It’s funny – 90% of the time that I have ever spent at a Sports Rehab Clinic is during the week before a race… aka taper trouble time. The fact that running big races is still relatively new to me means that I am definitely above the average of my own statistic, as all but one of my physio appointments have been prompted by Taper week. This eureka moment only really occurred to me because my physio commented that most of the athletes she sees tend to do the.exact.same.thing. Funny, that.
It kind of surprised me that I wasn’t the only one who experiences random tweaking sensations during this pre-race timeframe of supposedly gentle recovery exercise and rest, but I guess it makes sense. When we aren’t frantically busy trying to cram scheduled workouts into days that already seem to fill up on their own, there’s more time to focus on niggly pains (both real and imagined). If given enough time and worrying, pretty quickly these minor pains that we happily ignore for months while training can suddenly grow into issues of epic proportions. Cue the last minute sports therapy appointments, which masquerade as a “somebody please fix me now, but don’t you dare tell me I can’t run my big race!” cry of desperation.
On Saturday, I’m running the Gorge 50km trail ultra-race in Portland, Oregon. It’s not the most technical race I’ve ever done, but it’s not the easiest either. Weather can play a big factor at this time of year in the mountains, and there are a couple of killer climbs at the beginning and end of the race that are designed to kick you when it hurts. And even though this race was planned with friends as a “let’s go have fun and take selfies in front of the millions of waterfalls that make this race famous and somehow run 50km in the process”, it’s still hard not to feel a bit of anxiety leading up to the race. Fun-run or not, 50km is still a long effing distance, and I can’t avoid the perpetual, mostly unsubstantiated fear of injury that lurks in the cobwebs of my mind before every big race.
Seriously, the amount of times that I’ve dreamed about falling flat on my face and breaking my nose (or ankle, or leg, or neck) on a suddenly looming root (or rock, or tree, or my shoelace)… You get the picture. The combinations are endless, but the premise remains the same, and the ending never changes. My inner klutz gleefully takes every opportunity to remind me of my talents for tripping over and walking into things, and I spend a surprising amount of energy during taper week reminding myself that I am, in fact, mostly capable of picking my own damn feet up and avoiding ending up on my ass… and that race day isn’t all that different from any other day.
I still haven’t perfected my taper week serenity yet, but what I’ve found that works the best for me is to plan (non-running) activities with my (non-running) friends. They remind me that there is more to life besides my minor aches and pains (specifically the phantom ones). I know it’s terrible that this is the only time I consciously plan to catch up with friends that I don’t always do the best job of keeping in touch with normally, but there are just not enough hours in the days. Plus, it’s a perfectly good excuse to do more races, right? Or I will slowly convince all of my friends to take up running. That is the most efficient plan of all.
What’s your magic formula for taper week??