August 5, 2020
taper trap

Moodiness a part of the taper game? [journal entry ]

My first marathon weekend approaches!

This is my first marathon experience and so I am taking note of everything. Not just physical stuff (areas of comfort and discomfort), but my emotional state also. These last few days, my emotional state has been shaky, at best.

High highs, low lows

I was absolutely psyched all October. I ran two half marathons (view on Strava here and here), and one fun & challenging 10 mile race, all within a period of three weeks. I couldn’t have been more amped up. The fact that I got through all those races feeling great really helped me to feel optimistic about the November 9 marathon.

And then, I had a great 20 mile run. That run was the day after the 10 mile race, and went into that run a little jittery; but came out the other side feeling totally stoked. The run went well. I was comfortable in the sense that I had zero “red flag” aches and pains.

But the last week I’ve been feeling down. I’ve been very blue, and feeling generally un-energetic. I don’t know why.

Honestly, I should be thrilled that the big day is approaching. Why ain’t I? I’ve been running through a mental checklist: Maybe it’s the weather; maybe it’s the noticeably short days; maybe it’s the fact that the holidays are approaching and I live far from my family. Maybe it’s financial stress.

Taper trap!

Or, heck, maybe … it’s part of the taper. Maybe it’s the fact that the 20 mile long run pretty much marked the end of the training cycle. Now it’s about rest and recovery while getting enough runs in that I still maintain my fitness enough to tackle those 26.2 miles.

In other words, maybe I fell into a taper trap.

Yup! I did a little searching and found that while some people in a taper trap end up acting flaky, jittery, or panicky; others feel down, blue, and tired.

Coach Gale Bernhardt wrote in a post at Active.com that many athletes he works with “feel slightly blue or depressed the week before the race”, and complain that they “feel more tired than when they were putting in long training hours.” This is exactly how I’ve been feeling.

An article at the Runners World website talks about a “feeling of malaise, depression, and hopelessness, which often accompanies the physical sluggishness that intensifies at the end of a taper.”

“Generally, running counters feelings of anxiety and depression,” says Hays. “So as you run less miles, bad feelings tend to crop back up and increase.”

“Taper Traps,” by Dave Kuehls. Runners World. Sep 6, 2006

That sounds about right.

Enjoying the experience

Feeling blue or not, I am enjoying this experience. Why? Because it’s part of a journey that I have never made before. It’s a new goal that I’ve set for myself a long time ago and I am almost there.

What’s going to be very cool for me is paying attention to myself (physically and emotionally) the second time around and taking note of what has been the same and what is different. Yes, I’m definitely doing this again.

But, first things first. Marathon day is just around the corner. I’m sure that I’ll have snapped out of this slump by Friday and I’ll be totally on fire come Saturday morning.


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