Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Taper Torture

The marathon is on Sunday. Our days of lengthy runs are a not so distant memory as we continue our taper in preparation. For me, it's not running all those miles each week that has begun to break me a bit. It's been forcing myself not to run that has successfully pushed me off my rocker.

It's a funny thing, training for a marathon. It's a lot like life: it has its ups and downs, moments of pure agony and torture, followed by moments of blissful accomplishment. It has tested me in ways I never imagined it would: both my physical body and the murky depths of my soul. I've been pushed and pulled to the brink plenty of times in my life, but never in this way. Training has seeped deep into my pores and reminded me that I'm much tougher than I think and much less willing to bend than I thought.

Marathon training is truly the physical manifestation of anything you've ever worked for in your life: it just feels more simplistic than any other problem or hurdle I have encountered. It has shone a light on my shortcomings in a way that nothing else could. It's split my brain and soul open in some strange way that makes me feel one part strong and another part incredibly vulnerable. It's difficult not to feel poetic about the experience.

Training is tough work, there's no sugar coating it. It's about putting in the time and the miles to accomplish a pretty amazing feat. It's not easy, and there were plenty of moments where I looked myself in the mirror and wondered what in the hell I was thinking. Each week, I change my mind about ever running a marathon again--it seemingly depends on how I feel in that moment.

Life keeps humming along at its normal pace while I've dedicated most of myself to marathon training; that's what sometimes makes it feel impossible. I'm married to running, it seems. In sickness and in health, good times and bad. Even when it's the running that is actually making me sick and the bad times seem to outweigh the good ones.

My personal breaking point arrived last week. I was exhausted, stretched entirely too thin in every area of my life, and I actually wondered if I was going crazy. It felt like something--anything--had to give. It was one of those uncomfortable moments that I typically revel in, the ones that seem to have the power to mold me into a better person.

But last week? Last week I wasn't interested in being a better person. I just wanted to crawl into a hole and kindly request a monetary refund for Sunday's marathon please and thank you. I felt exhausted and beat down and really quite pathetic. Of course, this feeling only blossomed into something terrible when I woke up early Saturday morning with a raging case of DPE (that's Double Pink Eye) and if I had the physical ability to do so, I would have cried.

We took a break from running this weekend, listening to our tired bodies that seemingly had enough. We ran 53 miles the prior week and had to pay for our efforts in some sort of bizarre health-related currency. I felt defeated and tortured.

I ventured out on a solo run late last week (my first since June) without the company of my iPod and let myself take it all in. The air was cool and a trademark Autumn breeze whipped through my hair the entire way. That run dug deep into me and pushed me back to where I belonged---deeply in love. I love running in more ways than I can articulate. But like anything else, turning something you love into a demanding job has a way of helping you to fall out of love. I needed that time to be with my thoughts, listening only to my heart and lungs working in concert, to flesh out that soft spot I once held for running.

Tapering, or reducing your miles in anticipation of a lengthy race, is a very necessary part of the training process. You need to rest (mentally and physically) to prepare for the 26.2-mile journey ahead. But it feels like torture today. After everything that stands behind us, running fewer (or no) miles leaves me too much time to spend inside my own head.

I have a difficult time, in all areas of my life, with resting and knowing that I have truly tried as hard as I could and put in every effort left in my body to successfully complete an important task. The tapering--resting--lets those questions swim freely in my brain. I have a problem with second guessing myself, and it's never been more clear to me than in the midst of resting, not training, for this marathon.

Have I done enough? Probably. I have to trust myself--and my body--now.

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