I went out front today to greet some customers who had just finished their run for the day, and two of them are in training for Boston, which is to say they are SUPPOSED to be tapering. The discussion started with one wanting to add on some miles because she felt the run just finished wasn't enough. The discussion of tapering started up with some familiar comments from both. "I HATE TAPERING!", "I feel sluggish", and "I'm worried!" I have had this discussion at least a hundred times with concerned runners, and today I actually said something that makes a little sense! THAT, I will get to in a sec. First, tapering!
You've all seen that section in training schedules leading up to your goal race, and depending upon which schedule you follow, it could be as long as 2 weeks. In college, our goal races were typically the big events at the end of the season like conference, regionals, and if you were good enough, nationals. No matter the event, that goal is what has motivated you for however many weeks, months or years. It's what has pushed you through two-a-days, workouts, 4 AM runs, rainy days, and, in Alabama, 98 degrees and 98 percent humidity! Then, all of the sudden, the schedule says, "Let's put the brakes on, chill out a bit, and rest." What's the point? REST! You've put in all of these miles and worked your butt off. Now, it's time for your body to recover and rebuild.
In the past, when I've been asked about tapering and how bad you feel, I've always reverted back to the college days and related how I felt. I always felt sluggish and as if I was losing fitness, and blamed it on the 25 to 50% reduction in mileage. The underlying problem with that explanation, I didn't have a family or a job back then. I had running and school. It didn't seem easy at the time, but now it looks pretty simple. I will never forget saying to my former coach and fellow employee at the time, "I can't wait to get out of school, so I can just train and race on my own.". His response, "Dude, it will never get any easier!".
My new take on tapering involves a little more LIFE. Sure, you've put in the miles, the sleep, the diet, and the workouts. But what did you have to schedule it around? Work, late night feedings with your babies, drops offs and pick ups at daycare, or meetings? It takes a little more effort to actually train. So, when that schedule says, "4 miles easy", there's a big shock in the system you've worked so diligently to develop. No wonder your mind turns to panic mode!
So, what did I say in the conversation today that spawned my new response to those fearing those easy weeks leading up to the big race? Tapering justifies it all! If you take a good look at that schedule, tapering is a very big part, and if you ignore it, you don't actually finish your training and risk squandering the valuable effort! And hey, if my epiphany hasn't rung a bell, there's always the famous saying, "The hay's in the barn! Go take a nap!" I AM aware "The hay's in the barn." is the famous Southern saying! I just added "Go take a nap!". It seemed fitting!