The tapering blues

It’s a beautiful morning. I have hours of free time. Yet I
sit here typing.

My legs feel heavy, a bit tired. I will not be running

Thing is, none of this is a surprise – I’m tapering.

Ever since the week before summer started, back when it was still
cool and rainy, I’ve been rising at 6 four to five days a week to get in my
run. It was either run a dawn or not at all.

Now, with my daughter in kindergarten for much of the day,
my schedule has changed. I can run at 9:30 or 12:30 – or even 6:30. In reality,
I don’t need to run at all.

I’m a little more than a week away from running in the
inaugural Bozeman Marathon. And my training has gone better than I have ever
imagined. I put in a 93-mile week (actually, it was over 8 days), with the
final day being a 23-miler with 9 miles of tempo work at marathon pace. Two
weeks later, I was up to 80 over 6 days. I upped my tempo run to 14 miles this
past Sunday, but have run just twice since (it’s now Friday).

I knew these last two weeks pre-race were going to involve
that dead-legs feeling, which is always accompanied by thoughts of doubt. It’s
almost inevitable. There’s too much time to think; running thoughts have
replaced my running.

But I know I’ve put in the work. This will be my 14th
marathon. I know the drill.

The key now is to rest – both my body and my mind. I have to
know that 1), I can’t do anything at this point to make my marathon any better;
and 2), realize that the training I’ve done will be sufficient for a good race
on Sept. 11.

Plus, it doesn’t matter how my legs feel now. All that
matters is that at 7 a.m. on 9/11, I’ll be ready to go. There’s bound to be a
point in the race where I get in a groove, and at that point, my legs will feel
invincible. The goal then is to avoid a rut as long as I can.

This year’s training has, again, been over-the-top good. Sometimes
I remember the training more than I do the actual race.

My second marathon, the Clarence Demar in Keene, N.H., in
2002 was like this. I recall being on Cape Cod, visiting my parents for the
week, and wanted to do my longest long run there in preparation for the race.
But it was hot and muggy (it was August; the race was at the end of the month),
and even though I set out before 8 a.m., it didn’t take long for the heat to
get to me. And because there was water everywhere (my folks lived near a
river), I kept having to turn around.

I always prefer loops runs rather than boring out-and-back
ones, but it was difficult to come up with a loop since I wasn’t familiar with
the area. I kept telling myself to not go back in the direction of my parents’
house so I wouldn’t be tempted to cut the run short.

So I ran away from the house as much as possible.
Eventually, I was near the neighborhood so I decided to head to the beach and
run along the parking lot, which ended after about a mile and a half. When it
ended, I ran along a rock jetty, which was only so long. I had promised myself
I wouldn’t run around until I was at the 2-hour mark.

Eventually, the rocks disappeared into the ocean, and I
think I turned around at 1:57. Had no choice.

Anyhow, the humid air was draining and I made it home after
a 2:30 run feeling lousy.

It wasn’t a great experience, but the best part was that
three days later, the humidity eased and the air was no longer so heavy. I
headed out on a two-hour run in the cool morning. I felt so much better in the
drier air. The run felt easy, and I was confident I could have a good marathon.
And did: broke three hours for the first time.

This year, I easily remember how well my 23-miler went. How
I added on an extra mile because I felt so good. And last week’s 14-mile tempo
run was great because I found a road (Linny Road, which connects Cameron Bridge
Road to Amsterdam Road in Belgrade) I had never run on before.

Even with the fact that my GPS watch gave out at Mile 7 (I
wore two watches because the battery in the GPS one said it was running low
before I headed out) didn’t take away from the experience.

Without the reliance of a watch that kept track of mileage, I
tried the keep up the same pace while I made my way back across Jackrabbit Lane
and toward my house. I knew of an exact mile measurement near home, so that
last one would help me determine if I’d kept up the same 6:40-ish pace the
whole way. Bingo: 6:36!

I was still two miles from home, so I walked a bit. No need
to overdo it. The training was finally OVER.

Now I count down the days to the big race. I go over the
course in my mind. I try and rest as much as possible. I may run tomorrow, I
may not. Doesn’t matter. All that matters is getting to the starting line and
letting my training take over.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself. Over and over.

Tapering is an important ingredient to a marathon. On Sept.
12 I’ll be glad I mixed it in.

For now, I hate it.


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September 2011
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