Fist full of Cheeseburgers

Much love from the colonies  
  First things first, I'd like to acknowledge the international readership, especially from across the pond in the United Kingdom. It's really cool to know that an average guy from an undisclosed location in the United States can reach out across the world and connect to other people through running. (Its almost like we speak the same language!)

   Those of you with insomnia who have finally broken down and liked the Crazy People with Nice Shoes site on Facebook might already be aware that per my coach's orders, I have not been allowed to run for a week. After a hard initial build up of both running strength and speed over the past couple of months, and then a pair of strong races, we will be ramping it up again and increasing both the overall mileage and the pace during runs. To prepare for this he had me take a week off under strict orders to "not run one damn step." 

   Most runners who have their runs stalled out by injury or by design deal with what is known as 'taper madness.'  This is the so called suffering a runner goes through from not being able to run as much, as far, or as fast as they typically would during their regular training session. Symptoms of the madness can include irritability, depression, sleep deprivation, short-temperedness, a sense of loss, and an inordinate desire to check the race day weather. But for me, I've never really experienced this so called taper-madness. In fact, when tapering for the Battle of New Orleans (The real one, not that revolutionary thing that happened like 500 years ago) earlier this year I was excited for the break and time off from running. When in conversation with other friends who were doing their marathon training at the same time I had to look up the symptoms just so that I could relate.

For some reason, history books are listing this as the Battle of New Orleans
   In theory, a week of no running should have devastated me. I should have been kicking down doors, alternating between hot and cold sweats, and left crying in a ball in the corner of a room as if someone had told me Al Gore was my real father. When I informed a friend that I was on a no strict no running policy for a week, she asked me how I was going to cope. What would I do? Wouldn't I go insane? I wondered about it along with her, but shrugged my shoulders. Given my history of not minding a taper, I simply responded that I would find some sort of coping mechanism and roll with it, not overly concerned about how the lack of running might affect both my physical and mental states. 

Coping mechanism 
   On the first day of my week off, I got home from work and was kind of excited to realize that instead of needing to don shorts so short it looked like I was going to assist Batman in stopping crime, I could relax, eat dinner, and frankly, do anything else I damn well pleased. Did I feel guilty about not running? Nope. Coach's orders. Tuesday rolled around and once again arriving home from work I did not feel guilty and even reveled in the need to not run. I decided that as long as I was supposed to resting and relaxing, I might as well make the most out of my mini running vacation and order up a much loved cheeseburger.

   Wednesday morning came and brought an odd sensation with it. I was a little sore and stiff. Cocking my head, I thought it a bit strange, being that I hadn't run for three days. Trying to shrug it off I followed my normal morning routine sans running and hopped in my car to head to work a couple of hours later. Along a mile long stretch of road I saw a couple running and it made me smile as I waved and drove past. I contented myself with the knowledge that i was going to have plenty of reserve energy, not having used it up on running late last night or this early this morning. However, as the day stretched on, I didn't feel any of that reserve energy. I felt lethargic, and my limbs were stiff and heavy. When I arrived home this time, I thought that maybe I just hadn't slept well the night before and just needed some more rest. I ate dinner, did a few of the average household chores and then went to bed. 
God, this tapering thing is SOOOO hard

   Thursday morning, instead of waking up refreshed and full of energy, I felt even more sluggish than before. As I rolled out of bed to take my dog to the bathroom, I realized that my joints also felt stiff. It wasn't just my legs, it was my back, shoulders, neck, everything felt like it had slowly began to rust and fought my movement, urging me to go back to the couch and have another cheeseburger. While I would willingly oblige my Tinman-like joints later that evening, I spent most of the day in a fog. I wasn't irritable yet, but I felt more tired than I ever felt gearing up for Medoc. Could this be it? Was this my version of the dreaded taper madness?? Did the symptoms present itself differently for some runners? Unwilling to disclose the fact that not running might have begun to bother me I carried on with my day-to-day affairs as if nothing was wrong. 

Tell them nothing! They're all against you!

   By the time Friday had rolled around I knew the taper madness had gotten to me. It might have presented itself in a different fashion, but it was here. I was tired, achey, sore, giving the crazy eye to random people in Target, and even my desire for burritos had begun to slightly diminish. I tried to console myself by walking my dog, and reasoning that if he were to run a few steps, well that wasn't really me running, right? I was looking out for his well being. Unfortunately, my pup seemed to be in cahoots with my coach and sprinted about ten feet before he stopped to pee on a bush, content to walk the rest of the neighborhood. Trying to remember how hard the upcoming training was going to be, and how much fun that initial run was going to be when I could go out, I restrained myself and spent another night on the couch catching up on reading and television.

   Saturday came and went , with the taper madness resulting in my passing out and napping for six hours on the couch. I marked my calendar with an arrow and drew it from Sunday to Sunday with the words "Mandatory rest period" emblazoned above it. Feeling like I had taught both the madness and the calendar a lesson, I decided to head out for the evening and enjoy a night out at the bar with friends.

Taper madness...or West Nile. One or the other.
   And that brings us today. I write this with full admittance that as much as I hate it, as much as I despise the idea of it, I have hit the point where I need to run. I not only need it for the stress relief and all the other calming effects it brings, but I need it because apparently with out it, I'm going through detox. As I write this, I am filled with mixed emotions. Tomorrow morning, for the first time in a week, I will be allowed to go for an easy, fun run. At the same time, while I know its purely mental, I wonder how much I have lost. Will my body magically respond the way In want it to? Will it be everything I expect it to be? Will I feel the rush of endorphins as I find my stride? Will my mind once again be untethered from the stresses of daily urban living? Most importantly, will I  once again feel the  disdain for happy, fast runners who make it look easy?? Here's hoping its all that and more. 

   If you're reading this and suffering through your own taper madness, I wish you luck my friend. It is a cruel and disturbing trick that this dark mistress called running plays on our bodies. She makes us cry out in anguish on hills and through long journeys. She makes us want to quit, to lay down and simply make the pain stop, and yet when we do she cackles away and stirs in us the desire for more. Tomorrow morning is less than 12 hours away and I can't wait until I can fulfill the desire to find my balance of running and rest, and most importantly, feel that ever gnawing hunger for burritos in my belly again.

   Thanks for reading and don't forget to "like" the site on Facebook ( as well as follow it on twitter if you're feeling particularly stalk-ish. (@CPNSrunning) Stay tuned for another trail race this weekend, which means another drunkenly put together race report. This time from the Goose Creek Trail Races!


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