The race taper. Some dread it, and others welcome it. It’s that time, usually 1-3 weeks before a big race, that you pull back on your mileage and hard efforts, and are in a holding pattern of resting your mind and body for the BIG RACE! No pressure. Who came up with this? I mean, tapering is a relatively new concept in running and racing. Sure, it usually works, but the time spent in taper mode can be torturous!

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Because I grew-up in a strict Catholic environment, and went to Catholic school from birth though high school (yes, I really did!) tapering feels like Lent to me. It’s a sacrifice, and a time you need to kind of distract yourself from the thing you desire most, all in the name of ‘good.’ For my eight year-old self it was Lucky Charms and for my 39 year-old self, it’s running long and/or hard.

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Since it’s fall and so many of you are dealing with the dreaded taper, I decided to share some of my tried and true practices for successfully distracting myself, during taper time, to make it to race day. I don’t recommend these for everyone, so use your best judgement:

1. For the love of God, stay off of Facebook (and pretty much all social media)!

Everyone is posting about their races or runs with things like “Totally killed my seventh Ironman! This one was pretty easy. Is there a longer/harder race I can do next time? #OverIt.” I don’t know about you, but I need a whole group of friends who think running is stupid, and are instead posting about celebrity gossip and shoes. Obviously not running shoes.

2. Do something utterly unhealthy! 

What better way to stop thinking about running and racing, then to have a night out drinking and smoking? Ok, so you don’t have to get crazy about it, but maybe hang out with some friends who aren’t running friends, and have a cheeseburger and a piece of chocolate cake! You’ll be burning off all those extra calories real soon, and no one will judge your meal.

Vaughn suggests eating a cookie the size of your head.

Vaughn suggests eating a cookie the size of your head. He’s obviously in a cookie coma and is thinking of absolutely nothing, but how good that thing is.

3. Sleep!

Remember what that’s like? Take the time you usually would for your long run, and sleep instead! You can’t think about your upcoming race while you’re asleep, right? Unless you’re so obsessed that you dream about it. In that case, since I can’t personally come over there and Inception your ass, you’re on your own!

Under a tree or in your bed...take a rest whenever you can! Miles does.

Under a tree or in your bed…take a rest whenever you can! Miles does.

4. Forget important things 

I don’t know about you guys, but my local running foundation gives runners the option of having your race bag mailed to you, so you don’t have to go to the expo to pick it up, the day before the race. However, they also don’t have race day pick-up. Now, since my kids are only in school three hours a day, and the expo is a half-hour from my house, I usually opt to pay the $15 to have everything mailed to me. Which is what I thought I did this time, and then realized that no, I didn’t.

It’s very distracting and time consuming to figure out where your race bag is, how you’re going to get it without bringing your spawn, and then where you’re going to put it until race day, since your mind obviously cannot be trusted at this point.

5. Go for a swim!

I’m pretty sure you’re not going to just lay in front of the TV, and not cross-train at all, up until race day. Well, maybe you are and, if so, you should be writing this post. If not, getting in the pool is an excellent option for the taper!

This is when I love that I swim, and have an indoor pool at my disposal. Swimming is one of the only ways to keep up a level of endurance, without pounding on your body, and almost zero chance of injury. In fact, once I get into a rythym of laps, it can almost be like the euphoric runner’s high. Almost.

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Whatever you do, try to enjoy your taper and don’t overthink your race plan. Remember, we’re supposed to be doing this because it’s fun!

How do you get through your taper time?

Do you love or hate the taper?

If you have no clue what a taper is, and don’t care either – do you want to go out for burgers on Thursday?