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Taper Time
With weeks of hard work behind him, our runner enjoys a run down Easy Street during the final weeks of taperingor at least, that's how it was supposed to go. The ninth in a series of essays.

  
Taper Time

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By Hank Brown
Posted Monday, 3 March, 2003

This is the ninth in a series of essays following columnist Hank Brown in his march to the Myrtle Beach Marathon. The first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth articles are also available.

Week 14, two weeks before the Myrtle Beach Marathon... This is the place every marathon trainee strives to be. There's nothing left to do but cruise on in, relatively speaking. Up until this point, the MO is to be a tough guy. Run when it's frigid cold. Run with snow in your face. Run in the rain. Run on treadmills. Run with pain in your foot. Run farther than people drive in their cars.

But... that's all behind me. Now I'm supposed to take it easy. It's the smart thing to do. Some of us don't really know how to back off. It goes against our nature. We feel guilty.

Not me. I'm great at it. I'm the taper king. Let's taper!

 

Some of us don't really know how to back off. It goes against our nature. We feel guilty. Not me. I'm great at it. I'm the taper king. Let's taper!

 

But before I take that final turn down easy street, I have one more tempo run this week. I must say that one of the bright spots in my training has been my 4-mile tempos. Much to my surprise, my times have improved each week. So, as I head out the door for my final tempo, I really don't expect to improve again. It's very cold and extremely windy. I'm already talking myself out of being Sir Speedy today. Maybe I'll just go on effort. My mind is working against me. What's one tempo run anyway?

I'm also somewhat intimidated by a time thrown down by my friend Kim. I made the mistake of bragging via e-mail to her about my times, especially my last one, but in the next sentence predicted she would probably go out and beat it. I know how competitive she is. She would run one second faster just to keep the Hank vs. Kim tempo tennis match going. Guess what? She destroyed it by 52 seconds!

So what if she ran on a nice flat indoor track with a running partner under pristine conditions? And I ran all by myself outside on the road, in the cold, dodging traffic, turning corners, and up and down hills? 52 seconds is 52 seconds. I'm deflated. I'm destroyed. No way I can run that fast. Game, set, match. Anyway, it's really cold. The wind is malicious. I'm not into it.

Over the course of a 10-minute warm-up, I have sufficiently psyched myself out. But it's time to start. I decide I'll give it a good try on the first mile and see what happens. If it's slow, then I'll back off. The muscular wind is indeed pushing me around, but at least it's in the right direction for most of the initial mile. But it's cold. I don't feel good. 52 seconds. No way. Darn that Kim.

I approach the first split. It's fast. I can't believe it. Okay, Brown, keep going. Don't quit yet. Second mile is into the wind and slightly uphill. Surely it will be very time-consuming. Then I can back off. Just run. Man, it's cold. I'm approaching the second mile. I look at my watch and can't believe what I see. It's as fast as the first mile! I WANT to coast, so I'm wishing for slow miles, but somehow I'm running fast. Somebody explain that to me.

I have to press on now. I'm on a fast pace; no, not as fast as Kim, but much faster than my previous tempos. I miss the mile 3 split. Stupid me. I turned on the wrong street! No big deal, I quickly reconfigure the course so I can come back the right way. The total distance will be correct. I push it in to the finish, and stop my watch. I'm 32 seconds faster than last week (my best time before today), and not far off some of my recent race times. How did I do that? I'm ecstatic.

I'm panting out in the street outside my house. Natalie waves from the kitchen window. I can't wait to go in and tell her all about it. I'll tell her about the cold and the wind and Kim's time and my psych job and missing mile 3 and despite all that, I ran my fastest tempo yet. She'll listen patiently and tell me how great I am... she's my biggest fan (she has to be, she's my wife).

Week 15: This Is It

The final week. I have a 10-mile run on Sunday, but that's my last run of any consequence. Funny, how 10 miles seems "easy" now, when 15 weeks ago, I struggled through my first "long" run of the same distance. As I'm running down the last couple of blocks in my neighborhood I see Natalie in the distance coming toward me. When we meet I turn around, add a couple of blocks to my course, and finish up with her. Why not? She has stuck with me throughout this ordeal; I can at least go a block or two with her!

I'm taking "taper" to new heights (or depths) this week. My runs consist of 3-4 mile jogs, just to keep the blood flowing. I'm afraid if I just stop, I'll get sluggish. But it's really just a waiting game... waiting for the marathon to start, and getting more and more edgy as I tear each day from the desk calendar.

 

I never shy away from a burger and fries, but this week the author of the Food Guide Pyramid would be proud of me.

 

I'm also more paranoid than a turtle crossing Interstate 95. If someone sneezes, I run the other way. If Natalie says her tummy hurts, I think about sleeping in another room. My foot is on ice more than Cary Grant's champagne. I discover a nagging knee pain. Where the heck did that come from? I go out to get the morning paper and step on a stone. Yeeoww! That hurt. Oh no, just what I need, a big stone bruise. What was I thinking walking outside barefoot?

I never shy away from a burger and fries, but this week the author of the Food Guide Pyramid would be proud of me. I'm drinking more water (and as a result wearing a path back and forth to the bathroom). I'm bringing Powerbars to work for snacks. I'm in search of pasta. I'm taking my vitamins. I've sworn off alcohol. Man, I can't wait until this is over. It was more fun when I was out of shape.

On Thursday night it's time to pack. We're leaving early in the morning for Myrtle Beach. I have a support (party?) crew of 5 going along with me and I'll probably need every one of them. Natalie is really nervous. She says she feels like I'm going into surgery or something...

It's hard to believe it's time. Nothing comes easy for me, and this training sure hasn't been a picnic in the park. But, believe it or not, the 15 weeks has gone by pretty fast. I just hope the marathon goes by as quickly. I think I'm ready.

I received a well-wishing email from a friend the other day, and he ended with "Well, what is your goal?"

It's simple. First, cross the finish line upright and coherent. Then... find the post-race party!

Next: At Last, the Marathon

 

 

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