The dreaded taper! The period of time in your training that comes between your longest run and the race that you have been preparing so hard to run. It’s a time to relax, cut back, and fuel up for the big day. So what’s not to like?
For many runners, the taper is a time of doubt. It is filled with thoughts that if you had only done a little more, worked a little harder, ran a little longer, you would be more prepared, come race day. When it comes to race day potential, the hay is in the barn, as of your last long run. You can’t build any more endurance than you developed on that last run. You can’t build any more speed than you had on your last speed workout, prior to that long run. It now officially, “is what it is”, as they say.
Taper can also be a time of anxiety for runners who have the urge to always be running. It’s an urge that I never experience, but I am told that many people suffer from this malady. For those people, all I can recommend is to chill out! You may think that you are doing yourself a favor by staying on the move, but in reality, your constant running is keeps draining the tank!
If you look at the taper in the proper light, you can not only appreciate it, but look forward to it. During training runs, we break down muscle and stress tendons and vessels. Even with rest days, we never completely get out of the rebuilding mode. We aren’t getting weaker. On the contrary, we are getting incrementally stronger, but at the cost of a lot of effort on the part of your body. In order to reap the full benefit of that increased strength and endurance, you have to let your body finish rebuilding, so you will have everything that is available, come race day. That means cutting way back on both the distance and the intensity of your training, at least for a couple of weeks, leading up to race day.
So what do you do with all of the extra time that the taper will give to you? How about taking care of all of those little chores that you neglected during your training? All caught up? Try getting ready for the race by sitting quietly and running the race in your mind, using the strategy that you worked on during training. Study the course elevations and look back at your training, to recall those runs when you successfully went through similar sections. Go back and study your long training runs and rehearse the sections that you did well, and learn from the places where things didn’t quite go according to plan. Develop a positive attitude toward the race, knowing that you have trained to complete the distance. If you do that, you will learn to look forward to, and love the taper!
Next time: Hoka One One’s – A review