A crucial part of my preparation for the Iron Distance race this year was to have a plan for after the event. That was something I didn’t do the first time, despite having the example of my partner’s experience with the post-Ironman-letdown in front of me. Looking back, I think I was simply so overwhelmed by the Ironman training (even though I kept telling myself that I wasn’t really overwhelmed) that I just had no mental or emotional energy to try and think about what would happen afterward. The post-Ironman depression is a real issue and not just for first-timers; I’ve seen it strike experienced and novice athletes alike. You finish the Ironman, it is an epic experience, you are pumped, you vow to just take a couple of weeks off and then get back into training, maybe pick up some late-season races. . .and before you know it, it is January, and you are sitting slumped on a couch in your underwear and pulling navel lint out of a belly that has doubled in size in two months.
But enough about me.
Ok, well maybe some more about me.
Physically, the recovery has been going pretty well. I felt muscularly shitwrecked for a couple of days but then bounced back pretty quickly. After all, even for something epic like an Ironman, you have trained for it (radical idea!) and a key part of the training for any athletic event is that you can complete it without destroying yourself. After all, most people could probably go out and complete a marathon tomorrow. . .but whether they would ever walk again is the question. To be sure, there are physical after-effects. Even while biking I felt for about three weeks afterward that I just generally didn’t have that indefinable “edge.” Moreover, when I pushed myself in the least (trying to pick up my pace, doing a stiff climb) I really felt the fact that my body had been emptied out and was still refilling. Your muscles recover pretty quickly, but distance events really beat you up on the cellular level; it takes a surprisingly long time just to replenish your base stores of glycogen, for example.
Mentally, I’ve felt strong and motivated. I haven’t felt like resting on my laurels, I’ve been keen to get back into working out. I’ve even been–and no one is more surprised by this than I–going back to the pool on a regular basis. I haven’t been pushing it by any means. When I’ve been really tired physically or mentally I’ve slept in or flagged the occasional workout. That has not, however, ended up in a long slide of increasing activity that eventually culminates with me face-down in a vat of Halloween candy.
I am mindful of the fact, however, that while this is a lot more active and motivated than I was after the last Ironman, the post-IM depression really hit me last time around Christmas. So I’ve been pushing ahead (well, tottering ahead, for reasons that I’ll discuss in a minute) with my post-race stimulus package: the plan to ride at least one century every month for a year, with every century in a different state. The logic here is simple. Biking is fun. More biking equals more fun.
I first came up with this plan at the beginning of this year, and I describe the rationale for it in “The Post-Game Show.” Merely having this plan was a huge benefit for my training this year. This was in large part because as I began to do a little research and work out some of the logistics in my head I began to realize that pulling this off was actually going to be a lot more difficult than I had imagined. I certainly didn’t underestimate the Iron Distance race, but I was always, in effect, looking past it, seeing it as a stage in something else I was doing rather than the end of a journey.
So I’ve begun to put some flesh on the bones of the century plan. You can see the draft list down the right-hand side of the blog. I do have some criteria. Obviously I want to try and keep costs down so that means riding as many of the centuries “locally” as possible. Fortunately I live in a pretty densely divvied up part of the country; I’m sure there’s even a century where you ride ten times around Rhode Island if I wanted to do that. One of the big constraints of course is that pesky winter weather; there isn’t much around the mid-Atlantic region after early November (even though in much of the DC area you can ride pretty comfortably outside throughout the winter (as long as it isn’t either an ice storm or a Snowmageddon year)). And even in those states where winter is basically the equivalent of our summer (I’m looking at you Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, et al) there isn’t much. Sure, I guess it is logical that people get distracted by this whole “holiday” thing, and if you actually go shopping for other people or feel compelled to spend time with your family (and come on cyclists, be honest, how many times does that experience result in the “God, I’d rather be riding right now” thought flitting through your head) then that would knock out December. But January through March is pretty much a wasteland unless you head out West.
I also want to do rides in reasonably scenic and interesting places, which rules out Florida and parts of Texas (where there are some rides through the winter months).
Finally, I want to mix well-established large rides with ones that are smaller ventures. This in itself creates some problems in that rides tend to come and go. I had to go to a plan B and then a plan C for October because the organization offering my first choice went bankrupt and pulled the ride, and my second choice simply wan’t offered. This may mean that some of the rides I already have planned may need to be changed. For example, one I really wanted to do as soon as I heard about it is the Zion Country Century, in February. But earlier this year the founder of the parent organization, Bike2Bike died, and the organization seems to have been disorganized ever since (the website hasn’t been updated in some time and there is no information at this point as to whether anything is happening from that group in 2013). I’m hoping that this ride is still a go because it will save me from having to ride around Las Vegas or the wind-plagued flatlands of Southeast Texas.
So the list isn’t yet finalized and I’m still taking recommendations for cool organized century rides that people have done.
I’ve begun signing up, buying some equipment (I always planned to get a portable camcorder to document some of these adventures) ; researching other necessary equipment and logistics (traveling with a bike, which airlines are bike nazis and so on). Having this list also doesn’t mean that I will be restricting myself to only one century per month, especially during the warmer part of the year. There are rides that I’ve loved in the past that also beckon (Mountains of Misery, the Garrett County Gran Fondo) and I’ll probably join my team-mates on some of their longer training rides as they gear up for Placid and Florida.
Because more biking equals more fun!