What happens when you come off a huge race after prolonged and intense training? A lot. And also, not much at all. If you've been in this position, you probably know what I mean. But let me explain. Physically, I've recovered well from the Ironman last fall, but mentally? That's a different story.
Following the race and recovery, I knew I wanted to shift my focus to some trail running and less intense, structured training, which I've done, but I'm still very much in a weird in-between. At times, the feelings of uncertainty are unsettling. Some days I'm ready to dive into big training blocks and dream of racing, and some days, lacing up my running shoes for a 30-minute run feels labored and unappealing. In all reality, I think the burnout has lasted much longer than I realized or anticipated.
So, what have I been doing? Since my race in October, I have begun the arduous process of tackling long overdue and planned house renovations, which I really enjoy. I've spent a lot more time with my girls taking walks, baking, cooking, reading, and playing games.
We got a puppy right before Christmas, so that's been its own set of challenges and adventures. It's been nice, honestly. I'm still running 3-4 times a week, biking 1-2 times a week, and doing some other training, so I haven't become a complete couch potato. It's enough to keep me feeling fit and in a good groove without the scheduling chaos and fatigue of hard training. Still, now that the season is inching closer, I find myself second guessing what the future might hold.
Over the holidays, it didn't seem to bother me as much because I was focused on other tasks, and my collective social media pages were filled with the enjoyments of the off season. Now, with people planning races, diving into structured training, and setting 2022 race and athletic goals, and I'm over here learning how to build bookshelves, paint ceilings, and repair baseboard dings. Do I have FOMO from racing, and the big training sessions? Yes, and no. Of course, I miss the nervous energy at the start of a race, the exhilaration from hard training days, and perhaps bragging rights of a race well executed, but I don't miss it enough to get back there - yet.
Although I have a race on the schedule for late spring that I'm loosely training for, I'm starting to realize that I don't want to race as much right now, and I've begun to embrace that training to train is enough for me. I'm running with a friend for the first time in ages, and at the crack of dawn! Laughing and inside jokes make the miles tick by with ease, with the occasional deep dive speaking to our shared love of this hobby of a sport we do passionately for fun. To seek adventure by running off the beaten path and exploring new trails with the only expectations to be in the present moment. I can't tell you the last time I've approached training like this, and it feels right.
While I'm unsure of what racing will look like this year, I know that I don't owe anyone excuses or explanations about why my calendar seems so empty. It's OK not to define yourself by racing and just train, and perhaps forgo training entirely for a while. At times, it's good to shift your focus and reexplore your passion. Running will always be more than just racing, but if you must race, let the stress of timing and placing be an afterthought.
It doesn't make you less of a runner or athlete to not race, and it makes you human by experiencing the ebbs and flows of training and life. These are the life experiences that make you, you, the lessons that will make you (me!) stronger in the long run (pun intended ;). Know that if you're feeling partial about training and racing, you're not alone. When it feels right, the races will be there.