Recovery week

If you look to the past, you have just completed a marathon and deserve a good recovery. If you look to the future, you are 3 to 4 weeks away from a marathon and you should be reaching the hardest weeks of training before tapering. See the dilemma here? With one every month these two scenarios are incompatible. But if you think a little bit more, you’ll get convinced that the recovery plan makes more sense. You can’t possibly peak at all 12 marathons. If you were planning something similar, as a coach I would tell you: focus on some key events and face the other marathons as long training runs. In my case, I don’t even know if I want to peak at any of them. I still have my triathlon goals and I’m just trying to fit everything in. My goal with the marathons is to make them special so that people get involved and support cancer research.

I’ve just been through my very first recovery week and I thought it would be worth sharing. It was more interesting than it sounds. Be prepared for lots of photos!

With so little time between consecutive marathons, the recovery needs to be quick and efficient. I can’t afford to have a long break. So, let me start with the plan to then tell what really happened. With the race on Saturday, my plan was to go to the pool on Sunday for a light swim and then go for a walk for a few kilometers. Then a rest day on Monday followed by an easy flat run on Tuesday. Wednesday was still a question mark: either resting again or another light run depending on how I felt. On Thursday I would be taking the early bus to Barcelona to fly back to Australia. My arrival in Sydney was scheduled for 5:00 am on Saturday and I was expecting to do a medium distance easy run on Sunday. This last run was intended to be the point where my mind should switch from “relax, you just finished a marathon” to “get ready for the next one!”

Just after the “finish line” (there wasn’t really one) I did the usual: walk, stretch, drink, eat, repeat. Lots of repeats. This marathon had also lots of talking as the friends wanted to know how it all went. It had beer, something that is not offered after normal races, and also had the special “mountain pack” prepared by Miguelón from “El Laminero“, a local bakery from Benasque. The pack included a big “bocata de jamón” (should have taken a photo…), some pastries (including a chocolate croissant) and a big bag of cherries. Do I have to say again that this is not offered after official races? 🙂


A bit out of focus but it is the only one I have with Miguelón from “El Laminero“, my daily source of croissants in Benasque!

After enough of the walk/stretch/drink/eat repeats ,we had to walk back to the car that was parked at Hospital de Benasque (if you are a bit lost, check the post on the race). I learned the hard way that keeping your legs moving after a long race is a great way to avoid severe muscle soreness the day after. After my first two marathons I made the mistake to crash on the couch just after the much needed post-marathon shower. The results? I could barely stand on my legs afterwards, let alone walk. This time I had no option, so I walked another 4 km to the car and the restaurant where we had lunch.

Walking back after the race.

Walking back after the race.

For the next day the group had the plan to hike to the Portillon de Banasque and cross to the French side of the Pyrenees. I had done this hike in 2011 and wanted to do it again. So, I told them that, legs allowing, I’d join them. Sunday morning and I was feeling great. No signs that I had completed a tough marathon the day before. I was pleasantly surprised. Let’s go hiking!

We drove to Hospital de Benasque, the starting point for many of the hikes in the region, and there we met Maciej, another physicist from the workshop, and his sons Jan, Patrick, and Julien. The boys were about to start their hike up to peak of Salvaguardia. The Portillon was on the way so we went up together. I’ll let the photos do the talk about our way to the Portillon at 2444 m of altitude.


What you see down there is the road from Hospital de Benasque to La Besurta. Some fresh memories of running along that road 😉


Wasn’t expecting that much snow…


Jan, Patrick and Terra.


Panoramic view halfway through.


Someone with the wrong gear?

When you cross to the French side you are rewarded with the impressive view of these lakes. Down there we stopped to eat and have a beer at the Refuge de Vénasque. Terra and I had our bocatas from Miguelón’s mountain pack while Ruynet and Barbara decided to try the local soup.


The view just after crossing the border.


Le refuge.


Nous mangeons!

After that, a quick check on the water temperature. Terra and I had a swim there four years ago but there was much, much less snow. It was tempting to repeat the feat…


Terra displaying his swimming abilities.


Mobile and owner submersed in the freezing water. I don’t think I lasted 10 seconds.


The water was freezing but I somehow managed to smile…

The legs were a bit sore the day after, but not much. On Tuesday, as planned, I went for a light run. 10km and I felt great. On the same day I played (against the recommendations of the physio due to a recurring hip flexor injury) a football match with the other participants in the conference. The 7 pm football is already a tradition in Benasque and I couldn’t leave without scoring a goal! 😛

Since nutrition is also crucial to a good recovery, after the game I paid another visit to the restaurant Ansils, my all-time favourite! Bold claim? Maybe, but what can you say of a place where even the scrambled eggs leaves you speechless? I’ll finish the post in the same way I finished my dinner, with the best dessert ever: “la sopa de chocolate blanco” (white chocolate soup).


Simply the best!


Marathon #1 location unveilled

It took me only three weeks, from the moment I had the idea of running twelve marathons in a year, to write my first post on this blog. It was just the time to tell my wife about it, having my mental sanity questioned by the family, and getting their green light. Shortly after, I was being pushed, I mean encouraged, to write a blog about it (my wife is a journalist… 😉 ).

As you can imagine, there hasn’t been much planning put into it. But I haven’t been too worried about it because in April, after a five years hiatus, I finished my third marathon at the Australian Running Festival, beating my PB by almost 15 min.! I also raced the whole ACT triathlon summer series and have been consistently training with the Bilbys  (I’m a proud member of the Canberra Bilbys Triathlon Club and was through their novice program that I became a triathlete). So, I’m not starting from scratch but it is about time to start planning at least the first few events.

As I mentioned in the FAQ, I’m not going to be traveling around running official marathons, but will select a few events and fill in the gaps with runs measured by my GPS watch. However, I will be traveling for work in the next few months so I thought: “Why not run some of the marathons while I’m away attending conferences and workshops?” Well, the first destination is… Benasque, Spain!

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On my way to the Portillon de Benasque in 2011.

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View from the lakes on the French side of the Pyrenees.

I’ve been to Benasque a couple of times, in 2011 and 2013, for this biennial workshop on quantum information. The “Centro de Ciencias de Benasque Pedro Pascual” is the perfect place to do science: great people with similar scientific interests put together in a welcoming building with blackboards along the corridors and internet access. All that a theoretical physicist needs 🙂 !


I have an idea! How about combining work and my marathon challenge?

On top of that, the little village lies at the Spanish side of the Pyrenees and offer amazing options for those interested in outdoor activities in the free time. In 2011, we hiked to the French side passing the Portillon de Benasque. After a quick “swim” at the freezing lake we went to the little Refuge de Vénasque to grab some food and beer!


In 2011, my friend Terra Cunha and I hiked to the French side of the Pyrenees. The swim in the freezing water was a shock! But we were rewarded with beer and food at this little place by the lakes afterwards.

In 2013, it was the turn of Ruynet, my PhD co-supervisor back in 2002, to join me on a mountain bike ride from Benasque to the Hotel Spa Hospital de Benasque. Nothing technical, just a long ride with a “few” climbs. Even longer with our bad navigation, wrong turns, a flat tire, and stops for photos, or simply enjoy the view. Having ridden for almost 5 hours to reach our destination, we devoured the sandwiches we had prepared earlier and quenched our thirst with the cold beer served at the little shack.

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One of the stops to contemplate the view on the long ride to the Hospital de Benasque.

In 2015 the plan is to fill part of the free weekend with the marathon (check the events calendar for the dates). The final route hasn’t been decided yet but I have some ideas. I found this website called Wikiloc that has lots of trails and mountain biking routes in that region. At the moment, I’m tempted to start my marathon challenge in style! The idea is to start along the same mountain bike course we did in 2013 but adapting it to fit the marathon distance. It would be something similar to this map. If I choose this route, it will be a though first half climbing all the way from an altitude of 1150 m to almost 2300 m. The advantage is that the second half will be a breeze. A negative split is almost guaranteed! If you know of a good route around that region, please let me know. I’m open to suggestions!

Here is the link to some of the activities I did there in 2013:

Benasque to Cerler (9 km)
Benasque to Cerler 2 (9 km)
Ride to La Besurta (Hospital de Benasque)  — many stops, wrong turns… (25 km).
Ride back from La Besurta (Hospital de Benasque) — mostly along the road (16 km).
Benasque to Linsoles (12.5 km)
Beyond Cerler — That was a good one! (20 km)