I made it. The highest volume for Ironman Saint George training is behind me.
And now it is time to focus on completing the training that I started so many months ago. To immerse myself fully in the final weeks of the Ironman process, with the same intentionality and focus that I have given my training for in many ways what feels like minutes and in others, eons. To spend my time and energy wisely in ways that serve the goal I have put so much into over the last six months. Why wouldn’t I?
Enter… “the taper crazies.”
Most athletes are familiar with this phrase. There is a big impact from the hole left when reducing training volume in the weeks leading up to a big goal. When your training lets up it results in way too much time and energy to obsess over all of the stress, excitement, fear, anxiety, and every single minuscule detail of your upcoming event. Athletes can also become hyper aware of each and every “niggle” in your body, hoping you haven’t suddenly acquired a season ending injury or a minor health setback. Your bodies and minds have been in auto pilot for so long, and now idle brains want to busy themselves by creating worst case scenarios.
If you have ever prepared for a big race, vacation, holiday, or large scale work or social event, you have likely experienced some of these similar feelings. The bulk of the work is done so there is nothing left to do other than hone in dramatically and obsessively on the smallest details.
I personally will argue that although it doesn’t always manifest in serving us well, it is a normal reaction to something we care deeply about. When we work hard for something we anticipate it with a healthy level of anxiety. I think a more concerning reaction is to disconnect as the event nears. To become indifferent about the process and/or outcome, and instead to just wait for it to be over.
Each individual experiences this form of crazies in different ways.
Several years ago I trained a man for Ironman WI. He worked hard. He followed the plan. I showed up to a local coffee shop for his pre race meeting excited, ready to talk strategy and hype him up for likely one of the hardest yet most rewarding days he will experience in his life.
We sat down and I excitedly asked him how he was feeling. And I was saddened when he responded with, “I just want it to be over.” His form of taper crazies, was giving him too much time and focus at home, where his wife had grown bitter over his six months spent training.
His answer made sense based on the amount of mental and emotional energy that he was suddenly putting in to keeping things “afloat” in his marriage. I offered some advice on shifting his mindset, and focusing on enjoying the day since he had worked so hard for it (especially since if he looked miserable it could make his wife even more resentful!) He ended up smiling through the entire race and finishing at his goal.
I think when we get ready to tackle really big goals it is normal to experience some amount of dread. Dread is defined as to “anticipate with great apprehension or fear.” When you put yourself out there to try something that you know will be hard, it is normal to have some fear or apprehension.
But, it is also healthy to experience excitement and anticipation alongside the “dread.” These feelings can all coexist. You can sift through the dreadful thoughts, remind yourself of your “why,” and acknowledge the healthy fear that comes with the territory. And it helps to do all of this while remembering that the growth (aka- the magic) does happen when you come out of your comfort zone.
We can all benefit from finding patience and connection during the taper, or the time leading up to big events. We can shift our anxious energy from looking outward to focusing within. To using our energy to be present and care for ourselves mentally, emotionally, and physically.
As I enter my own taper I am getting a lot of experience practicing what I preach. I am nervous for my upcoming race on many levels. There is the physical uncertainty of training indoors in WI for an outdoor race in Utah in the desert. A new race course. A different body. Five years after my last full Ironman race. Completely different training. First time with my coach. Trained mostly alone. And for the first Ironman distance race, I will be without the amazing support of my family, friends, and Zone Racing team.
It is my first time (in several seasons) where I am putting myself out there as an athlete when I know that I will not be competing for a podium spot, but instead will likely finish mid-age group. It honestly feels a lot like my first Ironman all over again. And my form of crazies is settling in with a healthy dose of self doubt with a side of imposter phenomena. I wrestle with my own thoughts and expectations. I try to remain neutral when taking in new information. And I am hyper vigilant on spending time with people and doing things that add value to my life.
I am anxious, but I do not feel dread.
I know this will be hard, but I am excited. And the truth remains that I will race to the best of my abilities. More than anything, I am going to enjoy the experience. I can do hard things. And I love the magical feeling of coming far out of my comfort zone.
I understand these feelings. I can manage my taper crazies.
To me, it means that matters a whole lot.