As I said in my last post I have never felt more ready for some time off running than right now.
This is my fourth marathon and although the taper feels easier this time round it’s never actually as easy as you think it will be.
You’ve put your everything into training for 4 months: got up early, run in the rain, in the dark, when you’re tired, and now all of a sudden you have to stop putting the pedal to metal?
You have to stop using mileage as a marker for your achievements or sore muscles as proof that the training is paying off, and start relying on faith in yourself.
I don’t know about you, but for me that’s the hardest part. As soon as I stop running and start to relax I become mentally swamped by this awful possibility:
…and it’s not going to be a good reality
The temptation to ‘check’ your fitness by pushing yourself a bit more than you should on that short run, or going just a little bit further than you’re supposed to on your ‘long’ run is really strong.
Even now, when I am so very ready for a break I still have to remind myself of that old saying quoted by coaches everywhere:
It’s better to be underdone than overdone
It really is better to turn up to the start line with a slight loss of fitness than arrive nursing niggling injuries. At this point you can’t do anything more to improve your fitness for race day, but you can make it worse.
One of the mental tricks I use to distract myself from the ‘what if’s’ and keep my goal front and centre is to concentrate on something else leading up to the race. This time round, while I am of course going to slack off as much as humanely possible in the running department, I am also going to concentrate on strength training.
Not too much, these last few weeks are meant to be a chance for my body to repair itself and rest for the Big Day. However, keeping on top of my core work and upper body strength will help a lot in the second half of the race, when I am tired, and making sure I do my single leg squats religiously will lower the chance of injuring Mr Piriformis again.
Most importantly, none of these strength exercises will prevent me from resting my legs. They’ll be fresh as a daisy come October 13th, but as strong as I can possibly make them, too.
I also find it really helpful to stop reading sports magazines and running articles around now. I don’t need to be revved up by hearing about an accidental marathon win or a new trail run event in the mountains .
FYI: I have banned myself from entering any more races until at least one month after the Melbourne Marathon, I am THIS close to being burnt out!
Having said that, still – how awesome does the Falls Creek race look??
No, no more races! Now is the time to go to Grand Final BBQ’s, pointless drunken housewarming parties and other late night shenanigans I would have refused a few weeks ago, as well as enjoy seeing my 10 year old actually go to bed before me.
All right, I’m still working on that one…
And while I do I will revel in the extra mental clarity that comes with NOT running 60k in a week, and read more, write more, maybe even get a bit of drawing or painting done.
It’s all about how you look at it. Instead of seeing this time of less running as something that is being taken away from me, I think of it more as being given something. Such as time, energy, relaxation and good old injury-preventing rest.
For sure, make new goals – us runners don’t work well at anything without concrete goals to motivate us to achieve – just be careful what they are and be sure you’re not shooting yourself in the foot.
Seriously, really, really don’t shoot yourself in the foot, even if you are wearing horrific brown brogues with a black suit and a checked shirt.
I have decided my goals for the next 2ish weeks are:
Keep up regular strength training
Eat as though I am channelling Gwyneth Paltrow: less coffee, less alcohol, more fruit and veg and less sugar and fat
Sleep, sleep, sleep
Concentrate on relaxing, let the stress of the past few months trickle out of me so I am calm as a Zen monk on race day.
Mind you, this last one may be the hardest of all, even writing the words Race Day sent a shiver of anticipation up my spine, so exciting!!!
T minus 15 days and counting…watch this space!