Saturday’s long run was the last of this training block, the last one before taking on the Mighty Niagara Half Marathon. I wanted to run 10 miles on the actual course. Luckily for me I was able to guilt my parents into providing a drop-off service so I could run on the point-to-point course and they dutifully dropped me off about 10 miles from the finish line where I had parked my car.
“They keep changing the forecast for next weekend,” I said in the car. “I don’t like the one they have up today.”
“It’s a week away,” my mother said. “They don’t really know the forecast yet.”
“Have you just met me? As soon as the extended forecast comes out I am obsessively checking out race day conditions.”
She signed and nodded in agreement.
Welcome to taper week.
My family and friends are well versed in my special brand of nuttiness that comes the week of a big race. Taper week is like Christmas for my Gremlins — they come out in full force, guns blazing and megaphones blasting every single piece of negativity (often disguised cleverly as “helpful advice”) until I’m on the brink of crying “uncle” and curling up in the fetal position for a Law & Order marathon.
Today I kicked off my taper week with an easy three-mile run and yoga class. And as I drove to Starbucks for my French Roast reward, I realized that I have a wealth of experience and wisdom in my memory bank. I’ve been collecting it for the past six years, with interest, and have rarely made a withdrawal. But this is the type of bank where I never actually draw down my balance, no matter how many times I tap into it.
So here are some lessons I’ll be bringing out this week:
The Gremlins won’t shut up. Perhaps there are some very evolved people who no longer ever have a negative or doubtful thought cross their mind. This is not me. My Gremlins will continue to chatter away. But it’s my choice how much I listen to them, how much power I hand over to them. Chatter away. I’ll just turn the volume down. Or better yet, turn the volume up on something else.
My friends are crazy awesome. Last September I did a 70.3 in Allegany State Park on an insanely difficult bike course with crazy cold temperatures and rain. My friends Staci and Tracy were at the start and had told me before the race that they probably weren’t going to stay to the end. That was totally cool by me. The fact that they were taking the time to be at the start meant the world to me. But then a funny thing happened, I kept seeing them. They were there the whole day, through my struggle and eventual triumph.
Confession: Sometimes, especially during times like taper week, I feel completely isolated and alone. But when I remember the support I’ve had from friends, from Staci and Tracy, from Mary who ran me in during Musselman one year, from Sue who once ran into a glass door the day before a half marathon in Miami, from numerous others, I no longer feel so alone.
Focus on quality. The last two 70.3 Musselman races I’ve done have not been pretty. The run has been hot. Crazy hot. Nasty hot. The kind of hot that makes me start to hallucinate things like waffle sundaes. But one year I decided to turn off my watch. After I got off the bike I threw my Garmin in my transition bag and went off on the run. I ran from aid station to aid station, working each mile as a fresh start. I never looked up my time after the race. Still haven’t to this day. The time was, by standard accounts, shitty. But it was one of my proudest runs in a half ironman to date. Why? Because I focused on what I could control. I gave up panic. It was what it was and I was going to give my best effort. The time didn’t reflect how I felt, how I executed my hot-weather game plan, how I fought to keep myself on track and positive. That, come to think of it, was my mental PR.
No feeling is final. The best advice I got before my Ironman was from my good friend Larry Lewis. You’re going to have moments when you feel great. You’re going to have moments where feel terrible. Just ride the waves and don’t give in to the highs and lows. Seems to me, the same goes for this week. I’ll have moments of crazy self-doubt. I’ll have moments of uber confidence. I’ll have moments of feeling as if nobody likes me. I’ll have moments of laughing so hard at text messages, water will shoot out of my nose. No matter what I’m feeling, all I have to do is breathe, ride the wave and know that something new lies around the corner.