As I mentioned in my last post, I ran my second half-marathon last month. After running two half-marathons, I have decided that the most difficult part of the race doesn't happen during the race itself. It's not even the post-race soreness. The most difficult part of the race, for me, is the taper.
When you train for a marathon or a half marathon, you spend months building up the mileage that you run each week. Right after you do your longest run ever, you then start "tapering" or cutting way back on your mileage for a few weeks. When you get to the week right before the race, you're barely running at all. The idea is that you want to get to the race well rested and injury-free and all full of carbs. In theory, the taper sounds like the greatest thing ever: I get to quit all of this crazy running! And just sit around! And eat carbs! Pass the carbs!
In reality, the taper turns me into a Complete. Raving. Lunatic.
First of all, I honestly think my body gets ticked off at me because it's in running withdrawal. (Running withdrawal! Really! Who knew?) Then, I have a bunch more free time because I'm not running for hours every day, so I have plenty of time to fixate on every little twinge in my body and then go Google it and convince myself that the slight pain in my shin is, in fact, a broken leg. I can also check the weather for race day about 10 times an hour and closely evaluate an elevation map of the race course and then have a breakdown because the race description clearly said it was a "flat course", and I can clearly see a slight hill.
Eventually I end up curled into a little ball of whimpering self-doubt. "I know I ran 13 miles a couple of weeks ago, but I don't think I can do it again. My legs feel like pirate peg legs. I will never make it! Why do I bother? I suck! I suck!"
To make things even worse this time around, about a week into the taper I got a cough. A bad cough. A cough so severe that I thought my lungs were going to leap out of my body, run out the door, flip me the bird while screaming, "F.U.!", and ride off on the back of a motorcycle to a commune for rebellious, wayward lungs. Then I started running a fever, and I'm supposed to call the cancer center whenever I run a fever, because I have, like, two white blood cells in my body.* I was put on antibiotics right away, and I started getting a little better, but then I started constantly Googling the antibiotics I was on and discovered that, in certain rare cases, these antibiotics have caused people's legs to fall off.**
So I did the sensible thing*** and refused to call the doctor to ask about the potential legs-falling-off side effect, because I was afraid the doctor would tell me not to run.
And in the meantime, I went to the Bon Jovi concert all jacked up on cough medicine and then screamed for three hours, which really did not help things at all.
But in the end I recovered, from the cough and from the mental scars of the taper, and the race went very well. I ran with the 2:20 pacers instead of the 2:25 pacers, which seemed like a big achievement. I'm sure the taper for the full marathon will be a piece of cake.****
*This may not be a scientifically accurate description of my medical condition.
** Again, this may not be scientifically accurate description. If you've found this blog because you're Googling "my legs fell off", please get off the computer and get to a doctor. I realize it will be challenging, because your legs have fallen off.
*** Not the sensible thing.