Ok, so the picture on the left here has nothing to do with the topic of today's blog post. I just HAD to include it. Patti and I are a bit sad that my shoes wore out a month before race day, as it meant our feet wouldn't match at our upcoming race, the Victoria Half Marathon on Oct 9th. In response, Patti bought me a pair of socks to match hers, so we can wear them on race day and have matching feet afterall (well, ankles anyway). Very pleased to see toe socks made by Injinji specifically for runners, and made to be so darn adorable too. Without the friction of toes rubbing together sweatily, my toes are very happy and blister-free after today's 20km run.
So that brings me to the topic of today's blog. We ran 20km today, in 2:09, and it felt amazing. I ain't going to lie, I'm tired. And I'm applying the acronym RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) to my tired legs. But mentally, I feel like a million bucks. I feel like adding 1.1km, and pushing ourselves a bit to complete the half marathon in roughly 2 hours is totally do-able, with the adrenaline and excitement of the event, and of course, our very intentional approach to training.
Today was the longest of our Sunday long training runs. We still have a longer speed session to go, but otherwise, the runs are easier and shorter from now until race day. The 2-week taper has begun, to allow us to rest and recover from the stresses of training and be ready for the race. Tapering for 2 weeks is the idea, because apparently the benefits of something you do in training can only be noticeable 2 weeks later. This means that anything we do between now and the race won't necessarily impact performance positively. If we go too hard, we could just burn ourselves out or have tired legs on race day. We keep running to keep moving (and sane?), but short distances.
Mixed feelings about the taper... I mean, I'm relieved. I believe in the science behind it and know I'm ready for the race. But I also know how antsy I get on rest days. And now there are more of them to come in the coming days. I also know how bored and flippant I can be when running anything less than 10km. And I always want to run fast on days I'm supposed to run easy and have to force myself to be sensible. And then there are the few days where I've had to firmly tell myself to ignore the training plan and take an extra rest day because my body was seriously asking for it. As someone who craves running daily, on a day I am really not feeling it, I need to take it as a sign and not dismiss it as laziness or something I ought to feel guilty about or dwell on for hours or days. So I know me: even though I can be logical about my training and understand what my body needs, I am also competitive with myself which can at times be my tragic flaw; I can easily be swayed to think negatively about what I'm NOT doing.
Yesterday I found a great blog post by author, Mark Matthews, that describes this so well in his post "Taper Gremlins In Your Brain". The voices in your mind are negative gremlins feeding you garbage you don't need to hear (and feeding you after midnight?). Here's an excerpt from his writing as he describes his struggle with a 3-week taper prior to a marathon (but I highly recommend you read his entire blog - so witty!):
"The problem is, you have been driving yourself so furiously for weeks, pushing yourself and fighting against any urge to slow, and now the goal is to push back against that drive, to resist the urge to go fast and long, and to instead rest and heal. And the irony is, now that you have the reality of the upcoming race to worry about, you don’t have the relief of the same intensity of running. The worries mount, and your drug to cope is fading. Running is the ultimate high and rearranges all your brain cells and spiritual angst and emotional maladies and brings you back to a place of increase serenity, tranquility, and makes you feel like a kick-arse mudda fudder. When you don’t have this, it will be a slight detox, and symptoms will appear. Grogginess, crankiness, and the demons and gremlins of doubt will creep in. You haven’t ran enough, you need to do more. You really think you can do this? You didn’t train enough. Better go take a run to see how fit you really are.
"Your taper brain will fu*ck with you (sorry, any other word besides the F-word would be an understatement) and make you doubt your abilities. It will find any small ache and pain in your body and blow it up into something huge and threatening. The tiny ache on your knee, the hip that seems a bit crushed with your strides, or the calf that seems to pinch with every stride will feel so much more intense and be blown out of proportion.
"Beware of the mental drama and the chatter of ‘self-talk’ in your brain that threatens all you worked for. It might go something like this:
"I’ve recovered pretty quick, maybe I don’t need to taper as much as I thought.
"Come on, three weeks of tapering? Way too much. You have a friggin marathon to do, its dangerous for you to go out there and not train more. You want to embarrass yourself? DNF? WTF? . You used to run right up until two weeks before the event, and now you’re getting lazy. You’ll lose so much fitness,
"Talk back, tell it no. No! Don’t trust your gut in this one. Your gut and your body and your legs want to run. Trust your head. You might feel fresh and feel you are not exhausted now, but ‘you will be, you will be.’ "
So that's what I'm going to have to do - trust my brain and NOT the gremlins that reside within.