I hate tapering. Tapering is the last 1-2 weeks of training before a race. Typically the miles start to decrease and you start taking some days off completely so that your body is rested and ready to go on race day. One would think that "only" having to cover 7 miles as opposed to the 10-12 the week before would be wonderful. But sometimes during tapering, your mind and body start to play tricks on you. Short workouts seem more difficult than the previous long workouts. There is what I like to call, Phantom Pain. Random body parts start to hurt. You feel fatigued all the time. You may even get a little cranky. I call it the taper madness.
And I'm living it in full force this week. After my sweatfests last week, I was planning to run 9 on Saturday. I wanted to prove that I could do it in race pace after a lackluster 9 miler last weekend. But during my 5 mile run with Lisa on Thursday, she talked some sense into me and told me 9 miles was too far to run with just a week left until race day. She was right and I knew it. I decided that 7 miles would be the smarter distance.
The Pilot was home and despite the cold, came out to the trail with me to follow on his bike. While he was getting his bike out of the car and getting his gear on, I started on my warm up walk. Fearing that I'd be overdressed like the previous 2 days, I skipped a layer and left my neck warmer at home. My 3-minute walk was freezing! The wind felt like it was cutting right through my tights and without the neck warmer, the wind was going right down my jacket.
Luckily though, once I started running, I warmed up pretty quickly. My shins however did not warm up. They were screaming at me big time. I'm starting to realize that I'm just not cut out to run more than 2 days in a row. I need a rest day or a cross training day mixed in there to let my shins recover.
The Pilot came up on his bike. My whining started instantly. My legs felt like I had concrete blocks for feet. My shins were on fire. Even my torso felt all out of synch. I wasn't event at 1/2 mile yet. Now I've talked about it over and over on this blog that my first 3 miles are pretty rocky. I'm usually uncomfortable. I tried to keep that in mind but this was just different. I trudged along but before I even got to the 1 mile marker, I was expressing my lack of interest in going all 7 miles. In my head, 5 or 6 sounded reasonable.
The Pilot was just along for the ride but when I looked over at him, he was crying and snotting. It was so cold out and with the extra wind on the bike, he was a mess. If only I had a picture to share with you all... ;) Ahh the joys of winter cycling. Being the wise non-marathoner, he told me that I really shouldn't push it and there is nothing wrong with resting before a race. How does he know this stuff?? And why is he being so rational right now when I have PR to reach??
As I trudged toward the 2 mile marker though, I succumbed to his wisdom. I decided that with the way I was feeling, there would be no shame in 4 miles for the day. I turned around at the 2 mile marker and took a walk break. Feeling slightly defeated, I relied on The Pilot to talk to me and distract me.
As we got closer to the car, The Pilot rode ahead to pack up his bike and gear while I literally stumbled through my last 1/4 mile. In my head at the time, it was a complete waste of a workout. My time was terrible. So terrible that I didn't even take my standard Garmin picture. I was kind of crabby about the entire thing but my experience reminded me that this is all normal.
If I was a newbie at this, I would be freaking out. I would be telling myself that there is no way that I can do 13 miles in a week when I struggled through 4 miles. I won't PR after turning in a pace over a minute slower per mile.
But because this will be my 8th year at Disney, my 7th half marathon and who knows what number race this even is, I know that the taper madness is normal. I know that I can do this. When push comes to shove, I find the energy and the drive inside somewhere and I make it happen. Could I have an epic fail of a race? Sure. Do I think I will? No. Will I be happy if I don't PR? No, but the fact that this Gym Class Dropout even makes it to the start line, let alone the finish line is an accomplishment so no matter what happens this coming weekend, it will be a life experience that will surely teach me something in the long run (no pun intended).