5 Signs That You’re Having a Taper Tantrum

Friday 5The start of taper is that bittersweet moment when you have completed all of your hard training and shift into auto-pilot until race day.  It’s a great feeling to know that all of the hard work is behind you, and all that is left to do is rest and race.  The taper can be a great time to reflect on your training and reconnect with friends and family that you haven’t been able to spend time with because of the hours spent on long runs or workouts.

Wait… who are we kidding? It’s the taper. You don’t feel relaxed.  You feel tired, sore, hungry, confused.  You have doubts about the race.  Easy runs of three miles feel like 20.  The thought of a 400 meter interval sounds impossible.  How will you ever get through the race?  You can’t sleep. You can’t relax. All of your training partners are still training, and you feel left out that you aren’t joining them.  It’s not relaxing or enjoyable! It’s freakin’ frustrating!

And this is the taper tantrum. Here are the 5 signs you are having one.   

1).  The Phantom Pains.   You’ve gone through weeks of workouts and training with no injuries or niggles, but while sitting on the couch watching TV, your left foot starts to ache… and you have taken the day off. Is it the start of plantar fasciitis?  It doesn’t stop there.  You get a sharp-shooting pain in your arm.  Torn muscle?  Possible heart attack?  What is going on?  The next step is to check out Web MD or running forums to diagnose your aches and pains.  Then, you second guess if you should go out for those last easy runs, cross-train or rest.  But then, they suddenly go away leaving you even more confused as to whether it’s onset of injury or something completely random.  It’s enough to drive you insane before your race!

pataleta / temper tantrum
I just want to have a relaxing week before my big race! (Photo credit: rafa2010)

2).  The Fake Illness.  It never fails, when you are days before your big race, a flu bug sweeps through your office taking out your co-workers.  You are surrounded by coughs, sneezes and runny noses. Then you feel tired, sneeze a few times and freak out that you’re next. You are convinced your next course of action is taking time off or trying to work under quarantine.  You become anti-social, drink lots of green tea and carry hand sanitizer wherever you go.  You lay awake wondering if you’re next to catch the bug. Just wondering… just waiting.

3).  The Fatigue. The mileage has decreased, the workouts are less intense, but your body is more tired than ever?  Why?  You are getting the normal amount of sleep and not over-exerting yourself.  But you feel so sleepy and almost fall asleep while at work.  You start to wonder if you’ve overtrained, or maybe it’s a sign that you’re catching that fake illness mentioned in #2.  Then, you wonder how will you ever race when walking the dog around the block feels like a marathon. Will you ever feel energized?

4).  The Hunger Pains.  So, your mileage and intensity has decreased leading up to the race, but your appetite is out of control.  It’s almost as if you are at peak training.  And, you crave things like chocolate, red meat, salt, candy.  Should you give into those cravings?  Should you worry about weight gain?  You don’t want to trash your diet right before your race, but you are hungry!  You eat, and then you’re hungry two hours later.  You never felt like this during training.

5).  The Crankiness.  You and your significant other have a wonderful, relaxing date night and movie planned, and during dinner conversation, you start to get snippy about the chores not completed or you know, the way he’s breathing. We all have the expectation that race week will be calm and relaxing, but for some reason never ends up that way and RAWR! Watch out!

How about you? Have you ever had a taper tantrums?

Native Ohioan now living in Boulder, Colorado. I love to run, tri, train, eat good chocolate, drink good rum, and laugh (a lot). I am a CPA by trade and work for Newton Running.

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  1. Wow. So timely! I’m currently dealing with 1, 3, 4, and my husband will claim 5. I am not dealing with 2 because I know this is a real cold. And you are wrong, it’s my right foot that I’m sure has plantar fasciitis.

    Thanks for putting this down in writing. It’s odd that I’ve tapered dozens of times and yet I hadn’t noticed that every time my short runs feel hard and I feel tired. I was just thinking that this feeling I’m having was a sign of a terrible marathon on Sunday. This was a real confidence boost.

  2. Hi Kathy:
    Glad to hear that this was timely and helpful for you! I remember when I did my first marathon, and no one told me about these things. I thought I was losing my mind! I was pretty cranky with my husband during the last week leading up to my ironman–haha! But, he was just as cranky when tapering for Twin Cities. There was also a 30 minute run I did about 10 days before, and it felt like 20! Everything hurt, even my fingertips. But, I figured that it was my body to trying to figure out how to deal with the rest.

    Good luck on Sunday! Let us know how it went!!!

  3. Try having the taper crazies and teaching grade one! I did my first marathon a few weeks ago and couldn’t believe how cranky I was the week before the race. My husband and kids just tried to avoid me, but my students had no escape 🙂 It took all my strength to maintain a calm demeanour for those little ones.

    1. Wow–that would be tough! Kudos to you for being patient with your kids! I’m sure it was really tough. Hope your marathon went well! Congrats on your first one!!