Taper Tantrum

I always say that I have a love-hate relationship with tapering.  But, the truth is :: I really just hate it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am officially freaking out.

Instead of being excited about my upcoming race, the vacation that will follow it, our almost-complete pergola, or the fact that Fall is finally here, I have spent the last three days talking to runners, physical therapists, my oh-so patient husband, and pretty much anyone else who will listen about all my phantom pains and panic attacks.

This taper is even worse than the last (and, yes, I say this every time).  My ankle hurts.  My Achilles hurts.  No, wait, my shin hurts.  So much so that on Tuesday morning, I quit 4 miles into a 6-mile run.  I haven’t done that all season.  It’s really that crazy!

The insanity of my current mindset didn’t sink in until I talked to my mom last night.  When I started using words like “taper” and “phantom pain,” I quickly realized that she had no idea what I was talking about.  Then, when I tried to explain what they mean, I quickly realized that I sounded nuts.  My other non-running friends have just let me ramble without asking any questions, but not Mom.  She couldn’t understand why I wasn’t enjoying my reduced training schedule or why I was suddenly freaking out about every little ache.  Ultimately, I decided a change of subject was in order, and we moved on.

The taper is a fascinating phenomenon.

On the one hand, it is one of the most important components of any training cycle, particularly for long-distance runners.  It is imperative that you have 2-3 weeks of reduced mileage before your goal race to allow your body to recover.

On the other hand, it makes runners go a little – or a lot – loony.  When you run the mileage necessary to prepare for a marathon, you develop not only a physical, but also a physiological, dependency on running.  I crave the feeling I have after a solid 10-mile weekday run or a 15+ mile weekend run — my mind is clear, my body cleansed, and my muscles achy in that ‘good way’ that lets you know you worked hard.  So, the fact that all my runs are now 6 miles or less makes me feel lazy.  Combine that with the self-imposed pressure to hit my goal time and the nervous energy associated with the fact that my goal race is 9 days 8 hours and 45 minutes away (damn web-timer), and you have a recipe for disaster!

Everyone keeps telling me that my “phantom pains” are just that.  But, how can a “phantom” pain hurt so badly?

It turns out that all those minor twinges and new aches are all part of the rejuvenation process.  During the taper, tissue repair is happening on a microscopic level, which causes the muscles to twitch and sometimes even cramp.  So, take that — my pains are real!!  (Yes, I spent a ridiculous amount of time today studying this issue.  Hey, I have lots of extra energy remember?)

The so-called “solution” for these phantom pains is to accept each pain as a signal that the taper is working because the body is healing itself and preparing for the marathon.  I know this is true.  I tell my runners this is true.  But, I still say it’s easier said than done.

So, I’d like to take a moment to thank my husband, my family, my friends, my co-workers, my runners, and anyone else whose path I cross in the next 9 days for putting up with my neuroses.

Now, please excuse me while I retreat to my nightly epsom salt bath…


About Beth

Wife, daughter, big sis, aunt, friend, attorney, runner, cyclist, amateur chef & aspiring photographer. Thanks for keeping up with my life on the run!
This entry was posted in running. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Taper Tantrum

  1. Congratulations on all of the hard training! I know it’s going to pay off for you. What race are you doing?

    P.s. is this what I have to look fwd to in the taper? ehhh… 😉

    • Beth says:

      Thanks! I’m running St. George in Utah on Oct 2. I take it you are running White Rock and Houston? (from your site) Good luck!

      I experience this every taper, but some of the runners in my training group love tapering and look forward to it all season. Maybe you’ll get lucky and avoid the tantrums. Regardless of how you feel, trust the taper!! Even though it freaks me, it always works. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s