There is that feeling in the air of the wind changing; the sense of an ending. For triathletes and a lot of short-course runners not training for the Dublin Marathon, race season is drawing to a close.
This feeling was driven home quite sharply on Wednesday when I turned up to my local triathlon club sea swim. Instead of a cast of hundreds, the group had shrunk to a small core of toughened athletes willing to shiver it out under ever-darkening skies and increasingly choppy sea.
The weather is still good enough to catch a little autumn sunshine, so it's a great time to relax a bit, while still maintaining fitness, and enjoy other sports that have been neglected during the summer. My Ironman teammate and Fit diarist Sue is busy brushing up her surfing skills. I've been longing to do some trail running and a bit of hiking and autumn is perfect for this.
The key is not to stop exercising altogether during the post-race season break, but to maintain a base level of fitness and engage other muscles doing something fun.
Mountain biking, as well as being exciting, is a great complement to road cycling or triathlon as it builds explosive power through all the climbing. It also helps hone your bike-handling skills.
September is the perfect time to make new resolutions. Next season is far enough away that there is time to take a break from intense training while working on problem areas. Every year I make solemn promises to progress my swimming a little more (and some years I am more successful than others on this!)
Inevitably, as soon as January comes around, everyone hits the water with furious speed, trying to get in shape for early summer, so it's great to get some stroke correction in place before then.
Autumn is also the time to incorporate some strength or core work into your routine. Some of my Athenry AC clubmates have taken up Crossfit – a particularly intense form of training.
The jury's out for me on CrossFit as I have seen some friends gain tremendous strength and muscle tone from it, while others have picked up race-denting injuries, but I'll certainly be working hard on core strength for the autumn. At the very least, it will help with the 10-step plan to the elusive six-pack (I'm still on step one).
It's been an enjoyably slow few days for me on my second easy recovery week post Ironman.
I took the 'little of what you fancy' approach, which was a lovely counterbalance to the daily grind of Ironman training.
I managed another hot yoga class at Galway's YogaYoga in Renmore on Monday, which is helping to unfurl some of the muscle knots. A dip in the sea with the triathlon club on Wednesday was a chance for a social gathering with friends, and a refreshing change from my mainly pool-based swim regime in California this summer.
At the Thursday speed workout with Matt in Dangan, with my legs in no shape to contemplate any kind of speed work, I joined the group on their warm-up, then sat on the wall in a mildly Zen haze, watching them pound out hill intervals.
Occasionally I ran up the bottom of the hill and returned to my point of contemplation on the wall.
Somebody asked me kindly: "Is this your first time doing intervals?" No, but I'm enjoying the time before I need to join the grimacing soldiers on that hill again.
Back to California next week for work again, so I've been researching strength programmes over there for the off-season. In a week or two, with fresher legs, I'll be out on the trails in Rancho San Antonio Park with Helen, squeezing the last out of the autumn light.