After any big event that requires an emotional commitment and a big chunk of time to prepare for, be it a wedding, a marathon or an Ironman, it is normal to feel a little low. The thing that has been your main focus for months is now over and it is time to move on. It is completely normal to feel like you lack direction or like something is missing. I’m convinced this is why so many people hop from event to event with little thought. This feeling of sole focus on a single, measurable priority is difficult to match in other areas of life. I also think that it is good to experience these feelings – it is part of the process of learning about ourselves.
You know I advocate balance. There is nothing inherently balanced about training for ironman and certainly no hope of balance when you add a job and kids into the mix. So this period of free time can help swing the pendulum back in the opposite direction, towards ‘too much’ free time (if there is such a thing). If you’re lucky, you get some good sleep, eat some good food, savor the moments that led up to your accomplishment, and evaluate where you want to go from here.
Here’s a list of questions I’ve been asking myself as I reflect on the last 8 months.
- How did ironman training make you feel?
- Tell me a story about the best thing that happened during training.
- What was the worst thing that happened?
- How did you feel on Day 1 of training?
- How did you feel during the phases of training?
- How did you feel during taper?
- … the morning of the race?
- … during the race?
- … at the finish line?
- … now?
Based on you answers to these questions, you can decide if you want to do an endurance event. If the answer are neutral to negative, think about other ways you might spend your time in the coming year. Do you want to shift gears and focus more on your career, your family, your community, another hobby, or (gasp) your social life?
For me, thoughts of what else I might do started during taper. I kept thinking about what I’d do after ironman training was over and I had 10 to 20 hours back each week – take cooking lessons, take ballet (haha – WHAT?), lift heavy weights, make a career change, do “spring cleaning” around the apartment, the list goes on. I wrote them down to get them out of my head because I knew I needed to stay focused on Ironman. Moving on before the race would not serve me well. But afterwards, these are important things to consider.
Starting 24 hours after Ironman, I wanted to do it again. Certainly, I’d do better if I was able to dial in my nutrition. Now that I have a biking base, I’d be faster. I tried to imagine repeating all of the long bike rides and the 4am wake ups. Was I really up for that? What would C+E be up to a year from now? Would I miss out on time with them? What would be happening in my career? These things were uncertain so I haven’t signed up (yet), though I am still thinking about it.
For now, I’m focusing on some things that really fell off during peak training:
- Cleaning the apartment
- Cooking more (at least a few meals a week)
- Sleep training C+E (starts on tomorrow)
And, because Michael is out of town for all of this, I can’t swim or bike unless I get a sitter, so I’m doing Jillfit’s 20x20challenge, which are short 20 minute resistance training workouts.
I’ll decide by September if another ironman is in my future in 2017. If not, I still plan to participate in all three sports, as I developed a love of swimming this season and I want to keep my leg strength by biking.
The point is, don’t just jump from event to event. Really try to imagine how you’ll feel. Think of what you’ll miss if you do it again. Think of what you’ll gain. Think of the people around you.
P.S. Here are my answers to the questions above 😉
- Powerful, strong, capable, like a badass sometimes – tired, sick and scared other times
- Progress was the best motivator for me. I progressed from lane 1 to lane 6 in swimming in a few short months. I saw y quads getting HUGE. Months after my initial crash on the tri bike, I found myself comfortable and confident. I was slowly evolving into an athlete, which was very satisfying to
- Getting sick so much was hard for me. And lack of sleep. And training on too little sleep or missing workouts entirely.
- On Day 1 I was scared
– could I still swim? I pushed off going to the pool for at least 2 weeks before showing up for my first practice. I miss my road bike. Do I remember how to clip in?
- It was a mix of high highs and low lows, but in general, I felt focused. It felt good to work towards a goal with a tangible output. It was objective and I like that.
- Increasingly nervous. I didn’t have aches and pains or phantom injuries, but I did wonder if I trained enough to cross the finish line. I questioned it all. Late in the taper, I felt like making it though training was a victory – did I actually have to race?
- The morning of the race I was excited. By then, I convinced myself that it was going to be a great day. And that I didn’t have to panic during the swim. I could just swim. It was a long day so I’d focus on keeping my HR low and executing my nutrition plan.
- Ahhhmazing until that run!
- Grateful for all of the support. Pretty darn good about myself. I think I could do better, but I’m also really proud of how much I juggled during training. Just making it to the starting line (and then the finish!!) was a big win.