Taper Time by Karen Simpson

What is it about marathoners? We fantasize most of our training season about getting to taper phase then, once it gets here, we hate it.

Today, I completed my last real long run before my goal race, the Ottawa Marathon, May 29th. That gives me 2 weeks to recover, prepare mentally and get my body ready for the rigors of a marathon with proper nutrition, sleep and hydration. Of course I will continue to run shorter distances to keep my 53 yr old body from seizing up and enjoy the feeling of simple runs. Makes logical sense to most. To a marathoner, it feels like all your hard training is about to go out the window as you get further removed from distance running. It’s a scary experience even having been through it a few times previously.

Karen S

Do I feel ready? The good news is, I haven’t peaked yet. The bad news is, I haven’t peaked yet. Both of these realizations play with my head.

I started training for the Ottawa Marathon in October, just a week after doing a fun, slow 1/2 marathon in a costume for charity. I began a new program to build strength and continued weekly runs until I started with Adaptive Running Academy in January. It’s a long time to train for a race but I wanted a good base and wanted to ramp up slowly to avoid another Spring injury. You’ve read how this is my 3rd time training for Ottawa, where I definitely have some Unfinished Business.

Here I am 2 weeks to my goal race and I am NOT injured. This is a PB! I have to thank Adaptive Running Academyfor carrying me through the winter with some new strategies, intervals and training challenges. I particularly love the intervals even though I’m really bad at tracking a Garmin watch for a pace while clocking out a timed interval with eyes that require reading glasses at the best of times. The only runs there wasn’t some guessing involved were the runs that I ran with Coach Stan Ong. Several weeks in a row Stan ran intervals with me and helped take me to places I’d never been before in speed and in mental capacity. 8 minutes of speed intervals felt like enough time to time travel to another planet on one chilly Feb evening but I held my pace and eventually allowed my body to do what my Coach thought I could do. Sometimes all we need is someone to believe in us. I put my excuses aside in the final 2 intervals and held out for the full 8 minutes. It was hard but that night taught me something. I won’t have a heart attack. I won’t even vomit. I don’t believe in myself enough yet. There is still lots of work to do. I haven’t hit my true potential.

Running isn’t just about running. It’s about nutrition, vitamins, hydration, sleep, stretching, strength, mental enlightenment. Adaptive included learning on all of these elements plus I got to watch some awesome runners hit their goals, exceed their goals and push to new limits.

So, what about ‘I haven’t peaked yet’? I actually think this is a good thing but I have to say I haven’t felt like I’ve had many great long runs. I feel behind and unprepared. The fortune of watching all of my group complete their goal races already is I got to watch them during their taper struggle with the mental game that I have now entered. My take away is, those who were really doubting themselves in the weeks before their goal race, even requiring house visits from Coach Stan, hit their goals right out of the park with outstanding new PB’s. Watching that transpire has given me a sense of relief because I do not feel prepared.

Over my training this winter, I’ve had more than a few personal challenges. I had surgery and treatment for skin cancer in February along with starting a new job with lots of after hour events. Then over the last 6 weeks I’ve been fighting bronchitis. I lost 10 days of running in March, then I got better for a few weeks until it came back even worse 2 weeks ago resulting in another 9 days lost. I’ll finish my antibiotics a week before my race. In addition, we’ve had a weekend in Ottawa moving 2 of our kids into new apartments and a trip this weekend to Indiana for a graduation. I’ve missed or cut short a few long runs. My only 32km was 3 weeks ago, it feels too far from the race but it is what it is.

Today, I completed 21km of a 24km, smartly stopping when I started coughing. Honestly, I ran about 17km more than I thought I had in me today. Today I fought off every single excuse in the book to not get out the door or to stop running when I finally got out the door. Today for the 1st time ever I put my debit card in my pocket so I could get home from wherever I decided to stop. Such bad attitude! Turns out that saved my run since my ear buds stopped working 3km into the run and I was able to run into a dollar store and replace them. I took this as a sign to challenge myself. I decided I would take ‘proof of mileage’ pictures along my route and only think one kilometer at a time. I made it all the way to Bloor and Shaw from Victoria Park and most of the way back.

Karen S 2

Driving 16 hours over the last 3 days, attending 4 graduation events, eating horrifically bad stuff and not really sleeping much put my head in a bad place. Today I’m patting myself on the back for even getting outside into the hail, rain, cold, wind and sun of weird May Toronto weather.

Now I have 13 days to roll my body out. I wish it was that easy to get my brain ready for race day. Regardless of all the swirly thoughts in my head I know that I am surrounded with cheerleaders and Coaches. I know that I have already PB’ed by being injury free this close to the race. I know that my 3 main goals are in sight; 1. getting to the start line injury free 2. crossing the finish line. 3. becoming the 1st runner my sport doctor knows to run a full marathon wearing a titanium brace. Time goals would be the icing on the cake! I’m going to do my best to ice that cake on race day, right now I’m going to focus on my 1st 3 goals and know that a house call is probably a really good sign😉

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