To my surprise, my muscles didn't feel too bad. Sure, I lurched around in a bit of pain for a couple of days, but it wasn't even as bad as when I ran the full marathon last year. By the end of the week I felt totally normal, maybe even better than before the race.
I decided to do an easy bike workout - 30 minutes, based on some suggestions I'd read to ease back into it. Seemed a bit silly to go out for 30 minutes after all the 6-7 hour rides in training... but this is what I'd read, so I went with it.
It took about 2 seconds to realize I was very far from recovered.
There were some minor muscle pains, but mostly it was a tremendous feeling of fatigue. The energy just wasn't there... I made it through the ride OK, at a slow pace, high cadence, but it felt like I'd done 100k instead of 15k! I followed the workout with a can of Pepsi and a chocolate milk, trying to pack in carbs and protein to help get over this hump...
What I've gleaned from the experience of others:
- It takes 4-6 weeks to recover, sometimes longer
- Rushing back to hard/long workouts puts you at high risk for an injury and delays the recovery period even further
- Running is the biggest risk - don't do it in the first 2 weeks after an Ironman
- Swimming is low risk - if it feels good, do it
It's a bit early in the season to be winding down, there are a few good months left, but patience now will pay off in October/November.