It’s Taper Time…

12 weeks down, 2 more to go.

I’m excited.

I’m anxious.

I’m impatient.

I’m nervous.

I’m restless. Now running only half the weekly mileage or less from the previous week? I’m depriving myself!

I just wrapped up my final long run this morning on a tuneup half in Kelly Drive and here I am shaking with an ice pack staring at an Excel spreadsheet – my training plan whilst I update my running journal.

I completed it in 2:19:33. Given the injury which I will explain in a few paragraphs, it turned out pretty well. It could have been worse. The nice thing here was that I had done it with friends and it gave me an idea of how I can improve for the Amish Half in two weeks.

The crew at National Mechanics after the NERR race. Thanks Vee! 24 Oct 2010.

Everyone I know working on the Philly Marathon (or half) including Team Sorechester (as I call them) will continue to train for another two weeks on long runs until they taper down, but here I am, ya terminé. Their day of destiny? 21 November. Mine? The 6th.

I see the flurry of messages on Twitter from the running community, goddamn it I want to be part of the club, but my first race can’t come soon enough. Meeting other avid runners at the expos and browsing all the cool (but sometimes horribly expensive) stuff vendors have to offer runners. The best experiences are meeting others en masse at expos and at the finish line from what I’ve heard, and it’s those experiences that help make the overall running experience priceless.

Injury now scares me more than before. Why? Not the physical pain, but emotionally. I thought I was psychotic to feel this way, but it turns out other runners feel this way too and that it’s completely normal. If I’m injured, I can’t run with people. I can’t train with the local crews here. I can’t run with my boyfriend Jeff. If I’m really unlucky, I will have to skip races, just as Sergio did with the ING RnR in Philly so that he wouldn’t miss out on his full marathon (the Philly Marathon) in November. It was a painful decision, but one he made after seeking my advice (I was shocked when he did) and going to his doctor after I’d told him to. I hope that will never be the case for me, but after racing so many races and for so long it is bound to happen at some point.

I’m paranoid to the sense that I’ve been eating healthier because it will benefit me in the long run, that I’m sticking to my training plan, doing the right stretches, and making sure I’m resting when I need to. Almost to the extent that deviating even one day might do me in, work conflicts or travel notwithstanding. Of course those adjustments due to work travel, I somehow survive those. But even with all the training, I still think I was once the weakling, that my body it’s up for handling this as I thought it was. I might have come through all but 2 weeks left, but there’s still some self-doubt. I don’t know why.

Maybe it’s just temporary and part of my first taper ever. Maybe these feelings will disappear after 6 November, or maybe not. I’ve surprised myself over the past 12 weeks, but there’s a part of me not knowing where my limit is and how much further until I reach it. It’s the fear of the unknown.

I’ve done 13-14 miles twice over with a more serious crew. Today I semi-officially completed my first half (it was a Northeast Philadelphia tuneup half, they provided timing, water stops and a t-shirt but they are no frills and no fluff like other races) with only the slightest issues at hand today between a slight cold and a pulled shoulder muscle that I was able to work out the final two miles. I know at the very worst I can do a half without too many issues. How many races? What are the goals, however gradual they might be, that I should set with different hills, course types, and pace? Will my body break down then? I’m not looking for a BM qualification time, but just smaller goals, gradual steps.

Obviously there’s the money issue for some people, and I’ll admit I am fortunate enough to be able to do this without issues. Each race costs money. Even when grad school keeps me in Philly, I still have to replace shoes every 300-500 miles. GU boxes are $8 for a 6 pack of them. Granted my needs for my sport aren’t taxing to me at all, although I look at the dollar amount I’ve spent on running and probably a year ago when I was unemployed it might have looked staggering. If my mother looked through my expenses for running, she’d disown me by now. (No, that’s probably not too farfetched to be quite honest.) But it’s like any other sport. I saw a tweet yesterday, I think it said two biggest expenses in running are shoes and physical therapy and focus on the former helps reduce the need for the latter. Running shoes are anything but cheap. It is what it is.

But there are people I know, former Penn grads, high school friends that drop literally thousands of dollars to travel, train, and run their races. I’m not talking the Ryan Halls of our sport that drop thousands so they can shave off 1-2 seconds from their time. I’m talking the truly avid amateurs. I know I don’t need to do this to satisfy my needs and goals from the sport, but there are some races down the line where I just want that experience. Not Boston. Chicago I heard is wonderful. And there’s a few races in Europe that would be a dream to do because the runs are so scenic.

Of course I have my own life. I plan on doing two races next spring. I am not sure if my body can handle more and with my job, I have to be extremely careful with Sunday races as Sunday travel is a bit common for me. The Shamrock SportsFest occurs during my vacation time, so I’m set there. I could be safe during Arlington if I have a work assignment there, or maybe not. If I do Philadelphia’s Oddyssey, it may or may not be another story.

And once grad school starts, it’s one race per semester although I could make an exception in the fall, if they continue to run the ING race early enough in September and then I could just do the Philly Half in November. That might not be so bad. We will have to see.

I wanted SO badly to run the Broad Street Run and Long Branch (the NJ Marathon/Long Branch Half in NE NJ) as well. Both races turn out to be first weekend in May, but this spring is a no-go with my friend’s wedding out of town. Next year, it may or may not work as both these races may coincide with finals. Dammit. Obviously I can’t run both (highly unlikely) in the same year, but as it stands Long Branch will be my first choice.

Both races are huge races, and large races allow me to meet more people from the area as well as coordinate the so-called Tweetups common amongst the running network. Those can be fun and part of the experience if planned right.

But yeah that also fuels fear of injury. Not wanting to miss out. Fear of the unknown. After grad school, years down…I’d like to run my first full. If my body holds up well. I want to do it.

I’m just scared of hitting my limit before I realise my goals or even worse as I hit them. I’m prepared and knowledgeable as what to do should I injure myself during a race, but still. It will be devastating emotionally.

Mentally this two-week taper period isn’t going to help. What if? The isolation is killing me. I’m grateful for having worked the NERR tuneup this morning with Vee, Erica, Samantha, and the others. It’s so much better running with friends or cheering them on once you’re done.

I just want to cross that finish line and celebrate at the afterparty like everyone else and I can’t wait. I’m hoping nothing happens to me between now and then. It’s just that experience, more of the camaraderie that I enjoy a lot.

I’m just a bit excited but a bit anxious as well. And why? Because running has changed my life on many levels. I don’t take it lightly and I want to continue living in that positive change. It is what it is.

Update 26.10.10: Picture courtesy of Vee – added to the post.

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2 thoughts on “It’s Taper Time…

  1. Wow, I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned just by reading your blog. I HATE running, but your passion is inspirational and I feel like I’m right there with you (now only if my thighs would feel like I’m right there with you and I could lose a few pounds, that would be ideal! LOL). I really hope you reach all of your goals. Keep it up!

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