July 9, 2012

Post-IM: Recovery, Reflection, & What's Next

It's hard to believe that two weeks have already passed since one of the biggest days in my life. I've been sort of M.I.A. on here mainly because I haven't been doing much. I've taken nearly the entire two weeks off from working out and have instead have been sleeping in and keeping busy with work, starting the hunt for a place in San Francisco, and devouring as many books as I can before summer is up! It's been nice, but I've also found myself getting antsy to get back to some sort of workout routine.

I'm trying to remember the importance of recovery, however, and also allowing myself to just take a break. It seems like in the past few years I've always been training for something, and while that certainly was fun and kept me motivated, it didn't give me much down time physically or mentally. And while I do have some exciting races on the horizon, I'm trying not to be in a huge rush to get there. These last couple weeks have been focused on letting my body heal, reflecting on my Ironman experience, and starting to get excited about what's next. Here are some highlights!

My plan for post-IM recovery was to take at least one full week off from all physical activity. This was not a problem! I was incredibly sore the few days following the race, so working out was the last thing on my mind. I hung out in Coeur d'Alene a few extra days and even had our house all to myself on the last day, and took advantage of the time to just relax. I spent a lot of time on the couch, read, hung out on the porch, napped, ate whatever I wanted. It was a great way to unwind and also soak up some more IM glory before having to get back to the usual routine at home.
my homecoming surprise!
By the next weekend my body was feeling much better; most of the soreness had gone away, except a couple toes were still fairly tender. I was adamant about sticking to one whole week off though, so I tried not to get jealous as I heard about all the awesome workouts and races my friends and training buddies were doing that weekend. On my day off Tuesday I wanted to take advantage of the free time and get in a workout. For some reason I thought a workout dvd was the way to go - after doing so much cardio/endurance, I want to incorporate more strength training into my routine. It started out with basic squats and some lunges, and that was as far as I made it. I couldn't believe the lack of power I felt in my legs! It was a little frustrating, but I also know recovery is about more than just not being sore, and I'm glad I had the sense to stop and not try and push through it.

I'd like to say my next workout was more successful than the first, but I like to be honest with you guys : ) It sucked, big time. I was perhaps feeling a bit ambitious/hopeful when I agreed to join my coworker, Courtney, for an early morning trail run on the 4th of July. I've missed trail running, and I was getting antsy to be active again, so I figured I'd give it a shot and just take it easy. Well, I was unprepared for just how hard it would be! Now I'll admit it wasn't perhaps the best conditions for my inaugural post-IM run. The route we chose had some hills which I found challenging even to walk up, plus it was warm, despite the early morning hours. We did four miles, and I was literally spent by the end. Literally one of the hardest runs I've done in a while, including the marathon of my IM! And to add salt in the wound, I was seriously sore from the handful of squats and lunges I'd attempted the day before : /

So it was clear that I needed more time. And perhaps a less stressful, low-impact workout like an easy swim or yoga. Lesson learned. I'm hoping to do a few easy runs (on flat ground) this week, and maybe get in the pool to shake things out or go for a leisurely bike ride. My next training cycle (Portland Marathon) doesn't kick off until next week, so I'm in no rush. I think part of what makes me so antsy is that being active has become a big part of my identity, and so it feels weird when I don't have a routine. And after having such a full training schedule for the last 6 months it's just strange to suddenly not. But I'm learning that this is ok, and I'm trying to be ok with it.

In the first few days following the race, a lot of my reflection was on the race itself: my strategies, goals, and lessons learned. In general, I'm pretty happy with my preparation, the execution of my race strategy, and my nutrition plan. I think these things, combined with a lot of luck, are responsible for why I had such a great day. I'm happy that, for the most part, I stayed in the moment. Both during the race and after I was keenly aware of how quickly it went by, and I really wanted to savor the experience. In many ways, my first Ironman was everything that I expected and also totally unpredictable. Physically, I expected it to be much harder, and maybe on a different day, it would have been. I'm grateful that I felt so good throughout, and I think that enabled me to maintain a positive attitude and mood during the race. I expected to be emotional, and many times during the day I was. There were many moments that just seemed surreal and I had to shake myself and remind myself that this is the real deal!
 one of many smiles that day

In the days leading up to and following the race I was also overwhelmed with the support and encouragement of my friends, family, coworkers, and teammates. I thought of these people countless times during the race, and there is no doubt they were part of this journey. I am also incredibly grateful to a handful of people without whom I could not have done this. My amazing coach, Jen, who guided me over the last 6 months and made an Ironman seem possible. My parents, who encouraged me from the beginning, and put up with my moods and crazy schedules and constant hunger. My training buddies and teammates, especially those who joined me on the course that day and shared the journey with me. I've learned that Ironman is a very selfish endeavor, and yet it cannot be done alone. Once again, thank you!!!
the best support crew
my fellow finishers
Perhaps it was just the great day I had, but I immediately wanted to sign up for another one. I even found myself trolling the websites of other Ironman races and daydreaming about what I might do next. But alas, there is no way I an afford another one right now, nor will I have the time once school starts, so my second one will have wait awhile. Let's just say though that if IM Tahoe wasn't already sold out, someone would've had to physically restrain me : )

What's Next
Even though I'm still in recovery mode, I've started to look ahead to the races I've got on the calendar for the rest of the year. The big one is the Portland Marathon on October 7th, at which I hope to finally break the 4 hour barrier. Over the next month, however, I've got a couple fun races to look forward to including Wharf to Wharf in Santa Cruz that I'll be running with my dad, and then the Color Run 5k that Courtney and I will be doing together as team "Flying Pigments". Neither of these will be raced, but both are sure to be fun : ) After Portland (literally the weekend after) I'm doing the Nike Women's Half in San Francisco, which will be my first race in my new city. It will obviously be a leisurely run as I'm sure I'll still be recovering from Portland, but I've wanted to do this one for a while so I'm excited to finally experience it!

And the newest addition to my schedule alludes to what I hope to focus on again in the next year: trail running and ultras. In fact, before I registered for Coeur d'Alene I debated between an Ironman or a 100 miler, but since I'd done AR50 that year I decided to switch gears and focus on triathlon. Well, now I'm ready to tackle that other goal! Before you guys think I'm crazy, let me just say that, no, I'm not doing a 100 miler any time in the near future. But I do plan on moving in that direction, and so I'll be doing the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k in San Francisco on December 1st. This will be my third ultra, and I'm so excited to start training for it! Since it takes place in the Marin Headlands I'll be able to train on the course since I'll be living in the city, and I'll definitely need to as it's a very challenging course. This will also serve as a stepping stone for my next big goal: the Miwok 100k next May. It's a lottery entry so there's no guarantee, but I'm thinking positive : )

I'm under no illusions that I won't be busy once I start grad school, but I've also realized that I need to make time for running. It's a part of me, and it makes me a much better version of me. It's an outlet, a therapy, and I'm just not willing to sacrifice it. I also know it will help keep me sane during the next chapter of my life. With a lot of changes coming my way, I know running will be one of my only constants.


  1. Sounds like a great couple weeks! Give your body time, most people don't run for two weeks after an IM just to avoid potential injury later. The only time I've ever run sooner was when I had another IM 7 weeks later and was forced to and it was severely painful. Also, take it from me, some down time is a good thing that we rarely allow ourselves. I went so hard for four straight years that I severely burned out and am now having an entire down year. But it was necessary. Looking back I think more frequent, short breaks might have helped me avoid this.

    So jealous you're moving to San Fran! My favorite city outside of New York!

  2. I took 2 full weeks off and then last night did an "easy" kick boxing class and I'm totally sore today! I am definitely thinking yoga is the way to go! I can't bring myself to get on the bike or go to swim yet though....

    I hear you on not being able to afford an Ironman. It was so expensive!!! That will be probably the biggest factor in my decision to do one again.

    I'm excited to read about your ultra-running adventures!

  3. I'm so excited for you to move to the city and I'll be sure to introduce you to all the Bay Area running gals. Are you going to be here by 8/5? LMK so I can add you to a group event we're doing!

    Take your time and I can't wait to watch your next journey. I'll also be there to cheer you on at the North Face race!!!


  4. Sounds like you've listened to your body and done what you've needed to give yourself a good rest. I've loved reading about your experiences. As I get ready (I think) for my first half IM, I'm reviewing other people's experiences which I've found helpful.
    Good luck with the move and as you set your sights on the next adventure!

  5. On another note, Asia and her boyfriend Jeremy can no longer do the Nopa Valley Ragnar relay and are looking for 2 people to take their place. Would you be interested? You can email me at nwoyski@gmail.com if you are! It's Sept 14-15.