Last weekend I ran my 33rd half marathon. I had put in some great runs, hadn’t missed a workout, and was looking forward to a mini taper…. until I was in it and was miserable.
I only had a mini taper, as San Antonio wasn’t the goal… Houston is, in January. I’ll then make another goal, keep pushing, reach it and make another. knock on wood!
For the first time, I had put in the work, and was excited to show up ready. The weekend before, I felt achy and tired… and woke up Sunday with a bad sinus infection… and still knocked out a 13 mile run determined not to let my body overtake itself a week before the race!
I wasn’t in pain. Pain is that sharp, oh shit I can’t take another step because someone is trying to rip out my knee feeling.
Discomfort is that moment you want to quit said 13 mile training run, but dig deep and push through because it’s fatigue or sickness, not injury. I was simply tired, fighting a sickness and my body didn’t know what to do without endorphins and adrenaline. My wife laughed at me (with concern) all week long!
What causes our body to turn the week before a big race?
All the weeks and months of training are about to come together for the big goal. One of the ways we relieve pressure is by giving ourselves an excuse or an out. If we’ve put in all the training, then the only option left for us to not perform is an injury or that’s what we’re subconsciously rationalizing, when of course race day is always a surprise.
Find ways to let go of the pressure.
- Look back and your training and TRUST IT!
- Review the race course and have a strategy.
- Focus on the controllable and own them.
- Prepare your race day gear, fuel and hydration so you aren’t rushing around last minute
How do you normally deal with stress? Running.
During taper, that option is taken a way from you and that opens up time for you to focus on every little thing. Suddenly you feel like you aren’t taking action towards your goal, which gives you extra time to fret about whether you can do it. You can, trust me. You can. You will.
Use this time to get your mind right. Nothing will help you more on race day than having worked through ways you’ll handle obstacles and visualizing your ultimate goal. Embrace the suck. Stay present. Stay in the mile you’re in. For this week, EMBRACE THE LESS!
All of that anxiety creates tension.
Tension reduces oxygen flow to muscles.
Reduced oxygen flow creates inflammation.
In fact, this actually has a name called Tension Myositis Syndrome. In general it goes beyond trying to just ignore it or telling yourself to relax. Once you can see that it’s not an actual injury, but something caused by your thoughts you can move forward with race strategy!
Suppressed Immune System
Not only do we deal with aches, but sickness during taper! It’s all part of the recovery process that the body is under going.
Scientists have come up with two explanations for the aches and sickness: adrenaline and immunity. During training, especially peak week, you’re pushing your body to it’s limits and it responds by adding in some adrenaline to keep you going, which suppresses the immune system and helps you power through.
Once, you begin taper the immune system goes in to overdrive ready to kick out anything that looks like an illness. That means you’re more susceptible to anything that’s going around (especially when you hop on that plane to travel to the race!).
It’s also why you might get sick in the days after a race!
It should come as no surprise that your body needs to recover from the stresses you’ve created, especially in the previous weeks of your hardest training. There are tiny tears in your muscles that with rest are now able to begin fully repairing and rebuilding to give you the power you’re seeking on race day.
Embrace the aches as a sign of recovery and find ways to treat your body well (which will reduce overall stress). Get a massage or enjoy a long hot soak with epsom salts, both will help to flush the legs, bring down stress and encourage muscle recovery. Don’t forget to pair those with plenty of water and electrolytes! I see Dale Londos twice a week right now to keep my injuries at bay. I’ve learned the hard way over the past few years. Rest and Recovery are everything. Do those right and your race will fall into place!
I’ve always said that the soreness the few days after a race are a constant reminder of success. Take care of those muscles, care for them to recover right… that way you can do it all over again!
So, embrace the less the week before your big race! You know your body, you know what it needs. Trust your training and your coach… and trust yourself! You’ll toe that start line healthy, and will cross that finish line with memories to last a lifetime…. or at least until you get home and sign up for three more races. Guilty!