Dec 3, 2012

Taking a Lesson from Post Ironman Funk.

This time of year makes me happy as it is the start of the USA Triathlon National Challenge Competition.

My triathlon team is participating in the NCC which is USAT's program to challenge athletes and clubs to stay active in the off season while both clubs and individual athletes can win amazing prizes for the miles they put out. 

Each session (month) is focused on one sport of triathlon, and the entire challenge lasts 3 sessions.

December = swim
January = bike
February = run

It is akin to a 3 month long triathlon.  All miles count every day, however the sport specific miles will count for that session.

Live tracker of the USAT NCC for my tri club

It is a fun diversion from the winter blahs, one that could not have come at a better time.

Last week it hit me.  Not the post-Thanksgiving gluttony guilt fest or the downer after a black-Friday to cyber-Monday high.   "It" is the dreaded post-Ironman Funk, something that I was sure that I was not going to experience.  I was surprised when it hit me especially since it took three weeks post IM to show its face.

I started to see the posts and comments of people from all over who had signed up for and were gearing up to start training for their first, second, 50th Ironman race in 2013.  I was not one of them.  *sigh*  I felt sad as I remembered the excitement of the journey.  I wanted to be back on that journey. 

I realized that I needed to snap back into reality.  I had my year to experience the first time feelings and I took every second that I had available to me to soak in the entire day of Ironman.  Before I toed the line at Florida I already knew that I was not going to sign up for one in 2013 and my goal was to focus on the half iron distance again and try a new way of training.  The post-Ironman funk was playing with my head now.  After the euphoria wears down and the endorphins go away, one is left with this emptiness. 

How ironic that just three weeks ago it was an epic success, and now I feel empty. 

Something similar happened after Welland half iron in 2010.  I learned back then that my mistake was that I had nothing left after the race.  It was my first half iron distanced triathlon and I did not think that I needed to have anything on the plan afterwards to keep me going.  Wrong.  After I accomplished the race, I sat on the sofa and gained a lot of weight.  I went into a full on depression as I have discussed before in other posts.

I thought that I was being smart for IMFL when, after taking the lesson from post-half ironman, I decided to make Ironman Wisconsin in 2014 the thing that I kept my eye on as something tangible that I was working for and if things went terribly wrong at IMFL and I needed a year break, I was good with it since I already knew where I was headed in the future.   

It worked and I was able to stave off the funk until that one night last week.  I went to bed and laid there starring intently into my Kindle Fire searching for the answers. 

"I don't want to do another IM in 2013, but I also don't want to only focus on 70.3.  I am good with taking some time off from long distance running, so... what is it that I want to do with my next year? Swim long?  Bike long?  I need a little change, but something still familiar." 

After an epic 2012 I was ready to switch it up and explore another avenue of this lifestyle, but what could that be?

What about the Swim to the Moon 10k?  Possibly. Long distance open water swimming is fun and that would be pretty cool to attempt.  My swim time from the 5k swim was under the cut off for the qualification needed for the 10k, so I may have a chance of being able to accomplish that.   My only concern is this nagging shoulder pain that had not gone away in a year, and with my eye on 2014 I don't want to cause damage.

What about Olympic distanced race since I have never done one of those?  Hmmm, that could work, but it is sort of more of the same.  Longer than a sprint, shorter than a half... the middle ground that I am not terribly fond of, hence why I don't race 10ks much.   

Then I got to thinking about the fun races I have done over the years and maybe return to those.  Ann Arbor tri crossed my mind as did the Muncie Endurathon.  

Oh yes... Muncie!

I did this race back in 2009 which was the next to last year before WTC bought the rights to it and turned it into the Affresh Ironman 70.3 Muncie race that it is today.   It was my first and only aqua bike - the 1.2 mile swim, the 56 mile bike, no run afterwards.  I had a blast out there in the hail and monsoon rain.

Maybe this is the chance for me to get back into aqua bike!  

This is not what I want to do... but how cool is this???

I then turned immediately to to see what opportunities remain for aqua bikers since I know that WTC has pulled the option from the line-up at Muncie and many other races they have acquired and I will be in Madison the weekend of the Rev3 cheering on my friend Vickie at her first Ironman victory lap. 

What I found made me smile; there is a full Iron distanced aqua bike in August right here in Michigan!   Ooooooooh yeah buddy! 

That is all that it took to pull me from the funk.  I was able to find an alternative to triathlon that is still in the genre, allowing me more time to experience long distance swimming and biking, which are two things that I have fallen in love with over the course of the past few years but never really explored in their own rights.

I spoke with Mike and my coaches, and they all agreed that this would be a good thing for me to do so I took an initial swing at a 2013 schedule which is starting to look something like this:

  • June - Motor City Triathlon (sprint)
  • June - Welland Half Iron relay (1.2 mile swim and 13.1 mile run [Mike doing the 56 mile bike])
  • July - USAT Mideast Regional Championships - Olympic Aqua bike
  • August - Ironman 70.3 Steelhead (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run)
  • August - MI Titanium Iron distanced Aqua bike (2.1 mile swim, 112 mile bike)

I am so glad that I had restrain and did not succumb to the gluttony and depression the funk can bring.  Having Ironman Wisconsin ahead of me in 2014 as the A race has allowed me the opportunity to explore other things while staying in the lifestyle that I love. 

I am learning balance and what it will take to keep this lifestyle one that I am fully engaged in and enjoy. There is so much more to my fitness than triathlon, and I am excited to keep on learning and exploring. Ultra-distanced triathlons have shown me the joy in other sports and that it is best to stay active in other things so that if injury or burn out does happen, I am not destined for a life on the couch any more.  That is simply not an option any longer.  

The key takeaways from my 36 hour dip into the funk are to always look past the goal.  What will you do after you accomplish it?  What will you do if you do not accomplish it?  What will you do in the next 2 years to keep momentum going without burning yourself out?

We spend so much time preparing and working towards the goal, one singular goal, that we do not take the time to examine what our minds and bodies will need at the end.

Once we find the lifestyle that works for us, we are better able to keep that forward motion.  Being fit and healthy is not a singular endeavor and accomplishing our goals should not result in emptiness, but rather to fill us up with the knowledge that we can do anything we put our mind, heart, and bodies into.

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