Thursday, February 20, 2014

Tips For Tapering

There comes a time when every runner must taper before a race- and that time is NOW for me! I'm right smack in the middle of tapering for my marathon this (eeeek!) Sunday and thought that since I'm oh so familiar with the tapering process, I'd write up a little post with some tips for tapering!

 *Most* runners will taper a couple to a few weeks before a long race like a full or half marathon.  Not all runners do, some run long distances right up to the moment of the race (if you run races often you'll need that time to continue training for an upcoming race) but most training plans and most trainers will suggest at least somewhat of a taper.

Why taper?  Tapering allows your body to rebuild and recover before the race.  We run our longer runs toward the end of our training plans since we have worked hard throughout to attain that level of fitness. After that 10 or 20 mile training run we have blisters, sore knees and shins, heel pain, etc. because we have put our body through it's paces and have run mileage we may never have run before (or at least not often!). It's your body's way of showing you it needs rest...tapering is how that happens!  You don't want to stop running all of a sudden or drop back too far too soon as that can shock your muscles and leave you unprepared for the race.  You want to let your muscles recover slowly while still maintaining the level of fitness required for your upcoming race!  Here is what Runner's World Magazine has to say about the tapering whys and hows before your race!

I've been tapering now for about 1.5 weeks for what will be a total of 2 weeks.  My training plan which this year is the Intermediate 1 plan from Hal Higdon suggests a 3 week taper at the end.  Well, no matter how excited I am in the fall (yes, I said excited) to start my training I always miscalculate and leave one week too few for my training which always ends up in cutting  a run or two out of the plan to modify it for myself.  I wanted to kick my race up a notch this year and am aiming for a PR (3:48:30 or under!) so I went with the plan that had 2 20 milers.  Well, to build up correctly I wanted to leave all of the build up runs in the plan and of course cutting out a drop back week would be deadly so I decided a two week taper would suit me just fine.  I ran my last 20 miler a week ago this past Sunday and stuck to 8 this past weekend.  I figured cutting out the 12 would be better than cutting out the 8 miler as 14 miles the week before a full would probably lead me to disaster on race day!  Since then, I have run 3 (well 3.1) miles on Tuesday and 4.40 miles yesterday.
When my husband realized I had a week of low mileage ahead and asked me to run with him for Wednesday's 4 miler I agreed.  We don't normally do too well running together as I tend to run a lot faster than he does (he only runs once a week and I, well I run a lot more than that!) and tend to have trouble staying behind with him.  I knew a slower (read slower but definitely not slow!) at about a 9 minute pace would be a good thing for my recovery and at this point, certainly wouldn't make me lose any of the fitness or abilities I have built up over the past few months!  Although it can be hard for a runner to stomach, I definitely suggest not only kicking the mileage of your runs back before a big race but also kicking back a bit on the speed, truly let your body recover.  I still ran Sunday's 8 miler at more of a "race pace" but took the opportunity to (well for Wednesday at least) to cut back my pace after that.

I will be planning a "shakeout" run this Saturday, nothing big but a slow (ok, who am I kidding after two rest days in a row I'm going to want to jet!), 2 mile run is in order to be sure that when I wake up bright and early Sunday morning to prep for the marathon my muscles are slightly warmer than if I had taken Saturday off and I can get into the swing of the run much more easily!

Question of the Day: How long do you taper before a big race?
Link of the Day: Runner's World 6 Cross-Training Activities To Try

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