Tapering is overrated. Yes, the rebuttals are easy to rattle off to that statement, but I think in general, the concept of tapering is a bit embellished. You’re not going to all of a sudden go from terribly under trained to powerful racer with the right taper. And inversely, you’re not going to overtrained worn down runner to peak fitness with a week or two of rest. Recovery, rest, fitness, and resilience come from the weeks and months of dedicated and smart training. BUT…I have found a thoughtful taper is important, and set your mind and body up for a much more likely strong race day. And, so, with Leadville 100 mile race 6 days a ways, these are the three tips I’ve found helpful….
#1 – VOLUME & INTENSITY – This one is the most obvious. I usually go with a two week taper for marathon and ultramarathon goal races. In taper week one, volume is cut by 30-40%. I still keep a workout in the week, but thelength of this workout is cut by a similar amount. This first week resembles a solid week of training, just with substantially less volume and intensity. During taper week two (race week) everything is drastically reduced. Each day of running is a handful of miles to keep the mind and body sharp, but well rested.
#2 – REST DAYS – Pay dues to the Rest Day Gods. Running has become a cornerstone to a calm day and composed mind and body, so I have to talk myself into taking full rest days sometimes. But, it’s important to schedule them in AND take them as needed in the two weeks of taper. If I’m feeling a little more tired or worn down from extreme lack of sleep, a bit of a cold, stress of all other things that are life…I take a rest day. I know I won’t gain any dramatic fitness in these final two weeks, and that now is the time to dial back and maintain rather than progress.
#3 – EATING, SLEEPING, BREATHING- I think these pieces of tapering are often overlooked. Eating a wholefoods, healthy diet always is the right idea, but now is the time to stay the course. I’m also not burning those extra several hundred calories every day. I’m not one to focus on the number that shows up on the scale, but from my experience that feeling of strength and fitness at the starting line is impacted greatly by a healthy diet. So, I try to keep off the major indulgences for after the finish line. Sleeping is extremely often overlooked. It’s the #1 recovery tool, and it’s free. I find the few days before a big race, an hour or two of extra sleep each night goes a long way. Finally, there’s breathing, and by breathing, I mean, peace of mind. I like to use the extra time freed up by reduced training to go for calm walks, do some extra stretching/yoga, reflect on what got me here and why it’s important, and spend more time with the people who bring me joy and calm.
I joke around with friends that these damn races really get in the way of my running, but racing is a uniquely exhilarating experience, and tapering is part of that process. So I say, embrace it!
~Get out and get after it. Happy Running Ya’ll.~