Peak week is over.

On Sunday I went out in the heavy overcast for 20 miles. This was my second run at this distance during this training season--the first attempt kinda fizzled and died at the 19 mile mark.

I was going really strong through mile 13 when I came across a stretch with a few bathrooms. I had the brilliant idea to take a "preemptive poop" since my stomach wasn't bothering me yet and I thought to take this opportunity to thwart it before it had a chance to go bonkers.

I do my business in the bathroom and then I hear it. The sound no one--particularly a runner--wants to hear: the sound of the last piece of toilet paper ripping off the cardboard tube. It was an "oh shit" most deserving of that phrase. I did what I could with the shred of single-ply toilet paper and crossed my fingers that I would make it to the next bathroom about .2 miles down the route.

Fortunately, I made it to the next bathroom without incident and it had ample amounts of TP, and I was all wiped up in no time. (God, can I write a post not about poop for once?) Unfortunately, the 10 minutes of down time killed my mojo and my time.

The last six miles were rough. I was doing surprisingly well as I rounded the tip of Manhattan and saw my finish line across the harbor in Brooklyn. The last big hurdle was the Brooklyn Bridge, which did me in. The stitches I managed to fight off for 18 miles finally achieved full force and stopped me as I reached City Hall and the base of the bridge. The last two-miles were painful, unglamourous, and wet (oh yeah, the rains from Saturday actually came on Sunday), but I finished in 3:11. Not pretty, but it's done.

Now comes the part of training that I loathe: the taper.

I hate tapering. Give me back-to-back 20-milers. Give me speed workouts that make me vomit. Give me hill repeats that cause quarter-sized blisters to form on my feet. Give me anything but a taper.

Why the hatred?

For starters, I don't agree with the rationale behind tapering. I understand it's something that all runners must do, that it's a way to give the body a break before the ultimate exertion during a race. But the way I see it you slowly ramp up the training, max out at a certain point, ease off, then do the hardest thing you've done, and then relax. That doesn't make sense to me. Why shouldn't I gradually build up to the race, have a climactic run, and then enjoy the post-race peace? My way is more balanced, more symmetrical, and, let's be honest, more elegant. But I taper anyway because I know I should.

Then, there are the psychological difficulties of tapering. From what I read everyone else becomes some caged up animal when they taper. They feel incomplete when they run the shorter runs. They feel like they need to go faster, harder, hillier than the reduced schedule calls for.

I, however, sit on the other end of spectrum. Once I run that magical last 20-miler, that's it, something inside of me checks out and I'm done with it. I lose all will-power and mojo and have the hardest time squeezing out even the easiest run. The stores of energy I used to have during runs suddenly go missing. Instead of a caged animal I become more like the tiger that has just feasted and needs to nap.

And this happens without fail during every training season. The taper begins and the running badass who's been waking up at 5:15 for 80-minute runs, the guy who flaunts his double-digit distance runs around the office, suddenly has trouble even getting a four mile easy run out the door.

And then, to make it all worse, the week of race day I feel so unprepared, so far removed from rigorous training, that I'm a nervous wreck at the starting line.

Such is the personal hell that I'm going through right now and that I will continue to spiral through over the next 17 days.


The Laminator said...

I guess I'm like you in a way. I see tapering as mini-vacation from running. Instead of stressing about the marathon, I catch up on all the things I missed out on during training. I eat what I want, sleep when I want, and run the few miles almost just as an excuse not to be lazy.

Somehow it all works out in the end. Happy tapering!

Marcy said...

I'm kinda enjoying the taper. (aside from the OMG am I going to finish fear) I REALLY look forward to the shorter runs. I am so donezo with the long 15-20 milers.

CyclingDivas said...

I agree on the tapering - we have two weeks left of 60 milers and then a 30 miler. The 30 miler is like a party, everyone is riding and laughing and joking. I'd prefer a last 60 miler before the 100.

Run if you feel like it.

nwgdc said...

I would have LOVED to see how your running stride changed during that .2 miles to the next bathroom!

I hate the taper so much that I've shortened it to about a week and a half, at most.

Viv said...

Since I am suffering from total over training at this instint on mandatory rest from the Coach. Love the taper should have used it more. Enjoy it! I am laughing at the oh shit...LMAO!

*aron* said...

i definitely feel you on the tapering... it made me a little crazy. but i used it to bring me back to a place in running where i wasn't pushing the pace and just enjoying it and relaxing. i also got caught up on everything else in my life including A LOT of sleep :)

Steve Stenzel said...

Yeah for pooping!

TRY to enjoy the taper!!

Nitmos said...

I often feel incomplete but its not due to the shorter runs. Sounds like your mental and physical prep peaks at the same time when the mental needs to lag by a few weeks to peak on race day. Don't know the cure for that.

Jess said...

You could always do a shorter taper. Some plans and articles now say that runner's really only need a 7 day taper. Something to consider for the future.

Laura said...

My advice would be "taper = unnecessary," but my advice is also "training = unnecessary," so what do I know :)

Amanda said...

I am not good with the taper either and I just read an article that maybe we are all tapering too much and thus hurting our performance... I've decided I believe this.
I'm questioning if I'm really a runner any more because I don't write about poop and it seems to be a common topic.