Sunday, September 25, 2011

Time to Taper

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.


  1. Just say "NO" to Taper Gremlins...OK, I think we can make a PSA commercial for this one. For all of them endurance sports athletes (runners, cyclists, triathletes....). Or at the very least design a poster or something.

    We truly had a great time running for over 2 hours today. Really, it was extra special because we could do it as a point-to-point run rather than a loop like we have been doing for the other long runs. I am grateful for the support my husband gave and really love him for that!

    As for how I feel about tapering...I'm sure I will feel weird not getting the miles in but honestly, I am happy that I will be needing to do less. I feel that I deserve the break!

  2. Love the poster campaign idea Patti! I agree, our run was so much more special because of the point-to-point. I mean, it sounds so bad-ass to tell people from where to where we ran. Doing a loop only sounds half as good. And it was AWESOME of Q to be there to support us too and show us that he too thinks what we're doing is great.

    I agree, we do deserve the break. We've worked hard. Perhaps we can run easy together sometime soon and watch the next Harry Potter movie!

  3. Z!
    It's Jess (Vug...remember me!? Haha). Just found your blog via Facebook and am loving it.I have often tried to get up to a Half Marathon but I can never seem to push myself past the 11 or 12km point. Looking at your progress is inspiring though, you've come so far and look healthy and amazing for it! I think I lack your determination though.

    Just wondering - how do you push yourself to get outside on Vancouver days like the one we're having today (absolutely torrential precipitation..)!?

  4. Hi Jess! Of course I remember you. You're kinda unforgettable! Thanks for following my blog and for all the positive comments. I appreciate all the support. You might remember how I used to run before so it was important to get it back and commit to a new life of healthy me. As for you - 11 or 12km is awesome, you're young and healthy, and with the genes you have from your mom, I'm sure a half is well within your reach.

    As for bad weather days like today....I kind of thrive being that crazy woman. You know, the one people look at in disbelief because it's impossible to understand how the crazy woman can put up with the rain. I like to smile at people as I run by them in the rain - they're all protected in their rain coats and rubber boots, and I'm dripping wet like a lost puppy. Anyone can run on a sunny day. But having the sidewalks, streets, trails to yourself is grand. And having people look at you with that "you're nuts" look is actually them giving you a look of respect and admiration (all about perspective). I also know that no matter how wet and disgusting as I get running outside, I am coming home to a hot shower and dry socks. That's also motivation! Rain can be very refreshing. I hope that helps!

  5. Love the socks! And thanks for the link to the Mark Matthews blog!
    Keep looking after yourself during the taper, and after the race, treat yourself to something indulgent! :P