Oh thank the sweet running gods (or coaches, or calendars, or whatever), I am tapering.
Yeah, my training plan for the Steamtown Marathon is “only” a 12-week plan, but boy has it done me in. My body feels good — no aches, pains, pending injuries, worries beyond the usual stomach stuff — but I am two things 100% of the time: tired and hungry.
All I want to do is eat and sleep and then eat in bed and sleep in bed and never leave my bed except to get more food to eat.
Last week was my peak training week. I ran 71 miles. I thought I was the world’s ultimate badass when I peaked at 40 miles training for the Hamptons Marathon, and then I hit 50 miles training for the Eugene Marathon (which I didn’t end up running), and 60-something miles last year leading up to the New York City Marathon.
But 71 miles? Seems like an out-of-body type experience. And, somehow, with 71 miles on my legs, I went into my first week of tapering not feeling dead. Just feeling tired. And hungry.
If you’re into it, here’s how the week went down for training…
Monday: I went to yoga, but the instructor had a family emergency, so the rockstar front desk girl/assistant studio manager was adorable and was like, “I’m so so sorry for the inconvenience. I’m a certified Pilates instructor. Do you guys want some Pilates?” Wouldn’t have been my first choice, but sure. It was a mat-based class, so I basically got to lay down the whole time.
That night, I went to a goodbye party for a coworker and drank two mojitos and a glass of wine. Now I’m alcohol-free until after the marathon.
Tuesday: 11.2 miles, with 5 at tempo pace. I don’t really know what “tempo pace” is, which is why Coworker Paul came and met me in Central Park in the darkness (good guy) to pace me for this workout. We warmed up, and then my plan, as always, was to “hang on.” I did fine, he didn’t let me talk or wave to my friends, and I didn’t start to get tired or cranky until the very end when I finally snapped, “How much further???” and he wouldn’t answer, and I demanded, “One mile or three miles???” and he said, “1/10th of a mile” and we were kicking it, and then we were done. Or I should say I was kicking it. He literally didn’t even break a sweat. Whatever. I’m happy with the paces, especially since we were on the Central Park drive going counterclockwise, meaning we hit up both Cat and Harlem hills. Meow.
Wednesday: 7 morning miles, including a November Project workout, plus 5 evening miles (12 total, if math is hard). A double! I rarely do this, but I had to cut my morning miles a bit short for a post-NP shower party (yup). I planned to only run three miles that evening, but running over to JackRabbit’s Upper West Side store and back came out to five miles. All easy, all casual, with a bit of speed during the NP portion.
Thursday: 11 miles. This was my happiest run of the entire training cycle I think. It was supposed to just be easy running, but I felt high or something. I felt like I was flying, and by the time I looped back up to Engineers’ Gate (coincidentally at the exact same time Brian finished his morning training ride, aw), I was in actual disbelief that my watch was almost at 11 miles. I barely remembered running. My splits were all over the place and super inconsistent, but also faster than I thought I could do on an easy day.
That night, I got a sports massage and you might already know this, but wow, real sports massages are way different than, say, the “sports massage” option at a fancy spa. I very very highly recommend Isang Smith if you want a sports massage. She’s so legit. She worked out some serious stuff in my body, and she’s an awesome runner (hello, 5:07 mile, and she’s coached by Coach Cane!) and she works with me, so obviously she’s cool. Hit her up. Your body will thank you.
Friday: 10 miles. I ran for a bit in the park, met at The Met for the funnest November Project workout, and then ran a bit more to get to 10 miles.
The workout involved zig-zagging through trees, push-ups, walking lunges, grapevines, and Pictionary. Ridiculous fun. Childlike fun.
Saturday: 23 miles. 23 miles! I was actually pretty nervous for this run, since I wanted it to go really well as my last long training run. My 21-miler two weeks ago wasn’t awesome (it was that obnoxiously humid day and I died), so I put the pressure on for this one.
I broke this run into three parts: 10 miles on my own in Central Park, 5 miles with Meggie down the West Side Highway, then the final 8 miles with Coworker Paul. What a difference that made! The first 10 miles were a breeze, and the five miles with Meggie went by in a flash.
Then I got to the final 8 miles. I had eaten a bagel and Nutella before I ran (nutrition! nailed it), and brought Honey Stinger Fruit Smoothie Chews to eat mid-run at some point.
I didn’t even attempt to eat them until mile 15, and I ate three and couldn’t stomach the rest, so I ditched them and carried on. I do prefer running on an empty stomach as much as possible, but I definitely needed more.
Because as soon as I started running with Paul, I felt myself knocking on death’s door. We were on the West Side Highway running path and it was so crowded. More crowded than I’ve ever seen any running path ever (during non-race times, of course). I started feeling anxious about all the people all over the place, and soon I said we had to turn around and head back north to try and ditch the crowds.
But that was pretty impossible, and I started to feel craaaanky. Like the kind of cranky no one should ever witness, let alone someone you work with in a semi-professional setting. Yikes.
So in an attempt to distract myself from the oncoming bitch mode, I told Paul I was plugging in and tuning out to try and maintain sanity. I blasted my rage music and tried to power on.
Then mile 21.5 came, and I got dizzy and lightheaded and couldn’t catch my breath and told Paul I “needed water,” but really I needed to barf or lay down or something. I started panicking a little and I felt drunk. I grabbed some water from a fountain in the ferry station (or whatever that is on the west side north of the Javits Center) and just stood on the sidewalk for a bit trying to collect myself and also trying not to cry. It was a very strange feeling.
If I had a conversation with Paul, I don’t remember it. I put my current favorite jam on repeat and told myself it was just a mile and a half to go.
So we did that. I thought we slowed down a ton, but my splits indicate otherwise.
I heard the beautiful beep of my watch and bam, 23 miles in the bag.
And then it took half an hour to walk from the West Side Highway back to Sixth Avenue, because I was stumbling and laughing hysterically and basically a mess. I can’t decide if I’m glad I had company so I didn’t accidentally wander into traffic, or if I’m a bit mortified that someone witnessed me in that state.
Lesson: More fuel. Obviously. An easy fix that I can now plan for on race day. (When I got home and talked to Brian later that day, I explained how I felt, and he just said so matter-of-factly, “Yeah, you bonked.” Like it was so obvious. Apparently it’s happened to him on the bike before. More fuel, Feller! More snacks!)
Then I showered, napped, got a haircut, went shopping, and ordered a double cheeseburger and fries before going to bed at 8 PM.
Sunday: 3.8 miles + SoulCycle. I only make it to spinning about once a month these days, and it was so nice to just be in there with someone telling me what to do. I did a little run-shuffle afterward and now here we are, firmly in taper week.
Of course, this first week of taper hardly feels like it’s going to be easy or relaxing. I leave Friday at 5 AM to run the Ragnar Relay Adirondacks with my work crew. Even though I have the shortest cumulative legs and therefore the fewest number of miles to run, I’ll still rack up 14 miles and probably not much sleep.
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Overall training thoughts: I don’t know. I don’t know what marathon pace is/should be, and I don’t know what a reasonable goal time is. As much as I’d love to PR, I don’t know if that’s in the cards. (My current marathon PR, 3:51:something, is from the 2012 Manchester City Marathon.) I’m super proud of the hard work I’ve put in throughout training. I didn’t miss any runs, I took good care of my body along the way, and I never feel I gave up or didn’t try hard enough during a workout.
However, I also know that even with these weeks of good training behind me, my body has still had a rough year, so I don’t want to get too caught up in numbers and paces and goals. I want to be ambitious, but I also want to keep myself in check, remembering that I’ve been though a lot this year (and last year…and the year before), and that my body isn’t invincible. Something like that.
Aside from the effort, aside from the numbers, I can truly say that I enjoyed every run I got to go on throughout my 12-week plan. There were definitely days when 4:30 AM showed up way too quickly, but the feeling of “I am so happy to be doing this” never actually wavered. It felt like something I was lucky to get to do every day. Such a sap. But two years of living in a shitstorm will do that to you, I guess. (Worst analogy ever? Yup.)
And as for taper: I used to hate it. Now I’m embracing it because I really feel like I need it in order to go into race day “like a caged animal,” as Coach Cane taught me. Last year, I used my taper time before NYCM to build a lot of furniture. I was productive. This time around, I plan to sleep more. Four months of still-dark-out wakeups every darn day has taken its toll.
Stick a chocolate melting cake-topped fork in me. I’m done.
PS I recently discovered string cheese. I can’t get over it. I like to pull the strings and not bite into the stick like a chunk. Isn’t that why it’s called string cheese? Anyway, it’s so delicious and it’s my current favorite snack, and I eat more than one string cheeses every day. Sometimes more than two string cheeses a day. #raceweight