It’s that time…. I feel run down and sluggish, yet all the while, hungry- even ravenous at times. Phantom pains come and go, and every possible part of me that could ache seems to do just that. The other day I actually had the thought that I really should start working out- you know, “get back in shape”. Then I remembered that I will be running a twelve-hour race in just over a week… if I’m not in shape for that now, I’m never gonna be. Insecurity has crept in and I have begun to analyze and question every aspect of my training. I focus on the runs that I cut short or missed altogether; the extra pounds I continue to carry around; the inconsistencies in my mileage from week to week; the slow pace of my last long run… the list continues. I visualize my disappointment when I reach the twelve-hour mark of my race, several miles short of my goal… that is, if I make it the full twelve hours to begin with. I do all of the things that I know I should not do, because that’s just the way it goes during the taper.
If you are a runner, perhaps you would agree that staying motivated and positive during the two or three week taper prior to an endurance event is the hardest part of training. Hell, staying motivated would be icing on the cake; I just try to survive until race day without driving myself crazy in the meantime. Have I trained enough? Can I really do this? What if it’s really hot? What if it rains all day? Can I run in the rain for twelve hours?
The taper is a time to gradually come down from the long, hard efforts of training, to rest and prepare mentally for what lies ahead. It is a time to reflect on all of the hard work one has put in during the preceding weeks and months and to use that as fuel for visualizing a successful race. But for some horribly inexplicable reason, every taper leading up to every race in which I have competed has been wrought with self-doubt and a feeling of if only I had [insert verb of choice] a little harder, a little further, a little more frequently…. The reality is that you and I both know that no matter how much harder, further, and more frequently I had done anything, I would still feel as I do in this very moment: completely and utterly unprepared.
Don’t get me wrong; I am very excited about my event, and I know on an intellectual level that no amount of additional training will make me any more prepared for my race than I am now. In fact, it would do just the opposite and result in fatigue and potentially even injury.
When I began this journey nearly six months ago, June 2ndseemed light years away. I’d first have to get through the holiday season, the January doldrums, the blur that inevitably is February and March, and the start of spring. June 2nd was at the end of two more seasons, in the distant future. I had plenty of time to get in shape, build my mileage up slowly and steadily…. I’d start with about 30 miles per week and gradually build up to a peak of 70. I’d get up at 5:30 most mornings to get a longish run in before work, and I’d add a second run some evenings after work. On the weekends, I’d do back-to-back long runs. I’d join the YMCA and start a regular strength training program so that I’d finally have some upper body endurance to keep me going during the latter half of the race. I’d revamp my diet and cut out sugar for the most part. I’d be a lean, strong, good looking running machine come June 2nd. A twelve-hour run would have nothing on me.And then life happened.
A rough patch that started late last fall only got rougher through January and February. The winter blues set in and it was a good day if I could get up at 6:30. Work picked up and demanded more and more of my time. I quickly realized that back-to-back long runs every weekend were neither healthy nor realistic. I peaked at 56 miles in a week, with most of my training weeks in the low 40s. I did join the Y, but I went when I could- usually twice a week. My left knee didn’t always cooperate and I started to feel soreness in my feet and ankles, which caused me to cut some of my runs short. I began to spend more time with someone very dear to me, not of moment of which I would trade for anything. And I don’t know who I was trying to kid by cutting sugar from my diet. There’s a reason why my mother has always called me Cookie Monster. My body feels like it has morphed into a blob rather than the lean sculpted physique I had envisioned back in December.
Funny how, as John Lennon said, life happens while we’re busy making plans. Life did cut into my plans quite a bit, but in spite of that, I also know this:
In the last six months I have spent about 130 hours running 861 miles. I have run in wind and rain, sleet and snow. I have run in sub-zero and 90-degree temperatures. I have run in the sun and under clouds. I have run in the wee hours of morning, at noon, during the heat of the afternoon, and at night. I have run my personal best times in a five-mile race and a half marathon. I have built strength and endurance. I have trained.
Now, it’s all about mind over matter. Nine days to go!
Thank you for reading!