Prayer flags, a Colorado license plate and weathered wind chimes serve as my accompaniment this morning as I sit on my patio and write. No bike to ride, no transition clothes waiting for me on the barstool in the kitchen and over all else, no sense of urgency. A radical shift from the Tuesday mornings of the last 6 months which meant getting on the bike before 6am so I could complete two workouts before my first client at 10am. Add in a cup of joe and meditation and we have a solid 4am wake up call. But not today. Today I slept until I woke, naturally, without an alarm or multiple alarms as the case has been recently. For 30 weeks I maintained a one pointed focus toward completing my third Ironman. Then all of a sudden and just like that, after months of only knowing the day of the week based on the workout I had that morning, it’s all over. It’s an abrupt ending to a long, continuous build and it’s not uncommon for many athletes (me) to feel a bit lost.
My brother asked me why they wrapped me in a space blanket after crossing the finish line at Ironman. I explained to him that it’s to help regulate body temperature as the body cools off quickly. After being in constant motion for 13hrs, stirring energy and creating heat, I crossed the line and stopped moving. It’s jarring to the body because the shift is so fast and sometimes it can be a battle to regain balance. This same idea applies to the bigger picture of our life after we complete a big race. Everything just stops and it’s time to settle into a new normal. For me that means getting about 15-18 hours of time each week dumped back in my lap. I need to be conscious in how I use those hours because I know it won’t take much to fill them and soon I’ll wonder where they all went.
This post Ironman integration is a process that I’ve found requires patience. There is a tendency in this phase, after taking so much time away from family and friends to feel obligated to rush back into things. Don’t. Recover well, indulge in the pastimes that you missed most while training. For me that’s walking on the beach, going to the farmer’s market, creating in the kitchen and practicing lots and lots of yoga. Take this time to reacquaint yourself with other things in life that you love and try something new. I am determined to get out on a SUP this summer. Promises we make to ourselves during training can fall away fast in the wake of life reentry. Don’t let this happen, remember what makes you feel alive.
I’m been diving back into my yoga practice, everyday even if its just for 20 minutes. I’m noticing that I’m not feeling as strong, a little wobbly in my balance poses but I know that will all come back. Just like when I train for my next IM (yes #4 is in the works) I will get my swim, bike, run skills finely tuned once again. It’s about being ok with the fluctuations of my body but also doing everything I can to keep it healthy. First and foremost, stop eating like I’m training for an Ironman. I’m happy to report, this piece is going well but its taken some restraint in the form of carbs. Also I believe in thinking of food as fuel and medicine for my body. For the past few years I’ve eaten a plant based diet which I have found helps me return to balance fairly quick after an endurance event. But certainly don’t make the mistake to think I haven’t had french fries or onions rings lately because I’ve had them both and it’s about being ok with that too. Hang loose, rest and spend your time doing things you love with people you love.
In the yoga class I took last night the instructor encouraged us to be unphased in our poses. Not allowing external factors like noise, heat and body sensation to distract from our focus. To remain calm and refuse to be rattled. There may be times in this post race phase where you feel elated and inspired and others where you feel down right blue. It’s key to notice those feelings and any meaning or want to define the emotion. Instead chose to be unphased, know that this emotion is not who you are, it’s simply energy on the move. Let it move, be patient enough to watch it and eventually it will dissipate. There is no stasis in life, everything is always changing. Instead of indulging thoughts of regression, choose to move forward. Watch all the steps along the way and stay in acceptance by trusting that what is in front of you right now is the perfect view.