Taper time, you would think, is great.
After months of hitting it hard every week and capping off those weeks with long runs of 13-15, 18-20 and even a 22-mile run, it seems like lesser-mileage weeks and long runs of 12 and 10 miles would be quite appealing.
It is, but it isn't.
While I've run eight marathons, there are constant reminders that that figure doesn't put me in the veteran marathoner category. Taper time is one of those times. I'm now tapering once more, preparing myself for the LA Marathon, set for March 17, and I can't say that I'm entirely happy about it.
I understand the science behind tapering. You need to rebuild and strengthen up your muscles; you need to get mentally ready as well and you've gotta enter the marathon well-rested.
But when you've been hitting it hard for so long, anything short of that seems like you're at a standstill. Midweek 6- to 8-milers become 3- to 5-milers, 3-5 becomes two... what are those distances? It's more challenging to get up for a three-mile run when you're used to knocking out 6-8 milers. Sometimes, those short runs feel like you're just spinning your wheels. It feels like you are just going through the motions because you can't get into that same mindset and rhythm you do on longer runs.
Typically when I get to three miles I've just gotten into my stride and am looking forward to tackling the meat of the run, so when the run is over at that point instead of just getting started, it's an entirely different monster.
Multiply that feeling by a thousand and that's what taper feels like to me.
In some ways, it feels like you're losing your edge, and that the fire burning inside of you is slowly flickering away.
I'm going into this taper with a bit of an open mind though. I didn't exactly have the best experience in my last marathon (a 5:10 finish at Long Beach) and I felt like I was stagnant in my taper, but I think that marathon was soured by lack of training, not the taper portion of it. I fizzled in Long Beach but that wasn't because I felt like I fizzled during my taper.
I'll probably feel like I'm fizzling this time around too, but I have a much better training base and will feel confident once I'm out there on March 17.
I just have to get there in one piece.