Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Is there such a thing as post Ironman blues? Kind of like postpartum depression? From the many ironman finishers I've spoken to, it IS indeed a real thing. Perhaps I'm just having withdrawal from the constant physical and mental prepping that I've been doing for such a long time.
In my most recent blog post I wrote that I had been training for 210 days leading up to Ironman Lake Placid. The truth is that it was more like 500 days if I take into account all of my 2013 training and racing leading up to and AFTER last year's Ironman Mont Tremblant. My 2013 season started in January and officially came to an end. 11 months later, on October 31st.
I took November and December of 2013 "off" and got back into training on January 1st, 2014. I raced three times this year leading up to Ironman Lake Placid: a fast and flat Olympic in Colorado, one of the most brutal half ironmans in the world, Wildflower 70.3, and many people's bucket list "triathlon/xterra" race called The Escape from Alcatraz.
So, basically I either trained or raced from January 2013 to November 2013 then again from January 2014 until just yesterday. That's a lot in 2 years.
About 50 miles into Sunday's 112 mile bike ride my body reminded me of ALL the racing and training I had done in the past two years. It reminded me that fatigue is cumulative and muscle strain can happen in microscopic ways that don't manifest until out under extreme stress. My body reminded me all right. And it didn't do it gently.
My left knee and right hip lit up like a Christmas tree and my body was screaming for ice, a knee brace, Advil...or to simply STOP. For the next 62 miles, and a total of 7,000 feet of elevation gain, I pushed through this pain: the most pain I've ever raced with to date.
The good (I mean GREAT) news is that I had such incredible mental focus and fortitude there was no way on God's green earth that I was going to stop. And I didn't. I kept going.
People passed me. Hundreds of people passed me. In fact, I did not pass a single person except when I was bombing downhill.
This was not only a test of my perseverance and pain tolerance but of my ego. I wish she would just go away! In order to keep going I did something a friend recently suggested I do: I took the emotion out of the pain. You see, what she told me was that pain is both an emotional and sensory experience. So if I took away the emotional component, I only had to deal with the sensory part. And that's what I did.
It turns out my mental toughness helped me numb down some of the remaining sensory input and the rest of the throbbing pain was handled by my indomitable fortitude (something I should thank my parents and ancestors for; it's genetics baby).
The days after finishing an Ironman are difficult; not just on the body but the psyche. There are a million legitimate explanations for why this occurs but none of these reasons help make the restoration process faster. It's not the way the cookie crumbles. Just like everything in life, it's a process. Recovery, healing, growth, learning, understanding...it's all a process.
Life is in a constant flux of change, set backs, moments of elation and moments of uncertainty and the unknown, to name a few. Even when we set goals like finishing an Ironman, regardless whether we actually achieve our goal, the process of trying still takes a toll on us. We are indeed emotional creatures and "judgment day" comes with repercussions.
Some people deal with the moments after they have crested their goals by quickly setting another goal. This may be another Ironman or a new life project. This makes complete sense given how we humans like to keep a forward momentum. But sometimes doing this is just taking the path of least resistance to avoidance.
I personally see my post-Ironman emotions for what they are. I do not want to replace these unsettling emotions with anything else. I want to sit with them, dance with them (as another friend says), and learn about my own humanity from sifting though the trenches. This is how I overcame my eating disorder.
So, what I've learned about myself during my recovery from bulimia and now from Ironman, is what I do NOT want. I do NOT want to reflexively fill in the empty voids with something else; something frivolous. I want to sit with the very raw and unpleasant emotions that I feel: fear, loneliness, uncertainty etc. I want to sit with them and have CONVERSATIONS with them.
I feel confident that is the only way I can keep moving forward towards a better version of my former self; and moving forward allows me to improve my own human condition.
I have come so far and yet I still have leaps and bounds to go. I have to, want to and need to keep this recovery train on track, to be the best daughter/sister/friend/lover I can be and to help as many people and animals as I can in this lifetime.
Perpetual forward momentum with grace and gratitude. That was my mantra for the entire Ironman. It is also my the mantra for life.
Thank you for coming along on yet another one of my journeys. Thank you for donating your time, your money and your unwavering support.
With love and gratitude,