Taper Time: Two Weeks You Love To Hate

Have you hugged your tapering marathoner today? It's taper time over here - just 10 days to go until it's time to unleash the 1400+ miles of training on the Erie Marathon course.  I'm working this week to hold on to my sanity and convince myself that my fitness has not suddenly evaporated overnight and that yes, the hard work has been done, the hay is in the barn, etc. etc., and that there is nothing else I can do besides relax and try not to freak out.   (key word:  TRY)

These two weeks always remind me just rough the taper can be on a marathoner's psyche.  It's the feeling of being somewhat helpless while you wait and wait to finally get your chance to line up and just RUN the darn thing.  Sure, there are things you need to do this week to stay on track, to maximize your nutrition, to make sure you are physically and mentally ready for race day.  But on the whole, the theme of these last two weeks is:  DON'T SCREW IT UP BY DOING TOO MUCH.

So I'm doing my best to relax and silence the voices in my head that say "Hey, all this extra non-running time would be a GREAT time to clean the attic...or go on a house-project spree and finally install those shelves/paint/organize....or head to Lowe's and exhaust yourself by lifting 35 bags of mulch and carting them around the entire yard!! YES!!!!"

As you have probably guessed, I don't do "rest" very well.   This week has also marked the emergence of my tendencies to over-research and second guess myself.  Stick with my normal 3-day carb load w/no depletion phase?  Try a 10-day "fat load" and THEN carb load?  Cut out caffeine?  Keep caffeine in and just load up on race day?  You can see where this is going.

So in an effort to silence my own thoughts and commit to a plan, I present to you:

The FoxRunsFast Non-Crazy Taper Plan

  1.  Nutrition:  I'll continue to eat pretty normally this week, while focusing on (slightly) decreasing calories as I run less and rest more.  I'll also skew my diet towards the protein side this week to help with muscle recovery and repair.   On Saturday, I'll have my last caffeinated tea or coffee and start my week-long caffeine fast.  (Apologies in advance to everyone who comes in contact with me during that last week of taper.)  With three days to go I'll start the carb load phase, aiming to get 65%+ of my calories from carbs in the final days.
  2. Mental prep:  I've got a mental visualization CD that a sports psychologist made for me a few years ago.  I've used that in each of my past marathon buildups in the final two weeks and I'll listen to that again this time.  I'll also re-read some key passages from Sage Rountree's "Racing Wisely" and work on some mantras to use on race day.   I'll spend some time thinking about possible race-day obstacles (and how to overcome them) and then work on getting my pace chart and race plan ready.
  3. Strength training:  I talked about the optimal time to discontinue strength training before a marathon and I'll try to take my own advice.  Unfortunately I can't stop as early as I'd like due to teaching commitments (I'm teaching Thursday, Friday and Sunday this week), but I'll be using very light weights starting Friday, and Sunday will be my last day of any extra gym work before the race.
  4. Running:  Finally, I'll be cutting back mileage and resting more.  I will run my last "speed" workout tomorrow (3x1 mile) and will have one more workout next week (2 miles at marathon pace).   All that's left is easy, shorter runs and a rest day.

Goodbye, plank work - see you in a few weeks!

Since I don't do rest very well, I'd welcome any and all suggestions for (non-energy-expending) ways to combat taper madness!!  Whatcha got?