Taper Tantrums

 Tapering is the runner’s reward for months of training. It is time to let the legs rest and to store up energy before the big race. It is supposed to be a good thing, but for me, it rarely is. For me, I find that I am forced to taper before I actually feel ready to due to an overuse injury. At least that is what has happened to me each year before my annual marathon. It is either my shin, IT band, the top of my foot, or the bottom of my foot. It typically comes after my third or fourth 18-20 mile training run. It always stops me in my tracks. It hurts. Bad. And it always makes me doubt my ability to complete my marathon. Perhaps the most frustrating part of all of this stress is that I can’t run it off with a nice, long run. I have to settle for short runs and writing.

The injuries typically occur five to six weeks before my marathon, which is too early to taper. Ideally, I’d like to taper two to three weeks out from the race. The worst possible scenario would be to be injured on race day, so I’ll definitely take tapering a few weeks before I’d planned over not being able to race. Things could be so much worse. I am so grateful that I found running, and I want to stay healthy and keep running, so I have to pay attention to these overuse injuries. The injuries are my body’s way of telling me, “Relax, Dendy. You need to slow down. You will be fine on race day. You’ve done enough.” 

Tapering is an emotionally charged, confusing time for runners. We know we will need to run 26.2 miles on race day and we want to run it at a competitive pace. We feel the need to practice. We need time to practice with hydration, food, shoes, socks, clothing, pacing, electronics, and a myriad of other worries that arise on our long training runs. We never have enough time to practice everything before race day approaches. We enjoy the pain that comes with long training runs. We enjoy the ritual of it. We need it. We feel lost without a long run tied to our week. For, it is something that we look forward to. It adds structure and depth to our lives. It enriches us in its ability to force us to examine our lives with a clarity that we can’t get at any other time. That long run is our time. It’s necessary, and we can’t do it when we are tapering, and that is torture.

When I’m tapering, I begin to question the training I’ve done. Did I get in enough quality long runs? Did I begin to add mileage too fast? If I had started adding mileage a week earlier, would my taper begin at the exact right time before my race? Can I actually run this marathon? I did it last year, but that could have been a fluke. Can I do it again? I find myself poring over my training logs, studying my splits and doing the same calculations for finish time I’ve done hundreds of times. I find myself thinking, “If only I had a few more weeks.”  


The bottom line is this: I will not lose my endurance or speed by resting during the tapering process. In fact, resting is part of the process. I should be excited about the taper. I forced myself to compile a list of productive things I can do while tapering:



Plan my race day outfit.

Houston, Texas has bipolar weather, so I’ll plan a cold day outfit and a warm day outfit.

Make a new marathon day playlist.

I’m a 4 hour marathoner, so I need a lot of music. Last year I ran out. I’ve added quite a bit to my library since then.



Ice, stretching, Epsom salt-filled baths, and foam rolling.

I need to concentrate on relaxing any muscle kinks and tightness.



Make an appointment for a sports massage.

I know that I need to do this seven days before the race or more so that my muscles have a chance to recover and be fresh for the race. This is a luxury I don’t afford myself, so why not now? This will help calm me down during this taper.

Plan my high carb meals for the week leading up to my marathon. 

I’m going to store glycogen in these muscles! I’m not entirely sure what that exactly means, but I’ve read that’s what I need, so ….



Plan all meals.


Focus on cutting out the alcohol and junk and adding more of the good stuff. Operation Detox for Chevron Houston Marathon 2016.



Plan my after-race picture with my medal.


Last year’s (my first marathon) was kind of boring. Just me standing there looking proud and satisfied. This year’s should be fun.


Use the extra time to finish the novel I’ve been reading. It’s getting really good.



Repeat this mantra to myself:



Think positive thoughts.

I can do this. I have done this before. I will do it again. It will be another day to remember. It will be magic. It will be tough, but I am tougher.

Okay, I’m ready. Let’s go!

The high school librarian joins the high school track team.

Wow. track workouts are very difficult. I didn’t grow up running, I found running at age 35 when I needed to find an activity I could do alone and at odd times of the day. I didn’t want to join a gym or buy any expensive home equipment. Well, back then I wasn’t interested in those things. It’s actually kind of funny to sit here now and remember those early running days. Of course, as every runner will tell you, it starts with the inability to run even a quarter of a mile without stopping. It graduates to one half of a mile. And then, gloriously, a whole mile is run. This takes time. At least, it took me quite some time. Once I could run three miles without stopping I started entering 5K races. Of course, the rest, as the proverbial saying goes, is history.
I caught the running bug. It just got in my veins and I loved it. I placed in my age group at races, I qualified for my hometown marathon, and I was loving every moment of it. That is, of course, until I started experiencing overuse injuries. This is when I knew I had to bite the bullet and do what all of the running articles I had been reading suggested: cross train, strength train, and foam roll. I began to do weighted squats, lunges, donkey kicks, planking and foam rolling. I started yoga and I got back to lap swimming. All of these things helped to build the muscles that weren’t being built by running alone: namely my gluteus, hamstrings, & core. I know, in my heart of hearts, that if I could solely run without doing all of these extra things and stay healthy, I would. But, I learned my lesson the hard way, and I digress.

Now that I have completed a full marathon and I’m training for my second full marathon, I realize that as of late I have been more fixated on the distance of my runs and not on my speed. I casually mentioned this to the girls track & cross country coach at my school where I serve as librarian, and before I knew it she was hooking me up with a coach that comes out and trains her girls.

I attended a practice and met the coach. My intention was to introduce myself and meet the coach, but more importantly, I wanted to scope out the practice. I got a really good feeling about Coach Ivory within the first few moments of speaking with him. As I left him that afternoon at practice I called out over my shoulder, “Well, I’ll come play with ya’ll Monday.” His response over the fence was, “You better hope that library isn’t upstairs.” We all laughed and I headed home.

The first day of track practice was brutal. He had us not only sprinting around the track, but skipping forwards and backwards. He had us pushing hurdles and pulling hurdles. He had us lunging around the track. We ran bleachers with medicine balls. At one point during the workout I glanced over at Coach Ivory a bit forlorn looking and he said, “You just thought you were in shape, didn’t you?”

Yes, Coach Ivory. I really thought I was in tip-top physical condition. I run 25-35 miles a week. I swim one day a week for 45 minutes. I practice yoga for an hour once a week. I lift weights at the gym once a week and I use dumbbells for strength training at home for 45 minutes a week. But Coach Ivory is having me use my muscles in different ways. And, he is having me sprint. I haven’t worked on speed in regards to my running in quite some time. As of late, I’ve been complacent. I’ve been putting it in cruise control and enjoying slow, long runs.

I’ve been letting Coach Ivory abuse me now for about four weeks. We practice Monday through Thursday for nearly three hours each session. It is very difficult, but it is also very rewarding. I’m running with girls that are between 15 and 18 years old. The football, baseball, softball, basketball, and soccer teams and their coaches come out at various periods during our workouts to complete their own workouts. This means that I often have quite an audience. My goal is always to blend in. The coaches are my colleagues, and this always feels a bit funny for me when they come out to the track. But, isn’t that what life is all about? Taking risks, regardless of how silly we might look.

So, this is how the high school librarian became an honorary member of the high school girls track team.

Shiner Beer Run Race Recap

This is my fourth year to complete the Shiner Beer Run.  So, to borrow BookLadyWalker’s term, it’s a “rerun.” The run takes place in Shiner, Texas, the “cleanest little city in Texas,” at the Shiner Spoetzl Brewery. There is a 5K and a 1/2 marathon. The first year, I completed the 5K with my husband, as I was a newer runner. The last three years I have opted for the 1/2 marathon. I particularly like this race because it marks my running progress, but also because I get to go away with my husband without the kids for a weekend race. Shiner is about 2 1/2 hours from our home. Each year we meet my parents, who live an hour from us, and deposit our daughters in their car, then we motor on up to Shiner for a fun getaway.
The course is quite challenging. For one thing, there are hills. I live in a suburb of Houston, Texas. The only hills we have are overpasses. Additionally, because the race always takes place the weekend before Thanksgiving, the weather tends to be a bit yucky. This year it was the wind and light rain that was troublesome. It is difficult to run up a hill, but twice as difficult to run up a hill as the wind pushes you backwards. There is one section of the course where we run through a pasture on a rocky road. Because we are running through an open pasture, there isn’t anything to block the wind. This part of the course was particularly difficult for me.

Every year I am challenged by this race, and because of this I will continue to go back each year because I love it so much. This is what running is all about. It’s about ignoring that little wussy voice in our heads that tells us to stop. It’s about struggling to make it uphill with winds pushing us back, but pressing on with sheer determination and then rejoicing in our accomplishments. This is why we run. We run to to feel free. We run to feel free from barriers, negative thoughts, worry, and apprehension. When we are running we are strong and confident. We are fearless and capable. Courageous and inspiring. Sometimes it is an easy, comfortable run and sometimes it is a challenging and frustrating run. In short, running fills a void. A void that we can’t even pinpoint. We are better because of running.

I am nostalgic about the Shiner Beer Run because it marks my evolution as a runner. The first year it was the 5K and I actually placed in my age group. The second year it was my first 1/2 marathon, and I did it in under two hours. By the third Shiner Beer Run, I had completed three other 1/2 marathons in under two hours and attempted to break my 1:56 PR by going out fast in the beginning. I hit a wall toward the end of the race and had to walk. I finished that year in a little over two hours, but I learned some valuable lessons that day. 

The first lesson I learned is to trust my training and not to try to go out and do something totally different on race day. The second lesson I learned is that I will fail as a runner from time to time. Either because of my fitness or because of my brain, I will fail. Every run will not be perfect. I must admit, at the after race party that year I was quite a brat. I was so angry at myself for the time that I got. My husband had to tell me to drop it. This year, I promised him I would not be a brat after the race, no matter what happened, and I wasn’t. This year, I was conservative in the beginning and allowed myself to slow down some during that challenging pasture section of the run. I kicked it back up again as I neared the end of the run, and I finished at 2:01. I’d be lying if I didn’t have to quiet my annoying runner voice in my head saying, “If you’d just pressed on in miles 4 and 5 you would have finished four minutes earlier.”

The truth is, breaking personal records is quite fun, but so is simply enjoying the run. Every runner experiences doubt, fatigue and complacency. Running is like life. It isn’t always going to go our way. It just isn’t. Sometimes, we have to simply enjoy our runs, even those bad ones. Just enjoy every last miserable minute.

The 2015 Shiner Beer Run was great. I had a great time with my husband and I ran my own race. I remembered to look around at the cute town of Shiner. I remembered to wave at every spectator that had taken time out of their lives to simply cheer me on. I listened to my music through my headphones and lip-synced my favorite songs. I high-fived spectators that had their hands out to high five me. I remembered to enjoy my run. I remembered that I am fortunate to have found running. As I approach my 39th birthday, I just want to keep running for as long as I possibly can. I want to be positive and remember that running is my gift. 

Thank you running.