My next race is fast approaching and after the huge amount of training I have done in the lead up to the event I have been feeling a bit tired. I think for that reason my coach has opted to go for a slightly longer taper in the lead up to the event then usual. I am certainly not in full taper mode at the moment but there are no more 25km runs with efforts or 600km weeks on the bike. I am quite grateful for this because I was starting to find the training not only physically exhausting but also very mentally draining.
That is why we taper, to allow all of the adaptations our body has made through the training to settle in and be delivered on race day. In essence we recover before a race so we are able to go out and give 100%. In theory this makes perfect sense and many people who do not train as much as I do would think going from 20-30 hours a week of training down to maybe 10-15 would be a relief or even easy. They would be wrong. Your body gets used to the load, the routine and the release of endorphins that many people find tapering incredibly difficult. I am not an exception to this rule. But this time I am noticing another problem.
Along with the desire to train when you taper it is incredibly normal to start to become paranoid. I am getting fat because I am not training, I wont be able to go as fast because I haven’t done any speed work. It is these sorts of thoughts and doubts that can really have a negative impact on your taper. The stress and worry means you don’t rest properly and are not able to recover properly. In Melbourne I am racing for a time at my next race but it isn’t really a race where there is that much pressure on me to perform. So these usual thoughts are not impacting me. So what is going on?
Since the start of this week instead of worrying or stressing or panicking about things I am the complete opposite. I am struggling to feel anything. I feel completely drained of all emotion. I am lethargic and if anything I feel like my taper is making me even more tired than I already was. It is incredibly frustrating. I wake up in the mornings and struggle to get out of bed. In my university lectures I struggled to pay attention. I felt fuzzy and not really present. This in turn has started to make me feel anxious. I really believe anxiety is the most useless emotion we can experience. I mean it literally does nothing and lately I have no idea what I am anxious about.
So I am going through this weird phase of feeling not much except for random anxiety about god knows what at a time when I need to be trying to recharge and recover. This is when it becomes time to tell myself to shut up, or maybe more specifically to cut it out.
I am lining up next weekend for my 22nd 70.3. I have been through this process enough times to know what is going on but I am still faced with different experiences. I assume the way I am feeling is a combination of changes in hormonal levels as a result of the change in my training and is a bi-product of my body recovering. Rationally I know and kind of believe that it is part of the process. What I need to keep telling myself or forcing myself to do is to not let my period of flatness and anxiety get in my way. If I spend too much time and energy on these things I will not be properly recharged mentally on race day and that could be the difference between a PB and just missing out.
So how do I try to do this? The best piece of advice I can give anyone who starts to feel any sort of difficult emotion in the lead up to a race is to just focus on you. Not in an egomaniacal way but focus on those things that you CAN control. Think about the training you have done. Analyse the state of your equipment to make sure it is in prime working order and less likely to cause you any problems on race day. Scan your body for any problems and take comfort when you realise there aren’t any or do what you can to get on top of any little niggles. Control all of those things that you have control over and leave less to chance.
I cannot guarantee that this will make you completely at ease and not anxious or worried. But when the voices in your head start to make you question things you are able to tell them to shut up because you know you have everything under control. I do not know what is making me anxious at the moment. Maybe it is the fact that my new bike arrives next week and I am trying to get a fit assorted and all the equipment right. Maybe it is because I am racing on a course I am not familiar with. Maybe it is because I feel so terrible before my race. What I do know though is that it is not a lack of preparation or uncertainty about those things that are within my control. Because anytime those thoughts enter my mind I am quick to tell them to shut up!
I am working on some exciting new things over the next few weeks and am looking forward to partnering up with Mike ‘Robo’ Robinson to deliver something that I think will be great. We will keep you updated with more information in the coming weeks but that is a nice little bit of sizzle for you.
Don’t waste energy worrying, focus on what you can control and remember to TRI!