The importance of recovery

Ruth is doing Ride London in May, raising funds for Brentford Football Club Community Sports Trust. Donate here.

Back in 1987, when I was just 27, I ran the London Marathon in a time of around 3:38. Then the next day, feeling absolutely so energised and on top of the world, I played a hard game of squash. My left knee went – I could walk but when I tried to run, my leg just couldn’t take the weight. So that was the end of my running career for a while. When I was able to train again I entered Thames Turbo’s Hampton Court Bank Holiday spring triathlon. It was an amazing experience and I came in second lady.

But then life took over, and until now, apart from a brief foray into ballroom dancing back in the 1990s – dancesport, as it was styled for a while before the days of Strictly – I pretty much embraced a sedentary lifestyle. Being a mum and having a full-time desk job, exercise of any kind sank to the bottom of my to-do list. Until, just before the pandemic, I experienced the health problems described in the previous post.

So far, taking up the swim-bike-run lifestyle in my early 60s, I’ve been mercifully free of injury. The great thing about hardly having used my hips and knees at all over these many decades, apart from planting them on ergonomic office chairs or homely flowery sofas whenever possible, is that they still seem to have a lot of wear in them.

Still, my London Marathon injury experience did implant in my memory and I am terrified of anything similar happening again, especially as I am dreaming the Ironman dream and this will certainly depend on learning to train in a way that I can remain injury free.

So last weekend, off I went, with lovely, supportive husband, to Dorney Lake for my first full-length duathlon. I honestly though it would be easy-peasy to run 10k, bike 40k then run another 5k on top.

Well in a way it was. The first 10k was indeed easy and I did my third fastest time over this distance.

The bike however was not such fun. I’ve been very active on Zwift over the winter. I just love so much this incredible new tool that combines exercise with gaming. More on Zwift in later posts. It has been its own extraordinary, and rather humbling, learning experience. I quickly realised at Dorney, doing those 5k loops on the bike over and over again, that I must supplement training indoors with getting out again more, even if the weather here is, to be frank, still not ideal for cycling.

By the time it came to the final 5k at Dorney, my legs were complaining quite a lot, especially my right hip flexor. Going from a bike race through transition straight into a run is not fun at the best of times and when muscles and ligaments start their silent screams it is folly to ignore them. I need to put a lot more work into this transition, into warm-ups and into hip-loosening exercises.

My overall time at Dorney, due partly to my taking it easy for the last 5k at the end, was not far off my marathon time back in 1987. I was 18th lady out of more than 100 runners and second in my age group across all genders. (I believe I was also last lady but I prefer to accentuate the positive haha and I was not actually last overall!)

So this week I’ve been taking it as easy as possible, while trying to keep up with the run training plan I’ve been doing on Zwift. It’s been a good opportunity to up the swim sessions a bit and start getting ready for the longer distances outdoors when the Surrey lakes open in a couple of weeks. Swimming in one of the local outdoor pools, with rain and rainbows mixing it to make for a magical mood, has been paradisiacal.

So today, a week after Dorney, I did my longest ride yet outdoors, 74k with Ful-on Tri through the Surrey hills. It is such a relief to be sat at home writing this, feeling refreshed and not taken out by this ride, to feel as though I could now go out and run a really fast 5k!

I’m not going to do that of course. Another swim beckons instead, and now the sun has made a rare appearance, also a quick visit to Kew Gardens to see if any spring blossom has survived Storm Noa and all the other wind, rain and gales and freezing cold of the last few weeks. The marathon all those years ago taught me the importance of recovery. Now, so much older, I simply cannot afford to ignore that painful lesson, even when a necessary ‘rest’ week can feel like a week of hard training wasted with the summer tri season just around the corner.

That Dorney duathlon was a tough one but I am so glad I did it. It was such a great learning experience. And even though my legs hurt, I kept going. Endurance has always been a strong point, even when young.

A couple of sprint triathlons and then an Olympic distance await over the next couple of months. And beyond that – will I achieve my Ironman goal? Let’s wait and see!

Ruth is doing Ride London in May, raising funds for Brentford Football Club Community Sports Trust. Donate here.


Published by Placement

Journalist, photographer, mum.

2 thoughts on “The importance of recovery

  1. Ruth, I am promoting worldwide pver Zoom etc. Community Creatvity Centres in every town so that every child (and adult) has wholistic education backed by Dept. of Education and UN/UNESCO. Prayers Alan


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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

Beards and Triathlons

This blog is all about a man with a beard who does triathlons.


By Kelly Hargie

Alan Franks

Writer, Musician

%d bloggers like this: