This is the final taper towards the Clyde Stride, a 40 mile race along the river Clyde (along the River Clyde Way) from Partick to New Lanark. Other posts post have mentioned tapering and how each runner takes up and personalises the taper period in terms of duration and level of training. It can be a difficult time for runners, especially after the body has become accustomed to a high level and intensity of training which will most likely peak just before the taper. The final week of taper can be difficult, and my words here are based on my own personal experience. Last week, for some reason, an old lower back problem resurfaced and I was experiencing some discomfort and twinges which indicated that if I was not careful my back could spasm, something to be avoided at all costs. So, the result was a single short run, a single bike session, and one strength training session: significantly less than the planned cycle; 6, 8 and 12 mile runs; and the 2 strength sessions. Some additional stretching and mobilisation and the back is fine. All of this meant that last week was more like a final week, and that makes this week particularly hard. In my version of the taper, the last week is in the main a rest week: one short 2 -3 miles run, maybe 10k on the bike, stretching and yoga.
What is it that is so hard about tapering and in particular the last week before the event? It is a combination of factors. Firstly, your body is crying out to run; it is desperate for that fix, playing with your head and tempting you to just pull on those shoes and get out there. Just go out and do an extra couple of miles, it won’t do any harm, it will calm you down. But that extra couple of miles can so easily become more. Calming down brings me to the second factor. The physical edginess is matched by a nervous energy: pre race nerves. Am I ready, am I fit enough, will I finish, will I get the time, what kit will I wear, which shoes, what food, will I get my nutrition and fluids right on the day. Thirdly, for me there are the emotions, which are probably part of the nervous energy. My emotions run high, I can be reduced to tears in an instance or fits of giggles, which two teary phone calls today can attest.
Distractions are needed. I clean, I tidy, I make lists, I amend lists, and I pack and re-pack bags.I prowl around. My Aberdeen flatmate’s large pile of ironing is no more (I currently stay and work in Aberdeen 3 days a week). And, sometimes, some kindly individual, takes pity on me and finds ways of occupying my attention and making me briefly forget the desire to run and stop worrying about the day.
It’s exhausting being a runner, especially in the week before an ultra.