I’m getting close to a big race.
One of the final parts of getting ready for a race is called tapering. (Those who have tapered are groaning in sympathy right now…)
You train, work hard, plan, focus, learn, grow for months…
Then you SHUT IT ALL DOWN.
You back things off for the week or so before the race. (It only feels like a month or two… #tapertantrum)
OK. That’s not true.
I haven’t shut it all down.
I’m still doing core work, running a little, stretching. And I am still trying to learn to swim… But my coach, Spencer, has me on a seriously scaled back running plan from what I would normally be doing if we were in an active training period. (Uh… Appetite does NOT scale back accordingly just for the record. It seems to have missed the tapering memo.)
In the past the tapering period has been a quasi-nightmare for me. I spent the ‘down time’ convinced that I was gaining weight and losing ALL of my fitness and knew there was no-way-in-hell I would be ready for race day when I spent the days leading up being ‘lazy’…
I mean, you take the girl who fought for more than two years to learn to love to run and worked hard to make exercising an iron-clad lifestyle habit and you ask her to stop…
Stop the routines I worked so hard to develop. Stop working hard every time I put on my running shoes. Stop being focused on food intake and energy outputs for a short period of time. Stop doing the thing that I know was almost single-handedly responsible for my ability to get off of insulin and reverse Type 2 Diabetes?
I’ve heard people describe the tapering period as ‘vacation’. No way. For someone STILL trying to cement all of these notions, habits and practices into my head and life, it was more than a little daunting and scary.
Stopping and scaling things way back just seems wrong.
So tapering normally meant I was cranky and testy and started questioning all of my training and driving my friends and coach crazy with questions laced with self-doubt…
‘How’s the taper going? Have you killed anyone yet?’ — text from a friend
Yeah. I was a peach while tapering.
So why taper if it drives me so nuts? First, my coach says so. Second, I’ve done it enough times now that I KNOW it works and that it’s an important part of the training process.
Quite simply? Tapering pays off on race day.
I understand now that what you’re really doing during the taper is bottling up energy and letting your body and mind repair and rest so that you can be totally ready to RUN your heart out.
When I was tapering for the North Face 50K back in November/December, I realized what a mental battle tapering really was for me. I took really good notes on the process and captured my thoughts and feelings along the way. I noted multiple times that I was feeling sincere anxiety at the inactivity. I feared that I would enjoy the break from running so totally and completely that I would just decide I was never, ever going to run again. I talked a LOT about being afraid of gaining weight and thought about how I would manage food if exercise was totally taken out of the equation. I thought maybe I would forget how to run. I was worried that by sitting ‘idle’ all of my fitness was slipping away.
My brain was taking up the slack for the decreased physical activity. And not in a good way.
Then race day came. I ran well. Felt great. Loved every minute of it. KNEW the morning of the race, before I ever got near the start line; tapering had worked exactly as it should have.
I finished the race and still wanted to run again. I was eager to get back to training. My weight is ALWAYS going to fluctuate. My fitness for race day was perfectly intact and ready to go to work.
So this time around I focused on NOT allowing that mental chess game to begin. I’ve focused on just enjoying it as part of the whole training process.
This is a local event. LOTS of friends running it. It’s the ground, trails, mountains that I have fallen in love with. It’s where I practice. When Spencer and I talked about goals at the beginning of this year I told him that for this race, I not only wanted to do well, I wanted to enjoy every piece of the process. Taper included.
Race day arrives in 5 days… I will get to see my friends and people I only see at races and I will meet new friends. I’ll lace up my Brooks and pin on my number and slip on my hydration pack. AND I will know that all the training I did is about to be turned loose and tested and used. 🙂
And the dreaded taper is officially OVER…
And I’ll run. 🙂