Post Ironman Blues

Triathlete holding his head after an Ironman
January 12, 2017

D3 Staff


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Ironman race day arrives, and you're left reflecting on how quickly the time has passed since you registered a year ago. Yes, an entire year filled with planning, preparing, and a lot of hard work has flown by. As the cannon goes off and the day begins, you find yourself completing the 2.4-mile swim and transitioning into T1 to gear up for the ride. With positivity in mind, you embark on the 112-mile bike leg, reminding yourself of the countless hours you've spent training. The halfway point comes and goes, and before you know it, mile 100 arrives, signaling the transition to T2. Off the bike and into the changing tent, with only 26.2 miles left to conquer, you patiently tackle each mile, sticking to your race plan.

As you near the finish line, emotions surge within you. The challenges and triumphs of the day, coupled with the year of dedicated training, come pouring out in the form of tears. The elation of crossing the finish line is unlike anything you've ever experienced as an athlete. In the first week following the race, you find yourself revisiting the emotions of that momentous finish. The sense of accomplishment leaves you unable to wipe the smile off your face. However, as the initial excitement subsides, you begin to feel a sense of emptiness. Something seems to be missing. What could it be?

In the words of a close friend and training buddy who completed two Ironman races, "Amy, it's like losing your best friend." This sentiment encapsulates the feeling of loss that many experience after an Ironman. The year-long journey toward this singular goal has come to an end, leaving a void in its wake. It's a real sensation, one that warrants acknowledgment and attention.

So, how do you cope with this feeling of loss? First and foremost, recognize it as a legitimate emotion and understand that it's okay to feel this way. Reach out to fellow triathletes who have completed an Ironman and discuss your post-race emotions with them. Rather than abruptly ending your training regimen, talk to your coach about transitioning into a post-Ironman training plan. While you don't need to maintain the intensity of your previous workouts, having some structure in place can provide a sense of stability.

Consider writing a race report within the first week after your Ironman. This serves as a written account of your race day memories, allowing you to revisit and relive the experience whenever you choose. It's also a wonderful way to share your Ironman journey with others, including family, friends, and fellow triathletes.

After giving yourself some time to rest and engage in light training, start planning for the next season. Sit down with your coach to discuss your winter base training and set goals for the upcoming year. Channel the energy and motivation from your Ironman finish into preparing for future races and challenges.

Is Ironman depression a reality? Only you can answer that question. For many, including myself, it's a genuine experience. However, with self-awareness and a proactive approach to moving forward, it's a feeling that can be managed. The sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that comes from completing an Ironman far outweighs any post-race blues. As Mike Reilly, the iconic Ironman announcer, proclaims, "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"

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