All week I’ve been foggy and clumsy. Monday I ran into a curb with our car, and I’ve hip-checked numerous door frames as I lumber from location to location.
It must be taper time.
Not to be confused with hammer time, the Ironman taper is a period of rest and reduced training intended to prepare an athlete to peak in their race. It has also been known to turn normally well-adjusted triathletes into monsters. Irritable? Yup. Overly sensitive? Mmmm hm. Clumsy? Yes m’. But more on that later.
This week started out normally. A recovery 4000-yard swim on Monday set things off on the right foot. Tuesday brought the normal bike/run workout with the SBX crew, and I was ecstatic to hold a sub-7 minute mile for 10 minutes at the end. During my last swim lesson with Christina in the evening, I tried to tattoo on my brain everything she’s been so patiently teaching me.
Then yesterday, my prescribed 10-day taper (for Ironman Los Cabos) arrived. In the morning, a (sluggish) 90-minute run replaced the 135 I’d grown so used to, and instead of my usual Wednesday night strength training session, I hit up the Brigantine with co-workers for happy hour. Pints of cold beer and tacos bursting with crispy, breaded fish accosted me from every end of the table. I gave in only to the latter—after all, I needed dinner, didn’t I? One taco wasn’t going to kill me.
As for the booze, I’d flirted with the idea of making my entire taper alcohol-free. I even said it out loud once or twice. I stayed dry during happy, but when we got home it was a different story. Mark came home from the store with a case of one of my favorite beers, and I felt instantly deflated.
Tapering casts your daily habits and rituals in a new light. Food is suddenly not about “fueling” anymore. It’s just food. Last night, that one little drink I would choose to have to not to have suddenly seemed so monumental. As if it represented that last .0001% of my race that I have control over. Mark challenged me on why’s of my decision, and I didn’t have a great answer for him beyond some vague points about better-quality calories and hydration. (For the record, I didn’t go alcohol-free before Ironman Mont Tremblant, and had a great race.)
I’ve also flirted with the idea of going gluten free (especially after editing an article on why some of the pros have chosen to do so). Mark was a little more understanding of that one, given some of the stomach issues I’ve experienced in the past with running. But again, I didn’t go gluten-free before Tremblant either and I felt great.
Tapering has a way of highlighting my insecurities, hitting me first where I’m most vulnerable: food. Maybe it’s normal to want to exert the last bits of control just 9 days out from something you’ve been working so hard for. Normal to want to grasp that last degree of seriousness, get to race weight, eat clean, etc. Even though I know I’ve done the work.
In the end I settled on a “light Americano”—½ an ounce of Campari, ½ an ounce of sweet vermouth, and topped up with (hydrating!) soda water. It satisfied my evening nightcap ritual coming in at just 60 calories.
For breakfast, two poached eggs on a bed of sauteéd beet greens, bacon, and coffee got me going. After a midday run with a colleague (who kept me true to taper form at a healthy 9:30 minute mile), I walked over to the new Del Mar Whole Foods and grabbed a bag of their in-house gluten-free Prairie Bread. (Which I later found out had been deemed one of the six best gluten-free breads by Saveur magazine.) I toasted it and spread it with mashed avocado, a favorite lunch of mine. Success number two. Wee Review: This gluten-free bread is a little more gummy than it is soft and bread-like, but the whole grains and seeds make it hearty. Texture: 4/10. Taste: 7.5/10. 150 cals per slice. Price: Average.
We’ll see how I do the rest of the week. Now it’s time to muster up the courage to go home and face that case of Ruthless Rye IPA. Wish me luck.