What does taper mean? Supposedly, the taper is a period of decreased mileage before race day that’s accompanied by more rest, healthy food, time off your feet and race prep. And, no matter how zen you think you are, it’s also a time of insanity as any racer will tell you. Whether you’re running your first race or your 50th, the taper is a multi-stage period of time in which emotions tend to run wild and pieces of your personality that you may not want exposed, get exposed. Your friends and family might see sides to you that you’d rather not have them see.
Runners, however, are the most forgiving during this period of time. Like, you’re running buddy might say…
“Hey, that new running skirt looks great on you!”
“SHUT UP! IT TOTALLY MAKES ME LOOK LIKE A COW! I’M BLOATED AND HAVE GAINED LIKE 20 POUNDS OVERNIGHT AND I’M GETTING A COLD!”
“Are you tapering?”
“I love you. Wanna grab a beer?”
In an effort to help you feel normal. And, to give you something to do for 3 minutes other than FREAK OUT about your upcoming race, I’ve outlined some of the stages of the dreaded taper. These can happen in any order and I’m sure I’ve missed some. Feel free to comment below and tell us your experience!
1. Confusion: When does taper start? I just finished my longest run. Is it NOW? Is it now? Is it next week? When can I eat more? Is it now? I’m so hungry.
2. Denial: I’m not tapering, I just have like 18 days until my race. That’s all. No biggy. I’m cool. It’s not time to freak out or anything. Why is my voice so high?
3. Over-Eater: Good thing I’ll be burning like 26.2 million calories on race day. I’m just gonna eat this entire cake and not worry about it. Maybe I should wait till after breakfast.
4. Under-Eater: I’m going to run this race light as a feather. It’s humus and rice crackers for me today, thanks.
5. Hypochondriac: I have a sore throat. I bumped my toe. My toe is broken. I have pneumonia and a broken leg now. Did you sneeze? Get away from me! Don’t you know I have a race in 2 weeks!
6. Cry Baby: Dang! I used my free coffee punch card LAST week. Cry. I should feel fortunate to be able to buy good coffee in the first place. Cry. Feel guilty. Cry.
7. Wonder Woman: Run at a crack of dawn in the dark, make breakfast, pack school lunches, work all day, whip up dinner, clean the kitchen, fold laundry, read to kids, handle kid meltdown, put kids to bed, fold more laundry, pay bills, set out running clothes for the morning, answer emails, finally remember to feed pets, find spelling homework crumpled in bottom of kid’s backpack, throw chicken and potatoes in the crockpot, panic that you were going to try and get to bed by 10:00pm, but it’s now 11:00pm. Oh, wait, this isn’t wonder woman taper stage, this is just what I do EVERY. DAM. DAY.
8. Dummy: “Mommy, where is Nebraska?” “Um, I don’t know. I DON’T KNOW! Oh, god, where is Nebraska?” What is wrong with me? “Go get the globe and we’ll look for it together, Jo–Ja–Ji—, whatever your name is.”
9. Faux Fantastic: Pulling off the faux-fantastic is hard. It’s that big, hands-on-hips-confident-smile, ya-sure-you-betcha-wink-thing you throw at non-runners who ask you the dumbest question ever, “Are you excited about your race coming up?”
10. Bitch: Get away from me.
11. Uber-Bitch: Get the fuck away from me.
12. Newbie Runner: AHHHH, I just did my last short run and I feel like I’ve never run before! The clock has turned back. I feel like a newbie runner. Help! I can’t even run 3 miles!
13. Queen Bee: “I don’t care if you need another snack. I’m going to sit here in this Lazy-Boy for 5 minutes, that’s all I ask, 5 MINUTES and watch this cooking show! (This stage is usually followed by some version of “Guilt-Fest” stage.)
14. Melt Down: I scheduled my meltdown for the Friday before my race at exactly 10:00am. Of course, I was too busy being in “Wonder Woman Stage” to have my meltdown, but the fact I scheduled it in made me feel better.
15. Exercise-Free Exercising: “Ooops,” I told my coach, a week out from my race. “I did a short run and now I’m biking to work which includes 8-10 miles of riding to a meeting.” “No problem,” she says, “just don’t use your legs.”
16. Guilt-Fest: I’m a horrible mother! I just spent half of every Saturday doing my long runs and I’ve missed out on hours of my kids’ growing up that I will never get back. (This stage is sometimes followed by “Cry Baby” stage or the sharing of cake from “Over-Eater” stage.)
17. Zen: I’m cool. I got this. I’m breathing deeply. I’m listening more. I’m blinking sloooowly. I’m stretching. I’m so tight I can’t touch my toes, but whatever. I got this.
18. Panic: I won’t make it. I’m not ready. I haven’t trained enough. I’ve over trained. I’ll be too slow. I’ll go out too fast. I’ll shit my pants. I’ll panic.
19. 30-Second-Butterfly-Barf: This is final stage of the taper. You’re standing in the crowd at the starting line on race day. Everyone around you is putting on their best “Faux-Fantastic” smile. You should have peed one more time. The race starts in 30 seconds. The butterflies in your stomach have multiplied 26.2 times and you’re so nervous you want to barf. Then the gun goes off and you start to run. Yay! Taper’s over. Let’s run!