The road to recovery after IMWI was not easy. Thankfully, NO residual injuries or any sticky areas. Sure, lots of soreness on the days following the race but all was good after about a week of rest.
The worst part about my recovery was the lack of sleep that occurred due to my body being mentally and physically exhausted. I experienced two days of post-race blues where I felt really depressed and not overly excited about my accomplishment. I talked about it with Karel because post-race depression is very normal. However, it's how you deal with it in an effort to get over the hump which includes building up to a race for x-months, finishing the race and then wondering...now what? Of course, I now have my internship and a trip to Kona to look forward to...but I just had a lot of questions in my head with no real answers.
After sleeping 5 hours on Sun night, 5 hours on Monday and about 2 hours on Tues (up all night), I finally started to sleep through the night and on Wed morning I headed to the pool for a soak.
Looking back on my Thurs and Fri, the float in the pool (500 yrds + float in therapy pool, then hot tub) did wonders for my body! However, because Wed was the first day of my food service internship, I needed to wake up rather early (6am) to be finished with my "recovery" exercise in an effort to be ready to intern later that morning. Next time, in the case of having to get up early, I will forgo the float in an effort to catch up on sleep. I always pound on myself and my athletes to prioritize sleep so I need to make sure that I consistently focus on sleep as a method of recovery.
This week has been busy but I am enjoying it all and soaking it in. I am finally back exercising and even running again. Well, more like a walk jog but I'll take it. I don't want to go too fast with a rush back into exercise so I am limiting myself to around 45-75 min a day of exercise this week and around 2-3 hours of riding this weekend (Sat and a little less on Sun). All easy and fun and I am enjoying every moment of it. Sleep is good and I am trying to average around 7 hrs a night. The early mornings at the kitchen make it hard but I try to be in bed early.
I find that many athletes struggle with nutrition after a race...especially an endurance event. You get use to eating a certain way (regardless if it is the "correct" way for your body and training load) for so long and then all of a sudden you question what needs to change??? Unless you are restricted with your calories prior to an endurance event, I suggest that most athletes focus on their carbohydrate choices at meals and snacks....especially processed items. It is really easy to enjoy a bowl of ice cream, cereal, granola, bars, extra sandwich or two or extra servings during long distance training and not see any downfalls, but in the off-season, the focus should be on tapping into your fat stores and not overloading yourself with a high amount of calories...often from high carb foods. Now, I'm not suggesting to go low-carb or eat only fruits and veggies, but the off-season, especially post-race, is a great time to bump up the nutrients in your diet. So many athletes fear running out of energy by changing nutrition habits during peak season, so the off-season is a perfect time to find out what works for your body to maintain weight, while you aren't training intensely. Once you find out the best sources of wholesome and nutrient-dense foods (little to no ingredients) that keep you satisfied during the day you can gradually decrease calories by bumping up the fruits and veggies, alongside changing the macronutrient distribution in your meals and snacks.
Here's an example.
While I was training, I would typically have a smoothie AND oatmeal after my training sessions during the week. Right now I am only having my oatmeal and I add milk to my oatmeal, rather than in a whey protein smoothie. For lunch, I would typically have a sandwich and salad and lots of sides, but I am currently having a sandwich because it keeps me satisfied longer than a salad + sandwich and lots of sides. Also because of my internship, I don't have a lot of time to spend 30-45 min to eat so I decided that sandwich would be the easiest and most filling option for me. I snack on fruits and veggies during the day and finish the day with a big beautiful salad...whereas during IM training I would typically have a selection of carbs w/ a salad such as quinoa, beans (although a great source of protein), rice, bread, etc. I am still enjoying those foods that I love and that I ate during IM training but just not in high quantity or every day. I really focus on that's day's "exercise" routine in planning my meals because I am no longer training for the time being. Right now, I am just keeping my body healthy and continuing to have a healthy relationship with food. I certainly don't feel restricted with my food selections because I am really enjoying listening to my body and finding out what works best for my body during my off-season.
Now, for many people, there isn't an urge to get back into training but for others, exercise validates eating a certain way or feeling control of what you are eating. I find that the body has a great chance of becoming stronger after a long distance event, but we must respect the time that it takes to repair. Spending 2-3 weeks after a big race to get back into a routine is perfectly normal. There is no rush with 52 weeks in a year. Feeling the need to "have to" exercise in order to stay healthy is only going to set you up for a possible disaster. If your body isn't ready to exercise (and certainly, there shouldn't be an immediate need to exercise like you did pre-race) you must be patient.
In my opinion, exercise is not the only way to keep your body healthy. And if you ask me, exercise isn't always the healthiest choice to stay healthy. Think back to previous injuries, sickness and burnout experiences (in your life or for others) and ask yourself....is it really worth it to go any exercise while my body is recovering from a race?
For me, I give my diet, sleep, friends, animals, Karel and internship the same dedication and attention as my exercise routine. I'll be the first to say that I 100% feel better when I exercise but to me, walking on the treadmill for 30 min at 5:30am is a great way to start my day if I have a choice of nothing or something.
In reference to nutrition, it's important that we really take a little time to think about our diet in the off-season. Because many of my blog readers are athletes, I don't think it is a stretch to say that the diet is an area that can be improved in an effort to make you stronger, faster and perhaps, injury-free (or reduce the risk). More than anything, focusing on the diet in the off-season, as oppose to peak season will allow you lots of time to find out what works for you while your body isn't expending a lot of calories (ex.6 weeks away from your A-race and you aren't at your "goal" weight). Certainly, you are going to get back into some type of structured routine a month or two after you recover from your last big race so for the time being, enjoy the beauty that is "fresh foods" and don't forget about the other areas of your life (sleep, relationships, outlook on life, etc.) that can also keep you happy as you ease back into training.
So I lost my camera at IMWI right after I left the terrace for the swim start. It must have dropped out of my bag as I handed it off to Karel but luckily...the race director of IMWI called me up 2 weeks later and told me that he found it..along with LOTS of other cameras! I finally have my camera back and I'm so happy because I had lots of pics on there that I never got to post! Thanks so much to the race director for sending me my camera and keeping it in good hands!
Of course..it was pretty easy to know that my camera belonged to Marni Sumbal...perhaps the pics gave it away...