Life after Ironman

November 15, 2015.

I will never EVER forget that day as long as I live. My first Ironman. Wow. That experience was something else. It was everything I dreamed it would be and more. The journey being the most transforming piece with a 14 hour celebration at the end of probably thousands of hours of training over the course of a year. You can read the Recap HERE if you are interested.

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November 16, 2015…

This was a new beginning. I woke up and my first thought was I have to pee! My second thought was absolute terror because I didn’t know if when I put my feet on the ground if I would be able to walk. So I sat and debated if I should wake up my friends to witness this monumental event or not but decided they had heard enough about my pee and bodily fluids for probably a lifetime the previous day.

So I gained the courage when I could no longer hold it any longer and whipped my covers off and put my feet on the ground. I stood up only to find that although I was SORE…I could walk and move!!!! ¬†I had questioned this post-race if we are being honest! Haha! My va-jay-jay now….Well I was certain that would never go back to normal after the bike course in the freezing rain and wet and rubbing for 112 miles!!! (It did…just in case you were wondering but I did NOT want to get on a bike anytime soon…ha!)

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The Week After….

I was in disbelief. For a long winded girl who enjoys talking but writing even more I couldn’t formulate a sentence to describe the experience. I was simply riding the high. My mom flew back with me to help take care of the boys with me and we both slept as much as possible and stared at each other a lot. I felt bliss. I got back to my gym a few days later NOT to workout but because I wanted to see my gym family who had supported me through the absolute craziness of the past year. Two of my best girlfriends and I would just chat and chat. I would stretch while they lift weights and I am sure some people thought I was an idiot because I was just “looking cute and being chatty” in the weight room instead of beasting it out….I made sure to wear ALL the Ironman gear I could…Because I couldn’t care less about what anyone thought but IF they thought that I was going to at least sport the M-Dot to appear somewhat badass in my non-sweaty glory!

My first spin class back was about 7-10 days after Ironman. Within seconds my heart rate SKY-rocketed. I realized then that I may FEEL recovered but our heart is a muscle too and it needed some more time to recover. I wasn’t ready to get back at it yet so I kept things VERY easy and just motions to keep my body loose. I was going to take recovery seriously.

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The Month After…

Thanksgiving came and went…And onto December. I felt human again in December and had started working out again. I started swimming again and it blew my mind at first that I could swim for 30 minutes and still consider that a GOOD and SOLID workout! Like a “normal” fitness level workout. I was so accustomed to swimming, biking and running for long periods that I had started to believe that was “fitness”. It IS…but it is not…that is “training” and they are very different I have learned. It was a bit of a shocker to me but I adjusted back quickly to the mindset that fitness is a LIFEtime and a LIFEstyle and NO that does not mean 12-20 hour workout weeks! 45 minutes – 90 mins is PLENTY and 90 being HIGH!

My body was LOVING the break from endurance. I started lifting weights again and kept running, swimming and biking close to 45 minutes at best. I went to group classes at the gym with my friends and was having a BLAST just enjoying FITNESS! A moderate and happy fitness. Bob and I continued to go to spin classes a couple times a week and just enjoyed the time together working up a sweat.

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The New Year…

When January rolled around I felt like I was recovered. Not just physically but mentally. I went to Rome after Christmas and it healed the remaining bits. I don’t think I realized IN the moment and in the training just how much Ironman training effected me mentally. Not in a bad way. But it is intense. I was on my game for many many months. You have to have a different level of humility and dedication to do an Ironman. You have to have the relentless perseverance to overcome setback after setback and not let the COMEBACKS get to your head. Keeping equanimous and level. You learn who you are at the uppermost limits of your stress. You see the darkest caverns of your inner-self and the most bright light within your soul on the flip side. You fight demons and you ride adrenaline rushes. You are ON. Because if you are off … Let’s be real…OFF days happen…but if you dwell for too long in “off” you will not succeed. Period.

You have to feel the “off” .. ride the wave … and jump back ON the boat before sinking.

It is like a game and a bit of a mental fuck. But is is SO incredibly rewarding and fun. And when it is done. Mental healing is just as important as physical healing.

Since my fitness was dropped down a few levels from Ironman training, I decided to jump into the world of Ashtanga yoga. I started practicing multiple times a week at home. I bought a video and practiced the Primary Series. I started a new routine in the new year of waking up early to write and practice. I felt myself opening and getting stronger. Both physically and mentally. Ashtanga Yoga is powerful. And beautiful. And a bit intense. And I loved it.

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2 Months Post-Ironman – January 15, 2016

With 2.5 months to go until my next race…Oceanside Half Ironman, I decided to get my butt back into gear. I picked up my pace a bit and also started lengthening some of my runs and bike workouts. I couldn’t break 5 miles running. I just didn’t have it in me so I kept consistent with my lower mileage. I started picking up the biking with a special cycling class geared toward triathlete “off-season” at my gym on the weekends with Bob. He kept me going and got me back into the distances! And it was incredibly FUN! My swimming was happening 1-2 times per week. I will be honest…sometimes it is REALLY hard to train in the winter in Chicago. It is cold and we can’t get outdoors. I was just done with winter running so I stayed on my treadmill. I discovered podcasts to listen to and had my friends to chat with me. i was feeling OK about getting back into the groove of “training” again.

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3 Months Post-Ironman…

Ehhhh….This is where I began to realize that I didn’t quite know if I had given myself enough time. I was enjoying MOST of the training but I was honestly not enjoying some of it. Which is the case but it was more like a … Am I really going to do this again already?!? … I realized a spring race maybe isn’t a good idea for the future, living here in the midwest and for ME a 70.3 wasn’t the best idea only 4.5 months post Ironman. But maybe it was a good idea. Oceanside is a bucket list race and I signed up many many moons before completing my Ironman. I have all my close friends racing it and my mom was going to go with me. I have some other stuff planned around the race but I have to keep that quiet until next week. I KNEW in my heart I wouldn’t be really ready. I was already wanting to go back to some of the group classes and weights with my friends. I also knew I couldn’t do it all because I wasn’t going to exhaust myself. So I kept pushing along. Making training FUN and keeping Bob in my mind. He was and still is SO excited for my race at Oceanside. He has brought me articles and pictures of the finish line which are up on my mirror.

See I do this funny thing. I always put up pictures of my future races. I had a 26.2 sticker on my mirror before my first marathon. I had a 70.3 poster up before my first Half Ironman. And Ironman Arizona was on my year an entire year before the race. I like vision boards and manifesting. It keeps you honest and inspires. I know that the energy you put out comes right back to you. So I imagine those races every.damn.day. before even getting to the start line. TRY IT! When I went to buy a 26.2 sticker I vividly remember the sales guy saying, “You had better not sport this until AFTER you race.” He smiled and was 97% serious and 3% flirting. I was like buddy…I can do whatever the fuck I want. If I want to sport this sticker every day until my race I will do it. Even if it takes me 50 years to complete a marathon.

The phrase “ACT AS IF” comes to mind. ACT AS IF you have already accomplished or received and you will manifest it. Of course you have to work hard, that goes without saying but ACT AS IF you are the Ironman or Marathoner! Who cares what anyone else says. People just like to get their panties all twisted if you haven’t “earned” something or sport something they feel they have “earned”. Don’t care about the opinions of sheep. Be the damn LION. Visualize every day as if you are crossing that finishing line. ACT AS IF you have that medal around your neck and visualize it. Buy the sticker NOW for the race you want to do later. Motivation and Visualization are massive components to success.

ACT AS IF.

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Today…March 23, 2016

4 months and 8 days post Ironman.

I am still riding the high. I will for a lifetime. YES I will do another Ironman. It isn’t in the cards for me this year. I have other endeavors and projects. I have my sight on 2017 at Wisconsin, Chatty or Louisville. If 2017 doesn’t work then I will focus on 2018. Ironman will always be there and I KNOW without a shadow of a doubt I will do many throughout my life. And even qualify and go to KONA! Which will be when I am in my 70s but my goal is to do this for LIFE and not experience burnout or injury. I want to be the 73 year strong as fuaaack woman rocking her hot pink lipstick and bright colored kit. I will be her. Watch me. I have a 40 year plan to get to Kona. I am in NO rush. I am going to enjoy this journey. Kona is where I had my first run…like EVER. When I was doing my yoga teacher training. Going back to Kona for an Ironman will be coming full circle for me. Massively symbolic for a journey and life that I WILL live.

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As for Oceanside. I don’t feel physically peaked. I have been struggling keeping my mental game in tact. My honest and raw thoughts are these…

Swimming. I have sucked at being consistent. I love to swim but it is excruciating COLD to be frozen outside and then jump in a cold pool inside. I have used the sauna as my reward but even then I have NOT been consistent. I am scared as hell about my first ocean swim. Excited too. I love the ocean. But I am the cliche…I am terrified of sharks…I was of the JAWS phenomenon and it left deep rooted memories. I can hear the music already. My wave is in the back. I know without a shadow of a doubt I can complete the swim. It is NOT going to be pretty. My breaststroke skills will come in handy I suspect. I am sure I will be one of the last humans out of the water that day. But I can also assure you … my lipstick won’t have budged.

Biking. I am ok here. I can do the bike. I haven’t been as consistent with my long rides as I could have but I have a few 50 milers under my belt. The 3 big climbs scare me shitless but I have the mental fortitude to do it. It will be slow but then I will fly on the decent. Except the “speed limit zone”. I am going to have fun and just try to pass all the boys I can.

Running. I am going to get my last long run in today. I won’t have run over 10 miles. But I am ok with that. The course will be loaded with friends and family. I may fast walk at times and run at others. I am not there to PR. I want to enjoy my people on the course. And I hope I find some people to encourage along the way. Races are so much sweeter to me when I can help someone else get to the end. And I mean that with all my heart.

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Overall. Bob has had to remind me a hundred times. FUN. FITNESS. FRIENDS. Go enjoy the views and enjoy the experience. If Bob at 86 can do a handful of Half Ironman this year I can bust this one out and bring back the bling to Chi-Town. Bless him. I have had SO much life stuff going on these past few months. I have had children’s illness, I was sick, I have been mending a broken heart over a situation, I have had some highs and lows. Keeping mental clarity has been hard for me this training cycle with absolutely none of it related to actual training. Mental and Emotional battle will wear you down faster than any physical activity so I have been very gentle to myself and taken many more rest days than I normally would. My body thanks me for listening.

My WHOLE heart hasn’t been into training as much as it has been has been in the past. That is where I think I needed a longer period of time between races. But I didn’t know and coulda woulda shoulda is a lame place to live. I am excited to go have FUN again and race. I love this sport. It always is a wild ride. It is my passion. I have a 40 year plan…haha! There WILL be ebbs and flows in training cycles just as in life. Sometimes you will be out to kick ass and take names … and you WILL!!!! ¬†Sometimes you will participate for the love of the game. Sometimes you will feel peaked and strong and sometimes you will feel not as fresh and ready but you know you can do what you set out to do. Ebbs and Flows…Ride with the waves instead of fighting them and getting discouraged. Discouragement leads to burnout which leads to you not wanting to participate in what you LOVE. Be gentle. Be your own advocate and cheerleader. In the highs and lows.

I wear my Ironman accomplishment close to my heart. It was very symbolic for me. I did it all self coached. It was mine and mine alone. I wanted that feeling of it being mine. And on the day of I got by with a little help from my friends…and family. It was like heaven. Running to the light. Surrounded by clapping hands. Running into the arms of everyone I love. That moment…All along I thought was the Finish Line…And as I have stated before it was truly…

The Start Line.

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8 comments

  1. kindal says:

    Loved this post Stephanie. So relatable and reminds you just why we love endurance sports versus always going to for the next peak or PR. Way to always inspire and be a bright shinning light!

  2. Lynnette says:

    Stephanie,

    My name is Lynnette and my friend Angee has told me so much about you that I feel like I know you. We have shared many similar experiences and I am so happy you have started writing again. I am 2 years 4 months post Ironman and I have felt so many of these same feelings. I thought I was just a freak and I could not get my shit together. I literally wrote down FUN, FITNESS, FRIEND to add to my vision board. You, my friend, are inspiring me with each post. For the past 2 years fitness has been a challenge. I do it, but I don’t love it anymore. I am going to find that LOVE again. I felt if I wasn’t going out for hours it wasn’t worth my time. I am just beginning to find the fun in fitness again so this post came right in time. This is the first year in 5 years that I do not have a race schedule. You have inspired me to get back at it. I do love the sport and I am not a looser just because I could not finish that same Ironman today. Keep inspiring! You are amazing, hopefully our race path will meet somewhere in the future!

    • AHHHHHH! That is the BEST attitude! You WILL find the LOVE for it again. Keep it fun and spice it up and you will be coming back for more! I couldn’t finish an Ironman today either and I just did one 4 months ago! Ebbs and Flows and that is why we have training cycles when they work in our life. Keep at it! I plan another IM someday too. I am excited for the right timing in my life!

  3. Julie says:

    This was a great post Stephanie. I really enjoyed gaining more insight into your journey and experience. Your long-term perspective is helping me because I keep reminding myself that running and all of the things I want to do (ultras and bike races and maybe a triathlon) will still be there for me after I get through this current phase of life. There are times and seasons.

    Also, I loved your insights and advice to “act as if.” It reminded me a bit of one of my favorite TED talks by Amy Cuddy. The story she shares and her advice to “fake it till you become it” really opened my eyes to a new way of approaching the things I don’t feel completely confident in. If you haven’t seen it, I think you’d enjoy it: https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en

  4. Linnea says:

    You are going to be amazing and I promise, the minute you get in the ocean all the JAWS fears will be gone! I thought the same thing before my first ocean traithlon swim in San Diego and it ended up being one of my favorites! You will do it and I know all the fun you will have will make it an amazing day to remember!

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