Saturday, May 05, 2007

recovery: post-Ironman blues

well, let's see. today is May 5. IMAZ was April 15. so that makes it roughly 3 weeks since Ironman.

i think i'm in what's called "the post-Ironman blues." the time when you're in a strangely listless state that is in various parts sanguine, lost, tired, bored, emotionless, and detached. it's not an official term. but it probably should be.

not sure how long this is going to last. so far, it's been 3 weeks.

and i haven't done a damn thing in that time.

well...sort of.

the 1st week back i didn't do anything except sit in the hot tub, stretch, and hobble around. i slept a lot. i ate a lot. i got re-acquainted with people i hadn't really hung out with for awhile: family, friends, the postal carrier and the coffee shop girls, her pet dog, the neighborhood cat, the pigeons that love my car (and they love it, if you know what i mean), campus know, the usual.

but after a few days, i started feeling fat, and lazy, and a useless piece of turd. worse, i just felt compulsive--i didn't really want to exercise, but i just had to exercise. for piece of mind. to have something to do. to feel normal again.

so i got my rear end out of bed, and committed to doing something for the 2nd week after the race. here's what happened:

  • Saturday: kung fu - it was easy, everything was great, loved it!
  • Sunday: rest
  • Monday: swim (1000 yards), weight training (chest & abs) - not so easy, still pretty stiff, but okay, still good
  • Tuesday: rest
  • Wednesday: stationary bike (60 minutes), weight training (lower back & abs) - strangely difficult, felt pretty sore, but hey, whatever, at least i'm in the gym and hanging out with buddies, so right on
  • Thursday: hot tub day - i just about died
  • Friday: run (3 miles) - i just about died
  • Saturday & Sunday: kung fu - i just about died

yeah, you can see things started out well, then pretty much just went south from there.

i was so wiped out that for the 3rd week i just went right back to not doing anything. nothing. except sleep, eat, and re-acquaint myself with family, friends, the postal carrier and the coffee shop girls, her pet dog, the neighborhood cat, the pigeons that love my car, and the campus squirrels.

and this time, i made it a point to be happy.

as for the obsessive-compulsive desire to workout even if i didn't want to? i just ignored it. no OCD for me, please!

it's kind of weird. 2 weeks prior i went 140.6 miles. 2 weeks later, i'm suffering just to go 3 miles. 3 weeks later, i'm just happy to sit around and be fat and lazy and a useless piece of turd.

i do have to admit, though, that i think i'm recovering much faster this year than i did last year. after last year's Ironman (my 1st), i was pretty much out for 6 weeks. it took 2 weeks for the soreness to go away, 4 weeks before i could feel any level of energy, and 6 weeks before i really felt good enough to put in a decent effort at the gym. in contrast, this year, it was only 1 week for the soreness to go, about 2-3 weeks for energy levels to come back, and i managed to put in some light training by the 2nd week.

my friends who've done this tell me that your body tends to recover better the more Ironmans you do. apparently, your body starts to get acclimated to the workload. for most people, it usually takes about 3-4 iterations of the training cycle before things start to really become more manageable. even for pros, you'll see that their times gradually and progressively become faster from their initial races to their 3rd or 4th years. i guess it just takes that long for the body to adjust to racing Ironmans.

i suspect that there are several major variables determining post-Ironman recovery:
  • genetics--some people have bodies genetically pre-disposed to long-distance performance. i'm not one of them.
  • treatment--post-race care of your body makes a difference. fluid intake, massages, nutrition, etc. all of it helps flush out toxins, ease soreness, and improves muscle regeneration. of course, i've been giving in to my weakness for coffee (caffeine goodness, yummy!), i've gotten no massages (still not quite used to that idea), and my nutrition has been eating everything i'd banned during training (pad thai? mmmmmm. scones? ooooooh, baby, keep them coming. pizza? why not. hamburgers? sure. ice cream? if it's a sin, then you better open up to doors to hell, baby!)
  • conditioning--the better shape you are the quicker you'll recover. i was in better shape for this past Ironman compared to last year's Ironman. but probably not as good as i should have been...or could have been. but i learned some lessons from this past race that i plan on integrating into training for the next one.
  • acclimatization--like i said, your body acclimates to Ironman. which is why it takes most people 3-4 iterations of the Ironman training cycle to start to get better, because it takes that long to get into a higher level of conditioning necessary for Ironman. this is my 2nd race. things are better. but i'm guessing it's going to take a little longer and i'm going to have to keep doing Ironman before i start to feel a little more comfortable.
some of my friends who've been doing this for years (6-8 years, to be exact) are recovering much faster than i am. 1 week after IMAZ, they did an Olympic-distance triathlon (collegiate nationals, alumni division), 3 weeks later they're doing Wildflower (long course), and then 8 weeks later they're doing Ironman Couer d'Alene. and they're not even pros. my friends who are pros are doing 6-8 Ironmans this year, some of them only 4 weeks apart.

me? i'm just a schmo. i'm just your everyman Ironman. and i'm just doing the best i can, dude. hobbling around like an old man. i'm getting better. but it's going to be a little bit longer. i'm just not there yet.

which is funny, because i'm signed up for a 10k race (the Santa Monica Classic) this Sunday morning, May 6. i didn't plan on it, but then i saw they were giving away Nike dri-fit t-shirts, and i figured i couldn't resist. of course, considering how much the 3 miler last week hurt, and how little exercise i've been doing, this is going to be interesting.

but hey, whatever. i'm an Ironman.

and this is all part of the post-Ironman blues.

1 comment:

Trihardist said...

No ironman is everyday. Whatever factors you encounter, any ironman is decidedly extraordinary.