Now What Do You Do?

Congratulations! You’ve crossed the Finish Line of your very first half marathon. You trained for weeks – months even – and now you are done. You savor your triumph. It is not every day someone runs a half marathon, after all. You wear your medal to work, in the car; you may even sleep in it. Go ahead! After all, you earned it! Your hours and hours of hard work, training, eating smart and running have paid off into one fantastic race day.

And now it’s over. Just like that.

Now what should you do?

Recovery has to be an integral part of your training, and it begins the moment you cross the finish line. You must recover so that you can run and race again.

Take the first five or ten minutes after you cross the finish line and keep moving with easy walking – this can easily be the time it takes you to walk through the chute, collect your belongings and meet up with your family and friends. Walking at an easy pace allows the body to come down more gradually and circulates blood back to normal distribution quantities and regions on your body. It prevents fainting and blood pooling in the legs that occurs if you immediately sit down post race. It also allows your body to process the lactic acid that builds up during the race.

While you’re walking, start drinking the first liquids that are put into your hands. Keep drinking (small sips) even if you feel nauseated, you need to replace the fluids your body has lost. Sipping water is fine, but make sure you find a recovery drink such as Gatorade or fruit drinks to replace your body’s glycogen stores. Avoid diet soft drinks and alcohol – they do not offer any benefits to your body. I like to drink Chocolate Milk because it offers the perfect ratio of carbs to protein (4:1) for recovery.

After your walk, get off your feet! Sit down – or better yet – lie down and prop your feet up, easing the flow of blood to the heart. Many runners even stretch (gently to avoid further trauma to the muscles) horizontally. Your body will let you know what feels good.

Within an hour after your finish, you need to start thinking about eating some solid foods. A banana is beneficial because it is soft and easily digestible, plus provides extra potassium to your cells. They are my favorite post-race food as a matter of fact – I get upset when they are not available so I started carrying one or two in my bag just in case. As you progress throughout your day, start eating balanced food again. You need to replace the glycogen your body has burned. A 150 pound runner needs about 300 calories an hour to effectively replace lost glycogen stores.

When you get home (or back to your hotel) you may want to take an ice bath to relieve sore muscles and start returning your body to a normal body temperature. Take a cool shower instead of a hot one to further decrease muscle inflammation. Within 24 to 48 hours, you may want to get a gentle massage to help push waste products out of the body and regenerate healthy blood flow.

Next, take a nap or at least try to, for a couple of hours. I never have a problem with this. I could sleep all day after a race, but after three or four hours, you need to eat again – this time a full meal. Your first post-race meal should resemble your last pre-race meal. You need carbohydrates and protein. I usually crave a steak after a marathon or half marathon, and I make sure to pair it with extra bread, potatoes or pasta to make sure I am consuming adequate carbs. Remember, even high carbohydrate diets have some  protein in them, so don’t be afraid to eat the meat!

So, what about running? The most common post-marathon mistake is resuming training too soon.

Take one week off running and let your body heal. Research indicates that recovery is speeded and conditioning is not affected if you rest for 7 to 10 days after your race. Yes, take one week off running. Although the stiffness subsides in a few days, there is still internal healing happening and running too soon increases the chance of an injury down the road.

After your week off, you can begin cross-training easy for 20-30 minutes during the week and focus on flexibility, if you feel like you need to be active. Cross-training will also help to increase circulation to the healing muscles without major impact and pounding.  Gradually increase your mileage similar to a reverse taper. Start back running limiting the weekly mileage to only 25% of what it was before taper started. The next week go to 50%, then 75%, then back to full mileage. The general rule of thumb is to take one day for every mile to run easy and not race. Meaning, take 13 days of easy running before racing or running hard again.

To summarize: Drink plenty of fluids, carbo-load after the race (as well as before), and don’t start running again too soon.

The bottom line? You know your body best. If you are experiencing aches and pains or sore, take more time to rest. If you get sick, this is not uncommon since your immune system has taken a severe hit, rest until you are better. Listen to your body, recovery is important to keep you running happy and healthy for a long time to come.

Another important part of post-marathon healing is recovering your mental health, yet is one of the aspects of training that people do not seem to talk about very much. You may experience not only physical, but mental fatigue if not mild depression. This is a normal part of racing! Not much can be done except for you to understand it is normal, sleep more if you can and don’t exert yourself physically or mentally. Many scientists believe this mild state of depression is a result of depletion of neurotransmitters in the brain.

There is a wealth of information about post-marathon recovery. Two of my favorites are The Lore of Running by Tim Noakes, MD and Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide by Hal Higdon. You can find a great deal of information and apply it to your specific situation.

Until the next mile marker, 

An annoucement, an anniversary (a birthday) and a WINNER!

Remember the movie MY RUN narrated by academy award winner Billy Bob Thornton? It premiered in March and was screened in 500 theaters across the nation. I loved this film. Every second of it. I found it motivational, inspirational, and amazing. Terry Hitchcock reminds us of the obstacles we face every day – the marathons of life – and that we can overcome them with determination, self-confidence, belief in the extraordinary, and the will to succeed. Plus, Terry ran 75 marathons in 75 consecutive days. Simply amazing! I can only dream of running that far and for that long. Check out my full review if you haven’t already.
Did you miss this film in theaters? Get ready because Virgil Films and Entertainment announced it is coming to DVD on September 20, 2011!

A portion of DVD sales will go to programs that provide direct service to those affected by cancer through the Livestrong Foundation. ‘Be Somebody’s Hero’ today and pre-order your copy. Don’t forget to look for my name in the credits – I will be!
You can find more information and follow updates from MY RUN on Twitter and Facebook.  
Today is not only my birthday, but the anniversary of my first marathon ever! I have run four more since then and a marathon. I ran it with my friend Chrissy and the help of the MIT training program. I could not have done it without either one.  It was only two years ago:
Chrissy & Me finishing the Spirit of Columbus Half.
To this day, it has been the greatest experience and accomplishment of my adult life. I have not been the same person since I trained for and ran that race. 
It goes without saying, that I miss my mother more than anything today. She always made birthdays special for us. Thank each and every one of you – and Dad, Michael and Mollie – for making my day as special as it could be. You guys remind me everyday that I am not alone, even when it feels like it.
Dad, Michael, Me, Mollie & Mom on my birthday last year. (I never thought it would be our last as a family)
What better thing to do on my birthday than announce the CEP Compression Running Shorts giveaway winner?
Thank you to everyone who entered – I wish I could give you all shorts! I was thrilled with the number of entries and more importantly, the votes I received for Team Refuel. Thank you so much for supporting me! And, don’t forget, you can VOTE once a day for me until September 15th.
And the winner is, per the random number generator is…
Comment #88 (numbered from the first comment posted from 1 to 113) belongs to Laurieb27 from I Can Walk As Fast As You Can Run (which she really can, I’ve witnessed it!). 
Congratulations, Laurie! Please contact me to claim your prize and thank you for your votes!
Until the next mile marker, 

Refuel with Chocolate Milk and Vote for Me Too!

As runners and athletes, we know that it is important to fuel our bodies to for peak performance. We also know that it is important to refuel our bodies after our energy has been depleted after a long or hard run. In fact, it is important to replenish our muscles stored within 30 minutes of a workout.

After a workout, hydration is the main goal because a significant amount of water is lost through perspiration and not getting enough fluids can lead to fatigue, dizziness and headaches. In addition to hydration with fluids (I prefer water) your body also needs replenished with a carb-rich snack or meal that does demand the high-calorie and high-sugar counts found in many sports drinks. The key is to replace both carbohydrates and electrolytes lost during a workout and while whole grains, fruits and veggies are the best options, sometimes a drink or recovery smoothie is a perfectly good, inexpensive and quick fix.
Due to its carbohydrate to protein ration (about 3:1 or 4:1), Chocolate Milk has been found to be one of the best post-workout options to refuel muscles. It provides an optimal balance of carbs and protein and is recommended to help you refuel both after strength and cardio training. It also provides fluids and electrolytes to rehydrate and help replenish what’s lost in sweat. Choose low-fat Chocolate Milk to avoid excess sugar and fat consumption and drink no less than eight ounces to properly refuel. 
Do you refuel with chocolate milk? I love a tall glass of ice-cold chocolate milk after a hard run and it is my go-to staple for recovery and a quick snack when I am pressed for time. I especially enjoy it when Chocolate Milk is available at Finish Lines – it is the first thing I look for and it is not there, I rarely drink anything else besides water until I get home! 

The elite athletes, coaches and trainers of Team Refuel at Chocolate Milk know low-fat chocolate milk is nature’s premium recovery drink – a delicious and effective way to refuel your body after a hard workout. And they are looking to expand the Team with not only professional athletes, but everyday athletes like me!
I want to be a part of Team Refuel so I submitted my application and was selected to be in the contest this month! Each month, the five individual athletes who win the most votes will be invited to join the team.
I want to be one of those athletes. Please check out my submission HERE and vote for me! Search for me by name – Sara Wyen – my photo looks like this:

 You can vote once a day until September 15, when the winners will be selected, but I would appreciate any vote(s) you are able to cast.

If I am one of the winners, I will be invited to join Team Refuel and each receive a $250 grant. If I won the Refuel Grant, I would use the money to continue to train and run races – including Disney’s Goofy in January 2012. I will need A LOT of Chocolate Milk to take my training to the next level and accomplish my goal of running 39.3 miles in two days! With Chocolate Milk, I know I can take my training to he next level and inspire others to do the same.
These babies will be for you, Mom!
I am planning to run The Goofy in Orlando, Florida in January 2012 with some of my running buddies and if I win, I will be using the grant money to fund my training for the 39.3 mile race over the course of two days in the happiest place on Earth! This race is special to me because, as you may or may not know, my mother loved Disney and she would be ecstatic to know my sister and I are running the Disney races. Some of my happiest memories with her are from our family vacations to Disney World. I want to run the Goofy in her memory. She would be so thrilled. 
She made me a scrapbook of the last family trip we took to Disney in 2006 and this note is included on the last page:

We were supposed to go to Disney World the week after the Pittsburgh Marathon, but we did not go due to my mother’s sudden passing. I want to train as a part of Team Refuel to go to Disney World and run The Goofy in her memory. So please vote for me!
And thank you! 🙂
Until the next mile marker,