There are three golden rules when it comes to recovering after a race – unfortunately no one knows what they are.
When it comes to the recovery phase after you’ve pummelled yourself in some bloody race or other, there’s lots of conflicting advice about what to do for the best. Some say you should laze about doing nothing as though you were an MEP or an England full-back, while others claim you should keep your body ticking by going for a ‘light spin’ or a ‘recovery run’ as though those concepts actually existed.
Most of us spend a couple of days wandering around looking like a dead horse that’s been dragged out of the Thames before the voice in our heads tells us that unless we stop eating and start training soon we will have bum cheeks like a couple of space hoppers.
At this point we try and attempt to use muscles that we never thought would be able to move on their own again and will head off on some creaking run at the pace of a drunk looking for a kebab shop.
In all the advice about recovery though, I’ve yet to see anybody say you should do a 5k race six days after an Ironman - so it shouldn’t be too hard for you to guess what I’ve been up to since I flopped over the line at Lanzarote, proof that I am so dense that my only chance of ever getting into a university is as an exhibit in a jar.
In fairness, the 5k I did wasn’t my fault (sort of). After returning from the Canarian isle of sun and saddlesores I took my long-suffering wife Nicky on holiday to Mexico. She has a lot to put up with from me at the best of times, but in the run up to an Ironman she also has to tolerate the house falling to bits and the lawn looking like the Matto Grosso because I’ve been too busy cycling to do any DIY or gardening, and the dog looking like a fat badger because I’m too knackered to walk him.
I was happy to use our Mexican siesta to have a break from sport and spend a week sauntering round in my undercrackers, stretching myself to get some flexibility into my back so that my chances of getting more aero on the bike do not solely rely on replacing my spine with a hinge.
However, on our first night out we were in a bar when the DJ announced, “Don’t forget it’s the Cancun 5k race tomorrow at 8am.” According to Nicky, as soon as the word ‘race’ was uttered my head shot up like a meerkat. All I remember is hearing the word ‘No!’, in a voice that sounded like she’d been possessed by the devil.
And so it was that, at 7am the following morning, I was to be found checking that Nicky was still asleep, sliding out of bed with as much stealth as a 45-year-old with rigid hamstrings can muster, gathering up the kit I’d stashed by the door while going for a pee during the night and legging it down the corridor like a man doing a runner from a curry house.
I cut a racy figure at the race dressed in a pair of England football shorts and a Hong Kong Phooey T-shirt, which was all the kit I had with me. My expectations of success can be judged by the fact that I entered the race under the name of ‘Billy Bollockchops’, but much to my, and everyone else’s, surprise, (stealth boast alert!) I won, cruising in a full minute ahead of second place with the strained expression of a man who looks like he takes a dump about once every four years.
Having collected my 500 pesos winnings and accepted all the ‘Good job’ and ‘Way to go’ plaudits from defeated Americans, I headed back to the hotel to face the music, only to find Nicky still asleep. Unable to believe my luck I hid my kit and started clattering about like I’d just got up. I couldn’t believe I’d got away with it, although walking to breakfast trying to look as if my legs weren’t killing me was one of the most painful things I’ve ever done in my life. However, ‘Your sins shall find you out’, as they say in the Bible, and sitting down to breakfast a succession of racewear-clad Americans came over to congratulate me
on my win and talk about the race…
Should you ever find yourself in that position it’s probably not wise to adopt a sheepish smile, shrug and say “Ho hum”, because what happens is that to calm the other person’s temper you basically became their robot butler for the rest of the day, doing everything they want and regularly fetching pina coladas from the bar even though by now you can barely walk and have a face so contorted with pain it looks like something I’d draw with my left hand. Hopefully the moral of this sorry story is obvious – don’t race with Americans because they can’t keep their bloody mouths shut.