Friday, April 25, 2014

So You Want To Run Disney--Part 6: Taper Time!


It’s taper time!

If you’ve taken the advice of many, many before you, you have trained hard and feel ready to take on your next runDisney race!  If that race includes longer distances (like a half or full marathon), it’s time to enter the taper zone! 

Your training plan likely already includes a smaller number of miles in the weeks leading up to the race.  Marathon taper is the longest, but even shorter races should include some rest and recovery leading up to the big day.

So, why do we taper?  Simply, it’s time to let your body heal and get to the start line fully recharged and ready for peak performance.  I’ve written about this before the 2013 Dumbo Double Dare, so I’m going to borrow from that post to write my rules of the taper.

No matter how terrible your training, DO NOT try to make up for it during the last weeks.  You may have skipped a long run or a few speed training sessions.  The worst thing you could do now is try to overcompensate and spend the next 2 weeks sore and tired.  Just stick to your original training plan and adjust your race goals if necessary.  

My Recovery Tools
Do some serious recovery!
That means something different for everyone, but in general, address all those little aches and pains.  Stretch a little more.  Find your love for your foam roller.  Do some short runs to keep your muscles loose.  Taper doesn't mean abandon all physical activity.  You are just changing your focus. 

Start getting good nights of sleep in now.  I can never sleep before a big race.  Magnify that by 2, 3, or 4 days depending on certain runDisney challenges (ahem…Dopey…) and you can really start to log many missed hours of rest.  Your goal is to be as well-rested going into the race as possible.

Clean up your diet & plan out your carb-loading.  Yes, I love to eat, and it's not always the
best choices.  I always try to really clean it up in the weeks leading up to race day.  I try to increase my carbs, especially for a full marathon, but I try to be sure to do it early.  My worst half marathon was the one after I participated in Pasta in the Park the night before the race.  Now, don't get me wrong, the party was fabulous!  I enjoyed it immensely.  The food was delicious, but I ate way too much and felt like I was running with a ten-pound bowling ball in my stomach for 13.1 miles.  Now I plan to eat my last "meal" at lunch and just snack lightly the rest of the evening the day before a race. Carb cycling (limiting then increasing carbs) is becoming more and more popular again. You might want to look into it. Remember, carbs can be more than pasta!

Stop drinking alcohol.  While this may be a me-specific thing, I really love the wine and I refuse to give it up for running.  I know there are plenty of runners who won't touch alcohol during training.  I'm not one of them, but I will cut it out completely 2 weeks prior to the race if I'm trying to really compete (with myself, of course, no age group awards for me!).

Take your vitamins.
  This is my last part of getting my body as healthy as possible before race day.  I’m not a dietician or a doctor, but we all have deficiencies, and sometimes diet alone doesn’t solve the problem.  Also, don’t forget you may be traveling.  That always means I’m loading up on extra C and zinc to ward off colds and other illness. Since I've been drinking Shakeology, I no longer take a multivitamin, but it covers the same bases (and more).

Get a massage and pedicure.
  This has became part of my ritual when I was running faster.  One week out, I get a long (1.5-2 hour) sports massage, which includes sport specific massage and stretching.  I also always get a pedicure, and my place knows I'm a runner and is really good about making sure I have no hanging skin, short nails, and they are even super nice at massaging my calves.  If nothing else, be sure to do a little foot care for yourself, and give it a little time “just in case” you slip with the clippers!

Review your training and goals.  Tracking your training is super important.  I "grade" each workout as a win or loss.  Even in my worst weeks, looking at my overall training shows that, without a doubt, I have worked really hard.  It has helped me turn off that negative talk.  It doesn't matter that on that one day, 4 weeks ago, I decided to spend time with my husband instead of running 5 miles.  When I toe the line, I can see that calendar with WIN, WIN, WIN written all over it.  Yes, I've missed workouts.  That's just real life, and it's okay.  Getting to the start line is a huge accomplishment that many will never reach.  Have fun.  Get a PR.  It's your race to run!

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