The Post-Race Slump is a thing, y'all. The struggle is real.
I'm so glad I started googling these sorts of articles, because I've spent much of the past week and a half wondering if I was losing my mind. I was expecting to be on a huge high from the moment I crossed the finish line until....well, I wasn't sure how long it would last, but I was counting on a few DAYS at least! Instead, the slump hit me almost immediately. The day after the race, I sat in the Target parking lot and cried after shopping for school supplies for my kids (this is normally my FAVORITE shopping trip of the year, no lie.) Why was I crying?? I have no idea! Because I'd missed all the good sales and was behind on back-to-school prep, because I couldn't find everything on my list, because I was wearing my Iron Girl shirt but no one in the whole store noticed or cared (What? The world doesn't revolve around ME???)...who knows? I was just a hot mess!
If I had known to expect a day-after-Christmas-like letdown, I might have been able to roll with the punches a little better, instead of feeling so lost and questioning my whole existence. I seriously did not know how to handle the re-entry into normal life. It was ROUGH. And that is why it took me so long to write my race report, and why I've had trouble getting my butt in gear with all the other stuff I have going on in my life.
On the bright side, going through the slump forced me to do some more soul-searching, which led to some conclusions I really like.
1. The race really is the victory lap.
2. The feelings of accomplishment and confidence might be difficult to recognize.
THE VICTORY LAP
I've heard it said of marathons that the true accomplishment is getting through the training, and the race itself is really a celebration of what you've already done. I think the same can be said of any race that is challenging for the person running it. A sprint triathlon might be easy to many, but to me it required intense focus and discipline, and pushing myself past what I thought were my mental and physical limits. I expected to cross the finish line and feel like I had conquered the race, but what I didn't realize was that I really conquered the race the week before.
My self-doubt reached its pinnacle when I attempted the run course, and basically failed. I felt so completely lost that day...but the next morning I got up early and dragged myself out to try the bike course, despite still feeling completely lost. By the time I FINISHED the bike course that had terrified me, I was found. Starting the bike course, refusing to quit the bike course, and completing the bike course (and then throwing in a quick mile run for good measure!)...that was me conquering the race. When I showed up a week later to swim, bike, and run all in one morning, I was really doing my victory lap -- I just didn't know it.
What I did know was that I'd passed the point of wanting to quit. Only something insurmountable like actual drowning or a horrific bike crash could keep me from finishing the race. I was going to cross that finish line come hell or high water -- because mentally I had already conquered the race. Even though I didn't expressly think of it as my victory lap, I made it a point to take it all in and enjoy the race, even the difficult parts, so maybe subconsciously I did know the truth. :)
There were a few moments this summer, after powering through particularly tough workouts, or after having little epiphanies where I realized I was really doing this, when I felt a surge of positive energy. I felt confidence coursing through my veins in a way I hadn't felt it in many years. I felt competent and capable, like I could do anything I put my mind to. Somehow, I expected these feelings to be exponentially more intense after I finished the race. I expected to feel like I could conquer the world.
Instead, I felt tired.
I was really happy -- don't get me wrong. And I was proud of myself. But I was also really tired, and a little confused as to why there was no palpable rush of endorphins after I crossed the finish line. I guess my endorphins were just as worn out as the rest of me! hahaha This was when the slump set in...since I didn't feel as "up" as I expected, I immediately felt really really down.
What I figured out over the past week or so is that there wasn't a surge of self-confidence after the race because it had been building up all along! I felt little surges along the way as I built up my base of confidence, much like I was building my base of endurance. I know what I'm capable of now not because I finished the race but because I finished the training AND the race...the finish line was just the final piece of a large puzzle. The confidence is THERE now...it's just quiet and strong and present. This is not to say that I'm not still plagued by self-doubt at times -- it will take more than one big accomplishment to rid me of those demons for good! Just now the self-doubt is no longer the default. Self-confidence doesn't feel like I expected it to, but now that I recognize it, it feels really really good.
In conclusion, I don't know if any of this makes sense outside of my mess of a head. Maybe it's just the ramblings of a clawing-my-way-out-of-post-race-slump woman. Still, I figured I owed it to you to share where I'm at right now.
And if you're wondering what is next for me, now that the slump is subsiding, stay tuned...that's my next post. ;-)