Dealing with post-race lows

Just as night follows day, for me a low seems to be the inevitable consequence of a high. And the highest of highs can lead to a fairly deep low.

After racing I usually suffer from a dip in mood. Even when I’ve achieved everything that I’d set out to do there comes a moment in the days that follow a big race where I will struggle with motivation, I’ll question why I put so much emphasis on sporting achievement, I might even criticise myself for the ills of the world. Apparently, mankind wouldn’t be in the mess that it is if I didn’t spend so much time indulging my passion for triathlon. I know that this is a crazy thought but in a post-race fatigued state I can often slip into a spell of negativity. Thankfully most of the time it doesn’t last very long and I’m back up, focussed and looking forward to the next challenge.

However, this time its taken me much, much longer, hence the long delay in getting my post-race blog out.

The highs of Pontevedra were huge, in fact it was overwhelming. I felt euphoric to finish the race and nail all my goals. It was almost an out of body experience. 24 hours after the race though, I was feeling physically wrecked. I couldn’t keep food down and my body hurt. The level of pain I was experiencing was significantly greater than the usual DOMS but I put this down to the additional volume of the race. I assumed it would quickly pass and I’d soon be back in training. So nothing to be concerned about. However, the other physical symptoms progressed and I felt worse. My instinctive reaction in this kind of situation is to try and ignore it. The thought process seems to be that if I imagine that that the symptoms aren’t real then they will simply go away. So I tried getting back on my bike for a recovery ride, but all this did was ramp up the symptoms. Another 24 hours passed before I finally accepted that I’d better take myself off to the GP, who diagnosed me as having a virus. I was told to rest and not to train again until it had gone.

For someone who likes clarity in his life I was even more frustrated to be told that there was no certainty around the timescale for shaking off this virus and no magic bullet for killing it. Rest and kindness to myself were the only suggested treatments. So began a period of 3 full weeks of no training followed by a week of the gentlest of activity to test how my body responded to a resumption of exercise. During the first of these rest weeks I slumped further downhill mentally. I really missed the positive chemical impact of exercise on my well-being and mindset, but slowly I adjusted my thinking to accept the prognosis that rest and kindness was going to get me back on track. By trusting in this alien process I felt more positive and began to enjoy the enforced rest. I was soon adjusting my plans for the rest of the season. I had to pull out of a couple of races but replaced them with two new events in July. Erdinger Alkoholfrei managed to get me into the swim and bike parts of the Wales Long Course weekend and I also entered into the Welsh Middle Distance Tri Champs later in the month. Both of these gave me a boost as they became new targets to aim at. I also invested in B12, iron, magnesium and Vitamin C supplements. By the end of week 3 I was feeling much better and raring to resume some gentle exercise. After week 4 I felt fully recovered. The cough symptoms had gone and the general fatigue and lethargy had been replaced by genuine enthusiasm to get back training. The period of enforced rest had done its trick both physically and mentally.

I now recognise that the low was a necessary step in helping me to develop. It made me value the benefits of total rest, it gave me the space and perspective to re-evaluate why I was doing all this and it enabled me to reaffirm my commitment to delivering my best ever performance in Nice later this year.

I’m now refreshed and full of enthusiasm to nail every training session between now and the World 70.3 Champs.

One comment

  1. bronwenv64 · June 28, 2019

    Amazing Pete – how good that you’ve been able to get through this and get back on the bike 😉
    The body is an amazing thing – both physical and mental. It has an uncanny way of telling you to slow down and rest. Virus’ are so very frustrating as there is no solution but time.
    Maybe the planning permission and house renovation could fill the void – I’m assuming that’s progressing well.
    Just a thought – I think if you had a Facebook page you’d be boosted by the comments and support from friends which could help you. Happy to help you/Kathy to set this up – needs to be interactive though – but automated posts from the website can be done easily.
    Best wishes


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