Rest is Training Too

It’s now been 2.5 weeks since the Boston Marathon and I’m struggling with something that many distance runners struggle with: how to get the rest/stress cycle just right.

Recovery days are important throughout a training cycle. Says Runner’s World, recovery days make your training count because your body makes fitness gains while you’re at rest. If you don’t give your body the chance to rebuild, you can’t maximize these gains.

My rest/stress cycle is easy to manage during my training leading into a marathon. I run 6 days per week. On the seventh day I rest (just like the universe intends). Two of my 6 days are easy slow recovery runs. These easy recovery runs come the day after my track workouts.

Boston Marathon Finish Line

I am now in recovery mode post-marathon and there are more rest and stress variables to consider. Obviously, your joints and muscles take a beating over 42.2km.

Research shares with us that the muscle damage from running a marathon can last up to two weeks. The research also indicates that soreness (or the lack thereof) is not a good indicator of muscular healing. In other words, just because you aren’t sore anymore doesn’t mean that you are fully healed. This is the danger for marathon runners: Post-marathon muscular soreness fades after a few days but microscopic damage within the muscle cells remains. If you return to full training too soon–running more and faster than the tissues are ready for–you risk delaying full recovery and the chance to get ready for your next goal. To read more about this in Running Times, click here

Here’s the thing. My next goal is really big. Like 430 km big.

Liam + McKim

When I established Team Love4Gambia, I signed up for the full marathon. Most marathoners run 2 marathons a year: a spring and a fall marathon. Most do not run 2 marathons in 5 weeks. As team captain and girl who would be running across an African country, I felt like “people” would want and expect me to run the full marathon. I knew that I wouldn’t be at my best just 5 weeks after the Boston Marathon so I enlisted my 2 long run partners, McKim & Liam to run it with me. And I kept this plan a secret from my coach- likely the biggest indicator that this was not a super or smart plan.

So I run the Boston Marathon and arrive home and am aware that I need to disclose this plan to my coach. So I tell him.

He responds, “You mean you are doing a relay?”

I say, “No….”

And then he said, “WHAT!?”

Coach never tells anyone what to do in terms of running goals. But he counsels me to think about my long term running. To think about how I will be in Africa in 8 weeks. And about how I will be in Africa 5 weeks after the Blue Nose, with 125km weeks staring at me. And a non-negotiable end date on the Gambian shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

I explain that I feel like “people” expect me to run the full marathon. He demands to know who these people are. I say “the people who have donated money.” He says that they will understand. Several of my running friends, people who’s opinion I hold in high regard, remind me that these people have donated money for me to run across The Gambia. Not to run across the MacDonald Bridge in the Blue Nose Full Marathon.

I chat with my first coach Matt who reminds me that recovery is as important as the stress of running in the training equation. He doesn’t think it’s fair to ask my body to perform at the high level and for the duration that Boston, Blue Nose and the African run demand. Like Cliff, he says to treat the body well and to give myself every opportunity to be healthy and recovered as I begin my Gambia run. So in short, coaches say that it’s not worth the risk to race the Blue Nose Full Marathon.

After careful consideration, I will be dropping out of the full marathon to do either the 5 or 10k race. I’ll chose based on whichever lets me spend the most time at the finish line. The 10k begins at 9:10am and the 5k at 9:50am so looks like the 10k will be best.

Ultimately, I need to be smart and do everything that I can to be healthy on July 7 when I begin to run in The Gambia. Certainly I have mixed feelings about this. I really loved the idea of being out there with my guys McKim and Liam during the full marathon and I’m sad that this can’t happen. But this decision brings a new joyful opportunity- the chance to see many of the 100 runners and walkers on my team finish their races.

Cheering Preparation!

I will get to spend a really fun day at the finish line, cheering runners home and this will be awesome. I love to cheer. My mother and father are walking their first ever road races and I’ll get to see them. My baby sis is doing her first 10k and I’ll get to see her. I have 11 aunts, uncles and cousins from Charlottetown running and walking and I should get to high-five them all on Brunswick Street. I have 22 super high school students running and I’ll get to cheer them to the finish- especially the 13 girls completing their first ever 5k races.

Team Run Forrest Run

Many of my running friends, incredible people who have been by my side over my years running and especially over the last months of my Love4Gambia campaign, are running for me and for Gambia.

They are all making a difference, one kilometer at a time.

My cowbell is ready to salute them.

If you want to read more about how I made my careful decision, here are 2 articles from Running Times: Marathon Recovery Part 1 & 2 by Pete Pfitzinger.

I’ve already made my recovery plan post 430km running expedition.  It’ll look like 7 days of this:

Paradise is Leybato Guest House, Fajara, Gambia

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13 Responses to Rest is Training Too

  1. I think you are wise to listen to people who care about you and your coach. As a “people pleaser”, I have spent a life-time of doing things because I thought people wanted or expected it of me… only to kick myself for not trusting my gut instincts or advice from people who care about me. You are making a wise decision. I think your results in Boston was fabulous and I can’t wait to watch your progress through The Gambia! If you want a really laid back run, we are running the 10K Blue Nose with the goal of enjoying it! My advice is run the Blue Nose for the love of the sport, if you want to be really brave, don’t even wear a watch let your body tell you the speed that day!

    • Erin Poirier says:

      Thanks Michelle, I’ll be running for love of running on Blue Nose day and will look forward to seeing you on the course! And at the finish!

  2. Laura says:

    Not a single team member should be disappointed in your for “only” running 5-10 km in the Bluenose! I completely agree with your running friends who said we are supporting your run across The Gambia not across Halifax. Whatever you need to do to prepare for The Gambia is fine by me!

  3. Gemma Callaghan says:

    A well thought out decision which I fully agree with!!!

  4. norma houston says:

    so from what you are saying…I guess that I shouldn’t be running the BN half 2 weeks after the Freddy Full!! …should I run the 5k instead?

    • Erin Poirier says:

      Norma, you are gonna have a super Freddy marathon, you are SO fit right now! BN- ask the boss! Cliff will have an opinion. I’m pretty sure I know what it’ll be.

  5. Gina says:

    While you may be a fantastic runner, you are an even better cheerer…so I, for one, will be happy to hear your big voice (and maybe tambourine and clappy hands) along the bluenose route. You’ve given so many people a reason to cheer for YOU over the last few months — it’s time for you to get your own chance to holler!

  6. George Clark says:

    HI Erin

    You’ve made the correct decision, by NOT running the BN full ! I can here Cliff – You’re doing what ????
    As much as you want to keep going and keep running, you’ve made the absolute best decision !
    I know all about NOT being able to run for 1 1/2 years, after being injured, because I wasn’t being smart !
    It sounds like you’ll be cheering for everyone anyways, which is going to keep you busy !!


  7. Dawn Hughes says:

    I hope after reading all of these awesome comments that you are feeling better about you decision and those of us that care about you want to take care of your own health and welfare without the stress of feeling you need to complete a 2nd marathon when you still have Gambia in a short few weeks. No one that is here and on your team what you hurt or feeling you’ve let any of us down. You are a true inspiration!!!
    See you all in just a short two weeks. 🙂

    • Erin Poirier says:

      Thanks for your support through this decision, Dawn. I feel really good about it. Can’t wait to see you in 2 weeks AND at the finish line! And along the course. It’s gonna be awesome!

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