A-Race Recovery

I was going to title this ‘Ironman Race Recovery’, but as I was writing the notes for it I realized that the advice here is just as relevant for any end of season or A-Race.


Recovery is so important to give yourself a physical, mental and emotional rest.  It is also a great time to pay some attention to those around you rather than yourself and/or your training partners.

I have been coaching for many years now, and prior that I was either coached or writing my own programme, so I have seen all sorts of different race recovery methods, and tried most of them myself.  Some have worked, some haven’t.  The way your recovery pans out depends on a number of factors, but certainly experience in the sport, how much damage the race did, how long your build up has been going.  Here are some of my experiences, and what I have I seen with some of my athletes.

Let’s refer to Ironman here, as Ironman New Zealand has recently passed and a lot of the Foot Traffic Coaching athletes have found themselves with buckets of time on their hands and just wanting to fill that gap with a training session…..but mean old Coach isn’t letting them do that, and no one wins an argument with me around this topic.  If you could see some of the posts on our private members Facebook group as I was arguing with some of my athletes about sneaking a run in you would be in stitches – Funny but also serious.

“Time heals all”

You have just finished an Ironman.  Your body is likely to be deficient in sleep from months of early mornings and probably late nights.  Your muscles ache and body parts are probably chafed.  Your Cortisol levels are through the roof and you are depleted in important micro-nutrients.  Your significant others don’t know you, however your dog probably still does as that’s your favoured jogging partner.  Why would you want to go out and increase these negative factors?

One thing I find happens is I like to sleep, not necessarily during the day, which is a good thing as I have work to do, but I sleep heavy at night, and really struggle to get up in the morning.  While this is happening I respect the fact that my body is screaming out for some ‘me’ time.  If you neglect these signs you’ll be on a slippery slope to Adrenal Fatigue and other serious ailments.  Do yourself and your partner a favour, don’t set the alarm for 5:00am, infact don’t set it at all, have a sleep in and enjoy it.  If you are having trouble sleeping and are waking often through the night then that is also a sure sign that you are far from fully recovered.  When I find myself waking up naturally and closer to the usual time I would awaken for training then I know I am ready to start introducing some training again.

I also find that often I come down with a sore throat, a sniffly nose and maybe a cold sore, another sign that training has placed me on the edge and my immune system has been struggling for a long time.  If you find this too rather than training eat a good piece of steak and a pile of salad, you’ll be better for it.

Another thing I recommend is not to plan any training session or event in the weeks after a key race.  You want to know that there is nothing nagging at you to get up and get IM recovery.pngtraining.  I recently completed two Irondistance races in two weeks (Challenge Wanaka and Ironman New Zealand).  Whilst I wouldn’t recommend this for an Age Group athlete, and I certainly won’t do the double again, I found the time between the two races wasn’t too stressful as I knew there was another event to get up for in two weeks time, so I never actually stopped moving.  If I didn’t have Ironman still to go I would have been straight into full recovery mode.  Instead the day after Challenge Wanaka I went for a short spin, the day after that a 90 minute walk and continued this for the rest of the week.  I was still motivated to keep going through to Ironman NZ.  However as soon as I finished the second race I knew there was no other race in the immediate future for me, so I rewarded myself with a full 10 days away from exercise.  Now I am in the second week after Ironman and I have only gone for a very easy one hour spin, a swim and a short jog.  I am ready to look at reintroducing some regular light aerobic training again, but certainly nothing over Aerobic Threshold for at least a further two weeks.

Keep in mind that Ironman NZ 2016 was my 16th Irondistance race, so I have had a fair bit of experience in the sport.  For someone having just completed their first one I would recommend keeping things unstructured and VERY VERY light for a further 2-3 weeks, and only looking at consistent training when all factors have been addressed – sleep patterns, body weight normalized, even have some blood tests to see if you remain depleted in any areas.  If you carry any muscle damage or inflammation through to your next training cycle you are likely to be more susceptible to injury.

Your next peak races are still a long way off and don’t forget this.  The temptation to get stuck into training too soon, whether it’s because you are buzzing about the next season, or are scared of losing your fitness, can feel quite overcoming.  But please, give yourself that initial full rest to give you body the recovery that it needs and take the stress off your coach (trust me, your coach knows if you have been lying about your lack of exercise).  You need patience and trust in your body’s ability to heal itself given the time to do it right.

Foot Traffic Training Lab Subscription members have access to all our database training plans.  We have a number of different Post Race Recovery Plans which you can easily slot into your training calendar to help guide you through this difficult phase.  To sign up click here.


Panic Attack!

In 25 years of participating in Triathlon I don’t think I have ever experienced a Panic Attack.  I always thought I was one of the lucky ones.  Well in Challenge Wanaka last month that changed for me.  Challenge Wanaka is a great, friendly little race in a spectacular location, but boy it tested me physically and mentally.

Since the race I have had a chance to go over a few things surrounding the attack, and what I think led to it.  I have also thought of a few ways I can prevent them from happening again in the future, so hopefully sharing will give others some ideas on how to combat it.

The morning of Challenge Wanaka was a pretty relaxed affair (Problem #1) and for some reason I had a fairly light breakfast compared to what I would normally have before an Irondistance event (Problem #2).  Due to the strong winds across the lake that morning the swim turn buoys had been blown off course so they were forced to delay the start by 15 minutes, however I think it was actually longer than that by the time we got going (Problem #3).  I had a few puffs of my Ventolin inhaler as I have found in cooler temps that I can get a bit wheezy and restricted in my breathing (Problem #4).  Due to the cooler air temperature and strong wind potentially making me even cooler, despite being in a wetsuit, I opted not to go for a swim warmup, but instead to do a dry-land warm, which I something I have done plenty of times before (Problem #5).  I lined myself up in a good spot on the startline and was planning to swim the first 600m to the turn can a bit easier to effectively finish my warmup (Not really a problem, I still think this was a good idea). As soon as the gun went I was straight into it, dove into the first wave and got swimming. Some stage soon after the start I took on a massive mouthful of cold water, most of which it felt went straight down my windpipe (Problem #6).  I started panicking and soon after my heart rate hit the roof, I lost all feeling in my arms and legs and I couldn’t lift my head to breath without taking on more water or getting whacked on the head by a swimmer behind me (Problem #7).  I was moving forward, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t find myself and I seriously thought my race was over.

Cold, windy and choppy.  Nothing I haven’t dealt with before.

I hadn’t even made it to the first intermediate marker buoy which was set only about 100m off the beach.  I was certain people would be watching this seemingly unprepared athlete flailing around like he had entered a race far out of his depth.  I rolled onto my back and I the beach was right there, beckoning me to swim back and pull out, but I was determined to not do that.  I rolled back over and tried again, which resulted in the same outcome.  This second time I snuck a quick look at my Polar watch and my Heart Rate was sitting at 170something, which is very high for swimming.  I started to swim again, but still couldn’t settle down.  This time the rescue kayak started moving towards me and I was happy about that as they were going to get me out of the water and take me safely to the beach.  I checked my watch again and could see I had been going for 3mins!  What the hell, how could this still be happening, I was the last swimmer now.

swim panic
I have highlighted the first part of the swim where things weren’t going too well.  Check the max HR and my average pace!  It took me just over 8mins to swim 400m – that’s personal worst

I started to compose myself a bit more and decided I would wave away the rescue kayak and try doing a mix of side stroke and breast stroke so I could avoid putting my head in the water.  I was finally moving forward, so I decided to just try and make it to the first turning buoy as I knew once around there the wind would be behind me and it would be a lot more controllable.  I started passing a few people so I made sure I was in my own water as I didn’t want to swim into anyone.  I finally got around the buoy and everything settled down – it was like nothing had even gone wrong.  I swam past one of my athletes (Anna Lorimer) about 3/4 of the way through the lap and I knew she was swimming well so I figured I wasn’t going too badly.  The second lap was business as usual.  When I got out of the water I had swum 59:49, which really surprised me.  If I didn’t have this issue it would have been a great swim.

(ME) “You’ll never guess what the hell happened there”….. (Kellee) “Move your arse, no time to stop and talk”

So why did the problems I identified earlier happen at all?  There was nothing about this swim that I wouldn’t normally happily get through.  This is what I have figured out….

  1. I was probably too relaxed.  I hadn’t raced an Irondistance event for a couple years and I didn’t put enough emphasis on the mental preparation.  This would have affected a lot of the things that occurred.
  2. Yeah, just a Bagel with Nutella and a coffee is not a good breakfast before an Irondistance race.  Especially when the race start is over 3 hours away.  I would normally have a Bagel, 3 eggs, a bit of bacon and a coffee.
  3. The delay meant it was even longer without food, and trying to stay warm probably burnt a bit of energy
  4. One of the less common side-effects of Ventolin is an increased Heart Rate.  I haven’t had symptoms of Asthma for some time now, but for some reason I thought it wise to take it as a precaution.  This wasn’t necessary at all.
  5. Not having a good warm up meant my engine wasn’t running hot and my heart rate hadn’t really been elevated at all, apart from a short jog earlier in the morning.  I’m a slow starter at best, and it takes me a good KM to get into my rhythm, so I should have gone for a short swim just prior to the start.
  6. My throat and lungs wouldn’t have been used to the cold water and therefore constricted as a reaction, limiting the breathing.  In future I would have a cold drink shortly prior to the start to simulate the temperature of the water I will probably be drinking a few minutes later.
  7. I often get a rapid increase in Heart Rate in times of extreme stress, and this leaves my arms and legs feeling dead.  The only way I have been able to settle it in the past has been to stop moving, relax for a few minutes and get moving again.  This is what I was trying to do, but it was getting a bit difficult to manage.

So I learnt a really good lesson, and I was keen to not let this happen again, especially at Ironman New Zealand which was coming up 2 weeks after this race.  And seeing as I am writing this a few days after IMNZ I am happy to report that I addressed all the issues above prior to the race, did not have a repeat of the panic attack.  So I hope this isn’t something I will encounter again.

If you have been reading this and do suffer from panic attacks then work through some of the processors that have lead to them in the past and see if you can find a way around them.  The thing is when you are panicking all rational thought leaves the room and it becomes very hard to deal with it.  So if you are able to work on these skills in training or smaller races then you will find come the big ones that you are better armed to cope, and won’t go straight to the pull out option.

I’m happy to say I finished Challenge Wanaka in 10:43, a long way off what I was hoping to do, however as you would expect with a name like that there were a few other challenges along the way, which I will no doubt write about another time, so you can look forward to that.

If you are interested in employing a Triathlon Coach for your next key event feel free to get in touch with me.  At Foot Traffic Coaching we have various levels of Training Plans and have the experience to help guide you to your goals.


What a prick of a day.  Relieved to be in sight of the finish line