Ironman Recovery

When I finished Ironman Couer d’Alene, I wasn’t in pain, I wasn’t struggling to breathe, I wasn’t completely discombobulated…I just wanted to sit down. After moving for 12 straight hours, nothing sounded better than doing nothing.


The next morning, I wasn’t really that sore either. I knew I needed to go for a 30 minute walk, but other than that, resting was my goal and I fully embraced it. Little did I know that my body would do the typical “oh I just finished a big race so go ahead immune system, let down your guard” thing.

So there you have it: I finished the race, felt solid, rested, got sick for three days,  rested some more, then moved to Oregon. It was two solid weeks of doing absolutely nothing. I was right on pace with my recovery plan (sort of).

Two weeks turned into two and a half or three weeks with very minimal activity. I went hiking and did some very small runs. I heeded my coach’s advice to only run 30-40 minutes, three times a week. He also recommended swimming and cycling over running, as apparently it’s the running that really takes the most time to return to normal. But here’s the thing, my bike is still in storage, swimming is…well…swimming and if I have a choice, I will always choose running.


With Portland’s great running scene and new friends inviting me out to explore it, I couldn’t pass it up. I ran with some amazingly fast girls and kept my humbled mouth shut as we climbed their favorite routes, I got introduced to trail running and made my way through 10 miles of Forest Park, I went hiking and saw some amazing sights, and I went to new boot camps at Nike because the class offerings are amazing. When you write it all down, I think you can sum it up in four words: too much, too soon.

I met Jen yesterday for a run in her neighborhood and as we started the run, I knew that things weren’t right. My legs felt like I just ran three Ironmans back-to-back. Who filled my legs with solid concrete?!

Jen asked me if I wanted to do the 3.5 mile loop or the 6+ mile loop. I couldn’t take it and chose the 3.5 mile loop. WHAT?!?!?! I just did 112 miles and I can’t even run a 3.5 mile loop? To say I was frustrated would be an understatement.

I wrote my coach and asked him if this was normal. Thankfully, he said yes, and that I probably did too much too soon. Ugh. I also tweeted about it and some seasoned Ironman vets assured me that it takes ~6 weeks to recover from your first Ironman and as you do more, the recovery time lessens.

Needless to say, I’m anxious to get back to my normal self, to stop slogging through miles that feel much harder than they should be, and to be ready for my next round of training come August. But come on, six weeks?! Patience, grasshopper.

So here’s my PSA to any first-time Ironpeople: TAKE POST-RACE RECOVERY SERIOUSLY. You may feel fine, but your muscles are still repairing, so embrace those six weeks. Then join me for a beer so we can bitch about it.

Happy Running!

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28 Responses to Ironman Recovery

  1. Asia says:

    All of those words are so TRUE! I took 6 weeks off almost entirely…I did short runs, but didn’t really want to swim or bike, even though those are better for you recovery-wise. Then I started up w/ full marathon training for Eugene, and luckily, my base was still there. Yours will be too. Don’t worry!!

  2. brooke lyn says:

    take care of that body of yours, lady!!! but still enjoy the pdx trails, because they rock!

  3. Aron says:

    AND don’t forget that even though moving may not have been “physically” challenging with the actual act of moving, it was a HUGE deal and definitely emotionally draining which plays a big role into the physical aspect. Try and enjoy this recovery time and be happy its lead legs and not injured legs :) you will be back training like a beast in no time!

    • PageWilliams says:

      Ah, Aron. You’re always my wise friend that talks me off a ledge and knocks some sense into me. And I like the word “beast.” Thanks for adding that in there 😉

  4. Nicole says:

    Pretty much had the exact same experience as you post Ironman! I had no desire to swim or bike and just wanted to run but found it was super hard and my paces were really slow. It took time to recover but I ended up bouncing back! I was also so excited to try new workout classes and strength train too and I probably did more damage than good but mentally it helped me! I was ready to do something besides swim/bike/run.

  5. I always get sick after a big race too! Must be our bodies way of saying I need a freaking break. :-)

  6. Kristen L says:

    Yeah, sounds like your body wasn’t quite recovered! I hope you are enjoying some more rest time and can get back into a routine again in a few more weeks! You have so much new territory to explore in Portland!

  7. YES! Enjoy the time off! You all of a sudden feel better one day!! (it will be soon too!) Hope you are having fun in Portland!!

  8. Alisa says:

    Did she take you by Reed college and then up that giant hill? :)

    You’ll be back in action 100% strength in no time, I know it. Recovery is so important…not only for our bodies but it also helps teach us a little thing called “patience” (which I have 0 of so every little bit helps).

    Once you have your bike and your wetsuit and you feel like doing either of those things again, lemme know!

    It’s so funny I was reading those first few lines going…gosh I would ALWAYS choose swimming…running would be last on the list :).

  9. I came across your blog through Shut Up and Run. My husband just did Ironman Coeur d’Alene for his first Ironman. I’m going to pass your post on to him. Congratulations on your first Ironman!

  10. Erica says:

    Yes! I just did a half IM, & running legs are the last to make a full recovery. I’m almost at 2 weeks after the race & am back to cycling & swimming per usual but experience a huge battery drain from running for than 3 miles!

  11. Jenn says:

    You should make a spin off blog of just pictures from Oregon and its trails. So pretty!

  12. Becca says:

    The trails there look amazing!!

    I’ve never done more than a half marathon, but the first time I did that distance, and on mountain trails, my legs decided to be lead, too. I tried some speedwork a day later and the legs absolutely would not go. It’s a weird feeling! Well, enjoy those beers during your downtime!

  13. Layla says:

    You did an Ironman — physical exhaustion. You moved and took a new job — mental exhaustion. You’re away from Chicken Face — life exhaustion. Oh, and you ran 10 miles in Forest Park, which isn’t quite the same thing as running on a flat road. (I think I was sore for a week after my first trail run.) You’re doing just fine on the recovery, and you’ll be back to full speed in no time. And get your bike out of storage in time for Portland summer riding!

  14. Awesome job!! That is quite an accomplishment! You werent sore? I am surprised, but if your body was used to doing the amount of training before hand it wouldn’t be as shoked. Makes sense.

  15. I fully believe in years past this was one of my biggest downfalls…I am not saying I’ll be better after the NYC marathon this year as people are already pinging for a ton of december races…but I’ll try :) I can’t believe your race was 3 weeks ago…what?! man time flies, so glad you are loving the new city thus far

  16. oh and i should note…who is able to pass up a run with new friends with scenery like that?!!

  17. Erin says:

    Breaking a toe during IMCDA seemed to be a solid way to force me into recovery. Running wasn’t an option for a whole month!

    That being said, I still over-did it swimming and biking. I went to Masters 2 weeks after CDA – HUGE mistake. And last week I “led” my weekly club ride and had my ass handed to me. My heart rate was 15 bpm higher than when I did the same route during my taper. Apparently I still have some recovering to do. Which will be spent fly fishing, I suspect. There are worse ways to spend a day. :)

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