Post Race Blues. It’s a thing. Who knew?

“You have good nails for someone who’s just finished an ironman” my best friend says to me. It’s just over a week since I’ve crossed the finish line of ironman and I’m back at home.

“I don’t know what to do with myself!” defending my perfectly polished nails.

“You can join the rest of us mortals and do normal things like sit on patios and watch movies”

Touché.

We were teasing, but the truth was I felt a bit lost, and even more surprising – depressed. How could I feel this way after one of the coolest vacation and experiences of my life?

Not only were Ironman and Mont Tremblant amazing, I had four incredible days with Tim in Montreal celebrating our five year anniversary exploring the city by bike, tastings in beautiful vineyards and then visiting with dear friends at a cottage. There was a food tour, a spa, an eight-course meal at one of my favourite restaurants, swimming in a beautiful lake, laughter and wine with wonderful people. You get the idea. I had absolutely nothing to be sad about…but I was. In fact, I was down right sullen. People would ask me about the race, and I would struggle to show my enthusiasm for the entire experience. I had no regrets about the race and couldn’t imagine the day going any better…but why so blue?

I read up on this phenomena (I like to call it the ‘Boxing Day Syndrome’) – it turns out its quite normal! After working all year for one large goal and putting so much focus into Ironman, once it was over there is certainly a low to follow. There were some great suggestions that I tried to put into play.

  1. Sign up for a new race. Check. I decided to finish off my race season with the Valley Harvest Marathon. This is the closest marathon to my family’s home and I’ve enjoyed completing the 5 &10K over the thanksgiving weekend. Finish a run, watch the pumpkins races in Windsor and have Nanny’s turkey dinner. The marathon has always been on my bucket list so why not now? After committing to this via my registration fee, I dusted off my runners and went for my first post-ironman ran. My plan was 16K (delusional much?) and at 5K I stopped at a friends house and wondered if I had gone insane. My hips hurt. The humidity was ridiculous. I hated running. I managed the 5K home, but wondered if recovery was going to take a bit longer than I anticipated.
  2. Do some of those things that I put off when training. Paint the deck (eat nibs), paint the garage (eat more nibs), organize my house (over wine), read more (wine), cook more (with wine), walk the dogs more, clean out my closet. I’m on it.
  3. Write. More.
  4. I’ve reached out to a few local races and offered to help out 3 local events over the fall. I really do love cheering people on! 
  5. Reconnect with those amazing non-triathletes.
  6. Chase some big career goals and professional development.   

I am happy to report my post-race sadness has dissipated completely and I’m learning the fine balance between lazing on the coach with Netflix to 6-hour bike rides. There’s a happy-medium I’m aiming towards for the remainder of 2015.

IMG_5780 IMG_5782 IMG_5773 IMG_5818

I am certainly committed to completing another ironman distance race, but I’m unsure it will be in 2016. Our family has plans in Newfoundland next summer, but I suspect there will be some local triathlons I get involved with, including Epic.

The Big Day!

I didn’t win, but it sure feels like a victory!

11890623_10153652427357845_3896559901109529912_o

This photo says it all. Except my real time 🙂 14:51:58

It’s the morning of the race and I look around to see my friends at the start line. My thought: We are really here. Excitement washed over me. Elation. All of my work – all of their work – today was finally our day.

Let’s do this.

I waited for anxiety to set in as I waited for the gun to go off, but strangely, it never did, not in the way I anticipated. We were in the water splashing around before 7am and I focused on sighting buoys through the fog and not swimming into anyone. I spent this first hour re-hashing my race plan – transition zones, nutrition, how to deal with the heat (the expected humidex was slated for 40C!) – and trying to swim straight 🙂 My garmin read 4200M when I came out of the water, but it didn’t matter, I was under 1:30 and now I could focus on the next task, the bike.

I knew the bike would be the toughest part of the race for me, and I was right. I started off with a 27km/h pace, and given the hilliness of the course, I knew I couldn’t sustain that speed. Tim and a few others started to miss me on the live tracker at some spots. You can see my speed variance here:

7 km 7 km 15:29 1:52:06 27.13 km/h      
73.5 km 66.5 km 2:40:43 4:32:49 24.83 km/h      
81.5 km 8 km 26:55 4:59:44 17.83 km/h      
89.5 km 8 km 19:11 5:18:55 25.02 km/h      
163.5 km 74 km 3:14:26 8:33:21 22.84 km/h      
171.5 km 8 km 29:29 9:02:50 16.28 km/h      
180 km 8.5 km 21:23 9:24:13 23.85 km/h      
Total 180 km 7:47:36 9:24:13 23.10 km/h

Lesson learned: I didn’t turn into a hero on race day. I had anticipated my time on the bike to be around 7h:30m, I wasn’t far off, and given the heat I’ll say it was a success. I didn’t have any mechanical issues which was a small miracle in itself. Betty’s 7 years old and has done me well. I managed to grab a big hug from my mom before I did a complete wardrobe change because it was SO. HOT. and I knew I was going to be donning some compression socks (thanks to my Fredericton Marathon experience!). I came out of the tent to find Ron chatting up my mom. I couldn’t help myself, I ran past Ron, give him a (friendly) smack and said “LET’S GO!” I was off!

The true test comes now. After spending close to 8 hours on the bike, how was a marathon going to feel? I’ve had lots of experienced Ironmen assure me I wouldn’t be running the entire 42.2K, but I was aiming to run half of that distance regardless! I saw many of my friends on the course and chatted with fellow racers throughout. There were mostly happy racers and one woman who grunted, to no one in particular,  “Why do I keep doing these races?! This is the last one, and I mean it!”. This made me smile. I think we’ve all had a race where we’ve thought that way, and I loved that she needed to verbalize it. However, I didn’t agree, at ALL. I felt strong. I kept pushing.

Our run course was a two loop trek – thankfully every marathon I’ve ever done has been the same! It can be pretty tough to come thisclose to the finish line, only to race another 21K. I’m happy to report my mindset was positive and I was truly enjoying this entire experience. The volunteers and spectators made the 5h:20m fly by. I’m serious! The rails-to-trails graced us with shade (and flatness!), and shortly after a sunset brought the much-needed cooling temperatures. High-fives and smiles from my friends from home was invaluable and I loved that so many Halifax Triathlon Club athletes made the trip and were sharing the experience.

With about 5K to go I was hoping that I could pick it up for that strong finish, but my legs had a different plan. I ended up walking/running with Pat Kennedy, someone I had only met once before and we chatted. It was his first Ironman too and he was still smiling, just like me. How exciting that we were experiencing this together! He offered to run me in, but I could tell he had a bit more gitty-up-and-go than I, so I told him to enjoy that finish line and I would see him soon. I felt confident I would finish in under 15h, and I was happy no matter.

I could hear the crowd. The announcer saying “YOU. ARE. AN. IRONMAN.” I started to tear up as I shuffled to the village. Trying to run up that final hill…I smiled and high-fived all the way to the bright lights of the finish line. I heard my mom, Karen, Sarah and everyone else that remained to bring us all across the finish line.

Becky Davison, you are an IRONMAN.

It was amazing. Outstanding. Out of this world. Dare I say, magical?  I knew I would love this experience, but I had no idea the scope. The pre-race dinner with over 2500 attendees and their collective energy. The expo where I did spend all of my allowance. The blind woman who went for it. The 75 year old man that beat me. My friends that surpassed their goals. Our families that knew what we had been through to get here and believed in us every step of the way. All of it. I want it again!

Do people actually do just one ironman!?!? Not this girl.

11896035_10155965568725385_3386504614418718599_n

Unbelievably lucky to have my mom with me. And for Sarah to have thought to take this shot!

Arriving in Mont-Tremblant 


At this moment, I’m sitting in a beautiful cafe in the village of Mont-Tremblant. I can see the crew assembling the finish line for Ironman.

I pinch myself.

I’m just days away from the race and I feel ecstatic. This race I’ve been planning and working towards all year.

Just days ago I was running around getting everything ready. An endurance event in itself. I have a theory – I’m never more productive than the days leading up to vacation. Clean clothes, clean office,  clean inbox, clean house (ok, that last part was mostly a lie).

The final hours of work were busy, including a surprise party from my amazing colleagues (lululemon? How did you know! 😉 )


Finally, the out of office was on and I raced home to meet Karen. As I zoomed past the Dartmouth Sportsplex, a warm breeze blew through my window, smelling of chlorine. I couldn’t help but smile. How many hours have I spent in that pool, preparing for this adventure? Dozens? A hundred?

And I’m finally here, relaxing on my own and making a loose plan for the next four days. Short workouts – very short, dropping off my gear, exploring with family and friends, grocery shopping, etc.


According to my plan, I swim / bike / run today, tomorrow and Saturday. Less than 90 minutes in total each day. I’ve read enough to know about what mishaps can happen during taper. Over-training is common for athletes leading up to the race. I’ve certainly experienced watching athletes do big workouts before the main race and questioned myself about not doing it. Especially under these amazing conditions – the town is designed for athletes right now and we’d be crazy not to!

But ultimately, its cramming, and I know enough that training heavily this week will not move me towards victory, and more than likely, take away from my race day.

Taper time can also play havoc mentally. Did I train enough?!  Thoughts can pop up. But I’m feeling strong. I’m not sure if the totally hours trained but I’ve worked hard to get here. I’ve had low moments in the past month – typically in a hot and hard bike ride – where I wondered if I’m capable of even finishing. It’s an upsetting place to be and I’m glad I’m past those thoughts!

I’ve joked to people who don’t quite understand why I would put myself through this gruelling process:  “I’m pretty sure I’m not going to win, but I do feel confident that I will finish.”

I’m joking, but I have to believe the words I say!

Karen and I are fortunate to have a condo steps away from the swim start and to be able to arrive this early in the week. Arriving earlier than necessary has been a great experience and more than anything allowing me to find calm. I know the swim course and part of the bike course already. It is the calm before the storm as the Ironman activities don’t get started until tomorrow.


Until then I will explore this beautiful – and for right now, peaceful – village.

Crossing the t’s and Dotting the i’s

I’ve been reminding myself to let every training session be a learning opportunity.

IMG_4950 (1)

As we get into the final weeks before race day I start making lists and thinking about all the things I should be focusing on to make sure my race day goes as smoothly as possible. Essentially, the training is complete, but making sure I have the right gear, nutrition and mindset on race day still need to be ironed out. Let’s hash it out for my own piece of mind.

Nutrition.

I’ve heard a hundred times to not try new things on race day. I’m promising to follow this advice! I’ve been struggling with nutrition on my bike, needing way more than I thought I would. I get 40-50K into a ride and the gels are just not enough. I typically stop of a chicken sandwich, or a grilled cheese, or a donut. I don’t think I will have access to these things on race day, so I better sort myself out. Mars bars – surprisingly – have been easy going down with no ill side effects. I think I’ll bring a PB & Jam sandwich for my special needs bag, but will test it out on this weekends ride. Gels will be taped to my bike, along with water and an electrolyte mixture. I think we’re sorted out there. I’ve also planned a decent meal plan leading up to race day to keep me healthy and on track. Fingers crossed.

The flat tire – a different kind of anxiety. Does anyone else feel this way? The flat tire anxiety. It like nothing else! Thankfully I forced myself to practice a bit last year, with the help of some seasoned triathletes. Last night I practised with the flat tire I go 500M from my car on Sunday.

photo 5

I took away a lot of lessons:

  • It isn’t quick to change a flat
  • I know the mechanics of changing a back tire (yes!)
  • My hand pump doesn’t work (!!) 
  • Take a deep breath. Flats happen.
  • I’m going to get dirty, so maybe carry a towel.
  • I’m carrying around a bike tool I don’t even know how to use!   

Gear.

Sorry guys, but ladies I found the mecca of bras. The Lululemon “Stuff your Bra”.

IMG_8589

Pre-marathon, literally stuffing my bra 🙂

I can swim in this. Bike. Run. I can carry lip balm and enough gels  for a marathon. Heck, last week I even stuck a chicken sandwich in there. No chaffing whatsoever and another place to store nutrition. Another Lulu win. And it works for all shapes and sizes 🙂 

I’ve also discovered Sport Shield Roll – on the best anti-chaffing product out there. Waterproof, sweat proof. It’s magical. 

I’ve also been modifying my packing list. Confession: I hate packing. I always pack way too much and not always orderly. But Ironman is where I bring my packing “A” game. I did ok with my Challenge half ironman but we’re next level in 2015.   

So here it is. It will be modified and I’d love feedback! 

THE LIST

Pre-race essentials:

  • Training clothes for final workouts
  • Casual clothes and sunglasses
  • Gear (watches, power meters)
  • Hear-rate monitor strap
  • Charging cords for devices and phone
  • Favourite pre-race snacks
  • Compression clothing
  • Flip Flops
  • Identification for registration
  • Electrical tape/Duct tape – add a few strips around bike for emergencies
  • Safety pins 
  • Timing chip
  • Reflective tape or clothing
  • Tums
  • Hand wipes 
  • Goggle defogger spray
  • Plastic bag for bike seat
  • Water Bottles
  • Pump
  • Band-Aids (where to have these?)
  • Hair elastics (do headband braid)
  • My own pillow!
  • Bike lock
  • chamois cream
  • Tide

Swim essentials:

  • Warm clothes for race morning
  • Race swim cap
  • Stuff your bra and VS swim bottoms
  • 2 sets of goggles
  • Old pair of flip-flops
  • Wetsuit (long or short sleeves?)
  • Body glide / other rolly thing
  • Old shirt or towel
  • Waterproof sunscreen (face only until body marked)
  • Earplugs
  • 1 gel to take right before take off

Bike essentials:

  • Helmet
  • Cycling shoes and socks (grey icebreaker socks)
  • Bike Shorts (MEC)/Capris – temperature dependant
  • Bike Shirt (HTC sleeveless or NS with Sleeves)
  • Sunglasses (MEC)
  • Water bottle(s) – fill one with Ignite (Use Hammer Bottle)
  • Taped gels to the bike OR Bento box
  • Seat bag and tool kit: tube (2?), CO2, levers, multi-tool
  • Salt tablets and advil on the bike
  • Sleeves – temperature dependant
  • Floor pump

T1: Banana & Gel

Run essentials:

  • Running shoes (Asics)
  • Compression Socks / Fresh socks
  • Visor (epic)
  • Running shorts/capris (tbc)
  • Race belt/ Nutrition belt (put mini bodyglide/2 Advil/2 tums/pepto/blistex/gum)
  • 2 ziplock bags with 11 gummies in each

T2: Banana / Mars bar / Fresh water
Special Needs Bag on Bike

  • Spare bike tube
  • Salted chips
  • Sandwich
  • Extra gels

Special Needs on Run

  • Salted chips
  • Sandwich or skinny bagel
  • Extra gels
  • Long sleeved shirt

Food for thought:

  • Gu Gels**Plan when to eat caffeine & how much!
  • Stinger gummies
  • Bananas
  • Cut up orange
  • Ignite for electrolytes on bike
  • White Bread – PB & Jam
  • Mars bars
  • V-8 juice
  • Boost

Post clothing options:

A loooong dress. Flip flops. That’s it.

Bubbly for celebration!

Things I may need to buy

  • More Gels
  • Compression Socks
  • Extra Goggles
  • Aero bottle?
  • Bike gloves?
  • Anti-fog spray

To Dos

  • Check bike cleats
  • New tires!

T-10 days, 19 hours and 24 minutes…but who’s counting? We take off Monday night and I’m just so excited. I had some self-doubt there for a bit but trying to remain positive. I’ve worked all year for this. 

Self reminder: This is a great read regarding nutrition: http://www.endurancecorner.com/library/nutrition/race_nutrition

The Open Water Swim, never to be confused with the Open Pool Swim

I’ve always had a decent level of confidence when it came to open water swimming. My sisters and I grew up spending summers on the ocean, near the lake or at the local pool. I’m thankful my mother insisted we all take lessons….and continue with it passed yellow. (Yes, I’m that old the Red Cross levels were in colours…I think I made it to Green. Green was pretty high, no bronze medallion like my sister scored, but not too shabby either). But the water…It went beyond swimming – I’ve played in some of the craziest waves Martinique Beach could offer, Snorkelling off a boat in Mexico, Scuba diving from the shore in Turks and Caicos, Surfing…you get the idea. Put me in any water and I’d be just fine. 

10404526_10154322462310385_1449167503891885243_n

Off the cruise ship and into any water I could access. Corfu, Greece was the nicest swim. 

So it came as a huge surprise to me, during one of my first open water swims 2 weeks ago, I started to panic. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a panic attack, but I was faced with a shortness of breath, uncontrollable fear, and felt like someone had just put 30 wool blankets on my chest. I tell myself: “Relax. Take a few deep breaths”. In the throws of a panic attack – especially one happening 20 feet from shore – those words mean nothing. I did manage to calm myself down in fairly short order, with the assistance of the bestest friend in the world, floating on my back and taking it easy. 

Where did this come from?

It’s hard to say. Maybe my wetsuit is too tight. Maybe I just need more practice in the open water. Maybe all my “cool as a cucumber” talk about ironman is just a cover up and I’m going to go into a full meltdown on race morning.

I know a lot of triathletes have concerns about the swim portion, claiming it as their weakest sport and the thing that causes the most anxiety when it comes to race day. That was never me! I held back and let the crazy swimmers take off, allowing myself a less congested area to swim in and somehow managed to miss most of the head kicking. But now! Now I was just like the rest of the swim-fearing athletes out there!

11703250_852111601535481_4854253124760639261_o

Despite the jellyfish sting, I felt pretty decent in the open water swim in June

By my calculations, you can’t pop an Ativan and expect to exercise (successfully) for 16 hours.

I know I can swim 3800M, but just to be sure I decided to do a little research on making life easier. Here are my tips I’ve learned:

  • Practise
  • Try swimming with my eyes closed in practice to increase the level of stress and learn how to handle it
  • Practice swimming in groups OR
  • Hold back in my heat, and let the swimmers fly! Head injuries are avoided in this tip. The only set back is that my swim is fairly strong and I wind up trying to pass some of these people I let get by at the start. 
  • I must remember that swimming is ~10% of the race. Don’t burn out in the first 1.5 hours of a 15-16 hour race.
  • Break the swim into different sections to make is seem more manageable (Via buoys or other sighting tricks)
  • Sight every 8-10 strokes
  • Get Anti-fog spray for goggles
  • Focus on technique – it’s easy to lose all focus on this when things get rolling
  • Breathe
  • If I can practice in open water, that’s best, 50 M is better and 25M as a last resource.
  • Practice swimming with what clothing I’ll be wearing. Don’t forget the anti-chafe glide for the neck!
  • I need a strong positive mental focus for those 90 minutes. Something to think about and calm me down. That will go into my Race Day Plan. (More on that as it gets developed).
IMG_4826

Proof of an open water swim, well done

So, I have lots of advice and I’ve been back in the water twice since my incident. Still not feeling 100%, but moving in the right direction. And I always swim with a buddy, for the record. 

More soon!

March

March.

I was so excited to turn the calendar page to March…with hopes of running outside on clear sidewalks, warmer temperatures and even a somewhat disillusioned thought that my bike may hit pavement – maybe once.  As you know, I struggle with February (See: Surviving February 2014) but February was a joy compared to this year’s setback. March.

Let’s start with my red boxes.

red boxes march

Ouch.

This isn’t for lack of ambition. I’ve been sick in some form or another since the start of March, from food poisoning, to this nasty cold that feels closer to flu then I’d like to admit. Midnight hacking, chills followed by fever and a general sense of just take me out back and end the misery. I think my dogs are sick of me at this point. Maybe not. Thank you Gus.

IMG_6373

And I can’t tell if this weather is making things better or worse. With more storm days then I’ve ever experienced in my life (and I’ve lived in Labrador!) with the non-stop snow, followed by the need to shovel and lack of sun…its been a doozy of a winter. (Bermuda feels like a very distant memory, let me tell you!)  We are all suffering with this cold, gray nonsense. Especially Tim, our primary snow clearer and dog walker. My hero…I have certainly not been able to pull my weight over the past 3 weeks.

IMG_6359IMG_6355

On Friday I woke up feeling moderate – a huge step up from the rest of the week. A 6.5/10, I’d say. I declared: “This is it, I’m done being sick!” My coworkers listened to my lingering hack and gave each other sideways glances, “Suuuuuure” they were all thinking. It was a bright and sunny day, and I really wanted to make weekend training plans. Sadly, my wishful thinking didn’t turn into reality. I made it through Tim’s 40th birthday on Saturday, well-drugged, while calling people by their wrong names. (Amazing)

Sunday I surrendered into my sickness (again) and rested.

Here I am on Monday, still sick, and in no form to train the way I should be – the way I need to be – for Ironman. I’m even feeling a little panicky about how far behind I’ve come. In February I was annoyed at myself for missing the pool swims and strength training sessions, but now into my fourth week of inadequate training I can’t blame anything but this never-ending sickness and wonder how I’m going to come back!

But I will. I know I need to rest and not focus on the miles I’m missing on the treadmill (currently there are no sidewalks or foot paths for running in Halifax), pool and trainer. I will ease my way back into training and begin again with a new focus. It’s hard when I see my friends training and making progress and I feel weak and feeble, with zero appetite. Tonight I am missing my 3rd indoor computrainer session from illness and in exchange I will likely be reading or returning to Netflix with my box of tissues tucked under my arm.

My training plan is there. I will be ready and more than willing to get back on track when I’m recovered. I made a perfect training week in February and I hope to replicate this often in the twenty weeks to Ironman.

green

Do you think it’s too soon to start hoping for April?

IMG_9846