More Taper Madness

Over my final four weeks of training for marathon #2 I’m sharing some thoughts on the marathon. Last week I wrote about What it Takes to Train for a Marathon. I focused on the love for distance running that is required to enjoy marathon training. This week I’m spilling my thoughts as my taper madness begins – because taper time is here and it’s still scary.

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“The hay is in the barn.” Or so the saying goes. By the time a runner wraps up their peak week, it is said that the work is done. The final three weeks of marathon training is taper, a time to do maintenance running and let the body recover from the past months of hard training. Taper has a way of driving runners crazy. There’s so much time to think about the race. So much time to wonder what will happen. So much time to question ones abilities. It’s a stressful and anxious time.

Last year at this time three weeks felt so long and it felt like training was dragging on. This time around I’m so glad I still have (at this point) just about 2 weeks to go. Though this is my first week of taper it’s still a high-mileage, demanding week of training. Not truly a taper week yet, but I’m happy to have one more week that is more challenging before really cutting back.

I again don’t have any should’ve-would’ve-could’ve feelings towards my training. I’ve put in the highest and most consistent mileage I’ve ever done before and have logged a lot of miles (about 650 at this point! Yikes!) over the past 16ish weeks. I have had more good runs than bad runs. I know I’ve done the work and I know I’m prepared to go out and achieve my goal. The goal set before me is one that is completely reasonable. I’m not gunning for a BQ so in actuality even coming in a minute faster than last year will be an accomplishment. Despite that, I am feeling more anxious this time around.

My run yesterday morning felt sluggish and hard when it was supposed to be easy. Truth be told, I think I expected my body to be more recovered than it should’ve been from peak week when the reality is that the remaining days of this training cycle is what it’s going to need to recover. On top of that I’m fighting off a little cold. Those things aside, sometimes bad runs just happen. When I did my short GMP miles this morning I had no problem hitting pace after I got warmed up. But it’s taper, so none of that rationale stuff matters anymore of course!

I think having doubts or fears is normal and even healthy. A marathon is 26.2 miles and that is a freaking. long. way. Expecting to go in and just cruise through just isn’t rationale thinking. During this morning’s GMP miles I had thoughts of “How can I do this for 26.2 miles?” but also moments of, “This will be hard, but I can do it.” I think accepting it will be hard is an important part of going into a marathon. It’s going to feel blissful the first few miles, maybe even the entire first half. Then the halfway point hits and it starts to get harder. Then the 20 mile mark comes and naturally fatigue is really going to set in. There’s no magic gel, salt pill, pacing strategy, shoes, compression socks, electrolyte drink, music mix, etc. that will keep the race from getting hard at some point. What matters is how I face it.

I know from both this year’s Emerald City race and my final long run that I can push through when it starts to feel tough. But given the 26.2 miles ahead, it still seems somewhat impossible. I have just 12 runs left until I race and I am going to savor every bit of them because no matter what happens on race day, I have enjoyed my training and I have pushed myself to hit paces and mileage that I have never done before. If I can keep that in perspective and not let the taper madness get the best of me, I think I’ll be okay.

“The Body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy … It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.” Jacqueline Gareau

 

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6 thoughts on “More Taper Madness

  1. I think second and third marathons always come with more pressure and anxiety – especially if you did well in your first marathon. It’s not really enough to “just finish strong” anymore. I mean, it is, it always is, because it’s a marathon, but you’ve already finished the distance once before, so now there is this feeling that there is something more, something else that needs to be accomplished: I need to perform better, I need to hit my time goal, I need to fix whatever I did wrong last time, etc. We also tend to train harder the second time around so that adds to the pressure to turn in a good performance. The fear of the distance is now mixed with a fear of how we’ll handle our disappointment if things don’t go as planned. When you’ve invested so much time and work into something, I think it’s only natural to be a little invested in the outcome, as much as we like to tell ourselves we’re not.

    The first week of taper is always the worst for me. I have to make a mental note to look out for it. I always expect I’m going to feel so fresh and recovered which is kind of silly because I just did a 20 miler like 2-3 days ago so why would I feel magically fresh already? I think that disconnect between expectations and reality is exactly what makes it so hard. I also think it’s hard because it’s the first chance my body has to realize how tired it is.

    1. I agree with all of this. I think being invested in the outcome is what pushes us to keep training and keep working hard. It’s an achievement in itself to just finish, but going into race day that doesn’t feel like enough anymore. And yeah, I was definitely expecting my runs this week to feel easier! I don’t think they will feel that way until the week of the race. Maybe even not then because by then the nerves will really start to kick in.

  2. This is exactly what I’m feeling–mixed emotions for feeling confident & proud of my training but at the same time very subdued thinking of the enormous challenge of running the distance. You know that you’ve pushed yourself to hit new mileage & paces, so focus on that and know you’ll be able to do the same on race day! I’m pretty confident that you’re going to have a really great race given what you’ve accomplished in training!

    1. I think that’s a good way to be; to underestimate the distance is foolish. I think you’re really going to have a strong race as well. You’ve really tackled your training head-on and I think you will be ready!

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