Keys to taper week: Groove, food and gratitude

Welcome to taper week, the best and worst week of an endurance athlete’s existence all rolled into one neat 7-day package. Granted, there are as many theories about taper week as there are athletes. Some have a long, slow, gradual taper. Some have a short taper. And there are a thousand shades of gray between those two, along with those who don’t taper at all. The general idea is to keep your body moving but to give it appropriate rest so that you’re firing on all cylinders on race day. Since taper week generally drives me crazy, I’ve devised five things to get me through the rest of the week as I prepare for the 70.3 race at Musselman on Sunday:

1. Listen to my race soundtrack. I began to identify my songs of summer a few weeks ago, the ones which I will burn onto a CD and play on a near continuous loop in my car. They tend to be upbeat songs which will calm me down and/or put me in a happy place. The songs will then get stuck in my head so when I’m on the swim and my mind starts to wander I can think “Hey! Groovy Kind of Love! The peppy version by The Mindbenders.” Suddenly, I’m happily moving along in the water and no longer terrified of stupid things.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=io2kU9ViutM]

Other key songs include Born this Way by Lady Gaga (I’m on the right track baby), On the Floor by Jennifer Lopez (Don’t stop, keep it moving put your drinks up)  and Raise Your Glass by P!nk (Raise your glass if you are wrong, in all the right ways.) These may appear on the swim, but often on the bike or run as a way to keep my cadence high and push me to move forward, fighting off the urge to lie down and take a little nap. However, if I start singing Ricky Martin we’ve entered the danger zone. That’s usually a sign I’m bonking and need energy. And if I attempt to sing The Cup of Life in Spanish (considering I don’t know Spanish) then we’ve got trouble

2. I will not check the water temperature or obsess about the weather forecast. This is a difficult one for me, but after seeing high temperatures in the 80s (that will NOT make for a fun run on the hilly, hilly, goatherd type of course) and a warm week, I decided to forcefully keep my attention elsewhere. While I know I can slog out the run if need be, it’s the swim that I’m nervous about. Sunny, warm weather has a way of heating up the lake. And should Seneca Lake get too warm, I won’t be able to wear my wetsuit. And that freaks me out. But while I am a powerful and strong woman, I have yet to be able to fully control weather patterns and other natural phenomena. So my goal is not to waste my energy trying.

3. Visualize. This ties in with not being able to control the water temperature. So I might have to swim without my wetsuit. Aptly trained in worst-case-scenario-thinking (thanks Mom!) I know all the scary things which could happen. But see, I’m not even going LIST them here. Why? Because I’m visualizing an amazingly smooth swim. I see me pulling and gliding and swimming all ladylike. I feel nothing but joy working with the water. I see me getting out of the lake with a smile and plenty of time left before the cutoff. I’m going through the same visualization process for the bike and run. And transitions. And that ice cream cone after the race.

4. Obey my hunger. During taper week, the volume and intensity of my workouts decreases. However, I’m still hungry. Like, really hungry. But I’m working out less. So should I cut my calories? I had this discussion with a nutritionist last week and she advised me to trust my hunger. I’m trying to fuel my body for a good performance and to be ready for a long day. Losing weight is not the priority here. Health and preparation are. So while I’m not stuffing my face, I am paying attention to hunger cues. And if that means I eat an entire veggie sub from Wegmans, well, that’s some quality carbs to top of my glycogen stores. As an added bonus, it will keep me less cranky, a public service to those closest to me.

5. Practice gratitude. It is not a good time to be my friend apparently. People I know are going down with injury and illness left and right. The worst part is that as I want to be able to help, to offer some insightful solace or a humorous diversion. But the best I usually have to offer is “DUDE! That totally sucks.”  (Hard to believe I’m writer when that’s my level of high articulation, huh?) While sending healing thoughts to my dear friends, I appreciate and am filled with gratitude for my own health. I am not taking this race for granted. Whatever the day brings, I’ll deal with it, grateful that I have this opportunity to immerse myself in life and love.

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