Relax. “It’s just running.”
I assumed I would arrive at this taper ready to revel in the opportunity to rest, but my brain continues to race around at top speed.
I seem to be second-guessing myself and worrying far more than seems sensible for a marathon I was originally going to participate in because it happened to be in town the same week I was. Yeah, see, I was going to take this one easy. Then I started training a lot. Then I started getting big ideas about the time I could run. Then I started caring. I hate when I care.
So here’s a brief rundown of my silly taper insecurities.
1. The pain under my 5th metatarsal that’s been around for a few weeks and has yet to go away.
There is a large part of me that suspects this is psychosomatic. Remember my second marathon when I had that weird/disconcerting butt spasm thing going on? And I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to finish the race? And then I went on to PR and the butt cramp didn’t happen once during the marathon and never happened again after that? Yeah, you probably don’t remember that, but I do. I’m hoping this 5th metatarsal pain is the same sort of thing. I don’t notice it all the time, but I suspect it’s related to the plantar fascia or is rooted in some other tendon/muscular issue (rather than a stress reaction/fracture, which, trust me, I have researched and spooked myself about enough already). Whatever it is, I bet the excitement of racing will suppress it.
2. My period.
I know I’m going to get it at precisely the most inopportune time for running a marathon. I have been counting and recounting, watching it like an anxious and highly resentful hawk. I am so jealous of boys. They can compete as athletes without worrying about drastic hormone fluctuations. The thing is, I know I can’t control this. I just can’t. I need to let it go.
I tried very hard to come up with a solid plan for my taper many weeks ago, so that I could know what I was going to do and not worry any more about it. But naturally, I have fussed over this noise nonstop since I hit the “three weeks out” mark. I have read (and reread) all the big name running plans, combed through other running blogs, and scoured every taper-related thread on letsrun. All this research has done is cause me to change my mind every day about what to do. I am outrageously relieved to be at the final week because I can basically just take it easy now. A few miles at marathon pace on Tuesday or Wednesday. Everything else, easy.
4. Training, overtraining, illness, and a shakeup of my usual routine.
Sometimes I think back to that 22 miles at 7:40 pace – how effortless that felt, how easy it would’ve been to throw down the hammer for an additional 4.2 miles and take a time trial PR right there just because I could. Three days after that run, I hopped a red eye back east, felt myself growing congested and sick on the plane, promptly fell ill with a cold, and haven’t felt right since. I’ve had a much harder time than usual adjusting to the time difference and my days seem to be characterized by tissues and sinus rinses. What if I peaked two weeks ago on my training run? What if I don’t feel better next Sunday?
But, hey, whatever.
RoseRunner’s post on 2012 goals nailed my thought process about all this. My motto lately has been “it’s just running.” Every time I find myself on the cusp of freaking out about racing, I think to myself: “What will happen to me if this race is a complete disaster?”
The answer: nothing. I’m not going to lose a sponsorship deal or miss out on a spot on the Olypmic team. I don’t make my living at this. I’m just another hobbyjogger, a face in the crowd, another nobody chasing nothing but her breath. Like any marathon, this marathon has the potential to be a complete and utter trainwreck no matter how much I hope for it to be otherwise. If that happens, I’ll sulk for a day or two and then I’ll get over it. And I’ll have learned something. And even better, the miles I put in to train for it will likely benefit me a few months down the road.
In six days I’ll be hopping around on the starting line trying to convince myself this was a good idea. The race director will crack some jokes, welcome us to Baton Rouge; maybe there will be some kind of jazz band. I’ll be in a new town on a course I’ve never seen before. People around me will be chatting with one another as they adjust iPods and fuel belts and fancy running duds. I’ll size ’em up and look for targets in order to distract myself. I’ll clear my beat-up Timex watch, the same one that’s been on my wrist through all the runs in the dark, all the runs in the rain, all the runs in the snow. The gun will go off and some folks will shoot out of the corrals like Mario Andretti. I’ll let them go. In the first mile, I’ll be reminding myself to slow down, even though adrenaline is licking out into every limb and my heartrate is higher than normal because this is it, I’m doing it, it’s happening and I’d better enjoy myself. I’ll have to check in often in order to take the first ten miles easier than I think I need to. I’ll settle in. I’ll be patient, conservative, smart. I’ll come through the half in a time that’s probably slower than I want. But I won’t get worried, because I’ve negative split a marathon before, and I trust my fitness, and those hundred mile weeks will come back and reward me in the second half. Maybe I’ll start pressing more around mile 14, and the six miles after that will be where the race starts to get real. Maybe I’ll feel good at mile 20 and nudge the throttle forward even more. I don’t know. I seem unable to visualize past the first half of the race.
On the other hand, maybe I won’t be patient. Maybe I’ll go out faster than I think. I have done quality workouts and high mileage and everything is in place for me to have a pretty good marathon, so I have no idea what to expect with pace, and I think this outlook is a little dangerous. So hell, maybe I’ll really go nuts and overestimate my fitness in the first half and completely crash and burn. That’s all part of the fun anyway.