The post-race slump. Whoa. I have never experienced such a thing as the post-race slump. It was actually kind of scary and maybe I should have been more vocal about it. Looking back at the last few weeks – yikes. Things could have gone south fast.
As a generally positive person, when my coach warned me about the post-Ironman slump – I sort of shrugged it off. I thought, “What’s the big deal? So maybe I will be a little bummed out. Maybe I will be sad for a few days. I won’t want to do much.” I have done so many races before and have never experienced any post-race moodiness. I didn’t have it after my half Iron. I wasn’t worried. I had this.
It was FAR worse than that. Being a positive person, maybe I just haven’t had these feelings very often (or ever). I have been in some really difficult situations. I have been in bad places in my brain and in my heart. I have had to make difficult and heart wrenching decisions. But those situations all felt within my control. I could control my actions and my choices and I always felt that I had the control to make changes if necessary. To get myself out of those situations.
THIS. I have never felt this. I kept trying to convince myself, my coach, my friends – that the post-race slump was over. I wanted it to be. I wanted to shake it off. But wow. I thought it was homesickness and that was the worst of it. NOPE. It just kept going in this spiral. I felt completely helpless over my own brain. I couldn’t will myself to do much of anything. That. Is. Not. Me. Very scary. I am just now able to start dragging myself out of bed and get excited about training again. I am singing and bopping along to tunes again at work. Feeling productive. Wanting to get things done…finally.
What the heck? So a quick blow-by-blow. I isolated myself from my roommates. Laying in bed. Not doing workouts. I got angry with The Man. I didn’t talk to my friends. Was distant from co-workers. Just….very quiet. I went out alone several nights just because I was feeling so stir crazy. I threw my phone. A complete roller coaster. I was completely destructive for about a week – and this was a few weeks AFTER the race. Wasn’t this supposed to be ending? I didn’t want to tell people how destructive I felt because I felt stupid about it. I felt like I shouldn’t be feeling this way. The race happened a long time ago…get your head in the game, girl. What is the MATTER with you? My coach said something to the effect – that I should just talk to him. He even brought up suicidal tendencies. I wasn’t experiencing that by any means…but I still felt like I had little control over my brain. And with as reckless and destructive as I was getting/feeling…it could have been worse. Coach said he was there to help with that. But when he said that…I thought I was on the upswing. And also…I threw myself into…protect mode. There isn’t anything wrong with me. Please I am just fine. That’s crazy talk. I am strong. I am smart. I am successful. Nope. Guess not. I didn’t care about anything. I didn’t want to get out of bed. Getting through the workday everyday was a huge struggle. I tried to throw on my smile – and even THAT was difficult. I am finally laughing again and enjoying the presence of other people. For a while there – I wanted to shut everyone completely out. I don’t know if this was some sort of chemical imbalance or what…but I felt completely helpless to prevent these things I was feeling.
Am I fully out of this slump? I honestly don’t know. I think maybe – but then I said that in my last post. I don’t want to just lay in bed anymore. I am starting to do things with my friends again. The Man – He brought me to the Kennedy Center for a wonderful, special evening and even then I was struggling to smile. It was one of the most special, romantic nights of my life and I enjoyed it so much…but boy was my mind heavy. That just isn’t me. I was quiet and not as smiley as a normal me would/should have been. Halloween – I dressed up, usually one of my favorite holidays…but I basically went through the motions. Went to a few parties, smiled for the cameras, blah. Band concert – went through the motions. This was music! One of the biggest joys of my life. My mom, The Man – there for support. Again – so special! Just went through the motions. Played the notes on the page. Check it off the list. Packer game, World Series, just going through the motions.
Even last weekend, I went to Soul Cycle (needed it) – maybe feeling better. Spent the day at Monticello with my mom – needed that too. A chance to get out of the city and into nature. That’s when I finally started to feel like myself again. Or did I? Then this week has been wonderful. I still have been slacking a little bit on my training…but when I do get out there to train…I am not “checking it off the list.” I am out there to fix things. I am out there to make progress. I am out there to become a better triathlete. I have focus. I am back to participating and leading lunch time boot camps at work. My motivation and ability to motivate others is returning. That brings me a lot of joy. I had another wonderful evening with The Man and this time I was me. Bopping around annoyingly – excited to share an evening with him. Dragging him to one of my all time favorite shows. Bouncing out of my seat – annoyingly 🙂 Being goofy. And smiling. Really finally smiling real smiles. The first smiles since I was running that race.
Thursday night rehearsal. Christmas music. I had a blast playing my clarinet again. No longer just going through the motions but enjoying it. Putting my soul into the sounds. Yes. Made a break through at work after a few difficult weeks. It didn’t help that I had been beating my head against the wall on a project during this time…but I finally started accomplishing something after several frustrating weeks of dead ends.
Friday – A swim evaluation with the coach. An early morning. That alarm went off…grumble…not what I wanted to do. We were at the pool for an hour and a half at dawn…doing very little swimming for distance but working on a bunch of tedious drills. I went with a mindset to accomplish things and make myself a better swimmer. I was there to be a sponge and just soak in everything he had to say. It was the BEST THING EVER. That morning – I knew I was me again. When people say, “I had a moment” – do they mean it? I do. I actually HAD A MOMENT. Might be the first time I actually mean it when I say that. It completely dawned on me at one point while I was in the lane and my coach was on the deck explaining the next drill we were about to do and I was smiling and laughing and I felt it. I just felt it in my brain. I love this. I love this sport. I am back and I love this. But there was an exact moment that I can pinpoint when all of a sudden, everything just felt right again. Everything clicked. Everything was clear. It was almost like my body was flooded with positive energy. All of the positive energy that I had been lacking for a month. I can actually see that precise moment from Friday morning in my memory. Then after that – we were working and he was having me do some crazy things in the water. Some things were frustrating, but I never let that stuff get me down. I was laughing. Smiling. Laughing some more. Laughing when I couldn’t do the deep water vertical kicking. Understanding things I am doing wrong. And smiling. Smiling cause now I have things to work on and things to fix. It was so great. Smiling when he told me to swim really slow….and then told me I still went too fast…and we tried again…and again…and again. To. Go. Slow.
Biking this morning in the terrible wind and the November chill. Everything about the ride was tedious. But guess what? I loved it. I just loved it. Here I sit smiling. Smiling and excited. And it has taken a month.
The post-race slump. Not going to lie. Looking back, it was scary. I know for next time that I need to talk about it. It was real and it could have been much worse. I know when I have friends who compete in their first races, that I need to be around to listen. I need to keep my eyes open if they are shutting doors. What is going on in those brains can be a serous thing. For me – the positive, always sunny, bouncy attitude – the girl who sometimes thinks she is invincible – it hit me very, very hard. I felt almost helpless to prevent it. I couldn’t shrug it off. I don’t know if it will be this tough the next time. I hope it isn’t because wow…
But I know for next time that I need to talk about it. That there are people who understand it. There are people who have been through it. And I admit – it hit me. Sometimes I am not as strong as I think. It hit me hard and I was stupid to try to put a timeline for when I would feel better. I just needed to get there. Next time, I know what I am in for and I hope that I have learned something from this experience too.
“Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.”
– Vernon Law (Former Pirates pitcher)