Tim Bergsten created this Ning Network.

Tapering – it’s something some runners love, possibly a magical world filled with rainbows and chocolate and ice cream off in the distance dreamed of during long runs in the bulk of training, or something runners hate, loving every single step of their last long run before the dreaded period known as the ‘taper’.

While I know plenty of people that covet the taper, counting down the days towards its commencement, I am of the opposite party – I (hmm not quite hate, but let’s go with it) hate tapering. It’s the pure antithesis of my instinct. Even back before I knew what this running and training thing was all about, I’d be riding my bike around my family’s property, and every loop think, “Just one more”. And then 10 loops later I’d finally regrettably stop. That’s still engrained in me, as with every run I’m coming up with some plan of maybe going a little extra, and if someone else suggests it, I’m sold and there’s no going back, no stopping me.

Then there’s the comparison of schoolwork to running – it’s natural to study nonstop for 8 hours the night before an exam, why can’t I just continue running at the same distance I had been building up to? Especially when my absolute favorite parts of the trail are the upper 6 miles? Particularly when I’ll be having Pikes Peak run withdrawals within a couple months of heading back to school? Why must I take away that feeling of satisfaction and odd refresh after doing a roundtrip of Pikes Peak? After all, tapering rudely snatches away my odd pleasure of muscle soreness from those 20 mile runs, taking away the necessity of wrestling with compression socks followed by climbing into bed for such a peaceful and deep-sleeping nap, and upon awakening, offering the excuse of long runs to justify eating any particular salty food or more chocolate. (I mean, dark chocolate has been proven to improve endurance and has natural antioxidants, so the further I run, the more antioxidants I need, right???)

The thing I think I hate most about tapering is waiting. Running is typically immediate feedback – how do I feel? How’s my pace? Was that last step a good placement for push-off? How is this run going compared to yesterday’s? Then, suddenly after the biggest run of the season, taper begins, promising to give feedback of these runs in nothing short of two weeks come race day.

It’s interesting, though, how a taper differs for the event you’re training for. Flat marathons have their suggested two to three weeks of taper. Pikes Peak is a total different ball game, with a lighter taper possibly more helpful. Then there’s the evolution in the thoughts of the taper, progressing from comparatively minimal exercise, to shorter distance but high intensity leading to race day. Finally there’s a general lack of literature on taper for trail and mountain running as Pikes Peak, especially the double – with putting on 39 miles in 2 days; how many full rest days to take before the races?

While so many questions float about, I’ll go with instinct and hope for the best. In doing so, I’ll adopt a philosophy I found fitting from Trail Runner magazine: “Race Day. Many say that this day is a reward for all of your training. I look at it as a celebration – the taper is over” – Garett Graubins, January 2012 Trail Runner Magazine

So by race day, I’ll be greatly celebrating these views. 

Happy running/tapering!

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