After all my effort, the hardest part is learning to stop working.
One week from today I will be getting on the plane and heading overseas to begin the Tour du Mont Blanc. What at one point seemed like an epic adventure far off in the distance is now looming (like a large mountain, ha ha) right in front of me. After all these months of long runs, back to back running days, hiking repeats up and down the Hill of Life with my trekking poles, running hills again and again, and lugging my pack around town looking like a total weirdo – it is now becoming a reality.
I should love making it to tapering time, but the truth is, I hate it.
My body has become used to long training days, and now I feel almost “off” when I take it easy – edgy and restless. I’ve also become accustomed to waking up at the crack of dawn.
So sleeping in (until seven or eight) makes me feel lethargic and weird. I feel like a racehorse trapped behind the gates at the starting line, waiting for the gun – nervous and twitchy, chomping on my bit.
Slowing down means I am less tired, which means I have more energy to be anxious and overthink things. I am training less and doubting more. Can I really do this? Do I have what it takes? Am I ready? Am I packing the right things? What am I forgetting? What haven’t I thought of? What more can I read?
Taper is more exhausting than training. I am the type of girl who is more comfortable with working hard rather than wondering if I have worked hard enough. My beloved wingman Paige has trained so hard with me, even though she isn’t joining me on the trip. She keeps telling me to take it easy and trust my training. She reminds me that all I can accomplish by pushing myself at this point is get hurt, sick or overtired. I know she is right, but it feels somehow wrong.
I either have it, or I don’t. I either packed right, or I didn’t. I will either find my grit, or come up short. And the only way to find out is to go there and try.
I have been seeing a French tutor for the past six weeks, trying to remember a language that I used to love that has gone dormant in my mind. My classes have been like discovering an old box in the attic, blowing a thick layer of dust off the top, and carefully prying open the lid to see what’s inside. Many years ago, in another life, I attended a full immersion French school from 8 am to 5 pm every day for a month. When I started that school, I spoke two words of French – oui and bonjour. We were fined five francs for every word we spoke in our native language. And they seriously made us pay. We had no books, no notes, no grammar lessons – just speaking and listening. By the end of my time there, I could speak enough French to get by in my new world. I absolutely loved it.
It’s funny how easy it is to forget the things we love.
My French tutor has been as important to me in my training as the hills. My tutor was not quite sure at first what to make of me. I looked at her blankly when she handed me grammar worksheets, no clue what was printed on the page or what she expected me to do with it. I would laugh out loud when a synapse in my brain connected a word I knew how to say with what it actually looks like written down. One particular day I was feeling overwhelmed with all I had forgotten, wondering why I was bothering to go to tutoring when clearly this was something I should have started many months before.
Just as I was about to tell my tutor that this should probably be our last session, she looked at me and smiled and told me my accent was beautiful. She said I had made good progress and that she was surprised at all I knew from so many years ago. She said that the French people would love my attempt and would have patience with me, so stop worrying about saying it perfectly and just say it. She said once I got to France, my brain would open and everything would spill in, and spill out. I realized that she was telling me all these things in French, and I was understanding her and responding to her and we were having a conversation.
I had to quit trying so hard to access what was already in there.
I am hoping that lesson holds true on every level. Maybe that’s the essential truth of the taper. There is a time to work, and a time to stop working. There is a time to try hard, and a time to try easy. There is a time to put in the effort, and a time to let the effort stand for itself. There is a time to invest, and a time for returns. There is a time to add new things, and a time to appreciate what is already there. There is a time to prepare, and time to take a leap of faith.