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10 Tips of the Taper

September 28, 2010

We can all shine like stars on race day if we honor the taper

Yesterday I started off my taper for Portland Marathon (10/10/10) with an, ahhhhhh, rest day. Obviously the length of a taper varies by the race distance: You don’t take a marathon-rest of two weeks before your 5K. But a few rules do apply no matter what length race you’re doing.

Respect the taper. Just like rest days: You’ve done the hard work, now give your body a break to synthesize all the training and grow stronger.

Don’t make up for lost (training) time. If you had to miss a few days because of a biz trip or a week due to illness, now is not the time to make it up. At this point, you can only drain the system, not bolster it.

Don’t reacquaint yourself with the couch too much. Tapering does not mean it’s time to watch all six seasons of “Lost” to find out what all the fan-frenzy was about. You need to scale back on the distance but still interject some intensity, such as five 100-meter strides at the end of an easy run or do a scaled-back track workout. But no hill repeats: They beat your legs up too much.

Forego embarking on other big projects. Cleaning out the attic, putting up storm windows, and spearheading the classroom gift-wrap sale will tap your energy more than you’ll realize…until mile 17.

Be borderline obsessive about washing your hands. Many runners swear they always get sick during the taper, so take precautions to prevent it. Like right now I’m all about not touching door handles in public (I’m bumping a lot of doors open with my bum or shoulder) and steering clear of sick people.

Trim your social calendar, when possible. In the two weeks prior to a marathon don’t host a baby shower for your neighbor or take the family to Disneyland for a long weekend. (Yes, Julie D., I’m eyeballin’ ya…)

Stockpile sleep. It’s 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. (Tell your hubby it’s only temporary…)

Eat and drink with an eye toward the big day. Being well hydrated isn’t just about downing some Gatorade en route to the race. In the week leading up to a half- or full marathon, you should be taking in enough fluids so that your pee is pale-lemonade yellow. It helps to munch on salty treats, too, like pretzels or soy nuts.

Skip anything new. This is not the time to suck down a new supplement; start taking the stairs instead of the elevator; try a new brand of socks, shoes, or sports bra; take up cyclocross racing; or go gluten-free. Stick with what has been working for you. Heck, don’t even switch shampoos!

Remind yourself why you signed up. In between driving carpool, writing quarterly reports, helping with spelling homework, and potty-training, give yourself a few short reprieves to tell yourself why you are racing. And to quote the power word of new momma (and top U.S. marathoner) Kara Goucher: Believe.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. KathyinMN permalink
    September 28, 2010 4:30 am

    Oh, this couldn’t have come at a better time-my taper started yesterday! Sleep-excellent reminder of what to do with my free time. Last night I caught up on bills, tonight it will be mail. My desk hasn’t been cleaner in months. But I already know I should have gone to bed earlier last night. Great reminders.

    • bowenshea permalink*
      September 28, 2010 1:17 pm

      Oh, I know how tempting it is to get stuff done after the little rascals are in bed! On Saturday night I suddenly got inspired to organize my closet, swapping out summer stuff for fall/winter stuff, and culling things to donate. Yeah, an hour later I finally “sent” myself to bed!

  2. Bethany permalink
    September 28, 2010 7:01 am

    I’m right there with Kathryn… perfect timing! I’m just now starting my slow taper for the half marathon on Oct. 16th. Thanks so much for the tips. Now, lets just hope I can abide by the taper!

  3. September 28, 2010 7:32 am

    I think the term “taper” is just slang for “tape her”… as in “tape her down so she doesn’t go crazy and destroy all the good work she did before this.” They are all fantastic tips. GOOD LUCK to everyone!!

    • bowenshea permalink*
      September 28, 2010 1:19 pm

      As usual, Phoebe, you crack me up. “:>)

      • September 28, 2010 10:40 pm

        So that’s what I need to do?! Tape myself down??? Nice! What about my kids? Can I tape them down? 🙂

  4. September 28, 2010 8:53 am

    So timely! I missed 2 runs and 3 workouts last week because of ‘life’ and was tempted to make it up over the weekend. Thankfully I restrained myself and I’m really hoping my race this Saturday (my second half marathon) is an “On” day for me!

  5. Nicole permalink
    September 28, 2010 8:56 am

    Thanks for the reminders! I am in the midst of taper madness right now. 12 days until my first marathon!

  6. Jackie permalink
    September 28, 2010 9:21 am

    I’m getting all misty thinking about 10/10/10. The washing hands is appropriate in my house. Middle son woke up hacking his lungs out today. I realllllly hope I don’t get that now!

  7. September 28, 2010 9:26 am

    My taper for the Long Beach Marathon (10/17) starts this week so I needed these reminders. Just bought new kind of toothpaste (Tom’s Peppermint!) last night–think it’s safe to use? 🙂 I can’t screw up this taper…”I believe I’ll run Boston in April, I believe I will!”

    • bowenshea permalink*
      September 28, 2010 1:21 pm

      Hmmmm, given that Tom’s toothpaste is from Maine, which is near BOSTON…I think it would work in your FAVOR to start using it “;>)
      Best of luck at Long Beach–let us know how it goes.

  8. September 28, 2010 9:35 am

    Thanks for the refresher! Though I’m not doing a full marathon, I know that I need to even respect the taper for my 1/2 in less than 3 weeks!! And have I mentioned how stinkin’ excited I am to cheer you all on on 10/10/10?!

    • bowenshea permalink*
      September 28, 2010 1:25 pm

      First off, don’t FRET about it, Amy. Just treat the trip like a long run and chunk it up: Instead of waking up and trying to mentally deal with ALL the meetings that day, just take them one at a time. And be thankful you get to be SEATED for so long. Just drink lots of non-caffeinated fluids (I say bring along a tube of nuun tablets and turn every other bottle of water into a calorie-free electrolyte-replacement drink). Stick to foods you normally eat…and be RELIGIOUS about using hand sanitizer.
      For me, the most important thing about an “away” marathon is what to eat the morning of in hotel room. Give that some thought (maybe pack a little container of peanut butter to slather on bagel and banana?!). You’ll be fine.

  9. amy permalink
    September 28, 2010 12:07 pm

    I just started my taper for my marathon coming up 10/17, my first out of state marathon, so this couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks for the reminders and oh, for the mention of the business trip….I have a biz trip scheduled the Tues – Thurs before the race. Then I fly out the next day, Friday with my family for the race. I am starting to panic a bit about being sleep deprived. I never sleep well while traveling for work and it is starting to look like it will be a jammed pack 2 days of meetings. I wish it could be rescheduled, but I have tried. Any suggestions?

  10. sher permalink
    September 28, 2010 3:26 pm

    I HATE taper week. I see all these people running past my house and I’m a kid stuck inside. I feel like a beached whale. I want to run FREE but will abide by the rules. Must. make. it. to .10.10.10!

  11. September 28, 2010 3:40 pm

    Thanks Sarah: These are a great reminder, even for those of us who have been down this road before. I love the stockpile sleep! I reposted this on our facebook page.
    Best of luck to you on the Portland Marathon! I am heading to Chicago the same day with the least amount of training I have ever had for a marathon due to a busy life…but I’ll be believing big:)

  12. Terzah permalink
    September 28, 2010 3:50 pm

    I love your tip lists, Sarah! This is my taper week for the Boulder Half. When I think about it, five days out, I’m already getting butterflies. I want to go under 2 hours, which hasn’t happened before, and if it does, would be my first post-twins PR in any kind of race. Trying not to question my training, dedication etc……..and I took a *great* nap this morning, so I’m doing well on the sleep.

  13. September 28, 2010 4:21 pm

    Finished a trail marathon Saturday in California — now my taper starts for the Heartlands 100 miler in Cassody, Kansas on 10/9 – 10/10. I hope to be crossing my finish line on Sunday morning, right as you are starting out on the Portland Marathon course.

    Tapering is a mixed bag of physical and emotional “stuff”. Ran today – 42 minutes and shook the legs out. Keeping my distance down is key, but on each run I’ll throw in some 30 second speed bursts just to shake it up.

    And yes, I have a kindergartner at home, so staying HEALTHY amongst all the little “petri dishes” from her school is always a huge trick. I hit the vitamins, calcium, and echinacea. Eat healthy, get lots of sleep (when my 6yo allows it).

    Can’t wait for race day!!!

  14. Natalie permalink
    September 28, 2010 4:28 pm

    All of the neighbor kids have some bug or another. I am FREAKING out. 😉 Going to go wash my hands now!

  15. September 28, 2010 8:56 pm

    AAH! Just started the taper for the Chicago Marathon on 10-10-10! I needed this…I’m struggling with this taper and dying to go for a long run….

  16. September 28, 2010 10:36 pm

    Oh but SBS, we’re having so much fun!!! ;). Could you believe it was 110 degrees yesterday?!! Definitely not good on the taper!! I did run my 15 on Sunday though on the hotel treadmill. Great tips–starting to get emotional for some reason over all this work we have done for this. I hope I haven’t screwed it up too bad for myself. gotta BELIEVE!! Almost time to Get. It. Done. One more disney day and I’ll stop being the rebellious teenager.

    • September 28, 2010 10:46 pm

      Ps. I really do know what I need to do differently next time to kick some serious boot-tay–what scares me is that I’m already thinking about ‘next time’! What is this sickness??

  17. Janey permalink
    September 29, 2010 8:19 am

    Okay ladies… Running the Portland Half on 10.10.10. It will be my first and I’m so stinking excited! I ran 12 miles Saturday morning… should that be my last long run? Or should I do an easy 8-10 this weekend? Advise? Anyone?

  18. Erica Richards permalink
    September 29, 2010 1:34 pm

    Thanks for the tips! Just started my taper for 10/17. About a year and a half ago, while training for my second half marathon, I was diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease. As it was a 45 year old diagnosis and pretty severe, I had no choice but to go gluten free. Luckily, GU and G2 are gluten free! My only worry was what to eat for breakfast…worked out well though. PR’d on a hillier course by 15 minutes. 🙂

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