Change is often scary, especially when you are well versed in your old ways.
Yesterday marked the official start of taper. Today, we are seventeen full days away from the start of Knock on Wood 100. Seventeen. If I’m being completely honest, nearly three weeks of tapering feels incredibly wrong…despite the fact that my first week of cutting back is still nearly 50 miles long.
The motivating-optimistic-coach side of me keeps thinking of the quote from Thomas Jefferson, “If you want something you’ve never had, You must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” Well, the truth is I’ve never (actually) trained for a one hundred mile foot race before, so of course I’ve never tapered for nearly three weeks. For almost any active person (never mind a Strava using, Garmin wearing, obsessed runner) , three weeks is a LONG time to decrease your activity levels. After months and months of building my mileage, a planned decrease is probably the hardest part of training to trust. Typically a three week decline is something that happens as my fitness starts going into the garbage…not something I purposefully do leading up to the biggest race of my life (thus far).
Regardless of my hesitations, this is what a 100 mile taper looks like. I’ve talked to coaches. I’ve compared notes with experienced ultra runners. I even googled the damn thing…more than once. A three week taper is not only NOT unheard of, in fact, it’s often the norm. The part of me that understands physiology, and the whole purpose behind training cycles, peaking, and tapering does understand this is what I have to do.
But none of that stops the crazy-runner-who-can’t-listen-to-reason from being incredibly fearful that I’ve peaked too soon.
Confession time: prior to the past year, I rarely ever trained properly for a race. I know, I know, no one is surprised here. Therefore the last few weeks leading up to a race would often include a pointless “cramming” of miles in, hoping I could somehow gain a tiny bit of fitness before the event. Spoiler alert: that doesn’t actually work. Not doing that this time…and what’s more, not needing to do that this time because I’ve trained properly and sufficiently…is a very strange, new, and unknown feeling.
My gut reaction is to cram, even though I know better. I want to go out and run as much as I possibly can. I want to believe that I can do so much more, that I can still make physical and mental gains, anything to prevent that all too familiar feeling of “I should have trained harder” that has haunted me mid race more times than I care to remember. But as my boss/friend/much wiser runner says to me: “The hay is in the barn”. I figured that expression was another one of the hilarious and awesome Roger’s family sayings, but apparently this is a common saying in the running world.
The hay IS in the barn. There’s nothing more I can do.
All I can do now is wait for winter…and trust that I’ve stacked up enough bales of hay. Or in runner talk: rest, recovery, take really good care of my body, and hope I don’t do anything stupid in the next 17 days…