MACBETH If we should fail—
LADY MACBETH We fail?
But screw your courage to the sticking place
And we’ll not fail.
- Wm. Shakespeare, Macbeth
Sunday was my last long training run before I stand at the start line for Hamster Endurance Run on August 14th. At this point, there’s no way to make up for any shortfall in training. More training would only interfere with any adaptive response to last week’s big volume.
Naturally, I feel unprepared. The vexing hamstring problem is still lingering, putting doubt in my mind. Will I be able to run, or forced to speed walk for 100 miles? Will the hamstring give out, or hold up through the entire race?
Failing to reach 100 miles is a very real possibility.
But I’m proud of myself, proud of my hard work and steadiness as injuries threatened to derail everything. Every training plan looks easy, sitting there on paper without any indication of when the wheels are going to come off in the middle of a simple training run. The training plan doesn’t have any explicit indication of the days you’ll feel overwhelming fatigue and contemplate chucking the whole idea. Every training plan has baked into it the assumption that you’ll show up and do the work, every day, day after day. And the hard part is making sure that happens. I made it happen, and I’m proud of that accomplishment.
The problem is that being proud of myself doesn’t count for shit when I’m standing in the little huddle of runners and the race director shouts “Go!”
At that point the only thing that matters is what I do with whatever I’ve got for the next 32 hours. When I’ve reached my limit and can’t go on, will I be able to find the resources of the spirit and continue anyway? There’s no way to know, now, what the outcome will be. Paradoxically, this is the point, because it’s not an adventure if you know you’re going to make it.
I have been here before - training done, tapering. I know what mental terror lurks in the coming two weeks of taper between now and race day. Doubt is lurking in every shadow, ready to pounce.
Taper is about letting your body adapt and heal fully from the training load you’ve imposed. You want to stand at the start as rested and healed as you can manage. Taper is also about wrestling with doubt and fear, about reminding yourself that DNF is better than DNS. Taper is about reminding yourself of your ability to adapt and overcome, your ability to make forward progress even when you’re in the Tunnel of Torment.
Taper is the time to screw your courage to the sticking place.