Taper….madness? Plus light at the end of the tunnel

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How about instead of another boring weekly workout recap, we take a minute to talk a little bit about taper?

If you’ve been around the running world for more than a minute you’ve heard about the good ol’ “taper crazies”, or “taper madness,” when runners start go batty as they cut back on their mileage and gear up for their big races.

I always feel kind of left out when people talk about the “taper crazies”, because I don’t really get them. Not the way they are frequently talked about, anyway. People talk about it as basically freaking out because they wish they could be running more in order to make themselves feel more confident about their upcoming race, but they can’t. Well, that hasn’t happened to me. I’m not saying this to brag or anything, because as you’re about to see, I’ve got my own issues going on.

If that’s what is meant by taper madness, then I struggle with what I like to call “reverse taper madness.” What happens to me is the opposite of what apparently should be happening – instead of getting antsy about running less, I sort of shut down. Even though I know what taper will entail, I still get resentful of the fact that yes, I do still have to run more than 15 miles a week and no, taper is not synonymous with “complete rest.”

Most runners I know are sittin’ here during taper all like “what if I can’t perform well on race day because I’m not running enough right now and I’ve lost my fitness??“, while I’m thinking “what if I can’t perform well on race day because I’m STILL too tired??

People say the last week of taper is the hardest, but I actually think it’s the first week of taper that’s the hardest. It’s such a tease. Even though I get to tell myself I’m officially in taper mode, I’m still running 40+ miles for the week, which is a lot (my first week of taper was my peak mileage in my last marathon!). It’s a cutback week that doesn’t have the benefit of actually feeling restful and honestly, it’s brutal. I guess that’s just me.

Physically I’m not having any issues and my running has been normal. My paces are the same, as is the level of effort I exert when I run them. I’m feeling good during and after my runs. So that’s good.

But mentally I feel like I’m turning into a vegetable. I just can’t do anything lately. I have grossly neglected household chores, maintenance, and cooking. I’ve put off my reading and my blog writing and gotten behind on all of that. My Habits Project has been pretty much non existent these last few weeks (except for flossing! WHOO HOO!). I’m so mentally tired that even vegging in front of the TV seems like too much effort! It’s like my mind and my motivation are turning to sludge. Running itself may not make me tired, but thinking about it sure does. I used to look forward to running after work, now I spend the afternoon dreading it. I’m just so sick of it. This week will be the first time in I don’t know how long that I can actually do an evening run that is less than 7 miles. I feel like my whole day revolves around waiting for my run to be over with so I can move on.

Where many runners say taper makes them feel like antsy, anxious little kids, it makes me feel like a jaded, rebellious teenager – so annoyed that the tedious, cumbersome routine of high mileage training is STILL DRAGGING ON.

All this brings me into my biggest fear right now – I’m terrified that my residual cumulative fatigue isn’t going to go away in time for the race. To be clear, I think I trained well and I don’t regret anything I did – I knew that cumulative fatigue was part of the package and I embraced it. I know that training my body to run on super tired legs every week was invaluable preparation for the demands of the marathon. I don’t know why I thought it would magically disappear the minute I finished my 20 miler and started taper. I’m doing exactly the mileage I should be doing for my taper weeks…but the race is less than 2 weeks away now and I’m only just now starting to come out of my funk and see the light at the end of the tunnel. What if my built-up fatigue is so great that 3 weeks isn’t enough time for it to go away?

Of course, I’m scared of taking additional rest because I’m already right at the edge of what percentage I should be cutting back (10-20% of peak mileage each week…I actually ended up cutting back 25% this week). I’m already trying not to worry that I cut back this week from my planned total of 43 to 40.5 (.5 off one of my easy runs and taking my long run down from 15 to 13.1…although I did it at goal MP in 8000% humidity so I feel like that’s kind of the equivalent of 15 miles at long run pace, right?). Is the line between over-tapering and under-tapering really this thin? Good grief. This is the hard thing about listening to your body when you make changes: you go with your gut in the moment, and then just pray that you made the right decision.

Another hallmark of “taper madness” is questioning how the heck you can hit your goal paces on race day, and this is one I can actually relate to. But I don’t see how this is unique to taper. Most of you know that I’ve been going up and down on the doubt-o-coaster for months now. Whether I feel confident or not depends on the day, sometimes even the hour. If I had a dollar for every time I went back and forth between “I’m doing so awesome! I’ve so got this! Heck, maybe I’m even underestimating myself, maybe I could even hit 3:45 or below!” and “oh what the hell am I thinking? Just because I can hit these paces on an 8 or 13 mile run doesn’t mean I can hold them for 26.2! For cryin’ out loud, that’s two half marathons without stopping!!”, I’d be able to pay the entry fees for all of my races for the next two years.

 

I’m just glad this week is here. I really believe that the hardest part is over and it only gets easier from here on out. I’m only running 22 miles this week and then 10 for my final long run, for a total of 32. I feel like I can breathe again. My runs this week are 6, 4, 7, and 5 (maybe in that order, maybe not), and that makes me soooooo happy. I’m pretty sure the last time I only ran 4 miles in one day was back in March. This week will be so much more relaxing and the running much less time-consuming – now that is the taper I’ve been craving!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I also haven’t been taking the best care of myself these last few weeks. I had wanted to plan a bunch of healthy meals for my first week of taper and that never happened. I ended up eating out all week, although to my credit, I did make a lot of healthy choices in doing so. But I didn’t get nearly enough protein or iron and I was definitely feeling it by Friday. Anyway, we just planned a bunch of meals and snacks for the week and went on a big grocery shopping trip, so my nutrition will be much better this week. I’m also going to get my butt in gear and catch up with all that house work I’ve been neglecting for eternity. Not only will the productivity of keeping busy around the house make me feel more energized, having a tidy, comfortable space will make me feel more calm and centered.

 

I’m sorry you all had to endure this big ol’ whine-fest. I honestly wasn’t trying to be a Debbie Downer and I wasn’t trying to scare any future taper-ers, either. I really just wanted to be honest and give a slightly different perspective on the “taper madness.”

Perhaps I really do get the same ol’ taper crazies as everyone else; maybe I just cope with them differently. Regardless, if you’re reading this and you’ve ever felt like a weirdo because you don’t get the same taper crazies as everyone else, or get them at all (I didn’t get them during my first marathon), now you know you are not alone!!

Thanks for listening everyone.

 

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28 thoughts on “Taper….madness? Plus light at the end of the tunnel

  1. Oh my gosh, I am SOOOOOOOOOOO with you!!! I don’t get taper madness, either…I get down int he dumps, tired, more tired, and grumpy. I DO however enjoy cutting back as my legs are down right exhausted along with the rest of me, lol!

      1. AWESOME. I’m kind of jealous. Part of me wishes I could just forget my time goal, but I’ve already put in all this training for it. The upside is that if I don’t get it, I’ll almost certainly PR!

  2. I thought I was going insane during my taper before my half marathon. I felt like I was getting weird nonexistent injuries and was just overall freaking out.. but I think that also had a lot to do with the fact that it was my first race. I think your feelings are totally normal. You’ll do great!

    1. Thank you Maddie! Yeah, first races of any distance are a whole other ball game! After your first one, the taper crazies/nervousness is a lot different because you already know the experience. But I remember having the craziest butterflies for WEEKS before my first marathon and my first half marathon!

  3. You are definitely not alone! I had the same issue during my taper! I unfortunately had to stop running completely because of my IT band issues but I honestly didn’t mind it. I swear I cried every day though for fear of being too tired and not finishing the marathon. I think the taper affects everyone differently.

    1. It’s good to know I am not alone! You’re right, it’s different for everyone just like training is different for everyone. I just always wondered why I wasn’t feeling so restless like everyone else and if I was doing something wrong because I actually ENJOYED running less!

  4. I usually find myself feeling MORE tired during taper than the peak weeks of training. I think a lot of it has to do with your body finally having the ability to realize how tired you actually are. I’m always so surprised on race day because I typically still feel lethargic and then once I start running get the whole “oh wow, I am rested!” feeling! Hope you have a great Monday and enjoy that extra time you get for running 4 miles instead of 10 : )

    1. Thank you Jamie! That actually makes me feel a lot better hearing that! I’ll definitely keep in mind these next couple weeks that even if I feel tired, my body is ready!

  5. I call them the taper tantrums, haha – and I don’t know what they are, either! I love tapering and embrace the crap out of it. I also neglect everything – I tell my husband that since taper is here, I will also be taking a week or two off of “life”. This actually often continues for about two weeks after the marathon, until I snap out of it and need to get my sh$t together!

    Your fatigue WILL subside. That’s just the magic of the taper. For me, I feel like absolute garbage leading up to the race and then BOOm – race morning. Game on!

    Oh and I was so good about healthy meals and eating until last week. How did I make it this whole time with my game face on, just to lose focus now?! Crap!

  6. I definitely think a lot of the same things you do the week before a race. A lot of my issues stem around being afraid of injury, so I generally worry that my taper wont be enough and that I’ll get injured at the race. I’ve also driven myself crazy enough to think that I have a stress fracture the week before my first half marathon. But I also worry that my training wasn’t enough and that I’ll be paying for that low milage during the taper on race day. The mental game is tough, especially the few weeks before. Just take it one day at a time and you’ll kick serious butt!

  7. Wow total wine fest lol j/k….I actually see your gauge for the taper crazy. I always feel My training is good and just have general worries that don’t pertain to the taper. So I’m with you there. At the end of the day all we can do is go out, give 100%, and enjoy our ability to run. Love the closing picture by the way.

  8. I am with you on this! That being said, I have yet to run a marathon so I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced a true taper. Even still, when it’s taper time I welcome the break. I love training, but I love running even more and at the end of a training cycle I always look forward to having some down time!

  9. I know exactly how that feels! That’s what I had my first two marathons. It wasn’t until the other two that I had the real taper crazies. You will be rested enough though! And the adrenaline will help your body wake up and get you moving! It’s so hard the last couple of weeks to believe it, but your training will get you there!

  10. I haven’t really ‘tapered’ in the traditional sense before so my first shot at it will be for my first marathon. I’m interested to see how I feel about it – I am so familiar with overuse I think I may avoid the “must run more is better” crazies but only time will tell. And GOOD LUCK, save your energy this week for what’s to come πŸ™‚

  11. Hang in there! Just try to make sure you do actually rest. If tidying up will help you to mentally, and thus also physically, relax, then go for it! If it is something you just feel like has to get done, maybe it can wait. I’m sure you’ll be feeling great by race day and in the mean time, don’t beat yourself up about eating out or being tired, just try to make good food choices and get some rest and trust in your training.

  12. This is how I feel about taper, too!! Yes, I worry I may not hit my goal because the mileage is down…but the REASON I think that is because I let my mileage get TOO low. I’m sooo bad at following taper to a T because I want to just rest and I feel so burned out by that point! I need to do better about being true to taper this year.

  13. I remember us talking about this exact thing last fall! The first week of the taper is just ridiculous because the mileage volume feels just as high, it’s just the long run is a tiny bit shorter. I really embraced the second week of the taper last year and just ran when I felt like it (of course I was also on vacation in Europe and felt like that would have been a good excuse for a down week no matter where I was in training). I remember feeling really burnt out at the end of training anyway, and I think the break helped me get my mind right for the race.

    You are going to be fine on race day! It sounds like you are doing everything right down to the very last dot. This has been such an exciting and amazing training cycle … just try to relax and get ready to kick asphalt!

  14. Granted, I have only ever tapered for a half but I never feel crazy like everyone else does. I like the fact that there is less running on the plan. Those runs are usually rough though and I wonder how the hell I am going to run 13 miles. But I am also less dedicated with my training than you are. Your training has been solid and you will have an awesome race!

  15. I’ve never really experienced the taper crazies. My legs are so cashed by the end that I welcome the break and the extra sleep. Hope you get over your angsty teenage phase soon! LOL

    1. It’s funny that so many people are chiming in that they don’t experience them either. It really felt like I was one of the only ones. I guess that’s what I get for not taking everything I see on Runners World with a grain of salt!

  16. It’s so interesting to read this. I was afraid of the taper when I trained for my half. But turns out, I experienced the same thing you do. Short of blogging and reading blogs, I felt lazy and like I did nothing. And as a result questioned my readiness for the race. But I know you’ll do great!

  17. First of all, I love all the Newton Kismets in that picture.
    Second of all, taper madness shows itself in different ways for different people. Some people itch to get out of their skin, some can’t do a thing! I like to think that it is supposed to feel off and weird–that it’s working. You’ve worked hard, so rest up and save all that energy for the race!

    1. Thanks lady! I sure do love my Kismets!!

      This week my taper is starting to feel the opposite and I’m wondering if I’m TOO relaxed. Since my runs are shorter it’s harder not to push the pace, I have to remind myself that my race is in 10 days and I NEED to be conserving energy right now! It’s also still so hard for me to believe it’s that soon. It still feels like it’s weeks away.

  18. To some extent, I enjoy and welcome the taper. I love giving myself a break after all that work. Oddly enough, last week I had to TRY to not run 45 miles again though. I just felt like running. This week I’m getting more in your zone where I just want to rest and going out to run 4 miles seems like such a pain. Case in point: I was going to run 3-4 miles yesterday…but I didn’t feel like it so I just didn’t do it. Oh well – it happens!
    But I have all the same doubt that creeps up too. Sometimes marathon pace for just 5 miles is hard and sometimes it’s so easy. How do I know how it’s going to feel come race day?? I’m going crazy – constantly trying to convince myself that I AM good enough for my goals.
    Anyways, it’s time to just relax though and we’ll see what comes our way race day. I know you will do great though!!! You’ve trained so hard, you couldn’t possibly be more prepared. See you soon!!! πŸ˜€

    1. Sigh. I thought this week running would feel less like a pain since I’m only doing 5 milers. Nope. Still feels like a hassle. I just want this to be over with already! Sometimes I feel like if I have to come home and go through the same routine – change clothes. pull back hair and bangs. find and put on Garmin. have some water. force myself out the door – one more time, I will scream.

      I think you said it perfectly – sometimes MP is hard, sometimes it’s easy, how can I know which one it will be on race day? But like you I have to remind myself – I am capable of this. I worked hard and I deserve to be successful.

      Yaay 9 more days!

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