Somehow my phone died in the middle of the night, so my alarm did not go off this morning and I missed my 6 mile easy run. <sigh> I’ve got 10 days to go until the San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon and even though I am tapering (and sleeping in this morning was probably a GOOD thing), I was still pretty disappointed that I missed my run.
Missing one easy run at this point is really not a big deal; however, I realize that what I do and don’t do in these next 10 days will have a tremendous effect on the outcome of my race. There are several other ways in which one (that is ME) could completely and totally ruin a hard-earned taper.
First, you could ruin your taper by drinking too much alcohol (uh… no comment…) and not enough water. Next week, that is with 5 days left to go, the true carbo loading will begin and then I will make sure to be steady with my water intake and mindful about dehydration. Being well hydrated isn’t just about downing some Gatorade en route to the race- in the final week leading up to the marathon, I plan not to over-do it, but just take in enough fluids so that my pee is pale-lemonade yellow (descriptive, I know, but the color of your pee is really the best litmus test for hydration there is).
You could also ruin your taper by getting sleep deprived from all those nerves and your Marathon Mind. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night a week before race day will ensure you are completely and sufficiently rested- good sleep is like money in the bank. Try to go to sleep 15 to 20 minutes earlier a few nights in a row until you are hitting the hay a full hour earlier than usual so if nerves keep you up the night right before the race, you’ll be so well-rested already, that one night of poor sleep really won’t matter!
Third, you could cross train too much. Even I feel the urge to add in more cross-training as my running mileage decreases BUT THAT’S JUST SILLY! With 20 weeks of training, 75 running hours, and over 300 miles logged so far, I have more than peaked and adding in more work at this point is just not what a taper is all about! The point is to rest your body before race day- it is much smarter to go into a race (especially a marathon) UNDER trained than OVER trained.
That being said, tapering does not mean it’s time to lay around on the couch like it’s your job. Yes, you need to scale back the distance but still need to interject some intensity, such as five 100-meter strides at the end of an easy run or a scaled-back tempo run. But no hill repeats as they beat your legs up too much.
Another way to ruin your taper would be getting too speedy. Now that the runs are shorter and easier, your body will want to fly as a result of all that training but don’t let it! Practice race pace every taper run, and just take it as slowly and easily as you can. If you go fast, you’ll just be wearing your body down, and leaving yourself susceptible to injury. And that would be THE WORST thing to do during taper: getting injured! Take it easy and avoid injury with all your might!!!
And finally, you could eat all the wrong things…
Even though marathon training leaves you constantly hungry, in the taper you gotta adjust your food intake a tad, avoiding foods high in saturated fat, and in general eating less so that the body has little to process come race day. Add in more protein during taper so that your muscles can recover from all that high mileage and, similar to training nutrition, learn to love your carbs!
All that being said, one of The Best things you CAN do during your taper is to keep reminding yourself why you signed up in the first place. In between driving the kids to school, doing unending loads of laundry, facing the daily commute, making meals, and helping with homework, give yourself a few short reprieves to tell yourself why you are racing.
Work on your mental preparation by reviewing the course map and visualize yourself finishing the race- you did the work, you put in the miles, and YOU WILL CONQUER 26.2! Coach Al says, “There are only two things you cannot control on race day and that is the weather and the course, but you can control your mind.” And to quote the power word of my running idol, Kara Goucher: Believe.
10 days until the San Diego Rock n’ Roll marathon and I write this post in an attempt to heed my own advice. I’m pumped, I’m ready, and I will help run cancer away. GO TEAM!!!!
And what about you? Any taper tips to share? What is the hardest thing for you to endure during a taper?