I was introduced to the phrase “Post Prokofiev Blues” back in 1987 in my first term at University by a friend Steve. It refers to that feeling of depression following some big event you’ve been focussing on. He coined the phrase following being in an orchestra that spent a long time preparing to perform a piece by Prokofiev and the feeling he felt after the performance.
The phrase has stuck with me and it certainly describes how I’ve felt this past week and how I’ve felt after most Ironman races I’ve done.
The first time I felt really down following an Ironman I assumed it was just me but whenever I talk to others it seems pretty clear it’s a very common thing. I feel these blues can be made worse because of the extreme exertion you go through. You body goes in to some sort of recovery phase and with your mind relaxing post race illness often hits. Combine this with relaxation on diet and it’s a great recipe to feel down in the dumps.
For me it seems to take a pretty regular pattern. First few days I am super motivated. Planning my next race, dreaming how good I can get but being sensible about recovery I don’t do much. After this period I start to feel a little down in the dumps and if I’m going to get hit by a cold it gets me now. Enthusiasm plummets and getting out of bed is tough. From being someone that gets up when I wake up I become someone that lounges in bed. I find excuses not to do things. Make promises I’ll start next week. This can drag on. Following Kona 08 it probably last a couple of months though with hindsight I think that was probably over training.
Eventually I force myself out of it. Get some sort of pattern to my training and I start to feel normal again.
I’ve had several years of this and even now knowing whats going to happen I’ve not nailed how to resolve it. I am getting better though and here is what I try to do
- Accept it’s going to happen. Plan for it. I find by planning very low volumes I don’t feel guilty and it lessons the depth of the depression
- Get enough sleep. I try not to set an alarm. When I was working I would aim to get myself to bed early.
- Relax “rules’. Not sure what your rules are but for me I ease up on my diet and let myself have treats. This is a double edged sword since I feel that eating badly in this period doesn’t help recovery or mood. This one I’m still experimenting with and causes me some angst as i feel I should eat SUPER HEALTHY for the first few weeks but never manage it
- Reduce pressure to get back into training. If you have another race soon this can be tricky but I can tell you I’ve got myself in a hole by stressing about getting fit for another race. I’ve rarely done a great second race within a couple of months of the first and I think this is why. No matter how close the next race is you need to focus on getting recovered and motivation back.
- Talk to other athletes. It’s helped once I realise it’s not just me. Talking it over and realising this is normal helps me a lot.
- Start to introduce routine. After a week I try and force myself to get in to the rythm of training. This really means doing sessions as I would in my normal basic week. The sessions don’t need to be as long or intense but just get in to the regularity of it. I get myself out on the bike by just telling myself I have to ride to this coffee shop or that coffee shop. Do social rides. Jo and I had a real fun ride this week just riding to Sumner and back with a long coffee stop and chat in the middle. View this time as an opportunity for “CTC” riding.
- Take your mind off it. I love going to the cinema and this period is good time to catch up. I’ve been twice this week.
- Change of scene can help a lot though not always possible. Last year I snapped out of 3 months low motivation by coming to Christchurch. Following Busselton I had my shortest period of feeling down – it was knocked on the head by coming to Christchurch. I’ve found back in the UK even visiting my mum in North Yorkshire for a weekend can be enough of a change of scene to spark my motivation.
- Don’t do anything crazy. Examples – ride balls out at a 3 day cyclo sportiv event the weekend after. Riding 100 miles through the night at pace 4 days later. That sort of thing can lead to complete detonation …. trust me. (does make for some funny stories in hindsight though ;o))
This is one aspect of training that I’ve found much harder since being full time. When working going back to work gave structure, distraction and lots of people interested in your race. I found it a lot easier to recover and get back in to a routine when I worked full time than I do now.
I’m hoping that post Epic I’m managing this a lot better. Here’s how it went:
- Monday – drive back. Total rest and lots of chatting in the van with Rip, Clas, Scott and Jo. That helped
- Tuesday – complete rest. 10+ hours sleep. Cinema – Sherlock Holmes
- Wednesday – hoped to swim but with no alarm set missed it. 10+ hours again. Easy 1 hour ride.
- Thursday – again slept through swim. 10+ hours sleep. Easy ride with Jo for 90 minutes. Light swim and gym
- Friday – again slept through with 10+ hours sleep. Felt drained so took day off. Cinema – Lovely Bones
- Today – slept through planned swim. 9 hours sleep (a good sign). Decided against ride in crap weather. Felt motivated late morning and did gym, swim and easy run.
Feeling a lot better now. At the end of the camp I commented on my knee feeling sore. This is my old knee problem and is a gentle reminder that it was never fixed just “managed”. I’m being careful to let it settle. I know what seems to work to settle it and have started back on the exercises in the gym.
At Epic there’re always comments about “The Curse Of The Yellow”. Following Epic Italy I had a terrible race at IM Germany despite performing very well at the camp. (BTW – Jo had a blistering race there, possibly her best IM performance). Following Epic last year I had a little snap in my foot just before Taupo. This time I’m being more careful …. I don’t want the curse this time. Also …. its a chance to prove things don’t always come in threes !