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Post-Race Crabbies. Yeah, It’s Real!

As race season is cycling quickly towards us, I wanted to take a moment to be a completely Debbie Downer and tell you about what’s coming after you achieve your big goal(s). You’re so welcome in advance.

Another half Mary in the books... Not my fastest, but the best. "Someday my PR will come!" @sbsontherun @dimityontherun #justkeepmovingforward

Okay, okay… so I am not trying to be a downer.  But there is a very “real” side to the aftermath of a big athletic goal: post-race crabbies. (And I mean depression, not actual crabs. Though depending on the Porta-Potties… anyway, ew.)

Right now, you are probably all fired up, heading in an awesome #justkeepmovingforward trajectory, getting nutrition and food in order, tuning up the bike and your gear, and all that jazz.  

Awesome. This is a great, exciting and scary time.

So… fast forward.  

You have just spent months and months training for your big goal:  a first tri, a 10k, a half marathon, a 70.3 or (God help you) an Ironman.

You finish!  You get the medal! You have the post-race beer(s) and feel like you are on top of the world!


The next morning, you still feel awesome.

The day after that… you start to feel weird.  Like you have something you should  be doing.  But nothing is on your list.  You feel lost.

Back in the saddle.. Again. Day 3 of 3 = 6.5 hours total for three days. Hey that time seems oddly eerie...

A few more days pass, and you are trying to get back in the swing of workouts, or you are taking some time off.  Either way, you are feeling very, very strange. And you may notice that by the end of that week, you feel like crawling under the covers and emerging–oh, say–never.  Or you may spontaneously burst into tears… or a run.

What in the world is this about?

This is more common than you might think. Post-race depression.  And it’s very real.

Chris McCormack, professional triathlete, wrote an article about beating the blues, and a four step plan to get back on track.  You can read it here.

Of course, I am no professional triathlete–I do not get paid  to tri–so I have a different four step plan.

What doesn't kill you (elliptical) makes you stronger (ironman).

Swim Bike Mom’s Four Step Plan to Beating the Post-Race Blues

1.  Admit You Are Awesome

This is an essential part to getting over the post-race crabbies.  After the race, no matter how well you did, there’s some stupid voice that starts to say, “If only I had ______, then I would have finished ______.”  Fill in the blanks with whatever.

  • If only I had not used the bathroom 15 times, then I would have finished faster.  (I don’t know where this one comes from. Really. D’oh.)
  • If only I had not pooped my pants, then I would be without those terrible race pictures.
  • If only I wasn’t so fat, then I would have finished faster.

The “if onlys.”  Stupid things.  No!!!  Leave them on the race course ( if only it were that easy! )

Still, make a conscious effort to ignore the little voices.  Force yourself to think, “I am awesome.”  And make yourself believe it. Immediately!

No matter the finish time, the swim bike klutz episodes that might have happened, or whatever.  You did a race.  You finished.

Now, repeat after me:  I.  AM.  AWESOME.

Expert back in the saddle. #tornmeniscus #bringit2013

2. Blow it Out!

You have worked so hard, been so diligent and dedicated.  Give yourself a few days or weeks to get off the rails—have some drinks, eat some fries, and be naughty.  It’s OKAY.  The key to getting over the blues lies in the fourth step.

Not in your decision to go streaking.

Or watching “Magic Mike.”

Hmmmm. Trick or TREAT?? :)

3. Grieve

Once you have begun to realize, “hey, I am feeling a little blue without this structure of training,” give yourself a chance to grieve through the process. I know this is particularly true with longer distances races. When you have spent 12, 16, 20+ weeks doing a particular thing with a dedicated focus (training), it’s very difficult to release that process. Even though training may have been hell, you somehow miss the insanity of it.

Grieve your long rides (for now), and accept that you are a nutty masochistic triathlete–it will be better in the long run.  Put on your princess crown, and just be.

She let me wear her crown :)

And do you think it’s strange to grieve the loss of 100 mile rides and 2 hours in the pool?  Yes.  Yes, it’s strange.  And guess what?  We are triathletes. We are all kind of strange.

Grieve. Cry. Tantrum… then, pull up your big girl panties, or burly man manties.

Because it’s time to…

Spotted on a 65+ age woman at the gym this morning. Yes! Love it. #speakfromexperience #justkeepmovingforward

4.  Find the Love and Suck It Up, Buttercup!

This is when you begin to talk to yourself and remind yourself how much you love the sport.  You must focus and remember the “why” behind triathlon and racing, and remind yourself of the sheer joy of the finish line.

Once you have summoned up even an inkling of love again, then get your butt moving.  Drag your ass out of bed and down the street and into the gym.  Get going, and eventually, you’ll feel the Beast Mode start to bubble up.  You’ll find races you “need” to sign up. And the process will start over again.

A little more on the bottom half of that arm than I would like... But channeling my hero @milesmusclesmom anyway!  One hour down. #imcda

Remember that there is no guaranteed time that any person must have to beat this cycle.  Some people are immediately okay. Some take years off.

I, for one, took almost 6 months to crawl out of the post-Ironman crabbies.  But I did. And I am in love with this crazy sport all over again.

Meredith Atwood-Swim Bike Mom- Motivational Monday 8



  • Todd

    February 26, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    I get the crabbies exactly the opposite. Maybe I haven’t done enough tris yet (3).

    The closer the event gets, the more and more pressure I feel. Before one of them last year, I was absolutely miserable the last couple weeks before it. Training was intolerable. I told my trainer I wanted to take a couple weeks off after the event because I felt like I was going to implode. I thought I was tired of racing, period.

    Once I finished the race, though, and did better than I expected, all the weight was gone. We were literally on the way home from the race and I texted my trainer (my wife was driving!) and said “All that stuff I said last week–never mind. I’m gonna kick the next one in the ass. Let’s go.”

  • Michelle

    February 26, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    I completed my first marathon last October. Post race depression blew my taper grouchiness out of the water….Thankfully my marathon high lasted for a full week and during that time I was invincible and registered for multiple races. Running again was my saving grace. I am not sure how my family put up with me, must be love.
    Now I am taking on my first Sprint! I love your website, THANK YOU for being exactly who you are.

  • Julie Moscol

    February 26, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Ugh. Totally in the middle of post Goofy crabbiness… Thanks for telling me EXACTLY what I needed to hear today! Muncie 70.3, here I come (if I can just get my butt in the friggin pool again… Lawdy)!

  • amy

    February 26, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    It’s funny that you write about this…I am a recent follower of SBM and was telling my husband about you…he’s completed three ironmans, he does the 6-month crabbies followed by the 6-month hymn/haw of which one he “MIGHT” do next and then when the time comes to sign up, he says “oh hey btw, I think i’m going to IM(insert race here)”

    I have yet to complete an IM, don’t know if I will. I’m running the NYC marathon and we have a bet that if I finish under 5hrs I have to do Boulder 70.3 in 2015…if I don’t, he gets to go hunting ALL season, without a gripe from me, now, i really don’t mind that he hunts, just the length of time he hunts, in fact, i’d rather he train for another IM than hunt but that’s me. So yes, i am going to finish under 5 hours, even if it’s 4:59:59. 🙂 You are very inspirational!! 🙂 thanks!!

  • Therese Slechta

    February 26, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    I had the sydrome after my first Ironman in 2006. at that time I read about it, and it was called PISS – “post Ironman sadness sydrome. ” it’s that dangling goal for 1 year, it’s hours and hours of training, then one day ” poof ” its over. its’ gone. what’s next? after several months of suffering for me I realized life will go on. I went on to do 2 more Ironman’s, and I never had it after those last 2. just relief it was over….. lol No Ironman’s in my future either, still racing just much smaller scale.

  • Kimberly Heath

    February 26, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    You have NO idea how much I needed this tonight! I did my first Sprint tri last August and I have been lost and depressed ever since. I didn’t have any clue where to go, what to do, or how to get out of my funk. While I was training, I signed up for a mini marathon that is now in 9 weeks. I haven’t done ANY training since August. I’ve had the occasional run or walk and zumba class, but I’ve gained back a lot of weight and have lost so much of my fitness. It was funny, last night I actually had the thought, what if I did a tri in the Fall? I even talked to my husband about it last night and wanted to make sure he was okay with it. His biggest concern was me getting into another funk again (even thought I’m not even out of the one I’m in! lol). This almost seems like a sign to me, maybe I’m ready to come back. Just maybe.

  • Dilwyn

    February 26, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    As a new entrant to the world of tris and an Ironman hopeful this December I find your site great!

    Last year I completed a personal challenge of running a half / full marathon in every Australian state and territory. Come October when I had completed the challnge I had the same empty feeling…it was then that insanity took over and I decided to sign up for my first Ironman (Dec ’15!).

    Dangerous thing the post race crabbies (insanity)…

    Thanks for the posts and if I can hope to chart my jorney half as well as you have done I will be pleased! (

  • alison wentworth

    February 27, 2014 at 12:10 am

    Mine came in the form of “why-hasn’t-everything-in-my-life-become-as-amazing-as-I-clearly-am?” A perpetual race schedule during “the season” kept the Having No Structure madness away. I just can’t seem to understand how it is that things go back to normal. Here I am, having done ____________ and so why does my child have a tantrum in Target? Doesn’t she understand how great I am for having accomplished ________? Everyone told me how proud they are of me, so why are there dirty dishes? I was 58th in my age group; that doesn’t make the national news? I want to wear my medal to dinner and the tshirt to work. Everyday. For a month. “you didn’t hear? I did ____________.” Go ahead, just ask me. Why aren’t they asking me? Let’s face it, to do this crap you have to have a healthy dose of narcissism…Double Edge Sword.

  • Katie

    February 27, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    SO true. I had my big set of races this past weekend (a 5k/10k/half in 3 days) and now that they’re over I just feel so BLAH. I’m seriously considering doing another half this weekend regardless of how slow I may be just to get myself over it…but that would probably make it worse!


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