Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Taper

With ten days until The Quad Cities Marathon, I'm in the heart of "The Taper".  Tapering is a time of active rest in which your body recovers from the hard months of training you've put just completed.  You obviously don't stop running, but you search for the ultimate balance of running and resting.  It's tricky to find just the perfect combination to make sure you're feeling fresh at the start.  Physically, you want rested legs, yet not too much that you feel sluggish.  Mentally, you need the confidence of knowing you can do the distance, yet a sharpness and slight anxiousness to make yourself ready to go when the starting gun sounds.  There are so many balls up in the air... and for a runner whose been logging 40+ miles a week, the sudden decrease in mileage can bring on slight battiness!

I've always found the taper difficult.  Excited to "show your stuff" on race day, there's a great temptation to put in extra workouts to make sure you're ready... or just a little bit better.  During training for my first half marathon, I completely tossed out the notion of a taper.  Lesson learned.  I have since learned to TRUST THE TAPER.  It's hard, especially this time... With this being my first 26.2 miler, I'm pretty darn excited to add the title of MARATHONER to my resume.

So what does a runner do during "The Taper"??  

Cut back mileage.  Last week I didn't do so well on this, but this week will be a significant cutback.  (I started my taper a little early due to a schedule family vacation)  The golden rule is to cutback mileage by 40% two weeks before the marathon, 60% on race week.  During the last four days before the marathon, no runs over 3 miles.

• No more long runs.  The final long run should be about 2 weeks before raceday.  Trying to make up miles now will undoubtly hurt race day performance.

Keep sweating!  Just because you're cutting back mileage doesn't mean the last two weeks are a cake walk.  It's important to keep the intensity of your workouts at a high rate... mileage may be short, but your pace should be as close to race pace as possible.  This will keep your body sharp and ready for race day exertion.

Go shopping!!  Hello, race day outfit?!?  Ideally, you should have already tested out your race day clothing.  Now is the time to finalize all the details on the gear you need for race day.  I've tested out my shorts and shirt, but I did order new ones in a different color to "make the outfit".  Never ever wear brand new clothing on race day.  Always take for a test run and wash, wash, wash.  Get your watch, ipod, shoes, socks, headbands, etc... everything in order.  If you're traveling for a race, it's never too early to start filling the suitcase or making a list.

One of my favorite dishes... Salmon, broccoli & rice
Eat well.  Yeah, I know... I should have been doing this all along.  Two weeks out from race day, I pay special attention to my diet.  Lots of water and fresh foods.  It never hurts to trim a couple pounds off in the last couple weeks... however, in the days before, make sure you eat enough to store glycogen that you'll need during the race.  The night before the race, a huge meal is unnecessary.  In fact, it can be detrimental to your goal, causing stomach cramps the next day.  Instead eat a regular size meal the night before, but with a higher percentage of carbohydrates than usual.  In the morning, top off your tank with a slight portion of carbs... toast, banana, whatever you're used to.  Again, it is wise to "trial run" all this during your training so there are no surprises on race day.

Avoid it like the plague!  The worst nightmare for any runner is to come down with sickness (or injury) right before the big day.  I use an insane amount of hand sanitizer during the taper.  I always take a daily vitamin, but with a week to go, I add daily doses of Emergen-C to ensure I'm healthy as can be on race day.

Keep busy.  I tend to zero in on work during the taper.  Partially out of necessity... I'll be out of town for a couple days, so I need to get ahead on projects.  This past week, I've also completed several household projects that have been calling my name all summer.  It keeps my mind busy and the butterflies at bay.

Just about done
with this book!
Mental Preparation.  I try to keep life pretty simple during the taper.  An over-abundance of social events and responsibilities stresses me out.  I need relaxing evenings in which I can read a couple chapters in my latest book and still get to bed early.  I lay back on the pillow and visualize how the 26.2 miles will unfold.

Your turn... how do you handle The Taper?  
Any advice for a 1st time Marathoner?


  1. I like the Go Shopping part! I'm not a great clothes shopper unless you get me into a sports store! Love picking out new workout clothes!

  2. Great taper advice! Thank you!! :)

  3. I just saw this article yesterday and LOVE it. Tons of great "taper" advice

  4. I am about 4-5 weeks from taper, but I will keep this in mind. I always love this time period, because I feel like I get a pass to ease up a bit like it's my job!

  5. I embrace taper like an old friend I haven't seen in awhile. I love taper. I think I love it so much because I'm usually hurting pretty bad by the end of my traning cycle, my body seems to always be on the edge of an injury or strain. I start trying to organize everything I will need and get everything in focus so I'm not a crazy mess on race day.

  6. Yay for the taper! Woohoo, go shopping! I love finding something new to wear for a race. I need something cute for my upcoming half and think I at least found a shirt. Hope you have a great week!
    I just saw the cupcake tee! OMG, too bad I can't get that before my race!! LOVE LOVE!

  7. I had never run a marathon, some day I hope! but I red a very interesting book, may be can help you these days "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" Murakani.

  8. I'm bad at tapering!! your training and don't try anything new! You're going to rock this Jess!!!

  9. good luck!!! Taper is seriously never my favorite part, but I have at least finally figured out a taper method that works for me :)

  10. I have to say, I'm loving your blog! I'm so glad I came across it!! You have such great stories and tips to share:)


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