After the Rottnest half last Sunday I entered the 2 week period all runners detest, the ‘taper.‘ As I have mentioned before as runners we like to run, when we want and normally as may times as we want. This is called ‘training’ and depending on your goals this can mean you get to run a lot. Running a lot is good, assuming of course you avoid the ‘I’ word ! (I’ll type it once but that’s it… injury. I even hate typing that word.)
At the end of a training block we are then faced with a 2-3 week taper period where we cut back on running to allow our weary legs to recover and better prepare for the goal race. It all sounds good to the untrained runner, they would think that after an intensive training block you’d be ready for some ‘downtime’. In theory of course you would think so but once we take our foot of the gas, so to speak, along comes ‘self doubt’ and his friends ‘niggles’, ‘I’m coming down with something’ and the worse of the lot ‘weight gain’. These four make the last 2 weeks pre-race a living hell for most runners.
Let’s start with the first one, ‘self doubt‘. I know I continually talk about trust in your training but even typing this I have a 5k race tomorrow at the Perth world Masters ( http://www.perth2016.com ) and because I have been on vacation for a week I am wondering if I can still run 5k. ! Ridiculous I know but after a day resting my old mate ‘self doubt’ has got to work. I’m lucky at the moment because after self doubt along comes ‘niggles’.
‘Niggles‘ is a bad one because after weeks of pushing yourself without the faintest thought of any issues all of a sudden every tendon and muscle in your legs, and/or anywhere in your body really, is starting to feel tight. Your hammy , which has been made of steel for months, now feels about to break in two if you move anywhere fast. Ankles and ITB’s start to feel they are about to implode and you are certain it’s all over.
Unfortunately it gets worse when ‘I’m coming down with something’ pops along and you are by now just about suicidal. How is it every single person you come into contact with has a cold and insists on sneezing on you, or in your vicinity ? The train journey is like sharing a carriage with the walking dead, everybody it seems has one purpose in life and that is to infect you.
Finally, after negotiating ‘self doubt, niggles’ and ‘I‘m coming down with something along comes’ the worst of the lot ‘weight gain’. After working so hard to get down to your running weight, even racing weight, you now have 2 weeks where the appetite is still there and thinks you’re running your training distances. Alas you have halved your distance and thus all of a sudden you feel you look like ‘Jabba the Hutt’! Of course it gets worse as the last few days pre-marathon you have to carbo-load. What idiot thought of this ? When you are already stressing over the smallest morsal of food you are now forced to stuff yourself silly for three days. How can this possibly help unless the course is downhill and the added weight is useful with gravity as a co-pilot?
We are a fragile lot runners and these four serve to make the 2-3 week taper a living hell. I know runners who cannot handle the taper and train right up to the event just to avoid the whole process. For an ultra there may be something in this. I wouldn’t recommend training as hard but if you really need to run there could be the option to train slower and ‘recover‘ while running. Unfortunately the carbo-loading is not to be avoided for any distance from the marathon up. Sorry guys but sometimes you just go to eat the odd muffin or two.
So I’m sitting here with my mate ‘self doubt‘ on my shoulder and I’m sure his three friends are just around the corner , waiting to pounce. You’d have thought after 40 marathons and 16 ultra-marathons I’d be ready for them, unfortunately not. Counting down the days to the World Masters Marathon because I love racing but also because after the marathon I can get back to what I love to do, run, and run a lot.. (maybe even add in a stack of pancakes or two because I can…)
Note: I actually outdid myself this time by adding extra pressure agreeing to a photoshoot for the local Sunday newspaper. So add ‘Pressure‘ to the four running nightmares. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
On my obligatory Sunday morning long run today my mind drifted to the years highs…