Race debt

It’s the sister ailment to the workout hangover: race debt.

It’s the week after a big race and you want to build on those gains that you must have made while racing. Maybe you tapered a bit and are ready to make up for that lost mileage. You’re fired up. You’re ready to focus on the next race. This is no time to rest, on your laurels or anything else. This is the time to strike!

And your body says, oh no, my friend, it’s time to pay some bills. Sleep debt, energy debt, and muscle debt are hungry creditors and all add up to one thing: race debt.

Lost sleep: If someone were to ask you, in the days leading up to a race, how you’re feeling, you’d answer with a resounding “great”. Because you ARE great. Cool as a cucumber. No problems. But your sleep says otherwise. Maybe it’s an hour less here, 30 fewer minutes there. But it’s less and that’s what matters. Then there’s the post-race night of sleep. You’re still fired up. No use stressing over sleep now, the race is over. What’s one more night? Congratulations, you’re now three nights behind.

Runs before the run: Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about.


Mike calls this “The Fear Dump”. Whatever you call it, you’re probably losing some nutrients you don’t normally lose. And then there’s the energy you’re burning, the race day meal(s) you might be missing, and suddenly, you’re behind on fuel.

Race debt food debt

This was my post-race meal at XC club nationals, AKA too tired to leave the hotel to find real food.

This is definitely part of the problem.

Taxed systems: Yes, it might seem like your workouts are harder and longer than the race itself. But there’s something about a race that you can’t replicate in a workout. It’s part of the reason you run faster in a race. Your muscles are working harder. Your cardiovascular system is pumping faster. And when you go out for that long run the next day, or the day after that, and everything hasn’t returned to its regular state, you’re now borrowing against something you don’t currently have: a recovered body.

Now what? If you’re anything like me, you spend a week or two wondering (out loud, to anyone who will listen) why you feel like total crap. If you’re lucky, you get back on top of things and go about your merry way. If not, you get hurt. Or sick. And then, you do what you should have done in the first place: TAKE A BREAK.


It doesn’t have to be a long one. Maybe it’s an extra day or two more than you had intended. Or maybe it’s a week or three, depending on what you’re recovering from. Race debt is no joke; don’t let your mind tell you otherwise.

I was out for a couple of days this week with a wonky calf. On Monday I slept during the time I should have been running. Will that be enough of a break? We’ll see. I’m hoping to run Beat The Bridge on Sunday. Only time will tell. Race happy, recovery healthy, my friends!

Leave a Reply