I am approaching taper week. Tapering is that final week of training that during heavy and hard training, athletes often tell themselves they are looking forward to. A reduction in volume sounds wonderful but when we actually reach this long awaited week, it seems to only add fuel to the torrent of negative thoughts that we are working hard to banish.
For the second half of this year my ‘A’ race has been the Royal Parks half marathon. I had a tentative ambition of a 1.45 hour finish which I beat at Lake Vyrnwy half marathon last month. The pressure is off. It is my last event of the season and with PBs this year in both 10k and half marathon not to mention being a IM70.3 finisher, I should be looking forward to enjoying the course which takes over 10,000 runners passed all of London’s iconic sights. But I am not. Annoyingly, I am now quietly wondering if I can go faster; If I can challenge my new PB. But it’s not that easy because I am aware that my training has only focussed on a pace geared for a 1.45 hour finish…except I now know I can run that fast. So why won’t my head let me believe that I can go a little bit faster? What am I scared of? Having a go and failing or not having a go in the first place?
So whilst I am suffering from this pre race ‘fever’ where my thoughts swing from positive to negative in just a few minutes, I am also adapting to a reduction in training volume whereby I seem to have even more time to deliberate race execution, splits and phantom niggles in the feet and calves. A successful taper should help the athlete avoid doing too much and also too little prior to race day in order to reduce both physiological and mental stress. An effective taper should see a reduction in both volume and, as the race gets close, fatigue. Fuelling and hydrating correctly without going overboard with carb-loading, will also replenish depleted glycogen stores, repair broken down muscle fibres and contribute to that sense of readiness on race day.
I am still figuring out what works for me. One of the symptoms of my pre race affliction is superstition and so I will no doubt do what has always appeared to work for me in the past. The fear of losing fitness is often too much to bear and so I opt for shorter runs but with a high intensity. I will still swim; not as far as usual but with very little impact to my joints, it seems a good choice. I will eat well but not excessive, I will drink a lot of water and I do look forward to my pre race dinner of chicken and quinoa the night before. And I have tea with sugar the morning of the race. Because I can.
It is a week packed full of mind games but I have been here before and I’ll do it again. I need to trust my training. Eat well, sleep well, stay hydrated and above all, stay positive.
I have done enough. Only race day will tell if that translates into a new PB but, if it doesn’t on this occasion, I have still have done enough because right now I feel I can’t have done anymore. I shall wait for the onset of hindsight; the post-race malaise, to come to its own conclusion.