!! I usually get to a point where I say enough already, time to rein it in. I came to that point a couple of days ago so being a bit more conscious about what I’m eating now! Work in progress anyway.
The next question I get is – what’s next?!
At this stage, I have my eye on a race that will again go over multiple days but it’s a much shorter distance. I said that I am not doing an ultra again for a while and I plan on sticking to that!!
I figure it’s my husband Michael’s turn to do something fun so I can crew for him instead for a change.
I have done a couple of talks at Primary Schools which has been loads of fun. I really enjoy talking to people about the race and I am more than happy to talk in front of a group of people. I figure if I can inspire one child to take up sport, then my job is done!
I have also had an amazing oppounity to tell my story in various podcasts which has been great!
So far, the ones that I have been on to talk about Uberman are: YogiTriathlete, Crazy Does It, Everyday Running Legends, IMTalk, Sparta Chicks Radio (part 1, part 2 due out on 23rd December) and Runnez Radio.
So at this stage, I’m still in my exercise phase. I have signed up for a couple of small races to mostly hang out with friends at the Western Suburbs Tri Club sprint triathlon and then a 10k trail run on New Year’s Eve to close out the year which I really like the idea of. These races are no-pressure just have fun kind of events before I start back training on a program in the New Year. I’m hoping I have been doing enough exercise to hopefully survive them! We will see!