Having just set the 2010 Beginner Triathlon Group races I started thinking about my first triathlon, it is such a good memory, not just of the race itself, but also of the beginning of a new chapter for me.
It was January, it was frigid cold and I was extremely pregnant- huge! In my large state it felt as though I was destined to forever be tired, big and slightly out of breath! I had planned to be one of those awesome pregnant women who work out through all 3 trimesters and emerge from birth toned and fit. That didn't happen. The first 5 months I threw up daily and when I wasn't throwing up I was lying on the couch trying to amuse my 2yr old without moving. By the time the nausea passed I had a big belly and running felt like I had a suitcase strapped to me. So no running, I walked, did lots of yoga and, well, that's all.
So back to January, I had an epiphany, I was going to do a triathlon! I had supported two friends in June as they completed Mooseman, their first tri and I absolutely fell in love with the support, the camaraderie and the fun of the whole scene. I wanted that! I would have this baby and get fit and do a triathlon.  I couldn't do anything right away so I bought a book, The 12 week triathlete. Within the first chapter the book said "Enter a race, pay the money, then tell 10 friends that you are doing it". Reasoning being that if you did those two things you were financially and personally obliged to do it!  So I signed up, and I signed Matt up too (training together would be good 'couple' time!) and then we told all our friends and then I had a baby!
Fast forward to spring, those first runs back after baby were a bit of a slog. But I had motivation, I was doing a triathlon. the fear and excitement kept me piling the kids into the double jogger and hauling them 3 miles around the block. It got me onto my first road bike, and even back into a bathing suit! The training was a schedule of "take what you can get whenever you can get it", many days I was just too tired after being up all night with an infant and countless rounds of Candyland with a 3 yr old! In fact our main training took place while on vacation in Vermont, we chose a buoy that looked a really really long way off and took turns swimming around it. I'm naturally a decent swimmer (New Zealand genes!) and Matt's a good cyclist so we figured we'd see each other on the course when he passed me on the bike. I think we ran together once and biked twice - so much for 'couple' time!
Training done we headed up to Gilford NH for our very first Timberman triathlon.  The grandparents assumed their duties and off we went. So many fit looking people, so much crazy gear! Logos and sponsorship all over people's backs, wheels that cost more than my bike (maybe more than my car!). But also so many smiles, cheerful comments about the big hills and the calm water. Matt and I started in the First Timers wave - the very last one! We stood and made nervous chatter with other newbies, thinking that the really really far away buoy in Vermont was A LOT closer than these buoys!!! Then, it was time, a countdown and we were off.
The actual race I hardly remember, the swim was ok, the bike was more fun than I had expected (I even managed to hold Matt off until the turn around point, and the run felt crazy (apparently you are supposed to practice running off the bike -ohhh). Due to some cramping in Matt's back I was able to catch up to him on the run and we passed through the finish line of our first triathlon holding hands. 
On their own a swim, a bike ride or a run are just fun, healthy activities, but put together in a race that you have worked for, thought about and put part of yourself into, they are more than just a sum of their parts. Triathlon is a journey, through the planning, the training and the racing your learn so much about yourself and find strength you never new was in you.
As we come to the end of the tri season here in the Northeast I am thinking a lot about recovery.  There are a number of different elements to recovery, from immediate post race fueling to pre-season planning of your races. 

I recently ran the Maine Marathon Half Marathon. I was planning to run the full 26.2 and had been training for the distance as a sidebar to my Half Ironman training. About 2 weeks before the Half I started to think that my mileage was not where it needed to be to complete the marathon, factoring in taper time, recovery time and a mad 24 hour relay race between the two events, I reluctantly decided to switch to the Half Marathon. I have to say, it was hard on race day,  surrounded by friends doing the full I couldn't help but feel as though I was just being a bit lazy! Looking at that decision critically though - it was definitely a smart one and something that I might have foreseen had I planned my season more carefully.  I did not allow my body enough recovery time between my A race triathlon and another heavy hitting endurance event.

As volume increases through training for longer distance events, big miles become the norm. It can be tough to take rest time and reduce your training so substantially - but it is critical to recovery.  It can take up to 6 weeks to fully recover from a marathon, and for triathlon the estimate is 3-5 days for every hour you raced! While this differs for each individual, these numbers are something to keep in mind when you try and jump right back into training!
Here are a few tips to help your post race recovery:
  1. Recovery starts immediately when the race ends, walk around slowly, collect hugs and medals and use this time to let your body re-adjust.
  2. Replenish.  The body absorbs and utilizes fuel best within 30-60 minutes of exercise, look for something with a balance of protein, carbs and sodium. PB&J, bananas, pretzles, bagels and cream cheese - PIZZA..... and yes, chocolate milk is a great recovery food!
  3. Keep drinking, all day! Check your pee - if it's pale yellow you're hydrating properly, if it's dark keep drinking! While a post race beer is great - balance it with an electrolyte drink and water.
  4. Massage. Schedule a massage for the day after to help process the remaining lactic acid in your muscles. Use a foam roller or The Stick to keep blood flowing through your muscles.
  5. Put your feet up! Elevating your legs lets gravity do the work . Elevate them for 3 minutes for every hour of exercise.
  6. Cold therapy. An ice bath, soak in a lake or the ocean, even just a cooler than normal bath can help decrease inflamation and speed muscle recovery.
  7. SLEEP!!!!
After the inital recovery, that is once your body is pain free and you have regained energy levels, you can think about how to resume physical activity. The best plan for the 3 weeks post race is a reverse taper. Where you slowly reduced the volume of training as your race approached, now you slowly increase as your body recovers.  Swimming and cycling are good active recovery workouts as they are lower impact than running, Running can be resumed in shorter amounts with very low intensity. Raising your heart rate slightly will help blood move around the body - think zone 1-2.

With proper recovery you will emerge from your event strong and healthy, ready to tackle the next race.