There are a few misconceptions people have about you when you do an Ironman. 1) You must be in the best shape of your life. 2) A marathon will seem so easy now! False and false.
First, I might have the best endurance of my life, and great willpower to just not stop. But best shape? Not right now. That might be different if I had trained better, but I would guess that for most of the MOP, we don't need to be in tip-top shape. At no point are we really racing, we are just hoping to keep going and survive, getting to the finish line in a reasonable time. Obviously, this is different for FOP.
As for the marathon comment, someone just said this to me yesterday and it made me pause. Yes, the Ironman marathon was ridiculously hard, but a very different hard than a stand alone marathon. It is more mentally challenging and you are just exhausted. When I did the Chicago Marathon in 2011 in 3:32, that was hard! I was pushing it the whole time. So much so that I had a prolonged sympathetic response, meaning that my heart rate and blood pressure stayed elevated for a couple days. It was awful since all I wanted was to sleep but my body truly couldn't calm down. I heard in training that the Ironman marathon isn't a marathon, it is 26 one mile repeats to the next aid station, and that is very true. It is an entirely different beast, and makes me no less afraid or prepared for my next stand alone marathon, whenever that might be.
So, to cut to the chase, while I did an Ironman one month ago (exactly), I do not feel like a runner. These days a nine minute mile is the norm, not the sluggish pace. I have to psych myself up for a 4 mile run, and it isn't easy. My weekly mileage is teensy. I don't look like a runner in the mirror. And I know my marathon PR is way out of reach at this time.
I think part of this is due to a return to triathlons. I spent 2011 focused solely on running. In my marathon build I hit a few 50 mile weeks, and was consistently in the upper 30s to 40something miles. A five mile run was no big deal. 10 mile runs were really no big deal. My pace was comfortably below 8:30, and when I paced the CARA 9:00 group for marathon training, it requiring a lot of looking at my Garmin to make myself slow down. I was always sneaking in a run- before work, at lunch, after work. It was just part of life, and I felt off when I didn't run. I had a great base, so nothing ever hurt. Ahh, the glory days.
Yesterday I ran home from work. 7.6 miles, and I really did enjoy it. I use to run to or from work frequently, and I always found it to be such an enjoyable way to commute, a little confidence boost to start or end the day. While I enjoyed it yesterday, it wasn't easy, and I longed for when that was just part of the routine. Today I went for a 4 mile run at lunch. It hurt. My hips were tight, stomach unhappy, right foot pain (and of course my mind jumps to stress fracture) now that the plantar fasciitis on the left has stopped). Running just seems hard. The main difference between then, when I felt like a runner, and now, when I feel like an imposter, is ease. I rarely struggled on my runs then. I felt like a rockstar when I could bang out five miles at just over an 8 minute pace and think it was easy. I was also able to push it, make it feel hard, but that resulted in awesome times. Now when I push it, I still feel slow.
Right now I am working on building up my running again. Focusing on frequency, getting my body accustomed. Getting my brain in the habit. Getting my brain and my body to not listen to each other. I'm not sure I will be able to get back to my running prime when focused on triathlon, but I'm hoping to at least move in that direction.