In which I taper for a race

It’s been some time since I wrote a personal post, but that’s because I’ve been so very busy training for my goal races.

It takes a long time to run five miles.

But I did it…in chunks.

And now that the hard work of training is over, I’m able to enjoy the taper.

As any seasoned runner knows, the taper isn’t just a time when you rest. The miles decrease, but you notch up the intensity. Typically, individuals training for the half or full marathon might do sets of kilometre repeats at their V02 max.

I did a stride tonight.

Damn, but it was hard.

I hope to do two next week.

With the taper comes a phenomena known as taper madness, so-called because runners used to…well, running all the time, no longer know what to do with all the extra hours in their day.

Yes, I’ve been a bit more active than normal today. For example, I mowed the lawn, made several meals in advance and froze them, laundered the cat and fed the laundry, sent individualized 8,000 word messages to all 508 of my Facebook friends, wrote a new economic policy position statement for the Canadian government, added a new wing to the house, and signed up to volunteer for 357 non-profit agencies.

Hmmm…I wonder what I’ll do tomorrow?

Another common taper phenomenon are various twinges and tweaks. The finely tuned athlete becomes susceptible to imaginary pains in the days leading up to a race. Suddenly their Achilles feels tight, or their IT band bothers them more than normal. It’s all in their heads.

I only mention this as I had to check into the hospital after my sudden episode of heart failure.

Well, my heart didn’t exactly fail, but it hurt. Actually it wasn’t precisely my heart.  But I experienced intense pain. And bruising. Lots of bruising.

See, I made double the serving of nachos I’d normally make – you should ask about my killer vegetarian nacho recipe some time – and with it added twice as many Habanero peppers as I’d use. Then, accidentally, I rubbed my eyes with my fingers, inadvertently blinding myself with the stinging oils from the capsicums.

The Habenero, of course, is off the map in terms of Scoville units, ranking in at 350,000 compared to the bell pepper at zero. The measurement itself gains its name from Wilbur L. Scoville, a pharmacist at a Detroit pharmaceutical company, who in 1912 “devised the first modern technique for measuring the pepper’s bite,” according to Amal Naj’s 1992 book, Peppers.

That means it’s freakin’ nasty, horrible hot. Why would you want to ingest such a potentially bowel-churning bit of heat? Many ultrarunners swear on the pepper’s healing properties.

Lurching sightless around my kitchen, I could not just then attest to the Habanero’s healing powers myself. I reeled around, my eyes madly watering, desperately trying to find water with which to flush my peepers.

That’s when Jimmy, my thankless Australian Shepherd, made himself known. The primary duty of an Australian Shepherd is to herd, which means they are constantly underfoot as they try to anticipate and direct your every movement. Unfortunately at this point in time, blinded, I could not see Jimmy as he cut directly in front of me. And by this point I’d actually wandered out of the kitchen toward the top of the stairs leading down to the front door.

It was then that Jimmy expertly inserted himself under my feet, causing me to topple over him and down a set of  six stairs to the landing beneath.

I sank into an inky pool of darkness.

…when I regained consciousness…

So my phantom taper pains weren’t so phantom after all. It’s okay, though, bruised and battered as I am, I’m still ready to race. After all, I have five hard miles of training under my belt – and one stride!

Maritime Race Weekend, here I come!


About subthree

A multiple award-winning journalist, I'm currently a contributing editor with both Canadian Running and Canadian Cycling magazines. My articles have appeared in Explore, Canadian Geographic, enRoute, The National Post, The Globe and Mail, and many other magazines and newspapers. Formerly a competitive cross-country mountain biker, I switched to running in 2006. I've run seven marathons, qualifying for Boston five times (and which I've run once). Generally, I've placed or won in my age group in races, in distances ranging from five and 10 kms to half and full marathons. I've also taught spin classes at a number of leading Eastern Canadian gyms. Sub-three was a 2012 #Runchat finalist for Best Overall Blog.
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14 Responses to In which I taper for a race

  1. Kevin Tulloch says:

    And I thought it was just me that felt every single ache and pain from years gone by when I tapered, never had to deal with an Australian Shepherd though, hoping that’s a dog and not an antipodean with a long crooked stick ;o) all the best at the weekend Charles you will have a blast !

    • subthree says:

      Jimmy (James T. Kirk to you) is a dog indeed. And, yeah, I think every runner has odd complaints when they’re tapering. I recall before one marathon I began complaining about my foot hurting, which elicited the following sympathetic response from Leah: “Oh, you’ve broken your toes!” Gee, thanks. Ha. Maritime Weekend is shaping up to look like a rollicking good time.

  2. Trevor M. says:

    Best not to mix urinal visits with recent Habanero handling

  3. Leslie H. says:

    You should be famous. Maybe we readers ought to pass around the collection hat and rustle you up some PR…

  4. Noortje says:

    Very amusing! Thanks for the 8,000 word message on my wall by the way. I am still trying to get through it 🙂

  5. Reblogged this on Ramblings in the key of 'Rick' and commented:
    Good insight into the wacky world of race tapering. Guess that’s why I don’t taper. 🙂

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