Mike asks- Congrats on Leadman! As you've got recovery down to an art, I wonder if you'd be willing to offer me some advice. Just ran my first ultra (40 miler) and have a 50 miler in about 4 weeks (Oct 20). Any advice on recovery for optimum performance at the 50 miler?
You have 4 weeks, in that time you aren't going to change your fitness through hard training for the 50 by a significant amount. If you try to push the training right now you'll risk going in to the 50 fatigued, flat or damaged. So the first thing you have to do is focus on healing any damage to your structure and endocrine system. You want to do very light, active recovery 'workouts' that stimulate healing and do not cause any more damage. Very short, very easy and relaxed jogs that increase blood flow and loosen up your muscles. Light massage or foam rolling. Cycling is a great choice too. Give yourself at least 10 days of focused active recovery following the 40 miler. You need to feel ZERO soreness and your sleep pattern should be back to a normal or even a better state. As long as you are active in this period you won't lose fitness, in fact it will probably go up if you truly rest and recover properly. Push too hard in this period and you'll only delay the recovery process making the next week less effective. This 10 day period is also a critical time to focus on diet. Eliminate as much of the processed foods as possible and focus heavily on raw vegetables, quality fats, and quality proteins. Over the next ~2 weeks is also the only window of opportunity you have to change body composition. This cleaner diet will allow you to get quality nutrients and also maintain or even drop body weight safely.
The week of October 1st -7th is about your only real window of opportunity that you can safely and effectively put in any real training. Because you just ran 40 miles then you should have enough confidence in your basic endurance to not feel the need to perform a very long run this week. You have what it takes to complete the 50 so relax on thinking you need to run a 30 mile long run. If it were me I would do something like a longish tempo effort of 10-14 miles followed the next day by an easy longer run of ~2:30. Maybe up to 3:00 if I don't have any aches and my energy is great. There is little benefit to pushing this long run to a point of severe fatigue. Give yourself 2 days before AND after these two runs of nearly complete rest.
Around these two runs you could perform another session focused more on quality than quantity. My staple hard run this year was a 10 mile tempo run with ~2000ft of vertical. I would push the climbs to threshold and then relax on the downs. The other run I did very consistently was 10 X 1:00 at Vo2 max effort/ on 1:00 easy all performed up a 3 mile climb. This session isn't very destructive from a structural (tendons, bones and muscle) view because I was running up hill.
The week of October 8th -14th would have just one, moderate duration quality session, all other training is focused on recovery and easy, shorter efforts. The long run this week is 1:30 MAX time and I would try to do this mid-week (October 10th) to ensure proper recovery. Also include strides this week for muscle activation.
Remember that it takes very little to maintain fitness once you've built it up. Insecurity at this point will only hurt you if you attempt to do another hard training block. The old adage that it is better to be 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained is very true. You need to err on the side of caution.