*Starting today, Instagram is “letting an algorithm decide what’s most relevant to show you, instead of a time-ordered selection from the people you’ve chosen to follow.” Think of it like Facebook. You won’t necessarily see someone’s IG post now – unless it’s someone you interact with regularly. More information can be found here.
I’ll still be updating on a regular basis – sharing my runs, thoughts, tips and more! You can find me here.
For YEARS, I had no idea what I was during the taper. I dreaded it because I felt forced to run less – which makes me crabby. If I willingly take a rest day or two, I’m fine with it. But when I feel like I’m being forced, I get irrationally annoyed and anxious.
The taper was also a time when I second guessed my goals. My confidence, which was usually fairly high, dropped and as a result, I did MANY things that ended up working against me on race day (running too much, going too fast, cross training, etc).
I don’t know if I would say that I enjoy the taper now, but I do look forward to it, in a way. I’m usually counting down the days until it’s time to ease up because of how hard I’m pushing. It symbolizes the end of a long, hard training cycle and the start of race week preparation.
Of course, I still have moments of doubt during the taper. Those thoughts of “I’m huffing and puffing walking up one flight of stairs. How am I going to run x:xx pace for 26.2 miles or 13.1 miles or 3.1 miles next week?” Or the “This pace feels so hard and it’s so much slower than my goal pace. Ugh.”
But I’ve come to accept that these feelings and thoughts are normal and expected. And rather than fight them or do things to disprove these thoughts, I am better at trusting the process.
I view the taper as a necessary means to the end. It’s a way to charge my batteries. It’s the final part in a successful training cycle. And I don’t want to throw away the race before it even starts.
The goal on race day is to start the race at 100%. You want to have as much as that battery charged as possible, so that you have more to rely on in the later miles. Anything that goes against the taper will decrease my battery on race day. Things like running too fast, running too often or too long, not getting enough sleep, eating poorly will all affect my battery’s life.
If you taper correctly, you should be running faster on race day then you ever do during training (for similar distances).
Take last weekend for example.
My LT (Lactate threshold) tempos are anywhere from 4-5 miles. These are “run pretty hard” kind of runs – not race effort, but definitely close. Two weeks before the NYC Half, I did a 5 mile LT progression tempo – starting on the slower end and then picking up the pace. I averaged 6:39 pace for the 5 miles. It was my fastest 5 miles on the roads – EVER and I could not have been more ecstatic with the run.
If you do it correctly, the taper could be magical. You will be rested, tapered, carbed up (if necessary). You will be able to run paces you don’t see in training. Or run further. Or run stronger. If you do it incorrectly, you will show up to the start line and feel fatigued and not be fully charged and ready to go.
So how do you execute a successful taper? This is the tough part because it varies runner to runner and race to race. What works for one may not work for another. So here is what I have found works for me:
- Slow it down: This begins race week for a marathon, 3-4 days out from a half, and less for shorter distances, I start to slow down on my easy runs. Even a difference of 10-15 sec/mile works wonders. There are no more fast finishes. No miles where I want to see what a pace feels like. And no runs where I come back and realize it’s close to my goal pace. Slower is better.
- Gradually reduce daily mileage: If it’s not a workout or long run, my daily mileage is usually 7-8 miles. So starting 4-5 days out from a marathon and 2-3 days out for a half, I start reducing the mileage. Instead of 7-8, I do 6-7, then 4-5, then 3-4 and then 20 minutes. It’s just enough to keep your legs moving and not stiffening up from lack of movement without taking away anything from your batteries.
- Nothing new: This isn’t a time to try workout classes that you’ve been eyeing or to get back into cross-training. Yes, you will be running less. But that doesn’t mean you need to fill that time with other forms of exercise.
- Reduce strength/core work: I cut out strength work one week out and core work about 5 days out. I want to give my muscles plenty of time to recover and feel fresh on race day.
- Increase sleep: I try to aim at increasing sleep by even 30-45 minutes during race week and then try really hard to get a good night’s sleep two nights out. It’s common and normal to not sleep well the night before a race, but it’s most important to get a solid 8+ hours two nights out.
- Adjust diet / increase water: I kept my diet the same in the days leading up to the NYC Half, with the exception of race eve dinner (opted for spaghetti and chicken rather than chicken and potato). For marathons, I start 2-3 days out. For anything less than a half, I don’t change my diet at all. Water intake increases beginning race week (don’t just wait until the day before – it will be too late!).
What is your best taper tip? Do you love or hate the taper?