Yesterday, in my Grapevine, Texas office, I had a patient who asked me this very question. He raced Ironman Arizona, which was November 20th and wanted to know if I thought it was OK for him to "jump in and run with a friend" the White Rock Marathon? Really? When I started laughing, he then asked if I thought perhaps a relay leg was OK?
So, after I composed myself I said, "It depends....." So I thought I would give a better, more scientific answer than "Are You Nuts?"
What he really was asking is: How long does it take to recover from a marathon? How long does it take to recover from an Ironman triathlon? How much racing is bad for my body? These are all good questions posed in my office on a regular basis. The problem is that the answer is always, "It depends". Everyone recovers at a different rate. Age, experience and current fitness level are large variables in the equation. I know a marathon runner in town who ran 100 marathons in a less than 10 years; and of course, we have all heard of Dane Rauschenberg who ran 52 marathons in one year for charity and then wrote a book about it! The flip side is that I know runners who can only do one marathon a year without getting hurt and most triathletes only train for one Ironman a year.
So what is the magic formula? How much is too much? I think the first thing to think about is what is your goal? If you are just talking about finishing the marathons and not really having a time crunch, then feel free to do up to six a year but realize that having more than two quality runs in a year is very difficult. The Ironman distance should not be attempted more than 2 or 3 times a year regardless of time goals! Now, for those of us who are addicted to the watch, "racing" a marathon is something that should not be done more than twice a year. "Racing" an Ironman triathlon should only be attempted one a year.
Why is this true? Well, simple math. It takes a minimum of 4 months to train effectively for a marathon and 6 months for an Ironman. Then you need at least one day for every mile you ran and three to five days for every hour your triathlon took. That means a month of recovery before you start to train again after a marathon and at least 6 weeks after a 12 hour Ironman. Last time I checked, there were only 12 months in a year; hence, the common recommendation of racing no more than 2 quality marathons or one quality Ironman triathlon a year.
Why do some people recover faster? Age. My feeling is that youth is wasted on the young. I remember being able to run a marathon and get up and go to work the next day. Now I have to take at least one day off and often take two! Experience does help. Your body has been there before, so it knows it will live. Veterans often have a post-race routine down that helps them recover. (Often this includes the anesthesia known as beer!) If your fitness level is high and your nutritional status is good, you will recover faster.
What can you do to hasten recovery? Walk a cool down after the race. Do not sit down immediately even though your legs are begging you to! Take a 15 to 20 minute walk and stretch gently. An ice bath is best, but very few people I know are that tough. A cool bath followed by stretching before you go to bed is helpful. A large amount of carbohydrates and water also helps. Hence the beer phenomenon! A massage a few days after the race will help you recover. More than anything, do not start training again until you are fully recovered. Many injuries occur due to too much, too soon, too fast and too fatigued syndrome!
So how much is too much? Again, the answer is always, "It depends." Listen to your body. Really listen and stop being stubborn or stupid! If you start training and you are exhausted, you are doing too much. If you are spending too much time in my office and less on your bike, you are doing too much. The answer is really simple stupid. Listen to your body and it will tell you how much is too much.
Bottom line: Let your body fully recover from your races and quality times will be recorded. Race only one to two marathons or one Ironman triathlon a year. As for other distances, keep in mind that you need one day for every mile of a running race and at least 3 days for every hour you raced in triathlon. Anything shorter, you better take off your watch and go for the finish instead of the time and prepare yourself to spend some quality time with your local sports medicine physician!
Run Happy! And Recover Well! See You at White Rock!
Follow Dr Marybeth Crane and janet Dixon, CPed on their journey to the Texas Ironman!
I'm leaving with Janet in the morning to drive down to outside of Houston, Texas, to check in for our first Ironman. The Inaugural Texas Ironman. Six months ago I felt like I had all the time in the world to train for this event. Three months ago it felt like time was standing still and it would never come. Last week I started freaking out that I hadn't done enough training and I may perish on the streets of The Woodlands, TX. Wow! The journey really is the destination. No matter what happens this Saturday morning, I know that Janet and I have grown as athletes, bonded as deeper friends, pushed our personal barriers past even our own imagination and really enjoyed all the miles we have covered together and apart over the last few months.
My thoughts turn to 30+ years of distance running and all the marathons I have done in the last 12 years; and I realize that they have prepared me for the race ahead by allowing me a glance into the depth of my soul. Let's face it, the race really happens in your head. It is a constant battle between the urge to stop so your pain goes away and the mental push to keep going because pain is temporary and the finish line is forever!
Good Luck to everyone who is racing this weekend. I will leave you with two thoughts and a short prayer:
The race is not only to the swift, but to those that keep on running....Anonymous
Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction.... William James
The Triathlete’s Prayer
Oh God, you have taught us to compete with perseverance the race that is set before us.
Give me good courage to run this race to the finish.
Be with me when I am in the water and on the land, so that I may feel your presence in all things
In wind and in weather, in the beauty and the magnificence of nature in the passing scene and in the health and rigor of my body straining to meet this challenge.
May I compete in this race in a way that brings honor to You, myself and those with whom I compete.
When I finish the race, may I do so humbly and should I not finish may I accept it with equal grace knowing that I have done my best.
The triathlon bug has now taken over at the FAANT office. Janet and I have been training for the Inaugural Texas Ironman on May 21st for the last 6 months and Janet has done a great job of blogging about our adventures. (click here to read her blog) The women in our office have now been inspired to “tri” their first triathlon. Grapevine recreation is having a sprint triathlon on June 4th right here in town, so many of the ladies have signed up! Even more are taking the role of Sherpa or cheerleaders to encourage their co-workers. I am so excited to see the enthusiasm for the sport. So here are a few tips for getting ready for your first tri!
Have a Plan. It’s not like you just wake up one morning and decide you want to do a triathlon. Or maybe you did and then realized you have no idea how to get ready for one! There are lots of on-line plans and relatively inexpensive coaching available. Having a plan is like having a recipe for success. Make a plan and stick to it!
Be Consistent. If you have ever jumped into a race very undertrained, the experience is not pleasant. You want your first triathlon to be an uplifting experience, not a painful blur. Stick to your training plan and be consistent with your workouts. After the first three weeks it gets a lot easier!
Review the Course. Knowing the course is very helpful in getting through rough spots in the race. You can anticipate the harder spots and know that the finish in near. Also, occasionally the course is not well marked and you can go awry. Knowing the course ahead of time is always a bonus if the going gets rough.
Watch Your Nutrition. Training for your first race is not the time to try a new diet or new foods. Consistent and normal good eating habits will ensure a stable stomach during the race. You don’t want to spend half the day in the porta-potty!
Sleep is Important. Training is taxing on the body and the mind. Getting plenty of rest will help your body recharge and be ready for the race. The sleep you get two nights before is more important than the night before, so if you have pre-race jitters and don’t sleep well….no fear if you have adequate rest in the weeks before.
Pack the Night Before. And use a List! I always set out my transition and all my gear the night before. The morning of the race is always full of chaos and usually starts a 5am, so packing your bag the night before using a checklist will ensure you have necessary tools like goggles and sunglasses!
Visualize Success. Get a mental image of yourself not only crossing the finish line, but being happy with your finish. Your body tends to follow your mind.
Pace Yourself. Many newbies go out way too fast on the swim or start to hammer the bike, only to find themselves walking the run. Pace yourself. The first one is about finishing standing up!
Don’t Freak Out! Janet can tell stories about panicking on the swim. I can tell stories about crashing on the bike. Neither one of us has ever had a flat tire in a race, but we’ve seen enough of them! Relax. Things happen. Your goggles can fall off, you can crash your bike, and you can forget to put sock on with your running shoes.
Relax and Execute Your Race. We have all had stuff happen that didn’t fall into our “perfect race” plan. Go to plan “B”!
Have Fun. Don’t be so serious about the challenge that you don’t enjoy the day. I remember finishing my first sprint triathlon after years of marathon running and feeling. “Wow! That was fun!” Let’s face it, most of us won’t win our first time out, so our reward is the sense of accomplishment (and the beer at the finish!)
Hopefully these tips will help any newbies and all the staff in my office who are training for their first tri! You will get addicted! Triathlon gets in your blood and you will be hooked!
This week my 12-year-old daughter, Alex, had her first cross-country meet. Wow! 7th grade at Carroll Middle School in Southlake, Texas. Where did the time go? The States of Texas is so weird with their sports timing. Middle school cross country is December to February. Very strange and I figure we will be freezing for many of the meets, so it will feel just like Rhode Island in November! All joking aside, when she put on her uniform, I almost cried. My heart was so full of joy that my daughter would hopefully experience the same positive affect that competitive running had on my teen years. Most of my happy times as a teen revolved around running and running is so much a part of my life still today.
As for Alex’s first meet, true to form, she found the only gopher hole in the first 100 yards of the race and fell flat on her face (all my Facebook friends that ran with me are laughing, my nickname was “Crash Crane” because I fell so much!), but got right back up and proceeded to pass about a hundred people. She finished 83rd (out of about 300) and did her best time to date. She was very excited and happy. Energized to do it again after the holidays!
So here is a shout out to all Moms who infect their kids with the running bug. Keep it up! It is a great way to occupy them as teens and positively influence their health choices for a lifetime!
Whew! Gear is all together and ready to go at 6am tomorrow morning. I’m excited. My first tri was at the age of 40! I’m glad my kids can get a taste of the sport I’ve come to love. The race is called the “Monster Kids Triathlon” and looks to be a lot of fun! They have competitors as young as 4 and as old as 13. Picture little kids on tricycles up to early teenagers. What a mix!
The adult sprint triathlon is Sunday, so we get to get up before dawn both days this weekend! I think I’m more excited then the girls, but my 12-year-old was telling everyone in school she was doing a tri and they were all impressed! Wish them luck! Will update with results and even pics!
Run Happy! (and Bike and Swim if you please!)
Texas Man triathlon series is this weekend in Denton, Texas. The girls at FAANT (Foot & Ankle Associates of North Texas) have decided to try to suck in one of our coworkers and do the Half-Ironman distance relay. Janet and I are still tired from the New Orleans 70.3 so we thought a relay would be fun and it would get Lori to drink the K00l-aid of triathlon! I get to swim (why does everyone hate the swim?), Janet is going to smash the bike (I heard there were a few little hills, ha ha) and our newest triathlete, Lori, is going to motor the run! A good time I’m sure will be had by all. I’m happy because the swim should be wet suit legal! I float better that way. The forecast is bleak and includes possible thunderstorms, so pray for good weather at 7am on Sunday! We will update you after the race!
Here’s a shout out to everyone else racing this weekend. Be safe and have fun!
Starts and ends at the Cotton Bowl. Should have great weather!
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