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Embracing the Taper

Well, it’s been a long road but I’ve finally reached the point in marathon training that I’ve been working for the last 14 weeks – TAPER TIME. And as to be expected, I’m only two days into the taper and already losing my mind. Can’t I just squeeze one more long run in? Why can’t the marathon be tomorrow? Backing up…let me explain what a taper is and the purpose of it for those who might not be familiar.

The taper is a 14 to 21 day period before the race where runners reduce mileage. The taper typically begins after your last 20-mile long run. Since my training was off schedule from my hamstring injury, I wanted to get one more good long run in after my 20-miler. I opted for a 14 day taper rather than 21 but I think it will work for me because I had two weeks of rest at the peak of my training due to the injury.

Runner’s World sumps up the benefits of the taper beautifully:

“A review of 50 studies on tapering published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise shows that levels of muscle glycogen, enzymes, antioxidants, and hormones–all depleted by high mileage–return to optimal ranges during a taper. The muscle damage that occurs during sustained training is also repaired. And if that isn’t enough, immune function and muscle strength improve, as well, which reduces the odds you’ll catch a cold or get injured just before the race. And get this: The average performance improvement by the subjects who tapered in these studies was 3 percent. That works out to 5 to 10 minutes in a marathon.

The review’s main conclusion: “The primary aim of the taper should be to minimize accumulated fatigue, rather than to attain additional physiological adaptations or fitness gains.” In other words, it’s time to chill.”

So here I am “chilling” and already going crazy. I’m eying “This Week’s Workouts” in my sidebar and telling myself that I need to cut out some of the workouts and rest but it’s so hard!  After you go so hard for 14 weeks it’s mentally challenging to back off of the intensity.

Here are my goals for taper time:

1. SLEEP – last night I got four hours of sleep. That is most certainly not going to get my body to the rested and repaired state it needs to be in on race day. My goal over the next two weeks is to average 7-9 hours of sleep per night. And just a warning…that might mean foregoing blog updates in favor of getting to bed earlier.
2. EAT – this week I’m focusing on upping my protein intake to aid my muscles in recovery and rebuilding. I’m also going to maintain my intake of healthy fats (because really, I think I eat plenty of nuts, nut butter, olive oil and avocados to cover that). Next week I will focus more on carbs in an effort to increase my glycogen stores for race day.
3. DRINK – water, water, water…and a little sports drink. I’m going to be guzzling water and alternate in some sports drink over the next two weeks in an effort to ensure that I am properly hydrated and have a healthy level of sodium.
4. TRY NOT TO MAKE MYSELF SORE – I really, really, really need to rest my body and build in some extra days with no workouts. I’m not off to a good start considering that I can’t lift my arms above my head without pain and have giant bruises on my hips after yesterday’s yoga workshop! My main focus is cutting out most of next week’s activities. I have commitments to teach my strength training classes through next Monday but I am going to sub out my class the Thursday before the race and needless to say, I subbed out my Monday morning class the day after the race. I do still want to spend some time in the yoga studio but I am going to make certain that it’s gentle yoga and nothing too intense. I need the yoga for my sanity and to keep my body from feeling tight and stressed.
5. MENTALLY PREPARE – Over the next few days I am going to work on setting my goals for the race. I will share (most of) them with you guys soon. Obviously, I’m extremely excited about the race but also feeling pretty anxious. I want to work on calming myself and making sure that all of our travel plans are set and my race day plan is mapped out. Brandon and I have lots of logistical planning to do for transportation, clothing, where he’ll see me on the course, where we’ll meet after, etc.

Runners – how do you taper? How do you deal with taper madness?

I’ll bet you’re ready for some food photos! We had a family dinner at my brother in law’s on Sunday night which of course meant cute babies…

And a ridiculous dinner spread…

My brother in law, Reade put together quite the taco spread. He slow cooked pork all day using a Guy Fieri recipe from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I contributed a pot of quinoa with black beans, tomatoes, corn and more. My sister in law, Rachael brought a delicious salad with pears, walnuts, cranberries and blue cheese.

My plate…

I had a veggie taco with refried beans, fire roasted tomatoes, cabbage, avocado and salsa.

And just when I thought I couldn’t fit any more food in my belly this happened.

My mother in law made Katherine Hepburn Brownies with mint frosting. I.DIE. I ate THREE of these suckers. Brandon gave me the side eye when I reached for brownie number three and I immediately shot off, “I ran 16 miles yesterday. Leave me alone. I’m carb-loading!” 😀

Skipping ahead to lunch today. Leftover Mexican quinoa…let me know if you guys want this recipe. I’ll post it tomorrow if you do.

I served it on a bed of spinach and topped it with plain Greek yogurt and hot sauce.

Dinner tonight was make your own homemade pizza.

I topped my pizza with sundried tomato marinara sauce, chopped olives, mushrooms, feta, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and mozzarella.

And now it’s time to crash and practice what I’m preaching about sleep!

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • 1
    Cyndi @ Weightless Life October 19, 2010, 8:08 am

    I would love to try that mexican quinoa recipe. And you can be I’ll be making those brownies too. Good luck with tapering.

  • 2
    natalie (the sweets life) October 19, 2010, 1:40 pm

    I went crazy during my taper for the Chicago…it was really really hard for me to resist going super hard, but I’m glad I did…definitely felt rested on race day and my problems in the race weren’t because I overdid it the week before (and more bc I suck at fueling during the race…need to improve that!). Good luck!

  • 3
    Alaina October 19, 2010, 1:59 pm

    I definitely want the quinoa recipe! I’m a vegetarian and love quinoa but am always looking for new recipes!
    I love your blog! Good luck with your marathon

  • 4
    laurenmburns October 19, 2010, 3:47 pm

    Good luck with the taper and getting more rest! Your food pictures are awesome, and I’d love to try out the Mexican Quinoa recipe. I love quinoa since I first tried it a few months ago, and I’m eager to get some new ideas on how to use it!

  • 5
    AlaskanAlison October 19, 2010, 4:03 pm

    I want the Mexican Quinoa recipe please! 🙂

  • 6
    onehungrymonster October 20, 2010, 12:19 am

    I would like the Mexican Quinoa Recipe, thanks 🙂

  • 7
    Becca October 20, 2010, 7:01 pm

    One more vote for the Mexican Quinoa recipe, pretty please!:)

  • 8
    gmruns April 9, 2012, 11:14 am

    Have you ever tapered for a half? I have tapered for the few marathons I’ve done but never any half marathons. I have a race this weekend I am hoping to PR at and can’t decide what kind of taper to do over the next week. I am really having a hard time deciding if I should skip Body Pump this week. Any Advice??

    • 9
      Jen April 9, 2012, 1:02 pm

      hi there – i don’t really do a traditional taper for a half but if i am trying to “race it” with hopes of PRing i do take it easy on my workouts for the few days prior. i would definitely skip strength training this week and keep the runs easy.

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