The taper crazies (and the secret to avoid them!)

This evening I went for a 4 mile run on the New River State Park Trail. Dad and Barry came along and they biked separately from me while I ran. The trail has a slight incline on the way out, and it kind of chips away at you. But then once you turn around to head back, you can really feel the difference. I moved along at 45 seconds to 1 minute per mile faster on the way back. It was around 75 degrees outside, which isn’t nearly as hot as it was on Tuesday and Wednesday. I still took water with me, though, and I was glad to have it. I think this cold makes my throat feel dry.

Speaking of which, I’m still fighting this cold, which is pretty much just in my chest now. It caused me to cough a lot, especially once I finished running, and my chest felt pretty tight. Other than that I am feeling better and I’m not feeling as tired as I did earlier in the week. This week and next are part of my taper leading up to the Blue Ridge Half on April 20,  so I thought I’d talk a little about what I call the “taper crazies”.

Most of us have probably been there: you build your mileage up week after week preparing for your goal race. And then all of a sudden your mileage is cut way back, usually the two weeks leading up to that goal race. This, as well all know, is called the taper. And the taper can drive you crazy!

Lots of things happen during a taper in addition to scaling back your mileage and decreasing the intensity of your workouts. There are a lot of mind games that go on, and the taper can end up feeling tougher than those long runs you fretted over during your build up. It doesn’t help that the closer you get to race day, the more nervous you probably get. And what do we runners do when we get stressed out? We run. What do we do during taper? We run less. Talk about a catch-22.

It is also common to gain a little bit of weight while tapering. Of course, your mind may tell you you’ve gained more than you really have. But experts say it’s good to have a few extra pounds on race day, because it most likely means you’re well hydrated. Most of the weight gain seen during taper is due to water weight, gained through glycogen storage. It’s also common to crave carbs, or just have a ravenous appetite in general, during taper.

There’s also something about tapering that brings on “phantom injuries”. I call them that because they’re usually not really injuries, but they will scare the heck out of you. Here you are one or two weeks out from your big day and you’ve got a sharp pain in your knee that you’ve never had before. I’ve heard this referred to as withdrawal from running and I’ve also heard it referred to as aches and pains from your body being able to finally repair some of the damage caused by training.

So how do we avoid all these lovely things? This is the secret part! You catch a cold!!

No, I’m totally joking. But I will tell you that having this cold for the past week or so has helped me not miss the higher mileage, as I taper for the Blue Ridge Half.

But seriously, here are some things that help with the taper crazies:

Emphasize the carbs in your diet to help you feel full. Instead of pork chops with penne pasta, have penne pasta with pork chops.

Follow your taper plan. Resist the urge to squeeze in extra miles or to run all of your shorter runs hard. I think it’s okay to do one or two faster 2-3 mile runs to give you a boost, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to run everything faster. Also, don’t take that strong and fast feeling you may have during taper and try and win a 5K age group award the week before your goal race. It’ll probably come back to bite you.

Trust your training. What’s done is done, your training is behind you. No matter what happened or how it went, you can’t change it now. Feel confident in yourself and know that you put in the work.

Phantom Pains. Just remind yourself that it’s your body healing and getting you ready for race day.

The week leading up to a goal race, I like to read everything I can about the race on the race website and look at other people’s race reports. I also poke around the race’s Facebook page if they have one, and may spend some time on marathonguide.com. I also like to find something to focus on- be it a good book or a movie. It can be running-related, but it doesn’t have to be (I know some people like to avoid running-related websites and things like that leading up to the race). These things help me get excited about the race, calm my nerves (by working out race day logistics, etc.), and keep my mind occupied so that I don’t focus on my taper crazies.

Have you ever experienced any of these taper crazies?

What do you do in the weeks leading up to a big race to keep yourself sane?

What’s your next big race that you’re training for?

6 Comments

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  1. Hmm, I’ve only tapered once but I enjoyed it tremendously. No worries here. LOL I guess I never realized how much it bothered others! I have a half marathon on Mother’s Day. I’m following a Hal Higdon plan that doesn’t include much of a taper so I should be good!

    1. Sounds like a good way to celebrate Mother’s Day!

  2. Trust your training! I heard that a lot!
    I remember you commenting about phantom injuries. After all that running it does feel counter-intuitive NOT to run more miles in those weeks right before a race!

    1. I know! It’s always tempting to “squeeze in” a few more miles to make yourself feel more ready for the race.

  3. I haven’t really had to taper yet for any of my races. I got sick before my last half (kind of like you!), so it was just easy to take time off. My first real taper will be for my race in June and I’m sure it’s going to drive me crazy. I have a recovery week next week and I’m sure even just that might make me itch. We’ll see how it goes! Thanks for the tips!! I’ll be sure to check back to this next time I’m gearing up to taper!

    1. Haha, yea this taper has been easy because I haven’t felt like running 🙂 Glad this post might be able to help you in the future!

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