Tapering is hard. Marathon training cultivates the little Steve Prefontaine in the back of our brains. Be tough! Push harder!! It's all in your head!! What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!! All of those mantras celebrate the theory that by pushing ourselves harder our bodies will get stronger. We will push back the wall and inoculate ourselves from the bonk . . . Then, three weeks out, everything changes. We tell ourselves that resting is training, that healing is training, that we shouldn't leave too much on the road. . . This reversal is too much for my simple brain to handle. Every time I hit the taper, I respond by wanting to work out harder, push for that last advantage. It would be easier to argue with this instinct if the rest actually made you feel better. During the taper things tighten up. Injuries hurt worse. Runs feel sluggish. This is the body's reaction to a drop in activity. It starts to grab back what training has taken out of it, and it is a good thing for race day, but during the taper I often feel lousy, and have trouble imagining completing the race. I start moderating my goals, concocting excuses for deferring for a year. It is really not pretty.
This weekend was the first weekend of the taper, the first week when you do less than you did the week before. I resisted the urge to run a half marathon. Instead, yesterday I ran an easy, but respectable 11 with C. Today I did a spin and shook out my legs with three on the treadmill. I feel good, want to do do more, but am holding myself back . . .