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October 27, 2010

Brooke Wells - a Pro's Perspective on Marathon Recovery

Written by Dena Evans


Brooke Wells recently completed an outstanding, breakthrough performance at the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.  Finishing among the top 10 American females, Brooke crossed the line in 2:37:39, an Olympic Trials “A” Qualifying mark and a personal best by over two minutes.   Brooke’s time works out to just slightly north of 6 minutes per mile.    A 2008 Olympic Trials qualifier, San Francisco resident, and Cal grad, Brooke took a few minutes to discuss her recovery period with FNF.  Below are a few excerpts of our conversation…..

On the difference between the weeks following this marathon and her previous marathon recovery cycles….

The first couple times, I just got right back into it, and then had something that felt like delayed fatigue three weeks in, even though I wasn’t doing any workouts. It was like pure exhaustion.  For whatever reason, my body just did not want to do it.  Instead of taking the full two weeks, getting everything sorted out, I ramped up and had to go right back down.

This is the first time I have really listened to what Tom said.  I have always been really aggressive - waited a week, but then run 4 miles the first day, then 8 miles,  then come right back from there.  This time, my hips were really over rotated from mile 11, and I was really in a lot of pain by the end of the race, really messed up.  This time, I did run once a week after the marathon, and it was not enjoyable, so I was like you know what?  I’m not ready yet.

One big difference this time is probably that this is the first time I have finished feeling really satisfied with my results.  I know it didn’t come easily, and because of that this is the first time in a long time where I feel like I am “pretty done” right now.

On enjoying some of the things during recovery that an intense marathon training cycle doesn’t always accommodate….

I know a lot of people say this, but I think one of the most important things is to keep eating well, drink a lot of water, eat red meat.  Have fun, but don’t just completely lose control, because it will be that much harder when you come back.  I’ve been taking lots of Epson Salt baths, really relaxing stuff.

I used to do triathlons in college, and so I got my bike fixed so I can ride a bit, not feeling like there is something I have to be doing, but just being able to see how I feel, not having to push through everything,

Crosby [Crosby Freeman, Brooke’s boyfriend and fellow competitive athlete] had a stress fracture and has been in the pool a ton, and I have been in the pool with him a few times.  It is great for active recovery - no pounding.  Especially if you can do it with a friend, it goes by quickly and is so different from running on the ground.

Another fun thing about recovery is to try things I never do, like rock climbing.  I realized how bad I am at anything lateral, anything side to side.  It is interesting how we train our bodies to be so efficient at one thing…..I used to be great at riding [cycling], but now it is so difficult for me!

This last couple weeks have also been a chance to reconnect with a lot of people I might not have seen while training hard and staying in the last few weeks of marathon training.  We have runner friends, but some of the friends that don’t run, you don’t see a lot of.  So, I’ve had a little more wine than I normally do!

On using recovery time to prepare for the next challenge ahead….

The first week was better than second.  My office was under construction, so I was working from home, which was great because I wasn’t sitting all the time, was moving around, etc.  The second week, I was sitting for 5- 6 hours at a stretch, and I realized that I still definitely had some issues going on.  Tom has been encouraging me that this is the time to get healthy and address stuff that has been going on for a while, stuff that I normally might fight through.  I got a massage about 5 days after the marathon, I’m trying to get into the acupuncturist, etc.

This is also a time to reflect and consider how seriously to take 2011 - should I organize my life to take some time off of work to train for the trials?   This year, we wanted to focus on the 10k [Brooke trained for and competed at the USATF National Track & Field Championships in that event], but next year, I think I want to do a faster half, especially because my marathon PR is so much better than my half PR.  I feel like I am in a good happy place at work too so I want to figure out a way to make it all work.

Last modified on March 31, 2011
Dena Evans

Dena Evans

Dena Evans joined runcoach in July, 2008 and has a wide range of experience working with athletes of all stripes- from youth to veteran division competitors, novice to international caliber athletes.

From 1999-2005, she served on the Stanford Track & Field/ Cross Country staff. Dena earned NCAA Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year honors in 2003 as Stanford won the NCAA Division I Championship. She was named Pac-10 Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2003-04, and West Regional Coach of the Year in 2004.

From 2006-08, she worked with the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative, helping to expand the after school fitness programs for elementary school aged girls to Mountain View, East Menlo Park, and Redwood City. She has also served both the Stanford Center on Ethics and the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession as a program coordinator.

Dena graduated from Stanford in 1996.

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