Ohhh…how I LOOOOVEE taper! I’ve had a dicey last few years of running and have had a hard time pulling any serious training together. Blame it on my life, blame it on my focus, whatever. But these past 12 weeks of training have been pretty solid. I had a few unintentional “back down” weeks, but for the most part, my training has been on point. For the first time in years I feel like I earned a legit taper and I’m LOVING it! And that is exactly what lead me to a divine chocolate and wine pairing event last night…
What exactly is taper?
For those of you who who may not know, taper is the time you get to take it easy just before your endurance event. You train hard for 12-16 weeks, each week piling on more mileage at faster paces. It’s time consuming and physically exhausting. Then about 2-3 weeks out from your event, it all scales back. And while it sounds divine, it can actually be a really challenging time for athletes mentally. The pressure and consistency of training creates habits and almost a physical need for the workouts. When they start to slow down, you can feel out of whack, fat, slow and cranky. Heed my top marathon taper tips to get the most out of your few weeks of RnR.
Teresa’s Marathon Taper Tips
1) Scale back.
In terms of mileage and intensity. This is a little subjective for everyone. I’ve had training plans scale off nearly a month before an event and some suggest only a one week cutback. I like the recommendation from Expert Pete Pfitzinger: 3 weeks out from your event, run 80% of your normal training volume. Then scale down to 60% 2 weeks out and 33% the week before your event. I think those ratios are helpful because you can use them in terms of distance an intensity, right? Remember, the goal is a slow downhill slide to your start line.
Well, you’re going to have extra time on your hands anyhow as your mileage cuts back so invest that time in yourself and sleep. Just heal, let your body get really strong. Feel rested. Be rested.
3) Stay healthy.
I have had a history of getting sick during taper. And that my friends is one of the most F-ing frustrating things ever if you’re not 100% by race day. Being ill can easily add 1 min per mile to your race and you trained too hard these past months to let that happen. Be aware, avoid sick people and late nights. Do the right things, sleep, rest, take your vitamins, drink your water and eat your veggies.
4) Don’t overeat.
With all this time on your hands and less physical expectations, it can see pretty easy to start eating a ton. Not to mention, you’re used to eating a ton because nothing revs up an appetite like running. If your output is cutting back, so should your input. It’s time to be aware of how much energy you’re burning and how much you really need to consume. It’s normal to pack on a pound or two during taper, but excess can slow you down on race day.
5) Don’t restrictively diet.
On the flip side, it’s not time to cut nutrition to the ground either. You need it to stay healthy and strong, that is the entire goal of taper. Cutting back in mileage can make a lot of us gals nuts and start to feel funny about eating a lot. But undernourishing your body at this time could have harmful affects on race day too. Again, it’s time to be aware of how much energy you’re burning and how much you really need to consume.
It’s easy to think of hydration during endurance events and we’ve all seen the frightening images of staggering, dehydrated athletes. But dehydration can be chronic and it’s a process, in that it occurs over time, not just on race day. All that said, it’s important to think about your hydration strategy 24 hours a day, especially as you get into the precious weeks before your event. I love getting a gallon water bottle and recording hour marks on it so that you know you’re drinking regularly throughout the day.
7) Prepare mentally for your event.
Oh I’m a HUGE fan of visualization! Why? Because that s*#@t works! As I was prepping for my first Boston Qualifying race, I would spend my easy runs visualizing crossing the finish line. I felt it in my heart what it would mean to me to know I hit that goal. I would feel the joy and it literally lifted me up and pushed me forward.
8) Pull together a race strategy.
This is all the details of your race so that when the day comes, all you have to do is wake up, eat, drink and run! Things to consider:
- How you’re getting to the start line?
- Where will you reunite with your fans at the finish?
- How you’re getting from the finish line home?
- What you’re packing in your gear bag? (hot tip: Flip flops!)
- What nutrition will you carry with you and when will you take it?
- What will you eat for breakfast? Post race?
- What outfit you’re going to wear?
- What’s on your playlist?
- What is your pacing strategy?
I also think it’s important to get to know your course. I like to print out the race course and elevation chart if it’s hilly and study it in the weeks of taper. Call me crazy. But knowing when the hills are coming will allow you to know when to hold back and when you can really push!
9) Be nice to yourself.
Well, this goes for life in general. But I call this out because I know taper can be hard. It feels weird and uncomfortable. You may feel sluggish, chubby and at odds with your fitness. But trust that is part of the process and you’re doing this right. The hay is in the barn so take time to enjoy these weeks as you complete the last, critical part of your training plan.
My race is in exactly 18 days. I’m so excited! I’ll be racing my heart out at the Ventura Marathon in hopes of snagging a last minute 2016 BQ. My qualifying time is still 3:40, based on training times, this is very reasonable. Kate (So Cal Runner Gal) is coming up with me. She’s my running “solemate” for sure. She’s actively training for the St. George Marathon. We ran Boston 2013 together and completed our 18 and 20 mile training runs together for this event. Then I’m shoving off to Santa Barbara…where I will hunt down more wine and chocolate. ha ha
What’s your taper style?
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