Monday, March 12, 2012

In The Long Run: The Taper

Unlike Midlife Rambler, I've still got a bunch of weeks to go until my race. However, after a three-hour long run last week, this week’s long run dropped to 1 hr/30 minutes. While not a true taper, it's taper-like.

My intentions were good. I figured I'd run harder, since I was running for significantly less time. I even wrote a plan on my hand so that I'd complete a minimum of 9 miles.

I had two false starts to my run on Saturday. One due to a crazy Garmin (I had to go home and get online to remember how to reset the satellite). The second due to a combination of overdressing (I’ve forgotten how to dress for a run in 60 degree weather) and being severely under-medicated (it was a bad day to give up Zyrtec-D; the volume of muck my sinuses were producing was so high that my ears started to throb). I cut my losses, returned home after running an entire mile, and planned on doing better on Sunday.

My taper-like run on Sunday was a bitch.

I felt tired and heavy. I couldn’t turn off my mind and just enjoy the run.  I was working.

And it’s not like I was busting ass, working. I was just working to get one foot in front of the other.

2.5 hours into last week’s run, and I was soaring with confidence. 35 minutes into this run, and I was suffering, both physically and mentally.

But mostly mentally.

My brain could not accept that I was working so hard at what the rest of me thought should have been an easy 90-minute run. And when it didn’t get any easier … and when I actually felt like stopping to puke, my brain went into the darkest place it could go on the sunniest day Chicago has seen in months: it went to next week’s planned 3.5 hour run and told me I’d fail.

Fuck. I wasn’t supposed to let me go there.

I kept looking at my watch. 40 minutes (almost ½ way), 50 minutes (only 40 min to go!), an hour+ 1 minute (that's about a 5k...push!)., etc., etc. I had to have looked at my watch at least twice every minute for those final 28 minutes. I had surges of pushing to a 9’30” and then falling to a sluggy 11’30”. 

I needed water, but the energy it took to reach behind my back to get my water bottle out of my glorified fanny pack was just too much. I managed to wipe the corners of my mouth, thinking that would satisfy my thirst in some way. Instead, it left me a weird string of white goo – partially congealed saliva, I guess, on my fingers.

After I freed my hand of the goo, I looked at my watch. I had about 6 minutes left.  Too late to quit now. Just keep running, asshole.

And 6 agonizing minutes later, I finished my taper-like run. I managed 8.44 miles in all, that's a pace of about 10’40” – not exactly what I was shooting for, but a good 35 seconds/mile faster than last week.

I texted my coach to let her know I finished the run: I had gotten a text from her earlier in the day and I think she was concerned I wasn’t going to do it or finish it. I told her it was hard, even harder than the previous week. She told me, “some weeks are like that.”

It took me awhile to get there, but I realized that even though I was in ‘the dark place,’ I didn’t stop running. The taper might be designed to allow your body to rest and recover, but I personally think it is also designed to fuck with your mind.If you can survive the mind fuck that is the taper, 26.2 miles of running won't kill you.

Once I got home, I opened up my running calendar that leads up to the race on May 5th. The last run I have -- just one week before the race -- is only one hour long.

My money says I’m going to totally lose my shit on that one. 

See how The Rambler did on his actual taper run this weekend.  And then next weekend ... showtime!


  1. I have had many runs like this. I don't get it either. I have had 5-8 mile runs where I thought I was going to die and that timehad stopped, but on the other hand I have had 13-15 mile runs that were so EASY and time flew by.

    Sometimes when I start looking at my garmin so much I just want to chuck it on the side of the road....but then I remember I love it...I mean I hate it...I mean I love it.

  2. It's kind of funny -- At the chiro's office this am, I ran into another coach from the endurance group I train with and told him about my difficult 'taper-like' run. He pretty much said those 1-hr runs the week before the big event ... are miserable. Your body and mind are going through a lot, etc., etc.

    So...I guess it isn't uncommon to have a crapper of run before the biggie.

    Yes -- the Garmin is a blessing and a curse. I tried making myself NOT look at it with weird negotiating (You can't look at it until the next stop light, etc.). It didn't work. I couldn't take my eyes off the dumb thing!

  3. I know that feeling, when you're 'only' doing 9 miles. Distance running is definitely a mind game. I was lucky that I don't have much of a mind to worry about.