Oh, taper. I don’t tell you enough how much I love you, even though you make me crazy.
Over the last few days, I’ve taken care of vital race prep. I had a pedicure, because I’m one hundred percent certain that my roommates in Austin this weekend don’t want to see my feet after they’ve spent three months jammed into snow boots and running shoes. Plus, I really like getting pedicures and will use just about any excuse I can find to book an appointment.
I also used “race prep,” as an excuse to let my friendly neighborhood acupuncturist/massage therapist work me over with needles and oils. Or, as I like to call it, a wild Friday night.
After many years of getting various kinds of body work — and actually having studied massage therapy back when I was broke and living in Austin — I’ve finally worked out my grand theory of what makes a good practitioner. It is this: she can find the six spots that you didn’t realize really needed some attention until she started poking at them. I had no idea how tight my piriformis muscles were until Laura had to scrape me off of the ceiling after poking my upper rump.
I’ve also been running a little during this taper but nothing crazy far or crazy hard. All of that work happened last week when I had my last long run, which was ten miles with two sets of three mile repeats at my 11:22 (no, not 11:20 or 11:25) race pace. So the plan was: one mile easy, then three at RP, two easy, then three at RP, then one easy.
The first group of speedy three went OK. By the third RP mile, I was flagging a little but pushed through it. During the first recovery mile I sucked down an espresso GU and some water. Then during the second recovery mile, I realized that I would need to GU during the last of my RP miles and that I still haven’t mastered taking a GU at any real speed without choking or smearing it all over my face.
Still, nothing wagered, nothing gained, etc. And I was alone on the track so I wouldn’t embarrass myself if I wound up with half-frozen energy gel in my hair.
Even without the threat of GU-related mayhem, that last bunch of RP miles was rough. I had to break out some of SBS’s mantras, the ones where you refer to yourself in the third person like some kind of psychopath. “Adrienne is strong,” I told myself. “Adrienne is doing this.” As dorky as it felt, it worked.
Until the start, that is, of the third mile, which is when I nearly did myself some serious harm with the GU. I had to come to a dead stop until I could rinse it out of my sinus cavities with some water, which knocked my pace way off. And it was then when I realized I had two choices: pick it up enough to finish out the mile at a respectable-but-not-race pace or haul booty and get back to 11:22. For the first time in, like, ever, I chose the second option.
That last 3/4 of a mile sucked in all of the ways a run can suck. I again thank my lucky stars that there was no one else around to hear the wheezing and see the grimacing. I didn’t even have enough energy left-over to swear, which tells you something. But I did it. And felt surprisingly good once I finished up that last mile and started the easy mile back to my house.
Oddly, my epic struggle made no impact on the rest of the afternoon. Usually, after any double-digit run, I’m wiped out enough to lose all interest in doing anything more than lie on the couch. After that run, I tidied up and cooked dinner. I don’t even know who I am anymore.
I was back to myself the next morning was another story, however, when I could just barely leverage myself out of bed. Still, we take our moments of glory where we can.
There’s no glory in the taper, though, just a lot of delightful carbs and sitting. I’m at the stage where the antsies are setting in, where a slower than anticipated 3 mile run makes me wonder if I’ve lost all of my fitness. Add to that the madness of packing for a trip from the frozen Northeast to the significantly warmer Lone Star State — I just realized that I’ll need my parka for the start and end of the trip but don’t know where to stash it in-between — and, well, I’m starting to second guess every last idea I’ve ever had.
As one does.
I’m doing my best to focus on gratitude that I’ve gotten this far this winter. The weather, surprisingly, was conductive to a mostly outdoor training cycle, including many happy miles on a non-frozen track. With very few exceptions, I’ve hit my paces and distances. My kids’ various winter sicknesses didn’t take me down, too. And Serial launched a new season, which has provided me all of the distraction I needed when it got hard.
While this helps re-focus my nervous energy, it’s still there. I could stand a hand, BAMRs. How do you help keep the taper crazy at bay?