Welcome to Taper Town

13 Nov

I’m fairly certain the word “taper” is not in my vocabulary.  And we’re not even talking about tapered skinny jeans.

To hear non-runners talk about Taper Town, it is a magical place.  You get a break from Friday nights spent drinking water and eating extra carbs (but no fiber) and calculating miles per hour and total weekly mileage and curling up with Map My Run to plan a route.  You get a break from Saturday mornings spent rising bleary-eyed from bed, heading out into the cold with inadequate clothing (you’ll warm up later) and a fistful of PowerGel or Gu and tight calves and shins. You get a break from Saturday noontimes spent in the shower, rolling out tight muscles, popping ibuprofen, and then grabbing a quick bite to eat before heading out to handle your errands or attend a party when you really just want to curl up under a duvet and nap.

In TaperTown, you get to rest on your laurels.  The mileage has been built.  No strength training for a week. No speed workouts.  You can decrease calorie needs back to pre-marathon-training levels. You run 80% of your mileage the first week and 40-50% the following week.  There is more time for friends and parties and sleeping (get extra rest!).

But the truth is that runners hate Taper Town.  We geared up for the big event.  We are prepared.  We gained momentum.  Now we’re cutting the sails, popping into harbor, taking a breather – before the big day.  It makes sense.  Mentally.  Physically, it makes complete sense.

On paper, in my mind, in magazine articles, this week sounded ideal.  Less running = more free time.  Right?

Wrong.

September-first half of November = run a lot, eat adequate amounts, pop some ibuprofen, check another run off the training log, repeat.  And repeat.

This week = slow down, start getting a cold (you’re more susceptible to illness during taper weeks), worry that you didn’t train enough, try to calculate your marathon speed, read a lot of unhelpful information online about marathons and people’s worst marathon races, which leads to anxiety. Stress that you want to go run off. But you can’t.  And then there’s the evil week before list:

  • Throw away clothes (visit Goodwill for sweats you will discard at the start line)
  • Memorize the race details and your corral location (stress)
  • New running clothes (gotta reward yourself somehow and the old stuff is now missing its stretchiness and its spandexness and also it is too large)
  • Race shoes packed so you don’t accidentally wear them earlier and get them wet/muddy/snap a shoelace
  • Mentally rehearse the morning of and the afternoon after the race – what to pack, what to buy, what to eat
  • Religiously check the weather report (very windy = stress, very rainy = stress, cloudy and 56 = perfect, each day a different outlook)
  • Work and schoolwork and cleaning your apartment and hosting people = all intended to take your mind off the upcoming race but instead leave you slightly stressed out because you didn’t have “downtime” to yourself (“downtime” = running time)
  • You stress about gaining weight with the lessened exercise so you eat less but then you stress about under eating and undoing all the training of the past 16 weeks so you force yourself to eat a little more
  • Trying to pick a playlist for the race, even if you decide to run without headphones, you want to be prepared.
The only experience I can relate it to is one I haven’t experienced firsthand.  Those final weeks of pregnancy when you feel the need to nest.  Everyone tells you “take lots of naps now! You won’t get any rest later, enjoy this time!” But you can’t because you have nervous energy and a need to get everything sorted out now.  It’s the same.  The race clothes, the mental preparation, the self doubt, the feeling that “having a clean house and no paperwork piles” will somehow make the race more successful.  Or the birth easier.  Who knows.
Taper Town population: 1 very unhappy, reluctant, bags-packed and ready to leave for Marathon Metropolis resident.
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