My taper, part planned, part circumstantial, began last week. With the upcoming GARDEN OF THE GODS 10 MILER on June 12th, I wanted to cut my quantity of training while still maintaining quality in speed/tempo workouts. And, just in case I got a wild hare to squeeze in a big run, a weekend Neuro-Developmental Treatment continuing ed course necessitated my greatly reduced training volume.
Ostensibly, reducing training during tapering seems like a pretty basic principle. Just don't run, or don't run as much right? And the while the rationality is obvious (reduce training to allow for full recovery from aches and pains, rest and refuel prior to a maximal or near maximal effort, and allow time for mental preparation so that on race day you're a bull released from the bucking chute), application is another story. In fact, for me, tapering can be one of the most frustrating and difficult times. It's a time when I'm forced to say adios to my training routine, the fickle friend with whom I struggled initially to spend adequate time with, who now constitutes a considerable part of who I am and who I've been for the past 6 months. After countless internal struggles to get out of bed before the sun to run, suddenly I'm fighting the logical decision to sleep in. Never has inactivity been so difficult. That's exactly why, depending on your philosophy, the mental stress and deterioration of fitness that occurs during such a drastic change can be too extreme and counterproductive. Thus, depending on length of race, my experience has shown that a reduction in volume while still maintaining intensity is usually the optimal combination.
As previously mentioned, tapering allows for not only physical recovery, but also time to mentally prepare for the race ahead and formulate a strategy. No matter how much I mull it over, I'm anticipating a great struggle during the GARDEN OF THE GODS 10 MILER. Oddly enough though, it's not the onslaught of hill after relentless hill, the incredibly competitive field, or even the worrisome increasing temperatures as of late. No, I'm losing sleep (unfortunately during my taper) with concerns of getting so caught up the excitement and atmosphere that I trash my legs before the San Juan Solstice 50 Miler 6 days later. No doubt planning races separated by 6 days was a gamble. I remember barely recovering during the Winter Series Races which were separated by 2 weeks! I've also entered races before telling myself "it's just a training run, no need to push it," only to find later I'm holding onto the heels, or even worse, trying to hold off a competitor on my heels, as we battle to the finish. As futile as it may be, I've been working on envisioning a race where I put forth a solid effort on the climbs and cruise easy on the descents. In theory this should salvage my legs from a lot of the traumatic, muscle ripping eccentric contractions and fend off the dreaded delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). With no firm time goals or ambitions to place, my watch might even stay at home for this one. Unfortunately, while I may talk a good game and the plan is flawless, exercising restraint for 10 miles with over a thousand runners around me is going to be TOUGH!
I rarely train with electronics in my ears and never partake in audio indulgences during a race, but perhaps the wise words of Kenny Rogers will help keep me honest: "You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run." After all, "if you're gonna play the game boy, ya gotta learn to play it right."