It has been 29 days since Ironman Lake Placid 2017.
With every day and week that passed after the race, I couldn’t help but compare how I felt to a breakup. It all felt so weirdly similar. (Let me remind you I’m happily married, but I still felt the old, familiar surges of breakup emotions following the race.)
I felt sad.
I took the loss of training pretty hard. Suddenly there was this giant void in my everyday life. Day in and day out was about Ironman training. When I wasn’t training I was thinking about training. Every life event — from my best friend’s wedding, to celebrating Easter, to moving — was all based around my training. That’s how I saw it. That’s how I was able to prioritize. The race was my biggest driving force in everything I did. What was I supposed to work towards now? I felt depressed not to have a goal or a reason to workout. I felt sad reminiscing about the roller coaster of emotions I had felt training and leading up to the race. Was I ever going to feel like that again? Those feelings made me feel so alive — they helped put my life in perspective. Now everything was back to normal, but I didn’t feel very normal. I had just done this giant, incredible thing…yet my regular, normal life was just carrying on as if nothing had happened.
I felt relieved.
Waves of “Oh my gosh I made it!!!” would wash over me. Why shouldn’t I feel relieved that I had survived and finished the race?! Every year thousands of people attempt an Ironman race and thousands don’t finish it. I felt so thankful to be done and relieved not to have to worry about it anymore. I didn’t have to lose anymore sleep over it. I didn’t have to panic about if I was doing enough training or not. I could finally have my thoughts back, as Ironman had consumed them over the past year.
I kept remembering the little things.
4AM — an hour few people see, but I learned to love it. It was my hour. My time. The memories of so many “4AM’s” kept replaying in my head. Just looking at my bike and my bike trainer made my heartache. I thought about my 5AM drives to the pool, when the world was still dark outside. I thought about watching the miles tick by on my bike computer. I thought about pit-stops on long bike rides. I remembered getting caught running in the rain. I thought about fun evening rides with my tri club and biking into work and seeing the sunrise. I remembered winter mornings on the bike trainer and racing to make it to work on time… I longed for those little memories again. Each memory was a puzzle piece to the bigger picture, which I could see so clearly now.
I felt free.
I didn’t have to constantly update my training log or rearrange my schedule to fit in training. Weekends suddenly meant something again. What is this sleeping in thing that people talk about? I could sleep in, stay up late, not set an alarm, or even eat fried food!! And did I mention alcohol!? I COULD DRINK AGAIN! (FYI: I had drastically cut out alcohol the past six months of training.) I could pack clothes to go running in after work and if I didn’t make it — no big deal! I didn’t have to bike a set number of miles or for a certain amount of time anymore. I could run a measly 3 miles and call it a day. I could lift weights without worry about being sore for a long run or injuring myself. I didn’t have to constantly think about my hair washing schedule from swimming three days a week! I didn’t have to get up at 4AM… I didn’t feel the weight of training hanging over me anymore.
As much as it hurt to be “done” I knew it was for the best.
Ironman training is not meant to be nonstop all year round. Our bodies aren’t supposed to be under that amount of stress forever. There is an off-season for a reason. People take months off to fully recover from an Ironman, both physically and mentally. So like a breakup with someone who you know is bad for you — it hurt, but I knew it was right and that my body needed the rest.
I’m trying to “get back out there”.
I attempted to run 10 miles the other day. I had hopes to try to run the Akron Marathon in September. With two full weeks off of running after the Ironman, I still had 7 weeks of training until the race. My long weekend training runs would be: 10, 13, 16, 18, 20, 13, 10. Totally manageable, right? No swimming or biking was even involved. I set out early on Saturday morning, and by mile 2 I felt terrible. By mile 4 I knew I wasn’t going to make it 10 miles. I struggled to keep running and to catch my breathe. My miles got slower and slower. My legs were heavy and I couldn’t find a rhythm. I got back home and felt like a complete failure. I spent the rest of the morning laying around the house — tired and even sore from my 8 miles!! I couldn’t believe that less than a month ago I had ran a marathon after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles. Now here I was struggling to run just 8 pathetic miles.
It was disheartening for sure, but I still keep trying to “get back out there” and to rekindle a training fire. I know that my strength (both mentally and physically) will eventually come back. I know that I will once again feel the waves of motivation pump through my veins. I will find the passion to train and to race again. Except for this time around I will have the knowledge and experience of being an Ironman already.
Similar to moving on after a relationship, you reach a point where you realize what you learned and how it shaped who you are today. You take that with you and it becomes part of you. Just like dating and trying to find “the one” you know it’s going to happen eventually for you. Like every relationship has a chapter or a season in your life — so does Ironman.