by Alyssa Godesky
Sometimes when I’m doing things, out of the blue an old Navy song or cadence will pop into my head from my years at the Naval Academy. This week, as I was packing up my things to head to Madison, Wisconsin for my second Ironman in three weeks, this one popped into my head:
Here we go again
Same old stuff again
Marching down the avenue
Six more weeks and we’ll be through
I’ll be glad and so will you
These chants alway bring back memories of my short haircut, large government issued glasses, and having to run PT tests in government issued cotton underwear. Ah, memories. But, back to triathlon! There is something very routine about prepping to race an Ironman, at least the way I do it. I pack the same items each time, in the same manner, my list committed to memory by now though I still use it for good measure. I like the order to the madness. And while doing the entire process multiple times in a short span of weeks can be a lot….it always seems to go a little bit better for me the second time around. A little bit faster. A little less faffing. A little more organized.
Funnily enough, that’s how the race itself usually ends up the second time as well! Whether it is one week, two weeks, or three weeks between races, I tend to really enjoy racing a double. And, historically my “better” race is the second one!
I also really like it because you do the bulk of the heavy training for it in *one* block, and then ride that fitness between the two races. Kinda sneaky, huh? But for folks who might not be able to take advantage of a long ironman training season -- or for those like myself who also want time to play in the mountains and do some ultrarunning — this is a good way to not have to put all your eggs in one race basket, but still keep your season of heavy triathlon training condensed.
Since I’m in the midst of a three-weeker right now, I’ll take you through my process:
Week One: Relax! Take a deep breath! Ride out the post-Ironman high (and endure the lows as they happen too). Eat a lot. Then eat some more. Sleep as much as you can manage to fit into your schedule. It’s also very helpful to keep moving through this week, just very easy stuff! While I never enjoy seeing a “20 minute jog” on my plan for the day after an Ironman, and even if it resembles more of a walk where I’m just moving my arms in a running motion, I do it because I know it's a necessity for racing in these shorter time periods. Easy spins and swims also work wonders. Just be sure to keep them easy! You must give yourself the time to recover. If you are able to get into a massage or similar body work, I find this is helpful especially if I had a particularly long travel schedule getting home after a race. During this week, I take time to write out the things I can improve upon for the upcoming race, and make sure if I need to prep anything (ordering different gear or nutrition, etc) that I get going on that.
Week Two: Okay, it’s time to shift your mindset. Remember how you felt in the last big week of training, knowing there was only a handful of big workouts left? You just got to fast forward yourself there! And repeat after me: The fitness is still there! It is totally normal to *feel* like in the last week you have eaten yourself into oblivion and are no longer fit enough to run a 5k. That’s not true! Fitness does not disappear. Use this week to do a few sessions with efforts to break the seal on those recovered legs. Depending on how the effort of the first race was, this can feel great, but it can feel quite crappy too. Just focus on effort and remember: You just did an Ironman two weeks ago! Be patient with yourself. The fitness is still there!
Week Three: Boom! You made it! It’s time to taper again! Sometimes it feels funny to taper without a month or two of training wrapping up at that moment, and again you might find yourself in some mental battles. Remember your mantra (the fitness does not disappear!) and stay aware of the fact that it is just that: a mental battle. Things like positive race visualization help me through these doubts, but in this instance, do what works for you to keep your mindset positive. A strong community can be helpful here too. If you have a friend or training partner racing a double like this, it can’t hurt to help pump them up a bit! I also take time in week three to make sure I go back through my notes on the previous race and have tied up the loose ends of what I’ll be improving this go-around.
Even after 32 iron-distance races, I still make mistakes and have plenty to learn. That is why I enjoy racing iron-distances frequently…no matter how many long training days you do, race day always proves to be the best training for the distance. Being able to take what you learn and turn it around into a better performance in a matter of weeks is a great way to take your ironman racing to the next level over the course of a season.
Alyssa Godesky is a Smashfest Queen-sponsored professional triathlete. You can read more about her here.