Fast forward to Tuesday or Wednesday after your Ironman. It's very likely that you're sitting on the couch with your shattered legs on the coffee table, scratching your sunburned head as you try to remember your dog's name, which you've forgotten, because all you've thought about for the past six to nine months is finishing a 140.6-mile triathlon.
Your formerly-constant thoughts about training, racing, nutrition, transition bags, carbon aero widgets, and what-I-have-to-pack-for-my-workouts-tomorrow have now been replaced with a single, all-consuming thought:
What do I do now?
At Endurance Nation we have a lot of experience guiding athletes successfully through a critical—and often messy—four weeks post-Ironman before they pick up the rest of the season. A proper transition is critical to making sure your fitness is where you want it to be once you are done recovering.
Some of you are planning ahead for another half or full-distance tri. Some of you might have a marathon on the books for the fall. Some of you (hopefully more than a few!) are ready to kick back for a bit and then begin training for next year.
Regardless of your goals, a proper transition will make sure that you have recovered both physically and mentally. This combination is a pre-requisite for being able to resume training, much less thinking, about a race. We have seen the harm that unguided athletes can do to their seasons—and their long-term health—through improper recovery.
Follow this guidance to avoid those pitfalls and make sure you are positioned to take advantage of the fitness completing an Ironman brings.
The Big Picture
We highly recommend you have a very relaxed perspective on the first few weeks after your long-distance race. You are a real person living and working in the real world. You just finished an epic event. Preparation for that event required you, and very likely those important to you, to sacrifice a great deal.
As a real person doing the real world thing, you owe it to yourself to take a BIG step back from the Ironman gig and reconnect with the other things that are important in your life: your family, your hobbies, maybe even your job!
Basically, we prefer our athletes to have zero to very few formal racing events on the calendar for about eight weeks after their race. Better yet, the IM is the end of your season and there is nothing else on the calendar.
Fight Post-Ironman Depression
It's very common to experience a bit of a letdown, kinda-lost feeling after an Ironman. Some have gone so far as to give it a name: Post-Ironman Depression Syndrome (PIDS). Consider that you've had one date circled on the calendar for almost a year. That date has been the thing around which much of your life has revolved for a very long time.
Chances are you spent a lot of time and energy thinking, planning, scheduling, preparing, eating, sleeping, cooking and packing for your training. And now the date has come and gone, and there is likely no similarly epic event around which to focus your life. It can be a bit of a letdown, but it's entirely normal and expected. Again, we recommend you reconnect with yourself, you family, your other hobbies, and generally explore your inner non-triathlete for a while.
Returning to Training
Let's discuss how the typical age-group Iron-athlete is going to feel physically after the race. Your experience may vary, but below are our general observations, having been there ourselves and guided hundreds of athletes through this post-race period.
- Solidly thrashed, legs extremely sore through Wednesday.
- Likely feel much better, not so sore by Thursday. You begin to think you might be OK to join your buds for your normal Saturday ride, but you're looking forward to sleeping in on Sunday. It's been a while since that happened.
- Friday, you feel a bit more froggy.
- Drop in on the Saturday ride and you instantly feel totally flat. First real effort and your heart rate skyrockets. Your perceived exertion is all over the map. It's very obvious this is way too much too soon.