Adjusted Reality

“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” – Mark Twain

Four taper problems, and how to keep the crazy in check

It’s far enough into taper that the crazies are starting to come out a little bit for both of us.  Zliten is convinced he has about 3 different major injuries.  I’m resisting the urge to cram training I feel like I missed and/or need more of in the last 3 weeks.  Both of us are on the Overthinking It express train headed directly to Madness Town.

However, we’ve been through this before, and to KNOW the taper crazy is the first step in conquering it.  Below are four taper problems explained and what you can do about them.

Hello brain!  Nice to see you have come back to me from durp-de-dur land.  Now, if you could stop it with the crazy thoughts…

Taper Problem #1 – It’s time to question EVERY decision I made during my training program, even though I trained pretty consistently.  That 12 mile run that I stopped at 6.5 in January when my glutes flipped out?  The fact that I only did 112, 100, 87, 80, and a bunch of 70 mile rides + more 4-5 hour long rides on the trainer instead of… more?  The open water swim I cut by 2 laps because it was getting dark?  I’m totally fucked on race day.

Why this happens: your brain isn’t completely consumed with or numb (I call it Ironman brain… the feeling of durrrrr…) from all the training, and now it’s awake and ready to completely overthink everything. You finally have free time, but you can’t really do anything with it because you have to rest.

What to do: Find something restful AND useful to do.  Write blog posts about your taper crazies.  Watch a TV series you’ve been putting off.  Play a game.  Go have dinner with your family (they probably miss you).  Organize your music collection.  It just needs to take up time and be off your feet.

What not to do: Use that extra time to get in those workouts you missed in January.  The hay is in the barn.  You can’t make up for it now.  Also, don’t fill your time with projects like yardwork or renovation – if it feels like a workout, even if it’s not swim/bike/run, guess what?  It’s going to hamper your taper.

I’ve fallen onto a cheese sandwich and I can’t get up!  I guess it’s naptime.

Taper Problem #2 – Somehow I’m getting 9-10 hours of sleep a night, and I’m training about half as much as you were during peak weeks.  My body is still just as exhausted.  I will never feel normal again.

Why this happens: Taper is like the ultimate rest day.  Your body is repairing itself and making itself stronger.  This, plus storing more carbs/water in your muscles, which is GOOD because you want them topped off for the race, makes you feel sluggish.

What to do: keep resting.  It will pay off.  I find that some GENTLE speedwork nearing race day helps me assure myself that the fitness is there.  You can feel those POPS of everything being normal even if your workouts by and large are feeling like garbage.

What not to do: resume high volume.  I’ve done this before – “well, I’m exhausted anyway, I might as well train more”.  You’ll hit that crappy feeling of the beginning of taper when you should be peaking on race day.  Also, don’t stress too much.  Chances are, you’ll feel awesome by the event, and if not?  You’ve undoubtedly hit some training days where you felt sub-par but crushed it anyway.  This is just another one of those days!

I completely overuse this picture on this blog but guess what?  It’s applicable a lot. 

Taper Problem #3 – Everything hurts and I’m dying.  Shin twinge?  OMG stress fracture!  Dry throat?  Holy fuck, I’m getting the plague!

Why this happens: you’re shedding fatigue, and losing the overall muscle soreness while your body gets rested and stronger and ready to race.  Niggles you would ignore otherwise stand out.  Also, you’re completely overthinking everything because you’re nervous/excited about the race.

What to do: pamper yourself.  If you’re into massages, this is a good time for one.  Relaxing in bodies of water (baths, hot tubs, floating in the lake, etc) is choice.  Lots of time stretching, foam rolling, etc will help put your body back together.  Also, if you have a random heel pain out of nowhere for no reason and running hurts?  Swim and bike instead.  I promise you will remember how to run at the race after a few days off.

What not to do: freak out.  I’ve had limbs that I was CONVINCED were broken but magically felt better on race day.  If you think something is seriously wrong (or if you actually ACUTELY injure yourself, like twisting and spraining your ankle), go seek professional help with a chiropractor or doctor, but you’re very unlikely to actually get a stress injury while REDUCING mileage if you’ve been fine all along.

It’s taper and I feel amazing!  BRB, I’m going to totally try to break my mile PR and then go bike all those 100 miles I think I forgot to do in training…

Taper Problem #4 – I have no idea what all these other things are about.  It’s a week before the race.  I feel amazing!  I should go test myself at the sprint tri that’s happening this weekend!

Why this happens: taper has worked… you’ve just come out of your fatigue a little early.  Especially, if you generally feel like crap during taper this one can catch you off guard.

What to do: rejoice that taper did what it should, and get excited for your A race.  Hit the sprint triathlon if you want, it will be a great dry run with all your race day gear.  Just keep your effort in check – I would recommend keeping your pacing to around 70.3 effort (or like 75-80% maximum effort) and give it a little gas on the last mile if you have it.

What not to do: race the sprint at 100% effort.  You may PR and prove that you are indeed in great shape, but it’s possible you’ve compromised your A race doing so.  If you can’t hold back, it’s better to just do your own thing solo.

The long and short of it is – you’ve prepared.  You put in all the work you could, even if life got in the way sometimes.  Try to enjoy the extra time you have in the last few weeks before the race and think about how awesome it will feel to cross that finish line!

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