Recovery Time, getting right for Boston

Posted: November 17, 2011 in Training
Tags: , , ,

We are back to our normal 5-day run schedule this week, albeit at a reduced volume and intensity as we continue to focus on recovering from the New York Marathon.  Bouncing back from the marathon has been as different for me as the races themselves over the last 5 years.

In Philly in 2006 and Austin in 2010 I ended up needing to take some time away from running as I was nursing injuries to my IT Band (Philly) and some minor knee inflammation (Austin).  Coming back from the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2009 and again in 2010 I was able to gradually work back into my normal routine and mileage after just a couple of easy recovery weeks.  It appears to be the same thing this go round coming off of New York.

As for Boston in 2010, we never really got a chance to recover as we were racing another marathon just 13 days later for Dom.  That would be the same as me running another marathon this Saturday.  Yikes.  Sometimes I wonder how I ever managed to pull that off.  The answer of course is that the mind is a powerful thing, and I never let the thought of that second race creep into my mind.  I just knew we had another marathon to run for Dom, went out and did my thing. 

The final miles in Pittsburgh were some of the toughest I’ve ever run, but they were also some of the most rewarding.

There are three of variables that I think make a huge difference in a runner’s ability to bounce back from the marathon.

1.  Are you “running” the marathon or are you “racing” it?

2.  The course topography.

3.  Preparedness.

Running vs. Racing:

This one is a huge factor, just as recovering from a really tough interval workout takes more time than a long, slow, steady run of 18-20 miles – the same thing applies to recovering from a marathon where the runner is pushing the limits of their potential vs. another marathoner who is simply extending their training pace or comfortable long run pace to cover the 26.2 mile course.

My average 20-22 mile long run during training for New York City was about 7 minutes and 30 seconds per mile.

My first mile that came in at that pace last Sunday was mile 22 of the race not counting the climb up and over the Queensborough (59th street) bridge at mile 16.  I was averaging less than 7:00 minute/mile pace from the start of the race until the final 4 miles of the marathon – pushing the limits of my potential over the course and hanging on through the finish to a time of 3:08:09 (7:11 pace).

That kind of effort will take much longer to recover from than if I had simply locked in at 7:25 pace and ran a time around 3:15:00.

The added stress to the body manifests itself over those final 10 kilometers, resulting in literally thousands of small microscopic tears in the muscle and tissue of the marathoner.  Repair time takes longer with increased effort.  It will more than likely be close to 26 full days (one day for every mile raced) before my recovery from New York is complete.

Course Topography:

Another major factor in a marathoners recovery is the nature of the course itself.  A flat course like Chicago or Houston requires that the marathoner run essentially “the same” terrain for the entire 26.2 miles.  The pounding on the various muscle groups is virtually identical mile after mile and the wear and tear is isolated to those same areas.

On a course with rolling hills or an equal/alternating series of up-hill climbs and down-hill descents for many runners causes far less muscle soreness than a flat course.

The flat course may be “faster”, but the varying terrain actually allows the marathoner to utilize different muscle groups over the course of the race, resulting in far less post-race delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and an easier recovery period.

Austin’s marathon course which is truly a hilly monster provided me with the most varied of any race topography I have ever traversed during a marathon.  I was “less-sore”after Austin than any other marathon.

Austin Marathon Elevation Chart


One of the most difficult races for me to “recover” from was Boston in 2010.  I had a very short time before marathon number two for Dom, just 13 days, but even still – Boston really uncovered some training weaknesses for me and left me exposed out on the course.

You’ve all heard the story by now I’m sure about how I was coming back from an injury (shin splints) before Boston and could only run 4X a week.  My mileage was dramatically down from previous training cycles and I did not do the requisite hill work that is now part of my marathon training.

That said, I simply was not a “prepared” runner for Boston in 2010.  I was trying to get by on heart and determination which are commendable and required traits for a marathoner, but I was simply not prepared properly for the race.  I got exposed.  I paid for it.

Coming back from New York I believe has been going as well as it has been because of my increased preparedness for race day, despite the fact that I have never “run harder” during a marathon than I did on November 6th.  My mileage, hill work, up-tempo workouts and racing all put me in a position to push pace hard and hold it there for more than 2 1/2 hours on race day.

The marathon is a race that seeks out any weakness in the athlete it can find.  The goal for the prepared marathoner is to minimize those weaknesses during training and then execute a race plan that will focus on their strengths for as long a period of time on race day as possible.

Reflecting on New York I’ve come to realize that I was “prepared” to run a tremendous 22 miles.  I took the marathon to a place where I have never taken it before.  My final 4 miles of the race, 7:46, 8:05, 8:04, 7:44 were nothing to write home about.  Sure the final two bridges, the hill up 5th avenue and the rolling hills of Central Park slowed those mile splits. 

But I simply could not hold strong over the final 4 miles.  Not like I needed to break the 3:05 barrier, which weather permitting will be our stretch goal for Boston after running another PR in the marathon which will be our primary goal.

Over the next few weeks while I get my body “right” and prepare for another run at the marathon I am also going to be getting my mind right as well.

Perhaps a slightly less aggressive pace strategy will help us stay strong later in the race in Boston.  That will certainly be part of our approach, but we also need to run more miles once again during training, just as we did on the road to NYC. 

Instead of 5 20-22 mile long runs, this time we will run 7.

In addition to our hill repeat regimen, we will start running “down hill”  hill repeats every third week to prepare for the downhill first 14 miles in Boston.  Strengthening our Quadricept muscles so that when it is time to climb as we reach Newton, MA our legs will be there for us this time.  Not deserting us as they did in 2010.

Our mid-week medium-long runs will be 2 miles longer than usual.

I will incorporate a few “two a days” to add some more bulk to our mileage diet.

Come April 16th we will be even more prepared than we were in New York.  We are going to arrive in Hopkinton that morning rock solid, with legs like steel and an engine that has never been stronger.

151 days to go.  Time to go to work.

  1. traintotri says:

    Great post, Joe. I like your anaylsis and the way you tailor your training approach to the specifics of each race.

    • Joseph Marruchella says:

      JT – Thanks so much for stopping by and the message! I think mixing things up race to race is important as much physically as mentally. I feel like I’m battling a lot of demons when it comes to the marathon. Having a race-specific plan gives me something to channel on race day when the signature hill, bridge or stretch of tough miles arrives — and they always arrive … Keep killing it out there, best to you. J

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s