It's crazy how our minds and bodies can focus on a distance and work to carry us the length of it, but as soon as we cross the finish line we're unable to imagine running another step. I felt stronger than ever running that last mile—my fastest mile of the race. As soon as I stopped, the soreness and fatigue set in as my body realized it was finally finished working for the day.
I focused on hydrating and refueling, stretching and reliving the moments of the race. I focused on immediately drinking at least 20 ounces of water post-race, and stretching for 15 to 20 minutes. Since I was tired of Clif bars and bananas, I treated myself to a cooked meal and ice cream. Back at the hotel, I took an ice bath, wore compression shorts and socks, stretched and foam rolled.
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I continued to focus on eating regularly, drinking at least 100 ounces of water per day, stretching and foam rolling for 15 minutes a day, and wearing compression as needed in the week after my race. I ran once the urge arose and my legs no longer felt sore, but kept the pace easy and distances short.
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I finally experienced the so-called post-race "blues." I dedicated a lot of time and energy to training for my ultra, and then it was over. I suddenly felt unsure of who I was, where I was going as a runner, or what I desired next.
I felt so satisfied with my race experience. I worked hard and achieved a long-desired goal for which I was deeply passionate. My race day was better than I could have ever expected. But now what? Does this mean I am now "only" an ultramarathoner? Should I dedicate myself to trails and long miles? Do I have to shoot for faster or further? Or can I just “be”?
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It's important to recognize that this feeling is OK and normal. There was a lot of build-up for your big race, and now it's over. Take the time to appreciate the amazing feat you just accomplished, and try not to rush into your next goal if you're not ready.
For now, I am happy and feel complete. I will keep running and setting new goals. I am still enjoying reliving the moments of my first ultramarathon. I figure I will get an itch to race again when the time is right. For now, I will appreciate the miles run without any pressure or race looming, and I will allow my body the time it needs to rest and simply enjoy the love and gratitude of the run.
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