Taper Jitters

Marathon Taper Legs

I’m one week into my taper now and staying reasonably sane, although I do keep thinking of those Restless Leg Syndrome commercials from the early 2000’s.  (What ever happened to that, anyway?)  Last week I ran a somewhat normal workouts, though at about half my usual mileage.  I did a 10-miler Sunday at race pace, and this morning I had one last interval session (4×400’s).  That will probably be it until the race, with the possible exception of some quick strides on Friday just to stretch the legs out.  I’ve been trying to bank some extra sleep this week as well, though the kitten seems to have other ideas at 5:30 in the morning.

Predictably, the jitters have set in, but I’m trying to face them head-on this time, rather than letting myself become the victim of my nerves.  The problem with anxiety is that it tends to put you in a circular bind that’s difficult to escape.  Aside from the feelings of panic and negative self-talk it can induce, anxiety also tightens muscles, quickens the breath and heart rate, and interferes with fine motor coordination—basically working against every aspect of athletic performance.  Of course, knowing this, my biggest pre-race fear is that I’ll get nervous and it will compromise my race; it truly is the fear of fear itself that gets me.

Yesterday I could feel the pangs of anxiety creeping up and I decided it was time to take the bull by the horns.  I’ve worked my ass off this season, and I’ve earned my place at that starting line.  I know I’ll be nervous.  There’s no point wasting energy wondering if it will happen; I need to just accept it as a given.  But it’s also a given that when I look around at the starting line at all the other runners, they’ll all be nervous, too.  Even the pro’s get nervous.  (Kara Goucher famously discussed her pre-race nerves in a Runner’s World interview, and Shalane Flanagan, who races as though she is completely fearless, discusses the issue here.)  Knowing that it’s not just me always helps.  I also realized that if everyone is nervous and some people are still  managing to race well—maybe even better—with the nerves, then it’s really up to me how I handle it.  Instead of looking at it as me against a force I can’t control, I need to take charge of how I channel my energy.  Of course, that’s always easier said than done.

Preparedness is always a good first step, so I started by making a detailed, day-by-day list of everything that needs to happen this week.  I’ve been working on my packing list for weeks, but there are a million other details to race day and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  There is nothing worse than realizing you don’t have cash for parking or that you don’t know where baggage drop is when you’re trying to get to the starting line.  Any stress I can eliminate through good planning is a major victory.  I keep reminding myself that physically, I’ve done everything I can.  I’ve run every workout, hit every pace, and despite the nerves, my body has delivered every time I’ve pushed it this season.  I have to trust my training and know that it will this time, too.

The thing that has really helped me calm to down and focus, though, was kind of unexpected.  On a whim, I googled “athlete inspirational video” and watched a few.  (And just for fun, I also looked for this.)  Attitude is everything, and maybe a good pep talk at the start line is just what I need.

 

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts!

-ModC

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