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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
These are great! Especially stay off the interwebs. I mentioned the interwebs too in my post today 🙂 Great minds. I have never raced anything longer than a 10K so not much taper needed. I just like to have fresh feeling legs. John usually winds up with his nose in my training plan when he is tapering. I know he has a step back week or taper when I am on the treadmil and he is standing there talking to me or riding the bike in his jeans. LOL. I also get LOTS of questions about my data during taper.
HAHAHA that is too funny! Well, he has to focus on something while he’s tapering, right? I’m loving the visual of him in his jeans, riding the bike!
I’ve been a complete space case this past week. It’s from other stuff going on in my life but I’m blaming the taper. Now give me a cookie!!!
I feel you! I know you’re battling a little bit of an injury and I am too…except I’m ‘only’ running a half. Grrrrrr.
Yup, I am with Angela and blaming the taper for being all over the place this week and a cookie or a bag of them sound good here! Seriously, though love your advice and definitely got to use a few of these now 🙂
See that? And I need your non-running perspective and posts to get me though this week 🙂 Thanks Janine!
I have never really tapered before, so did not see what everyone was talking about before….but now I do! My legs feel crappy, and I am losing my mind! Not ideal, but I hear that if you do not feel like that, you are not doing it right. Trust that it will all come together when it matters. I am however finding it helpful to go on facebook, especially as my friend just won the US marathon championships, and we have spent many hours talking about racing, so seeing her do so well gets me excited about my race! Thanks for this Allie, I needed it!
That is fantastic about your friend – wow!!!!! Clearly we have very different friends 🙂
Isn’t it weird that you have all these ‘phantom’ pains during the taper? But yes, it usually all comes together once that starting gun goes off! GOOD LUCK!!!! I’ll be thinking of you!
This post came at a perfect time as I’m 4 days out from my big race and did a 2-week taper. I’m one of those people who enjoy the taper. I don’t stress about running less but I do over analyze every aspect of race day and this is when major self-doubt can creep in for me. Soaking in every positive and inspiring thing I possibly can is one of my taper strategies. Good luck with your race this weekend. xo
Ah yes, the mental taper can be a devil!! I loved your post about staying positive, and I’ll definitely be thinking of you in Chicago and then stalking FB and Instagram for updates! Go get it girl. You so got this!!!
Love this–smoking it is! I am one of those folks who really doesn’t mind the taper. It’s my chance to catch up on work, the house, whatever, and I embrace that. But I do agree–stay away from all the obnoxious social media out there. It only adds to an pre-race anxiety you might have.
We’ll have to indulge in some of that when we meet up – hahaha!!! Can you imagine?
I’ve been using this week to catch-up on all the little things too. I can’t tell you how excited I am to clean out the boy’s closet 🙂
i would LOVE to go out for burgers on Thursday because you are talking about NEXT Thursday right?! haha I can only imagine how fidgety you get during the taper because you do so much running during the week. I don’t like the taper because it throws me out of a really good groove, and I’m still so new to this I feel like I need to stick with it no matter what 🙂 How cute are the boys? Especially Vaughn in the food coma! Do people really say things like is there a longer/harder race? I mean really? That flabbergasts me. I am also still a bit traumatized from my last race so…
YES! I absolutely want to hook up for burgers in the city!!
No, no one really says that about the IM, but I’ve seen some rather obnoxious comments about race performances that I would kill for. Whatevs.
I had to go back and re-read the first paragraph several times to make sure I had it right….it is like torture to have to DECREASE your workouts?!?!? I had no idea this could be a thing!! 😀
I’ve got a proposition for you…I will do your tapering and you can do my working out!! We could be a perfect team! Would that work? Please say yes! 😀 –Lisa Ps. Love your bright yellow toes!
YES!!!!!! I’m cracking up over that and so didn’t even think about it when I wrote it. Like I said, I would die if a doc ordered me to 12 weeks of no training. We are a match made in heaven 🙂 xoxoxo
I just started running again this year. So I had never tapered before and I am having the hardest time in the world doing it!! I just need to RUN!!! Next week will be worse I am sure of it. I might need to start riding my bike more to make up for lost activity! I think I am driving my household nuts!
It’s totally normal and you will be glad for it on race day! And your family will be totally relieved 🙂 Good luck!!
This year was my first big race that I had a structured training plan. I didn’t mind the taper because I wound up getting sick during that time and was grateful that I wasn’t going super hard. I will let you know for next time. 🙂
That is perfect timing for a cold!
Haha, Lent. That is awesome and soooo spot on. My race schedule has been virtually non-existent this year, so no taper madness in my house. Which is good. There has been far too much madness in the house on its own.
Glad you can relate to that 🙂 Yes, there’s taper madness and then general, everyday madness. I hear ya!!
I love taper because by the time I get to that point I’m tired. It does feel weird to not do as much but it’s a welcome change. We have to remember taper is an important part of training too.
Well, I’m not tapering but I’m in on the burgers (and can we have wine???)!!!
Kim, where there are burgers, there is WINE!
As boring as this may sound 🙂 my house is usually the cleanest it ever is during my taper and I start to organize like I am nesting :). I am curious to know do you do any speed 3 weeks before the race? I usually start cutting back 3 weeks out and then the week before really cutting back, but I am not sure what I want to do with speed for this race?
Since you are running the marathon, I WOULD do speed work 3 weeks out, but that’s the closest I would do it to race day. For my half, I did 6×800 two weeks out and, earlier this week I did 6×400 (which seemed easy and that’s the point). As long as nothing is hurting or you don’t feel like you could develop an injury from it, I say go for it, and then seriously taper for two weeks.
I cleaned out the boys closet yesterday and mine is next 🙂
Haha! I’ll take you up on the last question! I actually had a delicious turkey burger over the weekend with some yummy sweet potato fries. Hmm…I’m drooling just thinking about it.
That is one of my most favorite combos, and I know just where I want to get it after the race!
I would love to go out for burgers on Thursday! I’m glad you asked, because otherwise I would have absolutely nothing intelligent to say in this comment. Not that what I said was particularly intelligent, but it did involves burgers. So yum.
I knew someone would take me up on that!! Ok so it’s us and Brittany so far. Sounds like a plan!
Hahaha yes to burgers on Thursday 🙂 Actually my friend is running chicago on sunday and is therefore tapering. to help him not want to get up first thing in the morning and run miles and miles and miles, we went out drinking the last 2 nights in a row. what can i say, im a good friend like that.
See? Everyone needs a ‘taper’ friend like you Charlotte! I applaud your efforts and your friend is sure to PR in Chicago.
New follower here! So glad I found your blog. I think you’re funny and I admire what you do for a living. I aspire to be as elite of an athlete as you one day.
It also didn’t occur to me that swimming is the only endurance sport that doesn’t put body weight stress on the body. I look forward to following your journey very closely!
Welcome! I’m glad you found me too and thanks so much for your comment. Yes, swimming is such a great release for all that pounding!
Such great advice and much needed this week. I almost FB messaged my friends also running Detroit but then realized the group we use also has people running Chicago which is THIS weekend, and decided those people didn’t need to see my ramblings for a race 10 days away when theirs is in just a few days.
Swimming – never thought to do that. I did put my bike back on the trainer though because the thought of biking outside, crashing, and screwing up my marathon because I’m a clutz was too much to take.
I hear you about the bike trainer! Swimming is probably the least “dangerous” cross-training. Thanks for your comment!
Love it and I want burgers on Thursday too!! You are going to rock it this weekend!
Done! Thanks Christine!!
I am not a taper fan. I usually start thinking I’ve lost all of my fitness within two days of the taper. While I’m not tapering for anything, I will definitely join you for a burger next week!! 🙂 (It’s normal to eat burgers with a bunch of fitness bloggers the week of a fitness conference, right?). You can have the beer I would have had.
Totally normal and yes, I will have your beer too 🙂
haha! I don’t really know what a taper is, or I didn’t before this, but is there still time to go out for burgers???? Crap. It’s 7:00pm.
I definitely agree with cookies the size of one’s head, as well as good sleep, for really anything I’m passionate about doing correctly.
Sleep is so essential and yet, most people don’t get enough. Not me! I’m a huge fan of sleep and have been known to crash at 8pm. Regularly. Maybe we can meet up for burgers and moose sightings? Sounds like a very New England thing to do, right??
If you’re not friends with me on Facebook you should be, because I NEVER TALK ABOUT RUNNING OR ANYTHING REMOTELY ATHLETIC. I’m all about, here’s a cute baby (or two!) and eating ice cream.
Oh we’re friends, don’t you worry!! I’ve been enjoying every.single. baby picture to the fullest!
Giggling just a little! I think I would be the perfect person for you to hang out with during taper time. I don’t care about my times and I barely race and although I eat healthy most of the time, I certainly don’t have any problem indulging…cookies before dinner anyone?
We need to do it!!