Post-partum.

When anyone asks how my race went, my reply is, “it ranks in the top three best days of my entire life.” With that in mind on this Friday rest day, how do I avoid a post-partum depression? I have three tactics that seem to be working.

1) Have a post-race plan as rigorous as the pre-race plan.

My wife’s birthday landed two days after we returned from Boise. This meant planning and executing a few dinners with friends and family, and making sure her needs were taken care of. It also switched my attention from obsessively replaying a weekend that was All About Me, to focusing on Her. We’re not tit-for-tat, but I have to acknowledge that while in Boise I didn’t really consider anyone else’s needs but my own. Having her birthday fall immediately afterwards was wonderful to happily force myself out of my own selfishness and into facilitating her happiness.

By nature we’re a house that likes to plan. I juggle two full-time jobs and triathlon training, while my wife works for the county doing policy and planning management for the Arts Commission. Both of us depend on calenders and schedules to accomplish our long term goals. I was able to table all of my technology clients’ needs until the day after I landed, and this enabled me to start planning my next two weeks of work. Boise was not cheap – the bike box was a huge fee, the hotel, and meals all racked up the debt and I’m highly motivated to pay that off. We still have three more trips to take this year and with airfare skyrocketing I’m going to have to book a lot of work to pay for it all. Having work to do immediately upon return is good because it gives me new tasks upon which to focus, but I must be careful not to let the return to normalcy eclipse the ecstatic high from Sunday.

2) Perform complete autopsy and post-mortem.

Doing a complete autopsy of the training, nutrition, and race itself has been invaluable. First, I get to re-live the experience repeatedly as I review it and pull it apart for analysis. Each time I finish at the Finish line in that explosion of joy and the crowd’s enthusiasm. Posting that information here has been a way of codifying that happiness so in the future I can re-read my thoughts and feelings and access that happiness again. There are going to be days in the near future that suck, and now I have a resource to review and potentially avert depression.

3) Set new goals.

I wasn’t back a full day before I started looking for another 70.3 race to squeeze in this year. I put myself on the waitlist for Vineman 70.3 up in Sonoma County. It’s a harder, hillier course and I can’t expect to best my Boise time so soon after on an unknown course. But it gives me a new, big goal to put attention and energy into, and it’s a strong motivator to get back to training and maintain my peak fitness for the season. Also, I signed up for the Olympic distance course the day before the Sprint distance course for the Malibu triathlon, as well as tacking on a simple Sprint distance down in Redondo at the Day at the Beach triathlon in October. Filling the race calendar means more goals, more chances to get better at racing, and expanding my skill set for this sport.

These three pieces have kept me buoyant since my return. I’ve heard a number of athletes talk about how after a big race the depression that follows can greatly impact their training. I’m trying to lay a positive foundation for a lifetime of fitness and racing, and much of that success lies in psychological conditioning. The mind is a critical part of the body, a fundamental aspect of the athlete’s system, and with directed practice it can be trained.

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