Eight Days, One Ironman, One 70.3, Six Time Zones—How to Race and Travel and Recover

Ed. Note—we’ve all decided to do some outside of the box racing in our careers, whether that means back-to-back-to-back Olympic-distance events, or attempting the infamous Wildflower double (hint: don’t try that second one). But preparing for (and recovering from) these bouts of constrained racing can be tough. Sarah Piampiano, one of the Wattie Ink. professionals, checks in with a story and some hints on how to accomplish the feat.

This year I decided to do something I have never done before: I signed up for a 70.3 one week after the Ironman World Championships, and the race was in Chile!  For me, while racing is my JOB and how I make a living, I also like to keep it fun and engaging. On one hand, I thought trying to race one week after the world championships was silly and a bit irresponsible (I know how awful I week one week after an Ironman!!). On the other hand, I wanted to challenge myself and see what I could do and how my body would respond.

In hindsight, I’d say that in some ways I felt like racing sort of helped me in my recovery.  I HAD to keep moving after Kona (whereas usually I go into an ice cream induced food coma for the 7 days after the race!). I think it helped flush my system. I ONLY swam and biked before the race. The only running I did was the morning of the race for my warm up. I needed to give my legs as much recovery as possible and for me that meant no running prior to race day. In foresight, though, facing the race was challenging. Kona took a lot out of me and then the travel home and on to Chile was hard. The airlines “misplaced” my bike during travel, so I was forced to ride on a borrowed bike. I knew I wasn’t my usual self because on most race mornings I go through a whole mobility and activation protocol, but in Chile I just lay there in bed, tired and a bit grumpy! My husband told me “once you get going you will be fine,” and it turns out he was right. As soon as the gun went off I went into race mode and had a really wonderful experience. Despite racing and trying hard, as always, I didn’t feel any pressure, and really enjoyed myself on course. I was flying by the seat of my pants a bit about how I would feel, letting bad moments come and go. It made it fun and a bit of a game for me during the race to try different effort levels and see what my body could tolerate.

After the race I was VERY tired and I had to really take it easy on the training front for a good two to three weeks (including three full days off training consecutively right after the race) in order to recover. That recovery was key: not bringing back a huge amount of training volume and load before I was ready. I am now in my final prep for Ironman Western Australia on December 1st.  It will be my last race for 2019, although I’ll then shift my focus to the Houston Marathon where I hope to get an Olympic Trials Qualification! That all makes for a lot of training load at the end of the season, but if managed correctly the races can be both successful AND fun!

THE TAKEAWAYS

  1. Racing a lot at the end of the season is possible (you’ve got a lot of stored up fitness!) but you’ll have to alter your normal approach
  2. If racing back-to-back weekends, run as little as possible between the events, relying on swimming and cycling to keep the aerobic furnace lit
  3. Change your workout mindset to “activating and recovering” rather than “building.” There is no more fitness to be gained at this point (other than the significant bumps in fitness—and fatigue—from the racing), so focus on movement and enjoyment
  4. You will feel like garbage most of the time! Don’t let it get to you and recognize that nothing will change that feeling
  5. If traveling far, try to adjust your time zone ahead of the travel by either going to bed earlier or staying up later, nudging that internal clock to your destination location
  6. During the event, do your best to completely remove your outcome goals and expectations. This is an experiment, so simply see how your body feels throughout the event, removing any judgment on your end about what certain feelings “mean”
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