post-event blues

What the Funk? Dealing with the Post-Event Blues

Topics Covered In This Episode:

  • Physical and psychological responses to completing a major goal.
  • Three post-event questions to ask yourself
  • Planning ahead to mitigate the post-event funk.
  • Distinguishing post-race funk from overtraining
  • Managing family expectations during post-event period
  • Practical examples from iconic events:


In this episode, host and CTS Coach Adam Pulford is joined by CTS Pro Coach Jane Marshall. A two-time US Masters National Champion in cross-country mountain biking and a mom to two children under the age of 5, Marshall has been a coach with CTS since 2006. She has competed in and prepared athletes for some of the world’s most challenging events, including:

  • Leadville 100 MTB
  • Leadville 100 Run
  • Leadman
  • La Ruta de los Conquistadores
  • Cape Epic
  • Breck Epic
  • Ironman World Championships
  • Ironman 70.3 World Championships
  • RAAM
  • Unbound Gravel

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Episode Transcription:

Please note that this is an automated transcription and may contain errors. Please refer to the episode audio for clarification.

Adam Pulford (00:08):

Optimal performance at big races or even surviving huge challenges as an athlete is just as much psychological as it is physiological. And in the aftermath of that big event, what are you supposed to do with your mind as your body rests? This is a tricky one that I struggle with as a coach and each athlete can be a little different. So how can you get yourself out of that post race funk, and what the heck is that funk that we feel after our a race is over for the year? And we just can’t put a finger on like what we’re feeling and why we feel kind of so low. Well, I brought in a colleague that has a lot of experience with guiding athletes through the ups and downs of these iconic experiences. So let’s turn to her and let’s learn from her on how best to navigate the tricky waters of the emotional athlete in that post race funk. So, Jane Marshall, welcome back to the train right podcast.

Jane Marshall (01:07):

Thanks for having me again.

Adam Pulford (01:09):

Yeah, for sure. Well, I, I know, I mean, you may even have some post race funk too. Rolling off of mountain bike, national championships. How you doing out there in Colorado?

Jane Marshall (01:21):

We’re good. I did some yoga this morning. I had an extra cup of coffee and ready to get on the podcast and talk this out.

Adam Pulford (01:30):

Awesome. Very cool. So for our listeners who didn’t catch your first episode, or may not know you, can you describe who you are and what you do a little bit more to our listeners?

Jane Marshall (01:41):

Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been coaching with CTS since 2006 live outside of Denver in the beautiful foothills in Ken Caryl. I’m married and I have two crazy wonderful little children who keep me busy in addition to coaching full-time and I love racing bikes especially mountain bikes Anything short long you name it, I’ve done it. And I love it.

Adam Pulford (02:11):

Very cool. Very cool. Well and Jane, how, I mean, how many years have you been coaching now?

Jane Marshall (02:19):

You’re making me do math. 2006. So for, was it 16 years?

Adam Pulford (02:24):

16 years. Yeah.

Jane Marshall (02:25):

Years long. It’s time has gone fast.

Adam Pulford (02:29):

Yeah, exactly. And, and the reason I bring that up is if you’ve been coaching for, I don’t know, longer than three years, like you, you get enough experience with athletes in athletes are emotional. Like if there, if you’re coaching the, the type, a driven kind of CEO type or the lead athletes, I mean, I don’t, I don’t think I have an athlete. That’s not a type a athlete, I guess. How about you?

Jane Marshall (02:56):

I would agree with that, you know, they’re they come to us because they’re driven.

Adam Pulford (03:01):

So the reason I, I say all of that too, is so Jane has the experience and, and we, we both work with these athlete types and, and you, the listener are probably that type as well. And, and you probably know in yourself as, as we know, and working with the, these athletes is the emotional highs of when training is going great and say the race has been awesome. You also get those emotional lows. So we want to talk to you pretty plainly about how we do it as coaches and how to kind of level the athlete out a little bit as we’re going and, and kind of keep them focused and grounded throughout the premise of this episode. And I’ll go back to you, Jane, when we talk about we, we use the word funk, or I use the word post race funk, what are we really talking about? Can you describe that to our listeners a little bit more?

Jane Marshall (03:51):

Yeah. And I think the first thing is like bringing awareness. Some people don’t even realize that they’re experiencing this, you know, post race funker, mm-hmm, <affirmative> depression, they’ve put all this time and energy and preparation into a big race, big event, big goal. And then it finishes and it’s, you know, one you’re physically tired from doing your big goal race or event. And then there’s the mental, emotional side where all of a sudden this thing is done. And you know, now what, and where do you put your time and energy? And you have all these feelings and emotions after the race has been done. You know, maybe it went well, maybe it didn’t and how to process that and, you know, move on and figure out what’s next. And so there’s, there’s a lot going on, you know, in the time, you know, hours, days, weeks after, after those big goal events.

Adam Pulford (04:50):

So you, you mentioned the physical, you mentioned the, the mental describe to me, if you, if you have an athlete that has some physical funk going on, what, what are you noticing on the coaching side? Like physically, what are they lacking or what are they doing?

Jane Marshall (05:06):

Yeah. Well, I mean, you know, you’re tired and you’re beat up fr from your event. And I think a lot of people underestimate the time it takes to recover from these big events, you know, even something short, cross country race, you know, it could be a week or two. And then the longer, the harder, the more epic the event, the longer it’s gonna take to recover. I mean, you know, half iron man could take you four to six weeks, you know, iron man, eight weeks. And, you know, I know the ultra runners, like coop talks about, you know, after doing a hundred mile run, I mean, it could be months, you know, before you <laugh>, you can even walk, right. So that physical side and most athletes, you know, maybe they think they can just pick up the training the week after and, you know, they really need to take a step back and let their body physically recover with that recovery week and, you know, backing off some structured training.

Adam Pulford (06:02):

Yeah, yeah. That that’s exactly it. And, and I think specifically what I notice on my end with some of my athletes is when, when they’re super cooked after a, a big event is they’re and this is just from the physical side at first is their perceived effort for the given power or pace is mm-hmm <affirmative> is higher and usually a lot higher mm-hmm <affirmative> like, for example, if a normal, like, if they try to do threshold, for example, it feels mm-hmm, <affirmative> like a maximum effort. Yeah. Or if they even do like a higher aerobic or like endurance, that feels more like threshold to them and they either cut it short and quit and come back or they like keep on charging hard and it’s like, I’m so tired. Oh my God. Like perceived effort high. Hopefully they’re, hopefully they’re actually reporting that too.

Jane Marshall (06:50):

Yeah. And not just yeah. Continuing as normal. Yeah. Communication is key folks.

Adam Pulford (06:55):

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. For sure. So mentally then, if, if that’s a physical, if we can just say, maybe they’re not performing as normal, you say in training or something like that. That’s, that’s the physical mentally what’s describe some issues that could be coming up. If your athletes have some funk, what do you notice say in training peaks comments, or if you meet with them face to face, if you’re riding with them, what do you see from your athletes?

Jane Marshall (07:27):

Yeah, I would say some of it can mimic, you know, depression symptoms, you know, listlessness, you know, kind of loss of focus you know, really down in the dumps, extra emotional, I’ve got a great story of my husband watching, you know, sappy movies coming back on airplanes and crying, you know, just having kind of some emotional releases and things are a little out of the, you know, normal, maybe, you know, more, you know, snappy with family or, you know, work or, you know, or lack of motivation too. You know, kind of go from this big high to a low, low, you know, I’d say maybe with the emotional side, there’s a greater variety of things that we see versus the physical side, cuz everyone processes those things differently. You know, someone may get sad and cry. Someone may be just really down the dumbs and quiet and, you know, learning your athlete’s personalities and how each of them process those things. And you can tell you build that relationship and you can tell when things are out of the normal and, you know, bring it up and talk about it.

Adam Pulford (08:34):

Yeah. That’s a really good point in, in, in the, the spectrum of things. I, I, I don’t think that, I thought that one through before this episode mm-hmm <affirmative> I was in my mind was more like, oh, lack of motivation, maybe a look, a little bit more irritable and all this kind of stuff. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> but yeah, you definitely get some you know, the, the cognitive for humans is, is vast and far. Right. <laugh> I love Brad. I know Brad, her husband quite well and, and I could see him watching some sappy movies too, for

Jane Marshall (09:04):

Sure. Yeah. And trying to hide it from the flight attendants.

Adam Pulford (09:07):

Yeah, totally.

Jane Marshall (09:09):

So it’s okay to cry guys. It’s okay. To

Adam Pulford (09:10):

Cry. Totally. Absolutely. Especially after that, after, after that raises over man, it’s time to cry. Yeah. Yeah. So I guess like where we’re going with this is physically there’s some under performance going on or the body is just not being able to run in all cylinders. Like it had been even, you know, last week or a couple weeks ago, mm-hmm, <affirmative> cognitively, there’s usually a lack of motivation. Like you just don’t want to get after it. Like you normally do. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> maybe you’re sleeping more and maybe you’re feeling all of the, all of the feelings mm-hmm <affirmative> and not just,

Jane Marshall (09:46):

Yeah, you don’t wanna go out and ride your bike or you don’t wanna go out and run and that’s the point that’s normal.

Adam Pulford (09:51):

Yep. Yeah. That is super normal. And you know, so for listeners, maybe people are in this concept is, is very popular, but people will say, oh, I’m overtrained right. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>. And, and so I, I think it’s just to put a real, just pump the brakes a little bit. We’re not talking about overtraining cause that’s a whole other thing in itself. I mm-hmm <affirmative> I would argue that it doesn’t exist as over as defined by overtraining. However, there there’s also overreaching that goes on, that’s a fairly functional that has like, it’s adjacent to what we’re talking about. And, but yet when we’re talking about, I don’t know, funk, post race funk, specifically coming off of these huge races, I would say that there is like overreaching with more mind stuff going on. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> would you, would you agree with that?

Jane Marshall (10:46):

Yeah, absolutely. And you think you’ve put all, you know, everything that our athletes have fo like leading up to a big event let’s I don’t know leadvilles coming up mm-hmm <affirmative>, you’ve spent months where you’ve lived and died by, you know, your Leadville training and all of a sudden the race is done and it’s you lose this sense of structure and almost your sense of being and, and purpose, you know, even if the race went well and it’s, you know, it takes, you know, a week or more to kind of recalibrate and, and find your footing and find your, your steering in your direction again, you know, kind of that what’s next. And that, that a lot of the athletes, we work with thrive off having a plan and structure and working towards that goal. And then when all of a sudden that’s done, you know, it’s, what’s next.

Jane Marshall (11:39):

And I find it really helpful with my athletes to talk about that ahead of time and explaining to them that that’s, you know, that this could very well happen and likely it will, this is kind of what to expect, ride that wave, you know, we’ll talk through it, we’ll deal with it just, and know that it’s normal and normalize it. So they don’t feel like, well, what’s wrong with me? Some, you know, something’s wrong, what’s, it’s not right. And it can, it can go a long way to help people process and, you know, move on to the next cool thing.

Adam Pulford (12:10):

Yeah. And it can emphasize that enough. I think Jane bringing that up right away is just, is super important for anybody listening to this is just like number one, it’s likely gonna happen. Right. It’s pretty normal. Yeah. And it’s okay for that to happen. Yeah. Right. And is, and then the powerful part is knowing that it will likely happen if it does happen to you, then you’re just like, oh, I have all these emotions. I wanna watch this sappy movie. Or I want to yell at my dog or something, whatever it is like mm-hmm <affirmative> okay. Fine. Yeah. Like go for it. But then here’s some tips that are gonna reign you back a little bit. So, so it’s perfectly normal. Cool to you, Jane, like, would you consider this funk good or bad? Would you qualify it as in either one of those bins?

Jane Marshall (13:01):

No, I know. I think it’s like as part of life and it’s part of doing a big event and I don’t think it’s, you know, it’s not good or bad. It just, it is. And it’s, you know, part of the feeling and the emotion and what we go through as athletes. And, you know, you may have varying degrees of it depending on the event and how much you had emotionally invested, you know, or in, you know, time, everything into it. And what happened during the event too, can I’d say have a big impact on how, how you feel post event. Especially if it didn’t go well and exactly you made some mistakes out there or didn’t have a good day that can, you know, make it, make it worse. Maybe that’s a good thing. Like, you know, what happened and how you process it can drive whether this is a good funk or a bad funk.

Adam Pulford (13:53):

Sure. Yeah. Yeah. And, and we’ll get into some specific examples here in, in a few minutes where we can like go a little deeper on some of that, but I’d say for, for now Jane, like, I’ll, I’ll probably just throw like five different questions at you all at once. Okay. And it’s, so the first question I had is, well, how do we prevent this? Like, how do we prevent the post race funk? But then I was like, well, can we prevent this? Yeah. Or should we, right. And then it goes back to the good or bad, and it’s like, oh, if it’s not good or bad, then why are we trying to prevent this? So take, take all of that, those jumbled questions as you want. Like how do we prevent this? And do you, I guess, as a coach and walk us through a little bit on how you coach athletes.

Jane Marshall (14:38):

Yeah. So I’m big on, you know, feel the feelings, you know, let ’em happen. And, you know, I said before bringing awareness to it and we’re gonna have some of these feelings and I think processing an event, you know, what went well, what didn’t, you know, celebrating the victories, you know, working on fixing and finding solutions for what didn’t go well. And the hardest part is sometimes we have bad days and we don’t know why. And I’d say that’s one of the hardest parts about being a coach and coaching someone through that. So, you know, I don’t think we can prevent it, but bringing awareness, we can help our athletes maybe, you know, kind of narrow the, the wave of the highs and the lows and kind of, you know, get them maybe a little bit more in the middle ground where, you know, it’s just little bumps instead of, you know, big waves of emotion.

Jane Marshall (15:31):

And then, you know, especially if they have other events coming up, you know, getting them back into training as quickly as possible or into a point where they’re enjoying riding or running or doing their triathlon. Right. It’s at the end of the day, my goal with an athlete is when they finish an event, as I always want them to want to get back on their bike and want to get back to some form of training, you know, what it looks like for them and not do an event and then hang up their bike for five years because they were so just done, you know, physically, emotionally, mentally after. So I’d say yes, let’s, you know, feel the feels, expect it, know it, you know, try to level it a little bit and, you know, let the athlete do what they need to do to work through all the, the emotions and things, but, you know, get them and steer them, guide them back into training, you know, on, on the schedule that’s appropriate for them. Yeah.

Adam Pulford (16:29):

That’s a great answer. And, and I would say I do something pretty similar in that regard where I, I think as coaches, we, we try to get our athletes to, you know, allow that, you know, OB allow the human feeling. I mean, it sounds crazy, but like for sure, because I think some of our athletes mute that about themselves and you kind of have to, when it comes to physical training, cuz with what our athletes are doing, it’s pretty silly, right? Just like the, the sheer pain and suffering that goes into some of these events and the higher up you go and elite athletics or the sillier you go and the bucket list events. I mean, it can get pretty gnarly out there. And so you have to mute some of those human feelings to get through some of this stuff. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>, and that’s where the grin and Barrett or the type a personality really shines through.

Adam Pulford (17:20):

And they get super stoked and very high to come into this event. And as I said before, that can translate to the down portion of it. And I think as coaches, it’s part of our job to make sure that they’re high is not too high, meaning like not getting overly grandiose about their ability. Like, Hey, you got some limitations here. Like you have to pace, you have to drink, you have to eat. All right. <Laugh> you’re not gonna yep. And then also with the lows, it’s like, alright, you’re gonna experience these lows, but let’s not hit rock bottom. So yep. Here’s, what’s gonna happen. Here are some things that you can do to, you know, not go down so low and as observe like myself as I’m coming out of some of these big races with my athletes, I just kind of jotted down probably three things that I normally ask my athletes.

Adam Pulford (18:13):

And for any of my athletes actually listening, they’d be like, oh yeah, he does do that. But it’s like, I, the first one is actually, what are the top three things you learned from this event? Mm-Hmm <affirmative> right. And so whether it is, you know, short, you know, criterium like national championship or something like that, or a huge stage race or some, like I tried to get at least two or three things that the athlete learned, I then asked them if, you know, knowing what you know now, like you, you saw yourself a race and you had the chance to do it again. What would you do differently? Mm-Hmm <affirmative> and so it, it makes them think and kind of like mentally rehearse, give another go. Okay. So then it’s another learning thing. And then finally, when it comes down to this like fun and why do I feel so terrible?

Adam Pulford (19:02):

Why can’t I do 200 Watts or whatever? It’s I say, well, that’s a good sign. Cuz remember in training the whole, the whole purpose of training is to get tired. Then you rest and then you get better. You form an adaptation and you’re so tired right now. If you rest, you’re gonna get that much faster. So I, I do get pretty excited when someone gets themselves pretty funky <laugh> cuz it means that they’ve like really gave that all like physically and emotionally for an event. And overall I would categorize this as not a bad thing. The only bad thing that could occur from this is if you you know, don’t allow for the recovery and the rejuvenation and just charge forward blindly. Yeah. That’s not good agree. So as we’re kind of transitioning into some of these we’re gonna break down the physical side and the mental side a little bit more, but like maybe just a quick disclaimer is Jane and I are not psychologists.

Adam Pulford (19:58):

So the terms that we’re using, they’re not clinical official terms or anything like that. It’s like real coach talk <laugh>, you know, it’s the language that we use with our athletes. So if you are sports psychologist that listening to this, or you have a sports psychologist, like you’re not gonna, there are probably like different directions that you could take with this podcast, but we’re, we’re probably not gonna go there. We’re just helping you. We’re just coaching you through this. So just know that but the two things that Jane mentioned above with kind of the, the physical and the mental let’s start with the physical first, because I view that as the more simple side of it, would you agree? Yep. All right. A hundred percent. So what’s what are like the main things physically that you coach somebody through to get them to stop the funk?

Jane Marshall (20:53):

Yeah. sleep mm-hmm

Adam Pulford (20:56):


Jane Marshall (20:58):

Take good rest. So, you know, take those rest days, take those recovery days which can be challenging for a lot of athletes, especially coming out of an event where it was, you know, full gas training and, you know, just take a step back and rest, allow your body to recover. You know, make sure you’re eating, you know, taking care of yourself, eating right, drinking. Right. you know, some people athletes can kind of go, you know, big events done and they can go, you know, big off the bandwagon with eating and, you know, drinking and to really let your body recover on the physical side is, you know, keep putting good things in you know, and move, you know, move your body, you know, a little bit so easy walks, rides lower intensity exercise and, you know, fill your cup with, you know, family time or things that you maybe you didn’t get to do when you were so hard in training, you know, the friend’s side of things or, you know, take the dog for extra walk, something like that. Yep.

Adam Pulford (22:04):

I think that for me, the first week after a big event, the more, the more I coach, the longer I coach, the more I’ll, I’ll still build this in training peaks, but I’ll be like the weekly goals are, do what you want and

Jane Marshall (22:18):

Yeah, it’s unstructured,

Adam Pulford (22:19):

Unstructured. And I’ll sometimes like, depending on the personality type, I will build like recovery miles, endurance, smiles, rest, state, recovery miles, endurance smells rest day. Right.

Jane Marshall (22:30):

You know who you are, those athletes who, if you put on structure, this go ride there, bike all day. For sure. And so some of those we have, you have to schedule some things, but for a lot of people, it’s just, yeah. Take a break from the, you know, the structure and do what you want. Yep.

Adam Pulford (22:44):

So, and so that autonomy, I think has pertains to the rhythm of their training is if you give them that autonomy, it’s kind of silly to think about that. But like you are as the coach, you’re giving them the reins and that there’s a lot of stress relief that just goes on in that. And I’ll, and I’ll do that for a week, sometimes two weeks. Right. Yep. And I think it’s super important. And that’s like from the physical side in the training that’s number, that’s not number one. I think number one, as you said, was the, was the sleep in the rest is just like mm-hmm, <affirmative> taking it down. Yep. But yeah, getting away from high intensity stuff, just doing low intensity, keeping the body moving that’s that’s huge on the mental side, what are some things that you like deploy or talk about with your athletes to get them recovered?

Jane Marshall (23:37):

Yeah. Everyone’s, I’d say that there’s a variety of things, but you know, talking to them about, you know, doing what they need that week, you know, on, on the bike, off the bike. So some people maybe, yeah, I need a week off. I need to spend time with my family. I need to catch up on work. I need to go on vacation. I need to do something different you know, physically go for hikes instead of rides or go to yoga. And some people again are, you know, let’s not go for a five hour trail run and destroy ourselves, but yeah, go for a two hour hike with the dog and the family and just do something different. A mental break from the intense, specific training for the event.

Adam Pulford (24:21):

Yep. That’s, that’s super good. In quick disclaimer, for those athletes that do the five hour hike and they say, well, coach Adam or coach Jane, it was low intensity. Well, if you’re a cyclist and you rattle off a five hour hike, yes. It’s low intensity. Yes. Your cardiovascular system can handle it. That’s why it’s like, I don’t feel bad, but the next day your wrecked is because structurally your muscles just can’t handle all these eccentric forces. No, anyways please don’t do that. Yeah. On the mental side. I think the biggest thing for me is, is what I try to do with my athletes is I take away expectation. Right? Mm-hmm <affirmative> like the expectation to perform the expectation. Really do anything. I, I always, I say be a human for a week or two. Yeah. Normal human. Yeah.

Jane Marshall (25:05):

Go have, go have fun. Go, you know, meet with friends, see people, family time, whatever is gonna fill your cup. Yeah. On that side, things that you’ve had to sacrifice to get ready for your big event. And it can go a long way.

Adam Pulford (25:17):

Yeah. And, and I think those are pretty standard go-tos but I think like let’s have some real talk for a minute because if you do have family in a high demanding job and you’ve been burning the candle at both ends to knock out Kona or something, mm-hmm <affirmative> you get done with it. You come back, you got a stack of work, you got the ki like your spouse has been taking care of the kids for the past six months. And there there’s probably some expectation and pressure there. Right? Yep. So how do you deal with that? Or how would you advise to deal with that?

Jane Marshall (25:55):

I’m always, you know, very prepared to talking about that ahead of time and then making sure, you know, the whole family and everybody is prepared, right. Come back. Okay. You know, mom’s tired because she just did this big event. You know, we’re gonna have an easy day today, but tomorrow we can go to the park and play or go to the water park or do whatever fun things we’re gonna do. And so I think just communication and know that have the athlete know that yeah, they’re gonna be physically tired, mentally tired catching up and you know, maybe yeah. Feeling those lows and it’s gonna feel pretty overwhelming. And I think that is very much, you know, a piece of the mental side and planning ahead and yeah. Make things easier. So if you’ve got all this stuff, you know, do takeout for a couple days or, you know, eat ROS history, chicken, and salad, or does, you know, make things, you know, easier, your take some, try to take some things off your plate so that, you know, you can match those work or family demands or, you know, whatev whatever else you have going on.

Jane Marshall (27:06):

Yeah. and kind of yeah. Prepare ahead of time and set yourself up for success in that area.

Adam Pulford (27:13):

Yeah. It really comes down to planning and communication around it. And I think if you do have a family and you’re an endurance athlete to do it well, my athletes anyway, the ones who do it well, they, they get the family on board. They communicate really well. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> and coach is kind of part of that as well. Right. Yeah. So I think it’s not just a post race sort of thing. That’s like an annual annual thing, an annual planning thing, for sure.

Jane Marshall (27:39):

Yeah. And what the athletes that I find even the most successful are the ones where I talk to their partner. Yeah. You know, I have their partners, mm-hmm <affirmative> cell phone or whatever, and you get and get texts and it’s like, sometimes you get the real story of what’s going on and they’re, you know, fully invested in their partners, training and events. They know what’s going on. They know the expectations, every, you know, open lines of communication. And that can go a long way. So if you’re coached, have your partner communicate with a coach too, it can, you’d be surprised at what it can do. The coach probably end up coaching the athlete better cuz they’ll know the true story of what’s going on.

Adam Pulford (28:19):

Yeah. Yeah. I think so. I think so. So when it comes down to like mentally and physically Jane, like they get done with the big event and they get done with we’ll get into some specifics here in one second, but how soon should they sign up for that next event? And is that a good thing? Like, do you encourage that at, as part of getting out of the post race funk to get them looking forward to that? Or do you say mm-hmm <affirmative> hold on here a little bit. How do you handle that one?

Jane Marshall (28:53):

Yeah. Oh, it depends on how big the event was and oftentimes athletes will have something else set up already to go in or whether the next season you know, if it’s, if they’re really struggling, you know, we’ll, you know, talk about it. You know, maybe after a week or two, you know, bring it up. And sometimes if it’s a, it’s a, if it’s a biggie, you know, big stage race, you know, big ultra, then it’s, you know, we may wait five or six weeks before they may not even mentally be able to think about it in something else. They’re so blown. So kind of have to fill that out with athlete and the person. But I’d say it’s probably 50 50 with, you know, people that are motivated and wanna sign up for the next thing. You know, we don’t wanna do Leadville and then have something on the calendar two weeks later, you know, we wanna have a good break in there to allow the recovery and the next training build. But if they’re excited to talk about it, you know, absolutely talk it through, you know, throw some ideas around that can be motivating. You know, if they’re not ready then, you know, pump the brakes, let ’em get into a mental space where they’re, you know, ready and excited to talk about the next thing.

Adam Pulford (30:06):

Yeah. Yeah. I, I do think that it can go either way. And the answer to that one is it depends for sure. Yep. So I wanna walk through a couple of examples to answer that question of it depends cause I, I do not like hiding behind that one. So I’ve kind of compiled a list of events that either you’ve done or your athletes have done. And, and just, we will kind of blow through this a little bit. But you mentioned like a, like a long, big stage race. And the one that I picked for this one is Cape epic. And the reason why I chose this one is because for athletes in north America, this, this comes pretty early, early on mm-hmm <affirmative>, it’s usually in March. And so, and it’s a, it’s a seven day stage rate with a prologue and it’s for north Americans halfway around the world for most people it’s halfway around the world and it’s in South Africa. Yeah. So with that race kind of describe the demands of the race, kind of what goes on like super high level in training, in logistics in terms of kind of the stressors there. And mm-hmm <affirmative>, then we’ll get into like some post race funk about that. So describe the race. Yeah. A little bit.

Jane Marshall (31:18):

Well, yeah, it’s, I mean, it’s a big one. I would say it’s one of the hardest stage races out there, you know, hardest events in its early season for north America. So people doing this, you know, you’re on in the fall. So you’ve been preparing for this for a few months through the holidays, which can be really challenging. A lot goes into it. You’re traveling, you know, all the way over to South Africa, the logistics are challenging, the flights the food staying healthy over there, you know, not getting sick. It’s a, I’d say this is a big financial, physical, big time investment. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> you know, the cool thing about it is it is early and you want, if you rest properly from this one and you know, recover, get through, you’re gonna come out with a really good amount of fitness mm-hmm <affirmative> to set yourself up to do something, you know, later in the year. But that’s where we were talking about, you know, next race planning is depending on the level of the athlete that they’re gonna need, you know, maybe four months to kind before they’re ready to do something else. And I would say maybe even longer for some people yep. Not jumping in and doing something in may. Right. We’re looking to like August or the fall timeframe.

Adam Pulford (32:42):

Yeah. Yeah. And in terms of like a major thing, and I think that it’s also, it’s good to distinguish that like a lot of amateurs that that would definitely be a, a timeline that’s appropriate. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> if, if anybody who is interested in Cape epic or have listened to podcast, you know, the Blevins and Kate Courtney and a lot of like pros will start their season with that. And then you see them still racing world cups and, and stuff like this. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>, but that’s, it’s a different animal of sorts because they, they have little other stretch that’s their job. Right. So they need to get that into the system and then they’re flying. However, it can be cost like that’s risky for, for them as well, because if it doesn’t go well, they now have a huge recovery block that’s needed before some of these big races mm-hmm <affirmative> right. And so if it doesn’t go well for say a pro or an amateur Jane mm-hmm, <affirmative> like, <laugh> you, you cued the race up really well, but like, what are some stuff that you’ve experienced either personally from doing this race or that your athletes

Jane Marshall (33:50):

Have, you know, it’s technical, so mountain biking, you know, the, the risk of getting injured. Yeah. So I’ve had athletes have gone over and, you know, had some pretty, you know, decent crashes. And then now we’ve got, you know, a back injury or a broken collarbone and, you know, that’s like six weeks of recovery or, you know, off time just to recover from an injury. You know, traveling overseas, I’d say I’d preface this, like outside of Europe, you know, the GI stuff is a huge risk. And I think, I think everyone who has gone to Cape epic has had some GI issue which can be lingering, take

Adam Pulford (34:30):

50% of the field gets something every year.

Jane Marshall (34:32):

Yeah. Every year. And it’s just the bacteria levels in their water are different. Were, you know, people from north America aren’t used to it, you know, I ended up at a clinic, you know, after the first year that I was there and, you know, thank goodness for Cipro. And, but that that’s gonna lengthen that recovery time. Yeah. I mean, I was shelled and then you’re having to fly back, you know, to red eye flights, you know, I think maybe now they have a direct flight, but back then, you know, it’s just, you come back from that and you’re exhausted from traveling time change, you know, chances are, you’ve gotten some sickness, you know, or hit the deck over there and that’s gonna extend and add to that recovery time. Yeah. But you know, the good news is you’ve done, you know, eight huge days on the mountain bike. And if you rest properly, you’re gonna get super fit. Yeah.

Adam Pulford (35:24):


Jane Marshall (35:24):

Sure. And hopefully be, you know, motivated and pumped coming out of that race, which I think everyone is because it’s an amazing experience. And so we wanna balance those and keep people pumped and going. And I, I think almost everyone, you know, once they’re recovered, they do something else big that same year mm-hmm <affirmative>. So if you do K epic in 2023, you know, looking, I’d say, you know, the pros obviously get back to it sooner, but if you’re an amateur, you know, you look for something late summer, fall time frame, and you’ll be going good and ready to tackle something else. Big.

Adam Pulford (35:59):

Yeah. Agree with that. And I think, you know, if the re if a race scenario, like this goes good or bad, you definitely need to roll out of there, take everything that we just talked about. And in the way of physical and mental recovery for three to four weeks before you start hitting the training hard again, and then, you know, don’t sign up for things because cuz then you’re just out money in some emotion too. That’s why we’re saying mm-hmm, <affirmative>, don’t sign up for anything just yet, because so much stuff could change. And every athlete that I’ve coached you know, from the, from the pointy end of the race to the slow end of the race on this one, it hits em way more than they think. And that’s the reason I chose this race. Cause it’s big. And so might as well start big and swing for the fence on these examples.

Adam Pulford (36:46):

Right? Yep. All right. So example number two is like a mid season sort of race and let’s just stick with like I mean north America, but also most, most people have their national championships. July-Ish okay. So if we’re talking about a one day race or maybe a one weekend race, or maybe somebody’s not chasing national championships, but Leadville Leadville kind of comes in August. So mid, late season, whatever mm-hmm <affirmative> after a one day big race walk us through what you would recommend from a, a recovery standpoint physically, mentally just kinda like high level on that and what to expect.

Jane Marshall (37:26):

Yeah. So recovery from those, I feel like it’s mentally, there may be a little more challenging than like a stage race, right? Stage race. You’re kind of, you get to go out there day after day and kind of by the end, you’re like, I don’t wanna ride my bike anymore. But a one day, you know, you put everything into this one day and the room for error and mistakes is a little you can’t go out there the next day and try to catch the team in front of you. So the stakes are a little higher and that can weigh more on the mental side of things and maybe make that post post event, post race, you know, funk a little deeper you know, in a, in a different way you know, physically with like an XC or national championship or road race, you may not be as physically tired, you know, for as long, you know, Leadville, I would say you’re gonna be more beat up after that one.

Jane Marshall (38:20):

Yeah. It’s just a big big day at altitude. And if, you know, if the race goes well, you know, then motivation can be high coming out of a one day, you know, not, not quite as tired, you know, motivated to kind of get to the next thing. You know, still gonna have some dips and lows with that event being done and everything you put into it now, you know, it’s just like the box is checked and it’s a little bit of like, oh, now what? So that’s, where’re planning that next event, I think for, so a lot of people can be really helpful. I’d say Leadville, you’re gonna need some more time. People are usually pretty beat up after that for a while and more lost listless especially with the time that goes into training for Leadville.

Jane Marshall (39:09):

You know, we kind of joked about like Leadville widows back in the day in July with, you know, everyone out putting big long hours on the weekends and away from family. You know, if the race goes bad, then mentally you’re gonna have more challenges with your athletes and you’re gonna experience more things. It’s like all the, what ifs, anger, frustration, and then coaching the athletes through that, talking it through, you know, as you said, going through those points of what went well, what didn’t go well, what would you D do differently now that you know what you know?

Adam Pulford (39:45):

Yeah. So, yeah, that’s it. And I, and I think hitting on the point of, and this is what we talked about earlier, but it’s like mentally, there’s a lot more going on in these one day events because sure. With the one day that of an event that is, you know, two to four hours mean the physical stress. It’s not that much different than like a normal, like a hard training weekend, right. During, so physically coming out of there, whatever. Right. However, mentally, like some goes bad, you break collarbone, you get a flat, even worse. Right. Collarbone, you got an excuse mm-hmm <affirmative> flat.

Jane Marshall (40:21):

Yeah. <Laugh> that

Adam Pulford (40:21):

Sucks, right? Yep. So you train half your year or sometimes even like multiple years for this thing for Leadville too, cuz that’s harder and harder to get into. And everybody’s like pushing all the chips into the middle on this sun and then you get a flat tire. It’s I, I think that the mentally, again, you gotta be ready for that. And on race day, come August 13th or whatever it is this year it’s like fingers are always crossed. Be like, man, I hope there’s no flat tires. I hope there’s no broken bikes. I hope there’s no, I mean no broken collar bones either, but because mentally I think for me, I don’t enjoy getting people out of that as much. Right? No like you want ’em to have a good day. It’s

Jane Marshall (41:01):

It’s you want to have a good day. And I too, I talked to people ahead of time, you know, like we talk about goal times for Leadville or you know, going to win your national championships. And I remember early on in my coaching career or some raising, someone told me like to win a national championships or I’ll tell people, you know, to get that sub nine at Leadville, everything has to go, right? Yeah. Like you have to have the perfect day, you know, like legs have to be perfect. Nutrition has to be perfect. Everything needs to come together to have that optimal performance, you know? And that’s why we see, you know, professionals. Sometimes they win races. Sometimes they don’t and everything has to really line up to, to have that. And having the athlete know one, understand that, yeah. They’ve put in all this, this work and training and they’re prepared and they’re ready, but like they really gotta focus and, and go for it. It’s not just gonna happen to

Adam Pulford (41:49):

Them. Yeah. And

Jane Marshall (41:52):

We don’t have a magic

Adam Pulford (41:52):

Wand. Exactly. Wish. I mean, I wish we could. So, but yeah, I mean, whether you’re chasing sub nine or you going for the win Leadville, for example, or just to finish right. To use this as an example, mm-hmm, <affirmative>, it’s when I’ve coached athletes through it. I think at first I had one way of doing it and then now for everybody, no matter how fast it is, like, alright, first of all, let’s finish this thing. Cause re because I’ve had fast people not finish that thing due to all these issues. Right. And yeah. Like, and again, it gets back to that mentally or that mental aspect of it is just, it’s more of a train wreck afterwards. Right. So queuing them up, having the awareness of like, we could pour everything into this and it could go sideways on St. Cubans. Right. <Laugh> and hopefully not.

Adam Pulford (42:39):

Yep. And so, but I think as you walk through the scenarios with your athlete, you get them grounded in reality, which then helps them make better decisions during the race when, when stuff goes sideways and, and they have to be mm-hmm <affirmative> and then they’re prepared for that too. Right. And, and then you come out the backside, whether you won the race or last or whatever it, I think it’s, it helps to sink in or seep in a little bit more too, just, just like saying, Hey, you’re gonna feel like crap after your race, mentally and physically. Cool. Yep. So how about like a post season? So like at the end of the year, some major event before you take like months off. And so this could be, you know, for road racing, mountain bike racing, world championships, typically in September Kona, it’s gonna be typically October or Lada at the end of the year. Something like that. Mm-Hmm, <affirmative> walk us through, so my question is, does your coaching advice or process change any because we got like two months off. And is the experience with the athlete any different or is it just similar? Like the stuff that we talked about?

Jane Marshall (43:51):

I think, I think it’s similar. They, you know, for something like Kona or, you know, world championships, right. You know, if they’re that’s their a race and they’re peaking for that, the lead in is similar and there’s similar pressure on it. And for a lot of athletes with the idea that there’s gonna be this time off after can be helpful with that, like post race funk, because they have, they kind of know what’s next and what’s coming and you talk, talk about that. So a lot of times after that, they’re ready for it. And they’re expecting it, they’re prepared for it. You know, know they’ve got a break before, you know, they’re jumping into training for their next thing. So again, I think it’s that mental prep ahead of time, that can be really helpful for north America with, you know, Konas, it can get a little tricky mentally there at the end.

Jane Marshall (44:46):

You know, we’re dealing with weather, you know, some, some places that’s getting pretty cold and daylight’s getting short to keep the motivation going. And we can also, I, some of those almost have like the reverse funk where there’s like a dip in motivation before, because it’s been such a long season. And there’s struggling with conditions or maybe they’ve had to go inside on the trainer and mentally struggling with that. So if someone is looking at that and we used to do Lada in, was it November mm-hmm <affirmative> now that race is happening, they change it’s in may. Which I think for north America is good timing. But it, people were struggling at the end to be prepared for that and kind of keep the gas on to be ready. So planning breaks maybe midway through the season. So mentally they’re more ready to go into it. Can’t be super helpful. But I’d say reverse funk on these, on these later ones. And I’d say, see, people struggle with that more than kind of after if they know season end is coming.

Adam Pulford (45:53):

Yeah. That’s a good, that’s a good point. To bring up. I I’ve definitely seen that for sure. I think I also would agree. And I think you mentioned this too, it’s like the, because it’s end of the season and you already have this like anticipatory, like, Hey, I got a month, like, this is the last thing on the calendar. Right. So do it, and, and you already plan for that. So you lean into it a little bit more, so people are, they want to take that rest, but yeah, I, I can see, it’s like, oh shoot. I, if it went really well and I’m like flying, oh, I world championships just happened, but now I wanna race more. Yeah. I definitely see that. It’s a good point. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> for sure. But you know, so those are three examples that I think a lot of people can relate to.

Adam Pulford (46:35):

Those are three examples that Jane and I have coached athletes through and there’s never, the plan never goes as we write it. The race never goes necessarily as we want it to. Hopefully if you’re lucky enough to have a few races where it does go, as you want and, and everything goes smoothly on the day, great, then you have success, right? And then you can party and, and celebrate probably still have some funk afterwards, but I, I guess to summarize everything, I’ll go I’ll, I’ll just first go back to what Jane said originally is having awareness about the fact that this emotional feeling that we call funk can happen after big events, knowing that that’s real and, and knowing that it’s okay to have that I think is step number one. And then step two would be just planning around it, planning on, you know, working with your coach or working with your spouse or your partner your family involved to just be like, all right, I’m gonna have all these like, focus going into it.

Adam Pulford (47:38):

I’m gonna have these emotions afterwards. So we’re gonna plan like family trips and stuff around it. I think that’s super healthy. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> afterwards physically rest, mentally take the pressure off yourself and tune in and become aware of your motivation. And don’t rush too soon before you start training. Again, I hope that this episode can resonate with quite a few people because we all experience this, the highs and lows as human beings. We want to experience those highs and lows because ex like having the experience is really what we’re chasing here. I think a lot of people like love training and, and love where the races take us, but it’s the, the experience and our journey along the way. That’s so rich. So don’t let your emotions take away from that experience.

Jane Marshall (48:25):

Enjoy lean into that type of

Adam Pulford (48:27):

Fun. <Laugh> there you go. Cool. Well, Jane, thank you for joining us once again, on the train writing podcast this was super fun. I, I learned today and I, I think our listeners did too.


Comments 1

  1. What an awesome podcast, and it really puts a lot into perspective!

    I gained a lot from this discussion, having completed (for me anyway) 3 bigger events over about 4 weeks… 2 gran fondos (162 & 153 km) and a 2 day endurance ride (200 km)… A big effort for me, and I felt really good after the events, but found that funk settling in after the last one…

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