Tapering is Peaking
Tapering… Its a process and one that’s a bit different for each athlete but the goal is always the same, reducing stress leading up to a race effort to promote peak performance. To help you get the most out of your taper period, I’ve created a simple guide with tips and guidelines. Download (yes for free) it to reference how to structure and use your taper effectively.
So that’s the guide… but like I said, those guidelines vary slightly for each of us, so here is a personal account of my latest taper.
I consider myself an experienced runner; an experienced marathoner even. I’ve raced and paced over a dozen. There was a time where I would be nervous, pacing, freaked out, heart rate going crazy… but now… I’ve settled those nerves. I know I can do this. My body can run 26.2 miles. The question now is, how well? How fast? That’s the downside with getting better, becoming an elite, being competitive… finishing isn’t the goal, winning or getting a PR is the goal which is a different kind of stress and honestly a stress I enjoy much more.
The race is Milwaukee’s Lake Front Marathon on Sunday October 7th. I haven’t run a marathon since October of 2016 and I haven’t really run much at all since the winter. The lack of recent running has me a bit nervous about how this will go. I’ve done less running training than ever leading into a marathon; topping out at maybe 55 miles, and still doing plenty of riding. I can’t go back and train differently; run more long runs, ride less, do more mile (or even one) mile repeats, lose some weight… But this post is less about my training and more about how I’m less than a week out from race day.
I prefer an 11 day taper. Two or three weeks is too much down time. I always side with doing too much over too little, especially leading up to a race. I know my body and I know it does better not hanging out for too long. So my last big workout, an 18 mile fast run was completed 11 days out from race day and from there its TAPER time.
Reduced training -
my running volume is cut and most of it will be easy. Nothing over 10 miles. I’ll do some fast miles, because it is important to keep a little intensity in the legs, but mostly it will be easy. The week of the race, I plan to run 30 miles leading into race day. As for cycling, that is cut way back as well. I did two rides two weeks out and one Z1 trainer spin the week of. No weight training during the taper outside light core work.
Tapering is more ‘reduced training’ than it is rest. At least that’s how I see it. It isn’t the time to veg out. This is part of preparing the body to perform which means replacing the training time with other race focused activities. I got a massage. I am stretching daily. I am looking over my past training to see if what I’ve done recently matches what I’ve done before other good races. I’m looking over the race logistics, the weather (shit it looks like rain), booking my hotel, picking where to eat before and after, packing my race day breakfast (cereal/milk/sugar free red bull) and gels, and picking out my race day clothing. I am also listening to podcasts on performance to mentally prepare myself. I’m trying to focus on getting quality sleep, Of course there is a little ‘off’ time and I’m using it to try new recipes and get back into doing some artwork.
Fueling the body right does not stop when the taper starts. If anything, you have to pay more attention since the calories being burned is much lower. I bulk up the salads and vegetables I eat along with trying to eat smaller, simpler moods like soup and sandwich. I’d like to say I cut out alcohol completely but I haven’t due to some social events that I just didn’t want to sit out. So less alcohol. Less snacks and treats. I mean, this isn’t the time to go on a strict diet (I’m not going to get to my idea running weight at the last minute!) but it isn’t the time to stuff your face either. I’m also going to stop caffeine 6 days out. I’ve never tried limiting caffeine to peak for a race, but I’m giving it a go. Definitely a topic I will touch on more in the future. The race is on a Sunday, so Friday I will start a carb load where I won’t eat any vegetables (outside lettuce on a sandwich or pureed vegetable soup) and will just focus on snacking on easy to digest meals and being hydrated.