Beneath the hype that is Ironman, there’s a cold and brutal truth that will slowly chip away at your soul. It will test your patience, your fortitude and your waistline.
It won’t be during training.
It won’t come race day.
We’re talking post-race, people.
Naively smiling, not aware of what lies ahead.
It’s a sad and vicious truth that no one warned me about and now I need a therapist, or other Ironman friends, to console our achy iron hearts.
IRONMANS TAKE FREAKING FOREVER TO RECOVER FROM.
Immediately after Iroman, I did everything my coach and every article I could find said: I ate, I showered, I rested, I got in short walks, I took two weeks off COMPLETELY, I then got sick, and soon moved to a different state. Look at me, star student!
Around three weeks, I was back at it, but with no specific plan in sight other than to stay active. I started doing some boot camp classes, I went trail running, I went for shorter runs and then I completely crumbled.
WHY DO MY LEGS FEEL LIKE LEAD?
WHY DOES MY 8:30 PACE FEEL SO HARD?
WHY CAN’T I MAKE IT THREE MILES WITHOUT KEELING OVER?
WHY ARE MY JEANS TIGHTER?
WHERE HAS ANY SEMBLANCE OF SPEED I USED TO HAVE GONE?
WHY? WHY? WHY?!!!
My first world problems left me in a tizzy as I emailed my coach, texted and tweeted friends, and even asked a few pro triathlete friends if this was normal. Their responses weren’t what I wanted to hear:
YOU PROBABLY DID TOO MUCH.
YOU PROBABLY WENT OUT TOO HARD.
YOU PROBABLY DIDN’T REST ENOUGH.
And the doozy…
FOR YOUR FIRST IRONMAN, IT TAKES 6-8 WEEKS TO RECOVER*.
Six to eight weeks?! What?! (*Disclaimer: yes, yes, everybody is different. So take it for what it is). Their estimated Ironman newbie recovery time broke my anxious heart as I felt as if I had already given my body ample time to recover. Now you’re telling this adrenaline junkie that it will take upwards of two months? I already went through three months of waiting and physical therapy this year!
But if I step off my endurance-addicted soapbox and really think about what just happened, you understand why and feel ridiculous for being “that athlete.”
This Triathlete Magazine article explains it the best:
“…from an internal perspective, completing an Ironman is a bit like sitting on a sofa for 12 hours and aging two decades. In other words, the changes the body undergoes in 12 hours of extreme exertion are similar to some of those that occur in the body over the course of two decades of non-exertion, as a result of normal aging. Fortunately, though, those years are restored to you within a few weeks. Then it’s time to start thinking about tickling the reaper again.”
As I sit here, ready to “tickle the reaper” (that sounds inappropriate), I have to quell my urge to go all out, to take each run one at a time, and to not completely question my physical abilities. I need to remember, and give thanks, for what my body just went through because although it feels like a lifetime ago, it really wasn’t.
With a marathon and big goals right around the corner, I’m looking forward to sharing my training approach and new running-specific coach with you.