The Taper Game

On Saturday the crew and I worked our way up the coast a bit to visit some family and attended “opening day” for a local yacht club – no not our typical Saturday of basketball, soccer, and sweat.  After a loooooong (especially if you’re 6 & 8) ceremony, they handed out sparkling cider & champagne for a toast.

For 10 minutes, the boys remained tortured holding their glasses of sparkling cider, but unable to drink the liquid goodness.  I turned around and saw this:

IMG_3115Watching every bubble float, smelling the sweet nectar…but ah ah ah – no taste.

Getting to taper for a marathon is kind of like that.  Months of feeling the sweat, tasting the electrolytes, feeling the pound of the pavement over and over and over…and well, you get it…but no real sense of what the 26.2 is going to look like.

You finish your training on tired legs and just wait for your body to get rest, restore and prepare for the 26.2 miles that lies ahead.

The close of my training wasn’t pretty.  


Why yes, my son did take a nice crotch shot of my icing my groin.  I may have forgotten the ice was there and was doing my “best dramatic post-long run pose”.

Actually none of this training cycle was pretty.  At best, it was improvisational marathon training – at worst, it was a bunch of haphazard long-runs tossed in with a slightly more than average mileage sandwiched between a ridiculously busy winter schedule.  Work,  doctor’s appointments, school events, practices for this, that and the other, orthodontist appointments, soccer games, family priorities and sickness of every sort imaginable kind of dominated the training and I just did what I could, when I could do it.

And it ended with a 20-miler that went down in a ball of fury leaving a trail of self-doubt, regret and frustration about what’s going to happen in 3 weeks.  Grrrr.

Of course, I started out my final (and sadly first) 20-miler all ready to kill it.  I was mentally set to run 4 perfectly timed 5 mile blocks and while I got through 15 of them in spectacular fashion – the fatigue of not enough cutback weeks and sleep deprivation set in and miles 15-20 were about as spectacular as a bad Lifetime movie, which is to say, it was so bad that you could hardly look away.

Taste, but no real picture of what it’s going to look like.  I sure just hope it’s better than the final chapter of the training.

What’s your best taper story?

How do you stay mentally tough after a really bad final workout?


8 thoughts on “The Taper Game

  1. Oh dear! I’m sorry the last five miles were so rough! Your experience sounds very similar to my one and only 20-miler for my first marathon. I totally bonked (finished, but barely) and was quite discouraged at first. But then I reminded myself that part of the reason we do the 20-mile long run is to practice all the logistics for the 26.2 mile run, and I could certainly learn from what went wrong on the 20-miler and make sure it didn’t happen on the 26.2 (I paid attention to carbo-loading the days before which I’d forgotten to do for the 20-miler, I adjusted my fuel — fluids and gels — and I certainly benefited from tapering.) I was pleasantly surprised when race day rolled around and I enjoyed the miles! I hope you get some good rest over the next 3 weeks. No beating yourself up with regret and frustration because that is wasted energy that you need to save to have the best race possible. Think of it as “mental training” and beat the taper crazies!

  2. Sometimes I think our bodies freak out when in taper mode…just a switch from the norm and it doesn’t know what to do. You will be ready…remove the bad run from your mind and focus on the good ones.

  3. I’m with fitfun and zippy, here. Don’t let this bad run set the mood for the marathon. Maybe you aren’t *quite*in the shape you want to be in, and maybe your training hasn’t been *quite* as organized as you’d like – but keep your expectations reasonable, and enjoy the ride. You can still have a great race. Maybe it won’t be a PR, but it’ll be another marathon experience in the books – and sometimes, removing the PR pressure actually makes for a more fun race.

    Relax, stay optimistic, a keep looking forward!

  4. I love your honesty and openness, it’s refreshing. I’ve never prepared for a marathon, only a half and I’ve had my share of bad workouts. I think once you get into the moment of the marathon, it’ll be a whole new awakening and you’ll do great!

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