Post Race Blues

Today's ride was slow, but at least there was a view.

Today’s ride was slow, but at least there was a view.

First there was nervousness.  Then there was misery.  Next came pure euphoria.  Now all that’s left is a bit of depression.

Post race blues are actually pretty common.  I was just talking to my friend the other day who finished her first marathon the day after I finished my first 70.3.  She said she was having a rough week because everything seemed a bit off.  When I mentioned “post race blues” she considered this and admitted that it suited just how she was feeling.  I told her that I completely understood what she was feeling.

The day after a big race all you want to do it slump on the couch and stuff your face with vittles that you didn’t dare touch during the week leading up to the race.  For me, it was pizza, chips and chocolate.  I felt like I had earned a little splurge.  Then I kept eating the same amount of food I was consuming during my training phase.  I still felt so hungry for some reason even though I wasn’t burning any where near the same number of calories.  I realized that I had to cut back on my food intake and that made me depressed.

The DOMS (delayed onset muscles soreness) lasted a couple of days.  It made perfect sense to take a complete day off on Sunday (the day after my race).  However, on Monday I wasn’t quite sure what to do.  I really didn’t want to rest.  I really felt a NEED to go out and get moving.  So, I decided to do a semi-workout.  I loaded up the girls in the jogging stroller and hobbled/walked/jogged for about 2 miles.  Every time I started jogging I thought that maybe I was an idiot. That made me depressed.  Every time I walked I would see someone run by.  That made me depressed.  I just decided to go home and cry.

When Tuesday rolled around I was set to head to the gym (because that is what I do every Tuesday).  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do at the gym, but I was determined to get there.  The DOMS appeared to be wearing off so I decided to run on the treadmill.  I only ran.  There was no walking involved.  Then I decided to go for a swim.  I tried to tell myself that I didn’t need to do more than one workout, but my mind was still in double/triple workout per day mode.  So, I just decided to do a short 30 minute easy swim.

Hello Wednesday!  I couldn’t go too long without getting on the bike (I mean, I did used to take a ride at least 3 times per week before the race).  I opted for a flat route (good choice) and settled for a one hour ride.  I tried to tell myself to go slow.  I tried to tell myself to just enjoy the scenery.  I couldn’t.  I tried to pass as many cyclists as I could.  Then I was left wondering why I felt so tired at the end of the day.  I couldn’t figure out why I wanted to go to bed early or why I didn’t feel so energetic.

Yes, then there was Thursday.  Once I again I grabbed the jogging stroller (along with 75 pounds of weight) and headed out for 5 miles of pure running.  I was feeling great at the turnaround point and then my running started to get slower and slower.  I kept wondering what had happened to my running libido. That made me sad.

Okay Friday.  If you insist.  I took the day off.  That made me depressed.

I was hoping to run with my running group on Saturday morning, but I had to work.  Therefore, I decided to hit the trail early and run 6 miles.  That was my long run for the week.  I figured it wasn’t too bad.  After I reached the 3-mile mark and turned around, I realized that I had been running slightly uphill for the first 3 miles.  That made me smile.

Sunday.  Once again I couldn’t go too long without getting on that bike.  And no, I didn’t choose a flat route.  I chose a very hilly route.  Yeah, brilliant.

I feel kind of lost.  I don’t have a training plan.  I am not signed up for a race, but I do spend many hours browsing through active.com.  I have been contemplating my next move.  I think that once I sign up for a new race that my post race blues will disappear.  Hopefully.

70.3 Achieved!

HITS Half Triathlon Grand Junction, CO

HITS Half Triathlon Grand Junction, CO

Yesterday morning I was feeling a tad miserable, but today the euphoria has set in (along with the DOMS).  Okay, I wasn’t completely miserable.  There was some laughing, crying and holding conversations with myself.  I was in my own mind for a little over 6 hours so there really isn’t too much else to do if you want to forget about the burning in your calves, the cramp in your neck, the chaffing in your armpits or the aching in your hip.

I felt good right before the race started.  For the first time ever, I had adequate sleep the night before a race.  I forced oatmeal, peanut butter, a bagel and a banana down my throat.  I had spare time to calm myself before the start.  Then I suddenly had no time.  I didn’t get a chance to take a quick swim or get my goggles right.  For some reason they weren’t fitting like they had been during yesterday’s quick swim in the lake.  Of course.  It was time to go and I was still fighting with my goggles.  Then I was arguing with my mind who started saying that it was going to be flight, not fight.  I suddenly was worried that I didn’t know how to swim.  The buoys were sooooo far away.  I had a panick attack that lasted about 5 minutes.  People were swimming away from me and I was still stuck in place.  Instead of waiting to screw it all up, I told myself to get moving.  My body eventually listened and I started swimming just like I knew how.

It felt like a very long swim.  A never-ending swim.  I must have ingested about a gallon of lake water and crashed into about 10 other swimmers (but at least I knew there were other swimmers around and I hadn’t fallen all of the way behind).  I focused on getting from one buoy to the next.  I was so grateful when I turned back towards shore that I started swimming like I should have been all along.  My clumsy body dragged itself out of the water and nearly fell over as I tried to find my land legs.  Strippers were waiting on the shore (um, not those kind of strippers… these ones are there to take off your clothes… or rather your wetsuit).  One person pulled off my wetsuit in a mere 5 seconds and I was off to get on my bike.

The first half of the ride was rather uneventful (thankfully).  I felt so great that I worked it.  Yeah, I probably worked it too much.  But people were still passing me.  At least I was happy to think “hey, I must have beat you in the swim… thank goodness I wasn’t the last one out!”  It didn’t take long for my legs to get tired.  Okay, they were on fire.  I turned onto a new road.  My new least favorite road ever.  A road that goes up an incline for 10 miles.  Yes, I am serious.  About a medium incline all the way up.  My legs were really on fire by the time I made it up fighting the wind the whole way.  You will not believe how happy I was to see the turnaround point.  I knew that meant downhill for 10 miles!  It was a fast 10 miles!  But of course things can never be so easy.  I had to go uphill again (fighting the wind again) for the last 5 miles. Those 5 miles seemed to last an eternity.  I couldn’t wait to be done even if it meant running 13.1 miles.

I hopped off that bike and starting running.  Um, why does it feel like I am running at snail pace?  My legs were pure jello.  It took me about a mile to get them working right (after having to climb a few steep hills).  I came to the crest of the third hill only to be blasted with 20 mph winds.  OMG.  Really?  I have to run in this crazy wind with jello legs?  I just decided to dream about my last half-marathon I completed this past winter.  I thought about how wonderful it is to run a half marathon when you don’t have to first swim 1.2 miles and bike 56 miles.  Oh, those were the good old days.

Those positive thoughts (or maybe my many years of running experience) must have helped because I totally kicked butt on that run.  I met those people who passed me in the swim or on the bike.  They became tiny objects in my rearview mirror.  Sure, I couldn’t get them all, but I sure as heck tried.  I willed my legs to stay strong and do what they do best: run.  That was my proudest moment throughout this whole race.  I am proud to call myself a runner!  Thank goodness I became a runner before I decided to become a triathlete.  But I do know what I need to do now in order to become a better triathlete (swimming in a lake would be one of the obvious things).

I finally saw the finish line.  I tried so hard not to slow down.  In that last half a mile I passed at least 6 other people.  I was soooo ready to be done!  I pumped my arms into the air and crossed over that magical line.  Someone handed me a medal while someone else took off my timing chip (since there was no way I could be bothered to bend over and do it).  I continued walking.  And I walked some more.  Then I stopped to pee.  Yes folks, I hadn’t peed for over 6 hours.  I knew I had that kind of stamina for a marathon, but now I know I can last a whole half ironman!

I continued walking because my body didn’t seem to want to quiet down.  As soon as I stopped I felt a sudden urge to throw up.  I felt worse than I ever did during the whole race!  I was okay after about a half an hour. I had to force down half a bagel and then lay in the grass for a few minutes.  I started thinking about how I never wanted to do that ever again.  I feel differently today.  I wish I could go for a run right now, but my legs aren’t working right.

My official time was 6:19:21.  I came in 6th in my age group (and for some reason they had me in 35-39… I didn’t realize my birthday came 2 weeks early this year… I guess it doesn’t matter much because I would have been 5th in the 30-34 group).  I came in 151 overall for the swim, 135 overall for the bike and 67 overall for the run.  I guess that really makes it obvious that running is my strength!

It took me about 2 hours to recover enough in order to make the 4 hour drive home.  If only my drive home could have been as uneventful as the race.  I had to drive through a snow storm!  Ironically, we had just taken off the snow tires 3 days earlier.  I also had to stop every hour to stretch my legs (yes, I was out in 32 degree weather wearing shorts and a t-shirt).  Finally I made it home!

And to my surprise, I walked in to find a few of my friends gathered in the living room.  My most amazing husband had gathered them together to celebrate my accomplishment.  It was the greatest feeling and I am so thankful to have supportive family and friends.  They have always been there to push me along.  From my first day of learning how to rock climb all the way to my first half ironman.  Don’t worry though, the story isn’t over yet.

Race Anxiety

Crossing the finish line of my last triathlon.

Crossing the finish line of my last triathlon.

What do I wear?  What will the weather be like?  How do I taper?  What should I eat?  What are the rules?  Oh my, I am losing my mind!

This is me when race anxiety sets in.  I can’t seem to make any decisions and I suddenly have a hundred questions that I don’t know the answer to.  A running race is a bit more tolerable.  I only have one discipline to worry about.  One event.  All I have to do is run.  Not now.  Now I have to swim, bike AND run.  AND I have to figure out how to move from one to the next.  AND I have to figure out how to sustain energy for 6 to 7 hours.

I don’t know why I suddenly feel overwhelmed.  I have been running for 7 years.  I have been cycling and swimming for a year and a half.  I have finished 2 short triathlons.  I have run over 2 dozen races.  I have been training for this specific race for over 4 months!

It is called “race anxiety” folks.  Most people have it.  Newbies have it and experienced athletes have it.  Even Olympians have it.  This just happens to be my biggest bout of race anxiety to date.  This is my longest, hardest race ever.  I always thought Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge would be my most difficult race.  Nope.  I always seem to strive for a challenge greater than the last.

Now I drive people crazy with my nerves.  I can’t even talk without stumbling over my own words.  This triathlon seems to be on my mind 24/7.  I think about each workout leading up to the race.  Then I change my mind about what workout to do on what day.  Then I change my mind about how long the workout should be.  Then I change my mind about the intensity of the workout.  Yesterday I went for my last longish run: 8 miles.  But it turned to 6 miles as I was running because I couldn’t make up my mind about whether I should push myself or back off.  I finally took the smarter option, but the answer didn’t arrive until I reached the 3-mile turn around point.

I have seriously read about 10 articles about how to taper for a half ironman and each article said something totally different.  All that did was feed my anxiety.  I still haven’t made up my mind about what I am doing this week…. 5 days before the race.  I don’t know if I am going to completely rest before race day or if I am going to jog a few miles and take a dip in the lake.  I tried to look back in my fitness journal to get some answers, but that didn’t help.  Some days I felt good doing a tough workout the day after an easy workout and some days I felt like crap.  There was no logic to my crappy days nor was there any logic to my good days.

As I write up my gear checklist I have to think about all of the possibilities.  Will it suddenly be a typical Colorado wacky day and turn to 30 degrees?  Or will the weather decide to kill me with 80 degree temps that my body has no idea how to handle?  Will I need to pull on pants and a long sleeve shirt during the transition or can I just slip off my wetsuit and call it good?

What if my bike suddenly falls apart or gets a flat tire?  Will I know how to deal with the stress or will I fall apart and start sobbing right there in the middle of the course?  Should I grab food at the aid stations and risk crashing my bike into an innocent bystander or should I try to stash as much fuel as I can on my bike?  Will I even be able to eat enough, stay hydrated and perfectly ph balanced?  Or will I crash my bike as I try to steer and avoid other cyclists while opening my gel packet?

What if I get too close to another cyclist?  Will I be able to pass another cyclist fast enough to not get penalized?  Will I get annoyed with backing off my speed if cyclists are always passing me and I am unable to go faster?  Am I confident enough about my cycling abilities to not get stuck behind a large crowd?

Will my legs fall off as I start to run?  Should I wear my fuel belt or just rely on the water and fuel stations? Since I know my half marathon pace like the back of my hand, will I get frustrated when I can’t maintain my normal pace?  Will the sun beat down on me and force me to move at a turtle’s pace?

Whew!  I think it helped me just to vent all of that.  Those questions have been going through my mind for the last week.  I don’t expect anyone to answer them because I know I just have to figure it all out on my own.  I never expected my first half marathon to go perfectly so why should I expect my first half ironman to go perfectly?  We can’t learn from anything until we experience it.  There will be setbacks, but there will be successes.  It should be about the journey and not the destination, but sometimes the competitive spirit can only focus on the destination.  However, that can lead to great disappointment.

Today someone said something that really stuck with me.  A coach I met in my class told me that the destination should be viewed as the celebration of all of the hard work that has already been accomplished.  That’s right.  I have done all of the work.  I have been disciplined and dedicated.  I have pushed myself.  I have believed in myself.  Now, it is time to celebrate.  (At least this is what I keep telling myself, but my driven nature seems to keep rearing its ugly head and I revert back to panic mode).

Mental Fatigue

The hard work is worth it when I can experience days like these...

The hard work is worth it when I can experience days like these…

Now I know why only less than one percent of the world’s population has completed an Ironman (70.3 or 140.6… and I am talking the distance, not just the IM brand).  I don’t really know how accurate that percentage is since I really just googled it, but I have a feeling it is pretty close to accurate.  I mean, I do live in Colorado (supposedley the fittest state… think I read that on the internet too) and I was out riding in an area well-known for cycling.  I encountered about 100 cyclists during my 3.5 hour ride.  I was the only one on a triathlon bike.  Not sure if it is because I am the only crazy one training for a triathlon that is held in May or what the deal is.  Maybe that’s it.  Whenever I mention that my triathlon is in May (in Colorado) people assume that I must be completing the swim portion in an indoor pool.  I didn’t think it was such a crazy idea when I signed up back in December because I figured that it would stop snowing by the end of February so I would have plenty of time to train outside.  That blew back in my face.  It is April 22nd and it is currently snowing.

It is really hard (and very boring) to complete 4 hours on a bike trainer.  Even if I am watching a movie (or two).  And I don’t really push myself (since I am supposed to be relaxing while watching a movie, right??).  Sure, I can run outside regardless of the conditions, but there comes a point when you become tired of running in below freezing temperatures.  It takes way to much effort to get dressed in all of that gear.  Somehow I managed to do okay and make it through the winter months of training.  Wait, I am still in the winter months of training.  My mind is starting to deteriorate.  When I hear the weather report I just feel like curling up into a ball and crying my eyes out.  Once in a great while I manage to get out on a day where it is near perfect.  If you call 45 degrees perfect (which I don’t, especially while riding a bike with the wind chill of below freezing).  Last weekend was a rough ride because I was so cold that I couldn’t feel my fingers and toes.  It was hard for me to eat because I kept dropping the food as I attempted to bring it to my mouth while steering the bike.  The temperatures were slightly warmer this past weekend, but nature had to bring me wind to contend with.  Okay, I know that conditions aren’t always perfect, but come on, cut me some slack here!   I’m still somehow disciplined to do it, but I don’t know for how much longer.

My workouts are only getting longer as I reach the peak before the taper to event day.  I have my plan and I stick to it (for the most part).  I work out 6 days a week and rejoice when the rest day is here.   I still manage to go to work, take care of the kids and keep my house in order (okay, I may have sacrificed in that department just a little, but the kids are always fed, wearing clean clothes and smell like roses).  Sometimes I just want to turn off my alarm and hide under the blankets.  Other times I want to just drop off the kids at school/daycare and just go get a haircut.  I spent the past month trying to figure out a time when I could go buy a new pair of running shoes… it finally happened, but came at the cost of dealing with rush hour traffic.  My hair is another story.  That will have to wait.

I don’t give in because I want to succeed.  I want to be ready to finish that 70.3.  I want to finish it in good form.  I want to cross that finish line and still be able to drive home.  I am getting tired (mentally and physically), but I do see the end in sight.  Wait, is there an end?  Maybe I don’t want an end.  What will I do without my crazy routine?  Get a haircut maybe?

My mind can start to play tricks on me when it is in fatigue mode.  I often put things in places where they do not belong and I forget to do things that need my attention (fortunately my kids are smart enough to remind me that I need to fasten their seatbelts before we start moving).  I consider just throwing my phone across the room when the alarm goes off or driving to a place where I can just walk.  Then my senses kick back in and I am off in overdrive again.

Maybe I should do one of those fitness apps where you can get paid for completing your workouts.  Wouldn’t I be rich by now?

Even if this race is the crappiest race ever because I nearly drown, get a flat tire, acquire some road rash or finish in last place, I will still be able to say that I have succeeded.  With all of these training hours, I have already done at least 10 Ironmans (or close enough).  I am proud of the fact that I DO wake up early to go workout, that I DO stay on my bike for 3 hours, that I DO keep running on tired legs, and that I DO swim countless boring laps in the pool.  Why DO I DO it?  Well, because I secretly love it.  And, above all else, it has given me strength to persevere through the mental and physical fatigue.  That strength will be required later on down the road and I will be ready.

Colorado Lake Swimming in April

I tried to keep my face out of the water, but figured that wasn't the best way to swim freestyle.

I tried to keep my face out of the water, but figured that wasn’t the best way to swim freestyle.

I truly have a very supportive family.  We decided to pack up the camper and drive 4 hours to Grand Junction mainly so I could scope out the HITS Triathlon Course.  I am getting pretty nervous about my race in 6 weeks.  The training time has gone by so quickly.  I always feel a bit relieved when I can preview the course of a race before I participate in the actual event.  I usually do events near my home, so this was quite a journey for a course preview.  Yet, my family was excited to gain a weekend of camping in the process.  And we were fortunate to have awesome weather!

The drive over the mountains was not so pleasant.  The battery light on the truck came on and then the lights inside the truck died out.  That was definitely not a good sign.  Fortunately we made it to the nearest auto parts store.  I gathered the girls and took them on a tour of Costco (the only building nearby) while my husband inspected the truck.  Turns out, the alternator was fried.  It only took about an hour, but that brought us to our campsite at dusk.

We were lucky enough to find a campsite right at Highline Lake, the state park where the event will take place.  I had already been in e-mail communication with the park manager regarding my desire (maybe that is a bad word choice) to swim in the lake.  He had told me that the swim beach wouldn’t open up until May, but he instructed me to find him when I arrived so he would help me out.  The next morning I went looking for the park manager.  He told me where to swim and he also reminded me that the water was 52 degrees.

I went back to the camper and pulled on my wetsuit while wondering if I had the nerve to actually get in that dreaded cold water.  My family walked down with me to the beach.  The girls were going to play in the sand while I did my thing.  We saw a man in waders out in the water.  He was using a metal detector to search the sand in the shallow water.  He told me the water was cold… not like I needed the reminder.  I put on double swim caps and just started walking towards the lake.  My family and the wader guy were watching me so I suddenly felt the pressure to get in the water.  I couldn’t chicken out.  So, I just walked in until the water was at my chest.  I put on my goggles and dunked my head in.  Oh geez!  That was freakin’ cold!  My face was numb almost instantly.  It didn’t matter if I could feel my hands or feet, but my face was a different story!

I knew I had to start swimming in order to warm up (okay, the warm up never really happened).  I did the moves with my arms, but I kept my face up out of the water.  Okay, that’s not how you are supposed to swim freestyle, but my face was about to fall off!  I was there to swim so I finally put my face in the water, but made the extra effort to breathe with each stroke.  I swam from one side of the swim beach to the other side.  I had to float for a second in order to warm up my face.  Then I swam back across and stopped to float for a minute.  I thought about the backstroke that I just learned during one of my swim lessons, but that is my least favorite stroke.  I would keep my face out of the water, but I would end up splashing water all over my face anyway.  And I would probably swim the wrong way and get hit by a boat.  I opted to continue with the freestyle.

At one point I realized that I wasn’t moving my legs.  I don’t know if that was because they were frozen or if I just couldn’t concentrate on too many things at one time.  I felt claustrophobic in the wetsuit and was trying to pull it away from my neck.  When I focused on my legs, I lost control of my arms.  The cold water was making it much too difficult to get in a proper swim.   I had no room in my brain for worrying about what was lurking in the lake.  Most of my anxiety stemmed from thoughts about getting hypothermia and drowning as my family watched from the beach.

I’m not sure how long I swam back and forth… maybe 20 minutes?  I was starting to get worried because I would feel fine (and even a tad warm) when I stopped to float.  I wondered if that meant I was past the point of hypothermia.  I decided it was probably best just to get out.

As I wrapped my body in two towels, I looked at the lake and imagined that it should be a nice lake to swim in when May rolls around (I don’t recommend swimming in the lake until then).  I will still need a wetsuit, but I have no doubt that it will be much more tolerable.  With the exception of the passing speed boats, the lake is relatively calm.  When I looked at it in the morning it was perfectly flat and glassy.

After the relaxing swim in the lake, I decided to hop on the bike and explore some of the bike course.  Stay tuned….