The 5 Stages of Ironman Recovery

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Ironman CDA 2015 Swim
Training for an Ironman is hard work, but for me the hardest part seems to be the post race recovery.  I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately and a few weeks ago Ryan joked calling my current mood the “post race hangover.” Fitting, however, I think the range of emotions are more similar to grief. After all, the last few months leading up to my race, my training consumed almost my entire life. I was logging almost twenty hours of training per week, plus all the time spent working on recovery, driving to workouts and meticulously planning my nutrition. Interestingly, I love those high volume training weeks, I’m pretty sure I like training more than racing. So when the race came and went in the blink of an eye and the training abruptly ended, it left me feeling lost. What do I do with all my spare time? What race do I want to train for next?

Since the race, I’ve been experiencing what I like to call the 5 Stages of Ironman Recovery.

Stage 1: Denial. At first I was in denial about the fact that my body needed rest, the day after Ironman I went hiking. A few days later I went on a twelve mile hike, no big deal. Then it was denial that the training was over, I was going to every team practice, pushing my limits like I was in another training build. Yea, obviously this did not last long.

Stage 2: Anger. This part is no fun, and completely irrational. Sadly, I admit I got angry several times, especially when I was attempting to run. Most people would not expect to run at the same pace three weeks after a race, especially when its significantly hotter than it was leading up to the race. Unfortunately, I am not most people, let’s just leave it at that.

Stage 3: Bargaining. This stage may not be a direct correlation to grief, but I’ve been doing all sorts of bargaining lately. First it was, maybe I’ll sign up for some shorter races to have something to train for. Then it went to, no it is way to hot and I want to sleep in, maybe I’ll spend a few months as a ‘normal’ person. Nope, definitely not cut out for the ‘normal’ person routine. Now its, maybe I’ll do some other adventurous activities like mountain biking, traveling and camping. Which are all undoubtedly fun and a nice change of pace, but its not the same. That brings me to…

Stage 4: Depression. At the risk of sounding too dramatic and embarrassing myself, I’ll keep this brief, but I have cried over very insignificant issues at least twice in the past month. Moving on…

Stage 5: Acceptance. I’m not sure if I’ve made it to this stage yet, but after two Ironman distance races there are a few things I have come to accept.

1. I’m not a professional. While the pros are doing back to back races and recovering in a week or two, that’s their livelihood and that’s what they have trained for. I have to remind myself of this when I see their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter updates about their latest workouts.

2. I’m not racing for completion. I try to set aggressive goals for myself which means my training is tough, both physically and mentally. To be successful I need to take time to recharge so I’m up for the next challenge.

3. Balance and moderation are good. I enjoy training, but I also enjoy traveling, camping and even, dare I say it, mountain biking. Its hard to do these things when your logging twenty hours of training a week and working full time, so now is the time to take advantage of all that free time.

4. I’m a triathlete, it’s part of who I am. I thought after two Ironman distance races, I might be done for a while, ready to move onto a new chapter in life, but it turns out this isn’t just a phase or chapter, its me!

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