You trained for a year, maybe more. Up at 5 am to swim, biking and running in the brutal summer heat. You threw it all at the Ironman. Congrats. But now it's over and you're stuck in the post IM rut.
What to do? Well, it depends. Racing after an Ironman oftentimes yields very strong results, and you don't need to invest 20+ hour workout weeks.
The number one thing you need to consider is this: Am I recovered from my Ironman effort? Here are a few things to look for. Am I constantly tired, falling asleep on the couch; am I so unmotivated I cannot think about pulling on my tri shorts; Am I winded after climbing the stairs; am I injured or unusually stiff and muscle sore; am I breathy while exerting an easy effort and is my heart rate too high for the level of physical effort.
A "yes" answer to one or more indicates that more downtime is needed. Athletes recover at different speeds from an extreme effort like IM. Some need two weeks, other need multiple months. Be honest with yourself before attempting a racing comeback. Rest is more important than your local sprint race for now. Easy swimming, walking and gently cross-training can keep you fit and occupied.
If the above scenario does not apply to you....how cool it that? If the fire still burns, consider racing some late summer sprints or maybe an International distance race. Longer relays are fun too. After recovery, all you need are some "sharpening workouts to regain fitness and maybe build a little speed. Start slow and build any speed safetly. Your coach should be able to advise and monitor your progress. As a rule, your workouts should be shorter in duration, purposeful and a bit more intense than the long stuff you did for IM.
If you consider yourself a long-course specialist, it might be fun to shake up your long, slow distance routine. CBC Endurance Training athlete Marce' Shaffer had a very strong day at IM Mont Tremblant in late August, recovered nicely and was looking for a late summer challange. Sprint distance races were not on her radar but she gamely entered the Giant Acorn Sprint at Lake Anna Va. She put some focused training together for a couple weeks, went out and raced and was very happy with her result. She is now an Age Group Champ at the sprint distance. Another tool in the toolbox.