'Tis the season. There is a wicked strain of Taper Madness sweeping across the world. Since fall is the prime racing season for so many runners, you can't trip over your own shadow without falling into a runner with a full case of delirium and the shakes from Taper Madness.
Taper Madness is real. Don't let your doctor tell you any different. It isn't a figment of your imagination - it strikes all runners who attempt to take their training down a notch a week or so before the big race. It is a necessary evil that runners live in order to arrive at the starting line with legs that have a bit more spring in the step instead of feeling beat to hell. But the contrary nature of the taper is what you gain back in physical rejuvination you lose in mental reasoning capacity. The term "madness" wasn't happened upon. It is a full and complete description of the feeling a runner gets as they anxiously await for the race. Their thoughts race - most times in circles of repetition. They sense and feel aches and pains of the tiniest amount and then worry them to the greatest extreme. All their conscious waking moments are consumed with preparing and running their long awaited event.
But there is a bright side to your condition - it is entirely temporary, 100% reversable and completely harmless to your long life. But the symptoms can be confused with other more serious conditions, such as truly losing your mind, life ending not yet discovered diseases, and obsessive compulsive disorders that need to be treated.
To help you decide if you need to ride it out versus see a specialist, here are some of the common symptoms of Taper Madness:
Out of Control Phobia of Germs. You have converted your hydration belt, cell phone holder, purse or other items on your person into hand santizer and Lysol toting equipment. You find yourself spraying down desks, keyboards, phones, bathrooms, and even your loved ones to keep them 99.9% germ free. You easily move out of the way of handshakes and hugs of most people - even the ones you live with now. Your children and spouse are instructed to stay within arms length and even blowing kisses down wind are prohibited. Even if you have never been a self proclaimed germ phobe before your taper, you find that your eye sight is accurate enough to now see possible viral and bacterial infection lurking around every public surface. No infection, flu, or cold will stand between you and the starting line.
Self Proclaimed Expert Meterologist. Through your running training, you rarely studied weather except to decide how much sunscreen to wear. You withstood all temperatures, wind gusts, precipitation - hell even a tornado and hurricane. But now with weeks to go, you have your email, Twitter, IM and cell phone set up to provide up to the minute reports on the 3, 5, 7, and 14 day forecast for race day. You have enacted a "no talking" zone during nightly weather and find yourself switching to the Weather Channel ten times a day. Some runners will even go so far to try to strike up a relationship with the local meterologist to get the inside scoop. And others will channel ancient forecasting methods to forecast the weather themselves using moon position, clouds and the path of birds.
You can't get enough of the details. The race website you glanced at a few times before signing up you now visit regularly in the lsat few weeks. You have a minute by minute schedule mapped out for the days before the event through the starting gun. You have studied the maps to figure out bathrooms, parking, meeting spots, and more. You have doubled checked your confirmation number, hotel reservation, and your bib number. Every other day of the year you let the little things go but for a few weeks each year, the details are everything.
You wonder if you are losing your mind. In the same hour you think to yourself, "I can!" "I can't possibly.." "I will!" "What the heck was I thinking..." "I can't wait!" "Am I really ready?" "I am going to rock that race!" "What if I am last?" "I can't wait to cross the finish line!" "What if I don't finish?" "My training has gone so well." "I should have pushed harder on the miles in the middle...". You flip flop between positive energy and mental anguish in the blink of an eye. Every other month of the year you are a rational, logical human being capable of dealing with complex emotions. But for these few weeks, you can't seem to get seem to talk sense into yourself.
You see people talking and hear words, but you really don't care what they are saying. And that's not like you. Most times, you try to pay attention in those boring meetings. You can usually remember what your better half told you last night. You can even stay lucid in a conversation with your kids about video games and cartoons. But not during Taper Madness. Not a chance. You hear people talking. You see their lips moving but you can't focus on the message and you really don't care. During Taper Madness you would you really like to stand up and scream, "Can we talk about what I want to talk about....MY [FILL IN RACE}?!?!?"
Your race gear achieves high status. Instead of being throw on the floor, in the laundry or stuffed in a bag, your chosen race gear is clean, folded and perched on a shelf, chair or other place of high honor a few days/weeks before the event. Family members are instructed not to touch it, move it or refold it. It has a purpose.
Excursions require safety reviews. Someone casually mentions going out for a meal, drink, shopping, whatever, and you do a mental scan of the route, the establishment, and company before deciding if it is worth the risk of a sprained ankle, chance of eating the wrong food, or picking up a stray germ.
You think about the race - ALOT. When you get up you think about what you will be doing that time of the day on race day. When you go for a run you think about what it will be like to start or finish the race. You have visualized the finish line so many times you have your never-to-be-used finish line speech to perfection. You have practiced, secretly, the fist pump, jump for joy, double arm 'yahoo!", etc that you will do for the picture that really counts. And smiles....you know which smile you will try for and at which miles - instead of the death snear - even if that is how you feel. You think about the race at every meal, walking to your car, brushing your teeth, while watching the news, singing your favorite songs (but with new taper related lyrics)... with every step or breath you take.
You know you are dying ... or at least facing a race ending injury. You held off minor and major injuries throughout your training, but now in just a few days you have aches, pains, tweaks, tight spots all in places you haven't before and in ways you haven't experienced before. You wonder how your body could betray you now! You spend time on www.webmd.com and www.sportsinjuryclinic.net hoping to find the answer to your mystery illness - only to find that there is nothing that specifically covers what you are experiencing.
If any of these sound like a current symptom you have, congratulations - you have Taper Madness. There is a wonderful home treatment.
Just go with it for a few days. It will come to a quick end as you cross the starting line.
In the meantime, know there are many runners like you dealing with the same infliction. If you need a place to vent, talk about your race or absolutely nothing, stop by the Taper Madness forum in the Lounge and talk about what you are thinking about, how you are coping or heck, even about what you really want to talk about ....YOUR RACE!
***If you are wondering, the pictures have nothing to do with running. They just made me giggle and thought they would bring a smile to your face too.