Earlier in the year, when I first realized that I’d only have 5 weeks between the Oakland and Big Sur Marathons, I was a little scared. Would I be recovered and ready run another marathon in a relatively short amount of time? To my relief, after finishing the Oakland Marathon, I was able to recover, do a tiny bit of training, taper, and run Big Sur 5 weeks later. So, with the Big Basin Marathon looming in 4 weeks (6 weeks post-Big Sur), I expected to follow the same general recovery/train/taper cycle.
Immediately after Big Sur, my hips hurt a lot, but they’ve been doing that after marathons, so I’m used to it. By the Tuesday after, I was easing my way into pigeon pose, which I wasn’t able to do until the Wednesday or Thursday after Oakland. So, I took it as a sign of progress. Running-wise, this is how week 1 post-Oakland compared with week 1 post-Big Sur:
Despite the mileage difference, I’d say the quality of both of these weeks was similar. One difference is that I went in for a sports massage on the Friday after Oakland, whereas I wasn’t able to see my massage therapist until Monday, 8 days after Big Sur. Not sure if that made a difference or not.
So how did week 2 post-marathon compare?
These 2 weeks would have been nearly identical if not for the fact that I decided to skip today’s recovery run. And the reason why I skipped today’s recovery run is that my hips, and in particular, my left hip, has been screaming at me since yesterday’s trail run. Let’s rewind: I felt fine on Tuesday’s run at Lake Chabot, though in retrospect, I did charge down the hills a bit harder than I’m used to. (I blame it on the excitement over registering for Big Basin.) Wednesday’s run should’ve been an easy 4 miler around the neighborhood, but my hip started aching around mile 3. It didn’t bother me that much though, so I went ahead with a hilly 6 mile run on Thursday, again focusing on being more aggressive on the downhills. I actually felt okay after that run. Perhaps a little sore, but nothing too bad.
However, I noticed on Friday that my legs were pretty heavy even just climbing the stairs at work and at home. I was glad that I took the day completely off so that I would be rested for a planned trail run at Lake Chabot with Jess. I woke up Saturday with a bit of achiness in my hip, so I spent part of the morning stretching and rolling pre-run, which was very unusual for me. All throughout the run, my legs felt incredibly sore and my hips and hip flexors were pretty cranky. However, I (again) didn’t think too much of it, since I felt similar sensations 5 weeks ago, when I did a tough trail run at San Bruno Mountain with Cathryn and Jess, also 13 days post-marathon.
The big difference came hours later, when the hip ache persisted throughout the day, into the evening, and even while I slept. When I woke up this morning and it was still there, I knew I had to skip today’s recovery run. I’m planning to take at least 2 more days off from running, and then re-evaluate things mid-week. I figure that it’s better to be safe than sorry. The worst case scenario of pushing it too hard now is getting sidelined with my first real running/overuse injury, whereas the worst case scenario of resting too much is being undertrained and having to walk a lot at Big Basin. I’ll take the 2nd option, thank you. In the absence of running, I look forward to returning to yoga and swimming (desperate times call for desperate measures!).
So, being an over-analyzer, I had to wonder: what were the major factors that caused the difference in post-marathon recovery? I can think of a few possibilities. First, I pushed myself a lot harder at Big Sur than at Oakland, so it makes sense that there would be a longer recovery period as well. Second, I didn’t really introduce any hill work after Oakland until the run up San Bruno Mountain 13 days later. Whereas, this past week, I ran not 1, but 3 hilly runs. Third, I’ve been a lot more lax about my nutrition post-Big Sur than I had been post-Oakland. After Big Sur, I’ve been eating a lot more fried foods and sweets, and drinking more alcohol. There’s evidence that nutrition plays a key role in recovery, so… maybe that’s a good place to start!
As for the hip pain itself, it’s difficult to figure out the root cause. Like many runners, I have weak glutes (and I cannot lie), which may contribute to the achiness. I’ve been doing a ton of stretching which helps alleviate the pain, but doesn’t prevent it from occurring. I’ve noticed that while rolling, my outer quad is very tight, so it might be related? If anyone else has had similar issues, I’d love to hear about your experience and what you’ve done to address it.