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Out There: The Taper Advice Nobody Tells You

You already know what you know.

Last week, I began tapering for an upcoming marathon.

Were I a rational person, I would use my newfound free time to conquer my neglected to-do list or treat myself to a relaxing massage. I would sit on my front porch and drink a cup of tea while smiling at all the poor saps who still have long runs on their calendars. I would do the charity work I promised the Endurance Gods all those times I begged them to just make the weather suck a little less for today’s run, please.

Then again, I suppose if I were a rational person, I wouldn’t be running a marathon in the first place.

Instead of using my wide-open schedule to relax and bask in the glory of all that is taper, I’ve been doing the same thing I’ve done before every race: panic.

You know what I’m talking about, right? Every race, we resolve to trust in our training. The proverbial hay is in the barn, and we should feel proud of the work we’ve done to prepare for the event. Yet something always seems to pop up that makes us second-guess ourselves.

During the taper, I become hypersensitive to any and all suggestions that my training is crap, my nutrition is crap, my gear is crap, I’m crap, and my race will be crap.

The shoes I love and swear by? It’s a miracle I’m not injured wearing them, one of my Facebook friends commented last week.

My gel-and-water fueling strategy? Ridiculous! Why didn’t I teach myself to burn my own fat for fuel, like the smarty so-and-sos in my running group?

According to certain websites, I should have eaten more carbohydrates or kicked off my taper with a three-day juice cleanse or inhaled giant hunks of organic grass-fed meat, Flintstones-style, until I got the meat sweats.

And the advice is everywhere: Do this! Wear that! Don’t EVER do this, except for when you should! ALWAYS eat this, except for when you can’t, or won’t, or shouldn’t! Do it EXACTLY like this person! Be less, wait…that! No, NOT THAT, the other thing! You should do XYZ, not ABC, and DEFINITELY never 123!

So, in summation: I’ve been doing it all wrong.

This is the problem with being exposed to running advice during taper. Other people seem so absolute, so confident, that we wonder if they know more than we do. We believe their certainty and their USE OF CAPS LOCK is a sign we should take their statements as fact. We listen intently and commence panicking because maybe we don’t know as much as we thought we did.

Maybe that’s the bigger problem.

When we second-guess ourselves based on someone else’s experiences, what we’re really saying is that our own experiences are invalid. We get so caught up in listening to people tell us how to run, we forget we’ve already learned from the best teacher: running. Our lessons are individual. What works for one won’t always work for another. Something that functioned for me in training might fail for you; or for you it was amazing and for me it was frustrating.

The only absolute about running is that there are no absolutes.

So here’s the advice we never hear during taper, but probably should: You don’t need any more advice. You already know what you need to know.

So do what works for you. Wear those moon boots to your marathon. Eat sushi the morning of your race. Train exclusively on uphills or downhills or underwater or whatever it is that’s worked for you this far. Do XYZ. Or ABC. Or even 123, if that tickles your fancy. Go on, get down with your bad self. You got this.

Now pour yourself a cup of tea, settle in on the front porch, and pretend to be a rational person.

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About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). Susan lives and trains in Salt Lake City, Utah with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete husband. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke.