The weekly mileage is starting to decrease, the last workout is complete, and now all that’s left is to taper. Tapering is an essential component to executing your race just like you had been training for. But what does tapering actually mean? Tapering is purposefully decreasing the mileage and intensity you run in the last two weeks leading up to the race, and the goal of this is to let your body reach the perfect balance of fitness and freshness. Tapering does not mean you just get to sit back and relax and forget about running altogether those final two weeks. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but there are a few things Coach Sandi wanted to share regarding tapering that may be “outside the norm” of what you’d typically hear discussed by coaches:
Race Day Prep: Even before the taper begins, I always make sure I’m training with the same gear I plan to use on race day. However, once the taper hits, I make a deliberate effort to dial in all of the nutrition, vests, bottles, etc, that I know I’m going to use come race day. Even if I don’t need to take a drink mix for a taper run (because it’s too short), I still take it because I want to keep my stomach used to what I plan on taking on race day. Say I were doing an ultra marathon, despite not needing to stuff my pack full of gear, I still pack it all in the same place(s) that I’m going to on race morning. Familiarizing myself with my gear and nutrition during the taper helps me feel more confident the day of the race.
Limit Your Warmup During the Taper: I don’t know about you, but for me, race day mornings always seem to be hectic no matter how much prep I put in! This is why during the taper I limit my warmup to maybe a mile, because I never seem to have enough time to do more than that on race day. This way I can get used to the same amount of warm up leading up to the race. Note: Normally I am a fan of a longer warm-up (~2 miles, maybe), but again, I try to simulate race day mornings during the taper as much as I can.
Start Wearing Race Day Shoes: I cycle through a lot of pairs of shoes during the training process, but when it’s time to taper, I will wear the shoes I’m going to wear on race day. I do this because I want to know exactly how I want them to feel on my feet. Are they tight where they need to be tight? Is having them this loose caused issues before? Again, all these considerations lead up to feeling confident both mentally and physical.
MOST IMPORTANT: When the race starts to draw near, this is when I remind my athletes that perhaps the most important thing you can do is relax and have fun. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about, right? When my athletes start telling me about some of the pre-race anxiety they are having, it’s often because they’re focusing on something in the race that not in your control. So when you start to feel anxiety, I remind them to go back to the things that are in their control, think about everything that’s good in your life, and don’t pass up the day at hand! There’s a lot of fun that can be had in the weeks leading up to a race. When you put yourself in a stressful situation, in never leads to anything good and ultimately you end up burning a lot of the energy you could use on race day, for other things. Train your mind to have a good time with the day at hand, focus on the controllable, and focus on the present moment.
You can use these not-so-common taper tips in addition to reducing your weekly mileage and intensity. Enjoy the process, trust your training, and I’m confident you’ll be able to thrive on race day.