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  • Writer's pictureDarren Last

Tapering the Maranoia

taper

/ˈteɪpə/

verb

diminish or reduce in thickness towards one end.

Noun

a gradual narrowing


This is what 'Taper' means as defined in the Oxford dictionary.


In endurance sports such as running, cycling, swimming or triathlon it is the last part of your training plan where you start to reduce your sessions in the final weeks before your event.


Or, to put it another way, it is where your mind and body leads you into complete meltdown as you become totally paranoid that you have lost all your fitness, feel lethargic, clunky, hypochondriac, bloated, tired and very, very, very far away from being in peak race-ready condition.


Otherwise known as 'Maranoia'


I am currently 'Tapering' ahead of my Ironman race in next weekend. My friends, and many thousand other runners, are tapering for London Marathon on the same day, Sunday 3rd October. Those who have just ran marathons, triathlons and other events the last month or two would also have been through this.


One thing is for sure, all those who have been tapering would have also have gone through the meltdown of 'Maranoia'.


So, what is it? Why does it happen? I have run enough events to know it is just the mind f*cking with you. And even if hadn't, it’s common knowledge that this is just standard paranoia.

If you have seen Pulp Fiction then you may get this, if not, see bottom of the page.


For me it stems from the fact that over the months of the training, the mind has been focused on building and peaking to the maximum as you build up for the race. Week after week you are focused on the day, each session has its goal to get you there and you visualise that in your sessions.


You are training hard, sometimes a few times a day. You have your rest day (you get early signs of ‘maranoia’ here). Your body is building and you mind is controlling that as you are in the zone.


Then the taper comes. The training is done. You have built yourself up both mentally and physically. You start to train less, and with less intensity. This is where the mind-change and the 'maranoia' sets in. The mind starts going in to overdrive as you become completely irrational. Having been the strong minded, robot-efficient athlete during training you quickly become a paranoid android, a quivering wreck, a rabbit in the head lights. Quite frankly a skeleton (in mind) of what you were just a week or two ago.


You were setting your alarm and getting up at 5am to run 20 miles but now you can't sleep and when you do run feel like you are dragging 20 elephants. How much do you train? Maybe a little, maybe a lot, ticking over. Is this enough? Is it too much? Am I going to regret this run, this intensity? Should I skip this? All the while keeping a close eye on tripping hazards such as, stumps, kerbs, litter, cats, dogs and squirrels.


Niggles and injuries start to come to the forefront, you feel a twinge and start to wonder if this is not just your race over with but your whole life. You think about it until you have tied yourself in knots. Even when you can't feel it you think about it, stretch it, move it, push and pull it, until you lull yourself to that false insecurity that it is there. Then you have satisfied your 'maranoia' and you can go back to full panic mode.


In training you didn't care about catching colds or getting ill because you were superhuman, fit as a fiddle, immune to everything. Now you are wary of every cough, sniffle, or sneeze that your supersonic radar can pick up from miles away. Wearing a mask is a great idea now, wash hands obsessively, socially distance by more than 2 metres, all for your health ahead of race day. Stay home, save athletes.

You go over your nutrition plan, should I have more or less of this? What if I try this new product I am being served continuous Facebook ads about? What about what Jim uses? He recommends product 'x' and he smashes everything he does with total ease. I should try that.


You meticulously watch your food in-take, more obsessively than before, with a particular eye on ‘Best Before’ dates. You turn down take-aways as you feel bloated already.


The social calendar is viewed with caution and concern, pondering what can be deferred to a weekend post-race.


You view the weather forecast for race day every hour, too hot? Too cold? Wind? Rain? If it's a swim or triathlon you become a marine expert on tides, currents and temperatures (even jellyfish).


Kit, what should I wear race day? ‘Ah, it’s a bit worn, a bit of a squeeze, do I have enough pockets? Maybe I should buy that lovely new top and shorts that my Facebook ad is telling me or what Nike is teasing, I mean emailing me. My runners, are they ok? Got enough bounce still? Check Garmin, how many miles/km have they done? Throw triathlon in the mix and multiply all that by 3 for the swim, bike run. Arggggh. Go abroad to race and it’s a wonder you have a nervous system left 😆

It's overwhelming, but it is, what it is. It is 'Maranoia' and it's just the mind f*cking with you. That’s all. So, joking aside, ignore 'Maranoia', it’s just the taper phase.


Trust the plan, trust the process, trust your mind and your body.


My tapering over the last 4 weeks ahead of the race this weekend.


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Analogy - Pulp Fiction

As a guy who loved the 90's, I always think back to the scene from Pulp Fiction with Marcellus Wallace talking to Bruce Willis character Butch about 'pride f*cking with you' and think of him saying 'Maranoia' rather than 'pride' (you know the one in the club with Al Green's 'Let’s Stay Together' in the background).


'Week of the race, you might feel a slight sting. That's Maranoia fuckin' with you. Fuck Maranoi! Maranoia only hurts, it never helps. You fight through that shit. 'Cause a week(s) from now, when you smashed it at the finish line, you gonna say to yourself, "Marcellus Wallace was right."



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