Taper Tantrums

My first trail race of the season – Dirty 30 50K – is only one week away! I’m particularly excited for the Dirty 30 this year because it will be my fifth year finishing, and the race director (Megan Finnesy) presents five-year finishers with cool jackets.  Obviously ultras are all about the badass apparel.

Of the four years I’ve finished Dirty 30, I had a migraine for two of them. In the few weeks leading up to last year’s race, I had a migraine more than fifty percent of the time, and the night before, I was up nearly all night with the pain. The stabbing and pounding was that kind that’s so intense it renders you incapable of doing anything other than breathing in and out, and even that was a stretch. How I even started the race is sort of unbelievable even to me; I clearly should have bailed. But at the time I was pissed that I was in an awful migraine stretch, and not starting what had become an annual race for me would have made me that much more furious and resentful.

I started puking by about half way through last year’s race. The one thing that helped was running with my sister-in-law (my usual partner in crime) so quitting was much less of an option. Somehow, we made it in.

Of course, crossing the finish line didn’t make the migraine better. On the car ride home, I was retching uncontrollably and found myself in this battle between asking her to pull over so I could puke on the side of the road versus telling her to just get back into town – quickly. (Can you believe she still hangs out with me?)

I’m in a completely different place this year. I don’t want to jinx anything though! My migraine has been so well behaved that I’ve even been eating some wheat; I should probably reign that in and play by my headache rules a little better if I don’t want to screw myself.

The other thing is that tapering for me is challenging. Tapering is that thing runners do when they put in fewer miles leading up to the race so they can do some good recovery. Most of us hate it. I heard a runner last week describe it as “taper tantrums.” We do this stuff because we like to run so feeling like we can’t run? Well that doesn’t go over very well.

I didn’t intend to do a huge taper but I am. As of last week, I found myself unable to stand from the sitting position without using my hands. Thank you, Crossfit for wrecking me! (Just kidding, it’s making me stronger.) Here’s the problem: if I taper too much, my endorphin doses will drop and trigger a return of the bad headaches/migraines.

Tricky. I haven’t figured out how to give my legs a rest from hard training without allowing the headache to get furious. I think that’s why I start so many of my big races with a lot of pain. Clearly this something I need to figure out.

So while I’m sitting around not running, I marked down my mantras for the summer on the toes of my trail runners:


Grit and Joy, my goals for the summer. As in, when things get intense and I’m in the full-on suffering mode, I want to be able to find the full depth of my grit and hang on to the joy of mountain running. So far, I’ve only seen glimpses of that nirvana-like state. Naturally, I continue to chase it.

4 thoughts on “Taper Tantrums

  1. Sister Veteran we applaud your resilience. Enjoyed the life blog. Sounded rather spiritual and transcendant — the places that we find meaning…Keep the faith. Anchors Aweigh. Shalom.

  2. oooohhhh yeah! i would definitely also do it for the cool jacket!! 😀
    go for it!!

  3. Joy and Grit! Well we know you have the Grit of ten people, I think you will find Joy over and over! Rock that Dirty 30 and bring us back more stories!

  4. Good Luck. Right now my only concentration on races for the year that I am signed for this year left is Minneapolis Marathon, probably one or two more will follow that before end of year. I have a Half Marathon schedule for January, not sure yet beyond that.

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