BEAT THE POST-IRON­MAN BLUES

You’ve trained for years, had the date cir­cled for months and fi­nally com­pleted your Iron­man. And then… noth­ing. Your body aches, train­ing mo­ti­va­tion is non-ex­is­tent and the sofa is all too ap­pealling. Let Mar­tyn Brunt guide you off it, and on to the next

220 Triathlon Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Mar­tyn Brunt guides you off the sofa, out of your post-race funk and onto your next rac­ing chal­lenge

YOU. ARE. AN. IRON­MAN!’ So bel­lows the an­nouncer as, with fin­isher’s pho­tos in mind, you smile and raise your arms for the first time in hours, as you cross the fin­ish line of the longdis­tance race you’ve been train­ing for months to com­plete.

But the fun doesn’t end there, be­cause straight after you com­plete your IM, Chal­lenge, or non-branded equiv­a­lent, you get what you’ve been work­ing so hard for – the glory, the medal, the slice of pizza you’ve been craving, the ag­o­nis­ing leg mas­sage or per­haps 15 min­utes on a drip in the med­i­cal tent.

And the fun doesn’t even end there. You’ve still got the awards cer­e­mony and, best of all, knock­ing about all day in your fin­isher’s shirt to look for­ward to. But, after that – now what? This is the point at which many a triath­lete can start to view the world with a strange, neu­trally va­cant feel­ing, which may soon kick into feel­ing ac­tu­ally quite down in the dumps. The ‘Iron­man blues’ phe­nom­e­non is com­mon even among bar­gain­base­ment triath­letes such as I, and is a con­se­quence of the fact that the goal you’ve been striv­ing, train­ing, suf­fer­ing and sac­ri­fic­ing for, for months, even years, is done. Your body aches, your mo­ti­va­tion (even need) to train is gone, and at­trac­tive peo­ple in bars seem strangely unim­pressed with your abil­ity to run a marathon after 112 miles on a bike.

Even I, with 15 Iron­mans and bud­get-al­ter­na­tives un­der my belt, have strug­gled with this over the years. Most mem­o­rably after Iron­man Florida when I un­wisely de­cided to stick around in Panama City Beach for a few days only to dis­cover that when the Iron­man band­wagon rolls out of town, ev­ery­thing else there closes down too. I was left with lit­er­ally noth­ing to do ex­cept stare into the abyss and slip slowly into mad­ness.

So, what can you do about it? Well, based on my ex­pe­ri­ences of suf­fer­ing many a post-race comedown, oc­ca­sion­ally in a town where even the one horse had sod­ded off, I’ve de­vel­oped some strate­gies to make sure that phys­i­cally AND men­tally I’m back to my medi­ocre self as quickly as pos­si­ble. Read on…

DO SOME LIGHT TRAIN­ING

And I mean ‘light’. Of­ten the thought of do­ing any form of pos­trace ex­er­cise is as ap­peal­ing as a phone call from a no-fees lawyer, so why not make it a gen­tle, so­cial 12mile bike ride to a café or pub for a long lunch, with a stop on the re­turn for an ice cream. It turns the legs

over, re­plen­ishes your calo­ries, and gives you the chance to ex­plain, at length, how your race went to your un­for­tu­nate com­pan­ions as you pedal gen­tly along.

EN­TER A SHORTER RACE SOON AFTER­WARDS

Not long after com­plet­ing Iron­man Aus­tria I did a stan­dard-dis­tance race at Mil­ton Keynes. It was one of the most fun events I ever did be­cause I was on to a guar­an­teed win­ner – if it went badly peo­ple would say, ‘Well, he has just done an Iron­man’, and if it went well peo­ple would say ‘And he’s just done an Iron­man!’. Make sure you wear your IM fin­isher’s shirt at bike rack­ing. No one will men­tion it, but ev­ery­one will clock it.

GO ON HOL­I­DAY

This isn’t my idea, it’s my wife’s. And it’s not so much an idea as a con­di­tion. But there is wis­dom in her pas­sive-ag­gres­sion be­cause it gives you some­thing far re­moved from rac­ing to look for­ward to. After fin­ish­ing my first-ever Iron­man in Canada we spent a mem­o­rable week vis­it­ing Van­cou­ver Is­land watch­ing or­cas and griz­zly bears, kayak­ing around Knight In­let and con­sum­ing my own body­weight in maple syrup. Races are of­ten held in beau­ti­ful places so take some time to en­joy them after­wards – although be care­ful you don’t overdo it, after Iron­man Lake Placid we headed to New York for a hol­i­day where I spent three days sight­see­ing on foot un­til I folded like a red hot mars bar.

FIND A NEW CHAL­LENGE

When you fall off a horse, get straight back on. This, I know from first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence, is rub­bish be­cause they just throw you off again, but it makes a nice cliché so we’ll stick with it. A sure­fire way to help your brain cope with the yawn­ing empti­ness left by hav­ing noth­ing to train for is to give your­self some­thing to train for by en­ter­ing an­other chal­lenge. I coped with the chasm caused by com­plet­ing Iron­man Lan­zarote by en­ter­ing Iron­man Aus­tria – hey presto! Rea­son to get up in the morn­ings re­stored. The fact that I did this within 24 hours of fin­ish­ing Lanza with­out any fam­ily dis­cus­sion, was a source of some ten­sion in the Brunty house­hold when it was dis­cov­ered. But threats of phys­i­cal vi­o­lence don’t scare me, I’ve fallen off horses.

WEAR YOUR SHIRT

You prob­a­bly don’t need my advice to do this, but wear­ing your fin­isher’s shirt at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity for weeks after the race has proven med­i­cal ben­e­fits, not least be­cause

“Wear­ing your fin­isher’s shirt at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity for weeks after the race has proven med­i­cal ben­e­fits”

wear­ing it makes you walk taller, ex­ude con­fi­dence, leap over tall build­ings and de­flect bul­lets with your gran­ite jaw. Go­ing for a run? Wear your shirt. Go­ing shop­ping? Wear your shirt. Off to the gym? (ab­so­lutely def­i­nitely wear your shirt!). After fin­ish­ing Chal­lenge Almere with a new PB I wore my shirt for so long that it stood up on its own. But there’s no bet­ter way to ban­ish any blues you may be feel­ing than proudly dis­play­ing the fruits of your labours. I’d draw the line at knock­ing around wear­ing your medal, though.

STAY OFF SO­CIAL ME­DIA

Face­book is largely a col­lec­tion of bet­ting ads and pic­tures of cats with fruit on their heads, but for triath­letes, it’s also the main play­ground for hum­ble-brag­ging about the train­ing you’ve just done. It’s a mod­ern rite of pas­sage to post pic­tures of your Iron suc­cess on so­cial me­dia, and re­ceive in re­turn many memes declar­ing you to be awe­some. But if you’ve got a touch of the post-race blues, there’s noth­ing worse than see­ing posts about other peo­ple go­ing train­ing when you aren’t (or don’t want to), so spare your­selves any wholly un­fair feel­ings of in­ad­e­quacy or guilt by giv­ing the whole she­bang a miss for a bit.

TAKE UP A HOBBY

Triath­letes are at­tracted to ob­ses­sive be­hav­iour like store de­tec­tives to a hoody, which makes us ideal types to take up some sort of pas­time as an out­let for our spread­sheet-fo­cussed minds. In be­tween Olympics, Bradley Wig­gins was a fa­mously ob­ses­sive col­lec­tor; whether it be gui­tars, Bel­gian beers or tat­toos. A lack of avail­able cash hav­ing spent it all on post-race mer­chan­dise has lim­ited my ca­pac­ity to em­bark on col­lect­ing any­thing more sub­stan­tial than dust, but while rest­ing in be­tween Iron­mans I have been known to plough through en­tire box sets of The So­pra­nos, or au­dio books of ev­ery­thing John le Carré has writ­ten, in one go. After com­plet­ing the Out­law I in­fa­mously took up play­ing the pi­ano, which as well as giv­ing me a non-tri out­let for my en­er­gies had the added ben­e­fit of caus­ing my fam­ily to beg me to start go­ing back out on my bike.

RECOG­NISE THAT IT IS COM­PLETELY NOR­MAL

In as much as any­thing as­so­ci­ated with triathlon can be called nor­mal, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a comedown after a big race is in­deed per­fectly nor­mal, and can hap­pen to you whether you’re Lucy Charles or, at the other end of the spectrum, my mate To­bias who once stopped for a bratwurst and a gi­ant pret­zel half­way round the bike course at Chal­lenge Roth. You’ve spent weeks, pos­si­bly months, with a re­lent­less, death-ray fo­cus on your goal; you’ve ex­pe­ri­enced an emo­tional roller­coaster of ex­cite­ment, nerves, con­fi­dence, doubt, ex­hil­a­ra­tion, fear and a hun­dred other feel­ings; your body has been awash with en­dor­phins and adren­a­line; you’re chock full of car­bo­hy­drates and en­ergy gel; and now, sud­denly, you’re sore, stand­ing still, and at a slightly loose end. Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a dip after all this tur­moil is per­fectly nat­u­ral, so ignore all the ‘Just do it’ and ‘HTFU’ slo­gans, which try to guilt you into im­me­di­ate ac­tiv­ity, and in­stead, take the time to make your way to what­ever you might want to do next – at your own pace.

“Triath­letes are at­tracted to ob­ses­sive be­hav­iour like store de­tec­tives to a hoody”

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