Thursday, March 29, 2012

The TAPER. And Channeling the Taper-Time Feelings and Thoughts with Collage Journaling

Training for a marathon is a long process.  After months of training and focusing on a goal race, we finally come to the last 2 or 3 weeks and start our TAPER.  So many of us write about taper-time madness and the feelings and thoughts that come with this part of the training plan.  It is a time to start cutting back on the mileage and long workouts.  A time to absorb the hard work we've put ourselves through. And a time to recharge for the big day. 

Taper is exciting and maddening all at once.  With it comes a slew of emotions and feelings for me.  Mostly positive. My body and mind are tired as they should be after my highest peak week of training.  73 miles ending in a hilly 22 miler @ 8:00 pace will do that do a girl.  And I'm going easy on myself. 

Yesterday's "planned" 13 mile run was awful.  My body was slow and TIRED and it was a battle just to hold on to a recovery pace. I got home after my second attempt at fitting in my miles feeling knocked down.  But instead of feeling defeated, I had grace with myself.  

My after-run Runninghood facebook status:

"Some days we have it and some days we don't.  Today, I didnt' have it.  Body says: REST.  So, I'm going to listen.  I think this is true in so many things we experience...motherhood, our jobs, sport, relationships...We don't always have to be "ON".  Cut yourself some slack today (message to myself)."

I'm reminding myself to truly listen to my body and know that I make the best decisions for myself as my own coach.  Sometimes this means not following my plan and giving myself an unplanned down day.  That would be today.  If I feel charged later today then I'll fit in my recovery run.  If not, no big deal. It isn't the end of the world to miss a day if I feel I need it. And I'm pretty sure I need it. 

Instead of running, I felt drawn to my much neglected Running Journal that so many of you know me for. I felt the need to process some of these taper-time feelings that are stirring around within me...nerves, flickers of doubts, excitement for the big day, fatigue, etc.  I was drawn to some good ol' quiet, reflective and creative time Amanda/Runninghood style.  It's been awhile.  This training cycle has been mostly running and logging analytical data.  The facts.  But not so much of the feelings.  

Today was a great day to spend time in my Running Journal since I've had my older nieces around to play with the kids.  For me, my Running Journal time involved:

  • Reading over my training runs and the data that shows all of my hard work...The numbers that are proof that my race goal is realistic and within my reach.  This really helped me fill my confidence cup.  
  • Reading some positive e-mails from friends that believe in me.  
  • Creating a collage based on flow and feelings about the upcoming Boston Marathon.   

Collage Journaling
Collage Journaling/Art is a great tool for me to use when I'm a bundle of emotions and mixed feelings.  It is a tool I've used often throughout my life when it comes to channeling my inner strength and focus.  Going through the process of creating a collage is very therapeutic for me and I almost always come out of it with a new clarity and calm.  You might remember some of the collages I did before the Newport Marathon last spring:

These are great to look back on even if I'm at a different place than I was then.  

The Collage Journaling Process:

  1. Find a quiet and comfortable place to relax.  As a mom of three little ones, this can be tricky but today I had older cousins visiting so this turned out to be a very quiet and relaxing morning.  
  2. Gather collage supplies:  magazines, glue sticks, scissors, paper or journal.  For me, a few old Runner's World magazines do the trick for words to cut out.  And of course, my Running Journal is where I put my collages.  
  3. Go by FLOW and FEEL.  When I'm looking through my magazines with scissors in hand, I almost always have a strong FEEL for the image and message I want to capture.  As I'm looking through my magazines, I let my mind flow with the thoughts I'm wanting to capture.  If a picture or word jumps out and flows with what I'm "feeling" then I cut it out.  Sometimes when a word in itself is a great word for me but the color or size of it just doesn't flow, I leave it behind.  I know, it sounds funny but it all makes sense when I'm in the process.  
  4. Keep it Open. Let your mind be open to including all sorts of messages in this collage.  You might be surprised at what you end up with when you let your your mind flow. Your collage isnt' something that has to be finished TODAY..keep adding to it. I didnt' finish my collage today but just starting it helped me to feel calm, focused and positive.  And put some of these "Taper jitters" in the trash.  
My unfinished collage journaling that I will continue to add to in the next few weeks.  
1. Have you tried creating collages as a tool for finding focus, reflecting or setting goals/visions for your life?  
2.  What are some things you remember about the taper time that comes right before a peak race?  



  1. So important to know what works for you (i.e. your collage tool) and take the time to fuel yourself - non Gel, non Gatorade, or whatever.

    Good luck on taming that taper madness. You'll have lots of company!

  2. I should do this, and actually bought some supplies months ago with the intentions to but just haven't yet. For some crazy reason I have every Runners World from 2008 until now, thinking maybe I should sort through some of them and make a little vision board.

  3. oh and i think that you deserved that rest day :) some r&r never does any harm

  4. This looks like such a great way to deal with all the stuff that comes with tapering. I'm so much better when I can put things down on paper - I feel more in control. And I think you're a little like this too. And I'm glad you could put that awful 13 miler aside and not let it worry you. Mentally you're in such a good place.

  5. Love the idea of the collage. I once read an article in a tri magazine and the title was The Taper Tantrum. And it stated that if you don't feel like you're going crazy during your taper then you're not tapering. And it's true. Best of luck on the last leg of your training. You always inspire me to get a bit creative, thanks!

  6. So important to have that reflection time! I love your creativity and the way you are able to calm and express yourself in this way! I've always admired this in you as do SO many that read your blog!! You know what works for you! When the other kids were learning how to express themselves creatively, I just ate glue sticks or poured glue on the palm of my hand and pulled it off in a perfect circle with my palm print on it.....Not sure how well a collage journal would turn out for me but I always do make lists of affirmations and try to spend some time with myself reflecting on them!! Studying the course as I see you're doing here is super prep as well:)

    Congrats on making it to the taper girl! You made it here HEALTHY!!!! You made it here running MORE miles than you've ever run before!!! You made it here with 3 little kids on your heels daily and still found ways to make it work! You made it here not only improving as a runner but growing as a person!!! Yes, you rest up a little today if you need it and then you get ready to go FIND YOUR STRONG!!!!

    I've shared with you some of my taper thoughts:) I forgot to share that I tore my achilles on the flight to Boston and couldn't get out of my plane seat-ha ha!!

    1. That was a joke about my Achilles! Phontom crazy stuff that seems to happen to your body and mind during taper but magically cures itself when the gun goes off:)

    2. Bahhahahaha!! Of course. You had me though. I was like " HOW the heck did she run a 3:18 marathon at Boston with a torn achilles??!"

  7. So great you are doing this type of work right now, Amanda. I always have a printed course map and write on it, plan how I will run, what I will tell myself, etc. The physical work is done. Now it is all about resting the body and the mind so that you get to Boston hungry to run and race.

    You've had a great training cycle, the last musketeer standing, ha! And I agree with Jenn, you've grown into yourself as a runner and as a person. You've done a ton of miles (and you did not even count those when you chased your little people around) , solid tempos and speed work. You are ready! As I said before, it is very normal to feel tired and blah about training right now; it is actually a good sign, a sign that shows that you pushed yourself as much as you could have possible pushed it. Great things for you in Boston, A, so excited for you!

  8. I love the collaging! I used to do some similar things, but did it to my fridge!! I also had some notebooks/journals I did it to as well. I guess I do it with the desktop on my computer, now!!!

  9. I love this idea. I have never thought of journaling like this. I may have to give it a shot for my training for the 2013 Goofy Challenge. I think it might be helpful.
    As for the tapering, I usually have mixed emotions but I am usually very ready for it.
    I look forward to ready the weeks to come till the big race.

  10. I love this idea and I will actually start it tomorrow. I just sat down to look at some blogs as I after going out for a short run which turned into more like a walk because I am just so tired. I was sitting here thinking I want to run but geez....and after reading your post I think this will help me stay focused more and inspired! Erica

  11. Well, for some reason many of my tapers are actually just me being sick (how does that happen?!). I'd love to be able to work taper into a mind-building period rather than the body-building I've been doing! My problem is that I run so many race I end up with really loose plans and an ill-defined taper.
    Like your collages. Very creative and inspiring.

  12. My collage would be ugly since I don't subscribe to any magazines. I guess I would make some up on photoshop :).

    Taper time already? Where did the time go?!? Sheesh!

    You got this girl, you know you do. One crappy run doesn't define you and your abilities. The taper and the rest are going to get those legs feeling fresh and ready to run strong in just a few weeks!! YAY!

  13. What a fun idea, I might try it out. Good luck at your race! Next week I start tapering for my first full. Exciting!

  14. This sounds like the perfect time for you to be doing this. Hopefully it will serve as a little final confirmation of your fitness level and will nail down your confidence.

    I just realized yesterday how tired I am and how it is time to start catching up on rest!

  15. You are soooo ready! I just know by following you my goal time is not realistic. As I can't hold my times anymore at all. This journey will be about finishing, not the time. I've wanted to journal like you, but I can't seem to get it going!

  16. You had a super last long run. That would leave anyone feeling confident. You'll do great.
    I write down quotes/blurts that are easy to remember when the going gets tough. But I always come back to 3 plus hours is such a small amount of time in the total race day, what ever it gives me, I can push through it.

    Good luck.Based on your time, I'll probably be an hour behind...but I'll get there. :)

  17. I do that, too! I call it "magazining." I don't put it in a notebook all cute-like, but I do keep a binder with favorite articles and inspirations.

    Your marathon is going to be GREAT! You've put in the work. Now relax and enjoy the taper. :)

  18. Great post! You are going to do so great in Boston!!!!

    I like the reminder to listen to your body and take care of yourself, especially during taper time. I have to constantly remind myself this because I feel guilty if I rest or don't get in a workout according to plan.

    I ALWAYS have strange "injuries" or pains during tapering and I know they are mostly mental. I think I freak out that all that training will somehow be wasted....

  19. Love this idea! After reading your article on starting a running journal I was inspired to start one this year! It has proven to be a great outlet.

    You've had such a great training cycle - I cannot wait to see it all come together for you! Enjoy your taper!

  20. Love the collage journal idea - great way to hang onto all the little tips and favorite articles and such from fitnessy magazines. Good luck at Boston!!

  21. Thank you for this! I did a 30K race + a few extra miles this morning to finish my last long run before the taper for my first marathon. I was COMPLETELY unprepared for the emotion of it and I think collage journaling might be a great way to channel everything I'm feeling right now.