At the end of my first week of tapering, I find myself having to constantly remind myself of the fact that the work’s not over yet and that before long I’ll be putting everything together for the main event.
It’s right what they say; I know I’ve done everything to prepare my body physically and I have massive confidence on getting round but mentally the games continue. The ever-present references to Paris all around me help to make sure I don’t forget what I’m about to do and they also serve to make me question what the hell I think I am doing. It’s a mind game now. I think because my physical effort is reducing that I’ve finished. Even knowing that this would happen does nothing to prevent its arrival. My remedy is to maintain the level of effort regardless of any reduction in mileage.
My first week of tapering was pretty much the same as any other week except for the shorter long-run on Sunday. This week, after various bits of advice, not least from the various emails I get from Runner’s World, London Marathon and the Paris organisers, I decided to set my long-run at 15 miles in the knowledge that physically it wasn’t going to be too demanding but just about the point where I have been feeling the onset of fatigue in recent weeks and therefore enough to maintain some fitness. Tuesday’s 7-miler and Thursday’s 10-miler were as normal, resulting in a weekly mileage of around 32 miles – a 24% reduction as general advice suggests.
The long-run went well enough, although my legs did feel a little heavy towards the end. I maintained my routine of gels and drink, although clearly I only less than on my longer runs. I think I can now also categorically state how fatigue begins to manifest itself physically! I’m almost constantly cold, despite the warming ambient temperatures of spring, and need to make sure my sleep is solid and regular from now on in order to catch up. I have also obtained another niggling pain, this time behind my right knee. My left knee pain appears to have retreated after my last massage and for some reason, another one has arrived on the other leg as though I’ve bruised a ligament (I don’t even think that is possible!).
Other things are happening around me too which are taking a significant amount of my energy to deal with, but with faith in the plan, trust in the miles of training I have done, a strong mental state of mind and the love and support of my family and friends I’m sure I’ll survive.
So things are getting pretty real for me now. It’s next weekend after all! All the training, all the discipline in eating and drinking properly, all of the last 4 months comes down to this. As I write this the weather in the UK has taking a turn for the worse and the 20+degC sunny days of last week have given way to 4degC days with blustery wind and rain. In many ways that would be good for next weekend (except for the wind, you can keep that) but ultimately I can’t control the weather – it’ll be what it’ll be. So will the effects of being amongst 39,999 other runners. in fact, lots of things are outside my control. The positive thing I need to do is to focus on what I can control:
Drinking. I am trying to maintain a regular intake of water throughout the day. No other drinks and caffeine strictly limited to 1 cup of tea per day max. Time to flush out any toxins or other nasties.
Food. This week begins my carb-loading and glycogen storing efforts. From Thursday I will be aiming to eat carbohydrate-heavy meals including potatoes, pasta and rice. It’s a balance of not eating too much (after all I’m not heavy training any more) vs. making sure I’m giving my muscles and liver chance to stock up in good time. Quality of food intake is important, and something I can influence.
Sleep. Gone are the nights of stopping up to watch the end of a film or a late-evening program. I need to get some regular sleep and that means regular bedtimes and as far as possible an uninterrupted night of sleep-induced recovery.
Stretching. Without risking injury by being over-enthusiastic, I need to make sure I stay loose. I have my final, pre-race massage booked for Wednesday next week but that will only be a final once-over to make sure there’s nothing lurking anywhere ready to jump out on the day. This niggling pain at the base of my right hamstring will either disappear or be massaged away, I’m fairly confident of that. It doesn’t hurt when I run hard so I’m not overly concerned.
Mental preparedness. The positive self-talk has begun. I know that physiologically there is little difference (if any at all) between the feelings of anxiety and those of excitement, (the chemical balance in your body is the same) and that how telling yourself that you’re not nervous you are in fact excited can have a quite profound positive effect on performance. Instead of negatively thinking “I’ve got to do this marathon next weekend”, for example, I can positively think “I get to do this marathon”, content in the knowledge that I’m able-bodied, fit and well and have a long and enjoyable running career ahead of me whilst also reminding myself that the training has gone pretty well and I’ve not fallen victim to injury along the way like so many people unfortunately do. And as simple or as minor as these changes appear, it really does have a massive difference on your attitude.
To be honest I don’t really know if I’m getting this part of the training right, but it feels like the right things to be doing and although I am aware of the potential for backing down too much too soon, I also am aware of the importance of standing on the start line feeling zero fatigue and full of anticipation, hope, expectation and confidence for the 42.195km of tarmac ahead.
One thing I know for certain, it’s gonna be emotional!