Recovering from an Ironman is a strange beast. It’s been two weeks, and I’m making progress in recovery, but I’m not there yet.
I wasn’t sure what to expect the morning after the Ironman. After my marathon, I had been so sore I could barely move, despite not running anywhere near my potential. So I was pleasantly surprised when the soreness was entirely manageable. Really, I wasn’t much sorer than I was after racing a half marathon (although the soreness did extend to my shoulders and back and wasn’t just concentrated in my legs). I took a few days off anyway, both because I felt like it and because logistics and travel would have made fitting in a workout hard.
But the Wednesday night after my Ironman, my stiffness was almost completely gone, and I felt ready to test out my body in a workout. So I went to Masters swim the next morning. I took the workout very easy.
And I was wrecked for the rest of the day.
I expected my fatigue to stick around longer than my muscle soreness, but I’ll admit that I was taken aback by how exhausted I was after what basically amounted to a 50 minute easy swim. That’s when I realized that Ironman recovery was going to be quite a bit different from any of my previous experiences recovering from athletic events.
Since then, I’ve tried to relax a bit. I’ve tried not to jump back into all the things in my daily life. It’s okay if I don’t get much accomplished with all my free time right away. I might need a rest day after a hard workout at Masters swim practice. I don’t need to go climb all the canyons in Salt Lake City right now just because I have the time. Daily life (with some easy workouts) has been wiping me out. Every day feels a little bit like that first day you are “better” after an illness. You are functional, yes, but you are also exhausted after getting home from work.
Still, I’m antsy. I was certain that my mind would need more of a break than my body. I thought that I would struggle to find motivation for something new after a year of hard and focused training. Instead, I’m finding the opposite to be true. I’m excited about so many things… too many. I’ll have to make decisions soon about what I want to focus on.
Become a swimmer. I’m strongly considering focusing on swimming this winter. I’m planning on doing a swim meet in September, and I’d like to do several more. I’ve made some serious gains in swimming this past year. But I think there is still some low-hanging fruit for me if I start swimming 4-5 times a week instead of 2-3 times a week. Plus, I get the feeling that I actually have some talent as a swimmer, and I think it would be beneficial to explore that potential. I’ve actually been focusing quite a bit on swimming since my Ironman. So far, it’s been what I’m drawn to.
Learn how to ride fast. The bike is my biggest weakness in triathlon. I can ride forever, and I’m a relatively strong climber, but I am simply not fast. I know (essentially) what I need to do to improve my speed—intervals, threshold rides, sprints, anything besides the relatively easy riding that made up the majority of my Ironman training. I don’t know the granular details about how to approach this goal which makes it intimidating and less exciting… it’s important, though.
Run a sub-20 5k. This is a scary goal that is exciting as it is scary. I’m certain that I can run a sub-20 5k if I train well enough. I’m just not sure if it would take more time and effort than I’m willing to put in. I love triathlon, and I don’t want to put in 15 hours a week running for a goal like this. My 5k PR is only 21:57, but then, I’ve only run the race twice as an adult. I may do a bit of a “trial” to see if I think I can feasibly achieve this goal in a few months of focused training before I make my final decision about whether or not to pursue it.
Basically, I’m not sure exactly what the off-season has in store for me. And I’m okay with that. I plan on taking a little more time “off,” where I do what I want when I want and where the most important statistic I track is how many Halloween Oreos I can eat. After all, I’ve been training with laser focus for a pretty long time. I need a break, whether I feel like I do or not. As I continue to do what sounds fun, I’ll see what I get excited about. I’ll keep attending Masters swim, go to some track workouts with the Salt Lake Tri Club, and do some interval work on the bike. And I’ll see what sticks!