The signs are all there. The long-range weather forecast now includes the big day. Some of my dairy products expire after I will earn my finisher’s necklace. And, most importantly, my longest and hardest runs are now behind me. Yes, folks, it’s time for the taper!
Before Disney’s Princess Half-Marathon, I didn’t get to experience the taper. Having lost almost 6 weeks of training due to a foot injury, I was running every other day, trying to build myself back up in time to run like royalty. I came home from the Princess feeling accomplished and relieved that I had survived the race!
I knew that in many ways, I needed to start again and build from the ground up. The training I lost while in rehabilitation for my pesky foot had taken its toll. Recovering from that lost time was harder than managing the injury itself. I jumped into a half-marathon training plan to help me prepare for this upcoming race while also struggling with the post-Princess blues. It has been a process going back to basics. Cortisone saved the day pre-Princess, but I’m now dealing with a chronic injury. Starting over with this new reality has not been easy. I use KT Tape and toe spacers every time I lace up, no matter the distance and I’m in orthodic shoes/sandals at all times to keep it under control. So much for glass slippers!
The longest runs in this training plan have caused me great anxiety – whereas I used to bang out 18K and 20K runs feeling strong, just seeing those distances on my training plan this time around caused feelings of nauseous dread. And when they didn’t go well, I would beat myself up about it for days. What I should have celebrated along the way was hitting those distances again without pain, yet I was disappointed when those runs were difficult and my times were slower than they were 6 months ago. This is the classic case of being your own worst critic, instead of your loudest cheerleader…something I need to improve upon in my next training cycle!
But all of that training came together this past weekend when I tackled my last long run of the training plan on Mother’s Day: 20K. Again, I fretted and worried about it all week beforehand. It seemed so intimidating, particularly since I didn’t have any recent long runs that had gone especially well. This past weekend, though, I nailed that run despite the extra resistance the unfortunate high winds added! It was a great culminating effort in my training. My mind stayed positive (save for a few expletives about the wind) and, one by one, the kilometres went by. I felt great throughout the run: feet, legs, lungs, heart, head, all working together.
Until this run, I was worried that my training wasn’t working. I was worried I wouldn’t be ready for my second half-marathon. Honestly, in full disclosure, this race intimidates me much more than the Princess did. There are no castles to distract from the task at hand. No characters waiting for photo opportunities. No costumes to remind me it’s all for fun. No reasons to stop and take a breath if needed. In this race, I’ll just be running from the start line to the finish. Mind you, there are firefighters on the course with water and a finisher’s necklace in lieu of medal at the end, plus a chocolate station – nice perks for sure, but let’s get real: it’s not Disney.
So here I am, ready to see what a taper feels like for the first time. With less than two weeks to race day, I am almost giddy just thinking about the relative ease of my scheduled runs for the next week or so – shorter distances, less pressure, grooving to my tunes and running to stay loose. There is no such thing as “cramming” from here on out. I’ll be coasting to the start line, knowing I did my homework – even when it was difficult, especially when it was difficult. I’ll be drinking lots of water. Trying to get to bed earlier. Stalking the weather forecast. Building my play list. And remembering that getting to this starting line healthy is a huge accomplishment. It’s time to have faith and trust in the training…and, of course, a little bit of pixie dust always helps too. Let’s hope for some on race day when I put on the sparkle, line up with my sole sisters, and get ready to shine!
Tell us: How do you prepare for a race?