I can’t believe how quickly the summer flew by this year! Here we are in the throes of September. The kids are back in school, and everyone’s back to their regularly scheduled programing. After a wonderful summer training for marathon attempt #3, I have entered The Taper!
For athletes who utilize a taper period, this is when ‘the hay is in the barn’. All of your hard work is done, and now is the time to let your body heal, rest, and replenish itself before the big event. My coach has scheduled a 2 week taper for me and boy does it make me nervous! I’m anxiously wondering if it is long enough, or should she have given me 3 weeks? At the same time, as I’ve been logging fewer and fewer miles since my last long run, I find myself wondering – Am I doing enough? These are the mental games we play with ourselves as anxiety over the big event starts to creep in. To keep nerves at bay, I try to focus on all of the things I can control, and look back at my training log to see how much I’ve improved.
The things I can control are simple. Follow the plan, get lots of rest, and eat quality fuel. I am sticking to the taper and not following the impulse to do any more than I am supposed to do. I’m making sure to get to bed at a reasonable time each night, and spending quality time with my foam roller every evening. Then there is the fuel…. During the taper, what you eat is just as important as what you have been eating throughout your training period. Eating most of the same foods, just being a little more careful about some things along the way.
The first week or so, be mainly aware of your protein intake. This is not to say you need to suddenly start eating tons of protein, just make sure you are getting enough to assist your body in rebuilding and repairing all of the muscle that has been damaged during training. For each meal and snack, make sure you have a serving of quality protein (legumes, eggs, milk, cottage cheese, fish, chicken, etc). At the tail end of the taper, as you are approaching race day, make sure you are a little more focused on your carbohydrate intake, and a little less fat and protein. This will help to keep your total calories in check and keep you from storing added fat. Once again, choose quality as well as quantity for your carbohydrates; fruit smoothies and dried fruit, large salads, whole grain breads and cereals. This will give your body ample opportunity to store those carbohydrates as glycogen; otherwise known as fuel for your muscles!
The last step, if you choose, is carbohydrate loading the day before. I have written about carb loading before, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Even for athletes who choose not to follow a carbohydrate loading plan, one of the big things to think about will be easily digestible lower fiber options the day before an event. You don’t want to spend too much time on race day in the porta-potties!
Ten days from now I will toe the line at the Clarence DeMar Marathon. Looking back over my training log, I see a lot of improvement to be proud of. My half marathon PR dropped about 4:30, and my mile time went from 7:28 in May, to 7:05 just a few weeks ago. I have no idea what September 28th will bring, but I can safely say I have done all I can. Now all I can do, is follow my own advice for a successful taper!