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Learning the lessons

When I returned home from the marathon on Sunday afternoon, the first problem, of course, was getting up the four porch stairs to reach my front door.

The second was taking off my sneakers.

Toes on both feet hurt but the left one now had a nice blood stain on the front edge. I had no idea what I was going to see so I made my father help me. Would I still be bleeding? Did I lose toenails?

Frankly, I still have no idea exactly what happened. I had blisters of both feet and my pinky toes were the worst of all. There were some tiny cuts around the nail bed of my pinky toe so perhaps I developed a blister under the nail which popped and bled. Four days later the blisters are gone but there is still some seriously annoying discomfort around my pinky toe.

The rest of my body is slowly coming back to normal. After spreading hate to me for two days, my legs and I are starting to reach a peace accord. My calf muscles were the first ones to forgive me. My hamstrings are almost there. My quads, however, are stubborn.

But at least I don't have to go downstairs backwards anymore.

This was knowledge I had before the race -- that after long runs and long races going down is more difficult than going up. In fact, I had first-hand experience with this after running the half marathon in Miami and loudly complaining while walking down the jetway.

A friend of mine had experienced this phenomena after one of his long runs and asked me what was up with that.

I know there is some swanky exercise-science type of answer but I can't remember it. The science part of all this is not my forte. Not that I don't enjoy the science. I actually find there is a certain poetry to science. But it also involves things like math and equations with letters and anything more complicated than long division is a stretch for me. I adore the eloquent explanation with new and multisyllabic words but get lost if you try to explain too much of how we got there.

The science of sport becomes important to the conversation as I learn new things from my marathon experience and try to apply them to my training.

My first problem likely was dumping cups of water on my head. This I knew was a no-no but I did it anyway. And many really good runners do it and have no problem with it. But it does somehow mess with your body''s own cooling system. Also, and this I have apparently learned the hard way, when you dump water on your head it will seep into your shoe. Your shoes and socks get wet. This causes friction. And this causes, wait for it, blisters. This is why you live and learn.

The second issue was cramping, first in my quads but the cramps in my calf were worse. After the race I realized my skin was caked in salt from my sweat.

There seems to be a great debate about taking in extra salt or salt tablets before and during a race. Some things I've read say that there's no proof salt helps ward off cramps (as I think I understand it, basically I sweat out the salt from my muscles which dehydrated them and caused them to cramp, but I could be completely misinformed on this particularly scientific poetry explanation). There are other athletes I know who swear by them.

And this where people are different. What works for you may not work for me. I have to try different things in training to see where I gain benefits.

This is what I have begun to ponder as I start to come out of my recovery mode. Three days were completely off from working out and today I venture back on the bike for an easy 45 minute spin.

I signed up for the sprint distance at the Kueka Lake Triathlon on June 7 which is 10 days away and frankly I'm not jumping up and down about the idea of racing so soon, especially swimming in a cold lake with no open water practice.

But right now, I'm still enjoying my title of marathoner and reveling in the joy of movement.

The next big task is Muskoka 70.3 -- a half Ironman race in September.

Time to keep moving forward.

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